Reflecting Further

For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion… of Iran’s nuclear capability…The second stick is… in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States.

Recently I posted a blog about a Bully… In it I wrote:

 If there are any U.S. veterans or current military personnel out there not completely livid with the actions of this Congress to limit our military’s right to defend itself and our Commander in Chief’s right to exercise that military to protect others and America’s interests,  I have got to hear from you… I look across the Middle East and I have to ask myself, who has allowed this 3rd world upstart of a country to gain such bully status? Although it is the second largest country in the Middle East, it is barely larger in square miles than our single state of Alaska!…

Iran has permitted the likes of the Taliban, ISIS, and al Qaeda while building a nuclear capability allied with North Korea, Russia and China.  

Here is where we find ourselves on 10 January 2020… Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that ballistic missile attacks targeting U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq Wednesday morning were “a slap in the face” to the United States.

IRAN – the BULLY in the neighborhood… Why? Because we are allowing it. The ruling Ayatollah and those loyal to him are killing their own people, jailing those who object and it is morally wrong for those in Congress to hamper the legitimate efforts of our military and its Commander in Chief to do everything it can to protect the lives of American soldiers who are in harm’s way, American citizens and private individuals in Iraq and those in Iran who choose to stand against the ruling regime. The Ayatollah has vowed to pursue nuclear weapons with the only goal of striking against America and Israel. At what point will our Congress wake up rather than be ‘woke’?

And I put in this plea:  Remember the name of each and every Representative and Senator who has voted to keep our military from being able to defend themselves when you go next to the ballot box.

I’ve been giving a great bit of thought to things even as the circus of impeachment continues and members of Congress are so far out of touch with America and its people, it is scary. There is another side of the Iran issue I think needs to be considered. Here are my ruminations on that subject.

So far I have considered the American side of the coin. We, (the royal we including most Western nations), own a good piece of the blame for allowing Iran to be the bully, to have the military, to threaten with nuclear weaponry… Certainly, other western countries can point their finger at America and say it is our fault, and they are partially correct. We have had the most capability to put a stop to it during past administrations and we haven’t. Still, there is enough blame to go around.

HOWEVER, a very large part of the blame (for lack of a better term) lies with the Iranian people. How long are they going to put up with these bullies in black robes? There is a point that lies vaguely out in the cosmos somewhere. It is the place where people either fix what is wrong or they refuse to right the wrongs of the government over them choosing to ignore the abuses of that government. Their non-action, or ineffective action, becomes collusion. No longer can they maintain innocent bystander status, if there even is such a thing in today’s world.

The Christian who is also a patriot to his country walks a fine line. His first allegiance is to Christ, everything else is second. Some Christians take the words of Jesus, “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” to mark the dichotomy between the two and it is an appropriate line. Others turn to Paul’s remarks in Romans, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same…” They then declare that any action taken against even an evil or oppressive government is wrong and we are to bide our time and let God deal with it.

How do we follow that thinking when faced with demonic rulers such as Adolph Hitler and the bullies we see currently in Iran? To be very open, I don’t know. Remember, when Paul wrote, Romans were killing Christians for sport. The Roman lions were the unbeatable opponent. Allow me to take a line from the United States’ Declaration of Independence.

“…all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

The point is made here that people are more likely to continue to permit suffering rather than get rid of the familiar as long as the suffering is tolerable, (more likely that it is on someone else’s front porch and not my own). How much stronger is the desire to not go against the authorities when the authorities claim divine position and to go against them is to assure oneself of hell? This is particularly true when the religion being so used has been inculcated into their very DNA since they were born.

I must choose how to correctly interpret what Paul’s words meant to the people of his day and how that applies to people today. After much soul-searching and prayerful consideration, I determined that if I must err, if it is an error, I choose to stand on the side of protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. When any person, organization, political body, government or military does evil against any person, particularly those most vulnerable, the weak, infirm, the widows and orphans, the children, then I must stand between them and that evil. I believe the weight of the biblical evidence supports such action. I pray and thank God that He continues to have mercy upon me when such decisions must be rendered. I encourage anyone who might read this to determine for yourself where you stand. There will be no time to contemplate it when the time comes. The following poem by Martin Niemoller says it best. It’s titled, First They Came for the Jews.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Martin Niemöller

The Nazis imposed identification of the Jews

Will there be a time when the people of Iran have heard enough lies and seen enough abuse, felt the crush of unbridled power to that undefinable point and take a stand to demand there be revolution? In a bold move recently, rather than face a possible showdown with the IRGC, (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Ayatollah Khamenei played a slick card trick. He has moved to declare those who were killed by Iranian forces in the street riots over the past few weeks as martyrs. What does that mean? It means the families of those killed are set financially for life. They have an honored status now in Iran. What better way to quell a rebellion than buying off those responsible for it.

Israel apparently has decided to allow the U.S. to take the lead in actions against Iran. Strategists suggest that as long as the U.S. is pushing back against Iran, Israel will be able to allow the U.S. to take the lead and perhaps ease the threat against itself for a short time. Still others believe it is only a matter of time until Tehran acts against Israel again.

Courtesy STRATFOR

SUMMARY

“So, now what?” In the movie, Big Jake, (you knew it was coming, right?), John Wayne is an absentee father now reconnected with two of his sons to retrieve a kidnapped grandson. Events make the sons believe their father stole the $1M meant as ransom and when they challenge him, he towers over them, hands on his hips and defiantly says, “So, now what?” The sons had a choice to make. Do they challenge or cower?

Does the United States wait for Israel to act? Do we wait and encourage the Iranian people to act? To think that U.S. resources are not currently in place creating incentives for insurrection is to be going about with one’s head in the sand. Will government changes at the top in Moscow make a difference?

Iran has threatened just this week that if the Western countries open the Iranian nuclear file before the U.N. Security Council, they will leave the non-proliferation agreement… Whoopi! As if anyone believed they were following it anyway!

For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion and development of Iran’s nuclear capability. If they approach weaponization, all deals are off and the Iranian people need to know they are in a time crunch for acting in their own best interests. When that line is crossed, there is no doubt there will be collateral damage. Notice, I did not say of innocent bystanders because, at some point, inaction becomes collusion. If nothing else, they should remove themselves from harm’s way for their children’s sake if not their own. The children, sadly, will be at risk because of their parents’ choices.

The second stick is best visualized in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States. When he and his brothers are fired upon, the green flag is down, the gate is up and America responds for as many furlongs as it takes.

In every smallest detail, we pray. We pray for peace in the region. We pray for the safety of our troops. We pray for the salvation of every individual in Iran and beyond and we pray for divine guidance for our leaders, particularly for wisdom for our Commander in Chief.

I thank God that He has allowed me to be a citizen of this great nation which I have sworn to defend. I thank Him all the more that He sought me out to be a citizen of His heavenly kingdom and may I never do, say or write anything to tarnish His Name.

“I solemnly swear… I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States… against all enemies foreign and domestic…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…so help me God.

Perception

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems?

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It is just the beginning of the rush hour and you are needing to be on the far side of the local mall in time for your grandson’s basketball game. The person in front of you must have last driven in heavy traffic a minimum of seventy years ago in places where the speed limits were no more than 40 miles per hour or so it seems. The aggravation boiling up in you along with your high blood pressure is not affecting the driver in front of you one iota. It is all your issue and not his. In actuality, the driver is driving the speed limit, you are just upset he is not driving ten or more miles per hour over the limit like you would be if you could. It is your perception which has colored your interpretation of the difficulty. In fact, there truly is no difficulty; even driving the speed limit, you will arrive in plenty of time for the basketball game.

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems? Okay, let’s imagine you have the capability of eliminating ten thousand temporary problems. Sound like a type of scam or old-time medicine show selling snake oil to cure you of every malady known to man from colon cancer to postnasal drip? Stick with me for just a bit before you abandon the reading, thinking my A-train has slipped off the track and is plummeting down a 1000-foot ravine.

by Luis Duran

I used to have a small sign in my study which read: TWO RULES of a STRESS-FREE LIFE: 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2. It’s all small stuff. Okay, that sounds trite; but, there is more depth there if you scratch at it for a bit.

Text Box: by Luis Duran

Aiden Wilson Tozer, better known as A.W. Tozer, born 1897 and died in 1963, was an American pastor, author of multiple books, and editor of a Christian magazine. He is known for his depth of thought, clear understanding of scripture and his ability to share those cumulative thoughts on theology with the general public in a way the wisdom was well understood by his readers.

Referring to A.W. Tozer, Dr. Ron J. Bigalke[i] writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual.” Bigalke quotes Tozer’s writing in The Knowledge of the Holy. “A person’s faulty concept of God ‘is the cause of a hundred lesser evils.’ However, the one who believes in God as He truly is will be ‘relieved of ten thousand temporary problems.’” There you have it! The equation for ridding yourself of thousands of temporary problems can be showed as:

                A = A faulty concept of God        

                B = Life  

                Cx = Temporary Problems

A + B = Cx  

The equation indicates that a faulty concept of God plus life results in temporary problems exponentially multiplied.  

To reverse the process, more than just subtracting A, add to the equation the inverse of A or 1/A so that:

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(A-A) + 1/A + B = C0or the elimination of a faulty concept of God plus a proper understanding of God plus life results in temporary problems to the power of zero, or nil. A caveat is in order. As my children were growing and needing help with homework (and now the same for my grandchildren), if their questions involved history, government or language arts, they came to me. If their questions involved the sciences or mathematics, they went (and still go) to their mother. That I have included a mathematical equation to better express a concept, do not expect it to be a new revelation in complex calculus. Had it not been for a friendly high school senior who sat next to me, a lowly freshman in Algebra 1 back in 1971, I would probably still be in that class!

Jesus, quoted by John in John 16:33, said that we would have trouble in this world; but, He had overcome the world and because of that, we can have peace.

Let’s return to the statement by Tozer. The person who believes in God as He truly is “will be relieved of ten-thousand temporary problems.” Can Tozer make such a statement and back it up scripturally or is it simply a panacea? It makes us think of bumper sticker theology which can be all warm and fuzzy but it really isn’t theologically sound. It sounds too good to be true, getting rid of ten-thousand temporary problems.

There are many scriptures which declare the omnipotence of God such as Psalm 24:1-2.

The King of Glory and His Kingdom

A Psalm of David.

24The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the [a]waters.

1/A is having a proper understanding of God. Psalm 24 shows us the magnificence and supreme authority of the divine God.

There was a Christian children’s program several years ago which had some great theology in its music. The following is a line from one of their songs:

“God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla, or the monsters on TV.

Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man. And He’s watching out for you and me.”[ii]

De-escalating the effects our problems have on our lives is to grasp they are temporary. Just as life itself is short, so are the problems we face during it. The biblical author James provides a handle.

James 14:13

13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow [h]we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”(NKJV)

Bigalke writes that the Bible “reminds one that even the worst problem is only temporary; yet God is eternal and His glory is what endures forever.” What begins to be clear is that understanding the divinity of God and His eternal nature is critical to our perception of our problems as they compare to God’s power. Remember the quote on page 1? Let’s finish Bigalke’s thought. Bigalke writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual. Humanities greatest problems are the result of an inadequate understanding of who God is.” (emphasis added)

Go back to your drive to your grandson’s basketball game. All of the problems you had with the driver in front of you were because of your perception not your circumstances. It was not that you were actually going to be late. It was not that the driver in front of you was going slower than the speed limit. Your mis-perception of the time it takes you to get to the game and your perception of the driver’s speed were the cause of your aggravation.

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If we understand every single trial or adversity which we are undergoing is temporary, it will change our view of each problem. Imagine a person in a gulag for his faith, with no expectation he will ever be released. If he can truly grasp the situation, even if life-long is only temporary as compared to eternity, it will change his view of the circumstances of his life. None of us are very likely to face a life-sentence to a gulag; but, perhaps our circumstances are horrific in human terms. How can knowing those horrific circumstances are only temporary and heaven is our eternity change how we deal with them?

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How does truly understanding God’s power and divinity help us face circumstances which are not likely to change in any short period of time? Can we not just place those circumstances in God’s hands and ask Him to deal with it on a daily basis? Our hearts are hurting and breaking over a loved one’s pain. Can we help both ourselves and our loved one by re-focusing our perception of God’s divine power over our circumstances? I believe it will help everyone involved.  

A.W. Tozer wrote, “I take refuge in the fact that although I don’t know everything, I do know someone who does.”


[i] Bigalke, Dr. Ron J., Midnight Call magazine, The Work of Christ: Messianic Psalms, Dec. 2019

[ii] Veggie Tales, TandVTV, 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKWmmj0Cs-U

BOOTS ON

This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.

Strategies for Coping When You desire to Serve but Cannot

Not long after my fall and the subsequent fracture of my fibula, a friend, who is also an aficionado of wearing western (cowboy) boots as an everyday and only shoe, took me to task for not having my boots on! And right he is! Had I been wearing any of my pairs of trusted boots, I most likely would not have slipped on the wet grass and fallen.

Most of us know the term ‘died with his boots on.’ It is a way of relating how someone kept doing the work they knew to do right up until the Lord called them home. The fellow who ‘dies with his boots on’ is content with life. He always perceived himself useful and respected for his work.

In the great movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard in competition with John Wayne as Tom Donophan  for a lovely young woman’s affection. Until Stoddard, a tender-foot new lawyer shows up in the small old-west town, Donophan is the big man, well liked and respected. They vie for the love of Hallie (Vera Miles). Because Stoddard believes in the rule of law not violence, he is forced to face Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) in a show-down. It’s a lopsided duel with Stoddard not sure from which end of the gun the bullet comes out. Stoddard is certain to be killed.  Donophan shoots Valance from the shadows making everyone believe Stoddard was the victor. He won not only Hallie, but a lifetime as Senator in Congress.

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Donophan believed he was without a purpose in life. He existed in self-imposed isolation.

THE LESSON: Don’t believe everything you tell yourself.

Returning for Donophan’s funeral, Ransom and Hallie found him to be a forgotten man, destined for a pauper’s grave. Ransom looks in the coffin and sees Donophan doesn’t have his boots on. The undertaker argues ‘they were almost brand new, almost never worn.’ Ransom demands Donophan’s boots be put back on him.  About to be buried without his boots, Donophan is the image of a man who died believing he had no purpose, useless. Stoddard shared the whole story with the newspaper reporters and they threw it away. An iconic line of the movie is the editor’s response to Stoddard’s request. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

I’ve always worn boots, since my Air Force days and then as a cop. Off-duty it was western boots and they remain my favorite of all shoes. I have probably gone through countless pairs over the years. Most of them eventually became useless, worn out and not good for anything unless you wanted to make a flower garden decoration out of them! Many of them are still lying about in a closet or a hallway. I just can’t get myself to throw them in the trash. Some, sure. Most, I just can’t. Those old boots are retired, their initial job finished.

Because those boots are inanimate objects, they feel no despair over becoming retired and even unusable. In today’s society, however, trauma and stress affect individuals from feelings of a life mission not completed to being pushed away by younger men or women. Some may believe they can do it better and have no need of an older person’s input. The same is true for believers who agonize over ministry unaccomplished because age, infirmity, or simply discrimination have blocked paths for many of these folks. Some studies show over 70 percent of pastors report depression over such stress. (www.charismanews.com) What are some of the causes of our pain over retirement or simply being shut out of a ministry? How can individuals learn to cope?

This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.

There are a great many people who find retirement particularly difficult. If their profession was one in which they took a great deal of appropriate pride and it remains part of who they are, then separating from it is not easy. A study by the National Institutes of Health show suicide rates for career police officers are statistically higher for police within five years of retirement suggesting a correlation between suicide decisions and depression based on pending retirement. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) As a retiree, it is important to fight the empathy one feels toward those old boots; to feel like you’re just lying around the closet. Find ways to cope.

Grandkids are a great remedy for such malaise!  Some say they keep you young. I say they keep you alive! In family, the retiree is still needed and, if your family is like mine, you best keep those boots on because you could be rolling out anytime for something   critically important in the moment.

THE LESSON: Family is a great way to make sure you keep your boots on.

If there were western style boots in the first century, no doubt Paul and Timothy would be wearing them or a reasonable facsimile thereof! They were ready for anything at any time. First-responders in first century ministry, Paul and Timothy were the template for today. Remain in ministry, in whatever way it is defined for you, until the Lord calls you home. Even if debilitated, there is still some ministry function; becoming a prayer warrior is one example, through which God will use you.

THE LESSON: Be always ready to do whatever the Lord calls you to do.

There may be those who find no place for your work in a ministry they oversee. This is one of the most difficult hits to take. Even though you are not aware of any trouble between you and the person or a ministry team, to be disregarded is never pleasant. If the doors are closed to you within a group where you desired to work; this can become a serious struggle. As disheartening as it might be; hold true to what you know. Paul wrote to Timothy and advised him to let no-one criticize him for his youth. The reverse can be true. Pray for all those involved in ministry no matter their actions or attitudes toward you. Give grace.

THE LESSON: Be ready in all seasons to give an account for the hope that is within you.

A story is told in Ukraine about why the crosses on Ukrainian believers’ graves are at the feet of the deceased’s plots and not the heads, which may  have a small identifying marker. A reference is made to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24. He instructed His followers to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’. The belief is that on that day when the dead in Christ are raised with immortal bodies, as they step out of their graves, they will be able to reach down and pull up their cross and follow Him. I have no authoritative source for the story; but it does provide a good analogy for how prepared we are to be… always ready to follow Christ along whatever path He is directing us.

Retirement from a job or profession can be a wonderful new chapter in life. Ministry is not a job description. It is what happens when people who love God allow themselves to be His hands and feet. Everything we do can be ministry if we do it with the right heart. For too long Christians have left Ministry (capital M) to the “professionals.” Today, there is a greater awareness of the intimate connection between loving God and doing what He asks.  If you have made yourself available and then were overlooked, ask God to help you understand His plans and to accept by faith what you cannot understand through reasoning.

The last LESSON for ministry in retirement…

Work when you can, advise only when you’re asked, pray unceasingly and

                                                                                                              keep your boots on!

SPACE EXPLORATION – Sinful?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?”

Recently, I felt compelled to pen a letter to the editor of a Christian magazine after an article on India’s space exploration program. The letter is re-printed here for your consideration in part due to a conversation I had with a brother-in-Christ just this morning. We spoke of enjoying and encouraging the imagination of our young children and grandchildren. We reminded each other of times spent as children ourselves staring at a sky with white puffy clouds and calling out what animal or other images we saw the clouds forming. It is an amazing joy I share with my grandchildren as we sway lazily on our hammock under the shade of a sprawling oak tree. Imagining ourselves in the clouds ourselves must be on the mind of many future space explorers! With that in mind, I wrote the following to Mr. Arno Froese.

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

Arno Froese, Executive Editor The Midnight Call P.O. Box 84309 Lexington, SC 29073

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to say how much I enjoy Midnight Call and to beg a question of you from the September 2019 Issue, under World Focus “Moon Landing”. You pose a question as to the purpose for India to be so involved in space exploration and putting a rover on the moon. You answer your question with, as you say, “one word: pride.” For those who set themselves a nest among the stars, Obadiah declares the Lord, those shall be brought down. Still, I could not settle myself on the idea of condemning the Indian exploration as sin, i.e. pride and leaving it go at that. I think of God who is the Creator magnificent who takes great joy in His creation, all of it, man, animals, earth and space. God, in putting Job into a correct understanding of God’s greatness, asks, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?” (Job 38)

I believe God is quite pleased with his heavenly creation and given proper attitude of His human creation, He would welcome and has blessed our exploration of it. God proclaims in Genesis 1:14 of the heavens which sepearate the day and the night, “let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” Men of Issachar could watch the heavens and thus understood the times (1 Chron.12

Can we begin to know, even in these last days what wondrous discoveries that might lead to cures of human maladies, stop the suffering of children or feed more poor than gleaning will be spun from a laboratory’s accelerator after exploration of space? More importantly, can we know another man’s heart? Can or should we ascribe guilt of sin to everyone attached to a nation’s space exploration program?

When considering the purposes of space exploration, we should also mention, the very real threats now looming like the Sword of Damacles across the globe for any maleficently minded country leader to shock our world with electronic pulses. Must we not know and have a command of space to stop such threats? I venture to say there are many noble purposes for space exploration. Although pride may be the Achille’s heel for some within such programs, still let us ask God to bless such work for learning more about our Creator and His creation as well as what boon to mankind it might bring.

I am reminded of the poem by Jahn Gillespie Magee Jr., the last lines which read, “while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod, the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” President Regan quoted this poem after the Shuttle disaster many years ago. When it comes to space exploration, the heavens are a creation which reveals the very nature of our God. We should relish every touch we can have with it.

Respectfully,

Dr. Ross Riggs  

Front Steps and Back Patios

t may be a pity too few may read this post for, even though many seem driven to cast a pall over America’s horizon and bemoan how Americans will never be what they once were, there is a brighter hope I see emanating from the shadows cast by all the nay say-ers

                    InSCIghts is one of a half-dozen titles under which this author writes some basic and other more detailed and complex concepts of law enforcement relations with their communities. Sadly, it is also one which has been bereft of any serious works of late. In thinking about why and trying to explain it to my son, I made the comment, ‘life happened’ but such has more in common with an excuse than an explanation. In hopes of filling the void on my web’s blog sites and reviving what once was a plethora of article submissions – to which several quality magazine editors would let out a long sigh when they saw the familiar SCI logo in their ‘in-box’ – I take pen and paper in hand and begin to swipe at the cobwebs of my mind and see what awakens! Okay, so I use a laptop and mouse not pen and paper and most of the cobwebs which have begun to take over my ‘attic’ are too entrenched to go with just a swipe. It is going to take a shop-vac on full suction to get those bad-boys out of the corners!

                    It is a combination of the ‘Patriot Day’ just passed which brought with it friends lamenting how communities and neighbors were so much closer in the weeks following 9-11 and the simple realization that students now high school seniors, to graduate in the Spring of 2020, were not yet born in 2001. They cannot share the common experience of Americans from that fateful day; nor can any of their classmates who come after them. These thoughts began to stir in me a desire to write. I realize when I pen an article or blog, there may be only a handful of people taking the time to read it. But, that’s okay. Writing is cathartic for me and if, by chance, it does some smattering of good for someone who is inclined to read it; all the better.

                     It may be a pity too few may read this post for, even though many seem driven to cast a pall over America’s horizon and bemoan how Americans will never be what they once were, there is a brighter hope I see emanating from the shadows cast by all the nay say-ers. What began as a faint glow and then was just an unsteady glimmer has begun to brighten and is overcoming the darkness one front porch at a time, or perhaps a back deck; maybe one kitchen at a time or within the family rooms of people who share a common bond. 

                    When traveling abroad for many years; Karin and I were taken by how a sense of community existed in a bond between people of the town and it seemed founded upon the small groups which would appear like magic on front steps or back patios, even along fence rows, as men and women, their work done for the day did not retreat  behind closed doors, shuttered windows and loud televisions. Instead in what were some of the  most financially destitute villages, we enjoyed these visits; when the evening light was fading and the one or two streetlights would crackle and buzz until the dim light within came on, brightening and lessening as the available amount of electrical current along the line would fluctuate and neighbors sought out neighbors to do nothing more than share time. In a world driven by money and possessions, those with the most of each seem to have less time than those who could not afford a cellphone, even if service was available. These folks were rich because of the way they valued and used their time.

                    The people who graciously gave us of their time and allowed us to share ours, in these far-flung villages were Christ followers. Not Christians because their names were dutifully entered into a ledger of some national church at their birth but people who had found the richness of the grace of God irresistible and they had given in, fully and completely plunging themselves into the love of Christ and learning what it meant to live in a community of believers. The New Testament has a name for such communities of believers, they are called the church.

                    What I am finding refreshing and the provider of hope for America, is these ‘old-world’ ways – the appreciation of time, the enjoyment of being involved in an event for the event’s sake and not for what each may get out of the event as another notch on their social status belt or recognition of their worldly wisdom. Men and women of America, more and more, are re-learning the joys of being. They are enjoying being together, being involved in others lives, being accepted and even needed – not for some thing they offer to the group but needed to just be part of the group. Those who seem to be succeeding at this new adventure seem as if they are living in an older, simpler time. Likely it was not truly simpler – maybe – just less complex, but not simpler. What I mean by that is; those who lives were less complex back in my parent’s and grandparent’s days were still not simple lives. There was pain and hurt, financial troubles, World Wars and much more. Still, their lives were less complex. They took time to have time and to share time with others. Family time was held sacrosanct. You did not find an excuse to miss family time, no matter how, as a teenager one might believe family time to be lame; or as a young adult might have too much work or something else as a priority, there was no excuse for missing family time.

                    There is, thankfully, an extension of family time. People, some related by DNA matches but many more who are together, making time, sharing time, enjoying time in simpler ways on front steps and back patios, even over fence rows and no one is looking to see what time it is or how late it is getting. These people begin to grow together and learn to care for one another building into one another’s lives. It all happens because they are blood relatives. All are saved by the precious blood of Jesus. They are Christ followers, not perfect people, hopefully not legalistic people or judgmental but similarly they have come from a past of yuckiness and brown stuff and found how Christ can forgive and forget and He loves them all the same, anyway. These followers of the Yeshuah are laughing and loving; learning and praying; hurting and crying; living and thriving – enjoying time together. Seldom is the television on (unless its football season – there can be a little leeway here – and it doesn’t matter because you would not be able to hear it over the talking and laughter anyway. Sometimes when they gather, they study their Bible or discuss ways to cope. No matter the mix – within it is hope. They are communities of believers in Jesus Christ who love one another and love getting together – the New Testament called it the church.

                    Is it perfect and without problems? Nope. But, there’s hope.

                    In this group, when it is believers who are mostly American citizens, there can be a range of political beliefs but politics which divide are not part of the ingredients of these groups. What is incredible is how these groups can become the strongest fiber, the most level foundation, the walls of support for a nation such as ours who desperately needs to know Jesus. These men, women, both young and older people of prayer will be what holds the American experiment together – not just because America is exceptional but also because these Americans are exceptional. What makes them exceptional? The God who made them. Their faith and trust in Him will hold them while the ship of state rocks on heavy seas.

                    If there was ever a time in America’s history when people of faith needed to be strongly united in being Behind the Line – the Thin Blue Line – it’s now. Together, prayerfully asking for God’s blessing and faithfully following His lead; Americans can overcome all of the dark forces which are vying for America’s lifeblood. Behind the Line – that is where I want to be – yet at the same time, Christ has asked His believers to be on the front line and it is possible be both. Christ is who He says He is, and He will do what He has said He will do. In the in-between time; when the day’s work is done and the streetlights falter, then flicker on; its good to get together and spend the most valuable resource you have in life – time, and it’s better when you spend it together.

Like Sand Through the Hourglass

Like sand through the hourglass… seems like the hole between the upper and lower chambers of the glass has gotten wider these last few years.

By Ross L. Riggs, D Min.

Those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s often heard a familiar voice in the mid-afternoon come across the television. For me, it was usually  as my mother was ironing clothes. (For those of you who are much younger than I, ironing was something a mother, usually, would do using a steam iron and an ironing board. The purpose was to take clothes, particularly shirts, which had been dried on the clothesline in the backyard [I’ll explain that another time for sake of space] and iron the wrinkles out of them before folding and placing back in the drawer or, for dress shirts on a hanger)

The voice solemnly told us, “Like sand through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives” the introduction to the soap opera  Days of Our Lives. Soap operas were great for those who were hooked on them because even if you missed a few days, or weeks, even months, you could come back and find the storyline not very far advanced from when you left it. But, I digress.

The Bible also speaks of the fleeting nature of life. Solomon, a man who was given more wisdom than any man before or since once bemoaned, ‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity..” He found little purpose in striving in life because no matter what, one was not getting out of life alive and whatever you had accomplished was left for someone else to claim. A pretty depressing line of thinking. Still, the Bible does give us analogies such as “For He Himself knows [a]our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.” (Psalm 103:14-16) A great analogy, though editors are always cautious about the use of the word but; whether it is a adjective or a noun, of course spelling helps to clarify.

There is Jack Nicholson who, in Bucket List, declared life to pass like smoke through a keyhole. Of course, the origin of the thought is somewhat less clear. Google lists 166,000 answers as to the origin of the term.

James, the brother of Christ, a leader in the early church and co-author of the Book of James in the New Testament writes, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NASB)

What got me thinking about the brevity of life, or rather, the speed with which life seems to pass by came as I left Bethany Nursing Home, the finest facility  with the nicest folks where I had been watching the All Star Game with my brother Rod. The neighborhood around was apparently the night before trash pick up because the street had numerous trash receptacles out to the curb and some bags of trash awaiting pick up. Have you ever noticed how quickly you get from one trash day to the next? The week in between just blows by and the amount of stuff  you have to throw away from the week is incredible.

Allow me to go back to those childhood years when Mom was ironing and the man was solemnly warning us about the sand in our hourglass, we had something in our basement not uncommon in those days; but, now a thing of the past, an incinerator. Think of it as a family size crematorium for trash. You, (meaning the children in the house old enough to reach the top of the incinerator which was about the size of a washing machine) had the job of taking the bag of trash each evening, just after supper, to the basement to be thrown into the incinerator which had a gas fed fire always burning in the bottom, like a port-a-hades. The evening air in the neighborhood was always tinged with the smell of the days garbage being destroyed by the third element of nature. Later, we moved to a newer housing allotment and surprisingly the new homes did not have incinerators. Rather, in the back yard of each home was a burn barrel  and it was exactly what the name disclosed.

Now the children of the house old enough to handle matches unattended would carry  the bag of trash out to the burn barrel and light it up and standby long enough to know the days garbage was nothing but flecks of black soot rising into the air. Not bad duty on a cold winter night but not the best chore in the middle of summer unless you really enjoyed, perhaps too  much, watching things burn. I suppose it was the environmental movement of the 70’s which brought an end to burn barrels and a new suburban glimpse into city life, the appearance of garbage trucks! Still, life revolved, to some degree over the trash pick-up. My Mom would only fry chicken on the nights before trash pick-up so as to not have the bones lying in the garbage for several days…

The trash of our week gets tossed out and forgotten, hopefully being composted or recycled so my great-grandchildren don’t have to live on the waste dump we created. The weeks for which the trash accumulates go by more quickly with each passing year. Going out to retrieve the garbage can and taking the garbage can out, one begins to feel like the guy in the old “Dunkin Donuts’ commercial, who finally meets himself at the door he is coming and going so quickly and so often…

Solomon’s warning of life like a flower, the wind passes over it and it is remembered no more. We should acknowledge the brevity of life and rid ourselves of the trash which accumulates around our lives and we must do so prayerfully and purposefully. We need, at the same time to hold on to what really matters. Hang on to the precious moments which will fill our lives if we allow them .

When visiting the Philippines back in 1998, I was impressed with a part of  their culture which celebrated events rather than be slave to a clock. In the U.S., a time to meet with a friend for coffee is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. and is expected to be finished by 10:45, even placed in our cellphone calendar with a reminder ding and perhaps, too, an alert when time was up, next appointment. In the Filipino culture the event was time with a friend. Set for 10 but maybe it will begin at 10:30 or 10:45, whenever the parties arrive and it will last for as long as it possibly can, the friends taking over an hour to say goodbye even if it meant the next event would have to wait. Of course, a wait wouldn’t matter because the next meeting was also based on the event not the time.

I create for myself, now, a priorities list which is designed to help my sometimes failing memory with what I would like to accomplish each day. Notice, like to accomplish not need to accomplish? A few things have been on the list every day for a month, I’ll get to them; but, I won’t be driven by the list. It reminds me things I would like to do and often an article on it will be a hammock nap. I always include a prayer-time and some reading time. When life changes how the list will go on a given day, no worries, tomorrow will have a new list. When I have a chance to hang with a grandchild, I want to really be there with them not just be in the same place they are but completely disengaged. When they say, “Papaw” I want my eyes to meet theirs and they know they have my full attention. It doesn’t always work and sometimes ol’ Papaw is just too pooped to pop; but, they know my intention is to be part of their moments. When  I was with my one grandfather, my papaw, I knew I was the most important person in the world to him at that moment. He might have six grandchildren lined up for a ‘toopie-too’ ride on his knee; but, for that moment his attention was fully mine and I want my grandkids to feel that same specialness.

Like sand through the hourglass… seems like the hole between the upper and lower chambers of the glass has gotten wider these last few years.

The Bible gives some truly great advice when it comes to living life. Karin and I are about to celebrate 40 years of marriage. Solomon wrote, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has give to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) Solomon concludes Ecclesiastes with this:

EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING

Hopefully though, every once-in-a-while, everyone can have an oportunity to realize easy, like Sunday morning

The late Michael Conrad, ‘Sgt. Esterhaus’ on Hill Street Blues with his famous admmonition to the cops from the ‘Hill’ precinct, “Let’s be careful out there!” He and most of the real-world cops and first responders who have been around the block more than once would agree Lionel Richie was using a metaphor which only exists in the minds of many. For the rest of us, first responders, cops, clergy, doctors, nurses etc. the idea of an ‘easy Sunday morning’ is laughable. Just when you think you are having one, BANG, the celing comes down with just one beep on the radio receiver.

I recall a frigid, sub-zero Sunday morning, our officers and an area SWAT team were surrounding a house where a male suspect has been shooting at anything he felt like for about three hours from inside his parents’ home. There were many reasons we wanted to get this settled as soon as possible. Daylight was coming, the neighborhood would soon be antsy about being evacuated, it was colder than an elf’s toes on Christmas Eve (you know those shoes they wear CAN’T keep your feet warm!), and most importantly to the cops with me from Rittmann PD, we had Cleveland Browns football tickets for us and our wives! Kickoff was at 1:00 and this was back in the old stadium when the Brownies had the ‘Cardiac Kids’ on the field!

No, there is seldom a ‘typical’ Sunday morning which fits the mental picture one gets listening to the Lionel Richie song.

Today, however, may be an exception. I am with my lovely wife and four of our grandchildren, ages 7,7, 5 and 10 months, at a campground in the middle of wooded hillsides. The sun is just coming over the rise of the hills to the East and the rays are making their way through the tree branches. The three older grandchildren have just come out with coloring pictures and donuts in hand, our plan is to do some fishing after breakfast. Yep, easy like Sunday mmorning.

Most Sunday mornings we enjoy being with fellow believers at our gathering of the church for worship, teaching and fellowship in preparation for service in the week ahead.Yes, there are many people who work diligently every Sunday to make certain things go off as they should. Hopefully though, every once-in-a-while, everyone can have an oportunity to realize easy, like Sunday morning.