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.

THE TURN

The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of GOd blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look.

Those who know the Easter story, who know the biblical account of the crucifixion and who have perhaps dug deeper into the traditions that surrounded the gruesome yet beautiful event, will remember well the climax of the story. At least, it is the climax of the story from our viewpoint. Luke 23 beginning in verse 44 is where I want to begin.

” Now it [l]was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was [m]darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in [n]two. “

Jesus had taken on the sin of the world. All sin for all time. The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of God blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look. God the Father turned His face away, His back toward His only Son. Jesus cried and asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” The anguish of seperation between two who for eternity past had been One, now torn… Jesus commits His spirit to the Father and from our viewpoint, the story of Good Friday and Christ on the cross comes to an end.

Right now its almost 5am on Easter Sunday morning 2019. Most pastors are getting up preparing for the sunrise services. Me, an old retired cop, just spent 5 hours on a security detail for my company and I’m preparing for bed, hoping to make the non-sunrise service. But, driving home, contemplating Easter morning I began thinking about what time it was that Jesus actually arose. We know the women came to the tomb at first light but how long had Jesus been back to the earthly domain? Had He stood over His mother Mary, as she fitfully slept in shear exhaustion, eager to comfort her? Maybe watching over His disciples, knowing their hurt and how joy would come to them this day.

As I thought on those things, I went back in my mind to Friday. Just after Jesus died. That was perhaps the most amazing and overwheling part of the story and we, for the most part have missed it! The picture above of Jesus in heaven is a nice picture but think about Jesus story of the prodigal son and how the father came running down the road to greet him when he returned.

AFTER God the Father had to turn His back on Jesus, His only Son, seconds later, Jesus is there with the Father and God turns back, His face now beaming at His Son! Can you imagine the embrace? Can you picture God the Father running to embrace His Son? Ah, Easter, thank God!

A Little Piece of Heaven

The realtor said that within about another ten years or so, if we plant and do everything right, we may have our very own cactus, right in our own yard!

AUTHOR’s NOTE: Please, Please know that the following work is meant as a parody and in no way reflects at all what we think of the beautiful area and the town’s people. We hope you enjoy our humor given in love.

Just 65.9 miles, some folks calls it 70 miles but we’re not here to split hairs…  beginning on Wayne Newton Blvd at the McCarren International Airport outside of Las Vegas get on I 25 heading west until you come to Nevada 160 following 160 to E. Simkins Road. From there take scenic Panorama Road until you come to Morongo Drive… you can almost smell the cowboy coffee cooking on the outside fire.    

            Karin and I want you to know that just because we’ve owned this little piece of heaven for about a dozen or so years, we aren’t even thinkin’ of selling it or being uppity. We’re just the same ol’ folks you knew before anyone come to find out we are real estate moguls, or mongrels… I forget the word.

           We love it that our property is far enough outside of the hustle and busyness of downtown Pahrump. I mean, it’s a sin trap of biblical proportions. I put in a picture of the raucous main street… I fear a little our youngest, Daniel, being overcome by such a place. Here’s that picture of downtown, make sure no little ones, or anyone under thirty-five be nearby when you gander at it and make sure you don’t gander too long either. I worried sick about puttin’ this in but you gots to know it’s there and not be shocked when you drive through. We put curtains on the back windows of our sedan and made the kids lay down on the back seat and put their heads under a pillow the first time we drove through. Momma Karin, she sat with her hands over her eyes and just kept singing, “In the Sweet” til we got through.

I apologize for anyone who got heart sick lookin’ at all that. But, like I said we are out away from things. You turn onto Morongo Drive and the world becomes your own again.  There is a sign for  a good future for our new part-time home and even employment for the children! We can’t believe how blessed we are. Just 7.2 miles from our front door (when we have one) is a Walmart Supercenter! I’m not kidding! It’s  amazing but there’s even more!

We got to lookin’ on line and check this out. Just right at the Walmart Super Center, (that’s right, it ain’t just a Walmart, it’s a Super Center!), there is an Auto Zone and  an AMMO WAREHOUSE!

I got so excited when I first saw that, then Karin handed me my glasses and I saw it said Ammo Warehouse – whew! It wasn’t what I first thought but, heck, a warehouse is good too!

And, I know that some of you were worried when you heard we had this other place, you know that we might be come what they call sun birds and every year spend our summers in Pahrump, but I really think we’d miss the summer in Ohio with mosquitoes and 100 percent humidity.  But it will be nice change. You don’t have to worry about any health things either because check this out…

That’s right… you guessed it! Right there by the Walmart SUPER Center, just over 7 miles from our kitchen and bathroom, (once we have those) is our very own The Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue!

They’ve added a Subway, not the kind you travel in of course, and an eye doctor who came there. He has kind of a funny way of looking at you, a lazy eye I think he said;  but, he seems like a good ol’ boy.  I asked him why his doctor friends didn’t help him fix his eyes too; but, he didn’t seem to know what I meant.  I guess eye doctors don’t take care of one another like the proctologists we know back home do.

So, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. I want to show you our ‘little piece of heaven’ just remember, it’s a work in progress. We’ve only had it about a dozen years or so, maybe longer, I think maybe we got her in 03, but it’s slow getting help and doing things on your own to get the house and property up and ready for visitors.  Just real quick…,

 Here’s a map to the house from the airport, again, so you be sure not to miss our place when you come to visit.  That’s another thing, I’ve always disliked those cookie-cutter house developments where you can’t tell one neighbor’s place from another. Boy, on our street, everyone’s own personality shows through on the way they’ve done there’s. You can see in the picture of our place, just how the ones right around us are so unique.

So, without any further waitin’ here is our place, you’ll need to either turn the page sideways or tilt your head because I wanted you to see our neighbors, so I made the picture of the whole neighborhood right by us.

Wow! I get chills every time I look at it! I’ve never been so thrilled. The scenery alone is worth everything! The realtor said that within about another ten years or so, if we plant and do everything right, we may have our very own cactus, right in our own yard! Don’t you wait too long to come and see us, Okay?! We’ll keep a light burning in the windo for you, as soon as we have a window!

The Path

a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe

A walk along a mountain ridge outside of Keezletown, Virginia on an early morning recently allowed me a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe.

As I looked across at the hills in the distance and then glanced down the path in front of me, I was struck by how barren it looked. The brown and dead look of winter seemed to hang over the path like a dreary curtain pulled over the sunshine of the blue morning sky. There was no sign of green life anywhere… or so it seemed.

It seemed odd, it was late March and April was only a few days away, where was any sign of spring? I had to stop on the path, quit my focus on just moving forward and standstill to look more closely. Every brown twig that looked so bleak in passing actually held a small bud of a new leaf about to sprout. Within the next two weeks, this same path will be bursting forth in green and already some signs of pink on the cheery blossom trees were there for those who stoppped long enough to see them.

Life is like the path I was on… there are times our path seems so bleak, so dreary and there are no signs of new life. Down right depressing! But then we stop and we look a little more closely and sure enough, there are signs God is turning the world a little at a time and the change of seasons is still happening even when we fail to see it. I was blessed God allowed me a minute to stop on the path and notice the hope of spring. Maybe, I’ll be a little quicker to stop more often and take in a fesh breath of springtime to push away some of the dark winter has left behind.

AN ODD AWAKENING

WOW, I think to myself… Hotel security at my door, at midnight… I have my own wife with me… What could it possibly be?

IT IS JUST ABOUT MIDNIGHT. Our hotel room is dark and quiet (with perhaps the intermittent gentle snoring for which I am famous.) Karin and I are in Columbus for a couple of days and I jokingly mentioned to her that our room is ‘murder central’ – a pun related to a television reference to rooms at the end of the hall by the stairwell. On this occasion, we are both sound asleep when a seriously loud and the prolonged BANG BANG BANG of a fist on our door. As always, our door is double locked, an alarm wedged between the door and the floor and my Colt .45 at my side.

AGAIN, BANG, BANG, BANG. I call out who is it? A deep voice responds, SECURITY! It was a business-like tone that told me this has nothing to do with our neighbors complaining about the snoring!  

I make my way to the door and removing the alarm wedge, I look through the peep-hold and see a very large person in a security uniform standing there and not looking very happy. 

WOW, I think to myself… Hotel security at my door, at midnight… I have my own wife with me… What could it possibly be? I get horrific thoughts of bad news from home… Karin speculates that something happened to our truck. Nothing prepared me for what I would see when I opened the door.

I open the door to find this very professional looking security person looking less than pleased at me and at his feet stands the cutest little four-year-old girl in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket looking scared to death.

Obviously irritated, at me I suppose, because he thinks I am the negligent father or grandfather who has allowed this child to go strolling the hotel at night, the guard demands, “DO YOU KNOW HER?”

“No, Sir” I replied. His expression changed and with compassion he looks at the girl and asks, “Tell me what you think your room number is again?”

The guard apologizes for bothering us and I volunteer to help him find her parents if he needs assistance. He said he would handle it, “But thanks” he said.

I went back to bed with a prayer for that little girl to find her parents and thanking God for a security guard who really cared.

Holding the Line

A citizen, then, who stands alongside one whose faculties may be diminished, or who, simply, is under duress by persons in some place of authority with the power to negatively impact that person’s standard of living, the protector is most honorable.

Perhaps few people will be required across their life time to take a stand for their principles on behalf of others. It is a noble thing to be true to one’s self and to maintain those principles one has decided for themselves, “this is a truth I will not disavow, for it is a belief, a practice, or a rule for my own self-care, which I know is best for me to follow for my personal well-being.” A person who struggles with alcoholism may maintain such a personal practice, knowing that to violate this one specific rule, such as the frequenting of a certain tavern, will lead eventually to his own self’s relenting to drinking which will lead to negative consequences.

Wise individuals will set and adhere to such personal lines of discipline. Such is not uncommon and often, these wise folks will enlist the aid of friends or confidants to provide help in times of temptation. For these people, the issue is personal, the negative consequences are personal as well. The line that they have drawn is a personal one and, other than those who will provide assistance, everything about the possible challenge to it will come to the individual as a private matter. The individual is motivated to keep his or her standard out of a sense of care for one’s self.

Fewer are the people who are in situations where they have either a moral or legal obligation to maintain a specific principle or uphold a value on behalf of someone else, not a family member. Certain professions have a code of ethics that demands certain discretions. Others have legal mandates requiring such privilege. An attorney may hold to an attorney-client privilege that forbids the attorney from disclosing specific types of information, except under very narrow circumstances. A physician holds a moral obligation to privileged communication which is enforced in the U.S. by very specific federal legislation, which places the physician in the position of legal liability if they or a member of their staff discloses medical information considered privileged. Clergy also hold to a strict level of confidentiality between the clergy and a counselee and on a higher moral line is the revered sanctity of the confessional and the priest and petitioner. In each of these, some higher level is enforcing the maintenance of the confidence. Avoiding legal liability or a perceived moral or spiritual liability is often the primary motivator for adhering to the standard.

What is most unusual currently in the 21st Century is a person who, by the profession in which they are employed has access to another’s personal information and chooses. because of their respect for the privacy rights of their client, their own personal moral or spiritual convictions, to protect the privacy of another person, whether client or other similar relationship, at the risk of their job, their career standing and their own personal well-being.

When such a person takes a stand to protect another individual’s privacy and there is no information on a criminal act or information that could harm someone if not released, our American society is the better. Our founding fathers prized personal freedom and the protection of privacy higher than any other. A citizen, then, who stands alongside one whose faculties may be diminished, or who, simply, is under duress by persons in some place of authority with the power to negatively impact that person’s standard of living, the protector is most honorable. When those unconscionable persons put an individual in a situation where they need a protector, the guardian should be given every assistance possible by others within our society who have the potential to be a positive help. When the protector-guardian is threatened with a loss of job or other punitive action and the protector remains resolute in their protection of their charge’s privacy, every person with any voice should raise a clarion call to aid the protector in their role.

When the guardian’s charge, who requires the protection of their privacy is a veteran of the United States’ armed forces, the guardian is, without hyperbole, a hero. A veteran, who, because of their own service to protect the rights of others, now faces some diminished capacity and becomes a victim of duress by a bureaucratic organization and that organization then terminates the job of the guardian and verbally assaults the protector of the veteran’s rights – that organization should feel the full weight of the federal government charged to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens. A full and formal investigation of the company is in order. May the protector of this veteran experience the gratitude and respect of our nation at the highest levels.

May God richly bless the guardian and all who walk in their shoes.