Can I Get a Little Cheese with that Whine?

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

In the last week I faced a tough question. Is it possible to face another surgery? The immediate public answer is, ‘of course!’ While Gunner (my Black Lab, Shepherd, Chow mix) and I were actively involved visiting patients at the local hospitals, I met a great many heroes. Lots of them are young children and have faced many more surgeries than me and are facing many more. They have an internal fortitude, often a faith, but each I met had a tenacity that was far and above my own. I tried to count the number I have had. It is somewhere around twenty. After breaking my leg (the left fibula just above the ankle) in October, wearing a cast for weeks, undergoing PT then learning that my bone was still as broken as it was on day one; I was scheduled for surgical repair this past February. Two weeks with a special cast then a regular cast and then a boot and finally… this past Wednesday, April 30th set free! The doc said all looked good and I was free to ambulate!

Freedom lasted about five hours until I tripped in my bathroom and twisted the same foot! It is possible I have torn one of the extensor tendons which run the length of the top of the foot. I will know this coming Thursday if it is torn and if it is, it will require surgery. Of course, as summer approaches, my Harley sits longingly in the garage and my bass boat cries out from storage for release. Those things are going to be put on hold yet again! I have been feeling like each recovery has taken some of the fire from my soul. I was all set to talk myself into a truly blue mood.

Then, news came from a dear friend, younger than me, who has been battling cancer and was hopeful that it was annihilated. The cancer remains, however, in a small tumor. It is not devastating news, but it is not the news we wanted. To be very honest, such news makes my entire first two paragraphs seems totally ego-centric and whiny!

Are they? Do we need to measure our hurts, anxieties, and stresses by considering what others bear? Each of us have been there, just not feeling well, being down in our spirit, aching for something we cannot describe and we long to lay it out before our Heavenly Father. Then we hear of a horrific battle being fought by another and we push all our stuff back into the box where we keep those hurts we don’t share with others. We paint a fake smile on our face and keep on going. Is that what God wants us to do or is it what He expects from us?

I think perhaps we have a true, two-sided coin. When we are facing a challenge, it can be an encouragement to us to see how others have battled and won. We can also put our own in a better perspective and it helps us be grateful for our blessings. Both of those are positive and can help us meet our own challenge with a renewed vigor, a fresh outlook and a deeper faith.

Pushing your own feelings back in the box and painting on a face, with an everything is Okay kind of look is what I call the ‘Sunday morning smile.’ We have all seen it and we have all done it. If you are a churchgoing, worship-gathering kind of person, it happens in those quick passes in the hallway with the ‘good morning’ greetings and ‘how ya’ doing’ questions. It is easier to just smile and say, ‘I’m better than a mosquito in a blood bank’ than to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m having a tough week and could use some prayer.’

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) for he cares for you.” Notice the words… anxiety, your worries and struggles and the adjective ‘all’. Peter does not say, ‘Cast all the care you have that is important enough for God to consider’ or ‘all your care that is greater than everyone else’s care’, he writes all.[i]

Matthew writes, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[ii]

It appears to be about balance. We need to be encouraged by other’s victories and we need to be mindful we have much for which to be grateful. Gloomy-Gus Christians who can only moan about the burden of life without seeing any positives, feeling any grace or recognizing blessings need to spend some time in introspective prayer and Bible reading. Unbelievers who look toward Christ to bring them from the brink of despair and meet only the Christian so wrapped in their own misery will not find hope in such hopelessness.

Worse, though, are those who feel an obligation to not let anyone know they are struggling. Whether it is pride or their false persona of SUPER CHRISTIAN that keeps them silent, they are in for a rude awakening. For them, a Christian faces every storm and never has a moment of struggle or grief. Anyone who believes a real Christian must not worry and bottles up everything inside, is on a collision course with reality, is going to get hit hard and there is always collateral damage.

I knew such a man. (Spoiler Alert – if you are of delicate sensibilities, you may want to skip this paragraph) He kept up the persona of a great husband and father, community leader, business elite, everything neatly packed in his calf-skin briefcase and his never off-the-rack suits. One day I stood next to him, still in his expensive suit now soaked through with blood. His calf-skin briefcase had fallen open, the contents carried by the wind through the woods where he had walked before sitting at the base of a tree and eating the business end of his shotgun. Not a very pretty picture, is it? No one seemed to have any clue there was a problem brewing beneath his well-protected façade. I have no doubt his family would have gladly accepted a father who told them he was struggling and work with him to find help. It would not have made him less of a great dad. Certainly, the option he chose did not do anything to help his family.       

So, what about this feeling I have that it is getting harder to bounce back from each additional surgery and recovery period? Do I face the possibility of another up-coming surgery with dread and a morose attitude? Do I bottle it up and put on my Sunday morning smile because others truly are much worse off than me? Do I step from the nearest phonebooth[iii] in my tight leotards with my flowing cape and the large C on my chest as SUPER CHRISTIAN who can withstand this, declaring, “HAVE NO FEAR SUPER C IS HERE”?

Perhaps, the best tack may be not worrying about tomorrow because, as Matthew writes, “…tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[iv] There is a good possibility this will be just a bad sprain and I will not even need surgery. If it is a tear, as my mom would have said, be glad the Bible says: ‘It came to pass’ not, it came to stay!

I have an amazing support team! All will be fine. If torn, it is a simple tear and not a life-threatening malady with beau coup complications.

Finally, with every surgery and resulting recovery, God has taught me something about myself and about others. In this too, there shall be a lesson. Will it stink to not be riding my Harley for a while or to have some restrictions on my fishing? Absolutely. I think I can survive.

I should also use this time to be reminded of those facing life-altering medical issues and seek to pray for them, encourage them and be ready to assist should the opportunity present itself.

It is also a great time to count my many blessings and thank my support team for all their awesome love and attention to caring for me even when I am at my most unlovable.


[i] 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

[ii] Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

[iii] Phonebooth a small structure furnished with a payphone and designed for a telephone user’s convenience. (Provided for Millennials and younger!)  

[iv] Matthew 6:34 NIV

The DEAD of NIGHT

The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.

The dead of night is a phrase with which any night worker can relate. As a long-time night shift cop, there was a certain sense of foreboding with the true concept of the dead of night. The stillness of the air, the quiet eerieness that seems to put the astute officer on edge are all part of the deeper meaning wrapped in the dead of night.

Euphemisms are often thought of as a way to smooth over another statement that is too harsh such as downsizing for firing employees. For our purposes here, it is best defined as a literary tool which enables the writer to convey a deeper meaning more than is possible with a simple statement. It is not necessarily negative. Perhaps it brings a picture to mind that helps elaborate on a message, to give the icy chill on the back of the neck to the reader or causes one’s temperature to rise with his heart beat. In any case, there is a definitive image which brings with it a clearer understanding of the writer’s intent.

The dead of winter evokes a special meaning for those of us who despise winter! It holds a different, peaceful, crystal white stillness for those who love it. In either respect, there is something in the phrase which brings out a fuller, deeper, wider grasp of the winter season.

In a seminary class, we read a study in church growth titled, New Life from a Dead Stump. The concept was formed from the picture of a small sprout for a new tree emerging slowly from the apparently dead stump of a fallen, diseased and dead tree. The analogy was the dead stump as the remains of a body of believers, a church which had fallen through sin or some other disease. The tree had been robbed of life. Now after time, a new, fresh life was beginning to grow from the midst of that dead stump.

A new chapter, or at least a long footnote, for world and American history has appeared in the form of COVID 19. It includes shuttered businesses, travel suspended, individuals and families sequestered in their homes while trying to slow the spread of the deadly virus. Week upon week many find the ends of their ropes begin to fray as they struggle with unpaid bills and curtailed income. Children, unable to attend school, find themselves shut inside while weather, particularly in the northern states, precludes much outdoor activity. This has led to a combination of house fever and sibling rash brought on by constant irritation.

Church organizations are finding new ways to fulfill the admonition by the Apostle Paul to not forsake the assembling of themselves together. A unforeseen advantage of this new decentraized concept of worship is the re-discovery for many that church is not the building or the organization, the 501c3, or the pastor and staff; but, the church is the universal body of believers who do assemble for corporate worship, training, teaching, communal prayer and the observation of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper when it is possible to congregate. However, the necessary abondoning of corporate gatherings has pushed the church to function as it was intended. Believers, led by the Spirit, are spreading the Good News of Christ in their daily lives. Living out the Gospel by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and sharing the message of salvation has breathed life into the dead of church.

The first-century church in Jerusalem had become quite comfortable with their growth and glad times. Persecution forced it to spread new life in every direction as members of the church extended its reach to Judea, Samaria and the untermost parts of the earth.

My family is blessed to be part of a body of believers, a church, that defines its mission as making the most of Jesus to everyone, every day all the time and has developed a de-centralized ministry focus with MC’s (missional communities) which are small groups who gather for worship, Bible study and ministry. Other small groups gather by some other common denominator, all with the focus of living out the Gospel. Even so, the comfort of four walls and a Sunday routine have been replaced by live-streaming worship through social media resources. Every possible part of ministry has taken on new life forms. The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.

For me, at times this mandated time of slowing has been less of a be still and know that I am God and more like an extension of an already long recovery from breaking my leg last October and surgery on the leg in February. Just when I should be ready to fly, my wings got clipped! Still, though, with time to quiet my inner self and count my blessings, I know I am far more blessed than I could ever deserve. I am cherishing the time I get to spend with family and I am learning to be still in the presence of God.

For many who may struggle to heed the be still command, God finds ways to intercede into our storms to calm the seas for us. Satan would like to declare our time in these days, the dead of church. May we take these daysto grow and trust God. Let’s remember well this passage by Paul to the church at Rome:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering  produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5 ESV (Emphasis added)

As I write this it is the Thursday before Good Friday. In my sanctified imagination (a term I’ve borrowed from a seminary professor), I see it now being about the time Jesus and the eleven are headed to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The Last Supper completed, Judas has gone to sell out the Savior. Jesus speaks of the growth of the branches attached to the true vine even as they ascend the Mount of Olives. I have had the honor of standing in that garden, along the hillside overlooking Jerusalem. I can picture the path they walked. May I never forget what love and devotion it took for my Savior to walk that path. May I never whine about my lot in life; but, rejoice in the grace by which I stand.  

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

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.

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.