Keeping Christmas Well

“…even after seeing and speaking with his former partner Jacob Marley wrapped in the chains that he forged in this life; Scrooge dismisses it as ‘…an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave…”‘

Dr. Ross L. Riggs – True North Ministry

As the Christmas season begins ts slip int the realm of ‘Christmas Past’, I sit by the warmth of a wood fire. I’m wearing my favorite slippers, an over-sized knit sweater, covered with a new blanket in support of the 1-325th Airborne Infantry Regiment Red Falcons to which my son is attached, and I’m  in my extra comfortable leather swivel, rocker recliner that is worn-in exactly in all the right places to make ‘Dad’s Chair’ the icon of the family living room. As a kid I never quite understood why there was a ‘Dad’s Chair’ that, whenever he was home, if you were in it and he headed your way; no comment, no explanation, no inquiry, – you just got up and gave hm his chair. Certainly it was, for us, a matter of respect for our father, (also, in part, a desire to make it to our next birthday, but mostly respect). Now I know. If your home is your castle, you might have other ‘thrones’ but there is only one from which the anointed head of the family, the patriarch of the clan reigned and issued from this place a thousand, “Go ask your mother” rulings. But I digress. The spirit of the season for me has always included the reading of Luke chapter 2 which we read at least once or twice through out our time together with a strong emphasis on the birth of our Savior. He came to face the cross and teach us how to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might and to love each other even as we love ourselves.

When it comes to Christmas movies, in a close tie with each other for their own ranking on my Christmas list are two classics, White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye is a must see. Then, there are several different versions of my next favorite, including the 1939 classic, A Christmas Carol  with the infamous Scrooge. Many stars have taken on that role, even Patrick Stewart who also played Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek and King Richard in History of the World Part II – a cameo role but still played so well, (if an English King Richard can have an accent that is a cross between Scottish, Irish and East-side Chicago.) Scrooge was also once played so very well by a super star in his own right, Mr. Magoo. In all of the movie, the part that, as a child, perhaps was most terrifying and leading to  nightmares, (encouraged by my two older brothers) was the transformation of Scrooge’s door knocker to the face of Jacob Marley. This was spookier to me than even the pointing bony finger of the Ghost of  Jacob Marley - The Christmas Carol

 Christmas Yet to Come driving Scrooge to see his own name engraved into the headstone. That image, slowly taking shape into that door knocker and then its mournful plea which, even after seeing and speaking with his former partner Jacob Marley wrapped in the chains that he forged in this life; Scrooge dismisses it as “ …an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave…”¹

The narrator shares with us at the end that Scrooge “…knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” ²

Now that Christmas 2013 is, as the sports announcers say, in the record book; how do we propose to keep Christmas well until it shows itself anew in the coming year or until Christ has come to make manifest His kingdom  in His 1,000 year reign from Jerusalem? (I wonder how Christmas might be celebrated then?) There is something special about the heart of innocence that lends itself to grasping hold of the true meaning of Christmas. This was our first year with six grandchildren, Emelia Rose joined us for the first time this year. It was watching the grandchildren at Christmas and then the statements of Aaron and Allyson that brought me to the ‘ah-ha’ moment where my brain tells the rest of me that I have just heard something incredible!

I know that folks tire of grandparents bragging on their grandchildren and I don’t intend to tell you that my amazing, incredible, and practically preferable in all ways grandchildren, numbers 1-6, (since I cannot keep their names straight, I’m planning on issuing them numbers) are amazing, incredible or practically preferable in all ways. However, it was the heartfelt love and their genuine desire to put someone above themselves is what so drastically caught my attention.

My wife and I had spent Christmas Eve night at Dave’s and Suzanne’s home and when Christmas morning came it was a time of great anticipation and for the grandkids, a release of every pent-up wonder that is so magical with kids at Christmas. As I sat watching the first moments of the scene unfold, Aaron, my oldest grandchild who is 7 came bolting toward me with a most excited voice!  “Papaw, Papaw, I got my wish! I got my wish!” Thinking some prize toy had been found under the tree, I asked him what it was. He replied with as much excitement as I have seen any child at Christmas, “Santa brought my dad the back massager for his chair that I asked for; because my dad’s back hurts him a lot!” You could have soaked up my heart with a sponge because it melted right there on the spot. But my lesson was not yet complete from the Spirit of Christmas Present!

As I recovered from my first lesson, I watched as an equally excited Allyson went straight for her Mom to exclaim, “He did it! Santa came into my room and got it!” I needed to know the answer on this one!  Suzanne explained that Allyson had a favorite stuffed animal, a pink ‘Nemo’ fish. It apparently had a small spot of  ink on it and Allyson had written a note to Santa to ask him to please take the fish with him back to his workshop and ‘fix’ it… are you ready, so that Santa could then give that fish to a small child who really needs it!

Did I mention that Aaron and Allyson are 7 and 6 years old? Yes, at times they pick on each other as siblings often do. I can remember admonishing my children when they were youngsters and fighting between themselves to “Pretend you love each other!” So there are plenty of normal events with Aaron and Allyson but, if ever there was a set of shining examples as to how to Keep Christmas wellI believe that it is with carrying just these types of attitudes all the year. Some of us need to know how  to get such an attitude of love in the first place. I will tell you that it does not come naturally. It is, however, a gift. At this Christmas season and throughout the year, you can find the answers you seek in God’s Word. If you  don’t know who to ask; drop us a note and we will be glad to help. You can find us at

May the New Year find you grateful for the year that has passed, anticipating the year that is ahead and knowing that through every day, God is holding you in His hands, knowing the end from the beginning and every day in between. And as Tiny Tim was known to say, “God bless us, every one!”³

¹http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

²http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

³http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

Papaw’s Lap

It was in this setting that was born for me perhaps one of the best memories ever.

The house was clean and comfortable, but its age had long ago warped many of the floor boards. In some places it seemed as if the floors, under the thread-bare carpet, had a life of their own, pitching and yawing; making sounds that defy description. The tar-shingle siding on the house gave away its age and it boasted a wide, welcoming front porch with the mandatory creaking front porch swing from which are born the summer memories of a small boy. The memories are particularly vivid because this particular house was where this boy’s Mamaw and Papaw lived. The moniker is a familiar one for those with roots in the hollers of Appalachia. It was in this setting that was born for me perhaps one of the best memories ever. It is so amazing that, on a day like today, I can relive that experience; although my role has been reversed. I am no longer that small boy reveling in the peace and comfort of his Papaw’s lap; I am the provider of the lap space.

Lap Time
Lap Time

The social networking application Tumblr recently posed the question to me. “What is your favorite inanimate object?” No thought was required. It is my large, leather, fully reclining, 360 degree swiveling easy chair. There are several reasons it takes the 1st place ribbon but primary among those is the access it provides my grandchildren to their Papaw’s lap. I begin to understand now how my Papaw was able to sit for what seemed like hours with one of his grandchildren on his lap. If I was the lucky one, and there was no waiting line of my siblings or my cousins, then it was like being king of the mountain.

From my kingly post, I heard stories about the mountains, silly jokes which my Papaw apparently thought were hilarious by the way he laughed at them, even though he was the one that told them, and special things that were meant only for my hearing. Those special lessons were about kindness, respect, being a man who knows the difference for right and wrong and standing up for what is right.

My Papaw was a pipe smoker, although he would never smoke his pipe if any of us were on his lap; that was his hard and fast rule. Still, today, there are only three smells that evoke such vivid memories for me. The first is a lilac flower. Below my bedroom window of my childhood home was a large lilac bush. A house with no air conditioning has windows open in the summer so the lilac was the smell of a cool night breeze or an early morning wake-up. The second is the smell of one particular perfume for which the real name is totally lost to me. I know it only as the small teddy bear shaped bottle it came in. It was the perfume that my wife wore when we first dated and to this day I can recognize it immediately when she wears it. The third is that of a good pipe tobacco. I can revel in that smell and allow it to take me back to the time I enjoyed so much upon my Papaw’s lap.

I am not certain how my own grandchildren might remember their time on their Papaw’s lap, but I hope they do. I also hope that their memory of it brings smiles to their faces, warmth in their hearts and a conviction to share lap-time with their own grandchildren someday. Even though age is allowing me to forget what seems to be more than I ever learned; I never want to forget the wondrous joy I have gained whenever my grandchildren ask to spend a little time on Papaw’s lap.

DEATH: Who Chooses When It is All Right to Die?

In a recent article in the The Weekly Standard it was reported that twenty-three percent of Dutch doctors feel they have no obligation to report any time they have completed a euthanasia procedure. That isn’t all, in Flemish, Belgium thirty-two percent of euthanasia procedures take place without the request, consent or even notice to a relative of the person euthanized. If you think that through, once the “patient” is deceased, who is to know if they ever consented to their own death? Who is the wiser?

Oh, but not to worry, that is in the Netherlands and as liberal as they are, there is no real risk of such practices coming here, right? Not exactly. In the states of Washington and Oregon, euthanasia is legal. In fact, not only is it legal, it is easier to complete than it is to witness a Last Will and Testament. According to the The Weekly Standard report, in Seattle Washington, a person cannot be a witness to a will if that person is also a recipient of an endowment from the will, for fear of duress or undue influence. However, according to a Seattle attorney, quoted in the article, an heir can witness a request for euthanasia, can go to the pharmacy to pick up the deadly prescription, and can administer the lethal dose up to a year after the prescription is written to their relative with no other witnesses present, and this heir need not have any medical training whatsoever to administer the lethal ‘medicine’.

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Consider for a moment how many due process arguments and hearings must take place before a convicted criminal is executed. “But the protections accorded to those accused of capital crimes- however imperfect – are completely out of reach for a patient that doctors, health care facility, insurer and family have decided would be better off dead.”[i] (emphasis added) And that is in the United States! According to the report, “Oregon and Washington have no meaningful precautions against wrongful euthanasia, no procedures for discipline, or hearings or board of review. Doctors report their own cases and there is no penalty for not doing so.”[ii] (emphasis added)

Returning briefly to the Dutch, Dr. Joris Slaets, a professor of geriatric medicine estimates the patient’s life goals, vitality and life expectancy before he decides whether they are “worthy of further therapy.” He unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade an 80 year old woman from heart surgery, a surgery from which she recovered and is doing well.

The Hippocratic Oath, as translated by Michael North, National Library of Medicine, states “…I will do no harm or injustice to them. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.”[iii] Not that I hold much concern for an oath made to Apollo and a stack of other Greek gods; but when anyone makes an oath in solemn acceptance of its wording and then so flagrantly disregards it, even one made to ancient gods and goddesses, where is the line that they will not cross?

There is an old joke that goes… ‘Be kind to your children, they are the ones who will chose your nursing home.’ Well, perhaps it is much more of a concern than choosing a nursing home when they are able to decide not where you will live but if you will live. It may be, not even they who decide, since in the Netherlands the doctors can choose what to do with you without even telling your children. Perhaps it is some form of misguided justice… the generation that failed to speak up for the unprotected unborn becomes the first generation to be the unprotected too old to live.


[i] Schulman, Sam “Last Rights” The Weekly Standard” Nov. 12, 2012

[ii] Ibid.

Reflections from the Back Seat

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE            Rev. Ross Riggs, D. Min.     www.docriggs.com  True North Ministries

Once again it has happened. Since it isn’t the first time, I suppose it should not come as a surprise but still the feelings, the emotions that strike at odd times, like now 3:00 in the early morning hours along a highway in North Carolina. I once wrote a post from 30 plus thousand feet over the Atlantic, now from about 3 feet above the pavement cruising at about 70 miles per hour in the back seat. That is how our lives go, I suppose. At one point in our lives we are jetting across the world, the go-to guy who has people waiting on word from him as how to proceed and then the next, we are in the back seat; not being chauffeured but rather, not being needed to do the driving. No one is particularly waiting on our phone call. Wait; now before you think this is some melancholy, oh woe is me kind of blog… there is praise here!

Are we not given the responsibility as parents to raise His children, equipping them to step out into the world to follow the path He has for them? Absolutely, we are! When we have gotten to the time in our life when we are able to take the back seat in our children’s lives; we have succeeded. Praise the Lord and pass the Aspercreme! So, I suppose in some ways, we are being chauffeured.

This is my fourth, or as I always include our Filipino daughter, Cyd, my fifth time to take the back seat and watch as they prepare to step out on their own. On this trip, I am with Daniel, my youngest and his young lady, Sarah (not his sister).  We are traveling to North Carolina to spend time with Sarah’s mother and celebrate Sarah’s birthday. In a dozen weeks, Daniel will be at Fort Benning, Ga. with the U.S. Army. So, his time has come to set out on the path that God has for him and I pray that his path will be brightly lit, maybe with a little bit of warm, glowing light that comes from the back seat.

Thanksgiving Parade

It is Thanksgiving Day morning and the aroma of a cooking turkey fills the house. The traditions of Thanksgiving Day are many but one of the very best is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is one of those traditions that make Thanksgiving what it ought to be. The television will play the commentary of the parade while we go on about getting everything ready for the real Thanksgiving Day parade. Do you know the one I am talking about?

Like any parade, it starts off with some loud fanfare and then falls  into a rhythm. It kicks off with a bang, louts of shouts and talking; lots of noise and then everyone settles in for those who are later in the parade. I’m talking about the arrival of family to the side door (family comes in through the garage, the front door is for visitors!) There will be plenty of time to catch up. The ladies invariably go to the apron drawer, select and don an apron as they smoothly slide into a helping role in the kitchen. At the same time, the men slide into a La-Z-Boy and await the ‘Rockettes’ arrival in the Macy’s Parade. Of course, no parade would be complete without the children. You have the one’s who arrive, just barely awakened from a nap in the car alongside those with enough energy to push a car (in ‘park’)! There are the children that have a tear in their eye and a sniffle in their nose from a very clear behavior modification that has just recently  taken place and we must not forget the handlers! A very important part of the family parade it is the person, usuallly a husband, who is handling, in the most precarious way, a dessert or two, a wrapped gift that wife loving hollers to remind hi is very breakable and a diaper bag, car seat, and camera! Then comes, of course, the loud, back-slapper uncle with the quiet dimure wife at his side, she anxious to get to the kitche and finally the family that, even if you told them 11am tor a 1pm dinner, they would still be late!

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – Rockettes

The parade has all passed under your door frame, some through the front door, but most through the garage. After the ceremonial placing of the card table where the children, who have not yet graduated  to the main table, will  sit and eat. Finally, the parade has come to an end and the participants all gather around and hold hands where the Guest of Honor will be humbly thanked for all His provision across the year. Ah, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, even Mr. Macy could not have envisioned a scene so grand!