Beautiful People

Over the years, I have had occasion to go under light anesthesia a few times when my wife, who is a physician, would be standing nearby. I usually requested of her to report to me afterward if I said anything untold while I was under the effect of the drugs. I never wanted to have anything I say while not in control of my faculties to dishonor Christ, embarrass my family or disparage anyone; particularly the doctor who was probably holding a very sharp scalpel! Thus far the reports have been favorable. There is always a possibility, I believe, when our inhibitions are lowered and our natural defenses are removed, we may speak that what may or may not reflect our true self by our words. Perhaps it is more likely that under the influence of drugs, our subconscious finds the freedom to wag our tongues. In any event, I am thankful that God has put a muzzle across my mouth thus far!

I have been told that I can, under the effect of serious pain killers, tell a pretty funny story or two! During one such episode. I recounted to my visiting cop friends that we were going to do a raid on the local middle school. Inasmuch as I was retired at the time of this particular story, it made even less sense. My visitors did get a good laugh out of it, so the medicine was not wasted!

Very recently, I had the honor of visiting a dear friend of mine who soon will be in the presence of his Lord. He has been around for a few years. In fact, if his promotion to heaven would be delayed by a bit longer, he would have soon reached his centennial celebration of life! God has other plans for him though, it seems, and soon he will be reunited with his wife of more than sixty years. What a tri-partite meeting that will be!

The reason I mention my friend is that, when I visited him, he had been in such pain that Hospice had upped his pain medication and he was not inhibited in what he decided to share with us. One might well imagine that being near death, having been in agonizing pain for some time and being unable to do even the most basic things for himself, that he would have more than a few things to complain about. Not my friend.

Upon seeing my wife and I enter his small apartment, my friend reached out his hand to take hold of mine. He began to repeat slowly, while looking at Karin and I, “beautiful people.” Now, anyone who knows us, beautiful is an adjective that can describe Karin; but that is not a descriptor that is usually used when describing my mug! I know, though, that my friend was alluding to something much deeper than our physical appearance. To him, our coming to see him, to show that we care for him and love him reaffirms in his mind that we are lovely and he wanted us to know how much he appreciated us. Even in his heavily sedated mind-set; his thoughts were of others and not of himself. That isn’t surprising because that is the way he always has been.

I am thankful for being permitted to know him and his wife for a good number of years and my friend has always been so very interested in others. He is so very thankful for the kindness shown to him by others and I know that is appropriate. However, I also know that all of the love and kindness poured out on him in these days is the result of a lifetime he has invested in others.

Someone once made the observation that you can always tell among those attending a funeral who truly loved the person for whom the service is performed. They are the only ones not looking at their watch! When my friend’s time finally comes, no one in that sanctuary will be checking the time.

 

Through the Keyhole

Every moment is but a wisp of smoke through a keyhole and cannot be grasped and held so that it might stay longer than the brief time it is allotted.

Earlier this evening as I opened my FACEBOOK page, over on the left column it asked me to add a public ‘bio’ so I sat and penned what I thought should be said. Well, after a few minutes when I went to save it, it said that I was 2844 characters over what is permitted. So… since I cannot say it there, I will say it here! If you have a desire to read this short ‘bio’ – I hope you enjoy it. If you choose not to – I will not be offended in the least. For me it was an exercise in thinking about my priorities, so here it is my “short bio”!

First and foremost, I am a sinner saved by grace, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Without Him in my life I am nothing and I have no hope for the future. I make no boast but in Him alone. He did not save me because I deserved it but because He loved me even though I could never deserve or earn it!

After that, I am the husband of Karin for almost forty years. I have been far from a perfect husband; but, she remains my life partner whom I love with all that I have to love. I am blessed to have her in my life and blessed with four great children, all of whom are grown and married and so far we have eight grandchildren, two boys and six girls ranging in age right now from 8 years to about 1 month. yogiOur newest is the daughter of our “adopted” daughter (child number five if you are counting, who came to us not by birth but by 747 as an exchange student back in 1996.) We tried to keep her but the best we could do was share her with her own parents in the Philippines and now we share her with our ‘adopted’ son-in-law Andy!

Our not so regular kids are: Heidi with her husband Nick, Suzanne with her hubby Dave, Sarah with her husband Mike and Daniel with his wife Sarah. We have another little child who went to be with her (his?) Heavenly Father before he or she was able to be with us. We look forward to meeting him or her someday.

My work and life’s passion since my teen years has been law enforcement as well as time as a firefighter and EMT, too. I retired as a Chief of Police and now own a private investigations and security consulting agency.

After I retired, I attended seminary and for almost fifteen years Karin and I have had the joy of serving as missionaries to help care for missionaries all across Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. I have worked a great deal with them in the area of security and contingency planning. We enjoy our service in a local church with whom I will begin serving as a Deacon in January. I love to teach and do so whenever I have an opportunity.

I enjoy fishing and hunting, horseback riding and I’m a ‘ham’ radio operator since 1971! (WB8KMP)

Most of all I love to be with family whether it is babysitting grandchildren or travel.

Every moment is but a wisp of smoke through a keyhole and cannot be grasped and held so that it might stay longer than the brief time it is allotted. So I inhale deeply, as the moments go past and drink as deeply with each precious memory that is so fragile it can be lost in an instant.

I love to read and study the Bible and I enjoy reading mysteries the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle. I have authored a book on policing in a new century during times of great threat. It is due to be published this winter. yogi-bear-n-boo-boo

Rather than an epitaph engraved on a cold stone over an empty grave; I much prefer to have a message written on the hearts of those I love and leave behind that says simply: Ross, He loves the Lord, his wife and his family. He tried his best and is a trophy to God’s grace.

Rodney and Ellen Riggs 1975 to 2015 and counting!

The months of hospitalization, the confusion that strokes bring, the unbelievable stress that comes from having your life completely pulled out from under you began to take their toll on both Rod and Elly

IMG_3868It began without warning. Chest and abdominal pain – a trip to a local hospital and a transfer to a regional one. The doctor said, “I don’t think you’ll make it through the night.” Rodney Riggs, sixty-eight years old, was told he had necrotizing pancreatitis. His pancreas was eating away at itself. The hospital doctors decided to transfer Rod to the Cleveland Clinic Surgical Intensive Care Unit to have emergency surgery to forestall the destruction of his pancreas. The doctors told him he had a 9 in 10 chance of not making it through the surgery. That was about March 2, 2015. Rod never had to have the surgery. Most believe that it was the prayers of so many that stopped the pancreas with about 30 percent still functional, just enough to live on. While he battled the pancreatitis, infections and fevers haunted him. Then again, without warning, Rod suffered a debilitating stroke which made his entire left side non-functional. Weeks would drag into months as the roller-coaster ride of infections and fevers would drive Rod deeper into trouble. Eventually, he was transferred to a specialty hospital on the sixth floor of the Mercy Medical Center in Canton. It is now spring time. Rod’s wife Ellen, Elly, had been working, trying to get to the hospital as often as she could while struggling with her diabetes and high blood pressure, remnants of a mild stroke she had suffered years ago when she had a non-malignant tumor removed from her brain which also left her deaf in one ear. Then it came. The phone call that Elly had collapsed at work. She was taken to a special unit of the Akron General Hospital where it was learned that she had suffered a shower of strokes and was severely incapacitated. Eventually, Rod and Elly would be both in the specialty hospital at Mercy in Canton and from there they were transferred together to the Bethany Nursing Home, also in Canton for more focused physical therapy.
The months of hospitalization, the confusion that strokes bring, the unbelievable stress that comes from having your life completely pulled out from under you began to take their toll on both Rod and Elly. Depression and anger, both natural parts of the grief that comes in dealing with such a loss; was worsening. This was an incredible double loss. Neither of them could count on the other to help them because each was helpless on their own. Rod celebrated his 69th birthday at Bethany. Elly had turned 69 in April while Rod was hospitalized in Cleveland. There was hope and a desire that when Rod and Elly would celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary on August 26, 2015 that they would enjoy it in their own home. God is the only one that can foresee that timing. But on July 15, 2015 Rodney called his brother Ross, an ordained minister, and asked him if he would be willing to come to Bethany and officiate as Rodney and Ellen renewed their wedding vows. And that is just what they did. IMG_3866
Many times, young people speak their wedding vows and the words, “for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health” just roll off their tongue without much more than a passing thought. When Rod and Elly spoke those words this time, it meant a great deal more. We celebrate with them and thank God for their love and their desire to go through whatever lies ahead, together.

All I Need… Really?

He is to be first of all I love and it is through my love for Him and His love for me that I can love others.

ALL I NEED… really?

Every once in a while, something that I did not expect comes along and hits me like a brick right upside the head. That is what happened this morning while in services at the Chapel. We were having a wonderful time singing in worship and we performed one of the past ‘golden oldies’ of the faith. The refrain of the song came around, All I Need is You”

A great song, a great refrain – is it possible that I really meant that? My brother was lying in the hospital hanging on to life with tubes and a respirator. I looked across the row in front of me and saw a son-in-law of mine and daughter and another son-in-law, a daughter-in-law; and next to me was my wife and another daughter and son-in-law. In the nursery of the church were five of my grandchildren and two others were in their own classes. One daughter was away at work and a son was in police training… Did I really believe that I could be Job? I could have someone walk up to me sometime this week and tell me that everyone I love was gone in some horrific accident and take it?

Much of what I KNOW will help but how much will it help? For example:

I know that everyone of them will be waiting for me in heaven if such a tragedy should happen. I know they would be better off than me!

But, what if…

suddenly everything closest to me on this earth is ripped from me – the people who love me and help me, care for me and stay with me through the tough times are gone and I have nothing left but God… would I blame Him or turn to Him? I hope that I would fall totally on Him, completely dependent on Him for every day to continue.

Would I, could I possibly turn and say, All I need is God?

I know that having complete faith in God doesn’t mean you do not grieve; so I believe that any grief would be natural and to be experienced as part of a healing process.

I want to believe that I will be Okay and that I will be a testimony to the truth that God really is all I need. Affirming that is not saying that God is all I love. God gave us the love that we have for one another and He helps that love grow and nourish. He is to be the first of all that I love and it is through my love for Him and His for me that I can love others. It is that same relationship that will take me through the grief to continue one day at a time. Whatever life brings, I know eternity will make it all Okay. Until then, like the father who told Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” I pray “God, You are all I need; Help me to need only You.”

Running for a Hug

…she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go… I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide.

So often I hear grandparents, myself included, talk about how much more fun it is now with our grandkids and that if we could have, we might have opted to have our grandchildren first! Of course, the idea of grandkids first would only have served for us to have our grandchildren at a time in our lives when we were focused on a hundred other things called life, job, career, education and duties or responsibilities that crowd out all the time we should be taking to just enjoy them as it was for our own children!

Our grandchildren are with us at a time in most of our lives where we can focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. An old adage from days gone by is wherever you’re at… be there. The point of that really struck home with me a couple of times in my life. Once was during those years when I was working long hours at the job and going to school part-time. Very often one of my small children would be tugging on my arm trying to get my attention for a moment or two and if I did finally acknowledge the tug; too often I was only half-there with an ‘uh-huh’ ‘that’s nice’ when they may have just told me they set their sister’s hair on fire! The other time was when I was older and my mom was quite a bit up there in years, a widow all alone and she would call every day to talk about absolutely anything. Sometimes, it seemed like she talked about everything. One day I caught myself ‘uh-huh’ and ‘that’s nice’ to my mom as I clicked away at my computer while she may have just told me that she was going to run off and marry the mailman and join a Wallenda Brothers High Wire Act! It hit me hard that someday I would miss those phone calls and I committed myself that I was going to be stronger at ‘being there’ when I was talking with my mom. Now that she, too, is in glory I’m so glad I did.

One of the dividends that comes from having the time to spend hours with my grandchildren and to work on wherever I’m at -being there is that I get to practice what it was I loved about my maternal grandfather. Most of the times I was with him, there were usually several of my cousins in close proximity. Being deep in the heart of West Virginia, you couldn’t throw a dead cat without hitting a relative of some sort or another. But no matter how many of us curtain climbers were there vying for Papaw’s attention, whenever I was with him; it was as if I was the most important person in the whole wide world to him. Now I get to enjoy helping my own grandchildren all feel like they are the most special person who ever wore hair.

There is another great dividend and that is the total, one hundred percent acceptance and love that our grandchildren give to us. They just love us. Sure they expect that we will take care of them but especially at this very early age, they don’t know beans from apple butter as my mother would say, about what our careers were or how important or unimportant we were… they just love us and most of the time they cannot wait to be with us! I confess, though, to this day I still have no idea what that saying of my mom’s meant and frankly, why does anyone need to know the difference between beans and apple butter? Who cares? I digress.

The grandkids will come running at us as hard as they can to get a hug. Their eyes light up and they are like the former

Courtesy Topps Laser
Courtesy Topps Laser

Cleveland Indian, Carlos Baerga, chugging for home plate. I love to get down in a catcher’s stance and just absorb the full hit of that hug-run. Of course, sometimes they are running that fast because of something they just did to provoke their mother to a fit of temporary insanity and they needed the shelter and protection that only Papaw can give and they needed right now! Just the other day two of my grandchildren were over and I was preparing to leave to do some work I had to do. (Don’t faint or think I’m telling an untruth, I do actually perform functions that bear a striking resemblance to work, at times. Not real often mind you and it is a nasty habit I am trying to break!) I had hugged one of the children and rather than head for the car I went to the study to retrieve one of the multiple things I always forget whenever I am leaving to go just about anywhere. (I think the neighbors have a pool going, every time I leave as to how many times I will go back in the house for something I have forgotten or how far I will make it down the street before I have to turn around and come back for something! So far, I haven’t left a child at home alone or anything like that… yet.) What happened next though is what started me thinking about this running for hugs business.

The other granddaughter had thought I had left without hugging her but when she learned I was in my study she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go. Unprepared as I was, with my back to the on-coming assault, she landed hard and grabbed me around both knees (including the new one the doctors just so lovingly and expensively installed.) It was a hug that about made my kneecaps pop off. Glad they didn’t that one cost me about $6,000! You can’t just go down to the Jiffy-Lube and have ‘em pop it back on. And Amazon, no matter what they say, does not have an app for that.

Here’s what I got to chewing on about this whole running for hugs business. I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide. Can you imagine how it would make our Heavenly Father feel if we felt like that toward Him and we would not be able to wait until the very next time we could be, like my grandkids say, ‘At Papaw’s house!’ only at our Heavenly Father’s house? Sometimes we can’t spare five minutes during the day just to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to our God. His Word tells us that He inclines His ear toward us eager to hear what is on our hearts. He knows, certainly, but He wants to hear it from us. Sometimes, our grandkids who are old enough to be in school, will receive an accolade of some type and their Mom will tell us about it. But, I still love hearing it directly from them, too. It is even more special when they are eager to share it with me. I think God is like that with us. Yes, He knows every word before we speak it, but He still wants to hear it from us and He loves when we are anxious to share it with Him.

Do you remember the story of the prodigal son in scripture? After he has gone away and unwisely spent all of his money. He is sheepishly returning home, hoping maybe his father will accept him as a servant. But the father has been watching every day hoping he would see his son come home and finally on that amazing day when he looks for the thousandth time that he had looked out that door, he sees his son coming in the distance.

Courtesy ourchurch.com
Courtesy ourchurch.com

This time the son isn’t running to his father; no he has a lot to be ashamed about – but just as he turns that last corner, BAM! His father – who ran all the way from the house – slams into him like William Refrigerator Perry of the Chicago Bear’s fame hitting an on-coming Quarterback with a loose ball in his arms!

Courtesy Freezer3.net
Courtesy Freezer3.net

Maybe, on that first day when we enter heaven, we’ll be excited to finally see our God face to face and we may take off on a dead run for Him and maybe, just maybe, our Heavenly Father will be running full-tilt anxious to hold us! That will be an amazing day – running for a hug.

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