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.

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.

The Other Side of the Cup

MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross Riggs

The ebb and flow of the patrons follows the clock around as the hour hand again strains toward twelve as if it will take every ounce of effort to get over that hump and back down again. I have the neither the time or nor the money to lounge in a U.S. coffee shop for any length of time. In Bosnia it is a part of the daily existence because it is there that a ‘time out’ is called from the rush of the day to catch our breath and resettle our minds. I think that perhaps if Jesus were ministering in Bosnia in 2012, as He did in the land of Israel in the first century, instead of the wilderness, He would have headed to a coffee shop to find His time away from the pressures of ministry.

In the U.S. it is a not an escape from reality but a plunging headlong into the work-a-day world of dozens of entrepreneurs who perhaps have home-based businesses and need a place to meet clients. It is the world of the movers and shakers (or their wannabe’s) that fear the ears of the office and decide to meet their protégés in the bustling atmosphere where classical music sets the back drop for the harried business calls and the deals yet to be sealed.

It may be my cynical side creeping out but I suspect that just as Jesus may have used a coffee shop in Bosnia to escape for a few moments respite; in the U.S. it would have been Judas who sealed his deal with the devil in a coffee shop. To all my readers who cannot wait to grab their customized cup and hit their local bean roaster, I may have committed a sin worthy of anathema in the religion of the coffee drinkers’ world.

I am actually old enough to have visited a ‘coffee shop’ near our college campus in the days when self-designed poets plied their trade on all who would, yes, snap their fingers in approval. I didn’t stay long, I must confess. Even today, I snap my fingers usually only to scold my dog or shoo the chickens toward their roost.

This day I find myself back in a coffee shop. No poets agonizing the long dead ears of the masters but in a ‘modern’ shop where latte’s and iced-coffees reign and classical music sets my nerves on edge as it incessantly seems to be playing the same song over and over, at least to my ears. The client I was to meet has failed to appear and I suspect has either lost his way or his nerve. Either way, I am given time to reflect on the bustle around me, the hurried un-hurriedness of those who seek a diversion from what lies outside those doors but who have in effect carried the reality of the outside in and the line between the two is barely noticeable save for the squeak of the door as it opens and closes.

I find myself wishing I were sitting along the bustling streets of Sarajevo, quietly lost in the world of a ‘real’ coffee shop. Even though the healthy drive to prohibit smoking in any place where there is air has not yet, and may never, hit Sarajevo; still the din of the Sarajevo coffee shop is so much more peaceful than the repressed quiet of the American shop. And we haven’t even begun to address the issue of the coffee!

I know that if I truly had my ‘druthers’ I would be out in a beautiful country-side setting, along the foothills of a Rocky Mountain range, leaning against a tree, coffee cup in hand. My horse would be grazing quietly nearby and the only chore left to do is to settle on what to cook over the fire for dinner before unrolling the bedroll for a night under the stars. The coffee would not be any more of an exotic blend than what those out west call ‘cowboy coffee’ and the only music playing would be that of nature. As I consider the options, Jesus always chose the wilderness and I think I understand why.

Enough of that, with my client over thirty minutes late, it is time to get back up in the saddle and head back into reality.