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Always appreciated blessing, strange and undeserving

Regardless of whatever it might say about me, I have to admit I do my very best writing at night, lying in my bed as I float in a half asleep half awake state. Occasionally, during these times, a burst of creativity will entice me with its Lorelei attractions, ideas flowing through my brain like quicksilver. Then morning comes, and well and truly awake, I seldom remember any of it.
Actually, in this very same way, the Lord has given me many original gospel songs, which I do remember, have written down and now and then sing. Don’t ask me why this should happen. I am no more special than anyone else, that God should bless me in this way, nor am I out of the ordinary talented - far from it.
I know there are others who have experienced this. I am sure Donald Seltzer did; for the songs he came up with during his lifetime had to have been divinely inspired. I am convinced there are others just as blessed, probably many more that I am not fortunate enough to have been acquainted with. However, with knowledge beyond human understanding, I know that those who serve the Lord are all given their fair share of talents, some just one, some five and some ten. What we do with them is up to us. So when those waking dreams come to me, I know exactly where they come from.
There have been times when this has almost frightened me; that a great celestial mind which has no need for computer wires, electrodes, programs or Facebook can reach into my brain and stimulate it with a gift of writing I wish I had when fully awake. Nevertheless, whenever this happens, I recognize it as the great blessing it is, and I always wonder, why me Lord?
In spite of knowing the origin of these creative inspirations, it is always intimidating. For I know very well that even in this, I am seeing through a glass darkly. The strange part of this is that I can never seem to communicate it to someone else.
There is still another aspect of those quickly fading dream-like stimulations that comes to me at night; that at those times it is always easier to think about and talk to God. My puny mind jumps from one awareness of Him to another. It is enough to make me feel beyond myself.
I have wondered about all those so-called great minds that have put labels of ‘man-made’ explanations on the things God has done. Even the simplest of us can know that His works is not to be measured by human cataloging, it having no beginning and no ending, for eternity has no such measurement. I believe God always knew exactly whatever He purposed to do, and along that line the Bible tells us of when all the sons of God sand with joy to see some of what he had done. Don’t ask me how to explain it, for I can’t. However, I do know it by faith I believe it. I also love a passage in that same book of Job where God asks this faithful servant,” Where were you when I stretched out the universe?” and where was I?
What an awesome thing it is that a man, even one as worthy of Job, could be able to talk one on one with the great and eternal God.
Many will waste their time saying that these things were this way or that way, or that we have to take some if it with a grain of salt. Not me. I absolutely believe it was exactly the way Job wrote it down in the words of a book that God himself helped him to write. It is a sad fact that in our world today, few indeed are those who almighty God would find worthy enough for a direct conversation with Him, least of all me, except it is in my prayers.
I can say that whenever the cares of the world are no longer lurking on the edges of my brain, my mind is somehow more open to the presence of the Lord.
I recognize and treasure all those sleeping-waking dreams when they come. I do seem to have a more intensified awareness of His mighty presence during those times, so I think I might receive an answer of those things I often wonder about. Then morning comes, and with it a vague sadness that any such knowledge is beyond my human intellectual capacity, the answer to God’s whys and wherefores best left to time - God’s time.
He has given to each of us a measure of faith. With this faith, we can know how much of a waste of time it is to belabor our minds with trying to fathom the workings of the Lord, for it is beyond our human capacity to do so. This is where faith steps in, and that too is one of those blessings He has given to those who trust and obey.
Now you may think that this is a mystical kind of a DownHomer, and if you think it different from my usual thing, all I can say is that you’ll have to take that up with God! If I err, I pray your indulgence and His forgiveness.
God bless!

Education and Common Sense
Ezekiel and God’s judgment

When I got to be 90 years old last year I decided that I was going to grit my teeth and read every word in the Bible. I have been reading the Bible regularly ever since I could read, but always skipped over the boring parts and the parts that seemed to have no relation to anything related to me.  I believe the Bible. I believe it is God’s Word, but I had never disciplined myself to read completely every word of it.
Last year I started reading, besides what I needed to read to teach my Sunday School class and whatever other Bible Study I was attending, every night when I go to bed a few chapters in the American Contemporary edition of the Bible. Starting in Genesis, I have plodded through the parts I had always skipped, and I am now in Ezekiel. I thought I wasn’t going to get through Jeremiah and Lamentations, but I kept on, grimly reading all the dire consequences of worshipping other idols and forsaking the God All Powerful.
Ezekiel is God’s prophet who was taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea and took Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, and Daniel (as well as most of the nation) to Babylon.  Ezekiel keeps writing down what the LORD tells him to say to the Jewish people and the King of Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt, or any other country that goes against God’s people.
Under “The LORD Will Punish Jerusalem” Ezekiel 21:1-7 says: “ The LORD said: Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the places in Jerusalem where people worship. (I assume he means other gods. JBR) Warn everyone in Israel that I am about to punish them. I will pull out my sword and have it ready to kill everyone, whether good or evil. From south to north, people will die, knowing that my sword will never be put away.
“Ezekiel, groan in sorrow and despair so that everyone can hear you. When they ask why you are groaning, tell them you have terrifying news that will make them faint and tremble and lose all courage. These things will happen soon. I the LORD God make this promise.”
When I think that our nation that was founded by believers in the Judeo-Christian belief system, has departed so definitely from that belief and lifestyle, making killing unborn babies legal, same sex marriage legal, as well as many other abominations, I keep wondering if God is not using this presidential election to destroy the United States.
I read about an airplane pilot whose plane was on fire. He could jump out of the plane and trust his parachute to open, or that when he fell into the ocean he would not be eaten by a shark or he could stay in the plane where he knew he would burn up. The writer likened staying in the plane to voting for Hillary Clinton, and jumping out and not knowing which fate awaited him to voting for Trump.
Is this election our punishment for following other Gods?

Smile Awhile
One for the ages

(My column this week is written by my husband, Ronnie Blair, as he reflects on the loss of his friend, Edward R. Hazelett, an icon in our community who passed away last week).

In the early 1960’s I walked into Meade Memorial High School a green freshman in awe of all the activities surrounding the number of kids and teachers in the halls and on the playground. Wanting to acclimatize myself with my surroundings, I found myself standing in the hallway with a group of boisterous West Van Lear upperclassmen receiving my indoctrination about which teachers to avoid due to their strictness, as well as the difficulty of the subjects they taught.
That’s when I noticed a man step from his classroom door at the end of the hall. He was not that tall or big; in fact, I would say he could not have weighed 120 pounds soaking wet. In his crisp, white, short-sleeved business shirt, thin dark tie and glasses, he presented the image of one of the least intimidating men I had ever seen.
When I inquired, “Who is that?” I was met with a reaction that was surprising, considering the source. From Burglar Hollow to Bare Town, West Van Lear had its share of testosterone; but these guys, who a few minutes before had been the epitome of “Briggity” were now downright reverent. Under his breath one of the rowdies whispered, “Oh, you don’t want to mess with him; that’s Mr. Hazelett!”
To which I responded, with a slight degree of disbelief, “Who? That guy?”
This was my first introduction into the world of Edward R. Hazelett and it proved to be the worst case of a wrong first impression I had ever been guilty of.
I first encountered the Hazelett family in 1957 when Mr. Hazelett’s new bride, Betty Ramey Hazelett, came to West Van Lear as my fourth grade teacher. Five years later her husband and I would begin a relationship that would continue until last week, like the old soldier he was, the many infirmities of age finally caught up with him and exacted their toll.
Through my 20 years in California I often visited the Hazelett’s when I came back for the holidays. But it wasn’t until I came home for good that our friendship would really take off.
For several years, 2 p.m. each day found me at McDonalds with Mr. Hazelett and about 10 other guys verbally immersed in subjects that ranged anywhere from World War II and genealogy to politics, the Civil War and the pioneer struggles during the days of Jenny Wiley. One outsider good-naturedly observed that all we ever talked about was “cowboys and Indians.”
Through the years Mr. Hazelett and I attended a number of meetings of the Big Sandy Historical Society of which he was the only surviving core member. Attending one of these meetings with Ed Hazelett was like going to a rock concert with Elvis. I remember one particular meeting at the Lawrence County Library in Louisa when after the adjournment Mr. Hazelett and I left by the back door and headed to my car about 60 feet away in the parking lot. Several people were still asking him questions as we walked. But when a question was presented Mr. Hazelett would stop walking and address the issue. Once he had dealt with the inquiry we would start walking toward the car until another question was lobbed at him. Again, Mr. Hazelett would stop to respond. (He didn’t like to “walk and talk”). This routine repeated itself so many times it took us 45 minutes to reach my car.
His passing last week will leave a void in this community that will never be filled. That photographic memory and quick mind that so confidently answered any and all questions about genealogy and history has been quieted forever. However, through my own grief last night, I couldn’t help but smile as I imagined him in Heaven excitedly chatting with Jenny Wiley and General Grant.
And so I’ll end with the words of Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, as he stood by the deathbed of that terrible conflict’s last casualty and said, “now he belongs to the ages.”

Poison Oak
As the students’ desks grew larger

Even though I’ve been out of the classroom for more than 20 years, I still attempt to keep up, as best I can, with what’s going on in the world of education. That being said, the changes that have occurred during that near-quarter century that I’ve been absent, sometimes leaves me scratching my head. A prime example is when I learned that more and more elementary schools have stopped teaching cursive writing.
It has been many moons since I entered first grade at the H. S. Howes Community School, a little rural institution that housed the first eight grades. Despite the fact that the students’ desks grew larger as the grade levels progressed, one thing all those different rooms had in common was a blackboard over which were tacked little posters showing the proper way to construct every letter of the alphabet in cursive. The little placards -- white writing on a green background -- were about eight inches tall and a foot long, with one letter per card showing both capital and lowercase. Just as soon as we learned our ABC’s well enough to print our names, we began practicing those graceful loops and joining the letters to make real words. After weeks of practice, we were ready to abandon the childish printing and were expected to write our spelling words, sentences and all our other lessons in cursive.
Seems that now, however, primarily because of technology, the “childish printing” has made a dramatic comeback. And, even though I’m a bit reluctant to admit it, I guess it makes sense. The “computer age”, whether we like it or not, has arrived. and when we come right down to it, what with emails, and texts, and all such stuff as that, even we adults never use cursive anymore except when we sign our names, write a check , or jot down on the back of some random piece of scrap paper a couple of items we need to pick up at the store on the way home from work. Then, if you’re like me, once what you’ve written gets cold, it turns into some sort of strange scrawl that you can’t read.
When cursive was taught as part of the regular curriculum, penmanship was even listed on our report cards. If I remember correctly, as a rule, the girls always got A’s in penmanship and the boys were tickled with B’s and C’s. Of course, there were exceptions, but I always figured the process of cursive writing better fit their tiny feminine hands than it did those of a big ole gawky boy’s. Even when a paper had no name on it, you could always tell whether it belonged to a boy or a girl.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. No more of those dreaded copy books, and no more blue ribbons for penmanship at the county fair. Matter of fact, no more county fair, either. Anyway, cursive writing as an art will be missed by some, but the truth is, it’s just something else that has fallen victim to modern technology.

Downhomer - By Eileen Parrigin Young
Precious memories and blessings from the Lord

Last Sunday at our house, we went with Rev. Isaac Rowland to attend one of our favorite occurrences. I am speaking of the Martin County Free Will Baptist Conference, an event that happens every three months, four times a year, in one of six different churches.
Five of these churches are Phillip Cove, Davis Port, Tomahawk, Lovely and Hammond though in the Martin County area, as the sixth.
In addition to Hammond being the church that is located in Johnson County, Phillip Cove is the one just beyond the borderline of that Johnson/Martin County location.
As it happens, Hammond is down in a valley on a turn off from Rt. 40, and is a sister church to Phillip Cove, which is located on that same Rt. 40, except for it’s being just over the dip down from Spicy Mountain where it enters the Martin County area. After that, Rt. 40 meanders on to pass all the other churches, turning off either to West Virginia or going on toward Ashland.
This is one of the two ways some of my family took back in those days whenever they made the trip from Ashland to Boonscamp, where family members of our precious old grandfather John Branham lived.
That other way, the one we most often took, was curving, doubling back on itself, old Rt. 23. This was before it became the Gospel Music Highway it is now. Popular as this has now become, I always enjoyed that old road best.
Of course, this has a lot to do with knowing that whenever we traveled that way, we were going to the place I loved best of all places, to be with the people I loved even more.
Considering that we never left Ashland till after my father got off of work those weekend evenings, and seeing that it took from five to six hours to make the trip the way it once was, it was inevitable and predictable that I would sleep most of the way to Boonscamp. Thinking this, I am sure that my mother actually counted on that. However, I do remember a great adventure had me awake long before we got to where we were going. I wonder how many times did I ask, ‘“Are we almost there?’” or “How much further?”’ It is no wonder then that even with all its changes, these many years later, I still like the drive along those special roads, both the Paintsville way and the Martin County one.
Now, to get back to our Free Will Baptist Church Conference, which just happened to have been at Tomahawk on that September weekend scheduling.
I have heard some say they don’t personally care much for conferences. They find it tiresome to sit through the business part of it all, the appointing of people to necessary church offices, the reading of the minutes, both old and new business, etc. They still go, but probably out of a sense of duty, which is better than not going at all.
For me, I love conferences. I rejoice in all the fellowship that comes at seeing all the brothers and sisters in the Lord we don’t usually see in our own individual churches. Additionally, I am pleased to hear the reports from other churches; that all is well and they still hold fast to the Lord. I do also like to listen to the special singing, hear the special messages preached after the business part of the service is over, and we have church.
This conference, I was blessed when some old bonds of friendship were reinforced between myself and a lady who came with her daughter-in-law. These two were the wife and mother of our well-remembered Donald Setzer.
I am not the only one who loved and admired the faith of this young man who used his guitar, his songs, his great talents, and all of his ebbing strength to serve the Lord that he loved. For me, it was a privilege to once more to get to see some of the family of this young man whom I will never forget.
So yes, I consider my attendance at this recent church conference well worth the going, and especially for this unexpected and blessed renewal among my other reasons for going.
There is always a fringe benefit of Conference, that after the last word has gone out, the last Amen has been said, it is then just like a song we sing that says, “I saw some people gathering at a church just out of town, we came to hear the preaching, have dinner on the ground…”’
In addition to dinner on the ground, on Sunday we less hardy ones had dinner in that dining room. Women of the Tomahawk Church had made lots of food, which they served to those of us who availed ourselves of this goodness.
I often feel myself pampered as I partake of this dinner, mostly because Brenda Jarrell, who is a special friend, always makes sure I get some of her delicious dressing, which she knows I love. This is a blessing indeed! One which is lodged in my storehouse of memories.
Thank you, Lord.

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