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Education and Common Sense
Is this part of the final battle?
This morning my daughter Patti called on her way to school as she usually does.
I mentioned that I was concerned about the troubles in the Ukraine, as I had been reading about what successes our missionaries had been having in the that area. I said that Satan saw where people were learning about Jesus and he decided to kill them or run them out of their land or destroy their way of life.
She said that a friend she used to teach with in Seattle had done a lot of mission work in the Ukraine, and he was very involved in work there.
She told me about a lady she met when she worked in Seattle, Phyllis Sortor, who is a 70-year-old grandmother who is a missionary in Nigeria. She has recently been kidnapped and is being held for $300,000 ransom. They think it is a criminal gang rather than the terrorist group, as Boko Haran is not known to operate in that part of Nigeria.
I “Googled” Phyllis Sortor and found that she is a minister in the Free Methodist Church, an alumna of Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, who first went to Nigeria to establish schools for the Fulami children in a perdominately Muslim part of Nigeria. Her husband died several years ago, but after burying him, she went back to continue serving. She is committed to teaching girls, as well as boys, to be educated.
She has also been involved in building wells and providing clean water to places that did not have that necessity.
The Free Methodist Church is having prayer meetings  to ask God to release Phyllis, and I saw several prayers that people had put online.
Phyllis’ statement may well be that of all missionaries who are in dangerous places. This is her statement:” I know that nothing that can happen to me in my future will harm me with God by my side.”
Patti said she is praying for her safe return to her school.
She also said something that made me think. She said,”You know, the Apostle Paul was with the group that stoned Stephen (the first Christian martyr) to death. He became one of the best evangelists in all of the Bible, wrote half of the New Testament. I am praying that all of those 21 executioners that cut the heads off the Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya recently will get saved and be as good evangelists as Paul!”
I thought she was a much better Christian than I, for instead of praying for the crimimals who had cut off the heads of the Christians, I was exulting over how hot Hell was going to be for them!
We are spectators in the epic  global battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. Maybe we can at least get involved by praying for the right side to win! 

Even though it’s Snowing…

This morning, as I sit at the L-shape part of my computer desk, I have only to look out an adjacent window to see the remnants of what is a tenaciously lingering snow. All these days after its falling, it seems just as cold and deep. All the same, my heart is encouraged that here and there I can also see patches of bare earth.
During all this time of power outages and water pipes freezing and interruptions of phone and cable lines, I received a visit from my sister Birdie and her husband Delbert Johnson. Even though their children are now all grown, these two still live in Indiana, on a farm a few miles south of Fort Wayne. There, as far back as I’ve known him, Delbert has been an over the road truck driver. He has made a good living at this. Not to be discounted, an additional and important part of their family income has been from the humongous big farm crops Delbert raises when he’s not out on a haul. Those times, farm workers come to tend his crops. I have visited at Birdie’s and Delbert’s many times through the years, have been there when they’ve had snowstorms much like the one we’ve been enduring. So when my sister called to say they were going to Florida, but would come first for a visit with us, I told her. “Honey, it’s pretty bad down here, and they do say it’s going to get worse.”
Her reply was that they were used to driving in bad weather, and Delbert was good at it. I tried reminding them that even a good driver is often affected by bad weather, that if they ran off the road up there, they’d go out in some one’s corn field. If they went off the road here, they’d go over Two Mile, Richmond or Flat Gap Hill, Spicy, Abbot, or the many other such places that are an integral part of Eastern Kentucky topography. Yet in spite of all my warnings, Birdie and Delbert came. When they did, it was just before a cold arctic air settled in like a blanket of ice. I was glad to have food ready for them. We enjoyed sharing the homemade bread I made, the real made from scratch baked beans, the roast, mashed potatoes and gravy. Best of all, we enjoyed just being together. When we finally went to bed Thursday night, we were well fed and almost at a catch-up level of togetherness. Then early Friday morning, we had to leave our beds because it became so cold we had to. That cold settled around us as a side effect of having no power, no heat, water, phone or cable. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for my family to get me across the knee deep and iced over snow in our yard, to our driveway that looked like a skating rink. But it all worked out. Walter and I were soon settled in at Grandson Benny’s and Andrea‘s house where in addition to electric heat, (when it is working!) they also have a buck stove, already cranked up and doing it’s thing. What joy! What warmth! In retrospect, I am so thankful for the way my dear sister and brother-in-law hung in there with the rest of our family to get Walter and me to where we could be safe and warm. Then after hugging me, Birdie had looked at Delbert and said:
“I think it’s time for us to get out of Dodge!” After they got to where they were going in Florida, Birdie called back to say: “I hated to leave so quickly. I just had no idea it could get so cold and stormy there!”
“That’s Kentucky! I said. “She’s a capricious Lady, always beautiful, even when she is her most unpredictable.”
Now. Before I leave you for another week, I will tell you that in spite of predictions of another nighttime dip in temperatures, with lots of snow still with us, those eager beaver daffodils are breaking ground. As an old song says; “Even though it’s snowing, Daffodils are growing….”

Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Wastin’ away in Cape Coral (Prologue)

It’s official!  Either Ronnie and I have terrible timing or our luck just “sucks.” Fourteen days before “the worst winter weather to hit the United States in decades” (we got back just in time to ‘enjoy’ the snow and sub-zero temperatures) we took a trip to Florida to visit my life-long friend, Kathy Barker Branson, and her husband, John.
Kathy and John are retired educators who met at Eastern Kentucky University in 1970. John is a native Floyd Countian (Right Beaver), and, of course, Kathy grew up in Paintsville, the daughter of Neva and Bill “Radio” Barker.  (Most of you over 60 remember Bill because your parents “slurped” their coffee with him every morning for over 30 years.)
Kathy and I were best friends and neighbors, and if I wasn’t at her house, she was usually at mine. I was as much a fixture in her house as Bill’s rocking chair that sat on their front porch and now has established residence on Kathy’s front porch in Florida. To let you know how close we were, Bill told me to “shut-up” more times than my Dad did. To say that Kathy and I were “inseparable” would not be an exaggeration. We were together when Kennedy was assassinated and again at the end of that decade when Neil Armstrong “made that one giant leap for mankind.”
When we arrived at the Punta Gorda airport outside of Ft. Myers, our initial plans  were to spend seven days with the Branson’s  at their “Hacienda” located on a canal in Cape Coral.  Although it was dark when we pulled in the driveway, you could not help but notice the beautiful home, situated on a corner lot with an enclosed pool, hot tub, and John’s own personal-made Tiki Hut that borders his boat slip.  Of course, Kathy had made a huge pot of Chicken Corn Chowder (I forgot the recipe) and we sat up past midnight “catching up” on old times.  (At this point, I would like to make the analogy that I felt as if I had just slipped into a comfortable, old robe  just by being with Kathy.)
The next day I went for a pedi/mani in anticipation of our adventures that they had planned for us. (I know most people would have had their pedi/mani before the trip, but I’d much rather have strangers touching my feet than people I might run into at Walmart.) That evening we were whisked off to Doc Ford’s, a restaurant situated on the gulf, for a night of good food and dancing. We were joined by friends, Dan Salyer and Cinder and were introduced to Kathy and John’s friends, Boone and Jane Hall who had taught with them in Ohio. I will let you in on a little secret as to how much fun we had: Ronnie and I have been married over 15 years and this was the first time he had ever asked ME to dance. 
The next morning, by the time Ronnie and I had dressed, Kathy had already packed a huge picnic lunch and Captain John had his boat “sea worthy” for a “3-hour tour,” as we came to refer to it. Joining us were our crew from the night before and we set sail for Sanibel Island. While anchored a bit out in the water on Sanibel, we enjoyed our lunch while sitting in the boat.  As we were eating, John made the observation that the pelicans and assorted sea fowl were circling our boat like vultures.  After stating that he had never noticed the birds acting that way before, Kathy nudged me and said, “Don’t let him see you throwing that bread out in the water.” (By the way, I’m the only one who used the ‘Head’, and I’m usually the one who can hold the most water except when I can’t).
That evening, the Branson’s outdid themselves again by having a cook-out for all us “sea-faring sailors” and invited our former circuit judge, Dan Sparks, and his wife, Renee. (John and Kathy met them at church.) They also invited their son, Billy, and his wife, Amy, and their two kids, Grant and Ava.  I just can’t begin to tell you what a grand time we were having.
Stay tuned next week when you hear John ask Ronnie, “Are you ready to go?”
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

‘Bah, Humbug” seems very appropriate

Ebenezer Scrooge may have had something there. His “Bah Humbugs,” although directed toward his feelings toward Christmas, could certainly be applicable to how I feel now toward this recent blast from the Siberian Express that we’re currently experiencing. I’ve never been overly fond of winter anyway but when we start putting minuses before double-digit numbers when speaking of the temperature and double-digit numbers when discussing the depth of the snow, “Bah Humbug” seems very appropriate.
 For more than a week before we got ours, we sat in front of the TV and watched New Englanders try to dig out and continue their daily lives as best they could. It was almost like watching some event in some far-away land of make believe. Then it suddenly became our time. Bah Humbug!
Anyway, as most things tend to do these days, it all reminds me of events that occurred in the days of my youth; days before I’d ever read Charles Dickens; before Ebenezer and Tiny Tim were familiar characters; days when reading was far more a chore than pleasure.
As I stood in front of the picture window over the weekend watching cars slip and slide and creep up and down the street, I was reminded of those days when I was very small and would press my nose against the window pane and beg my mother to let me go out and play like all the other kids in the neighborhood who spent those long-ago snowy days riding their sleds or building snowmen or having snowball fights.
It always took a lot of whining to persuade her to let me go and several days to recover once she did. It was always a mystery to me how everyone else could wallow in the snow all winter long and the very first time I was permitted to go out and enjoy the things that the typical coal-camp kid enjoyed about wintertime, I’d spend the rest to the winter indoors, trying to ward off pneumonia. No matter how far I tucked my britches legs into those four-buckle arctics, my feet would still get wet, and I’d end up with a nose that ran like a sugar tree, and Mom would grab that big blue jar of Vicks salve.
As much as I liked going, even school wasn’t much fun for me in the wintertime. There were still just seven days in the week; “Snowday” hadn’t been invented yet. That early morning trek between my house and the gas space heater that sat in the corner of the classroom seemed three times as long as it really was. I, and dozen or so other brave souls, would gather to thaw out before I’d unwrap a couple of layers of clothes, stuff my ‘boggin in the pocket of my mackinaw and dig my Blue Horse notebook paper from my desk and prepare to learn how much wheat was produced in Kansas in 1940 and the multiplication tables …. all the way up to the twelves.
Anyway, seems to me that winters then and what we’re having now, in many ways, had a lot in common. I guess all I can really say about the comparison is… Bah Humbug!

Education and Common Sense
What a lovely Saturday evening!

I first got acquainted with Roger Alford and his family when they joined Liberty Baptist Church at Denver, sometime in the 1990’s. At the time, Roger was reporting on events in Eastern Kentucky for the Associated Press.  He and his wife, Susan, had three children: one in college, one in high school, and one in grade school. I thought Roger was a good writer, and he seemed to like what I wrote. We were kindred spirits.
Roger was transferred to the Frankfort Bureau of the Associated Press and moved to Owen County, where he became the bi-vocational pastor of Long Ridge Baptist Church in Owenton. He wrote some very good articles about Haven of Rest that went all over the United States, and I would see him occasionally on “Comment on Kentucky” on KET on Friday nights .
A few years ago, Roger was hired to be the Director of Communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and works at the Kentucky Baptist Building here in Louisville. I stop by his office now and then when I am helping fill envelopes for the Kentucky WMU. We are always glad to see one another. His daughter Emily is now a teacher, six foot six “Big Country” Josh, is now working and is in graduate school, and little Mary is a senior at Morehead with a major in journalism.
Last week, my friend Pat Beverly, who comes by on her way from work at the KBC Building and takes me to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evenings, had an invitation for me. She said, “Roger Alford asked Gary and me to come to a Valentine Dinner at his church in Owenton and asked if I would bring you.”
Of course, if I have a chance to go somewhere, I say,”Where? When?”
So February 14, Saturday evening, Gary and Pat Beverly came by and we departed for Owen County. As Mr. Beverly is a driver for his son-in-law’s Fisher Bus Lines, he was the perfect driver. We did not have to keep him awake or on the right road.  Pat and I have never run out of conversation topics, and I enjoyed the trip immensely.
When we got to the church we found eighty or ninety people in the beautifully-decorated multi-purpose room. The decor featured lots of LED-lit hearts on the walls of the room. Roger seated us at the table with the guest entertainers, and I found that, because I was almost ninety years old, (and a friend of the pastor) I got to say the blessing!
The food was delicious: prime rib, salad, baked potato, rolls and cake. The wait staff were the children and youth. I wondered if that was part of their “Children’s Ministry” service tasks. They were cheerful and efficient.
Pastor Roger said he got the idea for the Valentine Dinner from his time at Liberty Baptist Church, and I remembered some hilarious entertainment performed by the men of that church back in the Nineties!
I had been impressed with Lowell Ashby for years, as he keeps a close watch on all money that is collected an dispensed by the KBC. I did not know he sang bass with a wonderful gospel quartet that has been singing together since the year 2000. They are Larry Williams, lead, Mike Swigert, tenor, Bob Davidson, baritone, and Lowell Ashby, bass.  They gave me a CD of their “Glory Crown Quartet” music. I enjoyed their singing after the dinner.
After they sang, three of the local men performed an amusing skit.
I was given a Valentine bag of goodies that included a heart-shaped cookie cutter attached to a cookie recipe. It almost made me wish I had a kitchen!
I had a lovely evening on St. Valentine’s Day seeing old friends, meeting new friends, and enjoying some lovely singing. I really appreciate Roger’s inviting me.
I will be able to enjoy my new gospel CD while I am snowed in the rest of this week!

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