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Education and Common Sense
Haven of Rest: Celebrating Ten Years of Ministry

My daughter, Cathy, son-in-law, Marvin, and I departed for Eastern Kentucky last Satuday morning about eight o’clock. We were going to a “Ten-Year Celebration” of the Haven of Rest, a ministry to the families of the prisoners incarcerated in the Big Sandy Federal Penitentiary located in Martin County, near the Johnson and Floyd County lines.
I had reread the published collection of columns I had written about the Ministry for the Paintsville Herald and the Butler County Banner beginning in 2001 the day before. Again I was astounded by the miracle that I had been a witness to almost 15 years ago. As we traveled the three-hour journey from Louisville to the mountain, I remembered the beginnings. I remembered being saddened that my friends, Eileen and Carl Mullins, who had led churches in Enterprise Association for years, had a tragedy in their family. Their “good” son who had never had as much as a speeding ticket, had shot and killed his estranged wife. He had pled guilty without a trial and been sentenced to twenty years in prison.
I remembered that Eileen told me how she had cried and prayed Romans 8:28 “For we know that all things work for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose,” and God had told her that she would build a place of ministry to the families of prisoners. She said she shouted all over the house when she read in the Martin County Newspaper that the government was going to build a huge prison on a strip-mined mountaintop in her county.
She was in a prayer group with Linda Booth, the wife of James Booth, the owner of thousands of acres of strip-mined land. Mr. Booth offered a plot of land next to his mining company offices to build the building. Then Eileen went to Oneida School to a missions meeting and shared with the visiting ministers about her call. One of the ministers there got her a speaking spot at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The Convention gave her $2,000 “seed money.” She was off and running.
Eileen asked me to be her “side-kick” because I knew her well enough and was blunt enough to tell her when she was going too far. Also, I had been on several boards and had friends all over Kentucky who knew I would not be a part of a “scam.”
I thought about all the people who had helped. The Association prayer-walked the area; we had an artist design a logo without charging us; Chad Meade, a local CPA, has done our accountant work gratis. We’ve had lawyers and architects do thousands of dollars worth of work at no charge, and church people have come from as far as South Carolina to build buildings, and work. Ever so many people donated small and large amounts of money and products.
I was worried that the people who had family in prison would bring drugs and liquor to the Haven, but the ones I have met have been very nice people, and they have not damaged any of the rooms that I know of.
The Ministry now consists of a caretaker’s cottage, occupied by retired minister Harold Scroggs and his wife, Joyce, who God sent to take over when Eileen was no longer able to supervise it, a storage building, two buildings with a total of twenty sleeping rooms, each with private bath. One building has an apartment for an additional worker. It is now occupied by Robin and Becky Botkin, two mission volunteers that oversee the Heavenly Treasures Variety Store that helps the people in the surrounding area, and brings in some support for the Haven of Rest. The main building consists of an office, a laundry, a kitchen with two of everything, a dining area that seats 36, and a chapel. The Great Room has recently been redecorated by Linda Booth. The couches that were given to Eileen by various people have gone to Goodwill (or the trash) and much nicer and easily- cleaned leather couches are in their place. A fireplace that burns gas logs is at the end of the room with the TV monitor above the mantel. It showed a slide show of historic pictures of the ministry all the time we were there. The carpet has been replaced by a vinyl floor covering that looks exactly like hardwood. So much easier to clean.
I was happy to see my buddies Eileen and Judy. Judy Short was enlisted soon after I was, and she with her expertise and her hardware store, continues to be one of the most dependable supporters. We call each other “Margaret”. It is a private joke among us three.
I saw Forest and Louise Pack, Linda Booth, Tom Biddle, who is the Chairman of the Board. He prayed a wonderful prayer and did a beautiful job presenting Eileen Mullins with a Kentucky Colonel’ commission.
I was delighted to see the new pastor of Liberty Baptist Church and his wife, Clay and Heather Wheeler, and my old buddy Mrs. Bonnie Adams who is one of the pillars at Liberty. “Miss Ann” was there from where she now lives in Barbourville. She was there to help Eileen with taking care of the laundry and supervising the cooking on the weekends for many years.
I spent much of my three-hour stay signing books. “The Haven of Rest: From the Beginning.” It is a collection of the columns I had written over the six or seven -year period that the Haven of Rest was getting established. They still have plenty of the books at $5 each. Contact Haven of Rest, 58 Haven Place, Inez, KY 41224.
The Ministry does not charge inmates’ families to come for a weekend when they can visit their loved ones. They have found that they have to have each visitor send a $20 deposit to be sure they will really come. They may have their deposit returned if they need it. Their food is furnished, but they do the cooking and cleaning up. The Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union has been generous to donate $2,000 a year from the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions to help with the food. The Ministry is Christian, but it is interdenominational. Many different churches help support the Ministry.
Another blessing of the Haven is that it is available for churches or civic groups to come and stay and do ministry work in the area during the week when there are no prison visitors. It is a great place for a retreat. Those groups bring their own food and prepare it. They each pay $10 a night to help pay for the utilities they use while they are there.
Another three hours back, and I was home in time for supper. But I had a lovely day seeing lots of old friends. I was so happy that God was still blessing the Haven of Rest.


Downhomer
Be careful of the rocks you throw!

You know what they say: that fools rush in where angels fear to trod. Since I know very well that I am no angel, I guess I am the other one of that quotation. For one of my many faults is that I have never hesitated to climb upon my soapbox and spout off on some of my pet peeves. Of course, this only indicates that I am highly opinionated and bull-headed. In proof of this I must admit that most of the time those pet peeves are fixed and unchanging. Thus, I am often annoyed by the things other people do. For instance, I often remind the Lord to look at those idiots; can’t even go grocery shopping without talking to someone on a cell phone. Makes me want to be in the time of carrier pigeons, or at least, be able to go back to before cell phones were invented. But then, you might as well try to hold back the tides as to hold back progress. As for me, one of the things I really dislike is having to be an unwilling eavesdropper to conversations of those obsessed people who, multitasking, talk nonstop on a cell phone while they go along the grocery aisles. In like measure, I am also just as annoyed when people bring their cell phones to church, and their personal call signals will go off in the midst of the service. Of course, there are times, for instance, when someone might have an illness or some similar crisis in their family which makes them have to stay in touch, just in case. However, there are many instances when people bring their cell phones to church just because they can’t bear to leave them behind. This illustrates that their most important personal agenda is their cell phone, that they are not able to just lay aside this supposed need, even when to do so would let them focus more on their spiritual needs. Priorities. One way or another we all set priorities. And I wonder what God thinks of this! And how about children who play with an iPad or a game boy all through church. They — and those parents that let them do this — might as well have stayed home!
One of my big — bigger than big — pet peeves is the garbage that pollutes our hillsides and our state highways. I love Kentucky. I do not love that we Kentuckians are the biggest polluters in the nation. Anywhere you go, to other states, on any drives around those places, the landscapes are clean and unpolluted. But come to Kentucky and you will see, among all our natural beauty, there will be an accumulation of discarded pop cans, unrecycled plastic bags, carry-out fast food boxes; all of which is just part of the flotsam and jetsam of a people having no civic pride in their homeland.
Thinking about how adamant I am about this, I have to wonder if I myself have ever done such a thing. It seems to be such an automatic reflex; just roll down the car windows and toss your garbage out. I can only hope that if I ever did, I would be bound to clean up the evidence of my offense against the earth I live on.
I often remember the sinner and the publican in the Bible. As the publican prayed, he reminded God that he was better than that other man who had also come to pray. The publican told God that he was glad that he was not like that other one. Then he began to tell the Lord of his great superiority. The other of these two men prayed; Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. The Lord tells us that of these two, only the one time sinner went justified to his home that day.
So if I look askance at those who happen to be different in some way from myself, is my attitude of self-righteousness as much an annoyance to God as my pet peeves are to me. And if I can form a conclusion from any of this, it is that I am responsible for my life and not my neighbors. So please, God, teach me tolerance. And help me, Dear Lord, to sweep my own doorstep...


Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

The Walking Dead
“Paranoia” is a word many of us use loosely and associate with something that we are unnaturally afraid of like a disease such as Ebola, a phobia like the fear of flying, or a unforeseen force like UFO’s. While many of us are paranoid of less intimidating things such as heights, gluten, and aspartame, nothing is quite so frightening as the craze that has taken America’s TV audience by storm —- The Walking Dead.
Personally, I’m more paranoid about Ebola and Herpes Complex II than I am about missing an episode of The Walking Dead. But friends of mine (my husband included) are afraid that missing one single second of this popular weekly series will permanently damage the pupils of their eyes. 
As far as I’m concerned, fearing Ebola is not akin to paranoia. Ebola is a real danger; a threat to our national security and, let’s face it, it kills people. I saw a picture of a man who was in the stages of full-blown Ebola and you couldn’t tell where his face was located. But according to people at the CDC, we are not at the point that we have to wear face masks while using public transportation. I was trying to explain my fear to Ronnie the other night while he was watching “The Walking Dead” but he couldn’t even make eye-contact with me.
“Ronnie,” I desperately stated. “A man in Dallas brought Ebola germs over on a plane and now he’s in a hospital in Dallas spreading it around to everyone!  We need to quarantine the house!”
“Sara,” Ronnie said frantically. “Can’t this wait until after “The Walking Dead”? I’m talking about the season premiere!”
“You may be dead before that’s over!” I admonished him. “That’s not real.  Those people aren’t actually Zombies, they’re actors playing dead people.  You can kill a Zombie by shooting them directly in the head, but you can’t kill Ebola with a weapon!”
“Hush your mouth, woman!” Ronnie screamed. “The people at the Sanctuary are killing people and eating them! Get a grip!”
Oh, my word. Not only had I lost contact with my husband, he had lost touch with reality. What ever happened to family sitcoms like the Bundy’s who were so dysfunctional they didn’t know they were raising juvenile delinquents, or the Brady Bunch whose blended families set the stage for ‘normalcy’ for our generation? I was flabbergasted.
While Ronnie watched in abject delight at the heads of Zombies disintegrating into thin air by a gun shot blast and reveled in the grossness of hearing crunching noises emanate from the Zombies as they ate the decomposing bodies, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t thinking of the real threat that was slowly inching its way into our country via sneezes and coughs.
“Sara,” Ronnie calmly said to me after the episode concluded. “You’ve got to stop obsessing about things that probably aren’t going to ever happen and that you can’t do anything about anyway. I lived in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS epidemic and I didn’t contract it. And I was at Ground Zero!”
I suppose he wanted me to look at him like he was immortal or like he had survived Hiroshima or something of that magnitude, but all I could think of was he had dodged a bullet. Ebola is much more dangerous because it can be transmitted in more ways than previous epidemics. I mean, we’re talking Bubonic Plague!
I observed Ronnie as his eyes glazed over during the preview for next week’s episode. Then, without missing a beat, he fast-forwarded the DVR to the following Sunday to record the upcoming episode. Lord forbid he miss it and couldn’t watch it immediately.
By this time, I was needing to be reassured that life was not as complex and frightening as I thought it to be. I needed something or someone, to take my hand and tell me everything was going to be alright. That’s when I remembered that Mr. Reddington (aka James Spader) of the “Blacklist” was coming on TV the next night to sweep me away into a world of espionage and intrigue. Now why should I worry?
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!    


Poison Oak
On politics and woolly worms

Here I am almost grown, and I’ve never seen as many negative ads as I’ve seen in the McConnell-Grimes senate race. Apparently, neither has done anything he/she can brag about. You’d think that at least one of them would have accomplished at least one thing that might impress the voters.
 It seems to me that if both candidates can be believed, no matter who wins, we can’t lose. Then again, if each one is telling the truth about the other, no matter who loses, we can’t win. Looks like it’s going to be a close one, though, and about the only thing we can predict for certain is that no one can predict anything for certain – except it’s bound to get even more interesting before it’s over.
***
And while we’re on the subject of predicting things, let’s turn our thinking to the upcoming winter. Now let’s see if I have this woolly worm thing right. If the little critter wears a light colored coat, the winter will be generally mild. If he wears black on both ends and brown in the middle, the winter will be cold at the beginning and end, but warm in the middle. 
What’s got me worried, however, is the other day I ran across one that was solid black. On top of that, his coat was as thick as my thumb is round. So if the woolly wormers know of what they speak, we’d better break out our old mackinaw and dig out the long johns because we’re in for it. 
Anyway, whether or not you buy any of that woolly worm stuff, a bit of research reveals that “woolly worm”  is merely the common name for the larval (caterpillar) stage of a family of tiger moths. They have thirteen bands of color that supposedly correspond with the thirteen weeks of winter from December to March. Scientists, however, pretty much agree that there’s not much to the fact that they’re really very accurate weather predictors.
I can’t keep from worrying a little, though, about that solid black, extremely fuzzy one I saw the other day.


Downhomer
The Fallen Leaves and Life Patterns

Now does summer’s crop of leaves begin their waltz of the wind, responding in their eternal programming to the cyclic waxing and waning they must go through.
Do we not all know that the inanimate of nature must inevitably respond to these seasons of their existence? In like manner, so is it also with the quick and the dead.
All must come, and all must go till in a never-ending progression, all will come again.
Thus as October leaves hurry in their shedding, it is not for us to ask why, but just to enjoy. Red and gold or yellow and brown, those leaves tumble from their mother tree to drift to the earth like a flurry of out of season snowflakes.
Nostalgic as this always makes me, there are some down sides to it.
First of all, the ground around my house is waterlogged from all the frequent, almost daily rains that fall and fall again. Thus, inevitably, as the yard becomes covered with this carpet of leaves, they stick to your shoes, are then carried into the house every time you happen to go out.
So far, all those fallen leaves are much too soggy to rake into piles that in my younger days I loved to play in.
Now come rain or shine it is my grandchildren who delight in this performance, watching through the window in a useless wishing for the rain to let up for a spell.
I understand how they feel. I still remember when it was I myself who jumped into those rustling scratchy mounds. And seeing the leaf littered yard around me, I can only hope they can last until the rainstorms stop so that my precious grandchildren could develop a similar memory that they might someday be able to take out and look at as I do mine.
In the meantime the rain goes on.
Today, weather reports are of yet another storm front that is heading toward us. It; enough to make me wonder if we have so shifted from our normal position on the wheel of time that we are in the kind of monsoon condition that is usual to India, or Katmandu, or some other such temperate area of the globe.
To me, this is not inconceivable. We all know that strange and different signs and wonders in the heavens and the earth are occuring almost daily, and you wonder what will happed next.
Will the winter be as full of snow as the summer has been with rain? Whatever, we just take each day as it comes, enjoy all the signs as they come to us. For always, in the midst of the seasons of life, death comes as it will.
I write this subsequent to the death of Arlene Blair, the lady who was my granddaughter-in-law Andrea Fannin’s biologic grandmother. Andrea and her Blair family have always known how really sick this beloved lady was, and I admire their faithfulness that someone of the family was always with her.
Now she goes on the her reward, and it is left to those who remain to carry on the torch she left to them. There were those years of service to the Upper Room Church in Paintsville.
In addition, there was all the love and devotion she lavished on her family, her many friends and all the others who just happened to come across her path.
Although I personally did not know her, I knew of her, and all that I knew was good. She will undoubtedly be missed, but she, even she, as another old saint of God, had no choice, did not want a different choice, but to respond to the Master’s voice when he called her home. I am sure she shouted and praised the Lord in her going.
It is my wish that as I take that last earthly journey from here to there, I also will go singing and shouting, and praising the Lord.
In addition, just as the stars, just as the hills sing with joy to their creator, I am sure that if the leaves that now fall could sing, they also would praise and give thanks to the Lord God Almighty who sees every leaf that falls......



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