(1Pet. 1:24) Pressing on up that gentle grade I’m so thankful I can walk. About twenty of my high school friends are dead, ten or twelve out of my class. The running back on our football team tied the KY state record for most touchdowns scored in a single game, went to college, became a doctor, he lives down south and he’s on a walker now. Several of the men I grew up with, up my holler (mountain slang: the hollow between two ridges or points), are dead too. My greatest happiness is walking my hard path for God.

Somehow that makes me think about “sophisticated and civilized” and “philosophical reasoning”. “Philosophical reasoning” advances its cause through understandable, reasonable rationale which is our exposition of principals or reasons. Man that sentence rolls off the tongue like butter and offers tender comfort, BUT, when you think about it a minute it doesn’t say anything about anything.

It hangs out there like a fresh washed sheet on an outside clothesline; its all wet, it just flaps in the breeze and wraps around anything that gets close to it. I heard that sentence on TV or read it in a magazine and it stuck. I’m glad it did so I could have time to think about the emptiness of it. Conscience programmed by the impossibility of reason.

Sophisticated and civilized first: The terrible exertion of my walk causes my nose to run and I carry a paper towel or two to catch the overflow. Once I forgot the paper towel, here came the overflow, I leaned over as I walked, pushed on one side of my nose closing off that nostril and blew the offensive liquid onto the ground, that one was cleared and I repeated the move to clear the other. The nasty was gone. Had I done that in front of people I would have been regarded as vulgar, uncouth, heathenish, nasty, unsophisticated and uncivilized; a barbarian. BUT:

As a sophisticated and civilized man I would have blown the nastiness into a white cloth, carefully folded it up, placed it in my pocket, possibly used it again a time or two as I carried it and its germs around with me all day; most people don’t wash after they blow either. SO: Exactly when does sophisticated and civilized end and arrogant snobbery start in American society.

(Prov. 6:16-17 God hates a proud look, and 16:18 keywords: Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall) (James 4:6-10 & 1Pet. 5:5-8) When does a Christian become so sophisticated and civilized that he can “look down on” (feel superior to) another human that is made in God’s image? Please read what Jesus said in (Luke 14:7-11 esp. V.11) and don’t put your elbows on the table while you eat.

(2Thess. 2:7-12 esp. V.11) “Philosophical reasoning” has eroded America’s ability to act and strength of will to survive. PROOF: America hasn’t won a war since WW2! Philosophical reasoning devised the stupidity of “Rules of Engagement” that tie soldier’s trigger fingers to their noses so they can’t shoot. I know, I’ve been there. WW2 was won by the political attitude of; “Do it to them before they do it to what’s left of us. Total War! Destroy the enemy’s will and means to wage war!”

AND the world and its people are not slaves to Hitler’s “master race”. Philosophical reasoning says; “Don’t do what they do or you will sink to their level”. More garbage! If America loses to them they will make what’s left of us just like them anyway. Count the dead soldiers since WW2 and you count the cost of no gain! The “moral high ground” wasn’t around until after WW2. That’s when America started losing wars and morality.

Keep the moral high ground and what’s left of us will work and try to support the druggies and their children. In reality there’s no real accountability for taking drugs. Look around you, it’s the truth. Keep the “moral high ground” until its your child on drugs, OR overdosed, cold, grey and dead, OR you are spending your golden years raising your grandchildren or even your great grandchildren because your darling child is hooked on drugs, collecting the govt. check and dumping their responsibility in you, OR in a street gang and all that goes with that insanity.

Look around, ask around, talk to nurses, cops and school teachers, they are on the front lines and they are losing the battle! SO: America is in a drug war for its soul and the survival of our nation depends on the outcome. You can declare a war on drugs but the fight is with people. I am shocked that I remember a high school class that studied the fictitious beings called the Greek gods, Mount Olympus and all that junk. (Acts 17:18-34 esp. V.22) Yes, even back then public schools taught devilish things!

SO HERE GOES: In his second labor Hercules was going to kill the Hydra, a multi headed monster. The Hydra had a poisonous breath and poisonous blood. That sounds like what drugs do to people doesn’t it? Hercules attacked with his sword but every time he cut a head off of one of the necks that neck grew two heads back while Hercules was chopping off another head from another neck. It was a hopeless battle he could not win. That sounds like America’s war on drugs doesn’t it?

Hercules changed tactics, he got his nephew, Lolaus, to help. When Hercules cut a head off Hydra his nephew would cauterize the neck before two heads, or any head, could grow back. Hydra was soon dead. That is a perfect allegory of the drug trade and what needs to be done.

The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) act produced “special laws” that were applied to organized crime. America’s current war on drugs is a failure, a hopeless battle, so America needs to change tactics just like Hercules. American government needs to pass “special drug laws”. American government needs to enlist the aid of its nephew the American Military.

As soon as the laws are passed give a six month amnesty warning for all people everywhere to get out of the drug business AND send a message to all heads of state; “You stop the drug flow from your country or we will!”, a YOU ARE WARNED message to all. “IF YOU DO NOT HEED THE WARNING THE CONSEQUENCES ARE YOUR FAULT.” At the end of the six months the “special drug laws” will be enforced

Politically and Diplomatically speaking: The basics: If a drug user did not have drugs he wouldn’t overdose and die and surely all the drug related murders would not have happened. SO: Pushers, drug sellers, on every level from the street pusher to the cartel leader are equally guilty of the crimes the users commit. With a four year limit on appeals after conviction, a death sentence is given for selling drugs.

No turning in the guy above them for an amended sentence either. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, everyone included; gets a death sentence for their involvement in selling (pushing) drugs. Religious counseling of the dealer’s choice for however long they want it within the four years BUT: death after four years. They were warned!

When users are caught “on a high” they are to be whipped (flogged) with a whip, three stripes, in the public square in the county of the offense on the next Saturday morning. To the proponents of “philosophical reasoning” who protest it; “if you don’t like it, don’t look!” If the drug users are caught again a worse whipping of six stripes is administered, and on, and on, with three more stripes added each time. If they are willing to get whipped until they die before they will quit so be it. It is their choice. They were warned!

No more govt. checks and free financial rides for druggies. Drug testing for welfare checks; fail the test, forget the check and be taken to the whipping post in the town square. Prescribed drugs produce a known amount in the blood, exceed the amount, goodbye the check. They were warned!

Drug cartels, growers, refiners, shippers and etc. in foreign countries, let our military use remote satellite imaging, electronics and send our clandestine soldiers to pinpoint the targets then send drones with high explosives on their mansions and on all levels of their operations and shipping. Kill their families? (Joshua 6:16-21 Rahab=church) Look at the American families they are killing with their poison and use retribution. Total war is just that, total. They were warned!

Look what happened in London, England; Paris, France; Dresden, Germany; Leningrad, Russia; and all the other cities in all the different countries that were full of women, children and etc. in WW2. Both sides were involved in total war and we won, probably for the last time in America’s history. If foreign governments don’t like America’s posture let them stop the drug trade coming from their country. That is very simple to understand and don’t forget that we are nuclear armed when you start crying and complaining about your rights as an independent nation. They were warned!

National and international politics? Get out of our way pal and shut your mouth, America is fighting for its life and we’re stirred up like a hornet’s nest! We have rights too; we have the right to not have our citizens murdered by and because of drugs. America is under threat from terrorists threatening nuclear, biological and chemical warfare against us so what’s the difference if we have a few more enemies? Drugs would virtually disappear in a few months.

We may as well address the rape and incest aspect of abortion while we’re here too. Abortion in general and by scripture is addressed in the The Holy Spirit and You commentary in the first SELF article. When a woman is raped she feels violated, defiled and just plain old dirty. Incest can be the same way in one degree or another depending on the circumstances: usually the rape of a younger by an older family member—-a rape.

Pregnancy as a result is a nine month reminder of the event. The Mother should not be held responsible; she was raped. The baby should not be held responsible, the baby wasn’t even alive until the pregnancy occurred SO: why murder the baby by abortion? The baby did nothing except come into existence?

The rapist and incestuous male committed the crime, he is the guilty party! Let the above RICO laws apply here. Death sentence for rapists and incestuous persons. No, it would not stop rape from happening but it would be a great deterrent in lots of circumstances AND it would sure thin out the rapists and there would be no repeat offenders.

People all across America are begging to adopt a child. Let one of those families fully adopt the baby, they will pay the expenses and the baby will be theirs, no strings attached. A baby produced by incest will be genetically tested to determine if it can produce offspring that are not genetically deficient. If genetically deficient the incest baby will use birth control and adopt children when mature.

WRITER’S NOTE: (Luke 14:28-32 esp. V.31 keyword: war) The above may appear to be hard line but like I said; “I’ve been there.” Here is a picture of my hard school. America’s politicians made a pact with Vietnam; “If the jackbooted heel of the oppressor comes we will defend you.” AND: “Let freedom ring, oh, let freedom ring!”

Then America drew a line across the waist of that little country in Southeast Asia. The enemy was allowed to cross that line and smite our bloodied face at will and we were not allowed to cross that line and smite them. Sure, we had air strikes but all the enemy had to do was put their artillery in caves, run the 160mm guns out, fire pre-plotted rounds into our positions, run the guns back inside the mountains and listen and laugh while our air strikes thundered on the outside of the mountain in an exercise in futility.

They could run a regiment across that DMZ line, ambush a company of Marines, wipe us out and run back across the line and we couldn’t go after them; rules of engagement you know; while our leonine headed president, Lyndon Baines the Jerk, old LBJ, poured over his white house table with its dirt mock-up of our terrain then went before the American public and dramatically cried out his; “Oh why! Oh why—” speech that made me gag while he crippled our trigger fingers with his political policy.

Over time I’ve seen more than a hundred dead Marines in the grotesque, stinking, bloody, rigor mortis of violent death and hundreds and hundreds more of wounded Marines. If you are going to fight, fight to win; If you won’t then run like the craven dog you are and don’t involve your soldiers in your cowardice. Drag up the guts to finish it or shut up and don’t start it!

A new candidate qualification law should be applied: A politician on the State and Federal level must have served a four year enlistment in the Army, Navy or Marines starting as a private and remaining in the enlisted ranks before they can run for office. Check out “The Market Place Massacre”, the sieges at Con Thien, Khe Sanh, Hue and The Walking Dead; not the stupid movies or the pasty faced children’s electronic game BUT the real Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment.

Like I said; I know because I’ve been there. Conscience programmed by wasted American blood on the ground, picking up my friends and fellow Marine’s body parts in the bloody early morning and the futility of never having the chance to win because the betrayers dagger of “philosophical reasoning” politics has been thrust mercilessly into our backs by a gutless, do gooder political system in a spineless society.

After those dreadful thoughts Its good to think about and remember Nathan, my Mennonite friend, as I walk on up the gentle grade of the ridge. I met him on the phone and made an appointment to meet him at his wood working shop. Nathan met me at the door and I followed him through the shop to his office. As I followed him through the shop I passed a Mennonite, about twenty, working at his wood lathe.

I stopped for a moment and asked him if he was a Christian. With a startled look he stammered out; “Yes”. AND: I asked him; “Did you get saved from your sins?” The young man drew himself up proudly; “YES.” “What did you get saved from; messing your diaper or sucking your thumb?” The young Mennonite Christian was struck dumb but I missed it. I missed it because I was traveling fast, trying to keep up with Nathan, there in the insulated world of the Mennonite faith.

I went on and conducted my business. I did not realize “conducting my business” was the opening of a friendship that would enrich me beyond measure. Nathan and I visited probably 4-6 times a year for 10-12 years as we became friends. I will relate the subject of several of our conversations as I walk the long, gentle slope toward the top of the mountain.

That first time our business took fifteen minutes and our conversation lasted three hours. It was an odd pattern that developed; seems like most of our future visits lasted around three hours each. I was and am intensely interested in the Mennonite faith. It is nearly impossible to open an in depth dialogue with a Mennonite about their faith. It’s almost like a closed society but here was one who would talk! We got acquainted in a guarded, sort of sparring conversation. Finally Nathan asked me what I had meant by my statement about the young man’s sins, the one working the lathe.

(Luke 19:9-10) I told him that we are saved from being lost. (Rev. 1:5) Our sins are in the way and need to be washed away with Jesus’ blood then we can be saved. “For practical purposes we don’t get saved from our sins but we get saved in spite of them because of Jesus’ blood.” Nathan is a fast thinker and a slow talker. I wish I had that gift, mine is backwards to his. I saw understanding light his eyes and he slowly said; “I never thought about it like that.” That seemed to cement something between us.

He wanted to know why I had stopped to talk to the young man. I didn’t know why, I just did. Then I explained my view of their closed society. The rules of their church apply to their community of families whether you are saved or not, so, how can anyone sin when their church rules are hammered into their children beginning with their Mother’s milk and on for the rest of their life, especially with that multitude of Mennonite eyes on every aspect of your life? Mennonites have their own schools, forbid TV, internet and etc. Nathan’s conscience programming; withdraw and shield yourself from the world.

My conscience programming; I am in the world but not of the world. We both resist temptations the best way we can, based on scripture. Nathan realized I was also a source to be mined and he was sometimes shocked as he patiently mined my life story out of me.

Nathan told me later he deeply appreciated our conversation that first visit because I wasn’t out of the parking lot before the young man was in his office, very concerned and questioning what I had meant with my question. Nathan was a teacher in their church and that became part of his teaching.

He later told me the young man was stronger through that understanding. Many times God has used my life in odd split-second time frames. I don’t know if He did that time or not. I felt no great leading or burden to speak, it was just a passing statement that sparked a conversation. Conscience programming with information.

I admire how the Mennonites are so iron-clad sure of their religious convictions and how they iron-clad live it. As you can tell I’m really sure about the Lord’s love, grace, kindness, mercy and goodness; well, (2Pet. 3:9) the Lord’s long suffering too. I am sure I’m the cause of at least some of His longsuffering with my ignorance, stupidity, goofiness, spiritual deafness, laziness, sin, slackness and total dependence upon His kindnesses.

Are you absolutely sure you have done enough for the correct reason to pass the lukewarm test of (Rev. 3:15-16)? Really? (Rom. 8:9) “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (John 14:5-26) Plainly tells us the identity of the Spirit of Christ. See the commentary The Holy Spirit & You the article Who is the Holy Spirit for a complete scriptural study. Do you recognize the Holy Spirit in your life? You’d better! Conscience programming by questions.

There is a group that teaches and preaches that Christians are justified by Jesus and works don’t matter. Another group teaches and preaches once you become a Christian you will always be saved regardless of sin. Please click on the commentary The Holy Spirit & You scroll the menu to the two article series Backsliding: Quest for the Truth and you will scripturally know the truth from the beginning to the end. If you won’t do that here is the short route: (Rev. 1:20) “and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”

(Rev. 2:1-7 esp. V.4 & 5)  (V.4) “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” (V.5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come I will come to thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” A whole church congregation (candlestick) removed from Jesus! (Heb. 6:4-6 esp. V.6 keywords: fall away) The only way that would be possible was for the Holy Spirit to leave if they didn’t repent and do the first works. MESSAGE: Our love for Jesus is measured by our works.   

After meeting Nathan I read about their founding and history. Nathan is a hunter and owns at least one high powered rifle. The Mennonites are strictly anti-violence. In Northern Europe they resisted tyranny and oppression with guns and the resisters were wiped out. From that time on they simply moved rather than resist. I tried to rile Nathan up using the same imaginary rape scene described in Part 5. “What would you do when they broke in?” “I’d try to stay between them and my wife.” “Suppose they beat you up.”

In that 10-15 minute conversation I never could get him to say he would use violence. Nathan said God would take care of him and his. I’ve thought about Nathan’s stand for years. I so admire his faith. I simply don’t have it in that degree. Several months later he asked me how I knew to hit him with a question that bored right in where he hurt the worst. I knew then I’d hit on Nathan’s secret dread and worry but he’d stood for his perception of right and wrong.

I live at the very end, no, I live beyond the end of a dead end road because my driveway connects to the end of that dead end road where I have a no trespassing sign on a post. Friends and service people know they are welcome, (Heb. 13:2) strangers will be too after they pass the test. I figure God will let me know how to read their intent. (Gal. 1:8) So far, two Mormon missionaries have been turned away after we talked at my yard gate (2John 10) neither did I bid them God speed, but all others have been invited in to eat or have a cold drink.

I sawed the trees down and built a little house right in the forest and surrounded it with a five foot chain-link fence. (Luke 11:21 keyword: armed) I figure it’s my responsibility to defend me and mine. You simply keep your mouth shut, don’t brag and do the best you can with what you’ve got. Gun control? Well, I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. My wife feels the same way. Nathan was shocked that I believed different than him. Both our conscience programming stayed the way it was.

Nathan wouldn’t call me brother there at our beginning and I finally called his attention to it. He is a kind man, a gentle man who wouldn’t hurt my feelings over it and I could tell he was reluctant to discuss it but I gently forced him into a corner. It was another three hour conversation about judging, brotherhood, born again, (Rom. 8:11-17) the eternal family God is building and a lot of other stuff too.

DON’T GET ME WRONG! We never did have an argument, just searching, reasoning conversation about our lives, conversion and the Christian Path we walk for God. In that conversation Nathan let the word “others” slip. I caught it and with many words I gently forced him to admit his denomination thought of other Christians as “the others”.

We talked about that a long time, both of us explaining and thinking. When I started to leave, Nathan shook my hand, smiled with his eyes and mouth and he called me “Brother” for the first time; he meant it too. I was happy he had and I grabbed him and hugged him. He made no response other than a shocked stiffness. I held Nathan by the shoulders, at arm’s length, and looked into his confused eyes.

“Nathan, my Brother, I love you. If a feller is ashamed to shake his Brother’s hand, call him Brother, tell him he loves him or even give him a hug in public he’d surely better not do it in Church!” I was smiling as I said it and I left my Brother with his shocked eyes and went on home. I really do love my Brother Nathan. He was bought with the same price as me.

(Rom. 16:16, 1Cor. 16:20, 2Cor. 13:12, 1Thess. 5:26 & 1Pet. 5:14 keywords: holy kiss) There’s a lot of places in the Bible that says kiss the brethren. I don’t favor kissing some beardy cheek and I’m not looking for an excuse to fondle the ladies BUT: I don’t see any harm in a hug, not the full body press or anything vulgar, just the simple hug of affection, kindness and love of the brethren.

The word kiss in the above scripture is philema in the Greek and is taken from the Greek root word phileo which is the base word for several Greek words which mean; to be a friend to, have affection for, a personal attachment, cherishing one’s kindred, to be fond of, to honor. I like that last one, to honor.

When I hug someone I’m saying; “I think you are a fine person, I cherish you, you are important to me and I love you.” Just to put it plain and simple. When I hug a lady Christian I put my right hand a little behind her left shoulder with my thumb in front of her shoulder and the heel of my left hand on the front tip of her right shoulder. I control the distance and the “no body contact” distance is automatically established, I lean forward, touch cheeks with her and everybody knows where I stand on the subject.

Anyway, I went home, looked up the scriptures and word definitions and waited. I knew the Holy Spirit was in it. I knew Nathan would be troubled. Sure enough, a few days later Nathan called; “Why don’t you come on out to the shop and visit?” It was another interesting 3 hour visit. “Nathan, how’s anybody going to know you love them if you don’t say it, show it and prove it?” It tickles me to death to see one of the brethren out in public.

We’re different, we’re pilgrims and strangers here, when the public sees our Christian brotherhood, fellowship, love and affection it attracts some of them to Jesus. I know. I know for sure because sinners have told me, they’ve asked me why they feel such love come off us and I told them and a few came to church. Some even got saved.” Nathan laughs and hugs back with affection now.

A couple of years before Nathan left we talked: (2Cor. 7:10) “For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” In one of our conversations I told Nathan I felt like there were lots of people in the world wide Church who had never experienced the true, “born again” salvation event. You can read about it in the Breath of Life commentary and About the Writer if you so desire.

In his closed off world Nathan had never thought about it. We looked in the scripture and he understood. You’ve got to have that Godly sorrow brought about by the Holy Spirit before you can be saved. Some people call it “being under conviction” OR “under the drawing of the Spirit”, I don’t know what people call it in other places.

It’s not my place to judge people and their relationship with God but what if? The greatest sorrow in the world I can imagine is the death of your child. I know, I’ve experienced it. What if: A person’s child dies, that sorrow of the world sets in, they go to church, they experience an emotional event that has nothing to do with Holy Spirit brought Godly sorrow and they think they are saved? You and your conscience programming can take it from there.

As Nathan and I explored this concept I told Nathan what I had been thinking; “What if: A Mennonite child, under all the pressure brought about by the only society he knows, gets tired of it all and fakes salvation to get everyone off his back? OR: What if: Out of the goodness and concern of their tender souls his congregation talks someone into thinking they are saved?”

Nathan is a Christian who wants the best for all people. He wants people saved and labors mightily to spread God’s word and teach his people about God’s ways. Nathan is a bulldog too; when he gets his teeth into something he holds on to it. Like a bulldog, I doubt if you could choke him off whatever he has a grip on.

After he got over the shock he got his teeth into what we’d talked about. I do not want to cause anyone to doubt their salvation but it is a know so salvation. If God saves you, you will know so. It’s that simple! Well, to make a long story short, Nathan worked around and found three in his congregation that admitted they had faked salvation just to get people off their backs. The elders didn’t appreciate that very much, no that’s wrong, they didn’t appreciate it at all. Conscience programming by God’s word.

One of our last conversations was about idolatry. When you’ve got idolatry man’s pride of self is always involved. “Have you ever examined the pride some people have about their Christian humility? (Matt. 6:16-18) “It’s as plain as the nose on your face when you look close; pride in dress, pride in one’s denomination, pride in one’s humility, pride in one’s self.”

Nathan thought about that and we discussed it a couple more times. He started examining the concept. When he brought it up in his teaching that didn’t win him any supporters either. Nathan is a very successful businessman. We talked about jealousy that might be hidden in a Christian Mennonite heart because of his success too.

(Matt. 10: 40-42 & Luke 7:44-47) One time Nathan invited me to his Father-in-law’s house to look at some furniture Nathan had made. His Father-in-law came through the house, brushed right by me with his back half turned toward me, wouldn’t look at me and didn’t speak. Later on I asked Nathan if he’d ever been to my house and I hadn’t given him a cold pop or water and offered food after we’d shaken hands and done our howdy. “No.”

“Was your Father-in-law having a bad day when he didn’t even speak or offer me his hand when I was at his house? According to scripture, did he act like a Christian?” The next time I saw Nathan’s Father-in-law he was all teeth in a face splitting grin and his big, hairy hand engulfed mine. I would have liked to have heard the conversation between him and Nathan that caused that change in attitude. Conscience programming by one of “the others”.

Nathan had lost credibility with his elders by all this strange stuff he was teaching and backing up with scripture. He called me one day and told me the elders had removed him from his teaching position. My friend was hurt, shocked and I could hear tears in his voice. We talked a few minutes and I thought of something funny to tell him.

“I was on my way to West Liberty. The road goes right through where a lot of Mennonites live. I saw a family, three children, Dad and Mom working in their garden. Dad was out front moving fast with his hoe, Mom was a little bit behind and the children, three boys, were strung out behind her. One of the boys raised up, looked at his parents to see if the coast was clear and bashed his brother with a big, soft dirt clod that exploded on impact and went back to innocently hoeing as fast as he could.”

“The last thing I saw before I passed was the bashed one with his own dirt clod looking speculatively at his brothers and looking with caution at his parents. Nathan there is hope for you fellers yet!” Nathan managed a chuckle.

Nathan called me and said he’d found a teaching position in another Mennonite community in another state, his house and business were up for sale and he was happy and excited. The next time Nathan called he was crestfallen and sad. The church elders here had contacted the other community, they said Nathan was out of fellowship here and the teaching job offer was rescinded.

Nathan moved to that community anyway. I hope they accept him for who and what he is and not for what a bunch of people say he is. He is and will be a brave, loyal to God, gentle, God pleasing, smart, tireless, God soldier in any congregation anywhere.

I’m almost up to where it gets real steep and I draw a deep breath as I start. There’s a lot of large boulders I have to climb through and around, its really rough and steep. Its a good place for a mountain lion to ambush me and attack me with it’s claws and teeth. Snakes (serpents) are there too with that deadly poison in their mouths.

I have to reach high to grasp Something to pull myself up and forward. Serpents will strike from the dark nooks and crannies in the rocks and they lay on top of the rocks sunning themselves too. An unwary hand or a careless step make a fine target. The snakes bite you low down and cripple your walk or up high where the poison gets to your heart faster; dangers.

I really have to struggle hard to walk my path through this rough place; toils.

Various vines grow there that will catch an unwary foot and cause me to fall and get hurt on the rocks; snares.

It’s amazing how Nathan’s trials and tribulation caused by his Church are shown by allegories on my path. The wonderful friendship between Nathan and me is fading because we are losing contact due to the physical distance between us. Don’t get me wrong, Nathan and our good times together in exploring the beauty, mercy, lovingkindness and grace of Jesus will always be a part of me.

I wish my dear Brother well and I hope Nathan’s conscience, in his walk for God, is toughened and programmed by his dangers, toils, and snares. Nathan is firmly tapped into God’s amazing grace and I pray my brother, my friend, leaves a firm and beautiful footprint on the path God has given him to walk. I know Nathan left a beautiful footprint on my life when, together, we walked our path for God for a little while.

“Thru many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;

‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

That steep, very steep, rocky, treacherous place is where I took a hard fall. It was really bad. There’s one place where I have to raise my left foot as high as I can and place it on a large rock. I reach up with my right hand, twist my hand left to a thumb down position and insert my four fingers into a crevice to pull myself up. Suddenly I was falling backwards. I tucked and rolled automatically. Its drilled into soldiers to tuck our chin into our chest and fold forward into a ball and roll when falling, exiting a chopper and etc.

It protects the head from snapping back and bashing your head or breaking your neck. The response was automatic. I didn’t feel any real pain just a bunch of thumping. I helplessly started into the second roll backwards and knew I had to somehow get my body sideways to stop the roll because I knew I was headed right back down my path into the rocks, logs, stubs, vines, bushes and trees that would tear me apart. When I came to myself, I don’t know if I was stunned or really knocked unconscious, I was laying sideways across the path and I could feel things pressing, mashing and hurting me.

I started moving body parts, “nothing broken I reckon”, I worked myself to a sitting position then got up by holding on to bushes, rocks and trees. I had to get to my feet, I just had to. I started examining the damage; a good rap on the skull, I’d either hit my chin or face on my own knee or on a rock, the back of my right arm, halfway between my shoulder and elbow, was hurting and I could feel the wet sticky of blood and I found out later there was an elongated quarter sized hole across the back of my arm.

My left shin was killing me and I eased my britches leg up and it immediately started hurting worse when I looked at it, imagination I guess, because it was a mess; scraped and gouged to the bone. “Anything that looks like that has got to hurt worse and it did.” Then I realized my left knee was hurting. I pulled my britches leg on up and there was a bloody, dime sized hole in that soft spot, on the outside, in the middle of my knee.

There were other, lesser knots, bumps and scrapes. I had lost my glasses and couldn’t see good enough to find them. WOW! Just like the fall I talked about in Part 5; I couldn’t see for a while. The devil hits soft spots.

I called my wife and spoke softly because it hurt to move my face; “I’ve fallen back here and–” “ARE YOU HURT? ARE YOU HURT? WANT ME TO COME BACK THERE? WANT THE RESCUE SQUAD? ARE YOU HURT?” I was glad when she ran out of breath. “No. You can’t make it back here. I’ve hit my head. Seems like I’m all right but ye never know with a head injury. If I’m not home or called back in thirty minutes send the rescue squad.” “ARE YOU HURT?” I broke connection. I didn’t feel like a long, diagnostic, questioning interview.

I had to limp and drag myself back to where I started. That whole physical fall episode had reminded me of the spiritual fall I told you about in Part 5. Sometimes you have to go back spiritually: go back to the cross where you started, get things right with God and start over. The next day I was hurting, my neck and jaws were sore and after I started using my mouth part of a tooth fell out. It took days for the soreness to go away and weeks for the scabs to all fall off and a trip to the dentist to have my tooth repaired.

BUT: The day after the fall I took my walk again. I had my old glasses on so I could see well enough to find my new glasses. Think of the incredible allegory in that! WOW! I had to go back to the cross and get what I’d found in the beginning so I could see well enough to find my way back to where I’d been in the present. (Psa. 139:1-10 esp. V.6 & 9-10) The knowledge of the Lord is too wonderful for me to attain understanding of it. “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

Me, even me, even unprofitable, useless me, there in the forest of Eastern Kentucky, alone with God. His right hand had held me when I took the hard fall. Yes, I was stove up, limping, hurting, crippled a little bit and very, very slow but I was walking my path. Conscience programmed; pay attention, don’t be stupid, don’t fall! I healed from my injuries and learned a beautiful lesson. If we ever get together, you and me, I’ll show you my physical scars; they’re just like my spiritual scars—a constant reminder of my falls.

I finally make it to the top, the highest place around. Shaking legs, pounding heart and gasping for breath but the view is still breathtaking. Depending on the time of the day I can look due east and look at the sunrise of the beautiful new life God has waiting for me. OR: I’m old and I can turn and look back west toward the way I have come and see the beautiful sunset of this life God has made possible for me to live.

(Psa. 23:1-5) (V.2-3) Sometimes I look down in the valley where the still water runs deep and the green pastures lay in abundance for the nourishment I need. (V.4) Sometimes when I look down into the valley I see a shadow gathering there, the shadow of death, a threatening shadow that wants to embrace me with it’s cold, cold arms and suck my life away with its fetid, rotted mouth. BUT:

(John 8:12 & I2:36) I know the God of light and through Him I am a child of His light. (V.4) His rod and His staff they comfort me. (V.5) (Rev. 21:23-24) Jesus preparest a table of eternal light before me and that awful shadow will flee when the Shepherd of my soul leads me through the valley of the shadow of death. I turn left and start down the steep, treacherous path from the pinnacle that leads to the top of the last beautiful ridge I’ll walk.

I walk the path on the top of that ridge that goes northwest then veers west toward the setting sun. Then there, by the big oak tree, is where I will turn straight downhill and it is steep as a mule’s face. Its dangerous because its easy to fall. I’m old now, working on my 70th year, and I know my bones must be getting brittle. My hearing is failing and, regardless of my glasses, my vision is beginning to dim.

I guess it’s all in the hair. When my hair color left it took my memory, joint flexibility, waist line and a whole bunch of other stuff with it. In reality I’m just a pile of wrinkles, hanging around, waiting to die. It sounds pitiful but, in reality, I can’t do anything about it so I might as well make a joke or two, laugh at it and I hope you will too; fading out and dying is a part of life and that’s just the way it is.

That’s why I want you to get serious and let the Lord save you; it’s the only hope you have. I know, I’ve been there; God saved me and it’s good; and now I’m here, peering down the last dangerous steep of my life. The steepness causes it to be a fast path for my skinny, wobbly old legs and that reminds me of how fast my life has gone by.

Yesterday morning I was a little boy running up and down Lick Fork Holler with my Red Ryder BB gun. At noon I graduated high school and joined the Marines. In the afternoon I got married, my children were born and I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. That evening I was divorced and I married another woman. Seems like I took a little nap and this morning I woke up an old man

I have to be really careful how I walk my path now because a pebble or a stick can roll under my foot and I have taken some bone and gut jarring falls there. I’ve allegorically named those pebbles and sticks; just in front of me is hot temper and anger, on down my path is proud and stubborn, down there is jealousy and malice.

I’ll have to hold on to trees to slow myself down or the pressure of gravity will send me stumbling, then falling down this dangerous steep, I’m old and sometimes I forget to call it gravity and think of it as society and government; if I listen to them the pressure will cause me to fall; the pressure of political correctness and civil law that says abortion is alright and homosexuality, fornication and lying are not sins.

Those trees I grab to break my speed when I stumble and slide down my dangerous path have names too; Holy Spirit, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and—you get the picture don’t you? (John 1:1-4) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

(1John 1:1-3) “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Jesus is alive in His Word and alive in my soul in His Holy Spirit form and it’ll be alright.

I start the last leg of my walk with God, down that perilous steep, with the precious name of His Son in my heart and upon my lips; “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”; not out of the fear of falling but out of the love I have for Jesus and my happiness because of the wondrous, amazing love, grace and mercy the Son of the Living God has for me.

Finally I get to my yard fence and I lean on the gate. (Matt. 7:13-14 keywords: strait is the gate) I lean there, sweat is pouring down my face, dripping off my chin and trickling down the sides of my face and neck into my shirt collar. My old legs are trembling, the small of my back is aching and my neck and shoulders are hurting from that long ago car wreck that should have killed me.

I lean on the gate for a while as I look back up my path; 2,284 steps, (Luke 12:7) it was a long walk, my steps are numbered. Yes, I struggled and hurt, I didn’t always do what I could have and should have done, I have fallen short and had to start over again, but I did the best I could with what little I am; and, yes, I can see that my Rod and my Staff (Jesus) comforted me, sustained me and helped me when I had no power to take the next step and I’ve made it.

The little, narrow, metal walk through gate leads into my yard and into my little old house where I, mister nobody in the middle of nowhere KY, live in this life BUT I can see beyond it. (John 14:1-3 keywords: in my Father’s house are many mansions) I’m looking for my mansion, the one my Master has gone away to build for me.

(Psa. 23:4) Sure, over there swirling, creeping and threatening is the shadow of death I talked to you about a while ago but (John 8:12) Jesus, my Lord, is the light of the world and the shadow of death will disappear in His light because (John 11:25-26) Jesus said; “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 14:6) and Jesus is the truth. Jesus said it, I believe it and it will happen.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun;

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.”

Conscience programmed by my walk with God on the path He gave me and walked with me.