Echoes From the Campfire

The idea that men stole because they were poor or hungry was nonsense. Men or women stole because they wanted more, and wanted it without working for it… They stole because they wanted more faster.” 

                    –Louis L’Amour  (“Bowdrie:  A Job for a Ranger”)

       “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
                    –Mark 8:36-37 (NKJV)
       One thing the Book of Ecclesiastes does is to show life realistically, even perhaps somewhat pessimistically.  “Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:  And look!  The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter–on the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1, NKJV)  No comforter!
       I am reminded of the old Negro Spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”  Woe is me, life is tough, it’s unfair.  There is no comforter and I am lost and undone.  There is oppression and exploitation all around and especially seen in the halls of justice.  Innocent people suffer pain and sorrow, they suffer for no apparent reason.  People who could help don’t; they only serve their own agenda.  There is a “carnal, savage-level selfishness” (Swindoll) in the world.  Let the more vicious dog win.  
       How does one learn to be content in such a world?  Wiersbe writes, “Learning and living must be brought together.”  Success can be more lethal than having little.  There is a danger in wealth that the poor never have to worry about.  Solomon says, “Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.” (4:6, NKJV)  The rich have much competition to get ahead, and even to stay solvent.  As the competition increases so does the intensity of life.  The goal of life becomes to get ahead not quality of workmanship or thinking of glorifying God with their work.  The rich want more, more, more–yet they already have it all.

                    “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure with trouble.  Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred…  Better is a little with righteousness, than vast treasures without justice.”
                              –Proverbs 15:16-17; 16:8 (NKJV)

       The rich want more, the poor are exploited.  The rich often become so caught up with their lives that other important things go by the wayside.  Oh, they may give some money to charities to show off their riches and appease their guilty souls, but they are careful to give just enough.  Jesus warned the rich with His story about the rich man storing up his goods.  “But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:13-21, NKJV)
       Then we have the idle–the lazy, the sluggards in life.  Instead of saying “more, more, more” they holler out “give, give, give.”  Do your duty and give to fulfill my needs.  Why are you rich when I am destitute?  These are those who want to live off the wealth of others.  These are the snowflakes and twinkies of the hour.  Take my debt; it’s your duty to do so and by saying that they are showing that they are destitute of character.  Ray Steadman says, “When you sit in idleness you devour yourself, your resources disappear, your self-respect vanishes.”  The lazy man is warned in Proverbs that poverty will come upon him (Proverbs 6:10-11).

                    “The industrious man was motivated by competition and caught in the rat race of life.  He had no leisure time.  The idle man was motivated by pleasure and was headed for ruin.  He had no productive time…  The industrious man thinks that money will bring him peace, but he has no time to enjoy it.  The idle man thinks that doing nothing will bring him peace, but his life-style only destroys him.”
                              –Warren W. Wiersbe

       One thing that Solomon has forgotten.  One thing he either did not consider or he was ignorant of–the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.  “There is no comforter” came the cry, but there is!  The Holy Spirit, the One who walks beside, who directs our steps, who speaks direction to our soul is there in the time of need as well as in the time of plenty.  There is an answer to the cry of the heart and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  When the cry goes out, “This night your soul will be required of you,” will there be panic, dread, or will the smile of a child of God be on your face?  Will God say, “Fool!” or will He call you “Faithful”?  How you live your life for Him, and how you let the Comforter guide you will be the difference.  “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…Nobody knows, but Jesus…”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Elfego and I walked slowly over to Knaught’s office, neither of us saying anything.  He had come back to town, as I saw his horse tied to the post outside his office.  I couldn’t say for sure, but I had a feeling that he went to talk with Stinson.  Even if Stinson was behind Knaught’s extortion dealings, it wasn’t what we wanted to arrest him for.  He was doing much worse evil in the Territory than a small town extortion ring.
       As we opened the door and walked through the doorway, Knaught lifted up his head and exclaimed, “You again!  What now?”
       “You’re under arrest,” I told him simply and calmly.  
       “Hmpf, what charge?” he sneered.
       “Extortion, among other things,” I answered knowing that the judge would have a full list of legal terms at the arraignment.  “Stand up and put your hands behind your back.”
       He stood, but kept his hands down by his side.  “That’s not a federal crime.  You can’t arrest me.”
       I emphasized the Greener as I handed it to Elfego to hold, then started toward Knaught.  “New Mexico is still federal territory.  Anyway, any crime committed I can make an arrest.  Turn around!”
       His hands were still hanging down by his sides.  Oh, how I wanted to give him a thump and was getting ready to do so, when he decided to cooperate.  “I’ll be out ten minutes after you put me in jail.  I run an insurance agency, providing a service for the merchants of this community.  Ask any of them.”
       “I already have,” I said, snapping the handcuffs on his wrists, then giving him a shove toward the door.
       He jerked his head at me when I made that statement, but didn’t say anything.  We walked slowly out the door and down the street toward the jail.  Elfego handed me the shotgun as we exited Knaught’s office.
       People started to stare at us proceeding down the street.  Many stopped to gawk at our little march, and there was a murmur going through the crowd.  Knaught would probably get five years or less, but I was hoping he would break and tell us about Stinson.  Upon entering the jail, the Judge had taken a seat behind Marshal Udall’s desk and the marshal was standing in the doorway to the cells.
       “Bring him to me,” ordered Judge Norris.  As Knaught stood before the Judge, who was reading off a list of crimes he was charged with, some I had never heard before, I kept watching Udall.  When we entered the jail I had given the shotgun back to Elfego and told him to stand outside.
       Knaught stood there with a smirk on his face listening to the Judge.  There was a pause and silence as the judge asked how he pleaded.   There was a slight move of his head toward Udall and with that Udall pulled his gun.
       “Release him!” commanded the marshal.
       “You are plenty stupid!” I cried.  “These are small time charges, and your name hasn’t been mentioned.  Now I reckon I’ll have to arrest you.”
       Udall laughed.  I reached in my vest pocket for the keys to the handcuffs.  I took a step toward Knaught, then tossed the keys.  “You want him released, you do it!”
       As the keys were in the air, I saw his eyes going to them.  That was all I needed to draw and fire.  Two shots filled the air, one from my gun, but then I saw the Judge holding a pistol in his hand.  Udall fell to the floor, dead with two bullets in his chest.
       At the shots, Elfego burst into the office.  The shotgun aimed steadily at Knaught.  I motion with my hand for him to put it down.
       “Lock this man up,” ordered the Judge.  I took Knaught by the elbow and guided him over the prostrated body of Udall on the floor.  A few seconds later I was back in the office, having tucked Knaught tightly in his new, temporary home.
       Coming back to the office I tossed the cell keys on the desk.  The Judge still had his pistol out, but it was now laying on the desk in front of him.  He looked at me, “Marshal, I told you that Udall would be taken care of in due time.”
       Judge Norris stood glancing toward the cell room.  “Why don’t you go get something to eat then come to the jail.  Let Knaught stew awhile, then you can question him later,” he said then paused.  “Do it legal.  Then I’ll question him again tomorrow.  With the charges we have he’ll serve maybe two years.  I’m hoping he’ll give us something to arrest Stinson.”
       I stood looking down at the dead body of the marshal shaking my head.  “Shame for a life to be such a waste.  The good Lord meant for us to be honorable men, especially those of us who wear the badge and stand for justice,” I said looking at the Judge.  “Reckon he knows what true justice is right about now.” 
       Elfego handed me the Greener and we stepped out of the jail into the street…


Echoes From the Campfire

The strong must lend their strength to the weak or there will be no justice, and those that see the truth must make the blind ones see it or there will be no truth.”

                         –Ernest Haycox  (Alder Gulch)

       “Thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother.'”
                         –Zechariah 7:9 (NKJV)
What happens when people, especially those in leadership positions do not heed the warnings of God?   In Psalm 82, God is warning unjust leaders.  He chides them for what they are doing and they are told to change their ways.

          1 — God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.
          2 — How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?   Selah
          3 — Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.
          4 — Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.
          5 — They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are unstable.
          6 — I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.
          7 — But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.’
          8 — Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all nations.  (NKJV)

       This Psalm starts out with a courtroom sitting.  God is seen standing in the room where He is judging the “gods.”  This term has thrown some into confusion.  This is not speaking of mythology.  The Almighty is not judging Zeus or Athena, or any of the other mythological gods.  He is not speaking about polytheism which many take this Scripture to try and prove their beliefs.  It is not speaking of the New Age and Mormon belief of the promise that man will become gods.  From reading the verses, it is clear that He is speaking to the judges of the earth–the leadership.
       God is giving a firm warning to these “judges”.  As Matthew Henry wrote, “Those who will not observe the judgments of God’s mouth shall not escape the judgments of His hand.”   The Lord desires that there be justice, but these pseudo-leaders have perverted justice.  The righteous suffer, and because of that evil is rewarded.  In this Psalm,” God is calling into account all corrupt rulers who were responsible for defrauding the weak, the fatherless, the poor, and the oppressed.” (Steven Lawson)
       Look at the beginning, this is important.  God is presiding!  All rulers and authorities are under His domain and control.  Judges are put in place to execute justice under the laws of the land, but instead they are blind.  No, not blind like the statue that depicts law, but blind to their duties and responsibilities.  When lawless, unjust men rule it causes havoc among the people, there is unrest, and in truth the whole world order starts to reel.  Think of just those of the last century:  Stalin, Hitler, Amin, Pol Pot, and the list could go on.  The world was shaken because of their injustice and inhuman treatment of those whom they ruled over.
       Martin Luther made the statement, “Rulers must understand that they are not placed over stocks and stones, nor over swine and dogs, but over the congregation of God; they must therefore be afraid of acting against God himself when they act unjustly.”  God is in charge.  All nations are under His control and if warnings are not heeded, then His judgment will follow.  (Even so, come, Lord Jesus.)

                    “Arm me with jealous care,
                    As in thy sight to live;
                    And O thy servant, Lord, prepare
                    A strict account to give!”
                             –Charles Wesley


Coffee Percs

As he drank, little brown drops of coffee clung to his mustache like dew.”

                    –Charles Portis  (True Grit)
Back in the ol’ days that might have happened to me.  Back in the days when I used to tromp through the woods, I might have a drop or two of coffee hanging from a hair of my moustache, but most likely not as I don’t like to waste a drop.  Once in a while Annie will poke at my moustache saying that I need to wipe it.  See, it’s mostly gray, but there is one spot with a little brown left in it.  
       Speakin’ of coffee, I’ve sure been enjoyin’ the gifts I receive every month.  The youngest daughter enrolled me in a coffee club from which I receive a bag of coffee from a different country every month.  This here that yur drinkin’ is from Nicaragua.  Good stuff.  Go ahead yuh can nod yur head.  Now, I’m not one of them conissewers…I can’t taste the intricate flavors.  I have one that says there is a hint of honey, butter, and yellow raisin.  When I taste it, I taste coffee.  Guess I wouldn’t make a good taster.  All I want for mine is to be black, strong, and preferably smooth–something that makes my innards all comfortable.
       So, Pard, taste anythin’?  That there Nicaragua coffee is supposed to give yuh a hint of caramel, custard, and banana.  What d’ya taste?  Can’t taste it ’cause yuh burnt yur tongue?  My mercy Pard…  Yuh sip it first to check how hot it is.  Sometimes Pard yuh just make me shake my head.
        I see there’s an uproar as the snowflakes and twinkies might be gettin’ their student loans removed.  Listen yuh fools, nothin’s free.  Somebody’ll have to pay for yur loan, that money can’t just disappear, but ‘course yuh don’t care as long as yuh get a free ride.  One day, I’m givin’ yuh a warnin’ there will be an accountin’.
       But I don’t want to spoil the mornin’ talkin’ ’bout the stupidity of dismissin’ debt that is rightly owed.  I want to get back to tastin’.  A Scripture that has been flittin’ through my noggin’ is that one that tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  I think it is there in Psalm 34.  Now, how does one go about tastin’ the Lord?  Yuh for sure don’t go up and lick Him.  But there are other ways to taste.  For example, when there’s bakin’ goin’ on in Annie’s kitchen, yuh can not only smell the aroma, but yuh can’t actually get a taste of that pie or bread or cookies.  Why Pard, yuh could taste the coffee this mornin’, it made yuh comfortable.  Nah, the Lord don’t taste like banana, or carmel, or custard, but there is a comfort when yur with Him.  There is a special flavor about His presence that can for sure be identified–yuh know when He’s present with yuh…yuh can taste Him.
       See that verse goes on to tell of His blessin’s.  That’s the way we taste the Lord…through His blessin’s.  Why Pard yuh know He blessed yuh today ’cause I noticed yur cinch is loose and yuh didn’t fall on yur coconut and split it open.  That’s a blessin’, not get it cinched tight and yuh can think of tastin’ the Lord this week.
         Vaya con Dios.