The Saga of Miles Forrest

There was already a small group of people gathered by the time I reached Dr. Webb’s place.  I went inside with some dread of what I would find.  My fears were realized when I saw the doctor, lying on the floor near the chair where I had last seen him.  It appeared that Dr. Webb killed himself with a bullet in mouth going out the back of his head; the gun was lying on the floor near his hand.
    On the desk, I noticed a notebook with pencil next to it.  My curiosity took over so I opened the little book.  Scrawled out on the page was the line, “The demons were too much!”  Suicide note?  I wondered, for some reason it all looked too tidy.
    “Get out of my way!” I heard a rough voice bark.  “Get out!  Mike, get these people out!”
    I left the book open as I turned to look at the commotion.  “Forrest, what are you doing here?” the rough voice of the town marshal, Asa Stokes, rang out.
    “Howdy, Asa,” I acknowledged him.  “I was just visitin’ with the doc this mornin’.  I’m lookin’ for a fella.”
    Marshal Stokes, stooped down to look at Dr. Webb.  “Those nightmares finally got to him.”
    Asa Stokes had been marshal in Silverton for six months now.  That’s just about the longest anyone has lasted.  The town was rough, not only with miners, but the evil that came with a rousing gold and silver camp.  Marshals were either killed, or they moved on to greener pastures, plus the fact that the winters were vicious.
    “Asa, there’s a note on the table,” I said pointing at it.  “Do you know the Doc’s writin’?”
    It seemed a growl came from him as he stood then picked up the note.  “Plain as day, don’t yuh think?”
    I shrugged.  “Your jurisdiction,” I replied, but then added, “Mind if I look around some?  I can’t be long, I have to catch the train.”

    An hour later I was on the train with Rev. Chapman sitting next to me.  I was staring out the window pondering when I felt the touch on my arm.  “Miles, Miles, are you all right?”
    “Oh, sorry, Parson, I was just thinkin’ how it just happened that I was talkin’ with the deceased doctor this mornin’ then findin’ him dead.”
    His face was grim when he answered, “Suicide is hard.  Why do you think the doctor did it?”
    I gave him a stern look then cocked my head.  “You don’t think it was suicide?” he asked shocked.  “But from what you told me…the evidence.”
    “That’s just it, the evidence.  Parson, there’s just somethin’ gnawin’ in my gut that it was too clean an’ neat.”
    We both quieted down, listening to the clickety-clack of the train moving along the rails.  Then I inquired, “Say, Parson, what was that package I saw you carryin’ up to Black?”
    He looked startled, so I gave him a grin.  “So you were watching me?”
    “Nope, just happened to see you walkin’ up the street with a package under your arm, then head into the Empty Diggin’s.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I went to the entrance and saw you walkin’ up the stairs.  Only Black lived up there.”
    “After what you told me, I thought he might want a couple of new shirts,” the reverend replied humbly.
    I nodded my head.  “Parson you’re a good man,” I stated, then thought of the coming week.  “Say, I expect to see you and your lovely wife, Betty at the fixin’s on Thursday.”
    A puzzled look showed on his face.  “Fixings?”
    “Why, Molly and I, mostly Molly, have been havin’ a feed for the town every Thanksgivin’ and Christmas.  If you’ve walked the streets you may have noticed that there are more people than normal.  Lots of down-an’-out miners and miners that have been laid off for the winter.  We always have dinner for them on those days.”
    “I didn’t know.  Yes, yes, we’ll be there.  What should we bring?”
    “Bring yourselves.  It’s not much, mostly venison or elk stew, plus plenty of pie,” I uttered.  “You’ll sit at my table.”
    He was smiling.  “It will be nice for Betty.  She hasn’t been out much since we arrived.  It would be good for her to get to know Molly, and who was the other lady?”
    “Marta, and Emelda is the cook.  Doc Jones and Edith will be there, Marta’s husband, Charlie, and I hope Mateo shows up with Luciana and the boys.”
    He leaned back in the seat.  I heard the train give a long whistle, we were coming into Rockwood.  I looked out the window, the snow was falling heavily now.  We got out of Silverton at just the right time.

Echoes From the Campfire

Good people, caught up in bad times.  I’m afraid that’s been the way of the world since the first days.  We won’t see the end of it in our short span upon the earth.”
              –Elmer Kelton  (The Buckskin Line)

    “But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”
              –Jonah 2:9 (NKJV)
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    “You are the man!”  How would you like for a prophet to stick his bony finger in your face and make that declaration?  How would you react?  Would anger seethe within you?  Would you strike out in anger?  Or would you break down and acknowledge the fact that before God you are a sinner?  Look are David’s response in Psalm 51.

    1 – Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.
    2 – Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.
    3 – For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.
    4 – Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight.  So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.
    5 – Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
    6 – Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within.
    7 – Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
    8 – Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
    9 – Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.
   10 – God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
   11 – Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
   12 – Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.  (HCSB)

David realized that the only hope he has is in God.  Right from the start, he makes three requests of the Lord.  He recognizes the need for the Lord’s mercy, or as the HCSB “faithful love.”  He then asks for the Lord to “blot” out his sin.  Then he pleads for God to cleanse him.  There is stain left when we sin, we long to be clean and only God can bring the cleansing that we need.
    David knows he must repent.  “Repentance leads us away from our failures into God’s plan for our tomorrows.” (Wood)  There are several things that we see in this Psalm that happens when we repent.

         1)  A pure heart (vs 10)  Only God can give this:  the work of personal repair lies outside any human effort.  The old heart is too clogged with sin to ever function well.
         2)  A renewed spirit (vs 10) When my conscience is clean, I can live energetically in the face of constant pressures–God gives a steadfast spirit.
         3)  Presence with the Lord (vs 11)  David knew the sting of banishment from Saul’s court.  He wants no exile from God.
         4)  Infilling of God’s spirit (vs 11)  The Spirit struggles with us while we are in sin.  He did not cease His faithfulness in convicting us of sin; now, He comes to indwell and empower us for service.
         5)  Restoration of joy (vs 12)  Joy in God vanishes during our season of sin.  When we repent, God puts the lift back into our hearts.
         6)  Readiness to please God (vs 12)  The forgiven person needs no external compulsion to do good, but desires a willing spirit to serve God.  (George O. Wood)

    Many might say that they are too sinful to go before God, and they are correct if they do not get the sin taken care of.  It is at a time such as this that we must go to God in repentance.  We fall before Him realizing that we cannot do it within ourselves, we must have God.  “This kind of prayer requires a certain kind of God.  No man will go to God just because he knows how poor he is in sin, unless he knows how rich God is in mercy.” (David Redding)  God is full of grace and mercy; He is longsuffering and kind; He is faithful to us and loves us despite our failings.  Yet it is up to us to call upon Him.
    There is one more thing I see in verse 12.  I have to think that David was a “New Testament” man.  Notice his cry, “Restore the joy of my salvation”.  He doesn’t say, “save me again,” but he realizes that the joy is gone.  He is down and out.  Then he asks for a willing spirit to obey.  Obedience to the will of the Lord brings joy.  Repentance restores joy.

         “Lord Jesus, you see that I patiently wait;
          Come now, and within me a new heart create;
          To those who have sought you, you never said, ‘No.’
          Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
                  –James Nicholson

Coffee Percs

Then he blew on his coffee to cool it before taking a long careful slurp…ahh, real coffee.”
              –J.V. James  (Frye)

I had me a notion to sleep in, but I knew yuh’d be here waitin’ for me.  Guess I did a little, since it’s graylight out.  My, it’s a little foggy out this mornin’ in our neck of the woods.  That dampness makes the ol’ rheumatize start dancin’ in my bones.  Ahhh, but that is good coffee this mornin’; makes gettin’ up worth it.
    Say, yuh got yur turkey yet?  No, I don’t mean for yuh to go shootin’ at them bureaucrats.  I don’t think a buzzard would bother with some of them.  They’re just walkin’ corpses anyways, sooner or later one of them is shore to strangle on one of their own lies.
    Time for campin’, but they just put out a burn-ban in the county.  I’d think it was one of them bureaucrat shenanigans if I didn’t know our county better.  Why, part of the fun of campin’ is sittin’ ’round the campfire, jawin’ and sippin’ coffee whether it be breakfast or nighttime.  
    I’m plannin’ on sittin’ around the campstove, or by the side of the lake, drinkin’ plenty of coffee and contemplaitin’ on the goodness an’ faithfulness of the Lord.  I’m goin’ to enjoy family an’ friends, an’ yep, there’ll more ‘n’ likely be more than six.  I’m shore not goin’ to let fear run me down in the autumn of my life.
    We need to be thankin’ the Lord for His blessin’s not livin’ in fear ‘fraid of bein’ with friends and family.  Fear comes from our mind, an’ it’s ol’ slewfoot that puts the thoughts there then he giggles at how we accept them.  No!  My trust is in the Lord.
    Lookee, here now, we’ve done drunk us up a pot of coffee.  My mercy, where did the time go to this mornin’?  Yuh be havin’ yurself a fine Thanksgivin’!  Be thankful, count yur blessin’s.
    An’ remember that time yuh didn’t check yur cinch.  Be thankful that yuh didn’t fall out of yur saddle.  Not only is it embarrassin’, it hurts, and let me tell yuh, that ground comes up faster than it used to.
         Vaya con Dios. 

Echoes From the Campfire

Sometimes it takes the tough times to remember the important things.”
              –Stephen Bly  (Shadow of Legends)

    “For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”
              –Isaiah 51:3 (NKJV)
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I am concerned that people are not going to focus properly on the coming week.  Thanksgiving is next Thursday; a day that was set aside specifically for Americans to enjoy family and be thankful for their blessings.  It is a time to contemplate all the bounty that we have and be thankful for it.  We are to remember God and how He cares for us.
    Perhaps it is a time that we need to put aside our worries and fears (they’re not good to carry with you anyway) and bring our eyes back to a proper perspective, a view of the Almighty and His great love for us.  There have been warnings issued against having too many people at your Thanksgiving dinner.  That is a slap in the face of the history of this nation.  Do not let fear ruin the wonderful blessings that Thanksgiving brings.
    Three Scriptures come immediately to my mind as Thanksgiving approaches, two of which are found in Philippians.

         “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” (1:3, NKJV)

         “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  (4:6, NKJV)

Often that first verse comes to me.  I think of friends and family, those of the past and those who are current.  I am thankful for them in how they touched my life and how they blest me just by being there and becoming part of my life.  Sometimes they bring a smile to my face whether in memory or in some present deed that they have done.
    The next verse should speak to all of us.  Do not be anxious for there will be enough toilet paper to go around.  I’ve heard that there is already a shortage and hoarding in the East.  Crazy for sure, but don’t get anxious over it.  Begin to be thankful.  Far too often we pray without thanksgiving, yet that is to be an integral part of our prayers.  God has not changed, if nothing else, be thankful for His unchanging love, His unchanging grace and mercy.

         “O God! our help in ages past,
            Our hope for years to come,
          Our shelter from the stormy blast,
            And our eternal home!”
                  –Isaac Watts

    That brings me to the third verse:

         “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
                  –Lamentation 3:22-23 (KJV)

Though we may fail to be faithful, He is always faithful.  That is then a great reason for us to be thankful–thankful for His faithfulness to us.  God is indeed our help, in ages past, in our present situation, and in the future.  He cares for His own for great is His faithfulness.