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UPON THE ROCKS

 It was a snappy Saturday here in Ballengee. Yes this time of year is my favorite time. Nature has put on her marvelous display of color. The wind is crispy and I now can wear my jacket. I have always loved jacket weather. Perhaps it has always provided the extra security of hiding those love handles or that ever-present padding around the middle I have across the top of my belt. None the less I enjoy the warmth of a jacket. There are things you can do with a jacket that you can’t do with a shirt. You can wear your favorite lapel pin or sew a football patch on your jacket. I like the safety-pin given to me by a previous employer for years of safe driving. Most of all my West Virginia state patch and General Lees Battle flag sown above the pockets. Can’t put those on a shirt without looking a little weird but on a jacket it looks just fine.

This morning here in Ballengee the sun shined full and amid the cool air its warmth feels good. It’s the kind of morning where the weekly trek to Crawford’s Kountry Kitchen is brisk and good for the old thumper in chest. I’ve known John Crawford ever since but never thought he would open a restaurant in beautiful downtown Ballengee. I thought he’d grow up like most of us and work the land for a living. Most here are farmers and work the land of their families. But John picked up the trade from his Mother’s talent of great cooking. I must say if you ever get to Ballengee you should stop at Crawford’s Kountry Kitchen and experience the culinary delights that are found there. If you ever long for the fabulous meals that Grandma used to make every Thanksgiving then Crawford’s is the place to go anytime. I remember one time I was laid out for a whole afternoon after being slapped in the mouth by a rack of ribs. It was long in time before my taste buds could again be satisfied.

John has done a marvelous job with the decor of his Kountry Kitchen. It is a setting that makes one feel they are in an old farm house kitchen. Most restaurants you can’t see the kitchen or the folks preparing the food but at the Kountry Kitchen this is not true. There is no divide between the kitchen and the restaurant just a counter where one may sit if he wishes to. The stove is an old wood stove now fixed with gas burners beneath the iron plates. The counters are of linoleum and a square solid oak table with a thick oak slab for a top. The cooking pans are cast iron and the pots are porcelain. Much the same as for most of us when growing up on the farm. Around the eating area and above the booths are antiques each one bringing back memories of younger days. The walls are of dark siding set off by the oak wood booths with red plastic cushions, which look and feel like leather. In the middle of the room are the chairs and tables that look much like the old family dining tables of long ago. Made of cheery wood and the chairs having the same red plastic cushions as the booths. Along the walls are old photographs of earlier days here in the Ballengee area. Portraits of citizens from days long past. So many times folks come in to eat in the company of past relatives and I have even seen some talking to them. A hello or good-bye, or maybe just a comment to say how they are doing.

Every Saturday the elder fellows gather in the corner booth beneath the portrait of Ballengee’s founding father Robert Ballengee to discuss the whims and ways of life in this old world. I remember when I was a kid, and would like to think it wasn’t that long ago, I wanted to be older and now that I am I find myself sometimes wishing I were younger. That desire has recently been passing and I find myself more and more satisfied with my present age. I have always regarded my elders as not old people but those of greater wisdom and experience. Listening to their stories of yesteryears gone by is a most favored and fascinating pastime for me at the Kountry Kitchen. There is a lot to be learned from the episodes of those who have traveled the road before. So I join the old fellows, which are not so older now, at Crawford’s for the conference and enjoyment of sharing, learning and expounding points of view.

This week Nolan Richardson came down from his homestead on Eagle’s Perch to enjoy the low landers, as he likes to say. He comes down to learn what is going on in the world but usually becomes the major director of the conversation. Nolan’s young age of 97 years offers a wide topic of experiences and no loss of contribution to the general forum. It is always a treat when Nolan is there at Crawford’s and today was no exception. Nolan has been around long enough now that he needs never make excuse, as he knows about as much about every one and their families as any. I have been amazed to learn things about my ancestry from Nolan that I didn’t know. And of course it is always interesting to know what went on in familiar places before you had discovered them for yourself. A chat with Nolan can bring all the history of Ballengee to life as if it was all in the present. With Nolan around, today and all those yesterday’s become one great living moment.

This Saturday Nolan and Tommy Thompson got into a strong discussion at Crawford’s over who had the best farmland. Tommy Thompson, probably the nearest peer to Nolan has always made it known how hard life has been in Ballengee. “It wasn’t always as easy as it is for you younger ones,” Tommy would always say. A statement that is always a cue for a story about the rugged life in pre-historic Ballengee. But Nolan responded saying that it doesn’t matter where you plot but how you plot. Well that sparked off an exchange of opposing attitude, which the rest of us there drank in along with our coffee and donut.

The discourse started I think over who between them had the most rocks in the soil of their farms. Before any real accounting could be done Homer Massy inserted that the land here was filled with rocks everywhere. Everyone agreed with that and nodded that rocky soil was something of a problem that all here at Ballengee had to deal with. We were about to move on but Tommy would not let that pass exempting the uniqueness of his land.

“Back when I came here I had to remove the rocks from the soil with nothing more than a shovel, pick, mule, wagon and a strong back,” Tommy went on. “I worked from sun up to sun down for years clearing the land. I took all those rocks and built the stone fence around my farm you see today.”

That is true I have been to Tommy’s farm and the stone fence stretches for miles all around the boundary of his farm. When I was a kid romping about I remember seeing Thompson’s stone fence and thought it much like the Great Wall of China. Through the years moss and ivy have grown on the stone fence and a lot of that ivy is poison ivy. I climbed over Thompson’s stone fence once and suffered for it too.

“Well that is a good thing I suppose,” Nolan responded, “but you just drug them off to the end of your property piled them there for a hurdle to your neighbors. I collected the rocks and built my house, barn, cellar, and chicken coop, silo and well with them. Every building on my farm is built from the rocks found on my farm. In fact I am sill building from them today.”

Brother John, our Sunday school Class leader said that was an interesting observation of how one deals with their problems. “One builds their home while the other builds a wall. Now isn’t that certainly something to ponder?”

Ponder we did, all of us, until it was near lunch time and we all had to go on about our business on this lovely Autumn Saturday. But I don’t think we all really caught Brother John’s meaning in his observation. But the determination between Nolan and Tommy was that Nolan was thankful for the use of all those rocks while Tommy would have been much happier without them.

If Saturday had been a beautiful day Sunday surpassed it. The warm sun filled the hills and valleys casting its contrasting shadows across the land. The leaves on the trees now filled with stark colors of red, yellow and shades of orange slowly broke loose from their branches and danced in the breeze as they drifted to the ground. There they lay upon the browning grass and rested in their beauty as if placed by the loving guidance of God Himself. I gingerly made my walk to the Church by the brook to give special thanks, as this was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. What better than to give the Lord a special thanks for the blessings of His bounty and Grace.

After my traditional pondering and quite time at the brook I went into the Church and took my place in the rear waiting for Brother John’s Sunday school Bible Class to begin. Even then his un-explored muse about Nolan and Tommy the day previous still remained in my thought. Soon all were seated and Brother John began his lesson.

After an opening prayer Brother John opened his bible and read the following passage; As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; (Col. 2:7; 4:2). He then began his lesson for this Thanksgiving Sunday.

“The other day I listened to a conversation between two men about rocks. We all have rocks in our lives and we all deal with them differently. When I think about rocks and farmland I see them as obstacles in the path of a good harvest. For the earth to produce good crop the rocks must be removed. In order for us to live a good life our rocks must also be removed from our lives.”

“One of the two had gathered the rocks and placed them in a circle about him. There they rested and moss, weed and poison ivy flourished upon them. That no matter which direction he turned he faced the wall of rocks filled with weed and poison. How many of us do this within our lives. Take our trials and tribulations and place ourselves within the center of them. That no matter which way we turn we must face the hardships that are in our life. I suspect this man has grown bitter over the years filled with regret that now he has walled himself in by his problems. What then is his escape but to face all that he has put around him in his time? How many of us on the Day of Judgment shall first and finally be faced with that we have stored about us? What then shall be our answer upon judgment when asked to give account? I suspect some to say; “Lord, Lord all this trouble came into my life and I was overwhelmed and knew not what to do.” What shall the Lord say? What shall the Lord say then that He has not already said in His Word? Why I ask do we allow these natural trappings of earth to overcome us when we have the power to move mountains in His name?”

“The other of the two built his home with the rocks found on his farm land. He took the troubles in his life and employed them to better his life. Rather than tossing them about or becoming encircled by his problems he used them for his profit. Now in his later years the problems of his life are not burdens of the past but trophies of the future. Laurels that he now can rest upon. He is not bitter nor filled with contempt but proud of his accomplishment. In the day of new trials he is better equipped to weather the storms that surly shall come.”

“I am caused now to think of Job and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Yet in spite of his righteousness great adversity came into is life. Far greater than that which has come into ours. In the beginning Job had it all and then lost it all. He lost his possession, his family and his health. Yet through it all Job never lost his faith and he endured. In the end he was blessed even greater than he had before. I think Job must have been quite a fellow in his day as he certainly caused a stir in Heaven. (Job 1:8-12 KJV) “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

“Even a man as great in the Lord as Job has tribulation in his life. Then so shall we as Satan is constantly going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. He too is testing our faith trying to shake us away from the path and Will of God. We then must deal with these situations that will and shall come into our lives and how we do that will affect the outcome of the next. I heard an interesting comment; it’s not where your plot is in life but how you plot your life. This is true and we must bury our foundation in the Word of God. When the tempter comes, when the trials of life come we shall know what God has planned for us.”

“My point then this lovely Thanksgiving Sunday is the old adage that into each life a little rain must fall. Bad times will come upon us and how we handle them is more the point than the fact we have the trial in the first place. I think that God oversees this and uses these hard times to build our faith, demonstrate his love and power and prepare us for greater challenges to glorify His name.”

“This life here is all about our faith, and our baptism of fire in which we prove our desire to be righteous. We are so quick to say thanks for the good things yet we are also quick to complain about the bad. Yet the reward for overcoming the trials in our life is the good that we can find within ourselves. Jesus said: (Mark 8:34 KJV) “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We are not promised a perfect life but an abundant life in the Lord. (Mat 5:11-12 KJV) “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.”

“We should not then only be thankful for the many blessings that God has showered upon us but also for the rocks found within our soil. It is these rocks that we build our strength and prepare ourselves for the future challenges we must face. This year as we celebrate our thankfulness for the blessing we have received throughout the year, let us also remember the trials we had faced in order to receive these rewards. Not only do they strengthen us but allow us also to demonstrate our love for Him, Jesus the Lord and Master of our lives.”

I went home that Sunday with a better attitude towards the problems in my life. They now were challenges in which I can better myself with. Great opportunities to demonstrate that power of God’s providence. To endure and overcome in the power of His Spirit is tremendous in our own witness for Him. After all just that little tab of faith which we showed in the beginning can only grow when tested. What is faith without proof? James wrote in the second chapter that faith without works is dead. Think about that. If we have an active faith then we should be able to leap upon the rocks for Jesus.

 Copyright: Thomas N Kirkpatrick 2001

Durant Bible College

 

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