She turned to a life of crime

Published 5:44 am Sunday, December 17, 2023

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By R.A. Mathews

Last summer, I found an email that began: “I had only read two of your columns when I decided to turn to a life of crime!”

The reader continued, “But, to be clear, my recycled Gazette program is just a few weeks old.”

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The email came from Pocahontas County in West Virginia, and the reader, Jaynell Graham, is referring to the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s statewide paper. Since the Gazette is no longer sold in that county, Jaynell has created a black market of sorts, procuring a copy of that paper from someone who procured the paper from someone else. And this had been going on for two weeks. Remember, she said she had only read two columns when she decided on a life of crime.

As I learned from more emails, Jaynell had led others into crime—something of a gang, four criminals in all. They describe themselves as post-menopausal women.

Jaynell Graham is the editor of the Pocahontas Times—a place she has worked for some years with her three employees, including Sunny, whose skills include shooting flies with rubber bands.

Jaynell and her co-conspirators all agreed—we’ll commit the crime and then seek forgiveness.

Forgiveness from whom?

From me.

What crime?

She published my column and couldn’t reach me to get permission. When I found her email, I laughed so hard I cried. “Yes, it’s fine,” I said.

But there’s more.

Jaynell wanted to keep publishing my works, so she proceeded to pitch Pocahontas County to me, saying they had nearly 6,000 residents and “… (it’s) home to Snowshoe Resort and the Green Bank Observatory. Nearly 80 percent of the county is in national forest, state forests and state parks. We have literally millions of visitors each year … we have subscribers in every state and … in five foreign countries.”

Who knew? Little Pocahontas Times has subscribers in five foreign countries?

“I would be delighted with five (readers),” I said. “You never know who will touch someone for God. How that person may bring millions to seek the Lord.”

The exchange made me think of criminals in Scripture. And, particularly, about a passage that fascinates me. I can’t decide if it’s about a criminal or not. Maybe you can help me.

Three questions were put to John the Baptist, and one of those questions puzzles me. Here’s the passage.

“This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ And he confessed and did not deny; and this is what he confessed:

‘I am not the Christ.’

And so they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’

And he said, ‘I am not.’

‘Are you the Prophet?’

And he answered, ‘No.’

Then they said to him … ‘Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’” (John 1:19-25)

Did you see the thought-provoking question? Read it again.

They say, “Are you the Prophet?” But who are they talking about? Clearly, they know. But the passage doesn’t tell us.

There are four major prophets and 12 minor prophets in the Old Testament, if you’re talking about books of the Bible. But many others, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David are prophets. So, who are they talking about?

The men start by asking the most important question: Is this the long-awaited Messiah? No. Then the second is the person they consider John most likely to be. The prophet Elijah. John had similarities to Elijah. And Scripture said, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”  (Malachi 4:5,6)

And then their final question: Are you the Prophet?

See why this question fascinates me? Who do you think it is? Since the Law of Moses was so important to Jews, I’m going with Moses. And Moses was a criminal. (Exodus 2:11-15, Acts 7:23, Exodus 3:1-7:7)

But Moses is also one of the most fabulous figures in history. You must read Exodus and Numbers. He will warm your heart, time and again.

I communicate often with my criminal, Jaynell “wonderful” Graham. She’s delightful.

I also love communicating with you. If you have contacted me and didn’t get an answer, like Jaynell, please give me a second chance. My internet host provider has lost all my emails since Aug. 2 and random ones before that. I am trying my best to get this situation corrected, and I will let you know. Then send your email again. Please!

I want to hear from you—especially if I have led you into a life of crime.