Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The BMW - 4/19/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the April 19, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



Jim, a friend of mine, used to work as a used car manager at one of the first Lexus dealerships in the United States. One of the responsibilities of a used car manager is to appraise cars. When a customer is considering trading in their car, someone has to look at the car and complete an evaluation in a matter of minutes. It is even a bigger challenge when dealing with luxury cars. Most of the trade-ins at the Lexus dealership were big European cars such as Mercedes Benz, BMWs, and Jaguars. On these expensive cars, making a mistake on the appraisal could be costly.

People who buy high-end luxury cars do not go to a local body shop for repairs; even when there is only a minor door ding. They go to a luxury car specialty shop that repairs cars at a level that it is virtually undetectable to the untrained eye. Having a body repair done on a luxury car causes the car’s value to plummet much more than a repair to an entry level car. That makes it even more important for the used car manager not to miss repaired body panels on a luxury car when he is appraising the vehicle.

Jim told me a story about appraising a BMW 700 series sedan. He said that when he first looked it over, it looked very nice. But to make sure that he didn’t miss anything, he carefully inspected the car; opening each door, the trunk, the hood, and even the gas filler door looking for tape lines, overspray, and checking body panel gaps.

The car looked great, but Jim still felt uneasy. He looked even closer, and couldn’t find so much as a scratch or a paint chip. He still wasn’t able to shake the feeling that he had missed something. As Jim walked inside to his office to write up the appraisal, the longtime used car manager from the neighboring Porsche dealership was waiting for him. He was taking in trade a Toyota Supra and wanted Jim to look at it to see if he was interested in buying it.

He had been watching as Jim inspected the BMW. He asked Jim why he took so much time looking at it and wanted to know what he had been inspecting so closely. Jim told him that he just had a feeling about the car and was concerned that he had missed something. The old experienced used car manager told him, “you did miss something.”

Jim asked him how he could be so sure when he was inside the building over one hundred feet away from the car? He answered, “you spent most of your time looking for hidden damage or inferior paintwork, which was good, but you failed to step back and look at the car as a whole.”

As Jim had walked up to the car, he saw the whole thing, but his mind was already in detail mode. His focus was on thoroughly inspecting each panel up close, not missing a single detail. It was about noon on a bright day. That kind of sunlight hides all sorts of paint issues. But the old veteran used car manager was looking at the car from inside the building over one hundred feet away and out of the bright noon sunshine.

He said to Jim, “now look at it from here and tell me what you see.” Sure enough, they both could see the slight difference in the right front fender which had mismatched paint. He told Jim that on all cars, but especially high-end luxury cars, he should inspect them up close but make sure to step back and take one final look at a distance; removing yourself from bright lights or midday sunshine. Details are important, but after studying the detail, stepping back and taking one more look at the whole is equally important.

Christians tend to focus on the small details of their life. I know that I do. My family has been going through some difficult times. I have thoughts like, “I cannot believe this is happening to me.” “Things like this are not supposed to happen to good people.” “Why is God allowing this to happen?” I’m sure that you have had similar thoughts when you were going through difficult times. If you have, like me you probably focused on the details of your setbacks. When you go over those details, life can seem devastating. But when you face difficult situations, what should you do?

I don’t have the answers, but I think that it is important to step back and take a look at the whole picture. In Proverbs 3:5 (NIRV) Solomon tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” Difficult times call for complete trust in God. It is in these times that Satan will try and get you to focus on the details of your problem. When we do, Satan can plant seeds of doubt. Don’t let this happen. Trust God, and He will get you through.

Gentle Reader, when we are going through difficult times, we must remember to step back and take a look at the whole picture. God knows what we are going through. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God sees our entire life, start to finish, from beginning to end. He sees the whole picture, and He asks us to trust Him even if we can only see the little details of our current situation. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April Fool's - 4/12/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the April 12, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



This year, April 1st passed by without much notice on my part. There was an announcement that a local man was running for governor, but other than that no one I knew tried to play any April Fools pranks. I have never been much of a prankster, but last year I did fool a lot of people.

On April 1, 2016, I posted the following on my blog, An Arkie’s Musings, under the title Brilliance in Blogging Award. “I was shocked and surprised to receive the Spring 2016 Brilliance in Blogging Award. Over 150,000 blogs were nominated this year, so it is a huge achievement that An Arkie's Musings won this prestigious award. The award celebrates great writing, great photography and great commitment to storytelling.

I am thrilled to win the award. I'm still in shock that my blog has been recognized for its brilliance. It feels like a dream come true. Who knew that a little blog from Mena, Arkansas was being noticed? This is a big deal for me. Winning this award has confirmed that what I am doing is important. All those late nights busily tapping away at the keyboard were not wasted. I'm just a bit worried about the date of the award, April 1, but any day is a good day for an award.”

Many people congratulated me and told me how much I deserved the award and how happy they were for me. Not one person who talked to me or contacted me caught on to the prank. I intended the post to be tongue in cheek and thought that most people would understand that it was an April Fool’s post. I felt that I had to respond to all of the nice things people were saying to me, so in the evening I posted the following comment on the Brilliance in Blogging Award post. “It's been a great April Fool's Day, but tomorrow I have to go back to being a blogger who has never won an award.”

Over the years there have been many April Fool’s Day hoaxes perpetrated by the media. The tradition goes back a very long time. The earliest known instance that I could find of an April Fool's Day hoax reported by the media was in the London paper, Dawk’s News-Letter in 1698. On April 2 of that year, they reported, “several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” There were no lions being washed in the moat of the Tower of London. For more than one hundred years after this, getting people to go to the Tower of London to see the "washing of the lions" was a favorite April Fool's Day joke. In the mid-nineteenth century, official-looking tickets were distributed around London on April 1st, promising admittance to the annual lion-washing ceremony.

In modern times, newspapers, radio, television, and internet media outlets have used April Fool’s Day to report stories that have fooled their audiences. On April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a segment on Swiss farmers and their record spaghetti crop. The segment showed footage of the farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. The BBC seems to enjoy April Fools Day hoaxes. On April 1, 2008, they announced that the camera crew of the nature show, Miracles of Evolution had photographed Adélie penguins flying through the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which quickly became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones concluded that “instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they spend the winter basking in the tropical sun."

Other media hoaxes include the Sports Illustrated article from the April 1985 issue about a New York Mets pitching prospect named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph. Supposedly Finch had never played baseball but had learned to throw in a Tibetan monastery. On April 1, 1996, a full-page ad appeared in major newspapers announcing that Taco Bell had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. BMW has a long history of April Fool’s Day hoaxes. In 2004, ads touted the new "Retina-evaluating sensory technology" (R.E.S.T.) option available in its cars. This system scanned the eyes of the driver to detect sleep. When sleep was detected, the system took control of the car, allowing the driver to sleep peacefully. "Lose consciousness, not control," was the ad tagline.

There are always people who are trying to deceive you. The Apostle John wrote to the believers in the first century, “these things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” 1 John 2:26 (NKJV) God has given us the Bible to keep us from being deceived. In Colossians 2:4 (NLT) Paul wrote, “I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.” Christians need to be on the lookout for those who would deceive them. Things haven’t improved since the first century. In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:13 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Satan is the great deceiver. He wants you to believe lies about God and his character. In John 8:44 (NLT) Jesus is referring to Satan when he said, “he has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In the Garden of Eden, God asked Eve, “What is this you have done?” She answered, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 (NKJV) Humanity has known from the beginning that Satan is a deceiver and yet we consistently fall for his deceptions. Don’t be fooled by Satan. April Fool’s Day comes just once a year, but when we fall for Satan’s hoax, it is for eternity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wall - 4/05/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the April 5, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



While The Wall That Heals was in town at the high school stadium, my wife and I stopped by to see the exhibit. The traveling memorial wall is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Since 1996, the mobile wall has visited more than 400 communities throughout the United States. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the sponsors of The Wall That Heals, “bringing The Wall to communities across the country spreads its healing legacy to millions.” This year The Wall will be displayed in over forty communities. I feel very fortunate that I was able to visit the exhibit and help honor the over 58,000 Americans who gave their lives for their country in Vietnam.

As my wife and I viewed the mobile Education Center that is part of the exhibit we were carried back to our childhoods. The exhibits told the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the American experience in Vietnam in a historical and cultural context. Both my wife and I were in school during the Vietnam Era. Although neither one of us had any close family members that were casualties of the Vietnam War, anyone who lived through that period knew people who were affected. Every Vietnam veteran that I have met has been profoundly changed by their Vietnam experience.

While we were viewing The Wall, there were people of all ages at the site including a busload of senior citizens from an assisted living retirement community and families with children and teenagers. Everyone viewed The Wall quietly and respectfully. Many of the people there were looking for specific names. I overheard parents talking to their children about friends and loved ones who had died in Vietnam.

The local VFW Post hosted the exhibit, and many of the volunteers on site were veterans. I could see how meaningful the memorial was to them and how much they appreciated those who were respectfully viewing The Wall. The exhibit has an impact on those who visit it. Many people find the visit a healing experience. To be able to honor someone, to be able to reach out and touch their name is cathartic. Just knowing that these names will never be forgotten because they are permanently etched in stone is important to those who remember them.

As I experienced The Wall, I was reminded of a traveling spiritual memorial that anyone can visit. Just a few hours before Jesus was captured, tortured, and sentenced to die by the humiliating and painful method of crucifixion, He established a memorial for our benefit. He sat down for the Passover meal with His closest friends. “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, He broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’” Matthew 26:26 (NRSV) And then the Bible says that “He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:27,28 (NRSV)

We are told the purpose of this memorial service in 1 Corinthians 11:26 (NKJV) where we read, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Just like many who visited The Wall, those who partake of this spiritual memorial service are remembering someone who sacrificed their life.

Christians have several different names for this memorial service such as The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Breaking of Bread, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and The Eucharist. The Lord’s Supper is a ceremony in which we remember what Jesus has done for us through His grace, and give thanks. Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia which is translated in the English Bible as thanksgiving. The root word in eucharistia is charis. The most common translation of the word charis is grace. Whenever Christians celebrate The Lord’s Supper, they are thankfully accepting the grace made possible by Jesus.

The Lord’s Supper is the most important memorial ever established. Its beauty is its simplicity.  It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to transport across the country. It doesn’t involve an elaborate ceremony reserved for just the elite. It can be celebrated inexpensively and easily by anyone. You can participate anywhere.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon. In his book Magnificent Desolation, he recalls the message he radioed to NASA just before he and Neil Armstrong were to step out onto the surface of the moon. "I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." Then he ate the bread and drank the wine.

In an article in Guideposts magazine, Aldrin wrote, "I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements."

Gentle Reader, The Lord’s Supper is the most effective memorial ever created. I hope that you find it meaningful. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 (NKJV) The next time you participate in The Lord’s Supper, remember what Jesus has done for you through His grace, and give thanks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sophie's Journey - 3/29/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 29, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A few weeks ago I self-published my first book. It is titled An Arkie’s Faith and includes over twenty-five articles from this column. After learning the process of self-publishing, I started thinking again about a project that I have been considering for some time. A few years ago my wife started doing some genealogy research. Early on in her research, she ran across the incredible story of her great-great-grandmother, Sophie. The story is compelling and fascinating. It needs to be told.

Sophie and her children emigrated from Denmark in 1856. She traveled from Denmark to England where she sailed from Liverpool to New York City. From New York, she traveled by train to Iowa City, Iowa where she became a part of the Willie Handcart Company.

In 1856, the Willie Handcart Company made the thousand-mile journey from Iowa City to Salt Lake City on foot, pulling handcarts. Although Sophie and her children arrived safely in Salt Lake City, over sixty members of the Willie Handcart Company died on the trail.

As these pioneers pulled handcarts across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains, they faced starvation, hypothermia, frozen limbs, and death. Jens Nielsen, who traveled with Sophie in the Willie Handcart Company wrote, “No person can describe it, nor could it be comprehended or understood by any human living in this life, but those who were called to pass through it.”

I have started researching Sophie’s story and am in the process of writing a book about her experience. As I was researching the early part of Sophie’s story while she was still living in Denmark, I came across information that sent a chill up my spine when I read it. I knew that Sophie was a widow when she made her amazing journey. I was trying to learn more about her husband, and their life together before he died.

I discovered that during the summer of 1853, a cholera epidemic struck Gentofte, the area of Denmark where Sophie and her husband Peter lived. Peter became ill and died on August 8, 1853, leaving Sophie a widow at age twenty-nine with four small children. At the time of Peter's death, Sophie was not aware that she carried her and Peter's last child. Baby Otto was born eight months and eighteen days after Peter died.

Baby Otto was my wife’s great-grandfather. He was conceived just a short while before his father died. That is how close my wife, who is my best friend and soulmate, came to never having a chance to be born.

I’m thankful that all those years ago baby Otto was conceived. I’m sad that he grew up never knowing his father, but I’m thankful that he was born and that as a toddler, he survived the long journey from Denmark to Salt Lake City. I imagine God telling Otto; “I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.” Isaiah 44:2 (CEV)

Otto’s birth was no mistake or accident, and your life isn’t either. Your parents may not have planned you, or your birth may have been part of a carefully thought out plan. But God planned for you. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it. God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NOG)

Before you were conceived by your parents, you were created in the mind of God. It is not by chance or coincidence that you are alive right now. You are alive because God wanted to create you! Not only did God want to create you, but He also had a plan for your life. In Psalms 139:16 (NIV) we read, “your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Knowing that God knew us, and formed us, and gave us life, helps us to make sense of our world. We are all looking for a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Not only did God know us before we were born, He knows everything about our present situation. He knows everything about you. The Bible says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30 (NKJV) God cares about your personal journey because he cares about you. No one has ever loved you more or ever will.

Gentle Reader, God wants you to know how much He loves you. He created a plan for your life before you were even born. That is how special you are to God! What a wonderful thought, to know that the God of the universe knew us intimately and set us apart for His purposes even before we were born! Not only did God have a plan for you before you were born, but He also promises to help you fulfill that plan. Won’t you join me in claiming the promise found in Psalms 138:8 (ESV); “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Snowbound - 3/22/2017

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 22, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



A year ago my oldest granddaughter was diagnosed with scoliosis. My son-in-law did extensive research on scoliosis treatments and braces. He was impressed with the success of Dr. Marc Moramarco in Boston. He made the decision for the family to travel to Boston last summer so that my granddaughter could see Dr. Moramarco, and be fitted with a Gensingen Brace®

In his research, my son-in-law found that the Gensingen Brace® is unique in that, for adolescents it offers potential improvement of the Cobb angle, a measure of the curvature of the spine, rather than just halting the progression. According to Dr. Moramarco, the brace’s asymmetric design focuses on overcorrection. It is the highest standard in scoliosis bracing and successfully addresses most curve magnitudes.

After she returned home from Boston and began wearing the new brace, my granddaughter showed improvement in the curvature of her spine. This winter she has been growing rapidly. She is three inches taller than when she was fitted for the brace last summer. Curves progress rapidly during growth spurts, so she needed to return to Boston to be fitted with a new brace.

Her paternal grandparents took her to Boston to see Dr. Moramarco. After she had been measured, photographed and x-rayed, the technicians built her custom brace. The night before she was to fly home from Boston, winter storm Stella moved into the northeast. The storm grounded over 6,000 flights including the one that was to fly my granddaughter home.

According to the Weather Channel, winter storm Stella dumped from three to four feet of snow in some areas, paralyzed several major cities including Boston, and knocked out power out to over half a million people. Several places in Massachusetts reported winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour. The Bolton Valley Ski Area in the Green Mountains of northern Vermont reported a storm total of 58 inches of snow.

Because of the storm, it was several days before my granddaughter was able to fly home. She was snowbound in Boston. I don’t know what her grandparents thought about being stranded, but my granddaughter was ecstatic. Being from Louisiana, she has only seen small amounts of snow. When I talked to her, she excitedly told me, “Papa, the snow was up to my knees!” As I talked with her, I was thankful that it wasn’t me stranded in a snowstorm in Boston.

I have never liked the cold. The last few days have been unseasonably cold for March, and I have been miserable and just a bit whiney. But as I talked with a bubbly, vivacious, excited girl who was experiencing a real winter snowstorm for the first time in her life, something else crossed my mind. There isn't anything quite like a big snowfall that leaves the ground a fluffy pure white, without any dirt or debris.

A fresh snowfall makes any landscape beautiful. What lies underneath the snow might be ugly, but the snow hides any blemishes and makes everything pure and white. God does the same thing with each of us. We may have a sordid past. We may not be currently living as we should. But God longs for us to ask for forgiveness so that he can cover our sins. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when you woke up and looked out your window to see snow covering the landscape? A dull and dreary day unexpectedly transformed into a beautiful day blanketed with snow. Bare and seemingly lifeless trees turned into marvelous works of art. In the same way, God is pleased when we allow him to cover our sins.

Because of His great love for us, God doesn’t abandon us in our sins. Instead, by His grace, He wants to change and transform us. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13,14 (NRSV)

Have you ever noticed how quiet it seems after a heavy snowfall? As snowflakes pile up, there is space left between them. With all that space, sound is unable to bounce off snow as easily as it would off water, dirt, or grass. As a result, the sound gets absorbed.

When God takes our sins and makes them white as snow, it cuts down on the noise of the world around us. The world becomes just a bit quieter and more peaceful. We can more easily hear God as he communicates with us.

Gentle Reader, we all have sin in our life that makes us dirty and separates us from God. But God has provided a way for us to be clean again. Through Jesus, we can all be as white as snow. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Scavenger Hunt - 3/15/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 15, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last week my wife and I along with my cousins and their grandson, visited Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Gardens were the dream of Verna Cook Garvan. In 1956 Mrs. Garvan began to develop it as a garden. When she died in 1993, Mrs. Garvan gave the property to the University of Arkansas Foundation.

Garvan Woodland Gardens is the largest undeveloped tract of land on Lake Hamilton. There are over three miles of recreational trails. This time of year over 150,000 tulips line the walkways.  Every year that we can we visit the gardens during the tulip extravaganza. The peak tulip viewing times at the gardens are in March. The gardens are beautiful any time of the year, but I think that the tulip season is the best.

We had a very enjoyable afternoon. The temperatures were warm, and the flowers were beautiful. My cousin’s grandson had a great time. He especially enjoyed nature bingo. Each young visitor to the gardens is given a bingo card with each square listing an item to find as they walk the trails. Items on the card included such things as a cave, a fish, a pine cone, a butterfly or moth, a waterfall, a crawling bug, and a rock bigger than you. If they made a bingo, they received a gift as they left the gardens.

My cousin’s grandson wasn’t satisfied when he made his first bingo. He wanted to fill every square on his card. Instead of bingo, he treated his card as a scavenger hunt. By the time we left the gardens, he had completed the entire card.

As I watched him scamper from place to place looking for each item on the bingo card, I thought about the treasures found in the Bible. It seems that few Christians are excited about searching the Bible. King David loved to search the Bible. He said, “How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms 119:103-105 (NLT)

King David searched God’s Word for wisdom and found it sweeter than honey! He depended on God’s promises and was personally guided by God’s words. Even though David was one of the earth’s richest men, God’s Word was his greatest treasure.

I want to have the passion David describes in Psalms 119. I am convinced that if I make plans and set aside time to read God’s Word, I will find promises and insights that are trustworthy. Instead of reading my Bible because I feel that I must, I want to search through it each day like someone on a scavenger hunt.

One of the ways that I have found to get excited about the Bible is to study by topic. When I study the Bible by chapter, I sometimes get stuck and spend too long in one place. That isn’t a bad thing, but topical studies can leave you wanting more, hungry to know about the topic and what the Bible says about it.

Talking about those who follow God, Psalms 1:2 (NLT) says, “they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” Meditating on God’s Word requires study, not just skimming over a few verses.

The prophet Jeremiah said, "when I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight.” Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT) Don't let anyone devour your spiritual food for you. Insist on doing it for yourself. Anyone can be a student if he makes up his mind. Study the various topics in the Bible, one by one, going through the Bible and finding what it has to say on these subjects. It is alright to study what the great theologians have to say on important subjects, but it is far more important to know what God has to say.

Many people know a part of what God has to say. Usually, it is the part that someone has taught them, so their ideas are imperfect and one-sided. If they knew all God had to say on the subject, it would be much better. The only way to know all God has to say on any subject is to go through the entire Bible.

My favorite way to study a topic is to use a concordance to focus on keywords. Strong’s concordance is an excellent resource, but I usually use one of the many excellent Bible programs on the internet. Bible Gateway is my favorite.

Using your favorite method of searching the Bible, compile a list of words related to the topic you want to study. Collect all references relating to each word, then consider each reference individually. Only after studying each verse with an open mind should you come to a conclusion.

In Acts 17:11 (NOG) the Bible shows us how we should study; “The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.” Gentle Reader, will you resolve with me to carefully examine the Bible to see if what you have been taught is true? “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4 (NKJV)


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Free Gift - 3/08/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 8, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Recently my wife and I traveled to Louisiana to see my granddaughter compete in the Pathfinder Bible Bowl. Pathfinders are a worldwide organization of young people sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, though young people of any religion, or none at all, are welcome and encouraged to join the organization. Pathfinders offer a wide range of activities including camping, community service projects, and training in a variety of recreational, artistic, nature, conservation, and vocational areas. In the Bible Bowl, Pathfinder teams made up of kids from Arkansas and Louisiana aged 10 – 16 competed by answering one hundred questions on a predetermined Bible topic. My granddaughter's team was pleased with their second place finish.

The day after the Bible Bowl, we attended the Krewe of Highland parade in Shreveport. A co-worker of my daughter’s had invited our family to watch the parade from her house. The co-worker’s house is on the parade route where the parade starts and ends. It was a fantastic location to see the family-friendly parade.

Over one hundred floats passed by with participants throwing free gifts out into the crowd. Over 11,000 people lined the streets waving their hands in the air and yelling, “throw me something.” Participants on the floats threw the traditional Mardi Gras throws such as beads, doubloons and plastic cups. The Krewe of Highland is famous for unusual throws. This year there were lots of ramen noodles, moon pies, and hot dogs among the throws. Because it is a family-friendly parade throws also included candy, frisbees, mini-footballs, super balls, and a wide assortment of stuffed animals.

Since the first Highland parade over twenty years ago, the parade has continued to be a family parade sticking to its original mission, a family-friendly Mardi Gras parade in the Highland Historical District of Shreveport. This year’s event was witnessed by the largest crowd ever to see a daytime parade in Northern Louisiana.

It is amazing to see how excited people get about the possibility of catching some plastic beads or other trinkets. Everyone is swept up in the idea of being the one to get that special item. Everywhere you look there are kids on their parent's shoulders, giving them a chance to catch some of the free items. Participants on the floats often single out kids in the crowd to give them a special gift.

As I put a large bag of “treasures” in the car when the parade was over, I thought about how everyone at the parade clamored for these plastic items that had no actual value. I thought about how I wished people were that excited about the free gift of God’s grace. Romans 3:24 (NIRV) tells us, “the free gift of God’s grace makes us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free.”

The Bible is clear that God’s grace is a free gift. Why don’t more people accept the free gift? If you were to ask one hundred random people, “how do you get to heaven?” you would hear a lot of different answers. You would hear things like, “try to be good and do your best” or “work hard at being a good moral person” or “do more good things in life than you do bad things.” All of these ideas are based on our abilities and actions. They are not based on the idea of a free gift. People that don’t feel the need of the gift see no need to accept the free gift of God’s grace. Many religious people fall into this way of thinking. They feel that they can do it themselves and that they don’t need some free gift.

The Bible is very plain in Romans 5:16 (NLT) “And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.” Our efforts lead only to condemnation. Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) tells us that,  “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” It is important for us to understand that we don’t have the ability to be righteous apart from the free gift of God.

Not only do we not have the ability to be righteous, but we are also under a heavy penalty. Romans 3:23 (KJV) says, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And Romans 6:23 (KJV) adds, “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Every person on the earth is under the penalty of death. But thankfully there is hope, because of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts tells the story of the Philippian jailer. When the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:30,31 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, we all need the gift of grace. We all need to have the penalty paid for our sins. We need the gift of God, eternal life. Don’t be too proud to accept the gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  Ephesians 2:8 (NRSV)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sick and Tired - 3/01/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 1, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

Recently a customer of mine remarked, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I know how he feels. I have been feeling poorly for almost three weeks, and I am tired of it. Many of my friends, customers, and acquaintances are fighting colds, the flu, and other illnesses this time of the year.

When I first started feeling bad, I just thought I was coming down with a cold. I started taking over the counter cold medication. After a week, I thought that I was getting over the cold, but a couple of days later I was much worse. After listening to my wife for several days telling me that I needed to see the doctor, I finally called and made an appointment.

Why was I so reluctant to see my doctor? I can give you a list of excuses for not wanting to make the appointment. I didn’t want to take the time or spend the money. I was sure it was a virus, and I would eventually wear it out. The reason that I finally went to the doctor was that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The doctor told me that I had a sinus infection and put me on antibiotics. I also had raspy lungs and a bad cough. The doctor told me that if my cough wasn’t better in four days to come back in for a visit.

Four days later, my cough was still bad. I returned to the doctor and was given a steroid shot. Within a few hours, I was covered in a rash that was very uncomfortable. Once again I just wanted to deal with the rash and not go back to the doctor, but my wife made me an appointment.

In Matthew 9:12 (NCV) Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Christian music artist, Michael Card wrote a song titled, “Gentle Healer.” It is a favorite of mine. I love the way that it refers to Jesus as the Gentle Healer. “The Gentle Healer came into our town today. He touched blind eyes and the darkness left to stay. But more than the blindness, He took their sins away. The Gentle Healer came into our town today.”

Jesus would come into a town and heal those who were sick. He also forgave their sins. There was something else that Jesus did before he left town. Luke 24:45 (NIV) tells us that Jesus, “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Just like a doctor gives us a prescription to help us get well, Jesus has given us a prescription to help heal us spiritually. We need to take our spiritual prescription so that we can get and stay healthy. The prescription is "The Holy Bible."  We need to take it every day. It is safe and effective.

I have never seen anyone whose spiritual growth has been hindered by reading the Bible. It improves us and makes us healthy in the Lord. Everything in the Bible is there for us to study and learn about God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right.” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NCV) Religious books, commentaries, and devotionals are helpful, but if you just read them and not the Bible, you'll miss the active ingredient in the prescription. We need to read and study the Bible on our own.

When I read in the Bible of the healing that Jesus did, I notice the compassion that Jesus had as He interacted with the people. He cared for their needs. Matthew 14:14 (NKJV) tells us that, “when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

I'm so glad I have that same Gentle Healer as my doctor. Whenever Jesus sees that I am sick and in pain; He has compassion on me. I can speak to Him anytime about how I'm feeling and what's going on in my life. I don’t have to make an appointment. He even makes house calls.

Not only does Jesus want to heal you and forgive you, but he also wants to give you rest. He knows that you are tired, sick and tired. In Matthew 11:28,29 (NCV) Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.”

Gentle Reader, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Come to Jesus, and He will give you rest. Don’t put off going to the doctor. You can’t get well on your own. No matter what it is that you are facing right now in your life, Jesus understands. Jesus knows what you are going through. He says, “come to me.” We don’t need to come to Jesus timidly or in fear. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Barn Find - 2/22/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the February 22, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



My Daddy is a long-time collector and seller of classic and collector cars. In the business of classic cars, barn finds are the holy grail. Anyone with a healthy bank account and a computer can find the car of their dreams, but barn finds are a special kind of magic. Barn finds are cars that are intact and have been untouched and out of sight for years. Finding a special car, left untouched for years or even decades is a rare thing. In the collector car world, barn finds come in all shapes and sizes. But one thing remains constant; a great barn finds make all the effort worthwhile.

In 2014 a remarkable barn find of rare automobiles was made on a farm in the West of France. After the owner had died, the children inherited the estate, which included a collection of old cars that had been untouched for many years. Wanting to determine the value of the cars, they called France's leading antiques auctioneer.

When the appraisers entered the property, they could see many makeshift shelters covered with tin. As they walked around the farm, they found more and more cars under the makeshift structures, and almost all of them were extremely rare. They found significant models from many of the legendary brands in European automotive history: Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage. The cars had been untouched for at least 50 years. The appraisers valued the cars at between 18 and 20 million dollars. The find was so significant that it was even reported in the U.S. press.

My Daddy recently sold his MG replica. Someone will be able to tell a “barn find” story about the car. In the late 70’s and early 80’s building kit cars on a VW chassis was very popular. In 1981 Daddy purchased a complete MG replica kit from MIGI. He spent many hours building the car. At about the same time he was building the MG, he built an addition to the side of his shop. When he completed the addition, the first thing that he stored in the new building was the recently completed MG replica. The little MG has never moved from that spot until just a couple of weeks ago.

Daddy has never owned a car that wasn’t for sale. He has had many people interested in the little MG kit car over the years. But the value of kit cars dropped dramatically after he finished the MG. They fell out of favor, and the market was flooded with them. He had paid a lot of money for the full kit that included the gel-coat fiberglass body, complete interior, convertible top, and all new chrome bumpers and grill. No one was willing to pay the price he was asking for the beautiful little MG, and it just sat in the corner of the new addition.

After a few years, the little car was covered in plastic sheeting to keep the dust and dirt from damaging the finish. As the years went by, more and more parts were stored around the little MG until it was barely visible. When a deal was made for the MG a few weeks ago, it took several days to uncover the little car and get it out of the building. When we moved it outside, it saw the light of day for the first time in almost 35 years.

Under the dust and dirt that had accumulated in those 35 years, was essentially a brand new car. When the new owner of the little MG properly cleans and details it, the car will be beautiful once again. It will once again be a treasure.

In the Bible, there is a “barn find” story; well not exactly a barn find, more of a field find. We read about it in Matthew 13:44 (NIV). “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Jesus was telling a story about the value of kingdom of heaven. A man found a treasure in a field. He stumbled across a “barn find.” He puts together a plan. He is so excited about his find that he sold everything he had and scraped all of his money together to buy the piece of land with the treasure on it. He knew that the treasure was very valuable and there was no question that he had to buy the field.

Can you imagine what his friends and family thought? I bet they thought he was crazy. Why would he sell everything to buy that piece of land? The didn’t know that by selling everything he owned, he was gaining a priceless treasure, worth far more. What is this treasure that is so important? Colossians 2:3 (GW) tells us that, “God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.”

Gentle Reader, are you willing to sacrifice everything you own to gain the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ? When Jesus was asked which is the great commandment in the law, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:37,38 (NKJV) This is what it takes to gain the treasure. It is the ultimate “barn find.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

First Love - 2/15/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the February 15, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

A Senior in High School

When I was in high school, I was too shy to talk to girls. I was almost too shy to talk to boys. When I first went to high school, it was at a private school that only went to the tenth grade. When I transferred to another school at the beginning of my junior year, the only people that I would talk to were those whom I knew from my previous school.

Although I was too shy to talk to girls, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t interested. At the beginning of my senior year, there was a girl who stole my heart the first time she walked into Mr. Brost's history class. Because I was so shy, it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested. I think that God knew that I needed all of the help I could get, so he made it so that our paths crossed in several ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for history class. The special girl and I were both in the group. We both worked at the local furniture factory.  I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

Just before graduation, I lost my job at the furniture factory. I was accused of doing something that I hadn’t done, and the punishment was a two-week suspension. I told management that I was innocent, and if they persisted with the suspension, I would never be back. My sense of justice caused me to lose a good paying summer job. News of my trouble with management quickly made its way around the factory. When I picked up my personal items from the jig that I worked at, there was a soda can with a flower in it. It was from that girl back in the drawer making section. As angry as I was with the situation, I felt warm and tingly inside because it became obvious to me that the girl who had stolen my heart at the beginning of the year cared about me.

When it came time for our high school graduation, I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally, I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me that she would like to, but she had already told another boy that she would march with him. She said that if I talked to the other boy, she would march with me. Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to him. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

On our very first date away from school, we went to an amusement park. I don’t handle motion well, and easily get carsick and seasick. As we were riding one of the rides, I kept feeling sicker and sicker. This was our first real date, and I felt terrible. I didn’t want her to know that I was too wimpy to ride amusement park rides. I said nothing and hoped that my nausea would pass. It didn’t. I threw up on the ride, all over both of us. She took me to her house and got some of her Dad’s clothes for me to change into while she washed mine. After my clothes had been washed and dried, we went back to the amusement park but didn’t ride anything but the train.

The rest is history. I knew that if our horrific first date didn’t end our relationship; she was as awesome as I had always thought. After a year-long relationship, with five hundred miles separating us, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975, we married.

I know that usually high school romances do not last forever and that when kids get married in their teens, the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my first love! I can't wait to see where this journey leads.

Many relationships don’t last. According to the National Vital Statistics System, In the United States, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. For many people, it seems that it isn’t possible to maintain that first love. Many Christians also seem to have a problem maintaining their relationship with God.

Maybe your relationship with God isn’t what it once was. Do you remember when you first gave your life to Jesus? It was exciting to know that your sins had been forgiven. But have things changed? You still pray, sometimes. You still read the Bible, occasionally. You are willing to talk about Jesus, but only if someone asks about your beliefs.

What has happened? Probably the same thing that happened to the church of Ephesus. In Revelation 2:4 (NASB) Jesus told the church at Ephesus, “but I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Gentle Reader, are you are beginning to leave your first love? Was there a time when you were closer to God than you are today? God is calling you back to your first love. He wants you to find your happiness in Him. He wants you to experience that first love.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Saving Moses - 2/08/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the February 8, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Some years ago I came home from work one day and my wife met me at the door. "Do you hear that," my wife asked. “Yes,” I answered, “it sounds like a kitten.” Meow, Meooooow, Meooooooooow. “You better go check it out,” my wife said, “it sounds like a kitten is in trouble.”

We walked down the hill to the creek behind our house. The pitiful cries grew louder and louder. They were coming from a small gray kitten. He was caught in a tangle of roots on the creek bank. The kitten was on the far side of the creek. This meant that I had to walk down the creek to a place narrow enough to cross. I found a place where I could wade across the creek; then I fought my way through a mass of bushes and briars. When I finally reached the drenched kitten, he frantically held on to the roots. I had to pull with all my strength to get him out.

I was afraid that the kitten would fight like a little tiger because of how fiercely he had struggled; however, when I held him close, he melted into my chest. Almost immediately I heard a soft, gentle purring. “Hello, Moses,” I said, “your name will have to be Moses because I drew you out of the water.”

What were we going to do with a kitten? Our family had never owned a cat. We had always been dog people. Our dogs have always been pampered pets. Some people have even said that our dogs were the masters of the house. Now we had a tiny helpless kitten. What should we do with it? I guess it was ours.

We carried Moses to our back porch. My wife brought towels and an old pet taxi. We dried him off and made him a soft bed in the pet taxi. I put Moses down, and he immediately climbed my leg, perched on my shoulder, and purred in my ear.

Our back porch became the kitten’s home. He was firmly attached to it. The world beyond the back porch was a strange and scary place and he would not venture into that world. He refused to leave the back porch. If I carried him into the front yard, he would begin desperately clawing, fighting, and freaking out. He wanted down so that he could run back to the safety of the back porch.

When I remember how Moses came into our lives, it reminds me of how my relationship with God developed. I remember being in the creek. In Psalms 69:1-3 (NLT) David wrote about his experience in the creek. " Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.”

When Moses the kitten cried out someone came to rescue him. God has made a promise to us. "Call to Me, and I will answer you." Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)  When God answers our call, he will bring us to a place of safety.

Moses found a place of peace and safety on the back porch. He knew that as long as he was on the back porch, nothing bad was going to happen to him. God has provided a place of peace and safety for us. "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble." Psalms 119:165 (NKJV) We need to look at God's law the way that Moses looked at the back porch. He realized that the back porch was his place of peace and safety and he wanted to be there. When he was anyplace else, it made him very uncomfortable.

Many times we look at God's law as a jail. We feel that it creates uncomfortable restrictions. We need to ask God to give us a love for his commandments, to instill in us a desire for the peace and safety of His law. No one forced Moses to stay on our back porch; he stayed because he loved the feeling of security. That is how we should view God's law. "Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (NLT)

Just like Moses the kitty found that the front yard was a scary place, many people find the world frightening. It seems like the foundations of our society are crumbling beneath our feet because we are no longer a society that distinguishes right from wrong. God’s commandments are no longer the determination of what is right and wrong. “Christian morality is being ushered out of American social structures and off the cultural main stage, leaving a vacuum in its place — and the broader culture is attempting to fill the void,” reads a recent report by the Barna Group.

Gentle Reader, God’s commandments are like an umbrella. When you stay under the umbrella of God’s commandments, it protects you from many consequences. If you step out from under its protective cover, you suffer the consequences. Be like Moses the kitty and stay in the safety of God’s law. If you do, God promises in Leviticus 25:18 (NIV), “follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Finishing the Job - 2/01/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the February 1, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A couple of years ago I received a phone call from a customer in Alexandria, Louisiana. He had a 1965 Chevrolet pickup, and he wanted to get it painted. I gave him a price for painting a pickup and didn’t think much more about it. Why would someone from Alexandria have a vehicle painted in Mena?  A few weeks later he called back and said that he was planning to drive the pickup to Mena to drop it off to be painted.

The day that he was supposed to drop off the vehicle, he called and said that he was running late. He had been having some mechanical problems. After several calls with updates on his problems he let me know that he would be in town around 10:00 p.m. We made arrangements to meet at my shop. It was a dark rainy night, but even in those conditions I could see that the pickup was in very rough shape. I considered telling my customer that the condition of his truck was so bad that I didn’t want the job, but he had just driven all day and had so many problems that I couldn’t tell him no. I did tell him that the pickup was in much worse shape than he had described it and that I would take the job with the understanding that I would only work on it when I had no other better-paying jobs in my shop.

The next morning when I inspected the truck in the daylight, my heart sank. It was much worse than I had thought it was the night before. It seemed like every square inch of the body was damaged. Every panel had major dents, and there were large rusted out areas on both doors and both bedsides. This was going to be a very time-consuming project. I contacted the customer and told him all of the problems that I had found but that I would keep my word and paint his truck for the agreed upon price. Because of the terrible condition of the vehicle, I said that I could make no promises about how long it would take. He understood that it would be a fill in project and that I would only work on when I had absolutely nothing else to do.

That was two years ago, and the project still isn’t completed, although I am now close to finishing it. Over the past two years, I have done anything possible to avoid working on this vehicle. My distaste for working on the 65 Chevy has become a standing joke to friends and regular customers who have been watching my “progress” on the project.

I have a job to do, and I have not been diligent about getting it done. I have gone out of my way to do anything else besides working on it. Finishing the job hasn’t been a priority for me.

Jesus has given us a job to do. In Mark 16:15 (NET) Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Our job is to preach the gospel. We need to take our job seriously. Jesus knew what his job was. In Luke 4:42,43 (NET) we read, “the next morning Jesus departed and went to a deserted place. Yet the crowds were seeking him, and they came to him and tried to keep him from leaving them. But Jesus said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, for that is what I was sent to do.’”

Jesus knew that his job was to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God and He has passed the job on to those who follow Him. I’m afraid that too often I treat the job Jesus has given me just like I treat the job I have to paint the 1965 Chevrolet Pickup. I have done anything to avoid working on the pickup, and I avoid doing the job Jesus has given me.

We have an obligation to let people know that the kingdom of God is near. “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near.” Joel 2:1 (RSV)

From my experience, it seems that the majority of us are not blowing the trumpet. We aren’t doing our job. Why do you think that is? We are to make the message plain. We are to blow the trumpet clear. 1 Corinthians 14:7,8 (NKJV) tells us that, “Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played?  For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”

I think that a big part of it is that we don’t know what sound the trumpet is to make. And when we do blow the trumpet, it is the trumpet of politics – or social change – or lifestyle, but not the gospel. We blow a trumpet with an uncertain sound.

Gentle Reader, let’s finish the job that we have been given to do; proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Our job isn’t to straighten out the political beliefs of others. Our job isn’t to point out the faults of others. Our job isn’t to prove other religions false. And our job isn't to hate those we disagree with. Our job is to give people the good news found in John 3:16 (NKJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Don’t get sidetracked, let’s focus on finishing the job.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In the Fog - 1/25/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 25, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.




This winter there have been quite a few foggy days. I like a little bit of fog. I like the ethereal, otherworldly way the countryside looks in the fog. Too much fog is another story. One morning on my way to work the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see things that were right beside the road. That wasn’t fun. It can be unnerving to drive in that kind of fog.

One foggy drive that I made was quite memorable. Back in 2000, my wife and I made a trip to Nova Scotia to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We flew into Boston where we met my son-in-law’s uncle who took us on a whirlwind tour of the area including the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, and Buckman Tavern in Lexington. He had recently traveled to Nova Scotia and told us that we needed to be sure and visit Cape Breton Island. He told us that he had enjoyed driving the Cabot Trail and visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg. He told us to make sure that the day we drove the Cabot Trail wasn’t a foggy day.

In spite of his instructions, the day that we scheduled to drive the Cabot Trail turned out to be an extremely foggy day. I had seen pictures of the Cabot Trail, and it’s incredible views. It is one of the most scenic drives on the planet. I was looking forward to this amazing drive. We saw none of the spectacular scenery; we saw only dense fog. When we arrived at Louisbourg, we attended the Louisbourg Playhouse. In a bit if irony one of the songs they played was “In The Fog.”

I enjoy a bit of fog; it turns the world into a surreal landscape. But driving in a heavy fog can be frightening. It makes you slow down and be very alert. Faith is similar to driving in the fog. As we go through life, we don’t always see what’s right in front of us. Like a drive on a foggy day, life is revealed to us little by little. We can’t see into the future. God wants us to slow down and to make each action carefully and deliberately. He doesn’t want us to get in a hurry. That’s when accidents happen. We have to trust that we will get to where God wants us when His timing is right.

“Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NOG) When you have to drive in a heavy fog at night, it is so thick that your headlights can only light a few feet in front of the car. It creates tension and fear. What if there’s something I can’t see? What if the road turns and I miss it? High beams that help you to see far when it’s clear, only make the situation worse. You have to drive slow to feel safe. You have to take your time in getting to your destination. True faith is finding certainty in uncertain times. It is learning to trust God in the patches of fog that happen in everyone’s life.

Faith is believing that God is with you, whatever your circumstances are. Whether life is going smoothly, or you are experiencing the foggiest night of your life. When the foggy night comes, we are not alone. In Psalms 32:8  (NIRV) God makes this promise to you; “I will guide you and teach you the way you should go. I will give you good advice and watch over you with love.”

But why does God allow the fog in our lives? My daughter and her family are planning a trip to California this summer. On of the places they want to visit while they are there is Sequoia National Park. The park is famous for its giant sequoia trees. The Giant Forest in the park contains five out of the ten largest trees in the world.

These trees require fog to survive. The area has very little rain but often has dense fog. When fog hits, water drips off the tree needles, which point down to the ground. The fog is necessary for them to survive.

Gentle Reader, In our lives we need to stay constantly connected to God to survive. If we put our faith in God, we will be okay. The confusion of a foggy night may come, but we can trust that God will guide us through. Don’t panic because you can’t see into the future. Don’t let fear of the unknown unnerve you. God knows your future. He sees through the fog and has promised to guide you. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) Trust God to guide you through the foggy moments to get you where you’re going right on time. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NAB)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thriving - 1/18/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 18, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Recently my niece came to visit us for a few days. We enjoyed the visit even if the weather was snowy and cold. What we enjoyed the most was getting to know her little boy. He is just over a year old and a very busy little guy. During his visit more and more things kept getting put up out of his reach. He accepted the challenge and would find more things to get in to. He might be the busiest one-year-old I have ever seen.

Although he is very active, the thing that made the biggest impression on me is how personable he is. He wants to interact with everyone. He is a bubbly outgoing little boy who loves to laugh. He liked to take his great grandma’s hand and walk her around the house. He didn’t want her to stop but kept on walking with her. She said that she was going to get her steps in while he was here.

After potluck at church, his great grandpa was vacuuming the floor. He wanted to help, and even though his little legs were short, he held on to the vacuum and “helped” sweep the entire room. It may have taken quite a bit longer to finish the task, but great grandpa and little boy did a great job and were very cute while doing it.

A cute toddler with a big smile and a sunny disposition makes a lot of friends. Even strangers stop and comment when they meet this beautiful boy with dark hair and bright blue eyes. The few days that I got to spend with him brought to mind a Ty Gibson video that I watched recently titled, “Frederick’s Experiment.”

Frederick II was a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability. He was king of Sicily and Germany during the first half of the 13th century. He was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1220. Frederick is considered by modern historians to be the most gifted, vivid and extraordinary of the medieval Holy Roman Emperors.

Frederick’s court blended Norman, Arabic, and Jewish elements. He spoke six different languages, Latin, Sicilian, German, French, Greek and Arabic. He encouraged scholarship, poetry and mathematics, and original thinking in all areas, and was friendly with Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars.

Frederick’s openness to ideas made him unpopular with church leadership. His demands that the church renounce its wealth and return to apostolic poverty and simplicity did not sit well with the papacy and its supporters, who branded him as Antichrist. He was excommunicated not once but four times.

Frederick was an avid patron of science and the arts. He had an unlimited thirst for knowledge and learning and considered himself to be an equal of the scientific minds of his times. In the pursuit of scientific knowledge, he carried out cruel experiments on people. The purpose of one experiment was to discover what language children would naturally speak if they were never spoken to.

King Frederick took babies from their mothers at birth and placed them in the care of nurses who were forbidden to speak in the babies hearing. Along with the prohibition on speaking, the nurses were not allowed to touch the infants other than to clean or feed them. To his great dismay, Frederick’s experiment was cut short without finding out what language the babies would speak. The babies grew up to speak no language at all because they died. In the year 1248, an Italian historian named Salimbene di Adam recorded, “They could not live without petting.” The babies died for want of touch.

Modern medicine calls this phenomenon, “failure to thrive.” For some reason, we humans flourish under the influence of love and we gradually die without it. As I think about my great nephew and how much he thrives on the love of his family I can’t imagine what would have happened to him if he had been a part of Frederick’s experiment.

Dr. Dean Ornish in his national best seller, Love and Survival, presents study after study demonstrating that love is a chief influence for mental, emotional, and even physical health. He says, “The scientific evidence leaves little doubt that love and intimacy are powerful determinants of our health and survival. Why they have such an impact remains somewhat a mystery.”

The problem for many scientists is that they are trying to understand the human need for love within the context of Darwinian evolution. Evolution begins with a survival-of-the-fittest premise. It says that self-preservation is the highest law and the main factor in our survival. Love is self-giving rather than self-preserving. Therefore, love makes no sense in the evolutionary context. And yet, here we are; creatures who thrive on love and are utterly dependent on it. Every human has a desire to love and be loved.

Gentle Reader, why do we so desperately long for love? In 1 John 4:16 (NIV) the Bible tells us that “we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” Genesis 1:27 (NLT) states that “God created human beings in his own image.” Scientists may feel that the reason that love and intimacy have such an effect on our health and survival is a mystery, but I don’t. God made us to love and to be loved.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Resolutions - 1/11/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 11, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


How successful have you been so far in keeping your New Year’s resolutions? I have a track record of failed resolutions. I always resolve to get more organized and to keep better records, but I am not good at organization. I resolve to get more exercise, but January is not a good time of the year to try to be more active.

New Year's resolutions have a long history. Over 2,500 years ago in Babylon, people would make promises to their gods at the beginning of each year. Popular promises were things such as paying debts and returning borrowed items. It is fitting that we now make resolutions on January 1st because January is named for the Roman god Janus. The Romans traditionally made annual promises to Janus.

What about the God that you serve? Does He want you to make promises to Him? Is there a right and wrong way to make resolutions?

There is a story in the Bible about a very ambitious spiritual resolution. When God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel were frightened. The Bible story tells us that “when the people heard the thunder and the trumpet, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke rising from the mountain, they shook with fear and stood far away from the mountain. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.’” Exodus 20:18,19 (NCV)

Moses then talked to God, and God gave him many additional rules and laws for living. In Exodus 24:7 (NKJV) the Bible tells us that Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.’”

That is quite an amazing resolution, but in just a short time these same people were dancing around a golden calf, breaking the first two commandments that God spoke to them from the mountain.

A friend recently posted his New Year’s resolutions on social media. They were -  1. Study my Bible. 2. Do what it says. It reminded me of the resolution made at Mt. Sinai, “all that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” I agree that his resolutions are excellent and that we should all make those resolutions, but I hope that he will be able to keep his resolutions better than I have.

Have you ever broken a promise you very much wanted to keep? I know that I have. I’ll bet that you have too. Why do we do this? I recently came across a phrase that seems to explain it. In the book Steps to Christ, author Ellen White writes that “resolutions are like ropes of sand.”

It seems like New Year’s resolutions are hopeless. In the comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown says, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer.”

If we are so bad at keeping our resolutions, how can we ever expect to better ourselves? How can we hope to grow, and become the person Jesus wants us to be? I think that I have found an answer in the life of King David.

David was a very busy guy. He was the leader of a nation with the workload and responsibility that comes with the position of king. He had many personal and political goals. But he took these goals and made one simple resolution: “I’m asking the Lord for only one thing. Here is what I want. I want to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. I want to look at the beauty of the Lord. I want to worship him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4 (NIRV)

David knew that there was only one thing that could make him truly successful; time spent in the presence of God, looking at the beauty of God’s character. Why is it so important to spend time looking at the beauty of God’s character? Is it to make God love you more or earn spiritual brownie points. No, but quiet time spent with God and looking at the beauty of His character connects you with God.

Jesus knows you’re busy and cares about the many things you have to do. So He makes a promise to you that time in His presence will actually make you more productive: “But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Gentle Reader, New Year's resolutions aren’t worthless. In fact, people who set goals are ten times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Everything that we accomplish in life is because we resolved to do it. There is no need to be discouraged if you’ve failed before. We all will fail at some point in our life. Failing is a learning experience so we can do better next time. “A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again.” Proverbs 24:16 (GW) This year, instead of focusing on personal performance, how about focusing on a relationship with God. Make a resolution to put your relationship with God first.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Traditions - 1/04/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 4, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

As I sit at my computer to write this week’s column, it is only a couple of days until the New Year. I remember my first New Year’s Day in Arkansas, thirty-five years ago. A few days before New Year’s, someone from the auto parts store that I traded with stopped by my shop and gave me a specially labeled can of black-eyed peas. I took the can home to my wife who was puzzled by the strange gift from the auto parts store. 

I asked another bodyman if the auto parts store had given him a can of black-eyed peas. He said, “yes, why do you ask?” I told him that I thought it was a bit strange. He explained that it was a long-standing tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. The only New Year’s tradition that I had heard of was making New Year’s resolutions.

Southern Living magazine says, “according to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive.” Like most traditions, this one has many variations. Some say you should eat exactly 365 peas on New Year's Day. If you eat any less, you'll only be lucky for that many days. Others say you should leave one pea on your plate, to share your luck with someone else. I have also heard that if you don't eat every pea on your plate, your luck will be bad.

Traditions are a part of life no matter where you live. Traditions vary from place to place and from one family to another. Our family has many Christmas traditions. Christmas morning my wife has made the same breakfast for many years. The interesting thing about this special meal of egg, cream and sausage casserole and Christmas Coffee Cake is that we don’t eat those foods any other day of the year.

My daughter takes the Christmas traditions very seriously. This year we bought new living room furniture that didn’t leave enough room for the Christmas tree to be where it has been for over 20 years. I wasn’t sure my daughter was going to be able to handle the tree being in a different location. On our first Christmas together my wife bought a Disney paint by number ornament kit. She painstakingly painted the wood cutouts of Disney characters. They have hung on our tree for over 40 years. When my kids were teenagers, they wanted to know why we had to put those ugly old ornaments on the tree. They didn’t think they were attractive. Now it is traditional for my daughter to complain, tongue-in-cheek, about those old ornaments.

I think that we may have started a new tradition this year with my granddaughters, aged eleven, nine, and six. They were very curious about how their grandparents celebrated Christmas years ago. They were especially intrigued with my wife’s story of the artificial aluminum Christmas tree lit with a color wheel that was her Dad’s favorite. They had heard about making popcorn garland and wanted to try. We popped some corn and the girls spent the evening stringing popcorn and decorating Grandma’s tree. Everyone loved the way it looked on the tree. It was a special Christmas memory for the girls, and I’m sure that they will want to string popcorn again next year.

When two people get married, they have to blend the traditions of their families, or they have to create new traditions. My wife’s family always opened their gifts on Christmas morning. I grew up opening gifts on Christmas Eve. We compromised by opening our gifts on Christmas morning. My wife believes very strongly that Christmas morning is the proper time to open gifts.

I have noticed that many Christians believe very strongly in their traditions. Traditions are not inherently good or bad, right or wrong. Some people defend traditions because the church has practiced it that way for years. Other people dislike tradition and want change just for the sake of change. Invariably those people begin new practices, which soon become their new traditions.

Christians should be neither "traditional" nor "non-traditional.” They should neither accept nor oppose a practice simply because it is a tradition. It doesn’t matter how long we have practiced something or when it began. What’s important is what God’s word says about it. If God's word requires it, then we must do it. If God's word forbids it, then we must oppose it even if it is a tradition. If God’s word is silent, then there is no problem with tradition, but I can’t expect all Christians to follow just because it is my tradition.

In Jesus' day, tradition was a big part of religion. One day some Pharisees demanded that Jesus tell them why his disciples did not follow their tradition. Jesus answered them, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, are you following the tradition of God, or are you following human traditions and doctrines that differ from His word? “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)