Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Warning Labels - 11/15/2017

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


In my occupation as an auto bodyman and painter, I have painted many unusual things. One of the most unusual was a Bandit Wood Chipper that I painted for my cousin. Wood chippers have powerful feed systems with large chipper openings that allow you to break down limbs and branches. One of the things that I had to do before I could paint the wood chipper was to remove all the decals and stickers. So that I would know where to put the new decals when I finished painting, I took pictures of all the decals and locations for reference.

Wood chippers are very dangerous machines. I have never used one, but after reading all the warning decals, I have a new found respect for the dangers involved.

One warning label reads “DANGER! STOP TO THINK!! Reaching or kicking into the infeed spout can cause serious injury or death! DO NOT reach with your hand or kick with your foot inside the feed spout. The feedrolls are very powerful. Once your hand or foot is grabbed by the feedrolls, you can be pulled into the chipper. Do not think you will be able to pull yourself out of the feedrolls. They will not let go!” Another one reads “DANGER! SEVERE INJURY OR DEATH CAN OCCUR! UNLESS THESE INSTRUCTIONS ARE FOLLOWED.”

Do you think that Bandit Industries Inc. is serious about their warnings? Are they plain enough for you to understand? The wood chipper was covered with these warnings. I took 30 pictures of warning labels. The manufacturer wants to make sure that you understand the dangers of working with this machine.

The wording on this label made me smile; the company is very serious about their warnings. “BRUSH CHIPPERS ARE VERY DANGEROUS MACHINES TO OPERATE! READ AND BELIEVE THIS WARNING DECAL!” They want you to read and believe. One line on this warning decal reads "There have been MANY ACCIDENTS involving the feed rolls, resulting in the amputation of hands, arms, feet, legs, and DEATH. DO NOT let this happen to you!”

These warnings made me think of the Bible and all the directions and warnings that God has placed in it. In Jeremiah 6:10 (NET) the prophet says, “Who would listen if I spoke to them and warned them? Their ears are so closed that they cannot hear! Indeed, what the Lord says is offensive to them. They do not like it at all.” Why is it that we don't want to listen to the word of the Lord? When I read the warnings on a piece of machinery, I take them seriously, but if I read it in the Bible, I don't want to listen.

It seems that all products come with warning labels. Some of them seem very silly. A can of air freshener has the warning, “do not spray on face or eyes.” That seems reasonable, but I couldn’t quite understand why it contained the warning, “keep out of reach of children and teenagers." Nytol sleep aid tablets have the warning, “may cause drowsiness.”  Vidal Sasson hair dryers want to make sure that you “do not use while sleeping.” A Superman costume comes with this warning; “This costume does not enable flight or super strength.”

Some warnings are very obvious such as, "May irritate eyes,” found on a can of self-defense pepper spray. Or, "do not use orally," on a toilet bowl cleaning brush. A hammer manufacturer thought it was necessary to include the warning, "may be harmful if swallowed." A bag of peanuts has the warning, “may contain peanuts.” But other warnings make you scratch your head and wonder why. Like the bottle of shampoo that contains the following warning; “Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish.” Or the clothing washing instructions that say, "do not wear for sumo wrestling."

Because of these often silly warnings, Most of us don’t pay any attention to the warnings placed on the products that we use. But some of them are very important, such as the ones found on the wood chipper that I painted.

The Bible contains a clear warning in Romans 6:23 (KJV).  As clear as the warning decals on a wood chipper. It says "The wages of sin is death." That is clear. Thankfully the verse doesn't end there. It also says "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The warnings on the wood chipper were not placed there because Bandit Industries Inc. doesn't want you to have any fun. They were not placed there just to restrict the user. They were placed there for the benefit and safety of the user. God's commandments are like the warnings on the wood chipper. They are not to restrict us; they are for our benefit. They are to keep us safe.

Gentle Reader, 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. 1 John 5:3 (NKJV) tells us "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” God’s warnings aren’t there to keep us from having fun. It is just the opposite. “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.” Psalms 119:1,2 (NLT)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Hammered Dulcimer - 11/8/2017

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



On a recent trip to Branson, Missouri I visited the Butterfly Palace. As I walked into the butterfly aviary, I saw hundreds of butterflies of all sizes and colors flying everywhere. As I was taking it all in and watching the butterflies, I heard beautiful hammered dulcimer music. I assumed that music was being piped in through a speaker system. As I walked around a corner, I saw that the music was coming from a woman playing a hammered dulcimer.

I love hammered dulcimer music, so when she had finished the song, I approached her to talk to her and tell her how much I appreciated the music. She plays on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at the Butterfly Palace and has Cd’s for sale in the gift shop area. Her name is Ilace Mears, and she is an award-winning hammered dulcimer player. In 2016 she was named the National Hammered Dulcimer Champion at the 46th Annual Walnut Valley Festival. As I visited with her, I told her my experience as a wishful hammered dulcimer player.

Several years ago our family made a trip to Branson Missouri to meet my sister and her family. We had a delightful weekend, enjoying everything except the Branson traffic. We especially enjoyed going to Silver Dollar City.

While we were at Silver Dollar City, we listened to traditional mountain music. I like to listen to mountain instruments, especially the hammered dulcimer. There were vendors selling instruments, and I stopped at one of the booths to look at the hammered dulcimers. The salesman showed me the different dulcimers that he had and assured me that with the materials he had, I would be able to learn to play. In the excitement of the moment, I purchased the hammered dulcimer.

When I returned home, I got the new hammered dulcimer out and tried to play it. Somehow I just couldn't get the hang of it. I watched the video that the salesman had included. I still couldn't make music. All I could make was horrendous noise. I read the book that came with the instrument, but it didn't seem to help. I came to realize that I just wasn't musically talented. I would probably never be a hammered dulcimer player. I put the hammered dulcimer with its zippered case and its wooden stand in the back of the closet. The only time I thought about them was when they got in my way as I was trying to get something out of the closet.

Several years later I was in a financial pinch. Among other things, our heat pump was struck by lightning, and I had to replace the compressor. As I was thinking about how I was going to pay for the new heat pump, that hammered dulcimer came to mind. I wondered if I could sell it. I thought about selling it on eBay, but I never got around to it.

One day on an impulse I called the swap shop at noon on KENA radio and listed the hammered dulcimer. I had heard a lot of unusual things for sale on the swap shop, but never a hammered dulcimer. The day went by, and I did not receive any calls about the dulcimer.

That night there was another small crisis at home. The washing machine wasn't working properly. I don't know about your house, but at my house, that was a crisis. Where were we going to get the money to pay for the repairs? We hadn't recovered from replacing the heat pump. Call the appliance repairman I told my wife, we have to get the washing machine fixed. That night we prayed that God would help us out of this financial problem.

The next day around noon I received a call from Waldron. The caller asked, "do you have a hammered dulcimer for sale? I have been looking for one for my daughter, and a friend told me they had heard one for sale on the radio." I assured her that I did, and made arrangements to meet her so that I could show her the dulcimer. When she saw the instrument, she gave me my asking price immediately. It was almost exactly the amount that the repairman needed for fixing the washing machine.

As the buyer was leaving, I told her, "I don't know if you are a Christian or not, but I have to tell you something." I was so excited by how God was taking care of my financial problem that I had to tell her the whole story of the dulcimer and the washing machine. After I had told her the story, she replied, "I am a Christian, and I have to tell you a story. My daughter has wanted a hammered dulcimer for some time. I have been to several music stores, but the cost of a hammered dulcimer is more than we can afford. My daughter has been praying that God would help her find a dulcimer she could afford. I told her that used ones were very hard to find, but she continued to pray about it. Finding this dulcimer at a reasonable price is an answer to our prayers."

I stood there stunned as I realized that the great God that we serve had answered the prayers of two families that day. In Philippians 4:6 (NCV) the Bible says "Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.”

Gentle Reader, when we pray, God has promised to hear our prayers and give us good gifts. In Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV) Jesus said, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” You can have confidence that God will hear your prayers. “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14 (NKJV)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Corn Maze - 10/18/2017

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


Have you ever experienced a corn maze? I recently had my first corn maze experience at Holly Springs Homestead, a local family farming operation owned by Luke and Deedee Alston. Both Luke and Deedee grew up on a farm. The land they farm includes land originally owned by Luke’s great-great-grandfather, and the very land where Luke’s father was born. Holly Springs Homestead is recognized as a Century Farm by the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

My wife and I made plans to go to Holly Springs Homestead for this year’s Fall Fun on the Farm. It looked like it would be lots of fun. We wanted our granddaughters from Louisiana to be able to go with us, but the timing didn’t work out. We decided to go even if our grandkids couldn’t. The website description of the event tantalized us. “You can get lost in the corn maze, enjoy a beautiful ride through the country and see the sights on the hayride, admire acres of the sunflowers, learn something new at the Crops of Arkansas display or one of our many on-farm educational events, step back in time for some old-fashioned play in The Kids Farm, and experience a real pumpkin patch – see how they are planted, watch them in various stages of growth and take one home!”

The day we planned to go to the farm turned out cloudy, breezy, and overcast. As we pulled into the parking lot, a few drops of rain started falling. We decided to go ahead and experience the farm and the corn maze even if there were a few raindrops. We headed for the corn maze, but at the entrance to the maze, they were getting ready to leave on a hayride. During the hours that the Fun on the Farm is open, there is a hayride every thirty minutes. Since the hayride was ready to leave, we climbed aboard. The hayride travels along the outside edge of the corn maze and through the sunflower patch, the pumpkin patch, the barnyard, and the crops of Arkansas plots where we saw rice and cotton growing.

By the time the hayride was over, the rain had stopped, and the sky seemed to be clearing. We made our way into the corn maze. The maze covers six acres and is covered from one end to the other with winding paths. The corn is very tall, and there is no way to see anything except corn stalks and the path you are currently on. It didn’t take long for us to realize that trying to figure where we were on the tiny map they provided was almost impossible. We ended up going around in circles several times. We thought we were in a completely different part of the maze when we turned a corner a found ourselves at the exit. We had been having so much fun that we turned around and tried to find our way back to the entrance. By the time we found our way back to the entrance, the sun had come out and we were hot, sweaty, and thirsty.

It may sound corny, pun intended; but our corn maze adventure has parallels with our Christian walk. While walking through the maze, we learned to be prepared to change directions. In this life, you are going to have to be willing to change your course. In the cornfield, if we had decided that we would only go straight, we would have never gotten out of that maze. We had to be flexible enough to move out of the area we knew into a new area to get to the end. In the same way, God doesn’t want us to become complacent as we go through life. He wants us growing, and often that means taking us on a new path and learning new things.

It can be hard to understand where you are going when you are concentrating on what is directly in front of you. But when you rise above and see the situation from a different viewpoint, you will be able to see the path you have been taking all along. Once my wife and I found the exit of the corn maze, we were better able to understand the layout of the maze. When we knew where the exit was in relation to the treeline, we had a much better idea of our location in the maze as we made our way back to the entrance.

In Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) the Bible tells us to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” We can get bogged down in the worries and cares of this world and fail to see the way God is leading in our lives. The rest of your life is just like a maze. There will be many times that you will have to decide whether to go left, right, or straight ahead. It is important to have a plan, to seek out help. In 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV) Paul said, “I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

If you run aimlessly, make the wrong choices, and choose the wrong paths in life, you will waste part or all of your life. You will be angry and frustrated, and you will never reach the end successfully. But God has given you something to help you through the maze of life. You have the word of God, which is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, you will be lost in the maze of life without God's word. It sheds light on all your decisions so you can see what you should do. “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19 (NIV) The word of God and the prophecies it contains are the signposts that keep you going in the right direction in life. The only way you can successfully navigate the maze of life and have a successful exit strategy is to read the Bible and learn of Jesus, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what Jesus has done for you, and love and obey Him.  Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15 (NKJV) Don’t be lost in the maze.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Loose Screw - 10/11/2017

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


I volunteer at a local food pantry. Once a month we receive a shipment of food from the River Valley Regional Food Bank. The last time that we received a delivery, I met the delivery truck with a couple of friends of mine who also volunteer at the food pantry. After picking up the food and delivering it to the food pantry, we each went our separate ways. I headed back to work in my 1962 Rambler American.

As I pulled away from the food pantry, my Rambler started sputtering and running poorly. Because my gas gauge doesn’t work, I thought that I might be running out of gas, so I headed for the nearest gas station. It only took seven gallons of fuel to fill the Rambler’s tank. I knew that being low on fuel wasn't the problem. After filling the tank, I wasn’t able to keep the little car running enough to drive it. The engine would start, but it ran so poorly I couldn’t move the car.

After a few minutes, I decided that it wasn’t going to run, so I would have to walk back to my shop. Just as I was closing the hood, someone stopped and asked me if they could help. I told them that I could use a ride, so they drove me to my shop. I returned with my Dad, and we towed the Rambler back to the shop.

It was a couple of days before I had time to look at my Rambler. I suspected the fuel system, but when I checked it out, the fuel pump was working great, and plenty of fuel was being delivered to the carburetor. Even though I had rebuilt the carburetor several months ago, I took the top off to inspect the needle valve and jets. Everything looked fine.

When I checked the ignition system, I found that there was a very weak, almost imperceptible spark. What could be causing a weak spark, I asked myself. The points were brand new just a few hundred miles ago, and I checked that they had the proper gap. It wasn’t the points. I replaced the ignition coil and the coil wire. I still had a very weak spark. It wasn’t the coil. What could it be?

A few months ago I had a similar problem with the car, and after rebuilding the carburetor, replacing the spark plugs, replacing the points and distributor cap the problem was finally fixed when I replaced the condenser. Could the new condenser have gone bad already? I decided to change the condenser. When I was replacing the condenser, I noticed that the screw that attaches the condenser lead to the terminal of the points was a bit loose. I didn’t think too much about it, but when I was reinstalling the screw, I found that it was very difficult to get tight.

After installing the condenser, the little Rambler started right up and ran fine. I’m sure that the condenser was good, and that the problem all along had been the loose screw. Such a small thing had caused to much trouble. It made me think about how important each part of a car is if you want it to run properly. Just one small screw being a bit loose made it impossible for me to drive my car.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Many people feel like they are unimportant. They feel that their lives just don’t matter. Nothing they can do will make a difference in the world. They feel that they are just a small insignificant part of the world.

Even though the screw that fastens the condenser lead to the ignition points terminal is very small, if it isn’t doing its job the car can’t function. The same is true in God's Kingdom. 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT) tells us, "you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” In a physical building, a missing brick leaves a hole in the wall. God wants us to be a part of something so much bigger than just ourselves, but he wants us to know that we have an important part to play.

Another symbol that the Bible uses for believers is the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12,13 (NLT) tells us that “the human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

When you become a Christian, you become a part of the body of Christ. He is the head. He leads the body. But He needs you. He has a special purpose for you. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:18 (NIV), "God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." There are more than seven billion people on this planet, but God made only one you. You are unique. You are unlike anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. He made you because He wants someone exactly like you. He has plans for you. You are important and necessary. The  Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a  separate and necessary part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27( NLT)

Gentle Reader, many people today are experiencing feelings of insignificance because they compare themselves to others. There will always be someone who you feel is more important than you. There are many more important parts of an automobile than a small screw inside the distributor. But that small screw is so important that if it is loose, the automobile isn’t usable. We each have an individual purpose that cannot be compared to anyone else. You are a separate and necessary part of the body of Christ.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Butterfly Palace - 10/04/2017

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


The Butterfly Palace is a family owned attraction in Branson, Missouri. On my last visit to the area, I visited The Butterfly Palace with my sister and her family. In the butterfly aviary, which is designed to be a living rainforest, there are over 1,000 live tropical butterflies from around the world. Butterflies of all sizes and colors were flying everywhere and even lighting on us.

As we walked through the aviary, it was hard to decide where to look next. As a photographer, I was most interested in taking photos of the beautiful butterflies. While we were there, we took part in the daily butterfly release. The Butterfly Palace purchases butterflies in the chrysalis stage from around the world. Each chrysalis is placed in a plastic container. Every day, the butterflies that have emerged from their chrysalis are released into the aviary. The average lifespan of a butterfly is about one month, so the Butterfly Palace must release new butterflies to keep a large population in the aviary.

I enjoyed being a part of the butterfly release. People who are in the aviary at the time of the release are allowed to participate. Each butterfly is in the clear plastic container that has been the home of the chrysalis. Those of us participating were instructed to hold the container over our heads, remove the lid, and turn the container upside down, allowing the butterfly to go free. Some of the butterflies had to be coaxed out of the container after it was opened. My butterfly was eager to be free and flew out of the container before I even turned it upside down.

The butterfly release provides for some great photo opportunities. When the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its wings are wet, and the butterfly cannot yet fly. The wings must dry, and the butterfly must exercise flight muscles before it can fly. When the butterflies are released, they like to find a place to land and stretch out their wings. I took some beautiful photographs of these butterflies with their wings spread out.

Butterflies are born as an egg. Next, they turn into a caterpillar. This caterpillar will eat constantly and will grow through this stage of its life. As the caterpillar grows, it will molt or shed its skin. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it goes into a resting stage and becomes a chrysalis. When the chrysalis breaks open, and a butterfly comes out, the adult butterfly will begin the process all over again by laying eggs of its own.

Scientists refer to this process of transformation as metamorphosis. It is an amazing process that is difficult to understand. First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its tissues. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, and all the other features of an adult butterfly. One butterfly expert said, “The creation of the body of a caterpillar into the body and wings of a butterfly is, without doubt, one of the wonders of life on earth.”

Just like the rebirth of a caterpillar into a butterfly can be a difficult process to understand, so can the rebirth of a person. When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NLT) Nicodemus then asked Him, “how can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” John 3:4 (NLT)

The caterpillar’s metamorphosis provides a great illustration of a believer’s spiritual transformation. The caterpillar's main purpose in life is eating. It eats the leaves in its world just as we feed on the ideas of the world around us. In the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar appears lifeless. Paul described this stage of a Christians life in Romans 6:6 (NCV); “We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin.”

When the caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis, it is transformed into a completely new creature. When we recognize our sin, confess it, and receive God’s forgiveness, we are transformed into a new life in Him. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) tells us that, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Once the butterfly emerges, it does not return to the caterpillar state. When a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it flies; something it couldn’t do before. The butterfly drinks sweet nectar instead of gorging on leaves. The butterfly has a new life, a new purpose, a new way of feeding itself.

Gentle Reader, are you a new creation in Christ still trying to gorge on the leaves of this world? Are you still trying to crawl back inside the chrysalis to live as you once lived? Once a butterfly breaks free from the chrysalis, it is free to soar to new heights. It never goes back to its former way, of being in bondage in the chrysalis. Instead, it lives its life as God fully intended. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Waiting Tables - 9/27/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 27, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


For several years, I have been involved with the American Cancer Society’s Celebrity Waiter Event. Celebrity Waiter is an annual fundraiser where local “celebrities” are asked to wait on guests that they have invited to the event. Money is raised for the American Cancer Society by tipping the waiters.

In the past, I have been involved in organizing the event, but this year I agreed to be a “celebrity waiter” and help my wife wait on a table. It was an eye-opening experience. I have always appreciated the waiters and waitresses that serve me when I go out to eat. But after helping with just one table of eight people, I have a new found appreciation for those who wait tables for a living. During the evening my activity tracker logged over five miles.

Waiting tables is among the most common occupations in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two million people work as waiters and waitresses in the United States. They are a part of a food service industry that employs more than 7 million people. These people work hard to make it possible for Americans to enjoy eating out.

The term waiter, meaning a servant who waits on tables, was first used in the late 15th century in reference to household servants. By the seventeenth century, it also referred to those who worked in public inns and eating houses. Another term used for someone who waits on tables at a restaurant is server. Whatever term is used to describe someone who waits on tables, it is derived from being a servant.

Jesus talked a lot about those who serve. In Mark 10:43-45 (MEV) He said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever among you would be greatest must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Service to others is not a glamorous concept. Why do people choose to be a waiter or a waitress? It can be a demanding, draining job. I read a blog post by D. Conrad that told the story of life as a waiter. “I waited tables for thirty-nine years. I started out working six days a week for eleven years. Then four days a week for twenty years. The last eight years was three days a week. Each day was a nine-hour day. All days were very busy. One day my hands were hurting so bad my hips hurt my legs hurt. I just could not do it anymore. I had surgery for carpal tunnel, and shots in my spine. This job is very hard on the body. I hate not working, I loved the people and miss them.”

Why would someone want to spend their lives serving people? Is it because the job is easy? No, it’s not an easy job, but those who excel at it do so because they love serving people. I think that is what God has in mind for His children. He knows that service to others will bless us as well as the community around us. In 1 Peter 4:10 (ERV) Peter wrote, “God has shown you his grace in many different ways. So be good servants and use whatever gift he has given you in a way that will best serve each other.”

Service is a great way to put aside our selfish nature and become connected to others. When we start seeing the needs of others, it takes our focus off of ourselves. Serving others not only strengthens the bonds between us; it reflects the love of God.

As Christians, are we looking out for others the way we look out for ourselves? Do we put their needs ahead of our own? When we do serve others, we often try to serve better and harder if we serve in high-profile situations and are our efforts are noticed by others. When our service goes unnoticed, we aren’t motivated to further service. We want recognition for our service.

God made you for service, not for self-centeredness. In Philippians 2:3-7 (ESV), "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

Jesus modeled for us the ultimate example of serving others when He performed a task that was only done by the lowest of household servants in his day. In John 13:4,5 (NET) the Bible says that “He got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.” Jesus demonstrated his love for his disciples by serving them.

When we serve others, we demonstrate our love for them. To have a servants heart, we must be willing to do whatever needs to be done. God wants us to develop a lifestyle of service to others. Studies have shown that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Serving others can be a distraction from our own worries.

Gentle Reader, do you want to prosper and get ahead in life? Jesus said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35 (NKJV) “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus, and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” Ephesians 2:10 (TLB) To have a happy, meaningful and rewarding life we need to be of service to others. God planned it that way.

Once a Gangster - 9/20/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 20, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a day trip to Hot Springs with some friends and my sister. After a wonderful lunch at La Hacienda, we toured the historic bathhouse row in Hot Springs National Park. I have visited in the past and am intrigued by the history of Hot Springs.

The first permanent settlers came to the Hot Springs area in 1807. They were quick to realize the area’s potential as a health resort. By the 1830s, log cabins and a store had been built to meet the needs of visitors to the springs. By the 1880’s bathhouses were lining the streets of Hot Springs. The health resort industry led to Hot Springs becoming known as the "American Spa."

Along with the bathhouses, there were gambling establishments. From the Roaring 20’s until the end of World War II ten major casinos and numerous smaller houses operated in Hot Springs. Hot Springs became a haven for notorious criminals and mobsters, including Owen “Owney” Madden, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Al Capone. Word spread that Hot Springs was the perfect hideout for criminals running from police investigations. Al Capone and his bodyguards would rent out entire floors of hotels.

During that time, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone rose to infamy as the leader of the Chicago mafia during the Prohibition era. A gangster needs a good lawyer, and Capone hired one nicknamed "Easy Eddie." Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Al Capone out of jail for a long time.

Capone paid Eddie very well. He and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and paid little attention to the vicious crimes committed by his mob friends.

Easy Eddie had a son that he loved dearly. He saw to it that his son had the finest clothes, the fastest cars, and a good education. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

One day, Eddie made a difficult decision. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son a name with some integrity. He knew that he would have to testify against Capone, and he knew that the cost would be great, but he testified anyway. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street.

In his eyes, Easy Eddie had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. When the police found his body, they removed from his pockets a religious medallion, and a clipping from a magazine. It read: "The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still."

Let’s fast forward to World War II. Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.

After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to refuel the plane. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. He dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the ship, he saw a squadron of Japanese aircraft flying toward the American fleet.
The American fighter planes were all gone on a mission, and the fleet was defenseless. Commander O'Hare couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. He had no way to warn the fleet of the approaching danger. He decided that he must somehow divert the Japanese planes from the fleet. With no thought for his safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. His wing-mounted 50 caliber guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Commander O'Hare wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until his ammunition was gone.

Even though he couldn’t fire his weapons, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Commander O'Hare and his tattered fighter plane barely made it back to the carrier. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the story. It showed the extent of his daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft. This action took place on February 20, 1942, and because of his heroism, Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare became the Navy's first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town of Chicago would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade. O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named for Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare in tribute to the courage of this great man.

Gentle Reader, Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son. No matter what your past has been, it’s never too late to make a change. The Bible tells us about a gangster, a criminal, who made a change. “There were also two criminals led out with Jesus to be put to death.” Luke 23:32 (NCV) As he was hanging on the cross waiting to die, one of the criminals turned to Jesus and said, “‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:42,43 (NCV) God says, “’At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Winding Stairs - 9/13/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 13, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Our family spent a day hiking to the Winding Stairs area on the Little Missouri River over the Labor Day weekend. Winding Stairs is the name given to a series of bends and rapids causing the Little Missouri River to drop down in elevation. The rapids are formed by a narrow water gap through one of the novaculite ridges. The trail to Winding Stairs is a moderately difficult out and back trail with several river crossings. The trail is part of the Eagle Rock Loop Trail, a 26.8-mile loop through the rugged mountains of the area. Many hikers think that the Eagle Rock Loop is the best hike in the Ouachita Mountains, with its mix of rugged hills with hardwood and pines along with crystal clear streams.

Our planned destination was Raccoon Island. My granddaughters had named the spot Raccoon Island because on a previous backpacking trip to the area, a raccoon drug one of the backpacks away from the campsite. The day was perfect for hiking, partly cloudy and not too hot. The hike included several river crossings. We enjoyed wading across the river and cooling our feet. The scenery along the trail was delightful. As we neared our destination, I was fascinated by the unique rock formations in and along the river. The bluff overlooking Winding Stairs has spectacular views and is one of those places that defines Arkansas as the Natural State.

After hiking for several hours, we arrived at Raccoon Island. We took time to rest and to eat our lunch of sandwiches, grapes and trail mix. The Winding Stairs area of the Little Missouri River has several nice swimming holes, and we spent some time swimming before heading back to the trailhead. My granddaughters were having such a good time swimming that they didn’t want to leave. As we made our way back along the trail, my wife and I noticed that we no longer had the strength and stamina we had when we were younger. Although we were very fatigued by the time we made it back to the trailhead, our granddaughters seemed to have just as much energy as they had when we started our hike that morning. We were tired and sore, but it was a beautiful hike and an awesome way to spend a day with family.

When my son-in-law was planning the hike, he asked my wife and me to go along. My wife had some concerns about the difficulty of the hike. My son-in-law downplayed the difficulty of the hike and stressed the incredible beauty of the Winding Stairs area that would be our destination. He assured us that being able to see the natural beauty of the area would make the difficulty of the hiking and river crossings all worthwhile. After completing the hike, I found that even though the Winding Stairs area was breathtakingly beautiful, I enjoyed the journey as much as the destination.

It made me think about our spiritual journey. Many Christians are focused on going to heaven. That isn’t a bad thing to focus on. I want to go to heaven, and I hope that you do to. But shouldn’t my focus be on more than just mansions and streets of gold?

A friend posted the following encounter on Facebook. “Today an individual stopped me in a parking lot and asked me if I were to die today, right this very moment, do I know I would go to heaven. I took a second to gather my thoughts because I have always thought this to be a strange question; As if the entire point of the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and my salvation is going to heaven. Sure, I want to go to heaven someday, but I also want to be saved for today. I need salvation to be the father and husband that my kids and wife need. I need salvation to be a good teacher. I need salvation to preach the gospel. I need salvation to love my neighbor and enemies alike. I have had a lot of life to live since I was saved. Sure, heaven is in the mix, but right now life is what is on my mind. When I talk to the lost, life seems to be their immediate concern as well. Perhaps we need a different question when sharing our faith. Perhaps we should talk about living because life is ultimately what Jesus gave.”

Instead of presenting the gospel as something that will yield a future benefit we need to present it as something that has already benefited. Something that benefits us now. The rewards of the gospel are present tense not future tense. This changes faith from being something that we are rewarded for to a way we express gratitude.

Back in the 70’s, one of my favorite music artists was Evie. She sang a song that was titled, “If Heaven Never Was Promised to Me.” Here are some of the lyrics. “You may ask me: Why do you serve the Lord? Is it just for heaven's gain? Or to walk those mighty streets of gold? And to hear the angels sing? Is it just to drink from the fountain that never shall run dry? Or just to live forever, ever and ever in that sweet all by and by? But if heaven never was promised to me. Neither God's promise to live eternally. It's been worth just having the Lord in my life. Living in a world of darkness, but He brought me the light.”

The promise of heaven and eternal life is awesome, but God loves us and wants us to love Him now. He wants a relationship with us now not just the promise of one in the future.

Gentle Reader, Jesus wants to be with you. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” This promise is present tense. Jesus wants to come in now. He wants to be with you now. He has prepared a place for you in heaven, but He wants to be with you now, not just later in heaven.  He wants to give you a rich and satisfying life. He wants to do it now! In John 10:10 (NKJV) Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Restoration - 9/06/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 6, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


All of my life I have been around old cars. My Dad loves old cars and has always owned and repaired them. He has a large collection of cars from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. One of his favorite things to do is to visit with people who are interested in old cars and show them his collection. People from all over the U.S. and the world have stopped by his business to look at the cars.

Anyone in Mena who likes old cars looks forward each year to the Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run. Last month over 200 classic, antique and special interest cars were entered in the 42nd annual rod run held in Mena. I enjoyed looking at the cars and visiting with the owners of the vehicles and other car enthusiasts. As I visited with the owners of some of the cars, I was impressed by how much work they had put into their project, and by the attention to the smallest detail. You could tell that they loved their vehicle and talking about the process they had gone through to build such a fascinating car.

As I looked at the many beautiful cars lining the street, I realized that each one of these projects had started with a worn out car in need of restoration. To create these beautiful works of art takes a lot of time, energy, and money. It also takes a person with a passion and a vision of what could be. When they first purchased the car in need of restoration, they did so because they had a vision of what it could be.

I think that there is a parallel between beautifully rebuilt cars and our spiritual lives. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT) Just like the owners of the cars in the rod run loved an old car that was in need of restoration enough to purchase it and spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money to make it beautiful; God loves us in our broken down condition. But even though he loves us in our sinful condition, He doesn’t want us to stay in that condition. He has a vision for our lives. He wants to restore us.

In Job 33:26 (NKJV) The Bible talks about restoration. There it says, “He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.” God has a plan for each one of us. He plans to restore us to righteousness. The difference between you and I, and an old car in need of restoration is that the old car is passive. It isn’t part of the decision to restore. But you and I have to be willing to be restored.

Old cars that aren’t chosen for a restoration project eventually will rot and rust away until no one can see the possibility of saving the car and they end up abandoned or crushed and destroyed. Fortunately for us, God isn’t looking for just one project to restore, He want’s to restore all of us no matter what our condition is. “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.” John 3:16 (NKJV) God doesn’t want us to be abandoned and crushed by this life. He doesn’t want us to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV) tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Unlike the old car that is passive in the restoration process, we have a part to play in our restoration. God wants us all to repent. Repentance is saying to God, “I know that I need to be restored. I want you to restore me.” In Romans 2:4 (NASB) the Bible says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
What leads us to repentance? The Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV). “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow. My favorite verse of scripture is 1 John 1:9 (NKJV). It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What does it mean to confess? The dictionary says: to admit or state that one has committed a crime or is at fault in some way. To confess we have to admit we are wrong. The term repent, or repentance takes this idea a step further. The dictionary says that to repent is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin.

What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? We are led to repentance by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness and feel his love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, it makes us want to love him. When we love God, we want to please him. We want to be restored.

Gentle Reader, I hope that you will spend some time today reflecting on the kindness that God has shown you and tell Him that you are sorry for the things you have done to hurt Him. God has promised that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will restore us if we let Him.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Great American Eclipse - 8/30/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 30, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

On August 21st, my wife and I along with my Dad and a customer who happened to be at my business watched the eclipse of the sun. We took turns sharing the two welding helmets at the shop to safely watch the shadow of the moon march across the face of the sun. It was an amazing experience. During the peak minutes of the eclipse, there were light clouds that made it impossible to get a good photograph. But a few minutes later the clouds dissipated, and I could get useable photos by holding the dark glass from my welding helmet over the camera on my smart phone. I was happy to have a record of this incredible experience.

The eclipse was truly the great American eclipse. It was visible as a partial eclipse from all 50 states and as a total eclipse from a 70-mile-wide sliver of 14 states. The solar eclipse path of totality stretched from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. Everyone in the continental U.S. was able to see at least a fifty percent eclipse.

While total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth about every 18 months, This was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. The last one occurred on February 26, 1979. Not many people saw it because it clipped just five states in the Northwest and the weather blocked the view of the sun in most places. It had been 99 years since the last coast-to-coast eclipse. When the next total solar eclipse over the continental U.S. occurs on April 8, 2024, Mena, Arkansas will be in the path of totality. I’m excitedly waiting to see a total eclipse on that day.

On August 21st, large numbers of people across North America watched the eclipse. Because of the attention the eclipse received from the media, and the information went viral on social media, more people observed and photographed this eclipse than any other eclipse in history. There is no hard evidence on the number of people who watched the eclipse, but a CNN poll taken shortly before the eclipse indicated that about half of the US population planned to watch the eclipse.

About 12 million people live in the solar eclipse’s 70-mile-wide path of totality. An estimated seven million people traveled to the path of totality to have the opportunity to observe a total eclipse. Some friends of mine made reservations months ago in Missouri so they could view the total eclipse. In many locations, this large number of travelers created massive traffic problems. Over one million people traveled to Oregon for the eclipse, causing the worst traffic mess in Oregon history. In Kentucky, there were twenty-mile long traffic jams on the Interstate. One man reported that had been in a traffic jam for eleven hours.  Another tweeted that the Bluegrass Parkway interchange “might be the worst traffic jam in the world right now.”

Eclipse travelers in Wyoming made history. The sparsely populated state had the most traffic it has ever seen, with more than a million visitors. Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Doug McGee said, “Our highway system was taxed like it’s never been before. The roads just weren’t designed for that volume of traffic.” He added, “the number of cars participating in the mass exodus rivaled the 636,294 registered cars and pickup trucks in Wyoming as of 2016.”

Even though a large number of people viewed the great American eclipse of 2017, I know of a celestial event that will have many more viewers. Shortly before Jesus was crucified, “His disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?’” Matthew 24:3 (NLT) After giving His disciples many signs and much information, Jesus told them, “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30 (NLT)

No event in the history of the world has been more anticipated than the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Every generation of believers has believed that Jesus would return. When He was on this earth, Jesus promised His disciples that He would return. He said to them, “let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NKJV)

This promise was reaffirmed when Jesus ascended to heaven. He had gathered His disciples and given them some final instructions. In Acts 1:9-11 (NLT) we read that, “after saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’”

From that moment until now those who believe in Jesus have been waiting for the world’s most amazing celestial event. And It will be the most viewed event in the history of the planet. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.” Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Jesus is coming back to this earth to reward His people just as He promised and to take them to the beautiful home He has prepared for them. My prayer is that on that day, you will be among the people who say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (KJV)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Video Shoot Miracles - 8/16/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 16, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last month, the producer of the Advent Heralds Quartet contacted us about the possibility of using one of our classic cars. They were planning a video shoot in multiple locations in Texas, including Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, and Wimberley, for their upcoming DVD and wanted to feature a classic car. After several calls and reviewing photos of some of our cars, he decided to use the 1940 Plymouth.

I enjoyed meeting the producer, Craig, and his family when they came to pick up the car. I learned that the video was much more involved than I had originally thought. I had assumed that the car would be used in a music video for one song. The plan was to spend a week shooting video for the songs from an entire album. The 1940 Plymouth was to be used to help tie all of the songs together. The quartet members would discuss the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel; building on the messages of each song and tying it all together while driving in the old car.

Throughout the week, I enjoyed getting messages and photos from Craig about the progress of the video shoot and how the car was doing. The constant message that I got from him was how God was leading. Their schedule was very tight, and they had numerous problems with the weather and their vehicles. But in each instance, things worked out, and Craig gave the glory to God and even considered them miracles.

To begin with, he had planned to shoot with one cameraman. The group had a video director who loved to shoot solo, and that was his style. Not long before the video shoot he resigned and took another job, so to fill his place for this shoot, Craig reached out to another cameraman. The miracle was that this cameraman took the job on short notice, and said that he had two young men who had just returned from an extensive shoot in Europe who would love to come along and assist him for the experience. Craig said, “God knew what He was doing—we could never have made it without all three men on the team! Working as we did, to film as much as possible in the ‘golden hour’ lighting near sunup and sundown, we desperately needed the efficiency that three on the team brought. God is good!”

Craig added, “The greatest miracle, honestly, was the classic car. I had followed leads on several cars, and one seemed to really be settled. It was a friend of my cousin who lives in Wimberley, TX. However, just as I was so happy that the search for a classic car was over - I had talked at length with an owner in Tennessee, and another in Michigan and one in southeast Texas - I got the call that explained that their insurance would not cover anyone else driving the car. God provided Bob and Pat Lawry. They believed in the music evangelism project we were doing. Not only that—God does everything all the way—the car they were willing to loan us fit our project perfectly.”

Well, maybe the 1940 Plymouth wasn’t quite perfect. One morning I received a call from Craig. The day before, the Plymouth hadn’t cooperated. It was a very hot day, and the car overheated and refused to run. The starter wasn’t working, so they had to push it to get it started. He wanted to know if I had any ideas about what they needed to do to get the car to run.

Later, Craig told me, “we lost a lot of time pushing that dear car in the stifling heat. That night we all fervently prayed that God would fix that car for us. We had fallen so far behind in filming discussions—the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel story—building on the messages of each song and tying it all together. The next day we filmed with that car for almost eight hours, and it never gave us any trouble. We did have to roll-start it a few times, so we got some exercise pushing it, but aside from that—it purred along so faithfully that we could hardly believe it has been so stubborn in refusing to run the day before! God answered our prayers again!”

When Craig returned the car to us, he recounted to me what was probably the most dramatic miracle of the video shoot. It happened on the last day of shooting. Craig said, “we had been getting to bed quite late and getting up very early day after day due to our travel and filming schedule trying to catch the early and morning daylight hours. So, every minute of sleep was precious. I arranged for the crew to rise at 4:30 am that morning. However, rising a bit earlier myself, I started doing the math on the time and realized that I had made a real mistake. We could have risen a whole hour later and enjoyed that precious sleep! I realized this about the time that the crew began to get up and pack. So, I left our schedule unchanged, and we arrive at the Alamo for what was probably the most critical shoot a bit early, for our 5:30 AM permit.

We had the permit for a whole 4 hours, and we generally only need 2 hours to shoot a song. However, the sentry on duty at the Alamo greeted us by saying, ‘You guys better hurry up with that piano and whatever singing you plan to do—a real downpour is due to hit here in half an hour!’ I must say, one look up into the night sky did reveal dark, ominous clouds, so we got into high gear and filmed for all we were worth, with God’s help. Raindrops were just beginning to fall as we put away our gear and ran to drop the ramps to load the classic car, which we had filmed driving to and from the Alamo. In just the few minutes it took us to load the classic car, the rain fell so hard that those of us doing that job were soaked all the way through to our socks—we were completely drenched! It was a miracle, a real miracle that we had awakened and started our day when we did! God had arranged that I am sure. We had had to book that film permit weeks in advance, and it was the most regulated and difficult permit of our whole production. If we had missed that 30-minutes to film that song—we could not have had the Alamo in our production. But, God knew all of that and arranged everything for us.”

Gentle Reader, on the day of the Alamo video shoot, San Antonio experienced very heavy rains, up to five inches in a few hours. Numerous people had to be rescued and homes evacuated due to flooding. But God arranged a video shoot so that the rain would not stop it. If God is concerned with a video shoot, He will also be concerned with your life. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 (RSV)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Press Gangs - 8/09/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 9, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


While I was doing genealogy research, I came across an interesting story from many years ago. When I was in school, I learned that one of the causes of the War of 1812 was that Americans were outraged by the British Royal Navy’s practice of impressment, or removing seamen from U.S. vessels and forcing them to serve in the British Navy. Impressing American sailors became a common practice, with an estimated 15,000 American sailors impressed into the British Royal Navy in the years leading up to 1812.

Although I knew about the impressment of American sailors, I was not aware of the impressment of sailors from the Maritime Provinces in Canada. The Crown claimed a permanent right to seize men of seafaring experience for the Royal Navy. The men pressed into service were usually sailors in the merchant fleets, but would often be ordinary apprentices and laborers.

The Royal Navy used press gangs to force men into service. Press gangs operated in British North America with the legal backing of the British Parliament. A commissioned officer would lead the press gang with ten or so sailors under his command. A ship would come to a seaport, and if they needed men, the press gang would go ashore and force men to serve on the ship.

As you can imagine, these press gangs were extremely unpopular. They took men from their families by force and left many cities with a diminished work force. The use of press gangs sparked resistance, riots, and political turmoil in seaports such as Halifax, St. John's, and Quebec City. In spite of its unpopularity, the Royal Navy increased the use of press gangs in coastal areas of British North America. In response, sailors and residents fought back with a range of tactics. They sometimes reacted violently.

The story that I uncovered happened in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1794. In October of that year, the warship Boston was ready to set sail from St. John’s after taking on supplies for a long voyage. The Boston was short eighteen men, so Lieutenant Richard Lawry led a press gang ashore to impress men into service. Lieutenant Lawry and several other sailors were escorting two recently impressed sailors when a mob attacked them.

According to reports from that time, the crowd behaving in a “riotous and tumultuous manner,” liberated the two pressed sailors and then beat “Lieutenant Lawry in so unmerciful a manner that he died the next morning of the wounds he had received in this fray.” Lawry’s murder was the only large-scale press gang disturbance in Newfoundland’s history and is considered one of the most serious crimes ever committed in Newfoundland. The incident brought press gangs into the spotlight, and they were used much less after the murder of Lieutenant Lawry. The last use of press gangs in Newfoundland was in 1815.

I’m glad that I don’t live in a place and time where it is legal to kidnap people and force them to work on a ship. The United States has other ways to keep its military forces properly manned. I was in high school during the Vietnam War. The military used the draft to keep the armed forces at full strength.

In 1969, President Nixon ordered a lottery system for selecting men to be drafted. I remember the tension that all of us boys felt when the lottery dates were announced. The draft was ended on Jan. 27, 1973, just a little more than a year before I turned eighteen. The relief that I felt was immense. Because I have experienced the possibility of being drafted, I have empathy for those who feared the press gangs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Now, the United States operates under an all-volunteer armed forces policy. The military relies on recruiters to find men and women interested in the military and by explaining the benefits of military service, entice them to join.

God doesn’t use a draft to get people to serve Him, and He doesn’t use press gangs. God created us to be in a mutually loving relationship with Him. He doesn’t force us into a relationship, but He gives us the free choice to decide for ourselves to love and serve Him or not.

God says, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT) God wants to draw us to Himself with loving kindness. He pursues us and tries to win us over with His goodness, His mercy, and His blessings. When we reject God through disobedience and ask Him to leave us alone in our sin, God does not force us to change. He will pursue us, but when we ask Him to leave us alone through our disobedience or our direct requests, He does what we ask.

God doesn’t force His love on us, and He does not force us to love Him. He doesn’t use press gangs or the draft to obtain followers. God draws and woos us through His kindness, to win our affection. Since God wants to have a genuine loving relationship with us, He gives us the freedom of choice to love Him or not.

Gentle Reader, God will never force you to serve Him, but He wants a relationship with you. He loves you, and He longs for you to love Him in return. “We love Him because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV) David understood this when he wrote in Psalms 27:8 (NLT)  “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” I hope that you will respond to God’s love for you and volunteer to join His forces. God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Loving Maggie - 8/02/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 2, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last week we had a special house guest. Her name is Maggie, and she is a sweet girl with long beautiful hair. Although we haven’t known her for very long, we have become very close. She enjoyed her stay here very much. I don’t know when we have had a more pleasant house guest.

Every day when I would get home from work, Maggie would look at me with her big beautiful eyes as if to say, “I have missed you so much.” All evening Maggie wanted our attention. Her favorite place to be was on my lap. Maggie was well mannered and obedient. She has a way about her that makes you feel special.

When I would come downstairs in the morning, Maggie would be there prancing around wagging her tail and waiting to be let outside. If she strayed to the edge of the yard, all I would have to do was say “Maggie,” and she would come right back. One morning Maggie spotted a squirrel and started to chase it, but with one word she abandoned the chase and came back to me. She was very obedient and eager to please.

Every moment Maggie was awake she wanted to be with us; she wanted us to pay attention to her. Although she is a border collie and a fairly large dog, she loves to be on your lap. She not only wants to sit on your lap, but she wants to lay back and if it were possible to melt into you. As much as she wanted to be with us, when it was time to go to bed she would get in her kennel without being forced. She sleeps in a large wire kennel and when she is told to go to her room, she immediately goes into her kennel.

Over the years I have known many dogs, but Maggie is the most loving, devoted, and obedient dog I have been around. It is hard to describe just how much Maggie loves you and wants to please and obey you. As I was reading my Bible, I came across a verse that I thought described Maggie. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV) Maggie loves with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her strength. And in John 14:15 (NKJV) Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Maggie was eager to please us by obeying our commands, whether it was to go into her kennel or stop chasing a squirrel.

I think that Maggie is a good object lesson on the kind of relationship God wants with us. He doesn’t want obedience that comes from fear; He wants obedience that comes from love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (NKJV) Do we have that kind of relationship with God?

Just like Maggie puts every part of her existence into loving her people, God wants a total relationship with us. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength.

In the Bible, the heart is representative of the seat of our emotions. Although we know that thoughts and emotions take place in our brains, we still use the concept of the heart as the seat of emotions. When we send a text to someone we love, we might add a heart emoji. When we are committed to someone we say, I gave them my heart. If that relationship ends, we say we have a broken heart. God wants us to be emotionally committed to Him. He doesn’t just want us to have a dry, formal knowledge about Him; He wants us to love Him with all of our heart.

God wants us to love him with all of our soul. In the Bible, the “soul” refers to one’s whole being as a living person. For example, Genesis 2:7 tell us that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (KJV) In the New King James Version and almost every other English version Genesis 2:7 reads, “and man became a living being.” God wants us to love Him with every part of our life.

We are to love God with everything that we are. Both the heart and soul have to do with the very center of our lives as living human beings. We are to commit everything to God and bring everything under His control, giving ourselves to Him entirely for the rest of our lives. This includes our desires, our feelings, our thoughts, our affections, our time, our money, our plans, our purpose and our goals.

To love God with all our strength means we are to love Him one hundred percent. It means that we are to not only love Him emotionally, but we are to show our love by our actions. James 1:22  (NIV) says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Loving God with all our strength is to love with our resources, our abilities and our time. It is love in action.

But God doesn’t ask us to produce this love for Him out of thin air. The Bible says that “we love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV) And that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV) When we become aware of how much God loves us, our natural response should be to love him back with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Gentle Reader, Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength? In John 14:15 (NKJV) Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Let’s resolve to be as devoted as Maggie; to love Jesus with our entire being, keep His commandments, and want to spend time with Him.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Playing With Slime - 7/26/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 26, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


This summer, our granddaughters have been spending time with us. Each one gets to spend a week at Grandma’s house. They like the extra attention that comes from being the only grandchild at Grandma’s. My nine-year-old middle child granddaughter was the last visitor to Camp Grandma. While she was here, one of her favorite activities was making slime with Grandma.

Every night of the week she made slime. She made plain slime, colored slime, glitter slime and fluffy slime. She enjoyed making the slime and playing with it after it was made. Grandma helped her find recipes for slime on the internet and Papa was sent to the store to buy the ingredients. Some recipes worked better than others.

Her favorite recipe used one bottle of Elmer’s Clear School Glue with ½ tablespoon of baking soda mixed in and then one tablespoon of contact lens solution added. To this basic recipe, she would add food coloring and glitter to make different varieties of slime.

She isn’t the only kid that likes making slime. Slime is everywhere. Kids around the world are a part of this fad. Whether they live in South America, Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand or just about anywhere in the world, the slime craze has spread like wildfire through social media.

Many stores can’t keep the glue needed to making slime in stock. There are many recipes and video tutorials for making slime on the internet. Instagram alone lists more than 2 million posts with the hashtag #slime. The slime mania has led to a spike in sales of Elmer’s School Glue. Caitlin Watkins, a spokeswoman for Elmer’s Glue, said the company had seen a recent surge in liquid glue sales “due in large part to slime mania.” The firm plans to increase production of Elmer's White School Glue, the most popular glue for making slime.

According to Wal-Mart spokesperson Michelle Malashock; “Walmart has seen a rise in glue sales, and we are rolling out a plan to respond to the increase to make sure kids and parents can find the glue they need to have fun with the latest crafting trend.”

I wondered what was so intriguing about this squishy, oozing, not quite solid, not quite liquid substance. Why had this become a worldwide fad? I asked my granddaughter why she liked making and playing with slime. I told her that it was a disgusting substance with no point or purpose. She said, “but Papa, it’s fun.”

I think that one of the things about slime that is so interesting to kids is that it seems like something they shouldn’t be playing with. It seems like something that would ruin your clothes or stain your hands, but you can squish your fingers through the slime, and none of it gets on you. It has the feeling of playing with something that is forbidden.

In our Christian experience, we often go looking for slime. We want to play with things that are forbidden to us. We want to see how close we can come to the edge of what God has forbidden. We want to see if we can enjoy the pleasures of Satan without it sticking to our hands and staining our clothes.

In James 1:14,15 (NET) the Bible shows us what happens when we desire to play with Satan’s slime. “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. James 1:14,15 (NET)

How often do we allow ourselves to play with sin? How often do we tell ourselves that we’re justified in our behavior? We tell ourselves that the slime is fun to play with and it doesn't have any lasting consequences, but Jesus tells us that there are consequences. In the parable of the sower, He talks about Christians who allow their desires for other things to choke them out. “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”  Mark 4:18,19 (NKJV)

Several years ago my wife and I were driving on a dirt road not long after a heavy rain. We came up to a tee in the road, and I asked my wife which way we should go. She didn’t answer me, so being the smart aleck that I am, I pulled straight through the intersection right up to the edge of the road. Because of the recent heavy rain, the edge of the road was very soft. As I pulled up to the edge of the road, my front tires sank deep into the mud. I put the car in reverse and tried to back up; the front wheels just sank deeper and deeper into the mud. We were stuck. I had to get the small jack out of the trunk of the car and with great difficulty jack the car up and find something to put under the tires so we could back out. By the time I finally got the car out of the mud, I was covered in mud myself.

Gentle Reader, when it comes to our Christian experience, God doesn’t want us to be playing in the slime. He doesn’t want us to get close to the mud. But if we do, He will rescue us from the mud, mire, and slime of sin. Psalms 40:2 (NIV) says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” I’m thankful that God has set my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. I want to stay away from the mud, mire, and slime. How about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fireworks and Liberty - 7/19/2017

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


On the 4th of July, my wife and I were invited to a cookout at my cousin’s place. They recently purchased a house and acreage that sits on the top of a high hill. The property has commanding views of the Ouachita Mountains to the south and the Kiamichi Mountains to the west along with the broad valley below.

After watching a beautiful sunset and being entertained by our own private fireworks show, we sat on the deck and watched fireworks from one end of the valley to the other. There were so many fireworks that we didn’t know where to look next. It was truly a spectacular sight.

As I watched the fireworks and thought about what the 4th of July celebrations meant, I wondered why we shoot off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. Since I have a small personal computer, aka a smart phone, with me at all times, I looked up the history of fireworks and the 4th. I found out that fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777, to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence one year earlier. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.”

When, we as Americans, think about the Fourth of July, we think about liberty. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. One of the most remembered lines is, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I have been noticing that although Americans want liberty, they are becoming less likely to want to extend liberty to others.

When I was in school, I was taught that the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since the Pilgrims arrived millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a place where everyone was free to practice his faith.

Unfortunately, this isn't true. The arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600's was a response to the persecution they had experienced in England, but the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not tolerate opposing religious views. Their colony was a dictatorship that allowed no dissent, religious or political.

People who disagreed with the official theology of the colony were banished. Catholics and other non-Puritans were banned. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for standing up for their beliefs. The Puritans did not understand the principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others.

True religious freedom in America started with the vision of one man, Roger Williams. Governor Bradford of Massachusetts wrote that Williams fell "into some strange opinions which caused some controversy between the church and him." In October 1635 Williams was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy. He was then ordered to be banished. In the spring of 1636, Williams and a number of his followers from Salem began a settlement. He called it "Providence" because he felt that God's Providence had brought him there.  He said that his settlement was to be a haven for those "distressed of conscience.”

Roger Williams believed that any effort by the state to dictate religion or promote any particular religious idea or practice was forced worship. He colorfully declared that "forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God."

Are your feelings on religious liberty like those of Roger Williams, or are they more like the Puritans?  The Puritans believed in religious liberty. They just didn't believe in it for others.  If you haven’t thought much about religious liberty – and we seldom do if our liberties aren't being taken from us – spend some time today thinking about it.

Do you believe in religious liberty for those with whom you disagree? What about other Christian denominations with different practices? What about the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu or the Wiccan? What about the agnostic or the atheist. Do you believe in religious liberty for them?

If you do believe in religious liberty for all, you will not make disparaging or hateful remarks about anyone. John Wesley said, “Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment since every man must give an account of himself to God."

It is a good thing to do what we can to stand up to those governments that are trampling on the liberties of Christians around the world, but will we be as vocal when the liberties of others religions are taken from them.  If we truly believe in religious liberty, we must be advocates for anyone whose liberties are threatened.

God wants all to come to repentance and be saved, but He will not force us to come to him. Free will to obey or disobey is not only biblical but essential to man's relationship to God.  He wants us to love, obey, serve, and worship Him and to do so by choice. God allows us to choose Him or to chose not to follow Him. Joshua told the Children of Israel, “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14,15 (NRSV)

Gentle Reader, God doesn’t want any obedience, worship, or love that doesn't come willingly from the heart. He wants you to willingly choose to serve Him. If God so freely gives liberty – even to do what is wrong – we should be willing to give religious liberty to all.