Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Keeping the Lawn Mowed - 05/24/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 24, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Spring is a wonderful time of the year. One of the reasons that I moved from Colorado to Arkansas is that I don’t like to be cold. Spring brings with it warmer weather and the end of winter, so I look forward to spring every year.

There are many things about spring that I enjoy. When the redbuds and the dogwoods bloom, they remind me how much I enjoy living in Arkansas. I love to take a ride on country roads just looking at the trees and wildflowers. Driving through town when the azaleas are blooming is great. When spring comes, there is something else that we can look forward to. The grass begins to grow.

When the grass begins to grow, it means that the yard has to be mowed. In my business as an auto glass installer, I get busy during the mowing season. Lawn mowers and weedeaters break a lot of glass that has to be replaced.

In the past, it has been my responsibility to keep the churchyard mowed at my church. We have a large churchyard, so it takes quite a few hours to mow. I had to mow during the evenings after I got off work. It took two or three evenings a week to keep the churchyard looking good. I enjoyed mowing with the riding mower; it was just difficult to find the time. Finding several evenings a week to mow was never easy. I was relieved when it was no longer my responsibility.

Riding on a mower gave me time to think. What else would I do while riding back and forth across the churchyard? One evening while I was mowing, my mind started thinking about how my devotional time with God and my mowing time were similar. In my busy life, it is difficult to find the time to spend with God, just like it is difficult to find the time to get the mowing done.

The Apostle Paul knew that it could be difficult to find the time to spend with God. When he was writing to Timothy, he warned him about becoming so busy that there wasn’t time for spiritual exercise. In 1 Timothy 4:7,8 (AMPC) Paul gave Timothy this inspired advice. " Train yourself toward godliness, [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.

Just like it is important for me to find the time to get the yard mowed, it is also important for me to find the time for what Paul calls spiritual exercise. What was Paul talking about when he said that spiritual exercise was important? Spiritual exercise is Bible reading and study along with prayer. That is talking to God through prayer, and listening to him through reading and studying the Bible.

In Colossians 3:1,2 (NRSV) Paul says, “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  There are many ways to focus your mind on " the things that are above.” Just like different people have different ways to exercise, there are many ways to exercise spiritually.
For physical exercise to be effective, you need a regular plan. The same is true for spiritual exercise. Have a plan for your time with God. Don’t just exercise if you have a few extra moments. There is no set amount of time that is proper for personal devotions. You have to decide how much time you can realistically commit to each day. Make sure to include prayer in your spiritual exercise plan.

Prayer is simply communication between you and God. Talk to Him, tell Him about your problems, tell Him about your needs and desires. Don’t just pray for yourself, be sure to include prayers for the needs of others. “Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.” James 5:16 (WEB)

Our spiritual exercise needs to include more than just asking God for help. God created us to praise him. Psalms 106:1 (NKJV) urges us to, “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Another aspect of spiritual exercise is listening. Some Christians don’t realize that prayer includes listening. “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words.” Proverbs 4:20 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, have you noticed what happens when a yard misses a mowing or two? It begins to look bad. The same thing can happen to our spiritual life. If we miss our spiritual exercise, we begin to get flabby and out of shape. Like a yard that hasn’t been mowed our life begins to look out of control. The longer we let it go, the worse it gets. For a neat and trim life, regular devotional time spent with God is a must. The next time you are mowing your yard, (I know it will be soon), think about your spiritual life. Are you spending enough time with God to keep your life neatly trimmed?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Moonshots - 5/10/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 10, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


When I attended school during the 1960’s, I had two passions that consumed me. I loved baseball. I chewed lots of bad gum to collect baseball cards. As much as I loved baseball, what intrigued me the most was space exploration.

My heroes were the astronauts in NASA’s space program. I read everything about them that I could get my hands on. In 1969, my interest in space was at a fever pitch. Everyone was talking about the race to land on the moon. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, the entire world was captivated. Every newspaper covered the story. I soaked it all in. I couldn’t believe what a marvelous world I was living in. The moonshot was a part of pop culture. After watching the Apollo 11 landing on TV, the Moody Blues drummer, Graham Edge, penned the poem "Higher and Higher," which was used to open their next album. "Blasting, billowing, bursting forth, with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes. Man, with his flaming pyre has conquered the wayward breezes.”

As I listened to these words, I realized even as a boy that this optimism that space exploration would make the world a better place wasn’t the way things would be. I read in my Bible in Obadiah 1:4 (NLT), “’But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,’ says the Lord.”

As a Christian, I had always looked at space exploration as a way to learn more about the awesome things God had made. I was excited by the new discoveries and what they could show me about how awesome God is. As I studied science and read about space, I always kept God in the picture.

The Apollo 11 Moonshot was an amazing achievement, but does God care about moonshots? Somebody will always come along and do it better, faster and higher. What God cares about is you. “The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

The term moonshot has entered into America’s vocabulary. Although it refers to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, it is now most commonly used to mean fantastic, almost impossible to achieve, the best, reaching the highest point. In modern business usage, a moonshot is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit. But there is another use of the term moonshot that predates even the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Meet Wally Moon, major league baseball player. It is 1954 and Wally made the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training roster. He had already determined that if he did not make the team, he would head back to his native Arkansas and take a teaching job that he had been offered. Wally had his Master's Degree in teaching. He was ready to pursue his second career if baseball didn’t work out. Wally not only made the team, but at the end of the season, he was voted the National League Rookie of the Year.

Wally was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 1959 season. He was concerned about batting in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because right field was 440 feet away, making it difficult for a left-handed batter. However, the left field seats were only 251 feet away, protected by a 42-foot high screen. Wally adjusted his batting stance to emphasize hitting to left field. He developed a swing that he described as an inside out golf swing, to launch the ball up and over the 42-foot high screen in left field. The results were very successful. Dodger announcer, Vin Scully, called the towering home runs moonshots.

When Wally Moon retired from baseball, he returned to Arkansas to teach and coach at John Brown University. A friend of mine was a student of his. One day as Professor Moon was teaching, two girls were talking in the back of the class. Professor Moon was agitated with them for disturbing the class. He picked up an eraser and with a perfect strike, hit one of the girls on the forehead creating a cloud of chalk dust. They paid attention for the remainder of the class. I think that just maybe we can call the eraser strike to the forehead a moonshot.

What is your moonshot? What is your most important goal? People set goals for different areas of their lives such as careers,  finances, and spiritual growth. Is it your goal to have a lot of friends? To be popular? To be good at your job? To be healthy and happy? It is your ultimate goal that determines the direction of your life.

Jesus gives us some guidance on our goal setting in Matthew 6:33,34 (CEB) “Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We are all in pursuit of something. Everyone has a goal, and that goal determines the direction of their life. Paul wrote about his goal in Philippians 3:14 (NCV), “I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.”

Gentle Reader, What is you moonshot? What is your ultimate goal? Just like the Apollo 11 moonshot, we need to put our focus on the heavens. 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 (VOICE) explains what our moonshot should be. “You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.”


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Causing a Splash - 5/03/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 3, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


My wife and I enjoy visiting Eureka Springs. It is our favorite place for a weekend getaway. We try to go there several times a year. It is a beautiful three and a half hour drive from home. The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and houses. The old downtown section of the city has an alpine character with well-preserved Victorian storefronts.

Not long ago we spent a weekend in Eureka Springs with my sister and her husband. We try to spend a weekend together at least once a year. As we traveled toward our destination, it started to rain. Before long the weather had deteriorated, and the rain became severe. Visibility on the interstate was very poor. Along with the heavy rain, the big trucks were constantly splashing the smaller vehicles. The bad driving conditions made the trip to Eureka Springs very tense.

When we arrived, it was still raining hard. Our plans were to meet at Mud Street Cafe for lunch.  As we drove down Main Street, there were several inches of water running down the street. After a great lunch, Mud Street Cafe is one of our favorite restaurants; we headed out to do some shopping. That is my wife and my sister went shopping while my brother-in-law and I tagged along. Shopping in crowded stores is not my favorite thing to do, so I was waiting outside the store. Because it was still raining, I was standing in the doorway that was covered by an awning. As the cars made their way down the flooded street, the spray from the wheels would come up onto the sidewalk.

Occasionally a car would drive past going a bit too fast, and the water would splash all the way to the doorway we were standing in. We decided to find another place out of the rain before we got wet from being splashed. The rain became lighter as the afternoon progressed, but water ran down the streets the rest of the day.

The next morning we were greeted with a light drizzle. Even though it was a dismal day, we didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits. The ladies went for massages at Basin Park Hotel, while my brother-in-law and I visited Inspiration Point and Thorncrown Chapel. For lunch, we decided to go to the Aquarius Taqueria. The food there is inspired by the street food of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their specialty is tacos made with fresh ingredients on handmade tortillas. Our server was very friendly. As we were visiting with her, she related a story about something that had happened to her the day before.

When her shift ended, there was still a steady, persistent rain. As she stepped out onto the sidewalk to wait for her ride, a car came speeding down the street creating a large rooster tail spray that soaked her. She was drenched from head to toe. She didn’t have a change of clothes with her, so she had to make the thirty-mile trip to her home uncomfortably wet and cold.

The driver of the car that splashed our server suffered no consequences from their actions. They probably weren’t thinking about how much they were splashing as the drove down the flooded street. They may have never known how much discomfort they cause our server. But as she made the long trip home soaked to the bone, she was very aware of her discomfort.

Our decisions and actions affect others. We never sin in a vacuum; our sinful actions have an effect on the people around us. Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion states, for every action, there is a reaction. Sin affects the spiritual well-being of the person who has sinned, but it also affects his or her relationship with others. Every sin you commit can hurt someone.

There is some excellent counsel found in Titus 3:1,2 (NIRV). “Remind God’s people to obey rulers and authorities. Remind them to be ready to do what is good. Tell them not to speak evil things against anyone. Remind them to live in peace. They must consider the needs of others. They must always be gentle toward everyone.”

For every choice we make, for every action we take, there will be a reaction. When you are about to make a choice, think of the consequences of that decision and ask yourself, “how will this decision affect those around me?” We should consider the needs of others. We should be gentle towards everyone.

Our sinfulness means we have the capacity to hurt others. We hurt one another with the words we say and with the things we do. Throughout history, human beings have hurt each other. When we sin, intentionally or unintentionally, we are dangerous to those around us. In Ephesians 4:29 (NTE) Paul gives us some good advice. “Don’t let any unwholesome words escape your lips. Instead, say whatever is good and will be useful in building people up, so that you will give grace to those who listen.”

Gentle Reader, we need to be aware of how much our words and actions influence the people around us. Every day we are tempted to make decisions that we think will be the best thing for us but could have a negative effect on others. Before we make decisions, we need to ask ourselves, “will my choice harm other people?” Be careful not to “splash” others as you go through life. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31 (NASB)