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.