Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tolerance - The Mena Star

This is my article as published in the April 17, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.


On March 19th, Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church died. He was known as a preacher of hate.  His followers were known for their opposition to homosexuality and for picketing the funerals of soldiers.  They believe that God kills soldiers to punish a nation that tolerates homosexuality. They would picket soldiers funerals with signs that read, “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates You,” and “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.”

After Pastor Phelps death I did see some hateful comments and Facebook posts, but I saw something else that surprised me.  One prominent homosexual leader said, “I believe in showing love to my enemies and treating people with grace even when they don’t deserve it. I pray for [him] and his family just as I pray for those he harmed".

Another mentioned that instead of celebrating the death of Phelps, he recognized that Fred Phelps had a family who loved him and would be sadly missed by many people. And that even though there were strong disagreements with Phelps on many levels, there would be no gloating or rejoicing over his death.

Two days after Pastor Phelps died his followers picketed at 17-year-old singer Lorde’s show in Kansas.  Counter demonstrators unraveled a banner that said ‘sorry for your loss’ as a response to their ex-leader’s death.

In a blog post titled A Time for Tolerance, Pastor John Bradshaw addressed the passing of Pastor Phelps with these words.

"Some Christians—who by definition must subscribe to Jesus’ teachings regarding manifesting love towards others—find it impossible to love homosexuals, or to demonstrate toward them even a modicum of tolerance or kindness. I suspect some of this has to do with the Internet age: it is easy to be hateful when you might be geographically removed from the object of your scorn, and the expression of your vitriol is conducted via a computer keyboard. But many Christians—and I recognize that ‘many’ certainly does not equal ‘all’—treat homosexuality with a special type of hatred, and homosexuals as the worst of sinners.

There is little wonder that many people are turned off by Christianity when they witness “Christians” treating others with hatred and scorn. One prominent British personality has stated publicly that he could never be a Christian because Christians are so brutally unkind to those with whom they disagree.

I’m certainly not advocating or excusing homosexuality. As I read the Bible I see homosexuality as being contrary to the will of God. But so is dishonesty. So is pride. So is lying. And so is being hateful. In expressing hate towards gays, many “Christians” are guilty of a sin towards which God cannot—and will not—turn a blind eye.

As hard as it may be, God calls Christians—commands Christians—to love everyone.  And until we do, we are no better than those we criticize and condemn".

Pastor Daniel Darling states, "we must not allow our protest against values with which we disagree to overshadow our responsibility to show Christ's love for the world. It may very well be the person who offends us the most whom God is in the process of saving. And our gracious response might be the bridge that the Spirit uses to usher him from death to life".

Let’s follow the example of Jesus and love sinners and hate the sin in our own lives. John, the disciple that Jesus loved, tells us in 1 John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love”.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Norton Art Gallery

Last weekend my wife and I visited the Norton Art Gallery Gardens in Shreveport, Louisiana with our daughter and her family.  The gardens are known for their azaleas and last weekend was peak time for them.

The gardens contain over 15,000 plants, including approximately 100 native and hybrid varieties of azalea. These blossom into gorgeous colors including white, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, and even some bi-colored blooms in the early spring.  Along with the azaleas are flowering shrubs, including sweet spire, dwarf abelia, and loropetalum, and lovely trees including birch, corkscrew willows, Crimson Queen maples, Bloodgood maples, dogwoods and redbuds. Several small streams tumble over rocks and waterfalls as they make their way toward the large ornamental pond at the center of our gardens.

While we were in such a beautiful place we took photos of our grand daughters.  They loved being outside on such a beautiful day.

We had such a good time at the gardens.  The weather was perfect and the azaleas couldn't have been more beautiful.  It was a day I will never forget.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Five Years Ago

Mena Tornado 2009 23

Five years ago today the face of Mena changed drastically. An F3 tornado damaged a large section of town. 100 houses were destroyed and 600 damaged. Over 10,000 trees were destroyed.

I wrote the following paragraphs a few hours after the tornado hit.

Tonight at around 7:30 the tornado sirens sounded here in Mena. Gina and I went to the safe place in our house, the downstairs hallway. About that time our electricity went out. The storm passed without damage here at the house. We were thankful that we were spared.

After the storm passed and the stars came out, I decided to drive into town to see if anyone had electricity. When I got to downtown, I started to see storm damage and saw that the authorities were not letting people proceed to the north side of Mena.

I drove to my parents house to see if they were OK, and they were fine with no damage to their house or property. I drove on to the church but saw no damage there. I thought that the storm may not have been to bad, but by the time I returned home, the phone was ringing off the hook with reports of severe damage.

The first news reports stated that the Polk County Sheriff's Department reports one person was killed after a tornado swept through the town Thursday night.

We received a call from a friend telling us that our good friend Deanna had a lot of damage to her house, and her car was totaled. Just before the storm hit, Deanna was on the phone with Gina telling her that she was in the closet and she was scared. We have not been able to talk to her since. We don't know what we will find when we are able to get into the the area. Just a couple of blocks from her house, there were 20 or more people in the Masonic Lodge when it collapsed. There is one known fatality on the street where Deanna lives.

We have had friends staying with us this evening, because they were not able to get home. The National Guard is in town and not letting anyone into the severely damaged area. There was damage at Rich Mountain Community College, and at Wal-Mart. There is extensive damage at U.S. Motors where Gina operates the Credit Union.

I need to go to sleep, but probably sleep won't come. I don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Here are photos that I was able to take two days after the tornado. Pictures can't really give you the feel of the actual scene.









I want to dedicate this post to the memory of those who died in the tornado; Anna Cress, Judy Lobner, and Albert Shaw.

Anna Cress, Judy Lobner and Albert Shaw

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mulberry Manor

One of my favorite places to stay is Mulberry Manor.  This 1800's rambling farmhouse is an amazing place to stay.  It received its name from the area it is in.  The community of Mulberry was formed in 1860 near a local wagon road between Sparta and Castor Creek Louisiana.  In 1880 a local doctor, E. N. Warren filed an application for a post office.  The post office operated  until 1900 when it was closed down and transferred to Alberta and Castor.  

Mulberry Manor is now the residence of my daughter and her family. This historical marker is just a short ways down the road.  From the information they have been able to gather, It seems that Mulberry Manor was built by the owner of a sawmill operation sometime between 1860 and 1880.

My daughter with her husband and three daughters now enjoy the country living that Mulberry Manor offers.  They are constantly working to improve the house and the farm.  They grow a large garden and have started an orchard with lots of fruit trees.

Mulberry Manor is a busy place where everyone has to pitch in and help.  The girls love being outside and helping with the animals.

Mulberry Manor has chickens, bees, a miniature cow and even a donkey.  The animals are a big part of what makes Mulberry Manor so special.

The Mulberry Manor property also has beautiful flowering trees, wildflowers and ponds that are great for bird-watching.  

I get to spend this coming weekend at Mulberry Manor.  Spring is one of the best times to visit.  I can hardly wait!

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday some friends of ours showed us Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge, an amazing natural area that I had never heard about before even though it is only about 50 miles from us.

The Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1994 and is located about 30 miles north of Texarkana, Arkansas and 10 miles southeast of De Queen, Arkansas. Pond Creek is made up of various oxbow lakes, sloughs, and bottomlands hardwood areas along the Little and Cossatot Rivers.

Pond Creek was created in order to protect the wetland and bottomland hardwood habitat and to serve as a habitat for neo-tropical migratory birds. It also serves as an important nesting habitat for wood ducks and wintering habitat for other migratory waterfowl. It is located where the Mississippi and Central Flyways intersect.

The forested wetlands of the refuge are used by migrating and wintering waterfowl during the fall, winter and spring. Mallards, gadwall, American wigeon and wood ducks are among the over 15 species of waterfowl that traditionally use the seasonally flooded wetland habitats of the refuge. Other species seen less often include northern shoveler; blue and green-winged teal.

The Pond Creek Refuge provide outstanding habitat for an abundance of birdlife, particularly neotropical migratory songbirds. Neotropical birds use the refuge as a rest stop during fall and spring migration to replenish energy reserves for the long journey to and from wintering areas in Central and South America. This habitat is also used for breeding and nesting during the spring and summer for many of these species.

We spotted a Cooper's Hawk  an American Kestrel, and a number of Kinglets, but I couldn't tell if they were Golden-crowned or Ruby- crowned.  Our friends had seen an alligator on a previous visit but we didn't see any on this trip.

This was our first visit to Pond Creek, but it definitely will not be our last.  The day was cloudy, cool and a bit rainy.  I want to return on a day that will be a bit better for photography.

If you love quiet secluded natural places, I highly recommend a visit to Pond Creek Natural Wildlife Refuge.