Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Grandkids - 02/10/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 10, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

When my daughter was a little girl she loved it when the family got together. My parents, siblings, both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles lived nearby. My daughter wanted the whole family to be together all the time. When we got together, she didn’t want anyone to leave.

Now that she is grown with a family of her own, she still loves it when we all get together. At least once a year, either at Thanksgiving or Christmas, we are all together here at Grandma’s house. Her three daughters have followed her tradition of loving family get-togethers. They look forward to spending time at Grandma’s house.

As I have gotten older and become a grandparent my grandkids have become a very important part of my life. I am constantly looking forward to the next time I will be able to be with them. Helen Garner, one of Australia's most respected writers, said, “The best thing that's ever happened to me, bar none, is having grandchildren and being part of their lives.”  I have to agree with her.

Last weekend my wife and I spent the weekend with my son and his family. We had a great time with our 16 month old granddaughter. Because of the 400 miles separating us we don’t get to see her as often as we would like. In the past she has been a bit shy around us. This visit she had a great time with her Grandma and Papa. She wanted to spend time with us and in the process wrapped our hearts around her little finger. Even though it’s only been a short time since I have seen her I am longing to see her again.

When I think of my grandkids, four granddaughters and another granddaughter on the way, I realize how much I want to be with them. I look forward to the next time that I will be able to see them. It reminds me of one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. In John 14:1-3 (NKJV) Jesus said, “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.”

Jesus tells us that he will come again because he wants us to be where He is. I like the way that John 14:3 is translated in The Voice, a dynamic equivalent translation that reads like a story, “I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together.”

Just like my daughter loves for the family to be together, Jesus wants His family to be together with Him. His prayer to His Father on the evening He was betrayed and arrested is recorded in John chapter 17. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one… Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.” John 17:20,21,24 (NLT)  Once again Jesus tells us that he wants us to be with Him.

Knowing that Jesus wants us to be with Him should make us feel special.  When grandkids know that you love them and want to be with them it makes them feel special; it makes them want to be with you. Jesus makes it very clear that he wants to be with you.  Do you want to be with Him? As much as Jesus wants to be with you it is still your choice. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.” Revelation 3:20 (NCV)

Gentle Reader, Jesus wants to be with you. He wants you to be where He is. He knocks at your door.  Will you open the door? If you do He has promised to come again and take you home with Him. “God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3,4 (NLT)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

George the Sea Lion - 2/03/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 3, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

Recently my wife and I traveled to the Oregon coast for a family reunion. My brother and sister-in-law provided the family with beautiful condos right on the ocean. I had a great time walking along the beach and watching the waves come crashing in.

One day while we were there we visited Newport. We spent our time in the Historic Bayfront district. Bayfront is a working waterfront that services Yaquina Bay, a busy harbor that is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Oregon. The turn of the century historic buildings of Bayfront house shops, art galleries, chowder houses, restaurants, and tourist attractions. I enjoyed the feeling of taking a step back in time and trying to imagine this bustling port in times past.

My favorite activity of the day was watching the sea lions. The winter sea lion population in Newport has increased tremendously in the last five years. The sea lions haul out on docks, rocks and anyplace accessible in the water. The wooden sea lion docks on Newport’s Bayfront have provided a haul-out for sea lions for over 18 years. I enjoyed observing these amusing and interesting animals close up.

Because of the large numbers of sea lions in Newport this winter, they completely covered every dock. Many of the sea lions spend their time trying to sleep while others are barking to show their dominance. While I was watching I noticed a smaller juvenile that was swimming in the water near the docks. He kept trying to find a place to haul out of the water onto the docks but every time he would be kept from getting on the docks by larger males. He kept my attention as I watched him try to find a place on the docks. I became attached to this sea lion and his mission and named him George.

I watched for 15 minutes as George kept trying and trying only to be rebuffed at every turn.  Finally he was able to haul himself up onto a cable that was attached between two floating docks.  Once he was on the cable he kept slowly and carefully inching his way onto the attached dock.  After a while George was able to get his front flippers onto the dock.  By carefully maneuvering he was able to get most of his body onto a corner of the dock. I cheered him on; “Atta boy, George.” As he was trying to get enough room to actually be able to lie down he drew the ire of a couple of occupants of the dock who slowly moved closer to the edge and forced George back into the water.

I felt sorry for poor George.  The rest of the time I spent watching the sea lions he was never able to find a place to haul out of the water. No one would make room for George.

Watching the sea lions and their interactions with George reminded me of the way I have seen a lot of people act. Many people feel shut out from society. They don’t seem to be able to get a seat at the table. Sometimes Christians remind me of the sea lions who had a place on the docks. They want to keep certain groups of people from joining them. They won’t associate with them.

In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells three stories; the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the prodigal son.  If we read the first three verses of the chapter it tells us why Jesus told the stories. “The tax collectors and sinners all came to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to complain: ‘Look, this man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this story.” Luke 15:1-3 (NCV)

In each story Jesus wants us to understand that he loves and cares for everyone. He demonstrated that all people are welcome at the table of God’s kingdom.

In Jesus, the outcasts of society have hope. Those that the religious community marginalize can find Him extending a hand, inviting them back into the community with dignity and affection. When you study the life of Jesus you see that no one ever opened a wider door of hope and love to the human race.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) No invitation could be more inclusive, more welcoming. Those who customarily feel shut out are told that all are welcome to come to Jesus.

The love of God is inclusive. God’s salvation is offered to everyone no matter what their background is or what they have done in the past. His grace gives everyone the same options: to believe or not to believe, to trust or not to trust.

Gentle Reader, if you study the teaching and example of Jesus you will see that he was a champion of the oppressed.  His example was one of unconditional love and He was against all exclusionary practices. Let’s resolve to follow his example.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I'm Sorry - 1/27/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 27, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. I’m sure that every parent has used this technique. Tell your sister you’re sorry. “I’m sorry.” Did that make me sorry? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught.

In 1970 the number one movie in the U.S. was “Love Story.”  The movie is the story of Oliver and Jenny.  Oliver comes from an upper class family and is heir to a fortune. At college he meets Jenny, a working-class student. They quickly fall in love.

Jenny reveals her plans for the future, which include studying in Paris. Oliver is upset that he does not figure in the plans. He wants to marry Jenny and proposes. She accepts, and Oliver reassures her that their differences will not matter. Oliver's father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny. They decide to get married against the wishes of Oliver's father, who cuts his son out of his life.

Without his father's support, they struggle to pay Oliver's way through Law School. Jenny gets a job as a school teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position in a New York law firm. They are ready to start a family, but when they fail to conceive they go to the doctor. After many tests they find out that Jenny is terminally ill. She begins costly treatment, and soon Oliver feels that he has to seek financial relief from his father. Jenny's last wish is made when she asks Oliver to embrace her tightly before she dies.

The catch phrase from the film is "Love means never having to say you're sorry.” The line is spoken twice in the film: once in the middle of the film, by Jenny, when Oliver is about to apologize to her for his anger, and as the last line of the film, by Oliver, when his father says "I'm sorry" after learning of Jennifer's death.

The line has been repeated in various contexts since. It seems to imply that when you love someone you always behave so that you'll never hurt their feelings and thus you'll never have to apologize. I think we all realize that in real life true love means that we must say I’m sorry.

What is there about a loving relationship that makes us want to say I’m sorry when we have hurt the other person? What about our relationship with God? Do we tell Him, “I’m sorry?  If we do, is it because we are afraid of Him?

God doesn’t want us to say I’m sorry because we are afraid of the consequences.  He wants us to say that we are sorry because we love him. 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? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? No, 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 truly say I’m sorry 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? Is it fear? Is it to avoid hell? Is it to gain the rewards of heaven? None of those are good reasons to say I’m sorry.

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.

Gentle Reader, I hope that you will spend some time each day 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, if we tell Him that we are sorry, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oregon Coast Aquarium

On our recent trip to Oregon we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. It is a great aquarium that also has outdoor exhibits with sea otters, seals and sea lions, and a seabird aviary. The aquarium opened it doors to the public in 1992.

The newest exhibit at the aquarium is Secrets of Shipwrecks. The exhibit takes you on a journey through artificial reefs that shipwrecks create. Replicas of real artifacts discovered in historic shipwrecks from the Red Sea to the Caribbean are part of the watery exhibits.

In the seabird aviary we saw Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres and Black Oystercatchers.

I had a great time at the aquarium and enjoyed taking photographs.

If you are ever on the Oregon coast I can recommend a visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Oregon Coast

Every couple of years my wife and I travel to the Oregon Coast for her sibling's reunion. Her sister and brother-in-law provide us all a wonderful place to stay, great food, and transportation. Our condos sat on a bluff looking out over the ocean.

Every morning I enjoyed getting up early and walking along the beach as the day began. I love the sights and sounds of the ocean.

While we were at the coast, a winter storm blew in. The rocky Pacific coast had a special beauty as the power of the storm driven waves crashed ashore. The wind blew so hard that it was difficult to stand up but I didn't let the bad weather keep me from having a good time and taking photos.

My wife had a great time visiting with her family. None of us let a little bad weather dampen our spirits.

One of the most interesting and picturesque attractions in the part of the Oregon coast that we were visiting is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse took several years to build and was first lit August 20, 1873. The lighthouse still functions and uses its original 1868 French-made lens which is visible 19 miles out to sea.

On our last day there we had a break in the weather. I got up early and drove a couple of miles up the coast from our condo to Siletz Bay where I knew that I would have an eastern view. I was hoping for a pretty sunrise and I wasn't disappointed.

I'm looking forward to my next visit to the Oregon coast.