Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rainbow Cheerios

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 18, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

When my oldest granddaughter is riding in the car with me, she often asks if we can listen to the those Southern Stories. She is referring to a podcast that I like to listen to called Tales from the South. The podcast features true stories written and told by the Southerners who lived them, in front of a live audience.

One of her favorite stories is “Rainbow Cheerios” by Paul Strack. Paul started his story with the words, “Cool – You have Rainbow Cheerios!” He goes on to explain that on the night of April 26, 2011, tornadoes hit the Mayflower, Arkansas area. His 13-year-old daughter learned that her friend’s house had been destroyed.

He reached out to the family and asked, “what can we do to help?” What the family needed most was someplace for their teenage daughters Rachael and Taylor to stay for a few days. Paul recounted, “with three teenagers of our own, and a 10-year-old to boot, we have a pretty good understanding of the adolescent attitude. What was odd and completely unexpected, was the positively bubbly, effervescent attitude that these two brought with them. And to have this attitude after immediately being displaced was nothing short of remarkable.”

When Paul told them how sorry he was for their loss, Taylor replied, “Oh well, what are you gonna do? It’s just a bump in the road.” Rachael quickly chimed in, “Yeah, they will bulldoze our house, and we will get to rebuild. And anyway, Mom finally gets to get her new carpet.” He couldn’t believe their positive attitude.

The next morning at breakfast, Paul heard Rachael exclaim, “How cool!” Rachael repeated – “How Cool! You guys have Rainbow Cheerios!” In the podcast, Paul explained, “we often buy our more popular cereals in bulk and empty the contents into plastic containers so they stay fresh. (No, my own Fiber One is not one of these.) But we often do buy Fruit Loops. You know, those sweet and sugary rings full of all the colors of the rainbow. Cheerios have the Honey Nut version, the Frosted version, and the Banana Nut version and now even the Multi-Grain version, but no rainbow version. Except through the eyes of Rachael.”

Two days after her house was destroyed by a tornado, she was still able to find complete joy – in a bowl of multicolored cereal. Her attitude reminds me of the admonition found in James 1:2 (NIV); “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James goes on to explain, “you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3,4 (NIV)

We are to consider the troubles that we are going through pure joy, not because the trouble is pleasurable, but because it helps produce patience within us. There is at least one good thing happening to us in the middle of our trouble. Our suffering is more than just pain. God has a purpose, and that purpose is always good. “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.” Romans 8:28 (VOICE) We can consider all things joy because God is working in all situations, even the most painful, for our salvation.

When our lives are filled with trouble, sorrow, and grief; we must be able to look to the future to find the joy. Jesus is our example. “Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.” Hebrews 12:2 (VOICE)

Joy is more than just feeling good. Joy has to do with the acceptance of our present circumstances and deciding to have a positive attitude. It is our positive assessment that God is still in control of our difficult circumstances, and in the end, all things work together for our good. “When my worry is great within me, Your comfort brings joy to my soul.” Psalms 94:19 (NLV)

Charles R. Swindoll writes, “the single most significant decision I can make today is my choice of attitude.” If you let negative attitudes such as anxiety, envy, anger, or bitterness dominate your mind, those attitudes will lead you to make decisions that will affect your life in negative ways. But if you choose with God’s help to have a positive attitude, your life will become positive as a result.

In 1988, Singer-Songwriter Bobby McFerrin recorded the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy," The lyrics say, “in every life, we have some trouble. But when you worry you make it double. Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy now.” Whenever you have trouble, avoid reacting negatively and instead choose to respond positively. You can’t control situations or people, but you can choose how you’ll respond to them.

Gentle Reader, “be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12 (NCV) “I heartily recommended that you pursue joy, for the best a person can do under the sun is to enjoy life. Eat, drink, and be happy. If this is your attitude, joy will carry you through the toil every day that God gives you under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 (VOICE) So, what are you gonna do?  When you hit a bump in the road where do you find your Rainbow Cheerios?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Two Maggies

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 11, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The two dogs ran through the door and out into the backyard. As I stood on the deck watching the dogs, one of them ran around the side of the house where I couldn’t see her. “Maggie,” I yelled, “get back over here.” The dog that was still in the yard looked at me with big sad eyes, wondering what she had done wrong. The problem was that both dogs were named Maggie.

Three months ago, Maggie the Golden Retriever came into our lives. A friend was looking for a good home for a pet she could no longer keep. She suggested that we keep Maggie for a week while she was out of town and see if we liked her. We fell in love with Maggie on the very first day. She has become a big part of our lives.

This week we have been dog sitting our friend's Border Collie named, you guessed it, Maggie. The two Maggies have become inseparable. They love to play with the dog toys, but whatever toy one of the Maggies has, the other one wants. They like to play tug of war. Wherever one of the Maggies is, you will find the other one.

Having two dogs with the same name is a problem. The dogs are confused when their name is called. We are confused also. We have finally resorted to referring to them as Maggie One and Maggie Two, so we know which dog we are talking about.

Just like the two Maggies, we are often confused by the voices we hear calling our name. There are many voices in the world. The world is a noisy place. If you are somewhere and everybody is talking at the same time, it is pandemonium, and you can’t understand what is being said. In Romans 12:2 (GNT) the Bible says, “do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”

To let God transform us, we need to be able to discern His voice from the many voices that are shouting for our attention each day. Jesus talked about his followers hearing his voice. He said that “the sheep know their shepherd’s voice. He calls each of them by name and leads them out. When he has led out all of his sheep, he walks in front of them, and they follow, because they know his voice. The sheep will not follow strangers. They don’t recognize a stranger’s voice, and they run away.” John 10:2-5 (CEV)

Jesus calls us each by name. He knows even more than our name. He knows our thoughts, feelings, longings, fears, and needs. Jesus is tenderly calling you today. The old hymn, “Softly and Tenderly,” is a favorite of mine. “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling. Calling for you and for me. See on the portals He's waiting and watching. Watching for you and for me. Come home, come home. Ye who are weary come home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling. Calling, O sinner come home.”

Whether or not you can hear Jesus calling you often depends on your ears. My ten-year-old granddaughter has been staying with us. She loves to listen to books on tape. When I want her to listen to me, I must tap her on the shoulder and get her to take the headphones off, so I can talk to her. Too often when Jesus is calling us, we can’t hear Him because of all the things that have our attention besides Him. Jesus says, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:9 (NKJV)

Psalm 23 is one of the best-known passages in the Bible because it comforts us with the image of a good shepherd caring for His helpless sheep. Imagine the sheep grazing contentedly while the shepherd walks among them.  At just the right time, he stands, calls them to follow him and gently calls out the names of his sheep. Every one of them has a name, and he knows them all. Each sheep hears that familiar voice and his name and follows the steps of the shepherd.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalms 23:1-3 (NKJV) “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3 (NKJV)

What an amazing thought! Jesus knows me by my name. To Him, I'm not just a number; I belong to Him, and He knows my name. When I feel unloved or persecuted and afraid, I feel peace knowing that Jesus knows me, that he knows my name, and that He is calling me. I remember the verse that says, “He called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (WE)

Gentle Reader, I hope that you hear Jesus calling your name and that you can recognize His voice, in the middle of this noisy world. God says, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (CSB) He wants us all to be able to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 (NIV)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Low Gap Cafe

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 4, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

As we drove through a remote section of the Boston Mountains, we came around a bend in the road and saw the sign that said Low Gap. The town consisted of a church and a cafe. We were hungry, so we stopped at the cafe for supper. Its old country exterior and remote location made us think that the food would be simple. The number of cars parked out front made us think that the food was probably good.

My wife and I were spending the weekend in the Buffalo River area to celebrate our forty-third anniversary. Along for the trip was our seven-year-old granddaughter. We had a very enjoyable time attending the Buffalo River Elk Fest and visiting Jasper, Ponca and Boxley Valley. We love to explore backwoods dirt roads and ended up in out of the way places like Erbie and Murray. Our granddaughter loved swimming in the Buffalo River. She went swimming at the Ponca low water bridge and the Steel Creek Campground. It was after an afternoon of swimming that we ended up at the Low Gap Cafe.

People were waiting to be seated when I walked up to the door of the cafe. Because there were only three of us, we were soon seated in the outdoor gazebo section of the small restaurant. We ordered Fettuccini Alfredo, Eggplant Parmesan, and a Portobello Mushroom that was steamed and stuffed with tomato, spinach, and mozzarella cheese; served over saffron rice and sauteed zucchini. The gourmet food freshly prepared by a chef trained in New York City was a surprise.

As we were enjoying our meal, Joey de Lago and Stefanie Behe performed live, playing an eclectic mix of music. Their repertoire was wide-ranging, from old standards to Latin music to music from the roaring twenties. Whatever song they were playing, Joey ’s acoustic guitar had a Latin flavor. His parents fled to the U.S. from Cuba in 1959 during the Cuban Revolution. His eyes still sparkle when he plays Cuban music, and he makes sure you know how much he disliked Fidel Castro.

As we ate our meal and listened to the music, I heard something familiar. It was music from the movie, Jungle Book. They were playing “I Wanna Be Like You.” “I wanna be like you. I wanna walk like you. Talk like you, too.” Those lyrics reminded me of my two an a half-year-old great-nephew. On his last visit, his Mom and Grandma brought him by my shop to say goodbye before they traveled home to Missouri. He loved being at my shop. I was busy with customers while he was here, but my Daddy showed him how to pump up the floor jack. He loved pumping up the jack and letting it down. Daddy was changing tires on his trailer. Whatever Daddy was doing, my great-nephew was right beside him copying his every action. Daddy let him help tighten the lug nuts on the trailer wheels. He turned the four-way lug wrench until every lug nut was tight.

As I watched my great-nephew wanting to do everything my Daddy was doing, I thought about how Christians should relate to Jesus. We should want to be like Jesus. We should want to do the things that Jesus did. The Apostle John wrote, “those who claim to belong to him must live just as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6 (NIRV) And Peter declared, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NRSV)

A popular catchphrase in Christianity is, "What Would Jesus Do?" WWJD is found on jewelry, emblazoned on bumper stickers and has made its way into popular culture. The only way to determine what Jesus would do is by learning what Jesus did. 2 Peter 3:18 (KJV) says, “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Whatever decisions we make in life, whether large or small, can best be made by asking ourselves what Jesus would do.

Christian author Stephen Mattson writes, “Followers of Jesus must ask themselves an important question: What’s the point of Christianity? Because in the big scheme of things, is the purpose of having a Christian faith primarily for gaining political power, or creating and enforcing laws, or hoarding wealth, or living as comfortable a life as possible? Or is it ultimately about bettering and saving humanity?” He goes on, “the reality is that the good news of the gospel cannot be heard and accepted unless we emulate Jesus. The Bible shows us that Jesus is the best example of who to follow, so why aren’t Christians doing so?”

If we are to follow the example of Jesus, how should we relate to others? We should have compassion. It seems to me that many Christians have lost their compassion. As I look around, I don’t always see Christians dealing with others with compassion. I am more apt to see hate than compassion. Following the example of Jesus and having compassion on sinners is very liberating. It allows us to leave the judging up to God while we practice the self-sacrificing love He demonstrated on the cross. It allows us to hold ourselves to a high moral standard without feeling that we must hate those who do not see things the way we do.

Gentle Reader, God calls us to live like Jesus did, no matter what anyone else says. Every decision we make is an opportunity to walk closer with God or a step farther away from Him. God wants us to want to be like Him. Don’t be one of the many Christians who choose to trust, and follow, and put their hope in so many other things besides Jesus. In the end, are we as followers of Jesus following his example: Loving our neighbors, and even our enemies, to the very best of our ability? God wants to change us; but before he can, we have to want to be like him. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wheaties With Sugar

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 27, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The two men sat across from each other listening intently. They had a lot of catching up to do. The last time that they had talked to each other had been seventy years ago. They reminisced about their grade school days when they attended the Morehead School. They had fond memories of those years.

One of the men was my Daddy. While he was visiting a cousin who still lives in southeast Kansas where Daddy grew up, he mentioned that he wondered about his classmates from so long ago. His cousin asked, “what are some of their names?” As Daddy mentioned some names, his cousin said, “I know Marvin, he lives not far away. Would you like to go see him?” Daddy said that he would like to try and see Marvin.

I can’t imagine what it was like for Marvin to answer the door and find a classmate from seventy years ago standing there. Daddy and Marvin had been good friends during those grade school years, but once they graduated in 1948, they went to high school at different schools. They had not seen one another since graduation in 1948, until the afternoon that Marvin answered his door and found Daddy standing there.

They had a wonderful time visiting and remembering stories from when they were just boys. As they recalled their experiences at Morehead School, they fondly remembered a teacher, Miss Muchmore. She was a single lady who lived with her parents on a farm about ten miles from the school. Over the course of the school year, she would have each one of her students come to her parent's farm and spend the night. Even after all of these years, Marvin remembered every detail of his visit to Miss Muchmore’s home.

Marvin grew up in a large family. Like most of the kids in his class, he grew up poor. There was never enough money for extras. Even though it had been over seventy years, Marvin’s eyes still lit up when he remembered breakfast at Miss Muchmore’s house. She served him Wheaties, and he loved Wheaties. He never got Wheaties at home. If they had cereal at all, it was corn flakes; because corn flakes were cheaper than Wheaties. As he remembered how much he enjoyed the Wheaties, he also talked about being able to put a whole spoonful of sugar on them. During World War II sugar was rationed, so Marvin’s mother would only let them have a tiny bit of sugar on their cereal if any at all. To Marvin, that breakfast of Wheaties with sugar was a meal fit for a king.

I’m sure that Miss Muchmore had no idea of the impact she was making on Marvin’s life. How could she know have known that morning when she served him a bowl of Wheaties and told him that he could put a whole spoonful of sugar on them, that he would so fondly remember her kindness over seventy years later. She was simply following the Biblical command; “Be kind and loving to each other.” Ephesians 4:32 (NCV)

In today’s world, kindness is underrated. Often, kindness is considered a weakness. It’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. If you want to get ahead in life, you can’t afford to be kind. But we as Christians, if we are lead by the Holy Spirit, will be kind. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22,23 (NKJV) When we are kind to others, even as small a kindness as a bowl of Wheaties with a spoonful of sugar, we are bearing the fruit of a Spirit-led life. We may never know how our kindness affects someone.

There are many simple things we can do that seem little but can accomplish so much. One of the easiest is to put a smile on your face. When you wear a smile, you become approachable, and that can sometimes make all the difference in the world to another person. A kind word is a small thing, but you never know how it will affect someone.

We also may never know how our hateful and uncaring acts affect others. Many devout Christians become mean, critical, and bitter when they talk about politics. Insults, name-calling, and slander are the order of the day. They don’t seem to remember that the Jesus they claim to worship said to “love your enemies.”

There is no need to tell everyone how Christian you are. Just act like one. Be kind, forgive, love, be merciful, help those who are abused, rejected and scorned. They'll get it. “You are chosen by God. He loves you and has made you holy. So then, care for one another. Be kind. Do not be proud. Be humble. Be patient.” Colossians 3:12 (WE)

Gentle Reader, kindness is a choice. It is something we can choose to put on every day. We appreciate a kindness shown to us. And by the power of God’s spirit, we can show kindness to others. Christians spend a lot of time arguing about politics and theology. Each discussion has a time and place. But following Jesus means doing simple things like being kind. What a different world it would be if Christians followed Paul’s counsel to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.” Romans 12:10 (NKJV) Show someone kindness today, even if it is just a bowl of Wheaties with sugar; “Your kindness will reward you.” Proverbs 11:17 (NLT)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Running the Rapids

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 20, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The little group gathered on the banks of the Yampa River. You could see the concern on their faces as they prepared for another day on this wild river. The Yampa River is the only major tributary in the Colorado River system that still runs wild and free; without a single dam along its course. It flows free with run-off originating from the melting snows and glaciers of the Colorado Rockies. The river is only runnable for a few weeks each year and permits are very limited, which gives the canyon a feeling of secrecy and surprise.

Today was the day that they would run the most challenging rapids on the Yampa, Warm Springs. Before 1965, the Yampa River was as a family-friendly river with only a couple of big rapids that were pretty straightforward. But on June 10, 1965, a flash flood created a huge rockslide that filled the river near Warm Springs with boulders and transformed a minor wave train into one of the most famous river rapids of the West.

Warm Springs is one of those rapids that everyone has a story about; you don’t just run it, it’s always an experience. It is the most talked about rapid in the main Yampa Canyon and inspires fear in even the most veteran boaters. Beneath a towering 1,700-foot sandstone cliff, Warm Springs Rapid drops through boulders for about a quarter of a mile, creating intensely churning whitewater. It is rated among the ten biggest drops in the country. The little group were not experienced whitewater rafters. The knew the reputation of these class IV rapids but were not sure what to expect. As they gathered on the banks of the river before taking off in their six rafts, they prayed for safety, guidance, and help from God.

From a distance, Warm Springs is just a band of whitewater on the river’s horizon line. But as the group got nearer, the sound of the rapids reverberating off the cliff roared louder and louder. They pulled to the right bank where the passengers were dropped off so they could walk around the rapids. But each boat had to be piloted through the rapids. While they were preparing to run the rapids, they were approached by a group that said they were with a joint search and rescue training exercise between the National Park Service and the Moffatt County Sheriff’s Office. Would they like some assistance as they ran the rapids? They were relieved and happy to accept the help.

The most dangerous aspect of the rapids are two roiling holes where submerged boulders make the current churn backward. The first boulder in the middle of the rapid has been dubbed, Godzilla. The last hole in the rapids is named Maytag and can flip rafts and work over boaters. According to the website riverbrain.com; “If you miss the entrance and setup on warm springs, you are guaranteed a white-knuckle beating in Godzilla and probably Maytag holes.”

My son-in-law piloted the first boat into the rapids. He said, “that feeling when you see the rapids up close is an adrenaline rush like no other.” When he tried to navigate the turbulent waters of Godzilla, he was thrown out of his raft. As he was being swept down the river, the rescue team was yelling at him, “swim, swim to shore.” He said, “as soon as I hit the water, it seemed that every ounce of energy was sapped from my body. Even though I knew that my life depended on it, I couldn't find the energy to swim to shore.” After what seemed like an eternity to my son-in-law, someone from the rescue team was able to throw a rope to him and pull him to safety. After getting to shore, he collapsed and just lay there for several minutes before he had enough energy to stand. The ordeal had sapped every bit of energy from him.

Four of the remaining five boats, including the one piloted by my daughter, made it through. But one of the boatsmen was thrown into the water and had to be rescued. After getting all of the boats through the Warm Springs rapids, the group got back into the boats and made their way on down the river. As they floated on through the canyon and looked at the amazingly beautiful scenery, they thought about their prayer that morning. They had prayed for safety and God’s help. They had made it safely through the rapids even though there had been tense moments. After being rescued, my son-in-law found out that the joint search and rescue training exercise was a yearly training and had been scheduled a year ago.

As my son-in-law and his family were recounting their experiences on the Yampa River raft trip, and especially their struggles at the Warm Springs rapids, I thought of the scripture found in Isaiah 65:24 (NKJV). “Before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” The little group had no idea when they were praying that morning that God had answered their prayer one year before they asked for His help. “Before they call, I will answer.”

Gentle Reader, David wrote about his near-drowning experience in Psalms 69:1-3 (NIV). “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.” Every one of us has experienced the need to be rescued. God has made a promise to us. "Call to Me, and I will answer you." Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)  When God answers our call, he will bring us to a place of safety. “He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalms 18:19 (NLT) When you call on God, you can count on Him to answer you, rescue you, and save you.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Daddy's Day

Today is Daddy's 63nd Father's Day. I know because I have been around for every one of them. Some people may have a Father, but I have always had a Daddy. I have spent most of my life working alongside my Daddy.  Here is proof.  I learned the auto body trade very young.

How Long Have I Been Sanding

Through the years some of the things that I have learned from my Daddy are the importance of having God in your life, and how to work.  Here are some photos of Daddy working through the years.

30 Model A

Happy Daddy's day.  Some people have fathers, but I have always had a Daddy.