Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Gentle God



Many Christian writers and speakers spend a lot of time focusing on the wrath of God and how He will torture sinners. I recently read an article by John Burton titled, "Is it Time for Hell Fire Preaching Again?" In the article he stated, "we need hell fire preachers to emerge and announce to the church and the world the reality of their situation and the measure of God's wrath and judgment that is coming. Contrary to popular belief a very real revelation of hell, of torment, is needed to draw people to the Lover of their souls."

I can't agree with the idea that a very real revelation of hell, of torment, is needed to draw people to God. Instead I want to lift up a gentle God. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus describes himself this way. “Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.” And in John 14:9  he says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”


Why would Jesus describe himself as gentle? I think we find the key in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to fear Him. God doesn’t want us to fear Him. Jesus wants to be our friend. He said in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  A servant is afraid of his master, but a real friendship should not involve fear. Jesus wants to be our friend and to dispel our fears. He wants to cast out fear.

I’m not saying that there are no consequences. There is a judgment. Galatians 6:7-8, tells us, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."


There will be those who are afraid of God. We read in Revelation 6:14-16, "Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks. 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!'" Even though there will be people who are afraid of God it is not what he wants.

2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Does God use fear as a tactic to lead us to repent? Many Christian preachers and writers use fear. Fear spills over into our outreach efforts. We feel that we have to warn the world of the judgement, the Second Coming, and hell. Shouldn’t it rather be our privilege to announce to the world the Good News that Jesus is almost here? That we can all be ready for that because of what He’s already done before we were even born. That if we daily choose Him, we have nothing to fear from the judgement and hell.

There is no doubt that the world, and we ourselves in the church, need to come to repentance, But does God use fear as a way to motivate us? The Bible says in Romans 2:4, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" What leads us to repentance?  What brings 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 repent.


We are led to repentance in the Bible sense 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; we want Him to live in us and work through us.

Seeing his kindness towards us makes us sorry for the things we have done to hurt him.  It leads us to repentance.  Seeing God’s kindness towards us makes us want to be like him and show compassion to our fellow human beings.

God is the God of peace, God is the God of love. God is not the God of fear. Fear and love are at war with one another.

I will illustrate this with a story. One night a house caught fire, and a young boy was forced to go to the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see was flames, smoke, and blackness.  He was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, “I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you, and that's all that matters."


In life, each one of us finds ourselves in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. We will be destroyed unless we do something. If we stay in our current situation, we will be destroyed by fire.

Let me ask you a question. Was the boy in the story afraid? Yes, of course, he was afraid. What was he afraid of? The fire. Was he afraid of the fireman? No. He had to put his trust in the fireman. He couldn’t have put his trust in the fireman if he had been afraid of him.

What about you? Are you afraid? You should be. Not all fear is bad. There is a healthy fear. Fear makes us cautious in the presence of danger such as crossing a busy highway, working with High voltage electricity, or dangerous equipment. But don’t be afraid of the fireman, who is Jesus. He is your only hope, your only chance of being rescued. You need to trust him, not be afraid of him.


"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:16,17

God doesn’t want you to fear Him, he wants to save you. Let’s do some soul searching today. Do you see God as a harsh, demanding God or a loving God? Do you serve a God who is a friend or do you view Him as a taskmaster just waiting for you to fail so He can torture you?

Psalms 86:15 says, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”  Do you see God as a gentle God, a compassionate God, a gracious God? I hope so!



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting For Sunrise

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 25, 2016, issue of The Mena Star.


For the last ten years, I have participated in the Relay For Life of Polk County. This year’s event was held May,13-14 at Janssen Park. The past two years, rain has kept us from having Relay For Life in the park, but the weather was beautiful for this year's event.

The Relay began at 6:00 pm when cancer survivors and caregivers kicked off the event by walking the first laps. After the special laps, Relay became one big party with each team having a site with food, games, activities, and items to purchase. There were lots of interesting characters taking laps around the track and some crazy activities going on.


A luminaria ceremony at 9:00 pm illuminated the entire track as participants lit luminaria candles in memory of those who’ve lost the battle to cancer and in support for those still fighting the disease. Everyone maintained a respectful silence as the names on the luminaria were read. People circled the track looking for those special luminaria that had meaning for them.

After the luminaria ceremony, the mood lifted as we prepared to stay all night. Karaoke, line dancing, Zumba, and three on three basketball kept us awake and motivated during the night.

Why do we Relay all night long and stay overnight? Because the Relay For Life event is designed to symbolize the journey of a cancer survivor. Relay For Life starts at dusk and ends the next morning. The light and darkness of the day and night parallel the physical effects, emotion, and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment.


As survivors start their cancer treatment, it’s hard and taxing, just like when the light of day fades into darkness. As midnight comes, teams continue to walk the track, but it gets harder as the walking continues into the early morning hours.

This time represents when a cancer patient becomes exhausted, sick, maybe not wanting to go on, possibly wanting to give up. As Relay participants, we feel much the same way. We are tired, want to sleep, and may even want to go home, but we don't stop or give up.

The time just before daybreak symbolizes the coming of the end of treatment for the cancer patient. Things are beginning to look brighter, just like the break of dawn. A sense of hope emerges. The morning light brings on a new day full of life and new beginnings.


The Psalmist understood this concept when he wrote, “His anger lasts only a moment, but his kindness lasts for a lifetime. Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5 (NCV) God knows the tough times you have been going through, but He wants you to know that better times are coming.

The Bible tells us that God collects your tears. He knows every tear you have shed. He knows every problem you face. “You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.” Psalms 56:8 (TLB)

There is an old English proverb that says,” the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” The English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller used the phrase in a book he published in 1650. The phrase has become a part of our culture.

Many people are going through the darkest hour. Our family has recently been going through a difficult situation. Whatever situation is making your life dark, sunrise is coming.

A sunrise is a beautiful thing to watch. But it doesn’t happen all at once. It starts with a gradual lightening of the sky, an almost imperceptible change from inky black to promising gray. Then the gray gradually gives way to beautiful shades of lavender and orange, and you catch a glimpse of the sun just below the horizon. Just when you think you can’t wait another minute – there it is, bursting forth in glorious radiance, shining just for you and promising a new beginning. Once the sun breaks over the horizon, it doesn’t take long to rise, warming the earth and lighting the darkness.


Bluegrass artist, Ralph Stanley, wrote in the song, “Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn,” the following words. "Like a shepherd out on the mountain. A-watchin' the sheep down below. He's coming back to claim us. Will you be ready to go? The darkest hour is just before dawn. The narrow way leads home. Lay down your soul. Let Jesus in. The darkest hour is just before dawn."

Gentle Reader, have you been waiting for the sunrise? Have you spent far too long in the dark? Jesus wants to light the way for you. He wants to be your sunrise. Whatever you have been going through do not give up hope. “Brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord comes again. A farmer patiently waits for his valuable crop to grow from the earth and for it to receive the autumn and spring rains. You, too, must be patient. Do not give up hope, because the Lord is coming soon.” James 5:7,8 (NCV)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Relay For Life Raises Over 70,000

My article from the May 18, 2016, issue of The Polk County Pulse


Residents of Polk County made a giant step toward a cure for cancer on May 13th when they walked throughout the night during the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

Fifteen teams and more than two hundred volunteers came together during this year’s Relay to raise over $8,700, a new record for Relay For Life in its ten-year history here in Mena. Money raised during Relay For Life helps fund the American Cancer Society’s mission of eliminating cancer by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back. The Society is the largest nonprofit supporter of new cancer research and the largest voluntary health organization fighting cancer in our country and around the world.


The Relay began at 6:00 pm at Janssen Park in Mena when cancer survivors and caregivers kicked off the event by walking the first laps. After the special laps, Relay became one big party with each team having a site with food, games, activities, and items to purchase. There were lots of interesting characters making laps around the track and some crazy activities going on. Entertainment was provided by the band Aberrant and by Darla Martel. They provided good music while those in attendance circled the track and visited the team sites.


A luminaria ceremony at 9:00 pm illuminated the entire track as participants lit luminaria candles in memory of those who’ve lost the battle to cancer and in support for those still fighting the disease.  Everyone maintained a respectful silence as the names on the luminaria were read. People circled the track looking for those special luminaria that had meaning for them.

After the luminaria ceremony, the mood lifted as the Relay volunteers prepared to stay all night. Karaoke, line dancing, Zumba, and 3 on 3 basketball kept the volunteers awake and motivated during the night. At 6:00 am those who stayed all night broke down their team sites and headed home to get some sleep, knowing that this year’s event was a big success with over $70,000 raised during the year to enable the American Cancer Society to help people stay well, help people get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Teresa Ashlock - Caregiver of the Year

Melanie Buck of The Polk County Pulse has graciously given me permission to post her article here at An Arkie's Musings


Citizen of the Week from the May 18, 2016, issue of The Polk County Pulse

Teresa Ashlock – Polk County Relay for Life Caregiver of the Year
by Melanie Buck
© Melanie Buck/Pulse Multi-Media


Teresa Ashlock was honored as the Polk County Relay for Life Caregiver of the Year on Friday, May 13, 2016, in Janssen Park among her friends, family, and peers. Ashlock’s surprise was apparent as the recipient was announced by Debbie Welch of Polk County Relay for Life.


Originally from Mena, she now lives in Waldron, but has spent many hours on the road in between. Ashlock has taken on clients as a home health aide in the area, including her own mother. However, her story truly begins with her son.

As a young single mother, Ashlock first began caring for her son, who was born with cerebral palsy. “It was a long road and I needed help. I know what it’s like to need somebody – just someone to be there and support you through the emotions, the daily activities, someone who understands what you’re going through. When I finally did get help, he was nine years old. It took that long to get some help so I know what it’s like.” When her son was eight years old, she gave birth to a daughter. Although it was challenging as a single mother, she used her natural giving ability to nurture her children through thick and thin.

When her son was born, he had multiple birth defects and some doctors predicted he may not live long. However, he braved the fight and she fought the battle with him for seventeen years. “Even though I knew one day maybe he’d be gone, I still didn’t expect it. I thought I would lose my mind. But I had a little girl to take care of so I had to open my eyes. I think it would be selfish to ask for him back. I truly believe he was put here for a reason, to make me who I am,” said Ashlock.

She married her husband when her daughter was 10 and began a career as a caregiver. Ashlock is a CAN (Certified Nurses Aide) and has worked as a home health aide since 2006. She admits that after her son’s death, it hasn’t been easy for her, but she tries. “I have very high faith in my God. Nowadays, I cry, I wipe my face, and I go on. It’s hard, but I go on.”

After caring for her son, she cared for her father before he passed. She also cared for her mother who has since passed. “I was always going back and forth from Waldron to Mena and I was so tired. I went four days with no sleep and nearly wrecked. I had to slow down,” she explained. Ashlock was caring for her mother and working 65 hours a week as a home health aide. She realized quickly that her health needed a priority check. “I can’t be there for others if something happens to me and I want to devote all of me. I do love what I do.” She has since cut her hours to part time and fills in when needed. “I have experience in other fields, but I keep coming back to this one. I just have a heart for these people that need help.”

She admitted that her mother was her biggest inspiration in life as a ‘giver.’ Her parents owned a restaurant in Waldron for many years. “My mother is the strongest woman I’ve known. She used to have dinners for shut-ins and would help children with doctor visits and hotels, gas and food… I just want to fulfill her legacy and continuing to do what I can, whether it’s in healthcare or wherever.”

Ashlock also became a caregiver to her husband when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. “That’s when I really started seeing the bad effects of cancer myself,” she explained. Aside from God, she said her husband is her biggest source of support. “He also knows what I’ve been through and I can lean on him. He’s a survivor,” she smiled. Ashlock said she also has the support of her entire family.

Being a caregiver seems to come quite naturally to Ashlock. “It just touches my heart when I can make somebody smile. I can relate to these people whether they are young or old, handicapped or diseased, I can relate. Just to sit with someone and hold their hand to make them feel better makes me feel better.”

“I put my happy face on early in the morning. I feel bad if I complain but I do get tired and sometimes I just go in my room and have a big cry. I still miss my son, my daddy, and now my mom. I miss them terribly. But I have my alone time and cry and then I get up and go cook supper or start a new day,” Ashlock said of how she releases the sadness that comes with her past and sometimes, her current clients who she grows close to. “I want the same thing for me someday, if I ever need a caregiver. Do unto others as they do unto you.”

Ashlock said humbly of being honored as the Caregiver of the Year, “I think that it’s a very high award and I never expected it. I don’t feel like any award should be given just to help someone. I just do what comes natural to me. It’s not just a job, it’s an everyday part of my life to care.”

Mother's Day

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 18, 2016, issue of The Mena Star.



Have you ever wondered about the origins of Mother’s Day? It seems like something that has just always existed, but it has only been in existence for a little over 100 years.

Our family had a lovely Mother’s Day weekend. My wife prepared an excellent meal on Saturday, and we spent the day with my Mom and Dad along with friends. We got together on Mother’s Day with my Mom and Dad, and my sister and her daughter. After a tasty lunch at Papa’s Mexican Cafe, we took my Dad’s 1933 Plymouth to Janssen Park for a family photo shoot. It was a pretty day, and we enjoyed our time together.


I hope that you had a good Mother’s Day. I know that what was most important to my Mom and my wife was hearing from their kids. According to the major phone carriers, there are more phone calls made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year. Over 2 billion dollars were spent on flowers for Mom this year and more than four times as many people go out to eat on Mother’s Day compared to an average Sunday.

Just how did Mother’s Day get started, and become the economic force that it is today? According to the website, Statistic Brain, Americans spent over 20 billion dollars this year to celebrate Mother’s Day.


Anna Jarvis is considered the founder of Mother’s Day. She spent many years working for a national day for mothers because she felt they didn’t get enough recognition. Anna’s mother was a social activist. Before the Civil War, she organized Mothers' Day Work Clubs in West Virginia to improve health and sanitary conditions for women. During the war, she cared for the wounded on both sides. She also tried to orchestrate peace between Union and Confederate mothers by organized a Mothers' Friendship Day at the courthouse in Pruntytown, West Virginia to bring together neighbors from both sides. Mothers' Friendship Day was an annual event for several years.

When her mother died in 1905, Anna began a crusade to create a holiday to honor mothers. Because of her zealous letter writing and promotional campaigns across the country, Mother’s Day became an official U.S. holiday when Congress passed a bill authorizing it in 1914.

Within a few years, Mother’s Day became a very commercialized holiday. Jarvis became so upset by this that she eventually denounced the holiday and campaigned against it. She referred to the florists, greeting card manufacturers and the confectionery industry as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”


In one of her last appearances in public, Anna went door-to-door in Philadelphia, asking for signatures on a petition to rescind Mother’s Day. She died in 1948 — blind, emaciated, broke, and surrounded by strangers. She had spent many years of her life advocating for a Mother’s Day to honor mothers; then spent her last 30 years fighting against the commercialization that overwhelmed her original message.

As I was researching the story of Anna Jarvis, her situation reminded me of a passage in the Bible. We find the story in Matthew 15:1-3 (NIV) “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?’” He then went on to quote the prophet, Isaiah, when he told them, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” Matthew 15:8,9 (NIV)


Just like Anna Jarvis was not pleased with the way Mother’s Day came to be celebrated, I’m quite sure that Jesus isn’t always happy with the way modern Christians worship Him. In the book of Revelation, the concept of worship is discussed over 20 times. It appears that worship will be a major topic at the end of this earth’s history. The first angel of Revelation chapter 14 has a message for the world, and it has to do with worship. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” Revelation 14:6,7 (NKJV) The message of this angel is simple. Worship the Creator God.

Gentle Reader, just like Anna Jarvis was displeased with the commercialization of Mother’s Day, God asks us to make sure that our worship of Him is in line with the information he has provided in the Bible. Let’s make sure that Jesus won’t say about us, “these people show honor to me with words, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless. The things they teach are nothing but human rules.” Matthew 15:8,9 (NCV)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

2016 Relay For Life of Polk County



What more could you want than raising money for an excellent cause at an all-night party with plenty of love, support, and entertainment while fighting cancer?  Cancer touches everyone: there is no one in Polk County that has not either had cancer or had relatives, coworkers, or friends suffer from the disease.


The 2016 Relay For Life of Polk County was held May,13-14 at Janssen Park. The past two years, rain has kept us from having Relay For Life in the park, but the weather was beautiful for this year's event. Fifteen teams raised over 8,200.00 during the all-night event; a new record for Relay For Life in its ten-year history here in Mena.


As the Relay event starts we honor our survivors and caregivers with special laps around the track followed by a team lap when every volunteer from every team is circling the track behind their team banner.






After the special laps, Relay becomes one big party with each team having a site with food, games, activities, and items to purchase. There were lots of interesting characters making laps around the track and some crazy activities going on.











Our entertainment this year was provided by the band Aberrant and by Darla Martel. They provided good music while those in attendance circled the track and visited the team sites.



When the sun goes down, the mood becomes a bit somber as luminaria honoring cancer survivors and remembering those we have lost to cancer are lit. Everyone maintains a respectful silence as the names on the luminaria are read. People circle the track looking for those special luminaria that have meaning for them.





After the Luminaria Ceremony, the mood lifts as we prepare to stay all night.  At Relay, our motto is cancer never sleeps, and one night a year neither do we. Relay symbolizes the experience of a cancer patient, beginning at 6 P.M. our survivors circle the track with lots of support. As the night goes on there are fewer and fewer people there.The Relay goes on for twelve hours. By early morning, the participants are worn and tired and the public has left. Cancer patients experience that weariness in their cancer struggle. To keep ourselves awake and motivated the night is filled with activities. There was karaoke, line dancing, Zumba at 2 a.m., and 3 on 3 basketball at 3a.m.






Because cancer never sleeps, neither do Relayers. But when 6 a.m. comes those who have stayed all night break down their team sites and head home to get some sleep. They have memories of Relay and of the awesome community support to keep them motivated to do it all again next year. This years event was a big success with over $8,000 raised the night of the event bringing the total raised this year to over $70,000. The fundraising done by the hardworking Relay For Life of Polk County volunteers will enable the American Cancer Society to help people stay well, help people get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.