Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Surprise Party

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


Recently I had the privilege of attending a birthday party for a dear friend. Her daughter planned a surprise birthday party and invited a large group of people. My wife helped decorate the large hall where the party was held. To get my friend to her “surprise” party, she was asked to attend an anniversary party for a friend.

When she drove up to the hall where the party was held, she commented, “look at all of these cars. I’m glad that so many people came to the anniversary party.” When she came through the door and ninety people yelled, “surprise,” and started singing Happy Birthday, the look on her face was priceless.


It’s not easy to pull off a surprise party with ninety people, but this party was very successful. Everyone loves a good party. Even the Bible loves a party. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Luke 15. I like to call it the party chapter. It is Luke’s account of three parables, each one describing a lost item that is found, and each one describing a party that was held to share the joy and happiness of finding the lost item.

The audience for these stories was the Pharisees who were complaining about Jesus' lifestyle and his welcoming of tax collectors and sinners. For the Pharisees, the term "sinners" was used for a class of people who lived immoral lives or had questionable occupations; people that no respectable Jew would ever be seen with. Another example would be people with certain diseases or disabilities that were considered a sign of some great sin.


These people, the social and religious outcasts, were coming to Jesus, and he was receiving them and eating with them. In Luke 5:30-32 (NIV), the Bible says, “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”

The Pharisees didn't like Jesus’ association with sinners.  The Pharisees found no joy in repentance of sinners at all. Why were they so upset that Jesus associated with sinners and enjoyed their company? Why were the Pharisees unwilling to seek to save sinners and unable to rejoice at their repentance? Why were they unwilling to associate with them?

We find the answer in the story of the older brother found in Luke 15. In this parable, the older brother represents the Pharisees, who grumbled at Jesus’ reception of sinners. In the story, the older brother is out in the fields working, when his younger brother, “the sinner," returns. The older brother does not know of his younger brother’s return until he hears the sounds of a party coming from the house. He became very angry and refused to join the party. When the father came out to ask him to join in, the older son refused.


We find the story in Luke 15:29 (MEV), “But he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years have I served you. Nor have I ever transgressed your commands, yet never have you given me a goat, so that I might be merry with my friends.’” The older brother was at work in the field when his younger brother, “the sinner,” returned home. He thought that the basis for obtaining his father’s love was his works. He didn't need to work to win his father’s approval or blessing; he only needed to be a son. This emphasis on works was the error of the Pharisees. They were “hard at work,” keeping the law, as they interpreted it, thinking that it would win God’s approval and blessing.

The older brother continues complaining to his father in Luke 15:30 (MEV), “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.” This complaint is the flip side of the first complaint. The older brother expected to be rewarded because his works, so he expected his younger brother to be disowned because of his lack of works.

The father answered in Luke 15:31-32 (MEV) “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. But it was fitting to be merry and be glad, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” The father was not celebrating because of the younger brother’s sins, but because of his repentance and return. The older brother not only failed to comprehend grace, but he resented it. The problem of the older brother is self-righteousness. His self-righteousness is such that he expects, even demands, God’s approval and blessings.  His self-righteousness is so strong that he resents the grace of God and refuses to rejoice in it.


Gentle Reader, don’t be an older brother. Don’t resent the grace that God so freely offers to sinners. I challenge you today to see “sinners” the way that Jesus sees them, people to associate with and to love. Remember that Jesus throws a party whenever one of his lost sheep comes home, and he wants you to join the party.


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You can listen to a seminar that I gave on this topic here.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Power of One, Part Two


A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the power of one. Last week as she and her family were vacationing in Boston, my daughter received the following message that shows that even 10-year-olds can make an impression on someones' life.

"Hi, I met your amazing daughter Autumn and your delightful Husband, David. My Dad and I were so taken by your daughter...She has overcome amazing challenges in her short life. She is a great testament to incredible parenting...She is a lucky girl. I am so glad that during your stay here you have gone on wonderful journeys and sharing them with such a beautiful family....Autumn had no problem sharing her awesome stories, and I mentioned that she should write a book. So that she doesn't forget maybe she should start writing in a journal.


She is so smart and captivating I know that God put her in our lives for a reason. Maybe someday our paths will cross but until then I would like to stay in touch. I am missing her already. We were both given a few hugs it was even sad I will miss her every day. God sent me an angel yesterday, and I will pray for all of you every night.

Love and Prayers,
Donna and Ray — feeling blessed."


I am so proud of my granddaughter, Autumn, and the sweet influence she has on the people she meets. She is referenced in my original article, The Power of One, when I wrote, "Several years ago my young granddaughter walked up to a woman at church and gave her a big hug. This woman lived alone and had a prickly personality. She kept people at a distance. All day long she kept telling people, 'that child hugged me. No child has ever done that before.' A simple hug made a difference in her life.

Gentle Reader, small acts of kindness have changed the hearts and minds of others. You can make a difference. You may be only one, but the power of one can be significant. You can't do everything, but you can do something. Look for opportunities to serve others and find opportunities to thank those that are of service to you. Your gratitude is an act of kindness toward others and can have a profound impact. The power of one can change the world!"

We all have the ability to make a difference in someone's life. We all have the Power of One.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Higher and Higher


When I was attending grade school during the 1960’s I had two passions that consumed me. I loved baseball. I chewed lots of really bad gum to collect baseball cards. As much as I loved baseball, what really intrigued me was space exploration.


My heroes were the astronauts in NASA’s space program. I read everything about them that I could get my hands on. In 1969 my interest in space was at a fever pitch. Everyone was talking about the race to land on the moon. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, the entire world was captivated. Every newspaper covered the story. I soaked it all in. I couldn’t believe what a marvelous world I was living in. The moonwalk was a part of pop culture. After watching the moonwalk on TV, the Moody Blues drummer, Graham Edge, penned the poem "Higher and Higher", which was used to open their next album.

"Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes.
Man, with his flaming pyre
has conquered the wayward breezes.

Climbing to tranquility,
far above the clouds,
conceiving the heavens,
clear of misty shroud.

Vast vision must improve our sight.
Perhaps at last we'll see an end
to our own endless blight,
and the beginning of the free.

Climb to tranquility,
finding its real worth,
conceiving the heavens,
flourishing on earth".



As I listened to these words I realized even as a boy that this optimism that space exploration would make the world a better place wasn’t the way things would be. I read in my Bible in Obadiah 1:4, “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord”.


As a Christian I had always looked at space exploration as a way to learn more about the awesome things God had made. I was excited by the new discoveries and what they could show me about how awesome God is. As I studied science and read about space I always kept God in the picture.

While I went through High School I stayed interested in space, but there were many other things to interest me and take up my time. I realized that as interesting as space exploration was it wasn’t changing things here on earth. By now there had been 6 moon landings and moon walks. In just a few years astronauts on the moon had gone from the most exciting and talked about thing on the planet to ho hum, so you can drive a vehicle on the moon. The space race was over and pop culture had found other interests.

NASA didn’t recapture the interest of most Americans until 1981, when the Space Shuttle Columbia made the first flight of a space vehicle that returned to earth and was reusable. Once again man seemed on the verge of conquering the heavens. One of the exciting new directions in space exploration was the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1979 work was started on this new project. After many delays it was finally launched in 1990. Nothing NASA had done since landing on the moon captured the interest of the American public as much as the Hubble Telescope.

The images that the Hubble produced were breathtaking. When I first saw the images I thought of the words of David found in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork”.





One Hubble photo in particular fascinates me. It is called The Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Astronomers picked a seemingly empty spot in the sky. Staring at the spot in the sky for ten days, Hubble kept taking pictures one after another for the entire exposure time, accumulating data. Astronomers put the exposures together into one final picture. Each time they added an exposure, the view got deeper, revealing fainter objects. When they were done they had the deepest picture ever taken of the heavens.

The image is of a small region in the constellation Ursa Major. It covers an area 2.5 arcminutes across, one part in a million of the whole sky. The image contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies. That would mean that the whole universe contains a million times 10,000 galaxies. Astronomers estimate that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, contains between 200 and 400 billion stars. How many stars are in the universe? I will let you do the math.

Isaiah 40:26 tells us “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And He counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away”.

The universe staggers our imagination. It is humbling to realize that our planet earth is simply a speck of cosmic dust in the great universe that God has created. David was amazed by God’s love for us. In Psalms 8:3,4 he wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him And the son of man that You visit him?


Go outside tonight, take a look at the sky and know that there is a Creator who cares for you, who died for you and wants to bring you home to live with him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Two Ramblers

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 20, 2016, issue of The Mena Star



Six months ago I purchased a 1960 Rambler American. It has been quite a project as I have worked on it to make it a dependable daily driver. I have replaced the fuel pump, water pump, gas tank, spark plugs, shock absorbers, clutch linkage, and brake lines. I have rebuilt the front end and had it aligned. I enjoy driving the little Rambler with its small, underpowered flathead six cylinder motor.

From the time that I first got the Rambler, my granddaughters have loved riding in it. They always want to ride with Papa in the little Rambler. They love to sing the Beep Beep song about the little Nash Rambler passing a Cadillac, as loud as they can, over and over again. But what they seem to love the most on hot summer days are the vent windows. When I showed them how to open the vent window and direct a stream of air to their face, they loved it. Even on a hot summer day they still want to ride in the Rambler even though it has no air conditioner. Who needs air conditioning when you can have the vent window blowing air on you, and you can control where it goes?


This summer each one of my three oldest granddaughters got to spend their own special week at Grandma’s house. The first to stay with us was our five-year-old. She had a great time swimming, going to work with Grandma, and watching her favorite show about mermaids. Every day she wanted to ride with Papa in his Rambler. While she was here, I purchased another Rambler, a 1962 model. The 1962 had been repainted with newly upholstered seats and a rebuilt engine. It rode and drove better than the little 1960 model. My five-year-old announced that she liked the “new” Rambler the best, and she always wanted to ride in it.


The next week my eight-year-old granddaughter stayed with us. When she rode in the “new” Rambler, she was very vocal about liking the “old” Rambler the best. I was surprised by the strong opinions expressed by both girls about the Ramblers. I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised because my granddaughters definitely think for themselves and have their own opinions. I just never thought that the two Ramblers would be the cause of such strong opinions.


As I see how people are responding to current events in our country, I see strong opinions. The rhetoric is much stronger than my granddaughters discussing which Rambler they like the best. I have become weary of the ugliness that fills my social media feeds.

Many devout Christians become mean, critical, and bitter when they talk about politics and current events. 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."


I think that social media is partly to blame. People post things on the internet they might never say. I believe that Christians should have opinions on politics and that they have the right to express them. I’m very grateful that I live in a country where free speech is a fundamental human right. I’m happy that there are Christians who care about their country, and involve themselves in the political process.

But when I talk with or read the social media posts of some Christians, I ask myself if it’s possible they've ever read Colossians 4:6 (NKJV) “Let your speech always be with grace.” In Matthew 12:34 (NLT) Jesus said, “whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” We as Christians can’t escape the reality that our words, or our social media posts, reveal our real character.


“For by your words,” Jesus said, “you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37 (NKJV)  I have never read in the Bible where Jesus said, “But when it comes to current events or politics, feel free to be as mean, vile and ugly as you want.”

When Christians say or post or share mean words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support their political position they are talking about people that Jesus loves, people that He died for. There is a real person behind those words. I’m sure that there is a way for Christians to engage in the political process and discussions in the spirit of Jesus. If Christians consistently showed the spirit of Jesus in their political debates instead of being mean or harsh, it would be a powerful witness.


Gentle Reader, Christians should be the most loving, accepting, uncritical people on the face of the earth. Temper your words with the knowledge that, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (ESV) Love is patient with people’s differences. Love waits for people to change. Love is long-tempered. Love doesn’t arrogantly assume its perspective is right. Love is simply, refreshingly kind.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Power of One

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 13, 2016, issue of The Mena Star


Awhile ago I came across a quote by the American author, historian, and Unitarian minister, Edward Everett Hale. He said, “I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” It is a good motto to live by.

Most people don’t feel that they can really make a difference. What can just one person do? Recently I found out what one person can do. A friend of mine was upset about a situation and through his actions made a big difference even though he was an ocean away. This is his story.


The story started back in 1916. The Battle of the Somme was one of the biggest battles of the First World War. Fought near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the deadliest battles in history. On the first day, July 1, 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives. It was the bloodiest day in the history of the British army.

July 1, 2016, marked the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. As a tribute to these soldiers, the British Royal Legion issued 19,240 hand crafted solid brass limited edition golden poppy lapel pins, one for each British soldier that lost his life on that day. Each pin came with a certificate featuring details of the individual soldier it commemorated.


The intricate golden pins were made from the brass of melted down shell fuses found on the Somme battlefields and feature a prominent red center, the paint for which has been mixed with soil from the same fields.

The British Royal Legion sold the pins for £39.99 with all proceeds being used to provide care and support for members of the British Armed Forces and their families. Unsurprisingly the poppies sold out within hours.

My friend, whose grandfather fought during World War I, tried to purchase one but was unsuccessful. He looked on the British Legion site, but they had all sold out very quickly. He thought, “I bet someone is trying to profit off that,” so he looked on eBay and found that there was already one on there selling for nearly £400.

It really upset him to see opportunists making huge profits off something that had such meaning. He said, “one of the sellers I contacted first was so mean and arrogant it just got me angry. My Grandfather was in the Cavalry in the great war. The slaughter was incredible as humans fought the first real mechanized war. Its was supposed to be the ‘War that ended Wars.’ Sadly, as we know this was a forlorn dream.”


He decided to contact the press in Great Britain. He was nervous when he called the papers, but the British newspaper Mirror published an article about the reselling of the golden poppy lapel pins mentioning him. He was very pleased when the BBC also reported on it, and soon the golden poppy lapel pins were removed from eBay.

One man made a difference. Jude 1:22 (NKJV) says, “And on some have compassion, making a difference.” You can make a difference. You can have compassion. You may not contribute to making a change an ocean away, but you can make a difference to someone. John F. Kennedy said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”


In Zechariah 7:9 (GW), God tells us to, “be compassionate and kind to each other.” Imagine what a difference you could make by simply being kind to others. Several years ago my young granddaughter walked up to a woman at church and gave her a big hug. This woman lived alone and had a prickly personality. She kept people at a distance. All day long she kept telling people, “that child hugged me. No child has ever done that before.” A simple hug made a difference in her life.

Gentle Reader, small acts of kindness have changed the hearts and minds of others. You can make a difference. You may be only one, but the power of one can be significant. You can't do everything, but you can do something. Look for opportunities to serve others and find opportunities to thank those that are of service to you. Your gratitude is an act of kindness toward others and can have a profound impact. The power of one can change the world!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Politics and Social Media


The past weeks and months my Facebook feed has been filled with ugly, hateful, political posts. Most of the time is just a repost of someone else's memes or articles. I really wonder if anyone's mind has ever been changed by the hateful vitriol that they read on someone's Facebook feed.  
I am not in the habit of posting things that others have written. The purpose of this blog is to post original writing. I am making an exception in this post. I did not write the following words, but I fully agree with them. They made such an impact on me that I wanted to share them with my readers. I want to give the original writer, Ginger Winters, credit. I first read it on her blog, Ramble Ramble. So here is a shout out to Ginger.
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Dear Friends, Family, Co-workers, and Anyone Else I Know;
As we all know, there is a rather major election happening this year. I know, no matter how loud or quiet you are, you probably (definitely) have opinions. You probably lean more toward one political party than the other, more toward one candidate than the other, more toward one side than the other, just as I do. You have strongly held beliefs about certain issues, just as I do. One of the great things about living in this country is our ability–and right–to hold and VOTE our political conscience, for the things and people we believe in.
That being said.
As the election gets nearer, and the tempers get shorter, and the mud gets fling-ier, I want you to remember some things, please:
When you post on Facebook that someone is “Too stupid to breathe…” if they vote for X candidate–you could be talking about me.
When you write in your email that someone who votes for Y candidate is “UnAmerican”—you could be talking about me.
When you say that someone who believes that Z candidate has better policies should “be taken out back and shot”—you could be talking about me.
When you say that you hope everyone who votes for XYZ candidate “is rounded up” before the election–you could be talking about ME.
When you say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support your political position–you could be talking about ME.
About ME, or someone like me that you know. Not just a random “them.” But someone you like, or love. Someone you may have known your whole life. Someone you may think is intelligent, articulate, well-spoken. Someone you may think is caring, kind, giving.
There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people.  Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.
Please, by all means, believe what you believe. Vote the way you want to vote. Engage in civil discussion about issues and platforms, if you want to. Advocate strongly for why you think what you think. Use reason to explain your position. These things? These make us better citizens, make us a better part of the political process. But when you start throwing those ugly words out, when you start sharing those ugly graphics, and those hateful quotes, and you point your finger at “THOSE PEOPLE” just remember…you could be talking about me. Someone you know. Someone you call friend, family, coworker.
And maybe that doesn’t matter to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter that you’re saying I’m stupid, unAmerican, deserve to be kicked out of the country, deserve to die, don’t have any compassion, don’t care about my fellow citizens, or am a moron. Maybe it doesn’t bother you because you believe SO strongly that ALL people who believe opposite of you are SO wrong that you’re willing to forget the people behind those beliefs, that they are more than just their political opinions, more than just where they fall on an issue or what candidate they want to vote for.
But to me it does. Because when this political season is over, and the races have been decided, the non-stop political nonsense will die back down to a low boil. But you and I? We’ll still know each other. And I’ll know what you really think…of me.
And how can that not change how I think of you?
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I agree with Ginger's post. I am weary of the ugliness that fills my social media feeds. Before you post your next political post I hope these words come to your mind.

Many devout Christians become mean, critical, and bitter when they talk about politics. Insults, name-calling, bitterness, 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."


I think that social media is partly to blame. People post things on the internet they might never say. I believe that Christians should have opinions on politics and that they have the right to express them. I’m very grateful that I live in a country where free speech is a basic human right. I’m happy that there are Christians who care about their country, and that some involve themselves in the political process.

But does it have to be so full of hate? It is all right for a Christian to express an opinion on politics such as, “I think X is a poor President, Senator, Congresswoman, Candidate.” A Christian has a right to feel that way. But we have all seen some Christians cross the line from opinion to attack, insult, and slander. Much of it is hateful and malicious.


Look at the Facebook posts of some Christians. When they talk or re-post, ask yourself if it’s possible they've ever read Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace.”

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” We as Christians can’t escape the reality that our words (or Facebook and Twitter posts) reveal our true character.

“For by your words,” Jesus said, “you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) I have never read in the Bible where Jesus said, “But when it comes to politics and politicians, feel free to be as mean, vile and ugly as you want.”

When Christians say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support their political position they are talking about people that Jesus loves, people that Jesus died for. There is a real person behind those words. I’m sure that there is a way for Christians to engage in the political process and political discussions while still manifesting the Spirit of Jesus. If Christians consistently showed the Spirit of Jesus in their political discussions instead of being mean or harsh it would be a powerful witness.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Little Things

My An Arkie's Faith column from the July 6, 2016, issue of The Mena Star


Last week while my granddaughter was staying with us, a friend invited us to go watch him fly his remote control airplane. It was a beautiful evening and was comfortable even though the day had been hot. We set up camping chairs as my friend prepared his plane for flight. After he had installed the battery pack, it was time to fly the aircraft. Because of the tall grass where he was going to fly the plane, he used a technique called hand launching. Just like it sounds, hand launching is where the RC operator throws the airplane, preferably into the wind, and then takes control with the remote.

We were all watching as my friend launched the plane into the air. It traveled a few feet and then nose dived into the ground. When we inspected the aircraft, we found the motor was working, but the prop wasn’t spinning. On closer inspection, my friend noticed that the small nut that held the prop on the shaft was loose. Because we didn’t have any tools with us, we had no way of tightening the nut.  We were not able to fly the plane. We had to postpone until a later date.


A few days later we were able to enjoy watching the little plane fly through the air doing loops and tricks. My granddaughter had a great time and wanted the plane to land right beside her. Tightening one small nut on the propeller shaft had made all the difference in the world. Little things can be critical.

In Luke 16:10 (GNT) Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones.” God cares about the littlest details of our lives, the very hairs on our head because He knows they add up to the big things when we handle them the right way. Our small decisions, mindsets, habits and prayers add up to make a positive life.

Think about the simple ordinary things we use in our daily life that are small things, but they have big jobs. Look at the paperclip or staple. They keep us organized and from losing important papers. What about those buttons and fasteners? They have the job of keeping us dressed. These little things are important to us.


Have you ever heard that expression, "It's all in the details?’ The details are those little things that combined altogether make up the big things. Emperor Constantine built the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople.There is a legend that the praise for building the cathedral was not given to Emperor Constantine but to Euphrasia, a poor widow. The legend states that she took from her mattress a handful of straw and gave it to the oxen that were pulling the wagons bringing the marble from the ships. That was all, she did nothing more. But for this small kindness, she became a folk hero.

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.


Everything we do in life is not always fun or exciting. Sometimes those small things are tedious but need to be done. You might have one of those "dirty jobs" Mike Rowe talks about. Maybe you have a job that people don’t think is important, but God needs someone in that role.

Song of Solomon 2:15 (NIV) says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Gentle Reader, what little things need attention in your life today? What little habits and thought processes are holding you back from stepping into the fullness of life that God has for you? Make the little changes today that will set you up to live a big life with God! You can do it!