Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Serenity

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


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” You have probably heard these words before. The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote them in the early 1940’s.

This simple prayer, commonly known as “The Serenity Prayer,”  has become such a part of our culture that most people have heard it. This prayer is used in Alcoholics Anonymous and has become closely associated with 12 Step programs.


What is serenity? The dictionary defines it as the absence of mental stress or anxiety. To me, Serenity is the name of my newest granddaughter. We have only granddaughters; five girls age ten to newborn. Serenity was born on April 19th, but her arrival wasn’t serene.

My wife and I were traveling to the Houston area to be present for her birth. My daughter-in-law’s  doctor had scheduled for her to be at the hospital early Monday morning to induce labor. While we were on our way, we traveled through torrential rains. As we slept that night, relentless rains caused catastrophic flooding that killed seven people, flooded over 1,000 homes and caused more than five billion dollars damage in the Houston area. The town of Hockley, thirty miles southwest of where we were staying, was drenched with 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.


Because of the flooding, the hospital called and said to stay home. Many of the hospital employees were not able to get to work. They would not be inducing labor on Monday. I wasn’t able to stay and wait for Serenity to come. I had to get back home so I could be at work. I felt sad about missing her birth, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I was disappointed as I drove those long miles home alone. My wife stayed behind so that she wouldn’t miss out on Serenity making her debut. On the long trip home, I prayed, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”


The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6,7 (NLT), “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Serenity, or peace, comes from asking and allowing God to give us these things. In other words, it is surrendering to Him. We associate the word “surrender”  with resignation, failure, and weakness. But in Philippians 4, Paul shows us that “surrender” is an act of faith and trust. There is wisdom in surrendering a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trusting in God; in a power beyond ourselves. Our confidence needs to be in God to work things out and to recognize that we don’t have any control over this sinful world or the actions of others. Trust God and live one day at a time, enjoying each moment.


Serenity in life comes from knowing that God is in control and that He has a plan for you. We don’t always understand the “why” of things that happen, but  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) assures us, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” And in Hebrew 13:5 (NCV) the Bible says, “be satisfied with what you have. God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.’” Never is long, long time. God has plans for you. He wants you to have hope. He has promised never to leave you, to never abandon you.


Every time I see my newest granddaughter, or even say her name, I will be reminded that God wants me to have peace. He wants me to have Serenity. God has plans for me. He wants me to have hope. He has promised never to leave me, to never abandon me.

Gentle Reader, “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) When things go wrong in your life take a moment to pray, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” God will hear you. He has promised! “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14 (NKJV)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tornado Remembered


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


As I write this week's column, it is the anniversary of the EF-3 tornado that devastated portions of Mena in 2009. The Associated Press article that ran in newspapers nationwide the day after the storm stated, “Authorities began a house-to-house search Friday for possible victims of the tornado that struck a 'direct hit' on this mountain community, killing at least three people, injuring at least 30 others and flattening homes and businesses. The twister descended quickly on the Ouachita Mountains town shortly after eight p.m. Thursday.” Because it was national news, I had many people contact me asking if we were ok. I was one of the fortunate ones who had minimal damage from the storm.


Those of us that lived through that night will never forget it. I still often talk to people who experienced the terror of the storm. My wife was on the phone with a dear friend when the tornado hit. Our friend was in the bottom of a closet covered with blankets. She was afraid of the storm. As the storm hit the phone went dead. We didn’t know what had happened. After the storm had passed, I tried driving to her home, but the authorities were not letting traffic into that part of town. It was several long hours before a neighbor of hers was able to get word to us that she was ok, but her house was heavily damaged.

I remember the months that followed and the long hours at work installing auto glass. There were so many damaged vehicles that I worked from 6:00 A.M. till 10:00 P.M. six days a week. There were so many people who had so much to do in the recovery and rebuilding that it seemed the whole town was fatigued.


On April 11, 2010, one year after the tornado, I was in attendance when the Polk County Arkansas Long Term Recovery Committee held an event in Janssen Park to recognize those who helped Mena recover from the tornado and to remember those who lost their lives. Mena residents gathered at the park on a beautiful sunny day to remember the tornado that swept through town the previous year. The volunteers that came from far and near to help with the recovery were recognized. The most poignant part of the event was when a memorial was placed in loving memory of the lives lost in the April 9, 2009, tornado; Anna Cress, Judy Lobner, and Albert Shaw.


A memorial is something that serves as a focus to help remember an event. Are there memorials in the Bible? There is a memorial right in the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8-12 (NKJV)says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

What are we to remember when we keep the Sabbath? That God created the heavens and the earth.


When did God set up this memorial to creation? Genesis 2:1-3 (NKJV) tells us, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."

On the seventh day of creation, God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. It is a memorial of creation.  Many people no longer believe that God created the world in seven days. If we deny that God is the Creator, we have no reason to worship God.


One of the main topics of the book of Revelation is worship. The first angel’s message in Revelation 14 includes a call to the world to worship God as our Creator. Look at Revelation 14:6,7 (NKJV) where the Bible says, “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.’” God wants us to worship Him as the Creator.


To reject the account of creation as found in Genesis is to reject not only Old Testament worship but New Testament worship. In Romans 1:25 (NLT) the Bible says, “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” When we deny God’s creative power, we end up worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.

Gentle Reader, creation is important; It is the reason we worship God, and the seventh day has stood as a memorial to God’s creative power from creation week until today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eureka Weekend


For the past several years we have spent a weekend in April at Eureka Springs with my sister and her husband. We love Eureka Springs and have been visiting this quaint little town for over 30 years.

Eureka Springs is a Victorian mountain village that was founded in 1879. Judge J.B. Saunders claimed that his crippling disease was cured by the spring waters. Saunders started promoting Eureka Springs to friends and family members across the State and created a boom town. Within a period of little more than one year, the city grew from a rural village to a major city of 5,000 people. By 1889, it was the second largest city in Arkansas. With bath house cures falling out of favor, and the depression that hit the nation being particularly bad in Arkansas, Eureka Spring fell into decline during the 30's.


With the end of World War II the era of the family car trip began. Businesses and services moved to the highway, rustic tourist courts and air-conditioned motels were built alongside diners and gift shops. Sights that had been horseback adventure were now attractions to the motoring tourist. The motoring public could turn-off Hwy 62 down 62B into the valley, follow the loop through the historic little Victorian city, and come back out on the highway.

The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and manors. The old commercial section of the city has an alpine character, with an extensive streetscape of well-preserved Victorian buildings.


We stayed in a suite above one of the shops in the old downtown. It was great being downtown as we were able to leave our car parked and walk to most things we wanted to do. My sister and I both enjoy photography and had a great time taking photos.








Since we were staying right downtown It was easy to slip out of the room and take some night street scene photos.




We had such a good time. I'm looking forward to our weekend in Eureka Springs next year.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Opening Day

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



As I sit at my computer to write this week's column, it is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. I don't follow baseball closely like I used to but Opening Day is exciting for baseball fans. I first became obsessed with baseball when I was in the fifth grade. I went to a small private school and fifth through eighth grades were in class together. The older boys loved baseball, and I wanted to be like them. I would beg my Mom to get to school early because there was always a pickup baseball game going on before school started.


The first team that I followed was the Boston Red Sox. My pastor at the time was a Red Sox fan and his enthusiasm for his team made an impression on me. It was 1967 and the Red Sox had a season that came to be known as the "impossible dream." They went from ninth place the year before to winning the American League pennant before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. 


My favorite player was Yaz, Carl Yastrzemski. He was the Red Sox team captain and had the best season of his career. Yaz batted .326, hit 44 home runs, and drove in 121 RBIs, while leading the American League in all three of these stats, achieving the Triple Crown. I wanted to be Yaz. I played in the driveway of our house batting rocks with a broomstick imagining that I was playing in the Major Leagues. I wanted to play Little League baseball, but we lived out in the country, and there was no way that I could play.


As an adult, I made it to Little League. Some years ago my neighbor asked me to be a coach on a Little League baseball team. The kids on the team were 6 to 8 years old. Most of the kids were not great at hitting and catching. Some of them had the attention span of a butterfly, but I enjoyed working with the kids.

This age group of Little League had special rules to help tone down the competition and give everyone an equal chance. It was supposed to be about learning the game and having fun. Each inning every player was allowed to bat. We didn't keep score on the field, but everyone knew the score, especially the parents. But of course, no one was keeping score; well not officially.

That little league experience taught me how powerful comparison and competition can be. Even when I didn't want to compare and keep score I couldn't help it; and neither could anyone else. We all knew.

The real problem wasn't with our comparison; it was what we did with that information. We mentally ordered the kids from best to worst. Parents would feel better or worse about themselves based on what their kid did in the game.


Little League taught me that we have a very strong urge to compare. This tendency is unfortunate enough in Little League, but it is tragic when it comes to our spiritual life.

When we compare ourselves to others, we can never know the whole story. All we see is the outside. We can't see the heart. Often our conclusions about people are entirely wrong. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) tells us that, "People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."


God doesn't want us to have pride in our hearts. It separates us from Him. Did you know that God says that he hates pride? Proverbs 6:16,17 (NKJV) tells us, "these six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look," ...  Leading off this list of things that God hates is a proud look; a feeling of arrogance when we see others. God hates it.

I've noticed that there is something interesting about this sin of pride that God hates. It is usually found among the people who think that they love God the most. Many Christians are proud of their accomplishments and look down on others. But God says that we are all sinners. "When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)


Spiritual pride is the ultimate blind spot. We never see the pride in ourselves. We never think that we are inappropriately looking down of others. We believe that we see things as they are. We can't help it if we are better Christians than others.

How do we keep from falling into the trap of spiritual pride? The first step is to realize that we have no reason to be proud because we have no good works of our own. Then we need to ask ourselves if there is any group of people whom we are responding to with disgust, disdain or aversion. If the answer is yes, it is a sign that we are falling into the trap of spiritual pride.

I don't know what tempts you to feel superior. I don't know what kind of people you are tempted to look down on, but most of us have a list. I don't think that we realize how dangerous that list is. Unless we can get rid of the list, it will leave us separated from God. It can put us at the top of God's "I hate it when you do that" list.


Gentle Reader, spiritual pride isn't a small insignificant sin. It is front and center in the battle for our heart. Let's pray today with David his words found in Psalms 51:10 (NLT), "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a loyal spirit within me." It is the only way we can overcome our spiritual pride.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Urethane Stains

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


My job is installing windshields. Most windshields today are bonded to the vehicle with an automotive grade urethane designed specifically for auto glass installation. The urethane adhesive creates a molecular bond between the glass and the vehicle. I use a high viscosity moisture curing black urethane. Urethane is thick and sticky and bonds to almost anything. If it comes in contact with your hands or your clothes it is difficult to remove and it will stain.


During the replacement of a windshield, after the old windshield is removed, most of the existing urethane adhesive is removed from the pinchweld leaving a thin film for the new urethane to bond to. The urethane comes in a caulking tube and is applied through a triangular shaped notch cut into the tip of the caulking tube. After the urethane is applied to the pinchweld, the new windshield is carefully positioned into the urethane and pressed into place. The urethane stays sticky for quite a while before it cures and becomes hard. If you get urethane on your hands during the process, you will have stains that can’t be easily removed.


When I was fairly new to the business I was talking to a long time technician and asked him if he had any secrets for removing urethane from his hands. He said, “Point your hand north, then south. Then wait a week and I promise the stain will be gone. This is the only method that works. I'll recommend it to anyone.” In other words, only time will wear it off. Over the years I have had many people recommend products to me that they were sure would remove urethane from my hands. None of them work.

One day a customer was watching while I was installing his windshield. The urethane that I was using seemed irresistible. He just had to touch it. He got some of the urethane on his hand. He didn't want me to know he had touched it. I noticed he was quietly rubbing on his hand with a shop towel. If you try to wipe urethane off, all it does is smear and make a bigger mess. When I noticed his problem, I offered him some solvent that helps clean the urethane up. He said, “No thanks, I don’t need any.”


As I worked, I noticed him continuing to try to clean up. By this time he had gotten the urethane on both of his hands and had also gotten it on his coat. Urethane doesn't come out of clothes. Finally after observing his attempts to clean himself up and seeing how big a mess he was making, I just got a shop towel and soaked it in solvent and gave it to him. By trying to clean it up himself he had made a monumental mess. Have you ever made a big mess of your life by trying to clean things up yourself? I know I have.

As silly as it seems, there are many Christians who have the same attitude as the man in this story. Their hands are dirty and stained with sin, and yet when offered God’s saving grace they say, “no thanks, I don’t need any.” They try and try to clean themselves up. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 (NLT) , “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Even though the consequences of having hands stained with sin are so clearly stated, some Christians feel that they can clean themselves up by their works. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that when we display our righteous deeds they are nothing but filthy rags. Why would we try to clean ourselves up when Jesus has promised to forgive us and clean us up? Why would we ever think that we would have the ability to make ourselves clean?

King David when he was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan admitted that his hands were dirty. In 2 Samuel 12:13 (NLT) the Bible tells us, “Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.’”


After this experience David wrote the 51st Psalm. In it he repeatedly talked about God’s cleansing. Verse 2 (NKJV), “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Verse 7 (NIV) “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Verse 10 (NKJV) “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” David knew that he couldn’t clean himself up. He knew that only God could wash him and cleanse him. Only God could create a new heart in him.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Gentle Reader, Jesus has offered to forgive us of our sin, no matter what it is, and He has promised to clean us up. Let’s take him at his word.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Beautiful Spring Day


This past week my sister has been visiting from Missouri. She and I both enjoy photography. Yesterday afternoon we went around Mena taking photos. The dogwoods were blooming and they were just asking to have their photo taken.






Not far from my house is an old barn. We spent some time photographing it's unique features.






Our last stop of the day was at beautiful Janssen Park in the center of town.








As I was driving home past City Hall, the evening sun was glowing on the facade. I stopped for one last photo.


I love this town!