Saturday, September 25, 2010


Tiny Hand

For the past months we have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new grandchild. Our wait is soon to be over. By the end of the week we will be grandparents once again. We are so excited. Gina has had her suitcase packed for two weeks.

The fall of the year has been the time of the year for our grandbabies to be born. I can remember how we anticipated the birth of our first in the fall of 2005. One Saturday evening we were at Papa's, a local Mexican restaurant. We had been waiting for a table, and had finally been seated and gotten our drinks when some friends came in. We waited for a larger table to open so we could sit together. Just shortly after being seated at the larger table we got a phone call. Our daughter was on the way to the hospital. It was time to have a baby. We jumped up and left without ordering, ran by the house to pick up the pre-packed suitcase, and were on our way to Baton Rouge ten minutes later.

Papa and Autumn

Autumn and Papa

We made it to Baton Rouge, an eight hour drive, several hours before Autumn was born. What an awesome feeling it was to see this tiny beautiful baby; our grandaughter. Being a grandparent is the best!

In the fall of 2007 we were once again anticipating the birth of a grandbaby. We arrived in Baton Rouge the night before my daughter was to be induced. That morning we were to get Autumn up and bring her to the hospital to be there when her sister was born. Before we were ready to go we got a phone call telling us to hurry up; Rebekah was already here. From the time the doctor broke the water until she was born was 20 minutes. The doctor went back to her office in the hospital and turned on the monitors - realized what was happening - and turned right around but wasn't able to get there in time. Around the hospital Rebekah was known as speedy baby.

Grandpa's Girl

Autumn loved her new little sister, and anytime we were in the room with the new baby she would hold out her arms and say, "I holdy, I holdy". She didn't love Rebekah quite as much when Grandma would hold her. We were careful to give Autumn lots of attention.

The First Kiss

The girls have moved in together to make room for a new sibling. They have really enjoyed being together. The are such beautiful little girls, (and that is a completely unbiased opinion).

New Orleans 12

I'm looking forward to meeting my new grandbaby with anticipation.

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Tiny Hand

Friday, September 17, 2010


Vicksburg National Military Park 15

Last weekend Gina and I spent some time in Vicksburg, Mississippi on our way home from the Relay For Life Summit in Jackson, Mississippi. While we were there we visited the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg. The city's surrender on July 4, 1863 split the South, giving control of the Mississippi River to the Union. There are over 1,340 monuments, a restored Union gunboat, and National Cemetery on the 16-mile tour road.

Cannon 3

There is so much history in the park. The U.S. Government established the battlefield as a National Military Park in 1899.

The battles of the Vicksburg campaign were some of the fiercest and long lasting of the war. General Grant attacked the Confederates on May 19, 1863 and again on May 22. The Confederate positions were too strong, and the Union casualties were high. On May 25 General Grant decided on a siege of the city as he had it surrounded and had naval bombardment from the Mississippi. He stated in his memoirs, "I now determined upon a regular siege—to 'out-camp the enemy,' as it were, and to incur no more losses."

By the end of June, half of the Rebel soldiers were sick or hospitalized. Scurvy, malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, and other diseases cut their ranks. Food was almost non-existent, with soldiers resorting to eating dogs, mules and shoe leather. On July 3 General Pemberton rode out of the city with white flags to meet General Grant to discuss terms of surrender.


The most important thing for the Union army was that they now controlled all of the Mississippi River. The side that controlled that waterway controlled a direct route through the Confederacy and would eventually dominate the war. The full campaign claimed 10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate killed and wounded.

As we toured the park and looked at all of the monuments it was sobering to think of the loss of life and the hardship that occurred in this beautiful countryside.

Vicksburg National Military Park 9


Vicksburg National Military Park 7

Vicksburg National Military Park 10

Vicksburg National Military Park 6

Vicksburg National Military Park 2

Monday, September 13, 2010

9/11 and Hope

911 Memorial

On September 11 I was out of town and away from my computer. No matter where I am or what I am doing, September 11 brings a flood of emotion. Each year on the anniversary of the horrible day I am engulfed in a cloud of sadness and hurt as I reflect on all those lives that were so altered by the events on that day.

Vicksburg 911 Memorial

But this 9/11 was different. Gina and I were at an American Cancer Society Relay For Life Summit in Jackson, Mississippi. The purpose of the Summit is to inspire hope, courage and determination in the fight to eliminate cancer. If there is one word that defines Relay For Life it is "hope".

It is inspiring to spend time with hundreds of volunteers whose main objective is to provide hope for the all too many people who are affected by cancer. In a world that sometimes seems consumed with distrust and hatred of people who are different in race, religion or political beliefs, it filled me with hope to see a group of people who are willing to give of their money and time to benefit others and to give them hope.


As Gina and I watched the History channel programing Saturday evening in our hotel room in Vicksburg, Mississippi the tragedy of the day was once again uppermost in my mind. Watching the first person accounts of that day left me with a knot in my stomach and a feeling of sadness. As I was thinking about the terror of that day, I was drawn to the different ways people react and deal with it. Hatred has been in the news recently with the talk of burning the Koran and blaming every Muslim for the tragedy. Not everyone reacts with hatred. There is one group in particular that has harnessed the emotion of that terrible day for a good cause.

Each year on the 9/11 Anniversary, The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends hundreds of volunteers from New York along with disaster survivors from around the country to help rebuild communities around the United States recovering from disaster. It’s their way of saying “Thank You” for all the love and support Americans from across the country extended to New Yorkers in the days, weeks, and months following September 11.

This year they came to my community, Mena, Arkansas to help us rebuild after a tornado devastated much of the town in April 2009. You can read more about their efforts in Mena here.

National 911 Flag

As part of the ceremonies local service heroes from the community and surrounding towns placed ceremonial stitches in The National 9/11 Flag, a 30-foot American flag destroyed in the collapse of The World Trade Center on September 11. I was at the memorial service and was able to see and photograph that flag. To see these wonderful volunteers in action and to see this flag that the terrible events of September 11, 2001 couldn't destroy left me on this 9/11 anniversary filled with hope.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Two Year Anniversary

It seems that I missed my anniversary. No it wasn't my wedding anniversary. The anniversary that I missed was my blogging anniversary. My very first post was on September 6, 2008. In the last two years I have made over 200 posts and have had over 22,000 unique readers from 143 different countries. Since very few people read my first post I thought I would repost it here.


Labor Day weekend my wife and I spent visiting our daughter in Baton Rouge. We had a wonderful time with our granddaughters. Unfortunately we had to cut our visit short because of Hurricane Gustav. As we made plans for the trip we were keeping an eye on the weather reports. At first it looked like we would be fine if we left Monday morning, but Gustav sped up, and we had to leave Sunday morning instead.

As we made our way home we were caught up in heavy traffic as 2 million people were evacuating South Louisiana.

Fleeing Gustav

Why were so many people leaving? Today with satellites and television we have warning when a hurricane is coming. It wasn't always that way. Years ago weather forecasters had no way of knowing what was happening out in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, unless a ship captain relayed storm information. Many hurricanes caught people completely unprepared.

With the information that is available today, people have several days to prepare for a storm. When people receive warning of a storm they have two options. They can evacuate, or they can prepare. The reason that there were so many people on the crowded roads of Louisiana was that they had chosen to evacuate ahead of Gustav. They were looking for shelter from the storm.

There are storms in life that we should run from. About 2 million people ran from Hurricane Gustav when authorities asked people to evacuate. There are times in life when we can take ourselves out of harm's way. But sometimes we can't. There are those storms that we have no control over.

Take the case of Chippie the Parakeet. The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum cleaner, and opened the bag. There was Chippie - still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust, hair and all the stuff you find in a dust bag, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, a friend who had heard about Chippie's troubles contacted his owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore - he just sits and stares."

Who can blame him? Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the strongest heart. Things happen in our lives that come along unexpectedly and we end up feeling a bit like Chippie - sucked in, washed up, and blown over – the song stolen from the strongest of hearts.

How can you deal with those kinds of storms? You can't evacuate. You can't run away from them. But you can prepare for them. How can we prepare for the storms of life? First thing to do is to look for shelter. Many homes in Arkansas have a tornado shelter. Our home doesn't, but we have a downstairs hallway with no windows that we use as a shelter in bad weather.

Where can we find shelter when the storms of life overwhelm us? In Psalms 46:1-3,11 the Bible tells us "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! The LORD Almighty is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.

What a beautiful promise. God is our refuge. God is our shelter. He hasn't promised to shield us from every storm. But he tells us that he will always be with us so we don't have to fear.

The 3-year old felt secure in his father's arms as Daddy stood in the middle of the pool. But Daddy, for fun, began walking slowly toward the deep end. As the water rose higher and higher on the child, the boy's face registered increasing degrees of panic, as he held all the more tightly to his father, who, of course, easily touched the bottom. Had the little boy been able to analyze his situation, he'd have realized there was no reason for increased anxiety. The water's depth in any part of the pool was over his head. Even in the shallowest part, had he not been held up, he'd have drowned. His safety anywhere in that pool depended on his Daddy. At various points in our lives, all of us feel we're getting "out of our depth" -- problems abound, a job is lost, someone dies. Our temptation is to panic, for we feel we've lost control. Yet, as with the boy in the pool, the truth is we've never been in control. We've always been held up by the grace of God, our Daddy, and that does not change. God is never out of his depth, and therefore we're safe when we're "going deeper" than we've ever been.

Remember that there is no storm that is too big for our Father. Psalms 18:2 tells us "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New York Says Thank You

National 911 Flag
Last Thursday, the New York Says Thank You Foundation arrived in Mena to help rebuild after last year’s devastating tornado.

Each year on the 9/11 Anniversary, The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends hundreds of volunteers from New York along with disaster survivors from around the country to help rebuild communities around the United States recovering from disaster. It’s their way of saying “Thank You” for all the love and support Americans from across the country extended to New Yorkers in the days, weeks, and months following September 11.

New York Says Thank You

At the core of the volunteer rebuilding effort were 25 New York City firefighters, many of whom survived the World Trade Center attacks. Also helping were disaster survivor volunteers from all the communities around the U.S. that the Foundation has assisted on previous anniversaries of 9/11 and who continually volunteer each year as their way to “Pay It Forward.” This group includes San Diego wildfire survivors, Hurricane Katrina survivors from Slidell, Louisiana, and tornado survivors from Utica, Illinois, DeGonia Springs, Indiana, Groesbeck, Texas, Greensburg, Kansas, and most recently Little Sioux, Iowa where New York Says Thank You brought out over 1,200 volunteers on the 9/11 Anniversary 2009 to rebuild a Boy Scout camp devastated by a deadly tornado that took the lives of four young Scouts.

Handing Out Water

The volunteers helped rebuild the homes of three families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the tornado and rendered unlivable. These include a young family with two children whose parents both work at the local WalMart; a single mother who is 100% disabled and caring for an 18-year-old autistic son; and a young family with six children ages 8 years to 1 month who are now living in a mobile home with very little living space. The volunteers also helped rebuild Mena’s 4-H County Extension Community Center. The Community Center will serve as an educational meeting space for 4-H youth, farmers, community leaders, business owners, and families.

New York City Firefighters 2

In addition to the volunteer rebuilding weekend, history was made on Saturday September 4 at Mena’s National Guard Armory when local service heroes from the community and surrounding towns placed ceremonial stitches in The National 9/11 Flag, a 30-foot American flag destroyed in the collapse of The World Trade Center on September 11.

National 911 Flag 3

Local first responders who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts following the Mena tornado and recent flooding at the Albert Pike campground were given the historic honor of helping to repair this national treasure which will become part of the permanent collection of The National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at Ground Zero.

Jeff Parness, New York Says Thank You Foundation

At the community memorial ceremony held Sunday morning at Janssen Park, Jeff Parness, founder of New York Says Thank You stated, “New Yorkers will never forget what people from Arkansas and small towns all across the United States did for us in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. Helping to rebuild Mena on the 9/11 Anniversary 2010 is our way of honoring that incredible spirit of kindness and volunteerism that united our Nation on 9/12.”

New York City Firefighters

The service was very moving, with all of the NY Firemen along with volunteers from so many other communities that had been devastated by natural disasters. The true spirit of America was shown in my community this weekend.

Photos of the 2009 Mena Tornado

To learn more about the New York Says Thank You Foundation go here.

To learn more about the National 9/11 Flag go here.

National 911 Flag 2

American Flag

Planting Trees


Jonesboro Arkansas Firefighters

National 911 Flag 4

Jonesboro Arkansas Firefighters 2

National 911 Flag 5

National 911 Flag 6

National 911 Flag 7

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Your Kindness

Music has always been very important in my spiritual life. An uplifting song can be very meaningful. The message in a song can leave a lasting impression. One song that has left an impression on me is titled “Your Kindness”. I first heard the song in 1985 when it was written and recorded by Leslie Phillips. It is one of those songs that stays with me. The lyrics still speak to me.

“Waiting for angry words to sear my soul.
Knowing I don't deserve another chance.
Suddenly the kindest words I've ever heard
come flooding from God's heart.
It's your kindness that leads us
to repentance, Oh Lord.
Knowing that You love us
no matter what we do,
makes us want to love You too.”

The idea for the song comes from a Bible verse that we can find in Romans 2:4, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? Is it your Pastor? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.

I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. Did that make me sorry? Did it bring about repentance? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught. True godly sorrow brings about repentance, and true repentance brings about change.

What is it that brings us to Godly Sorrow? What causes us to be truly sorry for our sins, to bring us to repentance? It is when we realize how much God loves us and when we see the kindness that he has shown to us and to everyone.

Romans 11:22 shows us a little different viewpoint on God’s kindness. “Consider, then, the kindness and severity of God: his severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness toward you—if you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off.” Paul here is talking about his Jewish countrymen who had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Because of their unbelief God had to cut them off, just as he will cut us off if we don’t accept Jesus as our Savior.

Knowing that God has a severe side along with his kindness brings us to an interesting question. Should the severity of God bring us to repentance? Should the fear of punishment be the catalyst that makes us repent? I think that our criminal justice system should make us realize that fear of punishment does not bring about repentance.

For many years I helped with the Pathfinder Club in my church. A couple of times a year we would take the kids camping. When you take kids camping, you can get into some very interesting discussions. On one trip I had a Pathfinder ask me a question. They wanted to know, why does God torture people in hellfire for all of eternity for bad things they do in just a few years of life? How do you answer such a question to some kids sitting around a campfire?

It's no wonder that so many people find it difficult to reconcile a God who is perfectly just with a punishment that is clearly unjust. Fortunately, the Bible is very clear on this teaching.

First, we must remember that God is love (1John 4:8). The Bible says as much as we love our children, God loves His even more. And you are His child!

Second, the Bible does indicate there is a hell. Jesus says there is (Matthew 10:28). But here is what Jesus says about hell in Matthew 13:40: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.” What can we learn from this verse?

First, hell won't exist until “the end of this world.” Wouldn't that mean nobody today is burning in hell? Second, it says the tares (in this case, it means the wicked) are burned. It is a real place where the wicked will be burned.

But the Bible doesn't say hell will last forever. It teaches that hell destroys the wicked, once and for all. It makes it clear that hell is a place where the wicked perish in fire. They will burn up as “stubble” and will “become ashes” (Malachi 4:1, 3). Psalm 68:2 says, “as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”

Even the most popular verse of the Bible supports this position. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice that the wicked “perish.” They die. They cease to exist. Only the righteous have everlasting life.

The purpose of hell, according to the Bible, is to destroy sinners forever and create a universe without sin. That's going to be a great place to live, don't you think?