Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 - 2014

2014 is now behind us.  Here is a list of the top ten most viewed posts of 2014 on An Arkies Musings.  It is always interesting to me to see what topics other people are interested in.

The most viewed post of the year is my post, Remembering Nick, from October 3rd 2014.  Nick was one of the boys that I had in my youth class at church a number of years ago.  He had been shot to death in Oklahoma City.  He was just 23 years old.  His death really shook me up and it also struck a chord with my readers.  You can read the post here.

With a little help from the Fab 4, my post, The Beatles - All You Need Is Love, was the second most popular post of the year.  It was posted on the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964.  It was the first time that The Beatles appeared live on American television.  73 million people tuned in that evening making it one of the most memorable moments in television history.  You can read the post here.

How Much Are You Worth? - a post from June 6, 2014 - was the third most viewed post of the year.  It is a condensed version of a sermon that I gave at the Mena Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  How much are you and I truly worth? And what value should we place upon each other? You can read the post here.

One day I was sitting in the parking lot,while my wife shopped at Dress Barn.  I took a photo of the Dress Barn store and posted it to Facebook and said, I'm at my favorite place - The Dress Barn Parking Lot.  I received so many likes and comments that I would post anytime I was at Dress Barn.  My friends expected me to comment.  I now go out of my way to find a Dress Barn just to take a photo and make a comment. My February 3, 2014 post about my Dress Barn mania  made it to number 4 for the year.  You can read the post here.

This spring, a local aircraft painting business restored the Spirit of Freedom, a 1945 C-54 that was used in the Berlin airlift. I was invited to see it and tour the museum inside.  I wrote articles about the Spirit of Freedom for both of the local newspapers.  My May 2, 2014 blog post on the Spirit of Freedom was the fifth most popular of the year.  You can read the post here.

I didn't write post number 6.  When I attended the memorial service for Nick Scott in October, the eulogy that was given by Nick's cousin, Eric Scott, made such an impact in me that I asked If he would give me permission to share it on my blog.  You can read the eulogy here

The seventh most read post of this year is an article that was published in the May 15, 2014 issue of The Mena Star titled, Why Relay For Life Is Important To Me - Lawry's Testimony.  I have been involved in my local Relay For Life for a number of years.  You can read the post here.

When I was in grade school I was very excited about the space program.  I still love reading about space and especially like looking at photos taken by the Hubble telescope.  On May 9, 2014 I wrote about those passions using the Moody Blue's song, Higher and Higher.  It became the eighth most read post of the year.  You can read it here.

Number nine for the year is a post from February 7, 2014 on the topic of religious liberty that I simply titled, Liberty.  If you do believe in religious liberty for all, you will not make disparaging or hateful remarks about anyone.  John Wesley said, “Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. You can read the post here.  

The final post in the top ten of 2014 is from August 8, 2014 and is Stranded.  It is the story of a young woman who was stranded in Mena, Arkansas when the bus she was riding on stopped for a bathroom break and left without her.  Her story reminded me of trip in which we were stranded three times.  You can read the post here.  

The post Opus 500 from June 9, 2014 was the 500th post on An Arkie's Musings.  It highlighted posts number 1, 100, 200, 300 and 400 plus what I feel is the most heartfelt post of the first 500.  You can read the post here

I can't wait to see what adventures and experiences 2015 will bring.  I wonder what the top ten posts of 2015 will be.

You can read the Top 10 posts of 2013 here.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mother's Christmas Program

While he was at a family reunion, my Dad was given a story written by my second cousin, Toni Ehrhardt. The story takes place during the Great Depression and centers around two little girls. Here is a photo of those two little girls today.

                                  IRENE AND HENRIETTA

Mother's Christmas Program
by Toni Ehrhardt

My mother,Irene Dannels Woolery was born in 1925 on a small farm near Altoona, Kansas. Times weren't easy at the Dannel's Place nor most other places for that matter. I remember my mother telling me that most of the time, the family had a nice Christmas dinner of baked chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, hot rolls and pumpkin pie. Possibly, they had gingerbread, fudge and mady taff. I'm just guessing they had milk, water or home-made cider to drink.

For Christmas, the kids, (my mom and her sisters and brothers), usually got a nickel, an orange, and some gift my grandparents made for them. For example, my grandpa made little tractors out of spools and rubber bands and my grandma made rag dolls or teddy bears and made outfits for them.

The family went to cut down a Christmas tree and decorated their tree with popcorn, little ornaments they made at home, church, or school and possibly with little pieces of ribbon or bits of lace. They went to school and church programs and especially enjoyed those things as well as big family dinners with lots of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Times, of course, got even rougher in the 1930's. I remember my mother telling me that my Grandma Zenella Reeve Dannels, had one dress and one pair of overalls. Naturally, the girls didn't have many clothes either but somewhere around 1939 when my mom was about 14, my grandma promised the girls (My mom, Irene and my aunt, Henrietta, who were still in school that she would make them both a nice Christmas dress for their Christmas program at Buffville School.

My mother always loved clothes and shoes, so she was in a rush to get home from school that day to see the dresses that my grandmother, an adequate and basic seamstress, had made for her and Etta. So the two girls hurried in on that cold Winter day anxious to see their new dresses.

The girls ran to my grandmother and asked, "Where are the dresses you made for us for the School Program? My grandmother replied, "I'm sorry, girls. I simply didn't have the time to make any dresses for you. You'll just have to do with your best dress this time. I'm sorry."

My Aunt Henrietta didn't get so upset but my mother was absolutely devastated. She had imagined a new red velvet dress and she was practically sick that my grandmother hadn't made dresses for them. She was mad too, because my grandmother had definitely promised the girls new dresses for this event, which was one of the most important programs of the season.

About that time, the girls heard a car coming and a car horn honking, honking, honking. They ran to see who it was because they weren't expecting anybody and they also had to hurry to get washed up and primped for the program. They were a little surprised to see their oldest brother, Walter Dannels, and his cute young wife, Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels, coming in the door carrying boxes.

"Are you two coming to our Christmas program?" my Mom asked.  "Sure are!" Walter said, grinning. "Now you two girls better hurry and get all fixed up so I won't be so embarrassed that you're my little sisters!" "Come on," Stelline told the two younger girls. "Now get in there and I'll help you fix your hair!"

All three of the girls crowded into the girls' bedroom and my Mom asked, "Hey, Stelline, what's in the box?"  "Never you mind. Just get your school clothes off and hang them up. And you need to hurry. I've made some sandwiches and cookies for us to eat".  Then Stelline started opening the boxes. She pulled out two of the prettiest dresses my Mom and Aunt Etta had ever seen.

"Oh, Stelline, Thank you! Thank you! We had no idea you were making us Christmas dresses! Oh, they're so pretty!"  "I just love mine, too. They are so cute and stylish. Thank you!"  "Now stop blubbering and get those dresses on," Walter hollered.

The two girls got the dresses on, and they fit perfectly. Stelline also whipped a comb and brush through their hair and sprayed on a tad of Evening in Paris perfume. "You two girls will be the belles of the ball" she told them smiling at their happy excited faces.

About that time my grandparents came in with some eggs and a milk pail to leave in the cellar. "You two girls sure look nice!" my Grandma said. "Wasn't it nice of Stelline to make your Christmas dresses when I really couldn't find the time."

My Grandpa Earl Dannels said, "You girls look dandy. I'm really going to feel proud tonight!" "Oh Stelline, you've made this the best Christmas Program ever!" the two girls said, smiling widely.


Note from Toni Ehrhardt: My Aunt Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels passed away in 1968, much too young. She had a special talent of looking at a dress and the person who wanted it and sewing it up in no time. Everything she made looked like it came from Vogue. She also was a very good cook. I remember especially that she made wonderful Turkey Pie. She is sadly missed by her children and family.

Stelline Elizabeth Hoobler was born November 30, 1916 in Jasper, Alabama and died May 13, 1968. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California . She married Walter Louis Dannels December 4, 1935 in Erie, Kansas. He was born April 24, 1914 in Altoona, Kansas and died August 19, 1998. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Gifts

This is a repost of the most read article of all time on An Arkie's Musings, with over 11,000 people taking the time to read the story.  It also happens to be one of my favorites.

At Christmas time one of the things that most people focus on is gift giving.  We spend a lot of money and time finding the right gifts for people that are important in our life.  Sometimes we fail in our gift giving.

One Christmas when my son was a young boy, we nearly ruined his Christmas with one particular gift.  One of the jobs that he was given around the house was sweeping the kitchen floor.  That Christmas we bought a stick vacuum cleaner and thought it would be funny to give to him as a gift.  When it was wrapped, the vacuum was the largest gift under the tree.  When my son saw that the largest gift had his name on it he was very excited.  His imagination went wild.  What could that present be?  His whole Christmas revolved around the largest gift under the tree.  When Christmas morning arrived, all he could think about was that gift.  When he opened it, he was so disappointed that the rest of his Christmas presents couldn't make up for the vacuum cleaner fiasco.

Have you ever been disappointed by a gift?  Has someone been disappointed by the gift you gave them?  What about great gifts?  What is the best gift you have ever received? What made it so special? Was it the value of the gift? Was it the person who gave it to you? Was it because it was so unexpected?

As I think about this question I find it hard to narrow down one particular gift as the best. There is one gift that I received that was very special for a number of reasons. One of the reasons this particular gift was special is that I still don’t know who gave me the gift. Let me tell you the story.

In February 2004, 17 members of my church raised 20,000 dollars and went to San Pedro, Belize in Central America to build a church. While we were there we made lots of friends. We were only in San Pedro for a short time, but by the time we left the walls of the church were finished. During the following months, the church members in San Pedro finished the church building. Plans were made for a church dedication service to be held in February 2005. I was invited to come to the dedication service. I really wanted to go. This church building project had been very important to me, and I had made many friends in San Pedro that I wanted to see again. There was just one problem. I couldn’t afford the trip.

Woman In Red

One day I received a letter in the mail from Fare Finders Travel. Why were they sending me a letter? When I opened the letter I was surprised by what it said. Please come in to Fare Finders to make arrangements for a round trip ticket to Belize. Someone has paid for the ticket, but they want to remain anonymous. I couldn’t believe it. My wife immediately tried to figure out who the anonymous donor was. She still hasn’t cracked the case. It is still an unsolved mystery. The mysterious ticket has to be one of the best gifts I have ever received.

We made plans to go back to San Pedro. As we packed and attended to all the details of the trip, the mystery giver was in our thoughts. Who was this person who had given such a meaningful and valuable gift? How could we thank the giver?

Our trip to Belize was wonderful. It was very special to me to see the completed church building. The dedication service was beautiful and moving with people from several different countries participating. We got reacquainted with friends that we had made the year before, and made many new friends the 10 days that we were there. Many times friends would stop by our room with gifts such as fresh coconut water, papaya, or some small trinket. On the last day we were in San Pedro, there was a steady stream of visitors at our room. They wanted to tell us goodbye. Most of them brought a gift.

Belizean Friends

We received one gift that was very special to me. My wife made a special friendship with a little 2 year old boy who spoke only Spanish. Whenever he would see her his face would light up. He didn’t understand English, but he understood the language of love. The day we were leaving he and his 4 year old sister came to our door with a gift. They gave us a well worn 1941 Walking Liberty half dollar. I have no idea how this little family had come into possession of this coin, or why they gave it to me. Even though the monetary value of the coin is only a few dollars it is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.

San Pedro Angel

I learned an important spiritual lesson on my trip to Belize. I learned it from the people that I met. They had such a desire to do something for us. Even though they had only meager possessions, they had such a desire to please. They wanted to see us before we left. They had to bring us a gift. It was very important to them. To me that showed how I should relate to God. God, I don’t have anything but I want to give you something. God let me know what I can do to please you. God I want to be with you.

He's Alive

In Romans 6:23 the Bible tells us “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”. God has given you the best gift ever, what will you give God this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Xmas

X is for Xmas.  I must admit that I have never liked Xmas as an abbreviation for Christmas.  It just seems a bit flippant and unnecessary. In today's culture where many Christians perceive a war against Christmas, they see the use of Xmas as an attempt to secularize the season by taking Christ out of Christmas.

I must admit that I agreed with those sentiments until I actually looked into the history of the use of Xmas.  Originally, Xmas was an abbreviation where the X represents the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in Greek, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ. However, because of the modern interpretations of the letter X, many people are unaware of this and assume that this abbreviation is meant to drop Christ from Christmas.

According to R. C. Sproul in his book, Now That's a Good Question, the idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.

The Greek letter Χ, or Chi, was a common abbreviation for "Christ" in past religious writings. Its usage can be traced as far back as the 4th century in Rome, and to 1021 AD in historic Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Xmas began to be used in English starting in the 1500′s. Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.

In an article on the subject of Xmas written by Dennis Bratcher, he states, "Xmas is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season.  Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church.  It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying "exmas."

Even though we know from history that it isn't offensive to use “Merry Xmas,” do be aware that some still find it so, so use good judgment when using the abbreviation “Xmas.”

Merry Xmas every one from An Arkie's Musings - pronounced properly of course.  :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Want To Be A Shepherd

I've always wanted to be a shepherd.  No I haven’t really wanted to live alone with a herd of sheep; I have always coveted the experience of the shepherds on that first Christmas night.

God could have chosen to reveal this most important announcement to anyone on earth.  But instead of assigning the angels to visit some of the most important people on earth, God sent the angels to speak to humble shepherds, who most people didn't consider important.

The shepherds would have been watching over their flocks while the sheep and lambs rested or grazed on grass from the hillsides. While the shepherds were prepared to deal with any danger that threatened their animals, they were shocked and scared by witnessing the angels' appearance. That’s why the angels told them, “don’t be afraid”.

The angels reassured the terrified shepherds that they had good news for them. Since the shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed to atone for people's sins each spring on Passover, the shepherds would have well understood the importance of the Messiah's arrival to save the world from sin. Many historians believe that Jesus Christ was  born in the spring around Passover.  In John 1:29, the Bible refers to Jesus as the "lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".

Long before electric lights were invented, the fields around Bethlehem would have been very dark. Suddenly a bright light broke into the black night, as the sky above Bethlehem filled with a multitude of angels.

The announcement of the birth of Jesus was marked by the light of many angels appearing in all of their heavenly glory.  As amazing as the experience must have been, seeing angels appearing in the night sky, that’s not the part of the experience that intrigues me the most. It is what happened next.

The Bible tells the story in Luke 2:15-18: "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."

Imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first people to see the baby Jesus!  I can just feel the excitement these humble shepherds felt.  The just had to tell people of their experiences.  Can you imagine being a part of those conversations! Even in the days before media such as television and the internet, word traveled fast that something amazing was happening.

Even though I will never be a shepherd or experience the things that the humble shepherds of Bethlehem experienced on that first Christmas, I can follow their example.  I can spread the word about the baby Jesus.  I can be excited about Jesus and what he means to this world.  That is what Christmas is all about.  Let’s all be shepherds!

Friday, December 5, 2014

You Did It To Me - Part 2

Seven billion people.  It’s a big number. I know that there are more than seven billion people living on this planet, but I can't comprehend what that really means.

God doesn't see the number, He sees faces; behind which are personal histories and heartaches, individual predicaments and potentials. He sees actual people with names. Each one lives in a particular place, wakes up each day, faces their issues and deals with the obstacles that confront them. God feels everything each one of them feels. He sees every detail of every experience that has gone into making each of them exactly who they are at this very moment.

He loves each one of these people so much that he gave his only Son as a sacrifice for them.  This is the time of year that we focus on the birth of Jesus.  What I am always amazed by when I think of the baby Jesus is His willingness to leave heaven and live the life of a human being.

As we enter the Christmas season, are you amazed by the baby Jesus and what he represents, or is the sacrifice of the baby lost in the shuffle?  Remember, God loves each one of the seven billion people who live on this planet so much that he gave his only son as a sacrifice for them.  Jesus loves each one of them so much that he was willing to come to this earth and sacrifice his life.

If we focus on how much God loves all human beings and the price He paid to redeem us, we’ll come to see ourselves as God sees us, and that will help us understand just how much all of humanity is worth to God. Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.

One of those children is Nick.  Nick's family moved to our area and started attending the Mena Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1999.  As the youth leader and the Pathfinder Club leader I got to know Nick and his sister Marci.  His parents had been missionaries in Africa and had adopted him there. When they retired, they moved back to the U.S.

Nick enjoyed being a member of the Mena Wildcats Pathfinder Club. Twice a year we would go on campouts, and Nick loved to go. He was a friendly boy and always made lots of friends.

On October first, he was shot to death in Oklahoma City.  He was just 23 years old. The news report read, Around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, police were called out to the apartment complex on NW 25th and Penn on a shots fired call with a man down.  On arrival Nick Scott was discovered in the courtyard of an apartment complex.

An apartment resident told police that they heard 5 or 6 shots. "I ran outside, everyone says Nick, it's Nick! He's dead, he's dead!"  The witness described Nick as a homeless man.

When I heard the news I was really shaken up.  I know that things like this are a daily occurrence, but it is different when you know the person.  I knew that Nick had made some bad choices as a teenager, but I didn't realize that he had ended up homeless on the streets of Oklahoma City.  When I attended his funeral, I found out more about his situation.  There was a problem with Nick's citizenship paperwork that his parents spent years trying to straighten out.  They were never able to get through the red tape, so Nick was actually living as an illegal immigrant.

At his funeral those who showed the most emotion where young street people who didn't look the best or smell the best.  Nick’s cousin gave the eulogy and it really made me think about my attitudes towards people.  The eulogy made such an impact on me that I asked Nick’s cousin if he would give me permission to publish it on my blog.  He graciously gave his permission.  I hope that it makes an impact on you like it did me.

Eulogy for Nicolas N. Scott
by Eric Scott
Ph.D student in Computer Science
George Mason University

"The last few years of Nick’s life were hard. Certainly harder than anything I've been through. There is no way to sugar coat it: as a homeless man in Oklahoma City, Nick suffered a lot. At Nick’s age, he should have been looking forward to an open-ended vista of possibilities. The American Dream, with all its hopes and promises, should have been tantalizing him with its optimism. And on his good days, Nick did dream of future success the way a young person should. He dreamt of getting his G.E.D. and going back to school, of making enough money to pay back everyone he had ever hurt, and of becoming a lawyer and helping people in situations like his.

But most days, Nicolas was trapped in a sense of futility. Robert Frost described an old man in a similar position in one of his poems, “The Death of the Hired Man.” Young as he was, it could easily have been Nick, Nick who lived as an illegal immigrant in his own country, barely eking out a living as a hired hand. Frost writes of him:

So concerned for other folk, And nothing to look backward to with pride, And nothing to look forward to with hope, So now and never any different.

If there’s one thing that I've consistently heard from Nick’s friends and acquaintances over the years, it was that he was truly concerned for other folk. Nick did many things that he regretted, some things as innocent as stealing food to survive, and some things less easy to forgive. I don’t know what it’s like to be locked in the cycle of hopelessness that so many people living in poverty experience from day to day. I’m told that money loses value when there is never enough of it. There is a certain logic to irresponsibility in situations where human flourishing is rare and precious.

But people never lost value for Nick. Nick was a passionate believer in compassion and empathy. Nick stood in judgment over himself for his failures to do justice to people and their experiences. And he stood in judgment over me, over society and criminal justice, and over the church. The one person I never heard him criticize was his late mother, Tilly Scott, who for Nick embodied a complete and unconditional regard for the well-being of her son.

Nick went back and forth on his religious beliefs. Life on the street doesn't afford much luxury for debating academic arguments about God and theology. He didn't know what he believed, but he read his Bible regularly, and Nick seemed to genuinely feel that Christ was often more present in the homeless shelters and jail cells of Oklahoma City than in its churches. He tried many times to explain to me his belief that there is good in everyone, a source of dignity even in what most of us would consider broken and violent souls. Nick knew convicted murderers that he believed were among the most profound representatives of Christ-like compassion that you could find.

A few weeks ago the minister at my church in Virginia delivered a message on forgiveness, and challenged everyone in our congregation to forgive one person that week, and to ask forgiveness from someone. Things were tense between Nick and I at the time. He’d told some fibs while trying to get my family to help him with rent money, and I was feeling pretty stern. It was a busy week for me, and I procrastinated on my homework, but finally I told Nick that I forgave him, and that supporting him was what was most important to us. He died that evening.

Because of my minister’s challenge, I have the comfort of knowing that Nick’s last words to me were of gratitude. That week, his family had chosen to love him unconditionally. He told me that it meant a lot, and that he would try to do better toward us.

But what I failed to do, and what I wish I could do now, is ask Nick’s forgiveness. Not just for the times I wasn't there to help him. I want Nick’s forgiveness for being slow to learn how to see the dignity in every human being. It is always far easier to judge the homeless than to help them, even with family. On Nick’s behalf, I challenge all of us, myself included, to see the Christ in those in need. We have to go beyond feeling sorry for others, and build relationships that allow us to truly understand them. Nick is no longer here for us to learn to love, but his belief in love is something we can carry on now that he is gone."

I hope that this eulogy will help you see the dignity in every human being.  If we can do that - see the dignity in every person regardless of race, gender, religion, social standing, politics,or nationality - we become more like Jesus.  We become like the Jesus of John 3:16,17 -  "For God so loved the world (all seven billion of every possible race, religion, and nationality) 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".

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me."  I have always understood that helping the "least of these" was in reality helping Jesus.  I now realize that when I judge or criticize people I do it to Jesus Himself.  When I talk badly about people groups, I’m talking badly about Jesus.

Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.

Seven billion people.  It’s a big number. But God loves them all.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.  Are they precious in your sight?