Wednesday, May 22, 2024

My First Love

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 22, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

In high school, I was too shy to talk to girls. I was almost too shy to talk to boys. When I first went to high school, it was at a private school that only went to the tenth grade. When I transferred to another school at the beginning of my junior year, the only people I would talk to were those I knew from my previous school.

Although I was too shy to talk to girls, that didn’t mean I wasn’t interested. At the beginning of my senior year, a girl stole my heart the first time she walked into Mr. Brost's history class. Because I was so shy, it was almost a year before she knew I was interested. 

I think that God knew that I needed all of the help I could get, so he made it so that our paths crossed in several ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week, producing learning packets for history class. The special girl and I were both in the group. We both worked at the local furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

Just before graduation, I lost my job at the furniture factory. I was accused of doing something I hadn’t done, and the punishment was a two-week suspension. I told management I was innocent, and if they persisted with the suspension, I would never be back. My sense of justice caused me to lose a good-paying summer job. 

News of my trouble with management quickly spread around the factory. When I picked up my personal items from the jig I worked at, there was a soda can with a flower in it. It was from that girl back in the drawer-making section. As angry as I was with the situation, I felt warm and tingly inside because it became apparent that the girl who had stolen my heart at the beginning of the year cared about me.

When it came time for our high school graduation, I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally, I mustered every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me she would like to, but she had already told another boy she would march with him. She said she would march with me if I talked to the other boy. Once again, summoning up every bit of courage I had, I spoke to him. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

We went to an amusement park on our first date. I don’t handle motion well and quickly get carsick and seasick. As we were riding one of the rides, I kept feeling sicker and sicker. This was our first actual date, and I felt terrible. I didn’t want her to know I was too wimpy to ride amusement park rides. I said nothing and hoped that my nausea would pass. It didn’t. I threw up on the ride, all over both of us. She took me to her house and got some of her dad’s clothes for me to change into while she washed mine. After my clothes had been washed and dried, we returned to the amusement park but didn’t ride anything but the train.

The rest is history. I knew that if our horrific first date didn’t end our relationship, she was as awesome as I had always thought. After a year-long relationship, with five hundred miles separating us, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. In June 1975, we married.

I know that high school romances usually do not last forever and that when kids get married in their teens, the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still incredible to go through each day with my first love! I can't wait to see where this journey leads.

Many relationships don’t last. According to the National Vital Statistics System, one divorce occurs in the United States every 36 seconds. For many people, it seems that maintaining that first love isn’t possible. Many Christians also seem to have a problem maintaining their relationship with God.

Maybe your relationship with God isn’t what it once was. Do you remember when you first gave your life to Jesus? It was exciting to know that your sins had been forgiven. But have things changed? You still pray, sometimes. You still read the Bible occasionally. You talk about Jesus, but only if someone asks about your beliefs.

What has happened? Probably the same thing that happened to the church of Ephesus. In Revelation 2:4 (NASB), Jesus told the church at Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

In 1677, twenty-seven-year-old Henry Scougal wrote this to a friend: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” Henry Scougal was right: the object of our love, the treasure we passionately want, measures the worth and excellency of our souls.

Jesus is the only one who can measure the worth of your soul. He did it with Peter at their seaside breakfast after Jesus was resurrected. Just days before, Peter had tragically failed at loving Jesus, denying that he even knew Jesus three times. When Jesus met him on the shore, he asked Peter three times, do you love me? 

After lovingly serving him a meal on the beach, Jesus “said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’” John 21:17 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, are you beginning to leave your first love? Was there a time when you were closer to God than you are today? God is calling you back to your first love. He wants you to find your happiness in Him. He wants you to experience that first love. He asks you today, do you love me?

 


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Courtroom

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 15, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

A few weeks ago, while reading the Polk County Pulse, I saw a name in the Polk County Sheriff’s Log that piqued my interest. It stated that this person “was arrested by an officer with Probation Parole on a Body Attachment, a Theft of Property Warrant, and a warrant for Violation of Suspended Imposition of Sentence.”

“I need to call the Sheriff’s Office and find out what is happening,” I thought. Since we were leaving for a trip to Colorado, I made a mental note to call when we returned. This person had conned me out of a large sum of money back in 2021. I had a great time in Colorado, visiting family, celebrating Easter, touring Rocky Mountain National Park, and attending my brother-in-law’s ninetieth birthday party.

We stopped at a gas station in Oklahoma on our return to Arkansas. While I was gassing up the Maverick, I checked my phone messages. I had one voicemail. When I pressed play, I heard, “This is the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. I have a couple of subpoenas for you and your wife. If you could give me a call back, I would appreciate it. Thank you.”

“What could this be about?” I wondered. I hoped it had something to do with the con man who had been arrested. I immediately returned the call and learned that his court date had been set. We were subpoenaed to be in court on his trial date in May. I wanted some justice, and even though I wasn’t hopeful, maybe restitution.

In the fall of 2021, this con man bid to put a new roof on my house. We both signed a professionally printed contract form. I gave him money to buy the fifty squares of shingles needed to do the job. He had six squares of shingles delivered to my house and told me that he would start the work in two days. Instead of beginning work, he called and said he had contracted COVID-19. Many people in our community were sick with Covid then, so I didn't see a red flag. After two weeks, I called him to see how he was doing and when work would start on my roof. He would never answer the phone. I called the number of the other roofer, and he wouldn't answer either.

I decided to take my contract and canceled checks to the police department. They immediately knew I had been conned. The con man was well-known by the police, but not by the last name he gave me. He had used an alias in his dealings with me. I was not the first person in town to be scammed. 

This morning, I walked up the steps of the Polk County Courthouse, wondering what would happen in the courtroom. Sitting in the courtroom waiting for the proceedings to begin, I wondered if I would find justice. Was there any chance of recovering the thousands of dollars stolen from me?

When court began, and person after person went before the judge, I was saddened by the stories of lives damaged by breaking the laws of the land. When prison sentences were handed down, I knew those hurt by the lawbreakers felt a sense of justice. But it was still sad for me to realize that even though justice was served, someone had ruined their life by breaking the law.

After over two hours of court cases, the judge called for a break. I took the opportunity to talk to the prosecutor and see if my con man’s case was on the docket. He told me that it was, and the con man had agreed to a plea deal that included a three-year sentence. Because of the plea deal, my presence wasn’t required in court. Even though I felt better seeing that there would be consequences for the con man’s actions, the court-ordered restitution would take over twenty years to pay.

This is a sinful world, and many people can't be trusted. Con men and women are out there, ready to lie to us and rip us off. Lying is popular today. That's because we have believed the devil's lie that truth doesn't matter. Satan has convinced many Christians that there is no such thing as absolute truth, so there can be no absolute lie. The end justifies the means, and there are no lies, just alternative facts. 

That's the big con, and it started in the Garden of Eden. "The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, "Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?" "Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden," the woman replied. "It's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, 'You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'" "You won't die!" the serpent replied to the woman. "God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil." Genesis 3:1-5 (NLT)

How can we ensure we don’t become victims of the most extraordinary con man in history? Knowing how the game works and how it takes advantage of our vulnerabilities is half the battle.  “So put away everything that is sordid, all that overflowing malice, and humbly receive the word which has been planted within you and which has the power to rescue your lives.” James 1:21 (NTE) 

Gentle Reader, con men are all around us. But the original con man is the devil. "He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44 (NLT) The Bible advises us to "be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (AMP) Watch out for con men. They want to separate you from your money. But even more, watch out for the original con man, Satan. He wants to separate you from God. 



Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Perfect

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 8, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

My phone dinged, alerting me to a new message on Facebook Marketplace. I sighed and pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the message. For the past few weeks, I have received hundreds of responses to my ad for my 1937 Buick Coupe. Most responses are a simple, “Is this still available.” Quite a few make a ridiculous lowball offer without asking questions about the car. Even more, ask about making a trade and send me photos of something I am not interested in. 

But this message is a bit different. “I’m from Austin and really interested. I would love to get more pics of the underneath and door edges. I would love to take a look in person but would like to know what condition it will be in.”  After several messages, he messaged, “We can also get on the phone if you don’t believe that I’m really interested.”

We talked on the phone for fifteen minutes while I described the car in detail. “It is an older amateur restoration with some scratches and flaws in the paint, but as far as I can see, the body is solid and rust-free,” I told him. After the phone call, I sent him more pictures of the areas he was worried about. 

A few days later, the man from Austin messaged me. “Could you send me your address? I think we would like to come take a look.” The next day, he sent another message. “We are on the way. We will be there tomorrow morning. We hope to make it into town late tonight.”

The following day, I received another message. “Good morning, sir. We managed to get to Texarkana. We are getting some breakfast now and then driving on. I think we should be there around 11.”

When the Ram pickup with Texas plates pulled into my shop, I was sure they were there to look at the 37 Buick. Two men got out of the truck and introduced themselves. I showed them inside the building where the Buick was stored. 

They inspected the car thoroughly for the next hour, taking lots of videos. They were trying to broker a deal with a collector in Germany, sending him the videos and explaining everything they found out about the car. Ultimately, the German collector would decide whether to purchase or not. It looked like the Buick was heading to Germany.

After a detailed and meticulous inspection outside, I drove the car back inside. They wanted to get a better look underneath the vehicle. As he inspected the car, I could hear one side of the conversation he was having over the phone with the German collector. I didn’t understand the words, but I sensed something was wrong.

When he crawled out from under the car, he told me he had bad news. He had found some areas on the floor that had been repaired, and his customer wanted a perfect unrepaired floor pan. He apologized for taking up so much of my time, got back in his truck, and headed back to Austin. 

Over the years, I have learned never to count on a sale until the money is in your hand, but this one seemed to be in the bag. Disappointed, I returned to work, trying to put the day’s events out of my mind. But I kept returning to the idea that the customer wanted the Buick to be perfect. And although the car is very nice, it isn’t perfect. Finding a perfect 1937 Buick Coupe would be very difficult, and the price would double or triple what I asked.

As I thought about the missed sale, I realized that far too often, I do the same thing when I think of people. It is human nature to look for flaws in other people. I was raised in a religious tradition that stressed living the perfect Christian life. I was taught that my salvation depended on my attaining perfection. When you have that outlook on life, you constantly see the flaws in yourself and others.

Social media has a way of bringing out the spirit of fault-finding, unlike anything else. We rarely compliment people for their good deeds but quickly criticize them and point out their imperfections. As humans, our first instinct is to point fingers at other people’s problems, sins, and character flaws. Yet the Bible teaches us that looking to ourselves before looking to others is wise. Jesus addressed the issue in Matthew 7:3-5 (VOICE)

“Why is it that you see the dust in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but you can’t see what is in your own eye? Don’t ignore the wooden plank in your eye, while you criticize the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyelashes. That type of criticism and judgment is a sham! Remove the plank from your own eye, and then perhaps you will be able to see clearly how to help your brother flush out his sawdust.”

American writer and historian James Truslow Adams wrote, “There is so much good in the worst of us – and so much bad in the best of us – that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.” And Dale Carnegie penned these famous words. “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving!” It is similar to Paul’s words in the Bible: “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

In modern times, being critical is almost a virtue. Critical thinking skills are essential to problem-solving, analysis, and reasoning. But what happens when we use our critical thinking skills to attack people? We become fault finders.

People with the habit of fault-finding are so overwhelmed with details of other people’s faults that they can’t see the positive. Our marriages, business relationships, friendships, and families would be stronger if we refused to allow ourselves to be preoccupied with the faults of others.

Gentle Reader, when we continually look for faults, we will always find them. In the same way, when we are looking for good things, we will find them. Finding fault with others is dangerous because you are assuming God’s role! Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you will have no time to love them.” God is the judge, and he alone knows all the facts. Let’s leave it to him. Nobody’s perfect.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

All the World's a Stage

My An Arkie's Faith column from the May 1, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances.”  These words begin a monologue by the character Jaques in William Shakespeare's play, As You Like It. His speech compares the world to a stage and life as a theatrical performance. 

William Shakespeare's profound understanding of life's many facets is evident in his works. He was not only knowledgeable about the intricacies of royalty, but also about the harsh realities of London's inns and taverns, and the lives of rural folk. His insights extended to the complexities of warfare and diplomacy, among other spheres of life. Yet, it was his unique perspective on life as a theatrical performance that truly captivated him.

As I sat in the audience watching the play Just One More, the words of Shakespeare echoed in my mind, resonating with the scenes unfolding before me. The auditorium at Ozark Adventist Academy was filled to the brim, and even more were watching the live stream from an adjoining room. Witnessing the first performance of the play, written and directed by my granddaughter, Autumn Grant, was a moment of pride and joy. 

In the spring of 2023, Autumn embarked on a creative journey, envisioning a play that would bring to life the extraordinary story of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. She spent months meticulously crafting the dialogue and devising innovative ways to portray this complex war narrative on the stage of a small high school with limited resources. 

The story of Desmond Doss is a testament to the power of conviction. Labeled a conscientious objector for his refusal to carry a gun, he believed in the justness of the war and was determined to contribute in his own way. For him, that meant saving lives, not taking them. He trained as a medic and described himself as a “conscientious cooperator.” His story, almost unbelievable in its courage and conviction, was the heart of the play.

Although Doss was a willing participant and felt himself to have as great a sense of duty as any man in his unit, boot camp was not easy for him. He was verbally harassed, with warnings such as, “Doss, when we get into combat, I’ll make sure you don’t come back alive.” Boots and other items flew his way as he prayed at night. He was ostracized by his unit and bullied by both enlisted men and his commanding officers, but Doss held on to his faith and was an exemplary soldier.

During boot camp, some men threatened to kill Doss, the Bible-carrying medic. However, these same men soon realized the value that Doss brought to the table. Doss demonstrated his bravery by treating wounded soldiers under fire during the fighting in Guam, which earned him a Bronze Star for valor. The 307th continued to fight at Leyte, where Doss again displayed his dedication to his comrades and bravery in combat. As a result, he was awarded a second Bronze Star.

But Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Okinawa on the Maeda Escarpment, known as Hacksaw Ridge. The Japanese had spent years entrenching their soldiers, creating a maze of tunnels in the hill. The Medal of Honor Citation told his story this way.

“He was a company aidman when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.”

On October 12, 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented Doss with the Medal of Honor in a ceremony on the White House lawn. Truman shook Doss’s hand and told him, “I’m proud of you. You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.”

As I sat watching Desmond’s life story unfold before my eyes, I was amazed at how my granddaughter had woven the elements of his story into an entertaining play. The play was a romance, a drama, and a war story. But even though it was gripping and thought-provoking, it had just the right amount of comic relief.

I wondered how the battle scenes where Desmond saved the lives of 75 soldiers by lowering them off the escarpment using ropes would be depicted. When the battle started, the special effects, including smoke machines, strobe lights, and audio, helped convey the American soldiers' desperate situation. As the smoke cleared, a spotlight shone on the escarpment, showing Desmond lowering a soldier down over the side to the waiting soldiers below. 

The soldiers were lowered one by one, and the audience sat silently as the poignant scene played out. After each soldier was safely lowered, Desmond prayed, “Please, Lord, help me get just one more.” These words supplied the title of this incredible play.

When Desmond Doss saved the lives of 75 men on that fateful day in 1945, he had no idea that one day, my granddaughter would write a play based on his life. He didn’t expect to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He simply wanted to save just one more.

But Desmond Doss and each of us are on a stage daily. People are watching what we say and do. All the world’s a stage. Paul expressed his feelings this way. “I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.” 1Corinthians 4:9 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, the phrase "all the world's a stage" reminds us that our lives are like a theatrical performance. Each of us has a role to play, and we have the power to decide how we want to portray it. We can choose to be the lead character or a supporting actor. Our emotions, too, are in our control. We can choose to be happy or sad, depending on our outlook on life. 

We have the authority to create our own life's meaning. We are not mere actors playing predestined roles. We are the authors of our own stories. We can choose how we want to live our lives and positively impact the world. “Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love.” Galatians 5:13 (VOICE) 

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Just One More - Written and Directed by Autumn Grant. Performed by the Ozark Adventist Academy Drama Department

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Little MG

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 24, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The rain was pouring down as a customer pulled up to my business. A man got out of his van and entered my shop. “I am here to look at the 1937 Buick you have for sale on Facebook Marketplace,” he said. As we walked into the building that has several of my collector cars, he stopped to look at each one.

“ I am looking for another car for my collection,” he shared. “I love old cars, and I enjoy just looking at them. I have several cars on display on my property.” I learned he had a 51 Jeep Jeepser, a 1957 Ford Convertible, a 49 Mercury, a 58 Cadillac, and many more.

After looking at my cars and pricing several, he saw my early 50s MG replica. He immediately started talking about how great the MG would look under one of the display carports that dotted his property. After some back-and-forth negotiating, we negotiated a price and made delivery arrangements. 

As Chad and I loaded the MG onto Chad’s trailer, I thought about all those years ago when my Daddy built the car from a kit. In the late 70s and early 80s, building kit cars on a VW chassis was trendy. In 1981, Daddy purchased a complete MG replica kit from MIGI. He spent many hours building the car. At about the same time he was building the MG, he built an addition to the side of his shop. When he completed the addition, the first thing he stored in the new building was the recently completed MG replica. The little MG didn’t move from that spot for 35 years.

Daddy never owned a car that wasn’t for sale. Over the years, he had many people interested in the little MG kit car. But the value of kit cars dropped dramatically after he finished the MG. They fell out of favor, and the market was flooded with them. He had paid a lot for the complete kit, which included the gel-coat fiberglass body, interior, convertible top, and all-new chrome bumpers and grill. No one was willing to pay the price he was asking for the beautiful little MG, which just sat in the corner of the new addition.

After a few years, the little car was covered in plastic sheeting to keep the dust and dirt from damaging the finish. As the years went by, more and more parts were stored around the little MG until it was barely visible. Several years ago, Daddy sold the MG to a friend. It took several days to uncover and get the little car out of the building. When we moved it outside, the MG saw the light of day for the first time in 35 years. Daddy’s friend said, “This is a real barn find.”

Under the dust and dirt accumulated in those 35 years was basically a brand-new car. The new owner of the little MG cleaned and detailed it and replaced the tires, and once again, the MG looked like it belonged in a new car showroom. When Daddy saw the newly refreshed MG, he liked it so much that he bought it back. Now, the car has a new owner, and  I’m happy it has found a new home with someone who loves and appreciates it.

In the business of classic cars, barn finds are the holy grail. Anyone with a healthy bank account and a computer can find the vehicle of their dreams, but barn finds are special magic. Barn finds are intact cars that have been untouched and out of sight for years. Finding a particular vehicle, left untouched for years or even decades, is rare. In the collector car world, barn finds come in all shapes and sizes. But one thing remains constant: a great barn find makes all the effort worthwhile.

In 2014, a remarkable barn find of rare automobiles was made on a farm in the West of France. After the owner had died, the children inherited the estate, which included a collection of old cars that had been untouched for many years. Wanting to determine the value of the vehicles, they called France's leading antiques auctioneer.

When the appraisers entered the property, they could see many makeshift shelters covered with tin. As they walked around the farm, they found more and more cars under the makeshift structures, and almost all of them were extremely rare. They found significant models from many legendary brands in European automotive history. The cars had been untouched for at least 50 years. The appraisers valued the cars at between 18 and 20 million dollars. The find was so significant that it was even reported in the U.S. press.

The Bible has a “barn find” story. Well, it is not exactly a barn find, but more of a field find. We read about it in Matthew 13:44 (NIV). “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Jesus was telling a story about the value of the kingdom of heaven. A man found a treasure in a field. He stumbled across a “barn find.” He put together a plan. He was so excited about his find that he sold everything he had and scraped all of his money together to buy the piece of land with the treasure on it. He knew that the treasure was very valuable, and there was no question that he had to buy the field.

Can you imagine what his friends and family thought? I bet they thought he was crazy. Why would he sell everything to buy that piece of land? They didn’t know that he was gaining a priceless treasure worth far more by selling everything he owned. What is this treasure that is so important? Colossians 2:3 (GW) tells us, "God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.”

Gentle Reader, are you willing to sacrifice everything you own to gain the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ? When Jesus was asked what the great commandment in the law is, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) This is what it takes to gain the treasure found in Jesus. This is the ultimate barn find.


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tycho and the Solar Eclipse

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 17, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The young Danish boy waited in anticipation of the big event. An eclipse of the sun was predicted for August 21. Such a prediction seemed bold and miraculous to the 14-year-old student. But when Tycho witnessed the eclipse in 1560, he saw and believed. The fact that the event had been accurately predicted based on celestial observations profoundly impacted him. It inspired him to become an astronomer. 

Tycho quickly realized that the science of astronomy could only progress if it had systematic, accurate, and, above all, nightly observations. He refined old instruments, built new ones, and spent the rest of his life assembling one of human history's most significant bodies of astronomical data.

Tycho Brahe was a friend of King Fredrik II of Denmark. The king gave Tycho an island and practically unlimited funds to design, build, and operate an observatory. Tycho made many observations of the stars. Over his lifetime, Tycho completed a star catalog providing the positions of 1000 stars. His observations, the most accurate possible before the invention of the telescope, included a comprehensive study of the solar system.

His work supported the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun, which Copernicus had developed earlier. Tycho made his observations using a compass and a sextant. He invented many instruments that helped him with his work, which were copied and improved by other astronomers.

On November 11, 1572, he suddenly saw a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, where no star was supposed to be. Tycho carefully observed the new star, brighter than Venus, and showed it was a fixed star beyond the Moon. This phenomenon, a supernova, was an unsettling discovery to the scientific world. They regarded the stars as perfect and unchanging. The news that a star could change as dramatically as the supernova described by Tycho and the Copernican theory that the Sun, not Earth, was the center of the universe shook their confidence in the immutable laws of Greek antiquity. The new information challenged the prevailing belief in how the universe was organized.

Tycho’s discovery of the new star in Cassiopeia in 1572 and his publication of his observations in De Nova Stella in 1573 marked his transformation from an unknown, to an astronomer with a European reputation. Tycho Brahe’s lifetime of observational data was used by his assistant, Johannes Kepler, to develop Kepler's laws of planetary motion. In his scientific works, Kepler described the orbits of planets around the Sun and helped sway scientific thought away from an Earth-centered universe.

Many people may think of scientists as stodgy academics, but Tycho Brahe’s flamboyant lifestyle would have made some of today's wild celebrities look like choirboys. His life ended with as much craziness and intrigue as the life he led.

At the age of 20, he lost part of his nose in a duel with another Danish nobleman. The duel started over a disagreement about a mathematical formula. The only solution they could devise was to try to kill each other. So the pair engaged in a drunken duel at night, in the dark. For the rest of his life, Tycho wore a prosthetic nose. His fake nose was made of copper, although he probably also had gold and silver noses for special occasions.

One day, Tycho saw a moose and instantly decided to get one. Since he was wealthy, he bought a pet moose. The moose liked him and would walk alongside him like a dog. It lived in the castle and joined in on Tycho’s parties. The moose would regularly get drunk with him. When people invited Tycho to a party, they also asked him to bring his pet moose. Unfortunately, the moose’s drinking was ultimately its undoing. It got drunk at one party and fell down a flight of stairs in the castle. That was the untimely end of the moose.

Tycho lived in a castle, keeping a rather unusual group of regular entertainers. He employed a little person called Jepp as his court jester. Tycho believed that Jepp possessed psychic powers and often consulted him on decisions. Jepp spent most dinners under the dining table.

But Tycho’s life seems almost mundane compared to his mysterious death. He died of a sudden bladder disease in 1601 while at a banquet in Prague. He was unable to urinate except in the smallest of quantities, and after eleven days of excruciating agony, he finally died. At least, that's the official story.

Before his death, Tycho wrote his own epitaph and summed up his life by saying, “He lived like a sage and died like a fool.” His final words were, "May I not seemed to have lived in vain."

Nobody likes to live their lives in vain. To live lives to the fullest, some people work hard to make money, build a successful career, and gain social status. Others focus on a happy family life. No matter what, people want to have a fulfilling life. 

Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to everyone, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

God created our lives, so only when we restore a relationship with our Creator and His intended purpose for giving us life can we find a satisfying meaning to our existence.  “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

Sometimes, we all have days when we feel that our lives are in vain. You may think that your job is mundane. However, it's an opportunity to be God’s light in your workplace. Maybe you feel that you don’t make a difference as a homemaker or caregiver.

Author Stacey Pardoe writes, “As you rock your newborn, you are establishing a secure attachment that will be a foundation of strength for the rest of this little one’s life. You embody God’s love as you tend to an elderly loved one, a noisy room of preschoolers, or a cantankerous client. Additionally, your hidden work is shaping your heart. God is testing your faithfulness in the darkness of obscurity.  He is examining your willingness to serve others without applause.”

Gentle Reader, “We don’t know the results of our efforts for the Lord, but in faith, we can trust that obedience is never in vain. In other words, there is no real failure, properly understood, when the Lord is on our side. Our labor for Him will never come up empty.” - Dr. Bradley Baurain 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Eclipsed

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 10, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

As we drove up the mountainside to my cousin’s house to attend an eclipse viewing party, clouds filled the sky. “Oh my,” I thought; “After several days of back-and-forth weather forecasts, I thought today was going to provide a cloud-free sky for viewing the eclipse.” 

We set up on the deck with a great view of the sky. The sun was almost peeking through the clouds, and then it disappeared. I put on my eclipse-viewing glasses and looked toward the sun. Occasionally, I could see the shape of the sun through the clouds. It was twenty minutes until the eclipse began. Hopefully, the clouds will clear by then.

A few minutes later, the sky cleared, and not a cloud was near the sun. I sat back in the reclining chair and put on my eclipse-viewing glasses. Excitement built in our group as the reality set in that the eclipse was beginning. When the first tiny black crescent appeared on the sun, everyone quieted as they focused on the sight before them.

After an hour of watching the black disc march across the face of the sun, our excitement built again as we prepared for totality. Suddenly, the tiny crescent disappeared, and there was a single, spectacular, bright point of light. We took off our viewing glasses and looked directly at the sun. Circling the blackness of the Moon, we saw a brilliant light, the Sun’s corona. Totality had begun!

My first view of totality was mind-blowing: excellent, beautiful, delicate, fantastic, and powerful. It left me with no words to describe what I was seeing. The air temperature dropped noticeably, and the sky darkened. A soft red glow like a sunset hovered over the mountains in the distance. The sun was a perfect circle of iridescent white light around a dark marble. 

Eclipse totality is magical. It was an ethereal experience, like seeing a window into another dimension. The moon's blackness was circled by the corona’s beautiful gossamer plumes of iridescent light. Jupiter and Venus appeared in the sky near the sun. The light on the horizon took on a lovely, soft yellow-orange color. 

I watched in awe, trying to record what I was seeing and experiencing mentally. But all too soon, the moment of third contact came, with a burst of light as the sun broke back through. We put on our eclipse-viewing glasses. I took a moment to soak in what I had just experienced. 

Watching the last half of the eclipse was fun, but there was no anticipation. The experience of totality was over, and I will never experience it again. After such a wonderful experience, I felt terrible for the many naysayers I have seen posted on social media over the past few days. One that resonated with me was the post, “I’m not sure how many eclipses there have been in my lifetime. I’m 74, and I fail to see how anyone can get excited about the planets doing what they do. It’s just another, and it will carry on happening occasionally.”

While total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth about every 18 months, they are an unusual event in the U.S. The next solar eclipse with a path crossing the U.S. will happen on Aug. 12, 2045, and will span from California to Florida.

On April 8th, large numbers of people across North America watched the eclipse. Because of the attention the eclipse received from the news media and the information that went viral on social media, it is predicted that more people observed and photographed this eclipse than any other eclipse in history.

Even though many people viewed the great American eclipse of 2024, I know of a celestial event that will have many more viewers. Shortly before Jesus was crucified, “His disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?’” Matthew 24:3 (NLT) After giving His disciples many signs and much information, Jesus told them, “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30 (NLT)

No event in the history of the world has been more anticipated than the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Every generation of believers has believed that Jesus would return. When He was on this earth, Jesus promised His disciples that He would return. He told them, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NKJV)

This promise was reaffirmed when Jesus ascended to heaven. He had gathered His disciples and given them some final instructions. In Acts 1:9-11 (NLT), we read, “After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’”

From that moment until now, those who believe in Jesus have been waiting for the world’s most astounding celestial event. It will be the most viewed event in the history of the planet. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.” Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Jesus is returning to this earth to reward His people just as He promised and take them to the beautiful home He has prepared for them. My prayer is that on that day, you will be among the people who say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (KJV)