My favorite cartoon when I was a kid was Peanuts. I remember one comic strip in particular. It is January 1st, and Charlie Brown tells anyone who will listen, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer".
Charlie Brown knew what every person who has ever made a resolution knows. Making and keeping resolutions is a troublesome business, usually filled with failure and shame.
How have your past resolutions worked out for you? I don't even want to talk about mine. If you have often made and broken resolutions, you may feel that you might as well seal them in a bottom desk drawer and forget them. That is the experience I have had.
If you ask the average person about the resolutions they made, they will tell you that they are going to cut down on their eating, they are going to exercise more, stop doing unhealthy things, and start doing healthy things, etc.
While these things are good, they all focus on self and rely on self. These kinds of things are in fact self-serving and look to the power of one’s self to accomplish them. Self-improvement for most people means making themselves more attractive, healthier and happier. They depend on the power of the human will to bring about the changes.
Look at how different our typical resolutions are from the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-14. “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity."
Notice how Paul’s words are focused on others. If we are to use resolutions wisely, we need to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward others. We need to get the focus off of ourselves, and on to God and the strength that comes only from him. What kind of resolutions should we make?
John was called the disciple that Jesus loved. It appears that Jesus had a best friend. I want my resolution to be the words that the best friend of Jesus wrote in 1 John 4:7,8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.
I don’t know of a better resolution that you could make. If we would all make the resolution to love one another imagine how different the world would be.
My wife's cousin, Jerry Patton, spent 37 years as the second tenor of The King's Heralds Quartet, the oldest continuous gospel quartet in America.
One of my favorite songs that he sang was titled One Little Candle. The lyrics are great.
It's better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark
If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn of the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be
If each day each one of us would light just one little candle by resolving to love one another, what an amazing year 2014 would be.
In just a few hours we will be saying goodbye to 2013. 2014 is just around the corner. 2013 marched by quickly, with many memorable events. Here is a retrospective of 2013 with a link to a blog post from each month of the year..
Y is for Y I blog. I know that it is cheating a bit, but the end of the alphabet gets pretty difficult. When I ran across this cartoon, it made me think about why I blog. It is certainly not for the money. In a way blogging is kind of like a diary or journal. I guess that it feels good to leave some kind of mark; some way for people to actually know you exist and have done something. Maybe it's because my memory is so poor that I feel that blogging can help my memory.
I know that I am not blogging for the money, but the benefits have been many. I have met, if you can call typing on the computer meeting, many wonderful people. With all of the ugliness we see and hear about in the world, it is nice to get to know interesting people from all parts of the world. I like getting a personal perspective that hasn't been filtered through the media.
After 5 years, over 440 posts, and over 200,000 unique visitors from over 190 different countries, sometimes I'm still not sure why I blog. I guess that the answer in it's simplest form is, "because I'm addicted". The next question would be, "how did I get addicted?" In 2008, my friend Laurel was visiting in our home. She showed me her daughter's blog. Because she lived so far away from her daughter, she kept up with her through the blog. I had heard the word "blog", but really had no idea what it was all about.
As I was reading the blog, I noticed at the top of the page that it had a link that said create blog. I had to see what it was all about, so I clicked it. In a few days I had my own blog, and I enjoyed writing and posting pictures to it. I had written a little before starting the blog, but definitely not regularly. I had occasionally written a column for the religion page of the local newspaper and I had posted a few articles on the writing website Helium, but I had never had a "reason" to write before.
Now, whenever an interesting idea pops into my head, My first thought is,"that would make a good blog post". I enjoy the process of taking a thought and turning it into a post.
I have had some people ask me about the name of my blog. I have to admit that very little thought went into it. As I was looking at the "create blog" page in Blogger, just trying to figure out what it was all about, one of the first things that had to be filled in was the title. I spent about thirty seconds thinking, and typed An Arkies Musings. Arkie is slang word for someone who lives in Arkansas.
We used to be officially called Arkansawyers, but now the term is Arkansan. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, Arkansas and Oklahoma were some of the hardest hit states. Many people moved to California trying to get jobs. The terms Arkie and Okie were disparaging terms used by the Californians for people from Oklahoma and Arkansas. Now the term Arkie is most often used to describe a native Arkansan and is often still a bit disparaging. It seems to indicate that someone is unlearned and backward.
I have lived here for over 30 years. Though I'm not a native, I am proud to be an Arkansan or even an Arkie. You have to admit that An Arkansan's Musings just doesn't roll off the tongue.
What I enjoy the most about blogging is the people that I have met, around the world and close to home. It helps me have a greater understanding of the world as a whole. Most of us associate with and are friends with people who are very similar to ourselves. Blogging has broadened my horizons and really made me think. I had never experienced internet friendships before, but reading and commenting on people's blogs does help you get to know them. I am a very curious person by nature and reading people's blogs, especially those from other countries and cultures, has helped satisfy my curiosity and taught me so much.
Why do I blog? After five years it has just become part of me. It's who I am: I am a blogger. While I sit at the computer typing, my wife will say, "blog, blog, blog". Rene Descartes said, "I think; therefore I am". I say, "I blog; therefore I am". That's why I blog.
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. :)
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!
W is for winter wonderland. On December 5th a major ice storm hit portions of Arkansas. My hometown of Mena, Arkansas and the surrounding areas were particularly hard hit. Freezing rain coated the trees and power lines. Many branches and snapped off from the weight of the ice and entire trees were uprooted and fell over. The resulting damage to power lines caused everyone in our area to be without electricity. We were fortunate to have our power restored in 24 hours, but many people in the area were still without power 6 days later. There were hundreds of power company trucks in our area working long hours trying to restore electricity to those without power.
Though there was widespread property damage, the ice storm created a fairy tale world. Here are some photos that I took near my home on the day after the storm.
The Heralds of Hope Romanian Choir will be performing in Mena on its 9th Anniversary Christmas Tour. They will be in concert at 5:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 21, at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Fairgrounds Road. The Heralds of Hope repertoire includes Carols and Christmas Songs from around the world. Their concerts offer a unique opportunity to lean, hear and enjoy the best of Christmas.
Pastor Florin Liga and his wife Livia are members of the Heralds of Hope and have been instrumental in bringing this world class performing group to Mena. Pastor Liga has recently accepted a position as pastor of the Mena Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The Heralds of Hope have performed across the United States and Europe. They have held concerts in many of the great cathedrals of Europe. Their travels in the United States have taken them to New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. Don’t miss this special opportunity to experience the rich music of Christmas. Admission to the concert is free. To reserve a seat or to get more information, call 501-627-8134.
V is for View. I really thought long and hard on the "V" post. View seemed like it was a bit weak, but couldn't think of anything else. Let's start with the view from the house I grew up in. For several years we lived in a house just outside of Erie, Colorado. Our house sat on a little rise, and we had a great view of the Front Range. A couple of years ago I visited the old place and took this picture of the view.
VIEW FROM MY CHILDHOOD HOME IN ERIE, COLORADO
When I was a boy, I would spend a week every summer at Glacier View Ranch. I always had a good time at summer camp. A few years ago, I made a return visit to Glacier View. I hadn't been there since I was a boy. I was surprised by how much things looked the same. The view from the parking lot was just as I remembered it.
VIEW FROM GLACIER VIEW RANCH
One of the most beautiful views I have ever seen is the view from my brother-in-law Duane's cabin. It is located above Leadville, Colorado and the surroundings are beautiful. The view from Duane's cabin is as pretty as any view in the area.
VIEW FROM DUANE'S CABIN IN LEADVILLE, COLORADO
One of my favorite views is the view of my backyard. Each season has a special beauty. there are dogwoods and redbuds in the spring. In the summer the trees have so many leaves that you can't tell I live in town. I believe that it is the most beautiful in the fall. Here is a view of my backyard in the fall. Duane built the table and benches out of granite slabs.
VIEW OF MY BACKYARD IN THE FALL
The Talimena Scenic Drive has some of the most beautiful views in Arkansas. We are very blessed to have such beautiful views so close. Here are a couple of views from the Talimena Drive.
VIEW FROM GRAND VIEW VISTA
WINTER VIEW FROM THE TALIMENA SCENIC DRIVE
One of the most amazing views I have seen in Arkansas, is the view from The Lodge At Mount Magazine. Mount Magazine State park is the highest point in Arkansas. The lodge and the grounds surrounding it have breathtaking views. The great room has large windows that look out from the highest point in Arkansas.
VIEW FROM THE LODGE AT MOUNT MAGAZINE
The last few days we have been experiencing the effects of a very destructive ice storm. Last Thursday freezing rain coated the trees and broke many trees causing many roads to be impassible and widespread electrical outages. Here in town we were without electricity for about 24 hours, but many Polk County residents are still without power 6 days later. Here is the view down Polk Road 70.
VIEW DOWN POLK ROAD 70 NEAR MENA, ARKANSAS
You can read the blog post that I wrote shortly after our electricity was restored by clicking here. Even though the ice storm was so destructive, it created some beautiful scenes. This photo was taken near my house.
VIEW DOWN SOUTH MENA STREET
After all of this ice and cold weather, I saved my favorite view for last. Gina and I love to visit Belize. Our favorite place is San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The last two times we have visited San Pedro, we have stayed at the SunBreeze Hotel right on the beach. The view from our room was beautiful. Right now we are having freezing rain and sleet here in Arkansas. I wish I was in Belize with this view.
VIEW FROM THE SUNBREEZE HOTEL IN SAN PEDRO, BELIZE
Click on the photo above to purchase the paperback version of my book, Devotionals from a Small Town, for $5.99
I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.