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?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

You Did It To Me

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.  Recently I have come to realize that when I judge or criticize, I do it to Jesus Himself.

When God looks at His children today, he sees billions of people selfishly divided and opinionated. He sees people who were created in His image to be like Him, to love mercy and do justly and walk humbly. He sees people who claim to follow Jesus and yet can't see when He, "the least of these", needs their help.

We as Christians have been given a message to spread around the world, but we have failed. We have passed judgment on many of those around us. We say "they don't deserve the love of God; they don't deserve my time, because they are no good.

Instead of judging others, we need to look into the mirror of God’s law of love and recognize how bad we really are. James 1;23,24 says, "if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

We need to look into the mirror of God’s law and see ourselves as we really are instead of spending our energy judging others.  When we judge or criticize our brethren we do it to Jesus Himself.  The good news it that our God is patient with us.  2 Peter 3:15 says, "Remember that we are saved because our Lord is patient".

Friday, November 21, 2014


A few weeks ago my wife and I along with friends attended the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.  It was a crisp cold evening as we sat there and watched the final scenes of the life of Jesus being played out before us.  As we watched my mind began wondering why it is called a passion play.  When I got back to the motel room I studied the subject.

I found out that in approximately 1175 the word passion was adopted from Old French to Old English to mean the, ‘sufferings of Christ on the Cross’.  By Middle English the word ‘passion’ described a strong barely controllable emotion.  The original meaning of ‘passion’, as the sufferings of Jesus, fell out of common usage in the 1600’s.

I studied the word passion in my Bible concordance.  In King James the word passion, meaning the sufferings of Jesus, is found in only one verse, Acts 1:3   “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

The most common meanings of the word ‘passion’ today is extreme compelling emotion, great anger or rage, enthusiasm or fondness, strong love or affection, and  lust.

Do you know anyone who has a passion for something?  We have just had an election in this country and I found that many people were very passionate about their candidate or political party.

I have met many Christians who are passionate about their beliefs; but do we as Christians have a passion for Jesus?  What is at the top of the list of our life’s priorities?  In Matthew 22:36-39 we read, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We as Christians should keep the Ten Commandments, but if we are not passionate about Jesus and our neighbors it does us no good to keep them.  Our relationship with Jesus is all about priorities.

Matthew 23:23,24 record Jesus as saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Jesus didn't say not to follow the fine points of the law; But He wants us to focus on the weightier matters.  In John 15:12 He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. And to make sure that we understand he repeats in verse 17, “These things I command you, that you love one another”.

How do you think Jesus feels when we lose our passion for him and our love for each other, and replace it with a mechanical form of religion where instead of loving each other we fight with each other?  In Revelation 2:4 He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”.  Does Jesus have something against you, have you lost your first love?  Are you passionate about Jesus?

When you have a passion, others know.  Passion is more than mere formality and habit.  It’s enthusiasm, its strong love and affection.  To have a passionate church full of love for one another we must each one personally become passionate about Jesus.

Do you have passion today; A passion for Jesus who died for you?  1 John 4:10-12 states, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”.

Jesus endured passion: He suffered for you.  He is still passionate in his love for you.  Are you passionate about Jesus or are your passions in other areas?  Let’s decide today to be passionate about Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


S is for Slugger.  Occasionally I like to do a book review on my blog. Today's review is of the book “A Dog Named Slugger” by Leigh Brill. It is a first person account of Leigh’s partnership with the big yellow Labrador Retriever that was her service dog. As Slugger provided balance for her on walks, he also brought balance to her emotionally and mentally. He was her calming and comforting companion as she graduated from college and obtained her master’s degree. Because of Slugger she was able to have a career and lead a more normal life.

The book offers a lot of insights into what it is like for a handicapped person to grow up with their disability. In the book, Leigh opens up her heart to the reader and gives you an idea of what a person with cerebral palsy goes through. She does it in a way that doesn't elicit pity but pleads for understanding. Her service dog Slugger gave her the confidence to come out of the shell she had been hiding in. He not only improved her day to day life, but he also instilled her with the confidence she needed to stand up for herself.

If you are an animal lover you will learn to love Slugger just by reading this book. I was amazed to learn what a service dog could do for someone like Leigh. Besides steadying her when she walked and helping her up and down stairs, he could also turn light switches on and off, drag laundry baskets, retrieve items and perform so many helping tasks.

I really enjoyed the book and found that it was like three books in one. First, it is almost an autobiography of Leigh. She does a great job of letting you into her life. Second, it is simply a great dog story. In a way it reminded me of the book "Marley and Me", but in a more serious vein. Third, it is a great introduction into the world of service dogs.

I really enjoyed reading A Dog Named Slugger and recommend it highly. You can find it at by clicking on this link.

ABC Wednesday is a fun way to see blogs from around the world

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Happened to Me - by Abby Carney

My cousin, Abby Carney, is a freelance writer. She does editorial work, copywriting, copyediting, consulting, ghostwriting, transcribing, and social media projects for clients. She casually dabbles in poetry, essays, creative writing, and friendship bracelets as well.

A couple of days ago she had an essay published on the website xoJane.  The essay made me stop and think about my own thoughts and actions.  I asked her if I could re-post the essay on An Arkie's Musings and she graciously gave me permission to do so.  You can check out more of her writing at

IT HAPPENED TO ME: Becoming An Airport Janitor Got Me Free Flights And A Lesson In Privilege

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta, but it really feels worlds apart from the city center. With 207 domestic and international terminals, and flying more than 260,000 passengers daily, it’s the world’s busiest airport; and spread over 4,700 acres, it makes every other airport look and feel like a quaint port.

It is also home to Delta’s corporate headquarters and technical operations center, which employs over 25,000 Atlantans. Through a subsidiary staffing agency, I became one of those employees for a summer.

It was the summer an African oil baron tipped me 40 bucks that I lost an escalator as I was leaving work; the summer a D-list hip hop group sexually harassed me and all I did was blush and laugh it off; the summer I was the only white girl working in the Delta Sky Lounge, the summer I read Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of The Presence of God,” and learned to check my middle-class white privilege that I’d never realized needed checking until then.

It was the summer before my senior year of undergrad, and, having been rejected from all the internships I applied for, I learned that sky lounge room attendants (fancy jargon for janitors) at the airport received full flight benefits in exchange for working just two to three shifts per week. I would do many, many (legal) things for cheap or free flights, so of course I went for it.

The requirements were having a pulse and passing a drug test, so with relative ease, I landed the gig and got right to work sweeping floors, washing dishes, and pilfering cheese and crackers from the lounge to munch on during my 15-minute breaks.

I drank straight espresso to stay awake all day, because the hours passed slowly, and I smiled at all the ritzy travelers, always eager to engage in any and all conversations. I was genuinely interested in hearing about people and where they were traveling to.

My favorite terminal was Terminal E -- it was the largest lounge, and the only one that serviced international flights. Nothing made me happier than sweeping up invisible crumbs and eavesdropping on conversations I couldn't understand in Arabic, Portuguese or German. Technically, I could understand sparse amounts of German, thanks to my brief encounter with the language in college, and I once made a group of German businessmen hold back their laughter while I stumbled through some pleasantries in Deutsch.

I also loved the international lounge best because it had showers for the guests, and one of my duties was to clean and re-service the shower rooms after they were used. Those were my five minutes of solitude, locked into a private bathroom. I would sing and pretend I was Cinderella cleaning up after her evil step-sisters, sopping up all the moisture in the room with the dirty towels and squeegeeing the shower so it looked fresh and clean. (But really, it wasn't clean -- just dry).

My greatest takeaway from that summer however, wasn't the free trips I took to Seattle, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Boston again, but the lessons I learned about myself via my coworkers. I attended one of the most diverse universities in the nation, and always felt happily challenged in my classes that typically boasted a roster of students of all backgrounds, and nationalities. I was a sociology minor. But working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in College Park, Georgia, the world’s busiest airport, and one of its largest, I became truly aware of my privilege for the first time, in an uncomfortable and jarring way.

Brought up with a “no task is too small” attitude and accustomed to positions of service, I didn't think I had anything to “check” myself for. I was a smart and aware young woman with a good head on her shoulders. Oh, but pride cometh before a fall, as some of my more religious coworkers would have said. (That was another way we often passed the time, discussing the Bible and having religious debates as we made circles around each other, looking busy with our brooms and dust pans; or simply encouraging one another with uplifting Bible verses we’d bookmarked. Bet you've never seen airport janitors sparring about Jesus and feminism, or waxing poetic about the love of God before.)

I found myself exhibiting an odd mixture of pity and self-righteousness when travelers would ask what I was doing working a job like that? Like it was somehow beneath the awesome, well-mannered me. I hastily reassured everyone who asked, and often those who didn't ask, that I didn't need this job. No, I was just doing it for the flight benefits, and yes, I was a serious student pursuing a serious degree, and I would be quitting this whatever job in the fall to go back to school.

But it took me a while to realize that this stuck up mentality was incredibly off-putting and insensitive to my coworkers, many of whom were born and raised in underprivileged neighborhoods of South Atlanta, historically plagued by crime, inequality, and simply fewer opportunities than a middle-class, suburban white girl like myself.

I was the definition of sociology-textbook class privilege when I incredulously balked at the suggestion that 20-year-old me could possibly be a mother, because it’s something I was often asked: “How many kids you got?” I thought it was a joke, but most of the other girls my age had growing families, and I actually asked people, “Why don’t you just take classes at community college? And then you can pursue what you really want!” I wondered why they didn't make use of their flight benefits and travel around, when it’s the only reason I took the job. Doing it for just the minimum-wage pay seemed ludicrous to me.

I confessed my peaheadedness to a friend, and he recommended I read the book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, so on the long journey via public transportation, through security, and aboard the airport people mover (yes, that’s its official name) between terminals, I committed those passages to heart, in a genuinely pious attempt to lose my pride and ego. Through my days of endless sweeping and trash emptying, these words gave me comfort: “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

And when a fellow room attendant shared with me her tribulations as a single mother, about her depression, and her attempts to take her own life, I fought back tears, and listened intently, letting her pour her heart out. I didn't do anything for her but listen and hug her tightly, but it moved me deeply, and made me feel purposeful in being there in a way I hadn't recognized before.

It was also the job that taught me to overcome my fear of discord. When a grumpy room attendant scowled and slammed doors in my face throughout a shift, I didn't simply retreat in fear and mope about it. I tracked her down and asked, “Are you upset with me? If I've done something to upset or offend you, please let me know so I can fix things.” She scowled again, but eventually shared what was going on and was in a brighter mood by the end of our shift. I’d learned that being purposeful and direct is often necessary in order to deliver the olive branch that was always desired.

I was surrounded by travelers almost daily. With so much of my identity belonging literally up in the air, and in transit, I felt at peace there, with boarding calls and flight delays as my background noise. It was my haven, like the cloud where angels and spirits rest between worlds, because they don’t claim any particular one as home. It was like a constant real-life montage of the opening scene of "Love Actually" when everyone is greeting their loved ones at the airport.

Decently traveled, but not yet desensitized, the magic of the entire process of journey-making had not yet worn off on me, and even with my clear plastic purse, in my black slacks, black button down, and slicked back ponytail, scurrying along to my assigned terminal, I couldn't help smiling at every briefcase-toting stranger, wondering where they were off to, wondering where they had been, and who was waiting for them at home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Overflowing Grace

No one likes to be stopped by a patrolman and I am no exception.  A while back I was stopped in the town of Point Barre, Louisiana.  As I neared the town the speed limit dropped from 65 mph to 45 mph. I tapped the cruise control and traveled along with several other cars as we slowed down. The next thing I knew, there were blue lights in my rear view mirror. The patrolman must have been shooting his radar right at the 45 mph sign, and he had to pick me out of 4 or 5 cars to stop, as we were all traveling the same speed. The ticket cost me 160 dollars. To say the least, I was not happy. I felt that the ticket was unfair. I had been trying to obey the law and yet I got a ticket.

My situation reminded me of an illustration that I have heard explaining God's grace. Imagine yourself driving down the road, doing 100 mph in a 55 mph zone. A police officer stops you. If he gives you a ticket--that is justice--for you got what you deserve. If he lets you off with just a warning--that is grace--for though you deserved a ticket, he did not give you one.  But what about my situation where I received a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit?

There are many Christians who like me in Point Barre feel that they aren't really doing anything all that bad. They are trying to obey the speed limit, which should count for something. They don't see grace being all that great. They are trying to live right. God should realize that.

But many Christians realize that the law has been broken whether they were going 5 miles over the limit or 50. They realize that they deserve a ticket, and are overwhelmed by the unexpected grace. They know that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23).

Romans 5:17 tells us that "if, through one man, death ruled because of that man’s offense, how much more will those who receive such overflowing grace and the gift of righteousness rule in life because of one man, Jesus Christ!

I wish for you overflowing grace!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Grace Happens All Around Us

This is my article as published in the November 6, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

Grace seems to often pop up in places that I never expect it. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that simply stated "Grace Happens". It is true. Grace happens. It happens all around us. Often we are too busy to notice.

A few years ago grace happened to me on Halloween. My wife had bought lots of candy in preparation for the kids she was expecting to come to our door. She was prepared to give candy, and lots of it, to anyone who rang her doorbell. She waited with anticipation, because she loves to see the kids in their costumes. The doorbell rang for the first time. She went to the door and opened it with a bowl of candy in her hand. There stood two kids, but they didn't have anything to put candy in. They didn't say trick or treat. They stood there with a long stemmed rose in their hand. "We are not asking for candy", they said. "We want to give you a rose".

Popcorn and Candy

Unexpected grace. Out of the blue. I never thought that on Halloween someone would come to my door and give me something. I think that is a key to understanding grace. We Christians often focus on the fact that grace is undeserved. That is true, it is undeserved. If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace. But not only is it undeserved, it is unexpected.

I think that is what Paul is trying to get us to see when he wrote in Ephesians 3:8, "to me, who am less than the least deserving of all the saints, this grace was given". He seems to be almost unable to believe that grace was offered to him. It was unexpected. Maybe that is why he talks about grace more than any other Bible writer.

Look for the unexpected today. Look for grace in unexpected places. I know that you will find it. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:14, "the grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant".