Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back Roads - The Mena Star

This is my article as published in the July 31, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

Not Suited For Trailer Traffic

I love driving on the back roads in western Arkansas. I love the scenery. I love the adventure. I love to just take off and explore new roads. When I see a road I always wonder where it goes.  Just last weekend we had an adventure on the back roads of Arkansas.

On our way back home from Dierks Lake, we took a "shortcut" over gravel mountain roads.  Within just a few miles of the highway we came to the Cossatot River bridge that was impassable because there was three feet of water flowing over it.  We had to turn around and go all the way back to Dierks Lake so we could take the paved roads. On our way back to the lake we followed our GPS and were stymied three different times by locked gates across the roads.  After an hour we finally made our way back.

Sometimes exploring a new road can be quite an adventure. When you are traveling a rural Arkansas road you just don’t know where you will end up.

In the fall of 2006 America was transfixed with the story of James Kim. He was traveling home from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California with his wife and 2 children. They took a wrong turn onto a logging road in bad weather. The snow became too deep to travel, and they became stranded.

Rich Mountain Winter

After several days Mr. Kim set out on foot to look for help. He believed the nearest town was located four miles away. The distance to the town was actually 13 miles. He promised his family that he would turn back at 1 p.m. if he failed to find anyone, but he did not. Kati Kim and her two children were found alive when a search helicopter was led to the scene after seeing human footprints in the snow. The three were then rescued, and airlifted out of the area.

Soon after the rescue of Kati Kim and her children, search and rescue teams followed James Kim's footprints back along the road for about 10 miles where his footprints left the road and led into the heavily wooded Big Windy Creek drainage area. James Kim's body was found in Big Windy Creek. He had walked 16 miles looking for help.

Although Mr. Kim had walked 16 miles, he was found about four miles from his vehicle, and about one mile from Black Bar Lodge, a boating outpost. Though it was vacant at the time, it was stocked with food items. What a tragic story!

In Proverbs 14:12 the Bible tells us “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”. When the Kim family decided to go down that logging road, they had no idea that the road was impassable. Had they known about it, I’m sure they wouldn’t have taken that path. It was supposed be a short cut, but only led them to tragedy.

What about the road you are on in your life? Have you taken any wrong turns in your life? Have you been on any wrong roads? How do you know which road to take?

The Pig Trail

In Psalms 25:4,8-10 the Bible tells us” Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.

God has promised to be our guide. He will point out the right road for us to follow. As I have discussed spiritual things with people I have heard the following analogy several times. “You see it your way I see it my way, but there are many roads all going to the same place.”

Jesus has an answer for that way of thinking. We find his words in Matthew 7:13,14. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway that leads to destruction is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is narrow, and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it”. You know from experience that all roads don’t lead to your destination. I’m sure that you have been on a road that didn’t take you where you thought it would. James Kim found out this truth in a tragic way.

One of the last songs that George Harrison recorded was a song titled “Any Road”. The chorus of the song says “If you don't know where you're going any road will take you there”. His words are very true. They describe the kind of roads that I like to explore. I like to drive on them because I don’t know where I’m going. I like to just take off and explore new roads. When I see a road I always wonder where it goes. A number of times I have been completely lost, but eventually I made it home. It can be fun not knowing where you are going.

Arkansas Autumn

While it can be fun to explore unknown roads on a Sunday afternoon drive, it’s not a good plan in our spiritual lives. We should know where we are going. We should all have the same destination in mind.

I hope that you know where you are going. Jesus told us that not just any road would take us there. Have you found the road that leads to life? Have you studied the map?

I hope that you and I will be able to say what David said in Psalms 73:23-26. “Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. I have no one in heaven but you; I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever”.

Monday, July 28, 2014


C is for Child, my entry for this weeks ABC Wednesday.

A few years ago my friend Richie Owens spent a year of his life writing and recording an album. I remember his enthusiasm as he would bring me new songs to listen to. Songs just seemed to pour out of him as he focused on this project. One of my favorite songs that he wrote was titled "Like A Child". Richie ended up choosing the song as the title track of the album. Here are the lyrics

I remember the story from when I was young
Where Jesus was teaching one day
And there were some little ones come to see Him
But the men tried to send then away
Little did they know this gentle young man
Was the one by whom all things were made
He decided to make an example of them
To explain something He had to say

Let them come unto Me
For such is the kingdom of God
Come ye also like them
For unless you do you'll be lost
We have to trust fully in Him, not ourselves
Rely on his word before anything else
We can grow great in stature
In wisdom and health, undefiled
But be like a child

These are hard words in the world which we live
When dog eat dog's putting it mild
'cause some of the things Jesus asked us to do
With this world just can't be reconciled
But we know he has made the way for us
And we know he has conquered the grave
And we know that His grace is sufficient
So that all who will can hear Him say

Children come unto Me
For yours is the kingdom of God
You have conquered the world
For you followed My staff and My rod
You trusted fully in Me not yourselves
You relied on My word before anything else
And you never grew to big to stay in My arms
All the while...Welcome home, child

The other day as I was listening to the album (it is still one of my favorites) I started thinking about what Jesus actually meant in Matthew 18:2 - "Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven".

Autumn reads her Bible

That really is a blunt statement. If I don't become as a little child I will not be saved. It is very important that I understand what Jesus meant. My salvation depends on it. As I was considering this question, an important characteristic of little children came to mind.

One characteristic of little children is that they look up to the adults around them, especially parents. They don’t want to be left alone. They feel secure when they are with their parents. That is the way a Christian should feel about God. We should want to be with God.

In our relationship with God, we adults are in the same position as our children, except that we don’t know it. We sometimes behave as if we are running our lives, and that we are in control. We feel capable, and sometimes to such an extent that we feel we don’t really need God.

We need to know, that we are not in control. Like a child, we should always be looking up to someone for security and for help. We need to remind ourselves that we cannot handle life with our own wisdom or capabilities. In Proverbs 3:5,6 the Bible tells us "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

At Sabbath School

This childlike quality was brought home to me by a story that my daughter told me about my granddaughter. While my granddaughter was attending Vacation Bible School, one of the activities that she was involved in was making a scroll like people used in Bible times. When she finished her scroll she told her teacher,"this is for Jesus. I'll give it to him when he comes to pick me up".

That is the kind of childlike faith that we all need to have. We are just waiting for Jesus to come pick us up so we can go home, and we have no doubts that he will be here soon.

Here is a slideshow that I put together with the Richie Owens song "Like A Child".

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Picture of God

While we are traveling in the car, my wife and I like to listen to audiobooks.  We recently listened to Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.  We enjoyed the book so much that I looked for other audiobooks by L. M. Montgomery. I found and purchased the book, The Story Girl, and we are currently listening to it.

The Story Girl was published in 1911 and tells of the adventures of a group of young cousins and their friends who live on Prince Edward Island.  The book is narrated by Beverley, who with his brother Felix, has come to live with his Aunt and Uncle on their farm while their father travels for business.  The Story Girl is their cousin Sara Stanley, whose many stories fill the book.

One story in the book really caught my attention.  On their way home from school, Felix has some interesting news.  "Jerry Cowan told me at recess this afternoon that he had seen a picture of God–that he has it at home in an old, red-covered history of the world, and has looked at it often."

This bit of news caused a lot of discussion from the little group.  They all wanted to know what God looked like.  The next day they asked Jerry to bring the book to school so they could see the picture.  He told them that he couldn't bring the book to school, but if they wanted to buy the picture outright he would tear it out of the book and sell it to them for fifty cents.

They wanted the picture so much that they pooled their resources and came up with the fifty cents.   Jerry met up with the group after school and brought the page from the book wrapped in newspaper. They paid him the money, but did not open the packet until he had gone.

This is the way L. M. Montgomery described the scene.  "Cecily," said Felicity in a hushed tone. "You are the best of us all. You open the parcel."

"Oh, I'm no gooder than the rest of you," breathed Cecily, "but I'll open it if you like."

With trembling fingers Cecily opened the parcel. We stood around, hardly breathing. She unfolded it and held it up. We saw it.

Suddenly Sara began to cry. "Oh, oh, oh, does God look like that? " she wailed.

Felix and I spoke not. Disappointment and something worse, sealed our speech. Did God look like that–like that stern, angrily frowning old man with the tossing hair and beard of the wood-cut Cecily held?

"I suppose He must, since that is His picture," said Dan miserably.

"He looks awful cross," said Peter simply.

"Oh, I wish we'd never, never seen it," cried Cecily.

We all wished that–too late. Our curiosity had led us into some Holy of Holies, not to be profaned by human eyes, and this was our punishment.

When they showed the picture to the Story Girl, she said, "Surely you don't believe God looks like that. He doesn't–He couldn't. He is wonderful and beautiful. I'm surprised at you. That is nothing but the picture of a cross old man."

Hope sprang up in our hearts, although we were not wholly convinced.

"I don't know," said Dan dubiously. "It says under the picture 'God in the Garden of Eden.' It's printed."

"Well, I suppose that's what the man who drew it thought God was like," answered the Story Girl carelessly. "But he couldn't have known any more than you do. He had never seen Him."

"It's all very well for you to say so," said Felicity, "but you don't know either. I wish I could believe that isn't like God–but I don't know what to believe."

Just like these children, far too many of us don’t know what to believe. There are so many pictures of God that we see every day. God’s own professed followers often paint horrific pictures of God; Pictures of hatred toward other races and religions, pictures of intolerance. Pictures of an unjust God who burns and tortures people for an eternity.

The children decided to ask their minister about this disturbing picture.  Felix was sent to ask him while the rest of them remained in the background but within hearing.

"Well, Felix, what is it?" asked Mr. Marwood kindly.

"Please, sir, does God really look like this?" asked Felix, holding out the picture. "We hope He doesn't–but we want to know the truth, and that is why I'm bothering you. Please excuse us and tell me."

The minister looked at the picture. A stern expression came into his gentle blue eyes and he got as near to frowning as it was possible for him to get.

"Where did you get that thing?" he asked.

Thing! We began to breathe easier.

"We bought it from Jerry Cowan. He found it in a red-covered history of the world. It says it's God's picture," said Felix.

"It is nothing of the sort," said Mr. Marwood indignantly. "There is no such thing as a picture of God, Felix. No human being knows what he looks like–no human being can know. We should not even try to think what He looks like. But, Felix, you may be sure that God is infinitely more beautiful and loving and tender and kind than anything we can imagine of Him. Never believe anything else, my boy.

I believe that Mr. Marwood got it right.  God is infinitely more beautiful and loving and tender and kind than anything we can imagine of Him.

We need to be very careful of the picture of God that we paint.  For some people, the only picture of God that they can see is the one that we paint.  Psalms 86:15 says, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth”.  Is that the God in your picture?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Voyage to Tarshish - The Mena Star

This is my article as published in the July 24, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

In Matt 21:28-31, Jesus tells a parable. A father had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Go work in my vineyard." The son said, "No." But later he felt bad and went and did as his father had told him. The father then went to his second son and said, "Go work in my vineyard." The son said, "Yes." But he didn't actually go. Jesus asked, "Which son did the will of his father?"

The answer was: The first son, the one that actually went and worked into the vineyard.

There could easily have been a third son in this parable: The father says, "Go work in my vineyard." The son says, "No." There's a discussion between father and son and in the end the son says, "Fine! I'll go and work in your stupid vineyard. Now quit pestering me."

He's the son who gives grudging obedience, half-hearted obedience. That's Jonah. We have all heard the story of Jonah.  He was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it.

The Lord called Jonah to Nineveh, but instead he runs away to Tarshish, a great and wealthy city on the coast of Spain. It is about as far to the west as most Israelites have ever ventured, while Nineveh is about as far to the east as most Israelites have ever gone. Nineveh is a great city and the fiercest enemy of Jonah’s people, so Jonah is afraid and wants to be completely away from this calling and from anyone who may be inclined to go on this ill-fated adventure.

The Bible tells us that the Lord threw an intense wind at the sea. The violence of the storm put Jonah’s ship in jeopardy of breaking apart. The sailors panicked! They started running back and forth, throwing cargo overboard to lighten the boat; every man, out of desperation, cried to his own deity.

The sailors said, You know what we should do? We should cast lots to find out who is ultimately responsible for our distress!  So they cast their lots, and Jonah’s name was chosen.

The sailors said to Jonah, “What have you done? Because of you, we’re all going to be killed.”  What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?

Jonah answered, God is using the sea to punish me, so pick me up and throw me into the sea! Then the sea will grow calm again, and you’ll be safe! This is all my fault! This great storm of my God’s anger has built against you because of me!

At that, they grabbed Jonah by his arms and legs and threw him overboard. And when they did, the raging sea grew calm.

God didn't let Jonah die. He chose a large fish to swallow Jonah; for three days and three nights the prophet Jonah sat safely inside the belly of this fish.  Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and the fish threw up Jonah onto the dry land.

Why did Jonah disobey God and take a voyage to Tarshish?  Jonah was a prophet and received messages directly from God.  You would think that when God said, “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh”, that Jonah – the prophet – would obey.  So why didn't Jonah go?

Ninevah was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Israel's direct enemy. If there was one nationality that Israel hated and wanted to wipe off the face of the Earth, it was the Assyrians. The Assyrians were powerful, destructive, and ruthless with any nation getting in their way.

Why did Jonah run?  Why didn't he obey God? Because he is guilty of what many if not all of us have done, passing judgment.

Jonah set himself up as a judge against Assyria. He had been given a message of warning from God himself, but he determined that the Ninevites are not worthy of this message.  Assyria was not worthy to be saved.

The command to get  up and go is the same message that we find in the great commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19,20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus has told us to get up and go.  Where are you going?  Are you on the road to Nineveh or on a voyage to Tarshish?  We 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.

When we decide that certain people groups aren't worthy of our time, aren't worthy of the good news of salvation, we are boarding a boat for Tarshish.  When we hate any people groups we are saying that they aren't worthy of God’s love or his salvation.

I’m afraid that the reason we don’t want to travel to Nineveh and give the good news is that we are afraid that God might actually save the people we don’t like.  That was apparently a factor in Jonah’s decision to take a voyage to Tarshish.

In Jonah 4:2 Jonah shows his true feelings as he talks to God.  “God, isn't this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? This is exactly the reason I ran away to Tarshish in the first place. I know how You are! I know that You are not like other gods, that You are full of grace and compassion, that it takes a lot to make You angry, and that Your loyal love is so great that You are always ready to relent from inflicting misery”.

Are we afraid that God is so full of grace and compassion, and that His love is so great that he might extend salvation to those we don’t want to associate with?

When God asks you to get up and go, what are you going to do?  Are you going to head to Nineveh even though it is an evil city, or are you going to take a voyage to Tarshish?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Plato's Soul

Does Greek philosophy affect your thinking?  That’s probably not a question you have thought about.  What do you know about Greek philosophy?  Whether you know it or not, you probably view the world through the eyes of Greek philosophy.

If you are part of what we now call the western world, your brain is Greek.  The ancient Greeks gave us western civilization. The Romans spread Greek philosophy to world.

When we refer to Greek philosophy we are usually talking about the thoughts, teachings and writing of three important Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  They helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.

Socrates always emphasized the importance of the mind over the relative unimportance of the human body. His teaching inspired Plato’s philosophy of dividing reality into two separate realms, the world of the senses and the world of ideas.

Plato came to the belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only an "image" or "copy" of the real world. He called this thinking the theory of forms.  The forms, according to Plato are abstract representations of things, and properties we feel and see around us.  In other words, Plato recognized two worlds: the apparent world, which constantly changes, and an unchanging and unseen world of perfect forms.

Plato noticed that the world was full of imperfections.  You have probably noticed the same thing.  Plato’s question was, how do I know it’s not perfect.  How do I recognize the imperfections?  How do I know what perfection looks like?

Plato said we can sense imperfection because somewhere out there is perfection.    Each imperfect thing in our world has a perfect counterpart in spiritual world.  He taught that our imperfect world is an imperfect image of the spiritual world.

He applied this thought to our physical bodies.  We realize that our physical body is imperfect but to know that there must be a perfect version out there somewhere.  To Plato, that perfect version is the human soul; The spiritual part of you that leaves when you die and goes to a perfect spiritual plane.  This teaching of Plato, had been adopted by mainstream Christianity.  Plato’s concept of an immortal soul creates a problem when we look in Genesis.

Genesis 1:26,27  Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.   Genesis 1:31, "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day".

There are a couple of points that I want us to understand from this passage.  Number 1 is that we are not an imperfect copy of our immortal soul; we are a copy of God himself.  We are created in his image.  Number 2, Creation wasn't an imperfect copy; God said that it was very good.  According to Genesis, Plato got it wrong.  He was on the right track with some of his ideas.  There does have to be perfection somewhere for us to know that we are seeing imperfection, but according to Genesis, Adam and Eve were not created with immortal souls.  They didn't need them.  They were created in the perfect image of God.

We were never meant to live as bodyless spirits.  Creation was of perfect physical beings.  Adam and Eve lived in a real perfect physical world, a world without death.  There was no reason for a spirit or soul to ever leave the body.  The only hint you can find in Genesis of a possible disembodied spirit is in Genesis 2:7.  The King James version reads, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

I want you to notice something.  Man became a living soul. The soul was not a disembodied spirit.  It was not something that leaves the body.  Man didn't receive a soul, he became a soul.  Modern translations read, man became a living creature, or living being.

How did Greek philosophy become so entrenched in Christian doctrine and thinking?  One of the ways was through the writings of Justin Martyr who lived in the second century.  He wrote extensively to defend Christianity.  He was raised in a pagan home and he was weaned on Greek philosophy.

In his Address To The Greeks  Justin wrote, Plato seems to me to have learnt from the prophets not only the doctrine of the judgment, but also of the resurrection, which the Greeks refuse to believe. For his saying that the soul is judged along with the body, proves that he believed the doctrine of the resurrection.  But Plato, having accepted what they teach concerning the resurrection of the body, teaches that the soul is judged in company with the body.

He also wrote, "while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence, we shall seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers". Do you see how Greek philosophy crept into Christian thinking?

Greek philosophy plants hope in immortality of the soul but Christianity depends on physical resurrection.  We believe in a real physical Jesus coming back for real physical people.  According to the Bible you are a real person,  a living creature.  In the earth made new it will still be true.  Plato was doing the best he could with the information he had, but you have more information, so don’t use Plato to guide your thinking.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 51-53 we read, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

I’m eagerly waiting for the day when this corruptible body puts on incorruption, and this mortal body puts on immortality.  I’m eagerly waiting for the day when I will begin spending eternity in a real physical place with a real physical body.  I hope that you are longing for that day too.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Jewels - Maurine Burden

This article was published in the July 17, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

Marjorie Maurine Jordan Burden passed away in August 2013. She was born in 1922 on an Indian Reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska. During World War II she was a real Rosie the riveter, working at Schrillo Aero Tool Engineering Co. in Los Angeles, California. She married in 1951 and had one child, Conrad in 1952. Her son had numerous health issues and passed away in 1956.  She spent the final years of her life at Peachtree Assisted Living in Mena, Arkansas.

I attended church with her since 1999. She was a quiet little lady who never talked about her past. She had no family in the area. When church members were going through her meager possessions while cleaning out her room they found file cabinets full of writing and family genealogy research. The following story was found in her writings and was read at her memorial service. It was a heart wrenching moment, but the story was so well written that I thought I would share it with my readers.

by Maurine Burden

"The disciples of Christ are called His jewels, His precious and peculiar treasure"

Many of us have treasure chests and in them we accumulate the treasure of our life's experience.  I have an old trunk that might well be called my treasure chest.  It is not richly carved like some old treasure chests that I've seen, but it holds my collection of treasures.

With the passing events of time, one by one these treasures are collected and placed in the chest for safe keeping. I had two dolls when I was a child that shared many of my childhood experiences. But there came a day when I washed up all of the little clothes, dressed the dolls in their best, bent over the old trunk - then for a brief moment before they were put away - I recalled the happiness we had had. As I closed the lid there wasn't the slightest wish to have those days back again, nor possible need for them in the future. Childhood was gone. Before me were other days and other experiences which would have to be met. And in the evening of those other days there would be other mementos to be put in my chest.

I said that I had "a" chest - now I have "two".  This second one holds my most precious treasure.  Well I remember the night I placed this treasure in the jewel box.

For days we had plead with God to preserve the life spark in this little body.  But now the anxious pleading had ceased.  God said that the time had come to place my precious treasure in the case for safe keeping.  As we entered the room this evening one of the first things that caught my glance was a beautiful little casket.  "Casket" means a place to put jewels.  What a beautiful little chest to put this precious jewel in - nothing so beautiful as this for my other treasures!

As with the dolls, so these little clothes had to be cleaned.  Tenderly we dressed the little body for the last time.  The little shirt, the pants, the socks, - each had a special memory.

When I lifted his cold little body to place it in the jewel box, for a brief moment I hugged him to my breast and was happy, terribly happy.  I recalled, as with the dolls, those former days.  Carefully I placed him in his resting place.  There was no wish to have those days back nor possible need for the future in this life.  As with childhood so these days too, were gone.  The time had come for this treasure to be placed in the chest.

Because I put my treasures in the old trunk doesn't say that they cease to be mine anymore; neither with my other jewel - it will always be mine.  However this chest God has placed beyond my reach, but I know it is safe for He has marked it's resting place.  We are sharers in "that blessed hope" of being united again on the resurrection morning.

Lest you should misunderstand, there were tears in this experience - lots of them - and it would not have been so easy as it was, even at that, had I not realized that he was now free from sin's power.  No wonder God says. "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints".  Polished and placed beyond the reach of sin as they wait the call of the Lifegiver.

It was as if God had said, there is much work to do and one cannot wear his jewels while he works.  I will take care of them for you but now we must hurry...  I have other jewels, some are lost. Will you ready yourself and help me find them before they are swept away? The urgency of His message impressed me.

Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smedleys Committed to Family, Healing

This article, written by Andy Philpot, was published in the July 10, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

Each year at the Polk County Relay For Life celebration, new stories are shared on the battles, victories, and caregiving involved with cancer and our local community members.

When recognition awards were given at this years Relay, held at the end of May, Lyndell Smedley of Hatfield, was named Caregiver of the Year.  For those who attended Relay, they know at least some of the story behind why Lyndell was awarded Caregiver of the Year.  Lyndell's story of dedication to his daughter and his family is a testimony of true dedication to being there for his daughter, and determined to see her through until she was healthy.

Telicia Smedley, daughter of Lyndell and Michelle Smedley, is a former Hatfield graduate who has gone on to become a teacher in Little Rock.  When she had gone to a doctor's appointment on Valentine's Day in 2013, she had been experiencing some issues with bruising in too easy a fashion.  When she went to that doctor's appointment that day for something unrelated to cancer, she didn't expect that it would immediately change her life.  Lyndell and Michelle weren't expecting the phone call that they would receive that day, which would also change their lives immediately.

The news that Lyndell and Michelle got was that Telicia had leukemia.

Telicia was immediately admitted into the hospital, and almost in a whirlwind, got started on chemotherapy to begin the fight against this aggressive condition.  She didn't expect that her doctor appointment would land her in a Little Rock hospital for the next 61 days.

A full feature will be run in a future issue of The Mena Star as space permits for the full story of Telicia's battle against cancer, and her Dad's dedication every step of the way.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


This week the letter for the ABC Wednesday Meme is Z.  Z is for Zealot.  According to the dictionary, a zealot is a person who has very strong feelings about something (such as religion or politics) and who wants other people to have those feelings.
The online world seems to be full of zealots.  I really wonder if anyone's mind has ever been changed by hateful vitriol that they read on someones Facebook feed.  
I did not write the following words, but I fully agree with them.  I would love to give the original writer credit, but I don't know the source.
Dear Friends, Family, and Anyone Else I Know;
As we all know, there is a rather major election happening this year. I know, no matter how loud or quiet you are, you probably (definitely) have opinions. You probably lean more toward one political party than the other, more toward one candidate than the other, more toward one side than the other, just as I do. You have strongly held beliefs about certain issues, just as I do. One of the great things about living in this country is our ability–and right–to hold and VOTE our political conscience, for the things and people we believe in.

That being said.

As the election gets nearer, and the tempers get shorter, and the mud gets fling-ier, I want you to remember some things, please:

When you post on Facebook that someone is “Too stupid to breathe…” if they vote for X candidate–you could be talking about me.

When you write in your email that someone who votes for Y candidate is “UnAmerican”–you could be talking about me.

When you say that someone who believes that Z candidate has better policies should “be taken out back and shot”–you could be talking about me.

When you say that you hope everyone who votes for XYZ candidate “is rounded up” before the election–you could be talking about ME.

When you say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support your political position–you could be talking about ME.
About ME, or someone like me that you know. Not just a random “them.” But someone you like, or love. Someone you may have known your whole life. Someone you may think is intelligent, articulate, well-spoken. Someone you may think is caring, kind, giving.
There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people. Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.
Please, by all means, believe what you believe. Vote the way you want to vote. Engage in civil discussion about issues and platforms, if you want to. Advocate strongly for why you think what you think. Use reason to explain your position. These things? These make us better citizens, make us a better part of the political process. But when you start throwing those ugly words out, when you start sharing those ugly graphics, and those hateful quotes, and you point your finger at “THOSE PEOPLE” just remember…you could be talking about me. Someone you know. Someone you call friend, family, coworker.
And maybe that doesn't matter to you. Maybe it doesn't matter that you’re saying I’m stupid, unAmerican, deserve to be kicked out of the country, deserve to die, don’t have any compassion, don’t care about my fellow citizens, or am a moron. Maybe it doesn't bother you because you believe SO strongly that ALL people who believe opposite of you are SO wrong that you’re willing to forget the people behind those beliefs, that they are more than just their political opinions, more than just where they fall on an issue or what candidate they want to vote for.

But to me it does. Because when this political season is over, and the races have been decided, the non-stop political nonsense will die back down to a low boil. But you and I? We’ll still know each other. And I’ll know what you really think…of me.
The ABC Wednesday Meme is a fun way to see some great blogs.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Reunion - The Mena Star

This is my article as published in the July 3, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.

Over the past several months I have enjoyed attending several reunions.  In July I went to Tennessee for my aunt’s 85th birthday celebration.  Then in August I was able to attend my cousin’s 50th wedding anniversary.  He was the best man at my wedding.  I had a great time with relatives I seldom see.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I attended our 40th High School reunion. We both attended Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado and graduated in 1973.  It had been 30 years since we had seen most of our classmates - we attended our ten year reunion.  As we pulled onto the campus of Campion Academy we were a bit nervous.  What would our old classmates be like?  Would we have anything in common? Would we recognize them?  Would they recognize us?

As I parked the car and walked up to the registration table my apprehension was confirmed as I couldn't place the first person who spoke to me.  But within just a few minutes all uneasiness melted away as old friends greeted us.  I was amazed as classmates bridged the forty years like it was no time at all.

While we were there, I looked up an old friend I hadn't seen in years. When I lived in Campion, he lived just a block away. He was a great friend and we spent a lot of time together. It was nice to be able to be together again like old times even if it was only for an hour or so. We reminisced about many things including our “muscle” cars; his six cylinder Ford Falcon and my Nash Metropolitan.

As we were leaving his place, he turned to me and said, “I need to apologize to you.  I was out of line”.  I wasn't sure what he was talking about.  It had been over 35 years since we had visited with each other.  I told him that even the best of friends disagree sometimes and all was forgiven.  I really had no recollection of a serious disagreement between us, but something had been eating at him for years.

I had forgiven him years ago and couldn't even remember what the disagreement was about.  It reminded me of the verses in Micah 7:18,19.  “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.  He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”.

God want to forgive us.  He longs to forgive us.  He wants to reconcile with us.

In Romans 5:10,11 the Bible tells us,  “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation”.

Some versions use the phrase “restored our relationship” or “made us his friends” in place of reconciled.  God wants us to be his friends; he wants to restore our relationship.  He wants a reunion.

Just like I was a bit apprehensive before my high school reunion, sometimes we are apprehensive about a reunion with Jesus.  We know that we aren't worthy.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger son asks his father to give him an early inheritance. Once received, the son goes to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living. When the money runs out, the son finds himself in dire circumstances. He takes a job feeding pigs. He is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food the pigs eat.

The young man finally decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy.  Realizing he is not worthy to be a part of the family he hatches a plan to ask to be a servant in his father’s house.

Let’s pick up the story in Luke 15:20, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

The son was focusing on how unworthy he was – and with good reason.  But all the father could think of was the reunion and how happy he was to have his son back.

Luke 15:22-24 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry”.

God wants a reunion, he wants reconciliation, and he wants to restore his relationship with you.  He wants to be your friend, but you have to come to the Father.  Don’t miss the reunion!