Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run

For the past 30+ years I have been attending the annual Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run in Mena, Arkansas.  I always enjoy looking at the beautiful cars that are on display each year.

In 1976, Mark Campbell started the annual Rod Run in Mena. I have been attending ever since I moved to Mena in 1981.  This year Mena will celebrate the 40th Annual Rod Run. This year's event is held in honor of Mark, who passed away on April 23, 2015 from pancreatic cancer. Here are a few photos that I took this evening.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Local Woman Conquers Pike's Peak

My article from the August 26, 2015 issue of The Polk County Pulse

Local Woman Conquers Pike's Peak
by Richie Lawry

Local woman, Betty Sobeski , 67, ran the Pike’s Peak Ascent which took place in Manitou Springs, Colorado on August 15, 2015.  The Pikes Peak Ascent is a racing event that begins at the base of Pike’s Peak, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and over the course of 13.3 miles climbs over 7,815 feet to the top of the 14,115 foot peak.  Runners consider the Pike’s Peak races America’s ultimate challenge.  Eighteen hundred runners from all over the U.S and from as far away as Japan participated in the 2015 event.

Betty completed the Ascent along with her daughter, Joan Rendon, 50, of Waldron, Arkansas.  They trained together for six months.  They did all of their training on Rich Mountain, simulating the steep Pike’s Peak course.  Due to the heat they trained with very early morning runs.  Betty has been running for 25 years and Joan has been running for the last 10 years.

2015 was the first time that Joan ran the Pike’s Peak Ascent.  Betty had previously run the Pike’s Peak Marathon five times from 2001 to 2007. In 2003 she brought home a trophy for placing second in her age class, just two minutes short of first place.  The marathon course is to the top of Pike’s Peak and back down again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Celebrity Waiter Dinner

My article from the August 20, 2015 issue of The Mena Star

Local Celebrity Waiters Raise 14,000 for Relay For Life
by Richie Lawry

More than $14,000 was raised during the annual Relay For Life of Polk County Celebrity Waiter Event held at Mena Mountain Resort on August 7th.  Lou and Denni Longoria prepared a delicious meal and 15 local celebrities waited tables for tips.  The room looked beautiful as each celebrity decorated their table.  Each table had a theme such as Hollywood, Mountain Meadows, Western, 60’s Love, Christmas, Survivors and Superheroes and the waiter’s guests dressed according to the theme.  There were Tie Dye Hippies from the 60’s, Cowboys and Cowgirls, Superheroes, Mr. and Mrs. Clause, Chuck Norris, Marilyn Monroe, Boss Hog, Daisy Duke, and many more.  Shannon Hunter auctioned off donated items.  The local celebrity waiters who participated in the event were; Jeannie and Larry Barsic sponsored by USEM Federal Credit Union, Monroe Miller and Taylor Wilhite and Jim and Joyce Stroope  sponsored by Nidec, Clint and Telissa Montgomery sponsored by Shelter Insurance, Gregg Goss sponsored by Bear State Bank, Shelly Harvey and Teresa Bates sponsored by Union Bank, Betty Johnson sponsored by Genesis Cancer Center, Jared Standridge, Elizabeth Baker and David Jones sponsored by Relay For Life of Polk County.

While the tips were being counted the guests enjoyed dancing to the tunes of DJ Hollywood.  The Celebrites who received the most tips were Jim and Joyce Stroope.  Second Place went to Monroe Miller and Taylor Wilhite.  The award for Best Dressed Waiter went to Clint and Telissa Montgomery as Mr. and Mrs. Clause.  The award for the Best Dressed Table went to Shelly Harvey and Teresa Bates for their western theme.  The Sneakiest Waiter award went to The Flash, Larry Barsic.  The Most Spirited Waiter award was presented to Jim Stroope.  The award for the Best theme went to Greg Goss for 60’s Love.

The 2015 Celebrity Waiters of the Year were Jim and Joyce Stroope. The Waiter of the Year is determined by the total amount of money raised for the event. This year’s runners up were Jeannie and Larry Barsic.

All of the funds raised at the event will be donated to Relay For Life of Polk County to support the American Cancer Society.  ACS saves lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking research; and by fighting back by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. The American Cancer Society is the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research.  As a result, over 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


A pastor told the following story.  He had been invited to speak at a friend’s church.  He told the audience that their pastor had told him that the church was full of Pharisees.  The room became quiet.  The pastor stopped and asked if something was wrong.  There was still silence.  So the pastor asked another question.  How many of you considered being compared to Pharisees and insult instead of a compliment?  Nearly every hand raised.

The pastor went on to explain that calling someone a Pharisee wasn’t always an insult.  In Jesus’ day it would have been a compliment.

That’s because Pharisees in Jesus’ time were everything we admire spiritually.  They were completely committed to their religion.  They were very well versed in the Bible.  They carefully obeyed every one of God’s commands.  They even made up extra rules in case they had missed anything.

The Pharisees were so highly regarded that both Jesus and Paul played the Pharisee card when they wanted to illustrate the highest levels of spiritual commitment.  They knew that their audience would be impressed.

Jesus first used the Pharisees as an example of the highest possible achievement in the Sermon on the Mount.  To show that it is impossible to earn our way to heaven by our works he said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  He pointed out well known commandments and then added to each one a much higher standard.

Matthew 5:27-30 - "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."

That had to freak out his listeners.  It is one thing to forbid adultery, but it is quite something else classify a quick look as adultery.  And it is downright terrifying to be told to gouge out our eye and cut off our hand if we struggle with a second look.

Now I don’t believe that Jesus was asking his audience to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand, but he was making a point.  We can’t earn our way into God’s favor by carefully keeping a moral code – even a Biblical one.  Our works will never be righteousness enough.  God’s standard of holiness is infinitely beyond our best efforts.

Just to make sure that everyone listening to Him understood how impossible it is to please God with our own good works Jesus stated in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  This had to be very disturbing to those who were listening to Jesus.  The Pharisees were considered the most righteous of the righteous.  If they had to be even more righteous than the Pharisees, they were all doomed.

They had to be thinking, “That’s impossible".  That’s exactly what Jesus wanted them to think.  He wanted them to understand that they couldn’t pull off their own salvation.  They would have to let Jesus do to for them.   That’s why he played the Pharisee card.  He knew that his audience would be blown away by the idea that those they thought were the very closest to God were not close enough.

These insights into the culture of the first century and how people regarded the Pharisees are more than just interesting bits of ancient history.  They are important for every modern day Christian to understand.  If we don’t understand how spiritually impressive the Pharisees were, we will be blind to the danger of becoming like them.

The Pharisees thought of themselves as God’s biggest fans.  They praised him; they worshiped him and spoke out in his defense. But when God actually showed up in the form of Jesus, they vehemently opposed Him.

In the same way we can talk all day long about Jesus and the Bible. We can praise God. We can sing to Him. We can pray to Him. But when He shows up in ways we don’t expect, that we don’t agree with, or that make us uncomfortable, we can fight Him tooth and nail.

Our modern perception of the Pharisees is of spiritual losers who were enemies of Jesus.  We think; how can they have been so stupid?  If this is what we think of the Pharisees, that they were spiritual losers instead of spiritual superstars, we will not be able to recognize the danger in our own life.  We will not see that it is often a very short journey from being zealous for God and being unintentionally opposed to God.

No one starts out with the desire to become a Pharisee.  We know from the Bible that they are the bad guys.  No one ever looks in the mirror and sees a Pharisee.  But the truth is that modern day Pharisees are made up of people just like you and me.  They are people who love God. They study the Bible and are trying the best they can to live by it.  But with a focus on works and a distaste for grace they become Pharisees.

Following Jesus is not a race to see who can be the most radical, the most obedient, the most sacrificial or the most knowledgeable. It’s not a contest to see who is willing to take the hardest road.

For the gospel to actually be good news, grace and mercy have to remain front and center.  When the intensity of my commitment or the extent of my personal sacrifices become the way to receive God’s acceptance and approval, the good news of the gospel is no longer good news.  We must remain true to the heart of the gospel, offering rest, help, hope, and salvation to the weary and heavy laden.

None of us live a truly righteous life.  Even the very best Christians fall far short of the righteousness needed to stand before God.  That is what makes grace so amazing.  That is what makes the arrogance of modern day Pharisees, as they offer up their filthy rags of righteousness as something to be proud of, so sad.

Our hope is not in what we do for God.   Our hope is in what God has done for us.  That’s the gospel.  That is what will keep people like you and I from becoming modern day Pharisees.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Don't Be Disappointed

During the spring of 2011, Harold Camping made the news with his prediction that on May 21, 2011 Jesus Christ would return to Earth, the righteous would fly up to heaven, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011 with the end of the world.

To promote “Judgment Day 2011,” Camping’s followers reportedly spent millions of dollars on billboards, subway advertisements, literature distribution and personal canvassing.  After the date passed, Mr. Camping was the butt of late night TV jokes, unflattering articles in the newspaper, and even parties held by atheists in his honor.

Seventh-day Adventists can empathize, since Adventism was born in large measure out of the prophecy interpretations of William Miller and the Great Disappointment of 1844.

William Miller was a captain in the War of 1812.  Following a period of years in which he proclaimed Deism, Miller joined the Baptist Church of Low Hampton. Following his conversion, he was asked by Deist friends how he knew the Bible was true. He determined to prove the Bible true.  After studying for two years he was convinced he understood the Bible —especially Daniel 8:14: "Unto 2,300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."  The cleansing of the sanctuary, Miller believed, could only mean the purging of the earth by fire—in short, the end of the world.  By interpreting these prophetic days as years and beginning from the date of the prophecy, Miller concluded that the end of the 2,300 "days" would fall in 1843.

By 1831 he found the courage to share his discovery with neighbors and friends. When asked to discuss his views in a nearby church, he suddenly discovered that on this one subject he could be eloquent.

Invitations multiplied, and Miller gained a bit of local notoriety.  In 1838 he published a book on prophecy. Joshua V. Himes heard Miller speak and was impressed by the power in the message of the quiet, middle-aged farmer. So he eagerly joined Miller as his manager and publicity agent. Himes equipped Miller with a great chart displaying the millennial calculations in graphic form, purchased the biggest tent in the country for his meetings, and edited two journals—New York's Midnight Cry and Boston's Signs of the Times.

Miller the man was transformed overnight into the Millerite Movement. Himes and his associates recruited other evangelists and sent them on speaking tours; organized camp meetings; and published tracts, books, and pamphlets.

As the final year approached, Miller's preaching drew larger crowds. In six months, he delivered more than 300 lectures with the constant theme: Are you ready to meet your Savior?  The crowds grew larger and the number of converts mounted.  As many as a million people believed the teachings of William Miller.

With excitement rising, people began to demand a definite day for the Lord's appearance. Miller was reluctant to be more specific, but in January 1843, he announced that this Hebrew year—March 21, 1843, to March 21, 1844—must see the end of time.

Then March 21, 1844, came—and nothing happened. After a month, Miller confessed his error and acknowledged his disappointment.  In August 1844 at a camp-meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, Samuel S. Snow presented his own interpretation, what became known as the midnight cry. Snow presented his conclusion (still based on the 2300 day prophecy in Daniel 8:14), that Christ would return on, "the tenth day of the seventh month of the present year, 1844".  This date was determined to be October 22, 1844. The midnight cry message spread among the Millerites.

As we know, Jesus did not return to this earth in October 1844. Those that eagerly awaited His return were devastated, and the day became known as the Great Disappointment. Thousands of followers who had given away their possessions and waited in expectant belief were disillusioned and left the movement. Those that remained were ridiculed and became objects of scorn.

One of those who experienced the great disappointment wrote "Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn."

I can’t imagine how those people felt.   Instead of seeing Jesus and being transported to heaven, they had to pick up the pieces of their lives and listen to the ridicule of their neighbors.

I don’t want to be disappointed.  I’m sure you don’t want to be either.

I believe that Jesus is coming back for me and for you.  But Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." It is not about knowing the day or the hour that he comes.  It is about being ready when He does come. The time we have is limited.  Each one of us have a limited amount of time to prepare for when we will meet Christ.  It is limited by either His return or our death.

If Jesus came for you right now, would you be ready?  Have you really received Him as your Savior?  Jesus is coming back, and this we can know for sure.  We are closer to his arrival today than we were yesterday.  The time to get ready is limited.

If you have not done so already, the time to get ready is now.  Don’t delay.  I want to be part of the group that says, “ Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation”.  Don’t be part of the group that says to the rocks and mountains, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

Don’t be disappointed!