Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Memories of Hazel

This story of my Grandmother was written by my Uncle Lloyd Lawry and included in a collection of family stories and writings that he put together.  I was blessed to have been given a copy of his collection

by Lloyd Lawry

My relationship with Hazel got off to a poor start. Daddy had brought her to Wichita where I lived with my mother and step-father. Daddy said, "this is your new Mama," which of course, was the wrong thing to say to a little boy who loved his mother as much as I did.

The other thing I remember about their visit didn't mean much to me at the time, but it certainly touches my heart today. I can still see in my memory Hazel sitting at my mother's bedside crying
because they both knew that mama was on her deathbed. I'm sure mama must have known Hazel would be good to me, because in a letter to Grandma Lawry in January 1928 she said, "of course I want to stay with Lloyd, but if I can't I know his Daddy will care for him and that makes it not so hard."

Daddy brought me to Buffville in June of 1928 to visit with him and Hazel. Of course they knew my mother would die soon. I enjoyed my visit as there were lots of things for little boys to enjoy in Buffville. On July 11,1928 Hazel wrote Grandma Lawry that Leslie and I "put in a lot of time fishing and swimming." For some time Hazel would clean the little fish I caught, but when she tired of cleaning them and told me I must clean my own, I quit bringing home so many!

Mother died July 19,1928, and I came to live with Hazel and Daddy. I was grief-stricken and resentful of Hazel, and I wasn't very nice to her. In spite of my attitude she was very patient with me. However, I remember her switching me twice - once when she left me to watch Opal on a blanket in the front yard and I ran off and left her sitting alone, and once when I ran off and avoided going to Sabbath School.

After the brickyard closed in 1929 we moved to a farm east of Buffville where we rented a house with a garden and pasture for our cow. I was lonesome and Hazel tried to find something to relieve my boredom. She had me scrub my own overalls sometimes, and had me work in the garden. I felt abused, but I thought it was all right for her to scrub the clothes!

In early September of 1931 Daddy and Grandpa Reeve left home to hunt for work. They found it in Campo, Colorado harvesting broom corn. They got 10 cents an hour and had to provide their own board and lodging.

While they were gone Grandma Reeve lived with us. The rural ice man came by twice a week and we could buy 12 1/2 pounds of ice for a dime. We would make a gallon of ice cream and the three of
us would eat it all before the evening was over. Small wonder that Delbert weighed 11 3/4 pounds when he was born on September 27!

The night he was born I had to walk about 1 1/2 miles to have a neighbor phone for the doctor. I was 12 years old, but still little boy enough to be scared. I stayed with the neighbor all night and they told me in the morning I had a baby brother.

Hazel wanted me to be able to manage for myself when I left home so she taught me how to sew on buttons and mend my clothes and a little bit of about cooking.

Ruth has a small cedar chest I made when I was in the 6th grade. Hazel sold some old hens to get the two dollars to pay for the lumber.

Hazel's care for me was echoed throughput the whole Reeve clan. All of her sisters and brothers as well as Grandma and Grandpa Reeve accepted me as their own. Grandpa Reeve told me many times
that I was as dear to him as his own grandchildren

I was completely grief stricken at Hazel's funeral. Losing her after the loss of the other relatives and friends in the past two years was just, the breaking point. When I told Dr. Beltz before the funeral he said that no human could comfort me, but God could.

God is slowly easing the pain and He has given me assurance that I will see Hazel after this life - as I remember her singing in the "Land of Unclouded Day."

Written by Lloyd Lawry 1/11/95

For more of Uncle Lloyd's Scrapbook, click here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Strawberries and Rugs

This story was written by my daughter Cynda when she was in high school.  My Uncle Lloyd Lawry saved the story and included it in a collection of family stories and writings of his own.

Strawberries and Rugs
by Cynda Lawry

When I go to the back of my mind I can only remember two things about Great-Grandma Lawry. Her strawberries are my most pleasant memory about her. They were mashed and full of sugar. She had to satisfy the Lawry sweet tooth.

Dad tells a story about Grandma Lawry and one of her sisters. They were bickering over whose strawberries were the best. He would always laugh and say that mixing a pint of each would make the best strawberries ever.

My second memory of Grandma Lawry endears me to her even though I hardly knew her. She was dying. I didn't know that then. She had been admitted into St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Smith. Her condition was absolutely hopeless. The doctor said she was going to die and might as well die at home rather than in a lonely hospital room. My parents, Grandma Pat, and Aunt Opal took me when they went to get her.

When we entered the hospital it was new and intimidating. The hospital seemed humongous and overwhelming. Nothing in the small town I lived in could compare to this. Pale statues glare at me critiquing my every move. I carefully contemplated each step because I didn't want to be convicted of some terrible crime.I gazed curiously at some funny looking ladies in bizarre clothes. They wore plain black dresses that came to about the middle of their calves. Long black fabric was draped over their heads.

Grandma's room was upstairs so we took the elevator. In front of it their was a brass plaque in the shape of a tree. Light reflected off of it scattering the colors of the rainbow everywhere. Each leaf was an individual plaque thanking some hospital supporter.

Riding the elevator was extremely exciting because I hardly ever rode in elevators. The First National Bank was the only building in Mena (the town where I lived) that had an elevator

"Ding", the elevator stopped. I exited quickly because I was afraid the doors would close on me. Even today I'm afraid of being squeezed to death by those doors.

To the left of the elevator was a gift shop. Its walls were made of glass. Through them you could see all the neat but useless trinkets that attracted the eye.

Aunt Opal took me inside. She bought me a little Christmas ornament. It was a green stuffed cat. The cat laid with its head up and it tail hanging slightly curved. I still have that ornament, Every Christmas when I see it on the tree I think about Aunt Opal and Grandma Lawry.

When we went into Grandma Lawry's room I didn't care about my dying grandmother. I was captivated by the Rudolph special that was playing on the small television in the corner of the room. The only good spot to see television was from Grandma's bed. So I immediately began to crawl into it. Daddy jumped to stop me, but Grandma objected. She wanted me up there with her.

That is all I remember about my Grandma.  My parents thought I was too young to go to her funeral.  Even though I only have a few tidbits of information about her, I love her.  I know she loved me too.

For more of Uncle Lloyd's Scrapbook, click here.

I Remember Delbert

At a recent cousins reunion I was given a copy of this story that was written by Ivan Reeve about my Uncle Delbert.

by Ivan Reeve

For as long as I can recall, I remember Delbert. He was certainly a "best friend cousin" that everyone should be blessed with.

We were nourished together, first in the "home church," at the Cowan's home, then in Neodesha, Kansas, at the Adventist Church. It certainly was an incentive to go to church; one, because we'd get to see all our cousins; two, we didn't have to work that day; and three, we could check out all the girls!

Family gatherings were especially fun. Since we were close in age, we hung around together. One of the highlights of our youth was we attended the same school, Star School.

For awhile, Uncle Ben owned and farmed 20 acres of our home place, which gave Delbert and I a chance to work and play together. For some time, he and his family moved to Missouri, then to Michigan, following the fruit harvest. It seemed like an eternity before we saw each other again. Eventually they bought acreage a few miles from our place. We really enjoyed sleepovers at each other's home.

Before we knew it, we were old enough to go to Enterprise Academy in Kansas, where we roomed together. Our working hours differed somewhat, causing us to have to purchase an alarm clock to keep us on our schedules. The clock was especially bothersome to Delbert. The constant ticking finally caused Delbert to stab the clock with his compasses, thus contributing to the demise of the pesky clock.

Since we were farm boys, we applied for work and got jobs at the academy farm. It turned out to be v-e-r-y l-o-n-g work days as well as a long, hot summer.

Sometime in August we decided to relocate ourselves to the state of Oregon. Being responsible teenagers, we drew out some of our wages, which together amounted to about $35.00 and promptly spent $25.00 for a portable Wards Airline Radio. That left us $10 for expenses and relocation costs.

On our hitchhiking trek, we were fortunate to be picked up by a long distance trucker that took us as far as Denver, Colorado. Opal, Delbert's sister, and Lillian Spady were residing in Boulder. They were gracious enough to feed us and give us a place to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, we continued on our way to Oregon. Wyoming greeted us with an unexpected snow storm. This caused us to put on nearly all our clothing that we had with us just to keep warm, which gave a whole new meaning to "layering."

In Wyoming, in a fortuitous turn of events, we were picked up by a congenial guy that was driving a snazzy car that went like the wind. The gentleman was happy to have Delbert share in the driving, which suited Delbert just fine. In no time, we were well on our way to our destination.

For Kansas kids that hardly ever saw anything higher than an ant hill, the spectacular Columbia River Gorge was like seeing the Garden of Eden. The waterfalls. the greenery, the majestic firs, the cool breeze, and the warm sun tantalized us.

It was dusk when we arrived in Portland. We were not broke; we still had 3 cents between the two of us. We decided to splurge on a gumball apiece to convince ourselves that we weren't hungry!

Fortune smiled upon us again when a prosperous Caterpillar salesman gave us a lift towards our final destination, which was Tillamook. Oregon. He generously shared his recent wealth with us by treating us to a steak dinner and paying for a night's lodging.

By the end of the first day'in Tillamook, we each had found a job; Delbert at a grocery market and I at the Bungalow Cafe "diving for pearls," a glorified way of stating that l was a dishwasher.

Thanks to my sister, Viola, we had a roof over our heads for a couple weeks with a generous family that lived on the outskirts of Tillamook. Whether it was because of our boisterous spirit or truly the rains that were anticipated, they advised us to move into town so we wouldn't have to walk to work every day.

Bertha, a sister to Delbert's boss, ran a boarding house. She had a vacancy and rented us a room for which we were grateful. Everything went well until we smuggled in a washing machine, which was prohibited. Viola rescued us again, by taking the washing machine off our hands.

After high school. our paths went different ways, including Delbert's service in the Army and I in the Navy. We saw each other from time to time and kept tabs on each other through the family grapevine.

Delbert, you were always special to me. My memories of you will forever warm the cockles of my heart.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Time For Rest

The winter day was cold, and even though it was freezing outside, a crowd was gathering. You could feel the anticipation in the air.  A young man named Louis was standing in the crowd.   He was so excited that he could hardly contain himself. He thought that he just might witness history in the making.

The newspapers had been speculating about the event. They questioned whether a man could really go that fast on land and survive.  They wondered if the vehicle could really go that fast without falling to pieces. Everybody seemed to have an opinion; engineers, scientists, doctors, and the man in the street.  Today was the day that the questions would all be answered.  Louis was excited that he was going to see it.

A gasp rose from the crowd when the machine was introduced. Louis had never seen such an incredible machine. It looked like it was from the future. With admiration mixed with fear, he watched the driver, get into the machine. Louis felt the ground shake when the engine in the machine roared to life.  He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.  Soon the machine took off accelerating to an unbelievable speed.  Louis and everyone else who was watching were amazed by how fast the machine went.

When the demonstration was over, both the machine and the driver were fine. When the news was announced that a new world’s speed record had been set, a loud cheer went up from the crowd.

The machine, back in 1898, had just reached the speed of 39 miles an hour. Wow!  That doesn’t seem very impressive today.  If somebody ahead of us on the highway is creeping along at 39 miles per hour, well, we’re ready to pitch a fit and just scream, “Let’s go, come on! I don’t have all day.”

But back in 1898, the world was amazed when somebody went 39 miles per hour. Can you imagine what Louis and everyone else who witnessed a car reach the unheard of speed of 39 miles per hour would think of the latest record for land speed, set by a jet-powered car screamed across the Black Rock Desert in Nevada at more than 763 miles per hour.  And of course, it’s only a matter of time before someone will break that record.

In this modern world, no matter how fast we get, no matter how efficient we become, it’s just never enough. There’s just no question about it, we’re doing things faster and faster and faster, at speeds our ancestors couldn’t even imagine. In the 19th century if you wanted to get a message across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to London, it would take weeks at best. But today you can push a few buttons, and in seconds you’ll be talking to someone across the Atlantic.

Even though we’re moving at speeds our ancestors would have thought were miraculous, even supernatural, most people still complain about the same thing. No matter what we do or how fast we do it, the complaint is always the same. We just don’t have enough time.

That’s actually a problem God anticipated. Thousands of years ago, God gave us a commandment specifically created to protect us from the tyranny of time. At the very beginning of our human history, the Lord carved out a refuge called the Sabbath. If you study the fourth commandment, you’ll find it comes to us right from the opening chapters of the Bible, right in the story of Creation.

Let’s go back to the very beginning, right after God created the world. The Bible says in Genesis 2:1-3, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

Notice the similarity found in the fourth commandment; Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do not work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

Now, I want you to notice how this commandment is directly linked to the original six-day creation story from the book of Genesis. God tells us to rest because he sanctified and made holy the Sabbath day, almost the exact wording used back in Genesis. And that’s why God says; “Remember the Sabbath,” partially because it’s something that already existed. But I’m guessing it’s also the only commandment that starts with the word “remember,” because it’s just about the easiest one for us to forget. When my wife tells me to remember to take out the trash, or says, “Richie, remember to bring something home from work,” it’s because she knows I’m probably going to forget. And I suspect it might be the same way with the fourth commandment.

Here’s what I want you to really think about. There’s a reason for the fourth commandment. If you study the other nine, you quickly discover that they’re all really good for us, and the same thing is true with number four. This commandment is a critical answer to the tyranny of time. No matter how fast we move, no matter how much faster our computers go, no matter how much faster our cells phones can connect us to the world, no matter how much faster we can eat our meals, we just never seem to have enough time. But then you open the Bible to the Ten Commandments and you find God asking us to rest.

Shaun Boonstra, of The Voice of Prophecy, says that, “to devote one-seventh of our lives to rest is just as much a commandment of God as the prohibitions against murder, adultery or stealing”.  With the Sabbath, God is giving us a special place in time, a sacred place, where the things of this world—our job, the bills, the chores—are not allowed to intrude, because this is sacred and holy time. The Sabbath is good news because it gives you this block of time that can be dedicated in a special way to God, and to the people you love.

I ask you today, is the Sabbath a day of rest for you?  That is what God designed it to be.  He was afraid you would forget so he said remember the Sabbath day. Remember that he wants to spend time with you. Remember that he wants you to spend time with your family. Remember that he wants you to rest.  To rest from your work and your worries.  Hebrews 4:9-11 says, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did.  So let us do our best to enter that rest”.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11

Every year when September 11th comes again, emotions of Americans are heightened as we remember September 11, 2001. Most Americans can remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the awful news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was at work when my wife called me to tell me what she was seeing on TV. I turned my radio on, and listened all day as the news reports came in.  I first wrote about my feelings of this terrible event in 2008 shortly after I started writing on this blog.  You can read that post by clicking here.

I revisited the topic in 2010 in a post titled 9/11 and Hope.  The post highlighted two organizations that give me hope, The American Cancer Society and The New Your Says Thank You Foundation.

Recently as my wife and I have been studying our family histories I came across a historical event that I had never heard about before.  A couple of things struck me about this event.  It happened on September 11th and was one of the worst massacres in American history.  The date was September 11, 1857 and the place was Mountain Meadows in Southern Utah.

The story starts when Alexander Fancher and John T. Baker along with 140 men, women, and children and 40 wagons left Caravan Springs in northwest Arkansas and headed west to California. Their path took them through Utah.  Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church and the territorial governor of Utah had forbidden the Mormons to sell anything to the wagon train.  He also declared that, "the Almighty recognized Utah as a free and independent people, no longer bound by the laws of the United States".  There was extreme distrust of any non Mormons by the Mormon people.

In early September, the wagon train made camp at a place called Mountain Meadows where there was grass and water for their horses and cattle.   On September 7, the group was attacked by Indians and the Mormon Militia disguised as Indians.  A child who survived the massacre said, "Our party was just sitting down to breakfast when a shot rang out from a nearby gully, and one of the children toppled over, hit by a bullet."   The shots came from forty to fifty Indians and Mormons.  The well-armed emigrants returned fire.  Soon the gun battle turned into a siege.

Over the next three days, Mormon reinforcements, continued to arrive at the scene of the siege.  William Dame, the head of the southern Mormon Militia,  was determined to not let the emigrants pass: "My orders are that all the emigrants, except the youngest children, must be done away with."

The siege was a standoff and continued for several days.  The commanders of the Mormon Militia came up with a treacherous plan for ending the stand-off.

On September 11, they marched across the field to the emigrants' camp waving a white flag.  When they reached the camp they promised that they could guarantee the emigrants' safety if they would agree to their terms. The desperate emigrants agreed to the terms: They would give up their arms, wagons, and cattle, in return for promise that they would would be taken past the Indians to safety in Cedar City.  They looked upon the Mormons as their saviors.  One of the wagons was loaded with the youngest children.  A woman and a few seriously injured emigrant men were loaded into a second wagon. Following the two wagons, the women and the older children walked behind.  An armed Mormon "guard" escorted each emigrant man.

When the escorted men had fallen a quarter mile or so behind the women and children, the command was given, "Halt!  Do your duty!" Each of the Mormon men shot and killed the emigrant at his side. Then they began the slaughter of the women and older children.  It was over in just a few minutes.  120 members of the wagon train were dead.  The militia did not kill some small children who were deemed too young to relate the story. None of the survivors was over seven years old.  The children were taken into Mormon homes. Once the story of the massacre got out, the relatives of the children made an attempt to get them back, but it took over two years and the help of the U. S. Army to return the children to their relatives.

Members of the militia were sworn to secrecy. A plan was set to blame the massacre on the Native Americans. This train was undoubtedly a very rich one. It is said the emigrants had nearly nine hundred head of fine cattle, many horses and mules.  They also had a great deal of money and gold besides.  Large amounts of their valuables and cattle were taken by the Mormons in Southern Utah. Some of the cattle were taken to Salt Lake City and sold or traded.The remaining personal property was taken to the tithing house at Cedar City and auctioned off to local Mormons.

Pictured here is Nancy, the only survivor of the Peter and Saleta Huff family.  The photo was taken at her wedding in January 1869.

Once news of the massacre began to trickle out, the nation was horrified.  Mark Twain wrote about it in his book "Roughing It".  "A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses of their wagons, and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the sort of scurvy apologies for "Indians" which the southern part of Utah affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them. At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They retired to the upper end of the 'Meadows,' resumed civilized apparel, washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to the beleaguered emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with cheer after cheer."

It was twenty years before anyone was convicted in the massacre. Because of Mormon control of the judicial system in Utah, no one was brought to justice. When the Federal government finally stepped in, John D. Lee was offered as a scapegoat, and was the only person convicted out of the estimated 50 to 70 Mormon participants.  He was executed at the Mountain Meadows Massacre site on March 23, 1877.

The terrible events of September 11, 1857 have a clear parallel to the terrible events of September 11, 2001.  It shows us that throughout history there have been people who believe their religion gives them the right to kill other people.  Just look back at the Salem Witch Trials, or the Inquisition, or the Crusades, or the Holocaust.  Although many times in history it has been Christian people who have been involved in these killings, true Christianity, following the teachings of Jesus, requires Christians to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you", Luke 6:27

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Polk County Fair 2015

Thursday night Gina and I went to the Polk County Fair. In a small community like Mena, the County Fair is one of the highlights of the year. Everybody attends the fair. The kids are all excited for the carnival to come to town. There are animals, exhibits, booths rides and lots of fun.

We enjoyed looking at all of the exhibits, the handicrafts, the vegetables, the quilts, the photography.

One of our favorite things to do is go to the animal barn. The kids work so hard at displaying their animals.

As the sun began to go down the midway and carnival rides started getting busy. It was really pretty to see the rides against the colorful sunset sky.

As night fell the rides with all of their brightly colored lights created a magical atmosphere.

If you have never experienced a small county fair you have really missed out on one of life's little pleasures!

Lessons from Little League

Many years ago I was asked by my neighbor to be a coach on a Little League baseball team.  The kids on the team were 6 to 8 years old. Most of the kids were not great at hitting and catching.  Some of them had the attention span of a goldfish.  I really enjoyed working with the kids.

This age group of Little League had special rules to help tone down the competition and give everyone an equal chance.  It was supposed to be about learning the game and having fun.  Each inning every player was allowed to bat.  We didn’t keep score on the field, but everyone knew the score, especially the parents.  But of course, no one was keeping score; well not officially.

That little league experience taught me how powerful comparison and competition can be.  Even when I didn’t want to compare and keep score I couldn’t help it.  And neither could anyone else.  We all knew.

The real problem wasn’t with our comparison; it was what we did with that information.  We put ourselves and our kids in a pecking order. Parents would feel better or worse about themselves based on what their kid did in the game.  If a boy hit a home run, his parents would stand up and cheer.  That’s my boy!  But if he didn’t notice a fly ball coming his way because he was chasing a butterfly his parents would cringe.

Little League taught me that we have a very strong urge to compare. We decide that people are winners or losers based on some of the flimsiest of reasons.  This tendency is bad enough in Little League Baseball, but it is tragic when it comes to our spiritual life and our relationship with Jesus.

When we make spiritual comparisons we are just plain silly.  When we compare ourselves to others, we can never know the full story.  All we see is the outside.  We can’t see the heart. Often our conclusions about people are absolutely wrong.  1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that, “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart".

Our spiritual comparisons are biased.  We have a way of comparing things in a way that makes us look good.  When we think we look good, it’s hard not to look down on people who don’t measure up.  It’s when we are comparing ourselves to others that pride becomes particularly dangerous.

Most of us fail to realize how dangerous pride is.  We know that we shouldn't look down on others, but we tend to see it as a small sin.  We think it falls somewhere between failing to floss and driving too fast. It’s something we need to work on but it’s not that big a deal.  Even when we admit to having a problem with our pride, we are really thinking that it is hard to be humble when I’m so much better than most people.

God doesn’t want us to have pride in our hearts.  It separates us from Him.  But did you know that God says that he HATES pride.  Proverbs 6 tells us, "these six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, ...  Right at the top of this list of things that God hates is a proud look.  That look of disgust and disdain.  That feeling of arrogance when we view others.  God hates it. There are a lot of things that anger God, but most people wouldn’t guess that looking down our noses at others would be at the top of the list.  But it is.

Spiritual arrogance isn’t a small insignificant sin.  It is front and center in the battle for our heart.  It is a trap that Satan lays for those who are serious about their discipleship and their Bible study.  I’ve noticed that there is something interesting about this sin of pride that God hates.  It is usually found among the people who think that they love God the most.

Most of us Christians spend a lot of time and energy being proud of our accomplishments and looking down on others.  We need to be reminded that we are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6)

Why are we proud?  We have nothing to be proud about.  In 1 Timothy the Bible refers to people having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Pride in our works denies the power of God.

Jesus addresses this issue in the story we find in Luke 18:9-14. “ He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

According to Jesus it doesn't matter how moral or zealous we are.  Our arrogance in trusting our own righteousness and looking down on others leaves us in a lost, unjustified position.

I have noticed that spiritual arrogance is the ultimate blind spot.  We never see ourselves as arrogant.  We can easily spot it in others, but not in ourselves.  We might admit to an occasional struggle with pride, but we will never admit to full blown arrogance.  We never think that we are inappropriately looking down of others.  We just think that we are seeing things as they really are.  We can’t help it if it is the truth, that we are further along our Christian journey than some of our brothers.

We must turn those thought and feelings over to God and pray, "God, be merciful to me a sinner"!  God hates it when we look down on others.  He says that it leaves us in an unjustified position.  To put it plainly he says that if we thank God that we are not like other men we will be lost.

How do we keep from falling into the trap of spiritual arrogance?  The first step is to realize that we actually have no good works to be proud of.  Secondly we need to regularly ask ourselves if there is any group of people for whom I am developing a response of disgust, disdain or aversion.  If the answer is yes, it is a sign that we are walking the road of spiritual arrogance.

I don’t know what tempts you to feel superior.  I don’t know what kind of people you are tempted to look down on.  But most of us have a list.  I don’t think that we realize how dangerous that list is.  Unless we can get rid of the list it will nullify every good thing that we do and leave us separated from God.  It can put us at the top of God’s I hate it when you do that list.

In John 3:16-17 Jesus tells us that, "God so loved the world 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".  If God doesn’t look down on the world but loved the world – every single person in it – so much that he sent His Son to save the world, who am I to make a list of people I think that I am better than.

Spiritual arrogance isn’t a small insignificant sin.  It is front and center in the battle for our heart.  Let’s pray today with David his words found in Psalms 51:10, "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me".  It is the only way we can overcome our spiritual arrogance.