Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I'm Sorry - 1/27/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 27, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. I’m sure that every parent has used this technique. Tell your sister you’re sorry. “I’m sorry.” Did that make me sorry? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught.

In 1970 the number one movie in the U.S. was “Love Story.”  The movie is the story of Oliver and Jenny.  Oliver comes from an upper class family and is heir to a fortune. At college he meets Jenny, a working-class student. They quickly fall in love.

Jenny reveals her plans for the future, which include studying in Paris. Oliver is upset that he does not figure in the plans. He wants to marry Jenny and proposes. She accepts, and Oliver reassures her that their differences will not matter. Oliver's father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny. They decide to get married against the wishes of Oliver's father, who cuts his son out of his life.

Without his father's support, they struggle to pay Oliver's way through Law School. Jenny gets a job as a school teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position in a New York law firm. They are ready to start a family, but when they fail to conceive they go to the doctor. After many tests they find out that Jenny is terminally ill. She begins costly treatment, and soon Oliver feels that he has to seek financial relief from his father. Jenny's last wish is made when she asks Oliver to embrace her tightly before she dies.

The catch phrase from the film is "Love means never having to say you're sorry.” The line is spoken twice in the film: once in the middle of the film, by Jenny, when Oliver is about to apologize to her for his anger, and as the last line of the film, by Oliver, when his father says "I'm sorry" after learning of Jennifer's death.

The line has been repeated in various contexts since. It seems to imply that when you love someone you always behave so that you'll never hurt their feelings and thus you'll never have to apologize. I think we all realize that in real life true love means that we must say I’m sorry.

What is there about a loving relationship that makes us want to say I’m sorry when we have hurt the other person? What about our relationship with God? Do we tell Him, “I’m sorry?  If we do, is it because we are afraid of Him?

God doesn’t want us to say I’m sorry because we are afraid of the consequences.  He wants us to say that we are sorry because we love him. In Romans 2:4 (NASB) the Bible says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV). “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.

My favorite verse of scripture is 1 John 1:9 (NKJV).  It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What does it mean to confess? The dictionary says: to admit or state that one has committed a crime or is at fault in some way. To truly say I’m sorry we have to admit we are wrong. The term repent or repentance takes this idea a step further. The dictionary says that to repent is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin.

What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? Is it fear? Is it to avoid hell? Is it to gain the rewards of heaven? None of those are good reasons to say I’m sorry.

We are led to repentance by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness and feel his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness it makes us want to love him. When we love God we want to please him.

Gentle Reader, I hope that you will spend some time each day reflecting on the kindness that God has shown you and tell Him that you are sorry for the things you have done to hurt Him. God has promised that if we confess our sins, if we tell Him that we are sorry, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oregon Coast Aquarium

On our recent trip to Oregon we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. It is a great aquarium that also has outdoor exhibits with sea otters, seals and sea lions, and a seabird aviary. The aquarium opened it doors to the public in 1992.

The newest exhibit at the aquarium is Secrets of Shipwrecks. The exhibit takes you on a journey through artificial reefs that shipwrecks create. Replicas of real artifacts discovered in historic shipwrecks from the Red Sea to the Caribbean are part of the watery exhibits.

In the seabird aviary we saw Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres and Black Oystercatchers.

I had a great time at the aquarium and enjoyed taking photographs.

If you are ever on the Oregon coast I can recommend a visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Oregon Coast

Every couple of years my wife and I travel to the Oregon Coast for her sibling's reunion. Her sister and brother-in-law provide us all a wonderful place to stay, great food, and transportation. Our condos sat on a bluff looking out over the ocean.

Every morning I enjoyed getting up early and walking along the beach as the day began. I love the sights and sounds of the ocean.

While we were at the coast, a winter storm blew in. The rocky Pacific coast had a special beauty as the power of the storm driven waves crashed ashore. The wind blew so hard that it was difficult to stand up but I didn't let the bad weather keep me from having a good time and taking photos.

My wife had a great time visiting with her family. None of us let a little bad weather dampen our spirits.

One of the most interesting and picturesque attractions in the part of the Oregon coast that we were visiting is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse took several years to build and was first lit August 20, 1873. The lighthouse still functions and uses its original 1868 French-made lens which is visible 19 miles out to sea.

On our last day there we had a break in the weather. I got up early and drove a couple of miles up the coast from our condo to Siletz Bay where I knew that I would have an eastern view. I was hoping for a pretty sunrise and I wasn't disappointed.

I'm looking forward to my next visit to the Oregon coast.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Open My Eyes - 1/20/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 20, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

Just before Christmas I was at Subway and ordered a sandwich for lunch. As I was standing in line I was visiting with a customer of mine who was in line just ahead of me. When my customer payed for his lunch, he pointed to me and said, “I’m paying for his sandwich too”.

I was blown away. That had never happened to me before. I thanked him and he said, “Merry Christmas”. His kindness really made my day. It had been a rough morning at work, but after experiencing this unexpected thoughtfulness my spirits were lifted.

As I was eating my lunch and appreciating the gift that had been given to me a couple of thoughts came to mind. The first was how much we can impact the lives of others by even small kindnesses and thoughtfulness. The other was how much the experience had made an impression on me, but that God showed me kindness and thoughtfulness every day and I hardly even noticed.

There is a story in the Bible about the prophet Elisha that shows that I am not alone in being unaware of what God is doing for me. You can find the story in 2 Kings Chapter 6. The King of Aram is at war with Israel.  Somehow the King of Israel is aware of every move he makes. The King of Aram thinks he must have a traitor in his ranks passing information to the Israelites. His men tell him that it’s not one of his own men, but it is Elisha, the prophet from Israel. They said, “Elisha even knows what you say in the privacy of your bedroom”. The king sent horses, chariots, and many troops to Dothan to capture Elisha. They arrived at night and surrounded the city.

We pick up the story in 2 Kings 6:15-17(NCV),  “Elisha’s servant got up early, and when he went out, he saw an army with horses and chariots all around the city. The servant said to Elisha, “Oh, my master, what can we do?” Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid. The army that fights for us is larger than the one against us.” Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open my servant’s eyes, and let him see.” The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

We are often totally unaware of how God is protecting us. When things aren’t going well for us we are very aware, but when things are going smoothly we don’t stop to think about God and how He is blessing us.

Grace often pops up in places that I never expect it. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that boldly stated "Grace Happens". It is true. Grace happens. It happens all around us. Often we are too busy to notice. I never thought that that someone would pay for my sandwich.

I think that is a key to understanding grace. Christians focus on the fact that grace is undeserved. That is true, it is undeserved. If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace. But not only is it undeserved, it is unexpected.

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

Gentle Reader, look for the unexpected today. Ask God to open your eyes. Look for grace in unexpected places. I know that you will find it. Paul tells us in 1Timothy 1:14(NKJV), "the grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant".