Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rambler American at the Cossatot River

A few weeks ago I purchased a 1960 Rambler American. I love these little cars and their simplicity. The car hadn't been driven for many years. After some repairs; a new fuel pump, tie rod and water pump I was ready to take a drive. My first trip out of town was to Cossatot River State Park, which is eighty miles round trip.

My wife attended a dutch oven cooking class at the park. She had a great time. The class was taught by Park Interpreter Shelley Flanary who we have known since she was a little girl.

After a cold week, the day was warm and inviting.  The Cossatot River was beautiful. We hiked down to the river from the visitor's center.

From the visitors center we drove the unpaved roads to Cossatot Falls and on to Hwy 246. People were surprised to see the little Rambler driving out in these remote locations.

As I drove home through Hatfield, I stopped at the old Cities Service gas station to take a quick photo. The little Rambler seemed right at home there.

The Rambler's first trip was great with no problems at all. My only regret is that I never came across a Cadillac to race.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Snowy Morning

Last Wednesday morning there was a chance of snow in the forecast. Although we didn't get any snow here in Mena, I knew that the chances for snow were greater at higher elevations. When I got up that morning I read on Facebook that there was a lot of snow at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. I decided to drive up there before work.

I drove up the Talimena Drive in time to watch the sunrise at the Acorn Vista. There was just a skiff of snow on the ground.

After watching the sunrise I continued up Talimena Drive.  As I climbed in elevation there was more and more snow.

By the time I reached Grand View Vista the snow was 9 inches deep and the road was very slick.  After taking a few photos I decided that I had better make my way back down the mountain so I wouldn't be late for work.  

I made it back down the mountain and got to work just before time to open. I wish I had been able to make it up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park but I just ran out of time. William Rainey took photos of the drive and of Queen Wilhelmena State Park that you can view here.  He measured almost 13 inches of snow. Here is video that he took while walking through the woods to the Old Pioneer Cemetery.

A walk through the woods to the Old Pioneer Cemetery - Queen Wilhelmina State Park - Talimena Scenic Byway - Mena, Arkansas #arwx #winter #arkansas #arstateparks
Posted by William Rainey on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Atticus Finch - 2/24/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 24, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

As I sit at my computer to write this week’s column, there is a news story that has pushed politics from the top spot on my news feed. The New York Times headline told the story, “Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89.”

In a statement, Lee's family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. . . . This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century's most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, portrays childhood in a small Southern town and the crisis of conscience that shook it. Despite her editors' warnings that the book might not sell well because of the subject material, it became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. The morality tale of a Southern lawyer who stands firm against racism struck a chord with Americans, many of them becoming aware of the civil rights movement for the first time. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and in 1962 an Academy Award–winning film version of the novel, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, was released.

The book remains a staple of high school and college reading lists, and is loved by millions of readers for its portrayal of childhood innocence, its condemnation of racial prejudice, and its assertion that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil. It was number one on a list developed by librarians in 2006 who answered the question, "What novel should every adult read before they die?”

I love reading, but somehow I went most of my life without reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was never on my reading list in high school and I just never got around to reading it. For some reason less than a year ago I decided that I should read it. Scout Finch’s coming-of-age tale drew me in, as it had done many before me, and I loved Atticus Finch. After reading the book I watched the movie. I now understand why the book made such an impact on America. I can only imagine its impact in the turbulent times of the early 1960’s civil rights movement.

To me Atticus Finch was an ideal example of justice. He defended a black man from a crime he did not commit, withstood racial slurs and threats of physical violence, maintained his dignity in a town full of detractors, and did it all while being a wonderful father to his children. When Scout asks Atticus why he’s defending a black man, his response is: “If I didn't, I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

Atticus Finch’s virtue stands as an example in our divided society. Ultimately, Atticus Finch’s fight for justice is incomplete. He is a fictional character. There is still racism and injustice in the world. But fortunately there is the example of Jesus. While one fictional lawyer took a stand for one individual who the town saw as wretched and guilty, Jesus died on the cross for a wretch like me. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”

Not only did Jesus die on the cross so that whoever believes in him will be saved, He is also our advocate. In 1 John 2:1 (NLT) the disciple John says, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.”

Atticus Finch is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. But my all-time favorite non fictional character is Jesus Christ. Gentle Reader, remember that we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. If we ask Jesus to be our advocate we can’t lose because He never loses a case. I want Jesus on my case and by my side. I hope that you do too.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Was Jonah Right?

We have all heard the story of Jonah. He was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. The story is a favorite of children.

God called Jonah to Nineveh, but instead he runs away to Tarshish on the coast of Spain. It is about as far away as most Israelites have ever ventured. So why didn't Jonah go to Ninevah?

Ninevah was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Israel's 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. God saw their wickedness and it must end. So he calls Jonah to go to them to proclaim their doom. Jonah should have been excited right? I mean after all, this was Israel's enemy, so why not go and proclaim that God is going to destroy them.  Wipe them out once and for all!

Instead of heading towards Ninevah, he heads the exact opposite direction.  The voyage from Joppa to Tarshish was about 2,500 miles. Jonah was attempting to run as far away as he could. Why did Jonah run?  Why didn't he obey God? Because he is guilty of what many if not all of us have done, or continue to do; pass judgment.

Jonah isn’t the only one Jesus has told to get up and go.  He has given us a job to do.  He says to go everywhere in the world preaching the good news. Where are you going? Are you on the road to Nineveh or on a voyage to Tarshish?

The message of God’s salvation is to be taken to everyone; every nation, every tongue, every Republican and Democrat, every minority and every Muslim, even the extremists who are out to destroy us just like the Assyrians were out to destroy Israel.

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.  “When I was still in my own country this is what I said would happen, and that is why I quickly ran away to Tarshish. I knew that you are a God who is kind and shows mercy. You don’t become angry quickly, and you have great love. I knew you would choose not to cause harm”.

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? My question is, was Jonah right?  I think he was. Jonah had an awful time with God. At first he ran from God. Then reluctantly he held an evangelistic crusade and the entire community was converted. Then he got real depressed. Why? Because of his knowledge of God. He knew that God would embarrass him. Folks would call Jonah a false prophet.

He knew that God was soft. He knew that God was a push-over. Do you know that about God? How do you view our heavenly Father? Do you view Him as some harsh dictator, some tyrant up in heaven making it difficult for everybody to be saved? Or do you understand God like Jonah did?

Was Jonah right about God? Is God a softie? Is God a God of second chances? Is He so anxious to justify us and save us that He just forgives us at the drop of a hat? I believe He is.

Was Jonah right?  Jonah 4:2, “When I was still in my own country this is what I said would happen, and that is why I quickly ran away to Tarshish. I knew that you are a God who is kind and shows mercy. You don’t become angry quickly, and you have great love. I knew you would choose not to cause harm."

Yes, I’m sure that Jonah was right!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Algebra Concepts - 2/17/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 17, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

I spent my first two years of high school at a small private school in Boulder, Colorado. I still remember the teachers there and the impact they made on my life. There was Principal Stafford who drove a Volkswagen Bus. Ms. Shirley Nightingale was fresh out of college and we boys enjoyed embarrassing her. I think we were just a bit disappointed when she became Mrs. Cole. Mrs. Carlisle was the band director and taught me to play the trumpet. She is still teaching music at the same school.

My most unforgettable teacher was Elder Siebenlist. He was older and had spent his life as an educator. He had been the principal of several high schools both public and private. He was the principal of the Solusi Training School in what is now Zimbabwe, Africa from 1946- 1954. In 1994 the Solusi school became a university, the first private university in Zimbabwe. I loved hearing Elder Siebenlist tell stories about his time in Africa. When he told stories about encounters with lions and traveling in Africa I was spellbound. I had grown up reading books and stories about missionaries and now I had a teacher who was a real life missionary.

When I started high school my hardest class was algebra. My grade school math classes had not given me even the basics of algebra. I was confused and did very poorly for the first quarter. But then all of a sudden it seemed to make sense. There were rules and if you followed the rules you could get the right answer even if you didn’t understand why. One of the first rules of algebra that I learned was the rule of symmetry: If a = b, then b = a.

I was reminded of this rule recently while listening to a sermon by my pastor. He asked us to do an exercise that made an impact on me. It is a short easy exercise. I would like to share it with you.

The Bible calls John, “the disciple that Jesus loved”. Jesus had a best friend.  The best friend of Jesus wrote in 1 John 4:7,8 (NCV) “Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”. From this statement we can safely deduce that the following equation is true: God = Love.

Remember that in algebra we have the rule of symmetry: If a = b, then b = a. So if God = Love, then Love = God.

In the exercise my pastor had us turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and read verses 4-7 (NLT).   "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

Now since Love = God, we were to replace love in the passage with God.  It read like this. God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. God never gives up; He never loses faith, He is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

What a beautiful picture of God. We can say that God is love, but what does that mean? Through this use of an algebraic axiom we can get a clearer understanding of God. We can see that many of the ways that men have portrayed God simply don’t measure up to the picture of God shown by this simple exercise.

Gentle Reader, I hope that your life will be blessed by this concept of God. Maybe you haven't looked at God this way before. Remember that God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. God never gives up; He never loses faith, He is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Monday, February 15, 2016

I Think I Can

One of the most loved children’s books of the last century is The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.  The National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children”.  The story is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work.

If you have read the book you will remember that the little train broke down and the cargo headed to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain was not going to make it there.

The train asked Shiny New Engine to pull it over the mountain but he said, “that’s not what I do”. Then the train asked Big Strong Engine to pull it over the mountain but he said,  “I have no time for the likes of you”.

The train asked the Little Blue Engine to help. “I’m not very big”, said the Little Blue Engine.  “They use me only for switching trains in the yard.  I have never been over the mountain.”

Then The Little Blue Engine hitched herself to the little train.  She tugged and pulled and slowly they started off.  Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine.  “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can. “

It’s a very American story.  The moral of the story is that anything can be accomplished with a bit of optimism, hard work, and perseverance.

Ever since I was in school, I've always been encouraged to “believe in yourself and you can do anything”.  To think that “I can do it!”.  To have the attitude that “I can shape my own destiny”.   But is that the truth?

The problem with the “I think I can” mentality is that it leaves God out of the equation.  Many Christians believe in the power of positive thinking gospel.  If I just put my mind to it I can become a better person.  If I just work hard enough I can overcome the sin in my life.

Self-confidence is a misplaced reliance and it is offensive to God. Both our acts of righteousness, and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are offensive to God. When we show the “I think I can” attitude towards overcoming sin, imagine how God feels. This is what God has to say about our efforts on our own.

“We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  Isaiah 64:6

Self righteousness looks great on the outside and people notice it. Christian churches are filled with people who look holy but solely trust in themselves to be good enough for God. They are seeking Him based upon their own righteousness and what they can accomplish for God.

God wants us to have confidence; Just not in our own works.  We need to put our confidence in God.  In Hebrews 4:16 the Bible tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.

Instead of “I think can” our motto need to be I think God can, I think God can.  We need to understand that we are completely powerless – in and of ourselves – to do anything good.   To understand that we can’t save ourselves, fix ourselves, change ourselves, or even give God our affections!

God wants us to have confidence, but he wants us to put our confidence in Him and not in ourselves.  Proverbs 3:26 tells us, “For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught”.

Until we realize that instead of “I think I can” our spiritual life is I know I can’t;  Until we let God into our lives we will never win the fight.  Let’s look at one of the most positive promises in the Bible.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  Philippians 4:13

Now that’s the power of positive thinking.  I know He can, I know He can, I know He can.


I presented this topic at the Shreveport First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana on February 13, 2016.  You can view the video here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

I love history and learning.  Many things we learn about history are a bit uncertain, but it is always a little frustrating when you can't find out with any certainty the history of someone or something. The origin of St. Valentine and Valentine's Day is one of those topics.

Who was Saint Valentine?  According to the website Catholics Online, The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

It is unclear how the modern idea of celebrating Valentine's Day by giving gifts to your romantic partner started and evolved into the commercialized holiday that it is today.  According to market research, Valentine's Day sales reached $17.6 billion last year; this year's sales are expected to total $18.6 billion.

The first time Valentine's Day is associated with romantic love is in the poem titled Parlement of Foules, written in 1382 by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote: "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate."  This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. When they were married they were each only 15 years old.

Valentine's Day is mentioned by William Shakespeare in the play, Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

It became very popular for young men to write verses of poetry on a card and give them to their lovers.  As early as 1800, companies began mass-producing cards for those who had poor poetry skills.  In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced in 1847.  The U.S. Greeting Card Association says that 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. When you include the valentine cards exchanged by school children, the figure goes up to 1 billion.

A Senior in High School

This is My Valentine!

The best decision I have ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school.  I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested.  I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year.  Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class.  Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory.  I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers.  I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out.  Finally I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated.  She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him.  If I would talk to Russell she would march with me.  Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell.  He was very gracious and bowed out.  I was on cloud nine.


The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975 we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church. The last 40 years have been an interesting and very fulfilling time.

I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong.  It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend, My Valentine!  I can't wait to see where this journey leads.

Here is an awesome song written by my friend Paul to My Valentine.