Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I Can Only Imagine

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 28, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

How is your imagination? Do you ever daydream? What do you imagine?

Former Beatle John Lennon wrote a song titled Imagine in the early 70's. The melody is beautiful, and it is one of the most popular songs he ever wrote. But while the melody may be beautiful, the lyrics paint a different picture. Listen to what Lennon had to say.

“Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try; No hell below us; above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today. Imagine there's no country. It isn't hard to do; Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

One of Lennon's ideas was that the concept of God and religion got in the way of world peace; and in the final analysis, caused more bad than good. Karl Marx thought this very same way, and so have many other philosophers over the centuries. Their idea was that if you rid the world of its ideas about God and religion, then the world would become a utopia. People working together in peace and perfect harmony would soon solve the world's problems.

While there is truth to the idea that religion has been a major player in many of the conflicts in the world, when I put my imagination to work, I see something different. When I imagine that there is no heaven, it is scary. As bad as things are in this world, imagine what it would be like if there were no God. If you spend much time imagining these kinds of things, it's frightening. Imagining the world without God is depressing. Let's imagine something different.

I like to imagine the future. When I was a boy, I liked to read popular science magazines. I also liked reading books by Isaac Asimov. His vision of what the future would be like intrigued me. One of my favorite things to imagine is what heaven will be like. Put your imagination to work. What do you imagine heaven is like?

Does the Bible have anything to say about our imagination? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 3:20 (VOICE) “Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us.” I can imagine a lot of great things, but God can do things greater than I could ever imagine. Put your imagination to work. Whatever you imagined, God can do greater things.

I like to think about God. I study the Bible to learn more about him. But can I fully understand him? In Isaiah 55:8,9 (NKJV) the Bible tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

God's ways are far beyond anything we can imagine. It seems my imagination is useless when it comes to God. I like to imagine what heaven will be like. But I know that my imagination isn’t up to the task. “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NET)

Do you love God? God has prepared something so incredible that no human mind has ever even imagined it. There are people on this planet that have great imaginations. Look at some of the wonders of this world. The imaginations of artists, writers, and architects are often spectacular, but even they cannot imagine anything like heaven. Have you ever imagined what heaven will be like? Whatever you imagined doesn't even come close to what God has actually prepared for you.

The fact that we can’t imagine what God has prepared for us doesn't mean that we have no information at all. When the Apostle John was given a vision of the new heaven and new earth, he wrote these words. “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” Revelation 21:3-5 (NLT) I take great comfort in that promise. Even though I can't imagine what God has prepared for me, I can be sure that He will wipe every tear from my eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.

Gentle Reader, do you want to go to heaven? Why do you want to go there? In John 14:1-3 Jesus tells us, “let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus has prepared a place for us, and he wants us to be there with Him. That is why I want to go to heaven. I want to be where Jesus is. Do you want to be there with Jesus? What will it be like when we see the place that Jesus has prepared for us? I can only imagine!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hot Water

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 21, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The past few weeks have been a blur for me. The adage seems to hold true; when it rains, it pours. One day, while we were making almost daily trips back and forth to the hospital in Hot Springs, our hot water heater started leaking. Because I didn’t have time to replace the water heater immediately, I drained the tank so it wouldn’t leak, and we were without hot water for several days. As I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for the expense and inconvenience of having to replace our water heater, I realized that I was facing a first world problem.

I thought about my friends in Belize. When we visited them, the young couple and their son lived in a 64 square foot apartment with no hot water. Their water source was a cold water spigot outside the apartment. When my wife talked to a group of fifth-grade students in San Pedro, Belize, one of the questions they asked her was, “do you have a bathroom in your house in America?” She told them that she did, but was too embarrassed to tell them that our house has three bathrooms.

Even though being without hot water is a first world problem, after four days of going without hot water I was, ironically, in a bit of hot water. My wife very nicely wondered when I might be able to get the water heater installed. The next evening, we didn’t make the trip to the hospital in Hot Springs, but instead stayed home and installed the new water heater.

The expression to be in hot water, meaning to be in trouble, is a very old expression. It has been used for over five hundred years. One story says it got that meaning from the custom of throwing boiling water down on enemies attacking a castle, but most linguists are unsure of its origin. Most people no longer pour boiling water on their enemies, but we still get in hot water. When we are in hot water, we are in trouble.

I recently read that in England, during the Middle Ages, a suspected criminal was forced to put their arm in a cauldron of hot water up to the elbow. If the arm did not heal in a couple of days, they were found guilty. That sounds like as good an explanation as any of being in hot water. During the 1500’s a common phrase used to signify being in a troublesome situation was, “cost me hot water.” In 1537, Arthur Plantagenet wrote in a letter; “I can get no conserve dishes; howbeit, if they are to be had, I will have of them, or it shall cost me hot water.” And in 1593, in his historical play of Edward the First, G. Peele used the line, “it shall cost me hot water, but thou shalt be King Edward's man.”

In an ironic twist, there is a church mentioned in the Bible that was in hot water with Jesus because of being like lukewarm water. In Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT), In a letter to the church at Laodicea, Jesus said, "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!"
Some Bible commentators have suggested that the metaphor of lukewarm water has been drawn from the water supply of the city. The nearby city of Hierapolis had hot springs, and the city of Colossae had cold, pure water. But archaeology shows that Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south, which would have become tepid before entering the city. In his book, Archaeology And The New Testament, John McRay writes, "Water piped into Laodicea by aqueduct from the south was so concentrated with minerals that the Roman engineers designed vents, capped by removable stones, so the aqueduct pipes could periodically be cleared of deposits."

The warm, sulfur water was probably nauseating to the taste and smell. By traveling only a few miles, the Laodicean residents had access both to healing hot waters in one direction and to refreshing cold waters in another direction. However, Laodiceans could also choose to partake only of the waters that flowed into their city. In that case, they drank lukewarm water that smelled bad and made them feel nauseated.

After getting their attention by telling the Laodiceans that “since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!" Jesus then explains why He described their spiritual condition as lukewarm. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have prospered and grown wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17 (AMP)

The church in Laodicea thought of itself as rich and in need of nothing. Many of the members may have been wealthy, but Jesus is talking about spiritual pride and arrogance. Jesus' message is the same for us. Many of us are neither spiritually hot nor deadly cold. We have become lukewarm like Laodicea, who was not only self-sufficient and distracted by worldly things, but also felt that their own efforts made them safe.

Gentle Reader, “it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8,9 (GNT) If you are lukewarm, Jesus says to you, “I correct and discipline those whom I love, so be serious and repent! Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” Revelation 3:19,20 (ISV) Will you open the door?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Valentine

A Senior in High School

Happy Valentine's Day to 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 43 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!

Here We Are

When the Rain Comes

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 14, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

My dear Momma passed away February 7th. She had been battling pneumonia, congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation for weeks. After spending her last few days struggling to breathe, she is now at rest. She can say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”2 Timothy‬ ‭4:7‬ (NIV) Even though it has been a difficult time with lots of tears, I take comfort in the words found in ‭‭I Thessalonians‬ ‭4:13 (NKJV); “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”‬‬‬‬

As my family and I made arrangements and a multitude of phone calls, my mind went to an article that I had written a couple of years ago. I want to share it with you.

My normal routine on a work day is to go to Wal-Mart when I get off of work. I do my banking there and often pick up a few things for supper. A few days ago as I drove to Wal-Mart, it began to sprinkle. As I walked into the store, there was just the occasional drop of rain. After making my bank deposit, I began shopping. I had quite a few things on my shopping list that evening. While I was selecting produce to put in my buggy, a huge clap of thunder resonated throughout the store. A couple of people nearby visibly jumped.

After checking out, I headed toward the doors and saw that it was pouring outside. The rain was coming down in buckets, a real toad strangler. By the time I put the groceries in my little Rambler, I was completely drenched; soaked through to the skin. By the time I had carried the groceries into the house, I looked like a drowned rat.

I felt much better after I took a shower and put on dry clothes. In a bit of irony, that very evening a friend of mine sent me a YouTube video about a heavy rainfall. The description of the short film reads as follows. “This film was based on a true story (written by Bob Perks), and the premise of it is very simple. We are reminded of the need to avoid becoming weighed down by the trivial hindrances that soak our paths on a daily basis. There are always people in worse situations with real troubles, and that should put our small daily problems into perspective. Perhaps things aren’t as bad as they first seem.”

In the film, a group of people can be seen standing under a shelter, because of the heavy rain. A young girl asks her mother why they can’t just run through the rain, and her mother tells her that they would get soaked. But that’s when the young girl reminds her mother of something she had said that very morning. Talking about her husband’s battle with cancer she had said, “If we can get through this we can get through anything.” After thinking about her daughter’s question, the mother decides to run through the rain.

The young girl’s attitude reminds us that we can’t let such trivial things as rain hold us back. How we look at the problems we face in life is all a matter of perspective. Things may not be as bad as you think, and we have to remember that there are always people with far greater problems. It’s a simple but important life lesson, told so beautifully in this short film!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a very personal poem titled, “The Rainy Day.” The first lines of the poem read, “The day is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary.” He personalizes his thoughts in the second stanza, “My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary; My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past, But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast, And the days are dark and dreary.” But Longfellow doesn’t leave us in his dark place. The final stanza says, “Be still, sad heart! And cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.”

Into every life, a little rain must fall. It’s what we do with the rain that makes the difference. Rain can be a force that destroys our lives and washes away hope, or it can become a tool God uses to bring healing, growth and new life to our hearts.

What are we afraid of when the rains of this life come our way? Are we afraid of getting wet? Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us that we won’t get wet. Pain in all its forms is the common universal human denominator we all share. Your pain and difficulties are different than mine, but we all have them.

We see this concept in Matthew 5:45 (GW) where it says, “He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust.” God doesn’t tell us that His children won’t have rainy days. He just says, “run through the rain, anyway. I will be there for you. You may get wet, but it will be OK.”

Gentle Reader, I know that God wants me to trust Him. He doesn’t want me to feel down when the rains come. Instead, I need to remember that God only has plans for me that are good. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) tells me, “’For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Even in my dark hour, I know that God has good plans for me, and I am “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13 (NKJV) When it rains, I do not need to be disappointed and feel alone. I have hope! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 (NKJV)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pat Lawry Memorial

My Momma's memorial service was very nice with a large group of family and friends in attendance.

This slide show was shown during the service.

Daddy requested the song, When You Come to the End of the Day by Perry Como be played at the memorial. The service closed with this slide show of sunset photos that I have taken.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Momma's Obituary

Patricia Louise Lawry, age 84, of Mena, died Wednesday, February 7, 2018, at the National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She was born on Wednesday, January 10, 1934, to Phillip Morris and Laura Louise Houseman Payne in Palo Alto, California.

Patricia spent her life serving God and others. She graduated as a Registered Nurse from Madison College and worked as an RN in Tennessee and Colorado. She was very active in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Patricia served as a Sabbath School Superintendent and as a teacher in the children’s divisions. She was very involved with the local food pantry and soup kitchen. She was a supporter of “The Voice of Prophecy,” “It is Written,” and “The Quiet Hour.” She was an avid quilter and enjoyed scrapbooking. She loved spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Patricia was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, and will be missed by all who knew her.

She is preceded in death by her parents, and her daughter, Penny Lawry.

Patricia is survived by her husband of 64 years, Robert Lawry of Mena; her son and daughter in law, Richard and Regina Lawry of Mena, her daughter and son in law, Jeannie and Dewey Amos of Ashland, Missouri and her daughter Carolyn Burnside of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; her sister, Dorothy Reese of St. Petersburg, Florida; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends.

A private memorial service will be held at a later date. Mrs. Lawry was sent for cremation under the direction of Bowser Family Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Maranatha Volunteer International One Day Church, 990 Reserve Drive, #100, Roseville, California 95678

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Long and Winding Road

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 7, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

In May of 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long and Winding Road. Paul McCartney has stated that he came up with the title "The Long and Winding Road" during one of his first visits to his property, High Park Farm, in Scotland. He was inspired by a winding road stretching up into the hills in the remote Highlands surrounded by lochs and mountains. 

This past week I have made numerous trips from Mena to Hot Springs to see my Mom in the hospital. As I was making the drive, I thought that Paul might have used that stretch of road for inspiration if he had ever driven in this part of Arkansas. It is a very winding road, and especially late at night, it seems very long. No matter which route I take to Hot Springs, the road is a long and winding road.

All of that time on the road gives me time to think. Sometimes the road before me seems long, steep and challenging. I feel lost, uncertain and afraid. Sometimes I'm not sure I have the strength for the journey. Perhaps just like me, you feel overwhelmed today. You may be experiencing some sadness, loss or worry. You may find that God has called you to a difficult path. "Surely," you think, "God has an easier road for me to travel."

It's in those times that God wants us to remember that we are not traveling this road alone. Psalms 46:1-3 (GNT) assures us that, “God is our shelter and strength; Always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence.”

God knows where the road leads. He can see what lies ahead. God also knows my concerns. He knows what I feel. The pain I cannot explain to someone else. He knows about my fear of the unknown. In his book “A Sweet and Bitter Providence,” John Piper offers these thoughts about God’s guidance: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

The truth is, we don’t have enough information to assume another path would be best for us. Maybe the easier road won't make us into the person God intends us to be. Perhaps the difficult road is protecting us from the worst. Out of all the possible paths, God knows the best path. The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8,9 (NCV) We can trust that the road God has laid out before us is the best road. We can trust in His wisdom and love, and we can be certain that God will never lead us down the wrong road.

Without God’s guidance, we will take the easiest road, but it will be the wrong road. In Matthew 7:13,14 (NIV) Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

When we are sure we are on the best and easiest road, sometimes God has to place an obstacle in our way. The story of Balaam’s donkey is a good example. Balaam had decided on an easy road but not the road God had laid out for him. “The angel of the Lord stood in the road to stop Balaam. Balaam was riding his donkey, and he had two servants with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a sword in his hand, the donkey left the road and went into the field. Balaam hit the donkey to force her back on the road." Numbers 22:22,23 (NCV)

Balaam was so determined to go the way he thought best that he couldn’t see the angel of the Lord. After three incidents where the donkey saved Balaam by avoided the angel of the Lord and was repaid by being beaten, “the Lord made the donkey talk, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to make you hit me three times?’ Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made me look foolish! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!’ But the donkey said to Balaam, ‘I am your very own donkey, which you have ridden for years. Have I ever done this to you before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam said.

Then the Lord let Balaam see the angel of the Lord, who was standing in the road with his sword drawn. Then Balaam bowed facedown on the ground. The angel of the Lord asked Balaam, ‘Why have you hit your donkey three times? I have stood here to stop you, because what you are doing is wrong. The donkey saw me and turned away from me three times. If she had not turned away, I would have killed you by now, but I would have let her live.’ Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned; I did not know you were standing in the road to stop me. If I am wrong, I will go back.’” Numbers 22:28-34 (NCV)

Gentle Reader, life is a long and winding road with many unknown perils and troubles, but we can be certain of God’s love, providence, security, and care. Don’t be a Balaam and go your own way, but ask God for guidance. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5,6 (NLT)