Wednesday, June 26, 2019


An Arkie's Faith column from the June 26, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Black clouds began to sprawl across the sky as we sat at Papa’s Mexican Café. It was our weekly family night, and we were having a wonderful meal at Papas. The kids wanted to sit at their own table separate from the adults. They were making up storylines for their very own superhero movie. From the adult's table, we could see out the front door. As the clouds rolled in and we began to hear thunder, we thought that we should cut the evening short. On our family nights, we usually sit and visit for quite some time after we have eaten. But tonight, we decided that it would be a good idea to get home before the storm hit. My Daddy had driven his Shay Model A Roadster, and with no side windows, it would be good to get home before it began to rain.

As we walked to our cars, we could see dark, brooding, black clouds to the southwest. The skies looked ominous. We made it home before the storm hit. As we sat in the comfort of our living room, we could see the boughs of the trees in the back-yard swaying in the strengthening gusts of wind. The rain started with just a few drops; then the dark clouds unleashed a torrent of water, driven by the strong wind. The sky turned a strange color, and the thunder rolled as lightning flashed all around. I checked the radar on my phone and saw that there were serious storms to the south of us.

While the rain fell in great sheets, lightning flashed around us followed by loud cracking booms. We were concerned about how severe the storm would be. Some small, pea-sized hail beat on the windows. When I checked the weather radar on my phone, I saw that there were very severe storms a few miles south. Reports started coming in on social media, showing very large hail south of us.

Baseball-sized and even softball-sized hail fell in the Cove, Vandervoort, and Wickes area. We wondered if the hailstorms were heading our way. Before long, the storm in our area weakened, and the winds died down. The rain slackened and began floating down in gentle waves.

Later that evening when I saw the photos on social media that several residents in the towns of Cove and Vandervoort posted of hailstones ranging from the size of a tennis ball to larger than softball-size, I knew that there would be a lot of damage. I was sure that the hail had damaged many cars and trucks. Sure enough, the next morning, as soon as I opened my auto glass shop, the phone started ringing off the hook. Many people in the area had their glass broken by the hail. I was busy all day pricing, scheduling, and ordering glass.

What could have caused such large hailstones? Hail forms when thunderstorm updrafts are strong enough to carry water droplets well above the freezing level. This freezing process forms a hailstone, which can grow as additional water freezes onto it. Eventually, the hailstone becomes too heavy for the updrafts to support it, and it falls to the ground. The hailstones grow larger as they move up and down in the thunderstorm updraft.  Eventually either the hailstones get too large and fall to the ground or get blown out of the updraft. For hail to get the size of a baseball, you need the updraft in the thunderstorm to be moving more than 100 mph! I can’t imagine what the speeds were to form softball and even grapefruit-sized hailstones.

According to Weather Underground historian Chris Burt, the world's largest hailstone by diameter and weight was observed in the U.S. on July 23, 2010, near Vivian, South Dakota. The hailstone measured 8.0 inches in diameter, and it weighed 1.9 pounds. The National Weather Service has confirmed the hail which fell during the evening of June 19 in the Vandervoort community in south Polk County tied for an Arkansas record of approximately five inches. By comparison, a softball is 3.5 inches in diameter. The largest hailstones in this storm were the size of large grapefruit. There were reports of a calf that was killed by the hail.

As large as the Vandervoort hailstones were, the Bible tells of much larger hailstones that will fall in the future at the very end of time. “Huge hailstones weighing about 100 pounds each fell from the sky. The hail crushed people. And they spoke evil things against God because of the plague. That’s because the plague of hail was so terrible.” Revelation 16:21 (NIRV) After seeing some of the damage that was caused by this storm, I can’t imagine the damage that 100-pound hailstones would do. The hailstones at the end of time are not the only hailstones mentioned in the Bible. In Joshua chapter 10, we find the story of the day that the sun stood still when Joshua and the Israelites were in battle with the Amorites. Did you know that a hailstorm was a pivotal point in the battle? “As the Amorites retreated down the road from Beth-horon, the Lord destroyed them with a terrible hailstorm from heaven that continued until they reached Azekah. The hail killed more of the enemy than the Israelites killed with the sword.” Joshua 10:11 (NLT)

Hailstorms can be deadly. Forty years ago, when we were living in Loveland, Colorado, a hailstorm damaged our new Toyota Corolla and broke out the windshield and the back glass. The hail punched holes in our neighbor’s camper. Hail damaged the roof of our home and had to be replaced. In that same storm, a baby died when a grapefruit-sized hailstone came crashing through a skylight in a shopping mall.

Gentle Reader, when 100-pound hailstones are falling at the end of time, I want to be among the people who say, “this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (NKJV) I don’t want to be among those who see the hail and say to the mountains and rocks, “fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Revelation 6:16 (NKJV) I look forward to the day that “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4 (NKJV) I hope that you are looking forward to that day too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Anniversary at Steel Creek

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 19, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The warm evening sun shone on the towering and picturesque Roark Bluff. The Buffalo River rushed past the bluff, which is one of the most iconic and photographed bluffs along the river. In an open grassy field at Steel Creek Campground, over one thousand people gathered, waiting for the concert to begin. The band, National Park Radio, would be playing a free outdoor show in this beautiful location for the fourth consecutive year.

National Park Radio is a modern folk band from Harrison that is known for its hopeful, heartfelt lyrics with themes about life, love, and difficult choices, all while echoing the enduring beauty of the band’s deep-seated roots in the Ozark Mountains. I first heard them when they headlined the 2018 Lum and Abner Days Festival. I became a big fan of National Park Radio and their music. I made plans months ahead to attend the Steel Creek concert. The concert date just happened to be on my 44th wedding anniversary.

In an article about the concert, Superintendent Mark Foust of the Buffalo National River said; “This is a highly popular event among our local communities and park visitors alike. Last year’s concert brought out almost 1,300 people, many of whom spent the weekend in the area and supported local businesses while they were here. This event has proven year after year to cultivate stewardship and appreciation for the Buffalo River and the Ozarks through National Park Radio’s poignant lyrics, and it has also served as a great boost for the local economy.”

My wife and I, along with my sister, brother-in-law, and granddaughter, were among those who boosted the local economy. We rented the lovely Azalea Falls Cabin near Kingston and had a wonderful anniversary dinner at the Low Gap Café.  We arrived at the campground early in the afternoon. So early, that we were the first to set out our chairs in front of the stage. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Buffalo River and picnicking while taking in the incredible scenic beauty of the area.

All afternoon people streamed into the concert area, and by the time the show began, the field was a teeming mass of people. When the first strains of music filled the air, everyone in the audience cheered as they settled down to watch the band play with the beautiful bluffs above the Buffalo River in the background. During the intermission, I was able to talk with the leader of the band, singer/songwriter Stefan Szabo, and asked him if he could acknowledge our anniversary and told him that we considered, “If the Rain is Fallin” our song. The song begins, “If the rain is fallin', it makes me think of you. And when the birds are callin', it reminds me too.” And it includes the lines, “And though the years have tired and worn us. We hold hands, and I can't hide, that now the only thing I truly need is just to have you by my side.”

Before the band played “If the Rain is Fallin',” Stefan let everyone in the crowd know that it was our anniversary and that we had chosen to spend our special day at the concert. He then dedicated the song to us. It was a special moment and came as a big surprise to my wife. After the concert, National Park Radio posted on social media; “We had another magical evening with all of our Buffalo National River family at Steel Creek! You guys and this place completely fill our souls. We are forever grateful for the love and support you all give us.”

Why do we celebrate wedding anniversaries? I think that it is because we make a covenant with God to become like one person. “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. The two of them become one.” Genesis 2:24 (NIRV) Celebrating your anniversary says, “you matter enough to me to do something special to remember our union.” Remembering helps you continue to value each other and reflect on all you have been through since you were first married. And if it’s anything like our marriage, you’ve been through a lot.

We celebrate wedding anniversaries because if there is anything that should be celebrated, it’s a time-tested marriage. Even if you haven’t been married that long if you have made it to at least one of your anniversaries, your marriage has been tested. There is something special about another year of marriage that deserves to be celebrated. It is sacred because you have kept a covenant to God and your spouse. Your marriage milestone is meant to mean something. It is not just another day that comes and goes without recognition. King Soloman wrote; “Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18 (NKJV) and Paul wrote, “on top of all this you must put on love, which ties everything together and makes it complete.” Colossians 3:14 (NTE)

In Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) the Bible tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” When a bride and groom are in love, they can think of nothing else but each other. That is the kind of love God has for His people.  The symbol of marriage between God and his people also occurs in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 62:5 (NLT) it says, “God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

Gentle Reader, your relationship with Jesus is meant to be a symbol of your marriage. They are both by grace. A good marriage only happens because your partner gives you grace. They both require focused attention and learning more about the other. So celebrate your marriage anniversary and enjoy the blessings of being together over time. It is something to be proud of because God says marriage is meant to last a lifetime. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9 (NRSV)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Summer of Love

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 12, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

I can still remember the summer of 1967. I was just a kid, but it seemed like the world was changing. 1967 became known as the Summer of Love, and the song All You Need Is Love by The Beatles was the anthem. Just like other kids from around the world, I loved The Beatles. I remember visiting my cousins in California that December and listening to the Magical Mystery Tour album for the first time. One of the highlights of the album was All You Need is Love.

Is there any truth to the catchphrase, “all you need is love?”  I believe that it is the truth.  “All you need is love – Love is all you need.” In 1 John 4:7,8 (NCV)  the Bible tells us, “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.”

Love should be the basis for everything we do.  In Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT), Jesus was asked, “what is the most important commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”

The entire law and all the demands of the prophets – The entire Bible is summed up in these words. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind… Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you distill it down that much, it seems so simple. It really is true – All you need is love.

In the love letter God wrote to you called the Bible it says, “I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8:38,39 (CEV)

How would you feel if you wrote these beautiful words to the love of your life and they were ignored? God says to us, “there is nothing that can separate you from My love for you in Christ Jesus.” We will never know all the ways God shows His love to us.

God's Word is His love letter to us. The love of Jesus waits on each page! Don’t leave your love letters unopened and unread. God loves you, and he wants to tell you just how much. Open his love letter to you and listen to what he has to say to you.

The greatest love poem found in the Bible is in John 3:16,17 (NKJV). “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.”

What beautiful words. We need to keep in mind that it is the world that God loves, not a single nation, not a single race. Not just the “good” people, not just the people who love God back. “God so loved the world.” This includes the lovable and the unlovable; those who are popular, and those who have no one else to love them; the ones who love God, and the ones who never think of God. It includes all of those people and people groups that you dislike. Many Christians on social media show their hatred toward certain races, religions, and lifestyles. These are people that God loves.

In 1 Corinthians 13 (NLT) Paul expresses the importance of love to the Christian, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing… Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless... All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Gentle Reader, remember that God loves the world - the entire world. He has told us that no matter what we do for Him if we don’t have love it is nothing. You see, it is true. “All You Need Is Love” – God’s love!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finding a Friend

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 5, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

It seems like I spend a lot of my time answering the phone. If my hands are full, or If I am inside or under a vehicle, the phone is likely to ring. One day, I was setting a windshield in place when the phone began to ring. I had to finish setting the windshield before I could answer the phone. The phone rang and rang. When I was able to answer, the voice on the other end of the line asked, “Is this a car lot?” “Yes,” I answered tentatively, thinking it might be a telemarketer. “I know that this is a longshot, but I don’t know where else to turn. I am looking for a friend who I have lost touch with.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that this man was trying to locate someone he had served with in the armed forces. He had a phone number for his friend, but it had been disconnected. He was afraid that his friend had passed away and that he hadn’t heard. He knew that his friend had sold used cars in this area. As we talked, I realized that I did know his friend. I promised him that I would get his information to his friend and let him know that he was trying to get in touch with him.

When I called the number that I had, I got the message that the number had been disconnected and was no longer in service. I knew where he lived, so later that day when I was out making deliveries, I stopped by his house. He and his wife welcomed me into their home. When I told them the reason for my visit, tears came to his eyes. He had lost track of his friend. Over the years, since their active duty together, they had always kept in touch. He was very happy to receive his friend's contact information. He thanked me for taking the time to bring the information to him.

I thought about how much the man must have wanted to reconnect with his friend, to start calling strangers in the hope that they might know him. I think that God may have directed him to call me because I did know his friend. His tenacity in searching for his friend reminds me of God as he searches for you and me. Luke 19:10 (NLT) tells us that “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” And in Ezekiel 34:11 (NCV) “the Lord God says: ‘I, myself, will search for my sheep and take care of them.’”

No matter what you have done, or where you are in this life, God will always be searching for you. He will use every method there is to save you. Often, we have no idea that we are lost, but God still searches for us.

One of the greatest historical search stories is Henry Stanley's 1871 expedition to find David Livingstone in the uncharted interior of Africa. Dr. Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and explorer who had become an international celebrity for his work in exploring the African continent. In 1866 he began his third exploratory trip to Africa, searching for the source of the Nile River. Over the years, Livingston had been known for his letters and constant updates during his journeys. Livingstone was rumored to be dead when three years had passed on this final trip with very little news of his progress.

Henry Stanley was a reporter who was commissioned by the publisher of the New York Herald newspaper in 1870 to go and find Livingstone. After a difficult expedition of more than seven months, he found Livingstone. He later wrote the following description of their meeting: “As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold braid round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat, and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob—would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me. So I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing—walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said: ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’”

Dr. Livingstone would later express surprise that he was considered lost. He was troubled by illness and was short of supplies but had no intention of stopping his exploration of African lakes. Livingstone remained in Africa, where he died in 1873.

God has been searching for the lost since the beginning of our earth’s history. Genesis 3:8,9 (NKJV) tells us the story of God seeking Adam and Eve after they had sinned. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’

Gentle Reader, remember that we have a Father who actively looks for us. Just as God searched for Adam and Eve as they tried to hide from Him, He is searching for you. Just as Henry Stanley sought for Dr. Livingstone, in the wilds of Africa, your Father seeks for you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)