Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Will Your Vote Matter?

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 28, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

It was shortly before noon when we pulled up to the old armory building. Outside was a sandwich board sign with the words “vote here” written above a rippling American flag. When we walked into the large open room, a couple of people were in line ahead of us. I was thankful to be avoiding a large group by voting early. We stood on our circles that were placed on the floor to help us stay six feet apart. The people working the polls were friendly and helpful. Before long, both my wife and I were standing in front of our respective voting machines.

After voting, I carefully reviewed the ballot before giving my final approval. I was now one of the more than fifty million voters who have cast early ballots. Most people are expecting an above-average turnout for this year’s elections. Political pundits on both sides consider this election crucial and try to convince those on their side to be sure and vote. The rhetoric has been scathing, harsh, and bitter. 

In the past weeks and months, ugly, hateful, and often downright false political posts have filled my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Most of the time, they are reposts of someone else’s memes or articles. I wonder if the hateful vitriol has ever changed anyone’s mind. Do Christians want to be known for such anger?

One of the best-known sayings of Christianity is the Golden Rule; “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” Matthew 7:12 (NCV) Most Christians believe this. They would agree that it’s correct to treat others right and believe in showing respect and kindness. But there’s one area of life where it seems that Christians forget the Golden Rule, and that’s politics. I am amazed by how many Christians become downright uncivil when it comes to discussing politics. 

They are polite in everything else, but they become vicious once they start talking about politics or politicians. It seems that they forget that the Bible says in Romans 12:10 (NIV), “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

When we, as Christians, are tempted to fire back when confronted with beliefs that we disagree with, we need to listen to the advice given in Romans 12:2 (NLT). “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

When we feel that our beliefs are under attack, the primary human response is to fire back. We let our natural, carnal, human emotions dictate our behavior. Anger consumes us, and we want to lash out. We feel fear and want to defend our beliefs or attack perceived wrongs. But, is that how a Christian should handle conflict? In Proverbs 15:1 (NET), Solomon wrote these words of wisdom; “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” And James wrote in James 1:19,20 (ISV), “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

I am not suggesting that there is never a time when Christians should speak up for their beliefs, but I have noticed that often we as Christians are slow to listen but quick to speak and get angry. Angry Christians fill my social media feeds. Some answer every difference of opinion by angrily returning fire. Political views do matter, and your vote counts. But your political ideas and thoughts should not be the primary things in your life. As Christians, our ultimate hope does not rest on political candidates or political power or political initiatives. Speaking of voting in elections, John Piper wrote, “Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. We deal with the political system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But it is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls.”

I’m thankful to live in a country where your vote matters and my vote matters. I’m grateful that we can be a part of the political process. By all means, vote. But remember that the Bible informs us that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” 1 John 2:17 (TLV). Don’t let politics consume you and cloud your judgment. Don’t be complicit when others condone slander. Winning arguments isn’t more important than truthfulness.

Gentle Reader, your vote matters. When you vote for someone to represent you, whether in the local, state, or national government, it is crucial to vote for someone who shares your principles. But your vote this year is not the most important vote you will cast. Every day you have to vote for who you want to represent you that day. Do you want Jesus to represent you, or are you willing for Satan to be your representative? “If you don’t want to serve the Lord, you must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 (NCV)  National elections only happen every four years, but we have the opportunity to vote every day. Who will you choose to vote for today? Will your vote matter?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Little Miata

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 21, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I thought I heard the phone ringing over the sound of the grinder I was using. I stopped grinding and listened. Yes, the phone was ringing. I laid the grinder down and answered the phone. On the other end of the line was a long time customer. “We have had an accident in our Chevy Equinox, and we want you to repair it,” he said. He gave me the insurance information, and we made arrangements for the job.

Repairing the Equinox was a big job. Finally, the day came when I called the customer and told them that the car was ready to be picked up. “We have a Mazda Miata that needs some work on it,” he said, “would you have time to do it? “What work do you want me to do to the car? I asked. “The door has a dent in it, and it needs a new mirror,” he replied. I told him that I would be able to do the job, and he decided to drop off the little Miata when he picked up the Equinox.

When he and his wife dropped the Miata off, we discussed the repairs. I told them that with the deteriorated condition of the paint, the repairs would be very noticeable. They asked for a quote on a complete paint job and also on replacing the convertible top. I told them that I would get a quote together and call them later. 

When I called them back with a quote, they decided to go ahead with the complete repaint and the top replacement. But they also had a list of other things that they wanted me to repair on the car, such as replacing the struts and installing new seat covers. After getting prices for all of the additional work they wanted me to do, I called them with the quote. I was surprised when they told me to do everything. The wife told me, “I love driving the little Miata, and I want it in great shape again.”

I think that there is a parallel between restored cars and our spiritual lives. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT) Just like the owners of the little Miata love their car enough to spend the money to make it beautiful; God loves us in our broken-down condition. But even though he loves us in our sinful state, He doesn’t want us to stay in that condition. God has a vision for our lives. He wants to restore us.

In Job 33:26 (NKJV), The Bible talks about restoration. There it says, “He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.” God has a plan for each one of us. He plans to restore us to righteousness. The difference between you and me and a car in need of restoration is that the old car is passive. It isn’t part of the decision to restore. But you and I have to be willing to be repaired.

Unlike the old car that is passive in the restoration process, we have a part to play in our restoration. God wants us all to repent. Repentance is saying to God, “I know that I need to be restored. I want you to restore me.” 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? 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.” 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 confess, 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? 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. We want to be restored.

Gentle Reader, just like the little Miata owners want to restore their car, God wants to restore you. Any car driven long enough without repairs will end up in the junkyard and eventually be crushed and recycled. God doesn’t want us to be abandoned and crushed by this life. He doesn’t want us to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV) tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” I hope that you will spend some time today, 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, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will restore us if we let Him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Boomtown to Ghost Town

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 14, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

John, Bob, and J.H. were among the prospectors who came to the Buffalo River Valley, searching for lost silver mines they had heard about in Indian legends. Near Rush Creek, they found shiny metallic flakes in the rocks that they believed to be silver. Before long, the news of the discovery spread like wildfire throughout the South. Farmers, unskilled laborers, miners, and former soldiers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and the Carolinas, came to the area, looking for ways to get rich quick. Due to its rough terrain and isolation, Rush Valley had very few settlers before the prospectors came to the area. 

John, Bob, and J.H. built a rock smelter near Rush Creek to extract the silver from the promising ore deposits on their claim. On a crisp cold day in January 1887, They fired up the smelter for the first time. The day started with high expectations, but no silver came out of the bottom of the smelter. All of their hard work came to nothing, and the day crushed their dreams of getting rich. Legend tells us that John, Bob, and J.H. were broke, discouraged, and out of food. They offered to sell their claim to another prospector for a can of oysters. The man turned the offer down.

The smelter didn’t produce any silver but emitted green zinc oxide fumes in a spectacular display, described as beautiful rainbows. More experienced prospectors realized that although the ore didn’t contain silver, it was rich in zinc. Shortly after that disappointing January morning, zinc mining began at the Morning Star Mine. Soon people were rushing to the area to stake a claim. By the 1890s, a bustling community of homes and businesses developed near the Morning Star Mine. 

World War I was Rush’s heyday. Zinc prices soared due to the demands of the war effort. During that time, Rush’s business district had ten general stores, three bakeries, and many boarding houses and hotels. The population soared to over 5,000, with many miners living in tents because there wasn’t enough housing for them. When World War I ended, the demand for zinc rapidly declined, and the price dropped. Mines began to close, and the population dropped. By the 1930s, all mining had ceased. The post office closed in the mid-1950s, and by the 1960s, no one was living in Rush.

For some time, I have wanted to visit the ghost town of Rush. Last month I was finally able to make the trip. It was a beautiful day as we walked along the short trail that loops through the center of Rush. As we read the interpretive signs along the way that told of the bustling activity of 100 years ago, I thought of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

Jesus tells us not to place too much value on the things of this world. If you treasure them as the essential things in your life, one day you will find yourself very disappointed when they are devalued, destroyed, or stolen. Is Jesus telling us that we should not have any possessions here in this world? Of course not. But he is telling us that treasures on earth are subject to being eaten, rusting, or being stolen. Treasures in heaven are secure. They will remain. To the people living in Rush during 1918, their city must have seemed immune to any possible downturn. But, when the demand for zinc dropped, everything changed, and they realized just how fleeting the things of this world could be.

We see these same patterns in countless situations in the world around us. Overnight, successful things can become failures. The fads of today are likely to be forgotten tomorrow. And boomtowns can become ghost towns. Often we make our plans, assuming that things, as we know them, will last forever. We need to realize that change is inevitable. Our ideas, strategies, commitments, and resources can be like ghost towns, thriving one minute, but empty the next.

We understand what treasures are here on earth, but what did Jesus mean by “treasures in heaven?” He wants us to use our time, energy, and finances to pursue things that are of eternal value; Those things that will have value in heaven, not on earth. The Bible says, “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) So, how do we understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate attention to “treasures on earth?” Jesus answers, “don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” Matthew 6:31-33(NCV) 

Gentle Reader, don’t place your trust in the things of this world. They may end up being a ghost town like Rush. As Christians, our faith should be in the timeless truths of God found in His Word. The stock market may go up and down. Corporations, nations, and politicians may rise and fall, but God’s Word is forever. Remember that boomtowns can become ghost towns, “but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:25 (NKJV)

Thursday, October 8, 2020


The past weeks and months my Facebook feed has been filled with ugly, hateful, political posts. Most of the time is just a repost of someone else's memes or articles. I really wonder if anyone's mind has ever been changed by the hateful vitriol that they read on someone's Facebook feed.  
I am not in the habit of posting things that others have written. The purpose of this blog is to post original writing. I am making an exception in this post. I did not write the following words, but I fully agree with them. They made such an impact on me that I wanted to share them with my readers. I want to give the original writer, Ginger Winters, credit. I first read it on her blog, Ramble Ramble. So here is a shout out to Ginger.
Dear Friends, Family, Co-workers, and Anyone Else I Know;
As we all know, there is a rather major election happening this year. I know, no matter how loud or quiet you are, you probably (definitely) have opinions. You probably lean more toward one political party than the other, more toward one candidate than the other, more toward one side than the other, just as I do. You have strongly held beliefs about certain issues, just as I do. One of the great things about living in this country is our ability–and right–to hold and VOTE our political conscience, for the things and people we believe in.
That being said.
As the election gets nearer, and the tempers get shorter, and the mud gets fling-ier, I want you to remember some things, please:
When you post on Facebook that someone is “Too stupid to breathe…” if they vote for X candidate–you could be talking about me.
When you write in your email that someone who votes for Y candidate is “UnAmerican”—you could be talking about me.
When you say that someone who believes that Z candidate has better policies should “be taken out back and shot”—you could be talking about me.
When you say that you hope everyone who votes for XYZ candidate “is rounded up” before the election–you could be talking about ME.
When you say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support your political position–you could be talking about ME.
About ME, or someone like me that you know. Not just a random “them.” But someone you like, or love. Someone you may have known your whole life. Someone you may think is intelligent, articulate, well-spoken. Someone you may think is caring, kind, giving.
There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people.  Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.
Please, by all means, believe what you believe. Vote the way you want to vote. Engage in civil discussion about issues and platforms, if you want to. Advocate strongly for why you think what you think. Use reason to explain your position. These things? These make us better citizens, make us a better part of the political process. But when you start throwing those ugly words out, when you start sharing those ugly graphics, and those hateful quotes, and you point your finger at “THOSE PEOPLE” just remember…you could be talking about me. Someone you know. Someone you call friend, family, coworker.
And maybe that doesn’t matter to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter that you’re saying I’m stupid, unAmerican, deserve to be kicked out of the country, deserve to die, don’t have any compassion, don’t care about my fellow citizens, or am a moron. Maybe it doesn’t bother you because you believe SO strongly that ALL people who believe opposite of you are SO wrong that you’re willing to forget the people behind those beliefs, that they are more than just their political opinions, more than just where they fall on an issue or what candidate they want to vote for.
But to me it does. Because when this political season is over, and the races have been decided, the non-stop political nonsense will die back down to a low boil. But you and I? We’ll still know each other. And I’ll know what you really think…of me.
And how can that not change how I think of you?
I agree with Ginger's post. I am weary of the ugliness that fills my social media feeds. Before you post your next political post I hope these words come to your mind.

Many devout Christians become mean, critical, and bitter when they talk about politics. Insults, name-calling, bitterness, and slander are the order of the day. They don’t seem to remember that the Jesus they claim to worship said to “love your enemies."

I think that social media is partly to blame. People post things on the internet they might never say. I believe that Christians should have opinions on politics and that they have the right to express them. I’m very grateful that I live in a country where free speech is a basic human right. I’m happy that there are Christians who care about their country, and that some involve themselves in the political process.

But does it have to be so full of hate? It is all right for a Christian to express an opinion on politics such as, “I think X is a poor President, Senator, Congresswoman, Candidate.” A Christian has a right to feel that way. But we have all seen some Christians cross the line from opinion to attack, insult, and slander. Much of it is hateful and malicious.

Look at the Facebook posts of some Christians. When they talk or re-post, ask yourself if it’s possible they've ever read Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace.”

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” We as Christians can’t escape the reality that our words (or Facebook and Twitter posts) reveal our true character.

“For by your words,” Jesus said, “you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) I have never read in the Bible where Jesus said, “But when it comes to politics and politicians, feel free to be as mean, vile and ugly as you want.”

When Christians say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support their political position they are talking about people that Jesus loves, people that Jesus died for. There is a real person behind those words. I’m sure that there is a way for Christians to engage in the political process and political discussions while still manifesting the Spirit of Jesus. If Christians consistently showed the Spirit of Jesus in their political discussions instead of being mean or harsh it would be a powerful witness.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Indians, Outlaws, Marshals, and the Hangin’ Judge

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 7, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The warm evening sun shone on the towering and picturesque Roark Bluff. The Buffalo River rushed past the bluff, one of the most iconic and photographed places along the river. In an open grassy field at Steel Creek Campground, I was one of the over one thousand people gathered, waiting for the concert. 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, Arkansas, 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 its music and made plans months ahead to attend the 2019 Steel Creek concert. 

During the concert, the band introduced broadcast journalist, educator, and documentary filmmaker Larry Foley. National Park Radio was supplying music for Foley’s latest project, a documentary on Judge Isaac Parker. This September, Foley released the documentary, “Indians, Outlaws, Marshals, and the Hangin’ Judge.” I was excited to order my copy. Foley describes the film as “the colorful story of Indian removal, crime, capital punishment and an infamous federal judge who sentenced scores of felons to ‘hang by the neck until you are dead.’”

Foley continued, “this is the story of how desperadoes — depending on your interpretation of history — were either tamed or tortured by a man some historians call a megalomaniac, while others choose to believe the judge was nothing more than a civil servant doing his job. This included the judge himself, who once said, “People have said to me, ‘you are the judge who has hung so many men,’ and I always answer: ‘it is not I who has hung them. I never hung a man. It is the law.’” Foley also said that Parker’s lawmen were said to have been as mean and deadly as the fugitives they captured and shackled in a dungeon known as “Hell on the Border,” in sight of the nooses that would often be their ultimate fate.

After the Civil War, outlaws made their way into the Indian Nations bordering Fort Smith, Arkansas. They terrorized the Indians and overwhelmed the capabilities of area law enforcement. By the 1870s, the Indian Territory had become known as a terrible place, where outlaws thought the laws did not apply to them, and terror reigned.  On March 18, 1875, President Grant nominated Isaac Parker as the judge for the Western District of Arkansas. Over the next 21 years, Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases. In more than 8,500 of these cases, the defendant either pleaded guilty or was convicted at trial. Parker sentenced 160 people to death, with 79 being executed on the gallows at Fort Smith. He became known as the Hangin’ Judge.

Judge Parker was actually against capital punishment. In an 1896 interview, he stated, “I favor the abolition of capital punishment, too. Provided that there is a certainty of punishment, whatever that punishment may be. In the uncertainty of punishment following crime lies the weakness of our ‘halting crime.’” He added, “I have ever had the single aim of justice in view. ‘Do equal and exact justice,’ is my motto, and I have often said to the grand jury, ‘Permit no innocent man to be punished, but let no guilty man escape.’” 

Just like the United States has laws and penalties, so does the Kingdom of God. In 1 John 3:4 (GNT), the Bible says, “Whoever sins is guilty of breaking God’s law, because sin is a breaking of the law.” And in Romans 3:23 (NKJV), we read, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us have broken God’s law. The Bible makes it clear that the penalty for breaking the law is death. Romans 6:23 (NKJV) tells us that, “the wages of sin is death.”

The sobering truth is that it takes only one sin for the death penalty to be imposed.  God warned Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they ever sinned, “you must not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17 (NIRV) The death penalty falls immediately on anyone who sins. This is terrible news because “all have sinned.” Does this make God a “hangin’ judge?”

The Bible makes it clear that God doesn’t want us to suffer the penalty for our sins. In 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB), we read, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” And we read in John 3:16 (KJV), probably the most famous verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Gentle Reader, although the wages of sin is indeed death, Romans 6:23 (NKJV) gives us the rest of the story, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God isn’t the hangin’ judge. He sent his Son to be our Savior. In Romans 10:9 (NLT), we read this beautiful promise, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There is no reason to fear the hangin’ judge. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)


If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the film, Indians, Outlaws, Marshals, and the Hangin’ Judge it is available at

Trailer for "Indians, Outlaws, Marshals, and the Hangin' Judge" from Dale Carpenter on Vimeo.