Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Giggle of Girls

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 30, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Happy chatter and laughter filled the air as the car traveled along the highway from Mountain Pine to Hot Springs. Excited voices competed to be heard over each other, ending in a crescendo of boisterous giggles. Finally, the decibel level of the chatter settled down to a level lower than a jet plane taking off, but the giggles continued. The Hyundai Sonata making its way down the mountain was filled with girls. My granddaughter had spent two weeks at Summer Camp on the shores of Lake Ouachita, and my wife had just picked her up. Two more granddaughters and their cousin were along for the ride – and the promise of a shopping trip. After two weeks of being apart, the girls were happy to be back together. There were so many stories to tell, so much catching up to do, and so much giggling.

After spending the afternoon shopping in Hot Springs and eating at La Hacienda, they headed home. The girls were still excited and exuberant, and they filled the car with laughter. Sometimes they would simply look at each other and burst into spontaneous giggles. Finally, when my wife got home, she told me, “You may have heard of a murder of crows or a congress of baboons, but this is a giggle of girls. I immediately loved the phrase and started referring to them as a giggle of girls. 

We spent the weekend with family members from Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Seven girls, ages eight to fifteen, spent the afternoon together, eating, swimming, playing, talking, and giggling. It indeed was a giggle of girls.

I have often wondered why we have such unusual names for groups of things. We frequently use terms that seem natural, like a flock of chickens, a school of fish, a pride of lions, or a herd of cows. But there are hundreds of obscure names that we never use in everyday conversation. Names such as a parliament of owls, a rhumba of rattlesnakes, a surfeit of skunks, or a charm of hummingbirds. Why does English have these unusual naming conventions? How did we get these names?

My first thought was that there must be a scientific basis, or at least the names were given by people studying sciences like biology and zoology. But when I researched the names, I found that they are essentially linguistic leftovers from the Middle Ages. These terms of venery, or nouns of the collection as they are also known, were first introduced by 15th-century English gentlemen. When these noblemen went hunting, they would devise names for animal groups based on their poetic interpretation of nature. Some of these terms were clever, a charm of hummingbirds, some were obvious, a paddling of ducks, and others were just pretentious, an ostentation of peacocks.

Names for groups of animals were first recorded in books for nobility. These books instructed men on the various aspects of noble life, especially hunting. These books were designed as manuals for young aristocrats, advising them on social graces and activities. A young nobleman needed to know the proper way to refer to groups of animals so that he wouldn’t be embarrassed while he was hunting with others. The Book of Saint Albans, published in 1486, is credited with the first appearance of terms of venery. I am pretty sure that the term “giggle of girls” was not included.

From the time that my granddaughters were born, they loved to giggle. I fell in love with those giggles, and so would you if you heard them. When we giggle together, it is part of the loving bonds we make with each other. We only giggle and laugh with people when we are comfortable. There may be nervous laughter between people who are at odds with each other. But giggling shows that you are very comfortable and at ease. Giggling is an expression of pure joy.

God wants us to experience joy. In Galatians 5:22, Paul tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. I love the way that King David expressed himself in Psalms 16:11 (NET). “You lead me in the path of life. I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” David’s expression of sheer delight in living in the presence of God makes me smile. I can almost hear a giggle on David’s lips. 

Do you remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh books and movies? For Eeyore, no matter what exceptional circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. While Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore. But Biblical joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it bouncing through life in ignorant bliss. We can find joy in facing each day’s ups and downs, knowing that Jesus is on our side. “Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.” Roman 12:12 (ICB)

When Jesus was talking to his disciples shortly before his death, He said, “I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have. I want your joy to be the fullest joy.” John 15:11 (ICB) Jesus says the same thing to you and me. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to experience joy in our lives. In his final conversation with his disciples, Jesus told them, “You are sad now. I will see you again and then your hearts will be full of joy. No one can take your joy from you.” John 16:22 (NLV) 

Gentle Reader, God wants his children to experience joy and happiness. Just like a father wants his child to giggle, God longs for us to experience a deep-seated, profoundly rooted joy. Joy is not just a nice add-on to the Christian life. It is not the bow on top of the package; it is the package. “God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21 (NCV) Take time today to laugh, giggle, and experience the joy and delight of believing in God.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Don't Just Tour, Explore

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 23, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I had almost finished installing the rear door glass in a GMC when the Hummer H3 pulled into the driveway of my shop. “Good timing,” I thought. I had a busy day scheduled, and the Hummer was my next appointment. I was looking forward to meeting the owners, Cody and Kellie. We first started talking about replacing the windshield in the H3 last December, but the timing was never right. Today, they were able to make the drive from Little Rock and get the windshield replaced.

Cody and Kellie have a YouTube channel called Dome Life. They love camping, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and just about any outdoor activity. After several years of camping almost every weekend, they decided to start documenting their adventures on video. In April 2019, they posted their first video to YouTube, showing them dispersed camping in the Ozark National Forest and hiking to the Big Bluff on the Buffalo National River. Since then, they have posted over 120 videos.  

Most of the Dome Life camping videos are from Arkansas. I enjoy watching YouTube videos that feature the Ouachita Mountains. When I first saw a Dome Life video featuring Eagle Rock Loop, I was hooked and started watching more. My wife and I look forward to watching a new Dome Life video every Tuesday and Thursday. While watching the videos, I noticed that the windshield in the Hummer had many cracks. Last year, I messaged Cody and told him that he needed a new windshield, and I needed some Dome Life gear, so we should make a trade. He liked the idea, but it had taken some time to make it happen.

As I worked removing the windshield, I visited with Cody and Kellie. After watching so many of their videos, it was like I was talking with old friends. They are so friendly and down-to-earth. They are passionate about Arkansas, and especially the Ouachitas. Cody says, “a lot of people don’t realize you can vacation every single weekend in Arkansas; it’s like a vacation all the time. We travel all over, and Arkansas has some of the cleanest, bluest water in the whole country, and our trail systems and state parks are some of the best. It is amazing what Arkansas has.”

After installing the windshield, Cody, Kellie, and I headed to The Ouachitas to get some lunch while the urethane was curing. We drove my Daddy’s Ford Model A roadster with the top down. Kellie called shotgun, and Cody climbed into the rumble seat. The engine sputtered to life, and we headed downtown. When we arrived, I introduced them to Derek, the owner, who was happy to give them a tour. Cody and Derek discussed ways that they might be able to work together in the future.

As we ate our pizza and drank our superberry tea, Cody and Kellie shared with me their philosophy and plans. They have made significant changes in their lives and are planning on traveling and making videos full-time. They told me that being outdoors in nature is a way to recharge your mind, body, and soul! One of the Dome Life catchphrases is, “don’t just tour, explore.” Cody explained that when people travel, they look at slick brochures with beautiful photos and are often disappointed when their experience doesn’t match their expectations. He said, “instead of being a tourist, explore the areas off of the beaten path and see what adventures the backroads have to offer.” 

Cody and Kellie enjoyed the pizza and the ambiance of The Ouachitas. They purchased roasted coffee to take with them, and Derek gave them a gift basket. They plan on returning to The Ouachitas the next time they are in the area. We drove back to the shop in the Model A roadster with its vinyl seats heated by the sun to temperatures high enough to broil skin. But soon after we started moving, the air rushing around us cooled the seats to bearable temperatures. With the job finished, we said our goodbyes, and Cody and Kellie headed out in the Hummer with its brand new windshield.

I enjoyed spending time with Cody and Kellie and getting to know them. I found that we have a lot of the same philosophies and ideals. Their love of nature and passion for keeping trails, campgrounds, and waterways clean inspired me. Nature can bring me peace in a way nothing else does, even if it is just sitting on my deck looking at the trees and the creek below my house. One of the reasons I love living in this area is that I can be in the national forest surrounded by nature in just a few minutes and feel that I am many miles from civilization. Or I can be on top of a mountain ridge with amazing views that stretch out for miles.

Spending time in nature has profoundly affected my spiritual life. There’s something about a towering tree, a colorful wildflower, or a rushing waterfall that reminds me that my God is awesome! The more time I spend in God’s wonderful creation, I feel that I know Him better. In Psalms 19:1,2 (NLT), David wrote, “the heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.” Nature can show us God’s beauty, glory, power, presence, and creativity if we pay attention. In Romans 1:20 (NLT), the Bible tells us that “ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

Gentle Reader, whether you are into hiking, camping, kayaking, or just sitting on the porch of a cabin, take the time to explore God’s creation and connect with the amazing God who created it. “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or ask the birds of the air, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea tell you. Every one of these knows that the hand of the Lord has done this.” Job 12:7-9 (NCV) Nature is a witness of God’s love, goodness, and greatness. But to fully understand what nature and God have to tell you, don’t just tour, explore.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Daddy's Day

Today is Daddy's 66th Father's Day. I know because I have been around for every one of them. Some people may have a Father, but I have always had a Daddy. I have spent most of my life working alongside my Daddy.  Here is proof.  I learned the auto body trade very young.

How Long Have I Been Sanding

Through the years some of the things that I have learned from my Daddy are the importance of having God in your life, and how to work.  Here are some photos of Daddy working through the years.

30 Model A

Here are photos of Daddy taken through the years.