Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Little Studebaker

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 27, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Bob and Leo stood in front of their shop, watching the sunset spread across the western sky. The yellow ball of fire changed to hues of red blended with oranges, purples, and crimsons. The workday was over, and the business they owned, Tri-Town-Service, was closed for the day. But the workday seemed never to be over. They were getting into their 1953 Studebaker pickup and heading from Frederick to Denver. They had vehicles that they needed to bring home.

Each month Bob and Leo attended the Denver Police impound auction. The City of Denver would auction off impounded vehicles. They sold the cars in lots of twenty, with the high bidder buying all twenty cars. All the vehicles purchased had to be removed from the impound lot before the next sale. Bob and Leo had quite a few cars that they needed to get back to the shop, but they could do it only after they had closed for the day. They planned to put one car on a tow bar behind the six-cylinder Studebaker pickup and see if they could get one of the cars to run to drive it home. On this trip, Bob’s Daddy, Ben, was going along. They were going to have Ben steer a car on a chain behind the Studebaker and the car it was towing.

When they arrived at the impound lot, they were able to get an old Mercury started. Bob attached a tow bar between the Mercury and a Buick while Leo hooked his tow bar up to another Buick. By the time they had hooked up and were ready to leave, it was late in the night. The Mercury wasn’t running very well, so Bob said to Leo, “I will go first in the Mercury, so if I have any trouble, you will be behind me and able to help.” The Mercury was sputtering away in the lead with a Buick behind on a tow bar. Next came Leo in the six-cylinder pickup with another Buick in tow, followed by Ben, in an old Chevrolet, pulled on a chain. They were quite a sight as they left the impound lot around one o’clock.

They headed home under the summer night sky luminous with starlight and a full moon. Traffic was light on the Valley Highway, and the little group made their way quickly down the road. Bob had hoped that the Mercury would smooth out and run better while driving, but that didn’t happen. It began to run worse instead of better. When they were still over ten miles away from their shop, the Mercury’s engine sputtered, then stopped. Bob tried to start it again, but the Mercury was done for the night. Bob was still on the highway, moving slowly. He put his arm out the window and motioned for Leo to pull up. Leo downshifted to first gear and pulled forward until the bumper of his Studebaker pickup tapped the Buick that the Mercury was towing. He then slowly accelerated, and the whole group picked up speed. Pushing the Mercury and the Buick, and pulling another Buick and the Chevrolet, the little six-cylinder Studebaker made it the rest of the way home. Leo claimed that he drove in high gear and even shifted the Studebaker into overdrive.

Do you ever feel that, like the little Studebaker, you are pulling more than your weight? I know that many of us think that way. When we are pulling more than our weight, it can drag us down. The little Studebaker made it home, even with four other vehicles depending on it. But the Studebaker wouldn’t hold up under long-term use like that. The website How Stuff Works says, “although you may not see the effects of exceeding towing capacity at first, the gradual wear and tear will lead to eventual failure. The best-case scenario is repeated trips to the repair shop; the worst is a major wreck.” I think that it can be the same way with us. The gradual wear and tear can be detrimental.

I have a customer who always seems to care for her extended family. When she came by to pay for another family member’s windshield, I told her that I noticed she was always taking care of someone. She appreciated that I saw she was pulling more than her weight. When we carry someone else’s heavy loads, we are doing what God has asked us to do. “Carry one another’s heavy loads. If you do, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NIRV)

Often, others have heavy loads that are too big to bear alone. They don’t have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need our help. Doing for others what they can’t do for themselves shows them the love of Jesus. On the other hand, Galatians 6:5 (NIV) says that “each one should carry their own load.” God wants us to carry one another’s heavy loads, but that doesn’t mean that we should be a burden to others by not being responsible. The Bible ideal is that you help me with my heavy loads, and I help you with yours.

Gentle Reader, the story of the little Studebaker is true, and the names have not been changed. Bob is my Daddy; Leo is my cousin, and Ben is my Grandpa. On that night in Colorado, the little Studebaker pushed and pulled four cars for over ten miles. When situations arise and people need your help, be like the little Studebaker. But you don’t have to do it alone. Psalm 55:22 (MSG) says, “Pile your troubles on GOD’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.” “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (MEV)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Domira's Gratitude

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 20, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The Facebook Messenger notification popped up on my phone. I opened the app to read the message. It was from Domira, the Ukrainian girl who had spent time in our home back in the 90s. After learning that Domira had made it out of Ukraine and was safe in Germany, she and I had been in contact through Messenger. The message read, “Thank you, Richard, so much for your prayers and support. It means a lot. I can’t even express my words of gratitude.” 

As we messaged back and forth, Domira reminisced about her time in Mena. “Wow, Thank you for your support. I had a flashback of when I came to visit you. I didn’t speak much English, and you gave me so much support and love, and care. I will never forget it. I ate my first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream; it’s still my favorite. Your wife is the kindest woman in the world, who took care of me and even made a red dress for me and bought red shoes. I still remember how they looked. They were the best presents in my life. The shoes were the first new shoes that I ever had. It’s all stayed in my memories, your beautiful house, and movie nights. Your daughter was so loving and caring. That gave me the strength to go through all difficulties in a new country without family, friends, and barrier of language. Thank you, God, for showing me how much he loves me through such a lovely family like yours. May God Bless You in Many Ways!”

Once Domira made it out of Ukraine and into Germany, although a refugee herself, she began helping other refugees find places to stay. When I asked her how my wife and I could help, she said, “the best way to send money is Western Union. I just checked that the system is working. I have online banking in Ukraine, so that means, I can transfer money to people that volunteer. My dear friends and some of my family also there, help with the evacuation and bringing people food and medicine, so I can transfer right away the money to people that I trust, and I know what they do, and they send also video or photos.” 

After the story of Domira’s harrowing escape from the war in Ukraine was published in the Polk County Pulse, several people asked how they could help. While I was in The Coffee Vault in Cove, Tom came up to me and said, “I read about the Ukrainian girl in the paper. Here is some money I would like to get to her.” I told him that I would be sending her some money soon and make sure that she got it. Allen contacted me and wanted to know how to donate. I gave him the information on how to send money to Domira via Western Union. Because of the Western Union fees, Allen sent the money to me, and I added it to Tom’s money and other donations I had received before sending it to Domira.

Earlier, I had sent money from our family to Domira. I messaged her to give her the Western Union information so that she could pick up the money at her location. After picking up the money, she replied, “Thank you so much! Everything went through just fine. I received the money and will send it to my good family. They are in Kyiv, where they volunteer and bring bread and other things to people in need. And now they even have a chance to help the ones who evacuated from Bucha, Irpin and Gostomel, the small towns that were destroyed completely. They are now in Kyiv, and random people took them to their places. I will keep you posted. Thank you for being a blessing to many! Many people didn’t eat bread for forty days because of occupied territory, and all of them had to stay in the basement.”

After sending the money to those still in Ukraine, Domira sent me information and photos showing how the money was used. She wrote, “my close friend stayed in Kiev with his three kids and parents. He stays there and helps many people that are really in need. Yesterday, he went with some friends outside of Kyiv, and all small towns Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel and many others, that were occupied by the Russian army for almost 40 days. They are almost destroyed and many civilians were killed when they were trying to leave, so bodies are all over, just laying on the streets. Just a small percentage of people stayed in their houses in their basements, till the Ukrainian army showed up. So, my friend brought bread, water (they don’t have clean water) and rest of the things. People were just hugging and kissing the bread, especially kids and older people. I can’t watch it without tears.”

After receiving donations for Domira from Tom, Allen, my Daddy, and others, I messaged Domira to tell her that I would be sending the money via Western Union. She replied, “I’m reading it and crying. God answers our prayers. Some German churches delivered food to the Romanian border, but we needed to find money for gas in order to deliver it to Kyiv and now you are sending this message. God does the miracles. Thank you for being such a blessing to our country.”

Domira’s gratitude has been a blessing to me but has also opened my eyes to my own weakness. When I look at my life, I realize that I become ungrateful whenever I am inconvenienced. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (AMPC), “Thank God in everything, no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus.” I need to work on being thankful no matter what the circumstances may be.

Gentle Reader, “give thanks to the Lord, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever.” Psalms 106:1 (NIRV) One of the ways we can demonstrate our thanks to God is to be compassionate and caring towards those here on Earth. Even small gestures can mean a great deal. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) Good intentions only go so far. To truly help others, you must act in some way. You must be active in your faith for it to be meaningful. Show your faith and gratitude to God by helping someone today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 13, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

It was a beautiful fall day in 1994, and we were sitting on the front porch of our new home enjoying the evening. We heard the phone ringing, and my wife got up and went inside the house to answer the phone. Picking up the brick-sized cordless phone, she pushed the talk button and said, “hello.” Our daughter replied, “Mama, I need to talk to you about Thanksgiving. Can I bring someone home with me?”

Our daughter was attending a boarding school in northwest Arkansas. That evening, the dean had come to her with a request. “Domira, a new foreign exchange student from Ukraine, has just arrived at school and doesn’t know anyone yet,” the dean said. “Do you think she could spend the Thanksgiving holiday with you and your family?” “I will ask my parents,” my daughter replied.

When our daughter told us about the foreign exchange student and her need for a place to stay over Thanksgiving, we told her the girl was welcome at our house. Domira spent Thanksgiving with us, and we enjoyed getting to know her and learning about Ukraine. She experienced her first shopping experience in the U.S. at the Mena Wal-Mart. She told us that she would have to go to separate shops for milk, bread, fruit, etcetera at home. When Domira first saw our home, she wanted to know how many families lived there. She was surprised when we told her that only our family lived there.

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine and headed for Kyiv, we were concerned for Domira’s safety. We had kept up with her through social media, but there was no information from her. We were relieved when Domira posted a video telling her harrowing story and letting us know she was safe on the seventh of April. I wanted to share her story with you, my readers. Here is Domira telling her story in her own words.

“Thank you, my dear family and my friends, so much for your support and prayers. It means a lot to me and helped me go through what I went through. I’m sorry I couldn’t answer all your phone calls and messages. I know that it’s not easy to understand everything going on now.

My apartment is located on one of the main streets where everybody gets into the city and gets out. Most of the time, between 6:30 and 12:00, we have a traffic jam because people outside of Kyiv are trying to get to Kyiv to get to work. At 6:30 in the morning on the twenty-fourth of February, everything stopped. Not a single car was trying to get here. But at the same time three lines were just packed; Three lines that wanted to get out of Kyiv. All those cars and buses, everything was just full, and I knew that it was impossible to get out of here by car or bus.

I went to the train station, and it was also full. At the same time, our bank system was shut down, so that means that you cannot buy any tickets online, you cannot pay by card, and you cannot buy any food or anything if you don’t have cash. So everybody was trying to get cash from the bank and we had lines of about 20-30 people who were trying to stay in the line to get some cash.

On the first day, I heard my first sirens. I’ve never heard in my life such a crazy sound. When I was trying to get home, I was almost there. I just needed a couple of minutes to get to my apartment when I heard the sirens; that meant that the bombing was starting the second time. When I looked around, everybody was just in panic, running around trying to find the safest place. Since that time, we have had sirens almost every hour. Sirens mean that somewhere there was a bombing and there were explosions. I could not get home that day. I couldn’t get home to get the most important things. That means that everything you packed in five minutes, everything that you can take with you in just one suitcase or one bag. You pack all your life in five minutes in one bag and just try to go somewhere in a safe place.

I knew that in the same day it was impossible for me to get out of here, and I went to see my friend. She stayed by herself, and she was also scared and panicked, so we stayed overnight there. The next day at 7:30 in the morning, we tried to get out of Kyiv. We heard sirens all night and shooting. We knew that we could not stay here; we had to get out. We knew that it was impossible to get out on the Main Street and the main highway. So we needed to find the small roads and get through the small towns, somehow, someway, to the place where it’s going to be not so far from Romania where it’s safe. We don’t know how we’re going to get there. We don’t have any plan, I guess nobody had, we just needed to go.

We got in the car and started to drive. It took us twenty hours to get to Chernivtsi. We went through small villages and towns on the way. We saw many tanks and military, and sometimes we didn’t even know if it was Russian military or Ukrainian. We drove through small towns and villages, and we drove through the forests and places that had no lights at all. We heard explosions all the time, but we had no idea when we were going to get to Chernivtsi or if we would get there. Because every time you hear an explosion, every time you see a tank somewhere, you don’t know if that’s your last minute, or if you’re going to make it, or if you’re going to still be alive. For twenty hours, it seemed like it was just impossible.

We got to the safe place at about 4:00 o’clock in the morning, and I just wanted to check the news to see what was going on in Kyiv. I saw that just a couple of minutes from my apartment, in the same place where I walked just a few hours before, Russian tanks had destroyed everything that’s around there. I know that I am one of the blessed people; that had a chance to get out and be in a safe place.

I know so many kids and women that were just trying to get out of Kyiv or many other places, and they were shot. They didn’t have a chance. It’s hard to understand and explain what’s going on and why kids were killed, why women were killed, and why they were raped. It’s especially hard to understand why some family members and some of your friends don’t believe you when you tell them what’s going on. I am not going to lose my energy explaining to somebody who doesn’t believe that the war is going on, that people were killed and I was one of them who could have been shot.

I’m just praying with everybody else that Ukraine will survive. We are praying and dreaming about the day when the war is going to stop. We are dreaming about the time when families can reunite. We’re dreaming about the time when Ukraine is going to be rebuilt. But so many people were killed, and you can’t forget that. I know that I can do as much as I can from my side, and I’m trying every single day to support and help people who stayed in Kiev and different parts of Ukraine. If you have a chance to help in any way, if you want to support, you can write me or you can call me. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you that you believe. God bless you.”

Gentle Reader, those affected by the war in Ukraine are not just nameless people. Please pray for Domira and all of the Ukrainians. “First and foremost, I urge God’s people to pray. They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity. Teach them to pray for kings (or anyone in high places for that matter) so that we can lead quiet, peaceful lives—reverent, godly, and holy.” 1 Timothy 2:1,2 (VOICE)

Saturday, April 9, 2022

A Matter of Time

I own an auto glass company in Mena, Arkansas, and two or three times a week, I get up early and drive one hundred miles to pick up windshields and auto glass. There are no suppliers who will deliver to Mena, but there is a company that delivers to DeQueen. I rent a storage unit in DeQueen, and my supplier delivers to my storage unit and I drive to DeQueen early in the morning to load my truck and be back in Mena in time to open my business.

On the mornings that I pick up my auto glass order, the alarm rings at 4:30 am; I never worry about the alarm going off. My cell phone knows what time it is and always wakes me up, even if the electricity has been off during the night. But it hasn't always been so easy to measure time.

Since Creation, we have measured time by observing the natural world. Ancient men watched the change of the seasons and tracked the heavenly bodies across the sky. In Genesis 1:4, God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years."

Thousands of years ago, men and women in what is now central Europe tracked the moon and stars by carving notches into mammoth tusks. From Stonehenge to Mayan Temples to the ancient Chinese Observatory at Shanxi, ancient people used these structures to observe the sun and use it to mark the different seasons of the year.

The measurement of time began with the invention of sundials in ancient Egypt before 1500 B.C. The time the Egyptians measured was not the same as today's clocks measure. For the Egyptians, the basic unit of time was daylight. They broke the period from sunrise to sunset into twelve equal parts, giving us the forerunner of today's hours. As a result, the Egyptian hour was not a constant length of time, as is the case today; instead, as one-twelfth of the daylight period, it varied with the length of the day. So, summer hours were longer than winter hours. Time wasn't able to be measured during the hours of darkness.

The need to measure time independently of the sun eventually gave rise to various devices, most notably sandglasses, waterclocks, and candles. Though their accuracy was never great, these devices provided a way to measure time without the need for the sun to be visible. 

For most of history, ordinary people did not have regular and easy access to any time measuring device whatsoever, other than to glance at the sky on a sunny day and see where the sun was. For them, time, as we understand it today, did not exist. Mechanical timepieces existed as far back as 1000 A.D. By the 14th century, public clocks appeared across Europe. Between 1371 and 1380, public clocks were introduced in over 70 European cities. These clocks were not very accurate. Christiaan Huygens made the first pendulum clock in 1656. His timepiece had an error of less than 1 minute a day, and his later refinements reduced his clock's errors to less than 10 seconds a day.

With accurate clocks, people could correlate their activities to a far greater degree. The ability to measure time mathematically helped prepare the way for the scientific revolution. During the 16th and 17th centuries, people's lives began to be influenced by mechanical time. Most of the population would continue to look to the sun to tell the (approximate) time, but the clocks provided the definitive time. 

Time measurement was still haphazard well into the 19th century, with time being kept differently in each community. In the United States, there were over 140 local times in 1883, resulting in slight time differences between adjacent towns and cities. Around this time, influential business leaders, politicians, and scientists wanted to replace the world's impossible patchwork of local times with a universal system of territorial mean times. At the 1884 Prime Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., diplomats envisioned a world divided into 24 zones, each with a single mean time determined by astronomers at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The world was beginning to get a handle on standardized time.

But it still wasn't easy to coordinate with Greenwich Mean Time. One enterprising London family had a solution. Every Monday, Ruth Belville stood at the entryway of a London watchmaker. Ruth was in the unusual business of selling time with her watch named Arnold. When the door opened, the storekeeper greeted the weekly visitor with "good morning, Miss Belleville; how is Arnold today." Ruth replied, "good morning. Arnold is one-tenth of a second fast." Then she reached into her handbag, grabbed a pocket watch, and passed it to the watchmaker. He used it to check the store's central clock and then returned the pocket watch to her.

Once a week, Ruth would get up early and take the three-hour journey from her cottage west of London to the Greenwich Royal Observatory, reaching its gate by 9:00 am. She rang the bell and was greeted by the gate orderly, who formally invited her inside. There she would hand over her watch, Arnold, to an attendant. The officials compared Arnold to the observatory master clock, then returned the timepiece to Ruth with a certificate stating the difference between its time and their central clock. Ruth walked to the Thames and caught a ferry to London with the official document in her hand. She then began making the rounds, visiting her customers.

The Belville family fell into this business accidentally. In the 1830s, Ruth's father, John Belleville, worked at the Greenwich Observatory as a meteorologist and astronomer. The observatory leadership grew frustrated by the many interruptions caused by local astronomers desperate to know the precise time for their observational work. Instead of having unannounced visitors coming to the Observatory and disrupting their scientific activities, they devised a plan to bring the time to those who needed it. They gave John Belville the task of providing time to nearly 200 customers.

Each morning, John went to Greenwich Observatory and set his watch, a very accurate timepiece he nicknamed Arnold, to Greenwich Mean Time. He would then set off in his buggy and set the clocks correctly for clients subscribed to the service. The watch he called Arnold was formerly known as John Arnold number 485 and named after its maker. It was a highly accurate pocket watch built in the late 1700s. John Arnold originally designed Number 485 as a gift for the Duke of Sussex. The Duke thought the timepiece was too large and refused it. The watch ended up at the Greenwich Observatory.

John Belville continued this service until he died in 1856. His widow, Maria, continued the business until her retirement in 1892, when she was in her eighties. Ruth Belville then took over the business. She continued the business until 1940. Ruth was in her eighties when she retired. At 86, Ruth could still make the twelve-mile journey and arrive at the Observatory by 9 am.

When Ruth and Arnold were retiring from the time business, a clock was installed in the United States that consistently drew a crowd. In 1939, New Yorkers headed downtown to get the precise time at 195 Broadway in Manhattan. The art deco clock sat in the window of the AT&T corporate headquarters. It was not just any clock; it was the most accurate public clock in the world. A unique piece of quartz crystal provided its accuracy. Every day, hundreds of pedestrians stopped in front of the clock and held their fingers on their watch stem, waiting for the sweeping second hand to reach the top so they could set their watch accurately. Quartz clocks and watches were sold in large quantities during the 1970s when technological advances made them affordable.

But before long, there were even more accurate clocks. Lord Kelvin first suggested using atomic transitions to measure time in 1879. Louis Essen and Jack Parry built the first accurate atomic clock in 1955 at the National Physical Laboratory in the U.K. Atomic clocks are highly accurate, with an error of only 1 second in one hundred million years. Today we can all have the accuracy of an atomic clock by purchasing a clock that automatically synchronizes itself to the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. I have one in my home, and you probably do too.

Why do we place such emphasis on measuring time? Some 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Dost thou love time? Then use time wisely, for that's the stuff that life is made of." Being able to measure time helps us to use it wisely. Because of the fragile nature of time, Moses prayed, "So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart." Psalm 90:12 (NRSV) That is another way of saying it is the use, not the length, of our days that counts.

Ephesians 5:15-17 reads,  "Consider carefully, then, how you walk, not as unwise people, but as wise people. Make the most of your time, because the days are evil. For this reason, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." These verses seem to be in the back of my mind a lot. Maybe it's because I feel guilty for spending too much time on the Internet or watching T.V. Obviously, these words apply to everyone. We will all be held accountable for the way we spend the precious time God has given us, but I feel like these words have special meaning for me.

In a prayer of Moses recorded in Psalms 90, we find this plea, "Teach us to use wisely all the time we have." How can we use our time wisely? Let me suggest four steps I have found helpful.

ONE – Look at each day as a gift from God. Instead of seeing each day as a burden, see it as another opportunity God has given you to serve Him. Time isn't inexhaustible, nor can we assume we'll always have more; someday, our time on earth will end. The psalmist said, "My times are in your hands" Psalm 31:15. The first thing we should do when we awake is to thank God for the gift of another day.

TWO -- Commit your time to God. God gave it to you: not to be wasted or mishandled, but to be used for His glory. We are accountable to Him for how we use our time, and once a minute passes, it can never be reclaimed. How can we put this into action? Ask God to help us schedule our time more wisely and efficiently. It may mean rethinking how we spend our time and adjusting it to reflect God's priorities. We may also need to examine why we're so busy. Is what we are doing necessary – or are we simply trying to impress others? We can't do everything -- sometimes, we need to say no.

THREE -- Set aside time for God and others. No Christian would say, "I'm too busy for God," but how often have you gone through a whole day without thinking about Him? How often have you ignored someone who needed your encouragement or help? Why is this? One reason is that we relegate God to our spare time – but never have any spare time! In other words, we mentally list everything we must do and put God at the bottom of the list. But the opposite should be the case. Jesus said, "more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well." Matthew 6:33 (CEV) 

FOUR -- Take time for your own needs. We all need rest and recreation; God made us this way. Some people feel guilty if they take a vacation or even a few hours off, but they shouldn't. During a hectic schedule, Jesus told His disciples, "Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile." He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat. Mark 6:31 (NLT) If Jesus required rest, don't we also? Someone chronically exhausted from lack of sleep is much more susceptible to Satan's attacks.

I want to close today with a story. The winter day was cold, and even though it was freezing outside, a crowd was gathering. You could feel the anticipation in the air. A young man named Louis was standing in the crowd. He was so excited that he could hardly contain himself. He thought that he might witness history in the making.

The newspapers had been speculating about the event. They questioned whether a man could go that fast on land and survive. They wondered if the vehicle could go that fast without falling to pieces. Everybody seemed to have an opinion; engineers, scientists, doctors, and the man in the street. Today was the day that the questions would all be answered. Louis was excited that he was going to see it.

A gasp rose from the crowd when the machine was introduced. Louis had never seen such an incredible machine. It looked like it was from the future. He watched the driver get into the machine. He couldn't believe what he was witnessing. Louis felt the ground shake when the engine in the machine roared to life. Soon the machine took off, accelerating to an unbelievable speed. Louis and everyone else watching were amazed by how fast the machine went.

When the demonstration was over, both the machine and the driver were fine. When it was announced that a new world speed record had been set, the crowd cheered. The machine had just reached the speed of 39 miles an hour. Wow! That doesn't seem very impressive today. If somebody ahead of us on the highway is creeping along at 39 miles per hour, we're ready to pitch a fit and scream, "Let's go, come on! I don't have all day."

But back in 1898, the world was amazed when somebody went 39 miles per hour. Can you imagine what Louis would think of the latest record for land speed, set by a jet-powered car blasting across the Black Rock Desert in Nevada at more than 763 miles per hour? And, of course, it's only a matter of time before someone will break that record.

In this modern world, no matter how fast we get, no matter how efficient we become, it's just never enough. There's just no question about it; we're doing things faster and faster and faster, at speeds our ancestors couldn't even imagine. Even though we're moving at speeds that our ancestors would think were miraculous, even supernatural, most people still complain about the same thing. No matter what we do or how fast we do it, the complaint is always the same. We don't have enough time.

That's a problem God anticipated. Thousands of years ago, God gave us a commandment specifically created to protect us from the tyranny of time. If you study the fourth commandment, you'll find it comes to us right from the opening chapters of the Bible, right in the story of Creation. At the beginning of our human history, the Lord carved out a refuge called the Sabbath.

Let's go back to the beginning, right after God created the world. The Bible says in Genesis 2:1-3, "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."

The Sabbath is good news because it gives you this block of time that can be dedicated to God and to the people you love. Shaun Boonstra of The Voice of Prophecy says that "to devote one-seventh of our lives to rest is just as much a commandment of God as the prohibitions against murder, adultery or stealing." With the Sabbath, God is giving us a special place in time, a sacred place, where the things of this world—our job, the bills, the chores—are not allowed to intrude because this is a sacred and holy time.

I ask you today, is the Sabbath a day of rest for you? That is what God designed it to be. He was afraid you would forget, so he said to remember the Sabbath day. Remember that God wants to spend time with you. Remember that he wants you to spend time with your family. Remember that God wants you to take the time to rest from your work and your worries. Hebrews 4:9-11 says, "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Anyone who enters God's rest will rest from his work as God did. So let us do our best to enter that rest."

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Red, Red, Robin

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 6, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The weather alert blared on my phone as I ate my breakfast. A tornado warning was in effect for areas of Polk County. I pulled chairs into our downstairs hallway safe place, the only place in our house without exterior walls and windows. We sat in the hallway, watching the live feed from KATV. The path of the storms seemed to be heading right towards us. With the memories of experiencing two tornadoes in the back of our minds, tornado warnings are always a stressful time.

As the winds intensified, lightning flashed, and heavy rain began to fall, we could hear the tornado siren wailing in the distance. The storms were very fast-moving, and before long, they raced through Mena and pushed on to the northeast. We breathed a sigh of relief when the weatherman assured us that the storms had moved past us and we were in the clear. When the tornado warnings expired, I headed to work, arriving a few minutes late.

When I heard a crash that seemed to rattle the sheet metal on my shop building, my nerves were still a bit on edge from the morning's storms. "What could that be," I wondered. "Did a branch from a tree hit the shop?" I walked outside but couldn't see anything that could have caused the sound. A few minutes later, I heard it again. It sounded like a dull thud that rattled the tin siding. "That is very strange," I thought, but I was too busy to investigate.

The mystery was solved when I walked past the shop window just as a robin crashed into it. The crash was so violent that I looked out the window to see if the robin was hurt, but he was sitting on a branch near the window. He would fly from the tree and crash into the window every so often. 

When I arrived at work the following day, the robin was sitting in the tree just outside the shop window. He spent the day repeatedly flying into the glass. All through the day, I heard the robin hitting the window. Four days later, he was still sitting in the tree outside the shop window and attacking the glass.

When I researched the reason for the robin's behavior, I found that "the root of this behavior is territorial," according to the Mass Audubon website. "When birds select a nest site, the surrounding area becomes their territory, and they defend it vigorously. Bird territories vary in size depending on the bird species and available resources. A typical suburban songbird such as an American Robin needs only a small backyard. When a bird, searching for a nesting site, accidentally sees its image in a reflective surface on its territory, it mistakes it for a rival and tries to drive the "interloper" away. This activity may continue throughout the breeding season."

As I watched the robin battering the window day after day, I thought about my own experience and the times that I have attacked a phantom menace repeatedly. Anger and bitterness seem to make me irrational. I beat myself up by constantly crashing into the window of these emotions. It feels like my life is spinning out of control, and I can't make sense of it anymore. When I feel like I have been wronged, my feelings often intensify as I dwell on the situation. The more I think about it, the angrier I become. Bitterness begins to consume me if I can't get my feelings in check.

When I find myself crashing into the window of anger, bitterness, and hatred, I remember Paul's counsel found in Ephesians 4:26,27 (NIRV). "When you are angry, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Don't give the devil a chance." Some things make us angry. People mistreat us. We witness injustice in the world. But when we dwell on these things and hold a grudge, it gives the devil a foothold in our lives. When we continue to bash into the window of our anger, it can consume us, and if we can't control it, it will destroy us. Paul continues his counsel in Ephesians 4:31,32 (NIRV); "Get rid of all hard feelings, anger, and rage. Stop all fighting and lying. Don't have anything to do with any kind of hatred. Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive one another, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done."

People hurt us, and life can be unfair. Sometimes anger is justified. But when we hang on to the anger and bitterness, it can be like repeatedly bashing our head against a window. God asks us to forgive to help us heal. But too often, we perceive forgiveness as condoning the behavior. Does forgiveness eliminate accountability or the need for restitution? If I have forgiven, can I still hold the person accountable for their actions? Some Christians teach that forgiveness and accountability are mutually exclusive. That holding someone responsible means that I haven't forgiven them. But that is not the message of the Bible. Even when God forgives us, there are still consequences. He still expects us to make things right as best we can.

Forgiveness doesn't mean you're obligated to stay in a relationship with someone who has destroyed the foundation of everything you've built. Forgiveness doesn't mean you keep a close friendship with the person who betrayed you. Forgiveness doesn't mean you continue to engage with people who have repeatedly proven their disloyalty.

Forgiveness means you accept the wrongs against you, let go of those wrongs, calm your heart with God's love and patience, and begin again—with or without that person, it's up to you. You are no less of a person for knowing when you need distance from people who have broken you. You are not spiteful, hateful, bad, or evil for removing yourself from a toxic relationship and taking time to heal. You are not wrong for setting boundaries and leaving that person in your past.

Gentle Reader, "try to understand other people. Forgive each other. If you have something against someone, forgive him. That is the way the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NLV) God wants us to let go of our anger and forgive. He doesn't want us to hold a grudge because he knows it is toxic. But he permits us to remove ourselves from unhealthy relationships and situations. Don't be like the robin and continually crash into the window of anger. "Walk away from the evil things in the world—just leave them behind, and do what is right, and always seek peace and pursue it." 1 Peter 3:11 (VOICE)