Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Crown Victoria Incident

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

The morning was hot as the radiant heat of summer permeated my shop. The temperature was already in the nineties, and sweat ran down my face. The unusual heat wave with unending 100-degree days was wearing me out. As I wiped the sweat out of my eyes, the phone rang for what seemed like the hundredth time today. "Richie's," I said, and the voice on the other end of the line asked about a windshield and back glass for their car. 

I took down the information and scheduled a time to put the glass in their Ford Crown Victoria. When the customer brought the car in, I started by cleaning out the broken glass and preparing to install the back window. I placed the new back window on a stand, ready to prep it for installation. As I looked at the glass, it didn't look correct. Sure enough, when we held the new glass up to the opening in the car, it wasn't nearly tall enough. "What is going on," I wondered.

When I checked out the part number of the new glass, I discovered that I had ordered the wrong year model. I tried to order the correct glass from my supplier and found that they didn't have one at the Little Rock warehouse. I wasn't surprised, as I often must order glass from out of state. But as I checked each warehouse I could order from, I found that no one had the glass. I searched online and could not find a new back glass for the Crown Victoria anywhere. 

I started searching for a used back glass. I found a wrecking yard in Fort Smith that showed one online, but when I called them, they said they didn't have one. Next, I called a company in Moffat, Oklahoma. They had one, but the owner said he was having trouble finding any help, and there was no one to remove the glass from the car. The closest place I could locate the glass I needed was in North Little Rock. The only problem was that I would have to drive there to pick it up.

I cleared my schedule for Friday morning and left my house before 5 to be at the wrecking yard when they opened at 8. They had promised me they would have the glass out. But after driving three hours, I arrived and found that they had not removed the glass the day before. I had to wait almost an hour. 

I was frustrated as I drove back to Mena. I had jobs scheduled, and now I would be an hour late getting back to work. But my frustration level went through the roof when I made it back to the shop and found that they had given me the wrong glass. What was I going to do now? I had spent seven hours and driven 300 miles using fifty dollars' worth of gas. And now I had to make another call to the customer and tell them that I wasn't sure when I would be able to complete the job.

Almost a week later, I finally got the correct glass and delivered the Grand Victoria to the customer. When you are in business, there will always be days when things go wrong. There will be days that cost you money instead of making money. In the past, I had become very agitated when stuff like that happened. But I discovered that being upset didn't change anything except that it made me unhappy. Frequently I let my circumstances determine my attitude. But I now realize I can choose my attitude towards circumstances instead of allowing circumstances to control my attitude.

We often think that our situation controls our emotional responses. When we experience adverse circumstances, we believe we have no choice but to react to them. We become upset and unhappy. Any other response seems impossible. But we can choose not to get upset by circumstances that usually would have aggravated us. To succeed, we must remember that we have a choice and be deliberate about our reactions.

As I matured, I realized that I never change my circumstances by getting upset. I only make myself unhappy and often spread that unhappiness to the people around me. Being happy is a choice. We choose every day whether or not to let our day's worries, problems, and circumstances get us down. If we decide that we will be happy no matter the circumstances, we will enjoy life more.

In Philippians 4:11 (NIV), Paul said, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." The fundamental thought here is that Paul learned, and we can also learn that being content does not mean that you have no hopes or desires; it means being willing to let God teach you no matter what your circumstances are at the moment. Happiness and contentment do not come from things. 

Once we accept the truth that trouble is inevitable, it's not such a shock when trials do come. They may catch us off-guard, but when we know they are a part of life, they lose much of their power to make us unhappy. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) gives us more insight into how we can be content and happy. "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Gentle Reader, would you characterize yourself as content? Or do you feel you could be content if only one or two things were changed? How many of us have convinced ourselves that we would be satisfied if only we had a bit more money, a little less stress, or a better relationship? But Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled]," John 14:27 (AMPC). When difficult circumstances come our way, we should say, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1 NKJV)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


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

The Lufthansa airplane landed on the wide strip of tarmac, wheels touching down with a slight bounce. Almost twenty-four hours ago, Daddy and I had climbed into his little Prius and headed for the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Now we were finally on the ground in Berlin, Germany. After getting our luggage, we made our way to the train station inside the airport. My heart sank as I tried to figure out the train system. I knew I needed to go to Alexanderplatz station, but I couldn't find it listed on any signs. 

The train station had two platforms with trains going in different directions. I tried reading the signs with the help of the translation app on my phone, but I couldn't figure out which train to get on. There was an automated kiosk to buy tickets, but even with the English option, it wasn't clear to me. There was no one there to help, so I decided to leave the train station and return to the airport to find someone who could help. I found three airport employees on a break and asked if anyone spoke English. One man did, and he told me which train to get to Alexanderplatz.

We boarded the train, and around forty minutes later, we pulled into the Alexanderplatz station. Exiting the train station, we saw our hotel, Park Place Inn, dominating the skyscape. As the tallest building in Berlin, it towers over all the other buildings in the area. After checking in, we made our way to our room on the 27th floor. We had been traveling for over twenty-four hours and were exhausted. I left Daddy in the room to rest, but even though I was tired, I felt an adrenaline rush from being in a European city for the first time. I was eager to explore.

I walked out the front of the hotel into Alexanderplatz. In German, Platz refers to a public square. The square was named for the Russian Tsar Alexander I when he visited in 1805. There a swell of humanity spread out in front of me. The people flowed like rivers, never stopping for obstacles but swirling around them. I was hungry, so the first thing I did was look for something to eat. I saw a small shop and went inside. In a display case, I saw a sign that said, Rhubarb Streusel. I stepped up to the counter and pointed at the streusel. After making my first purchase with my newly acquired euros, I sat on a bench and ate my streusel, savoring every bite.

As I walked around the square taking in the sights, sounds, and smells, I saw an old church that seemed out of place in this area of modern shops. I stopped to take photos of the beautiful building and noticed someone enter through a side door. I was curious to see inside the church, so I gingerly opened the door. There was a small sign beside the door. Using my translate app, I learned that the sign said, "welcome, please be quiet and respectful." I walked through the tiny vestibule into the church and was astonished by the beauty. 

A brochure I had picked up on my way inside told me that construction of Marienkirche began around 1270 and was completed early in the 14th century. It is one of Berlin's few remaining buildings that date to the Middle Ages. Quietly slipping into a pew, I thought of all the worshippers who have prayed to God here and the plagues, wars, fires, and political strife they had endured. Lighting a candle, I prayed for peace.

I walked around the church, feeling like I was in a museum. On the walls of the church hang many works of art. My brochure told me that some of the works are original to the church, but many were salvaged from other churches throughout the city that sustained damage during the Second World War. The pipe organ built in the 1720s dominates the rear of the church. It is decorated with bas-reliefs of John the Baptist and personifications of Faith, Hope, and Love 

As I sat in this beautiful old church on my first day in Europe, I thought about all the history this church had witnessed in the last 750 years. I imagined God's word read from the ornate alabaster pulpit. "Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth." Psalm 96:9 (NKJV)

A story I had read a few weeks ago came to my mind. A traveler back in the Middle Ages saw a group of workers. They were chipping away at a pile of rocks. He asked one man what he was doing, and the man said, "I am breaking up rocks." He then asked a second man what his work was, and the man replied, "I am building a cathedral." Both men were doing the same job, but one saw his job as just some rock chipping. The other saw the bigger picture and felt he was a part of something important. 

Everything we do in life is not always fun or exciting. Sometimes our job is tedious, but it needs to be done. You might have one of those "dirty jobs" Mike Rowe talks about. Maybe you have a job that people don't think is important, but God needs someone in that role.

In Luke 16:10 (GNT), Jesus says, "Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones." God cares about minor details of our lives because He knows they become essential details when we handle them correctly. Our small decisions, mindsets, habits, and prayers add up to make a positive life.

Gentle Reader, sometimes what we do might seem equivalent to chipping away at a pile of rocks. But God has asked us to faithfully represent Jesus in everything we do, even the mundane. We are not just his representatives when we work on big projects. In Colossians 3:14-17 (NLT), Paul wrote, "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." Whatever you do, you are building a cathedral.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Knight George

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

It was a spring day in 1521, and Martin was on his way home from the city of Worms. He had been on trial before a council of religious and political leaders for his religious beliefs. In January, the church excommunicated Martin because his writing and teaching contradicted the church leaders.

A new emperor, Charles V, had ascended the throne of The Holy Roman Empire, and the church pressed him to punish Martin. Frederick the Wise, who was instrumental in Charles gaining the throne, asked him not to sentence Martin before granting him a hearing. The emperor was between a rock and a hard place. The church wanted an imperial edict sentencing Martin to death. But, according to Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné’s book, The History of the Reformation, Frederick the Wise "declared firmly that 'neither his imperial majesty nor any other person had shown that Luther's writings had been refuted;' therefore he requested 'that Dr. Luther should be furnished with a safe-conduct, so that he might appear before a tribunal of learned, pious, and impartial judges.'"

In his trial before the tribunal, the prosecutor asked Martin to renounce his writings. Martin answered that he would need a day to consider the matter and give a complete answer. The next day Martin reappeared before the tribunal. He reported that before giving his answer, he had prayed for long hours. He stated that his conscience was captive to God's Word and that relying on anything other than the Bible as an ultimate source of authority was impossible. 

Martin  was given one last chance to recant and was told, "If you do not retract, the emperor and the states of the empire will consult what course to adopt against an incorrigible heretic." Martin said, "unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen." - Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné

As a result of Martin's trial, The Emperor issued a decree that allowed anyone to kill Martin without any repercussions from the authorities. Because of a prior agreement to get Martin to appear before the tribunal, he had a guarantee from The Emperor of safe passage home. But Martin's friends didn't believe the agreement would be honored given the trial's outcome. They hatched a daring plan to keep Martin safe. It would take cunning and secrecy to carry it out.

While Martin was on his way home from Worms to Wittenberg on May 4, 1521, he was captured by four armed bandits. Frederick the Wise had arranged for Martin to be seized on his way by a company of masked horsemen. He gave the men careful instructions to keep Martin safe but to tell no one where they were taking him, not even Frederick. The ruse allowed Frederick to escape charges of harboring a heretic and outlaw.

Martin was tossed to the bottom of the wagon and covered with a blanket. The bandits drove him through the dense forest to Wartburg Castle, an isolated mountain fortress perched 1200 feet above the city of Eisenach. There he lived incognito, replacing his usual monk's habit with a black robe with a high collar. He let his hair and beard grow out to complete his disguise. He carried a sword and used the name Junker Jörg, "Knight George." Only one man in the Castle knew who he was because Martin needed his identity to be kept secret from other knights who lived there. 

Martin's seizure and concealment were so involved in mystery that even Frederick himself did not know where Martin was for a long time. His ignorance was by design. If Frederick knew nothing of Martin's whereabouts, he could reveal nothing. He satisfied himself knowing that Martin was safe and was content with this knowledge.

As I was touring Wartburg Castle, the tour guide pointed out a painting on the wall. There a man in a black robe seemed to look my way. His hair was dark, with curls on his forehead. A trim mustache accentuated a full bushy beard. As I studied the painting of Junker Jörg, "Knight George," the tour guide told the thrilling story of Martin's contentious appearance before the Diet of Worms and the sentence that amounted to a death sentence. Anyone could kill Martin without any repercussions from the authorities. He told the story of the kidnapping on the highway. We learned that this man, known as Knight George, translated the entire New Testament of The Bible into German while he was in hiding. 

Knight George, aka Martin Luther, was a champion of the Bible. He believed that every Christian should read the Bible for himself and was able, with God's help to understand the truths it contained. He wrote, "We must make a great difference between God's Word and the word of man. A man's word is a little sound, that flies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater that death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly." He often quoted the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:25 (AMP). "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [I openly and joyfully acknowledge Your great wisdom], that You have hidden these things [these spiritual truths] from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants [to new believers, to those seeking God's will and purpose]."

Gentle Reader, I want to leave you with these words penned by Knight George. "We cannot attain to the understanding of Scripture either by study or by the intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His Word. There is no other interpreter of the Word of God than the Author of this Word, as He Himself has said, "They will all be taught by God" John 6:45 (NCV). Hope for nothing from your own labors, from your own understanding: trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has experience."

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Grandma's View-Master

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

There are many things that I remember about visiting my grandparents. There was the old antique farmhouse cupboard where they kept the flour in a large bin. I wanted my drink in the plastic insulated glasses with the photos on them. On the breakfast table, there was always a box of Apple Jacks. We never had sugary cereals at home, so eating Apple Jacks at Grandma's house was a treat.

One of my favorite things at Grandma's house was looking at her View-Master. We had to ask to play with the View-Master, and my stern grandfather always reminded us that it was not a toy. "You be careful with that," he would say. And when we finished, even if we had carefully put each reel in its sleeve, he would bellow, "make sure you have put everything away properly!" But when we got out the View-Master and the many reels with it, it always transported me to other places in the world. I had to share it with my sister, but I wasn't very good at it. I wanted to see what was next, and I didn't want to wait for her to have a turn. 

My sister and I would look at beautiful nature scenes we couldn't imagine seeing in real life. I remember the View-Master reels of Butchart Gardens in Victoria. There were reels from Cyprus Gardens in Florida and Sun Valley in Idaho. But the reels I repeatedly returned to were of the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. I was intrigued by the Bible scenes and fascinated by the fact that they were from far away Germany.

Earlier this year, my Daddy asked me if I would take an overseas trip with him. We booked a tour with Tabgha Tours that focused on the history of Martin Luther and WWII. When I looked at the itinerary, I saw that we would see the famous Pergamon Museum in Berlin, visit Martin Luther's home and the church where he nailed his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg, and spend the weekend at the monastery where Luther became a monk and priest. Then we would visit the Nazi rally grounds where Hitler spoke in Nuremberg and the Dachau Concentration Camp outside Munich.

It was the next item on the itinerary that grabbed my attention. “Depart for Oberammergau. World-renowned, this quaint Bavarian town is the site of the extravagant Oberammergau Passion Play – performed only once every ten years. Take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience." My mind drifted back to a little boy looking at amazing 3-D photos of the passion play on his grandparents' View-Master. With disbelief, I realized the little boy looking at the View-Master reel of the Passion Play in Oberammergau would be attending almost sixty years later.

While in Oberammergau, I learned about the origins of the Passion Play. In 1633, the plague was raging in Europe, including in the town of Oberammergau. The local people vowed: If the dying stops, every ten years, we will stage the "play of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ." No one died of the plague from that day on. Since then, the people of Oberammergau have been performing the Passion of Jesus Christ every ten years. For 200 years, the play was staged in the cemetery near the church. In the 19th century, when more and more people started coming from all over the world to see the play, it was moved to the current location. This year there will be 103 performances with over 5,000 people at each performance.

The production involves over 2,000 performers, musicians, and stage technicians, all residents of Oberammergau. This is a large percentage of the village's 5500 residents. There are only 124 speaking roles, but up to 1,000 people appear on the stage at one time. There are 64 vocalists and 55 instrumentalists. To be a performer in the Passion Play, you must either have been born in Oberammergau, married to a local for ten or more years or lived there personally for 20 years. There are no exceptions to these rules. 

Even though the play was in German, and I only knew a few words, the story still came through. As I watched, the words found in Isaiah 53:11,12 (NCV) came to mind. "After his soul suffers many things, he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make many people right with God; he will carry away their sins. For this reason I will make him a great man among people, and he will share in all things with those who are strong. He willingly gave his life and was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people and asked forgiveness for those who sinned."

Have you ever wondered why we refer to a play about the final week in the life of Jesus as a passion play? You may have never thought about it, but I have a curious mind and needed to know. I looked the word passion up in the dictionary and found the following meanings. "1. Extreme compelling emotion. 2. Object of any strong desire or fondness. 3. Any one of the emotions: hate, grief, love, fear, joy. 4. The suffering of Jesus." 

I studied the origin of the word passion and found that in approximately 1175, this word was adopted from Old French to Old English and meant the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. The word passion picked up romantic connotations in the late Middle English period. During the 16th century, the word passion described a fit or outburst of anger or rage. By the mid-17th century, passion had expanded its meaning again by describing anything pursued with extreme enthusiasm. 

Gentle Reader, as Christians, our passion, our object of intense desire, should be Jesus. I have met many Christians who are passionate about their beliefs. But they focus on just a few hot-button topics. I find it sad that I seldom meet someone passionate about Jesus and what He has done for us. And it is even rarer to find a Christian who is passionate about the sinners that Jesus came to seek and save. My question for you today is, do you have a passion for Jesus? Are you passionate about the world, not willing that any should perish?