Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Rare Quality of Light

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 22, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I found what seemed like the last parking space and hurried into the Ouachita Center. The program would start in five minutes, and I had difficulty finding a seat. I was excited to see Tim Ernst's presentation and happy that so many in my community had come to see him.

I have been a fan of Tim's work for many years. I have several of his hiking guidebooks. Thousands of people have used his hiking guides to find the best that Arkansas offers as the natural state. His iconic photos of the beauty of Arkansas have appeared in hundreds of national, regional, and local publications. They hang on many homes and businesses' walls, including mine.

Jerry Butler in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette describes Tim this way. "Ernst is to Arkansas' wilderness what painter John James Audubon was to America's birds and what journalist David Attenborough is to the nature of the planet. Like them, Ernst has created visual images that inspire awe for the beauty of the natural world."

As Tim began his presentation, he said, "people want to know what I'm looking for. It is great light! You can take an ordinary subject, and if you have great light on it, it can be a very interesting image. You can take a picture of an icon like Hawksbill Crag, and if the light is just kind of ordinary, so is the snapshot." In my mind, I could see so many photos I have taken that are just ordinary snapshots. Nothing eye-catching about them, even though the scenery is beautiful. It is the light that makes the difference.

As the room darkened and Tim's presentation of Arkansas Nightscapes began, I was in awe. The stunning nighttime photographs began appearing on the screen. Many of the photos had a recurring theme, the Milky Way. "It is easy to see the Milky Way if you can get away from city lights," Tim explained. "Go out after midnight when there is no moon. Sit out for 10-15 minutes so you can acclimate to the darkness. Then look towards the southern sky."

I have experienced the majesty of the Milky Way in a very dark sky several times. My brother-in-law's cabin in the mountains above Leadville, Colorado, sitting at an elevation well over 10,000 feet, has amazingly crisp, clear night sky views. I have seen the sky there with incredible clarity, as no light source is visible when the cabin lights are off. 

Last year, I was able to experience the darkest night skies I had ever seen. I was in the Big Bend Ranch State Park, miles away from any light source. It is hard to describe the night sky in a place with no light. The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The sky seemed to expand with more and more stars. As I sat in the darkness and my eyes adjusted to the velvety blackness, I saw a blanket of stars stretching into infinity. The Milky Way rushed across the sky, looking like a bold brush stroke from the hand of a divine painter. As I looked up into the night sky, countless stars and constellations welcomed me into their world. The serenity and quietness of the moment enveloped me. The starry night sky seemed to wrap me in comfort and peace with its immense canopy and brilliant pinpricks of light.

Another place I have seen the majesty of the Milky Way in the night sky is on The Buffalo River. One night at Tyler Bend is still vivid in my memory. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, it seemed that more and more stars exploded into view, with the Milky Way dominating the sky. The Buffalo National River is an International Dark Sky Park, one of 201 certified Dark Sky Places worldwide.

Today less than 10% of Americans can enjoy a view of our galaxy, the Milky Way. That means more than 90% never see a picture of the sky taken for granted for almost all of human history. Stargazing has been a human pastime since ancient times. This night sky view inspired countless artists, poets, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers. Something about the vastness of the night sky leads to thoughts of how our universe came to be and how insignificant we are. David wrote, "When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?" Psalms 8:3,4 (NLT)

There is something magical about witnessing the night sky and reflecting on the beauty of the universe and its Creator. A dark night sky with its starry brilliance is the perfect way to shut out all the distractions of the world around us. "Look at the myriad of stars and constellations above you. Who set them to burning, each in its place? Who knows those countless lights each by name? They obediently shine, each in its place, because God has the great strength and strong power to make it so." Isaiah 40:26 (VOICE)

Most of us lead such busy lives that we never fully realize how much we need to spend time alone with our Creator. Mother Teresa said, "Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things, you cannot hear the voice of God." I know that I need quiet times in my life. The Bible tells us that Jesus would often seek quiet times with his Father away from the distractions of his busy life. "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed." Mark 1:35 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, I would encourage you to find a place away from the artificial light of this world and experience the night sky the way people have experienced it throughout most of history. Stargazing has been a human pastime since ancient times. The ancients interpreted constellations and arrangements of the stars and planets they saw in the night sky to have essential meaning for themselves and their families. Look up at the night sky and think about the majesty of the universe and its Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made." Psalms 19:1 (NCV)


For more information on the books and photography of Tim Ernst, go to

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 15, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

"Captain Rostron rushed into the chart room and worked out the Carpathia's new course. As he figured and scribbled, he saw the boatswain's mate pass by, leading a party to scrub down the decks. 

Rostron told him to forget the decks and prepare the boats for lowering. The mate gasped. Rostron reassured him, 'It's all right; we're going to another vessel in distress.' In a few moments, the new course was set—North 52 West. The Carpathia was 58 miles away. At 14 knots, she would take four hours to get there. Too long."

It was early morning, and the stars shone brightly in the moonless sky. As I traveled to pick up a load of auto glass, I listened to the audiobook, A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly. The book tells the story of the fateful night of April 15, 1912. Most of us know the story of that night the Titanic sank or have at least seen the movie. But A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice tells the story from a perspective I have not read before.

In alternating chapters, the book follows the captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, as he attempts a heroic rescue, and Kate Connolly, a third-class passenger on the Titanic, as the survivors try to stay alive. The book tells the stories of heroes like the captain, and others who did little or nothing to help. It salutes a man who did what he could to bring others to safety. It is a unique and inspiring look at the rescuers from the Carpathia who managed to get over seven hundred people to safety. It is also a tragic and heartbreaking look back at that terrible night. 

Shortly after midnight, Captain Rostron of the Carpathia wakes to a distress signal from the Titanic, which has struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Though information is scarce, Rostron is determined to answer the call for help. He begins to strategize the response of his ship, which is over four hours away. Although the captain is unsure of the amount of damage, he is determined to aid the Titanic's passengers. Braving icebergs himself, he pushes the Carpathia to the limit.

With the Carpathia four hours away, there are more questions than answers: Will the ship hold together if pushed to never-before-tested speeds? What if he also strikes an iceberg? And with the freezing temperatures, will there be survivors by the time the Carpathia arrives?

Kate Connolly, a passenger on Titanic, is enjoying her time in third class with newfound friends. But in the middle of the night, strange sounds lead her out into the corridor, looking for answers. She eventually learns that the ship is in trouble and has little time to escape. The third-class passengers are not warned or helped, but Kate manages to board a lifeboat in the chaos. But after seeing the Titanic sink into the abyss and hearing the cries of hundreds of people still in the water, she wonders if rescue is possible.

As the Titanic sank, her wireless operators tried heroically to find another ship near enough to come to its rescue. They contacted the Carpathia about 58 miles away a little after midnight. The Titanic's message said: "SOS--SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg."

The radio operator of the Carpathia reported the message to his first officer. Together they barged into the room of Captain Arthur Rostron, waking him from a sound sleep. When he heard the news, the captain said, "All right, tell him we are coming along as fast as we can."

The captain gave every command he could think of to prepare for a rescue mission. The crew rigged lights along the ship's sides and opened all gangway doors. They readied block and tackle to hoist boats aboard and slings to lift the injured.

The captain had ordered full speed ahead, but the Carpathia had a top speed of 14 knots. At that speed, it would take 4 hours to reach the Titanic. Captain Rostron was determined to do better. He ordered all off-duty stokers to the engine room to get every ounce of steam the boilers could make. All power went to the engines. From its top speed of 14 knots, the Carpathia kept increasing speed. Traveling 3 knots faster than her top speed, the Carpathia sped to rescue the perishing.

The captain ordered extra lookouts in the crow's nest, the bow, and the bridge. He steamed faster than full speed into a field of icebergs at night to rescue a ship that had already struck an iceberg. He called the stewards together and explained the plight of the Titanic and the mission of the Carpathia.

One thousand five hundred people from the Titanic died that night because they could not get into the lifeboats. Of those who could get into the lifeboats, the Carpathia rescued over 700. No other ship arrived in time. The leadership of Captain Arthur Rostron in the hours following the sinking of Titanic remains to this day, a masterpiece of crisis management. From the moment Captain Rostron was informed of the distress messages received from Titanic, every order he issued was intended to get to the stricken ship as quickly as possible while preparing his ship to receive survivors and give them the care they needed.

Gentle Reader, It was no doubt that many survived due to Rostron's quick thinking, preparations, and the speed with which he got to the scene. Like Captain Rostron, we can make a difference when people around us need help. 

"Go and rescue the perishing! Be their savior! Why would you stand back and watch them stagger to their death? And why would you say, 'But it's none of my business?' The one who knows you completely and judges your every motive is also the keeper of souls—and not just yours! He sees through your excuses and holds you responsible for failing to help those whose lives are threatened." Proverbs 24:11-12 (TPT)

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Spring Renewal

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 8, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

It was almost three years ago that I received the phone call. The salesman from my glass supply company in Little Rock was on the other end. "I don't know quite how to tell you this, so I am going to come right out and say it," he said. "Corporate headquarters has decided we will no longer deliver to your area." I stood in silence, not knowing what to say. It was like a vehicle coming out of nowhere and running over me. After I hung up the phone, thoughts were swirling in my head. What was I going to do?

How could I stay in business if I didn't have a supplier to deliver to my area? I had customers scheduled for glass replacement. How would I get the glass I needed? The only solution I could see was driving to Little Rock to pick up my glass. After calling my salesman back and discussing the situation with him, I developed a plan. Someone was supposed to open my supplier's warehouse at 6:00 a.m. every workday. Suppose I left Mena at 3:00 a.m. I could be at the warehouse when they opened at six. After loading my truck, I would drive back to Mena and be able to open by 10:00 a.m.

Over the next several months, I got used to the routine. Two or three times a week, I would get up at 2:30 a.m. to leave the house by three and drive to Little Rock to pick up my auto glass order. It seemed like I was always tired. I wondered if anything would ever change or if I would make this drive for years.

Over the months I drove to Little Rock, I got to know the early morning shift at the warehouse. They did their best to have my order pulled and ready for me when I arrived. One day they had exciting news for me. They told me that the corporate route manager had decided to reopen one of the routes that had been closed earlier. They wouldn't be coming to Polk County, but they would be delivering to De Queen. "I wonder if there is some way that I can take advantage of the De Queen route," I thought.

I called my salesman to see if there was some way to get my glass delivered to DeQueen, but he couldn't think of a situation that would work. "Maybe you can arrange something with one of the shops we will deliver to," he suggested. On my next early morning trip to the warehouse, I talked with one of the workers and told him how disappointed I was that we couldn't work something out with the De Queen route. "It would be so much easier for me," I said.

The guys in the warehouse told me about another shop that had rented a storage unit and had their glass delivered to the unit. When I discussed the idea with my salesman, he didn't offer much hope. The company resisted the idea for some reason, but I kept pressuring them. Finally, they decided to give it a trial run. I rented a storage unit in De Queen and bought glass racks. On my next trip to Little Rock, I left a key to the storage unit. There were several hiccups and days that they didn't deliver my glass, but after a few weeks, things started working smoothly.

I have been making several weekly trips to my storage unit in De Queen for two years. On these trips, I notice the subtle changes in the scenery as the seasons change. I enjoy the rare occasions that I have company on the trip. This Sunday, my wife and I drove to DeQueen to pick up my glass. As we went along, I commented on how green everything was and how fast it had changed. 

My last trip had been early Wednesday morning, and the change was striking. Lots of rain followed by warm sunny days had ushered in Spring. The grass was turning green, and a soft green glow covered the trees as the first buds appeared. The first flowering trees were in bloom. Looking at the beautiful countryside, I thought about how much I enjoyed the coming of Spring.

I love the color and freshness of Spring each year. I love seeing green fields with baby calves reaching up for a drink from Mama. Cheery yellow daffodils seem to forecast better days. Everything about Spring breathes life and renewal. 

As I took in the beauty of the warm spring day, I thought about creation and renewal, about how God created dormant plants to survive the harshest storms and emerge after springtime rains. He tells us, "as long as the earth exists, seedtime and harvest, cold and hot, summer and autumn, day and night will not cease." Genesis 8:22 (CEB) 

The beauty of Spring is a yearly reminder of the resurrection story. What was dead comes back to life. Each year, springtime should give us new hope. We may have experienced a harsh winter of discouragement, but Spring always gives us the courage to go on. Even when our circumstances bury us and we face heartbreaking situations, the hope of springtime tells us that our problems won't last forever. In her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Ann Jacobs wrote, "The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also." 

Gentle Reader, Spring shows us that we can put the past behind us and start over again. "Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (GW) "The winter is past, and the rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air. The fig trees are forming young fruit, and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming." Song of Solomon 2:11-13 (NLT) 

As the springtime season begins, I hope it is a blessing. There is a right time for everything, and now is the time for a springtime renewal of faith, hope, and love.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Rocky Mountain High

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 1, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

In the spring of 1981, my wife and I and our 22-month-old daughter made the 900-mile trip from Loveland, Colorado, to Mena, Arkansas, in our red, white, and blue 1967 Toyota Stout pickup with our Shetland Sheepdog curled up on the floor under my wife's feet. As we drove through heavy rain most of the way, water trickled down behind the dash and pooled on the floor where our dog lay. After a miserable two-day trip, we finally arrived in Arkansas.

Our lives had changed dramatically in the previous six weeks. After visiting my family in Mena in February, we encountered a blizzard as we drove back to Colorado. When we arrived home, I asked my wife, "What do you think about moving to Arkansas?" "Well, I suppose, if we can sell our house," she answered, feeling that was a safe answer. Within two weeks, we sold our house, and six weeks later, we were pulling into the driveway of our new home on Karen Drive.

Even though I was excited to start a new life in Mena, I missed the mountains in Colorado. When we lived in Loveland, our favorite place to spend time was Rocky Mountain National Park. We would visit the park at least twice a month. Some of my favorite memories are of the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains. 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest national parks in the U.S., with elevations over 14,000 feet. Sixty mountain peaks over 12,000 feet tall result in breathtaking scenery. The park includes broad glacier-carved valleys and gorges, numerous alpine lakes, and plunging streams along with the mountain peaks. I loved the meadows and rolling moraines with their views of the peaks. 

The spectacular grandeur of the Rocky Mountains gives me a feeling of awe and wonder that John Denver described this way. "Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams, seeking grace in every step he takes. His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake and the Colorado Rocky Mountain high." The song Rocky Mountain High by John Denver became a hit worldwide, and in 2007 it was officially recognized as a state song of Colorado.

An exceptionally awe-inspiring night in Colorado inspired the song. That night, John witnessed a Perseid meteor shower while camping with friends at Williams Lake. The singer wrote about the experience in his autobiography. "I remember, almost to the moment, when that song started to take shape in my head. We were working on the next album, and it was to be called Mother Nature's Son, after the Beatles song, which I'd included," he wrote. "It was set for release in September. In mid-August, Annie and I and some friends went up to Williams Lake to watch the first Perseid meteor showers. Imagine a moonless night in the Rockies in the dead of summer, and you have it. I had insisted to everybody that it was going to be a glorious display. Spectacular, in fact."

Denver says that he went out onto the lake for a while and when he came back, his group had returned to their tents. But soon, the meteor shower started, just as spectacular as John thought it would be. "I went back and lay down next to Annie in front of our tent, thinking everybody had gone to sleep, and thinking about how in nature all things, large and small, were interwoven, when swoosh, a meteor went smoking by," wrote Denver. "And from all over the campground came the awed responses 'Do you see that?' It got bigger and bigger until the tail stretched out all the way across the sky and burned itself out. Everybody was awake, and it was raining fire in the sky."

Many of the visuals you hear in the Rocky Mountain high lyrics come from this night. Lines such as "I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky," "the shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby," and "serenity of a clear blue mountain lake" are inspired by this experience. The song impacted John Denver so much that he changed the album title from Mother Nature's Son to Rocky Mountain High.

As the song took shape over the next few weeks, John thought about his life up to this point. Moving to the mountains of Colorado and escaping the smog, chaos, and superficiality of Los Angeles had changed his life and perspective. He poured his heart into the meaning of the Rocky Mountain high, and his writing became very personal. 

John Denver wrote in the third person about how the mountains transformed the song's protagonist and said it was like being born again and finding the key to every door. Even though Rocky Mountain High was a diary expressed in the third person, it portrayed John Denver's new life, love of nature and the mountains, and ecological manifesto.

In one of my favorite lines from the song, John Denver sings, "You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, Rocky Mountain high, Colorado." Spending time in nature has profoundly affected my spiritual life. Something about a towering mountain, a colorful wildflower, a rushing waterfall, or a starry, moonless night reminds me that my God is incredible! The more time I spend in God's wonderful creation, the better I know Him. 

Nature can show us God's beauty, glory, power, presence, and creativity if we pay attention. 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." 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) 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Longwood Unfinished

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 22, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

As I walked up to the beautiful antebellum mansion hidden behind lush old trees, I was impressed by its size and presence. I was in Natchez, Mississippi, with my wife and my sister, and it was the third historic home we had visited that day. The exotic oriental design of the house, with its octagonal shape and the Byzantine onion-shaped dome, was unlike any of the other homes we had seen. It seemed out of place in the southern United States.

Each of the antebellum mansions in Natchez has a story to tell. Wealthy men wanted to show off their wealth and make sure they were noticed by Natchez society. The Natchez homes were town homes, as most of the homeowners’ wealth came from operating cotton plantations across the Mississippi River in Louisiana. The finest things that the world had to offer adorned these opulent homes. Marble and mirrors from Italy, carpets and china from France, clocks from Switzerland, and furniture from the finest furniture makers in the eastern United States were used in these luxurious houses.

Haller Nutt was one of the wealthiest citizens of Natchez. He was born on a plantation, and after attending the University of Virginia, he returned home to help his father run the family’s plantations. Haller Nutt inherited and purchased several plantations. By 1860, he owned 43,000 acres of land and 800 enslaved people. It was Haller Nutt’s oriental-style octagonal mansion that stood before me, gleaming in the sunlight.

As we toured Haller Nutt’s home, that he called Longwood, our guide told us the story of the house. The tour started on the basement floor. One of the first things I noticed was how low the ceilings were compared to the other homes we had toured. The other grand homes we toured had ceilings from 12 to 19 feet tall. But here in Longwood, the rooms had 9-foot ceilings. Our guide explained that these basement rooms were never intended to be the living spaces for the family. Those rooms had 14-foot ceilings.

Unfortunately, the family never lived in those rooms. Our guide continued with the story of Longwood. Haller Nutt hired Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan for his ambitious project. Sloan brought two hundred artisans from Pennsylvania to Natchez and began work in 1860. Producing over one million bricks on site, the structure of Longwood started to rise to impressive heights. When the structure of the six-story building was complete, the artisans began finishing the inside, starting with the basement.

When the Civil war broke out, the artisans from Pennsylvania didn’t want to be in Mississippi. So they dropped everything and made their way home. Work on Longwood came to a halt. Sensing that things would never be the same and unsure of the future, Nutt was able to finish the basement rooms with slave labor and moved his family into them. He hoped to finish Longwood when he could, but that never happened.

Haller Nutt suffered substantial financial losses during the Civil War. Both armies helped themselves to whatever he had stored and destroyed his cotton. His cash flow problems led to the foreclosure of his Louisiana plantations. He died from pneumonia in 1864, but his family said he died of a broken heart as his empire crumbled around him and his wealth vanished. The family was able to retain Longwood for the next one hundred years, but no more work was ever done to complete the remaining floors.

After we had toured the rooms in the basement, our guide took us up to the unfinished first floor, where four 34-foot by 20-foot spaces surrounded a central rotunda. When you look up from the center of the first floor, you can see the cupola on the sixth floor. The rotunda was designed to have a system of mirrors inside the cupola to reflect sunlight into the many rooms below. The shape of the cupola was designed to pull hot air upward toward the top of the cupola, creating an updraft to draw fresh air through the lower floors. The design and engineering of Longwood were very progressive, but sadly, it was never completed.

I can only imagine that as family members lived in the basement rooms of Longwood for the next one hundred years, there were so many dreams about what could have been. I wondered how often they went to the upper floors and looked at the tools and materials left there. As I looked around at the unfinished rooms, I thought about 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)

Here Jesus tells us not to place too much value on the things of this world. If you treasure them as 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? Of course not. But he tells us that earthly treasures are subject to being eaten, rusted, or stolen. Treasures in heaven are secure. They will remain. 

We understand what treasures are here on earth, but what did Jesus mean by “treasures in heaven?” Many preachers have used this verse to explain why I should give my money to the church. While that might be part of it, I’m confident that is not what Jesus had in mind. He wants us to use our time, energy, and finances to pursue those things that are of eternal value, Those things that will have value in heaven, not on earth.

Gentle Reader, treasures in heaven are things of worth in the kingdom of heaven, such as justice and respect for the dignity of every person. Jesus implies that we should invest our money in activities that transform the world, instead of accumulating earthly treasures. The Bible says, “set your mind on things above, not things on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) Fortunes are made and lost. Mansion deteriorate, or like Longwood, are never finished, “but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:25 (NKJV)

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

In From the Cold

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 15, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I'm not too fond of cold weather. When I must be out in the cold, it puts me in a bad mood. My earliest memories of the cold are from when I was about five years old. My family moved to Michigan, and we lived with my grandparents. I had never seen so much snow in my short life. My Grandpa had a rule about watching television. If I wanted to watch a television program, I had to spend an equal amount of time outside. Because I wanted to watch Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room, I had to spend time outdoors in the cold Michigan winter.

By the following winter, we had moved to Colorado. The winters there were not as extreme as in Michigan, but there was lots of cold weather. One cold weather experience that I remember was the day I turned twelve years old. I attended a small Christian school in Longmont, Colorado. We played snow soccer at recess on days when snow covered all the playground and equipment. Slipping and sliding in the snow was fun as we tried to kick the soccer ball, but I was so cold. I was looking forward to the end of the recess so I could return to school to warm up. But the teacher told us that because it was my birthday, we could stay outside and play soccer for an extra period. I didn't think it was a great present.

I didn't have a warm workplace for many years, so I spent much of the winter cold and miserable. But as much as I dislike the cold, I have always been fascinated by the stories of Antarctic explorers like Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. As a boy, I read everything I could find about Artic and Antarctic exploration. 

Today I enjoy watching YouTube channels by vloggers who live in some of the coldest places on the planet. I love watching Life in Yakutia, Maria Solko's vlog about her life in the world's coldest permanently inhabited place. Another favorite is Cecilia Blomdahl, a Swedish girl living in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the world's northernmost town. I also watch the channel Talasbuan, which chronicles the life of Tova and Mathias, along with their son, Ivar, as they live off-grid in a small cottage in Northern Sweden. Learning about how people live in these harsh climates is very interesting. But I don't want to experience the cold myself.

But as warm summer days come from God, so do cold winter days. "The stormy wind comes from its chamber, and the driving winds bring the cold. God's breath sends the ice, freezing wide expanses of water. He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning. Job 37:9-11 (NLT)

God designed the seasons and the different climates. I don't think He is surprised when some of us are unhappy and depressed when it is cold. What does God say about winter? What can help us out of our winter blues? I like a verse that seems buried in the description of that perfect woman found in Proverbs 31. "She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes." Proverbs 31:21 (NLT) She was prepared for winter and welcomed it. She knew her family had provisions and supplies and warm clothes. She knew that winter was coming and planned for it.

Recently I read a historical story about Niagara Falls that I had never heard of before. The falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America. Six million cubic feet of water go over the falls every minute. But on March 29, 1948, the falls suddenly stopped. Those near the falls heard the overwhelming silence, and immediately they thought it was a sign that the end of the world had come! However, after thirty hours had passed, the flow of water resumed.

The river had stopped flowing because of ice. Heavy winds had set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion and tons of ice had jammed the Niagara River. The ice blocked the flow of water until finally, there was a shift in the blockage and the river began flowing again.

Jesus tells us, "If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person's heart." John 7:30 (NCV) But he also warned us that in the last days, "many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:10-12 (NLT) If we want God's love, peace, and joy to flow, we cannot allow our love to grow cold. If we do, our hearts will become like ice.

The world can be a cold place. But God has promised to keep us safe and warm. "He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection." Psalms 91:4 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, Jesus knew the struggles we would face. He prayed for you and me when He was praying in the garden before His arrest. "I do not pray that you will take them out of the world. I pray that you will keep them safe from the evil one." John 17:15 (NIRV) The cold of the world around us will always be trying to get inside us, so we need to come in from the cold. Jesus says, "come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

Whenever you feel the cold of the world surrounding you, remember the promise found in Isaiah 41:10 (NLT). "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." God promises that he will not leave you out in the cold. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Happy Valentine's Day


The best decision I ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr. Brost's History class at the beginning of my senior year of high school. I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married in their teens, the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend.

A Senior in High School

This girl took my breath away when she walked into class that morning. I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she knew I was interested. I think the good Lord knew that I needed all the help I could get, so he made our paths cross in several ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together weekly to produce learning packets for History class. Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation, and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally, I mustered up every ounce of courage and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me she would like to, but she had already told Russell she would march with him. If I talked to Russell, she would march with me. Once again, summoning up every bit of courage, I talked to Russell. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

The rest is history. There hasn't been a dull moment since.

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
God bless our love
Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
God bless our love

Spending our lives together
Man and wife together
World without end
World without end 

Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through
For our love is true
God bless our love

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Virtual Reality

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 8, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse. 

"Come on over to our condo," my niece said. "We are having a technology show and share." My niece loves new technology and always finds the latest cool and exciting gadgets. At the show and share, my niece showed us several recent purchases. First, she had us try the Oladance open-ear headphones. Unlike traditional in-ear headphones, Oladance features a completely open-ear design that rests gently and securely on top of your ear. The sound and comfort were great, and some ambient sound still came through, so you could hear if someone spoke to you.

The next item in the show and share was the ThermoPro wireless meat thermometer. With its Bluetooth connection, this wireless thermometer can monitor your cooking or grilling up to 500 feet away. It provides an easy way to keep track of the cooking progress and ensure that the meat is cooked to the proper temperature. 

When my niece passed the  OCOOPA rechargeable hand warmers around, I was impressed by how warm they were. They had three temperature levels to keep your hands warm. The high heating level works for eight hours on a charge, medium for 12 hours, and low for 15 hours. One of the useful features of these hand warmers is that they can also be used as an extra power bank. They can provide more than two charges for a cell phone and easily fit into any pocket or bag.

After showing several smaller items, my niece brought out her premier attraction, the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headset. This strange-looking bulky headset was a life-changing experience when strapped onto your head. Virtual reality uses computer technology to create simulated environments and places you inside a three-dimensional experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of you, you are immersed in and interact in a 3D world.

I do not think I have ever had such a bizarre experience as seeing a virtual world with the Meta Quest 2 headset! Here I am learning the controls through a tutorial game, and I can reach down onto a table and pick up blocks, hit a ping pong ball with a paddle, and throw paper airplanes while standing in the middle of my living room. This artificial environment makes it possible to experience anything anywhere! I explored Jeju Island in Korea, where a K-drama I had recently watched was filmed. 

As I played with the headset's possibilities, I swam with sharks, traveled through strange rock formations in Russia, and found myself in the middle of a Cirque du Soleil performance. I rode a roller coaster and felt nauseous by the end. With the virtual reality headset on, it was as if my living room no longer existed and I was thousands of miles away. The whole experience of being immersed in an exciting virtual world is incredible.

As I explored the virtual world in front of me, I remembered a book I read many years ago in high school. In the book Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, there is an advanced form of technology called the feelies that is like a movie theater in many ways. However, on top of sight and sound, smell and touch are added to the experience through vents pumping in various scents and two metal knobs that allow the viewer to feel what is happening on screen. While most people enjoyed this cheap thrill, the protagonist John hates it and believes the feelies are a base, lesser art form than reading. The feelies don't exist today, but virtual reality devices resemble Huxley's feelies. They distort the concept of what is real.

With virtual reality, the reality is defined and controlled by the user. There's a world ready to explore, and you never need to leave your house. The truth of your surrounding no longer matter because you are immersed in an alternate truth. But this alternate truth is not reality. 

I feel that many of us are living in virtual reality. We have surrounded ourselves with the reality we want to experience and shut out all influences that might change our reality. We ensure that all of the information we consume aligns with our world view and the reality we want. Our virtual reality makes it easier to shut out the unpleasant realities of life. When we live in the reality that we have invented, we cannot see injustice and the plight of people around us.

Jesus spoke to this problem when he said, "the King will say to those on his left, 'Go away from me. You will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever that was prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you did not invite me into your house. I was without clothes, and you gave me nothing to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then those people will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or alone and away from home or without clothes or sick or in prison? When did we see these things and not help you?' Then the King will answer, 'I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me.'" Matthew 25:41-45 (NCV)

The people that Jesus was talking about were religious but had been living in virtual reality. They had constructed a world in which they could not see injustice and the needs of others. And in the end, they paid with their life. "For the anger of God is unveiled from heaven against all the ungodliness and injustice performed by people who use injustice to suppress the truth." Romans 1:18 (NTE)

Gentle Reader, virtual reality may be fun to experience, but if we live in a virtual reality that we have constructed, we need to open our eyes and see the world the way Jesus sees it. "Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. Because of the grace allotted to me, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are." Romans 12:2,3 (VOICE) That is the reality we should strive for.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Stand By for News

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 1, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Hello Americans; this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news! For many years I tried to arrange my workday so that I could be near the radio when Paul Harvey would start his daily newscast with those familiar words. Paul Harvey's voice and style made him seem like a friend was telling you what had happened that day. His voice is one of the most recognizable in the history of radio. Over twenty million Americans regularly listened to Paul Harvey each week. One thousand six hundred radio stations carried his broadcast.

Paul Harvey was an innovator in the news business. He was a pioneer in the blending of news and opinion. Harvey never tried to hide that his "news" broadcasts included his personal views and conservative bias. While he personalized the radio news with his conservative opinions, he did it in a friendly way with heart-warming tales of average Americans, and folksy observations that made people feel at ease. 

In 1945, when he was 27, Paul Harvey began reporting the news on the Chicago radio station WENR. Soon, his broadcasts were topping the ratings in the greater Chicago area. In November 1950, the station debuted the 15-minute Paul Harvey News & Comments program. The following year the program was nationally syndicated by the American Broadcasting Company. His distinctive delivery was heard regularly over ABC for almost 60 years until his death in 2009. He was the most listened-to man in broadcasting.

"I have a strong point of view, and I share it with my listeners," Harvey told the American Journalism Review in 1998. Known for his staunch conservatism, he supported McCarthyism in the 1950s and George Wallace's segregation in the 1960s. In his later years, Harvey veered to the left by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights and criticizing the Christian right for attempting to impose its views on others.

The Los Angeles Times described his program this way. "Harvey's typical broadcast included a mix of news briefs, humor, celebrity updates, commentary, and the kind of human-interest stories he loved to tell in order to satisfy the public's hunger for a little niceness."

On May 10, 1976, Paul Harvey premiered a new radio series, "The Rest of the Story." The new program consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on various subjects with some key element of the story, usually the name of some well-known person, held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with the tagline, "And now you know the rest of the story."

The tagline, "the rest of the story," reminded me of a story about my granddaughter. One day, while I was at work, the phone rang. When I answered the phone, my granddaughter said, "Papa, do you remember when we went to Colorado?" "Yes," I replied. She continued, "do you remember when you preached the Friday night, we were there?" "Yes," I answered. "You didn't finish the story. I was wondering what happened to the boy in the story."

In 2018, the Alumni Association of Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, asked me to speak on Friday night of the alumni weekend. My wife and I were graduates of Campion Academy's Class of 1973. We planned a week-long vacation in Colorado, spending time in Denver, Cedaredge, Leadville, and Loveland before attending the alumni weekend. We invited our granddaughter on the trip. 

My wife and granddaughter were in the audience Friday night when I gave my talk. I opened and closed my speech with this story. One night a house caught fire, and the flames forced a young boy onto the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you, and that's all that matters."

Much later, my granddaughter was worried about the boy on the roof. She wondered what had happened to him. She was so curious that she called me. In my sermon, I left the story open because the boy represents each of us, and we have to decide what we will do.

In the book of Acts, there is a story about Paul and Silas. They were in prison for preaching about Jesus. "Suddenly, the ground begins to shake, and the prison foundations begin to crack. You can hear the sound of jangling chains and the squeak of cell doors opening. Every prisoner realizes that his chains have come unfastened. The jailer wakes up and runs into the jail. His heart sinks as he sees the doors have all swung open. He is sure his prisoners have escaped, and he knows this will mean death for him, so he pulls out his sword to commit suicide. 

At that moment, Paul sees what is happening and shouts out at the top of his lungs, Wait, man! Don't harm yourself! We're all here! None of us has escaped. The jailer sends his assistants to get some torches and rushes into the cell of Paul and Silas. He falls on his knees before them, trembling." Acts 16:26-29 (VOICE) When the jailer realized that the prisoners were all accounted for, he brought them out and asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Acts 16:30,31 (NLT)

When my granddaughter asked me what happened to the boy in the story, I told her that the boy trusted the fireman and jumped, so he was saved. The question I need to ask is, what must I do to be saved? I need to believe in Jesus so much that I will trust him and jump into his arms. He can't save me if I don't trust him enough to jump. He can't save me if I am busy trying to save myself. It's time for us to really believe in Jesus Christ: Believe enough to surrender our will and jump into his arms.

Gentle Reader, we are in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. If we stay in our current situation, fire will destroy us. The most critical question in our lives is, what must I do to be saved? In the little boy's situation, the answer was to jump. What is the answer in your life? Will you make that leap of faith? "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Acts16:31 (NLT)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Corrupted Data

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 25, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I rode the elevator down to the motel lobby and walked into the breakfast area. The few options on the breakfast bar were mainly mediocre-tasting carbs. I tried to make a meal even though the selections were minimal. I was heading to the airport and wanted to avoid the overpriced food there. As I was eating, I looked at the television on the wall. The morning news was playing with the sound muted. The headline on the bottom of the screen read, "FAA Grounds All Flights From Taking Off."

I almost choked on my cereal as I read the headline. We were supposed to be at DFW for our flight to Portland in an hour. "What is going on," I thought. I took out my phone to see what I could find out and soon learned that there was an outage of an FAA computer system that sends safety notices to pilots. The outage triggered the FAA to halt all US departing flights. As I read further, I found that the FAA planned to resume flights in about an hour. I checked with American Airlines, and it showed that our flight was still on schedule. Maybe this would still work out okay, but I felt anxious as we headed to the airport.

After going through the TSA checkpoint with only a minor delay, the TSA agent couldn't tell what our selfie stick was on his x-ray screen; we made our way to our gate. We learned that the airline had delayed our flight for one hour. "That's not too bad," I thought, "I feared it might be longer." We contacted our family in Portland, that was going to pick us up at the airport, to let them know of the delay.

When it was five minutes from the new boarding time, and passengers were beginning to line up to board the plane, the information screen at the gate flashed a new departure time. Everyone sat back down to wait for the new time. Two more times, the airline pushed the departure time forward at the last minute. Each time we contacted our family in Portland with the updated information. Finally, after a couple of hours, the boarding time came, and the information screen didn't change. In a few minutes, the airline employees announced that it was time to board the plane. We were finally able to board the plane and find our seats. In a few minutes, we were in the air, headed for Portland.

That evening, I was curious about the cause and severity of the nationwide stoppage of all plane departures. As I read, I learned that over 10,000 flights were delayed and over 1,300 canceled in the first national grounding of flights since 9/11. I felt fortunate that even though we had to wait several hours, we still made it to our destination the same day. Our trip to the Oregon coast the following day was not affected.

The computer failure that led the FAA to halt all US flight departures was caused when a data file was damaged. According to a Fortune article, "unspecified personnel" were responsible for corrupting the file, which led to the outage of an FAA computer system that sends safety notices to pilots, the agency said in a statement. That triggered the FAA to order a halt to all US departing flights, causing thousands of delays and cancellations Wednesday.

The preliminary indications are that two people working for a contractor introduced errors into the core data used on the system known as Notice to Air Missions, or Notam, according to a person familiar with the FAA review. A complete shutdown was required to restore the system, leading the FAA to halt all flight departures for roughly 90 minutes Wednesday morning."

As I read about the computer shutdown required to repair the issues caused by corrupted data, I thought about how much data we consume and dispense daily. When we receive corrupted data, it affects our actions and decisions. All too often, we disseminate corrupted data. Sometimes it is accidental, but many times it is intentional.

It seems to me that lying has become acceptable in our culture. Every day, newscasters put their spin on stories; adults cheat on their spouses or income tax forms; students cheat in school. Many people tolerate or even applaud lying if it benefits them or their agenda. As our culture has accepted lying, so have many Christians. I have felt the sting of fellow Christians spreading lies about me. But God has made it very clear how he feels about lying. In Psalm 34:13 (NLT), the Bible tells us to "keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!" And in Proverbs 12:22 (NLT), we read, "the Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth."

Proverbs 19:5 (VOICE) teaches us, "A false witness will not escape punishment, and one who breathes lies will not go free." Knowing this, it is incredible that we, as Christians, would continue to lie and promote lies. It seems that we don't only lie but dismiss it as if it was not a sin at all. 

Lies are like masks we wear to conceal the inside, and we all do it! Sometimes we think that it is to our advantage to lie. But we all have been a victim of deception, fooled by other people's lies. We don't like it when others deceive us. We live in a distorted world where we lie to others, and they lie to us. But what can we do about it?

To begin with, be honest. Stop deceiving yourself and others. Lies will make you feel good for a moment but, eventually, become a heavy burden. And be careful about the information that you choose to pass on. Are you sure that the juicy story you heard about your neighbor is true? Is the social media post that you are sharing factual? Remember, "liars take no pity on those they crush with their lies, and flattery spoils everyone it touches." Proverbs 26:28 (VOICE)

Gentle Reader, let's make sure we are not disseminating corrupted data. Sometimes that corrupt data can have widespread consequences. We need to listen to the advice of the Apostle Paul; "stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body." Ephesians 4:25 (NLT)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Tide Rises. the Tide Falls

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 18, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

As soon as we parked the car in the condo parking lot, I got out and headed down the path to the beach access. Steep wooden steps led down the cliff to the ocean below. It had been forty eight hours since we drove away from Mena towards Dallas to catch our flight to Portland. After flight delays caused by a FAA computer malfunction, we were finally on the Oregon Coast.

The ocean looked angry as huge waves created an almost deafening roar. I was looking forward to walking on the beach, but the tide was high and occasionally the water and foam would roll in all the way to the cliff banks. As I was standing on the cement landing at the bottom of the stairs to the beach, a huge sneaker wave crashed ashore, and I realized that the water and foam were going to cover the landing. I headed up the stairs and although I made it up several steps, the sea foam licked at my heels.

When the water had receded, I watched as my granddaughter climbed off the platform, down onto the beach while keeping a wary eye on the ocean. She wanted to touch the sea foam and play in it. But it wasn’t long before a wave chased her back up onto the platform and up the steps. Playing on the beach would have to wait for another day. 

Early the next morning, I headed back down to the beach to go for a walk, but the tide was so high that I wasn’t able too. Many of the waves came all the way to the towering cliffs at the edge of the beach, leaving no place to walk. I went back to the condo and checked the tide chart. It was only an hour after high tide, but the tide was receding. Maybe I would be able to I walk the beach after breakfast.

I was at the Oregon coast for a family reunion. Family was here from Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Louisiana, and Arkansas. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law provided condos for everyone and there condo was the central meeting place. All off us crowded into their condo and where they served a delicious breakfast. After everyone had finished eating I took out my phone and began looking through my photos to choose some to post to Facebook. As I opened the app, the first post I saw sent a shock through me.

A friend had posted, “Today we struggle to find much joy. Our little family that we have formed in Polk County took a hard hit last night. We lost a pillar of the crew in a motorcycle wreck. Jason Bird Moga, or Uncle Bird to our kids leaves a big hole in our hearts.” Over the last few years, Bird and I had become friends. I had talked to him just hours before I left for Oregon. When I read the horrible news, I blurted out to those in the room, “My friend passed away last night.” A wave of emotion rolled over me and I couldn’t stay in the room.

I grabbed my coat and rushed outside. I walked down the path toward the ocean access with thoughts swirling in my head. I remembered first meeting Bird and being intimidated by his size and appearance. But when I got to know him, I found him to be a gentle giant. Our mutual love of cars brought us together, but his kindness and willingness to help others was what made want to be his friend. 

When I reached the top of the stairs leading down to the beach, I stopped and just looked out over the ocean. As the waved crashed into the shore over and over, I barely saw them. My mind was filled with thoughts of Bird as my eyes filled with tears. I remembered all of the discussions we had about the project he was going to help me with. We had planned to resurrect the 1967 Toyota Stout that had moved my family to Mena in 1981. The old Toyota was in rough shape, but Bird had a plan to get it back on the road. It seemed that every time we planned to start, his health issues postponed the project.

As I stood lost in my thoughts and blankly staring out over the ocean, my nephew came by on his way down to the beach. As I spoke to him, telling him that my friend had died, it has like a dam broke and I couldn’t hold it inside. I broke down and cried, and it seemed that I couldn’t get my emotions in check. When I was finally able to speak again, he told me that he was going to scout location for surf fishing and invited me to go with him.

We walked along the beach as a light drizzle kept us wet. My nephew explained to me what he was looking for in the wave formations that would indicate a possible place for surf fishing. The tide was still high enough that the occasional wave would send us scrambling up the rocks at the bottom of the cliff side to escape the water. As I walked along the beach, I could hear The Moody Blues singing in my head. “I’ve been searching for my dream a hundred times today. I build then up, you knock them down, like they were made of clay. Then the tide rushes in and washes my castles away.”

When the waves were once again chasing us up onto the safety of the rocks, I thought about the tides as a metaphor of life. One minute you may be excitedly visiting with family you haven’t seen for several years, and the next minute the tide rushes in and the news of a tragedy cults your legs out from under you. There is a cycle to life, and sometimes it seems that the tides are going to drown us. Even David felt this way when he wrote in Psalms 42:6,7 (NLT), “Now I am deeply discouraged, I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about this cycle of life; “The tide rises, the tide falls, the twilight darkens, the curlew calls; Along the sea-sands damp and brown the traveler hastens toward the town, and the tide rises, the tide falls.” In his poem Wadsworth contrasts the travelers journey with the endless, ongoing cycles of the natural world. Our time on earth is so short compared to the vastness of eternity. “The little waves, with their soft, white hands, efface the footprints in the sands, and the tide rises, the tide falls.”

Gentle Reader, we all witness the tide rising and falling in our lives. There are times in our lives when the surging tide rushes in and sweeps over us. Sometimes circumstances overwhelm us and leaves us gasping for breath. But God has promised us that there will come a time when that cycle will be broken. Revelation 21:4 (NCV) tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain.” I long for that day.