Wednesday, August 30, 2023

It's OK

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 30, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The thin woman with short-cropped hair and sparkling eyes walks out on stage with a massive smile and says hi to the judges. When they answer, “Hello, how are you,” she replies, “I’m awesome. So happy to be here.” 

“What are you going to be singing for us tonight?” 

“I’m singing an original song called It’s OK.”

“What is It’s OK about,” 

“It’s OK is about the last year of my life.”

The judges continue the interview, asking, “What do you do for a living?” 

“I have not been working for quite a few years. I've been dealing with cancer.”

“Can I ask you a question? How are you now?” 

“Last time I checked, I had some cancer in my lungs and my spine and the liver.”  

“So, you're not OK?

“Well, not in every way, no.”

“You’ve got a beautiful smile and a beautiful glow, and nobody would know.”

“Thank you. It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.”

Jane steps up to the microphone and nervously glances to the side as the audience sits silently, waiting for the performance to begin. When the first piano chord resonates through the concert hall, she smiles and sings, “I moved to California in the summertime. I changed my name, thinking that it would change my mind. I thought that all my problems they would stay behind. I was a stick of dynamite, and it was just a matter of time, yeah.”

By the time she reaches the chorus, singing, “It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay,” the judges and the audience are enchanted by her fantastic voice and the joy that beams from her face as she performs.

When the last note fades away, she steps back from the microphone, and the joy she showed throughout the performance changes to a pensive, contemplative expression. For a moment, the concert hall is deathly silent; then, the audience erupts with applause and a standing ovation. 

It was a moment unlike any other on America’s Got Talent. After the applause died out, judge Simon Cowell spoke to the young woman who goes by Nightbirde when she sings. “There was something about that song after the way you just almost casually told us what you're going through.” He stops talking and takes a deep breath, seemingly at a loss for words.

Nightbirde responds to him, “You can’t wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy,” and the audience explodes into applause at her words.

As he wipes away a tear, Simon regains his composure and says, “There have been some great singers this year, and I’m not going to give you a yes.” The audience groans as the expression on Nightbirde’s face goes from a big smile to a tight-lipped sadness. But Simon continues, “I'm going to give you something else,” and he reaches across the judges’ table and triumphantly smashes the golden buzzer.

Golden confetti rains down on Nightbirde as she falls onto the stage in disbelief. Her story, performance, and happiness in the face of adversity had impacted everyone in the room. She would go on to touch people’s lives all over the world. Her song, It’s Ok, reached the number one spot on the iTunes charts, and millions watched the YouTube video of her fantastic performance. Everyone was rooting for Nightbirde in her battle with cancer.

Soon after her America’s Got Talent audition, Nightbirde had to step away from live performances due to her health. "It's so hard for me to not be on the @agt stage for the finals this week," she wrote. "I bet you never saw someone win so hard and lose so hard at the same time. This isn't how the story was supposed to go."

Nightbirde’s battles were now well documented in the media. She honored requests for interviews when she was able. Her positivity and her faith in God always show through. When asked about her faith and music, she answered, “There is no area of my life where my faith is not going to seep into it. It's part of the core of me, so if you listen for it and look for it, then you'll see Jesus all over it. You'll find it there, but I'm not just writing music for people who believe the way that I believe. I think that's ridiculous. I love to make music that brings people joy.”

When asked about her upbeat attitude in the face of such adversity, she answered, “I don't have control, but I do have some power over what happens to me, and a lot of that is my attitude and the thoughts that I allow in my mind. Thoughts are birds that can fly over your head, and I can't do anything about that. But if a bird tries to make a nest in my hair, I can do something about that. The depression and the anxiety will always be flying over my head, but they're not going to land. That's my jurisdiction that I'm the boss of, and that's what I do.”

Nightbirde lost her battle with cancer just a few months later. Her life touched millions of people. She was the embodiment of James 1:2 (NLT). Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

In her song, The Story I’ll Tell, Nightbirde wrote, “The hour is dark, and it's hard to see what You are doing here in the ruins and where this will lead. Oh, but I know that down through the years, I look on this moment and see Your hand on it and know You were here. Oh, my God did not fail. Oh, it's the story I'll tell. Oh, I know it is well. Oh, it's the story I'll tell.”

Gentle Reader, Nighbirde’s story inspires me to be a better person. It inspires me to praise God even in the dark hours of life. In one of her last social media posts, she said, “Just because you're sad or grieving doesn't mean that you're not grateful, and it doesn't mean you're not hopeful. Be sad and be grateful. And look at the twinkly lights and feel your feelings, and it's all real -- the joy and the pain -- is all real, and you don't have to pick one or the other like, it’s beautiful, or life is garbage. It's kind of both sometimes.” “Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalms 30:5 (NCV)


You can watch Nightbirde's Golden Buzzer performance on America's Got Talent here:

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Wrong Side of the Tracks

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 23, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

In June 2022, an obituary was published in Bay City, Michigan. “Lonzo F. Green of Gladwin, Michigan passed away on June 17, 2022. He was born on August 14, 1928, to Frank and Melverta Green in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. He was a member of Good Shepherd Church and the Michigan Bluegrass Hall of Fame. He enjoyed attending church, Preaching, playing music, and spending time with family. He was active with Wilma Caraview, often attending church together, visiting friends, and playing music together.” 

At the end of his life, Lonzo wasn’t known outside his friends, family, and community, but that wasn’t the case when he was young. Frank and Melverta Green raised Lonzo in a Christian home and paired him with his younger brother, Forrest, to sing at churches and revivals throughout Arkansas. He worked in the fields with his family and was always close to the land and the rich musical heritage of his neighbors.

In 1951, Lonzo and his wife Maxine moved to Flint, Michigan, with other members of the Green family. Lonzo, Maxine, his brother Forrest, and Forrest’s wife Margie sang Gospel music throughout Michigan as The Green Family. They also had a one-hour radio program on WMRP in Flint, Michigan. At that time, Forrest met businessman Rudy Kotelas who believed in his music and sponsored his first record in Nashville, Tennessee. 

After getting their start in Nashville, Forrest recorded "Rain Must Be Teardrops" and "Day For Leaving" on Ranger Records, which made the national charts! At that time, these were Michigan’s #1 selling country records! The success of his records led Forrest to perform on the Grand Ole Opry and shows throughout the United States and Canada. When Forrest began touring nationally, Lonzo decided that life on the road wasn’t for him. Although Forrest Green spent his life performing and running a recording studio and record label, Lonzo faded into obscurity.

I heard about Lonzo on Paul Harvey’s radio broadcast, The Rest of the Story. While Lonzo was playing in the band with his brother, and the group had gained regional notoriety, he visited relatives in Tennessee. His nephew Jimmy was excited when his famous Uncle Lonzo stayed at their house.

Jimmy came to school the next day, telling all his friends about his Uncle Lonzo Green, who had recorded in Nashville. One friend wanted to meet Lonzo. Jimmy’s friend had gotten an old guitar and wanted to learn how to play but did not know how to tune it. He wanted to come to Jimmy’s house and have Lonzo tune his guitar and show him some chords. When Jimmy asked his parents if his friend could come to see Uncle Lonzo, they said, “No, he is white trash and not welcome in our home.”

When Uncle Lonzo found out, he told Jimmy he would meet his friend. Lonzo had grown up in poverty and felt compassion for the boy. To appease Jimmy’s parents, they would stay outside. When they met, it was evident to Lonzo that this quiet, dark-haired boy was embarrassed and felt out of place in this upper-class neighborhood. The boy’s guitar was old, cheap, and hung around his neck with just a piece of string. After Lonzo showed the shy teenager how to tune his guitar, he offered to teach him some songs. The boy was so surprised and happy that Lonzo would spend two hours playing and singing with him. 

When it was time for supper, Lonzo told the boy goodbye, never to see him again. The boy crossed the tracks back to his side of town. The young boy never got to go inside the upscale home and would never see Lonzo again, but he left with a beautiful memory.

Paul Harvey ended the story by saying, “It is a sad tale until you realize the boy went on to star in 33 motion pictures and sell millions of records. That boy would never be unwelcome again. His name was Elvis Presley. And now you know the rest of the story.” The white trash from the wrong side of the tracks, who wasn’t allowed in the upper-class home, became known as the King of Rock and Roll.

As I heard the story of Lonzo and Elvis, I thought about a passage found in James 2:1-4 (NLT) “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” 

John Wesley said, “We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.” Too much of today’s Christianity is focused on judging others. Many people seem to be looking for reasons to hate those different from them. But Jesus said, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!” Luke 6:31-33 (NLT) 

And then Jesus made his teaching even more straightforward. “Love your enemies! Do good to them…Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:35-37 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, no human being is entirely free of prejudice or discrimination. It’s part of our selfish nature to prefer those of our kind, whatever that represents to us. Discrimination wrongly judges a person based only on external factors or personal preference. “Remember that the Lord draws no distinction between Jew and non-Jew—He is Lord over all things, and He pours out His treasures on all who invoke His name.” Romans 10:12 (VOICE) Instead of judging others, ask God to give you the ability to love. “Do not owe people anything, except always owe love to each other, because the person who loves others has obeyed all the law.” Romans 13:8 (NCV)

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Lahaina Town Remembered

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 16, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

My phone pinged, and I pulled it out of my pocket to look at it. A notification said that a wildfire was raging in Lahaina Town on the Hawaiian island of Maui. My heart sank as I viewed the accompanying photos. Two years ago, I spent a week in Lahaina and fell in love with the people and the area. 

Over the next few days, I watched in horror as reports of the devastation came in. This morning the Associated Press reported, “As the death toll from a wildfire that razed a historic Maui town climbed to 93, authorities warned that the effort to find and identify the dead was still in its early stages. The blaze is already the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.”

According to the Maui Fire Update website, “Lahaina Harbor is gone, and the banyan tree is charred (it’s said that if the roots are healthy, it will likely grow back, but it looks burned yet standing).” It was the first bit of possibly good news that I had read. On my visit to Lahaina two years ago, the Banyan tree made an impression on me, and I wrote about it. 

On the first morning of my visit to Maui, I dress quietly before dawn. Slipping out the condo’s front door into the darkness of the Maui night, I walk to the parking lot and get into my rental car. It is just a short drive to Kahekili Beach, and I park the car and walk down to the beach in the moonlight. An occasional sneaker wave washes over my feet as I walk south on the sandy beach. It isn’t easy to see in the dim moonlight, so it surprises me when the wave comes farther than usual. As the water washes the sand around my feet, I lose my balance. After a few times, I learn to stand still when the wave comes, not moving until the water has subsided and the sand is stable again.

After walking over a mile, I returned to my car. The first rays of morning light are chasing away the darkness. I drive toward Lahaina Town, anxious to see it for the first time. In the first morning light, almost no one is on the streets. I quickly found a place to park and started walking toward the town center. I pass stores and galleries that will be filled with customers in a few hours. I walk past an old historic home and stop to read the historical plaques that tell its story.

The Baldwin Home is the oldest house still standing on the island of Maui. Reverend Ephraim Spaulding built the original four-room structure between 1834-35. The area offered a direct view of the Lahaina landing and the ocean beyond where whaling ships would anchor. Reverend Spaulding became ill in 1836 and returned to Massachusetts, and Reverend Dwight Baldwin and his wife moved into the home. The couple had eight children, all born in Hawai’i.

As their family grew, so did the house. In 1840, Reverend Baldwin added a bedroom and a medical study. And in 1849, he completed the entire second floor. The home faces prevailing winds from the ocean with large windows in the front. The walls are 24 inches thick and constructed of coral, sand, and lava rock with rough-hewn timber framing. The thick walls and high ceilings help keep the interior cool.

As I walk the grounds of the Baldwin Home, I see remnants of the kitchen’s foundation and firepit in the rear yard. I try to imagine the sights and sounds of Lahaina during those early years when as many as 700 whaling ships came through Lahaina in a year. Ship captains on year-long whale hunts would rest their crews in Lahaina. Whaling ships would restock their provisions in Lahaina, staying there for weeks. The sailors were a raucous crowd engaging in long stints of drinking and debauchery. The sailors’ behavior disturbed many Maui residents, and the missionaries, such as Reverend Baldwin, were very vocal in their opposition to the lifestyles of the whalers.

I see Lahaina's most famous landmark just a few blocks from the Baldwin House. Spreading out in front of me is a gigantic banyan tree. It covers an entire city block and is 50 feet tall. I sit on a bench under its branches, taking in its beauty and grandeur. Because I have never seen a historical plaque that I didn’t read, I found out that this banyan tree was imported from India and planted in front of the Lahaina Courthouse and Lahaina Harbor in 1873 by the sheriff of Maui and is now the largest in the state. It has a canopy circumference spanning a quarter mile and covers almost two acres. Banyan trees can cover so much ground because they have roots that grow from outward-extending branches and reach the ground, becoming trunk-like and expanding the tree’s footprint.

In some ways, the banyan tree reminds me of what a community should be. The banyan grows by using aerial prop roots. When a mature tree, its spreading branches produce hundreds of these roots. Some grow until they reach the ground. There, they anchor themselves and develop into new trunks. Imagine numerous branches with dangling roots that produce more trunks and branches with dangling roots. Over time you have a whole grove connected, covering ample space.

The more roots the tree puts down, the more it grows. And the more it grows, the branches must have firmly grounded roots to hold them up. Everything is interconnected. Without the roots, the branches would fall. Without the branches, the roots wouldn’t exist. 

Gentle Reader, you need your community, and your community needs you. If the community is to grow and prosper, we all need each other and must work together. We will never be a strong community when we refuse to work together. We can never prosper when our disagreements become more important than our common goals. Paul describes the Christian community this way. “Each one of us has a body with many parts, and these parts all have different uses. In the same way, we are many, but in Christ we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts.” Romans 12:4,5 (NCV) 

The phrase, “each part belongs to all the other parts,” seems like a good description of a banyan tree. If we want to be a productive part of our community and be like the banyan tree, we need to follow the guidance found in 1 Peter 4:8-10 (Message). “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Blessed by a Hurricane

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 9, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The stately two-story house stood on the banks of Lake Houston. She has never seen anything like it in the forty years since her family lovingly built her. Wave after wave of heavy rains battered her. The winds are swirling around her, and she is creaking and groaning as she struggles to withstand the storm. In the yard, trees are swaying madly, screaming as their limbs strain against the onslaught. The house begins to be tested: the roof, the windows, and the walls are all under attack. The house worries that she will be damaged and her family will not be able to live there anymore.

When the winds finally stop, the stately house realizes she is still standing. She has made it through the storm. Her mind drifts back to the time that the family built her. Dad was a builder by trade, creating the stately house where he would raise his family. Mom loved the new place and its delightful setting on the shores of Lake Houston. The kids enjoyed bringing their friends home to the stately house. They especially liked the swimming pool in the backyard. Mom was happy when laughing kids were having a good time at her house. The stately house was thankful that she was still standing and that the family would soon be able to return home.

Even though the winds stopped battering the stately house, the rains continued to fall. Over the next two days, over 30 inches of rain fell. The water levels of Lake Houston rise until they are lapping at the front door of the house. But it keeps raining, and the water keeps rising. Soon there are several inches of water on the floor, and the water is rushing in at the front, the sides, and the back. To the stately house, it feels like an invasion. By the time the lake reaches its highest level, deep water covers the entire first floor of the stately house. She is waterlogged and despondent. When the water levels start to recede, the house wonders what will become of her. Will her family ever be able to live in her again?

Inside, there’s at least an inch of mud on the floor, and the mold on the walls is chest high. It looks like someone broke in and ransacked the house. Everything from the shelves covers the floor. The knife block sits in the living room with the knives still in it. The refrigerator is full of spoiled food, and the house stinks like an army of dirty feet. The front door is blocked by a bookcase so swollen with water that it collapses into a massive pile of books and shelves. The once stately house is a stinky mess.

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane that caused this historic, catastrophic flooding in August 2017. The family displaced from the stately house were among 30,000 families in the area with no place to stay. They wondered if their family home would be able to be saved. When Dad first inspected the damage, his heart sank. There was so much damage. There was debris everywhere. How could they ever make the stately house liveable again?

When the family started the daunting task of cleaning up, friends began showing up to help. Mom was standing at a second-story window and looking over the mess where a yard had once been.  The yard was full of laughter. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She looked out at a group of her kids' friends partying. Her kids had become adults many years ago, but here were their friends, the same kids who had spent so much time at the stately house when they were young, once again having a great time in her yard. There was loud music, laughing, and dancing. They were working hard with shovels and brooms, cleaning up the debris. It was dirty, smelly, nasty work. But they were having a great time.

Mom couldn’t believe that so many people were there to help with the cleanup. While they were cleaning debris, a carpenter drove up in his pickup, pulling a trailer with his tools. He told Dad, “When I heard that your house was flooded and that you were repairing it yourself, I came as soon as possible. I have brought my tools and will stay and work with you until you are finished.” Many other people donated their time. Before long, the house was once again stately, ready for the family to move back in.

When Mom, from the stately house, was telling me the story, she said, “I have never felt so blessed in my life as I did in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.” I thought, “How can someone feel blessed when dealing with such trying circumstances.” I know that The Bible says, “God is ready to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine so that you’ll always be taken care of in every way and you’ll have more than enough to share.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (VOICE) But how can someone feel blessed when their home has been devastated by a hurricane?

As Mom continued the story, she told me that as a builder, Dad had given many of the people that came to volunteer their start in the business. They loved and respected him, and they came when they heard that he needed help. Mom had shown love and kindness to her kids' friends. She had let them know that they were always welcome to share in the happiness of the stately house.

Gentle Reader, “Give, and it will be given to you. You will have more than enough. It can be pushed down and shaken together and it will still run over as it is given to you. The way you give to others is the way you will receive in return.” Luke 6:38 (NLV) Our blessings are based on our willingness to bless others. How we treat others will determine how God treats us. God has been gracious to us, so we should share that graciousness with others. If we do, the blessings in our cup will be running over.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Judd Falls

 My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 2, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I had been looking forward to spending some time in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for several months. Now I was finally there. After spending a day in Frisco and staying at the wonderful Frisco Inn on Galena, we headed to Crested Butte, where we would meet with family and stay for a few days.

The drive from Frisco to Buena Vista was beautiful, but as we headed west out of Buena Vista on the winding road to Cottonwood Pass, the scenery took my breath away. From Buena Vista, the road quickly climbs to its summit of 12,126 feet, 500 feet above the tree line. Cottonwood Pass is the highest paved mountain pass over the Continental Divide.

We had 360-degree views of two distinct watersheds from the top as we walked up the trail, trying to breathe in the thin mountain air. After taking many photos of the spectacular views, we returned to the truck to head down the pass. The road wound down through the Taylor Canyon along the river to the massive Taylor Park Reservoir.

The following day, we took Gothic Road to Emerald Lake. There we saw the beautiful green mountain lake nestled in a meadow surrounded by a spectacular display of blooming flowers. The meadows were alive with colorful wildflowers showing off their vibrant yellows, whites, purples, and reds. After exploring the Emerald Lake area and taking many photos, we drove to the Judd Falls trailhead. 

We hiked the half-mile trail to the falls through fields of wildflowers and towering Aspen. There were terrific views of the surrounding mountains, including Gothic Mountain, Mt. Baldy, and Mt. Crested Butte. The trail was well-defined, and it was necessary to stay on the path because all the surrounding land is under study by the Rocky Mountain Biological Research Laboratory. 

In 1928, Western Colorado College professor Dr. John Johnson founded the biological research laboratory at the abandoned mining town of Gothic. Recognizing the rich diversity of the local ecosystems, he began bringing students to study amid Gothic’s ruins. Since then, thousands of students and scientists have followed in Dr. Johnson’s footsteps, making the ecosystems around Gothic some of the most intensively studied in the world and making Rocky Mountain Biological Research Laboratory an internationally renowned center for scientific research and education.

While hiking through a large stand of aspen trees, I looked up to see a rainbow in the sky. But it was different than any rainbow I had ever seen. Among the clouds were perfectly horizontal and brightly colored bands. I snapped a quick photo before the colors disappeared. The sight made such an impression that I researched the phenomenon later that evening. 

 I learned that what I had witnessed is referred to colloquially as a “Fire Rainbow.” But it was neither fire nor a rainbow. Technically they are known as circumhorizontal arcs - an ice halo formed by hexagonal, plate-shaped ice crystals in high-level cirrus clouds. The halo is so large that the arc appears parallel to the horizon. 

For a fire rainbow to occur, the conditions must be exact. Three things must align perfectly. The sun must be at an elevation of 58 degrees or greater. High-altitude cirrus or cirrostratus clouds must be present with ice crystals. Sunlight must enter the ice crystals at a specific angle to refract the light. This is why circumhorizontal arcs or fire rainbows are rare phenomena.

As I carefully made my way down the rocky trail to the falls, I could hear the roar of rushing water. But it was not until the last minute that the trail ended with a view of the falls from a cliff. Warning signs told of the danger of getting too close to the edge. I rested on a bench at the viewing area and took in the beauty of the falls.

While talking with a representative of the Rocky Mountain Biological Research Laboratory there, I learned the story of the drama that had occurred the day before. A hiker decided to go down the extremely steep hillside to view the falls from ground level. As he made his way down, holding on to a small tree for support, the tree came up by the roots, and he crashed headlong down the mountainside, finally ending up in the water below.

Fortunately, he was with friends who could contact the authorities to rescue him. It took four hours for the Crested Butte Mountain Rescue Team to get to him and bring him safely back up the mountainside. His injuries were not life-threatening, but he will never forget his experience.

The representative of the Rocky Mountain Biological Research Laboratory told us the story of the unfortunate hiker to keep us from trying to make our way down to the falls. She wanted us to know the danger and warn us about the possible consequences of trying to reach the bottom of the falls.

As I thought about the warnings given to us at the overlook of Judd Falls, I realized there was a parallel between those warnings and God’s law. Every law that God has given us reflects His desire for the joy and well-being of His people. Each rule protects His people as they live in a sinful world.

Often, we look at God's law as repressive. It creates uncomfortable restrictions. But we need to look at His laws as protection. In his book, “The Purity Principle,” Randy Alcorn uses an analogy about driving along a mountain pass when it’s dark and foggy, and your car runs off the road, and you hit the guardrail. You slam on the brakes and get out of the car with a flashlight. What do you do? Do you look at the fender of your car and say, “Oh no. That rotten guardrail! Why did somebody put that guardrail there? Now I’ve got a dented fender!”? No, you thank God for that guardrail. It’s there for your benefit. That guardrail saved your life!

Gentle Reader, instead of seeing God’s laws as a burden, we need to ask God to help us see his commandments as guardrails to keep us from danger. “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (NLT)