Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Chrysler New Yorker

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 31, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The 318 V/8 engine roared to life for the first time in over eight years. The putrid smell of old gas overwhelmed me as the engine raced. It was satisfying to hear the engine running even though there was still a lot of work to be done on the 1940 Chrysler New Yorker Convertible.

Ten years ago, my Daddy purchased the Chrysler New Yorker. It was not running, there was no convertible top, and the interior was terrible, but something about the car intrigued him. The body was decent, and the car was rare. In 1940, Chrysler built fewer than 1000 of these elegant New Yorker convertibles.

After purchasing the car, Daddy took it to his friend Roger, who installed a 318 V/8 engine, automatic transmission, and new modern dash instrumentation. When he received the car back from Roger, he could drive it, but there was still a lot of work to be done.


I have a video of the car in this rough but running condition, showing my six-year-old granddaughter sitting in her Daddy’s lap driving the car down the street in front of my house. The Chrysler is unpainted, and there is no convertible top, but it is driving down the road filled with squeals and laughter.

The transformation of the New Yorker was complete after Daddy painted it maroon, installed a new convertible top, and had the seats reupholstered. It wasn’t long before it was sold. The new owner loved the car and drove it regularly.

One day, the man who had purchased the Chrysler New Yorker visited our shop and looked at cars. He loved Daddy’s latest acquisition, a beautifully restored 1948 Lincoln Continental Coupe. He told Daddy that he wanted the Lincoln Continental but that the only way he could afford it would be to trade in the Chrysler New Yorker. After negotiating a sale price, Daddy once again owned the 1940 Chrysler New Yorker Convertible.

Daddy drove the convertible inside our storage building because he didn’t want it sitting out in the rain. Before long, other cars were parked behind the convertible, and he never drove it again. The car had been sitting in the building for over eight years when my friend Chad and I decided to try to get it running again.

The first step was to put new tires on the Chrysler New Yorker. The old tires had rotted, and there was no way to get them to hold air. After installing tires and purchasing a new battery, we were ready to try and start the car. We were able to get it running, but it wouldn’t idle. We also noticed that the water pump was leaking.

After Chad installed a new water pump and rebuilt the carburetor, we were ready to see how it would run. The V/8 engine ran smoothly and idled adequately, but we still had a small water leak. What could it be? We also noticed that the charging system wasn’t working. After taking the alternator off to get it checked, Chad noticed the hidden freeze plug behind it was leaking.

Once the freeze plug was replaced, the Chrysler was ready to be back on the road. After eight years of neglect in the back corner of a building, the car was ready to drive. This weekend, we drove the New Yorker to Papa’s Mexican CafĂ© for lunch and then went to Wal-Mart. The car attracts attention wherever it is. 

While driving the Chrysler New Yorker on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, I thought about a parallel between rebuilt cars and our spiritual lives. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT) Just like I saw the potential in the New Yorker while it sat in the corner with its tires rotted into the ground, God loves us in our broken-down condition. But even though he loves us in our sinful condition, He doesn’t want us to stay in that condition. He has a vision for our lives. He wants to restore us.

In Job 33:26 (NKJV), The Bible talks about restoration. There, it says, “He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.” God has a plan for each one of us. He plans to restore us to righteousness. The difference between you and me and an old car needing restoration is that the old car is passive. It isn’t part of the decision to restore. But you and I must be willing to be restored.

Old cars that aren’t chosen for a restoration project will eventually rot and rust away until no one can see the possibility of saving the car. They end up abandoned, crushed, or destroyed. Fortunately, God wants to restore all of us regardless of our condition. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV) God doesn’t want us to be abandoned and crushed by this life. He doesn’t want us to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV) tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Unlike the old car that is passive in the restoration process, we have a part to play in our restoration. God wants us to repent. Repentance says to God, “I know I need to be restored. I want you to restore me.” In Romans 2:4 (NASB), the Bible says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? We are led to repentance by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness and feel his love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, we want to love Him. When we love God, we want to please Him. We want to be restored.

Gentle Reader, I hope you will spend some time today reflecting on the kindness God has shown you and tell Him that you are sorry for what you did to hurt Him. God has promised that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) He will restore us if we let Him.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Serpentine Belt

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 24, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The wheels of the airliner touched down on the runway at Portland International Airport. The flight from Dallas had been uneventful, but I was happy to leave my cramped seat and stretch my legs. After collecting our luggage, we called family members waiting at the designated cell phone lot. Within a few minutes, we were picked up and on our way to Red Robin for lunch.

After lunch, we headed out on the highway for Long Beach, Washington, where we would spend the next few days. I rode with my nephew in the Ford Escape that my brother-in-law lent me so I didn’t have to rent a car. We crossed the Columbia River and were driving on Interstate 5 when the dash of the Escape showed a battery warning light. What were we going to do? If the battery wasn’t charging, we could not reach our destination. 

We alerted other family members headed to Long Beach of our predicament and then started looking for the nearest auto parts store. We were only a few miles from Longview, Washington, and drove to the NAPA store there. We turned off the highway into the NAPA parking lot and noticed the power steering wasn’t working. I realized that we didn’t have a battery or charging system problem. A broken serpentine belt was the only thing that could make the charging system and the power steering quit simultaneously.

I popped open the hood, and sure enough, the serpentine belt was missing. Looking at the cramped quarters under the hood, I realized it was not a repair I could do in the parking lot. I started searching for mechanic shops in Longview, hoping someone could do the work that afternoon. If I couldn’t get the belt replaced, we would have to leave the car there and have someone in the family circle back and pick us up.

The first shop I called said it would be four days before they could get us in. I explained to them my predicament, but they stated they couldn’t help me. The second shop that I called was Esty’s Auto Center. When I told them my situation, they said to come to their shop, and they would see if they could work with me. I informed them that I would be right there.

I was expecting to wait several hours, but I was thankful I could get it repaired the same day and still get to Long Beach to meet up with the rest of the family. We drove the half mile to Esty’s Auto Center in just a few minutes and parked in the parking lot. I went inside and told them I had just talked to them about replacing the serpentine belt on my Ford Escape. While the lady was still taking my information, I saw a technician get into the Escape and pull it inside the shop. 

“Wow,” I thought, “I expected to have to wait for at least an hour or two.” My nephew and I sat in the waiting room and visited while waiting. The end wall was a large glass window that looked out over the work bays. I had never seen such a clean, well-organized shop. It was nothing like my own shop. The work was completed within forty-five minutes, and we would soon be back on the road.

As I paid for the job, I thanked them for getting us in so promptly. I told them about the first shop I had called, which informed me it would be four days before they could do the work.  Esty’s told me they were also scheduling work four or five days out, but when they heard that I was traveling and stranded there until I could get the work done, they made an exception for me.

I thanked them again, and we were soon on the road, just an hour behind the rest of the group. As I thought over the afternoon’s events, I couldn’t believe that we had a breakdown, and yet, in one hour, we were back on the road. Two thoughts came to my mind. Number one, there are some wonderful, thoughtful, and helpful people. Number two, it was a God thing.

When my Momma was alive, she referred to those little coincidences in life and times when things seemed to work out when they shouldn’t have as God things.  She went through life looking for those unexpected blessings she called God things. Her outlook on life has left me also looking for God things in my life.

I must confess that I never once prayed to God for help during the Serpentine Belt saga. I only prayed a prayer of thanks when it was over. A Bible verse came to mind when I was thanking God for the wonderful people at Esty’s Auto Center. “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:8 (NKJV)

Just because I was too worried and frustrated to ask God for help didn’t mean he abandoned me. He knew what I needed and directed me to Esty’s Auto Center. “A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (GW)

The next time you feel inconvenienced or like your day is interrupted, stop and consider that you believe God is in control. God has a purpose in everything, and nothing is wasted. We only see the immediate, but God sees the bigger picture. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (KJV)

Gentle Reader, prayer is not about magic words or fancy speech. Prayer is about confidence that God knows us and responds to our needs. With this understanding, our words don't need to be unique or flowery, just heartfelt and genuine! And sometimes, words are not even required. Ask God to open your eyes to the God things that so often happen in your life.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Eagles on Long Beach

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 17, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Every year in January, my wife's family meets somewhere on the Pacific Coast for a family reunion. This year, we are staying in Long Beach, Washington. There are family here from Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Arkansas. Whenever I am on vacation, I am the first one up. I love the quiet of the early morning and love to go exploring.

The sun is still below the horizon as I walk on the beach, listening to the sound of the waves. The moon is full and hanging low on the horizon to the west. The white-silver light of the moon transforms the beach, giving the morning a magical, otherworldly feel. As each wave rolls in from the Pacific Ocean, it rushes over the flat, hard-packed sand of Long Beach. As the water retreats to the ocean, it leaves a glossy mirror-like finish. The soft, glimmering moonlight momentarily shone on the mirrored beach, leaving a pale silver trail. The mirrored finish of the beach was gone too soon, and the next wave rolled in. This wave also left a mirror-like finish that reflected the moonlight. The scene repeated itself over and over as I walked along the beach.

While walking on the beach, I thought about how gorgeous it was. It was hard for me to believe that no one else was there to witness it. As far as I could see in either direction, no one else was on the beach. Long Beach is the world's longest beach on a peninsula. It stretches 28 miles along Washington's southwest coast. One of the most exciting things about Long Beach is that you can drive on it. The beach is an official Washington State highway with a 25-mph speed limit. 

After my early morning walk on the beach, I returned to my car and drove back to the condo, where we spent a long weekend at a family reunion. That morning, I drove on the beach from the condo to the southernmost point of the beach, Cape Disappointment. The rocky outcroppings of the Cape Disappointment headlands are a natural barrier at the end of the beach. As I was driving back, enjoying the view and the surreal experience of driving on a beach, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Coming up beside me on my right was a large bird. I slowed down to get a better look. I could see that it was an eagle with a tremendous wingspan. Because of its dark brown color and large size, I knew it was a golden eagle.

The magnificent bird kept pace with me, or maybe I was keeping pace with the eagle. We traveled together down the beach for a long time. Golden Eagles are one of the largest birds in North America, and to be that close to a bird with a seven-foot wingspan is a surreal experience. The eagle commanded my attention, with its spreading wings as broad as they were powerful. It seemed to be intentionally staying right beside my car, just a few feet away. Seeing the majestic bird resplendent in the early morning light was a wonderfully captivating experience. The encounter ended when the eagle accelerated upward with a mighty burst from its wings and soon soared high into the air. I watched until I could no longer see the eagle.

As the eagle disappeared from view, I remembered Isaiah 40:31 (NLT); "those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." The sight of an eagle flying is an impressive sight. Because of these striking birds' size and the ease and confidence with which they fly, watching an eagle fly always intrigues me. Eagles use the air currents to cover miles of ground with minimum effort. Now and again, a slight movement of their wings is all it takes for the eagle to continue soaring.

How can an eagle soar to such heights with minimal energy? Eagles have very long, large wings. It takes a lot of energy to flap such large wings. Jon. M. Gerrard and Gary R. Bortolotti are scientists who have spent many hours observing eagles. They wrote: "Eagles can sustain flapping flight, but they usually spend little time doing it. During the month when one of the female eagles was observed intensively, she averaged less than 2 minutes per hour in flapping flight. That is not surprising when one considers the large expenditure of energy required to power the huge wings. The energy needed to maintain a bird in flat soaring or gliding flight is much less, perhaps a 20th or less the power needed for flapping. Therefore, eagles will always choose to soar or glide when possible."

That is why eagles often soar on thermals until they reach a great altitude and then use the gliding/soaring method of flying to cover the longest distance using the smallest amount of energy. An eagle makes flying look effortless. When we insist on being in control and doing things in our power, we are like an eagle who doesn't soar. We quickly tire out and get nowhere. Psalm 46:10 (NASB) says, "Cease striving and know that I am God." To find strength, we need to put our trust in God. In Philippians 4:13 (NKJV), the Bible tells us, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

While at Long Beach, I saw many bald eagles and a couple of golden eagles. All along the twenty-eight miles of Long Beach, eagle perches have been constructed. Almost anytime you drive on the beach, you will see eagles. I even saw Bald Eagles wading in the ocean. 

Gentle Reader, spread your wings and soar like an eagle. The only thing that limits you is how much you trust in God. When you trust Him, He has promised you strength. In Philippians 4:19 (NASB), Paul writes, "My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." When you trust Him, God will supply your needs and renew your strength so you can soar like an eagle.    

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Grandfather Clock

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 10, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

It was a cold December day in 1954 as the young couple headed north out of Tennessee on their way to Michigan. The 1949 Frazer Manhattan drove smoothly down the highway as snow started falling. Bob was proud of the Frazer he had bought and rebuilt for this trip. 

He spotted the 1949 Frazer Manhattan behind a gas station in Nashville, Tennessee, while attending college in nearby Madison, Tennessee. The Frazer had been sideswiped, and the front bumper bent, but it was only five years old, very nice, and only 100 dollars. 

The Frazer had belonged to Rod Brassfield, who performed as a comedian at The Grand Ole Opry. Rod had wrecked the Frazier, and it had been totaled. Though he was only eighteen, Bob purchased the wrecked car and rebuilt it with parts he found at a local wrecking yard. With some bodywork and some Bondo, a relatively new product at the time, along with a gallon of blue paint, it looked good, and he was proud of it.

As the road stretched out in front of Bob and his fiancĂ©, Pat, they hoped the roads wouldn’t get any worse before they reached their destination in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Before they got to Michigan, Bob began to hear a tic-tic-tic in the Frazier’s engine. They were relieved when they finally pulled into the driveway of Pat’s house. Bob thought the engine noise was a loose tappet, so he adjusted the valves out in the snow.

Bob felt slightly nervous about meeting Pat’s parents for the first time. What had he gotten himself into? In a couple of days, he would be married.

Bob thought about the whirlwind of activity over the past few weeks. Was he ready for this? Because of the marriage laws in Kansas, where Bob was from, he needed parental permission to marry at 18. When his mother went to the courthouse to complete the proper paperwork, they asked her for the bride’s name. Bob’s mother only knew that her name was Pat and had to return later when she learned Pat’s full name.

The wedding day, Sunday, the 19th of December, started with a ferocious snowstorm. By the time of the afternoon wedding, two feet of snow blanketed the Michigan countryside. The wedding was delayed for an hour as the preacher had difficulty getting there on the unplowed roads. But eventually, Bob and Pat were married, and their new life lay before them.

After spending a few days with Pat’s family in Michigan, the newlyweds headed for Kansas to visit Bob’s family. With only thirty dollars in their possession, they planned on traveling to Kansas and then back to Tennessee. On the way, they splurged and spent one night in a motel that cost five dollars. 

The engine was making a bad noise when the Frazer made it to Kansas. Bob determined that the number five cylinder was knocking. How were they going to get back to Tennessee? Bob removed the spark plug from the bad cylinder, and the Frazer Manhattan limped back home to Madison, Tennessee, where the newlyweds were attending college. With the help of his friend Louie, Bob dropped the pan, pulled the crankshaft, had the number five throw on the crankshaft ground to .060, installed a new bearing, and put it back together. 

A roly-poly little boy was born into the family a little over a year later, and they named him Richie. My parents celebrated their sixty-third wedding anniversary before my Momma passed away in 2018.

Daddy bought Momma a special gift for their fiftieth anniversary: a beautiful Howard Miller grandfather clock. It was one of their prized possessions. The grandfather clock now graces my living room with its stately presence.

The first Grandfather clock was produced around 1680 by a British clockmaker, William Clement. But it would be 200 years before clocks of this type would be referred to as a grandfather clock. They were called longcase clocks, and they were very popular. The name Grandfather Clock is thought to be the result of a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work entitled “My Grandfather’s Clock.”  

The song describes a grandfather’s clock that faithfully ticks its way through its owner’s life. Childhood, adulthood, and old age are all viewed in relationship to his beloved timepiece. The refrain says: “Ninety years without slumbering, Tick, tock, tick, tock, His life’s seconds numbering, Tick, tock, tick, tock, But it stopped, short, Never to go again, When the old man died.”

The steady ticking of the clock reminds us that our time on earth is limited. Despite the joys and pains of life, time always marches on. For the believer, our time on earth is an opportunity for gaining wisdom. The psalmist writes, “Teach us to comprehend how few our days are so that our hearts may be filled with wisdom.” Psalms 90:12 (NCB)

Time is the great equalizer. We all have the same daily twenty-four hours handed to us. “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV) Billy Graham said, “Time is the capital that God has given us to invest. People are the stocks in which we are to invest our time.”  

In Psalms 90: 2-4 (NIRV), the Bible says, “Before you created the whole world and the mountains were made, from the beginning to the end you are God. You turn human beings back to dust. You say to them, ‘Return to dust.’ To you a thousand years are like a day that has just gone by. They are like a few hours of the night.” 

But then the Psalmist contrasts God’s time with the reality of man’s life. “We live to be about 70. Or we may live to be 80, if we stay healthy. But even our best days are filled with trouble and sorrow. The years quickly pass, and we are gone.” Psalms 90:10 (NIRV)

Gentle Reader, what are you investing your time in? “Be careful how you live. Live as men who are wise and not foolish. Make the best use of your time. These are sinful days.” Ephesians 5:15,16 (NLV) Ask God to help you use your time wisely so that you won’t waste the years you have on earth.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Eight Years and Counting

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 3, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The new year of 2016 brought a significant change to my life. In December of 2015, I had been asked if I would be willing to write a newspaper column starting with the new year. I was flattered and said yes immediately, and An Arkie’s Faith was born. I had no idea what it would be like to have a deadline and try to develop a topic every week. But for the last eight years, I have continued to write an article for An Arkie’s Faith.  

The year 2024 will be my ninth year writing for local newspapers. I appreciate everyone who reads my column, especially those who let me know they have enjoyed a particular article. I thought my readers might like to read the first ever An Arkie’s Faith column published on January 7, 2016.

The beginning of a new year is when many people start new things. This year, I’m starting something new: a weekly newspaper column. 

Let me introduce myself. I have been a long-time resident of Mena. My wife and I moved to Mena from Colorado in 1981. I love the people of Mena and the friendly, easy-going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving here. I enjoy the natural beauty of this part of Arkansas and being out of doors. In 2008, I started writing a blog. A friend was visiting our home and showed me her daughter's blog. Because she lived far away from her daughter, she kept up with her through the blog. I had heard the word "blog" but had no idea what it was all about.

While reading the blog, I noticed at the top of the page that it had a link that said create a blog. I had to see what it was all about, so I clicked it. The title was one of the first things that had to be filled in. I spent about thirty seconds thinking and then typed An Arkie’s Musings. Arkie is a slang word for someone who lives in Arkansas.

We used to be officially called Arkansawyers, but now the term is Arkansan. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Arkansas and Oklahoma were some of the hardest-hit states. Many people moved to California trying to get jobs. Arkie and Okie were disparaging terms used by the Californians for people from Arkansas and Oklahoma. Now, the term Arkie is often used to describe a native Arkansan and is often still a bit disparaging. It seems to indicate that someone is unlearned and backward. I have lived here for over 30 years. Though I'm not a native, I am proud to be an Arkansan or even an Arkie. You must admit that An Arkansan's Musings doesn't roll off the tongue.

Like that, I had my own blog and enjoyed writing and posting pictures on it. I had written a little before starting the blog, but not regularly. I had never had a "reason" to write before. Because being a Christian is a big part of my life, many blog posts were on religious topics.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.

I resolve to write in a plain, simple, easily understood style. I hope I will do a better job with this resolution than I have done with resolutions I have made in the past.

My favorite comic as a kid was Peanuts with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, and the gang. I still remember one comic strip I read then. It is January 1st, and Charlie Brown tells anyone who will listen, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer.”  Charlie Brown knew what you already know if you have made resolutions.  Making and keeping resolutions is difficult and usually ends in failure.

How has making resolutions worked out for you? I don't even want to talk about mine. If you have made and broken resolutions on many previous New Year's days, you may feel that you might as well seal them in a bottom desk drawer and forget them.

If you ask most people about the resolutions they made for the New Year, they will tell you that they are going to cut down on their eating, they are going to exercise more, stop doing unhealthy things, etc. While these are reasonable goals, they focus on and rely on self. Self-improvement for most people means making themselves more attractive, healthier, and happier. They depend on willpower to bring about the changes.

Notice how different our typical resolutions are from the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT): “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony”.

Paul’s words are focused on others. If we are to use resolutions wisely, we need to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward others. What kind of resolutions should we make?

The Bible calls John “the disciple that Jesus loved.” Jesus had a best friend. I want my resolution to be the words that the best friend of Jesus wrote in 1 John 4:7,8 (NCV): “Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

I don’t know of a better resolution that you could make. If we all resolve to love others, imagine how different the world would be.

My wife's cousin, Jerry Patton, spent 37 years as the second tenor of The King's Heralds Quartet, America's oldest continuous gospel quartet. One of my favorite songs that he sang was titled One Little Candle. The lyrics, written by George Mysels and J. Maloy Roach, are excellent.

“It's better to light just one little candle, than to stumble in the dark. Better far that you light just one little candle, all you need's a tiny spark.  If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free. The wonderful dawn of a new day we'll see. And if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be".

My resolution for the New Year is to focus on loving others. Gentle Reader, will you join me in resolving to love others? What a bright world this would be if we all lit just one little candle.