Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Little MG

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

The rain was pouring down as a customer pulled up to my business. A man got out of his van and entered my shop. “I am here to look at the 1937 Buick you have for sale on Facebook Marketplace,” he said. As we walked into the building that has several of my collector cars, he stopped to look at each one.

“ I am looking for another car for my collection,” he shared. “I love old cars, and I enjoy just looking at them. I have several cars on display on my property.” I learned he had a 51 Jeep Jeepser, a 1957 Ford Convertible, a 49 Mercury, a 58 Cadillac, and many more.

After looking at my cars and pricing several, he saw my early 50s MG replica. He immediately started talking about how great the MG would look under one of the display carports that dotted his property. After some back-and-forth negotiating, we negotiated a price and made delivery arrangements. 

As Chad and I loaded the MG onto Chad’s trailer, I thought about all those years ago when my Daddy built the car from a kit. In the late 70s and early 80s, building kit cars on a VW chassis was trendy. In 1981, Daddy purchased a complete MG replica kit from MIGI. He spent many hours building the car. At about the same time he was building the MG, he built an addition to the side of his shop. When he completed the addition, the first thing he stored in the new building was the recently completed MG replica. The little MG didn’t move from that spot for 35 years.

Daddy never owned a car that wasn’t for sale. Over the years, he had many people interested in the little MG kit car. But the value of kit cars dropped dramatically after he finished the MG. They fell out of favor, and the market was flooded with them. He had paid a lot for the complete kit, which included the gel-coat fiberglass body, interior, convertible top, and all-new chrome bumpers and grill. No one was willing to pay the price he was asking for the beautiful little MG, which just sat in the corner of the new addition.

After a few years, the little car was covered in plastic sheeting to keep the dust and dirt from damaging the finish. As the years went by, more and more parts were stored around the little MG until it was barely visible. Several years ago, Daddy sold the MG to a friend. It took several days to uncover and get the little car out of the building. When we moved it outside, the MG saw the light of day for the first time in 35 years. Daddy’s friend said, “This is a real barn find.”

Under the dust and dirt accumulated in those 35 years was basically a brand-new car. The new owner of the little MG cleaned and detailed it and replaced the tires, and once again, the MG looked like it belonged in a new car showroom. When Daddy saw the newly refreshed MG, he liked it so much that he bought it back. Now, the car has a new owner, and  I’m happy it has found a new home with someone who loves and appreciates it.

In the business of classic cars, barn finds are the holy grail. Anyone with a healthy bank account and a computer can find the vehicle of their dreams, but barn finds are special magic. Barn finds are intact cars that have been untouched and out of sight for years. Finding a particular vehicle, left untouched for years or even decades, is rare. In the collector car world, barn finds come in all shapes and sizes. But one thing remains constant: a great barn find makes all the effort worthwhile.

In 2014, a remarkable barn find of rare automobiles was made on a farm in the West of France. After the owner had died, the children inherited the estate, which included a collection of old cars that had been untouched for many years. Wanting to determine the value of the vehicles, they called France's leading antiques auctioneer.

When the appraisers entered the property, they could see many makeshift shelters covered with tin. As they walked around the farm, they found more and more cars under the makeshift structures, and almost all of them were extremely rare. They found significant models from many legendary brands in European automotive history. The cars had been untouched for at least 50 years. The appraisers valued the cars at between 18 and 20 million dollars. The find was so significant that it was even reported in the U.S. press.

The Bible has a “barn find” story. Well, it is not exactly a barn find, but more of a field find. We read about it in Matthew 13:44 (NIV). “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Jesus was telling a story about the value of the kingdom of heaven. A man found a treasure in a field. He stumbled across a “barn find.” He put together a plan. He was so excited about his find that he sold everything he had and scraped all of his money together to buy the piece of land with the treasure on it. He knew that the treasure was very valuable, and there was no question that he had to buy the field.

Can you imagine what his friends and family thought? I bet they thought he was crazy. Why would he sell everything to buy that piece of land? They didn’t know that he was gaining a priceless treasure worth far more by selling everything he owned. What is this treasure that is so important? Colossians 2:3 (GW) tells us, "God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.”

Gentle Reader, are you willing to sacrifice everything you own to gain the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ? When Jesus was asked what the great commandment in the law is, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) This is what it takes to gain the treasure found in Jesus. This is the ultimate barn find.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tycho and the Solar Eclipse

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

The young Danish boy waited in anticipation of the big event. An eclipse of the sun was predicted for August 21. Such a prediction seemed bold and miraculous to the 14-year-old student. But when Tycho witnessed the eclipse in 1560, he saw and believed. The fact that the event had been accurately predicted based on celestial observations profoundly impacted him. It inspired him to become an astronomer. 

Tycho quickly realized that the science of astronomy could only progress if it had systematic, accurate, and, above all, nightly observations. He refined old instruments, built new ones, and spent the rest of his life assembling one of human history's most significant bodies of astronomical data.

Tycho Brahe was a friend of King Fredrik II of Denmark. The king gave Tycho an island and practically unlimited funds to design, build, and operate an observatory. Tycho made many observations of the stars. Over his lifetime, Tycho completed a star catalog providing the positions of 1000 stars. His observations, the most accurate possible before the invention of the telescope, included a comprehensive study of the solar system.

His work supported the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun, which Copernicus had developed earlier. Tycho made his observations using a compass and a sextant. He invented many instruments that helped him with his work, which were copied and improved by other astronomers.

On November 11, 1572, he suddenly saw a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, where no star was supposed to be. Tycho carefully observed the new star, brighter than Venus, and showed it was a fixed star beyond the Moon. This phenomenon, a supernova, was an unsettling discovery to the scientific world. They regarded the stars as perfect and unchanging. The news that a star could change as dramatically as the supernova described by Tycho and the Copernican theory that the Sun, not Earth, was the center of the universe shook their confidence in the immutable laws of Greek antiquity. The new information challenged the prevailing belief in how the universe was organized.

Tycho’s discovery of the new star in Cassiopeia in 1572 and his publication of his observations in De Nova Stella in 1573 marked his transformation from an unknown, to an astronomer with a European reputation. Tycho Brahe’s lifetime of observational data was used by his assistant, Johannes Kepler, to develop Kepler's laws of planetary motion. In his scientific works, Kepler described the orbits of planets around the Sun and helped sway scientific thought away from an Earth-centered universe.

Many people may think of scientists as stodgy academics, but Tycho Brahe’s flamboyant lifestyle would have made some of today's wild celebrities look like choirboys. His life ended with as much craziness and intrigue as the life he led.

At the age of 20, he lost part of his nose in a duel with another Danish nobleman. The duel started over a disagreement about a mathematical formula. The only solution they could devise was to try to kill each other. So the pair engaged in a drunken duel at night, in the dark. For the rest of his life, Tycho wore a prosthetic nose. His fake nose was made of copper, although he probably also had gold and silver noses for special occasions.

One day, Tycho saw a moose and instantly decided to get one. Since he was wealthy, he bought a pet moose. The moose liked him and would walk alongside him like a dog. It lived in the castle and joined in on Tycho’s parties. The moose would regularly get drunk with him. When people invited Tycho to a party, they also asked him to bring his pet moose. Unfortunately, the moose’s drinking was ultimately its undoing. It got drunk at one party and fell down a flight of stairs in the castle. That was the untimely end of the moose.

Tycho lived in a castle, keeping a rather unusual group of regular entertainers. He employed a little person called Jepp as his court jester. Tycho believed that Jepp possessed psychic powers and often consulted him on decisions. Jepp spent most dinners under the dining table.

But Tycho’s life seems almost mundane compared to his mysterious death. He died of a sudden bladder disease in 1601 while at a banquet in Prague. He was unable to urinate except in the smallest of quantities, and after eleven days of excruciating agony, he finally died. At least, that's the official story.

Before his death, Tycho wrote his own epitaph and summed up his life by saying, “He lived like a sage and died like a fool.” His final words were, "May I not seemed to have lived in vain."

Nobody likes to live their lives in vain. To live lives to the fullest, some people work hard to make money, build a successful career, and gain social status. Others focus on a happy family life. No matter what, people want to have a fulfilling life. 

Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to everyone, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

God created our lives, so only when we restore a relationship with our Creator and His intended purpose for giving us life can we find a satisfying meaning to our existence.  “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

Sometimes, we all have days when we feel that our lives are in vain. You may think that your job is mundane. However, it's an opportunity to be God’s light in your workplace. Maybe you feel that you don’t make a difference as a homemaker or caregiver.

Author Stacey Pardoe writes, “As you rock your newborn, you are establishing a secure attachment that will be a foundation of strength for the rest of this little one’s life. You embody God’s love as you tend to an elderly loved one, a noisy room of preschoolers, or a cantankerous client. Additionally, your hidden work is shaping your heart. God is testing your faithfulness in the darkness of obscurity.  He is examining your willingness to serve others without applause.”

Gentle Reader, “We don’t know the results of our efforts for the Lord, but in faith, we can trust that obedience is never in vain. In other words, there is no real failure, properly understood, when the Lord is on our side. Our labor for Him will never come up empty.” - Dr. Bradley Baurain 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


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

As we drove up the mountainside to my cousin’s house to attend an eclipse viewing party, clouds filled the sky. “Oh my,” I thought; “After several days of back-and-forth weather forecasts, I thought today was going to provide a cloud-free sky for viewing the eclipse.” 

We set up on the deck with a great view of the sky. The sun was almost peeking through the clouds, and then it disappeared. I put on my eclipse-viewing glasses and looked toward the sun. Occasionally, I could see the shape of the sun through the clouds. It was twenty minutes until the eclipse began. Hopefully, the clouds will clear by then.

A few minutes later, the sky cleared, and not a cloud was near the sun. I sat back in the reclining chair and put on my eclipse-viewing glasses. Excitement built in our group as the reality set in that the eclipse was beginning. When the first tiny black crescent appeared on the sun, everyone quieted as they focused on the sight before them.

After an hour of watching the black disc march across the face of the sun, our excitement built again as we prepared for totality. Suddenly, the tiny crescent disappeared, and there was a single, spectacular, bright point of light. We took off our viewing glasses and looked directly at the sun. Circling the blackness of the Moon, we saw a brilliant light, the Sun’s corona. Totality had begun!

My first view of totality was mind-blowing: excellent, beautiful, delicate, fantastic, and powerful. It left me with no words to describe what I was seeing. The air temperature dropped noticeably, and the sky darkened. A soft red glow like a sunset hovered over the mountains in the distance. The sun was a perfect circle of iridescent white light around a dark marble. 

Eclipse totality is magical. It was an ethereal experience, like seeing a window into another dimension. The moon's blackness was circled by the corona’s beautiful gossamer plumes of iridescent light. Jupiter and Venus appeared in the sky near the sun. The light on the horizon took on a lovely, soft yellow-orange color. 

I watched in awe, trying to record what I was seeing and experiencing mentally. But all too soon, the moment of third contact came, with a burst of light as the sun broke back through. We put on our eclipse-viewing glasses. I took a moment to soak in what I had just experienced. 

Watching the last half of the eclipse was fun, but there was no anticipation. The experience of totality was over, and I will never experience it again. After such a wonderful experience, I felt terrible for the many naysayers I have seen posted on social media over the past few days. One that resonated with me was the post, “I’m not sure how many eclipses there have been in my lifetime. I’m 74, and I fail to see how anyone can get excited about the planets doing what they do. It’s just another, and it will carry on happening occasionally.”

While total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth about every 18 months, they are an unusual event in the U.S. The next solar eclipse with a path crossing the U.S. will happen on Aug. 12, 2045, and will span from California to Florida.

On April 8th, large numbers of people across North America watched the eclipse. Because of the attention the eclipse received from the news media and the information that went viral on social media, it is predicted that more people observed and photographed this eclipse than any other eclipse in history.

Even though many people viewed the great American eclipse of 2024, I know of a celestial event that will have many more viewers. Shortly before Jesus was crucified, “His disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?’” Matthew 24:3 (NLT) After giving His disciples many signs and much information, Jesus told them, “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30 (NLT)

No event in the history of the world has been more anticipated than the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Every generation of believers has believed that Jesus would return. When He was on this earth, Jesus promised His disciples that He would return. He told them, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NKJV)

This promise was reaffirmed when Jesus ascended to heaven. He had gathered His disciples and given them some final instructions. In Acts 1:9-11 (NLT), we read, “After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’”

From that moment until now, those who believe in Jesus have been waiting for the world’s most astounding celestial event. It will be the most viewed event in the history of the planet. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.” Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Jesus is returning to this earth to reward His people just as He promised and take them to the beautiful home He has prepared for them. My prayer is that on that day, you will be among the people who say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (KJV)

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Ninetieth Birthday

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

The wind buffeted the little Maverick pickup as we drove through Western Kansas on Interstate 70. My wife and I were on our way to Denver, Colorado, to attend my brother-in-law's ninetieth birthday. The road seemed to stretch on forever as the wind continued to blow. When we crossed the state line between Kansas and Colorado, a sign read, "Welcome to Colorful Colorado." 

I surveyed the landscape around me and saw nothing but brown, tan, and beige. There was nothing colorful that I could see. The Eastern Colorado plains are among the most sparsely populated areas in the continental United States. The dry grasslands stretched before me as far as the eye could see. Occasionally, there would be a farmstead with a few trees around it to break up the monotonous tan of the dry grasslands.

But I knew that three hours down the road, rugged mountains and city congestion spread out along Colorado's front range. Before long, we would be meeting family and preparing for a weekend of birthday activities. 

The birthday weekend started Friday night with a party at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Over forty family members from as far away as Oregon and Arkansas met for a fun evening celebrating Duane's milestone ninetieth birthday. It was great to visit with family we hadn't seen for some time. The family reconvened for a wonderful meal at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado, on Saturday afternoon. 

Spending time with family and celebrating Duane's ninetieth birthday was the perfect way for me to spend Easter weekend. Easter morning, I reflected on the final week of Jesus' life. One of the stories that I remember from that week is Jesus crying for the city of Jerusalem. If He wept over the city of Jerusalem, can you imagine how He is crying over the world today?

When I was growing up, my family attended a small church in Fort Lupton, Colorado. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes, when the pastor wasn't there for the mid-week prayer service, those in attendance would take turns reciting a favorite text. Being a smart aleck, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was John 11:35. "Jesus wept."

As I have grown older, it has become a favorite verse of mine. The simple words "Jesus wept" may reveal as much about Jesus as any words ever written about Him. I'm sure that you remember Lazarus's story. When he became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, "Lord, the one you love is very sick." Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before He came. We read the story in John 11:33-35 (NLT). "When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within Him, and He was deeply troubled. 'Where have you put him?' He asked them. They told him, 'Lord, come and see.' Then Jesus wept."

Why did Jesus cry? Was it because of his love for Lazarus? He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few minutes. Jesus was crying because his friends were sad. Their sorrow moved him. Jesus is painfully aware of your suffering. Psalms 56:8 (NLT) tells us, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."

A few days before he died, "Jesus came near Jerusalem. He saw the city and began to cry for it." Luke 19:41 (ICB): Why was Jesus crying? Was He crying for a city? Luke 13:34 (NLT) gives us some insight into this story. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me." Jesus was crying for the people of Jerusalem. He had come to save them, but most were unwilling to be saved. Even though they had rejected him and his salvation, He had compassion for them.

If we follow Jesus' example, how should we, as Christians, relate to sinners? We should have compassion. It seems to me that many Christians have lost their compassion. Looking around, I don't often see Christians dealing with others with understanding. I am more apt to see hate than compassion.

Consider a few hot-button topics and see your response toward the following groups. LGTBQ, Muslims, Adulterers, Abortionists, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Illegal Aliens, Prostitutes, Atheists. Do you have compassion for them, or is your response something different? Can you hate someone while you are praying for their salvation? Should we hate someone that Jesus died for because he loves them?

Following the example of Jesus and having compassion for sinners is very liberating. It allows us to leave the judging up to God while practicing the self-sacrificing love He demonstrated on the cross. It will enable us to hold ourselves to a high moral standard without feeling that we must hate those who do not see things the way we do. 

Daniel Darling writes, "We must not allow our protest against values with which we disagree to overshadow our responsibility to show Christ's love for the world. It may very well be the person who offends us the most whom God is in the process of saving. And our gracious response might be the bridge that the Spirit uses to usher him from death to life."

A trendy catchphrase in Christianity is, "What Would Jesus Do?" WWJD is found on jewelry, emblazoned on bumper stickers, and has entered popular culture. The only way to determine what Jesus would do is by learning what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 (NKJV) says, "God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Gentle Reader, Jesus cried for a city of sinners who rejected him. He asked his Father to forgive those who tortured and killed him. We should love the sinner as Christ loves us. After all, we are sinners too. Holding a sign that says "God Hates You" is not an effective way to witness. Let's follow the example of Jesus, love sinners, and hate sin in our own lives. John, the disciple that Jesus loved, tells us in 1 John 4:8 (NKJV) that "he who does not love does not know God, for God is love."