Love That Lasts Beyond All Passings

Even though we’re still having spikes of daytime temperatures into the eighties here in south central Kansas, the cool evenings and chilly mornings are serving fair warning that the season of autumn is progressing. Based upon the lessons of the past, we know that fresh tomatoes and ripe sweet peppers won’t last much longer. That’s just the way it goes when you live halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.

Same goes for the flowers growing in sun or shade. The giant impatiens that flourished while sheltered from the sun during the sweltering months will too soon be cut down by frost. The caladiums with their bright colors and dramatic stripes will also be wiped out. Even the sprawling bee balm, six feet high and five feet wide, will experience its demise in the coming cold.

The warrior poet from long ago reminds us that our lives are not unlike those passing plants: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-17) Kind of sad and sobering, isn’t it? To think that our bodies will one day decay and we must leave this realm of passing seasons.

But that’s not the end of the story.

In the very next verse David reminds us, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

Unlike those fading flowers and the withering grass, we whose hope is anchored in the eternal God will never experience death, even though our bodies return to dust.

H. Arnett

10/13/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Death & Dying, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

He Remembers That We Are Dust

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

                                                                      (Psalm 103:13-14)

It is a frustration as ancient as the earth; we long to live as gods and angels yet find ourselves sometimes acting more like animals. The longings of the flesh, the desires of this body, the ambitions of ego, draw us into actions that we often regret and sometimes abhor. Even the Apostle Paul expresses the consternation of “… the good that I would do, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)

How comforting it is to know that the God who has called us to holiness and righteousness does not look at us with disgust when we fail to emulate his nature. He understands the nature of our nature and chooses rather to have compassion on us. Compassion even to the point of giving his son, Jesus the Christ, as the atoning payment for our sins.

Knowing how we are formed, he chooses to be patient and forgiving. Remembering that we are dust, he does not treat us as our sins deserve.

Being human is never an excuse for us to choose evil. But it is always a reason for us to remember that we serve a compassionate God.

H. Arnett

10/12/20

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Searching the Heavens at Four in the Morning

A half-moon waning

high in the eastern sky,

the silhouettes of black branches

stretching above the neighbors’ houses,

patterns of the brighter stars

glowing above the lights

of this small town.

There is no breeze stirring,

no murmuring of traffic on the bypass,

no dogs barking.

In this welcome quiet,

I stretch back above the slatted deck,

soft towel under the aching neck

that has woken me again

long before I am ready for rising.

I think of coming chores and choices,

a soft clamoring of voices

inside my head.

With the moon suspended

between two horizons,

I marvel at a tiny constellation—

six stars tightly clustered

in the path of an October moon

whose greater light

will soon make it impossible to see

but I am convinced

they will still be there

behind the glare

of an infinitely smaller

but much closer sphere.

It is easy for the nearness of a thing

to make it seem much larger

than it truly is.

H. Arnett

10/8/20

Posted in Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Week Blessing

May this day’s dawning

find you warm and safe.

May you have all of wisdom and grace

that you need to face whatever this day may bring.

And when this day is done,

may you lie down safe and warm,

and may the thanks you give

be sincere, simple and genuine.

May you be better for having lived this day,

and may this day be better

for having had you in it.

H. Arnett

10/7/20

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Good Tools in Good Shape

While cutting down a row of dead pine trees at our place in northeast Kansas, I was reminded of how much difference a good tool makes. I started out trying to use my old, cheap Poulan saw that I’d bought at Wal-Mart fourteen years ago. When it’s running well and outfitted with a sharp chain, the little saw does pretty well. On small stuff.

For a logger, these pine trees are small stuff; the largest one was only about twenty inches thick at the base. For a wimpy Poulan with a dull chain, they were monsters. I managed to chew, gnaw and nibble my way through the first one. It took twenty minutes. As Randa and I were trimming off the limbs and hauling everything over to the burn pile, I told her, “I’m going to get a new chain saw.”

The next morning, I picked up a new four-horsepower Stihl with a twenty inch bar and a brand new chain. Took about two minutes to cut down the next tree.

When we face life and deal with situations using faith, hope, and love, we will see better results than when we use doubt, cynicism, and indifference. When we rely upon truth and follow the leading of the Spirit, we will achieve better gains. When we zealously practice the teachings of Christ rather than mindlessly adopt the carnal practices of the world, we will enjoy more powerful lives. When we focus on conquering our own spirit rather than on judging and/or controlling others, we will find deeper satisfaction. 

We may often feel frustrated and even helpless in our lives because we continually engage in spiritual battles using carnal tools. It’s hard to build a nice coffee table using nothing but a sledgehammer. 

H. Arnett

10/5/20

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Old Trucks, Overspray and Theology

There’s more backstory here than you’re going to get. For now, let’s just say that back in May when I was spray painting our house, I drastically underestimated the distance tiny latex paint droplets can travel and still adhere to something other than what was intended. Say, not hypothetically speaking, a motor vehicle.

Fortunately, that vehicle was my old beat up Ford Ranger and not Randa’s shiny black Chevy Silverado. I’m not sure anyone really notices the paint spatter when they walk by my truck. Still, I’d rather it wasn’t on there.

Since my old Ranger has a lot of dents, cracks and scratches, I wasn’t too worried about experimenting. Kind of hard to make a bucket of dead mice look any worse, right? I discovered that “Goo Gone” doesn’t work at all but that “Goof Off” works fairly well.

Since the stuff evaporates about as quickly as ether, gasoline or good will in an election year, I tried soaking a small piece of paper towel, then letting it sit on the droplets for a couple of minutes. That sure worked better than just rubbing it on but used it up faster than a government stimulus check.

After emptying one can of “Goof Off” to clean about a third of one fender, I wheeled over to Wally World and picked up three more large cans. As soon as I got back home, I tore off a small section of paper towel and held it against a spattered section on the edge of the fender. I tilted the can over and squeezed lightly. Nothing came out. I squeezed harder. Nothing came out.

Feeling like a televangelist two weeks before all the old folks get their Social Security checks, I squeezed even harder. A large drop glopped out of the little dispenser tubey thingey. “What in the name of Sam Hill’s three-legged bird dog is going on here?!” I wondered.

Turns out, instead of the almost ether-like regular “Goof Off” liquid, I’d bought their “Paint Spatter Remover.” Well, the name seemed perfect for what I wanted to do, so I commenced trying to use this newfangled stuff the same way I’d been using the oldfangled stuff. But even I could see that the stuff was just too thick for quickly soaking a piece of paper towel.

So, I tried squeezing some out and smearing it around on the spatters with my finger. I’d let it sit a while and then rub on the spots. After two or three or eight applications, I was able to burnish off the specks of paint. After a half-hour of what increasingly felt like actual work, I had a radical idea.

Since this stuff is almost gel-like, how ’bout if I try just squeezing a drop of spatter remover on each spot of spatter? After letting each drop set for a few minutes, the spots wiped off rather easily.

How ’bout dat?! Adapting to the design of the product worked better than trying to pretend it could be used effectively in some other way.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to remember that scripture and genuine religion work more effectively when I use them for inspiration, comfort, consolation and guidance for how I live my life instead of trying to win arguments, insult other people or judge how well they’re living their lives.

And I’m also thankful that God came up with a wonderful way for cleaning life’s spatters off of my record when I’ve goofed up. There are some times when the repentance part of that formula seems to require a longer soaking in period… but it always works!

H. Arnett

9/24/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Humor, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,

The Valley of Dry Bones

[See Ezekiel 37:1-14]

We sometimes come
to these points in our lives,
when it feels that all of hope is gone
and even our bones seem dry.

We look back upon the valleys of our past,
see the skeletons of our dreams
cast upon the stones that have bruised our feet,
making even our hearts seem lame.

Sometimes with gasping breath,
we weep in sorrow for the way so many tomorrows
have ended in the twisted shadows
of disappointment and even despair.

Too often, perhaps,
we chose the way of the warrior,
determined to slice our way through life
and through anything—or anyone—that stood in our way.

We forgot, perhaps, or never knew
the tougher sinews of patience,
the power of waiting upon the Lord,
the strength that comes from being still.

Even when we walk among tombs
where it seems there is scarcely room for hope,
when our bones seem as dry as petrified flint,
when we remember whom we have believed we will see:

There is nothing too strong for the arm of God,
who has made us able to stand in places we feared to trod,
who has made the lame to dance
and placed his praises on the lips of the mute.

Then, when our eyes have been opened by faith,
when our minds have conceived the seed of hope,
and our hearts set on fire by God’s own sweet love,
then we, too, will know the power and the promise

that can set flesh upon the dried skeleton,
breathe life into dust,
and muster an army of thousands upon thousands
from bleached bones littering a desert valley.

H. Arnett
8/23/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,

Path of Destruction

I don’t know how long ago it was that someone built the little garden shed that sits on the concrete slab just three feet away from the north wall of our garage. I don’t know how long ago it was that someone built on the little dog shed extension that turned the whole deal into a six foot by twelve foot affair.

What I do know is that by the time we bought the place in 2015, that shed was in no condition to bear close inspection. I even joked with the realtor at the time that we could quickly raise the value of the property by tearing down the shed.

The main doors had lost two or three inches at the bottom due to rotting of the Masonite-like siding with which the whole affair was covered. The dog shed door was truly ugly. A narrow interior door had been conscripted into outdoor service. Strips of its veneer continued peeling off. A fifteen inch hole at the bottom had so weakened the door’s structure that someone had nailed a small slat across the bottom in a losing effort to keep the door in one piece.

Where wall met roof, a five-foot long two-by-eight on the extension connected to a seven foot long two-by-eight on the original part. Together, they formed an eave of sorts that extended the roof a few inches out past the wall. A two-foot section of that showed evidence of rotting when we bought the house and had shown no inclination to improve over the ensuing five years.

Near the ground level on the north side of the original section, a hole about four inches wide and a foot-and-a-half long suggested that the siding might be nearing the end of its useful life. Tearing off the one-by-eight that ran along the entire perimeter of the shed at the bottom provided dramatic evidence that it was time to replace all of the siding.

The lowest few inches of old simulated reverse board and batten siding was nothing but biologically processed by-product; it looked like dark brown dirt. That piece of horizontal trim had trapped moisture and hidden the damage. When I removed the siding, there was a clear termite trail running from the base up a two-by-four stud to that rotted piece of two-by-eight. Even though there was no evidence of recent activity, it was clear that a termite thoroughfare operated.

Why the little boogers decided to skip the studs and grub on the eave board is beyond me. Perhaps it had a better flavor than the studs. Maybe they preferred the penthouse suite over the low rent units.

It is not always obvious and sometimes not even discernible why those things devoted to destruction choose the targets they choose. What is eventually rather obvious is that left unchecked, those things will not stop until the structure has been destroyed.

I think that’s why God urges us to be so vigilant about guarding our hearts.

H. Arnett
8/21/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Metaphysical Reflection, Remodeling/Construction, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , ,

Shared Beauty

So far as I can remember, the first time I ever noticed canna lilies was when we were visiting Gerald and Linda Heckman back in the early Oughts. They had some growing in their garden at their place about a dozen miles north of Saint Joseph, Missouri. I was fairly amazed at the huge leaves and intense red blooms. I’ve always been impressed by flowers that grow taller than me. Of course, when I was but knee-high to a grasshopper, that was a pretty long list. The list is shorter now but I still find it impressive.

So, when I noticed a couple of volunteer cannas sprouting up through the grass in the alleyway behind our house, I was pretty tickled. I dug them out a couple of years ago and moved them over to a more protected location. The next year, four or five plants sprouted up. This year, it looks like somewhere between fifteen and twenty plants have grown vigorously and bloomed prolifically. They have raised themselves well above the neighbor’s six-foot tall fence. Yesterday, I noticed one bloom cluster soaring above the rest. Its tip is just over nine feet above the ground.

That, my friends, certainly qualifies as “flowers that grow taller than me.” Truth is, I’m also impressed by the tiniest flowers. Most anything of beauty is something worth appreciation and admiration. Those things of beauty that come to us without cost and that offer aesthetic enrichment with minimal effort might even merit a bit more appreciation.

They are a reminder that the One Who Has Made Us has made a great many things of beauty. Their presence offers a respite. And respite that also attracts hummingbirds is a special sort of refreshing. Kind of a “beauty that draws beauty” sort of thing.

Like people who reflect the beauty of Christ in how they live and treat others.

H. Arnett
8/19/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Gardening, Nature, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , ,

Praying in the Shade

I’ve taken to taking it easy on Sunday afternoons. Even with my constant obsession about getting things done, improving the place, fixing up something that needs fixing or just having something to do, I’m getting more comfortable with a view of the big elm trees while I’m lying in a hammock, gently swaying from side to side in the shade, instead of spending an hour picking up the little broken branches that litter the grass beneath those big elm trees.

If I remember the story correctly, God rested on the seventh day. On a related point, memory also holding, I believe that Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for humans, not the other way around. I take the point to be that easing up a bit for one day is actually a pretty good idea and might even contribute to better handling the other six days.

It is a good thing to have a day of rest, a day of not hammering our bodies, our lives, and our minds a little deeper into the ground. A day of lifting our thoughts beyond the press of this world’s expectations, a day of reflection and appreciation.

I think that sometimes my Sunday afternoons are a time of recuperation from the toils of the week just ended and sometimes a time of preparation for those of the coming week. Most times, it’s a bit of both and so far as I can tell, prayers offered from the sling of a hammock can make their way to heaven just fine.

H. Arnett
8/17/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Prayer, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , ,