A Word to One’s Self

Be strong enough to let go
before the rope you’re holding
drags you over the molding edge
and breaks you deep
on the stony ledge below.

Be smart enough to know
that you don’t know everything
and that life will bring you many
who know other than you do
if you are truly willing to listen.

Be tough enough
that your gentle touch
can anchor a heart,
heal scars,
leave fear and wrath
whimpering outside the door,
and give strength to the fragile soul.

Be humble enough
to bow your head
when a beggar prays,
when a child gives thanks,
or when a single drop of rain
clings to the edge of the tender leaf.

Be touched by the grief of others,
rejoice in the births of strangers,
dance at the weddings of friends,
be grateful even at the end of a line,
drink lightly of the smoothest wine,
and dine sumptuously on the truly fine things of life:
love, laughter, peace, mercy, hope, compassion, forgiveness
and grace.

H. Arnett
12/5/19

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hold to Such Memories

Loved ones gathered around a table
loaded with enough food to feed half the neighborhood.
Voices and laughter, quips and stories,
college kids and children,
kinfolk who drove in from a few hundred miles away
and have to leave again the next day.

Coats hanging in the entryway,
Tupperware, Corningware and Rubbermaid on the counter,
at least one covered dish shrouding some mystery—
even after it’s been opened—
and at least one kid too young to know not to ask,
(or one too old to care)
“What is that?”

And at least one uncle who will be, a little later,
watching TV with his eyes closed and his mouth open.

Somewhere in between or amongst
all the dishes and the “just one more’s,”
the games at the table, on the floor, or on the flat screen tv,
there will be at least one moment—however brief—
when we will sense some bit of quietness,
a pause in all activity,
or perhaps rather even in the most disjointed flurry,
we will look around and note the faces and the poses,
the voices and the gestures,
the particular tilt of the head,
the expression on the face,
and we will try to fix that in our minds

so that a day or a week later,
in the aching quietness of this same house,
we can remember what is that we miss so much,
what it is that that used to fill our moments.

And we will hold to such memory,
this small, sacred tithe
of such holy days.

H. Arnett
12/2/19

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Family, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Love of Laughter

I’m usually not much of one for nostalgia and tend to resent the selective memory that seems to dominate the way some folks look back on the day when… but I would have to say that I have spent more time than usual this year remembering the holidays of my youth. Truth be told, I have smiled many times thinking about Thanksgivings spent on that farm back in Todd County, Kentucky.

I’ve deliberately remembered aunts, uncles and cousins who came to spend the day. Some who had moved away after the War so they could find decent jobs in Chicago or Detroit. Some who lived sixty or seventy miles away in Calloway County. Some who drove all day and some who drove a little over an hour.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Billie, Uncle Lyman and Aunt Betty Jo, Uncle Roy and Aunt Jennie, Uncle Woody and Aunt Katie, Uncle James and Aunt Imogene, Uncle Thomas and Aunt Imogene, Uncle Corky and Aunt Imogene… “Imogene” must have been a mighty popular name back then. There were others but I’d have to help putting the right names on each couple. So many cousins I’d have to have even more help to name them all. (I hope they’ll all forgive the early morning memory lapse and the passing of too many years.)

I remember the table loaded down with all kinds of food, more than we’d see any other day of the year. Dishes the kinfolk had made and brought with them. Mom’s homemade yeast rolls and cornbread stuffing. More desserts than we could eat in a week.

I remember the womenfolk busy in the kitchen, the menfolk talking in the living room. Cousins playing in the hay loft. After the noon meal, after they’d rested a bit to let all that food settle, the men and the boys big enough to be men would go off hunting for a while. The women would clean up the table, cover the leftovers that could sit out until evening, put the rest in the fridge, wash the dishes and then visit in the living room. The kids would go back to their games and romping about the farm.

So many memories from a little boy’s mind… so much visiting, so much playing, so many stories. But the thing I may treasure the most from all of those years of early memories is the sound of laughter.

Laughter in the kitchen, laughter in the living room, laughter around the table, even laughter in the hayloft. I love the way each person’s laugh is so different and yet at the same time, so resonant. The way they all mingle together in a harmonious cacophony. The uplifting of the heart, the reflection of the soul.

Maybe laughter is a mask, maybe a diversion. Maybe it’s a quick and shallow escape from the deeper things that plague us. Or maybe it’s God playing in our hearts, angels dancing in our voices. Maybe it’s love let loose, joy’s delightful foreplay. Maybe it’s the children we once were set free to do somersaults in the hallway.

Whatever it is, I hope that this season of gratitude stirs plenty of laughter in your heart and that it’s shared wildly, deeply, and exuberantly with those who care about you. And that you know that the God Who Loves You takes great delight in your purest pleasures.

Peace and joy to you, my friends.

H. Arnett
11/27/19

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Tater Diggin’

I remember digging up potatoes in the garden when I was growing up on our farm in Todd County, Kentucky. Dad had an old “tater digger” that was just about perfect for the job. If my memory is working in nearly correct mode, it had four thick, flat metal tines, spread about an inch-and-a-half apart, with an almost ninety-degree bend about two inches below the spine. The tines extended another eight inches or so below the bend. Just above the bend, a heavy tang was welded to the spine and fastened inside a hollow steel handle that was around four feet long. (I’d guess that handle was probably a piece of old water pipe.) The whole thing was the color of old iron, long weathered and worn smooth on the gripping area.

Using the digger was about as simple as tool use gets. Swing it down hard so the tines jam into the ground at a nearly vertical angle just an inch or two away from where you think the clump of potatoes begins. The handle will be at a fairly low angle with your arms extended. Raise the handle up, forcing the tines to pivot on their bend, lifting the potatoes up out of the soil. There was something magical in raising up food from the ground. Hidden one moment and then plainly visible the next.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not quite.

Doing just one or two hills to grub out a mess of potatoes for one or two meals was not so bad. But as frost approached and it was time for harvesting the whole row, now, that was another matter. Swinging the heavy digger, then bending over and picking up the potatoes. A couple hours of that would have my back aching. Every now and then, I’d stand and stretch, bend as far backwards as I dared, hoping that would help.

It did help, but only for as long as I kept stretching. Bend back into the work and the ache returned instantly. And stayed for a day or two. I don’t know and never wanted to find out if doing that for a couple of weeks would condition me enough that my back wouldn’t hurt like that.

I did find that getting done with the job and not having to do it any more was a pretty good fix. That’s not a bad lesson for a kid to learn: just do it and have it over with. Then, move on. That works for a lot of the things that we know need doing. Sometimes, the dreading of a thing is worse than the thing itself.

Maybe that’s why the Lord advised us to leave tomorrow’s troubles for tomorrow rather than adding them to today’s batch. I don’t think there’s ever been a day that lacked enough of its own.

H. Arnett
11/20/19

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Farming, Gardening, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Healing Silence

The Healing Silence

In the long lee of the silent hours,
when all is as quiet as the stars
and even the wind slacks from its strong sendings,

When the only light is the light of the moon,
softened slightly by the high thin veil
of a slowly drifting winter cloud,

When the slightest of shadows
shows your passing
on the frosted grass.

In that moment
when even your thoughts
are heard by God,

Yield to the knowing,
welcome the revealing
and be healed

Of whatever it is
that has stolen sleep
and sent you seeking in the night.

Keep yourself close
to the cleansing quiet,
the searching light,

Always ready for the Promised Rest.

H. Arnett
11/19/19

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Community Supper

Being as how we love to sing and don’t mind too much helping out now and again, Randa and I decided we’d pitch in for a fund-raising supper over at South Haven last night. The “God Squad,” a group of teens and tweeners, are working to finance a trip over to the Noah’s Ark replica in northern Kentucky. Apparently, they are trying to arrange some sort of transportation that won’t include hitchhiking eight hundred miles.

So, we joined in with the local superintendent to form the Dorsey Burgess Trio. Dorsey is a heck of a musician and singer who plays guitar and acoustic bass, though rarely at the same time. He also has a great sense of humor. Like many talented artists who have blended formal training with a whale of a lot of time playing bluegrass, he’s quick to pick up a new tune and find a harmony part. In other words, the dude is a lot of fun to perform with.

The God Squad and their fearless leader, Pam Knoffloch, teamed up with another fearless leader, Debbie Ray, who owns the Muffintop Bakery in South Haven. Debbie managed the kitchen crew and they fixed green beans, potatoes and steak with brown gravy. For dessert, there was what I think was a pumpkin or sweet potato cake/pie with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Whatever it was, it was good. I think Dorsey ate three or four pieces of it but I may be exaggerating slightly.

A good crowd showed up and sure seemed to enjoy the meal and our music. Even though we were doing the show without a PA system, I think folks could catch enough of the melody and lyrics to figure out what song we were singing. We mixed in some humor songs, including a really fun parody, “Ghost Chickens in the Sky,” some classic rock and folk, a country song or two, and threw in an old gospel medley for good measure.

We took a break and Pam and her team started awarding door prizes with the grandest prize being a biplane ride claimed by little Cash Dvorak. Then, Richard Theurer began auctioning off donated items. There were handmade Afghans, custom stenciled windows made by Cash’s grandmom, a DeWalt impact driver, giant Rubbermaid patio bench and storage box, a WaterPik water flosser, a good variety of other things and several homemade pies. There was much good-natured banter and Richard is the most entertaining auctioneer I’ve ever watched.

“Keep those hands up, folks; I’ll tell you when to stop,” he quipped. His humor and subtle manipulation kept things going, with some good-natured competition among the audience members. Pam’s husband, Rick, bought a sour cream and raisin pie for fifty bucks. (I think Cash’s great-grandmom might have made it.) A combination hotel and Branson show package brought in over two hundred dollars. Altogether, the combined auction and supper sales brought in seventeen hundred and fifty-two bucks for the young folks! Not bad for a town with a reported population of under four hundred people. The kids had worked hard with the preparing and the serving and as far as I can tell, deserve every penny.

It’s a wonderful thing when folks work together for a good cause and it seems easier to get them working together when they know and love the people they’re trying to help. It wasn’t some ambiguous, dubious purpose. It wasn’t something being done for anonymous, faceless, unknown beneficiaries. These are our kids and grandkids, our neighbors’ kids. The kids we see on teams, in school plays, and in church.

After the auctioning and door prizing, most of the folks were up and milling around. Some leaned against the walls and chatted with each other. Some sat at their tables and conversed. Neighbors being neighbors, visiting and sharing. Socializing and strengthening the ties that help hold a community together. Good folks doing something good together.

H. Arnett
11/18/19

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Walking Along the River Road

With today’s forecast calling for a Siberian Express to flatten out all mercurial indicators across most of the continent, Randa and I decided to take advantage of yesterday’s lovely warmth and go hiking out at Camp Horizon. With the temperature pleasantly near seventy degrees and almost no breeze, we set out.

After cautiously working our way down the limestone bluffs below Inspiration Point, we walked along the lower logging road that runs along the Arkansas River. Hardwood trees spanned the steep bluff up to our left while cottonwood and other lowland varieties filled in whatever sections of the flood plain allowed. Dozens of deadfall trees blackened the spaces where water had stood for too long some decades before.

We followed the trail east until it came to the downward bend at its end and took the steps down the bank and crossed the small ditch. Walking out of the woods into the flat, we saw miles of sand lining the winding course of the Arkansas. We saw some “his and hers” footprints in the mud flats along the edge and wondered if they might belong to the fugitive pair that had eluded local law pursuers a few days earlier. “What’d they do?” Randa asked with a healthy dose of incredulity as we both stared at several hundred feet of flat sand and mud spanning the distance between us and the stream, “Walk across all that to get out to the river and then swim across?”

After a brief bit of speculation, we took a shortcut up the bank and into the flood flat bordering between the river and the logging road. Owing to the late season and a bit of a respite from the rains, the space was mostly weedless and dry. Dead leaves blanketed a flat bed about fifty feet wide and crunched beneath our feet as we walked along parallel to the steep bank leading up to the logging road.

As we walked, I began looking for a way up and out. A tangle of roots exposed by years of erosion stuck out from near the base of a tree. “What about that?” I asked Randa, and then answered myself, “Looks pretty steep.” It was one of those options where you figured you could manage to work your way through it but also knew it would likely take more work than the way seemed worth. We kept walking.

After a while, Randa pointed over, “Looks like we could climb out there.” The bank was still pretty steep but there were some exposed roots we could use to help pull ourselves out.

I paused and then saw another place just a little farther along the low bed. It wasn’t as obvious due to a brief tangle of overhanging branches but it had a lower slope and looked like we could just walk out. We ducked beneath the impeding branches and stepped around a few tiny saplings that had sprouted up from the flood bed. A few steps along a rising edge led us up and out, right onto a well-worn footpath running along the logging road. Less than a quarter mile later, the path led us up an easy slope onto the road.

Sometimes, the closer way off the present path may be too steep, too demanding, too fraught with obstacles even more unpleasant than the ones we already encounter. Keeping our eyes open as we continue may lead us to find an easier and better way to the road we want to travel. In all my walks, saunters, meanderings and wanderings, I have found that some ways are easier than others. But all ways that lead to a higher road have been worth walking.

H. Arnett
11/11/19

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