Home Improvement

I’m sure the long version of this story would be quite interesting, what with the necessary foundation, explanation and extended variations and all. However, let’s just get to the nugget and say that we are very much looking forward to hosting four of our offspring and their families at our Wathena home this week. One of the traditional aspects of being good hosts is having places where your guests can sit.

Therefore I’m planning to haul a couple of love seats up to said house today. Which required some assistance. Fortunately, one of my colleagues was willing to provide said assistance. He also made a very helpful suggestion about arranging said love seats in the trailer I’m using. I figured lunch was mighty small gratitude to offer in exchange and he accepted. That’s when I found out he was getting his house ready for installing new laminate flooring.

Soon after lunch, we were ripping out the old carpet, taking up the old pad, removing the baseboard and tearing up the old tack strip. I’ll admit that for my own indulgent pleasure, taking up the carpet is more fun than removing all the staples that were used to install the pad. Within a couple of hours, we had the room pretty close to ready for the new flooring.

Neither one of us woke up that morning with the expectation of helping one another. Not all of our opportunities are planned out in advance. At least not on our part. But when we live with open hearts, willing to take what the day brings us and lend a helping hand, we will always find chances to give and receive. Chances to build and strengthen relationships by offering and by accepting. And in each case, help make the world a better place in the places where we live.

H. Arnett
11/21/17

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Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Relationships, Remodeling/Construction, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uphill & Against the Wind

I have noticed that physical exercise usually makes me feel better. I have found that taking a bike ride is especially effective for helping whatever ails me. Of course, that’s assuming that joint pain isn’t what ails me! Otherwise, several miles of local terrain will gets the blood flowing and that seems to help me physically and emotionally.

I suspect there are even spiritual benefits as well. Being surrounded by natural beauty helps soothe my spirit and ease my soul. And, I will usually gear in some prayer time as well. I have learned in such times it’s usually best to pray with my eyes open. That seems to coincide right nicely with my prayers that God will keep me safe on my ride. And when I’m riding against the wind, I also pray that God will send me strength and stamina.

As a novice road rider, I’ve been rather impressed with how much effect even a light wind has when I’m pedaling. Yesterday’s breeze hovered between twelve to fifteen with occasional pulses of higher velocity. On my 24-speed commuter bike, I found that I had to drop down four or five notches when riding south. Going uphill against the wind was especially interesting. Seemed to move the exercise level right on up into the “cardio” category, as a matter of fact.

At one point, I actually entertained the ludicrous notion of turning around rather than continue to fight against gravity and the wind. Of course it would have been easier but it would have had me going in the opposite direction that I needed to go to reach my destination.

Sometimes there are options that let us take a diagonal so that we can make progress without having to face the obstacles head on. Other times, though, we pray harder and accept that it’s going to take more effort and more time. And we remind ourselves that we will keep making progress as long as we don’t give up.

H. Arnett
11/20/17

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Exercise, Metaphysical Reflection, Spiritual Contemplation, Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Duties of Friendship

We need friends who will tell us the truth,
even when and especially when
we don’t want to hear it.

We need friends who will tell us
when we are full of it
and can tell when we are empty.

We need friends who can look us in the eye
and tell us to quit feeling sorry for ourselves
even when they actually do.

We need friends who can say “I love you”
in a way that lets us know
they really mean it.

We need friends who can remind us
of what we really believe
without making us doubt them or ourselves.

We need friends who hold us to our better selves,
who can see the pain in the middle of a laugh
and yet also laugh in the middle of the pain.

We need friends who will leave us alone
without ever leaving us lonely
but are still willing to risk being wrong
about thinking we might need some company anyway.

We need friends who aren’t afraid of our anger,
who know the danger of the shadows
and who don’t mind the scars that sometimes come
from doing together the things that scare us.

We need friends who are open
to the leading of the Spirit,
who love living in the nearness of fellowship
and know that closeness can span a thousand miles.

We need friends who would rather risk
making us mad than pretend that gladness
can actually exist in the midst of madness
or that carrying a grudge somehow makes you stronger.

We need friends who know they must sometimes
let us walk a little slower for a while
but also know that having a limp
is no excuse for going the wrong way.

We need friends
who know that we need friends
and who expect—and even demand—
that we give as good as we get

and share with us the knowing
that we all have been given
better than we deserve.
And are grateful for that knowing.

H. Arnett
11/17/17

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

Pre-Dawn Darkness

The pale yellow of elm leaves
spots and mats the surface of the street
beneath the trees lining the avenue.

In the dim light of a cloud-covered dawn,
I drive slowly along Greenway
and head up the hill toward Summit, turn north.

Past the last traffic light at Skyline,
I join the moving pack of people
winding their way toward jobs at Strother or Winfield.

A few of us split off onto the back route
where Country Club Road connects 77 and 160,
a short cut on a longer drive to Wichita.

Heading west toward Wellington,
I feel the sudden shudder of a strong north wind,
not having noticed as long as I was driving straight into it.

I guess it usually is the sideways slap
that catches us off-guard, the hard awakening
of resistance at a different angle than what we expected.

Driving past the shorn stubble of cotton fields,
I look back to the south and see the long angle
of a dark storm cloud hanging over Ark City,

the last bit of the most recent shroud of gloom.
It’ll be gone by noon, I suppose,
and the good light of a new day

will stroke the lingering leaves of pin oak and maple,
the cheering tones of sweet gum and ash,
the last bright colors of this passing season.

Crossing the bridge into Oxford,
I see the lightening face of the Arkansas River
and wish that I could linger here for a day or two.

I am tired of the clouds and darkness
and long to walk along the banks,
staring deeply into slow waters,

give thanks for the promise of rest
that must wait until these days of testing
will yield their own good harvest

to those who refuse to grow weary of doing good,
who cling to a Greater Light
than that of a red ball sunrise blazing the treeline

of long fields off to the east beside I-35.

H. Arnett
11/16/17

Posted in Aging, Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singspiration

Just in case you might not be familiar with the title tradition, “Singspiration” (at least out here in these parts of the Plains) is an event where church folks get together and volunteers take turns singing songs that for the most part are of are a spiritual nature. Some might be truly worshipful, a lifting of adoration and praise. Occasionally one might doubt that a particular selection has any obvious religious meaning but in those cases will give the singer the benefit of the doubt and figure that for the performer at least, there is some sort of connection.

Frankly, my experience has been that Singspirations are usually something of a crap shoot in small rural communities. Sometimes when others are making a joyful noise unto the Lord, it can make my own joy in the moment a bit of a challenge.

I’ve heard people with sandpaper voices and dubious choices of song selection. I’ve heard some who couldn’t start and end a song in the same key and others who seemed to believe that clear enunciation was an abomination. But I’ve managed to squelch my critical nature to some degree and try to believe that all of them were doing the best they could with what they had to work with and trying to offer up praise to the Lord and encouragement to his believers. And hoped they would reciprocate when it came my time to share in the singing.

And so it was a couple of weeks ago when folks from all three congregations in South Haven, Kansas got together at the Baptist Church for the fifth Sunday Singspiration and fellowship meal. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and that turned out to be just fine.

What I found was that there was an unexpected number of folks with an unexpected level of musical ability. A variety of styles and selections but all sharing an apparent affection for music and praise. A lady playing a vintage Ovation and a song that was surprisingly upbeat. A man with a mellow baritone and an obvious love of classic gospel songs. A duet with definite bluegrass anchorings and some slide dobro. A female piano player of concert quality. The new school superintendent played his 1928 Martin guitar and sang a lifting praise of adoration. All of them with different styles and choices for sure but every one of them offering a blessing of sharing and singing.

For me, though, it was Helen who set the high-water mark of the evening.

In the most careful hopes of honoring without insult, I’d have to admit that I was a bit nervous as she came to the chorus of her song, with a near octave rise in range. Helen and her husband, unless looks are quite deceiving, must be at least twenty years older than me. That age range puts most singers well past their prime. The vocal cords thin with age, narrowing the range and shrinking the resonation. I braced myself a bit, waiting for the completely understandable tremor or breaking in the voice.

Total waste of time and effort as it turned out. That lady slid from one note to another, perfectly, smoothly and pleasantly. She hit every high note, every low note and every note in between, in a sweet soprano. The song she’d chosen was a blessing in itself and the singing just about perfect. And done with such a sweet expression on her face and in her eyes. It seemed as if she gave not a thought to what any of us might be thinking, simply bringing straight to her Savior an offering of sincere praise and devotion, a lifting of pure and pleasant incense from a pure and grateful heart.

Even the memory of it continues to bless me.

H. Arnett
11/8/17

Posted in Aging, Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Music, Spiritual Contemplation, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invocation & Benediction

I hope that this day’s dawning
finds you safe and warm,
ready for the forming of faith, hope and love.

I hope that the morning greets you
fair and bright,
rested by the night and guided by the Light.

May your steps be in sync
with the leading of Comforting Presence
in a perpetual seeking of grace and good.

May the touch of your smile
and the warmth of your hand
be a ready witness of the love that lives within you.

When the shadows have grown long,
may the coming dusk find that you have already
loosened the husk of any insult, any wrong, any injury,

and tossed it aside to wilt and shrivel
along with all the drivel of slight.
May all of that be forgotten in the night

that the morrow’s dawning
may find you safe and warm,
and further shaped by the forming of faith, hope and love.

H. Arnett
11/7/17

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Slow Ride on a Quiet Day

In mid-afternoon of November’s first Saturday, I head out for a long bike ride. A low gray sky on a windless day offered temperatures in the upper fifties as I headed toward the flats of the river bottoms east of Ark City. Just past the roundabout where Kansas Avenue and US-77 connect, I turned north on Cowley 17.

I could have stood a bit of sun or a slightly heavier shirt than the one I had on but at least I didn’t have to worry about sweating much. Still, in its own way it was a perfect day for riding.

I love the muted colors on an overcast autumn day, the way the lingering greens are intensified and the shades of prairie grass and wild growth blend and mingle. I love the look of big rocks and boulders, grays splotched with lichen tumbling among the roots and bases of oak, elm and hedge lining the edge of the road and running up the short bluff.

About five miles out, the road curves up from the river bottom, a long hill that makes a man glad for lower gears. I ride along farms and fields, some with the short stubble of cut beans and some already worked for the planting of winter wheat. Riding near one rusty oil well, I hear the tump-tump-tump of a single cylinder pump engine that reminds me of an old John Deere tractor.

Another few miles north and I turn east on 20, toward the river. Going down the long slope, I study the shapes of the Little Mesas on the western edge of the Flint Hills, love the defining flat lines above the lower fields. Hardwoods yellow the bluffs and banks with the occasional accent of maple and the dull tinges of sycamores along the Walnut River. Native grasses blanket the crests and slopes with the occasional of scrub oak along the fencelines. I pedal through the curves and upslope again where the river bends back hard near the road.

As I pass out of the trees and back into open country, I startle a large doe grazing near the road. She bounds off, flagging the trademark warning of whitetail deer. I watch her deliberate run and then see a buck take off at an intersecting angle. He pauses a few hundred yards away, looks back toward me and then resumes his run, occasionally jumping high over the low brush scattered through the field.

I ride on, bending along the river bottoms, studying the fields and trees, the softened shapes of woods and bluffs. I try to memorize the way large brown leaves clump along the vines and stems of the vineyard, the soft reflections in the surface of the river passing into the dark bends north of the bridge, the way light reflects around the slowly shifting clouds and the beauty of this peaceful day.

We need these times of muted life, the slower pace of examining the world around us, absorbing the light of softer glory, storing up its peace and quiet times of unhurried travel, listening for that still, quiet voice. It speaks through the centuries, offering yet a comfort that is greater than the darkness.

H. Arnett
11/6/17

Posted in Exercise, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments