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    Entries in Family (6)


    Light Up the World

    We have been singing this song this morning around our house.

    David asked, “How do we light up the world?”

    “We act kindly,” I said, “And do what is right and walk with God. We also love everyone.

    David replied, “Oh. I love to follow Jesus and light up the world.”

    “Me too,” I said.

    Before walking away, David smiled and exclaimed, “You’re funny, daddy!”

    Yes, I am.


    My Weekend in Sport :: Baylor Advances, Sporting KC Wins, and Basketball History

    Baylor Advances

    My alma mater, Baylor University, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  Brady Heslip hit 9 three pointers in the Bears 80-63 victory over the 11th seeded Colorado Buffaloes.  That's insane.

    Sporting KC Wins

    I'm a season ticket holder for Sporting--in my opinion the best value and overall sports experience in Kansas City.  My wife was so kind to join me.


    We enjoyed every minute, but none more than this goal celebration by C. J. Sapong and Kei Kamara:

    Bracket Challenge and Basketball History

    Matt Williams is leading my bracket challenge at the moment out of 34 entries.  I'm tied for last.

    If you're a sports fans and have an interest in the history of basketball, you may enjoy "The Rules of the Game" from  Jayson Jenks has done some great work.


    Remembering Granny :: A Funeral Message for Clara Arnold

    [SCRIPTURE: PS 46:10; PS 23; 1 COR 15:1-28; 35-58]


    What can one say following the death of a person who was not only loved, but who might be regarded as a treasure, or even an institution?  Granny Arnold, whose life spanned over 100 years, was a remarkable woman.  As we heard earlier, she worked at Arnold’s Garage late in to her 90s.  The Bradford place, where she lived, is a historic Texas farmstead.  She had three boys, whom she managed to keep busy at work on the farm until her last days.  She was featured on television on Joan Hallmark’s “Proud of East Texas”.  She was sharp, storied, and dignified.

    Over the past several days, I have heard stories from family members and friends concerning Granny.  The words that have been used to describe her have been profoundly consistent: stable, steadfast, strong, independent, opinionated, charming, southern, generous, discerning, practical, realistic, a matriarch, wise, proud of her family, conservative, calm, intelligent, hard-working, orderly, fair, and righteous, to name a handful.

    As one of her great grandchildren, I can remember going to the farm, or annually joining with others at Ebenezer for a meal.  My memories are of small things.  I can remember chasing her cats around her home.  I can remember the excitement I had coming to Arp, because I knew I would get to shoot my BB gun.  I also remember coming out with my dad to fish, Snoopy rod in hand, knowing that at Granny’s you could bet on pulling in a catfish or maybe a bass.

    In her later years, I was glad to hear Granny tell me bits and pieces about her life growing up as part of God’s people.  As a young lady, she began in the Presbyterian tradition, and was taught the catechism.  For those not familiar with this idea, a catechism is a teaching tool used to pass on an established body of knowledge.  As an example, The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with this question: “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Other questions in the Westminster Catechism concern how we are justified before God, where the basis of the moral law might be found, the contents of the ten commandments, the meaning of repentance, the definition of faith, and the teachings found within the Lord’s Prayer.

    Granny also told me that because there was no Presbyterian church in Arp, she took part in the life of the local Methodist Church.  After marrying Loys, who I also remember, particularly playing dominoes after he had fallen ill, Granny was part of a Baptist congregation here in Arp, until circumstances led her back to the Methodists.  She was glad to find her way back to where she began.  She got her wish in having a Methodist minister officiate her funeral--doubly in fact, with both David and Molly.  I don’t know how she would feel about having a Baptist deliver the message.  I am hoping she would pardon me, considering I am family.

    Last night following the visitation, I was also fascinated to hear my grandfather, Jim Arnold, tell of Granny’s days at Arnold’s Garage.  During the East Texas Oil Boom, Arnold’s Garage was a hub for information.  Before cell phones, the internet, and other means of communication had been developed, there was the Garage, which could be reached in Arp by dialing the number “1”.  No nine digit telephone number, as there would be today.  Dial 1 for Arnold’s Garage.

    My grandfather said that land men and other oil field workers from Tyler would check for messages at Arp before heading out to the wells, and if any information of note had come to the attention of those back at the main office, they would call ahead and leave a message with someone at the Garage.  Before they returned, the ritual would be repeated.  And thus, Granny, Loys, and those working at the Garage  came to know a great deal about their neighbors, about land speculation, about the history of this community and this land.  Modern America is a land of continual change and transition.  Yet Granny’s life presents a compelling alternative, one of deep roots and priority of place.  Rooted in East Texas soil, her life, and the life of her family, has prospered.

    Other family members had stories to tell, also, and each story reveals a bit of Granny’s character.

    James Arnold wrote: 

    One of the stories that comes to mind was one weekend when I was in town visiting and I drove out to Arp to visit Granny, at the time I believe she was in her 90s.  As I pulled into the drive way I saw that she was on her lawn mower cutting her grass. When asked if she needed any help she politely declined and continued mowing. When she finished her chore and came in and sat down I asked her when she was going to have someone come mow her lawn. And much to my surprise the answer to my question was "when I cannot do it any more".

    Bill Arnold shared this story, saying: 

    [Granny] was a hard working business woman as well as "farm hand".  About 12-13 years ago, as we were coming down CR 2110 on our way home, we saw Granny's white Caprice out in the middle of the pasture on the hill near where the "old red house" used to sit.  Suzanne and I were wondering what in the world was her car doing out in the middle of the pasture!  We eased up the road a bit and finally saw Granny over on the other side of the hill.  There she was with that perfectly "coiffed" beautiful white hair, blue windbreaker, pants and rubber boots standing with a hoe in her hand.  She was chopping down thistles in the pasture.  We stopped and I walked out into the pasture to check on her.  I asked "Granny, why on earth are you doing that?"  I told her that it was too much work for her. . . her response. . ."because it has to be done"!

    Walt Arnold remembers:

    One time Wes and I went to learn how to make fudge and date loaf.  Her measuring spoon and cup was an old fashion tea cup, and it was not to standard measurements.  It frustrated her that we had to re-measure everything she did. 

    My mother, Sherry Simpson, remembers:

    When people would ask what was her secret to living a long life, I heard her say “good clean living”.  She did not overindulge herself in any way, in fact, she lived what most of us might think of as an austere life, just the basic things, nothing frivolous.  She was not attached to things, clothes, or possessions. She was proud of her family, her land, and her church. 

    My aunt, Jamie Landes, wrote:

    She had an incredible memory!  She could remember dates, facts, numbers, a person's full name...even to the point of carefully and tactfully correcting someone who did not have their facts right. It was entertaining just to ask her questions and hear her recall the facts of stories, places, people’s names, etc. that had happened so many YEARS ago. 

    Others in our family likely remember Granny’s thoughtfulness in sending birthday cards, maybe along with a little bit of fun money.  At Christmas time, Granny would give cash gifts in envelopes from Arp State Bank, asking us to share with those gathered our highlight of the year.


    Granny Arnold’s life spanned fifteen presidencies, some of them, no doubt, better than others.  Yet she was born in Smith County, she lived in Smith County, she died in Smith County, and she will be buried in Smith County.

    Granny lived through two world wars and numerous other conflicts, including the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, and both Gulf War conflicts, first under George H.W. Bush, and later, under his son George W. Bush.  Granny lived through The Great Depression and The East Texas Oil Boom.  She witnessed the highs and lows in American life.  And she died on the date of the ten year remembrance of the most devastating foreign assault on American soil, September 11.

    Her life was a tremendous life, and though in her later years she would often remark that she was very tired, she was a great blessing.  She aged with great dignity, she inspired others with her memory and resiliency, she remained beautiful all of her days.

    As we reflect upon Granny’s life, my hope is that we would not make a clear division between the remembrances we have and the words of the liturgy we have engaged together in worship, for each belongs to the other.  They should be seen in parallel and considered together, both pointing in the same direction, calling our attention to a shared horizon.  Granny would often remark that it was the Lord who granted her “one more day”.  She would wonder why God let her live so long.  She would ask the reason for it, including why God permitted her to recover after battling illness.  And while she would remind us that she was tired, she recognized the source of her life--given by God’s sovereignty, providence, and grace.

    Our Scripture readings, considered together, speak a message worthy of our attention.  But when coupled with Granny’s life, that message becomes amplified, for no longer are we simply dealing with words in a book.  We are considering how those words became embodied in the life of Granny Arnold.  We are seeing how the Word of God showed up in the life of a citizen of Smith county, who then became a blessing to her family and to those around her, pointing beyond herself, like a signpost, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  And we are catching a glimpse how we too might come to live such a life.

    Our readings from Psalm 46, Psalm 23, and 1 Corinthians 15 have three things to teach us: The Importance of Memory, The Appropriateness of Mourning, and The Magnitude of Christian Hope.

    The Importance of Memory

    The Bible is a story.  It is the story of God’s bringing this world in to being, calling all that had been created “good”, seeing that Creation go terribly wrong, and then working to repair all that has been broken.  God calls Abraham, establishing a covenant with a particular people, Abraham and his descendants, who come to be called “Israel”.  God continues this covenant relationship by rescuing his people from slavery in the land of Egypt, giving them the Law at Mount Sinai through Moses, and remaining faithful to them even when they fail.  God speaks to his people through prophets and kings, seeing them through their ups and downs, giving them hints that further signs of God’s faithfulness will come through a deliverer, a Messiah, one who has come to fulfill the law written in stone and provide a new law written on human hearts.  This Messiah does indeed come in the person of Jesus, who lived, taught, performed miracles, and laid down his life on the cross for our sins.  On the third day he was raised.  The tomb was empty.  And from that time forth, those whom he has called have gone forth announcing this good news, that the forgiveness of sin has been made possible through his death and the hope of resurrection is assured.  Christ has paid our debt.  Eternal life--life with God--can begin now by faith in Jesus.  The Kingdom has come, and is coming.  The corruptions of this earth will pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth will one day come, where God will dwell among people.

    This, my friends, is a story.  It is a story that stands above all stories.  In our reading today from 1 Corinthians, Paul is relying on this story in order to frame the stories of his hearers.  Paul tells the Corinthians, “I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message.”  He calls them to remember, to preserve the memory of what he has said, and what God has done.

    Over the past several days, we have collectively shared our stories with one another.  We have sought to preserve knowledge across generations concerning Granny Arnold.  There are things that we want to remember, that we want our children to remember, that we want our neighbors and this community to remember.  We want others to remember that Granny was generous.  That she was kind.  That she loved her church and her family.  That she was tied strongly to the land.  That she was tough.  We tell those stories because we hope that those same traits show up in our own lives.

    Stories do that to us.  They form us.  They give us meaning.  They help us to determine what amounts to good character, and thus gives us a picture of what to pursue, as well as helping us to understand bad character, warning us concerning what we should avoid.

    But even as we remember these stories concerning Granny, we should remember that she considered herself a part of a greater story--the story of God’s salvific work accomplished in Jesus Christ.  She had received what Paul called in 1 Corinthians 15 “of first importance...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”  Her life was caught up in God’s life.

    We remember to help us understand from whence we come.  Remembering Granny is a small exercise in helping us to remember something more, something larger, something that reaches beyond her life to the Life of the One who gave her life--101 years of  earthly life, and now life beyond in the presence of God.

    Memory is important.  It grounds us in reality.  It forms our character.  It shapes our identity.  And it gives us direction.  But in this moment, as we remember, we also mourn, for that which we remember has now been lost.  Granny has died.  And mourning is right.  First, we have explored the importance of memory.  Now, we turn to the appropriateness of mourning.

    The Appropriateness of Mourning

    It has become a fairly common occurrence in some circles to refer to proceedings like these as “celebrations of life”, rather than as a funeral.  We prefer to dwell on our memories of those times that were good, rather than to think of the harsh reality of death.  But today, we face death.  We have lost someone we love.  We have lost someone with whom we have shared a pew in worship or shared a conversation at the local filling station.  We have lost someone who served this county, who loved this town, who cared for her land.

    Granny’s death should be mourned.

    Christians have long been realistic concerning death.  We recognize that death is the enemy.  When sudden tragedy strikes, or even when someone dies an expected natural death, we are sad.  We recognize that the way things are is not the way things should be.  Though the Psalmist writes that while we pass through the valley of the shadow of death that God is with us, the valley is still named as the valley--a place wherein we long for comfort in the face of hardship, despair, or hopelessness.

    If you are sad today, the feeling you have is right.  We are rightfully sad.  But God has assured us of his presence even in the midst of darkness.  We are not alone.  Just as David spoke of his rod and staff, a means of defense and support while passing through treacherous terrain, so too have we been given tools that provide comfort.  We have one another.  We have family.  We have friends.  We have shared our presence with one another, last night during the visitation, and today during the funeral.  We have stood together beneath the Word of God.

    We are also comforted by the knowledge that death does not have the final word.  How do we know this?  In 1 Corinthians 15, as you recall, Paul assures his hearers that Christ has defeated death.  That death no longer has a hold on the one who has trusted Christ for salvation.  That for those that have placed their faith in Christ, one day we will be raised as Christ has been raised, that our earthly bodies, that will one day die, will be transformed, and we shall put on a body like his.  Which brings us to our third truth: The Magnitude of Christian Hope.

    The Magnitude of Christian Hope

    Friends, though Granny’s body is here with us, it is our hope that her soul now rests in the Lord.  And for those that knew her best, there is a peace that this is indeed the case, that Granny had trusted Christ for her salvation, and had sought to live a faithful life in accordance with his commands.  Yet, as glorious as her present state may be, there is still more for which we can hope. 

    Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, writes that our hope is not simply heaven, but is resurrection.  Paul writes that we will be given a body like that of Jesus after he broke forth from the tomb.  Like a seed, what is sown as perishable will pass away, but what is raised will be imperishable.  And because we have this hope, Paul writes, “When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body put on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

    Granny’s work was not in vain, for her trust was in the Lord, who has defeated death.  So even now, as this day has come, as we mourn together her loss, we should not grieve “as those who are without hope,” as it is written in 1 Thessalonians 4:13.  Instead, we can have assurance.  God will be faithful to that which has been promised.

    We must remember Granny’s life, but moreover we must remember God’s story, the story that provided Granny, and now us, with firm ground upon which to stand.  We rightfully mourn, for we have lost someone that we love.  But we should not despair, for we have an immeasurable hope that through Christ we might know God now, and enjoy him forever.




    Marriage :: The Covenant Sustains the Love

    Today I'm reading Scripture in my sister's wedding.  I am glad to welcome Byron Dunn, Jr. to my family, and I wish he and my sister Nellie long life, God's blessing, and great happiness.

    The video below is a brief conversation between Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson regarding the nature of covenant marriage.  I found it encouraging.  Take a look.

    Piper, Carson, and Keller on Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.


    Visiting the Farm

    A few weeks ago my family took a trip down to Texas to visit my hometown and spend time with our relatives.  Here are a few pictures I took of my grandmother's farm.  She turned 101 this October.

    Check out the collection here.