So Let it be Written

I get a momentary rush of power each time I make an executive decision. Kay and I will sometimes come to each other and announce, “I have made an executive decision,” which means that we have not gone through the normal democratic process of seeking the opinion of the other before an action is taken. It doesn’t happen too often, and whatever executive decision one of us has made, the other usually will go along with it.

When wear my executive hat, I quote the line spoken by Yul Brynner as Ramses II in The Ten Commandments. The great Egyptian Pharoah makes his pronouncement and follows it with, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” And, like old Ramses in the film, I walk away. The drama of my exit adds to the power of the words.

Recently our oldest daughter sent me a short video snippet of a documentary showing a group of people around a conference table. A vote had been taken by the group, a decision was made, and the leader said something that my daughter wanted me to hear. The volume on the video was very low, and I had to crank up the sound level as high as it would go. I played it repeatedly but was just not sure what the guy said. So, I responded to my daughter in an e-mail what I thought I heard him say, which was, “So let’s get rid of the celebrity dog.”

Must be a panel for the Westminster Kennel tossing out an unruly contestant, I concluded. As clever as this was, I scratched my head as to why my daughter would want me to hear it. She responded with multiple “laugh” emojis and told me what the guy had actually said, which was, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” And the people around the conference table were astronomers discussing black holes in our universe.

Time to schedule an appointment with the audiologist. It just proves that at times we are all hard of hearing or suffer from selective hearing. We want to take what we hear and objectify it so that we can use what we think we heard to support what we believe. Hearing the truth can sometimes be an unpleasant experience when it does not “tickle” the inner ears of our personal beliefs and biases. So let the truth be spoken. So let the truth be heard. So let the truth be written, and let the truth be done.

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Altars and Wells

The early patriarchs of the Old Testament were constantly on the move. Once Abraham separated from his kith and kin and left what is now southern Iraq, he never looked back. For the next one hundred years he and his family were pitching their tents up and down the topography of the future Promised Land. Imagine the kids screaming from the back of the camel, “Are we there yet?”

Son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, lived the same nomadic life as Abraham. Wherever these early biblical families traveled, the first thing they did once the tent pegs were driven into the ground was to build an altar and dig a well. One was for worship and the other was for sustenance. Both provided refreshment: one for the soul; one for the body. The First Families of the Promised Land could not live without either.

There is a story in the gospel of John where Jesus met a woman who came to a well outside the village of Sychar that was dug by Jacob nineteen hundred years earlier. Much was discussed in their brief encounter: personal thirst, personal life, personal worship. In the story Jesus offered the woman the opportunity to have her thirst quenched, not her physical thirst, but the deeper thirst for worship.

In that divine moment, Jesus became both an altar and a well, unifying the fulfilment for all human need. In the joyous rush of this epiphany, the woman forgot all about her water pot and ran back to town to tell everyone who she had just encountered and what he revealed to her. She experienced personal revelation that resulted in quenching all the deepest needs of her heart.

Nothing has changed in all the millenniums since those early days when the ancient ones dug wells and built altars. We must drink liquid to sustain our bodies. And the human soul is thirsty for the divine life. We are designed for worship, and we will worship something. What we choose to drink to satisfy our physical thirst and what we choose to worship to satisfy our spiritual longings is a choice of free will. What we drink can weaken or sustain the body. What we worship can keep us mired in a “slough of despond,” or release our souls to soar. Choose wisely.

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Read more about the article Impossible Dream
Henry Arnold as Quixote and Reuben Ruskin as Sancho

Impossible Dream

I received such an outpouring of responses when I published this story on my newsletter a month ago that I thought I would share it on my Facebook pages. I was lucky man to be born into the Bud and Bernie Arnold family. Here is a little “coming of age” moment when Dad and I did our first show together. Up until this experience I had been looking for a hero in all the wrong places.

I spent some years tossing about in the world. “He’s finding himself,” was the euphemism offered when explaining why I was expelled from or flunked out of more than one educational institution, or “let go” by employers. Not a time I’m proud of, and the strain on family relationships was evident. I needed rescue but didn’t even recognize it. My father did.

When he was cast as Don Quixote in a production of Man of La Mancha, Dad thought his wayward son might benefit from having an experience on stage. In my underdeveloped, idiot brain, Dad’s coolness factor was deficient, but he cast me a lifeline, and got me to audition. In spite of my being solidly mediocre (the bar was low), I landed the role of Paco, muleteer #5.

In the process of rehearsals and performances, I watched how my father took direction, how he paid attention to what was going on around him, how he reacted to what other actors gave him, how he made manifest his physical, vocal, and interpretive choices for his character. He was gradually transforming, and I began to experience my own small transformation.

Dad was leading me into a dream, an “impossible” dream of the possible. Night-after-night I saw my father transform from Henry Arnold into Miguel de Cervantes, and then into Don Quixote as he followed his beautiful quest jousting against evil, seeing the beauty in all things and in all people, even his enemies, until his eventual “stage” death.

When I was a child of four, I was traumatized when I saw my father’s stage death as Billy Bigelow in the musical Carousel. This time I was not traumatized. I was in awe of my father’s skill as an artist who used his imagination to create transcendence, a sublime moment of truth and beauty.

The reestablishment of the father/son filial bond after our Man of La Mancha experience was not an immediate success. Estrangement continued for a few more years. Some of us are not easily rescued. For some, the lifeline for rescue can require miles of coiled threads stretched to the limit. But in time, I came to realize my quest to find a hero was over. He was right in front of me. It was Don Quixote and my father, for they were inextricably linked.

Me as Paco watching Dad as Quixote vanquish a foe.

 

 

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A Fortunate Man

The night before my mother died, Kay and I were watching the Oscars. I intended to go to bed after the first hour because of an early rehearsal call the next day. When J.K. Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Whiplash,” he praised his wife, kids, and then his parents in his acceptance speech.Mr. Simmons praised his mother and father for their contribution in shaping him into the person standing on that stage. His final words were, “…Go call your Mom and your Dad and thank them. Don’t text or e-mail them, but call them and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.” Conviction came, and I went to call Mom.

When Mom answered the phone in her bright, cheery voice, I naturally thought she was watching the Oscars and was anticipating this call. However, she informed me that she had just come in from having dinner with one of my siblings, thus the vibrant “hello.” So I explained to her how Mr. Simmons had inspired me.

“Mom, I wanted you to know how thankful I am for your love and encouragement over the years. You and Dad always cared for me and supported me. Whatever good qualities I may have, I know in large part it is because of you and Dad.”

Per Mr. Simmons’ instructions, I was about to settle in to “…listen to [her] for as long as [she] wanted to talk to [me],” but she responded: “Oh Sweetie that is so nice. I love you too and am proud of you and appreciate what you’ve said, but “Downtown Abby” is about to start, and I need to go to the bathroom, so can we wrap this up?”

A perfect Mom response. Believing there would be other opportunities for a mutual-admiration-society chat, we said our goodbyes. Some time that night, I hope after watching “Downtown Abby,” she went to sleep and her body released her spirit. What an extraordinary gift God gave me. To share mutual love and a big laugh with my mother before she shuffled off her mortal coil. For days following, I would whisper my thanks to God for heeding Mr. Simmons’ admonition.

My mother and father did so much to mold and shape my character, mostly for the better. I don’t understand how it all worked except that on my best days I am willing to receive the goodness, the kindness, the faith, the love these two people gave me and allow those qualities to sink deep into my soul. I am a fortunate man.

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Read more about the article Barry Scott Made Me A Better Man
Barry as J.J. and Chip as Mark outside the Cathedral.

Barry Scott Made Me A Better Man

My dear friend passed into eternity a year ago. We spent so much time together on and off stage telling stories, sharing burdens, dreaming of heaven. In this one-year anniversary of Barry shuffling off his mortal coil, I want to share the final story Barry shared with me just a few days before he left us.

The last time we spoke just days before his passing he said, “I got a story for you.” He was energized. His voice was a mere rasp of its former power, but the joy he was feeling at the moment gave him strength. “You ever heard of the Kings of Junk?” I told him no. “They came to my house today. I had a bunch of stuff in my garage and they came to clean it out. A few minutes before they were to arrive, I went out to the garage to open it up. I had to climb about three steps to get to the door to unlock it. I got to the bottom step and I couldn’t lift my leg to start to climb up. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t climb. I didn’t have the strength and my brain wasn’t communicating to my leg. So I sat down and used my arms and climbed up the steps backward on my butt. But when I got to the door, I couldn’t stand up. So I sat there and waited for the Kings of Junk to arrive.

Two Old Men Talking

When they arrived the man in charge came around to the side entrance and I told him the situation. He asked what he could do for me. I told him I need to be carried into the house. So the King of the Kings of Junk wrapped his arms around me and lifted me up and he helped me back into my house. Once in the kitchen, the King held me against his chest. He just held me, until he gently sat me down in a chair. Then he knelt in front of me and looked into my face, really looked at me. He saw me, saw inside of me, saw the broken me, and he said, ‘Can I do anything else for you, Mr. Scott?’ I swear, Chip, it was like I looked into the face of Jesus.”

I told Barry this story would be added to his collection of great stories. He needed to tell that story. He said I needed to come to church and we would tell our stories together. I said, who would listen to two old men telling stories? He said, “Men need to hear our stories together. Men need to tell their own stories to one another. Men need to hear and know that they are loved by God and that they are loved by us. Men need to look other men in their eyes and ask is there anything else I can do for you? Men need to know that in weakness they have strength, in pain they have power, in sorrow they have joy, and in God they have love everlasting.”

I miss my dear friend, but I will see him again. Death has its sting, but it is not forever.

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Read more about the article Impossible Dream
Henry Arnold as Quixote and Reuben Ruskin as Sancho

Impossible Dream

I spent some years tossing about in the world. “He’s finding himself,” was the euphemism offered when explaining why I was expelled from or flunked out of more than one educational institution, or “let go” by employers. Not a time I’m proud of, and the strain on family relationships was evident. I needed rescue, but didn’t even recognize it. My father did.

When he was cast as Don Quixote in a production of “Man of La Mancha,” Dad thought his wayward son might benefit from having an experience on stage. In my underdeveloped, idiot brain, Dad’s coolness factor was deficient, but he cast me a lifeline, and got me to audition. In spite of my being solidly mediocre (the bar was low), I landed the role of Paco, muleteer #5.

In the process of rehearsals and performances, I watched how my father took direction, how he paid attention to what was going on around him, how he reacted to what other actors gave him, how he made manifest his physical, vocal, and interpretive choices for his character. He was gradually transforming, and I began to experience my own small transformation.

Dad was leading me into a dream, an “impossible” dream of the possible. Night-after-night I saw my father transform from Henry Arnold into Miguel de Cervantes, and then into Don Quixote as he followed his beautiful quest jousting against evil, seeing the beauty in all things and in all people, even his enemies, until his eventual “stage” death.

When I was a child of four, I was traumatized when I saw my father’s stage death as Billy Bigelow in the musical “Carousel.” This time I was not traumatized. I was in awe of my father’s skill as an artist who used his imagination to create transcendence, a sublime moment of truth and beauty.

The reestablishment of the father/son filial bond after our “Man of La Mancha” experience was not an immediate success. Estrangement continued for a few more years. Some of us are not easily rescued. For some, the lifeline for rescue can require miles of coiled threads stretched to the limit. But in time, I came to realize my quest to find a hero was over. It was Don Quixote and my father, for they were inextricably linked.

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Foot in Mouth

A few years ago we hosted several counselors who work with Kay in our home. After eating a delicious brunch, one of the younger couples with small children asked the “elders” around the table the names their grandchildren called them. A few shared their “grand” monikers before me, and when it was my turn, I had a story to tell.

I happened to be in a production of “All My Sons” for Nashville Rep when the call came that our youngest daughter in Chattanooga had gone into labor. Kay and I hopped in the car and drove down. We stayed long enough to hold the child, “oo” and “ah” over the perfection of this newborn, and head back.

I returned with cigars for all the members of the cast in the play. When one of the actors asked if I had thought of a grandfather name by which I would be called, I said, “I don’t know, but it sure as hell won’t be ‘Pee Paw.’” Polite laughter from the brunch guests.

The next “elder” at the table to reveal his grandfather name happened to be an esteemed clinical psychologist and chair of the psych department at a university. He was silent for a couple of seconds—the genius of comic timing building—and then he said, “Pee Paw.” Guffaws from the brunch guests, all at my expense.

The next time we paid a visit to see the new grandchild, I shared my story with our youngest daughter. She pushed back saying, “Well, Dad, what if your grandson decides to call you ‘Pee Paw’?” I too paused before I spoke; the comic timing from the clinical psychologist not lost on me. “Well, that’s all right, if you don’t mind me calling him ‘Little Brat.’”

End of discussion.

I solved the dilemma by creating the sobriquet of “Dachi” (pronounced “Da-chee”), “Da” for the Irish “Da”, and “Chi” for the first three letters of my nickname “Chip.” It has since morphed into derivations like: “Dachi-man,” “Dachi-mingo,” and my favorite, “The Dach.” The omnipotence of “The Dach” can strike fear and trembling in the hearts of men.

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A Short-Lived Double-O Life

After I traded in my Superman towel cape and my father’s ragbag shirt with the red “S” my mother painted on the front, I was at a loss to find a hero that inspired me. For years I struggled to find the personality that I could emulate and model. And after years of wandering in the wilderness, the new hero arrived…007. Cue the guitar licks for the James Bond theme music. Not only could I save the world, but I had theme music I could hum as I vanquished all of the villains SPECTRE could throw at me.

Now in the early days of my Secondary education, I was not a model student that “wowed” my teachers with scholastic enterprise. Days before I had to show my parents the report card marking my progress or lack thereof, I was consumed with anxiety. Once, in a moment of panic, I tried to transform a “D” into an “A” and an “F” into a “B”. Not a very “Bond” move. My penciled-in upgrade did not fool anyone; my dyslexia could not be hidden.

So when “Goldfinger” was released, and my mother and I were watching a trailer on television, I asked her what it would take to become a double 00 like James Bond. Mother did not even have to think of her answer. The words flew out of her mouth, “Well Honey, you gotta start by making better grades in school.” This from the woman who had enabled me to become Superman, now speaking truth. I was brought low.

I will always be grateful to my mother for her grounded realism, and not inflating my imagination with “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up.” Some things were clearly out of reach. So the quest to find a more accessible hero continued.

However, my sweet wife Kay has reminded me on occasion that I still harbor a secret desire to to be “Bond…James Bond.” Some fantasies are worth holding on to.

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Read more about the article Whole Lotta K-LOVE
The K-LOVE Summer Reading List for 2021

Whole Lotta K-LOVE

How many times have you said it or heard other people say they don’t like surprises? This phrase is as common as the head cold. Merriam-Webster defines surprise as “an unexpected or astonishing event.” I’ve had my share of those events, and not all of them pleasant.
Front Cover of the novel

 

I love author Alice Walker’s quote, “Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.” So when the occasional surprise finds me, and it also happens to be an enjoyable one, I try to “live” on it sparingly and appreciate the joy that comes with it.

I received some news that was totally unexpected and it astonished me. The K-LOVE Radio Network has placed my novel, “A Voice Within the Flame” on it’s recommended summer reading list. So grateful for the shout-out, and I am humbled and honored to be on a list with such esteemed authors. I will live frugally on the pleasurable taste of this surprise for as long as I can.

 

The K-LOVE Summer Reading List for 2021

If you are still looking for that summer read, then “A Voice Within the Flame” might be your cup of tea. This is the first volume in my historical/biblical fiction series entitled “The Song of Prophets and Kings.”

In this first volume, we take a 3,000 year leap back to the tenth century B.C., when prophets and kings vie for power in ancient Israel. Royal dynasties clash with prophets of God in a brutal and bloody time; a time of conflict between religion and politics, between God and man. “A Voice Within the Flame” is now available in ebook, print, and audio book wherever books are sold.

Look for the second installment in this series, “Crown of the Warrior King”, to be released by WhiteFire Publishing on December 1, 2021.

Also, it’s never too late to sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter: http://henryoarnold.com/subscribe/ 

Enjoy your summer. Stay curious. And keep reading.
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The Good Word

We are told that words are powerful, that words matter, that a spoken thought has a ripple effect in the world whether for good or ill. The main character in my novel, “A Voice Within the Flame,” is Samuel, the last great judge and prophet before the monarchy was introduced in Israel. There is a descriptive phrase written of Samuel that is used nowhere else in Scripture, nor is it used to describe any other character. It is stated of Samuel that God “let none of his words fall to the ground.”

This is biblical poetry and does not just refer to Samuel’s prophetic declarations. Those pronouncements, while profound in effect, were infrequent and not the everyday life that Samuel led. This idiomatic expression reveals Samuel’s deep and knowing character rooted in truth. Whatever Samuel spoke, either in the sacred language of God or the common communication of man, it could be trusted.

The ancient Hebrew phrase “fall to the ground” means that something is useless and carries no weight or power. In Samuel’s case, his words did not fall to the ground like “precious liquors if spilt upon the earth, or like an arrow shot from a bow not arriving to the target,” as one commentator wrote. As spilt liquor upon the ground or a missed shot of an arrow are useless, and so are thoughtless and foolish words when spoken.

When Samuel spoke what he said carried the full weight of truth. Many times people did not like what Samuel had to say, or the way he said it, but the measure of everything he spoke was bathed in the oil of truth and the people trusted him.

To expect the truth in others, we must first be truthful. To expect trust in others, we must first be trustworthy. Like Samuel, the truth flowed in his bloodstream; the truth was his core nature. If our words do matter, and if we want those words to produce positive outcomes and not fall useless upon the ground, then we must be devoted to the truth and walk in its light.

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