The Scar of My Arm by Reverend Britt Skarda


I left my hometown of Des Arc, Arkansas almost forty years ago, but I still recall what a wonderful place it was to live as a child. Main Street was crammed with thriving businesses including the Rice Movie Theatre, Skating Rink, Lunch Car Cafe, Western Auto, Walls Barber Shop, Eddins Hardware, Berry Furniture and Bell’s Variety Store to name only a few. As a little boy, I was absolutely mesmerized by the large plastic “Old Crow” that stood in the window of Charlie Smith’s Liquor Store, as well as the large “Red Goose” golden egg dispenser located in the shoe department of Horne’s Department Store.

However, it was more than the local amenities I loved. It was also the people. I can still see Mrs. Myrtle Robinson sitting in the window of her Main Street home reading her Bible, even as Margie Thompson sold candy at her candy store next door. Coach John Rollins was a staple in the public school athletic department and Walter Birdsong ran his own personal trash pick up service. My grandmother, Natalie Walt Childress, was the Prairie County Clerk for the selective service office. She regularly climbed out of bed at the crack of dawn in order to see young men who had been drafted off to war as the Greyhound bus passed through town to pick them up.

One of the most vivid memories of my childhood occurred in 1959 when my parents loaded me and my siblings in the family car and drove us to the Prairie County Courthouse. There we fell into a single-file line and waited our turn to receive a prick in our arms that would inoculate us against the dreaded smallpox disease that was killing three out of every ten Americans who were infected at the time.

I still bear the scar from that vaccine today. It stands as a symbol of the wonderful unity and cooperation that existed in an America gone by. We not only believed in science, we counted on it! Yes, we believed and trusted in God as well. In fact, science served as an outward and visible sign that we had been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by a God who had given us the gift of intelligence to use for the betterment of the world.

While my hometown is still filled with amazingly wonderful people who continue to do the right thing, I am stunned by the level of ignorance displayed by others via social media and even church pulpits. The COVID vaccine is not some satanic government plot to destroy lives. Rather it is merely a continuation of the kind of spirit that placed that scar on my arm more than sixty years ago.

If you have not done so please get the vaccine and booster shots. Thank you.



I Want That Bumper Sticker


My children are going to the dogs.

I don’t know about your part of the country, but in the South it is the “in thing” to advertise a child’s good citizenship in school on the family automobile.  When Justin and Sara, Miles and Deborah make the list, they rush home, bumper stickers in hand, to assault their parents with the good news.

The other day, while I was reading about hundreds of the latest bumper-sticker honorees, Milo, my biggest dog and the one tardiest to anything but a meal, looked at me with an expression that clearly asked, Why don’t you have a sticker announcing my greatest accomplishment?

I began to laugh, and then stopped.

Then laughed again, and stopped.

He was serious.  You know the serious look of a dog in thought.  Direct eye contact — the I-can-take-down-a-cockroach-in-total-silence-if-I-want-to-so-you’d-better-listen-with-interest-and-respond-appropriately look.

“‘My Dog Does Not Pee on the Carpet’ does not flow off people’s lips quite the same as ‘My Child is an Outstanding Student at Bluff Park Elementary,’” I said, snickering.

I disagree, he said inside my head, growling belligerently — obviously hurt by my lack of support.

You think a human can hold it all day? We’re talking straight 10hour shifts, minimum. You leave at 7:30 a.m. and return at 5:30 p.m., he said, thrusting a paw toward the radio and the faint orange glow of the clock.

I’d like to see Johnny hold it 10 hours, he barked. Then he turned his back and looked out the window, pouting.

Poor guy. He had a point.  I am proud to return home each day to a dry carpet, an intact sofa, and wouldbe ne’er-do-wells at bay.

As you can tell, I have dog children.  One of the benefits of having dogs for children is you have an instant entourage of adoring fans regardless of the time, date, or condition of the house or your hair, breath, skin, nails, face, diet, or mood.  Unconditional love — truly.

“Is that a zit that has attached itself to your nose?” a voice asks with blunt nonchalance.

The last one of my dogs to think anything so brazen was Charles.  He was genuinely concerned that the tightness of my jeans would adversely effect the circulation in my lower body.

Dogs are honest.  Hey, what do they have to lose?  To punish the directness of a dog would be to refuse one of the greatest gifts they give humans.

Anyway, how would you punish their directness — by withholding treats?  Then how in the world would you deal with the constant whining and the I’ve-got-to-have-a-cookie-right-this-very-instant-or-I’m-going-to-faint looks?

My dogs have perfected the look.  They have also perfected their human-manipulation skills.  Experts note communicating with our pets — and people, for that matter — involves both nonverbal and verbal interaction.  Just the other day my own mate growled, grunted, and resorted to loud yapping before I passed the cookies.

This form of communication does have benefits, especially when someone representing the newest long-distance carrier calls with the latest incentive to switch.

“How much is your current monthly long distance bill?” he or she says. “I personally guarantee our plan will save you.”

“Ruff, bark, yap, yap, snort,” I reply.

“Excuse me?” a shocked voice responds.

“Yap, yap, yap, bark, snort.”


Works every time, and is more polite than hanging up on someone doing a job.

My dogs’ communication skills are highly refined. They know exactly what they are saying with their thoughts.

The other evening I was watching a documentary on Egypt.  Suddenly I had an overwhelming desire to leave the comfort of the couch, go to the kitchen, and get . . . dog cookies.  I wasn’t hungry.  And when I am, even the Three Dog Bakery Scotty Biscotti that smell like Grandmother’s special cinnamon cookies aren’t on my snack list.

I have yet to determine which of my dogs is most talented at invading my mind. I suspect it is Charles. His observance of my tight pants gives away the breadth of his abilities.

Lucky and Zoey are neck and neck for second.  Milo is dead last, since most often he is satisfied getting treats and other basic needs the old fashioned way — blatant, shameless begging.

In addition to treats, my dogs get other things they want through the subtle manipulation of my mind. Often I feel overwhelmed by doggie psychic energy, although I’m not always aware of the particular source of my mental agitation.  When two, three, or all four have the same thing on their minds at once, I begin to itch.

Most often one lone dog talks silently to me, forcing me to do his or her bidding.  Got to go out now.  I’ve waited until I’m bursting!  Anyone listening?  Get up, now.  Open the back door, now.  Don’t wait another second.  You must do this, now!  To look at Charles peacefully resting on the sofa, paws thrust skyward, I do not believe the urgency of his need.

Hey, human!  Look over here, his little doggie mind screams at me.  Charles flops lazily onto his side and opens his eyelids a slit.  He’s a water dog mix with two eyelids on each eye. One is soft and furry.  The other is a blood-red transparent thing he uses for the sole purpose of grossing out his human.  That was the lid with which he chose to spy on me at this very moment.

See, my legs are crossed, my eyes are bulging.  Hello, is anybody in there? he thinks, with his eyes opened a bit more and head thrown casually back in my direction. As if posing for famed dog photographer William Wegman, he looks cute, not like a pup experiencing imminent bladder explosion.

Unaware, I shift in my seat.  He believes his thoughts have finally made contact.  He leaps off the sofa, runs to the door, and begins circling, while keeping his eyes glued to my every move.

“Why didn’t you let me know you had to go out?” I ask, opening the door.

I’ve been telling you for the past five minutes, he says to me over his shoulder as he searches for the least urine-tortured bush upon which to relieve himself.

“I didn’t hear you,” I respond.

You’ve really got to improve your skills, he quips, satisfied in having manipulated me once more with his superior telepathic abilities.

Frustrated by my lack of extrasensory communication skills, my dogs often resort to less subtle, more physical methods of expressing themselves.

The other day I was vacuuming, carefully avoiding the minefield of toys belonging to my three-month-old puppy, Zoey, when she threw herself on me.

“Well, hello sweetie,” I cooed.  “What a cute little angel wanting a hug.  Is the big bad vacuum scaring my little darling?” I asked, bending down to pet her.

“Let me finish vacuuming, my precious.” I gave her a final pat and gently pushed her down.

Finishing the living room, I moved to the kitchen with Zoey hot on my heels.  I had barely plugged the vacuum in when she again threw herself on me.  “What is it, little Zoeilla?” I asked.

With ears back flat against her head, she danced in front of me, demanding my attention. “We’ll play in a minute when I’m finished here,” I assured her.

For the next ten minutes I vacuumed, while she danced, threw herself on me, and was, I thought, irresistibly adorable.

I moved the vacuum to the bathroom and was about to begin there when Zoey came flying into the room.  I plugged in the cord and was about to give her another hug when a human voice came from the direction of the bathtub.

“She’s teaching you a lesson,” my partner said flatly.

“What lesson?” I smugly volleyed back.

“Zoey is trying to teach you a lesson,” my partner shared again, more patronizingly.

“Yea, right,” I quipped. And then I got it.

Zoey was finding relief in the middle of the bathroom floor. Lost in complete bliss, she was smiling the smile of comfort, the kind we smile with a mug of hot chocolate on a cold snowy day.

I stared in disbelief.  She was in heaven.  How could I scold her for going in the house?  She had spent the past twenty minutes trying to communicate.   Unlike Charles, Zoey had literally thrown herself at me to get my attention. She had tried everything she knew to make contact, and I had been oblivious.

Often subtle, many times overt, at least dogs attempt to communicate with us. Making successful contact requires humans to stretch the boundaries of their imagination to accept that dogs really can talk — if still at too sophisticated a level for our hearing.

Got to go now!

Please, please, please don’t make me spoil my record.

I want that bumper sticker!  Milo thought as he lifted a threatening leg.  I leapt to my feet, stumbled over Zoey, the vacuum, and the rug, and raced to open the door.  I stubbed my toe.  Hopping up and down in anguish, mumbling under my breath, I let him out — in time.

Thanks.  He acknowledged my efforts with a smile. You know the smile of a dog — a tight-lipped gesture, a silent snicker that acknowledges the disruption of your life because he wanted to sniff around the yard . . .  for chipmunks.

You Are a Success When You Say You Are Successful

What does being a success mean to you? Have you thought about it?

For many years I went along with the idea of success other people tried to impose on me. I went to junior college and got an associate’s degree. Then on to a university for my bachelor’s. I continued my education and got a master’s degree.

Today I can honestly say I am grateful for my formal education. On this side, I can see how pursuing knowledge has made me a well-rounded person. But a formal education alone did not ever make me feel like a success.

I had great jobs, and with some of the jobs came a big corner office. But my life was so busy with work my relationships suffered. I had no time to play or spend quality time with my partner, friends, and pets.

I got the nice house, fancy car, and stylish wardrobe. Even though I had a good well-paying job, I spent way beyond my means. What I wore, what I drove, where I lived became more important than being financially responsible.

I grew up with family, television, and advertisers telling me surrounding myself with things is what it means to be successful. So I blindly followed the crowd. I attempted to keep up with an unrealistic standard of what it means to be successful, as defined by other people.

Honestly, would you consider someone a success who is $35,000 in credit card debt? Someone who could not afford regular health check-ups, dental examinations, or visits to the vet for her pets? Would you think I was successful when I could not afford to take a vacation? Someone who lay awake at night in a panic from fear of how I was going to pay off all the debt?

I am now debt free. I paid all of the $35,000 back. It was important for me to do so, because assuming responsibility for my actions taught me what it really means to be successful.

We live in a consumerist world that deems us successful when we attain wealth, honors, notoriety, a big house, big car, excellent education, and other things. If we wear a certain size, drive a certain model luxury car, live in a certain neighborhood, etc., we are considered a success. But things, titles, and neighborhoods are not who we are.

Things do not feel. Things do not provide genuine validation of who we are. Things do not establish us as people who are truly admirable. Things are sold to us by people who are in the business of selling things. Merchants attempt to dictate what we think it means to be successful based on the items they sell.

The same is true of fashion and what size we are supposed to be. But what if we do not fit the mold or model of their standard? Are we a failure? We are led to believe so.

Defining what success means to me was one of the most important acts of self-love and respect I undertook. Why? Because it helped me understand loving and respecting myself have nothing to do with what other people think of me. It took time to realize it was a lack of self-love and self-acceptance that caused me a great amount of suffering.

There was a time I was codependent and craved the validation of other people. But never once did I feel validated by other people. They could shower me with praise, but as long as I doubted my own worthiness, all the praise and validation in the world did not make a lasting difference. Only when I began to feel worthy could I accept the praise of others. Meaning, I had earned feeling worthy.

Success is a term with no real meaning until we take time to determine what it means to us. Today I am successful, not because other people tell me I am or because I have attained wealth, honors, degrees, etc. I now know lasting feelings of satisfaction and worthiness are based on what I offer, who I am, what character values motivate my behavior, and what I leave as my legacy.  It is certainly okay to have money and to purchase things, but true success cannot be purchased. True success comes from feeling worthy for simply being ourselves. Feeling successful comes from being responsible for each area of our life and working to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

Love yourself by taking time to define success for yourself. Refuse to believe anyone who says you are a success only when you have achieved their idea of accomplishment. You will not be fulfilled working for the goals of someone else. You find inner peace and self-respect when you set your own standard of success.

Healthy Competition Is Good for Your Soul

Do you compare yourself to other people? Do you compete with them?

I used to, until I had a life-changing awareness when I was looking through a fashion magazine while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I flipped through the pages looking at the thin models with seemingly perfect skin. For a brief moment, I thought how wonderful it would be to be young again with a perfect body, skin, hair, nails, teeth, and gorgeous looks.

Then I woke up and realized what I was doing. What in the world are you thinking, I sort of half-screamed to myself, inside my head, of course. Old patterns die hard, don’t they?

When we realize we are each born unique we wake up to what a joke it is to even entertain the notion we should be like another person. Although you have heard this before we are indeed like a fingerprint or snowflake. We were designed to be individuals unlike any other person on earth. At no time in the past or future will there be another Regina. At no time in the past or future will there be another you. So what in the world would you and I be doing to ourselves if we bought the lie we should be like other people, should look a certain way, or wear a certain size, or marry a certain person, or make a certain amount of money – or, fill in the blank.

I think we grow up comparing ourselves to and competing with others. Was I as pretty as the other girls? No. Was I as smart as other people? No. Was I as clever, funny, popular? No. It seemed in every area where I compared myself to others, I fell short.

Even though I was taught to compare myself to others through television advertising, peer pressure, teachers, and my parents comparing me to my sister, it did not feel good. Was life really supposed to be a competition with other people? How could this be the goal of life when I was not like other people? I am me, a unique individual.

Looking at those rail-thin models in a fashion magazine, comparing myself to them, felt bad. I felt less than some ideal height, weight, and look. I felt unattractive which led me to feel unworthy. Comparing myself to anyone always leaves me feeling negative. Even when the comparison makes me think I am better, more attractive, smarter, it still leaves me feeling bad. Maybe I am smarter than another person, but my intelligence does not make me better.

One of the most empowering actions I take is refusing to compare myself to or compete with others in the unhealthy ways. Today I work hard to only compare and compete with myself in a healthy way: to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I am focused on supporting people to be their unique selves and to achieve their individual goals, just as I want to be supported in achieving my goals and to be accepted for who I am.

Imagine how our lives will change, and those of our children, friends, family, co-workers, when you and I refuse to compare or compete with one another. Sure, team sports can help build self-respect, cooperation, good sportsmanship, motivation to excel, and the drive to be better through practice and hard work. But placing ourselves up against other people as a way to gauge our worth and value is unhealthy and only leads to feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

Refuse to compete with anyone on looks. You and I are beautiful as we were born to be. We can take care of our looks through rest, diet, and exercise. We can take good care of our skin through vitamins, moisturizers, sunscreen, and not eating sugar and processed foods. We can look our best as we were born to be. So it is healthy to compete with ourselves to take good care of ourselves to honor our individual looks.

The same is true of competing with anyone on weight. The goal is to feel good in your body. The goal is to be healthy. You and I are not meant to be the same size. We are meant to respect and honor our bodies through eating healthfully, exercising, not using food as an excuse to stuff our emotions, or feelings of unworthiness or shame, or to reduce boredom. We are to compete with ourselves to find the healthy weight for us, to maintain our desired weight, and to do whatever it takes to keep our body in optimum condition.

Also, refuse to compete with anyone on money. Set your financial goals based on what you deem successful. Some of the richest people I know are the poorest as far as integrity and fulfillment. And, some of the poorest people I know are the richest in terms of satisfaction, generosity, and joy. Being true to you requires you to compete with yourself to be financially responsible by refusing to surround yourself with stuff in an attempt to make you feel whole. Things do not ever fill the holes within our heart. Only self-love and respect do.

When you refuse to compete with anyone on anything you are honoring the truth:  you are distinctive among all other human beings. You are respecting the fact you have been specifically designed to be yourself.

When you allow your uniqueness to shine without comparison or competition, you will be most fulfilled. Be proud to be you! Appreciate you are the only one of you there is or ever will be. Work to be a better person today than you were yesterday; a healthy competition that is good for your soul.

Start now by learning to pay attention to how you compare yourself to others. Each time you find yourself going down the “I am not as good as,” or “I am not as pretty (or smart, or funny) as” road, stop yourself. Intentionally end your ego’s competition and comparison. Turn your attention to how you are unique and valuable as you are. If there are negative aspects about your behavior you want to change, get busy competing with yourself to stop smoking, overeating, being codependent, spending without responsibility — whatever makes you feel less than.

You have the power to change anything about yourself you want to. First, make a list of what you want to change. Second, choose one item from the list. Third, make the decision to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal. Fourth, do not give up and refuse to compare yourself or compete with anyone – even if you have a friend who is doing the same thing, like losing weight or quitting smoking.

You are an individual. Your body, metabolism, or addiction level is different than your friends’. Do not go down the “she is losing faster, stopping faster, etc.,” road. Support one another so you both accomplish your goals. Refuse to compete with one another. Compete with yourself and support her. Healthy competition is good for your soul. When you only compete with yourself, you can define what success truly means to you.