Helicopters Diving to Earth

By: Marcy Barthelette

Then God said: Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.

Genesis 1:11

No need for concern about my title…I’m not referring to those large birds that carry people. These helicopters are the twirly, whirly seed pods that dive into our yard every spring populating the holes in our gutter guards, hiding behind windshield wipers, filling every crack in any pavement, and making a general nuisance of themselves. They fall from a silver maple out front and two lovely red maples in the back yard. I don’t know if everyone knows them as helicopters or not, but we have described them as such for as long as I can remember. Before we know it, they’ll be poking new life through the earth in huge numbers and creating havoc in my landscape beds. They love to hide underneath larger plants until their roots grow deep enough that I have difficulty pulling them.   

A closer study of these little gems of nature reveals a blueprint for life that only God could create. The helicopters consist of a seed tucked deep in the pointed end of the structure. The top part is a much thinner membrane that is the single blade of these fearless fliers. The design is so simple, the heavier seed on the point falls to the ground first, followed by the delicate blade, twisting and turning in the breeze. There have been mornings when I’ve looked out over the yard and witnessed thousands of those wispy little blades standing tall above the grass, having safely delivered their payload. The blade will wither and fall away while the seed begins to swell, ultimately breaking free from its shell. Tiny roots will reach down in hope of finding fertile soil. And soon, a tiny new tree will emerge. A perfect plan, an incredible design, and one of the many miracles that surround us every day.

But, alas, so many detours can block those healthy little trees from becoming the giants that grace our lawn and shade us from the sun. My research into the fate of maple seeds introduced their scientific name as samaras. Personally, I like helicopters better and I think it describes them perfectly. I learned that my trees, the red and silver maple, along with the Norway maple, take top production honors. Some estimates suggested twelve to twenty thousand in a single year. That’s one tree and we have three.

The seeds are not particular where they fall and require no specific soil or conditions. The germination rate can reach seventy-five to eighty percent in two to six days and total germination is often eighty-five to ninety-one percent. Our three trees can produce thirty to sixty thousand seeds per year and using the lowest rate of germination, we could have twenty-seven to forty-five thousand trees planted by nature in our yard. Of course, some of them blow into neighboring yards and many are quickly scooped up by birds and squirrels. Many more meet the fate of the mower blade while still others become victims of my keen eye and unforgiving hands. In the end, no new trees survive our onslaught and that of the critters, because when you add two very prolific oak trees to our equally prolific maples, we have quite enough trees, thank you. But don’t fret… because some of those seeds drifted off to other locations and some were carried by birds and other critters who feasted on their goodness. God’s perfect plan was not thwarted just because we eliminated the newly sprouted trees from our yard. They will thrive in their new homes and become beautiful trees.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our trees. They give us wonderful shade from hot summer sun, offer a nesting place for birds and squirrels, and fall is a continuous palette of reds, yellows, and oranges with coppery highlights. Even more, I love the individual plan that God set forth for every living thing. His plan is one of intricate simplicity. You may view those two words as a contradiction, but when applied to the whole of a lifespan, they are accurately descriptive. And guess what….He has a perfect plan for you too.

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22


The Sign of the Fish

By: Marcy Barthelette

I think I’ve mentioned that the face of our neighborhood has been transforming over the eight and a half years since we moved into our current home. Back in 2015 most of us ranged from upper middle aged families to retirees. As an example, there were three children boarding the school bus just down the street from us each day. In the past few years that number has ranged from sixteen to twenty. When a house goes up for sale, it is typically snapped up quickly by a young couple.

In the past year, three older women moved away from here to assisted living or full care facilities and two of those homes have sold in just the last month, each hosting a three-day estate sale. The first of those sales was just a month ago and a couple of other neighbors were setting out goods for garage sales because of all the shoppers on our street. Ken decided he should join in on the garage sale fun and started hauling items out to the driveway. They were perched on makeshift tables and many on the pavement. Carrying all of it in and out morning and evening was quite a task.

The second estate sale was announced for three weeks later and we wanted to try again with a more organized approach, but the location for the sale wasn’t divulged until twenty-four hours ahead of start time, leaving us uncertain. Once we learned that it would be in the neighborhood, we scrambled to put everything together. We made arrangements to park our car in a neighbor’s driveway so that there was no tearing down and resetting the following day, borrowed tables from the church, and set everything up in the garage. We felt quite ready to meet this little sale head-on.

The first day was kind of exciting because there were big expectations and we were not yet exhausted. The second day sales were really slow but Ken had fun just talking to the various people who stopped by. The third day we just wanted the whole thing to end.

In the midst of all our garage sale adventures, we had done some shopping that required rearranging a number of heavy items in our garage and shed, along with taking lots of kitchen measurements to be sure everything was right for the new stove. And, of course, our car windshield had been dinged by a rock and the glass repairman was scheduled on day three of the sale.

This may not sound like a big deal, but to a couple of seniors like us, it was a very busy few days requiring much more strenuous activity than normal, not to mention stress. And the day after the sale was Easter.

Attending church to celebrate our risen Lord restored our spirits as did delicious food and fellowship shared in a friend’s home. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, ending too soon as we had to head back the forty-something miles to our home to finish our clean-up and prepare for the coming week. The first task for that Monday was returning the borrowed tables to the church. When we had picked them up, there had been a couple of handymen at the OMC who helped load and secure the tables. All they had to do was lift the tailgate along with the four eight-foot tables so that they were tilted upward and couldn’t fly out and hit another vehicle. The return trip was a different story. It was just the two of us and we couldn’t lift the tailgate with four heavy tables stacked on it nor did we have strength left to lift them individually over the closed tailgate. So we laid them flat with the tailgate down and tied them individually to the side tie-downs. I felt pretty good that they were well-secured. Ken was not! He worried every time a vehicle pulled in behind us that one or more tables would get away and fly through the front of the other vehicle.

Finally, I asked him if he, the veteran Boy Scout, trusted the knots he had tied. He answered, “Yes.” I then asked if he trusted God, and again he answered, “Yes.” So I told him I’d just prayed for a safe trip over and he asked, “Yes, but did you ask that the tables would get there safely too?” I quickly implored, “Please, God, deliver the tables safely too.” Ken visibly relaxed then.

 To speed up our unloading time, Ken cut the many layers of binder twine holding the tables, and when all were stored back where they belonged, he closed the tailgate. There, lying on the pavement, under where the tailgate had previously been, was a piece of our binder twine in the perfect shape of a fish, tail and all! Absolute proof that God had been with us all along! He always is, and when you start to doubt, take a good look at all the little ways He takes care of us each and every day.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:8


An Imperfect Man

By: Marcy Barthelette

Peter, the great disciple, has long been one of my favorite Biblical characters, and I believe the term character to be an apt description of the man who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. Peter was certainly not the perfect disciple, making him someone with whom I can identify. He was brash and sometimes a bit unruly. He loved his Lord, but it sometimes seemed he was trying too hard. He joined Jesus in His ministry without a moment’s hesitation, impulsiveness was his at his very core. But sometimes he stumbled all over himself trying to please.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew….and he called out to them, “Come, follow me and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20 (Paraphrased)

It’s important to realize that Peter had a family and he left, he walked away from his job to follow a complete stranger, not knowing what was ahead or when he might return. How many of us would do such a thing?

We all remember that after feeding a huge crowd of followers with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus sent his disciples by boat to head back across the lake from where they had come. While Jesus stayed behind to pray, a terrible storm quickly gathered and the disciples had difficulty staying afloat in the huge waves. But then Jesus appeared and came toward them, walking on the water. The disciples feared him, thinking he was a ghost. He told them who he was and not to be afraid, but Peter challenged him…..

“Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Matthew 14:28

Now, that’s pretty bold, wouldn’t you say? But that was Peter’s personality, and as we know, Jesus told Peter to come to him and he climbed from the boat and, for a few steps, he walked on the water. But then he took his focus from Jesus and realized he was surrounded by crashing waves. He began to sink and cried out for help. Jesus grabbed him, gave him a little speech about faith and they climbed back into the boat. The storm calmed.

That’s an abbreviated version, of course, but how many times do we ask God for what seems a miracle to us and take our focus from Him when he tries to provide an answer? Once the miracle seems within our grasp, we turn our attention back to worldly thoughts, just like Peter, and our “miracle” vanishes.

And, of course, none of us can forget Peter’s words on the night that Jesus was betrayed:  

Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you….Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you. Matthew 26:33 and 35

And yet we know he did deny ever knowing his Lord, not once but three times, and just as Jesus said, after the third denial, a rooster crowed as a reminder of what he’d promised. I have no doubt Peter really meant to keep that vow, but fear can do terrible things to the human mind.

There’s one other example of Peter’s impulsiveness that sets him apart from the other disciples. As the royal guards came into the garden to take Jesus away for trial, Peter felt an overwhelming need to defend his Master. He stepped forward, drew his sword, and lopped off the ear of Malchus, a servant of one of the soldiers. It was another of Jesus’ many teaching moments as, after healing the man’s ear, he simply told Peter:

“Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” John 18:11

These are but a few insights into the man who would become perhaps the greatest disciple of all time. In Peter, Jesus saw potential, probably because of those very traits that seem to render him unfit for the task. His impulsiveness, his devotion, his willingness to do anything for his Lord, even when he stumbled or failed, made him the perfect choice to help lead a hurting world toward Christianity. It should be no surprise, that when Jesus’ work on this earth was completed, he turned to Peter. He offered forgiveness for all Peter’s failings, even his ultimate betrayal and asked this very disciple to “feed His lambs.” Peter did just that! He attempted to feed lost lambs for the rest of his life on earth and he ultimately did die for his Lord.

Peter’s example is a lesson for all of us, that no matter how far down the road of self-destruction our actions have taken us, we are redeemable. Most of us won’t be asked to die defending God’s name but he does ask us to be a light in the world. So, people of God…let your light shine!


Gentleness Leads to Self-Control

By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL. Galatians 5: 22-23a

The tension is building. Only a few days are left in this Holy Week. Tomorrow we’ll wait in the Garden while our Lord and Savior prays to his Father with such anguish that he sweats drops of blood. But his disciples don’t understand the gravity of what is coming, and they fall asleep. The soldiers will come with Judas at their head. They’ll take Jesus away under the protest of those same sleepy disciples. One will even raise his sword and lop off the ear of one of the servants. Jesus simply lifts his hand for quiet and heals the man’s ear.

The soldiers drag Jesus away and his own disciples abandon him in fear for their own lives. He is tried before one after another kangaroo court. These “judges” know that he is innocent, but they are more interested in protecting their own necks than in dealing out justice. Eventually, he is sentenced to death amidst the clamor of the crowds. He’s beaten, tortured, spit upon, and yet he remains at peace, even in his agony. He falters along the path to Golgotha and a stranger is commandeered to bear the cross for him. 

Once they reach the site designated for their cruel execution, the soldiers lay him on the cross, striking the nails through his hands and feet. Then they raise the cross into the air placing unimaginable strain on those nail piercings. To add insult to injury, two hardened criminals are placed one on each side of him. And the tormenting of the crowd continues until it appears to be over. He succumbs to human death, but not before he offers forgiveness to the criminal who asks for it. Through it all, he proved to be the epitome of gentleness and complete self-control. I think there is no greater definition of our two fruits of the spirit for this week than the example Jesus set forth throughout His life on earth, especially in those final hours.

The concept of self-control is perhaps the most difficult of the spiritual gifts for us to define and choose to follow. The human mind connects self-control with having a total say over every aspect of our lives. It refuses to let others help and creates chasms between ourselves and others with the “me first” attitude. Let’s face it, we all have our moments when emotions call on us to take absolute control over the situation at hand. But, what if we approached that crisis with a gentle attitude, a civil tongue? Which is more likely to diffuse anger and unrest?

Control over situations is not a sign of strength, control over oneself conveys deep strength. Next time you’re tempted to lash out, choose gentle words instead. Bob Goff (Paraphrased from Live In Grace, Walk In Love)

I believe self-control to be a composite of all the other spiritual fruits. Here in the Ozarks, we are blessed with numerous springs flowing forth from the earth to create sparkling, babbling streams. These sometimes, after periods of heavy rain, become torrents of muddied water tearing through the surrounding ground, re-routing themselves by cutting new channels and often reaching into homes nestled

nearby. We can be like those springs. We can maintain a calm peaceful demeanor with others, or we can turn our tensions and need to be in control into a flood of destruction. I believe the Spirit meant for us to focus on all the fruits offered to us so that the end result would be a constant and natural outflow of self-control, living life in adherence to His Word.

If you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart, these fruits are yours to be picked and to become the core of your daily diet. If you’re still sitting on the fence or actively saying no to Him, this is the day to make a decision. Only you can take that step for yourself. Come to Him in all your personal mess and just say yes, I want to follow You. He sacrificed everything for you and me. It’s time for us to give everything back to Him.

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love (and joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (Paraphrased)


A Season for Everything

By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a

How do you define faithfulness? I believe many of us would equate being faithful to our relationships; our marriages, our kids and grandkids, our close friends. Others want to be faithful to a job commitment they have made or perhaps a volunteer endeavor. I can even imagine an old farmer referring to his dog as a faithful friend.

One thing I’m very faithful to these days is my daily core workout. This sprung from my bout with hip and leg pain last summer. My doctor and my physical therapist strongly encouraged me to remain faithful to it if I wanted to enjoy my garden and some light hiking and other activities that require a reasonable level of agility. You might say I’m “committed to the core.” OK….bad pun, but seriously, how do we most often apply the word faithfulness? 

Faithfulness is steadfastness, constancy, or allegiance; it is carefulness in keeping what we are entrusted with…(gotquestions.com)

Our modern world sees faithfulness through a slightly different lens than some of the familiar names from Bible passages. If we return to our earlier discussion of Noah, I think you’d agree that the man displayed a lot of faith. He had faith that God really did intend to flood the earth and that he needed an ark to survive it. He had faith that the blueprint set forth by God was adequate to keep his family and who knows how many animals afloat. He had faith that when his waterlogged journey ended, his family would have provision to start over. He listened to God and believed Him.

Then there was a young boy named David, a shepherd, who went up against a heavily armored giant with a slingshot and a bag of carefully selected stones. He certainly had no combat experience, unless we count the wild animals that always threatened his flock, but he had something more important…faith that his God would get him through to victory. And he was rewarded with success.

And what about Abraham? How do you wrap your head around taking your only son to an altar to be sacrificed? Talk about faith. Abraham was able to do what he did because he had faith that God would provide a sacrifice.

Biblical faithfulness requires belief in what the Bible says about God—His existence, His works, and His character. (gotquestions.com)

The greatest act of faithfulness was a man called Jesus, leaving the royal throne of heaven to walk in the shoes of a pauper here on earth, all to fulfill a commitment made before time began. Only an enormous faithfulness and an incredible over-the-top love for us could have carried Him through the torture He endured to save us from ourselves.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

This past year has been a testing time for Ken and myself. Pastor Sarah spoke eloquently on Sunday about how our faith is tested most in times of trouble when we finally realize we can’t go it alone. The short story is, this past year has brought us face to face with our mortality and it’s our faith that has kept us moving forward. After three seasons of testing, spring has finally sprung. At our age, we know our number of seasons is diminishing, but we’re moving, full speed ahead, into spring!

Faithfulness…is the result of the Spirit working in us. (gotquestions.com)

Who can dwell on the negatives in life when fresh new growth is breaking through the barren soil of winter? My gardening gene is kicking into high gear, Ken even anticipates the first mow of the season. Our excitement level rises as we drive along an Ozarks highway and spot a redbud here and there. A drift of yellow daffodils reminds us where a homestead once teemed with human life. Animals and birds get the natural itch to nest and humans take to the waterways. Time for us has always been marked by the changing seasons, reliable and always faithful in their arrival. I find my personal faith level rising as I witness the emergence of spring and I know that when Jesus comes to lead me home, we will walk together into an eternal springtime.

There is surely a time for everything…and though our lives keep barreling on toward the season of winter,

I’ll focus on holding the promise of spring faithfully in my heart.


Kindness & Goodness

By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a

My husband has been following the aftermath of a high school basketball game in which the winner would advance to the New Jersey State Championship game for Class 2 schools. The game between Manasquan and Camden was weighted toward the probability that the Camden team would be making a second appearance at the state final in as many years.

In a last-second shot by a Manasquan player, a three-pointer missed its mark but the ball was picked up by another player and dropped into the basket. A referee ruled the shot good. Manasquan had triumphed over the stronger Camden team by the narrowest of margins, 46-45. They were headed to the championship game. But wait, another referee called a conference. He had seen the shot differently, the decision was reversed, and the win was awarded to Camden. The Manasquan boys went from exultation to devastation in a matter of moments.  

Needless to say, there has been much discussion about this game, social media has been abuzz with a variety of comments and insults, and the Camden coach was not a particularly graceful winner. A review of tapes following the game revealed that the call was in error. The original call should have stood. However, instant replay is not allowed at the games and once the court is cleared, the referee’s decision stands.

The result triggered an appeal to the New Jersey governing authority for high school athletics, but they refused to overturn the decision even though they and the referees admitted the call was wrong. A lawsuit was filed to delay the game until mediation could take place but the court denied that appeal. Manasquan had no recourse left.

Last Saturday, the Manasquan boys traveled to state finals to watch their girls team play for first, and while they were there they also watched Camden. When the buzzer sounded with Camden taking home the championship, the Manasquan boys rose to their feet and gave Camden a standing ovation. Their display of sportsmanship made a huge splash over all the news media.

Their tribute was an honorable act of kindness and I believe, for some at least, it came from a well of goodness in the hearts of these boys.

For years I took these two words, kindness and goodness for granted, but recently I’ve begun to see them differently. In many ways they are interchangeable. However, under closer examination, kindness is more of a verb. It indicates an act of friendliness or generosity, while goodness is a quality that resides within us. It is our core of morality, integrity, and character. And while they are both gifts from the Spirit, goodness is an innate quality tucked deep inside us by God our Father at the time of our birth. What we do with it is our choice. We can tamp it down, deny it exists, go our own way and still perform acts of kindness for others. But until we let God take that tiny seed of goodness in each of us, allow Him to tend and water it, to give it nourishment, our acts of kindness are just that, acts. The two, kindness and goodness feed off one another. The more we allow God to grow our inbred goodness, the more love will be shared through the kindnesses we show to others and the more natural it becomes to offer those kindnesses.

The Manasquan boys could have allowed their disappointment to grow into anger or a desire for revenge. They could have been influenced by all the media attention. They could have shouted unkind remarks at their former opponents. But they chose honor and respect. Now, I don’t know how many of those young men have made a decision to follow Jesus or if any have done so. But I believe that the God-given seed of goodness that was planted in their hearts rose up in that moment and resulted in a true act of kindness. That small moment in time may have been a turning point in lives that could be the beginning of a lifetime relationship.

When we show kindness and goodness to others, we honor our commitment to Jesus and though it may seem an unusual illustration, I thought about Mary as I was writing this little story. Her brother Lazarus had just been brought back to life by her friend, Jesus, who was facing his own eminent death. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet while her sister Martha was bustling around their home trying to prepare a perfect dinner and complaining about Mary’s lack of help. Jesus told her:

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42b)

In the end, the Manasquan team chose “what was better.” Probably without even knowing it, they set a beautiful example for all of us and they will be remembered for it. What will we be remembered for?


Patience Is An Elusive Fruit

By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a 

I really believe that when the Holy Spirit was pouring out His special gifts on each of us, the patience urn must have been running just about empty when He came to me. The word patient has seldom, if ever, been used to describe my attitude toward life. I’m one of those people who asks God to give me patience and give it to me right now. Well, figuratively anyway…I’m not sure I’ve really said it, but He certainly got my intent.

But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. Romans 8:25

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Noah, principally from the perspective of joy. This week let’s consider the task that loomed before him. First, he had to wrap his head around the prediction that God was going to create a flood so immense that it would destroy the entire earth. Secondly, his family had been chosen to survive this catastrophe alongside two of every kind of animal and bird known to man at that time. Then, he had to face the enormity of his responsibility and, of course, he had to be very certain that he had gotten the specifications right for the ark that God had instructed his family to build. The Bible leaves no doubt as to the dimensions or materials used in this ark. There surely must have been doubts, questions, and disagreements between the family members during the building process. Does this sound anything like the major construction projects around your house?



Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2


Most scholars who have studied the timing of the event and the ages of the participants believe the ark took between fifty-five and seventy-five years to build. Now consider all the ridicule Noah and his family endured during those long years of construction as they created a massive floating barn that rested on dry ground. Does it appear that Noah may have been a very patient man?

Next, we picture Noah and his wife, their two sons and their wives, living captive in the midst of this floating menagerie for over a year. The lack of fresh air, very cold temperatures, and then very hot. What was the origin of the drinking water and food they consumed? They couldn’t have carried enough to last that long so where did it come from? How in the world could they have resolved the countless disagreements that would have risen within their animal charges and even themselves? Once again, I believe patience reigned, because without it that ark would have been uncontrolled chaos! Even their grand adventure to re-establish human habitation on the earth once the waters receded would have taxed their patience and endurance to the very limit.

The silver lining to this story is that through Noah and his family, God had offered humanity another chance, a “do-over”, so to speak. Even though He would have wanted us to get it right the second time around, he knew the weakness of humanity. He knew we would stumble and fall and fail miserably. And of course, we’ve acted exactly as He anticipated. I’d say God, himself, is an exercise in patience we can’t begin to comprehend.

But even after all we’ve done to mess up His beautiful creation, He still offers us a clear path to redemption. We don’t know how long His patience will last, but we do know He promised a second coming of Christ, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I’m glad my name’s recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And I’ll try to be patient until He gets here. How’s your patience meter gauging the way you’re responding to the world around you and, more importantly, how you’re responding to God’s plan for your life?

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14




In Search of Peace

  By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a

We humans tend to see peace simply as the absence of war. If two countries are not taking up arms against one another, they are at peace. If we brought this premise down to a personal level, I imagine that married couples might take exception to the notion that simply being free of visible battle scars indicates peace ruling over the household. Arguments and disagreements often lead to stalemates when partners hold on to grudges after the battle, of sorts, had ended. Not speaking to one another or using only the most rudimentary communications skills, ignoring the needs of one another, continuing to hold onto an opinion, be it right or wrong, and the absence of compromise can all lead to a climate that is anything but peaceful. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been there, whether it be with a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a friend, the result is much the same. And the longer we maintain our position of disagreement, the deeper the hole we dig!

The key to finding peace with others is in first finding peace in God. If we rely on Him to provide the check valve on our thoughts and words, deep abiding peace becomes less elusive. I’ve had fleeting glimpses of true peace during my lifetime and I am absolutely sure they were the moments when I’ve said, “Okay, God, I can’t do this. I need you to intervene on my behalf and get me through this.” And He does. All it takes is for me to move over and let him sit in the driver’s seat. The thing is, when the situation is resolved. I go right back to thinking I can fix everything myself. I have to be up against a brick wall before I’m willing to turn over the wheel, let Him fix the problem and be willing to accept His solution whether or not it agrees with what I would have done. In those moments when I have been one hundred percent willing to accept His will for my life, I have felt totally unencumbered peace. And let me tell you, anything less pales in comparison.

Some time ago I shared the story of our flight back from Denver one stormy night, but it bears repeating here because it was the moment when I found the kind of perfect peace that is the benchmark I have since returned to when seeing a brick wall looming in my future. That night, not an ordinary storm, but three major storms converging at just the right time turned a trip toward home into a glimpse of a fiery end for a plane load of terrified people. Passengers all around us were sick, the flight attendants were white-knuckled and turning green around the gills, and the pilot’s voice that was attempting to calm us was on the very edge of panic. Was I any different than anyone else on that flight? Absolutely not! I was scared out of my wits! But something made me realize that while lightning flashed all around us, rain poured relentlessly over us and wind tossed us through the air like a kite out of control, there was absolutely nothing that I could do to change our outcome. I remember thinking something like, “Okay God, you birthed this storm from its beginning in multiple locations, you brought it together with all its ferocity, and you will end it in the way you choose. We’ll all make a safe landing back on earth or be delivered to our eternal home within this scheduled flight plan. So, I surrender all of it to you. I can’t control it…it’s all yours!”

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. I Peter 5:7 NLT

I settled into a peaceful state of mind, read my book, and didn’t concern myself with the turmoil outside my window or inside the very thin skin on that plane. The only difference between myself and the panicked people around me was the certain knowledge that God had this situation under control and I was going home one way or the other. So, when I find myself approaching that wall again, no matter how large or small, I think back to that night and let go of the wheel once more. And when I do, God’s peace always settles over me.

There are different definitions of peace in our world, but I believe that the peace referred to in our scripture is the kind that only our Lord can offer, the peace that we discover when we surrender control of everything to Him, be it a good situation or not so good. However, imperfect creatures that we are, we don’t relinquish that wheel easily or nearly as often as we should. But when we do, we find ourselves in that perfect sweet spot, safe in the comforting arms of our Savior.

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 GNT


Make Joy A Habit

By: Marcy Barthelette

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a

Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7

I have recently had difficulty defining the word JOY, recently meaning in older adulthood. As a younger person, I found joy in new clothes, new toys, and my friends. In my teen years, joy usually meant a new boyfriend and when I became an adult, the birth of a child brought my most joy-filled moment. And, of course, the joy of becoming a grandparent probably eclipsed them all.

Ken and I are just getting our strength back from a bout with influenza…at this age, you really feel the aftereffects. We find joy at this moment in being able to breathe, eat a decent meal, and take a short walk outside. These four walls are starting to close in upon us. Finding a few daffodils budding on my walk around the yard was definitely in the joy column. And my ever-faithful Lenten roses didn’t let me down. I can always count on uncovering a few buds in February. JOY!

But I still haven’t solved the mystery of defining a simple little three-letter word, JOY. I turned to online dictionaries and found; “the emotion of pleasure and happiness” or “a source of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated,” and finally, “choosing to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction.”   

On Sunday morning, Pastor Dennis provided another perspective on the word JOY. Now understand, this wasn’t the point of his sermon

 but it certainly struck me as being an appropriate response to my quest for a definition. His subject was the story of Noah, the building of the ark, gathering of the animals, etc. I have often pondered life on an ark for seemingly unending months with countless animals, limited food supply, no sanitary facilities, and a list of inconveniences that just keep going. But today, because my topic is the word joy, my mind immediately traveled to the scene of pure JOY Noah and his family must have felt when they were able to walk off that ark and breathe fresh air again. That thought gave a whole new meaning to my word for the week.  

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the conditions on that ark. We can only imagine. But it does tell us this:

So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat….then Noah built an altar to the Lord and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice…Genesis 8:18-21

I think Noah and his family found their soul-deep JOY in the presence of the Lord. And that is where we find it as well. Earthly pleasures may bring us happiness for the moment, but joy is not just any emotion. It is a state of being in close communion with the Trinity, of always knowing that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit surround us, encompass us, and nourish us. It’s that pure peace and contentment in the knowledge that they are in control and whatever happens here, they have prepared a place for us in heaven. That is my JOY!

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation. Rick Warren

So I challenge you during this Lenten season to intentionally make a habit of turning everything in your life over to God. Let Him sweat the small stuff. Let Him dig you out of your deepest pit. Let Him instill pure JOY down deep in your soul. And when you do, the love we talked about last week becomes second nature.

When Joy is a habit, Love is a reflex. Bob Goff