Christmas Comes in a Whisper

By: Marcy Barthelette

I want a Christmas that whispers “Jesus.” Ann Voskcamp   

The Christmas spirit is stealthily creeping into my heart this year almost against my will. That’s what it does, even when we think we’re not ready. It’s been a different kind of year filled with injuries and physical therapy, x-rays, and tests, the kind of year that people our age often experience. But, overall, Ken and I’ve been blessed with reasonable health through the years and I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve always shown grace and optimism during this less-than-healthy season of our lives. Not only have we dealt with our own physical ailments, it’s also been a year of loss; loss of good friends, loss of neighbors, loss of the physical freedoms we once took for granted.

Although it’s been my tradition for many decades to drag out all the Christmas decorations on Black Friday, even before commercialism turned it into Black Friday, I confess to a little concern that lots of bending, stretching, and lifting would cause one of us extra injury. So, when Thanksgiving ended, I was ready to put away the fall décor and enjoy a little normalcy for a few days.

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before….what is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it rushes past you.

And you begin to grasp what it was you missed…

Jan l. Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

But Jesus has gently whispered that it was time to download all my favorite Advent devotional books and I even discovered a new one to add to my ever-growing collection. He also nudged me to resource ideas for writing, knowing that I have to consider the topic of Advent before many of you because I must be ready to meet timely deadlines. Somewhere along the way, I toyed with a couple of ideas for family gifts, they’re all so hard to shop for because of their distance from us. We don’t have those day-to-day interactions that leave us with little hints as to what they like. And then, there is also the big, bad generation gap. But really, I just wasn’t quite into it.

A few days later, my conscience finally got the better of me as I walked past my staging area of Christmas baubles in the garage. I knew that I needed to get started. I wouldn’t want the joy of Christmas to just pass me by.

Sometimes I’ve been asked, and I’ve even asked myself, why we place so much emphasis on glittering décor at Christmas time. After all, it is the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child, that we celebrate. Shouldn’t we be more humble and praise-filled? The answer is, yes, we should. The truth is that I decorate for Jesus. His birth was a lowly affair with only Mary, Joseph, and a gritty collection of animals and shepherds in attendance. Of course, the angels created quite a fanfare but, by and large, no one came to celebrate. There was no cake, there were no games, no gifts. No, the Wise Men didn’t come that night bearing gifts. That’s a story for later. There were just a lot of smelly animals and smelly shepherds. Even the parents of the Child were probably a little ripe after their long sojourn. So, I, in all my wisdom, have always chosen to light up the rooms with all manner of lovely things in honor of my King, and though I have cut back in recent years, I always decorate for Him, not for other people. I want to celebrate Him because knowing Him fills me with true joy.

Our tree will be covered in memories of our lives together and even before we were together, memories gifted to us by the One who loves us most. You’d find scenes of the Holy Birth scattered throughout our living area. The music looping through my brain will lean heavily toward Christian carols. Each year is just like the ones past in many ways, but there have been subtle differences. Along the way, we’ve added in-laws and grandchildren, but still no great-grands. We’ve added friends and neighbors. And we’ve grown in our relationships with the one whose birth we honor. On that holiest of nights, we’ll gather with others to sing and pray, to commune at His table, and to know, beyond a doubt, that the tiny Baby sleeping in a lowly manger would grow up to be the man nailed to a tree, not a tree festooned in lights and baubles, but the tree that brought hope to the world and still gives us hope today.

I think I’ll be content to let Christmas continue to creep up on me this year in a series of lovely, quiet whispers. I want to savor it in ways that I haven’t before and prepare myself for whatever the next season of this life holds, knowing that He is with me every step of the way.

I want a Christmas that whispers “Jesus.” Ann Voskcamp


Accepting Truths

By: Marcy Barthelette

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1  

If there is a teen in your immediate sphere, or an almost teen, perhaps an even younger child, you’re likely aware of his or her highly inflated assessment of his or her knowledge. And you’ve most likely been the object of said child’s manipulation, sometimes openly but often accomplished in a rather covert manner. I’m sure you have a hoard of stories about being played against one another as parents or grandparents. You know the drill, “Mom…Dad says it’s okay for me to stay over at (insert name’s) house after the game.” And you learn later that Dad said something entirely different but close enough to pass for his permission in the eyes of your child. And kids learn very quickly that they are the apple of their grandparents’ eye. They certainly use that fact to their advantage.

Our daughter’s family visited last weekend as a pre-Thanksgiving celebration. The guys and our granddaughter spent a lot of time outdoors, raking and burning leaves as well as completing a few minor house repairs. The kids also helped us move some furniture that we didn’t want to tackle ourselves. Our granddaughter has become very helpful in the kitchen. She’s learning to cook and progressing nicely. We had given her a recipe file with all of her favorites from my recipe collection and this trip she chose to learn to make meatballs and spaghetti. She’s very willing to dive in with her hands and thoroughly mix all the meatball ingredients. Her meatballs may not all be of uniform size but they are very nicely rounded. She says it’s because of the hours she once spent with Play-Doh. Who knew? She also helps with salads and with cleanup after the meal. She is learning to abide by Grandma’s rules of the house and Grandpa’s teaching of proper behavior. But when her parents tell her to do anything, an argument ensues. I know this is pretty typical behavior in any of our offspring, but I seem to find it even more exasperating with a grandchild than I did with my own children. Why do children choose to be obedient and helpful to anyone they encounter except their own parents?

Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

Uh, oh….I think maybe I had better take a look into my mirror! I wonder how many times I have disappointed my heavenly Father by arguing with his plans or ignoring Him altogether. I can be very stubborn at times and I have a bad habit of wanting to do things my way. I think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve been more accepting of the suggestions of others and, hopefully, I’ve learned to follow that old axiom my generation grew up on; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And yet, a temper flares; we’re told to do something that is in conflict with our will; and we plunge ahead on our own reckless path regardless of the personal fallout or the consequences to others who have become involved, inadvertently or by choice. How can I expect the young people in my sphere of influence to be obedient and respectful when I am often guilty of the same disobedient behavior? His promise is to always have our best interest in mind and yet we just can’t let go and let God take the wheel on this journey.

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord….Jeremiah 29:11a

As we take time this week to enjoy the turkey and stuffing, the cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, I hope we will also take the time to be thankful for all the blessings of this past year, to witness the amazing creation that surrounds us each day and to take a really good look at who we have become. Sometimes facing the truth can be difficult but the reality of a true relationship with our heavenly parent infinitely exceeds all the hope we had placed in our own plans. I’m grateful to have faced that truth. He will stay with me always, may I also remember to stay close to Him!

As for my granddaughter and all those kids traveling their own paths to adulthood, let’s just hope we can provide a good example for them to follow, that they will be able to accept their own truths about who they are, and that all their exploring will one day lead them straight into the loving arms of the one and only God, just where they’ve needed to be all along. And please, Lord, help all your grown-up children reach their goals with them.

Lord, lead me in your loving truths to be a shining light in the lives of all your children, whatever their age.


The Gathering Time

By: Marcy Barthelette

Be glad, o people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness; the threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. Joel 2:23-24   

A few nights ago, I savored the sweet, gooey delight of cinnamon apples for dinner and I finally gave in to the reality of fall. I know, I know…everyone eagerly anticipates the cooler temperatures that follow a hot summer, and the autumn color palette is truly a wonder to behold. Like all of you, I think fall is refreshingly beautiful. I also know what comes next and I’m not very good at accepting winter’s chilly blast. Yes, the snow is lovely when it’s freshly fallen and yes, I am content to curl up with a good book in front of a cozy fire. And, of course, I know the trees and plants must rest before their new growing season begins. And yet, if fall continued until spring, I would be very content. But the calendar rolls on, as does God’s perfect plan for our earth, with a certainty of purpose and so must I.

It’s time for me to open my heart to all the blessings of autumn in the Ozarks and embrace it with reckless abandon. After all, it is the season of pumpkin pie…warm from the oven with a generous topping of whipped cream….mmmm, good. A long walk through the woods with leaves crackling beneath my feet makes me feel like a kid again. The trees are nearly barren of leaves now and their stark skeletons stand magnificently against an azure sky. Streams trickle lazily over a rocky earth, forgetful of their fullness from just a few months past. An occasional brightly hued flower hangs on by a thread, but soon will release itself back to the earth. Such beauty to behold!

Animals are busily gathering food and building their winter quarters, nearly ready to snuggle in, safe from the cold and snow. Farmers have gathered the fruits of their fields. Neighborhood gardens are yielding the last of their bounty. It is the season of harvest, of gathering in. How thankful I am for the comforting cycle of life.

Just as I feel the impending cold close on my heels, our lives sometimes feel as if winter is closing in on us and we fear the cold will never end. We question where God is when the roadways of our daily lives seem impossible to navigate. We may wonder if He’s even listening to us or begin to doubt that He’s there at all. These are the days when we need to search for every scrap of evidence that He is, most assuredly, there and He hears every word we breathe, no matter how silently. It’s the time to dig deeply into His Word and gather a bountiful harvest of comfort, peace, and hope. All we need to do is open our hearts. When we feel disconnected from God, it is not He who has turned away or become lost. It is we who have strayed, just like lost sheep. It’s our choice to believe or not. It’s our choice whether to reach out to touch Him or not. His hand is always reaching out to us and hoping.

When you experience trouble, you have two options. You can let doubt, fear, and worry overtake you, or you can call upon the Lord. God has promised that if you call upon Him, He will deliver you. The deliverance may not look exactly like you expect, but you can be one hundred percent sure He will help you. 

It’s another week until Thanksgiving, but certainly not too early to begin an inventory of blessings to be thankful for, even more so if life is looking drab and void of color or you’re feeling lost and having doubts. Thankfulness is contagious! For this next week, try saying “thank you” for any favor from any person with whom you may come into contact. It may not be something that happens at that moment but a position of service they hold that positively affects the lives of others or an act of kindness from the past that you may have overlooked. Just take a moment to express your thankfulness. Then be ready for the blessings that will find their way back to you. May all the blessings that you gather find an open and thankful heart.

The autumn rains of his righteousness are abundantly available for me to glory in when life is drab. God Moments, A Year in the Word

Autumn is the time of gathering summer’s bounty by all of God’s creatures. One day, we don’t know when Jesus will come to gather us in and that will be the loveliest and greatest gathering of all. I want to be ready, don’t you?


The Lord IS My Shepherd

By: Marcy Barthelette

I have all that I need. Psalm 23:1

“What is that noise?” I asked aloud while working in the backyard. “It sounded like a lamb or a goat.” But Ken and I both dismissed the incident as just a misunderstood sound; a child or a trick of the wind. We did, that is until we saw our neighbor walking around his yard with a little lamb tagging along behind.   

The young couple next door moved in about two and a half years ago after living out of state for a while in the cramped quarters of a camper. Their three-bedroom home seemed gigantic to them even with a toddler and two good-sized dogs sharing it. They’re dipping their fingers into a number of pies to find the right fit for them and one of the things they’re focused on is raising sheep. No, no! Not in their backyard. They are leasing several properties around the area, along with other family members, that serve as pasture for their flock. Apparently, sheep farming has been a family staple for some time and they’re anxious to get back to their roots. They’ll soon be moving to an acreage that will allow them to share property with their animals and will be much easier to manage.

But this past summer, they were temporary parents to a little lamb whose mama couldn’t care for her. And that little lamb took this human parenting thing very seriously after sharing the house for a while. You’ve undoubtedly heard that Mary had a little lamb with snowy white fleece that followed her everywhere. Well, our little lady was not white but she certainly was a follower. Our neighbor quickly became her parent and the house a little more crowded. You know what they say, feed an animal and it becomes yours. This was immediate with our little lamb friend. Wherever he went, she went. When he came to our house to visit, lambie came too. I have to say she was really cute. But she was underfoot all the time. Often he carried her just to avoid stepping on her. And, of course, they thought it would only last a few days, but her time as a house pet lasted longer than anyone expected, and her bleating became much louder. Finally, after a number of weeks, she was able to be assimilated back into the flock.

For me, I think she brought more clearly into focus the image of Christians as sheep and Jesus as the Shepherd. The lambs and sheep are totally dependent on the shepherd to keep them from becoming dinner for a hungry wolf. He also must herd them from pasture to pasture in search of green grass to eat and see to it they have water to drink. Without him, they would wander aimlessly and be prime targets.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming….and so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. John 10:11-12

We, too, are targets. The world is definitely out to get us one way or another. It will tempt us with glitter and the promise of living in the lap of luxury. It will tease us with the lure of money, fame, drugs….you name it. The world has lots of tricks for worming its way into our minds and hearts.

As the sheep depend on the shepherd, we also must strive to follow our Shepherd. We must keep our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our minds on Jesus and allow him to guide us around dangerous pitfalls, to be our constant companion on the journeys of life, and to provide nourishment, both physical and spiritual.

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. John 10:14-15

That little lamb next door learned quickly that her two-legged adopted “Mama” was her source of nourishment. Are we as quick to learn who provides ours? Well, I don’t know about you, but I often need to be reined in from some detour I have chosen that doesn’t fit into God’s plan for my life. Thank goodness, no thank God, we have a good, good Shepherd who never gives up on us, one who lifts us up, dusts us off, and gives us a brand new start.

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever. Psalm 79:13



By: Marcy Barthelette

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked,  for there is a time for every matter and for every work. Ecclesiastes 3:17

This Saturday is the one I dread every fall. Before we go to bed, I’ll have to help Ken turn all our clocks and watches back one hour, and on Sunday night it will be dark at 5:30. I love the darker mornings when, before the sun rises and the world wakes up, I can ponder the beginnings of another fresh start. I like to spend that early time in devotional studies, Bible reading, and quiet prayer time. It’s also a great opportunity to write, draw, or read for pleasure. And I can do that because Ken loves to sleep in. On the other end of the day, darkness or near darkness at 4:30 PM leaves us with chores undone and outings cut short because darkness and colder temperatures force us inside.

I really do understand that kids need a little more daylight to get to school in the mornings. Perhaps adults would appreciate light for the morning drive and farmers would prefer getting out in daylight rather than darkness. And I know that some people consider the time change each spring and fall to be detrimental to their health. The jury is still out on that issue. But for our stage in life, daylight time is ideal.

Where did the idea of daylight-saving time come from, to begin with? A little research revealed some interesting information. You just may have heard the name Benjamin Franklin sometime in history class. Old Ben was a man of many enterprising ideas. He spent a large chunk of his life in France and when the French government addressed the question of lighting costs in Paris back in 1784, he made a suggestion, rather tongue-in-cheek, as Ben was often known to have expressed his ideas. His concept involved altering sleep patterns in order to save on the cost of candles. His idea, however, never got any real traction.   

It was during World War I that daylight time was actually implemented, becoming official in the US in 1918. It didn’t last long, only until the war ended, but was re-introduced during World War II and was known as wartime. Once again, it was considered unnecessary during peacetime. Between 1945 and 1966, some states adopted the change while others didn’t, and those that did opt for daylight time operated under their own rules. During the early 1960s, it became evident that something needed to be done to end the confusion caused by so many different rules. It was in 1966 that the Uniform Time Rule was enacted and all the states were required to begin and end daylight saving time on the same day. The arguments regarding the somewhat gnarly topic continue every spring and fall and we all have our opinions but, for now, Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

It boggles my mind when every year someone actually seems to believe that we lose an hour of our lives in the spring and can’t look ahead to fall and realize we’ll get it back. And there’s the never-ending question, “Which way do I turn my clocks?” Even our common phrases “Spring forward” and “Fall back” don’t seem to remedy the confusion. All we’re really doing is re-arranging the times at which we make use of more daylight. The simple truth is that we are going to use a certain amount of artificial light each day, depending on the schedule of our lives. The focus of those tasked with deciding how best to manage our daylight hours is to determine what course serves the most people most of the time. I’m glad that job belongs to someone else.

Sunday morning when Ken pointed out a reminder in the bulletin to change our clocks this week, the thought crossed my mind, what if we really did gain an extra hour this coming Sunday? What if we changed the clocks at 2:00 PM rather than 2:00 AM, thus removing that argument about getting an extra hour of sleep? You’ve certainly heard the term do-over. In this case, we’re talking about the ultimate do-over. A time travel, so to speak, in which to reclaim and alter a timeframe of our choice that occurred within the months since we lost that hour in March.

What Would You Do?

What would you change—or would you change nothing?

Would you use the time to make up for a wrong decision or a hurt you caused someone else? Or would you recall a special day when everything seemed perfect for you and add another hour to it? Would you use the time to celebrate yourself or to celebrate someone else who might need a spiritual lift? Would you spend that time considering how you could alter a moment in the past that netted a negative result, or would you pursue ways to improve your approach to the future? I’m sure you have your own thoughts about what to do with that imaginary gift of an extra hour but, for now at least, time travel is still the stuff of Sci-Fi movies, TV, books, or video games. We shouldn’t, however, let that keep us from rewinding our lives now and then to see what we might need to change. We all have room for improvement, and we shouldn’t be putting it off. Maybe I should stop fretting over the end of DST for this year and set my alarm for 2:00 AM Sunday morning to have a quiet talk with God about what changes I need to make….

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11


The Prolific Black Walnut

By: Marcy Barthelette

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. II Corinthians 12:8

Have you ever parked under a Black Walnut tree in October? If so, you may have learned the hard way that you shouldn’t do it again. There is a tree near us that produces walnuts the size of a small grapefruit. That’s, of course, with the husk still intact. Those nuts could certainly do some damage to your car, but so can the husks if left resting on the paint because they contain tannins that have been used for centuries in the making of dyes and ink. Their stains are very difficult to remove. If you attempt to hull the nuts by hand without protection, you’ll be looking at brown stains for a long while.

At this time of year, many people are gathering and selling the nuts or putting them aside for holiday baking, but many go to waste on our highways and walkways. They are not pleasant to drive or walk on and, once again, their stains run deep.

There’s one other aspect of the Black Walnut tree that has complicated my life as a gardener. A number of years ago we moved into a home with one in the yard. We didn’t even recognize it at first because there were so many vines and other small trees growing around it. And, of course, the base of the trunk was surrounded by rocks, an age-old Ozark custom that I’ve never understood.

But back to my story…as I settled in, I planted a number of annuals near the tree and they soon began to wither. A little research provided the reason. It seems that Black Walnut trees possess a substance called juglone that is highly toxic to many plants, particularly hybridized varieties that are not native to our area. The toxin is stored in several parts of the tree but is perhaps strongest in the roots. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that a tree’s root spread is roughly equal to the reach of its canopy. Therefore a Black Walnut tree can send toxins to an extent of perhaps fifty to one hundred feet in diameter or more, depending on its age and size. The key is to find a list of plants in your area that will tolerate juglone. They’re readily available online and you’ll find that the majority of the plants they mention are native. A little knowledge of the trees and plants in your yard goes a long way. Keep your fancy hybrids and annuals at a distance. They’ll be fine outside the radius of your Black Walnut.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. II Corinthians 12:9a  

Don’t get me wrong, Black Walnut trees are certainly not all bad and if you happen to be a proponent of them, you may already be tuning me out. But just hang in with me for a bit. In addition to their role in the manufacture of dyes and ink, the Black Walnut trees of Missouri are highly prized for the beauty of their wood. They have been a staple in furniture building for generations. I have pieces that I treasure. If you’re a hunter you may have a rifle with a beautiful Missouri Black Walnut stock. Nearly all the walnut gun stocks that are manufactured are derived from Missouri trees. And certainly, many a grandfather has planted a grove of Black Walnut trees as a legacy for his grandchildren. Their value as a wood product is immense.

As to its edible attributes, parts of the tree have been used in medicinal preparations for generations. The nuts are an excellent source of antioxidants. They’re high in protein and low in carbs, most of which is fiber. And let us not overlook the omega-3 benefits. When it comes to taste, let’s just say you either love them or you don’t. They have a pungent taste that many people love to add to baked goods or just to nibble as a snack. As you can see, there are lots of good reasons to share your yard with a Black Walnut tree.

By now, once again, you’re wondering where I’m going with this. Well, you see, sometimes I can equate the Black Walnut tree and its various properties with the Holy Spirit trying to help me separate the good from the not-so-good. Just as I don’t like to see those messy walnuts everywhere I go and I certainly don’t like their taste, I sometimes don’t like what I hear from the Holy Spirit and He’s always around, whether I think I want Him at my side or not. When that annoying little voice says, “Don’t do that Marcy,” or “That’s not the right path just now,” or “You’re just being selfish,” I want to argue that I just want to have a little fun or I really want that new pair of shoes I don’t need or I want to go on a hike that is beyond my new capability. I know that the Spirit is right just like I know the Black Walnut tree offers many more positive traits than negative. Sometimes, however, in the moment I lean toward the bad and overlook the good. The Apostle Paul and I have a lot in common.

My power works best in weakness. II Corinthians 12: 9a (continued)

I suppose, when it’s all said and done, those mental wrestling matches with the Spirit make me stronger. Choosing good over evil is always the right path, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Just like certain plants must be kept at a safe distance from the Black Walnut tree, so must I stay a safe distance from things that will lead me away from God’s teachings. If I really needed something to eat, the nuts of the tree would provide a zesty and nutritious treat. In the meantime, the squirrels can have all they want. I’m quite willing to share. I can use the cut and dried lumber to create beautiful objects. The leaves of summer offer shade from the sun and a haven for birds to raise their young. Those are some of the good parts, but I have to steer clear of the toxins that lurk in the roots. Just as the Black Walnut tree is prolific in its manufacture of nuts and toxins, so is the Holy Spirit always ready with suggestions regarding our behaviors. In every facet of my life, I need to make use of positive opportunities and resources while turning away from anything toxic. And the best way to avoid toxins is to listen when the Holiest of Spirits speaks. He doesn’t steer me wrong.

So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me…for when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:9-10 (Paraphrased)



Fears and Risks

By: Marcy Barthelette

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. Ecclesiastes 11:4a

As this verse indicates, if we don’t act because of fear, nothing good, or even anything bad, will ever happen. Life will be uninteresting and unproductive.   

What are you afraid of? Come on, admit it, we all have fears of some sort. What about spiders…big, fuzzy, hungry-looking spiders? Or what about slimy, slithering snakes? Maybe you have a food fear, such as getting into poisonous mushrooms. And then there are clowns. There was a time when their silly antics made everyone laugh and then something changed and we developed a fear of them. Of course, many people fear flying while others don’t trust busy freeways. Let’s not forget the fear of losing all our wealth or all our friends.

Countless phobias paralyze our thoughts even if our common sense tells us there’s nothing to fear. My big fear has always been heights; I know I share that fear with countless others. It has kept me from enjoying any number of adventures throughout my lifetime. I don’t do roller coasters because those big drops do much more than take my breath away. Swinging bridges over deep gorges fascinate me but to venture onto them requires enormous courage or perhaps a moment of insanity. I absolutely love lighthouses but climbing them may or may not happen under any given set of circumstances. When we visited the Statue of Liberty many years ago, I didn’t make it into the torch because of that fear of heights and another enemy of mine, claustrophobia.

Maybe your fear involves human interaction; you’re afraid you’ll lose your job or maybe not get the job you’ve interviewed for because you don’t measure up to other applicants. Could you be afraid of losing a spouse? Or do your fears for your children’s welfare keep you from allowing them to spread their wings? Do you determine your worth by the number of social media friends or “likes” you’ve acquired?

And then, there’s the biggest fear of all…the fear of following Jesus. We’re afraid there will be too many rules, and too many roadblocks to having fun. We’re afraid we’ll be expected to speak to others about our faith and that’s a terrifying possibility. We’re certainly afraid we’re not good enough and guess what? We’re not! But He will make us better if we let Him.

There are times in life when we must take risks. I did ride a coaster once and I did climb the stairs to the top of one lighthouse. I did ride to the top of the Arch when I lived in St. Louis and I did walk halfway across the bridge at Royal Gorge. I had to take a risk in each scenario.

We take a risk every time we get behind the wheel of a car, walk across a street, climb a mountain, or jump out of an airplane (OK, that one is a bit out there). We incur enormous risks when committing our lives to another human being or creating new life. Yet, when we do so with Jesus at our side, the risk disappears and so should fear. That’s not to say that nothing will ever go wrong when we take the risk to follow Jesus, but when it does, we’ll have a companion and protector at our side throughout every journey. That’s a promise….He said so. Go ahead. Take the risk. And don’t be surprised when He asks you to do something that may seem a little scary. Just go for it. 

For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you. Isaiah 41:13


The Proof is in the Seasoning

By: Marcy Barthelette

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt….Colossians 4:6a

A couple of cool days and I’m already into comfort food. Last weekend found the spicy scent of chili simmering in the crockpot for the first time of this fall season. Chili pepper, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, onion, celery seed, brown sugar, and red wine all intermingle to give plain old ground beef and pinto beans an amazing zing. Add a few corn chips or crackers to the bowl or cup, along with grated Colby/Jack cheese, and we’ve created a culinary masterpiece to warm our bellies when the temperature drops.

Cooking is love made visible. Anonymous  

What is it about chili, mac-n-cheese, soups, chowders, or chicken and dumplings that make our taste buds come alive? First, it’s the smells that tantalize our nostrils. Next, the texture and warmth on our tongues remind us of past experiences. And then the flavors all come together and send our brains into heavenly overload. It’s all about comfort and replicating the tastes we remember that were prepared with love.

What’s the first thing you smell when you step through the door for Thanksgiving dinner….turkey and stuffing, right? And it’s all about the sage. There’ll be an abundance of scents and tastes to indulge your fantasies, but the sage will be the star of the show.

On Christmas baking day, cinnamon and nutmeg take center stage along with the sweetness of vanilla chocolate and molasses. Our noses are the first harbingers of the goodness to come but the proof is in the seasoning.  We don’t want cookies that reek of sage and we probably wouldn’t appreciate cinnamon or vanilla turning up in our chicken and dumplings. The right seasoning in the proper amount makes all our comfort foods go down very easily. And the key to good seasoning is its freshness.

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. Exodus 16:31

This love affair that we humans have with food has existed since time began. Recipes have been passed from generation to generation. Food has a culture and a rich history all its own. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, food was always on their minds. Wedding celebrations centered on an abundance of food and wine. And guess what…they still do. Kings and their courts feasted while peasants often wondered where they would find their next meal. Food has always been front and center.

Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.

Giada De Laurentiis

We pay lots of attention to adding all the right seasonings to make our recipes taste just the way we expect, but do we give as much time to checking our recipe for life? Do we add enough love when interacting with family members? Do we sprinkle a little spice into our relationships for extra interest? Is there an adequate measure of humility shown toward others? Is generosity on our radar? And what about forgiveness? All of these, and many other attributes, are life seasonings that make us who we are and, just like the seasonings we cook with, if they become stale, we become ineffective in carrying out our mission. Check the seasonings of your life and be sure they still have a good “best if used by” date.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Matthew 5:13a


A Time for Everything

By: Marcy Barthelette

For everything there is a season….Ecclesiastes 3:1aEcclesiastes 3:1-4 | Ecclesiastes 3 1, Ecclesiastes, Faith

And who could be more tuned in to the changing seasons than we are right now? Oh yes, summer made an appearance in recent days but even her punch couldn’t keep the nights from cooling down or the peak temperature of our days from lasting very long. The mornings and evenings definitely have the feel of fall.

The team sports we follow maintain the same pattern every year. The summer is filled with water activities, cookouts, and cold watermelon. Maybe we’ll throw in a few fireworks too.  Winter finds us skating on frozen ponds or skimming down snowy mountainsides. And let’s not forget the roaring fire of evening…hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows.

Spring finds all creation beginning anew, bearing their young. By summer, the next generation is growing fast, perhaps even on its own. In fall, preparations begin for the cold winter ahead. Burrows are dug, food is stored and hibernation soon begins and with it the knowledge that some will not survive the cold or shortage of food. And before we can blink an eye, it all begins again.

We humans have our seasons as well. And I find there’s a certain peace in knowing that everything God has created comes full circle. The seasons will continue to pass seamlessly by, the oceans will continue to ebb and flow, the sun and moon will continue to light our way, the earth will continue to rotate on its axis.

A time to plant…Ecclesiastes 3:2b  

New babies will continue to spring into life ready to grow and learn. They’ll become toddlers, then young boys and girls who will turn into tweens and eventually teens. When their formal education ends, they’ll move on to the summer of life where they’ll work hard at a craft or career, marry, and have babies of their own to raise. They’ll be the ones wakened at all hours, sitting up with a sick or frightened child. They’ll be the ones concerned over grades, hauling sweaty athletes to and from practices, and attending their games. They’ll be the ones going to band concerts and ballet recitals, making that unexpected trip to the emergency room because of a bike ride gone wrong or a teen who wasn’t watching the road carefully enough. And before they know it, they’ll be giving those babies away in marriage to begin chasing their own dreams and they’ll be left with an empty nest. They realize that the autumn of life has arrived and they repurpose the kids’ rooms, plan trips to faraway places, cruises down a lazy river, and all the wonderful opportunities that retirement has to offer. A chance to read, to volunteer for some project that catches their interest, to gather together with friends and share stories about their lives.

….and a time to harvest…Ecclesiastes 3:2b

And one day, they notice the many crops they’ve harvested over the years and witness the fruits of their labors. And they realize that winter is upon them, a time to slow down and watch the world go by, faster and faster all the time. And one-day winter ends, and a bright new horizon shines before them, the gates of heaven stand open, waiting for them to enter. What a beautiful ending to the cycle we call life.

 ….and a time for peace…8b

One of ours entered heaven’s gates recently and we celebrated his life last week…it was truly a time of celebration.

A time to cry and a time to laugh….

A time to grieve and a time to dance…. Ecclesiastes 3:4