Reaching the Redeemable

By: Marcy Barthelette

As a mostly self-taught artist, I’ve spent significant time studying works of a variety of different types of artists, and it has become obvious that the mind can use the hand to create many different emotions with just a few pen or brushstrokes. A painting or drawing can display anger, or it can express joy. It can evoke disgust or cause a giggle to erupt. Through the lens of these visual snapshots, we can learn much about the artist. Is this person one who thrives on controversy or one who is led “beside peaceful streams?”

With God in your world, you aren’t an accident or an incident; you are a gift to the world, a divine work of art, signed by God. Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace

And just as an artist can evoke countless emotions in a visual image, so can a few well-placed instigators among a crowd create a wave of dissent using just a couple of taunts. Soon those nearby are joining the chant and in very short order, the entire crowd is whipped into a frenzy. As the instigators steal away under cover, the mob grows and grows until there is no controlling it. It happened in Jerusalem to Jesus. It can happen anytime, anywhere with a minimum of planning and provocation.

Most of the crowd is probably made up of hard-working ordinary people who get carried away in the moment. Many didn’t come to that place or that time to find themselves in danger from law enforcement or elements of the crowd. And everyone of them is redeemable if they choose to be. You read that right…if they choose.

The best example I know of radical change is the Apostle Paul. By his own admission, he was one of the most aggressive persecutors of Christians in his day and yet after being overwhelmed by a light so bright that it brought him to his knees and left him blind, he heard the voice of Jesus and turned his life around. We all have that choice. Our encounter with Jesus may not reach the level of Paul’s but there will be a time of reckoning for each of us. Some will never accept the Word of God because they choose not to, but others are redeemable just like Paul. Our job is to stand up and, as Pastors Dennis and Sarah are telling us each Sunday this summer, act out the truths we hold dear regarding the reality of the need for Jesus in this hurting world.

What makes us special is…the signature of God on our lives. We are His works of art. We are created in his image to do good deeds. We are significant, not because of what we do, but because of whose we are. Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace.

Sunday morning, a phrase in Pastor Sarah’s opening prayer really caught my attention. I can’t quote her exactly but it essentially said we all need to fall on our knees asking for redemption before we can raise our hands in praise to God. Paul was our example and I can think of no better one to follow.

Back in 1965, the writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David put together a song that became a top-ten hit. Bacharach, however, was uncertain about the timing because we were in the midst of a culture struggle over differences of opinion regarding the war in Vietnam. Oddly enough, that environment softened a bit with the leading words to their song: What the world needs now is love sweet love …. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

A truer statement was never made. And the word love finds its most profound meaning in the name of Jesus.

We are tasked with bringing a little Jesus into the lives of everyone we encounter, our words and actions should reflect His image. Some may see H is light and come to redemption, others may not. We can encourage an environment of love and grace, but they will have to choose, and eternity is a very long time.

For the Lord is the spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. II Corinthians 3:17-18


Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity

If We Let it

By: Marcy Barthelette

I awoke with a start to total silence, disoriented for a moment, then I heard our neighbor’s generator kick in and I knew….our power was out! A dozen snapshots flashed through my brain in an instant. Why is this happening now rather than during our storm of a few days ago! How long will it last? It’s Sunday morning and we need to get ready for church. But I can’t see a thing in my bathroom. I need the battery powered lanterns. And the hair dryer won’t work! It’s best to grab breakfast at a fast-food restaurant on our way, rather than opening our refrigerator. Did some foreign power hack our system? OK…maybe that’s a little “out there” but in our current world it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

We want certainty, but the only certainty is the lack thereof. Max Lucado

Let’s face it, we all have a tendency to want or need to control everything around us. I’m one of the worst, but I’m here to tell you that there is an order to this world that is always controlled by God. We can often convince ourselves that we did it our way, but if we’re honest, we didn’t.

We can’t take control, because control is not ours to take. Max Lucado

I recently referred to my journey in writing as having begun on a very structured plane. I tended to work several weeks ahead and that may have been a carry-over from my advertising days when everything was accomplished on deadlines set weeks or months earlier. Lists and outlines were the meat of my playbook in those days. There was lots of advance prep for holidays or special events and that still holds true. I can’t ignore Lent or Advent, but I must admit to overlooking some of the one-day holidays now that I’ve adopted a new and more spontaneous approach to writing.

The thing is that when I adhere to a strict calendar of events, I may miss opportunities to hear the Lord whisper new ideas or challenges, ones that may be relevant to someone out there I don’t even know. Maybe someone needs to hear a particular message. Maybe another needs comfort or perhaps even courage. If I constantly rely on my organized thoughts, I may walk right past a road sign pointing me in a new direction God chose for me, one that may be more meaningful or exciting.

The simple truth is that a novelist doesn’t know how a story will end when it’s just beginning. Characters are developed, a setting is determined, an opening scene sets the wheels in motion, but the story develops in stages and builds to a surprising climax if well written. In essence, the same is true with a short article. It may stem from just a few words expressed by a friend, the pastor offering a sermon, or a deeply moving song lyric. Those words blossom into an idea that when given enough freedom and solid traction, can take off on a journey the writer never imagined in the beginning. And like the writer, we just have to open our minds to letting go of the uncertainties in our lives and accepting the fresh opportunities.

Don’t let an unknown ending keep you from beginning….uncertainty is God’s way of inviting us to join Him. Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love

Oh, and that power outage I mentioned gave me time to wander out to the deck on a beautiful morning, with none of my devices, and soak in my surroundings. The sun provided just the right temperature, the flowers showed off their colors and swayed gently in the breeze. The birds were singing, a squirrel chattered, some bunnies hopped (our back yard has become a wildlife sanctuary since the huge dog behind us left), and it couldn’t have been a more perfect start to the day. An hour later, silence once again caught my attention. The generators were off, I glanced inside and saw fan blades whirling on my living room ceiling. My respite ended and life was back to normal. I’m glad I didn’t miss my opportunity to revel in the incredible beauty of God’s creations by clinging to my uncertainty of a little thing called electrical power.

My eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge. Psalm 141:8

(All Lucado quotes are taken from Anxious for Nothing and reprinted in You Can Count on God.)


What’s in a Name

By: Marcy Barthelette

Creator God, You “call us by name, and we are Yours.” Ken Sampson, Walking In Grace 2024

Some years back we attended a much smaller church than today, one where everyone knows just about everyone else. I recall a short story from that church that has left a large impact on my life. It reached my ears from the Sunday School teacher who had asked each of her students who was their favorite adult in our church. One girl had indicated that I was her favorite. I was quite surprised because I’d had little interaction with her but also because she didn’t live in our town. Her mom had grown up there but then moved away as an adult. So the girl didn’t attend school with any of the church kids but her family came back to Grandma’s church on Sundays. I could always see that felt a little like she was on the outside trying to fit in.

My puzzled expression brought a quick explanation from the teacher. This lovely young girl liked me because I knew her name and called her by it whenever I saw her. It was as simple as a name.

Recalling names has always been easy for me, except now that I’m getting to that “senior moment” stage. Throughout the years when I worked, I was always in the position of needing to call people by name. It made my work a lot easier and the people I encountered regularly appreciated being recognized. My mental Rolodex (contacts folder) was extensive. It even went so far as voice recognition, so learning the names of all the kids in our small church was a no-brainer. I just had never realized how much it would mean to this one girl.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1b Isaiah 43:1 |

There are countless voices in our culture today that are clamoring for our attention and that of our children. Who do you want your children to hear? The pedophile who roams the internet in search of prey? The human trafficker lying in wait on the dark street corner? The drug dealer who might just slip something into a soda in the hope of gaining a regular customer? The kid around school who always has great ideas about how to have fun? The passengers in their car who dare them to go beyond the speed limit or do some crazy stunt with the car? The rock singer whose lyrics teach hate? I could go on and on, but I think you likely get the message. Wouldn’t you rather your kids hear the whisper of God offered through people of faith?

Jesus whispers (your name), the world screams. Which do you hear? Max Lucado

And which voices does your child hear? But, lest we forget, kids are not the only people who respond to name recognition. Adults are equally pleased when we take the time to notice who they are rather than what they are.

So, what’s in a name? Well, ask yourself that the next time your server says, “My name is _____ and I’ll be taking care of you today. Memorize that name, at least for the duration of your meal. Use it often and by the time your check is delivered, you’ll find you’ve made a new friend, one you may never see again, but your effort to know that person, even a little, may have been just the lift he or she needed.

When a cranky store clerk or a stressed-out fellow business conference attendee wears a name badge, make note of their name and strike up a conversation. These may not be long term relationships, but you never know who may have needed some positive re-enforcement at that moment when you chose to recognize their humanity.

And when you have a kid encounter, make a point of asking for a name, then memorize it so that when your next encounter happens, you can begin the conversation by addressing him or her properly. Watch out, you’re likely to be rewarded with a great, big smile.

Most importantly, God never forgets any of our names. He has them all written on His heart and He never, ever forgets one of His children.

God calls out our names. Listen for His voice and be like it too. Speak of love and beauty, trust and acceptance, grace and forgiveness—and you’ll be the voice people are longing to hear. Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love

What kind of voice are you in the lives of those you encounter?


The Power of Three

By: Marcy Barthelette

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20

I was twenty-eight years old and seven months pregnant when we lost my dad. It was heartbreaking to realize he’d never see his new granddaughter and she would never know the love he would have showered on her. Just as heartbreaking was hearing my mom lamenting that she would most miss the long talks the two of them shared in the evenings. It stands to reason that she would search for something to fill those lonely evenings when she came home from the busyness of her secretarial job to a much too quiet house, and one that likely didn’t feel much like home anymore.

She found her answer at her church by joining a quilting group, whose members welcomed her with open arms. Though she’d never made a quilt in her life, it was a natural fit. During my childhood years, she had made all my clothing and she did it on an old-fashioned treadle sewing machine. Many of you may be unfamiliar, but the machine is foot-powered by a swinging treadle near the floor, which transfers the energy by belt to a wheel near the top of the machine. There’s a certain rhythm to the process that I could never master, but mom, on the other hand, couldn’t make the transition to an electric machine. As I grew up, she grew away from sewing,

But it’s much like riding a bike. The skills you develop lie dormant somewhere in the back of your memory until one day you call them up again; think of it as downloading a folder from the cloud. Even when Mom used her treadle machine, there was a certain amount of the prep and finish work that was accomplished by hand. There was a lot of patching done in those days, as well, so she was no stranger to needle, thread, pin cushion, and thimble. She felt right at home cutting colorful patches from all kinds of leftover fabric, outgrown clothing filled with memories, or combinations of new fabrics, and then hand stitching them together to create dazzling patterns. Her first experiments were small items such as potholders or wall hangings, but eventually she was making full sized quilts, and they were lovely. I still have several and others are scattered among family members.  

Think about the anatomy, if you will, of a quilt. It begins with a top that is artistically pieced to enhance the chosen color palette and an intricate design. Under the completed cover goes a lofty batting, today’s choice is polyester, that provides lift as well as warmth on a cold winter night. Lastly, the quilter adds a backing that is color coordinated to the pieces in the top design. Ideally, the three layers are then attached to a wooden frame where they can be stretched and held tautly while a group of quilters gathers round the frame to add tiny hand stitches in a specific pattern throughout the quilt. The quilting pattern adds stability to the filler and another layer of creativity to the overall appearance. The more stitches a quilter can place onto her needle at once is a good indicator of her (or his) expertise. Obviously, the quilters must be in tune with one another to avoid making mistakes.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

The strength, comfort, and utility of a quilt can be used to illustrate The Holy Trinity. Just as the quilt gains its qualities from its three layers, so The Holy Trinity provides for us from three sources. God the Father, Jesus the son, and The Holy Spirit embody everything we need to live life in the way we were created to live. There is always strength in numbers, whether in reference to a rope made of multiple strands twisted together or the people in our lives who support us when we stumble and things get tough. Having an extra level or layer of strength makes any job or trial easier and we can rest assured the Father, Son and Holy Spirit never leave our side. Just as those women in my mom’s quilting circle propped her up when she needed a new spark in her life, so can your church family help you through difficult times. The church is the living hands and feet of The Holy Trinity.

The strings that tie us to the people we love are the ropes that pull us up when life gets hard.

The most beautiful view in the world is the sight of the faces who show up for you no matter what.

Bob Goff, Live In Grace, Walk In Love


The Fixers in Our Lives

By: Marcy Barthelette

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him. Matthew 12:35  

As I write, it is Father’s Day and I’m listening to Ken and our son on the phone, laughing and having a great time together. It warms my heart to hear them. I must confess, I managed to let Father’s Day sneak up on me this year and neglected to honor the dads in our lives last week. But there’s no rule against celebrating fathers every day so this will be my Father’s Day tribute, albeit a few days late.

My birth came near the end of World War II, so my parents had recently experienced the pressures of wartime but also the often desperate days of the Great Depression. Times were lean for many families then and ours was no different. But my dad was a hard worker and dedicated to providing what he could for us. Life was just so different in those days. Kids didn’t wear name-brand clothing or belong to elite sports teams or travel throughout the country to keep up with their chosen interests. My family lived in a small town and experienced a pretty quiet life by today’s standards. Dad kept very busy trying to feed, clothe, and shelter the three of us, but he took time every weekend during the summer months to sit on the front porch and share the Cardinal baseball games on the radio with me. He loved those Cardinals and we made a few treks to St Louis to watch them in person from the highest seats in the stadium. General admission didn’t give us the best view but the thrill of being at the park was good enough. My dad loved kids and he loved being a grandpa. We lost him too early. He was only sixty seven when he went to heaven and I still miss him. There are so many things I wish I’d said to him. Like many of us, I didn’t appreciate him enough when I still had the chance to show him.

Fast forward to today and I have been blessed to share over forty years with my guy who just happens to be the greatest dad, not only to our kids and grands but also to countless others who have shared time with him in one way or another. He’s been dubbed a kid magnet and the Pied Piper because kids are just drawn to him. It may have something to do with the fact that he’s an overgrown kid himself, but it’s so much more. He has an uncanny ability to understand the inner workings of the young mind. And his patience with them is seemingly unlimited. They come to his garage with flat bicycle tires or a chain off its sprocket and they ride away happily on inflated tires or with a re-seated chain. They’re just little things but they mean so much to the kids. He loans them the tools they need to complete their projects and instructs them when needed. He answers a multitude of questions. He spent decades in Boy Scouts, learning as a scout himself and then leading others in survival skills and the rules for living life by celebrating God, family & country. He’s mentored groups and individual kids, always with a positive attitude. In his eyes, every kid is a good kid or has the potential to be.

And isn’t that just like our God? He sees every one of us as His redeemable kids. We may try to shortchange him but He always knows. We lie to him as kids tend to do at times, but He catches us in every single one. He watches us take paths He wouldn’t have chosen for us, but He always hopes we will come back to Him. His patience with us is seemingly limitless. He trains and teaches and, sometimes, prunes off a part of us that wasn’t to his liking. It’s what a Father does.

The Lord is like a father to his children….Psalm 103:13

On Sunday, we texted the young fathers in our family to thank them for being the men they are as they lead their kids. Like I said earlier, life is different than when I was a kid. Back then, we made cards for our dads….today we send texts to a younger generation of dads. But the point is that we need to tell them we appreciate what they’ve done and are doing. They need to know that their efforts do not go un-noticed. Are they perfect? Certainly not. They’re human. But they are doing what they can to help their kids, our grandkids, become the people they were intended to be.

Probably the biggest role in a father’s life is to be the “fixer” and my guy has certainly lived up to that role. Dads are there to fix things physically and emotionally. But there are some things that only God can fix and no matter how much our kids have an opportunity to learn from their earthly fathers, they ultimately grow up and often grow away. That’s when earthly fathers must trust in their connection to their heavenly father to be the “Fixer” in their kids lives. That’s no easy task and we all know it. But it is the truth. Our heavenly Father can fix anything.

Happy belated Father’s Day to all you dads. Keep at it…you may still be able to help your kids arrive at perfection! We’re still working on ours. They, like all of us, are a continuous work in progress!


Here I Am Lord

By: Marcy Barthelette

I recently shared with you my personal celebration of the fourth anniversary of Gatepost Weekly which Casey has grown into an amazing communication tool, but I didn’t share my journey as a writer during these four plus years. In the beginning, I supposed it would be a   bridge keeping us connected as a Christian family throughout an epidemic that crippled our world and has changed it in so many ways. I’m sure I never thought I’d still be doing what I’m doing, but it gave me a challenge during those very trying months of isolation. At that time, I planned ahead quite a bit, putting together several series that required a lot of research. In short, I depended on myself.

At some point, I’m not sure when, I stopped trying to plan and started listening and watching for tiny threads that could become an actual story, of sorts. There are clues all around us if we make the effort to be observant and I needed to start using all my senses to absorb any nudges, as I like to think of them, that might relay a message that needed to be shared.

Sometimes those threads began weaving an idea during a sermon, sometimes a particular praise song touched me. Then there were times when a friend of mine would simply drop a comment in passing that seemed to need more clarification. Yet again, there were times when strangers whose perspectives differed greatly from mine provided the material for a meaningful discussion. The words of another writer might birth the seed for an important topic and, of course, scripture always provides incredible insights.

And more often than you may realize, Pastor Dennis and I had been working on the same message in a given week, sometimes from the same perspective and sometimes opposite positions. A few months into writing for the Gatepost Weekly, I began to realize that my line of communication with the Lord had strengthened. I was depending on Him to provide the meat of what I would write. I stopped pushing myself to beat my deadline and just let God do what he does best…he guides us. But here’s the thing…we have to choose to listen.

The Lord replied, “I’ll go myself, and I’ll help you.” Exodus 33:14 CEB

This scripture was the verse of the day on YouVersion one day last week, and it obviously was meant for Moses, when God made known his demand that Moses lead God’s people, Moses’ people, out of slavery and into the Promised Land. I dug a little deeper into Exodus to find some context and it became clear that it’s a message meant for all of us.

Each of us was created long ago for a unique purpose and it can be easy to overlook or to ignore, but if we search our hearts and discover whatever it is that we do well, we will be on the journey of discovering our purpose. We needn’t waste time trying to adapt to someone else’s unique qualities, we weren’t created to mimic anyone else. We are asked to utilize the skills or talents we are given to encourage others to know that they are loved as God’s own children just as we are.

You may not see helping neighbors with maintenance chores as being a gift or talent, but it is. Just because you really should reserve your less than stellar singing voice for the shower shouldn’t prevent you from inviting a new acquaintance to church for some uplifting praise and worship music. Your ability to reach out to a stranger in need of a hug may just be a normal part of your daily routine, but it’s a gift that many of us just don’t have. If you enjoy indulging in the culinary arts and share the rewards with a busy working mom or dad, that’s a gift much appreciated. And if you share a few moments of your busy day with the kids in your neighborhood, you’ll impact their very impressionable lives more than you may ever know.

We tend to view personality traits that help others as being skills beyond our reach. They aren’t. The best gifts of all are the little things we do for each other, the things we take for granted. But the receivers of those gifts of kindness see them as much more. If you haven’t already found your talent or special skill, make an effort to do so. Maybe you’re ready to explore a newly discovered gift. Dive right in! As little children we mimic our parents to learn important life skills. But we reach a level of maturity that demands we not mimic others; we must stand tall in our own shoes. Don’t concern yourself with being like your best friend. Be yourself. God will go with you, and he will help you.

The world doesn’t need another copy of someone else, the world needs you. Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love



Let God Let You Be Your Very Best You

By: Marcy Barthelette

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence…Love others as well as you love yourself.” Portions of Matthew 22:37,39 MSG

Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get anything right? Of course you have…it’s a human condition. For instance, my husband rushes through the door with a bag in his hand and excitedly proclaims that he just found something I’m really going to like. He unveils his precious “find” and my response creeps out before I filter it; “Why did you think I would like that?”

His crestfallen expression immediately induces feelings of remorse, but the words are out. I can’t stuff them back in and there’s no way that I can cushion the blow that my careless comment has dealt. It doesn’t matter that I was in the middle of concentrating on an article or a drawing or maybe even rearranging kitchen cabinets. I needed to think before speaking. It is the bane of my existence and Ken’s as well. I’m an immediate person, sometimes I just need a roll of duck tape for my mouth, and he’s a more contemplative soul. So, how do we solve this issue of totally opposite personalities. To be honest, sometimes we don’t do a very good job and sometimes feelings are hurt. That’s when we both usually take a time-out.

After he grinds the rust off a few old tools or sands a wooden handle to perfection and I have everything in my cabinets aligned the way I want, at least for that day, we spend some time together remembering why we are a couple and the promises we made a long time ago. We also recall the person God has called us to be. Sometimes the word “sorry” enters the conversation, but, as often as not, we just get back to being us. We’re pretty confident in who we are as a couple but we continue working at making us better every day.

The bigger question is, do we work as hard at being what God wants us to be? Pastor Dennis asked us Sunday if we choose to adhere to what scripture tells us over what society lures us to accept. Do we dive deep into scripture in order to learn God’s plan or do we fill our days with every kind of materialistic self-improvement tip or product designed to lure us down the pathway of self-importance? Like it or not, we’re all guilty of making a wrong turn. The Good News is that God doesn’t demand that we come to Him in perfect running order, we just need an honest, repentant heart, and the will to change. He’ll help us with the rest.

Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God…God brings the best out of you, develops well-informed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 MSG

We were left with a final question on Sunday and it’s a very important one. How do we interact with those who engage in behaviors that do not conform to God’s word without becoming a part of those behaviors. That’s not a Pastor Dennis quote but just a different way of verbalizing it. How do we love the person but not the behavior and still make that person feel loved. I can tell you, I struggle with this question more often than I would like. The only answer I can offer is that if we stay closely attached to our Father, the vine, we will grow into strong branches that will encourage good fruit. We need to be always aware that God made every single one of us and he doesn’t want to lose even one of His precious sheep. We need to remember, “There but for the grace of God, go I?

We often hear the phrase, “be in this world, but not of it.” It isn’t biblical but is appropriate in this context. We’re all on a journey in search of home. The choices we make on this journey will determine our eternal home. We are no better or no worse than anyone  else, and whatever we’re hanging onto that separates us from Him, we need to “Let Go and Let God.” If we can walk the walk, and talk the talk every day that we live, perhaps someone else will be encouraged to make their own decision to answer His call as well. Isn’t that what he asks of us?

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NLT

Sometimes I like to consider a passage from different perspectives. The Message expresses this passage, another of my favorites, very well.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.
Micah 6:8 MSG


“The Appropriate Pruning Time”

By: Marcy Barthelette

I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing He prunes back so it will bear even more. John 15:1-2

I don’t know about you, but my tiny thread of patience is growing even thinner dealing with storm after storm, after yet another series of storms. I just may have mentioned in the past that patience is not one of my strengths, but come on, this spring has offered up a plethora of storms. I choose the word plethora because one of our beloved weather forecasters used it often during the hours of continuous coverage when tornado warnings were in place. It seemed inconsistent with his typical vocabulary so it stuck. I think I’m becoming much too familiar with those weather people.

At any rate, the storms have been ruling our life’s schedule for weeks now. Questions like, “Do we have enough time to sneak in a grocery run?” “Is the grass dry enough to mow before the next rain/hail event?” “Do we need to park a vehicle in our neighbor’s extra garage?” “Where did you put those documents or keys or my wallet?” Well, you know, it’s all packed to go into the storm shelter. And so it goes. Our weather Apps seem to be issuing constant notifications of another round of all kinds of destructive weather.

I just want to spend some time in my landscape beds. If the bunnies have left anything for me, I’ll need to prune and deadhead to keep whatever remains out there in a healthy condition. Spring is the optimum time for pruning lilacs, azaleas, and other early shrubs, just after their blooms die off. Blooms appear on the previous year’s wood, so, if you wait until later in summer or fall, you’ll be cutting off next year’s blooms. The foliage left behind by my spring bulb plants needs to be cut back when it begins to fade, and the few blooms that the bunnies didn’t eat need to be protected, somehow, from those sharp little teeth.  

Our oaks and maples are always in need of pruning, but many of the dead branches are too high to reach. This is when spring storms come in handy. You see, God does a pretty good job of pruning away what doesn’t belong. His spring storms bring dead branches to the earth where they can be ground for mulch or thrown on the fire.

Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.  John 15:6

He does the same for us. Sometimes we carry around too much baggage and it damages our ability to live like Jesus taught us by His own example. He knows we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but He wants to offer us the opportunity to be better. When trouble comes your way and things just can’t seem to go right, He may be pruning you a bit to equip you for something much better. So even as I say, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me now,” I know that whatever is happening is part of a much larger blueprint, and whatever God has in store, He’ll let me know in His good time.

I share a few of the lyrics from the lovely praise song, Tend, and hope they say something special to you. They capture the essence of one of my favorite scripture passages from John, used above, and taken this time from The Message. You can hear the whole song on YouTube.

In the landscape of my life, You don’t rush through any season, You always take your time. A careful hand, a gentle guide, You take what’s dead away and You prune what’s running wild.


So be the gardener of my heart, tend the soil of my soul

Break up the fallow ground, cut back the overgrown

And I won’t shy away, I will let the branches fall

So what You want can stay and what You love can grow.

Emmy Rose, Jessie Early, and Michaela Gentile



A Uniquely Ordinary Life

By: Marcy Barthelette

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I learned early in life that books could take me to places I could only dream of and introduce me to people who would become my heroes. I devoured stories about men and women who made great scientific discoveries or fought valiantly for our nation’s freedom and I feasted on tales of explorers setting foot on new ground. I dived into the Mayflower’s cruise across the Atlantic with gusto. I rode alongside Paul Revere to alert the countryside of eminent danger. I sat through long, restless nights with Abe Lincoln and best of all, I travelled the Missouri River and then the mighty Columbia with Lewis and Clark. More recently, I wondered how it would feel to be Thomas Edison and invent the light bulb or Jonas Salk and develop the vaccine for polio. And how about being the first man to step from a space ship down onto the moon?

As an adult, imagine my surprise at the reality that sailing on the Mayflower was certainly no party cruise. It involved tremendous sacrifice and a lot of plain old fortitude. The revolution meant grueling years of fighting and loneliness and being without food, clean water or even shoes. Freedom wasn’t and never will be free. Old Abe was a man revered by many but hated by many more. His desire to keep our country united cost him dearly. And as for Lewis and Clark, for every new wonder they beheld in this land of plenty, there was a danger that threatened to claim their lives. Mr. Edison endured numerous failures along the way to perfecting that light bulb and Mr. Salk spent countless years in the lab before a reliable vaccine finally made its way to the population. I can’t even imagine the rigorous training required to facilitate human space travel, but I assure you Neil Armstrong felt every moment of it. Have I lost my enthusiasm for their stories? Certainly not, but reality does illuminate them through a new lens.

As I muse over all the dreams I’ve dreamt about finding cures for disease or traveling the world to discover unknown islands or caverns, I have often felt my life has been very dull indeed. All that adventure fueled my rich imagination but it also left me wondering why my life seemed so ordinary. When we view life from the perspective of one event, we fail to see the cumulative depth of even our own stories. But as a whole book, they create an exciting story that is uniquely our own.

I’ve visited the re-created Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts and walked the soil that Pilgrims so diligently worked. I’ve strolled the Freedom Trail in Boston and seen the home that once belonged to Paul Revere. I’ve been to Gettysburg, where one can almost hear the cannons roar as President Lincoln prepares to deliver his Emancipation Proclamation. And, while I’ve never made it to the west coast, I have visited Missouri sites where Lewis and Clark passed through, and I still have hope of traveling their journey to that far shore. I’ve seen the tales of science and space travel in museums across our country. I have listened to the roar of the mighty Niagara as it tumbles over cliffs to pools below. I’ve stood atop Pike’s Peak and gazed at the other surrounding “fourteeners,” their name alluding to their height. I’ve watched snow form from the trees on one side of Clingman’s Dome and dump itself on the other side. I’ve dipped my toes into the Atlantic from Maine to Florida and marveled at the blue-green waters and white sugar sand beaches of the Gulf shore.

As a child, I was blessed by the love and protection of parents who had little materially, but were wealthy beyond measure in their dedication to showing me, by example, the way I should live. As I grew into adulthood and spread my wings, I wasn’t always the person they taught me to be and I certainly wasn’t always the person God created me to be. But life’s  events began to turn me around. As an expectant mom, I felt the sheer delight of new life stirring within me and I later laughed at a toothless little grin until I realized that adorable smiling little face was expressing the joy of downloading all that strained food I’d worked so hard to prepare into her diaper. How could I ever have thought that was cute? I’ve cheered toddlers through their first steps and sent kindergartners off into a big world of new beginnings. I’ve cried tears of joy at graduations, weddings, and births of another generation. I’ve been a working mom and a single mom. I’ve seen life from many angles.

For many, but not all, of my adventures and misadventures, I’ve had a wonderful husband at my side to share the experience. We became a blended family when our kids where thirteen, twelve, and ten. We’ve sat up many nights with a sick or anxious child but spent many more at programs and games and holidays with those same children. And in our older years, we’ve celebrated and agonized with our grandchildren through those same growth cycles. Life goes on.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the events in my life and, large or small, they create a composite that is uniquely me, a rich tapestry woven together with threads of all the people and experiences that have filled these years. Contrary to my earlier belief, there’s nothing ordinary about my story. It’s filled with twists and turns, successes and failures, good times and trying times. It’s the life God gave me and He’s traveled every road with me, even if I forgot momentarily that He was there. He’s never let me down and He never will. And I am absolutely certain He still has a few adventures ahead for me.  

Every book has its calm waters that set the stage for an exciting finish. Our lives are much like that. We don’t have to travel to find adventures. They’re all around us, on the other side of town, across the street, and in our own backyards, just waiting for us to open the cover of the book and turn the page. If you sometimes think your time on earth is or has been meaningless, take a closer look at all God has done for you, go out and write a new chapter, then repeat a much-used phrase from our beloved Pastor Phil, “It’s all good!” And it’s all uniquely YOU!