Surprise!

By: Marcy Barthelette
When we moved into our current home a few years ago I was feeling a little bit of regret over leaving our lovely landscaping at the previous home. We had developed it from scratch and I was more than a little attached to my perennial friends. Our new lawn had a good selection of perennials as well, the previous owner having been an avid gardener herself, but I just missed my personal touch. There always seems to be a sense of loss when moving from one place to another, but we can’t let that dampen our enthusiasm for new adventures to come.

Though I had been able to recognize many old favorites still hanging on in the fall, the spring brought a bounty of surprises. Grape hyacinths were the first to arrive and I’d never had them before so that was a real treat. Daffodils soon nodded their pretty heads. The three giant hydrangea bushes produced a show all their own but there was one area of the yard that just had a neglected appearance. We have a corner lot and the east end of our home faces the busiest of the two streets. It was nothing more than a hodgepodge of plants that had been thrown in the ground with no planning. It was an eyesore for everyone who passed by and I was on a mission to change that.
 
Those lovely grape hyacinths were there and their cheery purple blooms would form the base around which the rest of my new plantings would live. This area doesn’t get a lot of rain because it is away from the prevailing winds and has a large overhanging eave so I needed to make choices that would not only look nice but require less water. The obvious selections included sedums and salvias along with some variegated iris that came with the property and added color when nothing was blooming.
 
Everything was growing nicely but the following spring I noticed some long strappy leaves near the house that I hadn’t planted, nor had they appeared the previous year. I left them to see what might materialize and they just simply died back so I removed the debris and forgot about them. In late July, I noticed a strange-looking head poking through the ground just where those leaves had been. It quickly grew and rewarded us with several lovely pink lily blossoms. Surprise! Each year it has multiplied and this year there were three very prolific stems of blooms. I had to enjoy them quickly because they don’t stick around very long.
 
Their scientific name is Lycoris Squamigera. They are part of the amaryllis family and are sometimes called Naked Ladies (because of their lack of foliage), Spider Lily, and Resurrection Lily, but most of us just know them as Surprise Lilies. They thrive in poor soil and pop up in the middle of yards all over the area. Our neighbor has a row of them across his back yard. He doesn’t even allow their spring foliage to grow. His lawn is always clipped short and nothing is spared by his mower. But the lilies not only survive, they flourish! Neglect is their mantra.
 
You all know by now that I love natural nature, but I also find many parallels with our human world. We often neglect our closest personal relationships but with the addition of some Living Water, we usually experience surprising results. But how do we learn to respond positively to the many surprises in our lives? We all have them; some are large and some are small…we know that things of value often arrive in small packages. They may be wonderful surprises or perhaps they’re devastating. The key is to recognize them as a part of our life plan and pray through them, good or bad.
 
Imagine a small boy who has prayed for a puppy over and over again but the time has never been right. One day, he comes dragging home from a hard day at school and a barking little fuzzball meets him at the door. Surprise! Maybe a couple has tried for years to have a child but all they have to show for it is a chain of miscarriages. Then one day, they are greeted by a red, wiggly, wrinkled, hairless little human who instantly steals their hearts. Surprise! Or someone has been out of work for weeks and doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. He has no idea how he can pay that stack of bills on the counter but God meets him at the mailbox with an unexpected refund check that just happens to cover the amount of his bills. Surprise! A mom has prayed fervently for her wayward daughter to rediscover the faith of her childhood and the phone rings. A breathless voice says, “Mom, I just met Jesus in the sunrise”. Surprise!
 
In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
 
We are surrounded by surprises. Sometimes they come in beautifully wrapped packages and sometimes they jump into our laps dragging our favorite shoe, a newly chosen chew toy. Your surprises may be large or they may be small, they may be good or they may seem not so good. Embrace them all, for you see, it’s the times of trouble that help us to experience the Light of His goodness! No surprise there!
….the language of the love of God comes in more colors and shapes and melodies
than we could ever count. Brian Doyle

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Let Go of Those Words

By Marcy Barthelette

As a writer, words are pretty important to me. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing at some level, I even tried poetry but my attempts were less than stellar. If I’m to be honest, I am often guilty of using far too many words while making a very simple point. Our youngest daughter and her husband both have engineering degrees from Missouri S & T. Their math and science skills are incredible but each insists they are not very good at writing. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but they are certainly entitled to their opinion. We humans are usually inclined toward either creativity or the sciences.

If you have school-aged children, you will likely be familiar with the term STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). It’s a program specifically geared toward students who possess those skills and/or plan to seek a career in one of those fields. If you’re on the fast track to a future in the sciences, your writing skills are less important and, in fact, you are taught to use fewer words and be very concise.

I have concluded that I often need to take a lesson from the STEM curriculum. A case in point is communicating with my husband. Ken has a hearing loss that he acquired while working on giant diesel engines in the Air Force. He wears hearing aids and when he first got them, both of us were called back for an orientation session with the audiologist. I was surprised to be included but quickly learned why. I had to learn how to speak all over again. Unfortunately, I don’t always remember to look directly at him when I speak or even to get his attention before I speak. This always leads to frustration on both our parts because he thinks he hears a certain word but it’s really something entirely different. I not only have to start over with his full attention, but I also have to use different words to remove from his memory the ones he thought he heard. I also need to keep my words to a minimum so he doesn’t need to hear so many different sounds. If I offer him a lengthy explanation of something, he soon shuts me out and when I ask if he heard me, he says he thought I was just “babbling”, a word that has since become an icebreaker in our home when my vocabulary gets out of control..

But I believe this lesson needs to apply to many of our conversations with each other and also with God. To be a good listener is an art itself and one that many of us don’t enjoy. I have to confess I sometimes find myself talking when I should be listening. One of the greatest gifts we can give to others is to really hear what they have to say and show a sincere interest in their concerns. When Jesus was delayed in arriving at the bedside of his good friend Lazarus and found him already passed from this earthly life, He took time to hear Martha’s complaints that He could have saved her brother if he’d just come sooner. After comforting Martha, Jesus brought her brother back to life, but He listened first. Our encounters won’t be that dramatic but we can always listen to someone else’s words when he or she is hurting or confused or lonely. 

I have a necklace with a very succinct translation of John 3:13. It reads, “He loves, He gave, We believe, We live”. The message is clear and just might resonate better with an unbeliever than a lot of fancy words. Sometimes we need to get back to basics.

Before I close with fewer words than usual, I’d like to add this little adaptation by Rudolpho Lamas in his book, The One Hour Bible titled The Bible in 50 Words:

God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham Split, Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, bush talked,

Moses balked, Pharaoh plagued, people walked, sea divided, tablets guided, promise landed,

Saul freaked, David peeked, prophets warned, Jesus born, God walked, love talked,

anger crucified, hope died, Love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained.

Of course, all the other words between the beginning and the end create a rich spiritual tapestry, they are a symphony to our yearning ears. Maybe where the Bible is concerned, more is better. Share God’s word with someone today.

PS…allow me please to thank each of you who have left an encouraging comment on the church blog or sent a personal text or email. Your support is greatly appreciated. I’m learning as I go and as long as God keeps sending me words, I’ll keep serving Him with the gift He has given. Thank you.


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Embrace Your Silver Linings

By: Marcy Barthelette 
The summer heat has changed our exercise routine considerably. We head out just before sunset and as long as we keep moving those pesky little mosquitoes leave us alone. Though we were at first reluctant to climb out of our daytime rut, we have been rewarded with spectacular displays of God’s creativity as sunset’s colors journey across the sky. How could the human mind witness such wonder and doubt the presence of God. Last night we beheld blue and purple clouds framed in a fine line of silver as splashes of orange and pink danced from west to east. What a show!
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11
We’ve often been told that behind every cloud there is a silver lining. We witnessed that saying in the literal sense on our evening walk but, of course, it also applies to life in general. As humans we often experience cloudy times in our lives…we’re currently in the midst of several huge ones and they seem to have no end. But there are always rays of sunshine peeking through the darkness. We may need to search for them but they are there.
Rachel is a gift to our family. She was a silver lining before she drew her first breath. Her parents had been unable to conceive a child, so they were honored when an opportunity to adopt a baby girl was offered to them. They had several months to prepare and our daughter was in the delivery room. She cut the cord and has been Rachel’s mom ever since. She is our tenth grandchild and one of only two girls so that made her even more special. When she smiles, her whole countenance lights up and she gives the best hugs in the whole world. Is she perfect all the time? Of course not, she’s a normal child but she’s close enough to perfect for me.
We haven’t seen her since February when we helped celebrate her ninth birthday, but she calls to tell of her adventures and her sweet voice is certainly a silver lining in this time of isolation. When she says, “Guess what, Grandma?”, I know I’m on a journey with her that will bring rounds of giggles to both of us. She’s even getting pretty good at telling jokes. Sometime our phone signals are weak because they live in the country so she’s learning to text very well. She will always communicate in some manner. I look forward to the day that we can all go camping again when we can embark on exciting journeys of discovery in the natural world. She loves the outdoors just as we do. Until then, I’ll have to settle for those memories that we’ve made in the past until we can make more.
Our other grandchildren are farther away and older but we get a call or text now and then. Our fifteen year old recently texted, “You’re the best!” Our 22-year-old college graduate wrote to thank us for our support over the years and for being there for him, even from a distance. Those are sweet silver linings. Each grandchild is precious in his or her own special way.
The other place where I find silver linings in my back yard. The intense colors of the flowers and the intricacy with which they are constructed never cease to amaze me. During my chores I sometimes frighten a little bunny who has taken shelter under leafy plants and sometimes she just lays there, all stretched out on her belly to take advantage of the cool, damp soil. If I look up I may see a squirrel spread-eagled on a branch, searching for a cool breeze on a hot summer day. In spring and early summer, there are caterpillars of all sorts. They spin their cocoons and re-appear as beautiful butterflies throughout the late summer and fall. At about that same time, tiny praying mantis youngsters climb to the top of the plants to escape the flood of water from my hose. One of the most interesting insects is the giant garden orb. Yes, it’s a large spider and it forms the most fascinating webs with a zipper right up the middle. Its webs often reach a six-foot span or greater and I never bother them because they eat my unwanted bugs and I enjoy watching them so much. And let us not
forget the birds who flop in puddles to catch a quick bath before all the moisture is absorbed by hot breezes or the tiny hummingbird, flitting from bloom to bloom at lightning speed to catch every drop of nectar. My friendly little garden snakes like to surprise me by slithering past my feet and, sometime during each season, I’ll find a skin left behind as they grow and shed, another of God’s miracles.
These lovely little silver linings take my mind off the worry about today’s difficulties for a while and I’m
grateful. My garden is my happy place!

 

Just contemplate the spectrum of tiny miracles that occur in nature every day. If God can do all of that
for His tiny creatures, imagine what He will do for us. Losing that job that paid the bills but offered no
personal satisfaction may lead you around a corner to something meaningful and challenging. The
house you bid on but didn’t get may have had some undetected problem and the right one will come
along when you least expect it. Maybe you did have a losing baseball season but you made some
great new friendships along the way. So the publisher didn’t like your book but there may be a much
better deal just waiting to announce itself.
We all experience silver linings, both large and small ones, and God is right there in the midst of each
one of them. He promised to be with us through thick and thin and He is. Just look for Him in your
own unique silver linings. If you truly seek, you will find Him! After all, He is our very best silver lining.
Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the
art of life is to get the message. Malcolm Muggeridge, journalist  

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Is Something Missing From Our Puzzle?

By: Marcy Barthelette
Puzzles captured our imagination a number of years ago and we always have one laid out on our table in what we affectionately call the puzzle room (aka spare bedroom). Thankfully, we had a variety of puzzles and they have challenged our tired old brains during many hours of the pandemic. Our latest endeavor was a very whimsical depiction of Noah, the Ark and all the animals, many of which were very small. It was one of those puzzles that requires the use of the cover picture because colors and shapes changed so frequently that the parts didn’t seem to make any sense. Unfortunately, the picture on the box was very small and hard for me to study because of scar tissue in one eye resulting from a past surgery. Each evening after trying to place pieces, my eyes felt like sandpaper, but I kept at it until we were able to offer each other a high five for a job well done, a complete picture with every piece in its proper place.
One thing that really irritates us is running out of pieces before the puzzle is complete. We buy a lot of our puzzles from flea markets and garage sales so we know we’re taking a chance on them but the prices are just so much better than retail! Sometimes, however, the previous owner isn’t as careful as we are and we find pieces that have been chewed by an animal or small child. Sometimes they’ve come apart because of rough handling and sometimes we find part of someone’s snack on them. A few of our “bargains” do end up in the trash can. As a sidebar, all of our current bargain puzzles were acquired before we had heard of COVID 19. But the most disappointing of our discoveries is when pieces are missing. No matter how pretty the picture may be, an empty space makes it incomplete.
It occurs to me that life is a very large puzzle and each of us is an individual piece of the whole. If one or more of us steps out of the puzzle, we leave an empty space(s) that no one else can fill. Each of us is unique and equipped with very special gifts so it takes all of us to complete the tasks for which we were chosen. The church family serves God in many ways and each of us has a role in God’s plan for life. However large or small your role may be, step up to the plate and do your part. We’ll all be better servants for the effort.
 
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5
Oh, and one more thing. As Paul Harvey would have said, “Here is the rest of the story”. When our crazy Ark with all its occupants was complete Ken happened to open the box and found a poster of the puzzle inside, a poster that was about four times bigger than the picture on the box. I had seen the paper in the box but it was folded and the side that was turned up just indicated the manufacturer name so I thought it was an advertisement. The moral of this story is that we should always dig a little deeper to learn the bigger picture before we start a new project, offer an opinion or sit in judgment of others. Every story has more than one side and every puzzle needs every piece to be complete. And this old puzzler with less than perfect vision will always check the boxes for posters in the future!
We’ve been given only one piece of life’s jigsaw puzzle. Only God has the cover of the box.
 Max Lucado

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Cultivate Your Sunflowers

By: Marcy Barthelette
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do. Helen Keller
I have loved sunflowers for as long as I can remember but my affinity for these giants of the flower world became even more real to me one summer a few years ago as we drove to Billings on a little flea market jaunt. Halfway there we encountered one of the most amazing views I have ever imagined; acres and acres of blooming sunflowers. Move over flea market….sunflowers have taken center stage. I was absolutely entranced. We checked out the fields from every possible angle and, thanks to digital photography, we took dozens of photos. My love affair with sunflowers took on a whole new perspective.
We returned to try and relive that first encounter but the peak beauty only lasted a short while. We also learned that these fields had become a popular hot spot following TV news reports and newspaper articles about them. Each year we’ve hoped to be greeted by those happy faces once again only to be disappointed. Perhaps the farmer was not as happy with all the traffic near his fields as we were with his golden beauties. Though I’ve never seen them again, I have my memories and my photos. I’ve even raised a few sunflowers of my own.
Why am I so enamored with sunflowers? First, they’re bright yellow, along with some hybrids in other colors. Yellow is a happy color. I love yellow T-Shirts, yellow kitchens, and bright yellow goldfinches hanging upside down on bright yellow sunflowers. That brings me to the second point, birds love the multitude of seeds produced on each flower head. Humans love roasted seeds as well. And thirdly, bees seek out the abundant flower pollen for their honey. Sunflowers provide beauty, put a smile on my face, and provide a valuable food source for critters and humans. That’s a sizeable contribution to our ecosystem. So where do you suppose we could find some figurative sunflowers in our lives and how might they influence the way we live?
The sunny faces of family members would surely count as sunflowers. They bring us warmth and security and nourish us with rich relationships. A career wisely chosen offers a different kind of beauty and brings a sense of satisfaction. Our homes offer an oasis from the world. They comfort and strengthen us. Friends offer happy smiles and encouragement when we need a little lift on an ordinary day.
Faith keeps us going when the going gets rough when the mountain seems too tall to climb. Hope awakens possibilities we hadn’t seen before. Humility keeps us on track when we might be tempted to stray. Love for each other creates a bond that extends beyond our own families and into an environment that may be different from our own. Serving and giving promotes a sense of brotherhood and help bring God’s message to a hurting world.
These are a few of the things that I see as sunflowers in our lives. I’m sure you’ll have more. Whatever you see as a sunflower, cultivate it well. Water it and feed it until it is ready for harvest. If you’ve tended that sunflower well, the harvest will be great!
Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 CEB If you live according to my rules, keep my commands  and do them, I will give you rain at the proper time, the land will produce its yield, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Leviticus 26:3-4 CEB The sunflower reaches toward the sky to grab every nourishing ray of sun it can. It even turns itself to face the sun. We could take a lesson from the lovely sunflower and look to the Son for our nourishment.

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Embrace Your Freedom

By: Marcy Barthelette
This past weekend we celebrated Independence Day, the day we declared our country’s freedom from British rule. A bit of trivia: Independence was actually declared on July 2 but the Continental Congress took two additional days to discuss edits and the document was ratified by all 56 members on July 4. Apparently the original congress had trouble agreeing…does that sound familiar?
I would venture to guess there were those in our country who did not feel terribly free on this July 4th. Many of us still feel sequestered in our homes hoping to discourage COVID 19 from paying a visit. A wave of violence has overtaken our nation and there are those who don’t feel free to walk their own streets. Some feel they have never been freed from the discrimination that began in the roots of slavery. The monuments to our history are being defaced and destroyed daily. In some cities, officials are removing them in order to discourage controversy.
So how do we, in the midst of all that is happening, experience freedom? It’s a simple matter of saying yes to Jesus. You see, He gave us freedom when He took His final breath on that brutal cross. At that very moment, the temple curtain which had always been in place to separate people from the presence of God was ripped in half and the doorway opened to a new relationship with God our Father. No more did we speak to God through an intermediary. We were suddenly and irrevocably free to speak directly to Him. Our freedom does not come from an earthy authority. It comes from the supreme ruler of heaven and earth!
 
When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37–39 MSG)
 
Some would say that Christianity is a relic of the past, but we know that it is alive and well in the hearts and minds of those who engage in open communion with the Father.
What Jesus gives is an eternal fountain of life, love, freedom & mercy. It pours down from the cross, from His open hands, onto the hearts of men & women. Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel
 
We can’t say when, or even if, this movement sweeping across our nation will diminish or if it will become the new law of the land. We don’t know if there will be a cure for COVID 19 or if it will mutate causing another pandemic. But it doesn’t matter, our future is in the hands of the Almighty. He knows every act before it happens and the answers to our questions will come in His good time.
 
So turn off the news and free your mind of all the chaos around us. Enjoy time with family and friends, even from a distance, and be thankful for the technology that allows us to visit one another even in the midst of a pandemic. Look out your window at the natural beauty all around. Get up early to embrace the sunrise. Chill a watermelon and fire up the grill. Relish your meal and stay outdoors to be immersed in the colors of the sunset. Do something that makes you smile. God wants to see your beautiful smile. We may not be free to travel everywhere we’d like to go but we do have the freedom to bask in God’s unfailing love, His mercy, and His goodness.
 
Freedom comes from filling your mind with God’s thoughts. Erwin Lutzer, Pastor, and Author.
The Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
II Corinthians 3:17 The Daily Life Bible
Those who enjoy great freedom must also be willing to accept much responsibility. It is our task to be the human eyes and ears of Jesus, to walk the path He walked and to be ready to reach out and lend our hands and feet in the continuation of His ministry.

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Escape Your Pit

By: Marcy Barthelette
 
God found Gideon in a hole, Joseph in a prison, Daniel in a lion’s den. Next time you feel unqualified
to be used by God, remember: He tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal. Jon Acuff
This quote is apparently pretty well known and comes from a prominent author, motivational speaker, blogger, etc. I had heard neither the quote nor the author’s name until reading a recent devotional. That’s right, I’m an old school person who doesn’t keep up with all the social media hoopla. Yes, I use the internet and my iPad daily so I’m “sorta” tech savvy but there’s a very noticeable gap between myself and millennials or even Gen Xers. But when I see a quote that reeks with possibilities for a new article, I grab it and let my imagination run.
So let’s turn to the Bible for a little refresher about these three men, Gideon, Joseph, and Daniel, who were just ordinary guys chosen by God to be part of extraordinary stories. Gideon was the smallest man in his family which was the smallest in their tribe and he was standing in a deep pit that had been dug to hide food from those who had overtaken the land of the disobedient Israelites. In these pitiful circumstances, God spoke to him and told him to lead an army against the aggressors. As you would expect, he objected, but with God’s help and some interesting battle strategy, Gideon’s army prevailed.
We know about Joseph’s coat of many colors, a gift from his father who favored him over the rest of his sons.
Joseph’s ten stepbrothers were jealous and they first plotted to kill him. Instead, they dropped him into a deep
cistern, whereupon they encountered a caravan of merchants and they sold their brother to said merchants. He
was later sold again to a man named Potiphar whose wife accused Joseph of rape and had him thrown in
prison. It was during this time that he became known as an interpreter of dreams and eventually landed favor
with emperor Pharaoh. When Joseph predicted 7 years of abundance followed by great famine, he and
Pharaoh begin an ingenious plan to save a portion of each year’s grain and store it for future use. The story concludes with Joseph saving Egypt and his family from starvation during the seven-year famine.
We all know that Daniel had to face a den of ferocious lions, but why? It seems the king of Babylon thought highly of Daniel and had appointed him as the leader of a select group of advisors who served the king himself. These men did not like Daniel and they asked the king to create a new law. It stated that any man found guilty of worshipping anyone other than the king would be sentenced to a one-way ticket into the lion’s den. When Daniel continued to worship God and refused to obey the new law, the king had no choice but to throw him to the lions, even though his heart was broken. Of course, God sent an angel to quiet the lions and Daniel walked free, much to the king’s relief.
These are brief and somewhat lighthearted glimpses into stories that happened a long time ago and helped weave the tapestry of our rich Christian history. But we still have plenty of pits today, very dangerous pits! In reading Jon Acuff’s blog I didn’t always respond to his approach but I found a couple of points that really resonated. I learned that he and I agree completely regarding internet behavior. Social media rule number 1; Think before you type! You are not anonymous! Your internet footprint is forever! Comments made carelessly can impact the lives of others, as well as your own life, in ways you least expect. Forever is a very deep pit and just one of many we can find ourselves in. There are countless others.
Lately, I’ve been digging my own very deep pit! I’m just plain tired of COVID 19! I want to go grocery shopping without fearing I may catch “THE VIRUS”. I surely need some time in the woods in our camper and a real vacation sounds somewhat like heaven on earth. My biggest wish is that I could spend time with my kids and grandkids. They all live away from here and all are working and involved in normal activities, thus they are exposed to other people who may have the virus. Ken and I are at high risk because of our advanced age and other issues, so the family as a whole understands, theoretically, that we need to keep our distance. But our hearts speak a very different language.
So, each morning I have to drag myself out of my deep, dangerous pit of discouragement and self-pity. Believe
me, I could lie there and wallow all day long but something gets me up, takes me out for a morning walk, tells
me to water my plants when rain becomes sparse and brings me back indoors to try and find new things to do
that will add a little spark of normalness to our lives. If I let my mind wander I can almost taste that delicious
blackberry cobbler shared around the campfire and made in the Dutch oven that we gave our daughter a few
years ago. Now that was a gift that keeps on giving and maybe one day, we’ll share another cobbler.
For now, I’m reminded of another of Jon’s quotes that stirred my resolve; “Pivot, Don’t Panic.”
Pivot; make a small course correction and maybe some tiny thing that I say or do can help someone else climb out of a self-made pit. Pivot; and maybe a really nasty day can become a thing of beauty. Pivot; and maybe someone can see a little of Jesus in me. That’s why I have to get up in the morning. I have a very important job to do and so do you. So, whatever pit you find yourself in, claw your way to the top and invite the Holy Spirit to flood your being with hope and possibilities. You’ll be glad you did and remember to “pivot, don’t panic”.
 
Like the guide who knows the only way out of the caves, God guides us through life. He’s the One who knows
the pitfalls and dangers, and He’s the One whose voice we can trust and listen to. Soul Fuel, Bear Grylls
Your potential is the sum of all the possibilities God has for your life. Charles Stanley
 
 
 
Notes: (1) Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of six books. For over 20 years he’s helped
some of the biggest brands in the world tell their story. Most recently he’s spoken at conferences, colleges,
companies and churches. See more at www.acuff.me
(2)The full stories of Gideon, Joseph and Daniel can be found in Judges 6-7, Genesis 37-39, Daniel 6.
(3) The portions of this article regarding COVID 19 sound a lot like Pastor Sarah’s sermon from Sunday
morning. The truth is I write my articles the week before they appear in the Gatepost so this was
completed before Sunday. I can only assume that God thought we needed a double dose this week
and it isn’t the first time this has happened. Sometimes it takes more than one messenger!

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A Time of Pruning….Part 4 Make Yourself at Home

By: Marcy Barthelette
But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure
that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows
who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
John 15:7-8
Where do you feel most at home? Is your own house your refuge through thick and thin? Do you travel back to
Mom and Dad or your grandparents’ home to get that warm, fuzzy feeling of comfort. Wherever you bask in the
glow of love and maybe a little spoiling, remember that God spoils you most with His unconditional love. Before
you ever existed, you were provided an unlimited warranty. If you follow His path and serve Him, He will listen
to your prayers and travel with you on every journey. Your place in eternity is guaranteed.
I think we could all agree that God has been doing a large amount of pruning over the past few months. In my
lifetime, our world has seen some radical shifts in behavior and perspective. I was born at the end of World
War II. I never felt the pinch of rationing goods and doing without. I wasn’t able to understand the significance
of the atomic bomb until much later but I grew up with the stories of those who had experienced these changes
so I’ve always felt that they had a lot to do with shaping my life. My family worked hard and had few material
things during those times. They passed many of their economic and political views down to me, though it was a
number of years before their ideals really started to take root. Like most teens and young adults I went through
the desire to break away from what had governed my life to that point and start something new. But eventually
I had to admit that my parents got smarter as I got older.
As I became aware of the reality of Hiroshima and then the Cold War, I knew that I wanted to see a better,
more caring world. I tried to do my small part to educate children and soften the views adults held toward one
another. But the challenges kept coming. Our country went through assassinations of its leaders in the 1960s
and violent protests of various wars. The Civil Rights movement came to the forefront and made some strides
but never completed its mission. Then along came a group of terrorists who rocked our world, especially our
nation and all thoughts turned toward security. Political rhetoric has heated to the boiling point and our long
held fears of a global pandemic have become real and taken center stage. In the midst of that, racial injustice
reared its ugly head once again and protesters took to the streets in huge numbers. Soon looters and
vengeance seekers obscured the message we needed to hear. Our world and the safety of our nation have
been severely damaged by the pain of disease and the tragedy of violence. Where has God been in all of this?
He has been everywhere, all around us and wanting to dwell in us. The invitation has always been there. He
was in every foxhole and prison camp. He has wept with us when losses seemed too great to bear. When
theologies have clashed, He has never left our side. When anyone has been oppressed or lonely or hungry, he
was there to provide hope. And as we have watched our current lifestyle change in ways we couldn’t imagine,
He has been ready to pick us up and help us carry on.
He knew about all of these lifechanging events before they happened. He didn’t stop them because He gave
us free will to make our own decisions. But he did try to do a lot of pruning along the way. In so many personal
ways He tried to help us see His perspective. He has the ability to do anything, but He allows us to choose
where we want to dwell.
Are you ready to make yourself at home? Do you choose to dwell in Him and He in you
or do you choose to stand alone?
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 The Message
We’ve looked at snippets of our scripture reference for this series but I believe it bears repeating in its entirety.
John 15:1-8 (MSG)
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.
You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes
by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and
organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from
me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my
words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is
how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
My prayer:
Lord, always let there be less of me and more of You and let me be a really good gardener of Your people!

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A Time of Pruning: Part 3… Best Friends

  By: Marcy Barthelette
 
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate
and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. John 15:5 (MSG)
Every gardener experiences an adrenaline spike when a spade full of soil uncovers a collection of earthworms!
These little wonders are a gardener’s best friend! They work through the soil ingesting decaying material; they
then fragment it, add nutrients, and pass it back into the soil. This age-old natural process produces well-fertilized soil that is aerated sufficiently to provide drainage for all growing things.
The insect world may include many garden predators but it is balanced by a sizeable collection of friendly
species. Ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, certain wasps, and beetles, as well as spiders, can provide a
variety of protections. A little online research can point even the novice gardener to the correct solution for their
specific problem and help find a method to attract that beneficial insect in a natural way. Insects require host
plants so learning which ones to use as well as when and where to use them can net very rewarding results.
Another important friend in the garden is a collection of sturdy well-maintained tools designed for specific tasks.
You’ll need pruners, of course, along with a spade and shovel, trowels in various sizes and shapes, a good
rake, and a few others as you learn your specific needs. A visit to a few thrift stores and yard sales can net
some great bargains with lots of life still in them. Remember to clean all your tools after each use and oil when
necessary to keep them operating well. Store them in the same dry place each time you use them so you
always know where to find them.
Just as it takes an army of weapons to grow a healthy garden and enjoy an abundant harvest, we need to
cultivate good personal habits in order to build a healthy spiritual life. Every day we must make conscious
choices about the way we live.
Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.
John 15:6 (MSG)
What behaviors can separate us from our relationship with God? How do you suppose He feels when He sees
us reading books, listening to music, or watching movies that dishonor Him? Do you think He wants us to
damage our bodies with dangerous substances or even foods that are unhealthy? And what about the
language we sometimes use when things don’t go as planned? I’ve learned the hard way that when my
relationship with God is wavering it’s because I have strayed. He is constant but I sometimes have the urge to
wander a bit. And that’s when He prunes the deadwood. Thank goodness He has a well-maintained pruner
because I need to feel it more often than I want to admit. We need to choose our friends and activities wisely,
just as if God were watching all the time because He is. When we choose unwisely, He is hurt and
disappointed, just like an earthly father only more so. We are His creations and we should strive to please Him.
Jesus understands our temptations because He experienced them too. He honored His father by not caving in.
 
God guides us through life. He’s the one who knows the pitfalls and dangers, and He’s the one
whose voice we can trust and listen to. Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel
I believe God wants us to follow His written guidelines and to care about all His people. He wants us to share
His word and His love with people everywhere. Others often need to feel His love in action before they can

absorb His word and sometimes that means we must be in places where we are less than comfortable. If we
are there to do His will and share His love, then God will be present with us. And sometimes we find new
friends in places we never expected, a harvest of new believers.

Just as a dad wants to come home and share the day’s experiences with his kids, God wants to hear directly
from us. We just need to talk to Him. It doesn’t matter where we are, what we say, or how we say it. He already
knows our hearts but He wants us to share with Him. We can talk to Him during the busyness of our day or in
the quiet of a sanctuary. It matters not, He just wants to hear from us. Think of it as a teen checking in with
parents or a child seeking an answer to a question about the universe. God wants to hear the good, the bad and the ugly of your life. Lay it on Him, share those burdens. He can take it and He’ll give you the help you need if you let Him. Make yourself at home with Him. He is the best friend you’ll ever have!
But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you….John 15:7a
Next week we’ll explore the meaning of home…

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A Time of Pruning: Part Two – Know Your Enemies

By: Marcy Barthelette

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. John 15:4a
Wow! Think about that statement. He makes His home in us. That is a powerful reality. The God of the
universe dwells inside us. What an awesome gift and yet, what an awesome responsibility! How do we prepare
ourselves for that responsibility? Let’s search our gardens again for some answers.
Sometimes, no matter how much I care for and protect the living things in my yard, something happens to
upset the balance and if I don’t react quickly, serious damage will occur. To stay on top of any issues I must
walk through all areas of the yard routinely and search for signs of any foreign creatures that might be lurking.
In a wet spring I often find the leaves of my daylilies literally covered with aphids. These are nasty little insects
that suck the life out of plants if not abated. A good soaking in soapy water is all it takes but first I must be
aware of their presence. In June, Japanese beetles make their ravenous appearance. Some years they cluster
by the thousands decimating every leaf of their favorite plants or trees. Unless I intercede they only depart
when all the leaves of those plants or trees resemble fancy lace. And let’s not forget the infamous tomato
hornworm. These big green guys are as fat as my fingers and sport a little horn at the rear as a defense
mechanism, hence the name. They can completely strip the plants overnight if left unchecked. You’ve
undoubtedly stepped in a mole tunnel in your lawn. One of their favorite foods is tulip bulbs! And don’t get me
started on the infamous grub! In addition to a host of predators, weather, especially in Missouri, is a constant
threat. Between wind and hail, drenching rain, and prolonged drought, our plants have to be very tough to
survive and many don’t.
If all these enemies and more are out to get our gardens, imagine what ugly things want to penetrate the armor
of our lives. My goodness, the temptations are all around us. What do we do with that juicy story that one friend
shared about another friend last week? How do we react when we arrive at a party to find that drugs are being
passed freely throughout the crowd? When we’re scheduled to participate in a mission project but a friend
invites us on an exciting trip, do we keep our commitment or find an excuse to have fun instead? When dinner
isn’t on the table when we arrive home from work, do we display anger toward our spouse? When an attractive
person makes an inappropriate move on us, how do we respond? In the face of violence, how do we react?
You can see where this is going. Every day we can be tempted to act outside God’s plan for our lives. By
employing our moral compass and using God’s word as our operations manual, we can recognize the enemies
all around us. Does that mean we can’t have fun? Of course not. I believe God has a pretty keen sense of
humor and wants all His family to laugh and be happy. In doing so, we must be aware of the external
temptations that can lead us off course. We must also allow ourselves to be filled to overflowing with His spirit.
This is our core. He offers us the gift of Himself and if we respect ourselves and keep our inner houses clean,
we create an environment where He may dwell and flourish.
In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by
itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
John 15: 4b
Protected with the armor of faith, we can walk, as Jesus did, among those who need help finding their way. We
can do the work we were created to do…help make disciples for Jesus Christ.
Next week we’ll talk about friends….

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