A Scent of Yeast in the Air

By Marcy Barthelette

Does anything smell better than fresh homemade bread baking in the oven? I can remember those cinnamon rolls my mom baked for the childhood version of me just like it was yesterday. I’d wake to the sweet-spicy aroma tickling my nostrils and nobody had to call me twice for breakfast. Mom’s cinnamon rolls were certainly one of the best things I had ever smelled or tasted in my young life and, though she’s been gone to heaven for more than thirty years, that memory remains stored away and I recall it any time I smell any kind of bread baking.

Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes requiring yeast, and I must admit to abject failure. Yeast and I do not enjoy a friendly relationship, a fact I have so often regretted. Even with the introduction of automatic bread makers and the myriad selection of mixes taunting my misplaced ego from the grocery shelf, my bread was still heavy and sometimes a little doughy. I couldn’t seem to create a light, airy loaf no matter what I tried. And as for cinnamon rolls, the only edible ones made in my kitchen came from frozen lumps of dough or a whomp-it-on-the-counter container. What a sad testament to my culinary skills. There are lots of things I can cook well but yeast products have never made the list.

Bread can be made with four simple ingredients: flour, warm water, yeast, and salt. Other ingredients may be added or substituted to affect taste and texture, but these four are basic. Water temperature can make or break your attempt at bread baking so it’s important to be sure it’s neither too cool nor too hot. I was taught early in life to make a well in the center of my flour and then add the yeast, water and salt, mix thoroughly to allow the yeast to do its magic, and knead until the dough was smooth and elastic. But no matter how many attempts I made, I never developed the skills to create really good bread and I think I’m beginning to see a metaphor here for my current state of mind. My “spiritual well” is sometimes like the breads I tried so hard to make; so heavy it weighs me down, a little doughy from all the distractions of everyday life, and sometimes just plain flat because it didn’t get the proper “kneading” to help it flourish.

Jesus taught this parable: What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. Luke 13:20-21 NIV

In contemplating Pastor Dennis’ sermon from this past Sunday, I was struck by the idea that we are God’s “yeast” in the world and that it is our calling to grow that yeast and to share it with others. Right now, I’m finding that concept especially burdensome. After a brief respite from restrictions and because our area has become the epicenter for the Delta variant of COVID, Ken and I are back to avoiding crowds, wearing masks, etc. Yes, we are both vaccinated, but as we have heard, vaccinated people seem to be susceptible to Delta and we feel precautions are in order for us. Having to stand aside while a daughter struggles with the breathing difficulties that often accompany the virus has made us even more aware of its presence. So my spiritual well has taken a major hit. I need to stash a bit of spiritual yeast in my heart and mind and encourage it to grow. I need to talk with God and read His word and awaken my awareness to all the good things that still exist in my life.

I’m grateful for technology so that we can text or talk whenever we feel the need for an update on our daughter’s condition. I’m grateful that she married a good man who is sharing this journey with her at his own peril. I’m grateful for first responders, doctors and especially nurses who give when their personal well must be very dry. I’m grateful for hospital administrators who have to make the hard decisions that impact lives. I’m grateful for our church family which has remained connected throughout the trial we know as COVID 19. And every time I look out my back door and see tall phlox blooming in many colors and swaying in the breeze, I’m reminded of His constancy in my life.

We never know when our troubles will end but we do know where to find the liveliest yeast and a fountain of Living Water. So, along with me, drink the water and “knead” a little yeast into your heart. We’ll all be better for it and when we’re filled to overflowing, those around us are bound to be touched by the yeasty scent of God’s love.         

Dear God, help me — and all those who feel their well is dry — to feel the warmth of the sun on my back,

to see the glint of the light in the heavens, and to feel the joy of You blowing gently on my face.

Scott Walker, Daily Guideposts 2021 (unitalicized portion paraphrased)


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Just Go With The Flow

By Marcy Barthelette

A force much stronger than I grabbed hold of my body as I was enjoying a swim in the Atlantic Ocean just off Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I was powerless to fight the strong current that pulled me away from the beach and into a territory I hadn’t sought. For an instant, panic encroached. Somewhere in my consciousness, a quiet thought occurred, “Just go with the flow.” It’s what I’d heard experts recommend in similar situations and I knew I was an excellent floater, so I just let go. The current twisted my body and tossed me around quite a bit and in a few seconds which seemed like hours, it spit me out and I was able to swim back to shore. Sometimes swimmers who are caught in rip currents are not so blessed as I was. Panic can turn a pleasant swim into a tragedy in only seconds. The United States Lifesaving Assn (USLA) estimates 80% of its rescues are related to them.

A rip current is defined as a strong flow of water running from a beach back to the open ocean, sea, or lake, and any beach with breaking waves can develop rip currents. While many people connect them to weather, rip currents are actually created by the topography of the beach. This will encompass areas outside the water, such as dunes or marshes, as well as features within the water including sandbars, piers, and reefs. Rip currents often form around these features; in gaps between sandbars, piers, or breaks in a reef. The obstacles block the natural flow of the water back toward the ocean creating a new path for it to follow. Once it finds an opening, it’s much like a drain in your tub or a pool. The rip current flows faster than the water on either side of it and once it passes the obstacle, it loses pressure and stops flowing.

By letting my body go with the flow and not allowing myself to panic, I rode out the current and was able to swim safely back. I imagine I found myself in a short-lived rip current. Had it been a more persistent one, I may have been washed further out to sea and found it difficult to return on my own.

Although I had heard experts advise swimmers as to how they should react when caught in river currents back home in Missouri, I knew nothing about rip currents even though I felt comfortable swimming in the surf. In fairness though, my surf swimming had always been along the much calmer gulf coast. Even so, I thought I was ready for the Atlantic. And besides, it was really hot that day and the wind blew so hard that it drove the sand into your skin. I just wanted some relief from my discomfort and those beautiful waves were so inviting.

You could say I was careless, and you’d probably be right, but I’ll go with not being properly educated about ocean currents. The fact remains that at the moment when a decision had to be made, a quiet whisper crossed my consciousness and I truly believe that it was the still, small voice of God speaking to me. He said to just let go. He had my back once again. I’ve kept Him pretty busy during my lifetime.

This emotional event in my life calls to mind Peter, my favorite biblical character, who for an instant walked on the water toward Jesus.

 But then he noticed the storm raging around him, he lost his focus and had to be rescued.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Matthew 14:29-30

Just as Peter often turned his focus in the wrong direction, I was so focused on getting away from the heat and the driving sand, that I blindly swam into unfamiliar waters without proper research. I, too, had to be rescued. And my rescue came  in the form of a subconscious whisper.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. I Kings:11-12                  

If you’re anything like I am, we all need to listen to that quiet voice much more often. Don’t let the noise of the world drown out the most important whispers and don’t let fear keep you from trusting. Just go with the spiritual flow of the one who always has your back.


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In the Shade of the Almighty

By: Marcy Barthelette

Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade … Psalm 91:1 CEB

We hadn’t been camping since September of 2019 so our first venture in May of this year was cause for lots of excitement. We were to meet our youngest daughter’s family at Bennett Spring State Park, the last place Ken managed before his retirement. It rained all the way there, but the skies dried out upon our arrival and after setting up our campsites, we gathered for a Mexican feast that was prepared at home. Our firewood was green and wet, but with a lot of coaxing we were able to enjoy a campfire and roast marshmallows, some of us indulging in s’mores. The next day, we headed over to the Mennonite community near the park and nearly bought out the bakery, checked out a few other shops, and shared some of the culture with our granddaughter. That evening, after a grand meal cooked outdoors, our kids fired up the Dutch oven and made a blackberry cobbler, this in addition to all those gooey baked goods we had acquired earlier. The kids went home on Sunday, but Ken and I stayed an extra night and really enjoyed hiking our old stomping ground and sitting by a beautiful campfire. Our dinnertime fare was less extensive than the previous evenings but was delicious just the same. A quick trip home the next day and life was back to normal again, except for those two freeloading ticks that hitched a ride, one on each of us.

We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all Gods. Psalm 91:1 TLB

 

Our next outing was not so lovely, though. You see, “camping” has changed a lot in the last year and a half. Everything is done by online or phone reservation, you even check-in online. And many people who turned to camp because they felt it was safer to be outdoors during COVID found they really liked it. A fair number of them had become accustomed to working from home so why not the camper, as well. All they need is a mobile hotspot and a laptop and the office is set up, with very nice natural surroundings and the whole family along for the adventure. This, of course, creates a strain on facilities because sites are now full nearly to capacity even on weekdays. That leaves little downtime to mow grass, deep clean restrooms, and other maintenance activities.

So begins the saga of our second camping trip of the year. First, let me be clear, it takes vigilance to plan a camping trip these days. I check routinely for openings in our favorite parks. The site we reserved just popped up one day as I perused the website and I grabbed it. We had no idea what it looked like beyond the online image and those are taken to optimize the appeal of the site. We arrived around 2 PM to find our site completely in sun. There were no trees near us to provide shade throughout the middle of the day. It was 91º, both inside and out and our AC didn’t stand a chance of gaining any ground until the evening cool down, so we went for a walk on the Lakeside Trail, hoping to find some shade and catch a breeze and we did. When we arrived back at our little RV, the shade had finally reached its side and the temperature had dropped to 86º indoors. Fortunately, I had made some nice, cool chicken salad in advance, so we were able to prepare sandwiches, chips, and fruit without needing to cook.

As we were enjoying our meal, a new neighbor pulled in beside us in one of the biggest fifth-wheel trailers we have ever seen. He backed in with ease but then decided he needed to be a little closer to the utility hook-ups. As he backed in for the second time it became clear to us, and a man across the road, that the driver was going to hit the power box. We couldn’t get his attention quickly enough and he ran right over it, then pulled forward and dragged it back the other way. He wasn’t concerned about damage, he just banged it back into a configuration that satisfied him and plugged it in. We hoped no damage had been done to the lines and that the power would stay on for all of us. By the time he was settled, his huge living area slide-out was hanging over our picnic table, the back of that behemoth trailer was seven feet from our fire grill and, of course, the view from under our awning, our only shaded place to sit, was not the great outdoors we came to experience but that gargantuan fifth wheel. Did I mention that it was so tall I wondered if it would clear an overpass?

The next day was just as hot as the first. We hiked again and our indoor temperature stayed in the mid-eighties during the heat of the day. We had brought cured firewood with us from home, so by evening, Ken set about building a very nice campfire, which we thoroughly enjoyed, though from a distance. The next morning, we’d had enough of the heat and the view. We headed home a day earlier than planned and relaxed in our nice, cool home.

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow … Psalm 91:1 MSG

For obvious reasons, we have become a bit leery of this new camping world. The earlier version had been one of our greatest joys for most of our married life. But this little tale was shared to make a point. God has created some incredibly amazing natural wonders throughout this world, but we humans have a way of changing conditions to match our own wishes in the moment. The good news is that when we set aside our wants and establish our “camp” in the shadow of the Almighty, there will always be cool shade and beautiful surroundings. We no longer need to fret over the necessities of life. He will provide for us. Ken and I don’t know if the enjoyment will return to our RV camping experiences, but we can be sure of our “encampment” with Him. My prayer is that everyone could know the joy of the verse that I have sprinkled throughout this piece in several translations:

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NLT


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On Whom Do You Lean?

By Marcy Barthelette

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

I really thought we’d be finished with mating season by now but the robins in our yard are persistently working on a second or third family for the year. There is an early spring ritual at our home, whereby the robins continually try to build their nests above our downspouts and Ken must keep constant vigil so that he can remove the nests before eggs are laid. The trees are still bare then, and the birds seem to reason that the topside of a downspout provides the cover they need to provide a secure home for their young. I don’t get it, but then, I’m not a bird.

I believe God embedded the miraculous in the ordinary, and it is our task to discover it and celebrate it. Kent Nerburn

By this time of year, the process is quite different. The trees are fully leafed out and the birds finally seem to understand where they were intended to nest. They waddle through my landscape beds picking up dried daylily foliage, sail up into the taller branches of our trees and weave their treasures into an intricate and sturdy home for their tiny offspring. Soon the nest is filled with too many competitive tiny wings that flap but can’t yet fly and sometimes they become a little too boisterous.

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day. Sally Koch, Author

This week, one of those little ones managed to fall from its nest into our yard well before it was ready to fledge. Whether it was shoved out by its siblings or just became too adventurous for its own good, this little one found itself in a perilous situation. I spotted the parent sitting on the ground while I was watering and wondered why it was there. That’s not typical behavior. When I edged too close, she flew away to distract me and there lay the baby. It had its feathers but was still unable to care for itself, so she was nestling it in the grass.

Ken was planning to continue power washing the driveway, his project for the week, and in light of the fact that he would be working about 18 inches from where the young bird lay, I knew mama robin was not going to be happy with this scenario. After some deliberation, Ken pulled up some of the daylily debris that is such a favorite nesting material for the robins and attempted to weave a makeshift nest. He placed it in a bush near the house and away from the driveway. He then gently settled the young bird in its new nest and went about his power washing task.

The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the creator. Louis Pasteur, French Chemist

Very shortly mama robin was flying in and out of the bush trying to care for her baby in very difficult and unfamiliar circumstances. We saw her continue her ritual for a couple of days but then she disappeared. We don’t know what eventually happened to the little one and we knew the odds were stacked against its survival, but we did what we could to help these little creatures in their plight.

Much like our tiny bird and its mama, we sometimes find ourselves in compromised situations, whether by total accident or by poor choices. And sometimes we have to reach rock bottom before we are willing to acknowledge our need for a helper. When that time comes, our Heavenly Father is only a breath away. That mama robin acted on her protective instinct and accepted a helping hand from two willing humans; when we are in trouble we only need to ask and regardless of what kind of mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, God loves us so much that He will forgive us. If he cared enough to bring me to the right place at the right time to discover that baby robin in its moment of peril and prompted Ken to do something as outrageous as building a nest, how much more will He care when we bring our mistakes and troubles to Him for a solution?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 16 (ESV)


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A Sweet, Sweet Fragrance

By Marcy Barthelette

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. II Corinthians 2:15

Do you smell it? Farmers all around the area are baling and the scent of freshly mowed hay tickles the nostrils with a most pleasing summertime aroma. Unless, of course, you’re allergic. Allergies aside, our sense of smell is an incredible gift and one we should not take for granted, especially as we continue to deal with that thing called COVID, the loss of taste and smell being common symptoms.

Consider, if you will, the lilacs of early spring. After a long cold winter, their soaring fragrance heralds the promise of new life. This year their lovely purple clusters were covered in snow and yet their delicious scent filled the air. That’s quite a miracle in itself. And imagine yourself in an English garden where heritage roses waft their romantic perfume on light summer breezes. One of my favorite mid-summer garden fragrances is the Stargazer lily. Its spicy sweetness transports me to the open-air markets of the Orient.

I love deadheading my salvias throughout their lengthy season. Their pungent scent of sage surrounds my senses and brings my memory right to Thanksgiving Day when turkey and stuffing roast slowly in the oven. In September, when I visit our local market to find hundreds of mums filling the parking lot, I can only describe their fragrance as being immersed in fall. I know that scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns will soon make their appearance.

Consider the scent of icy cold watermelon on a warm summer day, hot dogs roasting on the open fire, and vine-ripened strawberries over ice cream. And who doesn’t salivate at the aroma of sizzling hot chili bubbling atop the stove in the cold of winter, or how about freshly baked bread or cinnamon rolls? Can anyone say no to a cup of hot apple cider or fudge just poured into the pan? Our sense of scent is truly a precious gift. 

His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Hosea 14:6

The Bible refers to fragrance several times as a positive result of our relationship with God. When we acknowledge Him, worship His name, and show His love to those around us, we offer to Him a pleasing aroma. When we allow the world to cloud our judgment and then behave sinfully, we offend Him with a sickening stench.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. Proverbs 27:9

I relish the thought that God likens our behaviors to scent. Whether savory or sweet, scent unlocks all kinds of mysteries in this life and even the offensive ones warn us to be wary of unseen dangers. Take a moment and close your eyes. Breathe in all the scents around you, see how many you can identify, and think about the kind of scent you would want to share with others and, likewise, with God. Do you want to resemble the skunk that carries its disgusting aroma everywhere it travels or do you choose to present yourself to God as a pleasing fragrance? He offers us the freedom to make the choice … I choose to try and be a lilac. What about you?

When we return to the greenhouse each day, it will restore us and bathe us once again in Jesus’ aroma so that people will know where we have been. They will glimpse Jesus in our faces, hear Him in our voices, and see Him in our actions; they will catch the aroma of Christ — His presence in our lives — emanating from us.

Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge


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Take Care of Your Grass

By Marcy Barthelette

A farmer went out to sow his seed … Matthew 13:3b

I’m not sure if it’s my imagination or if the grass in our yard is thinning as much as the hair on my aging head, but I recall many thick, lush areas during that first summer, some five years ago and now our once pretty lawn looks more like an unruly weed patch.

 

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up … Matthew 13:4

It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve spent countless hours each spring and summer, digging dandelions, spraying chickweed and henbit, rooting out those thorny and obnoxious thistles and I mustn’t omit the huge patches of clover that are relentless. The only reward for my labor seems to be a generous sprinkling of insect bites. Between chiggers, mosquitoes, and ticks, it’s often hard to find an untouched patch of skin. For some reason, they don’t bother Ken as much and I must admit to a tad of envy but, despite all our toil, the weeds are flourishing.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly … but when the sun came up, the plants were scorched because they had no roots. Matthew 13:5-6 (paraphrased)

Why you might say, are they not building up the turf to choke out the weeds? We’ve tried that too, overseeding areas of established turf to add strength, and generously seeding reclaimed areas. But our efforts have been for naught, and we just haven’t made the leap to contacting a lawn service… we’re still in DIY mode.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:7

I suppose our approach has been something like the dieter, after seeing the number on the scale and saying, “Oh, well, I’ll start tomorrow,” and plunging right into that doughnut on the counter. And in truth, that pretty much sums up life. If we surround ourselves with negative people, we will find our own attitudes becoming negative. If we indulge in too many rich foods, we may not only find our clothing feeling smaller day by day but may also discover health issues creeping into our routine. If we hear bad language everywhere around us, those same words will begin to tumble from our mouths as well. If we follow the crowd that doesn’t appreciate worship, we will eventually, forget worship altogether and our lives just may become a tangle of obnoxious weeds and thorny vines.

We need to provide fertile ground for the positive seeds around us to take root. That means spending time with fellow Christians. It doesn’t mean we exclude those who need our help. Jesus spent a great deal of his time with those who were considered the misfits of his era, those who needed His healing touch or a comforting word. He expects us to extend a loving hand to those in need today. He also wants us to remember “whose” we are. Just one small weed quickly multiplies and becomes an uncontrollable mess. Guard your ground zealously and don’t let weeds take root.

So if your yard needs tending, approach it from a positive angle. Nourish the grass and it will eventually choke out those weeds. Likewise, if your life has become a little thorny, look to the source of all good things, immerse yourself in Godly conversations and then go out where you are needed and provide rich ground for strong turf to emerge.

Still other seed fell on good ground, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:8


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Small Blessings are Often the Best

By Marcy Barthelette

For there is hope for a tree, (or a bush) if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its

tender shoots will not cease. Job 14:7

We have an azalea bush that we believe to have been original to our 1993 home. When we moved here, it was looking a bit worn. It had no shape, and its foliage was sparse. I wondered if it was really worth saving. Should I just count my losses and ask Ken to drag out his Ozark digging tools?

My experience with the species was limited so I did a little online research and concluded that a twenty-something-year-old shabby azalea could actually be worth some effort on my part. A spring bloomer, it had to be pruned after it flowered so, in late May, I grabbed my pruners and set out to make this sad-looking bush a bit more shapely. I decided on a cautious course of action and removed only dead branches and the most unruly live ones.

Next spring, our azalea had a somewhat better overall appearance and bloomed profusely, but I had since become more daring and when blooming finished, I once again took my pruners to the branches. This time, however, I gave it a severe haircut and hoped that I had not gone too far. It began to sprout new leaves and soon was a fine, healthy-looking specimen. It was a long wait to see if it bloomed well, but my efforts were rewarded. We have enjoyed that azalea every spring since, that is, until this year.

As you undoubtedly know, our winter and even spring have been very challenging to plant growth. They’ve experienced extreme cold, late freezes, an abundance of moisture, and too little sun. Most of my perennials are taking it in stride but there are a few areas of concern. That beautiful azalea tops the list. When buds should have been sprouting, nothing happened. The bush appeared to be dead, but we waited (sort of patiently), and eventually, leaves began to appear at the branch tips. Then one day, I found the tiniest of leaf buds erupting among the seemingly dead wood. They are very slowly growing into foliage and, hopefully, by the end of summer, we’ll have a healthy-looking azalea once again.

Whatever goal you are trying to reach, break it down to the details and focus on them one at a time.

Don’t get sloppy and overlook the little aspects of life, because they add up to big things.

Tony Dungy & Nathan Whitaker, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge

The best part of this little tale is that one day I glanced out the window and caught a glimpse of pink buried in that azalea. I looked more closely to be sure my old eyes hadn’t failed me and then I raced out with my phone to catch an image of one perfect bloom, nearly hidden by leaves.

I know it may sound silly to get so excited about one insignificant bloom, but here’s the thing … I had worked hard to save that bush because it was special to me. How much more do you think God celebrates when one of His beautiful creations says to Him, “Okay, God

, I get it! You are the light in my life and everything I have comes from you, especially forgiveness. I know that you gave your own son for me, and I want to try my very best to live the rest of my life for you.” Can’t you just imagine all the angels in heaven throwing the biggest welcome home party for that one imperfect person who finally discovered that he or she is a child of God? Any person or a

ny thing that seems shabby and worn one moment can blossom into something magnificent when God is in the mix!

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue

and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. — Philippians 4: 8 (NKJV)

Be aware of the goodness in those around you and cultivate the beauty in them.

  


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Passing the Baton

By: Marcy Barthelette
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 (NIV)
Everywhere I’ve turned in recent weeks I’ve seen caps and gowns and heard congratulations being offered. It’s so refreshing seeing all those smiling faces who get to celebrate their accomplishments, unlike the classes of 2020. We had one of those students who graduated from college last year with little fanfare.
This year’s graduation season began with our granddaughter, and youngest grandchild, making the move from elementary to middle school as she becomes a fifth grader. There is a lot of excitement and no small measure of apprehension. She knows she will not be the top dog anymore. It’s back to the bottom of the heap again. But she’s pleased that she gets to change classes all day, just like the big kids. There’s always a trade-off.
Then I recently received a text from an Aldersgate friend showing off two grandsons all decked out in caps and gowns for their college graduation ceremonies from two different schools and a granddaughter covered in Nixa red for her high school graduation.
Graduation ceremonies of all sorts, here in the Ozarks and around the country have been making the news cycles and everyone is more than ready to participate in the party.
And how about that double class of Aldersgate confirmands from 2020 and 2021, who completed their studies and on Sunday, May 23, made their public commitment to Jesus. No caps and gowns for them, they were dripping with the baptismal water that signified the beginning of their Christian journey. How wonderful it is to see all those fresh young faces excited to become closer to the Lord.
All of our graduating students have faced challenges, whether at school or at church, that others have never encountered before. And they have triumphed! Their parents have also seen challenges and the greatest may be still to come …. letting go. The son or daughter is filled with the anticipation of taking flight, of embarking on a new adventure. But Mom and Dad may be dreading the quiet house, the empty chair at the table, the room that will only be occupied on breaks or vacations, the absence of those serious discussions and silly antics that now are only sweet memories. The thing is, we raise our kids to be independent and it’s their turn now to begin taking on the world they will share with others for many decades. Hopefully, we’ve given them the tools they need to succeed as Christians in a world where Christianity is not necessarily the cool thing to uphold.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel 2: 21 (NIV)
Right now, as one class celebrates moving on, another is preparing to buckle down for that final year of high school or college. While one class is preparing to furnish a dorm room or go in search of a job in the real world, another class is gearing up for college entrance exams, senior sports, and proms or job interviews, relocating to new homes, and beginning adult life. The seasons progress and each of us moves on with an end goal in mind. Whatever their life’s work may be, may the goal of all our graduates be a life of service to others and love for fellow man, and may they find themselves always nestled in the arms of God. As for the families left behind, perhaps they can learn to view this time as a sort of “changing of the guard” or “passing of the baton”. Relax parents, and enjoy this time you’ve been given to become reacquainted with one another and indulge in projects left behind during all those child-rearing years. You may even find you like retirement. And never fear, they always know where home is.
 
Congrats Grads and Congrats Moms & Dads! Enjoy your future!

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They Answered the Call

By: Marcy Barthelette

It was always a big adventure, going with my mom to visit cemeteries in the spring to place flowers on the graves of those family members who had walked this earth before us. Back then, where I grew up, we called it Decoration Day. A passion for history stirred early in my life and I loved hearing about grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles who had helped shape the person I would become. It’s interesting

that, as I became an adult, my passion for genealogy never really developed. Oh, yes, I love hearing about my ancestors when someone else will do the tiresome digging through musty old records and conduct the never-ending website searches. But try as I may, I can’t seem to develop the patience to do the work that my husband and friends of ours spend countless hours indulging themselves in.

I guess I wouldn’t have made a good soldier either, because I tend to do my own thing and constant repetition is definitely not my thing. We think of soldiers as being big, tough men who spend their lives on a battlefield of one sort or another. But, in reality, much more of their time is spent in physical training, in study, embroiled in paperwork, and just waiting for orders to come from someone well above their pay grade. So why do they do it? For most, it is a dedication to this country and its people that drive a soldier, male and female alike, to do their jobs. The work is often dirty, the pay is certainly not in line with private-sector careers, and appreciation for all they do is often in short supply. And for way too many, the gift of life is taken from them long before we feel their time should be over. Because of this sacrifice, we celebrate what is now known as Memorial Day.

I am blessed to share my life with an eight-year US Air Force veteran. Though he never saw a field of battle, he faced other kinds of battles. He served during the cold war era and the Vietnam conflict. His job was to generate power for his missile launch crew. By most standards, he was still a boy when President Kennedy was assassinated, and he stood at parade rest for four long hours waiting to learn if he must bear the responsibility of pressing the button that would set in motion an act that would initiate a nuclear war, the impact of which we had never seen before.

As is the case with much military personnel, his activities were often classified and he couldn’t share them with others, but he did his best to carry out his orders and keep this country and the world a safer place. On this upcoming weekend, we honor all those who gave their lives defending the freedoms of our great land. May we never forget their sacrifice, for when we forget, we tend to take those freedoms for granted. We are a blessed people, and it is our responsibility to use those freedoms and blessings for the betterment of all those who need us.

We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke, but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.

James A. Garfield May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

My mother is long since gone to Heaven and I live far away from those cemeteries we once visited. But I still take time to recall those precious souls that I called family and treasure the moments spent in their company. However you celebrate this Memorial Day, please remember all those men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country and say a prayer for all who are currently in harm’s way. Our prayer is for peace throughout this world, but when duty calls, never forget those who answered the call during their place in history and those who will do it again, if necessary.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Matthew 24:6

And that end will lead us safely  into our eternal home.


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Don’t Judge a Book (or anything) by its Cover

By Marcy Barthelette

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. Revelation 21:5

Ken found it atop a stump outside the building that housed maintenance vehicles and equipment at the district office he worked out of in central Florida. It was a puny little thing with only two or three leaves remaining, but he brought it home to me anyway. After all, we lived in the sunshine state and I had a pretty impressive green thumb, so why not give it a try?

I took one look and instantly wondered what this typically intelligent husband of mine must have been thinking but then I remembered, with gratefulness, that tender side of him that never wants to give up on anything that demonstrates even a hint of life remaining. He likes to pick through trash to find small appliances that can be refurbished and put back into productivity. And he can’t pass by a discarded mower or trimmer that someone has left at the curb with a “Free” sign attached. He never fails to pick up nuts, bolts, screws, washers, or other pieces of metal from the streets, and his perseverance has saved us in many situations when we needed just the right piece of precious metal that he found tucked away in a jar right where he’d stored it.

He doesn’t give up on people either, especially kids. Just before we moved to Florida, he had spent a year working as a teaching assistant. Many hours were devoted daily to very repetitive work with children who had learning problems. Ken is not trained in special education, but he has a knack for reaching kids who have difficulty learning, many times influenced by environmental challenges. He has the patience to get past the worn clothing, the grimy fingernails, and the attitudes that often accompany a child who isn’t learning properly. He shows them respect and finds inventive methods for stimulating an interest in learning.

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen

to be within the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor,

we’re participating in something truly sacred. Mr. Rogers

At that same time, there was a young boy in our church who didn’t like to read. His family couldn’t afford special tutoring for him and the school he attended hadn’t been able to spark an interest. He liked Ken and they started reading together for a half-hour or so any Sunday that both were available after church. By the time he graduated high school, that young man had turned some corners educationally and was reading much better. As he matured, he decided to go west and live with his dad and he continued to keep in touch with us. Ken insisted that he pay attention to his spelling, punctuation, and capitalization as he wrote. At first, he was reluctant to care. After all, no one was grading him anymore, but then he realized how much it meant to Ken that he treat even a simple email as correctly as he could. He’s married now, has a wife and child, a good job, and a great life in the wide-open country where he is best suited. It helped that someone took an interest in him as a young child who couldn’t read well enough to get through his educational years without some assistance. We treasure his continued friendship today and always look forward to hearing how his life is developing.

Nothing is impossible; the word itself says “I’m possible!” Audrey Hepburn

And that plant, the scraggly one that Ken brought home to me in the spring of that year in Florida. Well, I planted it in a safe space near the foundation of our home, removed any leaves that didn’t survive, watered it, and watched over it daily. By fall, it was two feet tall and before Christmas, it rewarded my efforts by producing twenty-something big, beautiful poinsettia blooms. They really can grow outdoors in the southern half of Florida if you make sure to cover them on the occasional night when the temperature drops to frost level. You see, you just never know what may become of a plant or a person when you take a risk and demonstrate in very real ways that they are a valued and important part of your life and a key piece in the bigger picture surrounds them.

We really can make a difference to the world around us. It will be risky but remember: Christ is within us.

You will never out-dream God. He will give you resources according to your aspirations. He will lead,

protect, bless, and encourage you. Maybe it starts today.  Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel


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