Parental Chirps

By Marcy Barthelette

  Whoever dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

It was Sunday, July 3rd, we were halfway through the Independence Day weekend and the thermometer was climbing. After nearly a week of blessedly cooler weather, summer was returning with a vengeance. Ken loves it hot so he was relaxing on our screen porch when he spied an adult robin flying in and out of our crawl space access well. His assumption that a baby must have managed to get itself into trouble was confirmed as he looked down into the face of the human equivalent of perhaps a pre-teen. All at once, the parent swooped down, squawking, and flapping its wings against Ken’s head and he decided it would be best to keep an eye on this little drama from a distance. Mama finally settled down and resumed her watchful vigil and her feeding routine. We retired for the night with junior still in his predicament.

Monday morning I went into the backyard and was greeted by frightened chirps from our trees. It was then that I remembered the baby bird and went cautiously to check. Sure enough, it was still there and the parents were warning it to keep still and lay low, at the same time warning me to leave. I steered clear of the access well and went about my watering. Soon the adults calmed and from the other end of the yard, I saw one of them hopping discreetly toward the access well with a mouth full of some tempting morsel. It stopped every two or three hops to look around and be sure the coast was clear. It made one last hop to the rim of the access, then swooped down to deliver breakfast and was out in a flash as if it had never been there. Amazing and stealthy creatures, these birds.

Tuesday morning, day three of this vigil, I crept to the access well and looked inside. My glance was met by a tiny beak and two imploring little eyes, seemingly saying, “You aren’t my mom and where is my breakfast?” A little later, Ken was thinking of a way to get the bird out without causing injury or undue stress and he decided that if he put something in the well that was a height the youngster could jump to, perhaps it could make its way out. Of course, the usual warning chirps ensued, but this time he was prepared wearing a wide-brimmed hat. He was able to install a shoebox in the well hoping the little guy’s tiny talons could penetrate the cardboard enough to gain a foothold. It worked! By evening, the youngster was out and perched on the downspout extender, still waiting for food.

Wednesday, I was in the backyard again and the chirping was louder than ever. I looked in the access well to see if junior had managed to get himself back into trouble. He wasn’t there but an upward glance brought my eyes to the downspout extender where Ken had seen him the night before. I wondered if he’d spent the whole night balancing on that round, slick surface? It didn’t matter, I just needed to give him and his parents some space. The problem was that we have an area of new grass right beside him that needed water. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to create any more stress for this little feathered family so I  moved on to my perennials. After a while, the chirping almost stopped and as I finished the perennial beds, I walked cautiously in the direction of the new grass. The little guy was still there but kind of tucked in next to the house, so I figured I could keep my distance, turn the spray on high, and water the grass without posing too much of a visible threat. With care not to hit the little bird, I completed my task during which the youngster dropped to the ground and sought shelter under some of my larger plants. Now he had some shade and maybe the fine mist cooled him a bit in preparation for another hot day.

We saw the family several more times, parents assuring their youngster was fed while pushing him to try and get those new little wings working. The last time I saw him, he was sitting on our front porch and mama spied me watching. She few toward the door, chirping loudly, warning the little guy that it was time to leave. Quick as a wink, he took flight. I’m sure he’s still around but so grown up, we wouldn’t recognize him anymore, thanks to wonderful, supportive parents who kept constant vigil during his adventure into the big scary world. And our yard is back to normal, warning chirps have ended and a crisis was averted.

We, too, have a parent who looks after each of us in the same way. He provides for our needs and offers guidance for living. But we, too, stray from the safety of His “nest.” We fail to hear His voice or read His roadmap and we travel down roads better left untraveled. Sometimes we find ourselves in very dangerous circumstances and sometimes we feel deserted and alone, just like a certain little robin.

I can honestly say I’ve never felt alone because I was blessed to grow up knowing I was a child of God. I still have my certificate of promotion from the cradle roll at First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. Throughout those important formative years, faith-based activities were a mainstay in my life and I always felt surrounded by people who loved me and filled me with stories about a guy named Jesus, my very special friend. Even though I stumbled many times during my tumultuous teen and young adult years, I still never felt alone. Oh, I 

had questions about why things happened as they did. I still do. God and I have had some enlightening discussions about the “why” of life’s twists and turns, but I can’t imagine living in this world without the knowledge that God surrounds me all the time and He will forgive me when I return to His protective “wings.” If there is ever distance between us, it is I who have created that distance. I pray for people who don’t feel that special certainty that a loving protector always has their best interest in every situation and my hope is that one day, they will find it.

So, breathe deeply of the sweet scent of God’s presence, drink from His living waters and the next time you feel you’ve been abandoned, ask Him to offer a few loud chirps to let you know He’s still there and watching over you.

For his eye is on the sparrow, (or robin) and I know He watches me.

Paraphrased from the hymn, His Eye Is On the Sparrow, by Civilla Martin

 


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An Opportunity Built On Faith

By Marcy Barthelette

Be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. Romans 12:3b   

Our youngest daughter and her family just returned from a wonderful trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Each evening they uploaded the day’s photos to a shared online album so we were able to see the majestic vistas they had visited on that day. We thoroughly enjoyed experiencing those natural wonders with them through the miracle of technology. In fact, it became the highlight of our evenings. Only one night did they not send photos. We simply received a message that they were exhausted and would send photos the next day. And when they came, we understood. They included a shot of one of their apple watches and the figures were staggering. They had walked nine miles, over 22,000 steps, and were in the park for just under fifteen hours. I’m not sure I’d still be alive after all that, but the images they sent from their day of exploration were incredible. As awesome as this trip was, it didn’t happen without some difficulties along the way.

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. Albert Einstein

Let’s rewind a bit to a few days before their scheduled departure. You may recall that Yellowstone experienced catastrophic flooding on June thirteenth and our kids planned to leave on the twenty-first, just eight days after the water destroyed roads and bridges throughout the northern portion of the park. Everyone was evacuated and all entrances were closed until further notice. Until the damage could be assessed, there could be no decisions made regarding re-opening and the consensus was that it would be quite some time, probably not even this year in the northern reaches.

It was a period of concern and indecision for many who had reservations in the park and in that general area with Yellowstone being their primary destination. There were lots of cancellations, some were made by the park itself and others by individuals. But our kids didn’t waver from their plans. Reservations had been made months earlier, much research time had been invested to ensure the best possible trip and they weren’t letting go. You see, last year they had to forfeit their vacation because COVID came calling and they had no desire to give up another wonderful trip if there was any way to avoid it. They started by looking into alternative activities if, in fact, Yellowstone remained closed and they found there were lots of things they could do. Of course, it wouldn’t be the same as experiencing Yellowstone, but many of those alternatives held excellent promise.

A few days before their departure, Yellowstone officials announced they would reopen the south loops of the park on June twenty-second. The kids were leaving the day before and would spend a night on the road and then two nights in Cody, WY before entering the parks. They were to spend a full week at a campground located between Yellowstone and Grand Teton and administered by the National Park Service. (It, by the way, turned out to be gorgeous.) Their arrival was June twenty-fourth. Yellowstone was allowing entry into the park by means of a system that admitted cars based on the last numeric digit of their license plate number. An even number on the plate equated to admission on even-numbered dates and those with an odd number on the odd-numbered dates.

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them. Anonymous

As it turned out, the kids would have three full days to spend in Yellowstone and another three exploring the Tetons and other attractions in the area. Our granddaughter was able to earn her junior ranger award in both parks. Ironically, they arrived back home on the same day that most of the roads in the badly damaged north loops were re-opened and the license plate system was lifted, July second, much earlier than originally anticipated. Through the tremendous efforts of many agencies, ninety-three percent of America’s first national park was re-opened in less than three weeks following the mass devastation. This is certainly proof that we can all accomplish much more when we work together.

But here’s the real truth behind this miraculous trip. Our kids never lost faith that it would work out. They had made all their plans in the confidence that it would be one of the best trips ever and then life and nature intervened. They could have canceled their reservations and taken the accompanying financial hit, then traveled in another direction. But they researched again, made compromises, and carried on because they believed everything would be OK. And it was. They pulled their camper safely over the more than 3500 miles that comprised their trip. They witnessed wonders that only a God with a very creative mind could have wrought. And He held them safely in the palm of His hand through it all. They had faith that He would take care of everything for them and He did.

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right. Max Lucado

How often do we give up when things don’t go as planned? I know I’m guilty. How many times do we miss a totally awesome opportunity because of an unexpected roadblock? Guilty again! We would all do well to remember that God is always in control and He offers endless opportunities, even if they differ from our plans. And they’re usually much better!

On this adventure of faith, we are promised the presence of God in our hearts, His strength to sustain us, and His peace to surround us ─ fully equipped, ready to roll. Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel


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The Sweet Scent of New-Mown Hay

By Marcy Barthelette

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB)

It’s finally hay baling time and I’m obsessed with grassy hilltops and rolling meadows covered in fat round bales. I love the sweet scent of freshly mown hay and I love seeing the sunlight reflecting off them.

I’m sure the local farmers wondered if they’d ever get into their fields this season. We had so much rain in late spring that fields were a muddy mess, miring tractor wheels in their sticky goo, not to mention that the grass was much too wet to cut. But the heat arrived and God turned off the faucet from heaven and the work began. Now, everywhere we go, I get to enjoy the beauty of newly created hay bales. I’ve taken lots of photos, especially near our home. This year I found my favorites to be those taken just about a half-hour before sunset when the sky is filled with pinks and oranges against a lovely blue backdrop.

We are separated from a good-sized hayfield by a row of houses and a highway so we always have a view that makes us feel as if we live in the country, at least somewhat so. But it may be our final year to enjoy that hayfield. This year’s photos may become historic ones. Because, you see, our city, in all its wisdom, has approved the building of nearly three hundred homes on that tract of land. Instead of waking to the sound of tractors and balers and smelling the sweet scent of hay, we’ll spend the next few years listening to earth-moving equipment, cement trucks, and nail guns. And when undisturbed soil in this area is turned over, it has a horrible smell, resembling a hog pen.

I must learn to find a way to deal with these changes being wrought in the name of progress. It seemed wonderful to have a number of huge companies moving into the Republic area but with those new jobs come lots of new people hoping to find financial security and they all need a place to call home. That means that construction is booming in Republic and Clever. The tapestry of our countryside is rapidly changing.

And therein lies my conundrum. It’s easy to be kind to everyone and keep a smile on our faces when all is, according to our personal view of the world, going well. In fact, sometimes we can even get a little full of ourselves. But when the tide turns and it seems very little is going our way, it’s also easy to become irritable and out of sorts with those around us.

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way…..Psalm 37:7 HCSB

I can only hope we get a short reprieve from the noise and dirt of construction. This housing project has been coming down the pipe for several years and, according to city officials, it is ready to go. But maybe, just maybe, the developer might find some reason to delay through another haying season and I might get to enjoy that sweet scent, the sounds of country life, and the beauty of fresh bales in the field on a hot summer day again next summer. If so, I will be a grateful and humble child of God. If not, I hope I can be thankful for the years that I’ve been able to enjoy them.  And when those new houses are filled with families, I’ll welcome new neighbors with a smile.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28    

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Time for a Trim

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 that it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. John 15:1-3

It was a hot, sultry morning when I decided last week to attack my holly bushes. Our spring weather had kept me indoors too much and my gardening efforts for the season were sorely lacking. I’d been trying to play catch-up and it seemed the harder I worked, the less I accomplished. I really hadn’t intended to deal with the overgrown hollies, but after completing my watering and removing a lot of general garden debris, I just couldn’t look at them any longer. I could make this job a lot easier by just asking Ken to drag out the electric trimmers but he and I have very different philosophies when it comes to pruning. A couple of years ago, I turned him loose on one of the said holly bushes and the end result almost made me cry. Of course, to Ken’s way of thinking, it was very neatly trimmed.

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 by the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined by me. John 15:4

That poor holly looked really scalped post haircut and it didn’t make much progress toward recovery by the end of the growing season. Last year it spent the entire summer just getting back to being what I consider a healthy-looking plant. I didn’t want to touch it going into winter because those hollies are the only evergreen cover in our yard for birds and other critters. All the other trees are deciduous and the perennials die back to the ground.

Regardless of your pruning perspective, I think we can all agree that God didn’t make perfectly rounded or squared bushes and I really prefer to keep his creations as natural as possible. They shouldn’t overtake the house or even their smaller neighbors so sometimes a little pruning is needed and by doing so selectively, we can retain the natural appearance of the bush or tree. Scrupulously sculptured bushes certainly have their place but the free form is typically my choice in our very casual garden.

By this spring, even by my standards, the hollies were getting a little hairy looking. Even though I was hot and ready for the shower, I decided to tackle the one that had been tortured with the electric trimmer. I have a favorite pruner that has been with me for a very long time. It makes nice clean cuts and even catches a finger now and again, but that’s a story for another time. I’ve always chosen selective pruning accomplished with manual equipment. I began from the bottom, creating airspace below the bush. The plant can now breathe better and those formerly low-hanging branches no longer encourage a collection of insects to reside there. I then worked my way slowly upward and by selecting well-spaced branches to trim, I maintained a nice shape without leaving the bush with the look of a fresh haircut. As the branches fill back in, the changes will draw little attention. It’s as if the bush changes without really changing at all.

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 15:5a

And of course, when I finished the first bush, I couldn’t leave the other one looking so ragged. I dived right in and shaped that one up too. They’re very different varieties, one has smaller, tighter growth while the other sports much coarser leaves with a more open growth style. Both, however, are approached in the same way and after many careful cuts, the second holly was as handsome as the first.

Interestingly enough, when I read my devotions for the day, I came across a tale of a father who taught his daughter to prune the same way. I was encouraged to know someone else thoughts as I did about taking the time to carefully select the branches needing to be trimmed away but leaving the bush basically intact. Hand pruning, along with hand watering, offers opportunities to see any problems your plants may be experiencing. There’s just no substitute for personal attention when dealing with plants or with people. A well-loved friend is quite similar to a well-tended plant. Both will reward you by developing beautifully.

As to my earlier comment regarding my pruners nipping fingers, the pinky on my left hand has twice been the victim of pruner atrocities. A number of years ago I skimmed the tip from it and just recently I cropped a nick from the side. Both injuries healed well and my pinky is normal except for a couple of slight divots. Oddly enough, I was aggressively trimming spent daylily leaves when both incidents occurred. Perhaps I should apply my selective pruning perspective to all aspects of my gardening clean-up. Speed is not always a good thing!

Of course, the topic of pruning allows me to use my favorite scripture as a reference. This time I chose to use The Message as my source. Having recently re-read it, I felt it expressed my own sentiments very well. And it ends:

You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

John 15:16-17

 


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Perfect Timing

By Marcy Barthelette

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. Proverbs 19:21 NASB

The rain finally stopped and the temperature was really feeling like summer. Ken came in from working in the yard last Friday and wondered if there might be a campsite open at Mill Creek campground. It’s one of the many Corps of Engineers parks that dot the shores of Beaver, Table Rock, and Bull Shoals Lakes and it’s our favorite. The bad thing about that is that it’s also everyone else’s favorite. I pulled up their website thinking there was no way we would find a site for Saturday night, maybe Sunday, but the weekend? Lo and behold, there were several sites, two we were familiar with and two we had no interest in. I booked one of them and the race was on to get everything ready to go. The camper needed some cleaning, clothing had to be packed. We had accomplished some of the major cleanups prior to an anticipated earlier trip that was canceled. We were really ready to get on the road for our first trip of the season.

Part of my routine is to turn on the refrigerator the night before so that it gets good and cold. Since it would be our first time out, I double-checked again before bedtime and my ice cube trays were freezing nicely, so all seemed well. We got a good night’s sleep, I got up and watered all my plants in preparation for hot, dry days, finished loading non-perishables and when I once again checked the frig, it was not cooling. I passed my wonderful discovery on to Ken and he set about reading the operator’s manual, searching on YouTube, and checking electrical connections. In the end, we set it to battery operation and, after a time, ice began to skim over once again. I filled the now cooling frig, grabbed a quick shower and we were on the road.

An hour and a half later, we backed into our site, our wonderful waterfront site which was in full sun on a 90º day. It was then that we realized our frig was, in fact, not cooling and our AC couldn’t drop the inside temp below 88º because of the extreme sunlight. We really weren’t sure what to do, but we decided to take a walk and just enjoy the beauty all around us. At least half of the campsites in the park were still closed because of floodwater from all our spring rain. Of the sixty-seven sites, forty-seven are on a peninsula, putting them at prime risk. Some were still underwater and others were inaccessible because the roadway was covered.

As we walked, we noticed that a site we had seen and liked last year was empty and the camper pad was surrounded by lovely shade trees. We headed back and Ken stopped by the gatehouse to find out the story on the empty site. As it turned out, the people who had reserved it had confused their arrival date and they were going to transfer to a different site the second day anyway, so we were able to get that site for our two-day stay. We packed everything back into the camper and moved to the new site still wondering what that refrigerator was going to do.

After we were settled, Ken addressed the situation again and learned that to reset the frig, it is necessary to turn the breaker off and back on again so he did. We enjoyed a nice dinner that I had prepared in advance and then went for a walk to check out the flood damage. There was an amazing breeze that kept us cool even though the thermometer said it was hot and we were treated to an extraordinary sunset. When we went in for the evening, we found ice cubes in the freezer and everything seemed well chilled throughout the frig. I went to bed with a prayer of gratitude for a frig that was working, safety while traveling, and a huge thank you for all the beauty around us. The entire remainder of our spontaneous trip was just lovely. We visited with some really nice folks and hated to leave when the time came. But all earthly things do have an end.

I believe God was in charge of that trip from the moment Ken was inspired to ask me to check on sites. He kept giving us hope, with each new thing we tried, that the frig would work. He gave us campground volunteers who found a way to offer a site we hadn’t even known was available and provided the shade we needed to keep everything cool. He treated us to that incredible sunset and we even enjoyed a beautiful campfire, from a distance. It was still a little too warm to sit near. The hot dogs we roasted were delicious and our “ice cold” watermelon surely hit the spot. What more could a person ask? What began with questions and concerns turned out to be a wonderful trip and all we needed to do was turn over control to God for it to happen. Our plans may seem great at the time but His plan is always the best. We just have to get out of the way and let Him lead us.

Lord, forgive me. My agenda is earthly, but yours is eternal.

Buck Storm, Daily Guideposts 2022


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Nourish Your Roots

By: Marcy Barthelette

So then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught… Colossians 2:6-7

Look out world, I’m in re-arranging mode! No, it’s not my furniture this time. It’s my perennial beds that need an overhaul. My garden phlox have been struggling because the daylilies and Asiatic lilies are definitely hogging garden space. The phlox like good air circulation and that just wasn’t happening. Thinning out the Asiatic lilies has been my first course of action as their blooms are beginning to wane. Removing about half of each cluster has given me the opportunity to share some bulbs with a young neighbor who is just getting her beds started and a good friend who shares with me whenever she has extra plants. When my Stella D’ Oro daylilies finish their first bloom, I’ll dig a couple of those as well. Maybe I’ll share or maybe I’ll just relocate them. They’ll make an encore appearance in the fall after I find a comfy new home for them. And therein lies the beauty of perennials. If they’re not doing well, or they’re too crowded, or you just don’t like the way they’re arranged, you can dig them up and settle them into a more appealing location. Most of them aren’t very fussy and they often appear happier in new surroundings. Maybe they tire of the same old view as much as I do.

There are some important things to do when relocating perennials or starting from scratch with a new bed. When starting fresh go online or talk to a gardener you trust and learn about plants you might want to try. A refresher course never hurts even if you’re experienced. What kind of soil does a specific perennial favor, does it prefer lots of sun or perhaps need shade during the heat of a summer day? Can it handle being in constantly moist surroundings or does it not like having wet feet? Does it prefer acidic or alkaline soil? What is its optimal height?

After learning all you can, it’s important to have a home prepared for your plants, especially if you’re digging and moving from one location to another, but even when buying new ones, a little advance planning makes the job progress more smoothly. Most soils in the Ozarks will need some amendments. After all, we do have a lot of rock around here. So grab your heavy-duty Ozark tools and grub out the big ones. A little gravel won’t hurt but roots have a hard time penetrating large stones. Look on the bright side, the stones may come in handy for a border around your bed. Now follow the instructions from your research regarding soil additives and you’re ready to shop.

When buying plants, it’s best to look for healthy green leaves and new buds. Some gardeners enjoy the challenge of bringing ailing plants back to life and saving a few pennies at the same time. I’m one of those who will take a chance on the castoffs at our local gardening centers but I don’t recommend that for beginners because there may be no real reward until the following year. But here’s the thing, the real strength of a perennial is in its roots. Nurseries ship bare-root dry plants at appropriate planting times and with proper care in planting and tending, they flourish, just maybe not the first year. So, it stands to reason that a nursery plant that has bloomed and wilted probably still has lots of life left in its roots if cared for properly and given lots of patience. Its roots will continue to anchor it to life-sustaining nutrients.

And, of course, in my world, there’s always a God analogy. In order to grow and flourish, we humans also need good strong roots. They sustain us in the form of family, friends, and particularly faith. When they’re nourished with plenty of “sonlight” (no, that’s not a misprint), living water (from the one who gave all for us), a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit (our constant companion), an intimate relationship with God the Father (who’s only a prayer away) and plenty of love and encouragement, not to mention patience, those roots will burrow deep, spread widely, and surround the lives of everyone you meet. They’ll be just like a warm hug.

As for those perennials, the best advice I have is to become a friend to the neighbors with the prettiest yard, listen to what they have to say, and respect their love of nature. Show them lots of love along the way. Maybe you’ll even find an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus or maybe they’ll already know Him and you’ll have lots in common. When they need to divide perennials, you’ll likely be a benefactor. And you’ll likely get a lot more from the relationship than pretty blooms. Your roots will become stronger too and you’ll be anchored right where you need to be …. in the loving arms of the Father.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17


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Freedom Lives

By Marcy Barthelette

FREEDOM LIVES … BUT AT WHAT PRICE?

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12

I catch a glimpse of red, white, and blue outside my door, waving briskly in the morning breeze, the thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies that became these United States and fifty stars, one for each of our modern-day states. It’s really a pretty unique flag when you think about it. The design connects the old with the new. Those original thirteen colonies desired freedom from the controlling nation that existed across an ocean of water. During a time when ocean travel was the only route from England to the American colonies, communication was difficult because of constant delays. Americans wanted to be free from the encumbrance of regulations and taxes laid down by that foreign power. And so they fought and freedom was eventually won but at a great price. Many died in that quest and more were gravely injured, but they counted it a worthwhile struggle because the end result was a new nation, a grand experiment in an idea called democracy.

It is Memorial Day, or the one our government has declared in order to guarantee a three-day weekend for all to enjoy. The actual Memorial Day is tomorrow, May 31, and by the time the Gatepost is released, it will be the day after. But does it really matter? Should we celebrate our freedom and honor those who gave their lives to achieve it for only one short day a year. And I wonder how many people take the time from all the exciting holiday activities to think about what they’re celebrating. How many don’t even know the story? Since that first great struggle for freedom here in the United States, there have been many others, at home and on foreign soil. Men and women have continually stepped up to fight for the freedom of others and countless souls have been lost to battle. We’ve all heard the slogan, “Freedom is not free,” but how often do we really examine those words? 

Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time. Marion Wright Edelman

And how many have never heard another story of freedom achieved at an unimaginable price? We take our national freedoms for granted while other peoples in other nations live in deplorable conditions, often under the rule of corrupt governments.

Have they ever heard that long ago a Child was born, He grew into a man and walked the limited area near His birth, teaching and healing and listening to all those He encountered. After only a short lifetime, He died on a cross to offer freedom to each of us. We have the freedom to follow Him and continue His work throughout our world or to turn away and live our lives without the blessing and peace of His company.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. II Corinthians 3:17

Just as soldiers have sacrificed and died on battlefields throughout the history of earth, Jesus gave His earthly life to buy our freedom. It is up to us to remember “whose we are” and to make that free choice to follow Him.

It is for us to make the effort; the result is always in God’s hands. Mahatma Gandhi

One of our most basic freedoms is the ability to worship in the way we choose. As Christians, we spend time reading and studying, gathering together to sing and pray. But the worship service and our Bible studies are just the beginning. They are our training ground, our “boot camp” so to speak. They supply the tools we need to carry out our mission. As our modern world seems to be spinning out of control, where oppressors wish to subjugate others, where light seems to be overcome with darkness, it is our responsibility to shine the light and love of Jesus in every dark corner. We must trust that through Him even the most mean-spirited of minds can be changed. It’s time to take a stand. Will we stand for freedom and light in Christ or will we allow darkness and oppression to reign?

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 

Memorial Day may be folded up like our flag and put away for another time, but we needn’t forget its significance. We can honor those who’ve gone before us by picking up their banner. There is much work to be done, people of God, so let’s put on our armor and get to it! Together, let’s make the most of our freedom!


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A Legacy of Wildflowers

By Marcy Barthelette

Wildflowers are tough. They root in unlikely, often hostile environments, yet they manage to grow and bloom.

I love cruising down a country highway on a spring or early summer day. There’s always so much to see as new life steals quietly into our Ozark hills and makes her appearance in random splashes of colorful wildflowers and the bright greens of fresh new grass and leaves. Willow trees wave their yellowing branches quite early as trout lily and wild columbine cling to rugged hillsides. Serviceberry, wild plum, and pear, then redbud and dogwood absolutely flaunt their beauty. Wild violets carpet the forest floor and roadside ditches. Drifts of daffodils flourish where once a homestead stood. They blend nicely with wild purple phlox. Right about now, the oxeye daisy is taking center stage, soon it will be the elegant Queen Anne’s Lace and brilliant orange butterfly weed that will decorate the fields and roadsides. Sunny yellow coreopsis and fiery Indian paintbrush will exist alongside tall grasses that fill the bellies of fattening cattle. In mid to late summer, the ice blue chicory stands strong in the oppressive heat and graces the edges of our roadways. To some, these things of extraordinary beauty are nothing more than weeds. But to a nature lover like me, they are the eye candy that I crave after a long winter.

Wildflowers grow where the seeds find themselves. They must succeed or perish. If they don’t grow, no one notices. It’s as if the seed or the flowers never existed.

Wildflowers and native trees occur naturally and either grow or flourish with no help from humans. Birds and seed-eating mammals cast their seeds to sometimes far-reaching distances. The wind carries seeds aloft and deposits them without a care as to the presence or absence of appropriate soil. Those seeds, whether the size of the tiny columbine offspring or as large as a giant Bur Oak acorn, will live or die according to the productive ability of their landing spot. Their lifespan depends upon adequate light and water, without either of which they cannot survive.

Wildflowers are fragile. Careless or deliberate acts can easily destroy them.  

When humans traipse through the woods and meadows without a care as to their presence, tiny beauties can be crushed before their seeds have an opportunity to mature and re-create. When a careless smoker tosses a cigarette out the window, acres and acres of heavily forested land can become scorched and barren. Yes, they will recover, but the forest will sport a new look because some of the old-growth will not reproduce while new species may introduce themselves.

Maybe certain bad habits and other crutches are opportunistic … like weeds, ready to fill the empty spots and choke out the opportunity for better ones. (Paraphrased)

And I wonder if many of the bad habits we display when enjoying a bit of nature carry over into our everyday human lives. Do we walk past a stranger looking for directions and not even notice? Do we turn our back on a child’s questions, deeming them unimportant in the grand scheme of things? Do we refuse to acknowledge pain, discouragement, or even hunger in the eyes of a neighbor? And if we continue to ignore the most common of needs in those around us, will our earth one day resemble a barren forest scorched by fire?

People crave love. They crave acknowledgment. They crave a listening ear. And they are more likely to learn how to love by experiencing love firsthand. Jesus taught us how to love. If we let Him fill us with His Spirit, we can light the dark places in our world. All seeds, whether human, animal, or plant need love, water, and light. Let’s do our part by sharing all those things with everyone we meet. And let’s be very cautious where we step so as not to cause injury to any living thing. With a little love, we could see “wildflowers” blooming everywhere.

Any journey worth taking is worth value in each step. 
All quotes reflect the character of Kara Lange Hart of the Wildflower series by Grace Greene

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The Anatomy of the Curveball

By Marcy Barthelette

You are my shelter and my shield — I wait for your promise. Psalm 119:114 (CEB)

“Batter up!” The plate umpire shouts his command indicating that it’s time for play to commence. The batter takes a couple of practice swings. The pitcher leans in toward the catcher to pick up the signaled pitch and everyone in the stadium feels the electricity in the air. The first pitch is a fastball, right over the plate. The umpire calls a strike. Next comes a ball followed by a foul tip. Two more pitches fly a little outside the strike zone and the count is 3-2. The pitcher takes his time, the catcher changes the call at the last moment. The ball is released the batter swings. “Strike three, you’re out!” The dreaded curveball. It looked so perfect flying toward the plate, headed right for the strike zone, but then it curved to the outside and caught the batter swinging hard.

Baseball, America’s pastime. The passion begins with starry-eyed little boys dreaming of the big leagues and often remains a passion even when we’re past the time when dreams become reality, but we can still be entertained by the big leaguers of today and the players of tomorrow.

My husband has been a lifelong baseball fan, from childhood pick-up games when each boy in the neighborhood brought whatever equipment he had to cheer the Boston Red Sox on the radio. Living in Providence, RI, he was just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park and though he only made a couple of trips to the stadium with a city recreation program, he faithfully followed his team through victory and defeat. He still likes to follow their progress but he has also added the St. Louis Cardinals and the KC Royals to his list of favorite teams. And he has a grandson to keep up with which gets interesting because said grandson lives in Austin, TX, but the wonder of electronics brings the sounds and animation of baseball to our living room for Grandpa to enjoy. Quinn is fourteen now and has been playing the game since T-Ball days. To say he loves it would be an understatement … he lives baseball! Quinn plays competitive club ball, some in Austin and a lot on the road. It has been a family affair for years. His older brother umpires, Dad is a sometimes coach, and Mom leads the cheering section.  

Quinn is pretty talented. He excels in three positions, shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. He understands the relationship between pitching and catching from both sides of the plate, the psychology of calling plays, and he knows what’s happening on the field at all times. He is blessed with another strength as well, he’s a solid hitter. I’m sure that comes from so many hours spent in the pitching and catching positions. He studies the opposing batters well and has an innate sense of when it’s time to throw a curveball. The nature of the pitch is to throw the batter off, make him go for a pitch that, for all the world looks like a perfect pitch to hit, but dips at the last second when the swing has already started and can’t be held back. Maybe he’ll strike out or maybe he’ll connect with the ball but foul off to one side or the other. It doesn’t matter as long as the contact doesn’t produce a fair hit. And the beauty of the curveball is that all the batters will be wondering what’s coming next.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. Robert F. Kennedy   

Scientists believe that the effectiveness of the curveball has to do with air currents on the seams of the ball, strong on one side, absent on the other, causing the ball to make the intended arc. Sometimes life feels like a series of curveballs. We think we have everything figured out and suddenly some small factor shifts and we find ourselves swinging hard for something we just can’t reach. Disappointment and discouragement can set in and we may find ourselves traveling a questionable path. Then again, maybe there’s a really good reason for the curveball. Maybe God doesn’t think what we’re reaching toward is a good move for us. Perhaps the curveball is designed to protect us from a poor decision or dangerous distraction. It could be sending us on a detour around some danger lurking in our path. Have you ever wondered why some small emergency kept you from leaving home at the proposed time and later learned of a huge traffic problem right where you were planning to go, or worse yet, an accident that could have been you?

Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding the diamonds. Ana Claudia Antunes, Author

Curveballs have a very specific purpose on the baseball field. They are, by design, intended to lure a batter into going for something he cannot reach or cannot hit effectively. The curveball can be an exceptional tool for the pitcher on the mound but can spell disaster for a batter at the plate.

In life, we all face a variety of curveballs, some may prevent us from disaster and some may lead us down a path we wouldn’t have chosen. The good news is, and there always is good news where God is concerned, when we make that decision to become a member of His team, we’ll be better able to recognize the curveball for what it is, a help or a hindrance. We won’t be easily deceived into following the path a deceitful curveball will inevitably lead us down. So, be patient, wait for the perfect pitch, and hit it out of the park. Heaven awaits!

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” . . . 2 Kings 6: 17 (NIV)


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What’s In Your Well?

By Marcy Barthelette

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11b

My husband has a keen interest in his family genealogy and within recent months has been traveling down many ancestral trails branching from his mother. He made an amazing discovery on one of his searches. His ninth great-grandfather, Jacques Archambault along with his family, migrated to Canada from France around 1645. Jacques had made a decent living as a wine-maker in France but seems to have made a hasty exit from his home, possibly to avoid religious persecution. In so doing, he became deeply indebted to the owner of the ship on which his family made passage and so he worked off his debt while living on the ship owner’s property. About the time he repaid his debt, colonists were needed to develop a nearby village, so Jacques moved his family there using funds provided by the governor with an assumed agreement that he would dig a community well for the new town. Jacques was known as a dowser, someone who believed he could locate underground water with the use of a forked stick or two separate sticks. In 1658 he reached an agreement as to the scope of the project and began his work. Completion of the well established his reputation in this new world and he was commissioned to dig more wells, but that first one is marked to this day, in the modern city of Montreal, with a plaque commending Jacques Archambault for his achievement. Ken was pretty excited to learn of this ancestor. (An interesting sidebar to this story is that anyone in the United States having an ancestor named Archambault can trace their roots to Jacques for he is the only Archambault who migrated from France to the US.)

The one common thread between all living things whether plant, animal, or human is the need for water to sustain life. Even people who have no source of clear, freshwater know that their bodies require hydration, so whatever the condition of their available water, they will drink. Without it, everything would wither and die, so it only follows that people in search of a new place to settle would have chosen to build homes and businesses near streams and natural springs where water was abundant. But population growth forced the development of land farther away from natural water sources and wells were dug to tap underground aqueducts and bring the necessary life-giving water to the surface. The Jezreel Valley of northern Israel is documented to have been the home of the first permanent water wells dug for human use. They date back to around 6500 BC.

Our Ozarks was a natural settlement choice of the early pioneers because of its many spring-fed, clear-running streams. Wells seemed unnecessary in this land where freshwater was plentiful. Free-flowing water was quickly harnessed to power sawmills and grain mills throughout our hills. It was already in use on the east coast for factory work of all sorts. Today’s hydroelectric power plants light our homes, and keep countless types of machinery, as well as technology, working throughout our nation. But even here, as more people migrated westward, wells became necessary to provide sufficient water.

By definition, a well is an issue of water from the earth or a pit sunk into the earth to reach a supply of water and as earlier stated, they existed well before Jesus’ time.

By chance or by divine intervention, Jesus once stopped at an established landmark in Samaria, named Jacob’s well. Jesus was hot and thirsty from his travel in the desert. Perhaps he even wanted to splash some cool water on his face. As he sat ….

A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water. The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water?” John 4:7-11

Each of us has a well within us, a well that houses our deepest desires, our thoughts, and our plans. The question is, what springs forth from our well? And when it runs dry, where do we go to replenish it with clear, fresh “water?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” John 4:13-14  


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