The Proof is in the Seasoning

By: Marcy Barthelette

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

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

Cooking is love made visible. Anonymous  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giada De Laurentiis

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

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


A Time for Everything

By: Marcy Barthelette

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

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

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

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

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

A time to plant…Ecclesiastes 3:2b  

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

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

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

 ….and a time for peace…8b

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

A time to cry and a time to laugh….

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




By: Marcy Barthelette

For I am like a tree whose roots reach the water, whose branches are refreshed with the dew. Job 20:19 NLT   

There’s lots of digging going on in our yard these days, some of it by the paws of four-legged, bushy-tailed critters burying nuts and acorns for winter. But the two-legged critters have been doing our share as well. In spring we overhauled our front and side yard landscape beds and I alluded then to some projects on the drawing board for fall. Things have changed a bit since then. The spring work was about fifty-fifty between the two of us, but after my summer in re-hab and with warnings from the medical professionals with whom I’ve been working, I’m gardening with restrictions. That translates to my being more of a supervisor and idea person with Ken being stuck doing the lion’s share of the physical labor. He’s been great about it and we’ve been taking our time.

We began with a small expansion of one of the two remaining backyard beds; our largest one was removed last fall. That expansion allowed us to relocate many of the plants from the remaining bed to the new area and eliminate the bed they came from. Moving forward with only one bed, Ken’s mowing and trimming will be less stressful and my watering and weeding will be minimized.

Our expansion was no easy task. We have two young but good-sized maples that immerse us in amazing color each fall and provide wonderful shade on hot summer days. They also have massive root systems and Ken had to remove a number of good-sized roots in order to attain the space we needed. A general rule of thumb is that a tree has a root system below ground that equals the width and depth of the above-ground canopy. Obviously, this offers support for the tree to stand on its own and also burrow deep below the surface to find water. And that brings us to the subject of the taproot, the central root of the tree or any plant, the one that burrows deepest. You could think of it as the underground trunk.

While we had to rid our new space of some feeder roots, those that branch out from the tap in search of water and nutrients for our trees, we obviously had no intention of removing our beautiful trees. But we did have to remove smaller plants for relocation by digging deep and capturing as much of their taproots as possible. Many indigenous plants don’t transplant successfully as they typically have a very deep tap which helps them to survive in adverse conditions and when the taproot is severed, the plant often withers and dies in its new home because it has been rendered severely disabled. Ken dug carefully and transferred each plant to a pre-dug hole and I was in charge of properly covering the roots and providing plenty of water to get them started again.

A strong root system is key to the survival of any plant, starting with a sturdy taproot and supported by many feeders of gradually diminishing size. And we, as Christians, must tap into the nourishment required to exist in a world filled with opinions that differ from our own. Without God as our very strong taproot, Jesus as our living example, and the Holy Spirit as our daily guide, we too will wither and become unable to thrive. As we branch further into our root system, we discover that family and friends, teachers and mentors, and even strangers are all vital links to the nourishment so necessary to our Christian growth.

Next spring Ken and I will have a well-designed landscape system in our yard because we have studied and planned well. Our transplants have all been given everything they need to survive in their new homes without disturbing the welfare of those around them. How I pray we can do as well with our personal relationships. Former pastor and guest for our thirty-fifth-anniversary celebration, Lee Strawhun, introduced a new word that we should all ascribe to; that word is Godfidence. Try that one-on for size as you try to make significant differences in the world around you. Placing our confidence in anything or anyone other than God will always ultimately result in failure to grow. So wherever you are planted, do your best to provide positive nourishment to all the roots around you so that we can grow together as a strong family of believers.

But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.”
Matthew 15:13



Let’s Roll

By: Marcy Barthelette

Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good. II Timothy 3:16-17 CEB

It was the ordinary Tuesday morning that turned our world upside-down. United Flight 93 was a regular non-stop originating from Newark, NJ and traveling to San Francisco, CA. It was scheduled to depart at 8:00 AM, but left forty-two minutes late and, in another forty-six minutes the plane had been overtaken by hijackers. The late departure and the delay by hijackers to initiate their mission allowed time for passengers to be made aware, through calls from families, friends, and employers, of three other hijacked flights that had successfully targeted the world Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC.

When the purpose of the hijacking was realized, Todd Beamer, a New Jersey resident traveling west for a business meeting, and a group of passengers met in the rear of the plane and put together an emergency plan to storm the cockpit, hoping to stabilize the plane but knowing that a crash was likely imminent. Beamer placed a call on the airphone & was eventually routed to GTE airphone supervisor, Lisa Jefferson. He provided details of the events to that point and then the plane made an abrupt course change and he shouted, “We’re going down!” 

God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you…..God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life….he guards you now, he guards you always. Psalm 121:5-8 MSG

Passengers quickly agreed to initiate their plan. Beamer informed Jefferson and then recited The Lord’s Prayer and the twenty-third Psalm. He asked Jefferson to call his family and tell them he loved them. Amid muffled sounds, Beamer clearly said, “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.” Those were his last words spoken to Jefferson.

Those two words, “Let’s roll,” quickly became a battle cry of sorts. We hope that no one has to face the terror of another Flight 93 experience, but we, as Christians, have our marching orders as well. And I believe that we can claim that battle cry as our own. Todd Beamer, with the knowledge that everyone in that plane was about to die, reflected his faith with those remembered words of scripture that have brought peace to generations of believers. And we have been commissioned to take the living words of Jesus to people everywhere, in all walks of life, whatever language they speak, whatever background they claim as their heritage. We are all God’s children and He wants so much for every one of us to feel His constant presence.

Then Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20

The passengers of Flight 93 plunged to their deaths knowing that others would live because of their actions. Aren’t we, in fact, asked to save others from spiritual death? Aren’t we asked to be Jesus’ hands and feet, with boots on the ground and all of our spiritual armor intact? Pastor Sarah asked us Sunday what we will do with our training, our faith, our absolute belief that God is the supreme sovereign. I say we pick up the mantra. Are we ready? Okay. Let’s roll!

Christ promises adventure, hardship and reward, the likes of which we can’t ever imagine. Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel


Friendship Is….

By: Marcy Barhelette

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  Romans 12:10

I was blessed by a short visit this past Sunday with two special friends and it occurred to me that I just don’t express often enough my deep gratitude for the friendships I’ve enjoyed and treasured over the years. We first met George a number of years ago when he and Ken, along with another ten “disciples” sat down to dinner in the “upper room” at a Maundy Thursday service written and directed by Pastor Sarah. It was one of my most meaningful experiences leading into the final days of Holy Week.

Soon after, George joined Ken and a few other guys who formed the Handymen Crew at Aldersgate. They quietly went about addressing maintenance chores and keeping the smaller repairs from having to be hired out. Did I say quietly? In reality, they were often a pretty rowdy bunch and George was always at the center of the laughter. At that time, I was creating announcement slides for the Sunday morning worship services and worked every Thursday afternoon in the church office where the guys gathered to plan their afternoon. I learned early on that I was no match for George when it came to slinging zingers. He is a master! And he always has something to say to everyone. During those years of volunteering, we met the wives of the other handymen, all of whom have become good friends. Linda always welcomed us with arms open wide, ready to enfold us in her love and generous spirit.   

When I began writing these weekly thoughts, George often greeted me with a question or a zinger about something I had written, and Linda was again generous with her kind words. They let me know they paid attention and supported my contribution. Of course, George has always kept me thinking about where my focus should be.

The thing is, those of us who are privileged to know and appreciate his fun-loving side also know that there is another side to George, one that is dedicated to the work of the Lord. He’s always helped friends and strangers with tasks they may not be able to do for themselves. He’s always volunteered for any duty at the church, no matter how large or small, how simple or difficult. He has lots of grandkids and between himself and his wonderful other half, those kids always made it to whatever activity was happening on any given day and they’ve always been assured that their grandparents have their backs. Their dedication to one another and to family is a thing of beauty.

And George will be quick to give Linda all the credit for being the proverbial “wind beneath his wings.”

There are people in our lives who just naturally inspire us to be better. These two epitomize the path I would aspire to. Their love for God, for their family, and for all God’s people just naturally spills over on everyone around them. They live their faith every day by example and their friendship is a gift without measure.

They’re dealing with serious illness now and can’t be in the midst of all the goings on at Aldersgate but last Sunday another friend, who, incidentally, was celebrating his 80th birthday, reaffirmed his baptism, so George and Linda made a special effort to come and be a part of that beautiful event. It was so good to see them. After getting one of Linda’s famous warm hugs and catching up a bit, I walked over to their car where George was already loaded up and ready to go. He flashed me that always-ready smile and came up with some new zingers. That amazing sense of humor never fails to fill my heart with real joy. These two don’t seek praise or want people to fuss over them, but sometimes it’s just necessary to make a little fuss.

So, George and Linda, I want to say thank you for being such a blessing in my life. Your faith gives me hope to keep on trying to reach out to others who might need a little help. I know where your strength comes from and it’s a never-ending well. Pastor Dennis encouraged us on Sunday to know our life agenda. Trust me, my friends, you are living yours well. Thanks guys….your friendship and living example of faith are a bright light in this crazy world of ours. I love you both!

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


Door of Humility

By: Marcy Barthelette

I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. Romans 16:19b

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “Get off your high horse.” As a matter of fact, if you’re anything like me, it may have been directed your way at one time or another, perhaps recently. Of course, in our day, it means to stop thinking so highly of ourselves, that our ideas are better than someone else’s, or that we do more for the church and our community and, likewise, we have difficulty understanding why others may see our ideas as arrogant.

There was a time, however, when it meant exactly what it says. You see, the Church of the Nativity, located in Bethlehem, on the west bank of Palestine, was built over the cave where Jesus was reputedly born. It was likely built originally by Constantine I sometime in the fourth century and is thought to have been destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the sixth century. Until around the fifteenth century, entrance to the church was accessed through a very large opening, so large, in fact, that soldiers and dignitaries rode right in on their horses, while others brought carts for looting treasures from the church. 

So a decision was made to fill in the original large entrance and create a smaller opening through which visitors had to bend in order to enter. It has come to be known as the Door of Humility as it causes everyone to bow low before entering the place where God humbled himself to become human. To humble oneself when entering this Holy place is an outward sign of respect and worship.

The theme, “Get off your high horse” seemed to follow Pastor Dennis’ sermon from Sunday morning. He spoke about our tendency to find fault with one thing and another that the church is doing, simple things like which time is appropriate for each service, the kinds of music that are chosen, and what people wear to church. These fault-finding comments tend to divide us at a time when, more than ever, we need to unite.

my dear brothers and sisters, watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught… Romans 16:17

Let’s face it, God accepts us just as we are, warts and all. He isn’t concerned about when we worship.

Rather He treasures any time we spend praising Him. Any song that honors His name is certainly lovely music to His ears. And as for what we wear, He knows that it’s the love in our hearts that matters, not how we look on the outside.

God of Grace, when we start thinking too highly of ourselves, remind us again that every breath we take is a gift from you. Ray Pritchard, Why He Came  

So the next time we make a statement that sounds a little like gossip or a complaint about the way business is being conducted and somebody gives us that “get off your high horse” look, we’d do well to bow low and walk through that door of humility because, as every Christian should know, we are strongest when we’re on our knees and a little humility goes a long way toward uniting people.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20b


You May Not Always Be Liked

By: Marcy Barthelette

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31

My phone interrupted the silence with a text notification and it was about the time of day that my granddaughter usually drops me a message. Sure enough, it was Rachel and she was excited. She’d finally gotten the SIM card she’d been waiting for.  

It’s the conversation every parent wrestles with and the answer is not an easy one to discern; When should my child get a phone? In her case, Rachel’s iPad had been acting up, as computers do. It was older and had quite a few miles on it. She was also wanting a camera at the time. So about a year ago, she bought a phone with her own money, but with the condition that she could only use it on WiFi and a parent had to approve any apps she wanted to download. When they felt she had reached the appropriate level of maturity, she could get the SIM card and make it what she calls “a real phone.”

She’s heading into seventh grade this year and her parents had obviously reached the decision to let her make this pivotal change in her life. And trust me, it is pivotal. Of course, as in almost any life change, along with the joy and privilege of having a phone comes much responsibility. I had to wonder if she really understood that a phone, with all of its vulnerability to scammers, criminals, and a thousand ways to land in trouble, can be a real hassle at times. For now, it’s just the excitement of having it that matters to her.

And wouldn’t you know, a couple of days later, she sent her grandpa a chain letter. The content was offensive because it tried to convince the reader that if the instructions were not followed to the letter, not only would the reader have bad luck but they would also not be loved. And it suggested that if the reader were killed by another person, the sender would be in jail for having killed the person who killed the supposed friend, a kind of live together, die together pledge. But the thing that really bothered me most was that our granddaughter said she didn’t want to send it but her friend pressured her and she went along. Peer pressure reared its ugly head a mere two days after her phone was activated.

We know that love is not measured by the number of chain letters that come back to us. Nor is it measured by the number of likes we have on social media accounts or the number of friends who gather around us cheering us on when we’ve behaved in the way they want us to. Our culture is caught up in the belief that following the crowd is a normal way of life. All the young people in our life relish staging selfies, each competing with another to be prettiest, have the strongest abs, or the best hair. We’re so busy “posting” positive shots to make our lives look wonderful that we forget the things that really matter. And too many times those perfect lives depicted online are just a sham. Yet we measure ourselves by the way others appear on their social media pages and we continually fall short. We will always fall short of human expectations.

God sees us as He created us, as His perfect children. It causes Him pain when we try to change His own creation into something that will please other humans.

Wisdom isn’t learned overnight—it comes through curiosity to learn, the ability to admit wrongdoings,

and the capacity to ask for forgiveness. The Daily Proverbs Devotional

Hopefully, with age comes wisdom….our kids need a guiding hand to fortify them when times are tough and society demands behaviors that contradict their immerging faith. Ask yourself, “Who am I when no one is looking?” Living a Christian life will not always make us popular. In fact, most of the time we’ll be flying solo. The temptation to follow the crowd will always be there and it will be strong, but if we’re asked to do something that just doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t. I’ll borrow an old slogan from the anti-drug campaigns of yesteryear, “Just say NO.”

Wisdom is doing now what you are going to be happy with later on. Joyce Meyer


Survival Mode

By: Marcy Barthelette

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they will help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4

As our quiet Sunday was winding down, I’d just finished writing and Ken was enjoying his current read, our phones began a series of notifications that heavy storms would threaten the area within a short time. I began to collect the things I always take with us to the safe room. It’s supplied with a battery-powered radio and a wind-up version should the batteries die. There’s water, a few non-perishable snacks, a first aid kit, and the usual collection of disaster-related needs. I only need to collect devices and chargers, wallets, and prescription meds so we’re good to go on a moment’s notice.

Our sirens never sounded but our local TV stations were pretty sure danger lurked in the clouds and we tended to agree so we stationed ourselves in the safe room with both battery and electric lighting on. The wind was relentless but only for a short while and then our world went dark except for one battery-powered lantern. Clearly, the storm had settled but we had no idea how long we would be without power. It was 11:30 PM on Sunday, July 30.

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:24

We looked outside to assess the damage, but it was so dark we couldn’t see a thing. Our best choice seemed to be a good night’s sleep if that was even possible. At about four AM, I awoke to a bright light on my face, the light I’d left on before racing to the shelter. I said a grateful thank you to God for restoring the power and made the rounds of the house to be sure all was well. My head barely hit the pillow again when darkness reappeared. The respite may have been all of four minutes.

The next sound I heard was chain saws and generators. The top had been ripped from a large tree across the street and was blocking it. Two hard-working ladies were aggressively removing debris. I went for Ken and he immediately joined the clean-up crew. There was another crew attacking a tree down the street. All the yards were filled with leaf clusters and smaller limbs, but most were gone by the end of the day. That was when we were told it would be another twenty-four hours before power could be restored, which prompted a trip to the library to email last week’s devotion. It’s tough without WiFi these days.

Our brick home had stayed reasonably cool but by late afternoon, we clearly needed to open windows, most of which did not have their screens installed. Once collected and brushed clean, they were placed in the windows and we had a breeze flowing through the house, a warm breeze but at least the air was stirring. It was also time to remove some of the perishable items from our frig. Ken opened one of the five cartons of ice cream he’d just bought on sale. The mint chocolate chip was just the right consistency for milkshakes, so we poured our liquid treat into glasses and enjoyed cool milkshakes on the deck. We then delivered the remaining ice cream containers to neighbors for their enjoyment. One of those neighbors offered us space in his freezer where he had packed eighty pounds of ice hoping to create a giant insulating ice pack. Of course, we accepted the offer and quickly transferred everything that was hard frozen to his freezer.

We ate most of the fresh produce left in the frig and spent the evening on the deck enjoying the rise of a sub-super moon. We fell asleep to the hum of cicadas, every window in the house open.  

The following day, I woke to kids laughing outdoors. I walked to the window to see what changes may have occurred overnight. It was then that my nose was assaulted by the leftover scent of a wandering skunk. Next, there was a slight sprinkling sound on the roof, and I found myself once again on the deck, listening to the sounds of falling rain and rolling thunder. The rain-cooled air was a balm to my skin. After grabbing some fruits and nuts for breakfast, I took the opportunity to clean the interior of our frig while it was basically empty and the air was cool.

Our neighborhood is a swath of homes about two blocks wide and six or so blocks long that is supplied by one power source. The rest of our town relies on another source. There were a few spotty outages in the larger area of town, but most homes and businesses had power. The street that is back-to-back with us had power except for a few hours in the beginning. It felt as if we were on our own little island, the world was whizzing past and all was normal for many of our neighbors.

At 10:30 on Tuesday morning, the power came on, not tentatively, but strong and sooner than expected. We gave it ten minutes to be sure and then began turning on ceiling fans, then the AC. And we said a very large THANK YOU!

A big blessing during our time without power was that our water towers remained operational. When wells go down, life becomes much more complicated. But we could wash and flush, and that means so much when nothing else we are accustomed to using on a daily basis will work. We also learned that our neighborhood will come together and help one another when a need arises. Of course, our milkshakes were an unexpected treat. All of our frozen meats survived, and we continue to enjoy them. In the end, we had little material loss.

Most importantly, we felt the presence of God surrounding us every moment. He had a plan and it worked perfectly. I’m not saying that I want to be without electricity often but the comfort of knowing He is there makes it much more bearable. We have a close friend who always views this kind of adversity as a challenge, a big adventure. We tease her about being an overgrown kid, but if we could all be a little more childlike in our approach to adversity, it surely would remove a lot of stress from our lives. And if we remember that each of us is a child of God, we can find the hope that exists only under his protective wings. That gives me another opportunity to insert one of my favorites…

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



Dabbling in Darkness

By: Marcy Barthelette

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:10

A few days ago a neighbor called to ask me if I knew anything about the trustworthiness of someone living close but not in our immediate neighborhood. She was needing someone to do some light housekeeping and had seen this person working for another neighbor and she appeared to be a hard worker. The difference was that the work the person was performing was outdoors and my neighbor needed help inside the house, creating more opportunities for wrongdoing. I didn’t want to be in the position of making a judgment on this person and I couldn’t, really, because I didn’t know her. The thing was, I did know some negative information regarding the person with whom the subject of this investigation happened to be living. I felt stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place, not wanting my neighbor to become a victim and yet, not wanting to harm another person’s reputation or cause them not to be hired when perhaps the extra income was really needed. I hedged the topic and, as it turned out, my neighbor had already been given the information that I had been aware of. That time I was saved from saying something that may have been harmful to someone I didn’t even know.

A phrase that Pastor Sarah used in her very insightful sermon this past Sunday really reached out and grabbed me. She told us not to dabble in darkness. Her reference in that message had originally been regarding some major disagreement between Jews and Gentiles as Christianity was blossoming following Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Paul makes some pretty strong statements in Romans 13 about the ways in which we can “indulge {y}our evil desires” and he’s very adamant that we need to steer clear of said immoralities. He refers to “ the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and immoral living.” Hopefully, we are able to abstain from those but he also mentions “quarreling and jealousy.” I would add gossiping to that list. And I think that the situation I described above is right on the border of gossiping and it could potentially have hurt another person.   

We hear of all kinds of evil that exists in our world today and many of us feel a major disconnect from it because we think it doesn’t involve us. But there are many subtle forms of evil that may not even appear as evil or darkness. And so we dabble just a little on the dark side. Maybe it was a bit of gossip that was just too juicy to ignore or perhaps it was that nasty barb we threw at a spouse as he or she was going out the door. Maybe that cashier gave us too much change but that’s okay. What’s the old saying, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Or perhaps a co-worker made a big mistake and the temptation to pass that little tidbit on to the boss was just too great. And we wonder why our kids tattle on each other.

In a confrontation, typically no one is entirely wrong or entirely right. None of us is perfect….we’re all human and we’re going to make mistakes. But recognizing those mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and trying to do better in the future is the life we accepted as Christians. When we stumble, and we all will, it’s imperative to get back up, make proper amends whenever possible, and have that little talk with Jesus. He wants to know we’ve acknowledged our shortcomings. Everything we say or think or do affects someone, even if it’s only ourselves. For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing the phrase “engage core” from my physical therapists. For today’s purposes, I need to amend the phrase to “engage heart and mind before all else.”


When was the last time you “dabbled in the darkness?”

So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause

 another believer (or non-believer, as well, because our behavior could either help or hinder their decision

to believe) to stumble and fall. Romans 14:13 NLT