Up A Creek

 By Marcy Barthelette

I recall a day many years ago when a friend and I decided to go on a peaceful little float trip. Neither of us had ever been in a canoe but we were young and adventurous, and we had heard about a beautiful stream in south-central Missouri that was a favorite with canoeists, especially in spring and early summer. It’s called Jack’s Fork and it flows into the Current River. Both rivers are known today as the primary streams that comprise the Ozarks National Scenic Riverway.

Most novices would choose the broader, calmer Current River for a first outing, but we were not among the smart ones. When the rivers are running a little high, they can both be a bit challenging, but Jack’s Fork is steeper and more rugged. To our inflated youthful egos, it seemed like a walk in the park. The sun was shining brightly and we had all our supplies well secured. The water was at a nicely elevated early summer level and crystal clear. We bravely pushed off and began our trek.

He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Mark 4:35b

What a gorgeous day it was to be on the river. There was a new adventure around every bend, and we met every challenge, if not with finesse, at least we made it through without mishap, meaning we stayed upright. We enjoyed our lunch lounging on a gravel bar listening to the gurgling of the water and absorbing the warmth of the sunlight. Could anything be better?

Of course, in those “ancient” days, we had no weather app at our fingertips and, and in that remote river valley, there would probably not have been a signal even if there had been an app. So, as the day progressed and the sun disappeared behind mountains of angry gray clouds, we became a little concerned. When lightning crackled through the valley, our concern became fear and then the sky opened its flood gates. I’ve seen some very heavy rains in my time on this earth, but the rain that afternoon was epic and there we were in the middle of a river in an aluminum canoe. We could choose to press onward though we couldn’t see much beyond the bow of our canoe. We could wait it out on an open gravel bar and present ourselves as open targets for those powerful lightning bolts. Or we could hide under the trees where there was limited protection from the driving rain but a serious chance of being hit by trees splintered apart by that same lightning. None of those choices held much appeal.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

Mark 35:37

I’m sure we must have felt much as the disciples did when they encountered a “furious squall” while sailing across a lake. And can you believe, Jesus was actually sleeping through it all? When, in terror, they woke Him and questioned his concern for their welfare, He simply stilled the waters and asked them why they feared.

He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 35:39-40

 

Don’t we face a multitude of storms in our short lifetimes? And how do we handle those storms? Do we try to push forward on our own strength, or do we turn to the true source of all strength?

Just like the disciples sailing across their lake, we survived our storm on the Jack’s Fork. Obviously, God had plans for us. He has a master plan for each of our lives, we just have to let go of our independent nature and let Him have control.

I’m surprised I ever ventured out in a canoe again, but it became one of my favorite recreational activities. I even spent eight years of my life working and living at a camping resort that specialized in all kinds of river activity. It was the best job I ever had. Oh, yes, there were risks to living near an Ozarks stream, but the benefits greatly outweighed those risks. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

And let’s not forget the point of this little tale. The storms of life can creep up on us unaware just as that approaching storm was hidden from view by the steep bluffs of the river valley. My friend and I were loudly reminded of one very important lesson that day on the Jack’s Fork. When the storms of life find you up a creek, with or without a paddle, invite Jesus into the boat with you. He’ll get you safely to the other side.


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Come Just as You Are

By: Marcy Barthelette

Easter won’t really come for me until I know that every day, in all my comings and goings,

the Christ of Easter is present in my life. Kenneth Chafin, author

As I write, it is still Easter in my heart, and Easter, for me, equates to springtime and new beginnings. Now that the days are longer, I can savor the warmth of the sun and revel in the beauty of tulips and daffodils and blooming trees. The birds share my joy in the sights and sounds of spring as they contemplate where to build a nest and raise a family. Squirrels are busy retrieving acorns from last year’s stashes and bunnies chase each other around the yard with little regard for human presence.

There are a few neighboring kids out playing and I hear the occasional lawnmower or weed-eater, but our street is relatively quiet today. In other words, life is really pretty normal, all things considered. Except, that is, the reason we celebrate the season just ended. Jesus was born in a cave in Bethlehem and some thirty-three years later, he was laid to rest in another cave in Jerusalem. It seems he leads a very ordinary life until he was thirty, but those last three years were just one unending series of miracles. Even when the tide of opinion turned, a miracle was still very much in the making, a miracle that held the potential of offering eternity to each and every person on earth.

This past Sunday, if you attended the 11:11 service at Aldersgate, either in person or virtually, you witnessed the baptism of two young girls. Their joy and excitement were evident as they publicly answered Jesus’ knock on the door of their hearts. A new journey was birthed in them.

Next Sunday, I will have the privilege of watching my granddaughter celebrate her decision to follow Jesus and I am grateful for the technology that allows me to be a part of that moment in these times when crowded places are still a risk. Rachel has grown up in church. Since she was first born, she has been surrounded by loving people who have nurtured a love of God in her. To hear her say that she gave her heart to Jesus touched my heart deeply, but it was no surprise. However, her journey through this world will be no less fraught with temptations than a child who has not known that love.

You may recall that Jesus’ own disciples had given up on Him. They thought he was dead and that all His promises had been just empty rhetoric. They were so wrapped up in their own grief they didn’t recognize Him as He walked alongside them. They were eventually enlightened and celebrated His resurrection. But if His closest friends could doubt Him, even for a brief moment in time, where does that leave us?

We all live somewhere between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We are on the

long Emmaus Road journey together. Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Cross

The miracle of Easter is that God’s love and forgiveness are available to everyone because Jesus hung on a cruel cross and died. We know the story didn’t end there on that cross or even in a borrowed grave. As promised over ages of time, He was resurrected on the third day, promising life to all who would hear Him and accept His will in their lives. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, there is still hope. We only have to put aside the ways of this world and follow Him.

One of my recent devotional readings told of a tiny baby offered in baptism on Easter morning. She made no sound of a   complaint as the water touched her head and when the sacrament was completed, the minister carried her to a flower-draped cross and lifted her high. Could there be a better expression of the Easter promise than the dedication of a tiny new life to His care?

So think about your life, wherever you happen to be. Come to Jesus just as you are. He is waiting for you.

Father, we thank you the tomb is still empty because Jesus is alive today. Let faith rise to banish our

fears. May those who doubt, doubt no more.  Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Cross


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Easter Flowers

By: Marcy Barthelette 

You’ll see them scattered in cleared areas or in woodlands, in seemingly deserted places along rural roadsides. We call them daffodils, but the locals in many small communities know them as “Easter flowers”.

 Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come… Song of Songs 2:12a

They may appear to be growing there naturally, but in truth, they were planted, probably many years earlier, by settlers entering the Ozarks from the eastern communities they left behind. These hardy adventurers brought the equally hardy bulbs with them and scattered them around their new homeland. Daffodils are very long-lived and also quite prolific, so mounds of them may cover the ruins of a barn long since fallen and now rotting to nourish the soil. Or they may outline the memory of the front porch of a cabin that has turned to dust. Wherever you find them, they are an indication that someone once lived there and that someone cared enough to bring beauty with them to a new home. Daffodils can flourish without human care for a hundred years or more, so the next time you see them in a place that looks for all the world like the middle of nowhere, ask yourself about the folks who once called that land home.

I have my own daffodil story. On April 7, some 37 years ago, I had been adding the final touches in the church where our wedding was to take place. We lived in a remote area where there were few specialized services and we certainly didn’t have a wedding planner or an unlimited budget. The two of us had pulled together all the details. I had just finished working with flowers that I’d obtained in a nearby town when Ken walked into the church with armloads of fresh daffodils that he had gathered from an unused residence at the park where he was assigned. What a lovely surprise my soon-to-be husband offered that day! I had been busy with final details and hadn’t noticed the swollen buds, but Ken had kept a watchful eye on them, praying their blooms would open at the optimum time and they did. We scattered daffodils down the center of every table in the fellowship hall where our reception would be held and throughout the sanctuary. That church was alive with bright yellow daffodils and it was beautiful, a precious gift of springtime.

Though it begins in the dark, cold days of winter, the season of Lent culminates in the promise of spring, of new life, and therein lies the symbolism of our Easter celebration. Since we began our Lenten journey, we have traveled with Jesus from His birth to the unfolding of Holy Week. We saw Him transfigured; we’ve celebrated some of the stories of His human life. We’ve learned that our true identity is in Him and we’ve accepted the importance of inviting Him to dwell within our house. We’ve cheered with the crowds who welcomed Him to Jerusalem and even applauded when he scattered the money changers and all those involved in evil dealings from the temple. We questioned, as did Peter, why the master should stoop to do a servant’s duty, washing (our) dirty feet.

And by mid-week we see a trusted friend and disciple betray Him for a few coins, we witness many of the same people who cheered His arrival in Jerusalem just days ago now clamoring for His death. We humans are very fickle beings, and a few carefully placed agitators can turn the tide of opinion very quickly. It happened to Jesus and it can happen in any situation. We see it all too often. We must guard our hearts and minds from doubts raised by unbelievers.

Our God lives and He sent His Son to give life to each of us. We know the truth. He bore the humiliation. He endured the pain. He allowed himself to be nailed to a cruel cross and died a horrific human death. He took upon himself every sin that had ever been committed or ever would be. He, who was totally without sin, bore every sin. He bore mine and He bore yours. Every time we have raised our hammer to drive in the nail, He has offered grace. He has offered forgiveness. He has offered redemption. He transcended death and offers the same to us. How can we not accept a gift of such incomprehensible proportion?

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing. Luke 23:34

Those daffodils that graced our tables 37 years ago were a gift from God that signaled a new beginning, a new family being born that day. Like any family, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we have always known God was traveling down that road with us and that we have always been a part of a much larger family.

On this Easter, may we remember that daffodils, Easter flowers, are a sure sign of spring. And spring brings with it all the earmarks of a new beginning. Jesus died and rose again to prove His love for us and to offer us the promise of a new beginning, a clean slate. The question before each of us is this: How do we receive that gift?

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the

sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the

spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3

 

 And my answer to Him comes in the words of a beloved old song that says it all so eloquently, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”


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Please Wash My Grimy Feet

By Marcy Barthelette

If asked to choose a favorite place for vacation, I’m hard-pressed to decide between the mountains and the beach. Each holds a different but very deep fascination for me. Today I’m in a beachy frame of mind, perhaps inspired by our very cold winter blast. I’m particularly attracted to the white sugary sands and shimmering turquoise water found on the gulf coast. The car is barely parked before my flip flops are discarded and my toes are dipping in the warm sand. I can walk for miles with my feet in the surf, the waves continuously rolling to shore and then subsiding. The relentless ebb and flow calm my soul like nothing else can. I think God gave me this gift to show me just how constant his love is.

The breakers tumble some distance out from shore and then flow in carrying all kinds of treasures, abandoned shells, polished chunks of colored glass, sand smoothed driftwood, and countless other objects. As the waves pull away from the shore, tiny crabs are uncovered and scramble to bury themselves before a shorebird scoops them up for lunch. And hermit crabs scurry across the dry sand toward their holes hoping to avoid a similar fate.

The little sandpipers scramble back and forth with the ebb and flow. They crave the tiny morsels that surface with wave action, but they just don’t like to get their feet wet. Seagulls fly overhead begging for a handout and I truly love watching the pelicans dive for a fish. They fly just above the surface and when they spot a likely meal, they dive with such force you would think their giant beaks would break. But they surface and stretch their necks up high to swallow their catch whole before resting on the surf. On a lucky day, I may gaze over the water to find dolphins jumping a bit offshore, feeding on a school of something that was carried with the current. There’s always something to see and learn about. While the tidal patterns are constant, they offer up an endless variety of creatures and treasures to study and enjoy.

All too soon, the time always comes when I must traipse back across the dry sand dunes with wet feet and reclaim my flip-flops. And this is the bad part. It’s hard enough to leave that beautiful shore but now my feet are covered in sand and I can hardly wait to find one of the many sprinklers provided in parks and at hotels for washing dirty feet.

Jesus came to a world of dirty feet! Our journey through life is much dirtier than we think.
Ray Pritchard

So isn’t it easy to understand that trudging through desert sand in open sandals must leave one’s feet feeling really grimy? In Jesus’ day, it was custom to always wash the feet when entering a home and where servants were present, they did the washing. But when Jesus wrapped the towel around himself and knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, they didn’t understand this breach of protocol. Masters never stooped to such menial tasks, but Jesus did. We all know that Peter objected, as was a common reaction for him, but Jesus explained that if one had a bath in the morning, only the feet needed to be cleansed at the close of day.

A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet. John 13:10

As was usual for our teacher, Jesus, his explanations were sometimes quite confusing. But I think this one is simple to grasp. When we are baptized, we are bathed completely and our sins are washed away, but each day we walk through our world in “sandaled feet” where all manner of dirt and grime tries to grab hold of us. By end of the day, our bodies and minds need to be cleansed of that daily layer of filth. We need to come to God and accept responsibility for the mistakes we have made during that day. Our feet need to be washed. And doesn’t it feel good to place your feet in warm water when they’re really tired, grungy, and aching? 

If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.
John 13:14 CEB

Likewise, if He has been willing to cleanse away all our grime — wash our feet — shouldn’t we be willing to forgive others for the “grime” in their lives — wash their feet?

Lord Jesus, thank you for your blood that washes my sin away. I ask you to wash my dirty feet so
I might walk closely with you today. Amen. (Faces Around the Cross, Ray Pritchard)


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March Madness

By Marcy Barthelette

A close friend of ours is an enthusiastic fan of collegiate basketball. Thus, she gets a little absorbed at this time of year in the phenomenon known as March Madness. Her now-deceased husband coached junior high and freshman basketball and they, as a couple, developed a keen love of the sport and enjoyed teaching kids the fundamentals on which to build a future, both on the court and off. His position required countless scouting trips and they were known to have watched as many as 200 games in different cities during any given year.

 

Our friend grew up in Wisconsin and has a condo there. She has spent summers there for a number of years and goes back south in the winter. Last year she flew up in March to share some exciting B-ball with her sister, also an avid fan. But guess what? COVID came calling, the tournament was canceled, and she ended up staying in Wisconsin until just before Christmas. She’s staying with her son’s family at present and gearing up to watch non-stop games for the duration of this year’s NCAA tournament. It still won’t be the same as those days she spent sharing the fun with her sister, but at least the games will be played.

I’m sure there are many fans among you who will also be watching and offering your unsolicited opinions regarding players, coaches, and referees and I hope you all have a great time.

This was a time when there may have been a little March Madness going on in Jesus’ day. I seem to recall a visit he made to the temple and upon finding it overtaken by opportunists, he unleashed a display of uncharacteristic anger toward the men we refer to as money changers. Why were they there and why did He become so angry?

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple.

He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. Matthew 21:12

It had already been a busy week. Jesus and his disciples had enjoyed a hearty meal in Bethany and been met by throngs of followers, cheering and laying palms at his feet upon his entry to Jerusalem. After a time of rest, he made his way to the temple complex where huge crowds of Jews were gathering to celebrate Passover. As was the custom in those days before Jesus’ death laid the groundwork for direct communication with God, worshipers sacrificed animals as a release from their sin. People had traveled to Jerusalem from many neighboring nations and needed to purchase animals to offer in sacrifice. Thus, the city streets and temple complex teemed with merchants seeking to make their living selling those animals and anxious travelers ready to buy them. Those from foreign countries also needed the proper currency with which to shop so they turned to the money changers, much as we would seek proper currency through customs officials when entering a foreign country.

Keep in mind that all of this is happening in God’s house and on the grounds surrounding it. All were guilty; the buyers who created a demand for sacrificial animals, the sellers who provided them, and the currency specialists who made the transactions possible.

 They had turned the temple from a house of prayer into a noisy, money-grubbing circus.

(Faces Around the Cross, Ray Pritchard)

Jesus was incensed and had to do something to eliminate the “madness”. His violent reaction goes completely against his gentle character and yet, sometimes it is necessary to clean house. He did what he had to do. His anger drove the evil-doers away and as quickly as it had begun, the temple became a place of prayer and learning once again. Jesus’ anger subsided and he immediately began to teach those left behind.

And He was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you

 have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17

  
We all need to do a little house cleaning from time to time. That might require a certain amount of righteous anger or tough love, emotions we try to avoid. Sometimes they are needed, but the key is to offer guidance with love. Jesus did just that. When discipline was required, he was right on top of it. But he always followed it with loving kindness and a fruit-filled teaching opportunity, even as far as the lesson of the cross.

A plaque at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. contains this quote from Yehuda Bauer:

“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

Good words to ponder as we journey with Jesus to the cross. Are we bystanders as life passes by? Or will we care enough in Jesus’ name to get involved? (Faces Around the Cross, Ray Pritchard)


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Real ID

By Marcy Barthelette

It happened at the height of our pandemic when new COVID cases were escalating throughout Missouri, and the last thing I wanted to do was pay a visit to one of my favorite places, the Division of Motor Vehicles office, AKA the DMV, and to many of us, the house of horrors. Let me be clear, I have encountered some very pleasant and very efficient people working to provide us with licensing for anything related to moving wheels, but like most everyone, I have some horror stories as well. Even when all goes perfectly, there is always a line and a long wait. Someone ahead of you in line (or more than one) will invariably forget a necessary document or not understand a process and the person behind the counter will lose patience and guess what….you’re next!

On this particular day, I had gathered all my documents to add the Real ID star to my new driver’s license. If you haven’t had the pleasure of applying for Real ID, you’re in for a treat. It’s the new government regulation taking effect on October 1 of this year (It was delayed from October 1, 2020, because of COVID) that identifies you for the purpose of boarding domestic and international flights as well as providing entry to Level 4 government facilities. If you don’t need to do any of those things, then maybe you don’t need Real ID, but it is encouraged for everyone because we just never know what changes may occur in your life.

I walked confidently up to the door of the DMV office and spoke to the greeter who was screening everyone before entry. I told her my business, she looked at my documents and asked if I had experienced a name change. Proof of name change was one of the items listed as a required document, but Ken and I reasoned that they meant they needed proof if your last name had changed since your current license was issued. Wrong! A woman’s name must be tracked from birth to present because of marriage. This means you must present your marriage certificate and, if you have been married more than once, you must provide all marriage certificates, death certificates of a spouse, and/or divorce decrees. And, obviously, if you’ve made a legal name change of any sort or to either gender, court documents will be required.

I was not in possession of all these documents and hadn’t enough time remaining before my license expired in which to acquire them.

 Government offices were still operating on skeleton crews, phones were not answered, everything had to be done online and it took a very long time to get a response. A very helpful worker suggested I apply for a Passport Card, something I didn’t know existed. Long story short, I gathered the limited documents I needed, paid a hefty sum and I now own a Passport Card that will allow me to board domestic flights and cross the Canadian or Mexican borders so long as I’m on land or sea when I cross, and I may enter US federal facilities if needed. A little step down than a full-blown passport but not bad! Whew!

 

But what actually is Real ID? Don’t I have my most precious credentials already? I am enrolled in God’s family through my profession of faith and my baptism. He knows exactly who I am and has adopted me, warts and all. Despite man’s need to continually inspect my identity, God knows who I am, and just as importantly, I know whose I am. All the documents in this world can’t change that and He proved that I was His by sending His Son to die in my place. And He did it for you too! That’s real ID!

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


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Is God in Your House?

 By Marcy Barthelette

I love the look of surprise on Ken’s face when he walks into a room after I have turned his personal world upside down. You see, I simply love making a room look new by rearranging furniture and accessories. There are areas of my life in which I really embrace change and my home is one of those places. It’s a real challenge in our current home because of the room layouts and placement of certain permanent pieces like the TV and fireplace. They may slow me down a little, but I won’t let those restrictions stop me. Even when I’m not actually moving things, I’m studying the current layout and searching for ways to make it flow better or provide easier access to those items we use on a daily basis. I draw room layouts and sometimes I even go so far as to draw plans for a home I may be dreaming about. My creative side is always painting new virtual masterpieces and my home is my canvas, as long as I don’t upset Ken’s world too much. He often notices me standing in a room looking around thoughtfully and he knows change is afoot.

I recently had a pause to contemplate the important images my home should reflect. As I watched online the Sunday service at our daughter’s church in Willow Springs, I was intrigued by some of the points brought forth by their pastor. The sermon was titled When God Is In the House and it prompted me to ask myself how much of the time I behave as if God is in my house, referring to the brick-and-mortar structure that I dwell in, but also the temple that is my body, my mind, and my soul.

When Jesus entered the temple of His day, He found men cheating tired travelers who had come to celebrate Passover and He was incensed. To use the temple for such a vile purpose added insult to injury. Is it any wonder that He forcefully drove this evil from His Father’s house?

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple.

He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. Matthew 21:12

I wonder how often I allow financial issues to cloud my vision. When God expects me to give back to Him a portion of what He gave to me or when I see a financial need in someone else’s life, how often do I choose to buy that new electronic device I’ve been wanting, or in times when COVID didn’t control our lives, did I choose dinner out for myself rather than providing food to someone who was truly hungry? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have things that make our lives more pleasant or that we should never go out for dinner. It’s when we do those things to the exclusion of others who may be in need that we might want to re-examine our values. Always be sure that God is in your house.

The sermon I referred to cited the example of getting all the necessary permits in order, hiring a contractor, and building a church, but if we don’t have God living inside those walls, it’s still just a building, it has no soul.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1a

 And likewise, if you and your spouse don’t include God in your marriage, all you have is a living arrangement. And if the family is at odds over its core values, it will not survive.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25

 The other important point in the sermon was that Jesus and Satan will not, under any circumstances, share a home. That’s a pretty important statement and one we shouldn’t take lightly. We have to choose who we will invite to share our home and whether you choose Christ or Satan, the furniture will certainly be re-arranged.

But think about this, when you choose to invite God in, He always leaves your home better than He found it (excerpted from the previously cited sermon) and He only grants us access to His home if we invite Him into ours.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of God. Author Unknown

One last thought as we continue our annual journey to the cross. My husband was recently looking at the Bible he received on his twentieth birthday in 1963. He was stationed in California at the time and was enjoying a reunion with his older sister and her family. They had been on opposite coasts for a number of years and then he enlisted in the Air Force and traveled a bit before being assigned to Beale Air Force Base and landing on her doorstep The Bible was a gift from them. He chanced to read the presentation page on which he had written:

It is easy to crowd Christ out because He will never crowd himself in. Ken Barthelette

I have borrowed some very wise words from the wise people around me. I hope they offer you pause for thought as you ask yourself this question; Is God in my house?


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A Time for Celebration

By Marcy Barthelette

Journal Entry: Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Southwest Power Pool returned to normal operation last night. Finally, the bitter cold has broken, the snow is melting, and I can catch up on my laundry, not to mention how good it feels to be warm again. I awoke to the cloudy skies that forecasters had predicted but there was a song in my heart and a smile on my face. The temperature stayed above freezing overnight and I had plenty to celebrate!

It would be an understatement to say that it’s been a rough couple of weeks for most of our nation. We were all so anxious for 2020 to end and to make a fresh start, but we might want to be careful what we wish for. Ken and I were blessed during the brutal cold with only a rolling blackout lasting an hour and a half. Our son’s family lives in Austin, TX and, while they were blessed to keep power at both their home and the hotel our son manages, all was certainly not well. Joe’s staff couldn’t get to work because of the ice and snow so he lived at the hotel for a number of days, filling any position that needed attention. He’s a hands-on manager, so that’s not unusual for him, but there was a lot of ground to cover during this emergency. He had a full house for the duration, mostly displaced families and emergency workers. While there is food service in the hotel, he couldn’t get delivery of supplies to feed all those hungry people. At one point, while going through the lobby, he glanced up to find icicles hanging from the sprinkler heads. A quick call, accompanied by a fair amount of begging, and a service person arrived within a short time and drained the lines to avoid a major break that would have resulted in very damaging flooding. During the night of his third day of nearly nonstop work, a call came from his sons that their mom had been taken to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. The diagnosis was pancreatitis caused by gallstones, but they couldn’t remove the gall bladder until her labs improved. A couple of days later, she was gall bladder-free and back at home recuperating.

That’s the latest of the issues our family is dealing with and I know you have your own share. Just like the disciples out to sea when the storm came barreling through, Jesus is in our boat too, carrying us safely through the storms.

When troubles overwhelm, He stills our thoughts and calms our fears. We need simply remember

we aren’t sailing solo. Heidi Gaul, Mornings with Jesus 2021

I feel there is a parallel between Lent and my current time of contentment. While I understand that the Lenten season is to be a time of introspection, I believe there is also much to celebrate. As we study and learn more about this man, Jesus, we find Him interacting with all kinds of people. Matter of fact, He spent a lot of His time with the overlooked and the unloved, the people others wouldn’t touch. I’m so glad He lived that way because it tells me that no matter how badly I fail, His mercy always awaits.

As we read or reread the stories of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who shared a meal with Jesus, of Mary and Martha whose brother had recently died but was restored to life, of Bartimaeus as he asks for and is given sight; aren’t these moments filled with joy and celebration. In fact, isn’t everything surrounding Jesus worthy of celebration, even His death on the cross. In the days when He walked the earth, people didn’t know what was about to happen, but we do. We know about Easter morning. We know what He offers us. So, do whatever you have chosen to do for Lent in love and dedication, learn all you can about this man, develop your relationship with Him and remember to celebrate along the way, especially at the empty tomb.

Create in me a pure heart oh God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10, 12 NIV

Many people continue to hurt as a result of the trials our nation has been through and we need to help wherever we can. That, too, is what Lent is about, living our lives as Jesus did, serving those in need.

P.S. This past Sunday morning the praise band performed What a Beautiful Name and one line really resonated with me. It says, You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” That really sums it up. He wants us with Him, to share His home forever. And He proved it to us in a way none of us could imagine. That’s a reason for a celebration of epic proportion!


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In the Beginning

By Marcy Barthelette

It began on an ordinary night in an ordinary stable to ordinary people before an ordinary audience, though it was anything but ordinary. It was the beginning of the greatest story ever told. The beauty of that statement is that it wasn’t just a story. It was, and is, a promise to each of us.

No day is accidental or incidental. No acts are random or wasted. Look at the Bethlehem birth. A king ordered a census. Joseph was forced to travel. Mary, as round as a ladybug, bounced on a donkey’s back. The hotel was full. The hour was late. The event was one big hassle. Yet, out of the hassle, hope was born.

Max Lucado, Because of Bethlehem

Just a few short weeks ago we celebrated the birth of the Baby and now we begin the somber journey to the Cross. As I write, we don’t know whether Aldersgate will come together in person for Ash Wednesday or observe it virtually. I suppose it’s only fitting that, as with the most important dates during the past year, this one is also being impacted. This time, COVID isn’t the only culprit. Old man winter has reared an ugly side of his personality. Oh yes, the snow is lovely, but the cold is something most of us can likely do without. Wherever we are on Ash Wednesday, it is important to turn our thoughts to the events leading up to Easter morning. It is the time we are to examine ourselves, to learn where we may be lacking, and to get our spiritual life back on track or find those tracks for the very first time.

Last Sunday, Pastor Dennis spoke of Jesus’ Transfiguration, meaning a change in form or appearance. Roughly a millennium and a half after Moses led the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and perhaps 900 or so years after the Prophet Elijah walked the earth in service to God, Jesus took His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, on a little hike up a very high mountain. It was there that Jesus was suddenly transfigured from human to divine, completely clothed in sparkling white garments and standing in the company of Moses and Elijah. The disciples were awestruck and somewhat afraid, with Peter even suggesting that altars be built to the three spiritual beings.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7

 

Just as suddenly as they had appeared, the spiritual beings disappeared, and the disciples were left just with Jesus, in His human form. Some theologians believe this encounter was meant as a sign that Jesus was to fulfill the Law and the prophets and to assure his three closest friends that He was surely the long-awaited Messiah. Yet while he unveiled Himself to these three disciples, he asked them not to talk about what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They still didn’t realize He referred to His own death.

How many of us are wandering in denial? How many throughout this world, and just as importantly, in our very own community, still don’t know that He died for every single one of us? As we journey through these next six weeks, let’s take a look at the man Jesus was and the role He plays in our lives today. Do we cordially invite Him into our hearts, or do we keep Him standing outside in the cold? Are we in the midst of our beginning or nearing our end? Are awestruck in His presence? We should be.

This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice

that deals with our sins.   CEB


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Find Your Markers

By Marcy Barthelette

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and

teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4-5

During the long cold days of winter,

 and we are deep in the middle of them now, I long for bright sunshine and warming temperatures so that Ken and I can plan a nice hike. Most years we head down to Roaring River State Park when we’re blessed with a warm February day. Having worked and lived in the trout fishing parks for many years, we always get a little antsy to check out the stream and discover any changes that have occurred in the facilities during the off-season. We love to hike up over the spring pond and take in the panoramic view. During our almost 37 years of marriage, we’ve hiked in many diverse locations and they’re all alike in one very important aspect. You need to pay attention to your guide map and watch for trail markers. Getting lost in unfamiliar terrain is no picnic so preparedness is certainly key to having a good experience.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. Proverbs 22:3a

And who among us hasn’t fallen under the spell of a treasure map at some point in our lives? Humans are always attracted to anything that appears valuable and free. Many of us can recall a time when, as kids, we discovered what appeared to be an ancient map with an X on the spot where the buried treasure had been concealed. We just knew that if we followed the clues on that map to the letter, we would uncover a chest full of coins and jewels left behind by pirates. We never recovered tangible treasure, but the real treasure was in the fun and comradery we enjoyed on the hunt.

For a number of years, geo-caching replaced traditional treasure hunting by combining hiking and technology to discover an often-unusual cache in an eco-friendly site above ground. No digging required, just your smartphone, a good knowledge of your GPS app, sturdy walking shoes, plenty of water to keep hydrated, appropriate clothing for the weather and never forgetting to keep an eye on the radar if the sky begins to look dicey. A number of geo-caching websites offered endless opportunities for fun and exercise. A cache might be secured in any weather-tight container and might include small trinkets for finders to take. It was typical to also leave something behind. Sometimes a journal was provided for the finder to leave comments. Once again, the reward was in the enjoyment of the hunt and, of course, all rules of outdoor etiquette applied.

The most important part of hiking or treasure hunting in any form is correctly locating the markers on your map or GPS. Without those markers, we’d be completely lost, and doesn’t that same rule apply to our spiritual lives. Our markers were set by Jesus when He walked this earth just like you and me. He taught us how to live our lives by placing the best interests of others first. At the wedding in Cana, when the wine ran out, he made more. And not just more, but the finest wine of the celebration. And he did this even though he was not yet ready to reveal himself. He fed multitudes of followers when he had often eaten little himself. He healed the sick who sought him even when it was inconvenient for him. He even brought the dead back to life.

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and

not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

We humans don’t have superpowers and reviving the dead is probably not to be found in our bag of tricks, but what is our response when someone needs us? Do we take the time to inquire about those needs? Do we try to provide for the needs or to guide those persons to someone who can help them? I find myself too often coming up short when I could be a light in someone’s life. I don’t know about you but I’m spending a lot of time at home these days and it gives me pause to consider who I have been until now and who I want to be in the days and years to come. I think I need to check the markers on my treasure map more carefully, for it is in God that I find my only true treasure.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal

pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 (NIV)


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