Small Blessings are Often the Best

By Marcy Barthelette

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

tender shoots will not cease. Job 14:7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  


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Passing the Baton

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

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They Answered the Call

By: Marcy Barthelette

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

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

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

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

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

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

James A. Garfield May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

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

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

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


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

By Marcy Barthelette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Moving Is Not For Sissies

By Marcy Barthelette

It was not your typical dinner table discussion, but with three kids aged 12,14, and 15, dinners were commonly anything but typical. On this particular evening, we had just announced that Ken was transferring to a different park and we would be moving halfway across the state of Missouri. Our lovely daughters were screeching every manner of threat from living with friends to applying for a foster home (they didn’t quite understand the system), anything to avoid leaving their very important friends. Did I mention, we had only moved to this location five months earlier. It stands to reason that if they made “lifelong friends” in their current school, they could do it again in the new school. But they were having none of that. Our son was a bit more reasonable but there was skepticism on his part as well.

Both our girls played volleyball and practice was set to begin at the new school two weeks before our anticipated moving date. To soothe their disappointment at having to go through the agony of relocation, I elected to precede Ken and our son in this move. That meant I had to pack everything in advance and leave the guys with limited resources that would be loaded onto the state’s moving van two weeks later. Then, with countless precious belongings loaded into our relic of a station wagon, the girls and I set out. I think the shocks were bottomed out with our load, so progress was slow, but we arrived and set up housekeeping with our sleeping bags, a microwave, a 13” TV (we had a very weak signal & little time to watch), and enough clothing to get through as long as I could locate a laundromat. Park staff provided a refrigerator that was not in-cabin service at the time and a stove so I could cook a few items with the pots I had brought.

Our oldest would be playing varsity ball, while our youngest was on the JV, necessitating different practice times, one in the morning, the other in the evening. Of course, it was hot in August, so afternoon practice was out of the question. The school was 24 miles, one way. Need I say that I could almost put that old station wagon on autopilot by the time they started classes.

All this happened back in 1987, but that trip and all those practice runs are etched in my mind as clearly as if they happened yesterday. I mention those days because we are often asked to make decisions that impact the people we love in ways that seem negative at the time. Ken and I had been a bit nomadic for a good portion of our lives but kids, especially teens and pre-teens, develop deep bonds which they find amazingly traumatizing to sever. I have little doubt that our decision to accept that relocation has prompted certain patterns in our kids’ lives has been carved out for themselves. They’re all content to stay in one place a lot longer than we were.

But here’s the thing, if we love and support each other and always look to God to get us through these life adventures, He won’t let us down. He’s always there, no matter what our decisions may be and if we make a few less than stellar ones along the way, he’ll set us back on track if we go to Him in prayer and ask.  

With man, it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God. Mark 10:27

And, by the way, by the time school started both girls had found new best friends and had forgotten all of that dinner table drama from a

 a few weeks earlier. We did promise that we would stay in that school district until each of the kids graduated. Our youngest was starting freshman year so we made a nearly four-year commitment. Our next transfer opportunity presented itself a few months before her graduation. Ken accepted that position on the condition that he could remain in residence in the current park until her graduation and manage both parks simultaneously. His supervisor agreed and he spent nearly four months traveling back and forth between duties at the two parks and overseeing the renovation of our new home. Meanwhile, we managed to keep up with senior class activities including Project Grad, choral competitions, and college orientation. It was well worth the effort and we’d repeat it all if given a do-over (and we were thirty-five years younger).

Whether life-altering or not, decisions come with certain challenges, but we can meet them when we place our faith and trust in the one who can do all things.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13


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Half a Bubble Off

By Marcy Barthelette

Construction details have comprised a large part of our lives for the past few years. It began in our own home when we decided to upgrade the shower in our master bath. It appeared to be a very manageable task for the two of us. Ken has considerable experience in plumbing and electrical work plus basic construction knowledge. I am quite adept in the finishing aspects of remodeling and am willing to get dirty in the trenches. However, we started to realize that we were looking at challenges when the measurements of all the basic shower parts had changed through the twenty-something years since our home was built. We trudged on through the reconfiguration of walls that were not square or plumb, the remediation of mold, and considerable insecurities about upgrading old plumbing until finally the shiny new shower was installed and the finishes were complete.

Then came the remodeling of two existing buildings for the Christian County Library, of which Ken has served as a trustee for nearly 13 years. Though he wasn’t physically involved in the upgrades, he kept a watchful eye over all the goings-on and there were plenty of issues to solve, many involving walls that had settled into a state of being unsquared and not plumb. Following those renovations, two new libraries were built from the ground up, and even then, some floors were not completely level, nor do all walls manage to be absolutely square and plumb, even with all the technological advances in construction.

You may have heard the term, “half a bubble off”, which refers to the bubble in levels used to assure that walls are perfectly level and plumb, level referring to the horizontal line and plumb to the vertical aspect. Half a bubble off converts to serious structural problems if one continues to build with only casual respect for that level.

Likewise, if you’re a camper, you probably know that if your trailer or RV is not properly leveled, the refrigerator will not run efficiently nor will water drain properly or other features perform optimally. This can result in costly repairs if ignored over a period of time. Newer and fancier models will do the leveling for you with the touch of a button, but we still have an old-school model that requires manual leveling. When setting up our camper, our goal is to be no more than a quarter bubble off when our level is set in the freezer compartment of the camper refrigerator. When the bubble tells us we are not within tolerance, that means adding leveling blocks under the appropriate wheels until the desired degree of leveling has been achieved.

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. 1 Peter 2:5  

There are certainly days when my life feels at least half a bubble off. Even without the difficulties presented by COVID, the accumulation of little annoyances that occur in everyday living can create a mountain of stress and even cause serious health issues. So, just as a construction crew must start by becoming intimately familiar with a detailed set of blueprints, we also need a blueprint for living. We must start with a strong foundation, the Word of God. Then we must add excellent quality building blocks that nurture a straight and true path of faith, love, and servanthood. It is there that we find true peace and joy.

The winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Matthew 7: 25

We’re getting our little camper outfitted for our first trip in a year and a half, and the excitement is building. Wherever we go throughout this camping season, our camper bubble will stay right in our console, readily available to assure that we are within the proper tolerance to keep everything working properly. As we travel, we’ll also apply our “life level” by praying for safe travel for ourselves and others. We’ll greet our temporary neighbors with the light of God’s love and try to keep smiling even when one of those neighbors gets cranky. And most of all, we’ll truly enjoy the beauty of God’s creations, the human ones in all their various personalities and the natural ones that will comprise the panoramic vista that is our home away from home. Our permanent foundation is the same wherever we may be, and we will strive to add sturdy, level building blocks all along the way.

The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars. Henry Ward Beecher

 

**It’s time, once again, to thank each of you for following my writings. I hope they are God-inspired and that my words may always be His words. If they have helped someone along life’s way, He gets all the credit. Thank you sincerely for your supportive comments, whether posted on the blog, otherwise sent electronically, or offered in person. Each one means so much to me and reaffirms your commitment to Him. We both thank you! Every day, may you feel the loving touch of His hand!

 


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Hop On the Roller Coaster

By Marcy Barthelette

For behold, the winter is past; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12

If you’ve lived in Missouri any time at all, you know that our weather tends to be a little tricky! You’ll often hear the words, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for a day (or an hour) and it’s bound to change!” Missouri weather is best described as a roller coaster ride. I live in a family of coaster enthusiasts, so I can certainly identify with that analogy, even though I do not share their enthusiasm about riding coasters.

This past week was an exercise in Missouri weather 101! We were enjoying beautiful spring breezes, the trees were beginning to leaf out, perennials were ready to bloom, and, overnight, we plunged into the deep freeze. Orchard owners, truck farmers, nursery crews, box store garden center associates, and home gardeners everywhere were scurrying to protect tender growth.

I have too much landscape area to cover it all, but I topped several new transplants, as well as the major players at my front door, with pots turned upside down and covered with heavy towels for insulation. And then all I could do was hop on the coaster and take the plunge. Thirty-six hours later, we had seen 2½ inches of snow come and go over a period of about 6 hours. That was a cold shock for all the plants but then the sky cleared, paving the way for that projected freeze. Most of the plants made it through the first night of record cold, and those that had been covered saw no damage. But the second night of below-freezing temperature left some things looking pretty ragged.

Life takes us on some arguably wild coaster rides as well. One day, we may be on top of the world. Our family is well, the job is going great, the offer we made on that new home was accepted. But, a day later, we may get a scary diagnosis, or the boss may inform us of a downsize affecting our livelihood, or something goes awry with that home contract. Countless scenarios can throw that coaster car off its track. The good news is, we are being held in the hands of God. He never promised us life would be an extended celebration, without challenges and free from worry, but He did promise to be right there with us, in the very thick of all our troubles.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 

As for my perennials, the only serious damage occurred to the hydrangeas and an aging azalea. The hydrangeas will make new leaves and provide foliage cover for the hostas, but they probably won’t bloom as a result of their icy setback. The fate of our azalea is still to be determined, but all the others have recovered nicely and are beginning to grow again. The columbines are showing off in all their colorful finery and the iris are ready to burst. The clematis are budding, and all the early and late summer bloomers are looking strong. God surely held his creations in His hands as the unseasonable cold settled over them, and He will carry you through your roller coaster rides too. Just get to know Him, become best friends with Him and He’ll see you through all your deep valleys and celebrate all your mountaintops.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love ….. Zephaniah 3:17


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What Will You Reap?

By Marcy Barthelette

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

I’m sure it was just about this time last year that I was expounding on the topic of dandelion proliferation and here we are again. Ken and I have labored hard each spring to take control of our yard from the yellow menace. Don’t get me wrong, the yellow flowers are lovely and intricate, but the resultant seedheads are nothing but discouraging. They are one of the best illustrations I know of beating all the odds. They can endure extreme weather, heavy foot traffic, animal leavings, and just about anything else. Those seeds are determined with a capital D. They grow in cracks in the sidewalk, in the poorest soil on the planet and they give their very best performance in my landscape beds. We have sprayed and dug and crawled on hands and knees to just pull them out and nothing lasts for long.

This year, for reasons beyond my comprehension, we have taken no dandelion removal actions and they are flourishing. There’s an old saying that we reap what we sow and while we didn’t intentionally scatter those dandelion seeds all over our yard, we may as well have because we did nothing to prevent their dispersion and all of our past hard work is for naught. Hence, we will reap another very undesirable display again in the fall.

Weed the garden of your heart. God’s law is the recipe for a healthy society.

Dandelions are not the only seeds that produce undesirable results. When did you last spread seeds of anger and what came back in return? How often do you sow seeds of distrust and what is your reward? How often do you hide your skills and talents and find yourself facing a blank canvas? How often do you frown and find frowning faces staring back? Have you hoarded your resources and deprived another person of a hot meal to eat or clean water to drink? And what about that new person you just met, will you take the next step to begin a friendship?

There is grace for bad seeds sown.

We sow all kinds of seeds in our everyday lives, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t begin to tap into the possibilities that await just outside my door, starting with those pesky dandelions. We need not let our failures become our downfall. Regardless of the seeds we’ve sown in the past, we can always change the dynamics of our garden. There is no better time than right now to start sowing some really good seeds!

Rock bottom is the best place to find grace. Grace is not appreciated when we’ve

 never failed and ineffective until we admit wrong.

 Quotes are attributed to Dennis Walton, pastor of Crossway Fellowship Church.

 


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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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