Getting to the Heart of Things

By: Marcy Barthelette

The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human…Jeremiah 17: 9-10a   

The arrival of spring ushered in another new season, the season of garage sales, and that seriously infected Ken with the itch to shop. His recent forays around town and return visits to some of his favorite flea markets have netted him a substantial stash of new (old) tools and the garage workbench is covered in rusty, nasty parts of every size and shape. They are in varying stages of repair and disrepair, many

wrapped in vinegar towels to dissolve years of rusty neglect. He’s constantly applying penetrating oil to soften the rust on a bolt or screw and then toiling over his vise to loosen and remove it from the body of whatever tool he’s working on. Or, with painstaking care, he’s brushing a piece of brass or steel with a soft rotating wire brush to remove the traces of rust still clinging to them after the vinegar bath. I can attest to his persistence because I find tiny wire bristles all over the garage and house, often with my bare feet.

Besides the metal parts that must be cleaned and brushed, there are also wooden pieces that require the removal of grime and finishescarelessly applied throughout the tool’s life. This must be done only to a level that will maintain the integrity and patina of the piece. He has an uncanny knack for knowing when to quit, even when I don’t agree with his decision. Hours of sanding precede the application of a final finish, usually tung oil, but sometimes other finishes are preferred.

I am constantly amazed that some of the pieces I would view as absolute junk are exactly what Ken is searching for. He looks beyond their obvious flaws and sees a thing of beauty and I’ve learned not to question his judgment. Well, not too much anyway. Some of them seem outrageously impossible even for him to redeem. The thing is, he knows he can get to the heart of the piece and find something worth saving. Our throw-away society doesn’t have the patience or the will to repair. Everyone seems intent on always having the newest, shiniest thing on the market, in the commercial, or on the internet. But there is much to be said for restoration.

Think where we’d be if God passed by the trash heap where someone has just tossed us, and He did nothing. And trust me, we do get thrown on the trash heap in countless ways. The boss hands us the proverbial pink slip or maybe he fires us through an email. A spouse decides a newer model might be nice. A friend abandons us in a time of need. The kids seem to forget they have a thing called parents. Someone does a little trash-talking that damages our reputation and that can be done anonymously on social media. Sometimes we do things that render us deserving of being thrown on that trash heap and sometimes we just get in the path when somebody starts slinging mud. However it happens, it hurts.

But you know what, God doesn’t leave us on that trash heap because he sees each of us as valuable, he knows there’s a bright and shiny heart somewhere buried beneath all the grime of anger, hatefulness, self-pity, and pain. He can make us just like new again and, just like Ken’s tools, the restored model is often much improved.

Not everyone has a heart for restoring old things, but we can certainly be more resourceful in maintaining what we have. And that applies to our hearts as well. When we try our best to live God’s will, He won’t need to rescue us from the trash heap quite so often and when we show His love to those around us, they may make fewer trips to the heap as well and than our world could be a lot brighter just like those shiny old tools that grace our home.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51:10


Life Is All About Detours

By: Marcy Barthelette

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT   

Last Thursday began as an ordinary day at our house. Ken was washing and waxing the car in recognition of spring. I was tending my perennials as usual and trying to wrap up the digitization of our old photos. I’d been in the yard most of the morning and came in to the sound of Ken’s ringtone but I didn’t make it in time, nor did I recognize the number on the recent call so I ignored it. A couple of minutes later, my phone rang and it was the same caller so I figured it must be someone who knows us and answered. I was surprised and thrilled to hear the voice of a dear friend at the other end of the connection, one we hadn’t seen for a good while. The couple was visiting Branson and enjoying their RV but decided to make a side trip up to our house if we were available. And, of course, we were. They planned to arrive about one thirty to two.

I was a muddy mess, looking like I just stepped out of a pig pen and Ken was wrapping up the car wax. We had just enough time to clean up and make ourselves presentable. Ken was faster but I finished a few minutes before one thirty so we got comfy and waited. One forty-five passed, then two o’clock and two fifteen. No company arrived at our door. I had jumped on the laptop to check camping availability at one of our favorite parks and discovered an open site so we quickly decided to go for it. In the midst of that, my phone rang and a very frustrated voice on the other end said, “We’re lost!”

They began to throw out road names that were unfamiliar and I was in the middle of a reservation so I tossed the phone to Ken. He had no idea where they were either when all of a sudden one of them shouted the name Hurley and we both knew exactly where they were. He gave them directions and they arrived at our door at the exact time their navigation system had predicted.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

They didn’t opt for the easiest or best route, 160 north to 14 west, they took the route that was described as “shortest,” apparently one that took them down one-lane roads, over low water crossings which would have been impassable a couple of days earlier, all in the proverbial “middle of nowhere”. They said the road resembled a goat path most of the way. The miracle of this adventure, and I would have to label it a small miracle, was that they had a phone signal when they decided to reach out to us. I believe someone pretty amazing had their backs that day.

This little misadventure leads me to the conclusion that life is filled with detours, large and small, and all too often the path which seems easier may start us down a very slippery slope. Their goat path may have been the shortest route but the shortest is not always the fastest and certainly not always the best. The upside here is that we had a wonderful visit with dear friends, enjoyed a nice dinner together and they pulled out of the restaurant parking lot in Nixa with time to make it back to their RV before dark if they ignored that little voice in the dash and drove straight down 160 and made a left on 76, which they did.

GPS is a beneficial tool and I don’t leave home without it. But that little voice in the car’s system or your phone can become very obnoxious when it decides it knows more than we believe we do. Likewise, that little voice in our heads often tries to tell us that the road it leads us down is a lot more fun, and when it does, we often have a little itch to travel that road for a while. But who do you turn to when you hit a roadblock or find yourself in a sticky mess? It’s often said that more prayers are uttered when humans find themselves in trouble than at any other time. Maybe the better choice, the next time we find ourselves considering giving in to temptation, would be to thoroughly scrutinize our options before choosing a path. God’s way is certainly not always the easiest or shortest, but it is always the best because He sees the whole picture.

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


Land of the Sinkhole

By: Marcy Barthelette

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27 CEB   

Considering the amount of rapidly falling rain we’ve been receiving and the nature of our southwest Missouri topography, it seems an appropriate time to dig a little deeper, if you will, into the phenomenon of the dreaded “sinkhole”. You’ve all heard of them and when we shop for a home in this region, it’s a very good idea to make oneself aware of any sinkholes in our area of choice.

To understand the sinkhole, let’s look to the makeup of our topography, which is known as “Karst,” from the original Kras region on the border between Slovenia and Italy, one of only a few regions in the world, along with our midwestern US, where this phenomenon is found. Its history is very old and exists where uplifts have occurred in the earth’s surface and where there are large deposits of porous limestone or dolomite. As slightly acidic ground water travels around rocks it dissolves the soft stone away and creates a natural drainage system. As the cracks widen, they become small caves with what are referred to as “losing streams” flowing through them. If you happen to be hiking alongside a stream in the Ozarks and it suddenly seems to end, it is likely just disappearing underground into an interconnected system of caves and may eventually emerge again as a spring.

These underground pockets of water can be useful when harnessed by a pump to provide clean water for human consumption. Still, they can also be treacherous if the layers of soil above them become weakened and collapse, and thus the “sinkhole” is formed. Sinkholes may appear anywhere in the Karst regions or our world, in an open field, or near the foundation of a home.

Missouri isn’t known as the “cave state” for no reason. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, there are some 7,000 caves in our state and, you guessed it, most are south of I-70 and west of the Bootheel. We are unique here in the Ozarks and are known for the beauty of our caves, streams, and springs. Sinkholes are an inevitable part of that system as well.

All this talk of collapsing earth and sinkholes reminds me of the song we sang when I was a child in Sunday School, the one about the foolish man building his house on the sand. The rains came and the winds howled, and that house came tumbling down. On the other hand, the wise man built his house upon the rock and the floods and wind could not destroy his house. Whether we refer to literal houses or spiritual ones, we must survey the terrain we inhabit to be sure it is attached to a firm foundation.

Many areas of our country have “reclaimed” land from the sea by dredging and building upward. But one thing I’ve learned about water in all the places I have lived is that it will have its own way. Whether you live near the ocean where waves rearrange the sand at your doorstep or inland, where water rushes silently underground creating fissures, then caves that can collapse, we’re all vulnerable to its power. Enough water, the right amount of time, directed toward a specific target can decimate anything man can build. But, in God’s hands, a single word can silence a torrent.

So….where did you say you want to build your house?


One Misplaced Wallet

By: Marcy Barthelette

On a recent day trip to Branson intended for relaxation, we’d experienced a number of ups and downs, more downs than ups. As we headed toward Branson West, Ken realized we needed gas and prices had been better than usual in the tourist town, so we decided to stop at Walmart. We pulled up to the pump and Ken filled the tank then got a message that there was no paper to print his receipt. Making his way to the cashier’s window, he spotted a wallet lying on the pavement. He showed it to the attendant who immediately insisted that he hand the wallet over and because of the person’s attitude Ken was reluctant to do that.

I heard a loud discussion behind the car but didn’t know what was happening until Ken hopped into the car and left the station. The story unfolded as we drove over to the store parking lot where he promptly called 911 to report the wallet, not exactly the purpose of 911, but we didn’t want to take the wallet home and, after some discussion, decided that would be the quickest way for the owner to be contacted and reunited with his belongings.

That had been a difficult decision for Ken because of a negative experience from his childhood. It seems he found a lost or discarded bike and took it to the local police station. An officer accepted it with what seemed to Ken a little too much enthusiasm. Ken asked what would happen to the bike and the officer told him it would stay there for thirty days and, if no one claimed it, Ken could have the bike if he wanted. He was very excited by the prospect of happening onto a very nice bike that could be his in just a month. He counted down the days and went back to the station to inquire about the bike. The officers on duty told him that they were sorry, but someone had claimed it. However, something in their attitude convinced Ken that one of them had taken it home to a child of their own. Since that day, he vowed that when or if he found something of value, he would find a way to return it on his own and he’d been successful up to that point.

Back to our story….the dispatcher had said that there was an officer in the area and they agreed that we would meet in front of Walmart. Ken waited there while I picked up a few needed items and the officer arrived just as I had checked out. We turned over the wallet and all its contents, asking the officer to please locate the owner as quickly as possible because he would undoubtedly be concerned about credit cards, driver’s license, and any other personal items contained within the wallet. We said our thanks for his prompt and professional response and headed up 160 to Nixa and on to our home. As we drove, I whispered a prayer that the wallet and its owner would be reunited and there would be no negative repercussions for anyone.

Later that evening, as we were watching TV, a stranger called saying he had just picked up his wallet and heard the story of how it was handled. It turned out he carried an employee ID for Silver Dollar City and when the officer explained to them what had happened, they graciously provided a contact number for the man. He told Ken that after leaving the gas station, he’d gone to a fast-food restaurant for a snack and found himself without his wallet. Upon his return to the station, the attendant told him some guy had taken it and that he would never see it again. Well, he was wrong. Our new friend had retrieved his wallet inside of two hours because of the efforts of my sweet husband and an honorable police officer. His heartfelt thanks were offered to Ken and everyone’s day ended on a high note. (And maybe Ken’s confidence in the integrity of our law enforcement officers got a little boost in the process.)

I firmly believe that God had his hand on that whole situation. He prompted Ken to look at his gas gauge just as we were approaching Walmart. The machine ran out of paper just when Ken arrived on the scene, making him walk to the window, where he spotted the wallet. He was prompted by past memories to follow his conscience but also to seek help through reliable authorities and to impress upon them how distraught the man would be at this loss. The officer who responded was a true professional and carried through with the effort to locate the man and all of us were watched over as we worked to accomplish a common goal, to take care of our neighbor.  

It seems like a simple story but, to one man, it meant a lot. We’ll likely never have contact with him again, but on that afternoon, God brought several people together to guarantee a good outcome. His plan is always best and we need to always remember to turn to Him first.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,

you did it for me. Matthew 25:40 NIV


Spring Cleaning

By: Marcy Barthelette

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10   

If you’ve read any of my writings, you’ll likely be aware that spring is my favorite time of year. Yes, even though my allergies are raging just as the wind often does and the temperature rides a roller coaster and thunderstorms often loom overhead, I love the season of new beginnings. My gardening skills jump into high gear, landscape beds get rearranged and new annuals find their way to flank my doorway.

But planting is not the only desire that awakens in springtime. You guessed it! The spring-cleaning bug hits the neighborhood. Mowers are running, weed eaters trimming, chain saws are removing dead limbs and when the yard looks just the way we’ve envisioned all winter, we turn our labors to the house itself. Windows must be squeaky clean to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Closets are cleaned and clothing you haven’t worn in years is bagged for donation, attics, and basements are rearranged, those unwanted items are set aside, and then comes the biggest task of all…the garage. How do we accumulate so much stuff in the span of a year?

Not all who wander are lost…some are just looking for Garage Sales!

But…and here’s the good part! Garage sales pop up everywhere. This past weekend our town had its city-wide sale and Ken delighted in scouting out likely locations for finding rusty tools. He’s like a bloodhound on a scent. The man has a keen sense of radar regarding tools that just cry out for his experienced touch. And he doesn’t come home empty-handed. I often wonder if he remembers that we are trying to downsize and de-clutter. 

I’m sure that Ken is not the only one who enjoys a good garage sale, so now is the time to attack all those bastions of clutter in your own home and haul those unwanted items over to Aldersgate for the annual church garage sale. Your pre-priced donations will be accepted beginning Monday, May 8 in preparation for the sale on May 13. See the app or website for details regarding hours and any other necessary information. The youth will host the sale and proceeds benefit mission trips, camps, and other youth activities. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to dispose of items no longer needed and pick up a few “new” treasures to fill those empty spaces in your sparkling clean house. That’s my commercial for the day, now back to the business at hand.

As I speak of cleaning out clutter, I’m reminded that anytime is a good time to take stock of the clutter in our lives. Let’s yank out those bad habits that creep in and try to take root. Cast them on the garbage heap where they can do no harm. And then let’s cultivate the good traits we find and become more in touch with the people we were meant to be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could exit the spring-cleaning process with not only a clean home and yard but also with a clean heart, renewed purpose, and a resolve to care more for each other?

Let me close with a big thank you to all of you who have expressed support for these weekly messages, whether online or in person. Your kind words are much appreciated. I trust God to fill my mind and heart with encouraging words each week and He never disappoints me. Sometimes He makes me really search for them, but I’ve always said, I believe His messages are meant as much for me as for anyone else, so I guess it’s only fair that I have to work for them. We all have a lot to learn. So, dive in with me, and let’s all get closer to where we are meant to be. Let’s get serious about this thing called Spring Cleaning!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,

let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1


Keep The Line Open

By: Marcy Barthelette

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

A few months ago, a neighbor of ours asked Ken if he would mind taking a look at her antique telephone. She bought it because of her love of anything old but still able to serve a purpose, even if that purpose is only decorative. But soon after she acquired the phone, she found it a useful tool for keeping her young great niece and nephew from misbehaving around Christmas time. If they started to cross the line, she hopped on the old phone to call Santa and let him know of their behavior. And, of course, only an old phone of that vintage could reach the jolly old elf. It worked! Though the ruse quickly brought said niece and nephew to order, our neighbor found that the crank on the phone didn’t turn, a fact that conveniently escaped the kids.   

Well, as you would expect, Ken happily took on the challenge. He was like a kid with a new toy, something a little different from the tools he typically refurbishes. Our neighbor had said she would be happy if the crank would turn properly and maybe she would polish the bell a bit later, but Ken couldn’t stop there. He had to see this old phone looking spiffy again. I was a tad concerned that his eagerness to achieve the look he desired might be more than she wanted from this repair. She really appreciates the patina acquired with age and Ken was giving it more of a bright, shiny new look.

That being said, he spent hours repairing cracks, removing old paint, cleaning and oiling the inside components, and finally adding tung oil to preserve the lovely old wood. Oh, yes, he polished that brass bell until it sparkled. Then he decided it would be fun to create a “big reveal” just like on TV. Here’s where I got more worried. If our neighbor didn’t like what he had done, she would feel a little trapped. But I had no reason to fear. She loved it! Of course, the phone didn’t actually work, but the crank turned freely and the old parts were refreshed to last another hundred years, as a wall ornament and direct line to Santa.

Phones have come a long way since the days when that old relic provided communication in someone’s home. Even I can recall rotary dial phones, my mom still had one at the time of her death in 1989. I figured Southwestern Bell would probably find a spot in their museum for that big black clunker of a phone. And then phones went back on the wall when our kids were in high school and were supplied with very long cords so they could stretch their line of communication all the way to their rooms.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when we got our first cordless phone. Imagine being able to talk for an hour and place the handset back on the charging station and in a short while, it was back up to maximum capacity and I wasn’t tripping over cords running from room to room or untangling said cords after the kids used them. I thought they must have been doing gymnastics amid their conversations for that cord to get so twisted.

And then I remember my first cell phone. I felt such freedom being able to call from anywhere, well, anywhere I could get a decent signal. Remember that old commercial, “Can you hear me now?” Ken was reluctant to climb on board the cell phone train, but when we moved back from Florida in 2008, I reminded him how difficult it had been to keep in touch between our two vehicles by walkie-talkie while on the road moving down. Then I went out and bought him the cheapest phone I could find. I just needed to have the assurance I could reach him if I needed help.

When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. Alexander Graham Bell

All of this brings me to the point of this little missive. There are lots of instances in everyday life when we need the assurance that help is just a phone call away. We can call a spouse, call a friend or call 911, but whom should we call first? God doesn’t depend on electromagnetic fields for a signal, He is never too busy to take your call and He’s never unavailable. There is no voicemail on God’s personal and direct line with you. You can count on Him any day, anytime, anywhere. You won’t have to turn a crank like our neighbor, dial a number or even consult your contacts. Just give Him your heart and open the line of communication with Him. His signal is always a strong one hundred percent. He’ll answer on the first ring…I promise. You may have to work together for a while on whatever issues you’re facing, but He won’t leave you…I promise that too!

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in…..Revelation 3:20


Safe Spaces

By: Marcy Barthelette

I will lie down and fall asleep in peace because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety.

Psalm 4:8 CEB   

Spring has arrived in southwest Missouri and though we still see temperature drops, they’re shorter and less severe than those of the recent past. Am I willing to plant tender annuals in an unprotected area? Not quite yet, though they are gathered in a safe space waiting until all danger of frost has passed for this season. Then they will make their home in pots surrounding our front walkway.

Along with the newness of spring growth, the scent of hyacinth and lilac blossoms, and the riot of color splashing across our landscapes, there is another aspect of spring that tends to breed discomfort and even fear. If you’ve lived here any time at all, you probably know the sound of a tornado siren and when our forecasters warn us for endless days about storms that may impact our area if all the atmospheric conditions come together in a strategic way, we tend to allow our fears to accelerate. We are not called tornado alley for nothing. Even though the track of the storms may wobble a little north or south from year to year, we pretty much stay in the bull’s eye. So, each spring we gather our supplies; bottled water, non-perishable foods, batteries, flashlights, etc., and secure our valuables so that if we are hit, perhaps something will survive.

Ken and I have had our share of near misses, certainly enough to have earned a healthy respect for those sirens when they sound in our community. Years ago, we stopped in our local Walmart for a few things and parked our new car in the farthest part of the lot so that other cars wouldn’t surround us and ding our doors. While in the store, the sirens sounded, and the power went out. All customers were herded blindly to the back of the store where we waited for a seemingly very long time. Finally, the store associates began leading us out, by flashlight, a few at a time for an orderly exit. We were greeted at the door with utter darkness, an unusual sight (pardon the pun) in an urban area. We managed to reach our car and headed home through wet streets littered with leaves and branches, without the aid of traffic lights, made more difficult by the absence of the driver-side rearview mirror. In daylight, we could more closely inspect the damage to our car. Because we parked it away from the others, it was in the direct path of the tornado which had ripped portions of the roof off the Walmart store and left our new car dinged and dented all over from the flying debris and, of course, dangling the aforementioned mirror. The great news was that we were unhurt as were all the other people in our town.

At another time I was working in Branson while Ken was still employed by MO State Parks. He phoned to tell me that one of the very old growth oaks that had sheltered the front of our home had been extracted from the ground, root wad and all, and laid on our rooftop just above floor-to-ceiling sunroom windows. The tree measured twenty-seven inches in diameter yet didn’t break a single one of those windows. It did pierce a hole through the roof of our kitchen and then the skies offered up three inches of rain, so there was significant mopping up to do but the roof was quickly repaired, and the tree was cut up and stacked for the next year’s fireplace use. Again no one was hurt and we were filled with gratitude. However, Ken’s regional supervisor decided that the other three trees in front of the house had to be removed. It looked so naked without those beautiful trees, but we couldn’t take the chance that another hit would have a good ending.

Our third exposure was less harrowing but nonetheless destructive. That storm passed over leaving a number of trees torn off and splintered but it didn’t damage our home or vehicle. And again no one was hurt.

The community we now call home has been hit hard within the past twenty years so when we shopped for a home, one item became a major attraction. Our current home has an EF 5-rated tornado shelter installed in the garage and it has seen some use in the years we’ve lived here. It’s never been put to the test, but we have spent significant time in it waiting for storms to pass over. We don’t fool around when conditions are ripe for a major outbreak. I secure as much as I can squeeze into that little room in advance and when the siren sounds and our local forecaster’s voices pierce the night with their warning of imminent danger, we head to our safe space. Though we hope it never has to be tested, we’re a bit more comfortable just knowing there is something strong between us and the wind.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1

Even more importantly, we rely on God to always be our safe place. Under the shelter of His mighty wings, we have the protection of the eternal variety. Houses and cars, even family and friends will come and go, but we can rest assured He’ll always be there for us.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  Psalm 16:1


Walk a While with Jesus

By: Marcy Barthelette

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. Psalm 62:5

Have you ever imagined yourself as one of the two men trudging down the road away from Jerusalem carrying the weight of the past three days, seeing Jesus tortured and killed, then laid to rest in a tomb and sealed away, presumably for eternity? It was seven miles back to Emmaus for these two, a good hike for us but typical in those days. When another joins them and asks why they seem so sad, they can’t believe He doesn’t know about all that has happened over the course of the past few days. They have no idea who this Man is. They only know that their hope has been destroyed, their faith is slipping away, Jesus has apparently abandoned them, and they just aren’t sure how they will go on from here.

Do you think you would have recognized His face or the sound of His voice? I wonder…

And when He finally makes Himself known and it becomes clear that He endured the pain for us, would you consider yourself redeemable? Looking back on my life I see countless reasons why I should be left standing outside the gates of heaven with no hope of getting past them, not the least of these would be the opportunities I’ve missed to help others recognize His face, His voice, His unending love and, especially His grace.

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

A while back Ken and I listened to a friend relate her unbelief in all that is recorded by witnesses as having happened in Jerusalem during that time. The logic of the human mind won’t let her accept that a man could die on a cross, beaten and tortured, and yet return to life here on earth and then re-enter heaven by ascension. Nor can she accept the concept that God could possibly be everywhere all the time. It’s hard for me to hear that because my life has been blessed by the promise of Easter redemption and even when I’ve stepped over the line, way over, I know first of all that He is always there even when I might rather He wasn’t watching my behavior and that, secondly, I can always find my way back. When I finally realize I must get off my trail of disobedience hurtling into nowhere, my path is always clear. Often it’s not so easy, but very clear. I can’t imagine living without that promise.

A recent study indicates that less than forty percent of our population now embraces faith in God or the resurrected Jesus by worshipping together regularly.

People, we have a mountain of work to do!

I had an opportunity to talk about serious faith issues with a friend and, though she knows I didn’t back away from my belief, I don’t feel I gave her enough reason to begin questioning hers. I should have been better prepared. I hope I will be when the next opportunity arises.

Help me to keep believing for those who don’t yet know you.

Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Cross  

(And I should add all those who have known Him and turned away.)

Make no mistake. We all have our flaws, some that may seem unforgivable, but if the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well can be forgiven for her sin of prostitution and turn her life around, so can we. If Peter can be forgiven for three times denying any knowledge of the man he worked alongside for three years can be forgiven and become one of the most devoted messengers of the Gospel of all time, so can we. If a criminal, dying on the cross beside Jesus, can recognize his need for forgiveness and plead with Jesus to remember him in heaven and be saved for eternity, so can we. Please do not see yourself or any other person as unredeemable. Jesus interceded for us. He paid the price so we don’t have to. The choice is ours. And that, my friends, is unfathomable grace!

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts, as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:16-17


Sleeping on the Job

By: Marcy Barthelette

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Sit here while I go o  ver there and pray. Remain here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:36, 38b

It’s a crazy, busy time in and around Jerusalem as the Day of Passover draws near. There is a not-so-quiet stir among the many visitors to the city that the teacher, the Messiah, that they have heard about is nearby. As a Jew, Jesus would participate in the annual observation of Passover. In fact, it was then that he was dining in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus when Mary anointed him with the expensive perfume to show appreciation for bringing her dead brother back to life. That very miracle had caught the attention of many others on the crowded streets. And so, when he entered the gates of Jerusalem aboard a borrowed donkey, onlookers waved palms and shouted, “Hail, the King of the Jews.

Yes, it was a busy place with Jesus chasing money changers from the Temple, trying hard to make his message clear, that he was soon to die and then rise again to make a way for us to be forgiven. And even though many praised him, many others sought to destroy him and with him, any hope of Christianity taking root. Or so they thought.

It is mid-week. Jesus is very tired from that last attempt to reach the people with his message. He wants to spend a few hours with his disciples and arranges a second-floor room large enough for all of them to dine together. He surprises them with a ritual foot-washing to Peter’s great disdain. All evening Peter tries to convince Jesus that he would never leave him and would, in fact, die for him. And then Jesus makes the statement that on that very night, one of them would betray him. They are all shocked and look at each other with questioning eyes.

After he has shared the bread and the cup, he asks three to join him. Peter, James, and John follow him into the garden where he wants only to rest and pray, for he knows what lies ahead. He asks them to stay back a way to keep watch and let him go ahead to be alone with his Father. His prayers are filled with anguish about the pain he knows he must endure. After a while, he goes back and finds the three sleeping on the ground.

“So you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour. Matthew 26:40b

He wakens them and soundly chastises them for their lack of concern. All he asks is that they maintain a watch while he is about his Father’s business. And he leaves them again with the same instructions to stay awake and be on guard.

We’ve heard the phrase, “sleeping on the job” throughout our lifetimes but has there ever been a more egregious example? We may have fallen asleep during an exam because we stayed out too late with friends or sneaked a nap at our desk when a sick child needed overnight care and comfort. Perhaps we have worked as night security and thought no one will notice if I just grab a few winks. But if we were tasked with the simple duty of standing watch while Jesus prayed, would we fall asleep or be so honored that he chose us that sleep couldn’t come?

Of course, there was nothing the three disciples could have done to prevent the tide of events that was about to overflow the world, but they could have been faithful. In their humanness, they knew nothing of God’s plan, only that they were tired from a long week of traveling and meeting strangers and accepting the menial tasks required for survival. Nothing they could have done would have stopped the wheels that had been set in motion since long before Jesus’ tiny head lay swathed in the sweet scent of hay. But they could have been faithful! They

 could have done the simple task they were assigned as part of the grand drama that was about to unfold.

Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!” Matthew 26:46

That’s what he asks of us, to be faithful. They would all betray him. In fact, the twelve would all run for the hills before this night was over. But, as the three stand there in the garden with Jesus after they’ve fallen asleep two more times, excuses are no longer relevant as it clearly is too late. They hear a throng of soldiers approaching. And who is in the lead but Judas.. And the betrayer places the kiss of death on Jesus’ cheek.