Scatter Some Seeds

By: Marcy Barthelette

 And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there. Matthew 18:20 MSG

Once again I am writing on a Sunday evening. It has been a week of roller-coaster emotions. On Monday my scheduled visit with the physical therapist left me feeling refreshed and stronger than I had felt in a while. Some new techniques were applied that provided good stretching and strengthening and I began to believe that I really might get back to some of my gardening adventures. Yes, my movements might look a little different and I’d need to think first to engage the correct muscles before attempting any task. But it was looking doable. I was really looking forward to my Thursday appointment, but late Wednesday, it was suddenly canceled.

That evening, Ken and I joined about seventy-nine other Aldersgate family members in the youth building to commemorate thirty-five years of our church’s presence in the community; its past, present, and future. We didn’t really know what to expect but I can tell you that if you weren’t there, you missed a truly spiritual experience. The eighty-one of us represented a cross-section of attendees from each of our Sunday morning services. But this was no ordinary service. We sang, we prayed, we celebrated Communion, and the closeness between the people there was palpable. The presence of the Holy Spirit surrounded us with grace and love. There were prayers for healing and I was one of those requesting prayer, but we’ll get to that later.

My husband left the service with a memory of an object lesson he had shared with kids at a church many years ago. Dennis agreed it would be a good illustration to add to his Sunday message and so the planning began. Both Ken and I went home feeling at peace and encouraged about our path forward as a church family.

The next day my peace took a major hit. A call from the physical therapy facility canceled another appointment and I learned that the therapist I had worked with on Monday had developed symptoms of COVID on Tuesday evening. That placed me in the window for pre-symptom exposure. I had helped serve Communion the night before and the nature of that special service had precipitated lots of hugs. My concern for my church family escalated.

Not only that, but we had negotiated and purchased a truck that day and had to take care of all the attending paperwork, bringing us into contact with a number of people. We also ate in a restaurant. I was on a guilt trip of enormous proportion, wondering how many people I may have infected.

God, it is so comforting to know that when we are unsure of the future, we can trust that You notice us and You already know the outcome. – GABC Women

As I said earlier, I requested prayer for healing on Wednesday night and Pastor Dennis offered a very simple and non-specific prayer. Bear in mind, I was thinking only of my back injury because I didn’t know about the possible COVID exposure, but also remember that the prayer didn’t specify healing for my back. Dennis asked for general healing. So, here I am, on Sunday evening. My mobility is greatly improved, my pain is greatly diminished, and the COVID virus that I didn’t know about has not materialized. I didn’t know about it…but God did. And I think He went to work in a hurry.

To date, I have no symptoms and my tests have been negative. With those results, my doctor gave me the OK to be out among people. Having my worry over infecting others removed, I’m feeling better about the whole experience. However, I’ve learned we all need to continue to be vigilant with our personal hygiene and do what we can to protect those we encounter. It’s just good common sense.

I realize I’ve rambled a bit in this little piece and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but on this beautiful Sunday evening, I’m feeling pretty good. And that object lesson that Ken shared this morning….well, the short version is that it essentially contained two questions; the first being; “How many seeds are inside an apple?” This is easily solved by cutting the apple and counting. The other question is much harder; “How many apples are in each seed?” Think about that. Only God holds the answer. The youth team volunteering at Camp Barnabas this week was asked to participate along with the younger kids and I got a kick out of watching them. They were pretty fidgety and were wondering why they were asked to join in a children’s exercise. Then came that question about the number of apples in each seed. Each of them perked up, their eyes brightened and you could see them begin to think. I hope they’re scattering lots of seeds this week as they go about their tasks and interactions.  

And of course, the object lesson as interpreted in our Christian walk is this; one of us going forth and scattering seeds of faith can make a big difference in the world. Now think about what can happen when we all scatter seeds of kindness, seeds of love, seeds of comfort, seeds of mercy, seeds of forgiveness. This was the message of last Wednesday’s service and, as Pastor Dennis pointed out on Sunday, it is not ours to worry about what happens to those seeds. God will take care of that. We just need to make sure we scatter them. And being a dedicated gardener, I can really identify with that seed metaphor. I think I’d better get busy and scatter a variety of very important seeds…..or, come to think of it, maybe I’ve already begun.

And he said, “My presence will go with you…….” Exodus 33:14



Safe Spaces

By: Marcy Barthelette

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:4 NIV  

It’s a lazy summer afternoon and I’m allowing myself to embrace the luxury of a little stroll down memory lane. My musing takes me to the very middle of my life when, as a single mom, I was a manager at a camping resort in south-central Missouri. My daughter and I began this sojourn living in our small camper but then moved into housing on the premises. Our home was a restored- hundred-twenty-five-year-old log cabin, built originally in the dogtrot style commonly found in the Ozarks. It consisted of two rooms with a covered walkway in between. That walkway had been transformed into an entry hall and full bathroom, the kitchen updated for modern living, and two bedrooms along with a bath were added to one end. It was a very comfortable home for the two of us and the resort was a great place to raise a child. We had access to a clear, beautiful river for swimming, canoeing, and tubing. The horseback riding trails provided hours of entertainment, and we could enjoy hayrides and movies along with our camping guests when space was available. Jenny had no shortage of friends, from some of those aforementioned camping guests who were often short-term friendships, to her schoolmates and our neighbors who added consistency to our lives. We were truly blessed by our natural surroundings and the folks there who became our extended family and always watched over us.

Jeni was typically very active around the resort, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and engaging in lots of little girl activities. Our staff and guests marveled at how long she could continue jumping and she was usually willing to entertain them. But every now and then, she

 needed to get away from everything and everyone. She’s still that way. The first time she disappeared, I became a little frantic. Okay, I was more than a little frantic. Just as I was about to really fall off the deep end, the resort owner happened to look out her window and saw Jenny sitting on a tree branch alongside the stream that flowed behind her house. A quick call assured me my daughter was fine and that my boss would keep a close watch over her. That was to be the first of many trips to the tree. Jenny had found her safe spot, tucked away from all the people and busyness of the park right beside that beautiful flowing stream. It became her thinking tree and the place she sought when something troubled her. I always knew where she would be, and my boss and I communicated regularly regarding her presence there to ensure her safety, but we never invaded her space.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Eventually, she realized that we knew where her safe space was, but it remained just her place for as long as we lived there. Now that she’s an adult with her own daughter, she still loves to be near flowing water and so do I. It gives each of us a sense of peace and constancy, a place of reassurance that envelopes us in the wonder of creation and an opportunity to disconnect from the craziness of life and just bask in the quiet of the moment. In the quiet we find comfort. It becomes a safe space because it reminds us of God’s never-ending provision, both physically and spiritually.

Today, Ken and I have a safe room in our garage designed to protect us from destructive storms, and I’m really glad we have it. But I know that the safest place to be is always in the loving arms of God and that can happen anywhere I am because He is always with me. Where is your safe space? 

Be still and know that I am God. Ps 46:10


Beautiful Feet

By: Marcy Barthelette

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.

Romans 10:15b NKJV

This past Lenten season, as I read one of my favorite devotional guides, the one about Peter’s Feet snagged my imagination a little more than in years past so I set it aside in my resource folder thinking it might offer some good points for one of my pieces somewhere along the line. I’ve glanced at it a few times since, but the timing just wasn’t right. Pastor Dennis, however, lit a spark last Sunday when he focused in on the importance of feet. Once home, I pulled up my folder and began to gnaw on the topic a bit.

Of course, I’ve had reason to think about feet lately as my normal mobility has been impaired, and It’s hit home just how precious those feet of ours really are. We humans are typically born with two while the majority of animals have four, but some critters possess as many as six or eight. Imagine having to buy eight shoes for each of your children at the beginning of school. I think I’m grateful we only have two feet. The internet experts differ slightly but seem to agree that the average eighty-year-old human will have walked between 75,000 and 100,000 miles in a lifetime. That’s a lot of blisters and callouses and very tired feet. We punish them unmercifully by wearing shoes that are improperly sized or aren’t built for the purpose we are using them. We push through the pain and just keep going. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks their feet are attractive. They’re just two overlooked and unattractive appendages that take us from place to place, activity to activity, in our daily lives.

Our four-footed friends are just as hard on their feet. Think about the horses of the American west carrying people and goods and mail to unexplored areas where danger lurked around every bend in the trail. Goodness, how their feet must have suffered. And how about camels traversing the scorching desert or the huskies of the Yukon? So many types of feet work very hard to get us to our destinations, deliver our goods, and carry us on dangerous adventures or the exploration of earth’s wonders. And we mustn’t forget the rigors of bodily exercise that keep us healthy. Regardless of their rather nondescript appearance, feet play a vital role in our lives and we would do well to take better care of them than we do.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns. Isaiah 52:7 NLT   

I think God’s Word may have been speaking metaphorically here. Before venturing into indigenous villages high in the Andes Mountains or on the African desert or in the seemingly unreachable parts of our own country, “messengers” must train in the rigors of the lifestyles they will inhabit. They must be physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared to bring the “Good News” to people who may not have ever heard the name of Jesus. Their literal feet will have traveled countless miles in preparation before they hit the ground running and the beauty of their metaphorical feet becomes fruitful.

I’m grateful for those whose literal or metaphorical feet travel to the far corners of the earth to bring the message of God’s love and faithfulness, but not all of us can do that. Hear this though, even those of us whose feet are absent or not working correctly have metaphorically beautiful feet to bring the “Good News” to those in need of hearing. Our feet can be present in a classroom of children searching for meaning in their lives. Our feet can serve a healthy meal to hungry souls without the means to provide food on their own. Our feet can bring or send bottled water and prepared foods to disaster-ravaged countries and disaster areas in our own country. Our feet can send school supplies to places where classrooms are no more than a rudimentary structure or a tent or perhaps even just the shade of a tree. Our feet can bring the promise of hope to a hurting world.

We are blessed beyond measure and when we think there is nothing more we can do, we just need to open our eyes, ears, and hearts, then put our feet to work. Our “feet”, virtual or metaphorical, can always bring the beauty of hope to someone, somewhere…..maybe right next door.


How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news. Romans 10:15b NLT


No Spiritual Flabbiness

By: Marcy Barthelette

Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. I Timothy 4:7-8 MSG

This passage of scripture really caught my eye because of its lightheartedness but it rings with essential truth. Let’s take a look at a few statistics, always with a subjective eye, because we know that everything we read on the internet has to be “true”.

According to one site, roughly a third of Americans have a gym membership costing anywhere from $30 to $90 per month but here’s the good part, only about half set foot in the gym twice a week and many make a token appearance now and then just to say, “I went to the gym today,” to a friend or business acquaintance. And here’s a good one, Americans spend $1.3 billion annually on unused memberships.

In 2019, adults spent $34.8 billion on gym memberships, but that number fell to $8.2 billion in 2020 because of the pandemic. Many people turned to outdoor activities rather than spending time in crowded places. They also invested in home exercise equipment but again quickly lost interest and either sold the equipment or shoved it into a corner of the garage and buried it under all the other unused purchases acquired during that time of quarantine and no longer considered necessary.

Though I have never owned a gym membership, I must confess to purchasing a stationary bike during the pandemic, and it has seen quite a bit of use. But walking has always been our preferred form of physical exercise along with hiking when we’re able to get to trails. We’ve also enjoyed biking until very recent years. Actually, Ken still does but my biking days are over.

Of course, one reason the topic of exercise caught my attention is that I am currently engaged in a physical therapy program requiring two visits each week with a professional and a daily home workout performing prescribed movements targeting specific muscle groups that will hopefully remove some of the stress from a weakened lower spine. Some days I’m ready to get on the floor and run through my paces but others I’d rather sit in my recliner and let someone else do it for me. Whether or not I want to do the workout, I know I must if I want to have any hope of strengthening my body to feel better.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we put as large a time investment into spiritual exercise as we do monetary investment into the physical development of our bodies? I wanted to look at another version of our focus verse and chose the NLT which says:

Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourselves to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. I Timothy 4:7-8 NLT

It’s not as much fun as the Message interpretation and it might not have snagged my attention as quickly, but it clearly articulates our instructions for life. Almost anything worth doing requires some advanced thought and planning. If you’re going on vacation, you’ll likely check on lodging options, nearby restaurants, and interesting things to see or do. If traveling by car, you may want to have it checked over before leaving and make yourself aware of driving regulations along your route.

To ensure a healthy garden, you’ll need to know the soil, light, and moisture requirements of each plant. It’s important to make sure different varieties play well together before planting them next door to one another. Some will grow from seed and bloom in a single season while others will need a season or two to reach maturity. In short, we must train ourselves for the tasks we want to accomplish. When interviewing for a new job, it’s important to study the potential employer to find out if they are aligned with your values. You must also be prepared to present yourself in a positive light. And you surely wouldn’t go out for the football team if you’ve never played the game. It’s important to know the game well and, certainly, to prepare your body for the rigors it will experience.

We all take enormous quantities of time preparing for and agonizing over nearly everything we do, but when it comes to spiritual training, we seem to just cruise along thinking some miraculous understanding will overtake us and we’ll be perfect humans. People, we need to immerse ourselves in the only training that will offer us eternity. Don’t get me wrong, planning and preparedness are wonderful and necessary attributes, but training to be godly people should take priority over all else. Dive right into your Bible, open a dialog with God, and do your best to emulate the example set by Jesus.

As for my very boring physical therapy workout, I’ll keep slugging it out because I really want to strengthen my muscles so that I can continue to enjoy those new flowers I planted before this little detour of mine began. And here’s the thing, training for anything can be whatever you make it. You can whine and complain (which I admit to doing now and again) or you can approach any training with your whole heart and a bundle of enthusiasm. The latter will always bring sweet rewards. I’m pretty sure my days of strenuous hiking have gone the way of my beloved bicycle, but I trust I’ll still be able to handle level terrain and tackle those relentless weeds, and look for new adventures. They may just have to be a little easier on the old bones. And I’ll always have time to train my wayward spirit in the way it should go.

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. I Timothy 4:9-10 NLT



Accepting Truths

  By: Marcy Barthelette 

Bear one another’s burdens…Galatians 6:2a

There are times when life can best be described as a roller coaster ride, full of exciting twists and turns, beautiful views from the mountain tops, and the rush of adrenaline when being plunged into a waiting abyss. And sometimes that abyss turns out to be something much different than we’d planned. Such has been my fate this past week. If you read last week’s article, you heard me describe gorgeous mountain vistas, sparkling streams, and visits with some of nature’s four-legged critters, but you weren’t privy to the other side of the coin.

On the last morning of our wonderful camping trip, I bent to pick up an item from the floor when something resembling a lightning bolt began at my hip and coursed downward through my thigh and calf, exiting my body at my toes. The pain was sharp and intense. The whole experience lasted maybe a couple of seconds but left me feeling as if I’d been through a major storm. When I tried to put weight on the leg, it trembled so hard, I feared I would fall. With Ken doing the bulk of it, we managed to pack everything without further incident. I took a pain reliever and prepared for an uncomfortable drive home. It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected but I must admit, I was grateful to arrive home and find two inches of rain in the gauge, eliminating the need to water our landscape areas.

Overnight, however, the pain became worse and when I tried to put weight on the foot, it was pure agony. This continued for two more days, and we determined that I needed to see a doctor. An examination convinced the Physician’s Assistant that I was likely experiencing a pinched nerve and x-rays verified that I had compressed vertebrae that were causing the pinch but, thankfully, no broken bones. The steroid shot I was given relieved my hip pain, but the foot continued to hurt. The PA referred me to Physical Therapy which commenced with my evaluation on Friday. For the weekend, I completed my “homework” exercises and am scheduled for two sessions with the therapist this week and several more similar weeks as we move through summer.

The words to the song, Everlasting God, have been my constant companion this week. Beginning with, Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, and then on to the chorus;

You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God,

You do not faint; you won’t grow weary.

You’re the defender of the weak, You comfort those in need,

You lift us up on wings like eagles.

I can tell you that patience is not a virtue of mine and I am not good at convalescing. I detest being slowed down and prevented from doing the things that comprise my daily life. I have just reworked my front landscape bed and it needs my TLC. My house needs attention after the flurry of packing to go camping and my inability to address those issues on our return. We managed to replenish our grocery stock, but I really wanted to plan another camping trip.

As you’ve likely surmised, my body said an emphatic “no!”

But you know what? When I arrived at the Physical Therapy facility, I saw people with much worse problems than mine. When talking with friends we learned that they, also, had serious issues to deal with. In reality, I have plenty to do from the relative comfort of my recliner. I have lots of friends and acquaintances to pray for as well as requests on our prayer list from some people that I know and others that I don’t. But all their issues are important. So, I got busy talking to God about all those needs and writing for the Gatepost, and catching up on all my resource typing and time began to pass more quickly. You see, unlike many of those on my prayer list who experience pain all the time, as long as I’m propped up in my recliner, I feel minimal pain. It’s only when I walk that I hurt. Of course, the physical therapist says I have to keep my muscles moving without overdoing it, so I “walk” a fine line.

When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3

I guess God was telegraphing a message the old-fashioned way that I needed to slow down, be grateful for my blessings, take time to recognize the needs of others, and exercise patience in letting my own body heal. I also need to express my gratitude to those who have gone out of their way to help me, most importantly my caring husband and a great neighbor. We all need a little or a lot of help from time to time. I’m grateful it has been there for me, and I’ll need to pay it forward when I’m feeling stronger. For now, I’ll do the very best thing that any of us can do for those who have special needs…PRAY! And the Lord has seen to it that I have plenty of time for that!

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:12


A Week-End Trek on the Wild Side

By: Marcy Barthelette

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:10

As I write we are just returning home from a five-day camping trip at Devil’s Den State Park just south of Fayetteville, AR. It was a very impromptu event precipitated by reservations our daughter’s family had made months ago. We had discussed the possibility of joining them, but spring allergies and a number of competing projects pushed those plans aside until I mentioned that the kids were headed down this weekend. Ken was ready to go.  We checked the website for available sites and found an opening for Wednesday and Thursday nights but not the weekend….no big surprise there. The kids were going on Thursday so we could have a day with them and one to ourselves which is a pretty nice arrangement and, if we were lucky, maybe someone would cancel a weekend reservation.    

Our camper was thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, and felt we were ready for anything. The night before leaving, we lost car keys, well, at first we thought it was RV keys. It’s a very long story that I won’t take the time to tell, but we finally accounted for all of our keys and, as usual, I was the culprit who lost them. Because of the key debacle, we were delayed in loading all our gear and prepping food, but we finally managed to get it all done and were on the road by noon on Wednesday. We didn’t know what to expect on arrival because when I checked radar that morning the area around the park had been under a severe thunderstorm warning.

Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? Job 37:15-16

On arrival, we discovered considerable damage and learned from the locals that the hail they experienced was softball sized. The bad news for us was more rain was forecast for that night. Fortunately, it wasn’t expected to be severe.  We checked for weekend cancellations and found there were none so we proceeded to our site to settle in and, as luck would have it, ours was the only site in the entire campground with literally no shade. Strike one! Also, the park is quite remote and off the grid. There is no cell service and WiFi is only available in two areas, neither being close to the campground. In order to drive anywhere, we have to unhook everything and re-establish all our connections on return. Choice number two…walk and the trail is pretty steep. Strike two! We learned pretty quickly that we had a leak in our water lines, so we had to switch to the holding tank and pump system, not the best scenario when you’re expecting full hook-ups. Strike three! By then, I was getting pretty discouraged.

Because of the heat and no shade at our site, we abandoned our plan to cook over the campfire and made cold sandwiches and lots of fresh fruit for dinner. I was beginning to think we should have stayed home. But, after our simple dinner, we took a walk and happened on a family playing wonderful music. They were Mom, Dad, five kids, and Grandpa who played a variety of instruments and sang together. As we stood outside their site and listened, they invited us in. Before long, others were invited to join the group. We listened to the likes of Country Roads, Take Me Home, The Goodness of God, Jolene, and many others. Sometimes we joined in the singing and sometimes we just listened. Our hosts were lovely folks, kind and generous, including anyone who was looking for a little fun and good fellowship. One of their guests turned out to be a park superintendent and we asked him to keep an eye open for a site cancellation.

The next afternoon, the other superintendent came calling with news of an available site. As a matter of fact, we could move right in, and it had the extra bonus of plentiful shade. We moved and were all set up again not long before the kids arrived. That night we indulged in bubbly Dutch oven peach cobbler and a great visit with the kids plus more music at the neighbor’s site. It rained overnight and during the morning hours on Friday, so we just hung out until the weather cleared and then did a short hike that tours the old CCC camp located in the park. If you’re not familiar, CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, was a government program of the 1930s that provided employment for men aged 17-28 and utilized their skills to improve parks all over our nation. Remnants of their work exist today in numerous parks including here in Missouri. The men lived in barracks and worked together all week. On weekends they could go home or hang out at their assigned site. Lots of sporting activities sprung from the ranks and everyone did his share to make his buddies feel a sense of home away from home. We thank these unsung heroes who helped preserve some of our most precious natural treasures.

Saturday morning found our little troupe on the namesake trail in the park where geophysical phenomenon abounds. We marveled at the many chasms along a rough and rocky trail and the waterfalls left behind by the rains of the days before. Around every turn in the trail, a new beauty arose. Towering rock outcroppings, cave openings rendering a cool respite from the day’s heat, massive trees reaching for the sky, and others downed by storms or old age providing cover and homes for countless creatures. In a word, it was breathtaking. It felt so good to be on a trail through majestic woods once more. It had been too long.

Back at camp, a friendly squirrel hung out at our site, a little popcorn accidentally dropped on the ground became too tempting for him to ignore, and just before we left, two magnificent pileated woodpeckers landed on a tree mere feet from us. In a setting so beautiful, how could anyone doubt or deny the presence of God. From azure blue skies to giant thunderheads, from magnificent old-growth timber to trickling streams, colorful wildflowers, and a myriad of creatures whose world we share, His creation is astounding. If you haven’t taken the time to get out and partake of it, make it your goal to schedule some downtime, even if it’s in your own backyard, just to immerse yourself in the abundant gifts God has so generously given and realize His presence there.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:12


Faith Just Is….

By: Marcy Barthelette

Be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

  In recent weeks the word faith has popped up in my daily life quite a few times. Pastor Dennis preached a whole sermon about faith and made excellent points for me to ponder. Pastor Sarah touched on faith just this past Sunday, also offering good food for thought. Many of my daily devotional readings have delved into the subject of faith and I felt that maybe I was being nudged to weigh in on the discussion. So here is my take on what I feel is the constant presence of faith.

My sweet and humorous husband has often described faith as buying green bananas at the tender age of eighty. He may have used the word optimism, but you understand the similarity. I would venture that when I see a tiny sparrow chasing a giant grackle in the backyard, that little sparrow must have lots of faith in its ability to steer the much larger bird away for its nest of babies. And those pesky squirrels bury acorns all over our yard each fall in faith that they will be there mid-winter when pickings are otherwise slim. The animal world seems to have an uncanny sense that provision will be there when they need it. Of course, science calls it instinct, but I really believe we could learn a thing or two from the other creatures God made to populate the earth.

We tend to think that faith is something we can’t see or feel or touch or taste, but I would disagree. We see it in His creation, from majestic snowcapped mountains to valleys bursting with crops. We feel it in the sunshine, wind, and rain. We touch it when we hold a newborn child. We taste it in the salt carried on a sea breeze, the sweetness of a fresh strawberry, or a thousand others of God’s amazing delicacies. Faith enfolds us as a warm quilt on a winter’s night. As I see it, faith does not come from us. God is the very essence of faith. He created us in His image and He provided for us from the very beginning of humankind. He still provides today. His faith in us continues, even when the mountain before us seems too formidable to climb, even when the valley of despair looms heavy on our hearts and, yes, even when earthly success worms its way into our very souls and whispers thoughts of sinful human desires. It is when things are going well that the faith God plants in us often has difficulty taking root and growing. It is then that we must listen well.

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:17

Please read aloud the second portion of the opening verse; stand firm in the faith. God doesn’t infer that faith is something we possess but rather He emphasizes the faith He has in us, the faith He established. Our challenge is to grab onto it and hold on tightly, to nurture it and grow it until we and He are one.

How do we do that you ask? We do it by immersing ourselves in His word, by conversing with Him companionably throughout our day, by treating those around us as we would wish to be treated, by overcoming our fear of trying something new or reaching across an imaginary line we’ve never crossed before, maybe to a place outside of our comfort zone. God has faith that we can complete the tasks He sets before us. Why shouldn’t we trust Him?

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith. Colossians 2:6-7a

And there it is again, that phrase, “the faith”. It surrounds us always, it is a gift of immeasurable proportion, one that can only come from God and one that is showered upon His children. So I end with the same phrase as my title, Faith just is….and it always was, because God always was and God is faithful! Are you ready to open the gift and accept the challenge, to start building on that faith with which he surrounds you?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing,  it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8


Tear Down Those Walls

By: Marcy Barthelette

In so many ways we are separated from each other by walls we have built….

A couple of weeks ago, we embarked on the task of creating a border around our primary landscape bed that outlines the north and east walls of our home. Our location on a corner lot creates high visibility from three directions as the south wall is also in the direct line of sight. That side is our backyard and is not a part of the current project even though some changes may be coming in the fall.

This new border had been debated for the full seven years we’ve lived in the house. I love borders and had them on all sides of our previous home. It, too, was a corner lot with even greater visibility. Ken was not so fond of them because the engineered stones have a rough surface that eats trimmer line very quickly. But after throwing new mulch all over the yard with the trimmer this season, he decided they might not be so bad after all.

Three runs to Lowe’s later for purchasing stones (we had to haul them in our car and be mindful of the weight) and after Ken delivered the stones from the car hatch to the landscape bed, I set about placing and leveling. It took the better part of a week, we’re not kids anymore, but the bed looks lovely. I finally feel it has a finished quality. But the squirrels have other ideas. Any ground that was disturbed and received added dirt, and any of the pots that are scattered throughout the bed are all fair game. Each morning brings new surprises and challenges.

Now obviously, I didn’t expect a four-inch wall to keep those little critters out of our beds. Of course, an eight-foot wall wouldn’t do the trick either. They’d just scale it, do their damage, and exit the same way they entered. Only with a cover over all of it could keep the squirrels at bay. But then no one could see the plants to enjoy them.   

….walls of misunderstanding and fear, walls of hatred and injustice…

It occurs to me that walls are often very useful. Walls and a good roof keep us dry when it rains, warm when the snow flies, and provide a safe place to sleep and a gathering space for family and friends. But sometimes we build imaginary walls around ourselves that signal others to just leave us alone, even when we really need the benefit of companionship. And all too often we build invisible walls around our churches, thinking we should maintain the status quo. It wasn’t all that long ago that church was held in family homes, especially in rural areas where folks had to travel long distances to reach a real church building. It was much easier to just gather a few families in each other’s homes. I’m sure the experience was much more personal as well.

Jesus’ ministry was nearly always conducted outdoors. He taught from mountaintops and beside the sea, even from the bow of a boat. There were no walls and everyone was welcome.

This week, a vote at the Annual Conference of the UMC will likely change the path Aldersgate is traveling. Many things will remain the same, but some will be a little different. I would suggest that we take care not to surround ourselves with walls or boundaries, but instead, fling open our doors, go outside the church building, and go about the mission we accepted at our baptism—making disciples of Christ in this world. The church is not a building. It consists of people who have a heart for helping others. Let’s tear down those walls, make new friends, and use our specific gifts and skills in ways that invite participation in the family of God. Always remember, you may be the only Jesus that some folks will ever see. Make sure they know He loves them too.

Jesus Christ died to demolish the walls that separate us from one another…

The ball is in our court. We need to carefully consider whose we are.

As for me and my squirrel friends, we’ll continue to build and tear down, build and tear down….that’s what squirrels and humans do. And we’ll hope to do it companionably.

(Quotes are from, Breaking Down the Walls of Separation, Mark D. Roberts.)


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