Penny for Your Thoughts

By Marcy Barthelette

Everything we do starts between the ears, in our minds, with our thoughts Tim Tebow, Mission Possible

In turning to the internet, that endless source of information most of us read with a bit of skepticism, I found that most recent studies have concluded that the brain of an average thirty-year-old will process about 6200 thoughts per day. This theory is based on brain scan tracking done at different times of day over a two-day period. Participants were tracked at rest and watching movies. Quick transitioning of movie scenes seems to trigger “thought worms” or detectable patterns of brain activity—just like thoughts that emerge spontaneously. A new “worm” is generated by each new thought allowing researchers to recognize the end of one thought and the beginning of another.

These persons averaged 6.5 thoughts per minute so if they sleep an average of 8 hours and no sleep thoughts are considered, they are awake 16 hours and the formula would be 6.5 x 60 x 16 = 6240. Bear in mind, we are talking about young adults. Those of us who are more seasoned may not cognitively process as many of these thoughts as a younger mind could.

Think about what you think about. Your problem is not your problem but the way you see it. Max Lucado, Anxious For Nothing

It’s always fun to mine for a little trivia, but the truth is we don’t really know how many thoughts our brains process every day. Even science admits that more conclusive study is needed. But we do know that our brain is a three-pound universe that is bombarded with arrows from Satan’s bow. Our days are filled with suggestions and innuendo that try to lead us down the garden path to destruction. A negative comment is made about our appearance and we begin to wonder how we can change that impression. Someone starts a rumor about job layoffs and we spontaneously begin to worry about being called into the boss’s office. The doctor’s office calls to inform us of a diagnosis and we slip immediately into worry mode. The list of negative torpedoes never ends, unless we choose to focus on the positive.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NLT

Imagine the control tower of a busy airport. Hundreds of planes take off and land daily. They’re lined up in traffic patterns and must depend upon the person on the other end of the radio in that control tower to provide the correct data to keep them from crashing into one another with disastrous results. No one lifts a plane off the runway without expressed permission of the air traffic controller nor does one land without it.   

Likewise, if hundreds of thoughts are buzzing around our heads at any precise time, we can choose to invite positive thoughts into our brains. Test each thought against the requirements of Philippians 4:8. If it meets the challenge, act on it. If not, let it die.

You can be the air traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control tower and can direct the mental traffic of your world. Max Lucado, Anxious For Nothing

I suppose if I could find a wealthy benefactor willing to pay me a penny for my thoughts, assuming I’m thirty years old again and based upon a theory of having 6240 thoughts per day, I could earn $62.40 per day totaling $436.80 a week. I could then use those funds to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world by helping others. However, my imaginary benefactor does not exist and I will, therefore, need to harness random positive thoughts and put them into action. Hopefully, a sizeable percentage of the thoughts hurtling my way will be destined for endeavors that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Max Lucado, Anxious For Nothing 

You can be the air traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control tower and can direct the mental traffic of your world. Max Lucado A 4 N

(Thoughts circle above us. If one lands, it’s because we gave it permission)

Guard your thoughts and trust your Father. Satan wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts. He is always messing with our minds.

Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

(All reference from Anxious For Nothing by Lucado)

Research the number of thoughts per day each person has on average.

Cleveland Clinic… (info contained here is considered untrue)

Your brain determines every aspect of your life and without your brain, there is no self and no awareness of the world.

Your brain is a 3-pound universe that processes 70,000 thoughts each day using 100 billion neurons that connect at more than 500 trillion points through synapses that travel 300 miles per hour.

The signals that travel through these interconnected neurons form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Other resources agree that it is about 6200 per day

In a 2020 study, 184 participants with an average age of 29.4 were involved. Brain imaging scans were used to track when new thoughts began when at rest or watching a movie. Tests were performed at different times and on two different days.

These persons average 6.5 thoughts per minute so if they sleep 8 hours and no sleep thoughts are considered, they are awake 16 hours and the formula would be 6,5 x 60 x 16 = 6240. Participants in test are shown movies because transitioning events trigger “thought worms” or detectable patterns of brain activity—just like thoughts that emerge spontaneously.

Each new thought generates a new “worm” and researchers can recognize when one thought ends and the next begins.

The study may also find that a brain at rest will have fewer thoughts while during busy or tense times, the brain might feel jam-packed with racing thoughts.


Flawed Yet Mercifully Found

By Marcy Barthelette

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. Romans 7:15

I recall being in a Sunday School class a few years back when this scripture was read by a young man who had difficulty reading it even with advanced practice. Ken and I looked at one another and just shrugged. What in the world did he just say? I think most of the class thought he had misread it. It was only recently, when I read the same verse from The Message, that it made perfect sense to me.

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise…it happens so regularly that it’s predictable. Romans 7:15 & 21a)

The scripture goes on and on, basically repeating the same message about wanting to do what is right and always being tempted to make a bad decision. We all know that temptation lies just around the corner in wait, hoping to reel in an unsuspecting participant.

And Paul, the author of the scripture, was no stranger to bad deeds. He was born near or shortly after the birth of Jesus and grew up in his Jewish family. He was recognized early on as being intellectual ahead of his peers and trained zealously under the Pharisees and, indeed, became a leader in the group. As such, it was his duty to persecute Jews and he did so with relish. While he was well-educated, he is not thought to have been a member of the elite crowd. He had to work for a living and found his livelihood in tent making. His skill took him to many communities enabling the persecution of countless Jews. And remember, he enjoyed it!

Until that is, he encountered God on the road to Damascus. He was en route to the city for the express purpose of taking Jewish prisoners.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground  and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
Acts 9:3-5

Whoa! This is serious business. A flash from heaven and a voice from seemingly nowhere who claimed to be  Jesus. In the message, Saul was told to go into the city to learn what he should do, but when he tried to move, he was blind and his companions had to help him make the journey.

Meanwhile in Damascus, a disciple named Ananias was instructed by the Lord to go to a place appointed in a dream to find the man from Tarsus, Saul, and restore his sight. Ananias was arguably dubious toward this idea because he had heard that Saul was headed into town to round up Jews and take them to prison and he told the Lord of his reluctance. But the Lord said:

Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show Him how much he must suffer for my name. Acts 9:15-16

Once Ananias placed his hands on Saul and affirmed that Jesus truly had sent him, Saul regained his sight and was baptized, whereupon his preaching ministry commenced. He preached that Jesus is Lord in every town or city he visited. He no longer sought to punish Jews for their disobedience nor flaunted his lavish education of the law but, instead, sought to introduce as many Gentiles to Jesus as his time would allow. It’s very possible that his tent-making skills gave him access to the common people. It would be easy to attract a crowd to just sit, talk, and casually introduce Jesus. He made many enemies as a result of his teaching and often lived a harsh life but he never gave up the message that no matter who we are, Jesus is waiting to welcome us into the family of God.

After his baptism, Saul became known as Paul, and there is a great deal of discussion about why this occurred but that’s a subject for another time. Though Paul was a completely devoted disciple of Jesus and is credited with being second in importance only to Jesus in the New Testament and with having written or provided resources for thirteen of the twenty-seven books within that portion of the Bible, he always wrestled with the concept of right and wrong, as witnessed by the confusing scripture at the beginning of this story. Now we get to the really good part:

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me?  Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. Romans 7:24-25

What a message and what a promise! God wants all of his children to come to him, even the ones we may deem unworthy. If a guy like Saul could do a one-eighty and become Paul, a force for good, yet still need to wrestle the human forces within himself, who are we to say no when Jesus calls us to Him? It doesn’t matter how flawed we have become, where we’ve been, or how far into the well of despair we’ve fallen, He finds us, reaching His hand of mercy down into the well to pull us out. All we have to do is reach up!


A Raccoon Tale (or) It Takes Two

By Marcy Barthelette

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip (or a persistent raccoon) a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20

As you can see, I had difficulty deciding on a title for this little tale. Read on and you’ll soon see why.

I can’t help but chuckle when I recall a tug-of-war I fought with a thieving little raccoon many years ago. Our family was camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were just settling in when we noticed a racket in the back of the car. The hatch was open so we could retrieve all our equipment and a hungry little raccoon had found its way in. Perhaps I should refer to it as brazen because five people were milling around the campsite setting up our tents and cooking area. You’d think that would deter even a raccoon. Not so. This little rascal’s nose had caught the scent of the box of doughnuts we’d picked up to go with our freshly cooked breakfast the next morning. He sat perched on our gear debating which way to run and get out of the mess he found himself in now that I had interrupted his escape. In haste, I decided not to give him a choice and reached for the package. The battle was fierce and immediate. Neither of us was willing to let go of those doughnuts as my family howled with laughter. When my sensibility finally returned and I asked myself what I was going to do with those doughnuts when I won the war, which was doubtful, I gave up. The doughnut thief scampered quickly into the trees with its treasure and my family has had a hilarious tale to recall at every reunion. I’m always happy to provide them with comedic material.

Ken and I have had many raccoon experiences during our years together. We got the ball rolling quickly on our honeymoon at a remote beachfront campground in Florida. The critters appeared in abundance any time food was available. They circled round us and between our feet hoping for a morsel. I must say I feared they would jump on the table and make off with everything we had. All in all, they were pretty well-behaved, though a major nuisance.

Living in state parks for years added many raccoon encounters to our history but I remember once in particular when Ken was out patrolling and came upon a pair of them raiding a trash can. Normally he would have frightened them away, at least temporarily. When they get wind of something tasty, they don’t give up easily. And quite often you’ll see them quarreling over something wonderful they have discovered. But this time, an amazing scene was unfolding. Trash cans in the park sported a spring-loaded, supposedly animal-proof lid, but this pair worked it like pros. Then, while one held the lid open, the other searched for edibles and tossed them out. When they’d accumulated a stash of critter delicacies, the searcher climbed out, his partner in crime politely closed the lid and they proceeded to share their loot.

Ken was amazed at the efficiency with which these animals worked together, especially when they would typically snap at each other and chatter in anger just like children arguing over a toy. How often do we adopt that same manner of warfare when we find ourselves in disagreement with another person or group? How often do we respond in anger to a negative statement from a co-worker? How often do we mistake constructive criticism for negative criticism and take exception to a spouse’s remarks? And have we allowed a critique from our supervisor to simmer and fester until we can no longer work with that person? If you’re like me, you can answer “YES” to all of those questions. Now the dilemma is, how do we change that attitude?   

The answer could be as simple as saying nothing in response to gossip, a negative comment, or a perceived assault on our pride. It takes two for an argument to develop unless we want to argue with ourselves. However, I’ve found that when I think I’m arguing with myself, it’s really God I’m questioning. And that is a battle I’m not going to win. By learning to think before we speak or post a comment on social media, we can develop much better relationships and enjoy a lot more peace. Aren’t we all looking for a little peace in a world that is filled with chaos?  

It was a foregone conclusion that I was not going to win a battle with a raccoon whose nostrils had already been kissed by the sweet scent of sugary doughnuts. Not going to happen. So why did I respond with a mighty tug-of-war? I didn’t think at first because I wanted the last word, even with a raccoon. Pretty silly, huh!

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. II Timothy 2:23-24

The moral of the story; it always takes two (humans or raccoons) to maintain a quarrel. Be the peacemaker if you can. Likewise, two can usually complete a task faster and with better results. Be a helper when you can.


Hope Was Born

By Marcy Barthelette

By now, most of the trappings of Christmas are just a memory. We’re back at work or school, doing household chores and carpool duties, games, and extracurricular activities. It’s strange how we tend to overlook a very important aspect of the story we so recently re-enacted. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Wise Men, Magi, traveled far from their homes and at great peril to their lives. They had only a star and their knowledge of the heavens to guide them, yet they set out on a journey to find a child who had been prophesied as the King of the Jews.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Matthew 2:1-2

Who were these men really? So little is explained about their background. They must have been scholars of their time because they knew about the stars that populate the heavens. They had studied predictions concerning the birth of Jesus so they were literate. In fact, they were a class of priests who appear to have existed during Daniel’s lifetime as references in the book of Daniel point to his having served as head of the Magi in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. They served as political advisors, professors, and philosophers in the fields of medicine, history, religion, and astronomy. In other words, they were very well-educated men.

What then, inspired them to leave their comfortable positions to wander the desert following a star for the better part of two years? Their status surely allowed for more comforts on the road than ordinary folks like Mary and Joseph enjoyed, but still, the desert is hot by day, often quite cool by night, and water is not always readily available for drinking or bathing. So imagine yourself in long, heavy robes and only sandals on your feet, keeping company with camels, and searching for a child you’ve only read about. These guys were very committed to their quest. They truly longed to see the child, Jesus, who was said to have come from God in heaven to save the world.

We learned last week that they were way-laid by King Herod, who also searched for the child but for very different reasons. All these characters played roles in a drama orchestrated by God from the beginning of time. God knew that man would need to be saved from himself and the plan seriously rolled into action on the night Jesus was born. The Wise Men, or Magi, along with the shepherds, represent seekers. They all wanted to see the baby and were willing to travel where He was to meet Him.

You’ve surely heard it said, “wise men still seek him.” The Magi set the example for the “seekers” of today, an example of perseverance, devotion, awe, of worship.

Christ never turns away from any heart that is open to him. Those who seek him will find him every time.

Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Manger

And today, as over the ages, He meets us wherever we are. He hopes we will invite Him into our hearts, however, broken or fouled they may be. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect or clean. He asks us to seek Him and invite Him in. It’s that simple. Are you ready?

The manger invites, even dares us to believe the best is yet to come. And it could all begin today.

But if it doesn’t, there is a reason. No day is accidental or incidental. No acts are random or wasted.

 Look at the Bethlehem birth. A king ordered a census. Joseph was forced to travel. Mary, round

as a ladybug, bounced on a donkey’s back. The hotel was full. The hour was late.

The event was one big hassle. Yet, out of the hassle, hope was born.

Max Lucado, Because of Bethlehem

And those who sought Him found the greatest gift of all! We can find it too!   



What Was Herod’s Problem?

By Marcy Barthelette
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the Wise Men, and he learned from them the time when the first star appeared.
Matthew 2:7

King Herod ruled over Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. During his forty-one-year reign, he established himself as a builder. That is not to say that he wielded a hammer but he ordered the construction and restoration of large churches and other public buildings including the second temple in Jerusalem. He also acquired another reputation along the way, that of a ruthless barbarian. He is known to have killed his own sons because he learned of a plot to overthrow him. He killed anyone who stood in his way of getting or keeping what he thought should be his.

Every story has to have a villain, even the birth of Jesus, and King Herod fits that description to a tee. The man is mean, hate-filled, vengeful, the nasty adjectives could go on and on. Any way you look at it, Herod was one bad dude. So when he called the Wise Men to meet with him, he wasn’t totally honest with them. He was old and sick and desperate to assure that he didn’t lose his position of importance.

Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too.” Matthew 2:8

He could have accompanied them, but then he would have had to look Jesus in the face and pretend to worship him. No, it was a better plan to send the Wise Men ahead to do his dirty work for him. And, of course, they went and followed the star which led them to the home where Jesus’ family was living at that time. When they had worshipped Him and presented their gifts, they followed a warning delivered in a dream and traveled a different route back to their homeland because there was a danger in returning to Herod.

Upon hearing this news, Herod was mightily angered and he did what he always did. He ordered not just Jesus killed, but every male child under the age of two, based upon the calculation of when the star had first appeared. He ordered a massacre of innocent children to save his own comfortable position. He feared a toddler!

What would cause him to do that? Well, you see, Herod was not a stupid man and he was surrounded by scribes who were able to define and translate documents of the time and they had warned of the predictions of one who would come to save the world, a Messiah who was called King of the Jews. That was Herod’s title and he wasn’t taking any chances that some upstart would overthrow him.

I see him, but not here and now, I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel….a ruler will rise in Jacob…Numbers:24:17,19 (paraphrased)

God took measures to be sure his Son would survive the wrath of Herod. As was his style, he used angels to deliver his messages, in person and in dreams, to the characters in his drama. He’s always moving people and things around the universe so that His plan can come to fruition. And like a chess match, it sometimes takes lots of strategic moves for everything to fall perfectly into place before “checkmate” becomes a reality.

Many little boys were sacrificed to his tirade and fear, but one would not die. And that was because he had to live in order to die another day. This, too, was a fulfillment of earlier prophecies.   

It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. John 11:50

These words are from Caiaphas and were uttered as Jesus went about his adult ministry and, at the same time, leading government officials were plotting to kill him. Everything happens for a reason and only God knows those reasons. What was Herod’s problem? The simple answer is Jesus. Herod wanted nothing and no one to detract from his sovereign rule. Jesus was a problem that he thought he could overcome, but God had other plans. He had tried to get Herod’s attention with messages from the Torah and visitors from the east. Herod wasn’t listening and because he chose himself over Jesus, he died a lonely and lost old man. We have a choice as well.

Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print. He didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.”

 It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure.

Max Lucado from Because of Bethlehem

We think of Jesus as entering our world unnoticed but for the shepherds. It is said that kings and rulers were unaware of his presence, but Herod was very aware. And though Jesus was only a tiny, helpless baby, the forces of evil were already at work to destroy him. They still are today. But He can’t be destroyed. He’ll always be among us, waiting for us to recognize Him. Hold Him in your heart, not just on Christmas, but every day.

Heavenly Father, make my heart a manger where the Christ child can be born today. (And every day)

Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Mange



Why Were Shepherds First to See Him?

By Marcy Barthelette

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Luke 2:8

Did you get that? They were in the fields and what do shepherds do in the fields? They live and sleep and eat with sheep. How many of us have laid down at night in the midst of a flock of sheep who have been wandering and running all day long and never bathing? Those shepherd’s nostrils were so filled with the smell of sheep that they didn’t even notice the stench rising from their own bodies. These were the lowest of the low on the social platform of the day. As a matter of fact, they had no social life. They just tended sheep. They were often young and inexperienced in anything but sheep. Uneducated, often illiterate, you get the picture.

And here they were, out in the field, away from all civilization just watching over their flock, keeping predators at bay, perhaps some were laughing around a campfire while others slept. And what happened?

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified….
Luke 2:9

How could they be anything but terrified? Here they were, young men with no life experience. Suddenly the brightest of lights appears seemingly from nowhere and angels fill the heavens with their radiant presence. And please note the word suddenly. There was no warning sign. It just descended upon them and completely enveloped them. Of course, they were terrified.

…but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” Luke 2:10a

What would it take to reassure you not to be afraid if you were suddenly surrounded by angels and a light so bright you were almost blinded by it? Let’s just say you’re on a little camping trip sitting around a beautiful campfire and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. Someone is strumming a guitar while others softly sing. It seems an idyllic evening and here comes a host of angels, not one, but a heavenly host bathed in light. And I wonder when the angel spoke, would we be reassured or more frightened, or are we just so jaded that we would scoff at such a miracle?

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:10b

Whatever our modern-day reaction might be, the shepherds had their own take on things. They became excited. What kind of good news could these messengers have to share with the lowliest of servants that it should be delivered in such splendor? What did they do to deserve such fanfare? And how will this news affect them?

“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth,  lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12

We know the rest of the story. The shepherds talked among themselves and quickly determined that they must go in search of this baby. Whoever he was, he was certainly of great importance and they did not want to miss such an opportunity. And so they came to be the first to lay eyes on a baby boy named Jesus and they recognized him as the one who could give them life and hope.

Why were these filthy, unwashed, uneducated shepherds the first? Because Jesus’ mission was to care for the “least of these”. He didn’t hesitate to mingle with the unclean or uneducated. He reached out to hurting people, the sick, and the unwanted. He didn’t care about rubbing elbows with the wealthy and powerful. He spent his time feeding, healing, and caring for those who would welcome him and, sometimes, those who didn’t, just because he loved them all. And he still does! 

So consider this: On the night that Jesus’ life began in this world, an inexorable plan was set in motion—leading to the day when he would lay down his life for the world. All of this in the fashion of a truly good shepherd. So an angelic visitation to shepherds in Bethlehem—men who understood feeding and guiding and saving—was the best way for chapter one to begin.
Mel Lawrenz, Christmas Joy

Why shepherds, indeed! The answer is a simple one if we open our eyes and hearts to the message of the manger.

When God wanted to send his Son into the world, he picked the most unlikely girl he could find to be the mother. He picked a forgotten province in the Roman Empire. He arranged for his son to become a part of the hated Jewish race. Then he found the most unlikely hometown and arranged for his son to be born in a stable and take his first nap in a feeding trough.

Jesus was born that way in order to show us how God does business. He doesn’t do business with the proud. He doesn’t run with the rulers of the world. He doesn’t side with the rich. God is at home with the humble, the tired, the weak, and the lowly of this world. He does business with those who fear his name.

Ray Pritchard, Why He Came



By Marcy Barthelette

He must be great because the preparation for His coming took thousands of years!

Ray Pritchard, Why He Came, Advent Devotionals

Never a truer statement has been made. From the time when Adam and Eve inhabited the Garden until an extremely crowded night in Bethlehem, believers contemplated the coming of a new king. He would no doubt be wrapped in royal finery and grow up to be a mighty warrior, one who could save them from their tormenters and restore them to a life they could only dream of.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Isaiah 9:6

But God, being God, had other plans. You know the drill. While we’re busy planning, God rearranges our lives, often making them inconvenient for a time, perhaps a very long time. But eventually, in His time, the story plays out just as He had planned.

You may recall the story of a favored son, Joseph, who found himself in the hands of jealous brothers planning to throw him into a pit and leave him to die. Instead, they sold him to traveling traders who in turn sold him to a man named Potiphar, captain of the palace guard for the king of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in the Lord helped him to become an indispensable part of Potiphar’s staff but also made him a target of Potiphar’s wife who accused him of raping her. Joseph was thrown into jail but his faith continued and he became a favorite of the prison warden. Through a series of dream interpretations, Joseph was placed in charge of all the king’s land and ultimately, as predicted in the dreams, a great famine devastated the land and Joseph was able to save his family from starvation because of the position he had attained. God’s plan took many years to unfold but Joseph grew in faith during that time.

And then there was a certain young shepherd who brought lunch to his brothers and found himself facing a giant with only a slingshot and a pouch of carefully chosen rocks. A horrific war was in progress and a father chose to send a boy to check on his brothers. On his arrival, David saw the magnitude of the battle and heard a challenge. He chose to face the giant who had been destroying everyone in his path and he won. It didn’t happen because David went there looking for a fight but because God set a plan in motion long before that day that would place him in that situation at that moment in time and through his faith and the invincibility of youth, David accomplished what no man had been able to do. It was no coincidence that David was there or that he became a great king later in life or that he loved God with all his heart, even through his failings. It is also no coincidence that God’s Son was born into His earthly life many generations later through the lineage of the same David.

His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. Isaiah 9:7a

And the birth of Jesus, being the greatest event ever in history, the one by which we mark our time as before and after, would certainly take a lot of planning. A virgin, chosen because of her betrothal to a different Joseph, one who descended from King David, was miraculously impregnated. A virgin birth was necessary because the Child had to be born free from sin. Mary accepted her role in the drama that was about to unfold and ultimately God spoke to Joseph through a dream and reassured him that all was well. When Mary was nearly due to give birth, the leader of the Roman world decreed that a census should be taken and Joseph, accompanied by Mary, headed to Bethlehem to be counted among those in that city, the land of Joseph’s ancestor, David. God always knew the town would be overrun with people and that the innkeeper would have to turn away the weary travelers, but a small spark of compassion prompted the offer of a stable where the couple could rest on the hay. They were barely settled when the Baby was delivered and wrapped in whatever rags were at hand.

She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7

Why a stable? I think it was appropriate that Jesus entered a dark and dirty world through a dark and smelly stable. After all, He came to bring cleansing to every person who would choose Him. Why were the lives of Mary and Joseph interrupted, why was a census decreed, and why did the innkeeper turn away an obviously pregnant woman? It all happened just as God had pre-ordained. But what an inauspicious entry for one who was supposed to be the king of the Christian world. That, however, was the point. God often speaks in a whisper.

It was a monumental task to align all the events preceding Jesus’ birth in such a way that they came together on one wonderful night in a smelly, dirty stable when everyone was so busy with travel and trading and finding a place to sleep that they didn’t take time to notice a miracle happening just down the road. Are we paying attention to the miracle right now during this Advent season? Are we hearing the whisper, seeing the star, singing with the angels?

Are we finding the hope that was offered that night, all in accordance with God’s plan and His good timing?

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.‘“ Matthew 1:23



Why Did Jesus Come?

By: Marcy Barthelette

Why Did Jesus Come?

It’s a question scholars have debated for a couple of millennia and will no doubt continue to discuss until His return. Christians believe that He came to deliver all of God’s followers from the pain of sin. That His death on the cross removed the burden of sin from any human who confesses to sin and asks for forgiveness. It seems simple enough and yet an enormous percentage of the world’s population doesn’t accept the gift that is offered by His sacrifice.

Though God created a bright and beautiful world just for us, many choose to hide in dark corners and under shadows in order to live a lifestyle of their choosing. And the interesting part of the equation is that God gave us free will, the ability to choose for ourselves. Why then, is it, that so many choose darkness over light? That’s a tough question for me because I relish light and sunshine, bright colors, and blue skies. To live in a world of darkness would prove very difficult for me, whether physically or mentally. That’s not to say that I or any Christian make nothing but pure choices. We all have our flaws, but the difference is that we can go to our heavenly Father and sincerely ask forgiveness with every intention of doing better, and He will offer it.

Last Sunday marked the beginning of our Advent season. What does this really mean?

Something that Ken and I have noticed in the past few years is that everyone is offering advent products for sale and the products usually have no connection to the preparations being made for the birth of Baby Jesus. Many of them distract children with a countdown to Santa’s miraculous sleigh ride. Others apply to product names. We saw a case of Advent wine. Maybe they count the days to the office Christmas party. Take a look at Amazon and you’ll find everything from dinosaurs to Guardians of the Galaxy to National Geographic scientific calendars. Let’s not forget chocolate and Harry Potter. Wow! What a dazzling array of glitz yet the Advent we celebrate leads to a dark stable, lit only by a bright star.

Let’s take a look at the word advent. defines it as a coming into place, view, or being and usually referring to the coming of Christ into the world.

Merriam-Webster says it is the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting. When not capitalized it is a coming into being or use such as the advent of spring (beginning).

Cambridge Dictionary calls it the fact of an event happening, an invention being made, or a person arriving. This would be the uncapitalized version. Secondly, it is referred to as the period of four weeks before Christmas, with no mention of Christ other than its inclusion in the word Christmas, and advent is also still uncapitalized.

And one more, Britannica calls it the time when something begins or arrives and when applied to the Christian religion, it is the period of time beginning four Sundays before Christmas.

All the sources agree it is a time of waiting for something special. I think an Immaculate Conception culminating in a common animal stall under the light of a star would certainly qualify as special. In reality, it is a signal to the world that the Light has arrived, and all who diligently seek it will find it. How will our kids ever know the real story if we don’t tell them over and over again through the Advent calendar that we choose, the things we read and watch, the gifts we share with those in need of a helping hand, the ways in which we treat everyone around us. Please take time each Sunday (and every day) of this Advent season to remember that Jesus came to love, to teach, to heal, and especially to save us.  

Enjoy your celebrations with family and friends, relish the laughter and joy of children, and let the music and the message wrap you in a blanket of love. Be a giver of light and always remember that we only have Christmas because Christ came. Let’s prepare ourselves to celebrate a miraculous yet beautifully humble birth!



Say Thank You

By Marcy Barthelette

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father …

James 1:17 NLT

Good old Missouri has done it again. She transitioned from summer-like days near eighty degrees to heavy morning frost and daytime highs in the thirties or forties and she did it in a matter of twenty-four hours. I haven’t lived in many places outside Missouri, only a few years in Florida where temperatures are fairly consistent, so I’ve often wondered if other parts of the world make seasonal changes as rapidly as Missouri does. Quite honestly, I enjoy the seasons, except for the cold of winter. I’m sure aging joints and creaking bones have something to do with that. And new-fallen snow is lovely but I can do without the icy trees that down power lines and make the road surfaces treacherous. But lots of folks love winter and are anxious to see those first flurries float to the ground. Those are the days when I like to curl up in front of a nice fire with a good book in hand…. well, on my Kindle app.

It didn’t even take cold weather for all the yard ornaments to start popping up. We had goblins and witches and spiders on the day after Labor Day! They disappeared on November first and out came the so-called  Christmas decorations, inflatable versions of snowmen, Santa, reindeer, and, of course, grinches. Is it just me or is our society pushing the envelope with regard to Christmas decorations and advertising? Suddenly we have a whole Black Friday Month with ‘Killer” deals every morning from every retailer who has our email address or phone number. And last week when I shopped at Walmart, they played Christmas music on a continuous loop, most of it designed to encourage kids to make their wish list early. Do kids really need encouragement in that regard?   

Has anyone ever heard of Thanksgiving? You know, that day in late November when we gather ‘round the table laden with roasted turkey and all the trimmings, an astounding array of decadent desserts, and an interesting assortment of family and friends? And all during this amazing social event, multiple TVs are blasting football games at a level that allows all interested parties to hear from the dining room. And let’s not forget kids on a sugar high bouncing off the walls. It seems that by the time we’ve gorged ourselves on empty calories, napped despite the blaring TVs and calmed the squealing kids, it’s time to say goodbye and we’re not even sure why we gathered.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! II Corinthians 9:15 ESV

Maybe your Thanksgiving Day doesn’t resemble the one I have portrayed and I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t enjoy time spent with those we love. Jesus enjoyed a good party or dining with friends. His example teaches us to find joy in those around us but, in the midst of all the chaos, each of us should spend some time recalling the blessings we enjoy, the things we need to be thankful for. Gratitude blesses us and those around us in so many ways. The truth is, everything we have is on loan from God. It’s all His and He chooses to share it with us. We can never show our gratitude enough, but we can certainly make a good, honest attempt, not just on Thanksgiving but every day. He wants to hear it from you….the simple words, Thank You!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

And be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NIV

**This Sunday begins the season of Advent, the time when Christians everywhere contemplate age-old questions about the birth of Jesus. Why did He leave His seat by the Father to come to an earth filled with danger and chaos? Why was He birthed in a stable, a place where dirty animals ate and slept? Why were lowly shepherds the first to hear the news? Why was a mighty king already plotting to kill Him? What was His mission here on earth? Join in the journey to the manger and learn the answers or immerse yourself in the recalling of answers already learned. We will have questions until the day we see heaven and that’s the gift Jesus came to share with us…eternity in heaven!

Now that’s something to be truly THANKFUL for!