Escape Your Pit

By: Marcy Barthelette
 
God found Gideon in a hole, Joseph in a prison, Daniel in a lion’s den. Next time you feel unqualified
to be used by God, remember: He tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal. Jon Acuff
This quote is apparently pretty well known and comes from a prominent author, motivational speaker, blogger, etc. I had heard neither the quote nor the author’s name until reading a recent devotional. That’s right, I’m an old school person who doesn’t keep up with all the social media hoopla. Yes, I use the internet and my iPad daily so I’m “sorta” tech savvy but there’s a very noticeable gap between myself and millennials or even Gen Xers. But when I see a quote that reeks with possibilities for a new article, I grab it and let my imagination run.
So let’s turn to the Bible for a little refresher about these three men, Gideon, Joseph, and Daniel, who were just ordinary guys chosen by God to be part of extraordinary stories. Gideon was the smallest man in his family which was the smallest in their tribe and he was standing in a deep pit that had been dug to hide food from those who had overtaken the land of the disobedient Israelites. In these pitiful circumstances, God spoke to him and told him to lead an army against the aggressors. As you would expect, he objected, but with God’s help and some interesting battle strategy, Gideon’s army prevailed.
We know about Joseph’s coat of many colors, a gift from his father who favored him over the rest of his sons.
Joseph’s ten stepbrothers were jealous and they first plotted to kill him. Instead, they dropped him into a deep
cistern, whereupon they encountered a caravan of merchants and they sold their brother to said merchants. He
was later sold again to a man named Potiphar whose wife accused Joseph of rape and had him thrown in
prison. It was during this time that he became known as an interpreter of dreams and eventually landed favor
with emperor Pharaoh. When Joseph predicted 7 years of abundance followed by great famine, he and
Pharaoh begin an ingenious plan to save a portion of each year’s grain and store it for future use. The story concludes with Joseph saving Egypt and his family from starvation during the seven-year famine.
We all know that Daniel had to face a den of ferocious lions, but why? It seems the king of Babylon thought highly of Daniel and had appointed him as the leader of a select group of advisors who served the king himself. These men did not like Daniel and they asked the king to create a new law. It stated that any man found guilty of worshipping anyone other than the king would be sentenced to a one-way ticket into the lion’s den. When Daniel continued to worship God and refused to obey the new law, the king had no choice but to throw him to the lions, even though his heart was broken. Of course, God sent an angel to quiet the lions and Daniel walked free, much to the king’s relief.
These are brief and somewhat lighthearted glimpses into stories that happened a long time ago and helped weave the tapestry of our rich Christian history. But we still have plenty of pits today, very dangerous pits! In reading Jon Acuff’s blog I didn’t always respond to his approach but I found a couple of points that really resonated. I learned that he and I agree completely regarding internet behavior. Social media rule number 1; Think before you type! You are not anonymous! Your internet footprint is forever! Comments made carelessly can impact the lives of others, as well as your own life, in ways you least expect. Forever is a very deep pit and just one of many we can find ourselves in. There are countless others.
Lately, I’ve been digging my own very deep pit! I’m just plain tired of COVID 19! I want to go grocery shopping without fearing I may catch “THE VIRUS”. I surely need some time in the woods in our camper and a real vacation sounds somewhat like heaven on earth. My biggest wish is that I could spend time with my kids and grandkids. They all live away from here and all are working and involved in normal activities, thus they are exposed to other people who may have the virus. Ken and I are at high risk because of our advanced age and other issues, so the family as a whole understands, theoretically, that we need to keep our distance. But our hearts speak a very different language.
So, each morning I have to drag myself out of my deep, dangerous pit of discouragement and self-pity. Believe
me, I could lie there and wallow all day long but something gets me up, takes me out for a morning walk, tells
me to water my plants when rain becomes sparse and brings me back indoors to try and find new things to do
that will add a little spark of normalness to our lives. If I let my mind wander I can almost taste that delicious
blackberry cobbler shared around the campfire and made in the Dutch oven that we gave our daughter a few
years ago. Now that was a gift that keeps on giving and maybe one day, we’ll share another cobbler.
For now, I’m reminded of another of Jon’s quotes that stirred my resolve; “Pivot, Don’t Panic.”
Pivot; make a small course correction and maybe some tiny thing that I say or do can help someone else climb out of a self-made pit. Pivot; and maybe a really nasty day can become a thing of beauty. Pivot; and maybe someone can see a little of Jesus in me. That’s why I have to get up in the morning. I have a very important job to do and so do you. So, whatever pit you find yourself in, claw your way to the top and invite the Holy Spirit to flood your being with hope and possibilities. You’ll be glad you did and remember to “pivot, don’t panic”.
 
Like the guide who knows the only way out of the caves, God guides us through life. He’s the One who knows
the pitfalls and dangers, and He’s the One whose voice we can trust and listen to. Soul Fuel, Bear Grylls
Your potential is the sum of all the possibilities God has for your life. Charles Stanley
 
 
 
Notes: (1) Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of six books. For over 20 years he’s helped
some of the biggest brands in the world tell their story. Most recently he’s spoken at conferences, colleges,
companies and churches. See more at www.acuff.me
(2)The full stories of Gideon, Joseph and Daniel can be found in Judges 6-7, Genesis 37-39, Daniel 6.
(3) The portions of this article regarding COVID 19 sound a lot like Pastor Sarah’s sermon from Sunday
morning. The truth is I write my articles the week before they appear in the Gatepost so this was
completed before Sunday. I can only assume that God thought we needed a double dose this week
and it isn’t the first time this has happened. Sometimes it takes more than one messenger!

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A Time of Pruning….Part 4 Make Yourself at Home

By: Marcy Barthelette
But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure
that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows
who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
John 15:7-8
Where do you feel most at home? Is your own house your refuge through thick and thin? Do you travel back to
Mom and Dad or your grandparents’ home to get that warm, fuzzy feeling of comfort. Wherever you bask in the
glow of love and maybe a little spoiling, remember that God spoils you most with His unconditional love. Before
you ever existed, you were provided an unlimited warranty. If you follow His path and serve Him, He will listen
to your prayers and travel with you on every journey. Your place in eternity is guaranteed.
I think we could all agree that God has been doing a large amount of pruning over the past few months. In my
lifetime, our world has seen some radical shifts in behavior and perspective. I was born at the end of World
War II. I never felt the pinch of rationing goods and doing without. I wasn’t able to understand the significance
of the atomic bomb until much later but I grew up with the stories of those who had experienced these changes
so I’ve always felt that they had a lot to do with shaping my life. My family worked hard and had few material
things during those times. They passed many of their economic and political views down to me, though it was a
number of years before their ideals really started to take root. Like most teens and young adults I went through
the desire to break away from what had governed my life to that point and start something new. But eventually
I had to admit that my parents got smarter as I got older.
As I became aware of the reality of Hiroshima and then the Cold War, I knew that I wanted to see a better,
more caring world. I tried to do my small part to educate children and soften the views adults held toward one
another. But the challenges kept coming. Our country went through assassinations of its leaders in the 1960s
and violent protests of various wars. The Civil Rights movement came to the forefront and made some strides
but never completed its mission. Then along came a group of terrorists who rocked our world, especially our
nation and all thoughts turned toward security. Political rhetoric has heated to the boiling point and our long
held fears of a global pandemic have become real and taken center stage. In the midst of that, racial injustice
reared its ugly head once again and protesters took to the streets in huge numbers. Soon looters and
vengeance seekers obscured the message we needed to hear. Our world and the safety of our nation have
been severely damaged by the pain of disease and the tragedy of violence. Where has God been in all of this?
He has been everywhere, all around us and wanting to dwell in us. The invitation has always been there. He
was in every foxhole and prison camp. He has wept with us when losses seemed too great to bear. When
theologies have clashed, He has never left our side. When anyone has been oppressed or lonely or hungry, he
was there to provide hope. And as we have watched our current lifestyle change in ways we couldn’t imagine,
He has been ready to pick us up and help us carry on.
He knew about all of these lifechanging events before they happened. He didn’t stop them because He gave
us free will to make our own decisions. But he did try to do a lot of pruning along the way. In so many personal
ways He tried to help us see His perspective. He has the ability to do anything, but He allows us to choose
where we want to dwell.
Are you ready to make yourself at home? Do you choose to dwell in Him and He in you
or do you choose to stand alone?
But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple. Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your
love. And don’t take yourself too seriously ─ take God seriously! Micah 6:8 The Message
We’ve looked at snippets of our scripture reference for this series but I believe it bears repeating in its entirety.
John 15:1-8 (MSG)
I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear
grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes
by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and
organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from
me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my
words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is
how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
My prayer:
Lord, always let there be less of me and more of You and let me be a really good gardener of Your people!

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A Time of Pruning: Part 3… Best Friends

  By: Marcy Barthelette
 
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate
and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. John 15:5 (MSG)
Every gardener experiences an adrenaline spike when a spade full of soil uncovers a collection of earthworms!
These little wonders are a gardener’s best friend! They work through the soil ingesting decaying material; they
then fragment it, add nutrients, and pass it back into the soil. This age-old natural process produces well-fertilized soil that is aerated sufficiently to provide drainage for all growing things.
The insect world may include many garden predators but it is balanced by a sizeable collection of friendly
species. Ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, certain wasps, and beetles, as well as spiders, can provide a
variety of protections. A little online research can point even the novice gardener to the correct solution for their
specific problem and help find a method to attract that beneficial insect in a natural way. Insects require host
plants so learning which ones to use as well as when and where to use them can net very rewarding results.
Another important friend in the garden is a collection of sturdy well-maintained tools designed for specific tasks.
You’ll need pruners, of course, along with a spade and shovel, trowels in various sizes and shapes, a good
rake, and a few others as you learn your specific needs. A visit to a few thrift stores and yard sales can net
some great bargains with lots of life still in them. Remember to clean all your tools after each use and oil when
necessary to keep them operating well. Store them in the same dry place each time you use them so you
always know where to find them.
Just as it takes an army of weapons to grow a healthy garden and enjoy an abundant harvest, we need to
cultivate good personal habits in order to build a healthy spiritual life. Every day we must make conscious
choices about the way we live.
Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.
John 15:6 (MSG)
What behaviors can separate us from our relationship with God? How do you suppose He feels when He sees
us reading books, listening to music, or watching movies that dishonor Him? Do you think He wants us to
damage our bodies with dangerous substances or even foods that are unhealthy? And what about the
language we sometimes use when things don’t go as planned? I’ve learned the hard way that when my
relationship with God is wavering it’s because I have strayed. He is constant but I sometimes have the urge to
wander a bit. And that’s when He prunes the deadwood. Thank goodness He has a well-maintained pruner
because I need to feel it more often than I want to admit. We need to choose our friends and activities wisely,
just as if God were watching all the time because He is. When we choose unwisely, He is hurt and
disappointed, just like an earthly father only more so. We are His creations and we should strive to please Him.
Jesus understands our temptations because He experienced them too. He honored His father by not caving in.
 
God guides us through life. He’s the one who knows the pitfalls and dangers, and He’s the one
whose voice we can trust and listen to. Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel
I believe God wants us to follow His written guidelines and to care about all His people. He wants us to share
His word and His love with people everywhere. Others often need to feel His love in action before they can

absorb His word and sometimes that means we must be in places where we are less than comfortable. If we
are there to do His will and share His love, then God will be present with us. And sometimes we find new
friends in places we never expected, a harvest of new believers.

Just as a dad wants to come home and share the day’s experiences with his kids, God wants to hear directly
from us. We just need to talk to Him. It doesn’t matter where we are, what we say, or how we say it. He already
knows our hearts but He wants us to share with Him. We can talk to Him during the busyness of our day or in
the quiet of a sanctuary. It matters not, He just wants to hear from us. Think of it as a teen checking in with
parents or a child seeking an answer to a question about the universe. God wants to hear the good, the bad and the ugly of your life. Lay it on Him, share those burdens. He can take it and He’ll give you the help you need if you let Him. Make yourself at home with Him. He is the best friend you’ll ever have!
But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you….John 15:7a
Next week we’ll explore the meaning of home…

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A Time of Pruning: Part Two – Know Your Enemies

By: Marcy Barthelette

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. John 15:4a
Wow! Think about that statement. He makes His home in us. That is a powerful reality. The God of the
universe dwells inside us. What an awesome gift and yet, what an awesome responsibility! How do we prepare
ourselves for that responsibility? Let’s search our gardens again for some answers.
Sometimes, no matter how much I care for and protect the living things in my yard, something happens to
upset the balance and if I don’t react quickly, serious damage will occur. To stay on top of any issues I must
walk through all areas of the yard routinely and search for signs of any foreign creatures that might be lurking.
In a wet spring I often find the leaves of my daylilies literally covered with aphids. These are nasty little insects
that suck the life out of plants if not abated. A good soaking in soapy water is all it takes but first I must be
aware of their presence. In June, Japanese beetles make their ravenous appearance. Some years they cluster
by the thousands decimating every leaf of their favorite plants or trees. Unless I intercede they only depart
when all the leaves of those plants or trees resemble fancy lace. And let’s not forget the infamous tomato
hornworm. These big green guys are as fat as my fingers and sport a little horn at the rear as a defense
mechanism, hence the name. They can completely strip the plants overnight if left unchecked. You’ve
undoubtedly stepped in a mole tunnel in your lawn. One of their favorite foods is tulip bulbs! And don’t get me
started on the infamous grub! In addition to a host of predators, weather, especially in Missouri, is a constant
threat. Between wind and hail, drenching rain, and prolonged drought, our plants have to be very tough to
survive and many don’t.
If all these enemies and more are out to get our gardens, imagine what ugly things want to penetrate the armor
of our lives. My goodness, the temptations are all around us. What do we do with that juicy story that one friend
shared about another friend last week? How do we react when we arrive at a party to find that drugs are being
passed freely throughout the crowd? When we’re scheduled to participate in a mission project but a friend
invites us on an exciting trip, do we keep our commitment or find an excuse to have fun instead? When dinner
isn’t on the table when we arrive home from work, do we display anger toward our spouse? When an attractive
person makes an inappropriate move on us, how do we respond? In the face of violence, how do we react?
You can see where this is going. Every day we can be tempted to act outside God’s plan for our lives. By
employing our moral compass and using God’s word as our operations manual, we can recognize the enemies
all around us. Does that mean we can’t have fun? Of course not. I believe God has a pretty keen sense of
humor and wants all His family to laugh and be happy. In doing so, we must be aware of the external
temptations that can lead us off course. We must also allow ourselves to be filled to overflowing with His spirit.
This is our core. He offers us the gift of Himself and if we respect ourselves and keep our inner houses clean,
we create an environment where He may dwell and flourish.
In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by
itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
John 15: 4b
Protected with the armor of faith, we can walk, as Jesus did, among those who need help finding their way. We
can do the work we were created to do…help make disciples for Jesus Christ.
Next week we’ll talk about friends….

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A Time of Pruning Part One: Establish a Base

 I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.
John 15:1 MSG
I have treasured the words of John 15 for as long as I can remember and I really appreciate the way in which

The Message presents it. I imagine I identify with this scripture mostly because of my love of gardening and of
all growing things. Whether they be wildflowers or highly developed hybrids, a forest of towering trees

 

underscored by decorative bloomers, vegetables of every type and color, it matters not. I love them all and

during the long cold winter, I live for the day when tiny sprouts show their heads and I can play in the dirt on my
hands and knees. I never bother myself with fancy manicures and I wear only a plain wedding band because
when I go out my door, there is a great likelihood that I will find myself yanking out weeds or pulling debris out
of my landscape beds. I can’t help it. Instinct kicks in and I’m quickly buried in dirt and refuse.

 
Every gardener knows that plants require a good base in order to flourish. It’s vital to the health of your
landscape or garden that you become intimately acquainted with the specific needs of the plants you choose.
A little homework before you shop can go a long way toward making your life a lot easier. Smartphones allow
us the luxury of last-minute researching at the garden center but for a big project, advance planning is best.
You need to know how much light is needed as well as watering requirements. The type of soil required by
your plant is very important and we all know that the Ozarks can’t boast the best of soils, but amendments can
be added to achieve the desired result if you don’t mind hard work and some expense. Soil and water kind of
go hand in hand. Cacti and succulents need little water because they retain it in their bodies so sandy soil is
best for them. Most hybrids are a little fussier and will want well-drained but well-composted soil. Aquatic
species can be planted directly in a water garden. Native species, those that grow naturally in a given area
usually tolerate poorer soils and less water than hybridized varieties. Just remember different plants have
different requirements in order to be fruitful.
What does all this have to do with our scripture? It’s simple. Our relationship with God requires a healthy
amount of homework too. We need to read His word and talk to Him regularly. You may be a visual learner
who needs lots of life pictures and group experience may be your best choice or you may be a serious
reader who prefers to study alone. However you do it, get yourself into the Word. Establish your base in Him.
John calls to me in this scripture because of my love of God’s green growing creations and I believe he was
trying to tell me that I need to make whatever effort is necessary to stay close to my heavenly father. When our
relationship suffers, it is not God who creates the distance. I am the one who has wandered away, tempted by
something that is not healthy for me. Sometimes He provides lots of rope and I find myself knee-deep in the
muck of life. But sometimes He provides clues along the way that can prevent my descent into whatever mess
lies lurking before me. Whatever the case, at some point I feel the pain of that pruning saw and I know I have
to find my way back.
And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
John 15:2 MSG
The question is, how do I bear fruit once more. My garden helps me find those answers because it is there that
I find plenty of time to talk to Him, to think, and to recover my sense of balance. God listens when I am tending
His creations and He knows my heart is getting back its focus.
I don’t know about the messes in your life but I’ve gotten myself into some nasty ones. The beautiful truth is
that it doesn’t matter what I’ve done. He will forgive me and give me another fresh start. He’ll do that for you
too. It just requires a contrite heart and some honest conversation.
You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. John 15:3
God is the best listener. You don’t have to shout nor cry out loud because He hears
even the very silent prayer of a sincere heart. Anonymous

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On Fire for Christ

 By: Casey Freeland

Picture this, you are in a foreign country and no one speaks your language but suddenly a group of men starts speaking to you about the importance of salvation and turning away from the evil in your life. How would you respond? Would you run away, laugh at them, or maybe seriously consider what they had to say? This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. 

     Pentecost is a time of celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and other followers of Christ. Scripture says, a crowd that was gathered that day saw tongues of fire come to rest on the believers and they began speaking in languages they did not know. 

     Could you imagine the absolute bewilderment of the crowd? Knowing that these men did not speak this language, but here they were delivering a clear message because the Holy Spirit made it so. This lead some 3,000 people to be baptized that day, making the decision to follow Christ. 

     God wants us to be on fire for him today. He wants us to spread the word just like the Apostles did. Pentecost is significant to us because it is what really started the church as we know it. The Holy Spirit made a way for people of all languages and backgrounds to hear and understand his Word. 

     Pentecost should remind us of all of the excitement that God has to offer. The prophecy was being fulfilled and people were so excited to share the good news with everyone they saw. Are we still that way today? Do we try to bring people to Christ? Our insignia has a flame and a cross reminding us that we were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be on fire every day because we know the unwavering love that Christ has to offer all who choose to follow him. We are each called to be witnesses for Him and are called to share His message, even if it is in a way that may be unknown to us. Trust that God will always lead you in the way you should go. Be on fire for Christ.  


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Do You Have Enough to Go the Distance? Part 5

Spring Cleaning

By: Marcy Barthelette
Memorial Day has been observed and spring is transitioning to summer. High schools and colleges are graduating seniors
in many unique ways. Schools are trying to determine how the fall semester will look and sports are trying to make a radically changed comeback. Our communities are tentatively reopening businesses and services. But COVID 19 is still with us and probably will be a part of our lives for a while. Before we end this series, let’s explore one more facet of our personal journey of discovery.
Because so many people have been observing the stay at home order this spring, we see lots of projects being completed that have been warming on the back burner for a while. In our neighborhood, as well as many others, longed for renovations are becoming a reality and garages are being cleared of unwanted clutter (this includes our garage because Ken had made a few too many pre-pandemic trips to flea markets and had so many vintage tools needing rehab that he couldn’t find the top of his workbench). Everyone’s yards are beautifully manicured, new veggie gardens are popping up everywhere and trees are being removed. That’s right, trees. What has caused so many of our neighbors to find no further need for these champions of relief from the summer sun? Why are they so willing to destroy habitat for birds and squirrels? Is it because they fear the mighty winds that howl through our area? Do they have a burning desire to make their lawn mowing easier? Are they tired of raking up the constant mess that trees create? Whatever motivates them, trees are leaving our neighborhood with regularity and I really miss their stately presence.
 
  All of this cleaning out and removal of unwanted stuff has given me pause to wonder how much emotional clutter might need to disappear along with the physical. We, as a society, have been generously blessed with “things”. Now, don’t worry. Though a little decluttering would likely benefit most of us, I’m not suggesting that you give everything away. I’m really more focused on the unpleasant stuff stored away in our hearts and minds. C’mon now, you and I both know we have a lot of clutter in our personal attics. Among my cobwebs I find pockets of despair and disillusionment, especially now. After all, I wanted to travel this spring and enjoy lots of camping, but a microscopic virus kept that from happening. With just a little searching I know I can find a grudge or two that I hold against others and, just maybe, I could recognize my own unfair judgment of others. Surely I couldn’t be guilty of selfishness or greed, could I? And what about all the times I haven’t trusted God but thought I could get myself through a tough situation? When was the last time that I displayed endless and unconditional love to someone other than family or close friends? When have I turned my love toward a difficult person or a stranger?
 
Go out on a limb when you pray for others. Take a risk. Be courageous. Be passionate. Take a leap. Love a lot, not just a little. Rick Hamlin, Author.
 
Our journey through the COVID 19 Pandemic is giving us ample time for prayer and contemplation and we hope that, when our monster is tamed, we won’t be tasked with this kind of forced isolation again. But, whatever happens, we must always be aware of our need for someone greater than ourselves. Ask yourself, does taking away many of the things I consider important draw me closer to God, or do I question His role in my discomfort? Do I blame Him or do I thank Him for His presence through it all?
 
I have little doubt that we can all dredge up mounds of physical, emotional, and spiritual clutter that need to find their way to the trash bin. By removing them, all that extra space in our lives can be devoted to sharing the gifts God gave us. We are all gifted in certain ways but it is not the gift that matters most to God. He cares much more about how we use our gifts. Let’s all identify our gifts and examine how we’re using them. Long ago God set His commandments in stone and He expects us to live by them to the best of our ability. But when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment of all, He answered:
….the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13
 
In the end, do you have enough love to go the distance? If the love is there, everything else will follow.
 
Lord, in a painful season, may I remember that my (our) story is not yet over and that your redeeming
love can shape every new season. Carol Kuykendall, Author and Speaker
 
I hope you have gained something from this series as I have truly enjoyed writing it. Please join me for
whatever topic He places on my heart next. God bless you all….Marcy

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Do You Have Enough to Go the Distance? Part 4

Untenable Circumstances

There has certainly been a time in each of our lives when we have found ourselves in a seemingly untenable situation when the effort to continue just didn’t seem worth the energy needed to complete the task. Maybe you were training for a marathon or a local charity run and by mile 5 every muscle in your legs was screaming so loudly you just didn’t feel you could push any harder. Perhaps your newborn was waging a marathon crying session while your two-year-old screamed angry protests at all the attention his new little sister received. Maybe it’s an addiction that claimed your existence and you just couldn’t wait for another hit. Maybe dinner was left cold on the table because your spouse didn’t come home or even call.
Imagine yourself a soldier training for elite forces. You have just run several miles up a mountain and down the other side in full gear including a loaded backpack. You meet the angry scowl of the drill instructor and he tells you your time was too slow. Your ride back to camp is pulling away and you are told you will retrace your steps and do it faster this time. A short way up the hill, when your body is betraying you, the DI calls “STOP”. He says you can go back to camp now, but the exercise has taught him who is willing to go the distance.
Or what if you’ve been sentenced to prison time and been transported to your new residence. You finish processing and a guard leads you through a series of gates that clang shut behind you. Imagine the helplessness and then imagine that you are innocent of the crime for which you were convicted.

What if you are the last soldier in a chain of protocol designed to prevent accidental detonation and you are standing watch over a simple button which, if activated, would change the course of history?

What if you take your seat on a plane in the midst of an epic storm. Three storms, actually, have converged in the middle of the country causing killer wind gusts, heavy cloud to ground lightning, and torrential rainfall. I can answer that question because I was that person in April of 1997.
I had joined my husband on a training seminar in Colorado so we could enjoy a little vacation time in the Rockies between classes. At the conclusion of his meetings, we headed back to the Denver airport with dark clouds looming overhead and light rain falling. 

By the time we were processed and ready to board, neither of us wanted to make that flight. The rain was much heavier, lightning was flashing constantly and winds were howling. Our captain tried to put us at ease but failed miserably when he said that he couldn’t return to Denver because they had closed the airport as soon as we departed. Our flight attendants were buckled into their seats, white-knuckled and terrified as we galloped through the clouds like a bucking bronco. Dropping thousands of feet in an instant and then rising back to a greater height than before was the pattern for this flight and it seemed it would never end.
 
My grace is sufficient in you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. II Corinthians 12:9
You’ll remember that I am the “worrywart” of our family, but this time something changed. While my rock of a husband, the guy who is always my support in troubled times, sat next to me explaining about the inability of those wings outside to withstand the beating they were taking and how the fuselage was bound to split open from the pressure, I sat quietly reading a book. A calm came over me as soon as we ascended. It could only have come from God. A voice inside my head told me that I was either going to land safely in Springfield, MO as planned or I was not. And I couldn’t do one thing about it…my future was not in my hands.
I have often recalled that night…we did make it home to our own comfy bed…and that experience has since given me strength and patience to get through any number of large and small emergencies. Oh, I often falter and become a worrier again. I’m human after all and I am still the family worrywart, but I have the unwavering knowledge that when God wants me to come home, I’ll be ready because everything is best in His good time.
Each morning we all wake up to a brand new sparkling day and have another opportunity to make the most important choice of our lives. Do you choose God or do you choose self?
 It is for us to make the effort; the result is always in God’s hands. Mahatma Gandhi
Do you have enough faith to go the distance?
One more week…

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How We Pray

By: Ed Vigneaux

How many of us say the Lord’s prayer every day, week, or month?  In the 8:30 service, we almost always recited the Lord’s prayer every Sunday; not sure about the other services.

But how many of us pray the Lord’s prayer?

Below is an explanation of how to pray the Lord’s prayer that I find very helpful.

I. “Our Father who art in heaven”
Spend 3 minutes focused solely on God as:
“Our Father” – imminent: provider and protector.
“In heaven” – transcendent: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient.

II. “hallowed be thy name”
Spend 3 minutes praising and thanking God.”
Think about the things you love about God and praise God for them.
Think of the way God has blessed you, specifically for the things in your life that are bringing you love, joy, and peace. Thank God for these things.

III. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Spend 3 minutes sitting with the question, “Lord, I’m reporting for duty. What would you have me do?” Just listen, then do what you are led to do—provided you know the voice you hear is not guilt or people-pleasing. The cumulative effect of listening like this on a daily basis is powerful.

IV. “Give us this day our daily bread”
Spend 3 minutes praying about daily needs.
Identify what you need to survive the day and ask God for it–your basic needs, not your wants. Then ask God to give to your family and friends what they need to stay on their feet today. If other people or things are on your heart, this is the time to pray about them.

V. “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Spend 3 minutes confessing, receiving forgiveness, and forgiving. First, confess your sins to God and asking for forgiveness. Be specific. Then pray this prayer: “Lord, forgive me as I forgive ________.” Put a name or names in the blank. Turn this person/persons over to God and surrender a right to get even with them. Pray for God to bless them.

VI. “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Spend 3 minutes reflecting on the things that are depleting love, joy, and peace from your life, and the ways you are stuck in destructive behavioral patterns. Pray the “Serenity Prayer”: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Ask God to reveal what things you need to change and what things you must accept, at least for now. Ask God to disinfect your brain, to intervene throughout the day to make you aware of vulnerabilities, and to give you the strength to break patterns where destructive muscle memory has taken over.

VII. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever  and ever.”
Spend 2 minutes reflecting on the things around you that appear to be great, powerful, and important but are actually transitory, trivial, and tinsel.

VIII. “Amen.”
“Amen” is the Hebrew word for “So be it.” Conclude your prayer time by asking God to bring fulfillment to your prayers.

I hope you find it helpful as well.

We are blessed to be a blessing.


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Do You Have Enough to Go the Distance? Part 3

An Orderly Fashion…of Sorts

As I write we are 9 weeks into the US chapter of the COVID 19 Pandemic and we have seen many changes.
In the beginning, our neighborhood seemed chaotic. Initially, kids were on spring break and that was extended. Finally, the remainder of the semester was suspended. The youngsters continued to run in the streets as if nothing were happening and we wondered what, if anything, their parents were doing to comply with our “stay at home order”. Then we began to notice that when older folks walked down the street, kids scattered, except for the tiny chatterboxes who can’t understand what’s going on and just want to say hi to every passerby. Obviously, the older kids were being told not to expose older adults to the possibility of the virus. It also became apparent that certain families had created extended families with whom to interact and they limited close contact to only those people. One neighbor is on Middle East deployment and his family has had to endure “lockdown” alone here at home while he deals with similar problems in his assignment. One Sunday afternoon we heard sirens coming down the street and went out to find first responders and firetrucks dropping by to wish our nine-year-old neighbor a happy birthday.
 

And lest we forget, parents have become teachers in a world where kids know more about technology than most of us can begin to comprehend. They may adjust well to online learning, but many parents can feel very ill-prepared and many of them have also been trying to wrap their minds around working from a new home office environment. The days of multiple generations sharing a home, work, and playtime has been absent from our lifestyle for decades, but no more. This is our new normal but hope remains high that very soon all the fuss will become just a memory.
 
A chief cause of worry & unhappiness in life is trading what we want most for what we want at the moment. M McKee, author
 

One thing, however, has certainly not changed and it adds an element of caution to our everyday movement. Spring allergies are in full swing…pollen is flying everywhere and most of us will be susceptible to at least one of those nasty little villains. And, of course, when you reach the checkout at the grocery store, the clerk will either sneeze or cough and the first thing to enter your mind is that he or she has the virus. No sympathy for their discomfort, no thought about your own sneezing and coughing, just fear that you’ll be next to contract the unseen menace.
Add to that the fact that every other commercial on TV tells us to wash our hands often for at least 20 seconds and never, ever touch any part of our faces. I don’t know about you, but my eyes itch so badly that I want to pluck them out of my head and rub them soundly with coarse sandpaper…but I’m not supposed to touch them!
 
It seems that every day the list of possible symptoms grows longer and if we let our imaginations run wild we can turn anything into COVID 19. I don’t believe that God wants us to do that. I believe He wants us to place our full trust in Him. He is in control. He has our backs. And He will tame this monster in His good time.
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25
Do you have enough patience to go the distance?
Last week, states began to reopen businesses and there is much disagreement as to the wisdom of rushing our return to “normal”, which still includes social distancing, wearing masks,   and limiting crowd size along with the numbers of shoppers or customers allowed at a time in any business. Time will tell who wins or, if cases spike again, who loses that battle. I choose to be cautious but not everyone does.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                        And our story continues….

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