Time for a Trim

By Marcy Barthelette

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 that it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. John 15:1-3

It was a hot, sultry morning when I decided last week to attack my holly bushes. Our spring weather had kept me indoors too much and my gardening efforts for the season were sorely lacking. I’d been trying to play catch-up and it seemed the harder I worked, the less I accomplished. I really hadn’t intended to deal with the overgrown hollies, but after completing my watering and removing a lot of general garden debris, I just couldn’t look at them any longer. I could make this job a lot easier by just asking Ken to drag out the electric trimmers but he and I have very different philosophies when it comes to pruning. A couple of years ago, I turned him loose on one of the said holly bushes and the end result almost made me cry. Of course, to Ken’s way of thinking, it was very neatly trimmed.

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 by the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined by me. John 15:4

That poor holly looked really scalped post haircut and it didn’t make much progress toward recovery by the end of the growing season. Last year it spent the entire summer just getting back to being what I consider a healthy-looking plant. I didn’t want to touch it going into winter because those hollies are the only evergreen cover in our yard for birds and other critters. All the other trees are deciduous and the perennials die back to the ground.

Regardless of your pruning perspective, I think we can all agree that God didn’t make perfectly rounded or squared bushes and I really prefer to keep his creations as natural as possible. They shouldn’t overtake the house or even their smaller neighbors so sometimes a little pruning is needed and by doing so selectively, we can retain the natural appearance of the bush or tree. Scrupulously sculptured bushes certainly have their place but the free form is typically my choice in our very casual garden.

By this spring, even by my standards, the hollies were getting a little hairy looking. Even though I was hot and ready for the shower, I decided to tackle the one that had been tortured with the electric trimmer. I have a favorite pruner that has been with me for a very long time. It makes nice clean cuts and even catches a finger now and again, but that’s a story for another time. I’ve always chosen selective pruning accomplished with manual equipment. I began from the bottom, creating airspace below the bush. The plant can now breathe better and those formerly low-hanging branches no longer encourage a collection of insects to reside there. I then worked my way slowly upward and by selecting well-spaced branches to trim, I maintained a nice shape without leaving the bush with the look of a fresh haircut. As the branches fill back in, the changes will draw little attention. It’s as if the bush changes without really changing at all.

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 15:5a

And of course, when I finished the first bush, I couldn’t leave the other one looking so ragged. I dived right in and shaped that one up too. They’re very different varieties, one has smaller, tighter growth while the other sports much coarser leaves with a more open growth style. Both, however, are approached in the same way and after many careful cuts, the second holly was as handsome as the first.

Interestingly enough, when I read my devotions for the day, I came across a tale of a father who taught his daughter to prune the same way. I was encouraged to know someone else thoughts as I did about taking the time to carefully select the branches needing to be trimmed away but leaving the bush basically intact. Hand pruning, along with hand watering, offers opportunities to see any problems your plants may be experiencing. There’s just no substitute for personal attention when dealing with plants or with people. A well-loved friend is quite similar to a well-tended plant. Both will reward you by developing beautifully.

As to my earlier comment regarding my pruners nipping fingers, the pinky on my left hand has twice been the victim of pruner atrocities. A number of years ago I skimmed the tip from it and just recently I cropped a nick from the side. Both injuries healed well and my pinky is normal except for a couple of slight divots. Oddly enough, I was aggressively trimming spent daylily leaves when both incidents occurred. Perhaps I should apply my selective pruning perspective to all aspects of my gardening clean-up. Speed is not always a good thing!

Of course, the topic of pruning allows me to use my favorite scripture as a reference. This time I chose to use The Message as my source. Having recently re-read it, I felt it expressed my own sentiments very well. And it ends:

You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

John 15:16-17



Perfect Timing

By Marcy Barthelette

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. Proverbs 19:21 NASB

The rain finally stopped and the temperature was really feeling like summer. Ken came in from working in the yard last Friday and wondered if there might be a campsite open at Mill Creek campground. It’s one of the many Corps of Engineers parks that dot the shores of Beaver, Table Rock, and Bull Shoals Lakes and it’s our favorite. The bad thing about that is that it’s also everyone else’s favorite. I pulled up their website thinking there was no way we would find a site for Saturday night, maybe Sunday, but the weekend? Lo and behold, there were several sites, two we were familiar with and two we had no interest in. I booked one of them and the race was on to get everything ready to go. The camper needed some cleaning, clothing had to be packed. We had accomplished some of the major cleanups prior to an anticipated earlier trip that was canceled. We were really ready to get on the road for our first trip of the season.

Part of my routine is to turn on the refrigerator the night before so that it gets good and cold. Since it would be our first time out, I double-checked again before bedtime and my ice cube trays were freezing nicely, so all seemed well. We got a good night’s sleep, I got up and watered all my plants in preparation for hot, dry days, finished loading non-perishables and when I once again checked the frig, it was not cooling. I passed my wonderful discovery on to Ken and he set about reading the operator’s manual, searching on YouTube, and checking electrical connections. In the end, we set it to battery operation and, after a time, ice began to skim over once again. I filled the now cooling frig, grabbed a quick shower and we were on the road.

An hour and a half later, we backed into our site, our wonderful waterfront site which was in full sun on a 90º day. It was then that we realized our frig was, in fact, not cooling and our AC couldn’t drop the inside temp below 88º because of the extreme sunlight. We really weren’t sure what to do, but we decided to take a walk and just enjoy the beauty all around us. At least half of the campsites in the park were still closed because of floodwater from all our spring rain. Of the sixty-seven sites, forty-seven are on a peninsula, putting them at prime risk. Some were still underwater and others were inaccessible because the roadway was covered.

As we walked, we noticed that a site we had seen and liked last year was empty and the camper pad was surrounded by lovely shade trees. We headed back and Ken stopped by the gatehouse to find out the story on the empty site. As it turned out, the people who had reserved it had confused their arrival date and they were going to transfer to a different site the second day anyway, so we were able to get that site for our two-day stay. We packed everything back into the camper and moved to the new site still wondering what that refrigerator was going to do.

After we were settled, Ken addressed the situation again and learned that to reset the frig, it is necessary to turn the breaker off and back on again so he did. We enjoyed a nice dinner that I had prepared in advance and then went for a walk to check out the flood damage. There was an amazing breeze that kept us cool even though the thermometer said it was hot and we were treated to an extraordinary sunset. When we went in for the evening, we found ice cubes in the freezer and everything seemed well chilled throughout the frig. I went to bed with a prayer of gratitude for a frig that was working, safety while traveling, and a huge thank you for all the beauty around us. The entire remainder of our spontaneous trip was just lovely. We visited with some really nice folks and hated to leave when the time came. But all earthly things do have an end.

I believe God was in charge of that trip from the moment Ken was inspired to ask me to check on sites. He kept giving us hope, with each new thing we tried, that the frig would work. He gave us campground volunteers who found a way to offer a site we hadn’t even known was available and provided the shade we needed to keep everything cool. He treated us to that incredible sunset and we even enjoyed a beautiful campfire, from a distance. It was still a little too warm to sit near. The hot dogs we roasted were delicious and our “ice cold” watermelon surely hit the spot. What more could a person ask? What began with questions and concerns turned out to be a wonderful trip and all we needed to do was turn over control to God for it to happen. Our plans may seem great at the time but His plan is always the best. We just have to get out of the way and let Him lead us.

Lord, forgive me. My agenda is earthly, but yours is eternal.

Buck Storm, Daily Guideposts 2022


Nourish Your Roots

By: Marcy Barthelette

So then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught… Colossians 2:6-7

Look out world, I’m in re-arranging mode! No, it’s not my furniture this time. It’s my perennial beds that need an overhaul. My garden phlox have been struggling because the daylilies and Asiatic lilies are definitely hogging garden space. The phlox like good air circulation and that just wasn’t happening. Thinning out the Asiatic lilies has been my first course of action as their blooms are beginning to wane. Removing about half of each cluster has given me the opportunity to share some bulbs with a young neighbor who is just getting her beds started and a good friend who shares with me whenever she has extra plants. When my Stella D’ Oro daylilies finish their first bloom, I’ll dig a couple of those as well. Maybe I’ll share or maybe I’ll just relocate them. They’ll make an encore appearance in the fall after I find a comfy new home for them. And therein lies the beauty of perennials. If they’re not doing well, or they’re too crowded, or you just don’t like the way they’re arranged, you can dig them up and settle them into a more appealing location. Most of them aren’t very fussy and they often appear happier in new surroundings. Maybe they tire of the same old view as much as I do.

There are some important things to do when relocating perennials or starting from scratch with a new bed. When starting fresh go online or talk to a gardener you trust and learn about plants you might want to try. A refresher course never hurts even if you’re experienced. What kind of soil does a specific perennial favor, does it prefer lots of sun or perhaps need shade during the heat of a summer day? Can it handle being in constantly moist surroundings or does it not like having wet feet? Does it prefer acidic or alkaline soil? What is its optimal height?

After learning all you can, it’s important to have a home prepared for your plants, especially if you’re digging and moving from one location to another, but even when buying new ones, a little advance planning makes the job progress more smoothly. Most soils in the Ozarks will need some amendments. After all, we do have a lot of rock around here. So grab your heavy-duty Ozark tools and grub out the big ones. A little gravel won’t hurt but roots have a hard time penetrating large stones. Look on the bright side, the stones may come in handy for a border around your bed. Now follow the instructions from your research regarding soil additives and you’re ready to shop.

When buying plants, it’s best to look for healthy green leaves and new buds. Some gardeners enjoy the challenge of bringing ailing plants back to life and saving a few pennies at the same time. I’m one of those who will take a chance on the castoffs at our local gardening centers but I don’t recommend that for beginners because there may be no real reward until the following year. But here’s the thing, the real strength of a perennial is in its roots. Nurseries ship bare-root dry plants at appropriate planting times and with proper care in planting and tending, they flourish, just maybe not the first year. So, it stands to reason that a nursery plant that has bloomed and wilted probably still has lots of life left in its roots if cared for properly and given lots of patience. Its roots will continue to anchor it to life-sustaining nutrients.

And, of course, in my world, there’s always a God analogy. In order to grow and flourish, we humans also need good strong roots. They sustain us in the form of family, friends, and particularly faith. When they’re nourished with plenty of “sonlight” (no, that’s not a misprint), living water (from the one who gave all for us), a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit (our constant companion), an intimate relationship with God the Father (who’s only a prayer away) and plenty of love and encouragement, not to mention patience, those roots will burrow deep, spread widely, and surround the lives of everyone you meet. They’ll be just like a warm hug.

As for those perennials, the best advice I have is to become a friend to the neighbors with the prettiest yard, listen to what they have to say, and respect their love of nature. Show them lots of love along the way. Maybe you’ll even find an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus or maybe they’ll already know Him and you’ll have lots in common. When they need to divide perennials, you’ll likely be a benefactor. And you’ll likely get a lot more from the relationship than pretty blooms. Your roots will become stronger too and you’ll be anchored right where you need to be …. in the loving arms of the Father.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17


Freedom Lives

By Marcy Barthelette


Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12

I catch a glimpse of red, white, and blue outside my door, waving briskly in the morning breeze, the thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies that became these United States and fifty stars, one for each of our modern-day states. It’s really a pretty unique flag when you think about it. The design connects the old with the new. Those original thirteen colonies desired freedom from the controlling nation that existed across an ocean of water. During a time when ocean travel was the only route from England to the American colonies, communication was difficult because of constant delays. Americans wanted to be free from the encumbrance of regulations and taxes laid down by that foreign power. And so they fought and freedom was eventually won but at a great price. Many died in that quest and more were gravely injured, but they counted it a worthwhile struggle because the end result was a new nation, a grand experiment in an idea called democracy.

It is Memorial Day, or the one our government has declared in order to guarantee a three-day weekend for all to enjoy. The actual Memorial Day is tomorrow, May 31, and by the time the Gatepost is released, it will be the day after. But does it really matter? Should we celebrate our freedom and honor those who gave their lives to achieve it for only one short day a year. And I wonder how many people take the time from all the exciting holiday activities to think about what they’re celebrating. How many don’t even know the story? Since that first great struggle for freedom here in the United States, there have been many others, at home and on foreign soil. Men and women have continually stepped up to fight for the freedom of others and countless souls have been lost to battle. We’ve all heard the slogan, “Freedom is not free,” but how often do we really examine those words? 

Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time. Marion Wright Edelman

And how many have never heard another story of freedom achieved at an unimaginable price? We take our national freedoms for granted while other peoples in other nations live in deplorable conditions, often under the rule of corrupt governments.

Have they ever heard that long ago a Child was born, He grew into a man and walked the limited area near His birth, teaching and healing and listening to all those He encountered. After only a short lifetime, He died on a cross to offer freedom to each of us. We have the freedom to follow Him and continue His work throughout our world or to turn away and live our lives without the blessing and peace of His company.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. II Corinthians 3:17

Just as soldiers have sacrificed and died on battlefields throughout the history of earth, Jesus gave His earthly life to buy our freedom. It is up to us to remember “whose we are” and to make that free choice to follow Him.

It is for us to make the effort; the result is always in God’s hands. Mahatma Gandhi

One of our most basic freedoms is the ability to worship in the way we choose. As Christians, we spend time reading and studying, gathering together to sing and pray. But the worship service and our Bible studies are just the beginning. They are our training ground, our “boot camp” so to speak. They supply the tools we need to carry out our mission. As our modern world seems to be spinning out of control, where oppressors wish to subjugate others, where light seems to be overcome with darkness, it is our responsibility to shine the light and love of Jesus in every dark corner. We must trust that through Him even the most mean-spirited of minds can be changed. It’s time to take a stand. Will we stand for freedom and light in Christ or will we allow darkness and oppression to reign?

We really can make a difference to the world around us. It will be risky but remember, Christ is within us. You will never out-dream God. He will give you resources according to your aspirations. He will lead, protect, bless, and encourage you. Maybe it starts today.  Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel 

Memorial Day may be folded up like our flag and put away for another time, but we needn’t forget its significance. We can honor those who’ve gone before us by picking up their banner. There is much work to be done, people of God, so let’s put on our armor and get to it! Together, let’s make the most of our freedom!


A Legacy of Wildflowers

By Marcy Barthelette

Wildflowers are tough. They root in unlikely, often hostile environments, yet they manage to grow and bloom.

I love cruising down a country highway on a spring or early summer day. There’s always so much to see as new life steals quietly into our Ozark hills and makes her appearance in random splashes of colorful wildflowers and the bright greens of fresh new grass and leaves. Willow trees wave their yellowing branches quite early as trout lily and wild columbine cling to rugged hillsides. Serviceberry, wild plum, and pear, then redbud and dogwood absolutely flaunt their beauty. Wild violets carpet the forest floor and roadside ditches. Drifts of daffodils flourish where once a homestead stood. They blend nicely with wild purple phlox. Right about now, the oxeye daisy is taking center stage, soon it will be the elegant Queen Anne’s Lace and brilliant orange butterfly weed that will decorate the fields and roadsides. Sunny yellow coreopsis and fiery Indian paintbrush will exist alongside tall grasses that fill the bellies of fattening cattle. In mid to late summer, the ice blue chicory stands strong in the oppressive heat and graces the edges of our roadways. To some, these things of extraordinary beauty are nothing more than weeds. But to a nature lover like me, they are the eye candy that I crave after a long winter.

Wildflowers grow where the seeds find themselves. They must succeed or perish. If they don’t grow, no one notices. It’s as if the seed or the flowers never existed.

Wildflowers and native trees occur naturally and either grow or flourish with no help from humans. Birds and seed-eating mammals cast their seeds to sometimes far-reaching distances. The wind carries seeds aloft and deposits them without a care as to the presence or absence of appropriate soil. Those seeds, whether the size of the tiny columbine offspring or as large as a giant Bur Oak acorn, will live or die according to the productive ability of their landing spot. Their lifespan depends upon adequate light and water, without either of which they cannot survive.

Wildflowers are fragile. Careless or deliberate acts can easily destroy them.  

When humans traipse through the woods and meadows without a care as to their presence, tiny beauties can be crushed before their seeds have an opportunity to mature and re-create. When a careless smoker tosses a cigarette out the window, acres and acres of heavily forested land can become scorched and barren. Yes, they will recover, but the forest will sport a new look because some of the old-growth will not reproduce while new species may introduce themselves.

Maybe certain bad habits and other crutches are opportunistic … like weeds, ready to fill the empty spots and choke out the opportunity for better ones. (Paraphrased)

And I wonder if many of the bad habits we display when enjoying a bit of nature carry over into our everyday human lives. Do we walk past a stranger looking for directions and not even notice? Do we turn our back on a child’s questions, deeming them unimportant in the grand scheme of things? Do we refuse to acknowledge pain, discouragement, or even hunger in the eyes of a neighbor? And if we continue to ignore the most common of needs in those around us, will our earth one day resemble a barren forest scorched by fire?

People crave love. They crave acknowledgment. They crave a listening ear. And they are more likely to learn how to love by experiencing love firsthand. Jesus taught us how to love. If we let Him fill us with His Spirit, we can light the dark places in our world. All seeds, whether human, animal, or plant need love, water, and light. Let’s do our part by sharing all those things with everyone we meet. And let’s be very cautious where we step so as not to cause injury to any living thing. With a little love, we could see “wildflowers” blooming everywhere.

Any journey worth taking is worth value in each step. 
All quotes reflect the character of Kara Lange Hart of the Wildflower series by Grace Greene


The Anatomy of the Curveball

By Marcy Barthelette

You are my shelter and my shield — I wait for your promise. Psalm 119:114 (CEB)

“Batter up!” The plate umpire shouts his command indicating that it’s time for play to commence. The batter takes a couple of practice swings. The pitcher leans in toward the catcher to pick up the signaled pitch and everyone in the stadium feels the electricity in the air. The first pitch is a fastball, right over the plate. The umpire calls a strike. Next comes a ball followed by a foul tip. Two more pitches fly a little outside the strike zone and the count is 3-2. The pitcher takes his time, the catcher changes the call at the last moment. The ball is released the batter swings. “Strike three, you’re out!” The dreaded curveball. It looked so perfect flying toward the plate, headed right for the strike zone, but then it curved to the outside and caught the batter swinging hard.

Baseball, America’s pastime. The passion begins with starry-eyed little boys dreaming of the big leagues and often remains a passion even when we’re past the time when dreams become reality, but we can still be entertained by the big leaguers of today and the players of tomorrow.

My husband has been a lifelong baseball fan, from childhood pick-up games when each boy in the neighborhood brought whatever equipment he had to cheer the Boston Red Sox on the radio. Living in Providence, RI, he was just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park and though he only made a couple of trips to the stadium with a city recreation program, he faithfully followed his team through victory and defeat. He still likes to follow their progress but he has also added the St. Louis Cardinals and the KC Royals to his list of favorite teams. And he has a grandson to keep up with which gets interesting because said grandson lives in Austin, TX, but the wonder of electronics brings the sounds and animation of baseball to our living room for Grandpa to enjoy. Quinn is fourteen now and has been playing the game since T-Ball days. To say he loves it would be an understatement … he lives baseball! Quinn plays competitive club ball, some in Austin and a lot on the road. It has been a family affair for years. His older brother umpires, Dad is a sometimes coach, and Mom leads the cheering section.  

Quinn is pretty talented. He excels in three positions, shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. He understands the relationship between pitching and catching from both sides of the plate, the psychology of calling plays, and he knows what’s happening on the field at all times. He is blessed with another strength as well, he’s a solid hitter. I’m sure that comes from so many hours spent in the pitching and catching positions. He studies the opposing batters well and has an innate sense of when it’s time to throw a curveball. The nature of the pitch is to throw the batter off, make him go for a pitch that, for all the world looks like a perfect pitch to hit, but dips at the last second when the swing has already started and can’t be held back. Maybe he’ll strike out or maybe he’ll connect with the ball but foul off to one side or the other. It doesn’t matter as long as the contact doesn’t produce a fair hit. And the beauty of the curveball is that all the batters will be wondering what’s coming next.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. Robert F. Kennedy   

Scientists believe that the effectiveness of the curveball has to do with air currents on the seams of the ball, strong on one side, absent on the other, causing the ball to make the intended arc. Sometimes life feels like a series of curveballs. We think we have everything figured out and suddenly some small factor shifts and we find ourselves swinging hard for something we just can’t reach. Disappointment and discouragement can set in and we may find ourselves traveling a questionable path. Then again, maybe there’s a really good reason for the curveball. Maybe God doesn’t think what we’re reaching toward is a good move for us. Perhaps the curveball is designed to protect us from a poor decision or dangerous distraction. It could be sending us on a detour around some danger lurking in our path. Have you ever wondered why some small emergency kept you from leaving home at the proposed time and later learned of a huge traffic problem right where you were planning to go, or worse yet, an accident that could have been you?

Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding the diamonds. Ana Claudia Antunes, Author

Curveballs have a very specific purpose on the baseball field. They are, by design, intended to lure a batter into going for something he cannot reach or cannot hit effectively. The curveball can be an exceptional tool for the pitcher on the mound but can spell disaster for a batter at the plate.

In life, we all face a variety of curveballs, some may prevent us from disaster and some may lead us down a path we wouldn’t have chosen. The good news is, and there always is good news where God is concerned, when we make that decision to become a member of His team, we’ll be better able to recognize the curveball for what it is, a help or a hindrance. We won’t be easily deceived into following the path a deceitful curveball will inevitably lead us down. So, be patient, wait for the perfect pitch, and hit it out of the park. Heaven awaits!

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” . . . 2 Kings 6: 17 (NIV)


What’s In Your Well?

By Marcy Barthelette

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11b

My husband has a keen interest in his family genealogy and within recent months has been traveling down many ancestral trails branching from his mother. He made an amazing discovery on one of his searches. His ninth great-grandfather, Jacques Archambault along with his family, migrated to Canada from France around 1645. Jacques had made a decent living as a wine-maker in France but seems to have made a hasty exit from his home, possibly to avoid religious persecution. In so doing, he became deeply indebted to the owner of the ship on which his family made passage and so he worked off his debt while living on the ship owner’s property. About the time he repaid his debt, colonists were needed to develop a nearby village, so Jacques moved his family there using funds provided by the governor with an assumed agreement that he would dig a community well for the new town. Jacques was known as a dowser, someone who believed he could locate underground water with the use of a forked stick or two separate sticks. In 1658 he reached an agreement as to the scope of the project and began his work. Completion of the well established his reputation in this new world and he was commissioned to dig more wells, but that first one is marked to this day, in the modern city of Montreal, with a plaque commending Jacques Archambault for his achievement. Ken was pretty excited to learn of this ancestor. (An interesting sidebar to this story is that anyone in the United States having an ancestor named Archambault can trace their roots to Jacques for he is the only Archambault who migrated from France to the US.)

The one common thread between all living things whether plant, animal, or human is the need for water to sustain life. Even people who have no source of clear, freshwater know that their bodies require hydration, so whatever the condition of their available water, they will drink. Without it, everything would wither and die, so it only follows that people in search of a new place to settle would have chosen to build homes and businesses near streams and natural springs where water was abundant. But population growth forced the development of land farther away from natural water sources and wells were dug to tap underground aqueducts and bring the necessary life-giving water to the surface. The Jezreel Valley of northern Israel is documented to have been the home of the first permanent water wells dug for human use. They date back to around 6500 BC.

Our Ozarks was a natural settlement choice of the early pioneers because of its many spring-fed, clear-running streams. Wells seemed unnecessary in this land where freshwater was plentiful. Free-flowing water was quickly harnessed to power sawmills and grain mills throughout our hills. It was already in use on the east coast for factory work of all sorts. Today’s hydroelectric power plants light our homes, and keep countless types of machinery, as well as technology, working throughout our nation. But even here, as more people migrated westward, wells became necessary to provide sufficient water.

By definition, a well is an issue of water from the earth or a pit sunk into the earth to reach a supply of water and as earlier stated, they existed well before Jesus’ time.

By chance or by divine intervention, Jesus once stopped at an established landmark in Samaria, named Jacob’s well. Jesus was hot and thirsty from his travel in the desert. Perhaps he even wanted to splash some cool water on his face. As he sat ….

A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water. The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water?” John 4:7-11

Each of us has a well within us, a well that houses our deepest desires, our thoughts, and our plans. The question is, what springs forth from our well? And when it runs dry, where do we go to replenish it with clear, fresh “water?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” John 4:13-14  


Directionally Challenged?

By Marcy Barthelette

Pay attention to how you use today—so you stay the course to where you are destined to go.

Christine Caine, Unshakable

It’s an incredible spring day in the Ozarks and we decide it’s perfect weather for a hike, not too cool but not too warm yet. We grab a daypack, add some sandwiches and extra water, a hat and sunscreen, a compass, and maybe an extra pair of socks in case we slip in a still very cool stream. Wet socks develop painful blisters. We head for a trail we hiked many years ago, a pair of adventurers hoping to enjoy some great views, catch a glimpse of wildlife here and there, but not too wild, and get some nice shots of “wild” flowers just showing their pretty faces. Oh yes, there is also a waterfall at the halfway point and it should be running nicely due to a wet spring.

We reach our trailhead and are a bit surprised to see that the trail is listed as strenuous in places. We don’t recall that being the case when last we hiked it but we were just a few years younger then. To make matters worse, no trail maps are available. Following a few minutes of a brief discussion, we convince ourselves that we are up for the challenge and head out on the trail.

An hour or so into the hike that was fraught with mud, potholes, roots, boulders, and a nearly obliterated trail, we began to understand the warning. But being the seasoned hikers we are, we persevere. Another hour passes, the trail still has us guessing and we haven’t come to the waterfall. We begin to wonder if we took a wrong turn and I dig for the compass, but it’s nowhere to be found. I turn the pack inside out but no compass appears. This is no time to panic. Ken spent thirty years in Boy Scouts, three more traveling all over Europe, and has had lots of orienteering practice. He’s adept at reading sun and shadows as well as having an amazing sense of direction. He will get us out of this predicament even if that means backtracking to the trailhead.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to note that while Ken and I are quite comfortable finding our way through a forest of trees or a tangle of boulders, city roadways create a nightmare of confusion for us. I can’t count the times when we have been completely turned around when attempting to traverse a network of roads designed and built to facilitate ease of travel. There are too many landmarks when we don’t want them and not enough road signs when we do. Often the structures that surround us are too tall to allow a clear view of the sun thus creating one big shadow. Maps are never up to date with highway construction, even the electronic versions. And, yes, we do have GPS but it sometimes errs as well, or, perhaps it’s operator error. Suffice to say, we try to circumnavigate cities as often as possible.

Truth be told, our lives are certainly in need of direction too. If we’ve chosen well, the Bible will serve as our compass, pointing us in the right direction, toward Jesus, who is our true north.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Oh, and that waterfall we were searching for. We began to hear it just a few twists and turns from that point where we doubted our directional skills. It certainly measured up to our hopes. Water cascaded with reckless abandon over a succession of falls leaving us breathless. And for Ken, it was rather breathtaking when he slipped on a moss-covered rock and nearly fell over the falls while straining to get his best photograph. With a prayer of gratitude that Ken was able to proceed and a leisurely lunch with our feet in the cool clear water above the falls (the temperature reached 80+ on our perfect spring day), we reluctantly decided it was time to head on down the trail. The second half was much better marked but no less tricky, and after about five hours, we arrived back at the trailhead, very tired and sporting a few new bruises. While satisfied that we’d been able to make the trip, we learned something about our physical limitations and will stick to less strenuous trails in the future. And we’ll remember to double-check our supplies and to coordinate all our adventures with the one who steadfastly watches over us and provides excellent directions.

Lord, show me how I need to adjust my course toward You today and keep my focus on living for you in the now.

 Christine Caine, Unshakable


Finding Your Groove

By Marcy Barthelette

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1b

The air feels almost electric with the excitement of the hour! The invocation has been offered, the national anthem sung and the pilots of the day have thrilled the audience with their low altitude flyover. A hush falls over the crowd as an invited guest steps to the microphone and shouts, “Drivers, start your engines.” Some forty race cars roar to life and line up in their predetermined order. The pace car leads them around the track, then slides off to the infield. The flagman leans over the start line at the ready. As the first car passes, he waves the green flag and they’re off, ready to spend several hours just to see who can claim today’s trophy.

Yes, it’s Sunday afternoon in late April and Ken is glued to the NASCAR race, live on TV when our stations carry it or online later when they don’t. Yes, he will give up the race for special events but if nothing deters him, he will be keeping up with his favorite drivers. Racing has been in his blood since his teen years when he worked with the set-up crew at the track in Seekonk, Massachusetts, and rubbed elbows with all the local drivers. He proudly describes a stop during a vacation many years ago to take his own drive around the track in Indianapolis. He has always loved to drive and I think he secretly would have loved to race competitively, but as so often happens, life gets in our way.

One of the terms race announcers often use is “finding the groove.” You’re probably familiar with the phrase as it applies to life but NASCAR gives it a whole new meaning. It isn’t an attitude or a feeling, it’s a literal groove on the track. It’s described as the best route around the track. It’s a faster, more efficient way for drivers to shave precious seconds off their lap times and they all want to find it. The groove can be identified by the wide black stripe that begins to circle the track as the race progresses. NASCAR tires differ from everyday highway tires in that they are completely free of deep treads. They’re called “slicks” and they are designed to wear down. Each racing team may carry up to fifteen sets of tires per race depending on individual track regulations. Each track sets its own tire cap and believe me, the teams use a lot of them. As the tires wear, they leave their distinctive layer of rubber behind, creating the groove. Weather can determine the condition of the groove and the effect it will have on car handling. Keep in mind that most NASCAR tracks are oval in shape and the drivers are often running 200 mph. If the air temperature is high, the track temperature is even higher and the groove becomes sticky and drivers are more able to navigate their turns without sliding. If, however, the racing day is cold, the groove becomes hardened providing little grip for those slick tires, thus lowering driving speeds and causing more spin-outs.

Another point to consider is that a track may have multiple grooves, offering drivers more options but possibly more opportunities to crash. Moving from groove to groove or driving side by side in different grooves leaves openings for cars to drift, often causing multiple car pile-ups. Choosing to go high on a multi-groove track can find the driver against the wall. A bumper tap by another driver can make that wall position very uncomfortable. Going low can result in being shoved onto the inside area of the track, the apron, by a fellow driver who wants to win just as badly. On some tracks driving on the apron is not allowed and results in a penalty and loss of position. With all this strategic positioning going on, there’s no shortage of excitement at the racetrack.

You’re probably asking yourself why I am so “off track” this week, but I would suggest that I’m not. Just as NASCAR drivers seek to find their groove, so do we. When we recognize God as our Heavenly Father and Jesus, our Savior, we are always in search of our own groove. The path is spelled out in the Bible and highly illustrated in the way that Jesus lived His life on earth; teaching, preaching, healing, and just interacting in ordinary ways with everyone around Him. He liked hanging out with the people and they liked hanging out with Him.

You were running the good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth. Galatians 5:7

And we, like NASCAR drivers, can find ourselves in trouble when we choose the wrong groove. When we wander from our chosen path, we can find ourselves stuck in a sticky situation or sliding down a slippery slope. The good news is, that we don’t necessarily end our journey in a multi-car pile-up. By making a course correction, asking for  

forgiveness, and making the effort to improve, we can continue in God’s groove and, eventually, find our way to the “Promised Land.” The choice of which groove to follow is ours.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever…. I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:24-25, 27b