The Prodigal Son…or Daughter

By: Marcy Barthelette

When I was younger, I got a little testy at the telling of the story of the prodigal son. In fact, I always identified with the older brother. After all, the one who stays and completes all the hard work should be allowed to celebrate those accomplishments….right?

Father, I want right now what’s coming to me. Luke 15:12

It’s hard for us to grasp the significance of the younger brother’s request because we don’t live in a time and place where properties were passed down to the eldest son and other siblings were only willed a portion of the father’s estate, according to his whim. This brother knew he would not be the one to carry on his father’s legacy, however large or small the estate may have been, so he thought it might be a good idea to enjoy life while he had an opportunity. So he boldly, and perhaps foolishly, demanded that his father give him his share immediately and he set off to live his new life of fun and frivolity. We can only imagine how he spent his newfound wealth but we do know that the oldest profession was very much alive and wine flowed profusely in the local gathering spots. It can be supposed that gambling would have been involved and any other competitive venture would likely have been attractive, especially at this man’s young age and level of restlessness. For a time, he felt on top of the world, but as we know, he eventually ran out of funds and possessions and sunk into profound poverty. He was so hungry that he accepted  work caring for swine and even sunk so low as to be willing to eat the pods that were fed to the pigs except that no one would give him any. It finally occurred to him that the servants at his father’s estate were much better off than he. But how would his father receive him after all the mistakes he had made? He knew he had no choice but to return home and commit himself to servanthood in the hope his father would take him in.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Wait a minute….the father didn’t scold his errant son! What was he doing? He ordered the servants to bring clean clothes, a family ring, and new sandals. And then, of all things, he announced a party and requested that a prize-winning animal be set to roast. His joy at seeing this son was overwhelming and he wanted to share it with everyone. But the older son did not share his father’s enthusiasm. He was angry and, yes, jealous, because his brother had wasted all he was given while he, the faithful brother, had worked alongside his father every day and never even been offered a celebration in his honor.

His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found.’ Luke 15:31-32

Newsflash everyone…I am a sinner! Just like the younger brother who took his birthright and squandered it on wine and women, and the older brother who was unwilling to offer grace and forgiveness, I fall short every day of what my Father in heaven expects from me. So how do I want Him to deal with my failures and indiscretions? Would I rather be turned out of my former home to live as a servant or welcomed with a grand party and abounding love? That’s a no-brainer, is it not?

As an adult, I’ve realized that He, God, used this parable to assure us that He is always there, always eager to forgive and grant mercy, no matter how little we deserve it. It isn’t really about the young man who went astray or even the older brother who was unforgiving. It’s all about our relationship with God, the Father.

Even when we try to live a good life, we make mistakes, but there is nothing we can do that is so bad that we forfeit our God-given birthright. All He requires is that we return to Him, acknowledge our sins, and change our ways. That’s quite a promise so what would make anyone turn away? And what would make us not strive to live up to our potential? The answer, of course, is Satan. He’ll lead you down a twisted trail of misdeeds while telling you that following him is a lot more fun than following the rules for good living. Next time that sneaky old Satan creeps into your heart and offers a very tempting invitation to join him on the “wild side”, tell him to scram, beat it, buzz off…just go away!

Remember the Prodigal Son—or daughter and make the obvious choice.

Choose today whom you will serve…..but, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 NLT



My Name is Marcy

By Marcy Barthelette

Okay… so that’s not news. But I recently had a rather profound thought. Remove the c and the y and replace them with t-h-a and I become Martha. You know, the one everyone frowns upon because she was too busy to sit down and talk with Jesus.

Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me. Luke 10:40b

On the other hand, you can just remove the c and I become Mary, the sister who chose what Jesus referred to as the better part.

Martha, Martha…..Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42  

And when did this mind-boggling thought wander into my brain? It happened one morning when I had laid my devotions aside to read later because I was trying to get my current article for the Gatepost Weekly sent to Casey. It was Christmas week and the church office had shortened hours. I knew she’d be rushed and I didn’t want to be the reason for her to get behind. The article had finally made its way through cyberspace to Casey’s desk and I had settled down to read my morning devotions over breakfast when Ken decided that I needed to hear all the important news stories of the day, and it needed to happen then. At first, I just wanted him to keep the mostly dreadful news to himself but then an unbidden thought occurred; how do I want my loving husband to view me at this moment, as Martha or Mary? Do I want to busy myself with other things (even though it was a study of the Lord’s word) or did I want to give said loving husband all my attention? After all, I still had plenty of hours to do my studying but by pursuing my own thing, Ken might feel that what he had to say was not important. What a conundrum!

Now there are times when Ken is hungry and wants me to be Martha, bustling around the kitchen and not allowing myself to be interrupted by anyone or anything, but this was not one of those times. He was truly intent on having my attention and, for once, my better instincts kicked in. I closed my iPad and listened to him.

These sisters, Martha and Mary, have been a part of my adult world for a very long time. I’ve studied them, written about them, and often wondered which I most resembled. Probably the answer is that I tend to be more Martha, but in my defense and Martha’s, I believe each of us was filled with a strong faith, but sometimes we get so caught up in the busyness of living that we forget to simply stop and listen.

Just think of the opportunities we miss by not listening. News stories, shared over breakfast, may have negligible content, but quality time with someone we love is priceless. The call of a songbird or the mighty rumble of thunder or the soft pelting of raindrops following a prolonged drought, all of these remind me that the world around us has much to offer if we only listen to her words. God’s creations offer a respite from a noisy, crowded world. Nothing relaxes me more than the infinite pounding of the ocean’s surf. It returns with such constancy as to fuel my faith that, no matter what man or woman may do to blur the beauty of His creation, He will always be there for us.

I accept that the letters of my name represent a unique opportunity to try and bring the best of these two women to the world I now live in. In my Martha frame of mind, I can move small mountains with my will to dive in and get things done. I can be a force for good in my home and my neighborhood. But when my mind chooses to relax and shift into Mary mode, I can bring hope and peace to those in my corner of the world. I can listen to their troubles or take them comfort food when they are in difficult situations. By discerning the needs of my neighbors, I can adjust my biblical mentor mentality to suit the need at hand.

Stir up the gift of God which is in you. II Timothy 1:6

Obviously, you don’t need to be named Marcy in order to facilitate the dual personality that I have described. But I hope my little flight of fantasy has fueled your flame of faith enough to motivate a serious introspection of the ways you’d like to let that flame brighten the world. We’re at the beginning of a new year, albeit looking very similar to the past two. It’s time for each of us to take stock of “whose” we are and how we can spread the all-encompassing love of Jesus going forward.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. I Corinthians 12:4-6

While Martha and Mary may have been gifted with two very different personalities, each was eager to please Jesus in her own way. His fire burned brightly through the actions of each woman and we can learn so much from their differing traits. If you’re a doer, please dive in and take the necessary steps to get the work of our Lord underway. If you’re a listener, employ those skills to ease the burdens of those oppressed by the trials of life. If you’re blessed enough to be able to engage both personalities, your burden may be heavier but the rewards will be worth it. Wherever you happen to fall on the Martha/Mary spectrum, dive in and get started doing with gratitude the job you were given.

What is it that you’ve been planning without starting? You don’t have to take all the steps — just the next one.

Bob Goff, Live In Grace, Walk In Love


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….


Hattie’s Gift

By: Marcy Barthelette
Hattie’s Gift I recently read about a little girl named Hattie May Wiatt in one of my daily devotionals. You may have heard her story or maybe not, but I feel it is worth the telling because it draws a close parallel to our own aspirations here at Aldersgate.
Hattie lived in the late 19th century and she was said to have gone to a church building in her Pennsylvania hometown to attend Sunday School class. As it happened this church was crowded every Sunday, so much so that tickets were issued and little Hattie was having a hard time trying to work her way through the crowd. She was approached by the pastor who took her into the building and found a seat for her in the back of the room. As they conversed, he told her of his dream to create a much larger space to house worshippers and those seeking to learn more about God in Sunday School. She shared her hope that he would follow that dream because she really wanted to be there but was afraid of the huge crowds and couldn’t always find a seat.
Not long after that visit, Hattie became very ill and the pastor was called to her home. Upon her death, Hattie’s mother gave the pastor a paper bag that held 57 cents, all the money she had saved to build a larger Sunday School building. That gift sparked an idea that has brought forth enormous fruit since Hattie’s death.
The pastor changed the 57 cents into all pennies and sold them for the sum of $250.00. Along with the $250.00, 54 of the original pennies were returned and mounted in a plaque as a reminder of the gift. The Wiatt Mite Society was organized to continue collecting funds and secure plans for new facilities. And the dream kept growing and snowballing into what we know today as Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA, with seating for over 3000 people. The dream didn’t end there, Temple University found its early beginnings in one of the first buildings acquired by the Wiatt Mite Society and Samaritan Hospital, now Temple University Hospital, began as a 20-bed facility in 1892. Today the hospital houses 722 beds and the Temple University campus provides education for around 30,000 students.
Experts disagree on the validity of this story but we do know that Pastor Russell Conwell did tell the story, birth records do show the birth of Hattie May Wiatt and events do bear out the growth and development of the church, university, and hospital. Whether or not Pastor Conwell was a good motivational speaker or Hattie really did start this whole ball rolling, the effect has its parallel to what has happened here at Aldersgate. We are not looking to build a university or hospital but over a decade ago a dream began when our new Worship Center was built and, more recently, when our beautiful Learning Center became a reality. We wanted to reach many more children to teach them that God loves them and watches over them. We wanted to leave a legacy for all who come after us.
The building is there and right now it sits empty, but this won’t last forever. We will be back at church worshipping and fellowshipping together. But there is more we need to do. We need to remember that the bills still need to be paid even though we are not physically there. As you are able, giving may continue online or by mail. We also need to take this time and pray about what each of us can do to continue to make the dream a reality once our doors are open again. That may look something like volunteering to teach children or lead a youth group or help with VBS. It may mean mentoring in one of the school programs we sponsor. It may mean helping at Abundant Blessings or Least of These. It may mean inviting a neighbor child for milk and cookies until Mom gets home from work.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Our work in the community takes on many faces and it never ends. Not because of lack of money or stormy weather or even COVID 19. We are still here and our doors are “figuratively” open.
(Note: Information used here about Hattie May Wiatt is taken from the article on file at the Temple University Library Archives and copy from the original text of Rev. Russell Conwell’s sermon may be found online in its entirety. Many articles have been written about the story and are easily found online by entering the name Hattie May Wiatt or simply “57 Cents”. Current numbers involving Temple University and Temple University Hospital appeared on their websites.)


Stand Up

By: Ed Vigneaux

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

I heard a sermon by Dr. David Jeremiah recently and the theme of the sermon was from the book of Daniel and in this book, God told Daniel to do 4 things.

  1. Do not stand down. In other words, do not ignore or disregard God’s message.
  2. Do not stand aside. Do not compromise your beliefs.
  3. Do not stand against. Daniel didn’t go around talking against the Babylonians, he lived among them.  He lived his life according to the teachings of God.  We too should live our life according to the teachings of God and His son Jesus.  Don’t go around accusing others of their sin.  Remember what Jesus said about removing the splinter from your neighbor’s eye while not removing the plank from your own eye.
  4. Do Stand up. Live your life according to God’s teachings and do not worry about tomorrow.  Daniel wanted to know everything that was going to happen, but God told him not to concern himself with everything that was going to happen, just live your life.  And He did.Let us love one another.  Let us Be Love.  We are blessed to be a blessing.



Where is Happiness Found?

By: Ed Vigneaux

I read an article recently titled “Seven Steps to Happiness,” written by Wallace G. Smith and want to pass on those steps to those who aren’t happy in their life and also to all who want to know how they can be happier or maintain the happiness they have.

Life today can be extremely stressful.  We seem to search for refuge, rest, and relief and never completely find it.  When we look at the world around us, we can see that something is wrong or missing.  Most people are not happy.

In fact, the American Psychological Association notes that the national suicide rate has increased 33% from 1999 through 2017 and has increased sharply since 2006. It’s not about money.  America is proof that happiness is not found in collecting an abundance of physical things.

That is actually good news. It means that happiness is found within us. The following are seven steps that can possibly bring us the happiness we search for.

1. Head for the park. We have become a society that spends most of our time indoors.  We should spend more time enjoying nature, this beautiful world that God created for us. 

2. Minimize your social media time. How many are addicted to social media; Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.? If you don’t think you are, try spending a week without them. In fact, studies indicate that people who spent less time on social media experience decreases in both depression and loneliness. 
3. Treat your body well. Eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Irregular sleep harms our health and happiness. Poor health is a significant source of stress and unhappiness. 
4. Be relentlessly thankful. Practice active gratitude at all times. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Thessalonica to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18).
5. Let God know. We all go through difficult times. And we can all find reasons to worry or feel anxious.  Pray about your worries. Philippians 4: 6-7 reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
6. Believe the promises of Scripture. If we are going to pray to God for everything and be grateful, we must have faith to believe that He will do what he says He will do. The Scriptures tell us the promises God made to His people then, and He still keeps His promises today.
7. Embrace a purpose greater than yourself. In other words, serve others. Jesus calls us to serve the least of these. We can do this in many ways, and it’s not always physical. We are called to spread the good news of the gospel to all whom we come in contact with. Jesus is the good news. We should pray for our community of faith, our country, and the world. Pray that they would come to know the joy and happiness we find in knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Let us love one another.  Let us Be Love. 
We are blessed to be a blessing.


Tiny Source, Big Lessons

By: Marcy Barthelette

Easter has come and gone! We have once again followed Jesus on his journey to the cross and we have experienced His resurrection. Amidst all our current chaos, He rose! He always has and always will be there.

So I’ve been thinking, what comes next? The season of Lent offers lots of subject matter for us to ponder, but it’s over now. So what’s next?

I think God gave me a very unusual answer. Ants descended on our home this past weekend. Happy Easter! The tiny demons found our candy stash in the kitchen and have been beating a path to our drawers for several days. Is there anything more determined than an ant when it locates a food source? But the ant doesn’t depend upon itself. It calls on all its buddies and leads them to the treasure. In a matter of minutes, it becomes an onslaught and without mitigation, your home is a landscape of devastation.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we took a lesson from these tiny little creatures? One of them can carry very little but have you seen an army of ants working together in perfect harmony? What could we do if we came together in one accord and tackled the injustices of this world? What if we created teams to tackle hunger? What if we stood up to the abuse of others? What if we carried the message of Jesus to people who haven’t heard?

Wherever we go and whatever we do, we are telling the world what Jesus means to us by the way we treat those around us and right now carrying a message requires a little more creative thinking. Pastor Phil told us in the Easter service, “The word of God is to be spoken and heard”. That really resonated with me right now because of our nemesis, COVID 19. Our special gift is to do the speaking to those who need to hear.

I’ve seen all kinds of things being done online; church services, education, and activities for kids, business meetings on Zoom, the list goes on and on. What I’m writing now is my small part in the scheme of things but I realized I can do so much more. So, I keep my phone handy to text a friend who might be lonely or get together a group of friends who can’t physically be together at this time. Of course, we have Facetime and shared family photo albums to keep us in touch with our special people.

Those of us who are healthy and not at high risk can volunteer to hand out food and the rest of us can make monetary donations to organizations that provide food assistance. One day, we will all be back on the frontlines helping others. When we are, I hope that we don’t forget the lessons learned from COVID 19 and I hope that I don’t forget the lesson from my ant friends. I know they are God’s creatures too and they need to eat, but not in my house and especially not when chocolate is involved. They’ll keep waging their offensive and we’ll keep fighting back. But remember, we will ultimately win the battle over evil and we want to take a lot of people to heaven with us! As we make ourselves less important, we make Jesus’ army exponentially larger. Start speaking up so others can hear!

Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! John 14:14
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matt 7:7