Is God in Your House?

 By Marcy Barthelette

I love the look of surprise on Ken’s face when he walks into a room after I have turned his personal world upside down. You see, I simply love making a room look new by rearranging furniture and accessories. There are areas of my life in which I really embrace change and my home is one of those places. It’s a real challenge in our current home because of the room layouts and placement of certain permanent pieces like the TV and fireplace. They may slow me down a little, but I won’t let those restrictions stop me. Even when I’m not actually moving things, I’m studying the current layout and searching for ways to make it flow better or provide easier access to those items we use on a daily basis. I draw room layouts and sometimes I even go so far as to draw plans for a home I may be dreaming about. My creative side is always painting new virtual masterpieces and my home is my canvas, as long as I don’t upset Ken’s world too much. He often notices me standing in a room looking around thoughtfully and he knows change is afoot.

I recently had a pause to contemplate the important images my home should reflect. As I watched online the Sunday service at our daughter’s church in Willow Springs, I was intrigued by some of the points brought forth by their pastor. The sermon was titled When God Is In the House and it prompted me to ask myself how much of the time I behave as if God is in my house, referring to the brick-and-mortar structure that I dwell in, but also the temple that is my body, my mind, and my soul.

When Jesus entered the temple of His day, He found men cheating tired travelers who had come to celebrate Passover and He was incensed. To use the temple for such a vile purpose added insult to injury. Is it any wonder that He forcefully drove this evil from His Father’s house?

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple.

He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. Matthew 21:12

I wonder how often I allow financial issues to cloud my vision. When God expects me to give back to Him a portion of what He gave to me or when I see a financial need in someone else’s life, how often do I choose to buy that new electronic device I’ve been wanting, or in times when COVID didn’t control our lives, did I choose dinner out for myself rather than providing food to someone who was truly hungry? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have things that make our lives more pleasant or that we should never go out for dinner. It’s when we do those things to the exclusion of others who may be in need that we might want to re-examine our values. Always be sure that God is in your house.

The sermon I referred to cited the example of getting all the necessary permits in order, hiring a contractor, and building a church, but if we don’t have God living inside those walls, it’s still just a building, it has no soul.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1a

 And likewise, if you and your spouse don’t include God in your marriage, all you have is a living arrangement. And if the family is at odds over its core values, it will not survive.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25

 The other important point in the sermon was that Jesus and Satan will not, under any circumstances, share a home. That’s a pretty important statement and one we shouldn’t take lightly. We have to choose who we will invite to share our home and whether you choose Christ or Satan, the furniture will certainly be re-arranged.

But think about this, when you choose to invite God in, He always leaves your home better than He found it (excerpted from the previously cited sermon) and He only grants us access to His home if we invite Him into ours.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of God. Author Unknown

One last thought as we continue our annual journey to the cross. My husband was recently looking at the Bible he received on his twentieth birthday in 1963. He was stationed in California at the time and was enjoying a reunion with his older sister and her family. They had been on opposite coasts for a number of years and then he enlisted in the Air Force and traveled a bit before being assigned to Beale Air Force Base and landing on her doorstep The Bible was a gift from them. He chanced to read the presentation page on which he had written:

It is easy to crowd Christ out because He will never crowd himself in. Ken Barthelette

I have borrowed some very wise words from the wise people around me. I hope they offer you pause for thought as you ask yourself this question; Is God in my house?


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A Time for Celebration

By Marcy Barthelette

Journal Entry: Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Southwest Power Pool returned to normal operation last night. Finally, the bitter cold has broken, the snow is melting, and I can catch up on my laundry, not to mention how good it feels to be warm again. I awoke to the cloudy skies that forecasters had predicted but there was a song in my heart and a smile on my face. The temperature stayed above freezing overnight and I had plenty to celebrate!

It would be an understatement to say that it’s been a rough couple of weeks for most of our nation. We were all so anxious for 2020 to end and to make a fresh start, but we might want to be careful what we wish for. Ken and I were blessed during the brutal cold with only a rolling blackout lasting an hour and a half. Our son’s family lives in Austin, TX and, while they were blessed to keep power at both their home and the hotel our son manages, all was certainly not well. Joe’s staff couldn’t get to work because of the ice and snow so he lived at the hotel for a number of days, filling any position that needed attention. He’s a hands-on manager, so that’s not unusual for him, but there was a lot of ground to cover during this emergency. He had a full house for the duration, mostly displaced families and emergency workers. While there is food service in the hotel, he couldn’t get delivery of supplies to feed all those hungry people. At one point, while going through the lobby, he glanced up to find icicles hanging from the sprinkler heads. A quick call, accompanied by a fair amount of begging, and a service person arrived within a short time and drained the lines to avoid a major break that would have resulted in very damaging flooding. During the night of his third day of nearly nonstop work, a call came from his sons that their mom had been taken to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. The diagnosis was pancreatitis caused by gallstones, but they couldn’t remove the gall bladder until her labs improved. A couple of days later, she was gall bladder-free and back at home recuperating.

That’s the latest of the issues our family is dealing with and I know you have your own share. Just like the disciples out to sea when the storm came barreling through, Jesus is in our boat too, carrying us safely through the storms.

When troubles overwhelm, He stills our thoughts and calms our fears. We need simply remember

we aren’t sailing solo. Heidi Gaul, Mornings with Jesus 2021

I feel there is a parallel between Lent and my current time of contentment. While I understand that the Lenten season is to be a time of introspection, I believe there is also much to celebrate. As we study and learn more about this man, Jesus, we find Him interacting with all kinds of people. Matter of fact, He spent a lot of His time with the overlooked and the unloved, the people others wouldn’t touch. I’m so glad He lived that way because it tells me that no matter how badly I fail, His mercy always awaits.

As we read or reread the stories of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who shared a meal with Jesus, of Mary and Martha whose brother had recently died but was restored to life, of Bartimaeus as he asks for and is given sight; aren’t these moments filled with joy and celebration. In fact, isn’t everything surrounding Jesus worthy of celebration, even His death on the cross. In the days when He walked the earth, people didn’t know what was about to happen, but we do. We know about Easter morning. We know what He offers us. So, do whatever you have chosen to do for Lent in love and dedication, learn all you can about this man, develop your relationship with Him and remember to celebrate along the way, especially at the empty tomb.

Create in me a pure heart oh God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10, 12 NIV

Many people continue to hurt as a result of the trials our nation has been through and we need to help wherever we can. That, too, is what Lent is about, living our lives as Jesus did, serving those in need.

P.S. This past Sunday morning the praise band performed What a Beautiful Name and one line really resonated with me. It says, You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” That really sums it up. He wants us with Him, to share His home forever. And He proved it to us in a way none of us could imagine. That’s a reason for a celebration of epic proportion!


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In the Beginning

By Marcy Barthelette

It began on an ordinary night in an ordinary stable to ordinary people before an ordinary audience, though it was anything but ordinary. It was the beginning of the greatest story ever told. The beauty of that statement is that it wasn’t just a story. It was, and is, a promise to each of us.

No day is accidental or incidental. No acts are random or wasted. Look at the Bethlehem birth. A king ordered a census. Joseph was forced to travel. Mary, as round as a ladybug, bounced on a donkey’s back. The hotel was full. The hour was late. The event was one big hassle. Yet, out of the hassle, hope was born.

Max Lucado, Because of Bethlehem

Just a few short weeks ago we celebrated the birth of the Baby and now we begin the somber journey to the Cross. As I write, we don’t know whether Aldersgate will come together in person for Ash Wednesday or observe it virtually. I suppose it’s only fitting that, as with the most important dates during the past year, this one is also being impacted. This time, COVID isn’t the only culprit. Old man winter has reared an ugly side of his personality. Oh yes, the snow is lovely, but the cold is something most of us can likely do without. Wherever we are on Ash Wednesday, it is important to turn our thoughts to the events leading up to Easter morning. It is the time we are to examine ourselves, to learn where we may be lacking, and to get our spiritual life back on track or find those tracks for the very first time.

Last Sunday, Pastor Dennis spoke of Jesus’ Transfiguration, meaning a change in form or appearance. Roughly a millennium and a half after Moses led the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and perhaps 900 or so years after the Prophet Elijah walked the earth in service to God, Jesus took His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, on a little hike up a very high mountain. It was there that Jesus was suddenly transfigured from human to divine, completely clothed in sparkling white garments and standing in the company of Moses and Elijah. The disciples were awestruck and somewhat afraid, with Peter even suggesting that altars be built to the three spiritual beings.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7

 

Just as suddenly as they had appeared, the spiritual beings disappeared, and the disciples were left just with Jesus, in His human form. Some theologians believe this encounter was meant as a sign that Jesus was to fulfill the Law and the prophets and to assure his three closest friends that He was surely the long-awaited Messiah. Yet while he unveiled Himself to these three disciples, he asked them not to talk about what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They still didn’t realize He referred to His own death.

How many of us are wandering in denial? How many throughout this world, and just as importantly, in our very own community, still don’t know that He died for every single one of us? As we journey through these next six weeks, let’s take a look at the man Jesus was and the role He plays in our lives today. Do we cordially invite Him into our hearts, or do we keep Him standing outside in the cold? Are we in the midst of our beginning or nearing our end? Are awestruck in His presence? We should be.

This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice

that deals with our sins.   CEB


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Find Your Markers

By Marcy Barthelette

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and

teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4-5

During the long cold days of winter,

 and we are deep in the middle of them now, I long for bright sunshine and warming temperatures so that Ken and I can plan a nice hike. Most years we head down to Roaring River State Park when we’re blessed with a warm February day. Having worked and lived in the trout fishing parks for many years, we always get a little antsy to check out the stream and discover any changes that have occurred in the facilities during the off-season. We love to hike up over the spring pond and take in the panoramic view. During our almost 37 years of marriage, we’ve hiked in many diverse locations and they’re all alike in one very important aspect. You need to pay attention to your guide map and watch for trail markers. Getting lost in unfamiliar terrain is no picnic so preparedness is certainly key to having a good experience.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. Proverbs 22:3a

And who among us hasn’t fallen under the spell of a treasure map at some point in our lives? Humans are always attracted to anything that appears valuable and free. Many of us can recall a time when, as kids, we discovered what appeared to be an ancient map with an X on the spot where the buried treasure had been concealed. We just knew that if we followed the clues on that map to the letter, we would uncover a chest full of coins and jewels left behind by pirates. We never recovered tangible treasure, but the real treasure was in the fun and comradery we enjoyed on the hunt.

For a number of years, geo-caching replaced traditional treasure hunting by combining hiking and technology to discover an often-unusual cache in an eco-friendly site above ground. No digging required, just your smartphone, a good knowledge of your GPS app, sturdy walking shoes, plenty of water to keep hydrated, appropriate clothing for the weather and never forgetting to keep an eye on the radar if the sky begins to look dicey. A number of geo-caching websites offered endless opportunities for fun and exercise. A cache might be secured in any weather-tight container and might include small trinkets for finders to take. It was typical to also leave something behind. Sometimes a journal was provided for the finder to leave comments. Once again, the reward was in the enjoyment of the hunt and, of course, all rules of outdoor etiquette applied.

The most important part of hiking or treasure hunting in any form is correctly locating the markers on your map or GPS. Without those markers, we’d be completely lost, and doesn’t that same rule apply to our spiritual lives. Our markers were set by Jesus when He walked this earth just like you and me. He taught us how to live our lives by placing the best interests of others first. At the wedding in Cana, when the wine ran out, he made more. And not just more, but the finest wine of the celebration. And he did this even though he was not yet ready to reveal himself. He fed multitudes of followers when he had often eaten little himself. He healed the sick who sought him even when it was inconvenient for him. He even brought the dead back to life.

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and

not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

We humans don’t have superpowers and reviving the dead is probably not to be found in our bag of tricks, but what is our response when someone needs us? Do we take the time to inquire about those needs? Do we try to provide for the needs or to guide those persons to someone who can help them? I find myself too often coming up short when I could be a light in someone’s life. I don’t know about you but I’m spending a lot of time at home these days and it gives me pause to consider who I have been until now and who I want to be in the days and years to come. I think I need to check the markers on my treasure map more carefully, for it is in God that I find my only true treasure.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal

pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 (NIV)


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Grow Your Roots

By Marcy Barthelette

 

Don’t be ashamed if you suffer as one who belongs to Christ. Rather, honor God as you

bear Christ’s name. Give honor to God. I Peter 4:16

Here in the Ozarks, when you drive along highways where construction crews have drilled and blasted through layer upon layer of rock, you’ll likely see numerous cedar trees growing out of the cracks. How in the world can they do that? It’s a sheer rock face with an occasional tiny ledge. A seed must find its way to that ledge and land in a minuscule amount of soil, all deposited there by wind and water. While moisture typically seeps out of cracks and down the rock face, that moisture must find its way to the seed that lies in wait. Once the seed is touched by moisture and kissed by sunshine, a tiny tree sprouts, its roots burrowing into nearly invisible cracks, gathering moisture and nourishment along their way. Our local cedar trees require little to survive and soon their roots will travel deeper into the rock face to anchor the tree as it grows. I’ve seen some pretty large cedars clinging to those rock walls.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little like a cedar tree, clinging to life on the side of a sheer rock wall. Worry over contracting the virus, the isolation from other people, wondering when or if a vaccine will be available to me, my country in political chaos with no end in sight, and many other countries around the world in similar straits, not to mention family health issues. These are taller mountains than I’ve ever encountered in my life, all coming at once, and I know that many of you share these same concerns. My roots are deep, I’m strongly anchored, but if something else changes and causes a few roots to break, my anchor could be weakened, and I could slide down that bluff a very long way to the bottom. For Christians, a fall from grace is indeed deep.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:21

Fortunately, no matter how empty l may feel at any moment, I know that my anchor remains strong. My spirit keeps growing day by day, just like that tiny tree. My strength is found as I converse with God and He shows me how to turn away the evil that surrounds me and tries to drain the nourishment from my roots. There are days when I have to really struggle to hear His voice but that’s my fault, not His. Even when I’m too distracted by the world He is always there and He will meet me wherever I am. 

This week my “word well” felt completely dry but with patience and a willing ear, I finally heard Him speak and He told me I should share my fears and one big failure: pride in self. Back in April, when I started writing this weekly devotion, I thought I was doing it to help Casey and provide encouragement for you, that it was my calling, especially in these troubled times. Those are pretty lofty thoughts, aren’t they? But the Lord began to rein in my self-pride and I have come to realize that the messages are, in fact, intended for me because I have so much more to learn. I’ve come to treasure these life lessons, this spiritual healing, and if some of you receive a blessing from them along the way, that is the icing on the cake.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation….   Romans 12:12

Someone close to me recently said, “Spiritual healing is painful”. I ask you to consider the joy that always follows pain. We all need to dig a little deeper into our spiritual well, into God’s promises, and deeply into ourselves. With Him, we can find a spring that never runs dry. When you find yourself doubting and fear starts creeping into your soul, take some time to get away from everyone and reconnect with your roots, your anchor. And while you’re at it, recall the determination of that tiny cedar tree, one of God’s many signs that when we accept His will in our lives, we can do anything.

Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you:

love, prayer and forgiveness. H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author

Thank You, Lord, for the things that bring me closer to you. Buck Storm, Daily Guideposts 2021


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Make Me a Blessing

By Marcy Barthelette
 
We become the distribution point of God’s gifts. He wants no one to leave our presence empty-handed.
Max Lucado, Because of Bethlehem

 There has been for years a pretty common belief that a new habit can be formed when you repeat it for 21 days. That theory was popularized following a 1960 book by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon, who introduced the idea that a minimum of 21 days is required for one mental image of ourselves to be replaced by another. Of course, as humans, we are always looking for a quick and easy solution for whatever challenges we face. To be able to set a specific amount of time in which to shake off any unsavory habits was a no-brainer. Everyone was ready to jump on the bandwagon. Many studies have since been launched to test the 21-day theory, the results offering an 18-254-day range of time to break an old habit and replace it with a new one. The average was about 66 days. Variables included the type of habit involved and the personality of the individual attempting to make the change. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for breaking bad habits or creating good ones, and we all know we have a generous variety of personal favorites.

Over this past year, I’ve had lots of time to search for ways to become better at being the person God intended me to be. In fact, many of the things I share with you are actually messages to help me understand my part in God’s world. I have studied through morning devotions for years, breaking apart Bible verses and learning just how wonderful it is to know God better. And I say little prayers throughout the day to thank him for his guidance and wonderful creations or to bless a stranger and first responders when the sound of a siren pierces the air. But I realized I needed to deepen the experience of my prayer life, so I’ve developed a new habit which will always be a work in progress.

My first conversation in the morning and my last conversation before falling asleep at night are the most important of the day. That statement ties in with the SeedBed devotions that Pastor Dennis encouraged us to sign up for during the month of January. It was entitled First word, Last Word, God’s Word and encourages the habit of delving into God’s Word morning and night. For my purpose here, the reference is to prayer or personal conversation with God. Those few minutes each morning set the tone for my day. Without that time alone with Him, I usually find myself floundering through projects and commitments, trying to do them on my own. And if I neglected sharing the events of my day each evening and giving Him thanks for the blessings I enjoyed, I would feel incomplete and be unable to rest well.

The final plea I make each morning is that He would make me be a blessing to someone that day. It’s not always easy to be a blessing when we find ourselves isolated from the people around us and discouraged by all that we see happening in our world. But if we search, we can find small ways to bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of others. You may be a blessing to a member of your family, or you may reach out by phone, email, or social media with a kind word to someone that you know may be lonely. The point is, get into the habit of performing those intentional acts of kindness each and every day.

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

In the end, the number of days it takes to develop a new habit is quite irrelevant. These are all just studies, conducted by humans, often at great cost to governments or institutions. Our society is enamored with the study of just about anything, but the bottom line is that whatever habit you pursue in God’s will, it’s going to happen in His perfect time for you.

Be alert to interruptions today. Instead of getting frustrated by them, see if they are signals that you can meet another person’s needs.
Sharon Hinck  Mornings with Jesus 2020
 
Heavenly Father, help me to serve you daily by being a blessing to every person I meet.

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I Thirst for the Light

By Marcy Barthelette

The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun. Ecclesiastes 11:7

It was that moment, that instant when you lie half-awake but not fully aware of everything around you. I could feel it more than see. The room was a little lighter than on previous mornings even with closed eyes and tightly sealed blinds. I opened my eyes fully and gathered my sea legs, then walked to the window and opened the east-facing blind. There it was…warm beautiful sunlight! Oh, there was still frost on the rooftops, but there was promise in that wondrous light, promise that today might be one of those January reprieves from the cold, gray days that dominate so much of winter in Missouri. And then it dawned on me, just had the morning light, that I had been cranky recently without knowing why. My world had seemed out of sorts and it was all about light. We all likely suffer, to a degree from light deprivation. For some, it is a serious physical and psychological condition. For most, it’s just a cranky attitude, that out of sorts feeling. And so, it is, for me.

We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of man.

Dwight L Moody, evangelist

If you’ve paid any attention at all to decorating trends, you’ll be aware that gray is the current color of choice for just about everything, 

indoors and out. In that context, I love it too. But a gray day is a horse of a different color, so to speak. I long for those January surprises that come in the form of 50-60-degree days filled with sunshine. Those are the days when you can find me exploring my landscape beds for tiny indications that spring really is just around the corner. It’s surprising how many plants begin to stir much earlier than you might think. A touch of warmth inspires a touch of green that will then lie discreetly on the surface until its instincts tell it to forge ahead. Many of my perennials poke tiny tips through the moisture-laden ground even when covered in a blanket of snow. Snowdrops are the first, then crocus, and we all find daffodils basking in the foundation warmth of south-facing walls quite early in the year.

…as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass

springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain…. II Samuel 23:4

And have you noticed the trees, their buds still standing dormant from last fall, yet swollen with confidence that soon they’ll be able to

spring forth with new life and add color to our landscape once again? Chances are some of them become overanxious and open too early. They’ll be nipped by frost and have to begin the process again. But rest assured they will, because there is a cycle, established long ago, that just keeps moving forward. Yes, it may stumble a bit here and there, but it will find its balance and step out again. The plan for nature is a sure and steady one.

For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do

the good things he planned for us long ago.  

 

We humans, however, were given the freedom to make our own decisions and to choose wisely, we must first set our sights on a light that is eternal. Just as plants need sunlight and warmth to flourish, so do we. The light that causes plants to grow springs from the same source as the Light that fills our hearts with true joy and peace. Without both kinds of light, our lives are barren deserts, void of life.

He thrives before the sun, and his shoots spread out over his garden. Job 8:16

So, open your eyes to the beauty of a sun-filled morning sky and open your heart to the light of Jesus. Then your garden will bloom in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes and faces. We can always trust the Son to be there even when the sun is hiding. 

Jesus said I am the light of the world. John 9:5

God made us all. The animals, the stars, the whole world. But we humans, His children,

have always been the apple of His eye.  Soul Fuel: Bear Grylls

 


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A Big Bag of Lemons

By Marcy Barthelette

A little improvement each day makes a big difference over time. Ask God to enlarge your

territory but prepare yourself along the way to handle it well. Tony Gungy, Uncommon Life Daily Challenge

Back in 2003 when Ken’s career was rocking along nicely, life as we knew it came to a sudden halt! A devastating fire on the property where he worked turned the owner in a new direction and Ken found himself without a job at sixty years of age. For years he had been toying with the notion of relocating in Florida, after retirement, to be near his siblings and take advantage of the warmer climate. The time seemed right. Thus, an exhaustive job search took us from one end of Florida to the other and the answer came in the form of ten thousand acres in the middle of the state. He loved the slice of pristine wilderness that was placed under his care. Most of the time he had the whole place to himself other than a few campers and lots of wildlife. Clear running streams and rugged terrain created the perfect backdrop for outdoor recreation. Ken worked to create a safe place for guests to enjoy all that beautiful place had to offer while protecting the large numbers of birds, deer, bear, gators, and rattlesnakes…sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? To Ken, it was!

For several months before and after the move, he had been feeling a little under the weather and experienced a lot of joint pain, so he went in for a check-up and was administered just about every test known to medical science. Among other things, the doctor found a cancerous spot on his neck that had to be removed and the really bad diagnosis of severe osteoporosis. He was placed on a daily injection of medication that was still in the FDA approval stages and told that he could lift no more than ten pounds and do nothing that would jar his spine. That included most of his job. Fortunately, he was only halfway through a one-year probation and his employers were happy with his performance so they gave him lots of leeway and he continued to the end of that first year in the hope there would be an improvement in his condition. Bones do not repair quickly and the writing on the wall was clear. He was going to lose his job again and was still two years away from Medicare. Needless to say, the worry was great and on the last day of his probation, his supervisor told him that, regretfully, they would need his resignation.

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Lao Tzu

As he walked through the building on his way to his car, he happened to stick his head into the office of the person in charge of the prison inmate crews from the local medium-security facility who worked in the recreation areas. Ken jokingly asked if he had any jobs and the guy said yes, they were about to hire an inmate supervisor. He didn’t think Ken would be interested but he needed a job and he had prior experience in prison work. It was an ideal fit because the inmates did all the lifting and heavy work. They just needed supervision. Talk about a last-minute reprieve!

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

For the next year, Ken worked ten-hour days and had three-day weekends. I was in heaven with that schedule. His work in recreation had always meant that he was on the job every Saturday and Sunday during the busy season. For Ken, it started as just a job, a salary to keep the rent paid and food on the table as well as insurance and retirement benefits. But over time, he began to see it more as a ministry. When he showed respect for the men he supervised, they, in turn, respected him. He taught them boundaries while allowing them as much freedom as possible in their circumstances to make decisions. He talked with them about goals and what they would do when release finally came, but when he told them he prayed for them every day, they were blown away, yet humbled. From that day on there was an unspoken bond between them that they would have each other’s backs. It wasn’t until he had moved on to a great new position that someone shared with Ken that the group that he had supervised included some of the toughest inmates in that prison. With kindness and caring, he had been able to bring the best out in them and he still remembers the lessons they all learned that year. We don’t always get what we want, but we do always get what God knows we need.

If you’ve ever doubted that God has a purpose in everything He does, I’m here to tell you that you might want to reconsider. If Ken hadn’t lost his job in Missouri and moved to Florida, he wouldn’t have seen that doctor, who by the way was a little over the top when it came to testing, but his excessive caution found a failure in Ken’s body that may have been overlooked by someone else. And if Ken hadn’t been made to slow down to take care of his body, he wouldn’t have been in that place at that time to supervise a crew of society’s misfits who really needed some new direction. We don’t know what became of them, but we hope Ken’s witness may have had some impact on their lives. If just one of them left that prison feeling confidence in himself and the will to make life changes because of having been exposed to a man who genuinely cared about him, that was worth all of the setbacks that we faced.

Never doubt that you were put right where you are for a purpose. The destination may be unclear to you and there may be lots of detours along the road, but there is a master plan and one day it will be very clear. So, keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember that old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade”.

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace,   not disaster,

to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB)


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Repurposing Old into New

By Marcy Barthelette

For most of my adult life, I have dreamt of acquiring a vintage home, one that has good bones and nice exterior lines. I’d love a center chimney or multiple fireplaces and a few well-placed built-ins. Some stained glass would be a lovely bonus. Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t want it to be in pristine condition. The fun is in the fixing. I want it to be sound but far from perfect because you see, I’ve always loved a good project.   

My dream home has never come to be and we’re getting a little advanced in age to take on a huge endeavor so, over the years, I’ve settled for refurbishing and repurposing smaller items. As a matter of fact, Ken also loves to bring old things back to life. He has a collection of old tools that would make any handy guy envious.

My love of old things began when I was too young and short on money to buy new so my trips to flea markets, secondhand furniture stores, and just plain junk stores were frequent. I’d drag home an old chest of drawers or rugged-looking table and my family looked on in disbelief. There was no way I could turn that piece of junk into something useful. A few cans of paint or varnish stripper, some sandpaper, and steel wool, then a coat of new paint or stain, if the wood was good enough, and I had a new treasure for my home. And my family soon learned that I was pretty good at turning the proverbial saying, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, into an unexpected reality.

Ken and I have a few pieces that came to us through family and others that we have collected along our life’s journey, but we can’t wait to get back into the flea markets (Post COVID) in search of new little treasures. Some of his prettiest tools have found their way onto shelves and tables in our home and I am constantly in search of old ceramic pieces. Our home is an eclectic assembly of old and new, somehow all blending seamlessly together to form a cozy nest.

I suppose in many ways I can claim to be a vintage piece that has been repurposed more than once. As a young teen, I was sure my future lay in art. I didn’t know at my tender age how that would look but I knew it was the direction I wanted to aim for. As often happens life took over, I married young and found myself with a family. There wasn’t time or money for the college life I had thought would be mine.

A turn in the road of life took me to a new challenge, one in camping resort management. While there, I found myself dipping into the art world by designing T-shirts and advertising brochures. My writing skills also began to develop in the form of short historical essays about places in the Ozarks and these were printed in small local publications.

And then one day, when the kids were older, I wandered through the campus store at Missouri S & T, though it was known by a different name then. I discovered some great looking technical pens, and a dream began to form. I bought several and acquired some excellent books detailing the nuances of drawing in pen and ink. Before long I was creating drawings of historic buildings that Ken and I had visited, old gristmills, vintage homes, our state capitol, and surrounding campus. My technique was stipple and that means that the drawing is constructed completely of dots, more coverage for shaded areas and less for open spaces. My works were very time consuming but very rewarding. I sold them in gift shops and to historic sites in Missouri and I was honored with a showing at the Museum of Art in the Missouri State Capitol complex.

And then it all came crumbling down. I began to lose vision in one eye and could no longer do the detailed work required to complete even a small simple drawing, let alone the complexity I’d accomplished before. Three surgeries and a long healing period later, I began searching for a new direction. I never said repurposing was easy, there’s always a lot of work involved.

My attention turned to making cloth dolls that gained the attention of Silver Dollar City. I was able to sell quite a few and keep my creative juices flowing but keeping up with their demand by myself was difficult so I searched once more for meaningful work. Photography kept me busy for a while but never became a vocation.

After moving out of state for a while, we came home to Missouri and finally settled in Clever. It was there that I began writing. Our little church didn’t have a newsletter, so I started one. We were also looking at adding a contemporary service on Sunday mornings, so I accepted the job of creating our weekly order of worship and announcement sheet. A few years later, we made another move to a new church in Nixa called Aldersgate and when I asked how I could help the office staff, they put me to work making announcement slides for the big screens. Before long, Pastor Sarah began work on a new newsletter format and asked me to join the group working to make it a reality. Then last year, COVID paid a visit and so many things went virtual. Once again, it was a painful transition to isolation. When Casey asked me to write an occasional article for the new E-blast Gatepost, I thought, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot”. That was April and Casey said she would take whatever I could write for her. Aldersgate is still going strong, reaching people both virtually and in-person and it’s been a rewarding journey.

Seeing God in your tomorrow is the key to having confidence and courage in your today. Tony Dungy

I didn’t intend this to become a narrative about myself but rather to illustrate how one simple life can be transformed so many times and in so many ways throughout its journey. Sure, God closed doors in my life just as he has in yours, but he always opened another. When we choose to walk through those new doors, wonderful opportunities can be waiting just on the other side. The same happens when we choose to follow Jesus. He will repurpose us in His will. We don’t know what lies ahead, but God does. We only need to awaken ourselves to His possibilities.

So then, if anyone is in Christ. That person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived.

When the old year dies and the new one comes bounding in, I will draw strength from knowing that in the next twelve months the snows will go, the buds will burst, the heat will rise, the leaves will fly, that all these things will happen according to Your schedule and in Your time; that there is the order in Your universe and  I am part of it. Van Varner, former Guideposts Editor-in-Chief


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An Inconvenient Adventure

By Marcy Barthelette

Ever been on an incredible spontaneous adventure? Have you been offered an opportunity that was so off-the-wall crazy, so seemingly inconvenient, so totally impractical that you just said “No”?

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an

adventure wrongly considered. GK Chesterton

Imagine you live in the ancient lands of the middle and far east, you have spent your life studying astronomy, you enjoy great knowledge of the heavenly bodies and suddenly, a new star appears, one brighter than any you have ever seen. How will you respond? Will you gather with others of like mind to discuss its possibilities, will you keep this news all to yourself or will you pack a few belongings and climb on your camel to go in search of its source?

So, what made the Magi or Wise Men drop everything and commit to following a star wherever it might lead them. We don’t know how many there really were, but we easily buy into the assumption that three gifts meant three men. We’ve given them names; Melchior, perhaps from Persia, Gaspar, assumed from India,  and Balthazar possibly from Arabia. We depict them arriving at the stable where the Infant Jesus lay in the manger, but we know that in reality, they saw Him much later. In keeping with their religious studies, they had heard prophecies of a new King who would lead the nation of Israel as well as all those who would follow Him, and then they were offered a star to guide them to where He was.

These men, however many there were, could have stayed in the comfort of their homes and ignored the inconvenience of an adventure. They didn’t have to spend months crossing the barren desert and dealing with the perils of traveling in foreign lands. They could have enjoyed hot bread and the fruits of their homelands, but they chose common trail food and water shortages. They endured scorching hot days and cold nighttime temperatures. Perhaps it was a dedication to their profession or curiosity about this change in the heavens, perhaps it was a pull toward the promise of a special treasure. Whatever motivated them, they answered the inconvenient interruption to their everyday life by accepting the challenge of a spontaneous adventure.

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary

his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests

and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 CEB

And what if you were a child of today and a friend came to you with a treasure map. As you study it together and curiosity overcomes you, will you go with your friend on an adventurous journey in search of precious treasure or will you decline the invitation and stay inside to play a game. I would suggest that most children would jump at the chance to embark on a journey in search of buried treasure. But the adult in us would likely not be too anxious to trudge across the desert with an ill-tempered camel and only a star to guide the way.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
Luke 18: 16–18 (NIV)

The Magi jumped at the chance for adventure with the intense faith and hope that we see in children. Jesus invites us to join Him on the daily adventure of life and no one would argue that this past year has definitely presented challenges. So, what do we choose? Do we take the easy way and just exist in fear or do we step out with Him? Do we linger in 2020 or do we move on to 2021, a fresh perspective, a clean slate? Do we drown ourselves in the inconveniences or do we transform them into precious adventures?

I wonder in what ways the inconveniences you face today might be experienced through the eyes

of a child? How can you enter into the adventure of your day? GK Chesterton

 

Happy New Year to all God’s People

And remember the Magi on January 6, Epiphany, the day we celebrate their journey to see Jesus.


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