A Friend’s Comment About On Kitten Creek

 

Seeking the Sacred On Kitten Creek by Nancy Swihart is a remarkable, modern-day adventure story about how one family, grounded in Christian love and guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, developed a Christ-honoring community. The power of two verses is fulfilled in her book and life: In Psalm 71: 18, we are encouraged to “ declare God’s power to the next generation, His mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 90:12 tells us to “number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” As I read Nancy’s story, I remembered my own family’s journey… When our first military assignment took us to Kansas, we were blessed with a life-long friendship with the Swihart family as well as our involvement with Wellspring Ministries. My three children, my wife, and I spent many a happy day frolicking on the Swihart farm, enjoying the uniqueness that only farm life can hold, as well as being affected by the spiritual adventures that took place there on Kitten Creek. Of particular interest to my animal-loving children was the variety of animals found there, which the Swiharts wove into their ministry (and Nancy into her book) much like C.S. Lewis did in his Narnia stories!

This is a life changing book as it points to self-introspection on how our own  lives might be used to further the Lord’s Kingdom here on this earth.  As a retired U.S. Army soldier and now a professor at the University of Alabama, I was impressed by the Wellspring team’s openness to so many college students… their willingness to simply be present, to listen, and to offer a relational community where young people could experience faith in action. Nancy’s memoir guides her readers to our Savior and encourages a lifetime of focus on Him and the gospel. It reminds us that God provides, corrects, leads, and answers our prayers and needs as we continually seek His presence in our lives.  The importance of remembrance is emphasized as the Lord incorporates our whole lives into the strength of our witness for Him, and the value of praying and thinking the Scriptures is encouraged.

In a personal application of this book, though us city folk do not inhabit a farm in Kansas, we do have a small cabin on a river in the Appalachian mountains in north Alabama. We are now inspired to purpose to place a Christ-focus in our times there for our family and friends.

On a professional note, I am part of research and ministry with aging congregations across the world. Our team plans to recommend Nancy’s inspirational book as an encouragement to older persons of faith to share their Christ-honoring stories with the next generation and to remind adult children to capture the stories of their parents and grandparents. Nancy provides insightful suggestions and resources about how to tailor and  carry this out . Her own book is a superb example of how one’s own family story can impact this world for the Lord and His life-saving mission.

Michael W. Parker, Ph.D./DSW, LCSW, PIP

Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Retired (AMEDD)

John A. Hartford Foundation and Gerontological Society of America Geriatric Scholar & National Mentor

Veterans Affairs Representative, Hartford – GSA Scholars Program Selection Committee

Professor, School of Social Work & Executive Board, Institute of Research & Aging

University of Alabama

Associate Professor

Division of Geriatric Medicine & Palliative Care

UAB Comprehensive Center for Aging

Non-Resident Scholar, Duke Center for Spirituality and Health

Farah Hall, room 114

Tel: 205 348 6766

It’s the Thought That Counts by Jan Coles

All kinds of thoughts can occur to me when I open a gift

How thoughtful!

That is so nice of her to think of me.

I think I already have one of these.

I think I told him I don’t like these.

What made him think I’d like this?

What was she thinking?

Among the gifts my husband and I received as wedding presents was a large, blue glass bowl from his Aunt Ellen. His artistic, eclectic Aunt Ellen. The bowl was, well, um, shall we say, unusual.

The depression of the bowl had a diameter of about eight inches and was about four inches deep. The flanges around the rim of the bowl doubled its overall size. Ridges that looked like mountain ranges protruded from the bottom. (You can see a picture of it here: http://www.blenkocollectors.com/specialtylinepages/blenkocollcolorbigsky.htm)

What was Aunt Ellen thinking?

The bowl was too big to fit in a cupboard. It was too fragile to put in a closet or under the bed. It was too big to set out as “decor,” since our dining table did double duty as a desk. We joked that it couldn’t even be used as a bed pan because of the ridges in the bottom of the bowl. In short, the bowl was useless. And to be honest, we thought it was ugly. So we did what newly-married college students do with a wedding gift they don’t want: return it and buy something else.

Our quest to return The Blue Bowl (yes, we did name the bowl), was not an easy one. It seemed that none of the stores we went to sold anything like The Blue Bowl. The reactions varied:

“No, we don’t sell anything like that.”

“Hmmm, I’m not sure what store that may have come from,” trying to appear helpful.

“You say you got this as a wedding gift?” attempting to hide a puzzled smile. 

“Um, I’ve never seen anything like that here,” stifling a giggle.

“What on earth is that?!” accompanied by peals of laughter.

After a few stores, the task of finding a place to return the bowl turned into a game. The more places we went to, the more incredulous looks and comments we received, the funnier the game. We laughed with the clerks as they tried to help us figure out which store we could try next.

So it was with smirks ready that we approached the clerk in the china department at Frederick & Nelsons. “Oh!” she gasped, “You want to return a Blenko Original?!”

“Well, yeah,” I began. “It’s pretty ug…,” Stepping slightly in front of me, Brian stopped me with a more gracious response: “It doesn’t really fit our decor.” Anything worth more than $15 didn’t fit in with our decor.

The astonished clerk finished the paperwork to return the bowl and we left with $35, about $75 in today’s money. “Not much for a Blenko Original,” I remarked to Brian as we left the china department.

Then a funny thing happened. I didn’t want to sell the bowl back to the store! We had so much fun trying to return the bowl that we actually enjoyed, in a twisted sort of way, owning the bowl. I wanted to run back and tell the clerk I’d changed my mind and wanted the bowl back. Suddenly I realized the bowl wasn’t worthless.

As kids we expectantly opened boxes adorned with bows and colored paper on Christmas and on our birthdays. Sometimes we were disappointed, like when my great aunt sent me slippers she had crocheted using pink, scratchy yarn. “It’s the thought that counts,” my dad said. “Your aunt made these for you because she loves you.” To which my eight-year-old mind responded, “If she loved me she would know I hate pink!”

But I’m beginning to wonder what it really means when we say, “It’s the thought that counts.” Certainly Aunt Ellen had thought about whether we would appreciate and enjoy The Blue Bowl. The problem was what we thought. We were too busy thinking about what we wanted. The Blue Bowl had little value to us when we looked at it with our own expectations and desires.

We hear a lot about God giving each of us special gifts: an ear for music, a great singing voice, insightful teaching, an ability to be an encourager, etc. I wish I had one of those special gifts. I want gifts that are useful to others, gifts that people can see. I think we all do.

Unfortunately, I often think any gifts he has given me aren’t the good ones. They’re gifts that don’t seem useful or special. They are undesirable because I have expectations about exactly what a special gift from God really is.

The real problem is that I fail to see these gifts as gifts born out of love. I don’t want them because they aren’t exciting or fun or obvious or what I deem useful. They’re like The Blue Bowl: ugly and unwanted. So I’m busy “taking them back to the store” to try to exchange them for something more exciting. Something that will capture my attention. Something that will attract others to me.

The reality is that not all gifts are obvious and exciting. To use an old expression, where would the blossom be without the stem? Whereas I’d much rather be the blossom, God’s given me the gift of being the stem. It’s not what I want, but it’s what is needed.

God’s not in the business of handing out gifts without thinking about the recipient. I’m convinced he thinks a lot about it. But the gifts he gives aren’t useful to us until we see the value of them. Until we think about them the way he thinks about them.

I think my dad was right. It is the thought that counts.

 

 

BETHLEHEM REVISITED

 December 1st, 2nd & 3rd, 2017

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” ~ Luke 2:10-11

Each year 2,000 people walk the hills and trails of the local farm, stepping back in time to “Bethlehem Revisited.” A living nativity experience that seeks to bring to life the “good news of a great joy.” It is an outreach event that invites surrounding communities to join a guided walking tour in which the group interacts with prophets proclaiming the coming One, watches as a girl named Mary learns that she will be with child, navigates their way through the crowded town of Bethlehem, observes shepherds out in a field as they become part of an amazing visitation, and stops a moment at the manger where Mary and Joseph wonder at the miracle of the Christ child. The tour continues with scenes from the life of Christ and the overwhelming truth and hope of the Resurrection.

 

Tickets will be available November 13 at Noon at Manhattan Running Company, Staples, Kaw Valley State Bank in Wamego and Grace Baptist Church.  Friday evening begins at 6:00 and will run till 9:00 pm.  Saturday and Sunday evening will begin at 4:30 and will run till 9:00 pm.

BR Map3Facts

No red carpet… just trails of hay and dirt. No dignitaries…just the residents of the stable. No gold lined crib…just a hand-hewn wooden manger that the sheep and donkeys had been eating from. Yet in the presence of these simple creatures the God of the universe was born. Guests who visit Bethlehem Revisited will experience the story that comes to life, as they trudge the paths, smell the “reality” of a barnyard, hear with their ears the crowd in the inn, the donkey’s bray . . .the simplicity of the greatest event of all times, the incarnation of our Saviour. For some, it may be the very first time that they have heard or seen this message; for others it is the first time their imaginations have been baptized with the truth of Incarnational Reality; for others it is simply a time for their imaginations to be stirred once again into a sense of worship of the One they serve. The birth of Christ is more than a historical event: it has crucial relevance for every man, woman and child.

This event includes a cast of nearly 100 costumed people, live animals, and narration played out on a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas. It begins for the guests as they arrive at the Welcome Center in Keats Park, Keats Kansas. There they will be met by hosts who will direct them into a heated building where they will be welcomed with hot chocolate, home made cookies, and live music. From the Welcome Center guests will take a short bus ride to the farm where their guide and his assistant will lead them on their approximately forty minute walk through the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Come listen to Moses, David, Isaiah and others foretell the coming of the King. Walk through the crowded street of Bethlehem where vendors are oblivious to the momentous occasion of your visit. Come see the busy innkeeper and the young pregnant couple who were denied residence by him. Watch the angels tell good news to shepherds. Come witness the empty cross and the open tomb and hear the next chapter of the story.

Frequently asked questions

Does it cost to attend?

Bethlehem is a free event; there are no costs for attendees. We offer this Christmas activity as a ministry to everyone in the community.

Do I need to bring my ticket?

Please do. We provide tickets for those who wish to attend. The tickets are for particular nights and times; they help us manage the group sizes and give the attendee a better chance of getting in a group in a timely manner.

Where and when can I get my ticket?

Tickets will be available at Staples, The Manhattan Running Company, Kaw Valley State Bank in Wamego and Grace Baptist Church, beginning November 14, until they are depleted.

Groups of ten or more may request time slots by contacting us starting in the beginning of November.  We will not be able to accommodate those requests after November 10.  If you would like to be a part of this ministry, please let us know by e-mailing us at office@gracebchurch.org.

How long does it take to complete the tour to Bethlehem?

The tour should take about fifty minutes.

How should I dress to attend Bethlehem Revisited?

Since it is winter and you will be outdoors for the entire journey, plan to wear layered, warm clothing; shoes should be sturdy and comfortable. Hand warmers, scarves, mittens, etc., are good ideas.

Is there any accommodation for those who cannot walk the trails?

Bethlehem Revisited is equipped with two upholstered carts to assist our guests who find it difficult to walk through the entire experience with the groups. The Welcome Center should be advised of the need when the guest arrives and the cart will be ready to take 1-2 people through when the group arrives at the farm.

What about cancellations due to weather?

If there is any doubt that the tours may be cancelled due to weather, check with the Grace Baptist Church web site or call Nancy Swihart 785-539-1373.

Directions

Bethlehem Revisited begins at Keats Park. Keats is located 5 miles north west of Manhattan, Kansas. From Manhattan, follow Anderson west to the town of Keats.

The living nativity experience of Bethlehem Revisited is a free event, but tickets are required. This event will always take place the first weekend in December.

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

He arrived one morning in a cat carrier, the last duck at  my son’s farm. His destiny was the chopping block if I did not adopt him. Why could I not make room for one more fowl?  I reasoned with myself. I had three white chickens and a little hen-house.  One more body would fit comfortably, and they could be a family.

Gently placing the carrier on the ground,my granddaughter Lillian suggested that since he had hung out with her chickens, he would feel right at home with my chickens. With trepidation, I opened the door to the carrier. Would he stay here on our little patch of Kansas, or would he go like a homing pigeon back down the gravel drive from whence he came?

Released from his cage and spotting my three white chickens, the newly acquired duck flapped his wings, lowered his head, and charged after them. I watched in amusement. Chickens had imprinted this duck, and for all he knew he was a chicken and those three were his kin. The chickens, however, looking over their shoulders, knew that this strange thing racing toward them was definitely NOT a chicken.

“Oh, help, oh help,” they squawked desperately running from this intruder for all their little legs could go. “Wait, wait!!!” quacked the duck running as fast as his short, webbed feet could go. And the chase was on.

It would take about a week before the duck would be considered an insider in this little band of fowls.

We all yearn to belong, to be insiders.  We overhear three friends enjoying each other’s company,  but we are outside the circle. Laughter floats from the yard next door while we sit on the deck, alone. We listen to someone’s plan for a day-trip, and our big plan is mowing the yard.  Two young women sit huddled together sharing their hearts with each other. Deep in our innermost being is the cry, “Oh, wait, oh wait. Let me be one of you. I want to hang out with you. I want to spend time with you; I want to be known, be loved . . . belong.

Unlike the duck and the chickens, we do  belong to the same species. We were created for intimacy, for friendship, for belonging.

We sing,  “Blest be the tie that binds/ our hearts in Christian love.” What is the tie that binds? Is it real? Is it enough? And if it is, then why do I feel lonely? Is it even possible to be satisfied with that “tie that binds?” Or am I wanting more?

No easy answer here. Or is there? Perhaps a better understanding of that “tie,” (The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Teacher) is essential to finding an answer. When we correctly understand the miracle of an “Indwelling Spirit,” we will begin to grow in our feelings of belonging.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the very foundation of our “belonging.”  The rest, that connection with others, will be built upon this  foundation.

“Never alone”; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”; “Christ lives in me.” (See the link for more assurances: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Indwelling-Of-The-Holy-Spirit).

 

God’s Love Present in Our World — Cladach Publishing

As a publisher, I love to publish books and stories that demonstrate the love of Jesus … stories ever fresh, personal and creative … stories of a love that has power to change lives and change history. Many Cladach books tell of lives changed by this love. In Creation of Calm, we read how God’s love transformed pain and loss into beautiful art that brings calm to others caught in life’s storms. In Hostage In Taipei, we read a true, extreme account of God’s love working through believers literally caught in the crossfire, eventually overcoming violence and hate. In Face to Face, we read of Love personified who, unlike everyone else, looked at a woman broken and spiritually oppressed, saw her heart, and released her with his words of love.

via God’s Love Present in Our World — Cladach Publishing

The Misty Flats

6a0105371bb32c970b0120a56dee1c970b-750wiTo every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way,
And the High Soul climbs the High Way,
And the Low Soul gropes the Low,
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A High Way, and a Low.
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go.    -John Oxenham

The Way

Formal Invitation

Here is the scoop: We are celebrating the release of Searching for the Sacred: On Kitten Creek with a signing party in the barn. Consider this your formal invitation to join us. I have, to the best of my ability, recorded what God has done and is doing here on Kitten Creek. So many have been a part of this story. Please come and join us as we celebrate.

“Not to us,oh Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).  Click on the word “invite”  and you will receive your formal invitation!    invite