Monday, November 24, 2008

Lessons in the Fire

I had the most awesome time last week in my retreat cottage in the mountains. I call it mine but it’s actually part of Aldersgate Camp. However, whenever I go, there is always a paper on the table that says “Welcome Home, Amy Barkman” so I figure they won’t mind me calling it mine.

I went there very tired and discouraged, realizing that although my faith was still strong as far as belief in God’s Word and His love for us, I had lost my passion for ministry, for the Word, for prayer, for everything. I was plodding through my days, trying to do His will the best I could. I knew I needed a rest physically and emotionally. I took several Christian novels with me, along with a counseling course by dvd that I intended to study, several critiques to do for the Christian writer’s groups of which I’m a part, and some programs to work on.

But God had other plans.

I got there on Monday afternoon and left Friday morning. Every day I prayed, sang along with praise and worship music, prayed, read my Bible, did a devotional in “Awaken Me” (see the link to Promise Garden) and read A.W.Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God.”, studied scripture with Strong’s Concordance and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, and took Holy Communion.

For the first time in a long time, I would look up a scripture and get so interested that the next thing I knew I had devoured several chapters. There is nothing more exciting than having that kind of hunger for the Word.

What happened? How did I get there passionless and become so filled with Himself that the days flew by in ceaseless praise and joy? It started with the fire.

One of the things I love about going there in cool weather is the large fireplace. I build a fire every afternoon and keep it going until bedtime. It’s so cozy. But this time when I got there on Monday afternoon I tried to build a fire and it wouldn’t start. I was shocked. I was a Girl Scout and have always been proud of my fire-building ability. I crumpled up papers, I rolled up papers like logs, I took a knife and shaved off bits of log, I broke up small sticks. I lit papers eight times and every time they would blaze up in a lovely burst of flame and then go away without affecting the logs. Eight times of starting that fire but nothing would happen. Finally I gave up.

Sighing in disappointment, I said, “Lord, if You want me to have a fire, You’ll have to start it Yourself.”

Then I settled myself on the couch and began reading my devotional material. Every now and then I would glance over to see if a fire had started. But nothing. A couple of times I saw something shining out of the corner of my eye, but it was just the light glancing off the side of my glasses. Finally I put the fire entirely out of my mind and began focusing on the Lord. After about twenty minutes I heard a noise and looked up. The roar was from the fire as the logs were blazing with lovely dancing flames. My heart leaped in joy. He did it! He gave me my fire.

And then a still small voice in my heart said, “Your whole life is like that. You can’t start the fire yourself. When you give up and just concentrate on Me, I will fill you with passion for Me and for ministry, for My Word and for life.” And then He proceeded to do so.

From then on, each day my fires started up immediately on the first try. And… The next day in the “Awaken Me” devotional the topic was “Fan the Flames.” NOT a coincidence! In part it read “Burn off the chaff in my heart. Make my heart pure and good. Fill it with truth, compassion, tenderness and love. Melt my pride. Build a bonfire if necessary. Weld me to your ways. Let the heat of your holy flames destroy the logs of self-centeredness, the timber of wrong motives, the tinder of following others and the kindling of white lies.” And I proceeded to let Him do so.

He led the Israelites in the wilderness by fire, He proved Himself to the priests of Baal by fire, He appeared in flames of fire on the Day of Pentecost. And He taught Amy Barkman lessons in the fire at Aldersgate Camp and purged her heart as much as she would allow by the fire of His burning love. And He filled her with fire anew – a passion for Him and His people, His Word and His Will.

Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Best Friends

I’ve had several people I’ve called best friends over the years…I usually have two or three at least. But the one who has lasted the longest and who knows all my secrets from childhood on is Jacque (pronounced Jackie, short for Jacqueline). I walked into my sixth grade class the first day of school and saw a new girl with blonde pigtails sitting at a desk near the front of the room. I’d never known anyone with pigtails and was immediately intrigued. That was fifty-five years ago and it’s been over five decades since the pigtails were traded for the short hair more conducive to the sports activities so dear to her heart.

Jacque and I were always very different so it seemed odd that we were such good friends.

I hated physical exertion of any kind, and enthusiasm about sports, even as a spectator, remains an enigma to me. Jacque, on the other hand, stays glued to the TV during basketball season and usually watches football and baseball too. A knee injury keeps her from the tennis, golf, and water skiing that were her passion for years. As kids, we’d go to the pool together and she’d swim and exercise while I went to the locker room and read. The only thing we had in common was that we laughed a lot – the whole world seemed like a comedy arranged for our amusement.

Jacque and I were not model teenagers. At Girl Scout Camp we caused so much trouble that the District Director came to our cabin and, in tears, told us that in her seventeen years of leadership, she had never run into two girls like us and she wasn’t sure what to do with us. We looked at each other in awe, with great pride that we had reduced this pillar of strength to tears. We were kind of hoping she’d expel us from camp so we could go home where there weren’t so many rules and restrictions. But she hadn’t been leading girls for seventeen years without learning some things. She kept us there and put us in different cabins and in different work/play groups. Evil woman!

Sometime in our twenties, I reconnected with Jesus, and Jacque found Him for the first time. Since then, around 40 years, Jacque and I have been prayer partners, accountability partners, and partners in the gospel. Together we founded Voice of Joy Ministries.

God had a plan for those two silly eleven-year-olds, those two rebellious teens, that we couldn’t see at the time…and neither could anybody else! Except Him.

Hopefully we’ll meet the Lord in the air together. I’ve often thought I wouldn’t know how to function in this world without Jacque if something happened to her and she left here before I do. But I remind myself that I have an even better friend. His name also starts with a J. He’s Jesus and I never have to fear separation from Him. And it’s because of Him that I have all the best friends I’ve had throughout life…they are part of His Body in the earth.

Do you have stories about best friends? If so, please share. I’m going off to be alone in a mountain retreat cottage with my very number one Best Friend, Jesus, this week. Another best friend Tracy Ruckman will be approving the publication of your responses.

God bless you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Small Churches

I’m in my eleventh year as the pastor of Mortonsville United Methodist Church in Woodford County Kentucky. I am the first female pastor they ever had. For the previous forty years they were served by Asbury Seminary students and my opinion has always been that they would have accepted a cow if it was middle-aged and had some experience. Just kidding. There were some wonderful student pastors over those decades, some that I highly respect who have gone on to bigger – if not necessarily better – things.

I’ve turned down two bigger churches, closer to home in this last decade. And I turned them down before my husband told me that if I'd agreed to move, he would have stayed there at Mortonsville – even though it’s a 50 minute drive one way each Sunday.

It’s the first tiny church I’ve ever been in and I love it. I’ve always been a small group kind of person and our church is like a cell group in a mega church. In fact that’s exactly what we are – a cell group in THE mega church called the Body of Christ.

Since I’ve been there, morning worship has grown from an average of fourteen to an average of twenty-one. Wow! That’s a fifty percent increase. Or is at a thirty three and a third percent increase? Anyway percentage wise we’ve done great.

The other greatness I’ve seen in ten years is that we have all deepened spiritually even more percentages than we’ve grown in numbers. We can't provide all that everyone needs in a church and know it. We pray for families that need a church with youth programs etc, that they will find the right one. We take up an extra monthly offering for missionaries and people in need, on top of the tithe and a half we send to the missions and work of the United Methodist Church in Kentucky.

Most importantly we love each other. The first Sunday of each month we share Holy Communion and then afterwards have a covered dish luncheon. The third Sunday of each month those that want to, go out together to a restaurant. Even though we only meet on Sunday mornings, with our meals, phone calls, and e-mails we spend more time in the Word together than many larger churches. And we laugh a lot because in His presence is fullness of Joy.

Sometimes I feel guilty because I know that our little church out in the country, without even a parking lot, will never grow big…and I’m glad! But the Lord reminds me that I have no concept of the impact to the Kingdom of those wonderful saints of God. I am honored beyond measure to be the pastor of a small church.

This week we are saluting a small church that’s bigger than Mortonsville - but sounds wonderful. We heard of it through friends who have relatives who attend. We’d like to ask you to add your prayers to ours for their growth, both spiritually and physically. God bless you, East Cherokee Community Church! Check them out at

"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24,25 NRSV

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Wow! I wasn’t expecting my own emotional reactions to this contest. It made me want to be wealthy enough to give Applebee’s cards to everyone who wanted them. But since that hasn’t happened yet, we had to choose. In fact, I had to call in four more judges besides the three we announced because each of us had completely different choices at first. This was a very hard contest to judge because all the entries were awesome.

The winner of the Applebee’s $25 gift card is: “Mommy To Those Special Ks” posted October 28 11:32 p.m.

The first runner up was “Sandy” who posted at October 28, 7:14 p.m. My husband, who is a disabled veteran himself, said he would donate the second Applebee’s Card. So we have two winners of Applebee’s cards.

And although I don’t have a lot of money, I do have time – and can make it legally, even when I run out :-) - so you who requested the e-mail counseling sessions will all receive them. That’s Lisa, Deborah, Kathy, Elizabeth, and Ellen. Contact me by e-mail at and let me know your topic of choice – Anger Resolution, Panic Attacks, Wordtherapy, and Growing in Humility. Or feel free to ask questions concerning the topics or choose one of your own to submit and I’ll see if I feel competent to work through it with you. We’ll get started as soon as the topic is settled. The rest of you please pray that we have great breakthroughs.

The first person, CanCan – post October 28 2:30 a.m. - who requested as first choice the books by my daughter, Virginia Smith, will receive the autographed ones. The others who requested them will receive unsigned copies: Sherrylinn, Sherry B, Ellen, Sarah, Royaldixie, Jen, Sandy, Carolynn, and Tammy.

The Applebee’s card and book winners need to send me a postal mailing address so I can get your prizes out to you this week.

I want to say a special thank you to someone who did not win, but her entry was so creative that I want to applaud her for it. Elsie posted on October 29 at 2:25 p.m. She closed with the following rhyme:

I can be silly.

I am so blessed.

Am I normal?

It’s your guess…

Elsie, if you want books too, they are yours.

Thank you to all who participated and I hope you come back to join us here. I’d love to get to know each of you. Be sure and vote for God’s Word and Will on election day!

God bless you all.

In His Love, Amy