Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you're running a quart low


I can still see my dad back when I was in college with his head under the hood of my car. He’d unscrew the radiator cap and check the water, tug on hoses to make sure they looked good and occasionally say when pulling the oil stick out, “You’re running a quart low. Go to the service station right now and get a quart. “ That was back when gas stations pumped your gas and did things like clean your windshield and check your oil. My dad, however, didn’t want me heading  out of town to college without scrutinizing my car himself.

It’s that time of the year again, and I sense my heavenly Father saying, “You’re running a quart low. You need to stop what you’re doing and get your tank replenished.”

Last year after Christmas, when I suffered from shingles six weeks at the first of the year, I made a decision I would not allow myself to get under the kind of stress again that would cause diminished health. But even with all the safeguards I‘ve tried to establish, still I’m running a quart low.

A quart low of what?

In my experience, stress diminishes our joy.

 
  
How ironic that joy is the very thing the angels announced the good news would bring us, and yet the stress in our attempts to celebrate this good news decreases our joy. Mercy.

Nehemiah said, “. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

When the joy starts draining out of us, we can become weak and vulnerable, so how do we replenish?

By taking the time to rest, to pray, and offer our gratitude to the Lord.

I can hear you saying the same thing I say, “Oh, I’m too busy this time of year. I’ll pray more in January.”

That was true for me after this past Christmas when I was confined to the house for a week because the shingles caused me to be contagious for chicken pox. I sure did pray more in January.

So, here’s my plan:

1.       Pray more now rather than later.

2.       Stop and give thanks for all God is doing.

3.       Be present in the moment rather than planning for another day.

4.       Try to stop being in a hurry all the time, one of my biggest challenges.

5.       Pare my list down to something doable rather than working off one that stretches into infinity.

 I hope this Christmas season, I can allow God to pour the oil of joy into my life and stay strong. I pray you will, too, friend. 

Consider Faith in the Fashion District for those on your Christmas list--the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.

 

 Also we have giveaways coming up including The Key to Everything. Please watch my Facebook page, Beverly Varnado Author, for more information.


 
 





Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Caution, a rainbow, an egret, and a king tide


With dawn just breaking, I peered out the window at leaden skies. It rained most of the night, and I wondered if it would again. I wanted to ride my bike around the island, but being on a bike in a downpour is not much fun. Besides getting soaked to the bone, you can’t see for the rain pelting your eyeballs. Plus, my respiratory issues had only recently come under control. I didn’t want to set the stage for getting sick again. The prudent thing was to stay home.

But this was our last day here and my heart longed for a little adventure outside the confines of our four walls.

Maybe I needed to let caution go.

I went.

Here’s what I would have missed if I’d stayed home.



In the larger context, we may face situations where prudence would call us to do one thing, but if we’re prayerful, we could see God might call us to do something else . . . to let caution go.

That’s a hard ask for someone like me who has a tendency to suffer from the paralysis of analysis. I just want to walk around a decision and weigh every possible outcome. I want to make the right decision . . .  the wise decision.

However, if we can go with God in faith, that’s when we often encounter the amazing perhaps something like the rainbow, the egret, and the king tide.

Maybe you’re facing what seems leaden skies today and you’re wondering . . . should I or shouldn’t I.

Pray, listen for God and how He will lead you.  Chambers again, “We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eye on God.” 

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).
 


If you haven't bought The Key to Everything yet, please check it out.




Also consider Faith in the Fashion District for those on your Christmas list. It's the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.

 

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The answer to worry

I'm pulling this post from the archives today. I know you're out there busy, trying to get it all done this week, but friends, take time to worship the One who graciously gives us boundless love and beauty. From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. 

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and I sit by the water’s edge at sunrise as bottlenose dolphins arc and dive just a few hundred feet in front of me.


 
So very much to be thankful for, and yet here I am wrestling with a disturbing situation that caught me so much by surprise, it seemed like a solar eclipse, now threatening  to block the sun's rays as they spill across ebbing waters.

The dolphins circle back, and my gaze follows them, but I don't really see.

That’s when I remember what she once said about how worship is the answer to worry―how when we make a practice of getting out of our own heads and focus on the One who really is the King of the World, anxiety begins to dissolve.

That’s where I’ve been today. In my own head. Anxious. Worrying. Even with all this beauty. 

So, I make a choice―a choice to worship.

A choice to live the current moment of rising sun in praise to the one who created all of this wonder, and I start to actually feel the warmth on my face, the hope of what only God can do. And I see, really see those gleaming sea creatures now cruising so close to where I am. Anxiety begins to fade.

In a couple of days, we light the candle of hope. As the flame flickers, I remember again worship is the answer to worry. If we are to have hope, we must worship.

I read again the words of George MacDonald, the one who made such a difference in the life of C.S. Lewis,  “And the wind that blew from the sunrise made me hope in the God who had first breathed into my nostrils the breath of life; that He would at length so fill me with His breath, His mind, His Spirit, that I should think only His thoughts, and live His life, finding there in my own life, only glorified infinitely.”

Those words seemed to describe a life not vexed by solar eclipses.

A life . . .  lived in worship.

"Thank you! Everything in me says 'Thank you!' Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: 'Thank you!' Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength " (Psalm 138:1-3 The Message).

Anaiah Press, publisher of The Key to Everything, has just let me know they're running a special from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.  If you haven't bought The Key to Everything yet, please check it out on Friday.



Also consider Faith in the Fashion District for those
on your Christmas list. It's the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.




Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Heartache in the Christmas pillow aisle

Sad week last week.

And it all happened within twenty-four hours.

 
A man walked into a bar . . . and oh, how we wish it were just another joke.  But you know what happened. Twelve fell in a rain of gunfire, one a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting. 
In another circumstance, friends  lost their daughter in an accident leaving two teenage children without parents, their dad having died a few months earlier. Then, another heartrending situation close to us that I’m unable to share. Compared to these, this next one is the least, but our eighteen-year-old cat went into a steep decline. Her departure seems imminent. Now, I know she’s over a hundred in human years and has had a great life, but somehow those facts haven’t helped much. She sits on my desk as I write.

So,  I stood in a craft store last Friday looking at Christmas pillows and yet not really seeing them. I was praying in my spirit, consumed by the heartache of people I knew, and people I didn't know. I wanted to get my head above an ocean of sad. When I did focus on the pillows, the cheery sayings almost seemed mocking. It was NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The owners of this store chain are Christians so instrumental hymn arrangements piped through the overhead speakers and one of them filtered into my spirit. I tried to think what the words were and hummed it to myself. Oh, yes, “Be Still My Soul.”
 

As I pondered those words I heard someone say, “Beverly.”


I turned to find my friend, Sue, whom I don’t see very often.

“How are you,” I asked.

“Sad,” she said.

It turns out their family had also been dealing with a terrible tragedy this past week in addition to losing their beloved next door neighbor.

I shared a bit about our week and pointed to the words of “Be Still My Soul” that I’d pulled up on my phone. “The Lord is on our side,” I said. “We’re not alone." I told myself the Lord is also on the side of those who I've been so burdened for.

She nodded, tears in her eyes. We hugged standing in the middle of the craft store aisle, carts zooming around us, the overhead speaker breaking in for someone to bring Christmas tree G from the stockroom.  I thanked God He is indeed a faithful Friend in every change. And I thanked Him for an earthly friend, too. Right there in front of the Christmas pillows, God poured out a healing balm in my heart and Sue’s heart.

So, even through the sadness of these days, I’ve had a song. God met me with a touch of his grace in an unlikely way and He will do the same for you, too, friend. When those waves of heartache threaten to unravel your spirit, remember"Be still my soul.” God is on your side.


Amazingly, we may soon find, it will be looking a lot more like Christmas.

 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
 
Many prayers for those touched by these tragedies. Listen to "Be Still My Soul," here or here.
 
The books:

 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Speak no evil and gentle spirits


A few days ago, my sister Tammy sent me a quote she’d seen online. It offered wisdom to always take the high road.

Before I shared the quote, I wanted to authenticate the source, so I went to a shelf in our den, and pulled down volume four from among fourteen.

I turned to October 6, 1774 in John Wesley’s journal.
 

  "I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”


Wesley rode over 225,000 miles on horseback (a distance equal to 10 times around the earth), preached 40,000 sermons, and God used him to turn a nation to Christ. I pay attention to what he said, and what he said about speaking no evil of the candidate we voted against and having gentle spirits toward those that voted opposite us is particularly appropriate for today.

You might say, oh it was different back then. Maybe. Maybe not.  The Boston tea party in December of 1773 had thrown a wrench in the political landscape in England, with some feeling the punitive measures too severe against the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was not all unicorns and fairy dust in 1774.

We have a close friend who is a bishop in Nigeria. When he visits, we drive him around, and he’ll say, “This is God’s country. No potholes.” We laugh, but during an election several years ago, we responded differently and told him we have our problems, too. He said, “Yes, but you can have a change of power in your country without gunfire.”

Back then, we agreed, but since that time, civility has taken a serious hit and political tension is increasing. I’m praying whatever the outcome of these midterm elections today, our Nigerian bishop would still be impressed by our ability in this country to have an election without unrest.

So friends, please vote if you haven’t already done so, but take Wesley’s words to heart.

I saw this video a few days ago and it touched my heart.

Yes, let it be so, “. . . a landside victory for civility.”
 
 
 If video fails to load https://bit.ly/2NVJWfz
 
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" Proverbs 15:1.

 The books:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sometimes, we need a Farley

I have especially enjoyed the stories my friend, Pat, shares about her Farley. So, Jerry and I  went out to meet him this week. And before I go any further, let me say this is not a political post. This is about a four legged critter and his Biblical ancestor.
 
 

 
Pat's Palomino, Hudson, wanted to get into the picture, too, and gave our photographer, Jerry, a little fun trouble.
Photo courtesy Pat Daugherty

Farley, like all donkeys bears a cross on his back, the legend being Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and later the donkey followed Him to the cross, its shadow falling on his back.

 
 

I appreciate the Biblical story of Balaam and his donkey. Balaam heads to a place that is at best God’s permissive will and not according to God’s original direction. Unseen to Balaam, an angel with a sword stands in his way and the donkey maneuvers to save Balaam. Not understanding the donkey's actions, Balaam beats the donkey. That’s when my favorite part happens.

The donkey speaks to Balaam. “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28).

Shades of Mr. Ed (a cultural reference that’s sure to date me).

Weird, but what happens next is weirder.

Balaam engages in conversation with his donkey. “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now”(Numbers 22:29).

The donkey responds, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”(Numbers 22:30).

Then the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes to see the donkey was saving his life.

Sometimes, we need a donkey.

We’re headed off toward trouble, pushing for our own way, and God allows something to stop us in our tracks. We’ll blame circumstances, our boss, weather, friends, anything, but we still won’t see the real issue.

Then a seeming donkey, or a vessel equally bizarre, speaks.
 
Even then, we’ll argue.

I’m thankful God is patient with us, but watch out for those times God speaks through what seems like only a donkey. God may be saving us from what we can't yet see.

Farley didn’t talk to me, but I could tell he was thinking about it.
 
 






photo courtesy Pat Daugherty

 


https://www.amazon.com/Beverly-Varnado/e/B00QQRRID8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1539621124&sr=8-1


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

List or Legacy?



 
 
Several years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Rusty Wright speak. Rusty is an award winning author, lecturer and syndicated columnist who writes much about connecting God’s grace to everyday life.

One of his mantras is to live intentionally.

It’s much easier to take life as it comes, but to live intentionally, we have to step back for the long look.

For some, this might result in the formulation of a bucket list. The popularity of this approach is evidenced by books that offer a list of things to do before we die.
 
There’s nothing wrong with a list, but if we are to make a difference for a people yet to be born, our lives will inspire others to seek and love God.

Living lives of worship, prayer, and Bible study is foremost but ultimately, we need to put feet on our words.

I know a woman in her seventies who through her writing is trying to reach as many people as she can in her lifetime with the Good News. A classmate from high school helps build houses for the poor, living out her Christian faith in a tangible way. Another of our friends continues to invest his time in the lives of the homeless. A couple of other church friends pour themselves into a food ministry for struggling families. We know missionaries approaching their sixties who are still on foreign soil. Another couple close to us invests much of their time and resources to fund a ministry and seminary in a country suffering financial collapse. Others spend their time mentoring. My own husband flunked retirement and continues in ministry speaking four or five times a week. 

I have heard parents say their legacy is through their children, and that can be true, but it doesn’t mean we get a pass for the years after the kids become adults.

My neighbor, Betty, has been teaching children at church for fifty-six years. She is eighty-six and one of the liveliest people I know. So for all of us who have said, let someone younger do it, well, sorry. Betty inspires me to keep at it doing whatever God calls me to do as long as I have breath to do it.

So, here is the bottom line. Writing a check isn’t enough. We need to be investing ourselves in God’s work with our time and our lives, intentionally doing that until we see Jesus.

So, what will it be―list or legacy? Why don’t we all take a step back and ask God this very dangerous question, “Lord, what do you want me to do with the rest of my life?”

I am convinced God will answer.

Speaking of legacy, Eugene Peterson died yesterday. He left a huge legacy for generations to come in his Bible translation, The Message. I end with a verse from Psalm 78:4 in Peterson’s translation: “We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation―God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done.”




The books:
 

https://www.amazon.com/Beverly-Varnado/e/B00QQRRID8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1539621124&sr=8-1

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

At the Anaiah Press Blog Today

I'm slipping in this morning to share I'm over at the Anaiah Press Blog today with a post entitled, "If You're Longing for a Sense of Place." I'm so thankful for this publisher of The Key to Everything and honored to write for their blog.

HERE for Anaiah Press Blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Miscommunication?


While getting ready for a woman’s brunch at church, I needed to find an easel I’d seen us use before.

The garland and flower on my table at the brunch are made of old manuscript pages from my books.


I searched every closet in the building and found one easel, but couldn’t locate the nice decorative one.

I decided to ask a woman I’ll call Glenda, who had been at the church earlier that day and always seems to know the exact whereabouts of any item there.

“Do you know where nice easel is?” I texted.

No response.

Maybe she didn’t see it, I thought, so I texted again, “Nice easel?”

In a moment I received a text that went something like this, “Hmmm, no. Could it be on Elm St in shopping center where pottery place is?”

Cue Twilight Zone music. What?

Then another text, “Atlanta or Marietta?”

I shook my head and punched Glenda’s name in my contacts to call her. “What in the world are you saying? I’m looking for an easel for the brunch tomorrow.”

Cackling on the other end. “I thought you were looking for a store called Nice Easel.”

Neither one of us could speak for howling with laughter.

Later that day, I was telling Jerry about the crazy easel texts.

He studied me a moment with a blank expression. “What eagle are you talking about?”

I wish I could say he was joking. He wasn’t. You know those little videos people send in text messages? Insert the one with the person banging their head against the desk here.

Well, I never found the easel . . . or the eagle, for that matter, but I do have some good news.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God promises that when we search for Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him.

We don’t have to plunder all the closets or phone a friend; we simply come to Him in prayer giving Him all that we are.

So, if you’ve been feeling you're in a cacophony of confusion yourself, please know the path to God is clear.  

And that, my friend, is no miscommunication.

 The books:
 
https://www.amazon.com/Beverly-Varnado/e/B00QQRRID8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1539621124&sr=8-1
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What I learned from a sportscaster about showing up

I get to do so many amazing things because of Jerry being a former college football player as well as a pastor. One of them happened last week. Jerry and I found our seats only a few feet away from the head table for a meeting of an organization that supports college football. Jerry is their chaplain, but I had never been before and was really excited about the event.


The group usually invites college or pro football coaches, players, or sportscasters to be their speakers, but tonight was different. ESPN reporter, Holly Rowe would speakthe first woman to do so in the gathering’s seventy-three year history.

The circumstances were so remarkable, Holly took a selfie with all of us.
 
 

 
She regaled us with her stories of college football players and coaches. But for me, her most inspiring words were what she shared about her cancer journey.

Diagnosed with melanoma three years ago, she had surgery and chemo. During the time of losing her hair, she kept going to games. She didn’t stop when she had a subsequent tumor under her arm removed. She did sideline interviews with drainage tubes and bags taped to her chest. No one she interviewed ever knew. She just kept showing up.

As a cancer survivor, I understood the whole drainage tube thing, which I have had to deal with several times. It’s tricky business to hide them so no one knows.

Then tumors were discovered in her lungs.

She chose not to tell her employer, afraid she might be benched because of liability issues.

She didn’t miss a football Saturday that fall while in treatment and went into the women’s basketball season. She followed that with being a commentator for women’s gymnastics teaming up with now Georgia women’s gymnastics coach, Courtney Kupets. She offered the insight that if she had sat down, she would have missed getting to know Courtney.

Again, she just kept showing up.

All of this reminds me of a book I have read dozens of timesHealed of Cancer by Dodie Osteen, Joel Osteen’s mother.

Diagnosed with metastatic cancer of the liver in 1981, doctors gave her six weeks to live and sent her home to die. Instead of accepting the diagnosis, she kept going. She meditated on scripture daily, visited others who were sick, continued with her household duties, and refused to accept the dire prediction.  She kept showing up in every area of her life and she is still doing that today, thirty-seven years later.

One of my favorite quotes, which you’ve heard here before is from Oswald Chambers. “…our Lord came . . . taking the spiritual initiative against . . . despair and said, in effect, ‘Get up, and do the next thing.’ You may feel weak, inadequate, discouraged, even hopeless, but do the next thing as much as it is possible for you. In every small way you are able to do this, God will meet you there.

So, thank you Holly Rowe for the reminder to keep showing up.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
 


So grateful for all God is doing with Faith in the Fashion District--how one woman's life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry. If you don't have a copy  or need one for a gift, HERE. 


The Key to Everything has just released as an ebook. Available HERE.
A key can open more than a door. 

A story of forgiveness.  
 

 

 

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