Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Waiting and wonder


Whenever we visit coastal Georgia, I bike over to one of my favorite stretches of marsh to see what might be moving. On a recent trip, I'm pedaling along and then spot this guy. I get off my bike and creep up to him just in time to catch him eating breakfast (a little pixilated, a blow up on an iphone)
 
 
 

At times, I can sit on that marsh bank for what seems like forever and nothing seems to be happening. It feels like only me and miles of grass. But I know that’s not true. I know all around me life is stirring. I just can’t see it. Clapper rails are nesting, blue crabs are scurrying, and small fish are weaving their way through the grass maze.  

In the same way, it can seem even though we’ve prayed, nothing is happening―miles and miles of sameness. And yet, God is moving. In fact, Bible teacher, Priscilla Shirer, says, “God is at work right now doing something for you that you can’t do for yourself.”

We have to keep waiting and believing.

Then, it can be like my heron and his fish. God allows us to see something spectacular. God doesn’t have to do it, but He does. He pulls back the curtains and gives us a peek into the mysteries of His ways. He is always at work, always has our best interests in His heart, and in those impossible problems we can’t begin to solve, He’s already there.

So, if it’s been a long time, and nothing seems to be happening, take heart. A blue heron sized wonder may be just around the corner.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over” (Lamentations 3:22-24 The Message).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When you're stranger than you know


Jerry and I took our seats at a table by the restaurant’s front window. As we waited on our lunches of chicken salad, I enjoyed taking in the quaint d├ęcortea pitchers, paintings, and signs with various messages. My gaze landed on one sitting on a mantel.  It hit home, almost as if it were meant for me. It read, “You are stranger than you know.”
 
 

Often, I’ll think I’m being a normal person, but then I realize like all writers, my nature makes me a little weird. After all, I make up stories all day. That in itself should qualify me for some degree of strangeness.

I go to sporting events and spend more time taking in the people around me than what’s happening in the game. You never know when you might find a good character.

I find myself in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden, I’ll take a step back and realize I could use it in a book.

The fictional world in my mind pops up at the most inconvenient times. You don't want to know.

When someone asks me about my story, I usually give some lame answer because I’ve experienced the truth of the adage if you talk too much about your writing, the story can get away from you.

People ask me what I’ve been doing all day, and when I tell them I’ve been getting rid of  –ly words, a normal task for me, they stare at me, glazed.

I am stranger than I know. “Look at that sign,” I said to Jerry. “It’s true.”

 “It is true.” He smiled, put his hand on mine, and added, “You are stronger than you know.”

I took a closer look at the sign. I had misread it. The word was stronger not stranger.

Hey, but maybe, I’m stronger because I am stranger. Being different can make us have a firmer resolve, a more steadfast commitment to the purpose God has for us.

Last week, I watched an interview with one of the Olympic skiers. When she first started she couldn’t get enough of the drills. Down the slope and right back up again for more. Everyone else was whining and complaining. Not her. They thought she was strange. Our passions set us apart.

Perhaps, we’re all a little stranger than we know when it comes to what ignites our hearts. It’s okay. It makes us the unique people we are. It can make us strong.

And God can use all of this for His glory.

“Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adorationwhat a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something” (Psalm 139:14-15).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Groundhog and Hope


Whether you call him a groundhog, a whistle pig, a woodchuck, or even a marmot monax, he still let us down this year.

Both Punxsutawney Phil and Georgia’s own General Beauregard Lee have predicted six more weeks of winter.

Groundhog Schmoundhog.

With such a cold start to the year, my shingles, and so many having the flu, we were hoping for an early spring. We needed an early spring.

The General has a certificate from a faculty member at the University of Georgia designating him a Doctor of Weather Prognostication and Georgia State awarded him the Doctor of Southern Groundology, so you would have expected better. But no, no, no. Take away the fancy titles and what you still have is a big fat rodent.

Jerry and I delivered food to my sweet girl who has been afflicted by the flu. When leaving her house, I spotted a yard full of yellow crocus blossoms. I made Jerry stop the car so I could take a picture.
 
 

If the groundhog is right, and we’re staring at six more weeks of winter, we need to cling to all the bright hope we can, keeping the promise of spring ever before us.

In our lives, it can sometimes feel as if the bad stuff is about to overwhelm, that it will go on forever, but focusing on God’s promises helps us keep perspective. He is still on the throne. His promises are still true.

In the eternal scheme of things, He will bring ultimate restoration. He will redeem not just a few things, but He will make all things new.

Meanwhile, we take comfort that even through arctic days, God is at work bringing renewal from the cold, hard earth and also from the hard places in our lives. Winter won’t last forever. The world is already starting to bloom, again.

And I might add, no thanks to the groundhog.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Walt and what he taught me about unconditional love


My friend, Walt, is trying to come back from the stroke he had a few days ago.  

I’ve known Walt almost my whole life, and two words come to mind when I think of him and his wife, Marthaunconditional love.
 
Walt and Martha with my son, Aaron, and me nine months pregnant about to deliver my daughter, Bethany.
They sent this picture to me only two weeks ago.
 
Walt was my pastor way back in high school. Though I was the church pianist, I was already on my wandering way to making several disastrous decisions that would take me in a very wrong direction.

Walt attempted to counsel me. I can still see him sitting in the chair opposite me, trying to help me see the error in my thinking.

Would I listen?

No.

Headstrong, I refused to take his counsel and ultimately caused a massive train wreck of my life.

After several years, I finally surrendered my life wholly to God, to the only one who could untangle the wreckage and make sense of what remained.

Walt never rejected me. I never heard an “I told you so.” He didn’t stand on the sidelines waiting to criticize or make sure he had the last word.

Instead, as my life came together, he began inviting me to sing and speak at his churches, welcoming me with a loving heart and open arms. When I married Jerry, he invited Jerry to preach at events held at churches where Walt was a pastor.

For a lifetime now, Walt and Martha have epitomized unconditional love for me and given me a picture window into the heart of God. God loves us not for our work, but because we are His. Walt and Martha helped me see authentic love doesn’t make the beloved jump through hoops or meet performance standards. Real love loves, no matter what.

I know someone today, advanced in years, who seems to love based on others' performance, a person whose affection is up and down depending on circumstances and criteria met. I think of all that person has missed of what unconditional love means, and I feel sad for them, sad they couldn’t learn from someone like Walt and Martha.

In books already written and in the acknowledgements of Faith in the Fashion District releasing later this year, you will read Walt and Martha’s names, where I thank them for their spiritual mentoring. Their example laid a foundation for me that has proved sure and steadfast now for many years. They gave me a gift I try to remember and pass on to others. Their love has helped me love better those in my life.

Walt, please know I’m praying for you. I am incredibly blessed to have you in my life. And to quote a man who knew himself what it was like to be loved unconditionally, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What the pain, the rash, and the dogwood have to do with each other


When the pain started in my leg, I attributed it to a chronic back issue. When the rash developed a week later, I thought it eczema caused by cold, dry weather. But when I woke at three in the morning with chills, well, I thought I had a terminal disease, because isn’t that what we all have at three in the morning?

Turns out it was none of these things.

“Shingles,” the nurse said without hesitation. “But we’ll see what the doctor says.”

“Shingles,” the doctor said. She inspected the reddish-purple patches on my leg. “If you’d come earlier we could have helped you more.”

“But I thought shingles affected your torso.” I had pain around my side which again I thought came from my back, but the rash extended from my hip to my knee.

“Follows the nerve. You can have it anywhere.” She wrote out a prescription for an antiviral and a steroid cream, which helped with the blisters that developed later that day.

I started backtracking over the last couple of months. Folks talk about their plates being full, but in November, my plate began feeling like one of those cheap paper plates used at picnics. As responsibilities piled on, the plate started bending and I feared things would slide off.

I sensed the Holy Spirit’s nudging, reminding me of what He taught me during that year I had cancer. Just because the need is there doesn’t mean I’m the one responsible to meet it. I know this. I do.

Why oh, why did I think this time was an exception?

Somehow, I managed, but my body went into rebellion.

How much the overload has contributed, I don’t know, because I’m also taking a medicine that may have weakened my immune system. In any event, for the past week, I pulled the plug, for more than one reason. As long as I have the blisters, I am contagious for chicken pox to those who haven’t had them or are not immunized.

Going forward, I have to figure out how to minimize the pressure. That’s going to involve hearing from God and a two-letter word that no one wants to hear and is so very hard to sayNO. It means disappointing folks.

I read in an upcoming Sunday school lesson from a writer who shares she hadn't pruned a bunch of shoots from a dogwood tree, which meant, “Some of them were drying up and dying; others of them looked sickly and weak. They didn’t have a single aim; they were too distracted to grow; their strength was divided up. And I knew that for the sake of a strong future, that dogwood tree needed me to trim back its shoots.”
 
 
 
Well, just call me a cornus florida (dogwood) because that’s exactly what’s been happening to me. Too distracted and strength divided. To get strong again, I have to do some pruning.
 
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
 
When we come to Him with our heavy burdens, we hear what we need to let go of, and then as we do, we experience rest instead of that feeling we have of needing to keep all the balls in the air.

If you’re reading this, and it feels like you have too many shoots on your tree, take note. As Bible teacher Beth Moore says, “It’s always better to learn it in the classroom than on a field trip.”

Join me in getting out the pruning shears.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What will your color be?


Many choose a word to live by at the beginning of the New Year. For example, my friend Julie chose the word give and I love what she wrote about it.

But, I didn’t know there was a color of the year until I saw Pantone’s pick for 2018. Pantone is the innovator of a system which allows manufacturers and designers to match colors. That way when a company in the USA wants a blouse in Holly Red, the designer in France can look at their Pantone chart and match it. (I don’t know if there is a Holly Red, but you get the idea.)


 

If I needed to choose a color for the year, what color might I choose? 
 
Maybe a sea green. I just painted a bathroom a version of that color.

As I was thinking about this, I came across a powerful video.

In the video Remi Onayemi says, “When we understand what Christ has done through his life, death, burial, and resurrection, it begins to color everything that we do. We realize we are here on this earth for a special purpose, and that purpose is to know God through His word and to make Him known or to make disciples. This means I think missionally about everything I do.”

Then I knew. I want my color for this year and every year to be Jesus. I long for Him to color every relationship I have and everything I do, say, and write. I want my life to be saturated with Him.

Jesus said it this way in The Message translation of Matthew 5:14, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.”

So, let’s go for it in 2018.

Let’s allow God to use our lives as His paintbrush coloring the world for His glory.

 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On being a champion


When you’re married to Jerry Varnado who spent a big chunk of his life on the football field and played on a Southeastern Championship team,  you’d better learn to love college football, and especially guys dressed in red and black.

And so I have.



 
During the close match-up during the Rose Bowl, I almost had to undecorate the Christmas Tree to deal with my tension level. Double overtime and all. I heard the anxiety level rose so high with one University of Georgia fan, she actually jumped into her Christmas tree. I understand.

As I began to write this post, the match up for the national championship loomed. Our guys haven’t won  a national championship since 1980 so tension has been high, and my Christmas decorations were already in the closet. I didn’t know what I would do if it became a replay of the Rose Bowl. I guess I’d resort to my usual pacing.

Well, now we know, our guys didn’t win. Lost by a measly three points last night in overtime.

Though the match up was called the championship game, it seems to me that being a champion encompasses far more than getting the highest score and taking the trophy home.
 
Olympian speed skater Apolo Ohno who at one time topped the list of most medals won at a winter Olympics said this, “Do I feel any pressure as the most decorated Winter Olympian in American history? None at all. The only pressures that I know I face are those of how to pay it forward: How can I continually make a positive impact in people’s lives, help others achieve their dreams, create their own Olympic mindset, creating champions within themselves?”

Jesus said it this way, “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” (Luke 12:48 The Message).

I believe our guys are champions no matter what the score was. The word champion itself came from the middle English, campio, which means fighter. Our guys are definitely that.  Few would have guessed last fall that they would have come this far. Several players delayed professional careers to try for a championship.
 
These fellows are fighters on the football field, but they are also fighters in other ways. Part of being a champion is being an advocate and defender of others.

One example of this is how tight end Jeb Blazevich has conducted himself. According to this source, for his work with Extra Special People (kids with disabilities) and other organizations like it, Blazevich was “one of 12 athletes named to the AFCA Allstate Goodworks team” and a “finalist for the Wuerffel trophy” given to a college football player for their work in the community.

I read somewhere that the success of the football team has spurred on athletes in other collegiate sports. As our guys take up the challenge of giving away what they know and what they’ve achieved, inspiring others to dream big dreams and never give up,  kids out there are looking to these players and seeing what they’ve done and deciding that they, too, can be champions.

So, let’s all take one giant step back and look at the big picture and not just one game.

Meanwhile, we’re still sporting our red and black here cause my hubby says, “I’m not going to whine about being number two in the nation.”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Calenders, New . . . and Old


I have an affinity for calendars, new . . . and old.

My new one looks exactly like last year’s. They’re both red with hardback covers, but of course, my new one is pristine and doesn’t have old church bulletins stuck in it, post-its lining its cover, or highlighter markings leaping off every page. Years ago, I became fixed on one kind of calendar for a number of reasons. I like a monthly calendar because I can see at a glance the big picture of how life is going to go. This one is thin, easy to store and offers a number of blank pages in the back, which I use for keeping up with my daily writing word count, goal setting, and many other things. I often refer back to calendars of previous years to check notes.

I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I keep my calendar on line and sync it with all my devices?

 I’ve been on a ninety-degree learning curve for as long as I can remember. Please let me keep my paper calendar. At least I don’t still use a typewriter.

 I also like calendars old.

I found this perpetual calendar at an estate sale. The days may be changed to accommodate any month or year.
 
 


 
It appears to be have been an advertising calendar because it has a shipping supply company from Kansas City stamped on its base. As you can see, the first year that appears on it is 1940.

In 1940, WWII was raging around the globe as both Brussels and Paris fell to German forces. Food rationing began in England as they prepared for German attack. Thankfully, Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain in May.

Here in America, the first McDonald’s opened in California, and Walt Disney released his second animated film, Pinocchio. Even though the U.S. had maintained an isolationist stance, the rumblings of war cause President Roosevelt to create the first peacetime draft in U.S. history.

As I scan the calendar that begins years before I was born, I remember the hand of God in our corporate as well as personal histories. Winston Churchill would be instrumental in helping the Allies win the war, and the draft Roosevelt enacted would be crucial when Pearl Harbor was bombed the next year.

As I hold my new calendar in my hand looking forward to what God might do in the year ahead, and setting personal goals, I also look at my old calendar and give thanks that “hither by Thy help I’m come.”

I don’t imagine the first owner of the perpetual calendar ever dreamed I would have it on my desk and still be using it in 2018.

But I am, and perhaps yet another generation will also find it useful. Like the new one, this  old calendar also offers me a picture of how life is going to go . . . that no matter what happens, God will be with me in the future as He has been in the past.

So, friends, as you enter a new year, enjoy your new calendars, but also remember though calendars are for planning, they’re also for remembering and giving thanks.

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (I Samuel 7:12).

 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What a Southern gal learned with two blades strapped to her feet

Lots of fun around here with family and finding time to work on edits for three different book projects, so I needed to pull something from the archives for this week's post. I loved writing this piece about an adventure my daughter and I had.

Growing up in the Deep South as I did, ice-skating seemed the stuff of fairy tales.

The closest we came to it was sliding across the driveway after an ice storm.

But in the 1976 Olympics, Dorothy Hamill perpetuated the fairy tale. In graceful splendor, she sailed across the ice and into our hearts with an Olympic Gold medal in both the short and long programs.

We wanted to spin like Dorothy. We wanted her haircut.

She planted in the heart of a young woman more experienced at swimming than spinning an aspiration to don a glittery costume and perfect an arabesque while gliding across the ice on two blades at twenty miles per hour.

Well, take away the glittery costume, the arabesque, and the twenty miles an hour, but I finally did it.



 Unable to find ice thicker than the skim on the birdbath around here for decades, an ice skating rink finally came  to my town, and I strapped on a pair of blades.

When I first stepped on the ice, I said to my daughter who was with me, “I’ll never get this.”

She turned to me and said, “I felt the same way when I first did it.” She’d ice skated in the city where she attends college and had at least a working knowledge of what to do.

I clutched the rail as I inched my way around the rink. In short order, my daughter struck out on to the ice leaving me trying to avoid the flailing arms and legs of those in front and behind me. Halfway around, I arrived at a few conclusions.

First, this creeping along was not ice-skating.

Second, I was in more danger at the rail than on the ice, with the bladed feet around me splaying in every direction.

Third, I was never going to learn anything white knuckling the rail.

So, contrary to my careful nature, I let go.

Just the blades, the ice, and me. Oh, and the toddlers, the teenagers, and the retirees flying past as if I were standing still.

With every move, I saw myself Dorothy, elegant and agile. I wanted to do tricks—skate backwards, do a triple jump, something. But I suppose my biggest trick was managing to stay upright on the ice without splatting on my hiney.

 I don’t believe in bucket lists, but I do believe in living our whole lives well and for me, putting on those ice skates was a dream come true.

So glad I turned loose of that rail.

Looking towards a new year, I suppose there are other ways that I’m metaphorically holding on to the rail. But I’m looking to let go in those areas as well—to unfurl my fingers and glide into the future with Jesus.

Oswald Chambers said it this way, As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”

Maybe you have white knuckles, too, clutching onto the familiar, holding onto the past, when God is calling you to step out with Him. It’s scary. It’s unpredictable. And it may not be all that safe.

But this southern gal is here to tell you, there’s nothing like it.

Let go that rail and have a blessed New Year!
". . . I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you" (Isaiah 41:13 The Message).


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

With love from our family to yours


I opened the Christmas cards I had picked up from my mailbox at church. My eyes teared as I read them. One bore the shaky signature of a woman who has Parkinson’s and another one the inscription of a man who cares for his memory-impaired wife. How did she manage to sign cards with her physical challenges and how did this caregiver find the time to do this?

With the seasonal time crunch on, I wondered how I would paint a Christmas card as I usually do. But really, the pressure I feel is self imposed. It really doesn’t take that long. Now, I could work on a painting from now until next  year and still find something wrong, but if I could put my perfectionism aside, it really would be okay. I just needed to let go of perfect.

The candle we light this week of Advent is the candle of love. As we share our gifts of love this Christmas, we remember how God gave first.

“For God so loved the world that he gave . . .”  (John 3:16).
 
His gift was perfect and ours will never be that, but even so, we give.

Here’s my imperfect Christmas card to you with much love from our family to yours.

May your Christmas be especially blessed.

 


Here’s an author interview with me relating to my new novel, The Key to Everything, which I have under contract with Anaiah Press.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Finding Joy



My first child, Aaron, was born just after Christmas. The night
before his scheduled induced labor, I felt an almost euphoria, I had so much joy in my heart. I was going to get a baby the next day―a baby that I could take home with me. What an incredible Christmas gift.

It seemed almost too good to be true.

After a long labor, it was actually two days later, but I carried that little fellow home and had a birthday party for him every Tuesday for a yearat least a birthday party in my heart.

This Sunday at our church, we will light the candle of joy on our Advent wreath.

One night to a village of what some think may have been less than 300 people, God sent the Savior of the world wrapped in the fragile trappings of humanity. That tiny bundle came bearing a gift for all mankindHis work on earth making a way for us through faith in Him to know joy eternal.

The angels’ said to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Though I experienced an incredible level of joy on the arrival of my son, how much greater is the joy Jesus came to give us. In fact, that word used by the angels, great,  in the Greek means exceedingly, greatest, and mighty. Exceeding joy. Greatest joy. Mighty joy.

Some of you may have recently lost someone close to you or maybe you're giving care to an aging parent. Perhaps your financial situation is looking dire, or you are dealing with serious health issues. This time of year can be especially difficult when you're already dealing with hard things, but dear friends, no matter what is happening in your life today, may you not miss what God has for you as we celebrate the birth of our Messiah. Forget the Norman Rockwell picture and embrace the joy in this moment no matter how frayed your life may seem. You are loved with an exquisite love, and He came to give you GREAT joy.
 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sanctuary


My face had been in front of a computer screen for hours doing book edits, then I scrambled trying to pull together what I needed for a children’s play practice. I wanted to get to church early to turn on the heat and lights in the sanctuary.

I arrive feeling brain weary and frazzled. When I push open the sanctuary door, I expect a blast of cold air. Instead, warmth envelops my chilled body. Some wonderful soul had come early to turn up the heat. I had not been able to participate in the hanging of the greens this year, so when I flip the lights, the Chrismon tree seems especially lovely (These are my all time favorite kind of Chrismons, which are ornaments with Christian symbols).
 


 

I take a moment and sit in the quiet peace.

Sanctuary.

I breathe deeply and let rest come over my scattered life.

I close my eyes and relish this place apart.

The Merriam-Webster definition of sanctuary is “a place of refuge and protection.” It originally comes from the Latin, sanctus, which means holy.

A holy place, that’s what I found that evening.

But more than a place, sanctuary is a Person.

God refers to himself metaphorically as the sanctuary.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says . . . I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone” (Ezekiel 11:16).

God reminds me that I may find that Holy quiet place in Him. Any time. Any day. Anywhere I go.

During this busy time of year, what a comfort to know sanctuary is available to us 24/7.

In an Advent guide I use, the designated meaning of the candle we light this week is peace.

Friends,  let us together find sanctuary, that place of peace and comfort in His presence remembering that the one whose birthday we celebrate was himself called the Prince of Peace.



If you're looking for a Christmas gift, Grace Publishing has just released an anthology called Merry
Christmas Moments. I have an article in it entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.
In my Etsy store, One Ringing Bell at Christmas, a collection of Christmas posts from One Ringing Bell.  HERE to order from Beverly Varnado Art.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Someone to watch over you


 
“Watch for me,” my then ten-year-old sister, Tammy, said as she headed out to the basement of our childhood home to retrieve some now forgotten item.

Our basement access was from the outside, and after the sun set, the walk to it seemed especially dark.

I would move to my bedroom window, tracing her trek, waiting for her to make the trip back safely inside. She would do the same for me when I had to make the journey. Just knowing someone else saw comforted us.

“Watch for me.” Those words echo in my mind. We all have a need for someone to watch over us. That need goes to the very core of who we are.
 
The Psalmist wrote, "He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand . . . " (Psalm 121:3-5).

Even one of the names of God, El Roi, means “The God who sees” (Genesis 16:13).

It’s so good to know God doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel, is so close we may sense his shadow upon us and that watcher is even an element of His identity—who He is.
 
We will light the first candle on our Advent wreath this Sunday―the candle of hope. Over 2000 years ago in a crude stable, a baby’s cry pierced the night and split history, because God wanted to provide a way for us to escape our darkness―watching over us to give us hope and life eternal.

Since our childhood days, my sister and I have watched over each other during many other kinds of dark times like losing our parents and illness.

But more importantly, we both know God watches over us.

And friends, He watches over you, too. This year, may the celebration of His coming be especially meaningful to you.



If you're looking for a Christmas gift, Grace Publishing has just released an anthology called Merry Christmas Moments. I have an article in it entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.
In my Etsy store, One Ringing Bell at Christmas, a collection of Christmas posts from One Ringing Bell.  HERE to order from Beverly Varnado Art.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dog Tribute, Dog Tags, and Gratitude


During the halftime show at the University of Georgia/Kentucky game, as the Redcoat band paid tribute to our veterans and stood in a formation that spelled USA, tears began to well in my eyes.



Notice that row of military vets standing in front of them.



When extraordinary tenor Timothy Miller sang Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” the tears spilled.
 
 

As the UGA Bulldogs paid tribute to vets everywhere, I thought of my dad’s dog tags in a crystal bowl beside my bed and gave thanks for a dad who served his country. When Veterans were asked to stand while their service song played, I clapped extra loud for the Air Force vetsmy dad’s branch of service.

In a couple of days, we will come together as a family and once more experience that empty seat at the table. Perhaps, in your family gathering, you are facing a similar situation. But instead of focusing on that empty seat, we’ll try to remember and be grateful for the legacy left to us, not only by family members but so many others who sacrificed and gave.

A hymn of Dutch origin that we often sing around this time of year , “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing,” was written in an oppressive time when Protestants were forbidden to gather. So, being able to assemble to give thanks is in itself a great privilege.

So, dear readers, as you gather together to ask the Lord's blessing with your family, here’s praying your Thanksgiving is blessed. Please know I especially give thanks for all of you.

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

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