Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Some good news and what a Moose, a Chevy Nova, and Fashion have to do with each other

"Of Moose and Men, available now," the notice read on the Facebook page of my friend, Doug Peterson. I could have never imagined how that one book promo would change my life.

The graphic on the book cover made me smile. It was Torry Martin nose to nose with a moose. I first met Torry at a screenwriting conference. He’s one of the funniest people ever. A Christian comedian, he has also written for Adventures in Odyssey and penned several screenplays.

Of Moose and Men is a book Torry wrote with Doug Peterson about Torry’s Alaska adventures. 

Got to be funny, I thought. And wow, did I need some funny.  I bought the book.

This was about a year after my dad died. I had grieved so hard and together with other things that were happening, my writing had suffered. I’d edited a novel in the previous year and kept up with my blog, but I was not working on a new book for the first time in ten years. I wondered if I ever would again.

Then, I read Of Moose and Men. Torry cracks me up, and in the midst of the laughter, my creativity began coming back. I thought, hey, I might have a female version of this story about my adventures on Seventh Avenue when I was a buyer and merchandise manager for a department store.

I began to tinker around with a few ideas, and before I knew it, I had several stories written. Maybe this could be a book. But then again, maybe not. Soon after, I hit a wall. I had to navigate through ten years of journals to write the stories, and I dealt with a lot of emotional baggage during those years, things that were not pertinent to the story. It was hard to read about it again in addition to the grief I was still trying to get through. So, I stopped writing the book.

But I remembered a dream I had a few weeks before where a red Chevy Nova was chasing me around in my backyard, similar to those animations in the movie Cars. Chevy Novas are muscle cars, and even though it was kind of a funny dream, I knew God wanted to give me power over the pain of my past, but I was running from it. I stopped running, took up the writing again, and let God deal with the pain.

I finished this past spring in time to take the book to a conference. The book, Faith in the Fashion District, is the story of how one woman’s life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry. It received very positive reaction from several agents and editors. I also had the opportunity to tell Torry Martin about what his book had done for me. He loved the story. We both cried. The image left is from the information sheet I did on the book (not the book cover).

After several weeks of waiting to hear from various publishers who were reviewing the manuscript, I received an email offering me a contract from Crosslink Publishers. I signed the contract this past Friday.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

Last Thursday, I also signed contracts for pieces in two separate book anthologies. Short and Sweet II, and Christmas Moments releasing soon (Authors receive no royalties for Christmas Moments as all proceeds are donated to Samaritan’s Purse. I love that).

I was so overwhelmed. This didn’t even feel like my life.

It was a big week at the Varnado household. You’ll be hearing more about all of this in the weeks and months to come with Faith in the Fashion District to be released in 2018, but I just wanted to tell you folks who take the time to read my blog every week, thank you. You see, I feel called to write for the Lord, but there have been times, I have been so discouraged. Often, it was your comments here on the blog and on Facebook that kept me going. Legendary writer, Elizabeth Sherill, says we write for one person, and so I have taken that to heart. If one person is touched by what I write, then my time has been well spent. So, thank you, dear friends.

If God has called you to something and it has been long and hard. Persist. Don’t give up. His timing is not ours. Oh, how much I have clung to that over the years. The important thing is that we’re good stewards of the gifts and talents God has entrusted to us.

This is a long post today, so I’ll close now, but there are still other parts of this story, which I hope to write about in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

“I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6 KJV).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When you're looking for someone equal to all emergencies


As I write, my area in the south is under an unprecedented tropical storm warning and what’s left of Irma is making the pine trees in my front yard increasingly frazzled. Here’s praying they are still standing tomorrow.

The hotels in our town are full of cars with Florida license plates and folks who don’t know what they’re going back to in the next few days.

A lot of uncertainty.

In these times, we hold on to what we know is certain.
 

 
“God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

This commentary on Psalm 46:1 says, God is “a help accommodated to every case . . . whatever it is, He is a very present help; we cannot desire a better help, nor shall ever find the like in any creature.”
 
Matthew Henry writes this: “God is our refuge just now, in the immediate present, as truly as when David penned the word. God alone is our all in all. All other refuges are refuges of lies, all other strength is weakness, for power belongeth unto God: but as God is all sufficient, our defense and might are equal to all emergencies.”

Max Lucado in reflecting on 9/11(the anniversary of which is today as I write), “This world can be tough on a soul. Yours needs an anchor: a double pointed cast iron hooking point that is sturdier than the storm. Storms still rage . . . God never promised a life with no storms. But He did promise to meet us in the midst of them.”

So friends, wherever you are and whatever you are facing, you “cannot desire a better help” for God is “equal to all emergencies.” In any storm or its aftermath God has promised, “to meet us in the midst of them.”

Praying for all those recovering from Irma.

Please consider a donation to Samaritan's Purse to help with hurricane relief HERE.

 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What can happen after a flood

I awoke in the middle of the night to see lights flashing across my bedroom walls and voices sounding nearby. I went outside where a law enforcement official stood in the street reversing the flow of traffic in front of my apartment building.

I pulled my bathrobe tighter around me. “What’s happened?” I asked.

“A dam broke at Toccoa Falls.”

“Anyone hurt?” I asked.

“They’re fine,” he said. "Go back to bed.”

I had the distinct impressions he was lying to me.
 
But I wonder if he was even aware of the scope of what had gone on just a few hundred yards beyond us.

 

The details emerged the next day. After days of rain, and without warning, an earthen dam broke above Toccoa Falls Bible College sending twenty seven million cubic feet of water plunging over a 186-foot waterfall creating a wall of water that killed thirty-nine people. It destroyed nine houses, eighteen house trailers and two college buildings with whole families swept away―almost half of those who died under sixteen years old. Students, professors, other college staff, and their families were gone. There had been no time to escape.

The grief in our community was palpable.

My dad, a banker, also volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol and was out in the next days as part of the search and recovery effort. I still remember his face when he told me his team had recovered one of the victims.

The flood occurred between our town and the water supply, so when one of the main lines was damaged from the force of the flood, we were without water for weeks. The Coca Cola Company trucked in big pallets of water in Coke syrup cartons. I still remember how glad I was for those cartons. On the far side of town, folks were less affected and I showered at various family members’ homes. But all of that trouble was nothing compared to the heartache of those who were burying their entire families.

How would the little college go on? The tragedy was so overwhelming and it seemed to me at the time this might put them under.

But it didn’t.

Out of the heartache, the mud, and the devastation, the college rose up and today, many years later, continues to educate and prepare pastors, teachers, missionaries, and others who serve in secular jobs. According to their website, “Graduates serve in places of Christian leadership throughout the United States and most nations of the world.”  Among them, a singer songwriter whose songs you may have known for years―Dove award winner, Aaron Shust.

Shust’s song Cornerstone seems appropriate now, because when the floodwaters rise and everything else has given way, whether literally or figuratively, it is good to know one Cornerstone remains steady.
 
 (If video fails to download in email, HERE please.)

Houston makes me remember this flood of long ago, for though I wasn’t in it, I inhaled the air that surrounded it. Even as I wrote this, I felt a bit shaky. But in remembering the flood, I also remember the mighty things that happened afterward. So for you folks in Houston who are standing in line for water, carrying debris out of your homes, and sloshing through the mud, our prayers and I pray, our support is with you. For those who have lost loved ones, oh, how our hearts grieve, too. We pray His comfort for you.

After the flood, we ask that God will rise up in the midst of your suffering to do something He alone can do and that Jesus would truly be your Cornerstone.

“. . . you are . . . fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Again, Samaritan’s Purse is asking for volunteers and donations. Contact them HERE.

And for those of you who may not have seen my Facebook post or my update on last weeks post, our friend T in Asia made it through customs in her words "unseen and unquestioned." Truly a miracle. Thank you for praying. She is now back with her 16 kids.

 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What waiting has to do with strength

(Edited on August 30, our friend T made it through customs early this morning our time and is now back with her sixteen children. We are so thankful to God for this miracle.)

Waiting to see―a phrase I’ve found myself using a lot lately.

We’re prayerfully waiting to see Wednesday morning if after a mandatory exit for visa renewal our friend T. is allowed back in the Asian country where she has lived for almost twenty years. We hope she may finish raising the sixteen children she mothers.

We’re waiting to see when our neighbors on the Gulf Coast may actually start recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and when relief agencies might get in. Dear Lord, let these flood waters recede.

We’re waiting to see if another friend who has finished radiation will need chemo―the result still another week away.

I’m waiting to see what a respiratory specialist says about the breathing problems I’ve been having. If it turns out to be a pet allergy, we’ll have to corner the market on antihistamines because it’s going to take a truckload of medicine for me to deal with the critters here.

Waiting. To. See.

I am not a good waiter. I wish I could say otherwise, but I want to do something.

 Now.

 I want to fix these problems, but I can’t. So, here we are. Waiting to see what God will do.

One of the first verses I think of in regard to waiting is Isaiah 40:31.
 
 
“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength” (The Message).
 
I wondered if I might find deeper meaning for “wait” in the original language.

Though I’m no Hebrew scholar, after checking several sources, it seems that the root of the word has to do with, “a collection of fibers that are twisted together to make a strong and firm cord. This same word is also used for the abstract idea of ‘hope.’”

If you examine a rope, it is composed of tightly twisted strands, therein is its strength. Any of those strands alone might break, but together, they endure. So, in these times when we feel unraveled and worn down by distressing headlines and circumstances,  we wrap ourselves tightly with the Lord, and find hope and power to persist in our waiting. Really, shouldn’t we always be tightly wrapped with Him?

It seems paradoxical to me that we should find strength in waiting. In the natural, it is always the opposite. But God’s economy is not ours. Thankfully.

So, we may have been spinning around one way, fraying thread by thread, but now we reverse our course, as He gathers the threads together in one enduring cord of hope with Him.

If you'd like to make a donation to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, HERE for Samaritan's purse. They are also urgently pleading for volunteers to help.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No east or west and our kin


If you were here early this morning, you may have seen a post, which has now been reverted to draft. Only up for a few minutes, there was nothing wrong with it, because you’ll probably see it again next week. But I didn’t want to miss a timely opportunity to respond to the events in Charlottesville this weekend.

In the church, I am not one to hold on to things just because we have always done them that way, but I regret that in many circumstances we have abandoned the great hymns of the church, for it is one of those hymns that has circled through my brain in the last couple of days.
 
 

“In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”

Written from Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


Another verse reads, “In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek, and neither slave nor free; both male and female heirs are made, all are kin to me.”

“All are kin to me.”

Priscilla Shirer calls her ministry Going Beyond. I remember her telling a story in one of her Bible Studies about how God goes beyond and beyond on our behalf.

Well folks, these days, I believe God is calling us to go beyond and beyond to heal the hurt in our land and in our hearts.

It’s a time to make an extra effort, and sometimes it begins with the little things like a smile, holding a door, extending a hand as we would with our own family because all are kin to me.
 
Sometimes it means speaking up for our kin.

We don’t need a geography book to understand we all have the same beating heart. Because in Christ, there is no east or west, and he is the pulsing life that makes us one.

So, today, I am humming under my breath and praying for my kin.

Join me, will you?

When it seems you're building sandcastles


I watched the video of the man who builds elaborate sandcastles on Long Island. He bent over his work, sculpting and refining only to have the tide wash it away in a few hours.

Something about that story resonated with me.

A few vintage Varnado pics

All of us want to leave a legacy, a mark that says, “Hey, I was here.” Those of us who are believers want that mark to give glory to God above everything else.

But if you’re like me, much of what you do doesn’t feel enduring. Maybe it feels a lot like building sandcastles.

We work and labor and the first thing we know, it’s all melting in water up to our knees.

Before I start a new writing project, I struggle with this. Am I just building a sandcastle? It’s very likely not to be some piece of great literature or change the course of history. Will anyone actually read it or will it become only another file on my hard drive? The litany in my mind goes on.

However, that man who builds the sandcastles, he’s not motivated to make them because they’ll wind up in Architectural Digest or because he’ll make a million dollars. He builds because he loves to create and use the gifts he has.

That my friends, inspires me.

Dr. Brene’ Brown writes in the Gifts of Imperfection, “If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance decorate, act, sing―it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.”

Building sandcastles is cultivating meaning. In spiritual terms, it means being a good steward of the gifts God has given us, not with an eye on the outcome but with an eye on pleasing Him.

I recently started writing a new novel. I’m using the gifts I have, and I already love the story, however it very well may be another sandcastle. I have a good many of those. We never know when we’re doing something what the results will be. That’s up to God. Our part is to build to His glory.

So, get out your sand buckets and shovels. Let’s get to work.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

See the elaborate sandcastles HERE.

As an update on our friend T. in Asia that I wrote about HERE--She will be leaving her country in Asia on August 26th for a mandatory visa renewal and then trying to reenter the country on the 30th. Please pray she will not be turned back, but will be able to continue her life in Asia with her 16 children. I'll keep you posted. Again, if you know T. please do not mention her name in comments here or in Facebook replies.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

4 a.m. and really free

When the phone rings at 4 a.m., we usually know at the preacher’s house, it’s not good news. When Jerry is chaplain of the week at a local hospital, we’re certain of it.

He groggily picked up the phone and I heard him say, “I’ll be there in a few minutes”

Four hours later, he called me to meet him for breakfast. On the way, I thought about how maybe he needed to give up these rotations at the hospital―especially challenging at his age (don’t tell him I said that). He needed to speak to a high school football team later in the day and I knew it would be hard to prepare and deliver a message in his sleep-deprived state.

When I arrived at the restaurant, Jerry had tears in his eyes, but oddly seemed almost elated.

I sat down, and he began to tell the story.

When he arrived at the hospital, he entered the room of a deceased woman. Her daughter sat beside her praying. As Jerry took a seat, she shared their story. They had lived in a war torn African nation and because of her mother’s determination and perseverance had come to this country. The daughter now had a doctorate and performed medical research. A son was a medical doctor. The mother’s faith and encouragement had been a driving force in their achievement.

The day before her sudden death, the mother had at last finished her final interviews to become a United States citizen. Taking the oath of citizenship only remained.

“Why do you want to be a US citizen?” the daughter had asked.

“Because I want to be free,” the mother replied.

“But mother, you are free,” the daughter answered.

“But I want to be really free,” her mother declared.

How convicting her appreciation of what we often take for granted. What an amazing person she must have been. Jerry agreed, so moved by the story of her life.

“I wish I could have met her,” I said.

Jerry then told me the church she attended

I put down my coffee cup and stared at him.

“Really?”

The server came to offer us refills. “I’m having an epiphany,” I told her.

“That’s all right,” she said, “but do you want coffee?”

As she refilled my cup, I told Jerry, “Don’t you remember last Sunday after church at the restaurant?” A woman had been coming down the aisle toward me, and she wore the most beautiful African dress with petal-like pieces on the sleeves. "I love your dress," I told her.

 She beamed, "Thank you." Then she joined a group of women from the church Jerry had just mentioned.

 “I know that was her,” I said. “I did get to meet her if only for a moment.” I had wanted to speak with the woman further but her group awaited. She had such joy on her face.

“I thought she looked familiar,” Jerry said as we both sat there and marveled at this odd sequence of events and how this woman we didn’t know had touched our lives.

I had to wonder how broad her legacy was, and how many like us were touched by her life of faith even if they had only known her for a moment or two.

So, I’m taking back all that business about Jerry giving up these rotations. He made it just fine and his message to the team that afternoon went great. I'm also realizing that sometimes the news isn't all bad in the middle of the night.

I’m thinking these days on what it means to be “really free.” I have been inspired to do so by the life of a woman I knew for only a few seconds, but whose influence on me I will never forget.

Saint Paul said in Romans 6, “Offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits” (The Message).  Though this woman longed to be really free in this life because of this country she came to love, she now experiences in that heavenly land a freedom, which is truly without end.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The golden hour and what we can almost miss


I joined a half dozen other people snapping pictures of an incredible sunset at a retreat center. I whipped out my cell phone intent on capturing the combination of sun and clouds that made for such a display. As I turned to leave, the thought came to me that often, the pictures I most love are not the obvious ones, so I knelt down on the ground and took a few shots of the coastal marsh now bathed in light filmmakers call the “golden hour.”

It was several days later before I even stopped to look at the photos. The sunset was glorious, and most of pictures turned out the way I thought they might.


But that thought about loving the less obvious shot more turned out to be right.

The coastal marsh picture is the one that drew me in―the print of which I have beside my easel right now as I try to capture it on canvas. This is untouched, folks. No filters.

Almost looks as if the photo is a painting.

In I Kings 19, when God told Elijah He would pass by Him, a wind, an earthquake, and a fire occurred. But God was in none of these. Instead, God came in a “gentle whisper.” It was only then Elisha heard God.

Sometimes in life, we get so caught up in doing what everyone else is doing, we don’t hear that gentle whisper of God leading us in the way He would have us go. We can miss the best  simply because we aren’t willing to turn down the volume of racket in our lives to hear him and be willing to follow a less obvious path. That path is often filled with lovely surprises, just like my marsh picture.

Now, you may look a little strange as I did, sprawled out in the grass turned in a completely different direction from the others, but this is the picture that made me want to tell its story.

So, let’s be tuned in to the gentle whispers.

We don’t want to miss a thing God has for us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ER Encounter

I'm honored to have a devotion running today at Christian Devotions.US.

Fear lurked around the edges of the bed I lay on, ready to pounce. Did I have a brain injury? Would it require surgery? . . . .

(read more HERE)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When the need is urgent


(If you know the name of the person I refer to below as T., please for safety reasons, do not mention the name in any Facebook responses or comments to this blog.)
 
“Urgent Prayer Request.”



 That’s what the subject line read on the email from our friend T. in Asia.

Oh, no, I thought. For some time, the government of the country where she lives had cut off her access to foreign funds making her ability to take care of the sixteen orphans in her care challenging. Much of her support comes from the US.

When I clicked on the email, I found the situation to be even direr. In only a few weeks, T. has to leave the country to renew her visa, a process she has gone through for the past nineteen years. Repeatedly over the past year, missionary friends of hers have been denied access back into the country and are forced to buy plane tickets on the spot to return to the US. Only two weeks ago, this happened.

She has the same kind of visa, and without divine intervention, she may face the same consequences.

She would leave behind her life’s work. In addition to the sixteen children she mothers now, there are over two dozen more she has raised, which are young adults or in college.

Her youngest child is HIV positive and lives with T. in her apartment. She came to T. when she was only weeks old, and T. is the only mother she has ever known.

These were children abandoned, with nowhere to turn, but God gave them a hope and a future when they came under T.’s care.

Folks, money can’t help now. The only thing that will help is prayer, and I’m asking you to pray as I am, morning, noon, and night. I wake up with this situation and I go to bed with it. The verse I am praying is from Proverbs 21:1, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (The Message).
 
 

Pray God would turn the King’s heart like water, and that a door would be opened up for T. to continue her work in Asia. Yes, she has a team of people in place to continue caring for these children, but she is their mother. If you have children, imagine having to leave them, not knowing when or if you would ever be able to see them again. Pray like that. Pray with that urgency.

Friends, thank you. I’ll keep you updated.

(Edited on August 30, our friend T made it through customs early this morning our time and is now back with her sixteen children. We are so thankful to God for this miracle.)
 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If you missed it the first time

If you missed this post from a while back, you may want to check it out. It includes a favorite quote from my little friend McCoy.  HERE for "If you have a case of saditosis.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When you've got it all wrong


Early one morning, Jerry and I stood staring at the top of a huge metal power pole near us. A pecking sound closely resembling the decibel level of a jackhammer resonated throughout the neighborhood. The crested head of a giant pileated woodpecker bobbed up and down at the pole apex.
 


 

“So what do you think he’s doing?” I mused.

Pileateds are magnificent birds and I love seeing them, but his incessant drilling was puzzling and annoying. The woodpecker had been there several mornings in a row.

We batted theories around. Jerry thought he was hunting for food. I thought the constant hammering on the metal pole had jarred his brains loose addling him so much he’d lost his ability to differentiate metal from wood and just kept boring into the steel. He didn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the box.

Again, this morning, I heard him. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. You’d think he was drilling through concrete.

I decided to do a little research.

Turns out both Jerry and I were wrong.

He was not looking for food. He was looking for a honey.

The loud rapping is something of a mating call. “I’m available,” He was saying. Far from dimwitted, the smartest woodpeckers find something to make the loudest sound so they can establish their territory to all the other woodpeckers.

Well, hello. We’d completely missed it.

That’s when I heard that still small voice telling me there was a lesson here. Sometimes, I draw conclusions about other people based on my perspective rather than stopping to ask for God’s perspective―the truth.

It reminds me of what God told Samuel, “God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 The Message).

Ah, the heart. God looks past all the exterior smoke and glass and sees what is really going on. God responds to that deep need.

My friend Betty recently shared a quote she’d heard that if you’re not standing in the gap for someone, you’re standing in judgment.

Ouch, Betty. Another reminder that God calls us, too, to look on the heart.

The woodpecker’s drumming has stopped. He must have found the woodpecker woman of his dreams.

But his presence in our part of the world left us much to think about. Now we can do that thinking in peace.

To hear his drum and learn more about the pileated HERE.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dream Summer Revisited, Mount Rushmore


For the Fourth of July, a  re-post from the Dream Summer Series about our family's 7,000 mile cross country trip.  Also, HERE is a link  for a World Radio Segment I recorded about this adventure. Happy Fourth!

According to the parking pass in our scrapbook, we entered Mount Rushmore at 1:21 p.m., way past lunchtime. So we headed for the cafeteria at the base of the monument. The dining room was divided into sections by state, each one designated with a flag. We found our spot under the red and blue Georgia colors, which gave me a twinge of homesickness as we sat down, but not for long.

That’s about the time I looked up at the monument and had a very North by Northwest moment. I’ve never been sure if the movie was shot on location or just had a very convincing set. In any event, I could picture Grace Kelly and Cary Grant bursting in any time.

The faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were ever with us as we devoured our food. Jerry and I marveled at the engineering feat creator Gutzon Borglum had accomplished through his Mount Rushmore sculpture. Borglum, according to the guide for Mount Rushmore, had studied under Rodin and also "designed the flickering flame on the Statue of liberty’s torch."  He "created more art displayed in our Nations’ capital than any other artist.” 

After we finished our food, we followed a path along the base of the monument to get a closer look. I felt I was living in a Weekly Reader. As a child, I never dreamed that my universe would expand to a point where I’d actually visit the places we studied. In contrast, my children have probably never dreamed they wouldn’t visit the places they study. 

I was struck by how many other nationalities I saw visiting the monument. From all over the world they came to see this sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota called “America’s Shrine to Democracy.” Some of the visitors I saw probably did not come from countries who subscribed to a democratic understanding of government. I thought of this long after we left the monument, and wished I could have spoken with them about their experience that day. 

I wanted to bring in sleeping bags and sleep under the gaze of these stone men, but of course, the National Park Service would’ve never gone for it. So, we reluctantly said good-bye to our large Presidents and hoped to see them again soon.

President Ronald Reagan said of the Mount Rushmore sculpture, “Even after the many years it will take to wear away these rock carvings, their ideals, the principles of democracy and freedom, will live on. For more than 200 years now, this great country of ours has enjoyed the freedoms these four giants fought for. So, let us cherish that freedom, and never lose sight of this Memorial and the men behind it.”

Today, as Reagan said, let us cherish freedom, both physical and spiritual. If physical freedom is not yours because of where you live, spiritual freedom is always available. “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Unbelief is the only wall that can separate you from this liberty. 

May God’s freedom be yours today.


More Dream Summer posts HERE.

"Mount Rushmore National Monument Official Guide" and America's Shrine of Democracy by T.D. Griffith were used as a sources in this post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

22 days and when you're looking for restoration


“So, have you written about it?” my friend Connie asked me Friday night at the after party for VBS.

I wiped down a table as I shook my head. “I just couldn’t write about one more sad thing.”

For twenty-two days, my Mama Kitty had been missing. She disappeared the week when so many tragic things were transpiring.

This feral kitten showed up seven Decembers ago in our back yard at the same time I was dealing with another painful situation that seemed irresolvable. I couldn’t change that situation, but I could try to save this little kitten that faced temperatures in the single digits. I couldn’t catch her, but I built her an insulated homeless shelter with a warming disc in it. She made it and I eventually was able to tame her, but not before she had four kittens, about which I wrote many stories.

The feral still apparent in her, she wouldn’t stay inside all the time, and literally climbed the walls wanting to get out. My vet told me both Mama Kitty and I would be miserable if I didn’t open the door. She might be gone a day or two but always returned.

After her disappearance, I called for three weeks every morning and night, listening, listening. Only crickets answered. There would be no reason to put out flyers. She’s so stealth, no one would see her grey body as she only moves at night, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to catch her.

Jerry tried to console me by saying if cats taught survival lessons, Mama Kitty would have been the lead instructor. I tried to take comfort in that thought as well as the truth that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground.

 I would have normally cried my eyes out about her, but with all the profoundly sad events, I put my grief in a box and sat on it. There was just too much going on. I didn’t think I would ever write this story.

But my little friend McCoy who loves my cats found out about her disappearance. Sunday a week ago, he came up to me, “Let’s make a prayer for Mama Kitty,” he said then bowed his sweet head. “Oh Holy God, please send Mama Kitty back.”

I have to admit McCoy seemed to have more faith than I did.

Friday night, we got home late.

Jerry got out of the car first. “I hear something,” he said. I jumped from the car. I heard it too. Faint mewing. “Mama,” I called. She called back to me with a louder mew. I followed it to a dogwood tree in the front yard where she had often waited for me to get her. She came down into my arms.

I held her close and took her inside. When I put her down at the food bowls, she had lost so much weight her sides nearly touched, and she had red clay dust all over her.

But she was back.

Mama Kitty was back. Then the tears finally came.

 

I couldn’t help but think of a word we studied at VBS this week.

 

Restored―return something to its former condition.

The Varnado animal kingdom has been restored. All members present and accounted for.

The sense I had Friday night of things being set right was so wonderful.

In a much, much larger sense, Jesus came to restore.

We sang a song this week at VBS, which told this story. I have it on replay and probably will for sometime―How Far Love Goes.

Based on Ephesians 3:18-19, God wants us to know “. . . how wide and long and high and deep. . . “ his love is for us is. How he’s searched, and gone the greatest lengths to restore us. He wants us to know that we can be restored, no matter what has gone wrong in our lives, no matter how we may have strayed from his plan, no matter how we have sinned, no matter how lost and lonely we are.

He can restore me.

He can restore you.

He can set things right.

Oh, yes, there may be consequences of sin, but those will be bearable in the context of His amazing love and provision.

Yes, I am a big fan of the word restore.

At this writing, Mama Kitty has made no move toward exiting the house. I asked McCoy where he thought she had been all this time. He said He thought she may have tried to call me from a train station. Hmmm, on a train. Of course. Makes sense to me.

How Far Love Goes HERE.

Stories about Mama and her kittens HERE.

 

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