Thursday, December 30, 2010

Messages of Grace

I’m coming up for air as we’re thawing out here. I took this picture of my mailbox just as the snow began to melt a little.


Here’s a recap of how things have gone these past few weeks. As I mentioned in an earlier post, for the three weeks before Christmas we dealt with a very difficult family situation, which I still cannot write about. Additionally, two days before Christmas, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then, we found out an x-ray he had a week ago revealed pneumonia, but we didn’t find out about it until yesterday. So, he’s had shots and is taking lots of medicine.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, I’ve been meditating on the words of a song written by Annie Johnson Flint—a woman acquainted with suffering. The song, “He Giveth More Grace,” talks about how God extends increased grace when troubles mushroom. From II Corinthians 9:8—“…God is able to make all grace abound to you…”

Now, and in these past few weeks, I’ve sensed an additional measure of God’s grace operating in my life. Just at the moment when I‘ve felt my heart might burst from pain, God has come through his spirit to strengthen, encourage, and console.

In the weeks before Christmas, it blessed me much to go to the mailbox and pull out a handful of Christmas cards from folks who had no idea what was going on. Still, God often used those cards to send encouragement. Additionally, God has left messages in the mailbox of my heart, some sent long ago, for just such a time as this--like Annie Johnson Flint’s words that I learned many, many years ago.

As we face a new year, I’m full of hope and expectancy, but not because everything is going well. I have hope because of God’s faithful presence, persistent love and abundant grace through every circumstance.

May your New Year be blessed and filled with all the wonder of the Mighty One.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Find Me in the Upper Room

Please join me today at the Upper Room Devotional Magazine. If you don't have a print copy just click on Upper Room or copy and paste http://www.upperroom.org/devotional/default.asp?month=12&day=27&year=2010&x=108&y=11 I'm honored to have my second devotion selected to appear in the Upper Room as they have over 10,000 submissions every year. This devotion was submitted more than two years ago as they need an abundance of lead time to translate into forty-nine languages. I'm excited about the print copies that go into more than 100 countries, and even more excited about a radio broadcast that reaches where print copies cannot.

"...so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Every Shining Christmas

 
Every Shining Christmas


Some years every dream’s fulfilled, there’s joy in every place.

Some years there are disappointments, in our hearts an empty space.

Some years hopes are high with babies to be born.

Some years there are shadows falling, someone to be mourned,

but still,



Every blessed Christmas,

Yes, every shining Christmas

I’ll take my place with those who sing your praise.

And through tears of joy or tears of sorrow

The bright star to Bethlehem I’ll follow

And worship you with all my heart once more.



Some years our legs are strong, we’re running hard the race.

Some years with a body weak, we stumble to the pace.

Some years in abundance, some years with less,

But at Christmas, as always, your sweet name we confess.



Every blessed Christmas,

Yes, every shining Christmas

I’ll take my place with those who sing your praise.

And through tears of joy or tears of sorrow

The bright star to Bethlehem I’ll follow

And worship you with all my heart once more.

Beverly Chitwood Varnado c2001


May your Christmas be filled with God's presence!
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lighting the Night

I make several out of the way detours at Christmas to take in the lights in our town. Workers spend many hours winding light strands around the gingko trees, which line the streets downtown. Beautiful, don’t you think?

This Christmas has presented our family with the most serious challenges we’ve ever faced—only one of which is a biopsy my husband is having tomorrow. Others I do not have the freedom to write about now. I know that many of you are facing challenges as well. So, I thought I’d just share some scriptures that have carried me in these last weeks.

Two verses from Ecclesiastes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecclesesiastes 3:11) “Anyone who is among the living has hope…” (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

From Philippians: “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Isaiah 35:3-6, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

No matter what else is happening, it is a time to celebrate God sending Jesus to the world to rescue us. In Psalm 77, David lamented his desperate situation for many verses, then in verse eleven and twelve he says, “…I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”

So, I’m meditating on all that God has done for us in Jesus and how he has shown himself mighty through the ages. In particular, I’m rejoicing and giving thanks for His faithfulness to our family for many, many years.

In the last words of John Wesley, “The best of all, God is with us.” Yes, Emmanuel has come to save us, to be with us. That truth lights my world brighter than the gingko trees on any dark December night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Symphony of Wonder

One of the joys for me at Christmas is singing with our local Athens Symphony Chorus. It involves several long rehearsals at one of the busiest times of the year, but a couple of things keep me coming back. First, the opportunity to join in a community wide celebration in singing both sacred and secular songs is such a privilege. It’s still called a Christmas Concert, and I love that.


Albert Ligotti and Bev at recent rehersal
 Albert Ligotti, the conductor of the Symphony and Chorus is another reason I make room in my schedule. I’ve never known anyone else who knew Leonard Bernstein personally, but Mr. Ligotti did. In the Symphony's website bio it states he played the trumpet for eleven years with the New York Philharmonic. During his professional musician years, he performed with many groups and venues from Broadway Shows to the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra to the Boston Pops.

At the University of Georgia, where he served on faculty for twenty-seven years and is an Associate Professor Emeritus, he left a lasting legacy when he founded and directed the UGA Wind Ensemble. My nephew, Christopher Todd(oneringingbell, 9-15-10), now plays trumpet with that elite group of student musicians.

The Athens Symphony, now in its thirty-third year, continues to thrive due Mr. Ligotti’s tireless work, which blesses thousands who attend the many concerts throughout the year.

In another career, I traveled often to New York City and had the privilege of seeing many musicals on Broadway. Oddly, one of the things I missed most after I left that career was hearing the sound of an orchestra tuning, because I knew something wonderful was about to happen. I get that same feeling when the Athens Symphony tunes. The Christmas Concert always ends with the audience joining in a sing-along. When the house lights go up, and I can see and hear the thousands from all across our community lifting their voices in “Joy to the World, the Lord is come,” I am not disappointed in the wonder of those moments.

This weekend’s concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon will be rebroadcast on 1340WGAU on December 24 at 8:45. You may listen anywhere in the world because it’s live streamed at http://1340wgau.com/

Sing unto the lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Psalm 98:5-6

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bev at Christian Devotions.US

I'm hanging out over at Christian Devotions.US today with my devotion called "Chocolate Covered Cherries." Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones, the founders of the site, are great folks. Many blessings, Bev

Monday, December 6, 2010

BRRR! It's Cold!

It’s really cold here. (Okay, Maria in Montana, don’t laugh.) Let me rephrase. It’s cold for us here—highs barely reaching the forties with lows in the twenties, and this front promises to stay with us for several days. Arctic nights bring with them a concern for those who don’t have warm lodging—humans and animals.


I awoke at four this morning to check on a new feral cat we’re feeding in the back yard. I’d set up a warm light for her, but still wanted to make sure she was okay. I went back to bed and wondered how the folks were doing who live in “tent city.” I live in an urban setting, which has a sizable homeless population. As I prayed for those on the streets, I remembered our friend Perry Burgess with “Walk on Water” ministries. Most likely, he’d already picked up many folks from “tent city” and other places where the homeless had gathered and bussed them to his shelter. There they’d have an opportunity to shower, and get a warm night’s sleep. Then there’s Barbara and Dick Anderson, who have for years somehow managed to keep a shelter open for those who’ve lost everything. The Salvation Army and the city homeless shelter also faithfully provide a year round refuge. But, I know on cold nights, shelters are at capacity, and there are those who don’t get a bed.

I ransacked my closets today looking for warm coats. I’d already gotten together blankets to send out last week. I struggled as I held a navy fleece jacket in my hands. Did I really need it? My dear mentor, Rev. Grady Wigley, once said, “Stewardship is not a matter of how much of our time and our money we give to God; it’s a matter of how much of God’s time and God’s money we dare keep for ourselves.” Yes, that’s my struggle.

How much should I keep for myself? It’s a question that sometimes haunts me. Even, as I watch my husband load the giant bag of clothes and coats in the car, I still wonder, “Is it enough?”

I ponder these things at four in the morning. If I couldn’t turn this over to the God who holds the world in his hands, I don’t suppose I’d ever sleep again. But I’m thankful he loves these men, women, boys, and girls more than I ever can. He sees them in their circumstances, and He cares. So, I do what I can, and God does what only He can do.

Take a load of blankets or coats to a homeless shelter, and sleep better tonight yourself. You might want to get involved volunteering at one of these facilities. In my volunteering, I’ve always walked away with a greater blessing than I could have possibly been to anyone else. Don’t forget the animal shelters on cold nights. They’re struggling in this economy to provide, so cat or dog food would be a great gift, too.

“Give and it will be given to you…” Luke 6:38

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beverly Varnado and Lucy on "Coffee with a Canine"

If you're looking for me today, I'm interviewed over at Marshall Zeringue's blog, "Coffee with a Canine." (http://coffeecanine.blogspot.com/2010/12/beverly-varnado-lucy.html ) Lucy and I had a blast getting these pictures and answering the questions. Hope you enjoy!!
"...for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

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