Tuesday, December 29, 2015

If you're in distress


Christmas night, a bug hit my husband. We’d had a gazillion people in our house that day. We prayed no one else would get it, but a couple of days later my son, who had left our house to travel to a remote area, became ill. Much sicker than my husband had been. He was three hours away from us and miles from medical help. What if he became dehydrated? I could feel myself starting to hit the mom panic button, but then God brought a story from my own life to mind.

For many years, I participated in Lay Witness Missions. A coordinator would select a team from a group of volunteers across the southeast and we’d gather at a church for a weekend to share our faith through testimony. I participated in dozens of these across the years and saw God do amazing things. We’d stay in the homes of church folks, people we’d never met until that weekend.

My daughter was just a baby, but I’d agreed to participate in a large mission about two hours from home. I was still nursing, but I thought it was doable.

I provided music and sang on that Friday night as usual, but after I reached the home of my hostess Betty, I started feeling a little strange. In fact, really strange.

After we went to bed, a virus descended on me like a mortar shell. Over the next few hours, I lost so much fluid between nursing and the virus, by the wee hours of the morning, I only had strength to crawl to the bathroom. A short time after that, I didn’t have strength to even crawl. I knew I was dehydrated, but I was staying on the opposite end of a very large house from my hostess. No way to summon help before widespread cell phone use. I knew my baby could become dehydrated, too. I prayed she wouldn’t get it. And I prayed for help.

“Lord, please wake up Betty. Please let her know I’m sick.”

In a few moments, I heard a cat’s loud meowing and Betty asking of the cat, “What’s wrong with you?”

I had a glimpse of her as she let the feline out the back door. I whispered, “Betty, I’m so sick.”

She came in my room, and I told her what had happened. She said, “That cat has never gotten me up at night before. I guess God had her wake me up.”

Ice chips helped rehydrate me, and this woman I’d never met before became one of the best nurses I’d ever had. Team members came over to pray. By that evening at 7, I was back on the piano bench singing.

My team coordinator came to me and said, “As sick as you were this morning, you know it's a miracle you’re here tonight.”

I knew that, for sure.

So as I remembered this story and thought about my son’s situation, I knew whether we’re across the house or across the world, God knows and sees any distress we’re in. And as we face a new year, it’s good to know God is able to send help, even if sometimes, he has to use a cat as a messenger.
 

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from One Ringing Bell


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Chorus of Memories


I’ve mentioned before that I sing with a symphony chorus.

Oh. How. I. Love. It.

As we navigated the program this weekend in two Christmas performances, I became aware of the memories the songs evoke.


 
When the symphony warms up, I’m back sitting in a Broadway theatre in New York City, and  the orchestra warming up means something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe I’m there during one of those November trips as a department store buyer. It’s just before Thanksgiving and the city is already decorated for Christmas. Perhaps, when I leave that evening, there’ll be wet sloppy snowflakes the size of small cookies that splatter on my face.  I won’t mind a bit.

“Silver Bells” puts me with my little sister in the backseat of a blue Ford Falcon and my daddy is at the wheel. We’re sailing down Peachtree Street after our family’s recent move to Atlanta. We’re agog to see the city lights like the small town hicks that we are. Daddy makes a turn, and we move down Ponce De Leon past the behemoth Sears store where I’ll make some Christmas memories in the years ahead.  Then a little further, he shows us his office on Ponce. Christmas in the city, for sure.

During “Sleigh Ride,” I’m not on a sleigh but a piano bench as a high school chorus accompanist. I have performance anxiety before the big Christmas concert, and I think I might die and roll right off the bench into the first row of the audience, but somehow, by the grace of God, I make it through without causing a train wreck. Maybe loving playing “Sleigh Ride” so much is one of the reasons I do.

Our “Christmas on Broadway” piece includes a Sound of Music snippet, the one about favorite things. I’m eleven years old and I’ve just gotten my mitts on a copy of the score of a wonderful musical I’d just seen. I play it from front to back so many times the pages have to be taped back together and the edges become tattered, cause when life hands you things much, much worse than dogs biting or bees stinging, music helps you survive and remember there’s still wonder in the world.

“O Holy Night” places me at the piano in the little church I grew up in. “O Holy Night” is a favorite, but I’ve become the church pianist at twelve years old, and I struggle to play it.  All those triplets, you know. And why, oh why is my only copy in the key of D flat?  Where is the internet when you need it, so I could please find it in another key, maybe C? When we leave after the Christmas service, someone will hand me a brown paper bag. Inside will be an orange, nuts, and a large candy cane. Somehow, all those triplets won’t matter anymore.

During “Silent Night,” I’m leading worship in a women’s maximum-security prison. I tell them that in our church Christmas Eve service, we always light candles during this song, and I know we don’t have candles here, but we can imagine, so let’s hold up our imaginary flames high to the Lord. So we sing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright . . . “ and I look up to see hundreds of tear streaked faces lifting imaginary flickering candles high in worship. These women are shut off from family and friends, but they know God is with them. I can almost see the light reflected in their faces.

The concert always end with a sing-along piece, which includes classic hymns. And honestly, they are every Christmas of my life. I have a million memories to accompany them. But this time, I am at home after the Christmas Eve lessons and carol service with those I love so much. We have lit the candles of hope, love, joy, and peace on the Advent wreath and it’s just family celebrating this Holy time.  I want  to press pause on the moment.

This year, I made a new memory.  In a side exit aisle, obscured from all but a few of us in the chorus, a mother held her toddler. During Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, they began to twirl and dance, on and on in their own little private ballet until the final beat of music. And oh, the joy of seeing them.

In case you missed it, I do love singing with the chorus. Friends, may you sing this Christmas, too, despite loss, pain, grief (I am grieving the loss of my dad so hard), sickness, financial woes, or whatever else. May you sing from the joy of His great love. And may that joy sustain you in the days ahead.

And in the words we chorused from Dickens’ character, Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one.”
 
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

Related: Raw Edges and Emmanuel , If You're Playing to an Empty Balcony, Every Shining Christmas,  and if you need a laugh right now, A Ringing Bell Night Before Christmas ( I have no idea who wrote this).

For your Christmas list, please consider fine art prints or notecards from my Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art or my books Home to Currahee or Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Richt, Rings, and Riches


I help my husband write and edit his football memory blog, One Old Dawg, and try to keep my voice as simply background over there. But something football related has been stirring in my heart and I felt compelled to speak it, so if not over there, then here.


In our community we’ve been dealing with the loss of a man who has literally changed the culture of football here at the University of Georgia, our beloved head coach Mark Richt. A strong Christian, Richt is known nationally for his integrity both on and off the field. When we first found out about his dismissal, we were stunned. This is not just about football, but about his influence for good in so many arenas. Seems like he’s now taking that influence to southern shores, his alma mater at the University of Miami. The “U” is going to be blessed beyond their imagination.

In the days after Richt’s firing, we received a report written by Scout National Recruiting Analyst, Chad Simmons about Richt’s meeting with the team when he informed them he wouldn’t be coaching the bowl game. Richt told them he would always be there for them, and concluded by saying, “Life is about people, not rings . . . Rings collect dust.”

Mark Richt has been criticized for not winning an SEC championship in the last few years and therefore not gaining that coveted championship ring. But his investment in his players, this community, and this state is one that far outweighs any piece of jewelry.

Ever since I read this report, I can’t stop thinking about what I’ve seen play out at our house.

My husband, Jerry, used to have a ring. And watches, too.

He had a Sportsmanship Award watch given to him in high school when he played football for the legendary coach and three-time national high school football championship winner, Wright Bazemore.

 The watch was stolen.

Jerry also had a solid gold Rolex watch embellished with a cotton boll from his Cotton Bowl championship when he played football for the University of Georgia.

Just after he became a pastor, someone broke into the parsonage and robbed him of it.

He was given a Southeastern Conference Championship ring when the 1966 team for which he played defensive end won the SEC championship. Beautiful. Gold with a ruby.

It was stolen, too. Twice. Recovered once, but the second time, it was probably melted down, or fell into the collection of some unscrupulous collector never to be seen again.

But my husband has things that cannot be stolen, stored in a place where thieves cannot break in and steal.

In the years since my husband left his law practice for the ministry, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives surrendered to Jesus during years of prison ministry. Hundreds more in church services and special events through the years. 

There are thirty years of sermons preached to uplift and encourage the church, Bible studies taught, hospital chaplaincy calls made, nursing homes visited, weddings and funerals conducted, international mission trips traveled . . . I could go on. Really, God only knows the scope of all of this.

I’m not saying these things just to brag on my husband. But folks, he had a ring. But before his ring even had a chance to collect much dust, it was stolen.

It would be a mistake to say we wouldn’t like to have those things back. We would, to show children and grandchildren.  But again, life is not about rings.

When we’re tempted to put trophies ahead of the lives we touch, let’s remember that in this life it can all go away. And so very quickly. But if we store up our riches in eternity, we’ll have them forever.

Mark Richt is a man who understands that.

So does my husband, Jerry.

We’re going to miss Coach Mark Richt. He has left an indelible mark on this University community, but we take comfort in the knowledge that he will be wielding his Godly influence in a new arena and changing lives there.

Because you know, “Life is about people, not rings . . .”

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. “(Matthew 6:19-21 The Message).


For your Christmas list, please consider fine art prints or notecards from my Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art or my books Home to Currahee or Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beverly Varnado Art, my new Etsy shop


After writing over 600 posts here in the last five years (603 to be exact), I have resisted the urge to monetize my site. I didn’t want my readers to wade through pop-ups and screaming advertising to get to my content, however, I do need to find another stream of income. 

I may have mentioned here that I was actually an art major in college  and have painted my whole life mostly in watercolor. However, this year I returned to oil painting moving from small watercolors (which I still love to do, by the way) to giant canvases. It’s been quite an adventure.

I’ve sold limited edition prints and note cards of my original oils and watercolors during book signings and based on that success, I’ve decided to open my own Etsy shop, Beverly Varnado Art.


I have prints of Currahee from my book Home to Currahee, as well as prints from my Lanier series of paintings which were inspired by Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.

In addition to my note cards and fine art prints, I also have available a small devotional book, Gifts of Hope, which is taken from extraordinary acts of kindness to me when I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress. Someone delivered a little gift and note to me everyday during the entire season of Lent one year. I hope it brings hope to anyone struggling with discouragement.

So in addition to my books which are available on Amazon HERE and many other places on line, I now have my own little Etsy shop. Please consider stopping by and having a look.

A verse that has been so close to my heart through the years is, “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17). 

As the beauty of God rests upon me, I want to share it through the work of my hands as faithfully as I can whether through writing, painting, or music.

As you ponder your Christmas list this year, consider giving the gift of art, whether mine or someone else’s and let God’s beauty unfurl.
Visit my shop, Beverly Varnado Art,  HERE. Also my books are available HERE.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When Thanksgiving feels like just feathers


At grandparent’s day, our granddaughter presented us with a trivet she’d made and decorated with a verse from Psalm 118. We love seeing it displayed on our stove.

A few days later at church, a tiny one wheeled up to me blond curls bouncing and held high three pieces of paper. “These are for you,” she declared.

I felt a smile spreading across my face as I took the papers. One had various fall foam decorations, one had a pumpkin, and another (my favorite) had colorful geometric construction paper shapes representing feathers, which this young artist had arranged around a brown turkey body.

A fine turkey, indeed. Definitely refrigerator material.


I’ve been thinking lately of a classic Thanksgiving children’s story by Lorna Balian, Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes its Feathers.

It’s about a woman who finds a turkey egg, which she goes to great lengths to facilitate hatching. Then she sacrifices to help fatten up the turkey, presumably for Thanksgiving dinner, but things take a sharp left turn and don’t go as planned. In the end (spoiler alert), rather than eating the turkey, she invites it to dinner. Instead of turkey to eat, she had, well, you know, feathers.

Now I have to say, that could definitely happen here. If we found an egg, helped hatch it, and feed it, I’m pretty sure it would wind up a sitting on a dining room chair instead of lying on a platter in the center of the table.

In fact, there’s at least one member of our family who will not be partaking of that big turkey thawing in the refrigerator. She’ll eat fake dressing made with vegetable broth and skip the meat all together.

Because sometimes it’s turkey, and sometimes it’s just feathers here, too.

And it’s feeling like that in more than one way.

It’s the first Thanksgiving of my life without my dad. An empty chair this year. I’m trying to be brave, but I know from experience, these first holidays can be challenging. Every time the tears start to well, I think of all that he’s left me that continues to bless . It’s not going to be the same, but somehow we’ll press on.

I’m very  thankful for the way God continually reminds me of the great circle of life  through the precious young ones like our grandchildren and the kids at church, surrounding me with new life.

Because yes, sometime it’s turkey, and yet even when it seems like just feathers, God is always there.

Habakkuk knew as he spat the feathers out of his mouth that no matter what, we offer God praise. He wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Friend, maybe it’s feeling a bit like just feathers at your house, too, but join me as we choose to rejoice in all that God has done despite what we may have lost or what we don’t have.

On a lighter note, this year, I might even take a bite of the fake dressing. Who knows, maybe I’ll like it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris, the city of light, and The Light


I’ve spent so very much time in Paris.

I journeyed there often during the four years I spent in Lida Sim’s high school French classes. I bought a scarf in a shop along the Champs-Élysées, gaped at the Arc de Triomphe, checked out a book from the bibliothèque, and stared slack-jawed at masterpieces of the Louvre.

I’ve had amazing companions on my travels to Paris. I’ve accompanied Lucy when Ricky toured Europe with his band, found myself as Audrey Hepburn did  in Sabrena, and oh, when Gene Kelley danced along the banks of the Seine with Leslie Caron in American in Paris, I was so there. So very much there.

But, maybe the first time I went to Paris, I went to mourn. As a little girl living in the suburbs of Atlanta during the sixties, I still remember the newspaper headlines in Atlanta papers, when an Air France plane crashed at Orly, in which 106 Atlanta art patrons died. The memorials from their deaths eventually led to the building of Atlanta’s glorious High Museum of art. Years later, at the opening of the High, I saw the casting of Auguste Rodin's The Shade, presented by the French government to Atlanta, memorializing those who died at Orly.

More recently, I’ve visited Paris through moving stories told by friends who have traversed its avenues on mission trips and birthday celebrations.

Well, maybe, I’ve never actually stood on French soil. The closest I’ve actually been physically was when I leaned hard across the English channel and gazed longingly over the divide. The truth is my travels have been vicariously lived through other’s stories or in my own imagination.

For many of us Americans, though, there is a corner of our heart where the Eiffle tower stands, and we feel a sense of belonging in the City of Light’s glow.

At our house, even our name and heritage largely points to the mother country and Parisian streets as the Americanized Varnado was originally spelled in the French, Varnadeaux. My husband has older relatives in Louisiana, who only spoke French until they entered school.

So, you see, last week, when the heart of evil stormed music venues, soccer stadiums, and cafes killing 129 and wounding over 300 others, our hearts broke as if it had happened in our own streets.

Just after 911, a woman, a complete stranger, held a door open for me in an Old Navy store. Our eyes met, and I thought for a moment, we might fall into each other’s arms crying. I have felt much the same way in the past few days.

As I hum “La Marseillaise ” under my breath, I pray for France―for her people, her leaders, the families of the victims.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I pray for a move of God’s spirit throughout her land, that Paris would be a city of light which transcends the radiance of street lamps, where the true Light penetrates the hearts of all who live there.

And I pray that our mighty God might arrest this evil that stalks her streets.

Vive la France!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33 :12).

For lovely images of Paris, consider clicking Here.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Telephone call from God



I've had this story rumbling around in my head for days. When I sat down to write this week's post, I couldn't get it off my mind. I didn't remember if I had written about it before, so I dug through the archives and found this post from over four years ago. I'm wondering if you might have a need you're wondering whether God knows about. Watch for that telephone call from God.
 

 

Our family has a very serious need. I do not share the details, because it betrays another’s confidence. But, I’ve been praying and fasting about it, not to hold God over a barrel in some way, but that I might be strengthened to persevere, to have hope, and to believe for God’s answer. During the fast, which ended about a week ago, I prayed Isaiah 58:6 repeatedly, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

 
I wanted to DO something to solve this problem, but as I prayed, I kept getting scriptures that had to do with rest. It’s as if God said, “Trust me in this. Don’t act, just trust and rest.”
 
I’ll explain it by using a white horse as a symbol of the need. Our family needs a very special white horse. In addition, we need it to be somewhere other than the town we live in, somewhere like Bonner Springs, Kansas. We don’t know anyone there, much less anyone that owns one, and even if we did, there are so many white horses, how would we find the one animal suitable for us. It has seemed an overwhelming, impossible thing.
 
Here’s what happened. On Wednesday, I was outside, and when I came in, we'd received a phone call.

 











 
 








I pressed play on the answering machine. “Hello, this is Andrea Rain, and this message is for Jill. I received a message that you were looking for a white horse, and I have many. I’m sure that one will be suitable for you. Just give me a call. And by the way, I live in Bonner Springs, Kansas.”

No one named Jill lives at our house. It was a wrong number. But a wrong number with the message about the very thing we were looking for in the very place we wanted it to be. I played the message over and over and over, then I called Andrea and left a request for her to call me. Let me reiterate that we have not shared this with anyone outside our immediate family.


 
When she telephoned, and I relayed my story, she was amazed. It’s as if God dialed the number for her.

 
The wrong number for her.

 
The right number for God.

 
The right number for us.

 
This horse represents one of the most critical needs our family has ever had, but we sense the God of the universe ismoving on our behalf in a remarkable way. We stand in AWE.

 
UPDATE: It turned out that we didn't get our horse from Andrea, but we did meet with her. She was a wonderful Christian who agreed to pray for us in our search, and in a short time, we had the very horse we needed. In the years ahead, God would continue to provide for this need in such an extraordinary way that we still stand in awe. Today, we no longer need the white horse. Our God is amazing.

 
“…are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer, and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer from the throne, “It is done.” A. B. Simpson
 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wilbur and where you can truly rest


It started early.
And nothing changed as he grew older.
 

 
 
 
 


That cat Wilbur has crammed his body into every basket, tray, sack, suitcase, laundry basket, box, and crevice he can find.

But why?

According to Dr.Patty Khuly over at VetStreet, the primary reason is, “Smaller spaces are safer. Most cats who need to sleep deeply will seek out a den like structure. A bathroom sink, as it turns out, seems more secure to a cat than a couch.”

Wilbur must really need to sleep deeply, because he's explored every possible option.

Dr. Khuly writes also, that cats like small spaces because they’re “cozy.” Makes them feel warm. And their wild side likes the “stealth” these spaces provide.

So that’s it. But then, Dr. Khuly made a point that struck a chord with me in my own circumstances. Maybe it will with you. Cats are notoriously independent. But she said, “Even the more secure among us want a place to feel snug and sheltered. Even if it’s something surprising as a soda pop box.”

We can seek out unconventional places for shelter, as well. We’ll squeeze ourselves into the confines of almost anything to escape what the world throws at us. That’s how folks become workaholics, alcoholics, or anything-aholics. Trying to feel safe in a very unsafe world.

But there’s only one place to  truly rest secure.

The Psalmist wrote in chapter 91, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

And in Psalm 62, “My soul finds rest in God . . . “

If you’re curled up seeking shelter in what seems like a dirty laundry basket right now, give it up. There’s a place that's made just for you.

And that’s God alone.

Just don’t let Wilbur see the empty laundry basket. He’ll want it for himself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When a few words can make a difference


Sometimes, life gets so hard, you wonder about the future.

The problems roll in, one after another, like waves on the shore.

Can’t catch your breath.

 
 


Over a dozen years ago, I faced one of those times. It seemed like the enemy aimed to take me under. In the two years prior, I was just recovering from posttraumatic stress when diagnosed with cancer and then only a few months after my last surgery, my mother fell and went into a steep decline. I became her caregiver. Six months later, she died. A few months after that, a trauma from my past resurfaced.

I gasped for air.

In a paraphrase of Paul’s words to Timothy, my daily mantra became, “Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith.”

But honestly, at that point, I wondered if I was going to finish. It felt as if the pain would just crush me.

The summer of that year, we made a decision to travel to one of those places in the world where God was moving in amazing ways. We journeyed over 800 miles to see what God might do. Of course, I longed for the pain to be removed.

As we entered a service the first evening there, the last prayer on my lips continued to be that God would help me to “Fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”  But still, I wondered. The young man speaking that night began very conversationally to tell about his ministry in South America in a place with which we were quite familiar. A place that we were very invested. My heart sank. “Lord,” I prayed, “Have we traveled all this way, just to hear about what we already know?”

Then something quite unusual happened. A few moments later, that young man stopped right in the middle of what he was saying, paused, and looked around. “I need to stop and say this,” he said.

I leaned forward. Say what? Why would he press pause on his sermon? He went on.

“I believe there’s someone here tonight that’s wondering if they’re going to finish the course. God says you ARE going to finish.” And with that he continued on with his previous talk.

I was dumbstruck.

I knew that word was for me. God was saying to quit wondering. I was going to finish. The pain didn’t go away that night, but it didn’t kill me, either. God gave me the strength to continue―to finish the course.

There were many benefits of traveling to that far place that summer, but I will always give thanks for that young man who obediently spoke what God had told him. Those few words changed my life.

So there are two things to take away from this story. The first is that if you have a word from the Lord, speak it even if it seems incongruous with what else might be happening. If God has placed it on your heart, someone needs to hear it. What that young man spoke to me that night had nothing to do with his ministry in South America, and he had to wonder what it was about, but he was obedient.

The second lesson is that sometimes God doesn’t take the pain away; sometimes he sends just what you need to continue. And for me, it was those few words, “You are going to finish.” My hope was restored, and in time, I found healing. 

I don’t believe I had to travel 800 miles to get that message, but I knew it was from God when a stranger, who knew nothing about my situation, spoke those words.

So, if you have a word, speak it. And if you’re in pain, listen for the perhaps unusual way God might choose to restore your hope.

Sometimes, it only takes  a few words.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

If there's only one


My friend, Guidepost writer, Julie Garmon, started a recent blog post with, “Sometimes I’m drawn to the most insignificant things.”

Ah, yes, Julie. The blessing and sometimes plague of all creative types―seeing possibility in the tiniest of things.

So, our friend Kevin, gardener extraordinaire, comes up to me on Sunday and says, “I was thinking since my peas were slowing down, I’d pull them up and plant Kale. But as I’m picking peas yesterday, this one solitary honey bee comes along seeking a blossom.”

I’m thinking he doesn’t need to plant Kale quite yet.

Kevin was already there, so he left the peas.

Then he says, “I just felt like I was supposed to tell you about this for some reason.”

After he did, it felt like that bee was in my head buzzing around. Thanks a lot, Kevin.

I’ve written about bees and their importance before when 25,000 of them decided to build a nest in the walls of our home.

Here Kevin has this single bee looking for nectar.

Bees are a keystone species, but what difference could this one make?

Yet William Blake wrote,

To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a wildflower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

It seems to me that all of our lives are wrapped up in these tiny moments of seeming insignificance, which really aren’t insignificant at all.

Mother Teresa saw this when she said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

So, today, perhaps we all might leave the pea patch for that bee seeking nectar.

Forsaking what’s expedient for the extravagant benefit of the one.

What does that look like?

It looks like leaving the laundry to read to a child, rescheduling the business lunch to listen to a friend, or maybe being content to use your talents, whatever they are, for the benefit of the small group instead of always seeking the large audience.

Because, really, when that bee comes humming along, don't we want to be ready to respond to God’s call?

“Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Message Colossians3:17).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Quivering lips and Hallelujah


I know from previous experience that the first holidays after a loved one passes are hard. So, here, only a few weeks after my dad’s death, I’ve tried to prepare myself, but really how can you?

I sing with a symphony chorus and a few days ago, we started our practices for the Christmas concert. 

 I’m doing okay until we get to the last piece, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
 

One of my dad’s favorites.

Tears started to well, and lips started to quiver.
 
Then a thought came to me. What if right then up in heaven, Dad was having a conversation with George Frederick Handel himself about that piece of music? What if he was telling him what a joy the music had been to him in this life and thanking him for his faithfulness in writing it? What a happy thought.

The quivering lips turned up.

In 1741, in deep depression suffering from a series of setbacks including a stroke and the bankruptcy of his opera company, Handel was approached to write a composition for a benefit performance that would help free men from debtor’s prison. He would set to music a text written by Charles Jennens about the life of Christ. He originally anticipated it would take a year.
But according to Christianity Today,  'Handel began composing Messiah on August 22, 1741. Within six days, Part One was finished. In nine more, Part Two. Six more and Part Three was done. It took him only an additional two days to finish the orchestration. Handel composed like a man obsessed. He rarely left his room and rarely touched his meals. But in 24 days he had composed 260 pages—an immense physical feat. When he finished writing what would become known as the Hallelujah Chorus, he said, ‘I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.’”

Handel had met opposition from the church over previous works  regarding how “the words of God were being spoken in the theater!” Again, the church initially opposed him, but in the end, the composition was a success and freed many from debtor’s prison. A year later, when it was performed in London, the tradition, which we still observe today began when King George stood at the opening notes of the Hallelujah Chorus.

The same Christianity Today article quotes John Wesley who was in the audience that evening, "I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance."

 It’s said of Handel’s death in 1759 that he hoped to "meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection."

There’s a lot I don’t know about how things work in heaven. I Corinthians 13:12 says, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”(The Message).

But even so, my plan this year when I sing or hear the Hallelujah Chorus is to remember the fine time my dad may be having meeting the composer himself. And Handel was only the conduit, the real composer is the one to really be excited about meeting face to face.

 And that's God, himself.

Hallelujah.

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