Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What really helps when the words are out there


“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1)

Sometimes, depending on the day, the wise woman and the foolish one can be the same person.
 
 
 
Lately, I let a few misspoken words leave my mouth, not bad, just ill selected. Words, which in other circumstances, might have been received differently. They didn’t have to be said, and could have been skipped all together, but I spoke them, and now I wish I’d kept my lips sealed. Because once they’re out, all my explanations, “I didn’t mean it that way,” or “I was just joking,” or “You misunderstood,” don’t erase what’s hanging in someone’s brain. Though apologized for, the hurt takes time to heal. Oh, for that angel with the flaming sword that would have cut those words off.

Here’s what doesn’t help: going over and over it in your head, apologizing repeatedly, and grieving it on and on.

Here’s what does:  Apologizing and letting it go.

Now I’m not talking the frozen princess let it go. I’m talking the foot of the cross let it go―releasing it to the only One who can do anything about the problem, who can change what’s in someone’s brain and rewrite the whole script.

I’ve heard people talk about women who never spoke an ill word to anyone, and I don’t intend to, but sometimes in all of my brokenness, the words are there. No matter how long I walk with the Lord, I find myself ever in need of God’s grace and healing.  And that whole “transformed by the renewing of your mind” thing is a must.

So, if you’re like me, and found yourself in a similar situation, reliving the trespass over and over, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to surrender it to Jesus and let Him bring good out of bad.

When he says he can separate our sins as far as the East is from the West, he means it. Included in all that Jesus died for are the words we’ve spoken that turned into arrows in another’s heart.

And that my friends, is one of the many reasons we call the gospel, Good News, and why Easter makes a difference today on the streets where you and I live.

Now let’s get back to building.
 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The summons, the to-do list, the conviction, and what it all has to do with Holy Week


When the jury summons arrived, I couldn’t believe the date. My week to serve fell during Holy Week. A busy Palm Sunday bookended by Easter, and my civic duty assigned to the days between.

So much to do. Mercy.

 



 

I want to do my part, but this would be a challenge.

In addition, I’m always nervous when I have to serve. I guess it’s the unknowns and wondering if I will understand the case clearly.

As I exit my car and enter the parking deck elevator, another juror expressed the same sentiments I had as she pressed the elevator for the ground floor. “Couldn’t believe it when I received my summons for the week before Easter!”

But here we were on Monday morning depositing our handbags at the security check point, registering, and looking for the courtroom. I take my seat and pull out a book I’ve been reading, the voluminous John Adams by David McCullough. It looks like it’s going to be awhile before we start, and then who knows how long jury selection will take.

I’m trying to read, but in my mind, I’m wondering about my to-do list.  If I’m chosen, how will I get everything done for Easter weekend? The cooking, the basket making, getting everything ready for guests.

But then, a quote I highlighted earlier in this book comes to mind. Something Abigail Adams said in a letter to her husband, John, “Posterity who are to reap the blessings will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors.” This woman had lived through war, plague, and been forced to be apart from her husband for years at a time, all for the sake of helping to birth a free nation. She had known the worst of it. And she was right. Here I was sitting in this courtroom, two hundred years later, elevating my to-do list above the present duty, forgetting what it had cost―this privilege of giving someone a jury of their peers, a benefit of living in a democratic society rather than under a dictatorship or some other vile form of government.

I felt conviction.

Interestingly, I was the first juror disqualified. My son works for the insurance company that happened to be involved in the case. A definite conflict of interest.

But during this Holy Week as I’ve reflected on the events of Monday morning, I wonder how often I forget the hardship, the suffering of the one who bought our eternal freedom.

Will I spend Holy Week busy just doing stuff, or will I allocate time to thank Him, to worship Him, to remember all He has done for me?

Do I understand the case clearly?

A man who seemed to have some of the same kind of struggles I do, explained it this way, “They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls” (I Peter 2:24-25 The Message).

During this Holy Week, let’s not run straight to the empty tomb without first stopping at the foot of the cross on Good Friday to remember what Jesus really did for us, how he suffered.

I believe if we do, the empty tomb will be all the more glorious.

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

When you need to know it's the same power


I leave the restaurant where I often write in the mornings frustrated. I didn’t get done what I set out to do. Clouds closed in overhead. Problems I had pushed to the back of my mind assert themselves.  Feeling a little overwhelmed and defeated, I get in the car and the radio comes on.  Jeremy Camp’s, “Same Power” plays. It’s a song that commands you to listen.


I thought he must have written it from Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.


So, later in the day, I turn to this week’s lesson in Breath, a study on the Holy Spirit and our current women’s Bible Study by Beth Moore.

Though Beth does the video lectures, her daughter Melissa Moore writes the workbook. She admits she’s been struggling with a kind of apathy, but God shakes her with a realization of His power.  I read these words, “As ones who are filled with God’s Spirit, we must join God in speaking life and hope over this decaying and despondent world. And we must accept and invite the words of life and hope that are spoken over us by others. Further still, we must speak life and hope over ourselves . . . The Spirit within us we received because God raised Jesus from the dead.”

All of this is enough to shake the frustration and defeat right out of you.

Soon, we will be celebrating Easter and reviewing again the story of Jesus’ resurrection. However, even now, God is gently reminding me that the same power that brought Jesus back to life lives in me by the power of His Holy Spirit.  

Not some diluted version.

Not a facsimile.

Not the good on Sunday, won’t work on Monday power, but the very same grave clothes shedding, stone rolling, cell igniting, soul regenerating power that brought Jesus back from the dead.

So let’s buck up friends, because he’s given us power. And back to Melissa’s words. Yeah, what she said. Let’s be faithful to speak this over ourselves and others.

May your week before Holy week be a power filled one.

New to my Etsy store, Beverly Varnado Art―note cards and fine art prints from an original oil of the state butterfly of Georgia, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Click HERE to visit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If You Have Diverging Roads

I wonder if I’m the lone soul on the planet who deals with this.

I’ll sit down to write or pray, but won’t even go to the thing that’s really weighing heavy on my mind.

When I began my blog post this week, I stalled. Nada.

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought. Now, I understand folks having writer’s block. But that’s not something I experience very often. I lean in the other direction―too many ideas.

It took several hours to realize what was happening.

You see, I’m trying to make a decision concerning a writing endeavor. I guess I wanted to believe it wasn’t bothering me much, but evidently it is, because I was stymied until I faced what I really need to write about. Robert Frost’s two roads are definitely diverging into a yellow wood .
Photo courtesy Wiki commons, Zadac
Except it’s more like three roads. And being one traveler, I’m in a quagmire as to which way to go.

There are benefits as well as disadvantages to each option. I’ve researched, pondered, and made lists. But I still don’t know. This is a significant (for me) writing endeavor, and I want to make the right decision.

I need wisdom.

For sure.

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Don’t you just love that God doesn’t find fault with us for being confused, and promises to give us what we need.

But it’s the next line that gets me. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

After I ask, worry or fear sometimes vexes me. “What if I miss God?”

And there are consequences to letting doubt invade. “That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Yikes. Tell us what you really think, James.

It’s tough living in that place of not knowing. We all want our loose ends tied up, even if it means rushing into things sometimes. We want to feel that sense of relief in having the decision behind us, but God calls us to patient trust.

People have written whole books on guidance. I’ve read some of them, but really, it all comes down to praying and listening.

I’m trying to hold steady and have faith that I’ll know when I need to know.

So here it is, my post about being confused. I feel better now as if the word dam has broken.

And interestingly, when I let about twenty-four hours pass and reread what I’d written here, some things became much clearer for me. So thanks, for listening.

Maybe you have roads diverging, too, friend. Isn’t it good to know that God’s already waiting down the path we need to take?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

When your dog eats three boxes of conversation hearts


One Tuesday night in February, we returned home and found something suspicious in the den.

Mangled pink cardboard was strewn across our chocolate Lab Lucy’s bed.

I studied the scene a moment trying to decipher what had happened.

Then it came to me.

Those pieces of pink cardboard were the remainders of four boxes of conversation hearts. One box had had not been chewed through yet; it only had teeth marks.
 
 

Can you say dog with a sugar high?

Somehow, Lucy had gotten the boxes off the kitchen table. I’m not sure, but there might have been a tuxedo cat named Wilbur involved. I can’t verify this, but since the most often spoken phrase in this house is “Stop it, Wilbur,” I can only imagine he had something to do with Lucy’s misadventure.

Then a hilarious thought came to me. What if Lucy became like the dog Martha in a book we read in home school, Martha Speaks. There’s a children’s television program by the same name now. Martha eats alphabet soup and suddenly is able to talk. Nearly drives her family crazy. Alphabet in, alphabet out.

If a similar thing happened to Lucy, she might start speaking in conversation heart.

A cute male German shepherd walks by, she cries, “Ooh La La!”

She’s been left in the house awhile. On our return she commands, “Hug Me!”

Someone drops a chicken finger on the floor. Lucy exclaims, “Be Mine!”

She finishes a yogurt cup, bats her eyes and says, “True Love!”

She wraps a paw around her favorite companion, Wilbur, and declares, “Soul Mate.”


 
It could happen.

Or not.

We cleaned up the cardboard pieces, and Lucy collapsed on her bed. Probably the sugar crash.

All of this led me to wonder if what we took in came out in phrases like conversation heart words, what would be on them? Would they be words of love or ―something else?

Lent is a season of reflection and introspection―a good time to think about what we’re reading, watching, and listening, and how it affects us. A time to consider the value of the cliché “garbage in, garbage out.”

Luke wrote, “Your true being brims over into true words and deeds” (The Message Luke 6:45).

If God spoke in conversation heart, it might go something like, “I heart YOU.” And because of His great love for us, we want our souls, our true being to be all that God wants, and our words and actions a reflection of that.

I had to go back to the store to buy more conversation hearts, because I’d promised them to a little girl at church. This time I bought twice as many just so I’d have a back-up cause you never know what Lucy might do. Or Wilbur.

But if a brown dog around here starts speaking conversation heart, we’re going to be buying in bulk. Jerry says we'll be going to Hollywood.

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, I have a painting on exhibit in March at the University of North Georgia. The link to the exhibit is HERE. Scroll down to Reciprocal II. A snippet from the painting is on the fourth row, third from the left.
 

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