Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ashes

With Ash Wednesday tomorrow, I brought back this post from a few years back. Friends, may Lent be especially meaningful this year.




Ashes

Hosanna palms now blackened

 And I, remembering their joyful wave,

Come heart bowed;

And wait

For the sooty cross members on my brow.


 
Kneeling,

Thinking of Him

In wilderness days;

As I, in a lesser way,

Face my own uncharted land.
 



Time now

With the Sacrificial One;

Time for the soul grief,

The cleansing word,

The making-all things-new touch.


 
I rise to follow blood-stained prints;

To daily die

And in these ebony ashes bear

The sure seed

Of Resurrection hope.

Beverly Varnado ©
edited repost

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
John 12:23-25

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

DNA, Jeremiah, and a big challenge

Perhaps it was middle school science when I first mastered the ten syllables for which the letters DNA stoodDeoxyribonucleic acid. Puffed and proud of my accomplishment, I had no clue as to what secrets my own DNA contained which might prove one of the greatest challenges I would face.

After years of being encouraged by medical professionals to pursue DNA testing, I finally relented a little over two weeks ago. My own medical history as well as serious concerns about family history presented tough medical questions. I needed answers in order to make important health decisions. The answers to these questions would not only affect me, but my children, my grandchildren, and beyond.  It was not an easy decision, because though I needed this information, if I tested positive for genetic disorders, particularly in the area of breast or ovarian cancer, my children, and I would be immediately faced with the possibility of multiple surgeries. For me it would be in addition to the many I have already had.

 

We all like to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” But, unless we’ve read the first twenty-eight chapters of Jeremiah, we can’t possibly understand the power of those words. Those first chapters are replete with prophecies of doom and gloom.

Disaster, disaster, disaster.

When we finally reach Jeremiah 29:11, the words fall on us like water in a desert, because by that time our spirits are crying out for good news.

My genetic counseling reports based on my history and my family’s history were loaded with predictions of disaster as well. Page after page of doom and gloom. There was every reason to believe I would have positive results. I wanted to come home and stick my head in the sand.  But I kept reminding myself God knows the plans he has for me. We are not a statistic. When God deals with us, he does not consult a chart or check a graph. He deals with us individually. He deals with us as His children.

 When I first began this process of testing, I had a dream in which someone had stolen my car, and I was weeping with no way to get home and no way to reach my family. I went into a store and asked the people there if they knew my dad, which they did. Then I said, “I am his daughter. May I wait here to be rescued?” You see, God was reminding me, that no matter what seemed to have been taken from me, I am still his daughter. He has plans for me. I needed to wait on Him.

I woke up the morning of the test with this verse from Isaiah 54:27, “No weapon formed against you will prevail.” God also placed Jeremiah 29:11 in my devotional reading that day. I had to decide that whatever the results, God still had plans for me. It would be okay.

A few days ago, a number flashed on my cell phone and I knew it was THE call. I answered and after pleasantries, the nurse practitioner said, “I have results for you.”

I held my breath.

“No genetic disorders (for hereditary cancers) were found.”

I screamed so loud and Jerry, who overheard, began shouting, “Hallelujah and Praise Jesus” at the top of his lungs. Cause I’m telling you folks, it’s as if my head and my family’s was in a guillotine for two weeks.  We are celebrating not only for us, but also for generations of our family who will not have to deal with this.

“Best Valentine’s Day present ever,” I said crying.

The woman on the other end was laughing and rejoicing with us.

Disaster, disaster, disaster. But God.

If the results had been positive, would God still have had plans for me? Yes, He would. Those plans would have included difficult decisions, but God would not have abandoned us.

Someone reading this may have just received positive results, and the good news is God always has a way through. Always. It may not look like what we thought and we may have to make decisions we really don’t want to make, but God is faithful. Suffering is not anything we want to sign up for, but if it presents itself and we know Jesus, we will always have a companion in it.

This May, I am a twenty-year cancer survivor. I plan on celebrating and praising God often for His extraordinary grace and blessings.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

When you're hurting on Valentine's Day



Lace doilies and red paper hearts can bring conflicting emotions.

For some, Valentine's Day is full of fun and celebration.

For others, it evokes the sting of being left behind or left out. It may seem as if everyone in the whole world is celebrating love but us when the heart aches and the chair beside us is empty.

As I pondered this, I kept coming back to the familiar I Corinthians 13, where we read, “Love never fails.” The word translated love here and throughout chapter thirteen is Agape in the Greek. It is the same word used in I John 4, which reads, “God is love.” Love is a person and that person tells us in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what may happen with earthly relationships, there is an eternal love that transcends them.

I hesitated to write about this today, because Jerry and I are so blessed to be together, and I don’t want to come off as offering pat answers, but I have friends who are suffering the fresh wound of facing life without someone they love. I couldn’t forget about them. We need to say, God loves you, dear ones. You are not forgotten.

I remember speaking with a friend years ago after she lost her spouse and she felt so exposed and vulnerable after his passing. Raw in this world. That kind of grief and pain is hard to navigate and harder still to have hope that one could ever feel differently or find healing. Others who long for mates have yet to find them and maybe wonder if they will. Valentine’s Day can be a reminder of that. But the One whose essence is love is our next breath. All of us face a future where loss is possible and we are only able to move into it by knowing that Jesus will go with us. Jesus loves us.

So, if we’re still walking hand in hand with a beloved one here on earth, it would be good to remember those for whom Valentine’s Day is a challenge. Send an extra card or two. Let's spread Agape around.


Here for print.
Here for ebook. 
Or here at Anaiah Press.

 

 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

If you need a sign


I’m checking every day for signs of life in my flowerbeds.

So far, not much.

I keep hoping for a daffodil unfurling or a hyacinth bobbing its head. Nothing in bloom but my faithful camellia. In order to expand my search, I drag Jerry to the state botanical gardens. That poor man has had to stomp every square foot of that place four seasons out of the year. Winter drives me there, because I know somewhere in those gardens I will find blooms. I don’t even care what kind, and it doesn’t have to be big, just some harbinger of spring to give me hope on grey January and February daysa signal the cold won’t last forever.

We walk into the conservatory and are greeted by this bower of orchids and roses designed for an upcoming event. It cheers me right up.

 



When we press on outside, the garden rooms are mostly down to the bones but we keep searching and find this path of hyacinths shouting glory.
 


The Psalmist prayed, “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me” (Psalm 86:17).

All of these nods to Spring are signs of God’s goodness. When the enemy launches in January or in a wintry season of your life that feels as raw as the first month of the year and says, “Hey, this is never going to end. It’s always going to be this bleak.” Well, look for signs to the contrary. Search them out. Watch for the ways God is saying, “I’m here.”

It was Spurgeon who said, “Remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.”

I’m joining with others who are reading through the gospels in February using the Message. I come to Matthew 7:13, the last lines of The Lord’s Prayer, “You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes! Yes! Yes!.” My heart leaps at the proclamation. God’s beauty is always ablaze if we have the eyes to see His working and if we take the time to notice.

So, in this fractured, fragile, weather-beaten world, let’s make it our aim today to see His beauty ablaze in the people and landscape around us. Let’s be intentional about praising Him for the ways He is manifesting to us His glorious, unfailing goodness.

Every single petal of goodness.





Here for print.
Here for ebook. 
Or here at Anaiah Press.
 
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