Tuesday, October 12, 2021

When It Doesn't Make Sense

I studied an area of a painting from an artist I greatly admire. Up close, the brush marks appeared random and indistinct. But I took a few steps back, and what at first seemed only a haphazard application of paint now emerged as part of an exquisite landscape.

It took distance to make sense of the work.

John Singer Sargent, one of the greatest artists of the nineteenth century, was a master at this. Though I cannot find the exact quote right now, David McCullough once wrote about Sargent’s ability to capture a subject in just a few strokes. Up close, the strokes were most likely not readable, but take a step back and oh, wow.

In this life, we may face problems that are going to take distance to understand. The things God allows can often confound us, but in the elapsing of time, we may gain understanding. And of course, God’s healing power may place us in a better position to see more clearly. But, sometimes, it’s going to be in the expanse of eternity, we grasp the why and how.

Someone shared with us a quote by track and field star Sydney McLaughlin, two-time gold medalist in the Tokyo Olympics. She said, “I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God. Even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t seem possible. He will make a way out of no way. Not for my own gratification, but for His glory. I have never seen God fail in my life. In anyone’s life for that matter. Just because I may not win every race or receive every one of my heart’s desires does not mean God has failed.”

As we're running our race, we may lack comprehension to haunting questions and conclude that God has failed us. But no, He has not. We need to take a few steps back and wait for the light He may reveal—if not in this life, then we have the expectation He will unfold His purposes in eternity.

It comes down to trust. The apostle Paul said it succinctly, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Dear friend, if you are stricken by lack of understanding in what seems a muddle of brush strokes right now, take heart and fling yourself into the arms of Jesus. Keep trusting his love and good intentions toward you.

One day, the master artist will remove the veil from the painting, and we will behold a work of beauty that exceeds anything we have ever imagined.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Hope Door

Sometimes, I just can't get a verse off my mind, and though I've previously written another post almost like this one, I still decided to go with it. It's what's on my heart today. Blessings, friends. 

A grim story unfolds in Joshua 7. It begins, “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things . . . “. Every time I read that verse, I hold my breath. I know what’s coming.

After the Israelites’ famed march around Jericho and their shouts caused its walls to fall, God gave strict instructions through Joshua that only Rahab and those with her should be saved. Precious metals were to be put in the treasury of the Lord and everything else destroyed.

But Achan couldn’t let the bounty go, disobeyed, and took some of these things and hid them in his tent. For this transgression, Israel suffered a devastating defeat in their next battle.

God revealed to Joshua the cause of the loss, and eventually Achan confessed to what he had done. Then, Achan, his possessions, and family were all destroyed.

The place where this horrific scene takes place was called the Valley of Achor.

Three centuries later, the prophet, Hosea, would reference this valley and write in speaking for God, “I will . . . make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).

Really, that place? At the intersection of worst nightmare and lost cause? That’s where God says he will make a door of hope? If I’d been on God’s consulting staff, I would not have done it that way.

It seems impossible.

But God doesn’t say he might make a door of hope, or he could make a door of hope. He says, I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. In situations that seem as bad as they can be, they are still not too much for God to transform by his wonder working power.

After the death of Jesus on the cross, when His friends had gone, His disciples had scattered, and all seemed lost, God raised Jesus from the dead to become our door of hope for all eternity.

When the horror of world events shakes, or tragedy strikes close and hard, or failure and sin overwhelm, what God says about the Valley of Achor helps us cling to the hope God offers in Jesus.

In the darkest times, when hearts are breaking and questions go unanswered, let’s hold on to this. Eugene Peterson translated Hosea 2:15 in this lovely way, “I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.”

This very day, God’s hand is still on the latch of the hope door. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Him and see what happens when He opens it.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

 

 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

When It's Time to Leave It Alone

I’d nearly finished another small painting a few days ago when I noticed something weird in a lighter area of the painting—tiny fissures in what seemed to be the gesso coat under the oil paint. I held the painting up to the blaze of the afternoon sun--those same imperfections surfaced in other areas of the painting. What was going on? I’d never experienced this before.

I’d begun with a pre-primed canvas still in the shrink wrap. As you might imagine, after putting the work into the painting, disappointment dogged me.

No oil seeped through to the back side of the canvas so at least the marks were superficial. The way I’m wired, I like to find the underlying cause of things, and am given to pondering a situation so much that it can become larger than it is. I tried to run down something about the problem in a search engine. Should I cover it up or scrape the paint off and see what was happening underneath? After a while, I decided to do nothing. It is a vast understatement to say that is counterintuitive to me. But I moved on and started a new painting just like the one I’d nearly completed.

When I’d finished the next painting, I took another look at the first one. I can’t tell you what happened but by the time the first one had dried, the tiny marks had all but disappeared. I have no explanation for it.

The experience reinforced what God has often brought to mind.

Sometimes, we need to move on from a situation without getting all the solutions and let God do the work. We can get in there with our questions, queries, and plans of action, then before we know it, we’ve got a mess on our hands. If we’d left it alone, God would have worked it out for us.

Recently, a situation so burdened me, several times I reached for my phone to intervene and offer my advice. Every time, God reminded me that the most wonderful things he has done for me were done without my interference. God does a good job of running the world without me sitting on His board of directors. I continued to pray and a few months later, a breakthrough came—all without me butting in, which if I’d done may have caused much more harm than good.

Often, our part is to pray and then pray more. And to leave it alone.

Lately I’ve had on repeat “Be Alright,” a song by Danny Gokey, Evan Craft, and Redimi2. The lyrics include a snippet of that old children’s favorite, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” I play this song remembering the times when our family used to drive around with the kids in the backseat of the minivan singing at the top of our lungs. We’d sing verse after verse of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” inserting someone’s name in the place of the “Whole World” phrase. We ‘d keep going until we reached our destination.

Try this with whatever is weighing on you right now. Sing this song at the top of your lungs. Pray. Then try leaving it alone.

Who knows what God might do?

"Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). 

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Resurrection Plant and Hope

A sweet friend at church handed me a plastic bag with what appeared to be a ball of dried moss in it.



“It’s a resurrection plant,” she said smiling.

I turned the plastic bag over in my hand—a house plant. I’m terrible with indoor plants. Any self-respecting flora better watch itself if it enters my house. I brought the bag home and put it aside thinking I would wait to plant it when I brought other plants inside before the first freeze. It stood a better chance of making it if it wasn’t alone. Safety in numbers—that sort of thing.

A couple of weeks later, my friend asked me about it. “How’s your plant doing?”

I told her my plan. "I was afraid I’d forget to water it and it would die.”

She studied me a moment. “It can go years without water.”

What? Hope sprang in me. If I couldn’t kill it, this was a plant with my name on it.

I went home and looked at the instructions inside the bag. Turns out you don’t plant it but put it in a bowl of water. The plant has to be rinsed and the water changed every day for the first week, then you occasionally add water or let it go back to sleep.

It can go fifty years without water.

The surprising thing is it literally opened before my eyes unfurling its tendrils to the water and light. Here are pics after the first five minutes, the first hour, and a few hours later.





If you don’t water it, it curls into a ball again. But somehow, it retains enough water to keep it alive for decades.

Over the past couple of years, if you’re like me, at times you may have felt as if you were curling into a ball, your life-giving hope leaking out. The resurrection plant has specialized fluid-conducting tissues that help bring it back to life. We are designed spiritually so that all it takes is being open to the water of God’s spirit for us to spring alive.

Jesus said, “. . . whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

The apostle Paul wrote, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (I Corinthians 12:13).

But we do have to make a choice. Jerry is fond of saying, “I want to sit near the spout where the glory comes out.”

What he said. We must position ourselves so that we are in a place to receive what the Lord is offering. Like the plant, we need to drink.

I love it when God reveals an aspect of His glorious purpose through His creation and thanks to my friend for this amazing and instructive gift.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee.

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

When You Encounter Prickly Ones



I’ve said a hundred times. “Sometimes, the only way God can get our attention to pray for someone is by allowing them to annoy us.”

I wish I could get the message another way, cause honestly, sometimes these situations make us want to run for the hills.

It’s easy for me to say pray for those who irritate us, but harder for me to live it out. Recently it was about 4:00 in the morning, when the Lord reminded me of my own words.

Convicted—I prayed.

It's through prayer that we began to get the heart of God for that person from whom we want to flee. If we get on our knees, we’ll often glimpse the brokenness inside the spiky exterior.

I remember a situation where I was frequently around a prickly person in a social setting. I found myself looking for ways to avoid them because of what I considered obnoxious behavior. I’d veer off to sit as far away from that individual as possible.

The Lord reminded me he was calling me to pray and to reach out. Reluctantly, I did.  I never dreamed that just ahead would be a tragic circumstance, in which God would allow me to minister to that very one.

We can’t figure these things out because only God sees what’s at stake. And it is not all about the other person. God wants to use these situations in our lives to mold and shape us, as well.

In recent history, so much has happened, that it seems almost everyone is prickly in some way. It reminds me of the first time I ever went to one of my doctors. The nurse handed me a questionnaire to assess my health by asking questions about my life. You know the drill. Every doc has them. On this form, one of the questions was “Do you have stress in your life?” I laughed and wrote “Does anyone ever answer no to this question?” I put a smiley face in the margin confident all health care professionals enjoy getting little cartoons and smart remarks on their forms.

Having never met me before, the doc walked in the room looking at the questionnaire and laughing. She said, “Only those that are in really bad shape.”

It’s probably a good idea to confess our own irritating behaviors and pray about our prickliness, too. 

I’m inserting a little caveat that there are relationships that turn toxic in a way that is unhealthy to remain in them. This is not what I’m talking about here.

Jesus said, “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?” (Luke 6:32 The Message)

Let’s call on the Lord to help us love those who are hard to love and remember the lavishness of His gift of grace to us in Jesus. 

Another post about prickles HERE. 

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee.

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Remembering and staying close


We had traveled over 7,000 miles by car earlier in the summer of 2001 visiting historic sites and National Parks. That summer shaped our family’s future in ways we didn’t yet fully understand. It was as if we had captured a more innocent time in a bottle that pre-911 summer, a time we could never go back to and would never experience again.

I can’t remember what I told my seven- and eight-year-old kids in home school that fateful eleventh day of September, but we didn’t let them see the horrific images at the time—planes and people falling from the sky, buildings melting into the ground, and dust covered survivors running for their lives.

The world had changed.

The casualties on 911 kept mounting until the final tally of 2,977 with 6,000 wounded. And then we faced a twenty-year long war in which we would lose more heroes, 7,000 servicemen and 8,000 contract workers in addition to those wounded both physically and psychologically. The recent exit from that part of the world has added even more casualties to that list and broken our hearts with its collateral damage.

911 was one day in history, but it has also been an era in which a whole generation of children, including mine, grew up with the uncertainty that day precipitated.

In the days ahead, as we observe the twentieth anniversary of September 11, let’s remember the firefighters and emergency workers who ran into burning buildings, which would collapse around them. Let’s remember the moms and dads who went to work that day and never came home to their families. Let’s not forget the ones who died commandeering a plane away from hijackers, so it wouldn’t crash into its designated target in our nation’s capital. And there are so many more whose stories we may never know.

Our hearts still carry the memory of the heaviness of that time. It is crystallized for me in one moment—a few days later I was exiting a store. Another woman I didn’t know approached at the same time. She and I paused, looked at the door as if we both wanted to open it and run as far as we could to get away from the pain. My mother was also dying at the time. Then our gaze met. I thought for a moment we would collapse in each other’s arms or burst into tears. We didn’t but what passed between us was an acknowledgement of the common pain we felt.

We are observing this twentieth anniversary at another time of common pain. So many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic. Some children have lost father or mother or both. Parents have lost children. The exit from Afghanistan shredded us with its calamity. The recent political climate has polarized our nation.

Yes, the world has changed, and we are living in a day of trouble.

But the really, really good news is, God has not changed.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). It can seem every morning that we wake to a disturbing new reality in the world, but we may find God’s presence and comfort to be enduring and unchanging. He is not surprised nor is he overwhelmed by current events.

Another verse that has meant much to me is Psalm 27:5, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” The Message puts it this way, “That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic.” There’s no escape from the pain of living in this world, but there is a break from the worry, the confusion, and harriedness. We can get away to his Presence. We can actually stay in it.

So, on this anniversary let’s especially remember and acknowledge those we lost, but let’s also remember in these difficult days to stay close to the One we can never lose.

Also, in memory of those who perished in 911, please remember to thank a healthcare worker, first responder, firefighter, law enforcement officer, or military person for their service. Every day they are putting their lives at risk on our behalf.

World Radio featured an audio postcard of our 7,000 mile cross country trip HERE. which came from a travel memoir of that summer I wrote entitled Dream Summer which I shared here. It concludes with a remembrance of 911.

Books here.   

 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tending the Lamp

Afghanistan, the Pandemic, and that terrible storm Ida have occupied our thoughts and prayers, and because of them I brought a heavy heart to my daily Bible reading.

I sank a little further when I saw what it was for the day—several chapters in Leviticus. Excuse my sarcasm, but there’s nothing like reading about defiling skin diseases or bodily discharges to lift one’s spirits. But on the other hand, it sure reminds us of all that Jesus has done for us. Across the top of several pages in Leviticus, I’ve written in large print, “Thank you for Jesus,” because his sacrifice saved us from ritual sacrifices and a life of rules and regulations. 

God knows what we need, and He knew this would be my reading on this day, so more than ever I searched for what He might want to speak through his Word. 

I found it in Leviticus 24:4. In the Lord’s instructions to Moses about the tent of meeting, one of them was, “The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually.”

In a day of so much happening in the world in addition to our own personal heartaches, it’s important to keep our lamps burning—to allow God by the power of His spirit to as in the words of the old gospel song, “Keep us burning to till the break of day.” We don’t want to be like the virgins awaiting the bridegroom in Matthew 25 who ran out of oil before the bridegroom’s arrival.

And yes, I realize I wrote about light last week. Let's call this part two.

When heartaches roll in, it’s easy to let go of tending our lamps though Bible study, worship, prayer, and meeting together. But these things are essential to keeping our radiance for Christ. I’m struck by the word “continually” in the Leviticus passage. This is not an on and off again situation, it calls for being intentional.

One of the commentaries I read on this verse noted that this lamp was the only light in the tent by which the priests could carry out their tasks. The light of Jesus is the only light that can change this ragged planet. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). We need to keep our lamps burning because we may find ourselves in situations where we are the only ones who gleam with the light of Christ in a dark place. Jesus also said in Matthew 5:16, “. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

So, let’s tend our lamps and keep them blazing. Even when the news seems mostly bad, even when our hearts break for those in difficult circumstances, and even when there doesn’t seem to be many answers. There is still Jesus. He is and will always be the light of the world.

Books here.   

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

When It's Hard to see the Light

I stepped back from a painting I’d been working on for hours. Something wasn’t right with the light. A professor of mine used to say the best way to see the light was to squint. So, I tried that, and what I still needed to do became clearer.

I’ve been trying that same squinting technique with the events happening on the other side of this spinning orb in Afghanistan. But try as I might, the light has been hard to see. The heartbreaking images sear into our minds and the darkness threatens to overwhelm.

The temptation is to avoid the news regarding this situation, but that feels an awful lot like those in the Good Samaritan story who went to the other side of the road to avoid helping the man who had been robbed and beaten.

There’s a lot to process, and emotions can run the gamut, but I’ve been joining with others around the world, as many of you have, to corporately ask God for miraculous intervention, because it seems that’s what it’s going to take to resolve this crisis.

Brother Andrew who has spent his life getting the word of God to people in desperate situations used to pray when smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, “Lord, you made blind eyes see. Now make seeing eyes blind.” And God did time after time as Bibles made it through check points. I’ve been praying for those who are trying to find their way out, that the eyes of the oppressors would be blind to their movements.

We’ve also been interceding for the service men and women who have once more been deployed to this region to help Americans and refugees escape. Even now, they are in harm’s way to help others. May they be kept safe in their endeavors.

I remind myself of this verse from John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  No matter how bleak any situation may seem, there is a light that cannot be extinguished. I am trusting the light of Jesus is going forth even in these desolate circumstances.

Let’s continue to pray for miracles and hold on to hope. Let’s pray for those in authority to have supernatural wisdom to discern the best plan of action at this point.

If you feel led to give, I am providing a link to Samaritan's Purse who is doing good work by partnering with others on the ground to provide escape for many. They were able to bring out around 700 in one day. HERE for Samaritan's Purse. (I receive no remuneration for providing this link).

There's much to be done, but my heart’s desire is that day by day more light would break forth and soon no squinting will be required.

 A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

What There's No Way Around

I’m sitting here staring out the door of the she-shed into the garden and trying to figure out how to express my thoughts. Butterflies are floating around out there in record numbers this year, I guess because I’ve added one more butterfly bush and my lantana is especially loaded with blooms. It’s an idyllic scene and contrasts sharply with the burden in my heart.


It seems there are so many folks trying to rewrite the gospel. Now, I don’t think they would admit that. It’s an insidious thing.

It reminds me of someone I knew long ago who often referenced the love of God. “God is love,” he quoted from 1 John 4:8. Well, yes, yes, and yes. But I felt he focused on this aspect of God to cover over the wide range of his behaviors that were inconsistent with other attributes of God—among them justice, righteousness, and holiness.

When I fully surrendered to the Lord, I memorized a little booklet Campus Crusade for Christ (called CRU) publishes, The Four Spiritual Laws. These were put together from scripture by that great saint of God, Bill Bright.

Still today, I don’t know of any better way to tell the story of what God has done on our behalf. In summary, God loves us and has a plan for our lives, but we are separated from God by sin. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for that sin and the way to experience his love and plan. We must accept him into our lives as Lord and Savior to know God’s plan and have eternal life. (I’ll give a direct link to the exact wording from Cru below. I receive no monetary remuneration for doing so).

The point is, yes, God is love, but we are separated from Him by our sin. If we weren’t, there would have been no reason for Jesus to come. It rips the heart out of the gospel if we remove the acknowledgement of ourselves as sinners needing to repent.

If we talk about the love of God without acknowledging our need for a Savior, what are we doing? What kind of gospel is that?

I turn to C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor--that is the only way out of a ‘hole.’ This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance.”

We can talk about the love of God and try to gloss over our sin, but God’s love is fully embodied in Jesus, who died for us. Our sin caused his death. There is no way around it. 

I see people following a gospel which is no gospel at all. It has the appearance of all love and acceptance but skips this very essential step of repentance of sin.

I recently bought a shopping bag that had written on it, “Oh, happy day.” I don’t think its creators had any idea where those words came from. But some of us know it’s from an old hymn, “Oh, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”

And let me testify right here, it was indeed a happy day, when I repented, and Jesus washed mine away and gave me a new life. 

May we all find our happy day. 

Four Spiritual Laws 

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.



 

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

If you're in high weeds

In the last few days, Jerry and I watched a docuseries about the country music singer, Luke Bryan, entitled “Dirt Road Diaries.” I don’t normally listen to country radio, but my son and a good friend do and for that reason I try to keep up a bit. And I’m always ready for a biography.

As many know, the Byran family has suffered almost unimaginable loss. A young brother, a sister, and a brother-in-law all within a short few years. As the story unfolds, you see how they struggled to find their bearings after each death, but because his siblings had been so encouraging in his career, Luke felt they would have wanted him to keep going.

In the end, he says when talking of the losses, and I’m paraphrasing here, that without faith, their family would have been "lost."

We’ve often said around here that anyone who tries to navigate devastating heartache without the Lord would be lost. Jerry has used the South Georgia phrase, “lost as a ball in high weeds.”

That phrase reminds me of an animal story that I told here about ten years ago. I’ll recap. A feral mama kitty took up here. She had kittens out in the studio and one morning I discovered one missing—the black and white tuxedo, Wilbur. The other kittens were grey. This litter probably had two different fathers and I wondered if one of them came back to destroy the kitten that wasn’t theirs which often happens.

Anyway, we searched and searched and nothing. Then I had the idea to let Lucy out. The big brown Aussiedor had shown amazing tenderness toward the kittens. “Find Wilbur, “I told her. So, she set out nose to the ground sniffing every blade of grass in the back yard to no avail. Then I let her outside the fence into the front yard. After some time, she zeroed in on a patch of ivy, nosed it, and then just stood there looking at me. I went over and pulled back the leaves, and there was the tiny Wilbur only a week or so old under the leaves, still alive. I took him back to his Mama and then moved the whole lot of them indoors which they adjusted to in a surprisingly quick way.

Wilbur was lost and against all odds, Lucy found him. We conjecture the father must have been spooked in his efforts to destroy the kitten. For ten years, these animals have had an astounding connection. Wherever Lucy is, Wilbur will not be far away as you can see in this recent picture. It’s like he knows she saved him.

If you’re reading this, know you are not lost to God, and He can find you in any high weeds or under any ivy leaves.  Thomas Merton wrote, "I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me. And You will never leave me to face my perils alone." A few of Andrew Murray's words on the subject were, "There is no one so far lost that Jesus cannot find him and cannot save him." He comes to us to both save us for eternity and to help us through the heartaches of this life. You don’t have to go it alone. Call out to Him. 

In a recent devotional I read in The Upper Room Magazine, a writer testified how when he was a child, a grandparent taught him to pray what he called a “big little prayer” which was “Help me, Lord.” Three simple words, which have been so powerful in his life. Pray that.

Luke said he wanted this docuseries to go forward because he believed it would help others who have suffered loss.

I think it will, for anyone who is willing to call on the Lord.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done . . . Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Psalm 105: 1, 4).

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

If you're looking for living hope



The song has rolled around in my head for weeks now and brought me much comfort. It takes its title, “Living Hope,” from this verse, “In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead . . . “(I Peter 1:3).

Hope must be living to be hope.

But we all know you can be living, and not have hope.

And that may be where many find themselves today. Especially as we face rising cases, which are now affecting younger people, financial troubles, family problems, grief, and any number of other challenges. Many are suffering from what the French might call “ennui”— a general dissatisfaction with life.

But if we look closely at the verse, we see hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus. Eugene Peterson put it this way in the Message, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!

The future starts now. We don’t have to wait for some far-off time for hope. I’ve written several times about beloved writer Elizabeth Sherrill here, and I want to go back and pull a few words forward from one of those posts. About a book she wrote entitled “All the Way to Heaven,” she writes it is “‘the story of how heaven, which I used to think of as an imaginary realm-in-the-sky, has become more real to me than the ground beneath my feet. Real in the past, real for the future, and best of all, real right now.’

Real right now―even in the middle of pain and feeling the earth is shaking beneath our feet.

In her book, Elizabeth quotes Henri Nouwen, who ministered to those suffering intellectual and developmental disabilities, ‘The cup of sorrow, inconceivable as it seems, is also the cup of joy. In the midst of the sorrows is consolation, in the midst of the darkness is light, in the midst of the despair is hope.’

Even our bleakest moments are not entirely without light. The glories of heaven pierce the shroud around us and reveal the goodness of God.

Some of you are going through those bleak times.  We look at the year stretching ahead and wonder how we’ll make it. But friends, no matter what happens, God is good. Heaven is not just pie-in-the-sky but is meeting us here in all of our hurting places.”

God offers his consolation, light and hope to us and that hope is for sure a living hope.

Listen to “Living Hope” here.

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Now, a message from a bike path

I pedal my bicycle up behind a runner and announce myself, “Passing on your left.”

I expect a wave or a “Thanks” but instead no response.

Where we vacation, the bike and running paths are the same. Safety requires bikers not pass unless the walker or runner is aware of it, because one step to the left and catastrophe.

In fact, once I forgot to give notice, and a woman lectured me on my error, which I fully deserved.

I say it louder. “PASSING ON YOUR LEFT.”

Still no response.

I creep up beside the runner. That’s when I notice the earbuds and nearly shout, “ON YOUR LEFT.”

She never turns and only acknowledges me until I’m ahead of her.

That scenario repeated itself day after day after day. Fully half of the walkers or runners I approached were not aware of my bike until I had passed them.

I’ve biked these same paths for years and never noticed this problem. I’m all for a good podcast, and no one loves music more than me, but the island where we spend a few days every now and then is so replete with beauty, I want to absorb every bit of it. Even the sounds. Sometimes, especially the sounds—the call of the seagulls—the distant roar of the ocean.   I even wanted to hear the whirr of the bicycle tires behind me or approaching footsteps.

This is not a safety post, but even so, please be careful out there. It’s a call to be in the now—to be aware of God’s gifts in the present time, and to unplug. The pandemic has caused us all to deal with our stress in different ways, and escaping is one of them. I get it, because I've had the same struggles, but being present in the moment is such a mighty thing.

In a recent Bible class, a friend was trying to remember a verse that had been significant to her. Because of the information she gave, I quoted Ephesians 3:20, “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . .”

“No, that’s not it,” she said.

But someone else read it from their Bible. “Now, to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . . “

“That is it,” she said, “The word, 'now,' made such a difference for me.” That word was not just a transition in language for her. She needed to know that God was at work in the now.

We can’t leave off “now’ like I did when I quoted the verse. There’s a whole lot we miss if we have plugs in our ears.

So, here’s a challenge. Let’s all take a day where we unplug and really listen to what God is doing around us—the things we might miss if we’re not intentional about listening.

And here are a few other verses with the word “now’ for consideration:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy . . . (Jude 24).

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17).

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13).

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

Now, have a blessed day.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wise Words from a Wee One

An edited repost today with a few words from an unexpected source. Blessings. 

I point to the picture drawn from the vantage point of the man peeking through the branches. “And if this man in the tree is Zacchaeus, who is this?”



I gesture toward another figure below Zacchaeus, who beckons for Zacchaeus to come down.
A commotion starts as the three, four, and five year olds in my VBS class discuss the possibilities. Finally, out of the din to my left, one small voice says, “God on the ground.”
I wheel around in my chair to the child, blown away by the profound implications of those four words. Now, this little fellow had played a wise man in our Christmas play, and I wondered if his casting had been more on point than I realized.
I study the wee one's sincere face. “Yes, Austin, that is God on the ground. Thank you so much.”
Amidst what can seem at times almost overwhelming grief and heartache in this life, we might lose sight of my little student’s insight. Jesus was God on the ground come to say God loves us. He cares.
And he didn’t have to be. When he got the invite to the “We’re having a save the world party,” he could have sent in his RSVP― thanks, but no thanks. The idea of leaving heaven and suffering for the sins of the whole world might not have had the greatest appeal. It wouldn’t be what the cool kids on earth were doing.
But from the foundation of the world, Jesus was destined to be God on the ground, to walk where we walk, to feel what we feel, to suffer as we suffer, because once more, He loves us.
Though he has ascended into heaven, he has left us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, our guide, our teacher. So God on the ground has become God in the center of our being. Indwelling us with His very presence.
No matter what is happening in this old world, we may take comfort that God is present, suffering alongside, and offering hope. 
So, thank you my wise little friend, Austin, for the reminder. God on the ground means God loves us--even in our suffering.
 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
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