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).

Friday, July 16, 2021

Stan and Currahee Memories

Stan and I were only a few grades apart in school, but our paths didn’t really cross until several years ago when my sister, Tammy, made me aware of a social media group he helped to administer called, “Currahee Memories.”

Currahee is a mountain in north Georgia made famous by the movie Band of Brothers, which depicted the story of the paratroopers who trained on that mountain in preparation for D-Day. For those of us who grew up in sight of the mountain, it was and continues to be as one of my book characters says, the wallpaper in our minds.

As one of the site administers, Stan, and others posted remembrances of times gone by—local landmarks, photos of ancestors, street scenes, high school graduation pictures, and so much more. It was fun to check in to see the daily stream. Although, I haven’t lived in the area in decades, I always found something of interest. Interspersed among the posts were photos of the mountain, in every season, from many vantage points, and in all kinds of weather.

When the pandemic hit, for a long while, none of us knew what we were facing. I found myself struggling with for lack of a better word, homesickness. With parents and grandparents who lived in the area now all gone, I longed to hear the comforting voice of my mother’s mother who died over forty years ago. Maybe she’d say, “Honey, I lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and you can live through this, too.” And if I could have spoken to my dad again, he might have repeated something I’d heard him say many times, “Whatever anybody else can do, you can do.” That would include facing a pandemic.

Of course, I couldn’t talk to those people, again, but what I found is that “Currahee Memories” served to keep me connected to that part of my life.

The photo of Dad that Stan posted

In June of last year, my sister called and asked me if I checked the site that day. When I did, I saw a smiling photo of our dad wearing a bow tie, just like he wore when I was a little girl—such a comforting picture. Then folks started sharing about him. I probably wasn’t supposed to, but I screenshot the posts and shared them with my children so they would know how many people remembered their grandfather.

I messaged Stan, thanked him for the photo, and asked him where he found it because I had never seen the picture before. “In an old college annual from 1958,” he said. His love of history caused Stan to plunder library and newspaper archives to find material for the site. I can’t imagine how many hours he spent doing so with no thought of profit for himself.

My husband is a pastor and we were in ministry to so many who were hurting and grieving this past year in addition to what was happening nationally. Stan made it clear he wanted the site to be a safe place, free of political posts, and he kept that promise. On a sad day, it was nice to go there and know we wouldn’t be bombarded from one direction or another. As my sister says, “Stan was a bright spot in a very dark year.” I believe she speaks for many.

I hardly knew Stan was sick, and then he was gone. I wish we’d had more time with him.

To his family and close friends, I say, please know that when we remember Currahee, we will often remember Stan and all he did for us. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Thank you, Stan, for helping those of us who share a common love of the mountain to find glimpses of home and live through one of the hardest years we’ve ever had to face.

As the years go by, your work will continue to bless us. You are one of our best Currahee memories.

With much love and gratitude, 

Beverly Chitwood Varnado 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

An Uncomfortable Subject

I thought the picture above was a cute way to illustrate today's point. It’s from a few years back of our sweet granddaughter who was being squashed because her hound dog refused to budge. Our girl looks pretty uncomfortable, which is how our subject has a tendency to make us feel.

Jerry and I struck up a conversation with a man behind us at a recent conference. We discovered our lives had both been changed when we read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Then we discussed Lewis’ chapter on pride.

It’s uncomfortable to say the least.

The chapter is called, “The Great Sin.”

There are few who can read it without squirming. Lewis declares the center of Christian morals does not lie in sexual morality but in Pride, which he believes “leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

If you give that statement thought, you see that before we make a move against the laws of God, we first must believe we know better than God thus proving Lewis’ point.

When I first read the book decades ago, one of the many sections I underlined was about how we can know how much pride we have by how much we dislike it in others. He writes, “In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’”

See what I mean about the chapter being uncomfortable?

It’s a good thing God doesn’t give up on us, because this pride thing never relents either. A song written by Joel Hemphill comes to mind, “He’s still working on me.” No matter how long we live or how far we go with the Lord, pride is always trying to weasel in.

Lewis says if we think we are not conceited, we are very conceited indeed. The thing to do is to fess up about our condition and take it continually to the Lord.

Jerry often says the reason he asks people to come forward for an altar call is we must leave our pride in the seat to do so.

The uncomfortable message is to go forward with the Lord in any way, we have to leave our pride behind. It’s not pretty, and it’s not easy, but it’s the only way.

A verse the Lord continually brings to my mind is this one: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). This is kind of a funny story—years ago on a vacation trip, I was just strolling along a sidewalk and was allowing a prideful thought to rise big in me. In the next moment, I fell flat on my face. Literally. So embarrassing. As I hit the ground, I suspected the Lord was reminding me that when we let pride rise, we are going down. That’s because he loves us and wants the best for us. He will allow our momentary displeasure to accomplish his greater purpose. Please don’t hear me saying that every time we fall either literally or figuratively, it’s because of pride. I don’t believe it was pride when I suffered a concussion and broke my arm. And I don’t believe when bad things happen to people, it is always because of pride. But sometimes, it is. Only God and that person know for sure.

A few other verses to contemplate.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (James 4:6).

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Well, that’s it. You may be wishing you hadn’t come here today for this irritating post but thank you for sticking with me. And I hope it doesn’t happen again, but if you see me face planted on the ground somewhere, just pray for me. I’ll need it.


Just in time for the beach, a sale on the ebook of 

A Season for Everything, July 14-18. 


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Where love can spread and roots go deep

An edited repost today with what I hope is encouragement to keep after "old dirt."

Jerry and I stroll in a garden, and I say, “This place smells like old dirt.”

He says, “Isn’t all dirt old?”

That lawyer gene in him really gets me sometimes.






Yes, all dirt is old, but some of it smells old. My grandfather’s well-tilled yard became soft and black with decades of amendments that also included a few coal chips, which fell from winter buckets headed to stoves inside. On the other hand, most of my backyard doesn’t have that scent, because even after twenty years of my attempts to amend the Georgia clay back there, in many places, it’s still leaning toward hard red. 

To get old dirt takes time and work. 

The term "old as dirt" usually carries negative connotations, but spiritually speaking, we’re all aiming for old dirt—where love can spread, roots go deep, and God’s word establishes itself.

In Jesus’ parable about the soils, he said, “ But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

As believers, we aim to faithfully try and amend the ground of our hearts through prayer, Bible study, worship, and other spiritual disciplines. We also encounter challenges, which God wants to use to make our hearts the fertile fields he desires. It's often tough business, but the outcome can be beyond our imagination. So, we pray for a harvest that as others encounter us, they, too, might catch a whiff of old dirt, which will point the way to Jesus.

As a reminder to keep after that old dirt, with some artistic license, I painted a version of one of the garden photos above. I still can almost smell the scent of that place when I see it. 



  
Here's to fruitful gardening, friends. 


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Expectation vs. Expectancy

In the support material of one of our church Bible lessons, we read of Ann Smith who spent thirty years as a missionary in Asia, but still dreamed of traveling to yet another Asian country to minister. Finally, at ninety years old she realized that dream. One of the important lessons she shared about Christian service was, “We should not live with expectations but with expectancy.”

Over the years, I’ve said about a thousand times, “It’s my expectations that get me into trouble.”

Expectations often lead to disappointment. Disappointment is how bitterness gets a foothold, and then it’s just a downward spiral from there.

Nobody’s life is an Instagram photo. And if it is, there’s a whole lot of mess that’s been cropped out. If we expect our lives to read like a story book, well, hello, frustration.

But expectancy, now that’s another kind of story.

So, what is the difference between expectation and expectancy?

Expectation means looking forward to what we believe will happen—it’s already set and we’re moving toward it.

Expectancy has to do with hope. We haven't prescribed what will happen, but we still hope for it. As believers, it means leaving it up to God.

So, yes, we always, always have hope for the future, but we don’t place demands on it through our expectations. That distinction will save us boatloads of heartache from the destruction that unfulfilled expectations can bring.

In recent years, there was a big event that caused me much pain, and in time, I realized it was because of my broken expectations. I had to go again to the Lord and ask Him to help me with them. There’s nothing for us to do but let go of what we thought life would be, and with hope, embrace what is and move forward.

It’s not easy and it often doesn’t make for a beautiful social media post, but I’m thankful that living with expectancy brings joy despite circumstances.

As Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote this, “'The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for him'” (Lamentations 3:24 Amplified). Even as Jeremiah sat in the ruins, he reminded himself to hope and live expectantly in God.

If you find yourself wrestling with bitterness over what might have been, or locked into expectations of the future, release these to the only One who can lead you into a life of expectancy. And be amazed at how much lighter you feel when you’re not carrying around the burden of your suppositions or disappointments.

I did a little digging and found a few videos of Ann Smith. Here’s a link for one from about ten years ago when she was eighty-six, and it has so much wisdom in it. You can see that Ann truly does live in expectancy.

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.




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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

When the path is longer and steeper than you thought

Out to see a mountain waterfall, we paused at the bottom of the trail. “Not too far,” I said glancing at a sign that read “.5 miles.”

Jerry nodded holding on to Lucy who strained a bit at the leash. I decided to change into tennis shoes from my sandals, though.

We had in our minds a leisurely walk to the cascading water where I’d snap a few photos using a new camera I’d received for my birthday.

We were only a couple of hundred feet up the way, when Jerry turned to me, both of us stopping to catch our breath. “Are we going to the top of the falls?”

“I don’t think so.” We hadn’t expected the elevation involved on this trek. Memories from the past rolled in. “This feels like it did when I used to climb Currahee Mountain.” In my youth, I had scaled a winding narrow path up the mountain in North Georgia several times. Emphasis on in my youth.

And we’d both climbed one of the giant peaks in Colorado—back in the day.

“Do you want to turn around?” Jerry asked.

Of course, I did, but more than that I wanted to see those falls. “Let’s keep going.” I hoped paramedics would not be involved. “Lord, help us,” I prayed.


We questioned a young couple passing, “How much farther?”

“Quite a way,” they said.

Not the answer we wanted to hear. We plodded on picking our way over tree roots and rocks—up hill. Lucy panted no longer straining at the leash (By the way, that picture above is not the actual path. I was too oxygen deprived to remember to take a photo at that point).

A little further, we collapsed on a bench, which I imagine was put there for people like us who had no idea what they were getting into.

Later, I read the reviews of the trail, one of which said, “Easy enough for my 5-year-old and the dog to walk.” The words easy and fun showed up often in the reviews. Seriously?

We left the bench, pressed forward, and hoped we didn’t have to carry Lucy. She loved a walk but wasn’t much on strenuous exercise. We drew some comfort that others even younger than us were having to stop and rest, too. And every time we clung to a tree so someone could pass on the narrow path, we asked those same three words, “How much farther?

Gradually the answers became more encouraging. “Only about five more minutes,” a young woman said eyeing us with pity. Her grey-haired mother dressed in hiking shorts and shoes came behind her almost bouncing along the path. Clearly professionals. I was only glad I changed my mind about the dress I wore earlier, and put on shorts.

“It goes up, then down, and you’re there,” she added.

The word “up” was not what I wanted to hear. My inhaler was back in the car. I never dreamed I’d need it. We gathered our courage and continued searching for the “down” part she’d spoken of.

Finally, we hit it, and in another hundred feet we were there gazing up at the lovely falls. We lingered a while snapping pictures and Lucy waded in the stream.




When we started back to the car, I was amazed at how quickly we made the descent. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I’d be the next morning, either, but Lucy shunned us and camped out on her bed most of the day, I suppose making the point she is not an adventure dog.  Jerry informed me the sign I’d glanced at read “.7 miles” not “.5 miles.” The guide said “.9 miles.” It felt like thirty with the elevation.

I was reminded the trail in life is also longer, harder, and steeper than we expect. We think it’s a sprint, but it’s a marathon. And often up hill. We sometimes want to turn around and go back. But God promises to be with us along all our narrow paths, our switchbacks, our steep ascents, when we’re barely holding on, and when it seems we can’t even draw enough oxygen into our lungs. Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His powerful accompanying presence will be with us on any breathless, challenging path we face. His presence is enough for every ascent and is like those cascading falls, a source of refreshment and beauty.

When a daughter, who’s a hiking professional, too, heard about our experience, she asked, “Mom, didn't you know to check the elevation on the trail map before you started?”

Isn’t it annoying when your kids are smarter than you?

And speaking of Currahee, if you haven't read my story set at the base of that lovely peak, it's available HERE.




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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Knock in the Night

The wheezing, coughing, and fever had become too much. There were no urgent cares back then, so the call went out in the middle of the night. The voice on the other end said, "Come on over."

So we went.

When we knocked on the door, he opened it, and said, “Just put her in there,” as he pointed to his left. So, my dad took me into the living room, laid me down, and stood by hoping something could be done. There I lay on the beautiful living room sofa feeling like a princess—albeit a sick one. The absolute best of the small town or any town doctors went to work. I had always gotten better before, and I had confidence I would again. Once more, we would triumph over the bronchitis.

Somewhere in this house, his wife was around. I never wondered then how many sick children she had welcomed into her home in the wee hours.

I do now. I imagine that kind of hospitality would never happen today. It’s a throw back to a different era, but one I am so grateful for. I also question how many physicians would have accommodated patients this way even back then.

I saw a familiar name pop up on social media a few years back. Could it possibly be the woman whose home I invaded?

It was.

The doctor’s wife and I began a new chapter of our relationship on social media.

The thing that has most struck me in her comments is that she always signs off with “I love you.”

I have since realized that love and her Christian faith shown in all she writes, was what was behind a woman welcoming a string of sick children into her home in the middle of the night—for decades. That was the reason she was willing to sacrifice her beautiful furniture in the hope her husband could help a feverish child. Her life was a life of service to her community, just as her husband's was.

So, today, I pay tribute to Dot. Thank you for all you’ve done for me and so many others who came knocking in the night. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for still being there with those affirmations of love and your bright faith. You continue to be an inspiration to us all to lead lives of service to others.

If you or your husband ever need anything in the night. Please—just knock.

And Dot, we love you, too.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35 The Message).

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

She Shed Shine

I’ve written much about sad things lately, so today something happy.

The newly renovated she-shed

In between finishing a first draft of another book, I’ve continued to work on another big project—the cleanout and redo of the studio.

It’s been a bear.

My dad built the tiny building for my daughter as a playhouse back in the day. Then as she grew older, it became a art studio/birthplace of the kittens. As young adults moved from apartment to apartment, it segued into its sad life of storage. In fact, I had not seen the floor in that building for two years. It’s miniscule, but oh, was it packed with stuff, much of it now given away with kids settled.

I have only one exterior before picture, and no interior. Just imagine the city dump and you’ve got a good idea of what it was like inside. This exterior pic was made after the kitten door was replaced with a new panel.

I had to excavate a little around the foundation because the building had settled, and we needed to clear soil from the structure. That was a lot of big fun.  

The interior walls were in good shape having only been painted a few months before the last kid transition two years ago, but I painted the floor and the whole exterior. Jerry moved the door from opening in to opening out which expanded usable space inside. As I said, he replaced the panel in the door the formerly feral mama kitty used who has now decided she likes being a domesticated feline.

I wanted a green and white stripe awning, but since this was a shoestring budget, we couldn’t/wouldn’t spring for hundreds of dollars for a custom made one which that space required. So, we came up with a way to make one from closet rods and fittings. Throw in a couple of galvanized pipe holders and we had the frame. I coated them with rust resistant paint.

When I received the awning fabric I’d ordered, I hit the sewing machine and fashioned the one in the picture using Velcro as a fastener.

My children used to ring that bell in the pic when they visited a beloved neighbor. It was black when she gave it to me years ago, so I also spray painted it black. While sandpapering it for a recoat, I noticed a shiny area. I put some work into it and discovered the bell was brass. I couldn’t believe it. I kept working until I cleaned it up and now it shines by the door.

The place is just barely big enough for a chair, a bookcase, a desk, a small chest, and a little cabinet my dad built. I wouldn’t have that much in it, but I intend on painting out there and need supplies. Even though there is air conditioning, I prefer to open the door in the mornings. With a mesh magnetic screen I’ve put up, I don’t have mosquitoes, but I do have the ventilation I need for oil painting.

View from inside through the screen

Also, I keep materials for children’s ministry out here, but I like having crayons around anyway plus, shells, driftwood, rocks my kids painted when they were small, art books, and magazines for inspiration. The posters are from a stationary company.



I am writing there now. Nothing has to be done out here though I'm still working on a couple of areas inside, but no pressure, so no distractions.  It’s amazing. Only a bird trill soundtrack. Yes, technically it still belongs to a kid, but she’s not here, and as a former lawyer I'm married to says, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

The roof still needs replacing and as well as a few other little exterior repairs. It’s a work in progress.

So, the she-shed/writing shed/painting shed has a little shine on it and a new life. It’s worth it to take the time to carve out a space for something creative--someplace where you won’t be distracted and can just make it your own and messes don’t matter that much. I can’t create much without making a mess, but that’s a whole other post.

Only God knows what good may come of this little oasis. I pray that whatever is created is done so to the glory of God. It was a maker of physical tents whom God has used to helped believers work on their spiritual tents for over 2000 years who once wisely said, “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” (Colossians 3:17 The Message).

I am praying it will be so.

And if one of the kids moves again, I have the number of a storage unit company in my contacts. 

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

When the phone goes off after midnight at the pastor’s house, it’s never good news. It’s always someone’s life has or is about to change significantly.

It was the case last night, which has made me scrap what I originally intended for today.

Our dear friend Andrea, who guest posted here only a few weeks ago about the loss of her special needs daughter last year now faces another loss--the man she intended to spend the rest of her life with died yesterday in a work-related accident.

A phrase from a hymn comes to mind, “When sorrows like sea billows roll . . ."

As we and other loved ones sat on her front porch with her in the dark hours of the night, we could have just as easily been on the bow of the ship, because it sure did feel like sorrow was crashing against her and us in mighty waves.

No one wants someone they love to ever endure the kind of pain she has faced. I can still feel the shudder of her sobs as I sat next to her. We want to wind the clock back to another time for her or jettison her to another place to get her away from this suffering. If only.

The tragedy leaves us sputtering for words and even before we finally get out the one-word question, we know there is no answer this side of heaven to “Why?”

I’ve told Andrea that the entire time I’ve known her, she has lived at 911. Her daughter’s health was so fragile long before her death, that they were always on alert for the next ambulance ride, or helicopter airlift. It was a difficulty beyond what most people ever realize exists in the world.

The next lyric Horatio Spafford wrote in the hymn I referenced above was, “Whatever my lot, thou hast caused me to say, it is well. It is well, with my soul.” He wrote this hymn in the place where his four daughters had perished when their boat went down.

The thing I know is that despite these heart wrenching losses Andrea has suffered, it is well with her soul. That is the difference faith makes. That is what helps her and us stand in times like this. In Andrea’s own words in her last post, “It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died.” 

It will be her faith in God and his grace and mercy that will once more sustain her and help her experience joy. I am confident of that.

I had the privilege of singing with her this past Sunday. We were a little unsure of our timing so we locked in on each other’s faces so we could sense the next move. I was so struck with how full of joy her beautiful face was, of how full of joy she often is despite her sufferings.

I will hold that face of joy in my heart as I pray for her in this time of such sadness.

I know I have written much about loss lately. But I won't apologize. That is a season we've been in. Sometimes, life is barbed, ragged, and just plain sad. But even when it is, we hold on to Jesus because He is faithful. And He will bring us round to joy, again. Just as you can see that slice of blue above those dark clouds in the picture above, the joy is there. 

The Psalmist wrote about that in a verse Andrea concluded with in her last post here, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Join me in praying for Andrea and her precious family that the morning would indeed come for them.

Read Andrea's posts, "Healing is Hers, Joy is Mine" Here and "Hope Carries Me" Here. 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Dazzling Details of One Day


Occasionally, I come to the time I write this blog, and find myself staring at a blank page. It’s been like that this week. We’ve been in a season of loss, but as you may have seen on my social media, we lost a spiritual giant in our lives a few days ago, Rev. Grady Wigley. We feel a little deflated, so I’ve prayed for God’s help to write what he would have me write. I decided to pull out files from the year I first met Grady and review them. 

Grady’s service yesterday was on Pentecost Sunday. I first met him on Pentecost Sunday exactly forty years ago (I don’t feel nearly as old as that sounds). I was at a pivotal point in my life, coming out of a dark place just having fully surrendered my life to the Lord less than a year before.

As you saw on social media, because of a connection to my then pastor and his wife whom Grady had married, after learning I was moving, my pastor recommended I attend Grady’s church and contacted him to let him know I was coming. Only God knows the full extent of how that one suggestion changed my whole life. My first piece of mail at my new apartment was from Grady inviting me to church.

In a bulletin I've saved from that church visit, I see that on that long ago morning, Grady preached on Acts 2:17, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." That scripture is all about the extraordinary ways God would communicate with his people. We see that played out in the scriptures with God often moving through dreams and visions. For many years now, dreams have been one of the ways God speaks to me, bringing healing, consolation, and guidance.

Also, in the church bulletin, there’s a notice about a Focus on the Family class for parents. I would later write for a Focus on the Family parenting magazine for several years. At that point I only kept journals, being a writer had only ever been a dream.

Also in my files, I found an Upper Room Magazine from that time and flipped through the pages. I read the devotion I would have read on that first Pentecost Sunday in my new home and can’t believe it was written by Dr. Tommy Tyson. Oh, my. Tommy Tyson, an evangelist who would also later become a spiritual mentor as we would have opportunity to get to know him in a personal way. He was also connected to many others who have become mentors both personally and through their writing including Dr. Mark Rutland, Francis MacNutt, and Madeleine L’Engle.

And of course, one of my highest honors is that I would be privileged to have my own devotions appear in the pages of the Upper Room Magazine.

I see in just that initial Sunday in the new chapter of my life, that God was giving me clues to my future. I catalog everything. I guess I’ve always been writing a book. But these details help me understand that if we pay attention, we will often see God’s powerful work. He’s in the dots that seem random at first but connect in an intricate way to form wondrous patterns in our lives.

I've written here before what my beloved neighbor, Dwain Chambers, says, “Remember God is at work in the fine print. God is at work in the parentheses.”

One of the most interesting notes in that first bulletin is the list of ushers that would serve. As I read the list, I am amazed to discover on that Sunday, Jerry Varnado was one of them. 

My first recollection of Jerry is from several months later when he gave his testimony on laity Sunday—this lawyer who had an amazing encounter with God after tragedies in his life. It would be a year before we had our first date and now, we are married more than thirty. It’s possible Jerry welcomed me that first Sunday, shook my hand and told me he was glad I was there, perhaps handing me a bulletin or an offering plate. God smiled knowing what was in store. 

I had so much anxiety about moving to a place where I didn’t really know anyone. I listed questions in my journal on the day before my move, “What if I get fired?” “Where will I go, then?” but my biggest concern was “What if I let God down?” I know now that we can’t really let God down.  We let ourselves down. God’s not on a roller coaster like the people we know. He’s always the same and his love for us never changes. But I go on to respond to these doubts. “Then I remember, today, He gives me strength.  I must abide in Him and die to my wants, knowing that always I’ll be His and He’ll be mine. I love Him, so.”

Forty years later, I still love Jesus so, and give Him thanks for the amazing life He has given me. Yes, we have faced hard times of every variety but for all these years He has been faithful and as I write with tears streaming down my face, I am so incredibly grateful. Where we are today is in large part due to our spiritual father, Grady, who was there at the beginning and  whom God use to lay a foundation at that crucial time in my life and in Jerry’s life. He showed us what the love of the Father looks like.

 None of us knew it was in preparation for a lifetime in ministry. But of course, God did.

First I had no words for today, and then there were way too many in this rambling post like a dam breaking because of my new discoveries and rediscoveries of that first day in what would be my new home. I've gone from a heart deflated to a heart overflowing. Friends, if you’re facing an unknown, know He’s already there, preparing a way, connecting the dots, just as He did for me.

He's all in the dazzling details.

 

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