Tuesday, November 23, 2021

When Thanksgiving feels like just feathers

I'm reaching back into the archives for this one. We know several folks who are facing a first Thanksgiving without someone dear and I hope this post might bring encouragement. 
At grandparent’s day, our granddaughter presented us with a trivet she’d made and decorated with a verse from Psalm 118. We love displaying it on our stove.

A few days later at church, a tiny one wheeled up to me with blond curls bouncing and held high three pieces of paper. “These are for you,” she declared.
A smile spread across my face as I took the papers. One had various fall foam decorations, one featured a pumpkin, and another (my favorite) included colorful geometric construction paper shapes representing feathers, which this young artist had arranged around a brown turkey body.
A fine turkey, indeed. Definitely refrigerator material. 
I’ve been thinking lately of a classic Thanksgiving children’s story by Lorna Balian, Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes its Feathers.
It’s about a woman who finds a turkey egg, which she goes to great lengths to facilitate hatching. Then she sacrifices to help fatten up the turkey, presumably for Thanksgiving dinner, but things take a sharp left turn and don’t go as planned. In the end (spoiler alert), rather than eating the turkey, she invites it to dinner. Instead of turkey to eat, she had, well, you know, feathers.
Now I have to say, that could definitely happen here. If we found an egg, helped hatch it, and feed it, I’m pretty sure it would wind up sitting on a dining room chair instead of lying on a platter in the center of the table.
In fact, there’s at least one member of our family who will not be partaking of that big turkey thawing in the refrigerator. She’ll eat fake dressing made with vegetable broth and skip the meat all together.
Because sometimes it’s turkey, and sometimes it’s just feathers here, too.
And it’s feeling like that in more than one way.
It’s the first Thanksgiving of my life without my dad. An empty chair this year. I’m trying to be brave, but I know from experience, these first holidays can be challenging. Every time the tears start to well, I think of all that he’s left me that continues to bless . It’s not going to be the same, but somehow we’ll press on.
I’m thankful for the way God continually reminds me of the great circle of life  through the precious young ones like our grandchildren and the kids at church surrounding me with new life.
Because yes, sometime it’s turkey, and yet even when it seems like just feathers, God is always there.
Habakkuk knew as he spat the feathers from his mouth that no matter what, we offer God praise. He wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Friend, maybe it’s feeling a bit like just feathers at your house, too, but join me as we choose to rejoice in all that God has done despite what we may have lost or what we don’t have.
On a lighter note, this year, I might even take a bite of the fake dressing. Who knows, maybe I’ll like it.

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, November 16, 2021

No Degrees of Separation

When a chart-topping country music singer took the stage during a recent award show, a sense of warmth and closeness to this person rose in me. So strange, because I had never met him nor was I what most consider a country music fan. I pay attention to the music because my son loves it, and because I enjoy music in almost every genre.

So why did I feel this way?

Partly because of a story Jerry tells about when he was a kid.

A woman in his neighborhood had horses and in exchange for mucking out stalls and other jobs, she allowed Jerry to be around the horses. One day, while going into a stall, a horse pushed past the gate and  got away from him. The horse took off with Jerry in pursuit, but of course he was only in junior high and couldn’t keep up. While chasing it, he tripped and fell on his knees. Jerry tells this story as one of the first times he remembers praying. “Oh, Lord, please help me to catch that horse.” He got up and continued after the horse and wondered as he made several decisions as to which way to go whether the horse had made those same choices. Finally, he spotted the horse who had found companionship with a few other equines on another neighbor’s property. Jerry struggled with getting the bridle on him, because the horse stretched his head high. But the kindly property owner spotted him and came out to help him bridle the horse.

That man was this singer’s great-grandfather.

The other part of this story is when my first book came out, a friend arranged for one of my book signings to be in Jerry’s hometown. The lovely owner of the shop was so gracious to me, and I’ll never forget her as the signing was a wonderful success.

That woman was the star’s grandmother.

And so, whenever I see the country artist, I think of the touching kindness of two of his relatives that has meant so much to Jerry and me.

These relationships make me think of the six degrees of separation defined as “the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.” I don’t know if it’s true or not, but what I do know is the most important relationship we can have involves no degrees of separation if we have given our lives to him.

You don’t have to phone a friend or call anyone’s grandmother, like I would if I wanted to contact the singer.

The apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The King James says “Come boldly . . . “

Because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, the way is clear for us to call out to the Lord directly.

During a ministry weekend in prison, I was at the piano during a service when a wall phone beside me rang. We all laughed, and our worship team launched into that old gospel song, “Jesus on the main line, tell him what you want.”  The chorus includes “Call him up, call him up, tell him what you want . . . “

We’re as close to God as we want to be. The King of the universe is awaiting our call. We don't have to work our way through an automated message system or get put on hold.

Remember—no degrees of separation.

And whether we’re a country music fan or not, that’s something to really sing about.

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, November 9, 2021

What's behind falling leaves


The truth about falling leaves goes against notions we have about the wind gently pulling leaves from trees.

I came across an interesting quote recently by Peter Raven, a renowned botanist, who said, “Instead of calling this season ‘The Fall,’ if trees could talk, they'd call this the ‘Get Off Me’ season.

I am no expert, but I’ll try to give a simple explanation. (I am open to correction by my forester friends). Leaves are used for photosynthesis in the spring and summer to supply food for trees, but in the winter, the water in the leaves would freeze. This would keep them from providing nutrients to the tree and make them an unnecessary burden.

So, in deciduous trees, “abscission” cells form where the leaf connects to the branch and cuts the leaf from the tree  in the fall. (That word abscission has the same root as the word scissors). Trees push off the leaves, which enables them to store up nutrients for their great spring resurgence.

The trees are getting rid of everything that would hold them back from fulfilling their purpose of purifying the air, providing shade, and of course being beautiful.

As I was reading about this, a verse kept coming to mind reminding me of a spiritual truth.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The apostle Paul uses the words “throw off” here which has the same tone as “get off me” in the quote above. To fulfill our calling, we need to get off of us everything that would hold us back, too.

If you’re like me, we can say yes to things that just add to the busyness of our lives and not much else. A wise missionary I know once told me that as we get older, we need to do fewer things and focus more on what is important. Not bad advice for any age.

And of course, if we’ve allowed what is contrary to God’s word to enter our lives, we should take care of those things pronto. These could be insidious like unforgiveness or bitterness which we can harbor in our hearts but be just as destructive as the more overt transgressions.

What’s behind falling leaves is a new life and if we can cast off what holds us back, we too, will have a perennial experience of new life.

So, this fall, join me as we think about what we need to release and cut the cord. Then let’s watch for what God will do.

P.S. After publishing this piece, an interesting addendum came in from my forester friend, Dick. ". . . fall brings shorter daylight hours, colder temps--so efficiency of photosynthesis for deciduous species is too low to continue . . ah, yes, dormancy is better. Wake us up when the warmth of spring and longer daylight returns." Love hearing from an expert, Dick. Thanks much.

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, November 2, 2021

The Things I've Heard



I do much of my creating in this she shed space and the time spent there has come with unexpected insights.

My neighbors are doing significant outside additions and renovations. They’ve had a string of workers coming and going over the past few months—roofers, carpenters, excavators among them. My building is close to the work area, but far enough away that I mostly don’t hear anything but muffled words and an occasional shout. Sadly, a couple of times it's been loud enough to hear gruff exchanges.

Then one recent day our doorbell rang, and when we opened the door, our friend Kent stood there. “Just letting y’all know I’m doing the stonework on the screened porch next door,” he said.

Jerry and I have known Kent for years. He and I were members of a lay witness mission team that went into dozens of churches over the years where we shared our testimonies. And we were also part of another Christian community where we’d run into each other. His family business is legendary for their extraordinary stone and brick work.

After we shared life for a while, Kent went back to work, and it seemed from the minute he did, the atmosphere changed. The word I would use to characterize this change is joy. It just seemed if he was there, laughter rang out from morning til night. That’s not to say a ton of work didn’t get done. Literally. I’d look over there and the big stones piles were going down daily as he created stone walls and a fireplace. I guess he subscribes to the “whistle while you work” philosophy.

I noticed at the end of the day, I felt uplifted myself even though I had no idea what was being said—just the cackling over there boosted me. I have a character in one of my books a lot like Kent. The character is often prone to tell dad jokes, but people laugh not because of the jokes, but because of his giggling. That’s much the way it is with our friend. We crack up because he is.

While reading Proverbs, I came across a verse in chapter twenty-seven that seemed to speak to this, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Kent has a heart of joy and that is reflected in his life wherever he goes—whether he’s giving a testimony in church or laying a stone in someone’s backyard.

Who knows what the effect of his being here had? Maybe the other neighbors noticed the difference in the sounds coming from next door, too.

God calls us to make a difference wherever we are. We don’t all have the same gifts, but God has given each of us something to leave behind in every circumstance—it could be kindness, compassion, wisdom, encouragement, mercy, love . . . the list goes on. God could use any of these to draw others closer to himself.

I’m kind of sad about the renovations ending because I’ll miss the joyful noise over there. However, I’m glad for once again seeing how much our lives can affect others even when we’re not aware.

Thanks for the reminder, Kent.

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 26, 2021

The Mystery of this One Butterfly

One day last week in the late afternoon, October 19, to be exact, a monarch butterfly fluttered into the backyard to pay a visit to a giant lantana. I edged up on it trying to get a photograph, but he was a little too wary of me, so I had to back off. It was the only monarch I’d seen this year. As I studied his movements, it occurred to me that it was about this time last year when I saw a monarch. I scrolled through my pictures and found where I’d captured a shot—on the exact day, October 19.

Could it be the same butterfly?

No, it couldn’t.

There have been four generations of butterflies between the one I saw last year and the one this year. They only live about six weeks.

I looked back further in my phone and also found a photo of one on October 14 in 2018.

The last generation of monarchs in the year lives longer and do not reach maturity until the next spring. That generation makes a 2000-mile migration from here to Mexico weighing less than a gram. Sometimes, they will take up residence in the exact same tree every year. No one knows how or why because none of the butterflies have ever been there before.

The butterflies I see are likely migrating from points north. Maybe it’s the earth’s gravitational pull, the huge lantanas and butterfly bushes in my yard, or a factor we don’t even know about, but one butterfly shows up here the exact same week every year.

Seeing a monarch is a very special thing to me and a privilege I do not take lightly. Their populations have diminished more than eighty percent since the 1990’s due in large part to the spraying of herbicides. We don’t use herbicides in our yard, and we will never win a yard of the month award because of it, but we are rewarded in other ways like the opportunity to be visited by this rare butterfly.

The mystery of the one butterfly that shows up every year in my yard could remain unsolved. But this yearly visitation is highly valued reminding me of the greatness of God and His loving care. God knows I love these creatures and somehow, I happen to be in the right place at the right time to see them and pray for their survival when they make their calls.

It brings home what Jesus said about the sparrows, “Not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). He’s not talking about a million sparrows or a hundred sparrows but one sparrow. One solitary, run of the mill, sparrow. That brings me great comfort when my internal worry machine starts cranking about seemingly irresolvable problems. I see the one butterfly and I’m reminded of a God so great he can guide them back again and again to a place where they have never been to bring amazement and wonder.

So, take comfort from my one butterfly and through him, let God bring you encouragement, too, in whatever difficulty you may find yourself. God cares about the tiniest things—even those that weigh less than a gram. Nothing and no one escapes his tender care.

 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 19, 2021

Looking for the Sparkle

Standing in the church parking lot I glanced across the road to the tree line along a pasture. The setting sun illuminated a fringe of branch tips in a remarkable way. I tried to capture the moment with my cell phone, but it was one of those situations where a photo doesn’t do it justice. I wondered how I could depict the sparkling scene on a canvas.

Since I’ve had a brush in my hand more often, I spend time watching the way light moves across the grass in the early morning and how it glints off the side of the pine trees. I get lost in the clouds studying how lights and darks interact with each other. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic scene. Just one cloud in the sky will distract me with its own unique signature of puffy white and billowing dark.

As I’ve followed more landscape artists on social media, what I’ve noticed is most don’t select well known scenes to depict. They make a career out of really seeing and painting the commonplace.

It almost always has to do with the light. So, in the past few months, I’ve been often searching for the brilliance of it and how it’s moving—hoping, hoping to somehow capture it in a bottle.

I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

Spiritually speaking, I’m also trying to keep the mindset of looking for light—to hunt for it in the everyday happenings we all encounter. Despite annoying and sometimes tedious situations, if we have the mindset to seek the light, we’ll often see the flash and shimmer of our mighty God at work right where we are.

Of all the verses about light I could choose, one strongly comes to mind. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). There have been times I clung to this verse with everything in me— like when I had cancer twenty-one years ago. In times of crisis, we are intent on consistently seeking God’s light, but as a crisis abates, our will to do so may ebb.

Let’s renew our determination to be on the lookout for a glimmer of God no matter where we find ourselves. We may not capture it with a brush and paint, but we can for sure be encouraged as we hold the glow in our hearts.

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 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.

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