Thursday, December 30, 2010

Messages of Grace

I’m coming up for air as we’re thawing out here. I took this picture of my mailbox just as the snow began to melt a little.

Here’s a recap of how things have gone these past few weeks. As I mentioned in an earlier post, for the three weeks before Christmas we dealt with a very difficult family situation, which I still cannot write about. Additionally, two days before Christmas, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then, we found out an x-ray he had a week ago revealed pneumonia, but we didn’t find out about it until yesterday. So, he’s had shots and is taking lots of medicine.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, I’ve been meditating on the words of a song written by Annie Johnson Flint—a woman acquainted with suffering. The song, “He Giveth More Grace,” talks about how God extends increased grace when troubles mushroom. From II Corinthians 9:8—“…God is able to make all grace abound to you…”

Now, and in these past few weeks, I’ve sensed an additional measure of God’s grace operating in my life. Just at the moment when I‘ve felt my heart might burst from pain, God has come through his spirit to strengthen, encourage, and console.

In the weeks before Christmas, it blessed me much to go to the mailbox and pull out a handful of Christmas cards from folks who had no idea what was going on. Still, God often used those cards to send encouragement. Additionally, God has left messages in the mailbox of my heart, some sent long ago, for just such a time as this--like Annie Johnson Flint’s words that I learned many, many years ago.

As we face a new year, I’m full of hope and expectancy, but not because everything is going well. I have hope because of God’s faithful presence, persistent love and abundant grace through every circumstance.

May your New Year be blessed and filled with all the wonder of the Mighty One.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Find Me in the Upper Room

Please join me today at the Upper Room Devotional Magazine. If you don't have a print copy just click on Upper Room or copy and paste I'm honored to have my second devotion selected to appear in the Upper Room as they have over 10,000 submissions every year. This devotion was submitted more than two years ago as they need an abundance of lead time to translate into forty-nine languages. I'm excited about the print copies that go into more than 100 countries, and even more excited about a radio broadcast that reaches where print copies cannot.

" is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Every Shining Christmas

Every Shining Christmas

Some years every dream’s fulfilled, there’s joy in every place.

Some years there are disappointments, in our hearts an empty space.

Some years hopes are high with babies to be born.

Some years there are shadows falling, someone to be mourned,

but still,

Every blessed Christmas,

Yes, every shining Christmas

I’ll take my place with those who sing your praise.

And through tears of joy or tears of sorrow

The bright star to Bethlehem I’ll follow

And worship you with all my heart once more.

Some years our legs are strong, we’re running hard the race.

Some years with a body weak, we stumble to the pace.

Some years in abundance, some years with less,

But at Christmas, as always, your sweet name we confess.

Every blessed Christmas,

Yes, every shining Christmas

I’ll take my place with those who sing your praise.

And through tears of joy or tears of sorrow

The bright star to Bethlehem I’ll follow

And worship you with all my heart once more.

Beverly Chitwood Varnado c2001

May your Christmas be filled with God's presence!
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lighting the Night

I make several out of the way detours at Christmas to take in the lights in our town. Workers spend many hours winding light strands around the gingko trees, which line the streets downtown. Beautiful, don’t you think?

This Christmas has presented our family with the most serious challenges we’ve ever faced—only one of which is a biopsy my husband is having tomorrow. Others I do not have the freedom to write about now. I know that many of you are facing challenges as well. So, I thought I’d just share some scriptures that have carried me in these last weeks.

Two verses from Ecclesiastes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecclesesiastes 3:11) “Anyone who is among the living has hope…” (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

From Philippians: “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Isaiah 35:3-6, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

No matter what else is happening, it is a time to celebrate God sending Jesus to the world to rescue us. In Psalm 77, David lamented his desperate situation for many verses, then in verse eleven and twelve he says, “…I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”

So, I’m meditating on all that God has done for us in Jesus and how he has shown himself mighty through the ages. In particular, I’m rejoicing and giving thanks for His faithfulness to our family for many, many years.

In the last words of John Wesley, “The best of all, God is with us.” Yes, Emmanuel has come to save us, to be with us. That truth lights my world brighter than the gingko trees on any dark December night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Symphony of Wonder

One of the joys for me at Christmas is singing with our local Athens Symphony Chorus. It involves several long rehearsals at one of the busiest times of the year, but a couple of things keep me coming back. First, the opportunity to join in a community wide celebration in singing both sacred and secular songs is such a privilege. It’s still called a Christmas Concert, and I love that.

Albert Ligotti and Bev at recent rehersal
 Albert Ligotti, the conductor of the Symphony and Chorus is another reason I make room in my schedule. I’ve never known anyone else who knew Leonard Bernstein personally, but Mr. Ligotti did. In the Symphony's website bio it states he played the trumpet for eleven years with the New York Philharmonic. During his professional musician years, he performed with many groups and venues from Broadway Shows to the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra to the Boston Pops.

At the University of Georgia, where he served on faculty for twenty-seven years and is an Associate Professor Emeritus, he left a lasting legacy when he founded and directed the UGA Wind Ensemble. My nephew, Christopher Todd(oneringingbell, 9-15-10), now plays trumpet with that elite group of student musicians.

The Athens Symphony, now in its thirty-third year, continues to thrive due Mr. Ligotti’s tireless work, which blesses thousands who attend the many concerts throughout the year.

In another career, I traveled often to New York City and had the privilege of seeing many musicals on Broadway. Oddly, one of the things I missed most after I left that career was hearing the sound of an orchestra tuning, because I knew something wonderful was about to happen. I get that same feeling when the Athens Symphony tunes. The Christmas Concert always ends with the audience joining in a sing-along. When the house lights go up, and I can see and hear the thousands from all across our community lifting their voices in “Joy to the World, the Lord is come,” I am not disappointed in the wonder of those moments.

This weekend’s concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon will be rebroadcast on 1340WGAU on December 24 at 8:45. You may listen anywhere in the world because it’s live streamed at

Sing unto the lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Psalm 98:5-6

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bev at Christian Devotions.US

I'm hanging out over at Christian Devotions.US today with my devotion called "Chocolate Covered Cherries." Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones, the founders of the site, are great folks. Many blessings, Bev

Monday, December 6, 2010

BRRR! It's Cold!

It’s really cold here. (Okay, Maria in Montana, don’t laugh.) Let me rephrase. It’s cold for us here—highs barely reaching the forties with lows in the twenties, and this front promises to stay with us for several days. Arctic nights bring with them a concern for those who don’t have warm lodging—humans and animals.

I awoke at four this morning to check on a new feral cat we’re feeding in the back yard. I’d set up a warm light for her, but still wanted to make sure she was okay. I went back to bed and wondered how the folks were doing who live in “tent city.” I live in an urban setting, which has a sizable homeless population. As I prayed for those on the streets, I remembered our friend Perry Burgess with “Walk on Water” ministries. Most likely, he’d already picked up many folks from “tent city” and other places where the homeless had gathered and bussed them to his shelter. There they’d have an opportunity to shower, and get a warm night’s sleep. Then there’s Barbara and Dick Anderson, who have for years somehow managed to keep a shelter open for those who’ve lost everything. The Salvation Army and the city homeless shelter also faithfully provide a year round refuge. But, I know on cold nights, shelters are at capacity, and there are those who don’t get a bed.

I ransacked my closets today looking for warm coats. I’d already gotten together blankets to send out last week. I struggled as I held a navy fleece jacket in my hands. Did I really need it? My dear mentor, Rev. Grady Wigley, once said, “Stewardship is not a matter of how much of our time and our money we give to God; it’s a matter of how much of God’s time and God’s money we dare keep for ourselves.” Yes, that’s my struggle.

How much should I keep for myself? It’s a question that sometimes haunts me. Even, as I watch my husband load the giant bag of clothes and coats in the car, I still wonder, “Is it enough?”

I ponder these things at four in the morning. If I couldn’t turn this over to the God who holds the world in his hands, I don’t suppose I’d ever sleep again. But I’m thankful he loves these men, women, boys, and girls more than I ever can. He sees them in their circumstances, and He cares. So, I do what I can, and God does what only He can do.

Take a load of blankets or coats to a homeless shelter, and sleep better tonight yourself. You might want to get involved volunteering at one of these facilities. In my volunteering, I’ve always walked away with a greater blessing than I could have possibly been to anyone else. Don’t forget the animal shelters on cold nights. They’re struggling in this economy to provide, so cat or dog food would be a great gift, too.

“Give and it will be given to you…” Luke 6:38

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beverly Varnado and Lucy on "Coffee with a Canine"

If you're looking for me today, I'm interviewed over at Marshall Zeringue's blog, "Coffee with a Canine." ( ) Lucy and I had a blast getting these pictures and answering the questions. Hope you enjoy!!
"...for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Thanksgiving Journey

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Ours started out in, what can I say…an interesting way. You may grow weary of my animal stories, but I spend a lot of my life dealing with four legged creatures.

For various reasons, our family had to take two cars to my sister’s house, our destination for Thanksgiving Day. My daughter and I drove the “dog” car. My husband, Jerry, and my son drove the “food” car. We’re keeping an extra dog for family this month so that meant three dogs in my vehicle. We thought it best to keep the dogs and the food separate, because one Thanksgiving we lost a turkey and pie to a Bassett Hound before we even knew she’d gotten into the food. She was a sneaky canine.

For seating arrangements, we put Ellie the shiatsu and Charlie the poodle in the third seat and Lucy the lab puppy in the second seat--a configuration we hoped might keep everybody happy.

However, just as we were underway, Lucy lumbered back, drove the little dogs out of their beds, and crashed in Charlie’s accommodations. I had to stop, while my daughter reorganized everyone. We tried a different scenario.

There was Ellie in the passenger seat.

Lucy in a captain’s chair.

And Charlie in the third perch.

Just when I thought we had peace in the valley, Lucy arose and stuck her head into the front to nudge out Ellie. My daughter appeared to have grown a second head.


My daughter raised a pointed finger, “What are those?”

Ahead, a flock of guinea fowl strolled across the busy highway, stopping traffic in both directions. I snapped this picture after they crossed.

“Is all of this going to appear in a blog?” my daughter asked.

“You better believe it.” I said. “It’s way too good to waste.”

The early chaos was in no way a predictor of what turned out to be a wonderful day with family. Of course, more animal dilemmas were ahead, because my sister has three dogs of her own, Lily the cat, and a new feline who seems to have selected my sister’s home as her own domicile.

I have a friend whose husband used to say she was going to be like the old woman who lived in a shoe, but instead of children, she’d have so many cats she wouldn’t know what to do.

My cat-loving friend said, “I thought that sounded like a good thing.”

This same friend sent me a card picturing a woman in a house with about twenty cats. Cats, cats, everywhere. I thought it was wonderful. Jerry, said, “You notice there’s no husband in that picture.”

Very funny.

Maybe, I’ve said this before, but as you can see, we’re doing our part in taking care of creation. I hope you are. (Did I mention we’re making friends with another feral cat?)

Life is never simple with this many critters around, but there’s never a shortage of joy either.

At least most of the time.

So, on my thankful list are all these creatures God has sent.

When I made that thankful list I wrote about a few days ago, I was surprised at all the prayers God had answered over the past year. One very special addition this year is all of you.

The apostle Paul said, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 4:3) That’s what’s in my heart when I think of you friends and readers. So, thank you for joining me on this writing journey at “One Ringing Bell.”

To start the Advent season, next, I’ll be sharing a story I wrote featuring characters from my novel, “Coming to Currahee.”

Many blessings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Name Them One by One

On this Thanksgiving Eve, the words to “Count Your Many Blessings” are rolling around in my head.

According to 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth Osbeck, Johnson Oatman wrote this hymn around 1897. Popular in England at the time and sung frequently during the Welsh revivals, I doubt Oatman, who wrote more than 5,000 hymn lyrics in his lifetime, could have envisioned its appeal lasting now for more than one hundred and ten years.

Since the hymn's now in public domain, I'll share the first verse which I love: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings—name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. “

Misty enjoying Edison's work
It seems I don’t have much trouble enumerating my troubles to God. But a thankful list? That I need to work on. How long would it take, and what surprises might I find along the way? It’d be easy for me to hit the big things like family, and home, but just today, I was noticing how different it is in the house when we replaced one burnt out light bulb. Thank you Lord, for Thomas Edison. (By the way, did you know his last words when he woke from a nap days before his death were “It’s very beautiful over there?”)

I think the point of the verse in “Count Your Many Blessings” is that when we’re low, and when we’ve lost our hope, counting our blessings refocuses our lives on God’s gracious love and goodness toward us. Eugene Peterson translates I Thessalonians 5:18 this way, “...thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

“Thank God no matter what happens.” Lord, please help me remember to do just that, and somehow in the next couple of days I’m going to take a shot at naming my blessings one by one.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The View from Here

I’m not sure which factors have contributed to the leaves clinging longer to the trees this fall--maybe the unseasonably warm weather. Nevertheless, here we are almost to Thanksgiving, and we’re still in the thick of brilliant color.

Since I have readers from around the globe, I thought I’d share a few photos I’ve snapped over the past few days. 

Recently, my daughter and I were looking through some prints I’d collected over the years. She came across a watercolor print from artist Judy Bolton Jarrett depicting one tree in the four seasons of the year. Judy had woven this verse from Ecclesiastes into her painting: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecc. 3:1 KJV)
Changing seasons in our lives can be a challenge—often a difficult challenge. Just as the leaves in my yard have held on this year, I’ve found myself at times clinging to the season I’m in rather than embrace a new era in my life. But the changeless One calls us forward, and promises to hold us fast through every transition.

Later in Ecclesiastes, we find, “He hath made everything beautiful in his time…” (Ecc. 3:11) In the trees all around me, and in Judy Jarrett’s watercolor now hanging in my daughter’s room, I’m daily reminded of these words of solace and ask God to help me look for the beauty no matter the season in which I might find myself.

The view from here? 


Friday, November 19, 2010

Utterly Amazed

Bev, Tammy, Jerry, and our dear friend Marni Dodd
Lyrics from a seventies singer-songwriter talk about how there’s little time to be in the company of those with whom we’d enjoy spending many hours. I found that true yesterday when we had opportunity to have a few moments for coffee with our friend, Tammy, from Asia.

She was swinging through our area, speaking at the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation. We caught up with her on her way back to Atlanta where she’s been for six months of rest before heading back to the other side of the world.

We’ve known Tammy since her days here as a student at the University of Georgia where she attended the Wesley Foundation Student Ministry. Previously a self-proclaimed atheist, she fell in love with Jesus at Wesley. She was later our children’s pastor for a time, then after UGA, she graduated from Asbury seminary. At that point, she’d had the opportunity to visit several countries around the globe, and felt called to work with children in a specific location in Asia.

Ignoring the standard “raise your support before you go” protocol, she packed a bag and went. She was twenty-seven years old.

Tammy has now rescued forty-six precious girls and boys from some of the meanest streets on planet earth. She’s clothed, fed, and schooled them as well as purchased land and built four buildings to house these children. Tammy has seen miracles of God’s provision and blessing in the almost twelve years she’s been walking in obedience to the call of God for her life. But more importantly, she’s embraced these children with a transformative love, which she found herself as a child of the God who is love.

I’m sitting here in the wake of watching a powerful video she left with us which pictured every child in some way. With a contagious joy, each spoke of the love and grace they receive in their home. I remember many of their stories and can’t believe that some who came to her as small children are now in college. Every child has a heart-wrenching past, but one particularly moving one is of a girl whose mother literally threw her in the gutter to die. With love, nourishment, and medical care at Tammy’s home, she’s now thriving.

Tammy’s vision is that God might use her children to transform a nation and usher in revival.

I love this verse from Habakkuk 1:5, “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.”

God would love to use forty-six children to change the course of history.

The time passed way too fast yesterday, and it may be years before we see her again. I could grow sad about that, or I could just up my prayers for Tammy and her kids. And one day in heaven, we’ll have all kinds of time to catch up on every single detail.

I love being “utterly amazed.”

We love you, Tammy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scrubbing Floors and Reaching the World

The last few days, I’ve been pondering the compelling and challenging teaching Rusty Wright presented at the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Conference this past weekend. An Amy award winner, Rusty has written for years on a variety of topics in the general and Christian markets. In fact, he mentioned people are still coming to know Christ through articles he wrote decades ago while in college. God has put it on his heart to touch a billion people for Christ in his lifetime and beyond through his writing.

One person reaching a billion people. Wow, that’s a big goal.

But, as I had the opportunity to get to know Rusty over the past weekend, I witnessed his primary goal is to be faithful to God in all he does.

Sometimes, we don’t see in the span of our days all the people our lives touch. God may call us to some obscure place, where we labor a lifetime in anonymity. Later, even after we’re gone, someone arises from that ministry and touches many lives. That’s why, as my husband says, we can’t put the “em-PHA’-sis on the wrong syl-LA’-ble.” The wrong syllable to emphasize in this case is to make our lives about the numbers we reach even in the name of Christ.

The right syllable is to abandon ourselves to Him and be faithful.

Just a few hours ago, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the grout on the bathroom floor. (So much, for the glamorous life of an author, right?) Was I reaching people for Christ? Probably not. Was I serving my family? Yes, I was, and God has called me as a wife and mother to serve them and by doing so, I’m faithful to God. (Don't get the wrong idea, the rest of the people at this house do some serving as well.)

I’ve found though,  if I’m faithful to God, I’m faithful to all others.

However, having said all of this, God did challenge me through Rusty Wright to reach all the people I can in my lifetime for Christ’s sake. He inspired me to consider the possibilities God might bring my way to do just that— and to set goals.

I’m remembering the words of Jesus, “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Maybe God would challenge you today, as well. If so, pray, abandon yourself to God and allow Him to speak to your heart about how He might want to use you to reach the world for Him.

You may learn more about Rusty Wright and his work at

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ships, Sails, and Dream Come True Tales

Years ago, I had a dream in which I was to board a giant white ship to go to some writing related endeavor. I felt unprepared and ill equipped to go, yet somehow in my heart a strong resolve rooted in purpose and calling drove me forward. When I told my husband, Jerry, about the dream the next day, his only comment was, “Maybe your ship’s coming in.” We both laughed, but there was something about his musing that struck a chord—maybe of hope—maybe of wishful thinking. I didn’t know which, but I preferred to err on the side of hope that my writing related giant ship was actually coming in.

When Jerry retired in June from Gateway Church where we’d been for twenty-five years, the women there presented me with a lovely original painting of a ship, a crystal ship model, as well as a poem by a dear friend and author entitled, “Beverly’s Ship.” It spoke about waiting long for that ship to come in. The last two lines read, “He knows my need. He simply can’t fail. Oh, look yonder! I see a sail,” and ends with this verse from Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint.”

Just a couple of weeks later, I signed with Elevating Entertainment for an option on my screenplay, “Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.” Someone said, “You’re on the ship now.” Yes, I did feel I was walking up the gangplank, but I knew there was much still to be done, because I believe God had given me a dream for my books as well.

This weekend, I attended the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference with several incredible presenters including Amy award winner, Rusty Wright, and Reg and Eleanore Forder, founders of American Christian Writers.

I’d entered a writing competition with EMACW weeks earlier, and looked forward to the awards presentation on Friday evening. However, as I heard others talk about their compelling book projects, I was sure there were so many others there whose work would be preferred over mine.

When the vice president of EMACW, Joyce Fincher, presented the first place award, I waited for her to honor another writer whom I was sure would win. Instead, she stood in front of me and handed me an envelope. In that moment, I saw more than a sail. I saw rigging, a hull, and deck upon deck. You see first prize was a self-publishing book contract for my novel “Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees” worth several thousand dollars with Westbow, a division of Thomas Nelson.

In one moment in time, a dream came true.

Joyce Fincher, Bev, Colleen Jackson EMACW President
Terri Webster, 3rd Place, Bev, Paticia Manns 2nd Place
Yes, of course, there’s still much work to be done, but the words of the “Doxology” float continuously through my brain, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” In addition to thanking God, I thank the people at East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers, their president Colleen Jackson and vice president, Joyce Fincher. Their untiring work serves to help and inspire so many writers like me.

Thank you to those who’ve prayed for me for many years including Jerry and my sister, Tammy Todd, my Face book and Gideon friends in addition to those faithful folks on my email prayer list. Thank you for having hope, sometimes when I didn’t--for believing it would happen when it seemed so far flung. To my friends, the givers of so many ship related reminders, thank you for these mementos, which prophetically pointed to God’s work.

And to the sender of all ships, thank you for your precious words, “Hope does not disappoint.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Writer, A War, and Veteran's Day

Since November 11, 1919, Americans have celebrated Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day) to honor those who’ve served in the military. I had the privilege of being at Rays Church, in Oconee County, Georgia as they began their observance this past Sunday. Josh Darnell, a retired captain in the United States Army and Purple Heart recipient spoke at their Veterans’ Day service. Most of today’s post is composed of excerpts from Josh’s message on Sunday. I found it a great challenge to abridge his words, because they were all so powerful.

L to R Bev and Jerry Varnado, Melissa and Josh Darnell
Josh, a graduate of the University of Georgia in journalism, later chose to enlist in the military at a time in his life when many would question his reasoning. He traded his life of comfort and ease as a writer at “Georgia Magazine” for that of a soldier on foreign soil. Josh struggled to explain his actions to others, but eventually traced his decision back to stories he heard from his grandfather and others like him.

In Josh’s words: “He told me stories of doing battle with Japanese tanks, of the bullet wound he took to the jaw, and the suffering he endured in the months spent returning home on a hospital ship. It began to occur to me that his was only one story among an entire fading generation that owned similar tales…These and other stories of courage, sacrifice, and diligence accumulated in my head, and eventually began to affect the way I viewed my role as an American.

I put in my two-weeks notice at my job, stepped through the door of the Georgia Square Mall recruiting station, and so my story began.”

Josh went on to speak about the men and women now serving in the military, “…many of them still in their twenties and facing their third or fourth combat deployment, would never be asked to jump from airplanes into Nazi territory or storm beaches as their WWII forbearers did. They would never watch their buddies freeze to death like so many in Korea, or face alienation on the home front like so many veterans of Vietnam.

But, they will face the crushing emotional strain of deployment again and again and again. They will miss a baby’s first steps, or a grandmother’s funeral or a child’s graduation. They will walk down a dusty street, never knowing which passing car or hard-faced local is wired with explosives. They will see friends dead or injured, and return to a nation still trying to figure out if it was all worth it in the first place. They will suffer and sacrifice on the same level as their predecessors, and because of that, their service must be considered just as noble, their stories just as sacred.”

Josh shared candidly about his struggle to hold on to his faith in light of the horrors of war, and then came the life altering explosion of a suicide bomber. “As I lay there, ears ringing, fighting to maintain consciousness through the pain, I found myself in a position of spiritual clarity well beyond anything I had ever experienced. …I came to the ponderous realization that, at that very moment, there was virtually nothing between me and the God I had sought and dismissed so many times. No worldly distractions, no embittered analysis about the nature of man, no anger over the things I had witnessed. Just me, the sound of my blood pounding in my ears and the strange certainty that God was listening very intently for the next thing I would say.

So, I asked him for help.

I asked Him not to let me die in a muddy street 6,000 miles away from everything I had known and loved and taken for granted.”

God answered his prayer through other brave men and women who risked their own lives to rescue him and provide medical treatment.

Though still left with many unanswered questions, Josh expressed his gratefulness and the peace he’s found in God. He closed this way—“As my life stretches out in front of me, I can only pray that I continue my story with the same grace, courage, and humility that so many veterans of wars past have exemplified in their post-war lives. It is the least I can do for those who served before me, and for the God that brought me home. May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.”

May God bless America, indeed. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord..." Psalm 33:12

Pictured below are other veterans in attendance on Sunday. When I see these men served in places like Afghanistan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, I know the names on this list have suffered much for freedom. It’s a special privilege to see WWII veteran Harvey Smith among these faces, as well as the name of one not able to be present, Ed McDonald, another of that Greatest Generation.

Pictured left to right: Josh Darnell, U.S. Army(Captain) 2006-2010-Served in Georgia, Texas, and Afghanistan; Bill Gilmer, U.S. Navy(Bailey Tender 1st), 1948-1952-served in Korean Conflict, Also now serves as Commander of Amvets Post 10; Bobby Kinman, U.S. Air Force(E5 Staff Sergeant), 1967-1971-served in Texas, Illinois, and Florida; Lynn Norton, U.S. Navy(2nd Class Petty Officer), 1957-1959-Served in Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Japan; Bennie Reynolds,U.S. Army (SP4), 1968-1969-Served in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Germany; Paul Shadowens, U.S. Navy(STG2-Sonar Technician 2nd Class), 1969-1973-Served in California, Around the World Tour, and Vietnam; Harvey Smith, U.S. Navy(1st Coxswain) 1943-1945-Served on Attack cargo aboard USS Wakesha, later at Georgia Tech for Officer’s Candidacy; Bob Strickland, U.S. Air Force (Sr. Master Sergeant)- Served in Texas, Florida, Japan, Europe, and 3 years for American Embassy in Brussels. Belgium.

Not pictured: Perry Aycock, U.S. Army (E5 Staff Sergeant) 1966-1967, Served in Georgia, Louisiana, And Vietnam; Scott Aycock, U.S. Navy (E3) 1991-1993, Served in Virginia and Mediterranean; Ed McDonald, U.S. Navy(Mate 34e Class-Motor Machinist) 1943-1946, Served on Submarine “Tirante” and destroyed 22 Japanese ships, also served in Connecticut, and Japan.

I’d also like to honor two other men: My father (left), Steve Chitwood, U.S. Air force (staff sergeant ) 1949-1952 – served in Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, and England during the Korean Conflict and my husband’s father (right), another WWII veteran, Alton Varnado(deceased), U.S. Navy ( Gunnery Sergeant) 1943-1945, Oklahoma

Thanks to all these veterans for their brave service and for helping to secure freedom for not only us, but also our children, grandchildren and beyond.

Let’s continue to pray for men and women in our military putting themselves in harm’s way this very hour. Thank a veteran today for their service.

For more from Josh Darnell, please read this article at Georgia Magazine.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jordan Ellis and Pouring it Out

Jordan Ellis at eleven
I taught Vacation Bible School at church for many years and headed up the crafts. With an art background, I never wanted to provide crafts where all the finished work looked the same. I extended boundaries in the name of creative exploration so each child could produce a work that was uniquely theirs. But, some children pushed even beyond my far fences.

Jordan Ellis was one of those children.

One year, we were decorating baseball hats. The kids could choose from several mediums with which to embellish their hats. Jordan chose glitter glue and lots of it. The artist in me wanted to let him go, but the teacher in me wanted to hold him back. After all, I had to make the glue last through two more classes. The artist won, because he seemed to be so thoughtful in his work. I did offer a little advice, but when he finally finished, I wondered if I’d have enough glue for even one more class. I’d never seen so much glitter on one hat. I put it along with the other kid’s hats in an out of the way place, hopefully to dry out enough to take home in a few days.

When I walked into the room to get the hats later in the week, I didn’t know what I’d do with Jordan’s. I expected it would just be a dripping gluey mess.

I was wrong.

I found instead a work of art. The intensity of colors and the way he’d applied them stopped me short. Now completely dry, I took the hat in my hands. If I’d known hats could look like this, I would’ve had the other kids do the same thing. I don’t like to compare, but Jordan’s was the best of all.

In a few hours, I’ll attend Jordan’s funeral. He died two days ago in a tragic auto accident at the age of seventeen. If I could, instead of flowers, I’d take a bottle of glitter glue as a tribute.

A glittery banner component Jordan made at 6
You see, Jordan left me with a valuable lesson--if you want beauty, you have to pour it all out.

Though I hadn’t kept in touch with Jordan in recent years, I read he became a star baseball player at his high school. Vocationally, he was headed toward vet school already working for a local veterinarian. He continued to pour it all out for beauty in his life.

Jesus said in Matthew 26:28 as he offered the cup to his disciples just before Gethsemane, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

It’s comforting to remember Jordan knew the forgiveness Jesus offered.

Now, because Jordan knew Jesus, he’s in a place so glimmery, his glue-filled hat wouldn’t even compare.

And he’s with the one who poured it all out for him.

We’ll miss you, precious Jordan.

When I’m tempted to hold back in the name of being prudent, I’m going to remember your lasting legacy. I was your teacher in VBS, but you left me with the lesson.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Angels, Authors, and Appointments

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Authors Neta and Dave Jackson have written many books, among them biographies for children, which were some of the highlights of our homeschooling years. A few of our very favorites were The Thieves of Tyburn Square, the story of Elizabeth Fry, The Bandit of Ashley Downs—about one of my favorite historical figures George Mueller, and a William Tyndale biography, The Queen’s Smuggler. The Jackson’s do a fabulous job bringing historical characters and times to life. These books written for grades three through seven were read much at our house throughout the elementary and middle school years.

My husband, Jerry, and I were late for the Gideon conference in 2009. When we rushed into the general session, we spotted a few seats on the back row.

“Are these taken?” I whispered to a man beside the seats.

“Just one,” he said. “I’m saving it for my wife.”

A few moments later, the woman I assumed to be his wife came in and filled the seat.

When the session was over, Jerry and I got up to leave, but as I was reaching for my purse, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Hi,” the woman next to me said, “I always like to meet new people. I’m Neta Jackson.”

“Neta Jackson,” I squealed. I thought of the stack of books back in my suitcase I brought to be signed by authors Neta and Dave Jackson, because I’d read they’d be at the conference. “I can’t believe I’ve been sitting by you and didn’t even know it.”

It seemed I’d been entertaining authors unaware instead of angels—or rather not entertaining. If Neta hadn’t spoken to me, I might have missed a premier opportunity to get to know her. I was being my usual “keep to myself” writer kind of way. I am not a sanguine personality, so it takes a real effort on my part to reach out to those around me. But oh, what blessings are in store when I do.

So, lesson learned—be mindful of those around you. It might be a divine appointment in which someone will bless you as Neta did me, or more importantly, you might be a blessing to someone else.

Who’s sitting beside you right now?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

By Faith...

Yesterday, I found myself in Hebrews, chapter 11—you know the chapter where almost every paragraph begins with “By faith..." and then adds some hero of the faith in the verse.

Often it’s been hard to see myself in the same company as those mentioned in this chapter. When my faith sags, I’m not able to think of myself as conqueror and overcomer—a person whose frailties have metamorphosed into strengths. I don’t think my struggle is unique, because years ago during a Beth Moore Bible Study, she had students write in something under the last verse in this chapter—the words “By faith…” and then our name. Every time I read through Hebrews, I see “Be faith Bev…” I suppose she wanted us to envision ourselves as people who by faith could do anything God called us to do—big things, impossible things.

Later in the day, I read this quote from Andrew Murray in reference to prayer. “Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things.”

There are increasingly strong and growing Christian film communities in several cities in the U.S. including Nashville and Charlotte. These producers, directors, actors, and screenwriters feel called by God to make a difference in our culture. I am one of those writers.

Dave Moody and Bev
The producer Dave Moody, who has an option on my screenplay “Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees,” made an important announcement earlier in the week—his company Elevating Entertainment Motion Pictures is moving its production to a new development which is part of the Stargate Worldwide Attraction and Business Center Complex in Concord, N.C. You may read the entire article here.

As I read through this very exciting news item, then saw my name on the slate of development projects which could possibly be produced there, I thought about those ink smudged words I’d written in my Bible--“By faith Bev…” Of course, there are still a lot of things that need to put into place, but something about that release stirred in me a greater hold on Andrew Murray’s words—“…expect great things.”

I thank God for Dave Moody and others like him who are able to grasp the vision to do great things for God. I pray his tribe increases.

Perhaps God is calling you to do something mighty for Him. Join me in Hebrews, pencil in those words--“By faith…,” add your own name. Find yourself among ordinary people with an extraordinary God.

“By faith…”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday and Seven Tools

November 1st didn’t start too well for me. I needed to change my blog template today. When I installed the Breast Cancer Awareness pink one on September 30, I had absolutely no problems, so I was hoping for an encore.

Alas, it was not to be.

After trying to switch the old template (which I’d carefully saved), I kept getting numerous error messages. I finally found a note on a Google search, which indicated I needed to unzip the file. I downloaded the suggested free program which included other features I didn’t want, but had to get, and still couldn’t get the template to work.

After hours of wrestling, I finally resorted to purchasing another template.

Then I took Lucy the puppy for a walk. However, I forgot the county changed our trash day to Monday. The wrestling had only begun.

Note to self: Never take Lucy for a walk on trash day.

"Lucy, come on. Lucy, get away from there."

There’s way too many good smells wafting out of those trash receptacles, which have been pushed to the curb. It was walk—stop—smell—walk—stop—smell all the way.

Tired, and feeling like my arm might drop out of the socket from all those tugs on the leash, I decided to sit down at last with my November issue of Writer’s Digest. It’d been languishing on my desk for a couple of days, and I hadn’t had a moment to crack it open.

When I zeroed in on an article by James Scott Bell, I knew Monday was turning around. My first encounter with James Scott Bell was at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference where he was on faculty one year. An actor at one point in his life, he’s an entertaining speaker.

I took pages and pages of notes from his class, and when I started writing screenplays, I remembered he’d been a screenwriter prior to becoming a novelist. His cinematic way of thinking is one of the reasons I believe he’s such a successful novelist. So I returned to my notes, which I've read and reread. His book, Plot and Structure, is a must for every fiction writer. I’ve since heard him speak several times at other conferences.

One of the things punctuating my memory from the first time I met him is that we both wound up in the conference lunch line at the same time on more than one occasion. It made me nervous, because at that point, I’d never read one of his legal thrillers or suspense volumes. I tend to read more along the lines of what I write. Embarrassed to admit to him that I hadn’t read his work, I need not have worried. He was so gracious about it. We both agreed it didn’t matter what genre I read or wrote. His teaching is so basic to the fundamentals of fiction that writers of any genre would benefit.

Though James Scott Bell is a former lawyer, because I’ve heard him speak so many times I know “…his delight is in the law of the Lord…” Psalm 1:2 When I think of him, the words faith and integrity come to mind.

His piece in Writer’s Digest this month on dialogue is called “Master These Seven tools for Talk” and includes many great suggestions that I can’t wait to try.

So, Monday turned out pretty well, after all.

Now, if I could just find articles on “Seven Tools for Template Changing” and “Seven Tools to Train Your Wild Puppy Lucy,” I’d be in great shape.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Packing up the Pink

“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Ten years ago, when diagnosed with breast cancer, I was just beginning this writing journey. I wondered at times if I would live to see the fulfillment of the writing related dreams I believed God had spoken to my heart.

However, since that time he’s blessed me beyond anything I would have been able to imagine.

Just this year alone, since I started this blog midsummer, I’ve had visitors from dozens of countries around the world. In December, a devotion I penned will be on Christian Devotions.US and another devotion I’ve written will appear in the Upper Room, reaching one hundred countries in thirty-nine languages. On December 27th, my UR devotion will be read in Arabic over the radio in nations print media cannot reach. And of course, I’m hoping for wonderful things with my screenplay which was a Kairos Prize Finalist and is just been optioned by Elevating Entertainment. I have several other projects in the works, but it’s all a gift from God—my writing—my time—my very life.

Thank you for coming along this month as I’ve celebrated my tenth year living cancer free. I want every day that God has planned for me, and I do not have enough words in me to thank Him for all God’s already given. “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his Grace,” reads one of my favorite hymns by Charles Wesley. I wish I had a thousand tongues…and pens to write His praise.

I’m kind of sad the month is over. I’m packing up my pink clothes and Lucy will get a new collar. All the pink ribbon stuff will be shelved until next year. Don’t go away, though, just because the month is over.

My blog will resume its former look starting tomorrow. I may not post EVERY day, but several times a week.

I’ll be right here at One Ringing Bell with peals of words on faith, living, and writing.

Many blessings to you all.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Aprons, Recipes, and Simple Things

Here I am pretending to stir a pot in a lovely Breast Cancer Awareness pink apron given to me by a dear friend and reader. The picture doesn’t really do justice to the hand sewn artistry in the Bib & Tucker garment. I love it. It’ll certainly give me something to look forward to in the kitchen.

When I’m in the kitchen, we often have the opportunity to find out if the batteries in the smoke alarms are still working. I’ve somehow managed to keep my family alive for all these years, but we’ve had some close calls. I guess I use all my creative energy in other endeavors, or maybe food just doesn’t seem that important to me, but I’m not much of a cook. I have figured out, though, that if I have a few items that I do really well, I can keep at least the illusion of being able to find my way around in the kitchen.

Take biscuits for example. Now, I can make biscuits. And stand back for my iron skillet baked cornbread. Everyone loves my carrot cake, and I actually came up with my own recipe for a low fat oatmeal raisin cookie that doesn’t stay around very long.

Many years ago, when I first moved to this town, I became fast friends with a young mother, Sandy. She was going through some difficult times, and I was struggling to adjust in a new place. We’d sit on the church steps following choir practice, and long after everyone else went home, we’d be talking, and sharing life.

A short time later, all the women in Sandy's circle were assigned a secret pal. I wasn’t in a circle at the time, so when her pal started sending her things like candles, cute kitchen towels, and to my dismay, something with which I’d never be able to compete—recipes, I was jealous.

But, I decided to fight fire with fire. I rifled through my large assortment of like-new cookbooks and sent her one of my tried and true favorites:

Peanut Butter Crackers
4 or 8 Saltines
Some Peanut Butter (Can’t say how much, depends on your taste)
Crunchy or Smooth
Scoop peanut butter out of jar with knife and lavish on saltine. Repeat four times. If you like cracker sandwiches, add another cracker. Enjoy.
Serves 1

Sandy loved the recipe, and declared she’s used it innumerable times. So, there, secret pal.

It’s true that the simplest things in life are often the best. Take for example the truth of the gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 God so loved…that he gave…only Son…whoever believes…shall not perish…eternal life. So simple, and yet it takes a leap of faith.

If you’ve not believed this simple message of God’s great love, today’s a good day to take that leap. Let me know if you do.

I’ll be so happy for you; I might put on my new apron and make you some biscuits.

P.S. Feel free to share the Peanut Butter Cracker recipe. I’ve never been stingy with how to formulate my culinary masterpieces.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Plastic Part and Doctor's Office Etiquette

When I had breast cancer, I started thinking a lot about my glorified body, mainly because during that time, I obtained my first plastic part. Now, I’m not against plastic parts; they certainly beat no parts at all, but I’m not much on the process that leads to their acquisition.

During the reconstruction process, I had to make many trips to see my plastic surgeon, Dr. Mark Goodman. My husband, Jerry, would accompany me on each visit. It was nice to have him there in case I had an emotional meltdown, which thankfully I never did, though every trip to any of my doctors during this time was a reminder of what brought me to them in the first place.

It never occurred to me to prep Jerry on “doctor’s office etiquette” for which the number one rule is: Doctors should never see your underwear, either on or off your body. I assumed Jerry knew this rule.

I was wrong.

On my first visit to Dr. Goodman’s office, when told to put on a gown, I carefully folded my shirt and placed my underwear inside it on a chair.

After the procedure that day was completed and before Dr. Goodman had left the room, Jerry in anticipation of helping me get dressed, grabbed my blouse in his right hand and my underwear in his left. He and Dr. Goodman were engaged in a conversation that involved directions. Jerry began to gesture with the left hand, my underwear adding emphasis to his every word. I watched, horrified, as it flew North, South, East, and West like a twin windsocks on a blustery day. I was amazed at Dr. Goodman’s self-control as his eyes never left my husband’s during the entire episode.

When we got in the car, I tried to be as gentle as possible with Jerry.

“I know you were trying to be helpful,” I said, “but please don’t show my underwear to the doctor.”

“What difference does it make if a doctor sees your underwear, when he’s just got through seeing your naked body?” Jerry asked.

Jerry’s an intelligent man with two graduate degrees. Why couldn’t he get it?

“It’s too hard to explain. Just don’t.” I said firmly.

On my next visit to Dr. Goodman, I was sure Jerry knew what was expected. After the procedure, he picked up my blouse and shook it out in such a way that he made my underwear inside it a projectile streaking through the air at warp speed just in front of Dr. Goodman’s nose. It hit the wall behind me and fell to the floor.

I glared at Jerry.

Dr. Goodman pretended not to notice he’d almost been shot in the face.

I fumed all the way to the car. I slammed the door then looked over at Jerry, ready to chew him out.

Then he gave me one of those big dimpled smiles of his, and of course, I melted.

On our third trip to Dr. Goodman, I tried to make it easy for Jerry. I simply told him, “Don’t get close to my clothes before the doctor leaves.”

For once, he listened.

But in that environment I had to some listening, too. I had to change my pious, albeit uninformed view of plastic surgery. I’d always seen the profession as pandering to the rich and vain. Perhaps somewhere in the world that's true. But it's not what I experienced.

My hours spent in that environment put me in the midst of people waiting, just like me, to obtain some sense of order and normalcy once more in their lives. Repeatedly I have given thanks for doctors and nurses who excel in their profession in such a way as to offer alternatives to those of us whose bodies have suffered the effects of living in a less than perfect world. I’ve been amazed at the artistry, skill, and compassion with which each procedure is approached.

I found plastic surgery is about reconstructing a small boy’s finger after his was ripped off in an accident. It’s about giving a face back to a man who was trampled by livestock after having collapsed from a heart attack on his farm. It's about helping a woman like me walk away from breast cancer feeling she's had the last laugh.

"...but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." I Corinthians 15:51b-52

One day, in the twinkling of an eye, I shall exchange this body for a new one. The One who thought us up, whose artistry is displayed in all of creation has for us a body of heavenly imperishability. It will no longer need any maintenance or repair procedures and most certainly will not contain any plastic parts. Until then this earthen vessel, which I have been assigned, will do just fine, even with modifications. I am thankful for all the wonderful provision God has had for me, even and especially this plastic part.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flying, Faith, and a Funny Story

This morning in a local nursing home, just before I launched into a rousing chorus of “I’ll Fly Away” on the piano, I looked up and saw my husband, Jerry, walk in. He’d never joined me when I volunteered there, and it surprised me to see him. He’d just dropped by after leading a Bible Study at the local YMCA.

When my eyes met his, I felt the same thing I’d felt many times before like when I arrive at the top of that extra long Atlanta Airport elevator which emerges from the subterranean depths into the baggage claim area. Often, in line with all the sign holders, he’ll be waiting patiently for my arrival. There’s nothing like having him watching for me after having been gone an extended time, or even a short time. This morning when I looked up, even after all these years of being together, my heart leapt to see his face.

The song I played this morning refers to a day when my spirit will jettison out of Newtonian gravity. If seeing my husband’s face makes my heart leap, oh what incredible joy to see the face of Jesus when I arrive at the top of the escalator in heaven.

Until then, I’m thanking God for my precious companion. I believe one of our purposes in being together is that we “…be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12 I can’t even say how often when my faith is weak, my spirit sagging, he’s come alongside to encourage. I hope he can say the same of me. I don’t know if I would have ever made it through so many health issues as I have without him.

Truly, he is a gift.

So, all this is a preface to my funniest story that has to do with breast cancer, and Jerry is at the middle of it. I share it tomorrow.

As my grandmother used to say, "Y’all come."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coming at you fast

Our poodle Charlie has a problem whenever we go to the beach. With Charlie being so small, and the wind currents usually strong, he looks as if he’s going to lift into the air like the “Flying Nun.”

Now’s there’s a dated reference for you.

As you can see, his little ears stand at right angles to his body the whole time we’re there. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to affect his enjoyment though.

I've often known how he feels. I’ve been in the middle of some strong winds myself during which I could hardly catch my breath before another problem presented itself.

“If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” The Message, Matthew 6:25

I don’t want to lift off my foundation when rains, rivers, and tornados come which often appear as things like health issues, family problems, or financial struggles. Sometimes life comes so fast, I hardly have time to process.

The thing I know about Charlie is that when he’s at the beach, someone’s always holding him, and that makes him feel safe.

And if I allow God to plant His words of truth deep within me, I’ll be secure through any storm.

So, if you see me, and my ears are flapping in the wind, don’t worry.

God’s got me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ponderings and Pileateds

Recently, I sat in my living room early one morning pondering. It’s where I do my best meditating, because it’s the one room in the house which usually remains clutter free—nothing to pick up, straighten, or clean. It’s the place I land to have time with the Lord. There I was in front of two large windows trying to allow some truth of God to soak into my spirit, and then I saw them.

Pileated woodpeckers. Not one, but two. In my whole life, I’d only seen a Pileated twice before. Here, right in front of me, were two of those gorgeous things. The Peterson Field Guide says it is “A spectacular black crow sized woodpecker with a flaming-red crest.” Spectacular is the word. The woodpecker measures from sixteen to around twenty inches tall. They are the grandest woodpecker east of the Rockies. Well…the grandest except for the Ivory-billed which was long thought extinct. However, I heard an exciting report not too long ago on NPR, which indicated new sightings have been made recently.

Anyway, here I was just pondering, and God sends these two visitors. For a few moments, it was just God, the woodpeckers, and me. Then I ran for my camera and went outside. I snapped a few not so good pictures and stared for a long time.

In a Bible study the other day, I mentioned the Psalmist’s cry from Psalms 86:17, “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.” We were talking about small miracles, if there’s any such thing, and I said I felt that day when the woodpeckers appeared was a small miracle—a sign of His goodness. It seemed God said, “I’m here with you. I just wanted to make you smile.”

The woodpeckers might not have been a big deal for anyone else, but for me they were a huge deal--because I love them so, and of course God knew that. As I look back, especially during the difficult times like when I had cancer, I can point to similar signs of God’s goodness—so many touches (or swoops )of His grace that let me know He was with me. Truly, he uses these divine touches to help and comfort us.

I’ve not seen the woodpeckers again, but I keep listening for their loud, irregular peck, peck, peck in hopes of an encore. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do itinerate back this way. I think God loves an encore, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Incredibly Blessed

When I decided to post every day in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I knew it would be a challenge, but didn’t know exactly how much of a challenge. Oh, I have plenty I could say. In fact, I have many articles I’ve already written about my experience with cancer that I’ve not posted here. But, they’re so personal; it’s hard to share some of them. I’ve sat here for a long time tonight praying, after already having written one article and chosen not to use it. Finally, I’ve decided to share just a snippet from something I wrote ten years ago.

The night before the mastectomy in 2000, I stayed up late washing clothes, and taking care of details in preparation for my hospital stay. At one in the morning, I wrote these words in my journal: “Tonight, I say good-bye to a part of my body that God allowed me to have during the time of my life in which it was created to perform--at this breast I have nursed my two precious children. I’m grateful for that, but I weep over the loss of its familiar look. Nursing babies is most likely behind me now. A new part of my life is before me. I continue to trust that God has a purpose greater than anything I can imagine. I give Him my life, this night, once more.”

I went to bed that night having completely given my life and body into his hands. I don’t suppose I could have even imagined at that time that part of God's greater purpose would be sharing the words I’d written that evening with people all over the world. I share them now as a testament to God’s care over me these past ten years and to show the dreams he planted in my heart, he is bringing to pass.

When I left for surgery the next morning I found a verse on the windshield left there by a precious family in our neighborhood. “They cried out to God during the battle, and He answered their prayers, because they trusted in Him.”I Chronicles 5:20. I held on to that verse, and didn’t let go of it until after I’d already been given a sedative for the surgery. My hands relaxed and my husband slipped the verse out of my hand. I still have it.

Yes, God heard my prayers and the prayers of many others. Gratitude wells within me that he's allowed me all these years to serve and love Him and to share with you.

I am incredibly blessed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stepping out of the Traffic

These words from Psalm 46 have come before me several times in the last few days. “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Eugene Peterson in The Message translates it this way, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

“Be still?” Easy to say--hard to do.

“Step out of the traffic?” Don’t we just usually go with the flow? I know that’s often my default setting.

But, or maybe I should say BUT, God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’ve had the experience that when I’ve failed to heed his instruction on this, He’s allowed things to happen that facilitated my stillness--for my greater good. When I do quiet before him in meditation and adoration, I more fully experience God’s presence and peace.

With the upcoming elections, I find myself confounded as to how to cast my vote in one important race. God says “…take a long loving look at me…above politics…” When I wonder if what I write makes a difference, God says “…I will be exalted in the earth…” When seemingly irresolvable problems present themselves or questions about my health surface again, and a “But God…” is almost on my lips, “God says, take a look at me “…above everything…”

The words of Katharina von Schlegel as penned in 1752: “…Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

My heavenly friend calls me, calls you to stillness before Him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Leaf, A Launch, and Living Now

As I absent mindedly walked the dog today thinking of what I’d have for dinner, what I’d post tonight, and what time my kids would be home, I turned a corner and the sun’s rays smacked me right in the face. The bright light made me realize I was doing that thing I can do so well—live every moment except the one I’m in.

I know better.

When I had cancer, I had a big howdy-do with living in the moment. There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis toput you in the middle of the present. A threat to your life makes you notice the tiniest things, increases your gratitude, helps you value what you already have, and cherish those close to you.

When I returned to the present today, I noticed the leaves are finally beginning to turn, despite the enduring tropical weather here. The tea olives are still exuding their intoxicating scent, and one of my neighbors was helping someone strap a big red couch to the roof of their car—must’ve had a garage sale. I watched the majestic sofa sail out of sight and headed for home glad I’d not missed the launch.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”In my walk today, I wasn’t worrying about tomorrow, but I was missing my present. And that’s just about the same.

I snapped a picture of the first leaf of autumn just before Lucy and I ended our walk. Thought you might want to enjoy the moment, too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thank You to the Nations

A short post tonight to thank the readers who’ve joined me here this month from over two dozen countries around the world—places like France, Denmark, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Croatia, Japan, Australia. The list goes on and on. It gives me great joy to think of you all. I have a globe in my office, which is a constant reminder that the place where I sit is just one dot on this giant planet, and that the God I serve truly holds the “whole world in His hands.”

Psalm 96:3 reads “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.” It’s my passionate desire to share God’s love and truth with the nations. May God’s richest blessings be yours.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Extravagant Love

Just before another biopsy in 2006 which would determine if suspicious areas doctors had been monitoring were cancerous, I had to deal with several transitions. My insurance carrier changed and with it the preferred hospital. No longer would I be able to go to the facility where I’d given birth to my children, but would have to move across town to another medical center.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, it had been a comfort to me during hospital stays that on another floor just a few years earlier, I’d had my babies. Somehow, mentally, it helped balance the pain.

In addition, the nurse who’d been with me through four previous surgeries had moved to Florida. Her face had always been the last one I’d seen before anesthesia took over. I felt a little lost facing what could once more be a difficult diagnosis in a strange place with people I didn’t know.

Just a couple of weeks before my scheduled surgery, a new couple visited our church. I learned this couple, Dr. Joel Cook, and his wife Cheryl moved here because he was to be the new director of the breast health center where my surgery was scheduled--an amazing development. It turned out he would be on duty the morning of my operation, and I thanked God I would get to see his friendly face before surgery.

When I arrived that day, another dear friend was already there praying. After a reassuring visit with her, I was taken back to pre-op. The nurse said, “Dr. Cook will be in to see you in a moment. He has something for you.”

When he walked in, he held a bundle of pink and green calico fabric in his arms.

“My wife made this for you,” he said.
He unfolded a lovely quilt with a pink ribbon appliqu├ęd on it. “These are people from our former home in Wisconsin who are praying for you,” he said pointing to names written on the ribbon.

I took the quilt and spread it in my lap, and immediately felt wrapped in love. I couldn’t believe this gift. I knew Cheryl had only known about my surgery for days, so she’d had to work on this for many hours in a short time to get it done. She hardly knew me, and yet she’d made this extravagant gift of time, talent, and love.

Throughout the hours and days ahead other visitors, nurses and doctors added their names to the quilt. When I left the hospital, the love and prayers expressed through that quilt carried me through several difficult days of waiting for pathology results. It turned out three local pathologists could not agree about the status of the cells that had been removed. Once more, just as six years earlier when I was diagnosed with cancer, the tissues had to be sent to one of the leading experts in the world. This meant even more waiting.

At last, the results came back, and the expert’s report expressed a definitive benign diagnosis.

Benign is such a wonderful word.

I’ve often thought about the timing of the Cook’s arrival in our town. Dr. Cook’s work here has since saved the lives of an untold number of women. I know the Cooks weren’t sent here especially for me, but at the time, it sure felt that way.

Cheryl’s extravagant gift makes me think of God’s love. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God? ” I John 3:1 God has never held back his love, even to the point of sacrificing his own son. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” John 3:16

Lying across the sofa in my office today is Cheryl's quilt, a beautiful reminder of how much God loves me and of how he calls me also to love extravagantly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cartwheels and Dark Places

It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. Psalm l8:28

In the fall of 2006, I faced my fifth breast surgery. I had to have yet another sonogram, and the technician left the room to confer with the doctor about a problem for what turned out to be a lengthy period. The room was left dark as it had been for the test, and as a cancer survivor traveling down an all too familiar path once more, I felt alone in that dark place. Fear began to creep into my heart.

As I lay on the examination table, I became aware of a flashing light. I sat up to see a computer with a slide show of what appeared to be fund raising events for the newly opened medical center where I was having the test. I thought if I watched, it might take my mind off what the technician and doctor were talking about in the next room. Thinking I might see someone I knew, I scanned picture after picture, yet none of them revealed recognizable faces.

Then just as I was about to lie down again, a photo appeared of a group of young gymnasts who participated in an event called “Cartwheels for a Cure” at a local gym.. There in that dark room, shining on me from the computer screen was my own smiling daughter who’d participated in the event by taking donations for the many, many cartwheels she turned.

She could’ve never known what comfort her cartwheels would bring me months later. God reminded me through my daughter’s bright face that I was not alone, and that God is faithful to light up our darkness.

Dear God, thank you for the assurance of your presence in dark places.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Places God Lives

Last night as I read my Bible, I had a “stop the presses” moment. The kind when you’re reading a familiar passage, but the reality of its truth seems to bore into your spirit in a way it never has before. It happened in Isaiah 57:15, “…I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit…”

The extremes in which God lives seemed to take my breath away--the very high and the very low. Holy God feels at home in a humble heart.

But how do you get one of those?

C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, if we meet a humble man, “He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” He goes on to say, “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can…tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. …If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

I know when we come up against tough life situations like a cancer diagnosis, a death of a loved one, or a marital problem, we often are more open to letting God empty us of pride. God uses our desperation to bring us to that place where we’re not thinking of ourselves, only of the God who is our very breath. I’ve often experienced a powerful sense of God’s presence with people who’ve suffered greatly—people who have allowed God to use their suffering for His glory,exhibit a spirit of quiet and gentle humility. As Isaiah would say, “…contrite and lowly…”

I want one of those kinds of hearts. I want God to use whatever suffering I go through for Him. I want God to live with me.

How about you?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Standing on the Promises

Last summer we put hardwood floors in much of the downstairs in our house. In the days before the installers came, the furniture was taken out and baseboards removed. As I stood in the empty space the evening before installation began, I knew there was one more thing I wanted to do.

I sat on the floor with my Bible and found some well-worn pages. I thought I’d copy just a few verses on the old linoleum and particleboard, but wound up staying late into the night. There were just so many promises that had been important to me-- verses God had given me when I had cancer, when my mother was dying, and when my children were babies. Scripture rolled across my memory from thirty years of walking with the Lord. I just didn’t know where to stop. The rest of the family added verses the next morning, too. When the workers came, hardly a square yard of floor space remained blank.

It’s a comforting thought to know that when I’m loading the dishwasher, chopping onions, eating with my family, playing the piano, or just spending time with the Lord, I’m literally standing on the promises of God’s word. The pictures here are just a partial view of the scripture underneath the hardwoods now.

In Deuteronomy 11:20, Moses tells the Israelites to write God’s words “…on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…”

So, I may be moving on from the floors to the doors, too. I think I need to buy more markers though. As I remember, the reason I finally went to bed that night last year is I used up my permanent markers.

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