Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Gift for You

Tomorrow, I’ll have an update on Belle’s brood of one-week-old kitties. My husband, who doesn’t even run out there every hour, says they’ve doubled in size. Here at Ringing Bell Headquarters, the photographer reports she’s had a little trouble getting mug shots of these new gals and guys. They can’t exactly pose for the camera since their eyes aren’t opened yet, but we’ll do the best we can.

Today, I sensed there might be someone out there who’s a little overwhelmed with the news of late. The artist, musician, writer types are especially prone to being sucked into a swirling vortex of bad reports. Especially, if one is a news junky and ruminates on the constant barrage of tweets.

Don’t do it. We need a balance here. We need to stay informed so that we can pray and offer assistance when possible. But often folks find themselves at one extreme or another. They’re either living in denial about what’s happening in the world, or they find their thoughts filled with pictures and sound bites of destruction and deterioration, which can lead to hopelessness.

Verses I’ve come to rely on daily are Philippians 4:8-9: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

This is where I have to keep my mind: on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I’ve memorized these verses so that I can carry them with me at all times. It’s nearly impossible to make yourself stop thinking about bad reports, but what I’ve found, is that we can substitute scriptural thoughts that encompass the list above. It takes practice and discipline. But it helps us hold on to our hope, which is essential.

As a reminder, I have a gift for you today. Occasionally, I’ve given away watercolor bookmarks I’ve painted. So I added a page to this blog and included a bookmark with Philippians 4:8-9. Simply click on the tab at the upper right. You may print it, or if you have trouble, contact me through my website,, and I’ll email one to you.

May the God of Peace be with you.

P. S. Case in point--Lucy ate the other half of the tulip in the picture. But I decided to paint the good half-the lovely half.  Also, yes, that's Misty's paw in the picture. She stepped in just as I snapped the photo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unseen, but Sure

I approached a small bathroom after the church service this past Sunday and found the door ajar. I reached inside and flipped the light switch, but nothing happened. The fixture, bulb, or both had gone south. Not wanting to walk a distance to another bathroom, I slipped inside, closed the door, locked it, and pondered how many steps there might be to the toilet. I began to unbutton my slacks in the inky space. Only the tiniest sliver of light slid under the bathroom door.

Out of the sea of darkness came a small sweet voice. “Hey, I’m in here.”

I buttoned, unlocked, opened, and turned around. There, a fellow much too small to read Women or Men grinned at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t see you.”

His grin broadened. “That’s okay.”

I left the room, leaving the door ajar as I’d found it, so he could once more have a little light inside.

The cancer we’re dealing with at our house is only one element in a bigger picture of challenging difficulties. Difficulties, which I cannot share today, but in the past four months, I’ve found myself in small, dark spaces with only shreds of light. But into that darkness, much like the precious voice I heard on Sunday, I’ve heard in my spirit, “Hey, I’m in here.” The voice of God to me saying, “I’m in here to help, to console, to uplift, to encourage, to love, to lead, to inspire, to light.” The God unseen but surely present.

The light I have is inside me. And that light is God. I don’t have to fear the dark, because I carry Him with me at all times, in all places. If I start to doubt, I grow very still and listen.

“Hey, I’m in here,” He says.

Anytime, I can draw close. Anytime, even in the dark.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, 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).”

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Surprising Meeting

A couple of days ago, I sat waiting again for Jerry to have what was originally supposed to be a short medical procedure in a cancer treatment center. Just after therapists escorted him to a room, they discovered an equipment malfunction. So, of course, technicians had to be called, patients had to be rescheduled, and hours later my poor husband was still back there.

I’d already accomplished what I’d originally planned to do that morning, so I picked up my new copy of Good Housekeeping and leafed through a few pages. I like Good Housekeeping better since they’ve rethought their tips and offered many under the heading “good enough” housekeeping.

I came to an article featuring a cute blond gerbil on the first page. Hmm. I can’t resist an animal story as long as it doesn’t end up like Old Yeller. Sometimes, you can’t tell how stories will conclude, though, but this one had the look of being upbeat. So, I read.

I’d not even finished the second page, and I was giggling. By the time I read the last word, I was laughing out loud, and feeling the eyes of those around me. I never remembered GH publishing something this witty before. Who wrote it? I scanned to the Author Buzz section and saw Melissa Fay Greene grinning at me.

The same Melissa Fay Greene I’d just met a couple of days earlier at the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame induction. The same Melissa Fay Greene with a touching story of having four children, and adopting five more from Africa. The same Melissa Fay Greene who’d made me laugh so hard during her comments.

Some might call that serendipitous. Others might say it was a coincidence. But for me, it felt like God gave me what the Psalmist called, “…a sign of His goodness.(Psalm 86:17)” He just connected a few dots to give me a laugh and say, “I’m with you.”

Later in the car, when I read the story to Jerry, he cracked up as much as I did. And laughter is a healing medicine.

If you need a giggle (who doesn’t?), run out, get the April issue of GH, and read an article called Nuptials vs. Nature. And look for Melissa’s book No Biking in the House Without a Helmet releasing in April. I’m definitely getting it. It’s bound to make the waiting lighter in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kittens are Here, a special Ringing Bell news bulletin

Ringing Bell Headquarters—Last evening between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., Belle Varnado, delivered gray triplets and one tuxedo. The delivery occurred without incident, and mother and babies are reported in excellent health.

A humble cardboard box with red blanket was the mother’s eventual birthplace choice. “I wanted the kittens to stay in touch with their roots,” Belle explained.  

Lucy Varnado, an aunt, commented on the kitten’s arrival, “We’ve all been anxiously awaiting the birth of these tots. They bear a striking resemblance to their mother, and I can’t wait to give each one a welcome lick from their Aunt Lucy.”

Other family members, when queried about the kittens, were not as enthusiastic as Lucy was. The tabby, Misty, for example issued a terse, “No comment.”

Feline Isabelle, when informed of the births, simply fled upstairs and hid under a bed. When questioned later, she related her last encounter with Belle—a rough tumble and roll. Still nursing the wounds where she lost several fur plugs, Isabelle pontificated what more kittens with their street cat mother’s disposition might do to her coiffure. “I heard she has a tattoo,” Isabelle said while licking her magnificent fluffy tail. “And four more like her? What will happen to the neighborhood?”

 Upon hearing the news, the senior member of the furry household, toy poodle Charles Varnado, Esq., simply dropped his head in a despondent manner and murmured under his breath, “Cats rule. Cats rule.”

 The front yard squirrels initially called for an all day nut party. One rodent offered this comment, “That Belle’s a terror. It’s good to know she’ll be out of our fur for a few days. How many kittens did you say she had?” Upon learning there were indeed four kittens, and after consultation with companions, the entire squirrel brigade was seen evacuating the treetops with knap sacks over their shoulders, apparently headed for less dangerous territory.

Though the response to the births has been mixed, the mood is still upbeat at Ringing Bell Headquarters. Stay tuned for more on this story later in the week.

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures, great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.
Cecil Francis Alexander

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31a

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lucy, Little Kitty, and a Name

I’ve been writing a lot in hospital and treatment center waiting rooms lately, and the scenery is growing drab. I thought it might be time for a glimpse into the story annals of what my reader Carol calls the “ringing bell creatures.”

We’re very strong proponents at our house of spay, neuter, spay, neuter, spay, neuter. But what we actually have are kittens coming, kittens coming, kittens coming.

Here’s what happened.

Soon after I was able to get my hands on the newly appeared feral Little Kitty in the back yard, I tried to stuff her into a carrier to get her spayed. She almost killed me expressing her objection to this action. After which, she snubbed me for quite a while. By the time I was able to catch her again, it was too late.

There you have it.

I don’t know what it is about Little Kitty’s (still doesn’t have a name) maternal state that has increased her Lucy dependency. They’ve always been unusually friendly towards each other for dogs and cats. We think when the cat first showed up, Lucy shared her food with her. They'd already become friends when we saw them playing one day. We think they're about the same age, and recently they’re inseparable.

I looked out on the patio the other morning and here’s what I saw.

Little Kitty lying on Lucy’s paws.

Then Lucy started grooming her which she does quite often. Lucy's saliva on the cat's head makes the fur spikey like she's dipping into the styling gel.

Finally this picture.

It appears Lucy is about to go for her jugular, but not so. Little Kitty just relaxed under the weight of that giant foot, and then when she grew tired of Lucy’s brown mitt on her neck, she took her paw and pushed it off.

I half expect that when the kittens come, Lucy is going to be involved in their rearing—something like a doting aunt. I imagine the Australian shepherd in her will equip her for crowd control, so she’ll have her own little pen of kittens to herd.

More on that later.

Meanwhile, we’re getting the maternity ward ready. I’ve put out three different beds in my daughter’s art studio. The feline has slept in two of them already, so I don’t know which one will wind up being the birthing room. We’re already working on good homes for the kittens. Found one already.

I hate for Little Kitty to give birth without even having a real name. We didn’t give her one initially, because we didn’t know if she’d stay. But she’s ours now. Definitely ours.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior. “(Isaiah 43:1b-3)

Here in this treatment center waiting room as I report to you from the fire, I just want to say how wonderful it is that God calls us by name and that we are his. It is a comfort beyond measure.

So, without delay, Little Kitty is getting a name.

I’m thinking Belle might be nice.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Wonder

Yesterday was a wonder.

I had the privilege of attending the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Literary nonfiction writer Melissa Fay Greene, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey, lyricist Johnny Mercer, and nature writer James Kilgo were all added to an illustrious group of over forty Georgia writers, which includes Joel Chandler Harris, Margaret Mitchell, and Sidney Lanier.

I sat near tears remembering the early years of living in this town and my frequent visits to the Kilgo home. Jim Kilgo would often read aloud his exquisite nature essays, which later became his first book, Deep Enough for Ivory Bills. 
Jane Kilgo and Bev

Precious, precious memories.

His lovely wife and my dear friend, Jane, accepted the posthumous award with gracious words, which captured the essence of an extraordinarily gifted man who passionately loved God and family.

It was also a joy yesterday to make the acquaintance of Johnny Mercer’s relatives, and share an anecdote that had been related to me about the song “Moon River” from an industry professional who’d worked on the set of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I enjoyed Mercer’s grandson's warm account of the songwriter's love of family.

As Melissa Fay Green and Natasha Trethewey spoke in the author discussion, and in their acceptance speeches, I scribbled furiously hoping that I would not let their insightful words escape me. But in the end, what I carried away were not so much exact quotes but a sense of their writing lives. They both write from their own “geography” as Natasha Trethewey said. In her work, she feels called to “mine the intersection of personal and public history.” Those eight words have rolled continuously through my brain since she uttered them.

I was also profoundly touched by Melissa Fay Greene’s story. When she penned her book There is No Me Without You, the story of an Ethiopian widow who took in Aids orphans, Greene and her husband added to their own family of four children by adopting five of those orphans. What a joy to see their shining faces as she received this award.

All of these writers came from particular places with families, and histories. They’ve expressed their literary genius in their time as only they could. And they’ve done it in fiction, and lyrics, and poems, and nonfiction.
They've enriched our lives and as Tretheway says, given a voice to voices history has forgotten. They've made a difference.

I look forward to Green’s next book written about her family, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, and can’t wait to get Trethewey’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry, Native Guard. I’ve already read all of Jim’s books, but often circle back to them. And of course, all I have to do is sit down at the piano to enjoy several of Mercer’s songs.

As I stand in the shadow of such writing luminaries, I ponder the efficacy of my own small flickering taper. But then I remember the words I often quote from a writer I love, Madeleine L ‘Engle.

“Serve the gift,” she says. “Serve the gift.”

My job is to use the gift God has given me. It’s not to compare myself to others. My job is to be faithful.

So, I set my eyes on these goals.

Oh, yesterday was surely a wonder--a wonder that will carry into many tomorrows.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bubbling Springs

A few days ago, on our return from an out-of-town trip, we covered many miles of rough terrain. Thousands of clear-cut acres, coarse with the stubble of ragged pine stumps, rubbed my visual sensibilities raw. It was wearying. I wanted to be sitting back home at my desk with a view of my grass green, peach tree blooming, goldfinch cruising back yard. But the desolate landscape just kept rolling.

Yesterday, the gospel reading was from the fourth chapter of Matthew, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”

In the barren wilderness, after weeks of fasting, Jesus faced the enemy of our souls. Surely, as fully God and fully human, Jesus must have wanted to be somewhere else. Somewhere like the glorious realm of heaven from which he’d come. But with us in mind, he persevered through the desert and temptation, even unto the cross.

I’m so thankful.

When I face my own spiritual wildernesses, I remember Jesus, and what he did for the whole world. What he did for me.

On our recent journey, after miles of bleak sameness, a splash of green caught my eye. I craned my neck to see where the land sloped to a little stream. Several giddy ducks swam among lily pads in a tiny oasis as an egret stood sentinel nearby. I held them all in my line of vision until they passed out of sight.

In a passage called “The Joy of the Redeemed” in my Bible, the prophet Isaiah talks of “…streams in the desert…” and “…the thirsty ground bubbling springs…” When I read these words and others in chapter thirty-five of Isaiah, they lift me from only looking at the seemingly dismal landscape around me to anticipating what God will do.

And what God will do if we are patient for it, is give us those spiritual “bubbling springs” in any desert in which we find ourselves. From those waters, we draw life and spiritual strength to persevere.

Join me in swimming among the lily pads.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rising Faith

One of the hardest challenges I’ve had lately is just keeping my mouth closed about my sweet Jerry’s cancer treatment options. I don’t want to confuse the matter or speak extraneous words, which are just my opinion and not God’s thoughts.

We’ve waited to hear from God. And waited. Yet, we reached a time when we really needed to make a decision and still didn’t feel we had a knowing in our hearts about which direction to take. Oh, how we’ve prayed.

A couple of days ago, I was quietly reading in the afternoon and looked up for a moment. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about his situation, but I heard these words in my spirit. “It’s not about Jerry.”

Not about Jerry? How can it not be about Jerry?

“It’s about what I want to do.”

Somehow, I’d lost sight of the fact that God had allowed this to happen.

But, I didn’t know how I would say these words to the man I love. This man who’s hurting. So I prayed more.

The next morning I heard the door on our temporary island sanctuary slam before sunrise and saw that Jerry was not beside me.

Later in the morning, he returned and said. “We need to talk.”

I share this with his permission.

Over breakfast, he explained that he went to the beach just to be with God as the sun rose. There as he meditated on the greatness of God and his handiwork in creation, he realized he was in danger of trusting medical technology rather than trusting God. Not that he wouldn’t avail himself of medical technology, he just wouldn’t idolize it.

“God is big,” he said. “It’s not about me having to get this all right. God has promised to be with me no matter what I choose. This is about Him, not me, and I believe I know, now, which treatment to pursue.”

It was only then I was able to share the words spoken to my spirit the day before.

At last, both of us have come to a place of peace and rest.

We look forward to the amazing thing God will do even through the interloper of cancer.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


If you read my last blog post, you might have noticed that I used the word infinitesimally in place of the word infinitely. Not good since it meant exactly the opposite of what I intended to convey. Especially not good since I was talking about God.

"You're a writer. How could that happen?" you ask.

Good question. Here are my reasons/excuses:

1. I was trying to post from a remote location, and was struggling more with finding a network than proofing.

2. Sometimes, I have a brain glitch, and I call my daughter by my sister's name, or say chest instead of chair. In writing, I catch those things in proofing, and when I blog, the moment of clarity always arrives upon rereading what I've posted for the whole world to see.

3. I didn't reread after I posted for the whole world to see.

4. Network stuff, again.

5. Hubby was having a particularly important meeting about his health stuff, and for the next twenty-four hours I was immersed in all the concerns related to that meeting.

I know. Excuses.

I used the wrong word.

So this morning, I awoke before dawn with the word infinitesimally stuck in my brain. Did I use that word in my last post? I asked myself.

Surely not.

I sprang from the bed, checked, and sure enough, there it was, winking at me, thinking it'd gotten away with stealing infinitely's place.

I hit the delete button faster than brown dog Lucy can eat a chicken biscuit.

I’ve tried to comfort myself with these thoughts:

1. After over one hundred blog posts, it was bound to happen.

2. Maybe not many people read the post.

3. Perhaps otthers read infinitely instead of what I actually wrote since they knew what I meant.

4. Or, I could try to blame it on a some gremlin who accessed my blog and changed my carefully chosen words.

But no, I used the wrong word.

So Lord, once more, teach me something through a humiliation.

I would say the lesson I most circle back around to is that of Grace. I often set the bar high, and beat myself up that I can’t always reach it.

If you posted the wrong word, I’d give you all the outs I listed above and then some.

But it’s hard to do that for myself.

So, today, I’m saying once more, I used the wrong word. But, I fixed it. And I’m moving on.

And instead of behaving as if God’s grace is infinitesimal, I’m receiving His infinite Grace.

Feel free to share your own brain glitches.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (I Corinthians 9:8)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sparrows, the Japanese, and You

I woke up this morning thinking about a conversation that I had a couple of days ago with a friend who’d lost a pet. This pet had been a beloved companion through many seasons in her life. Understandably, because of this, she found herself dealing with sadness.

I offered the words of Jesus, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your father. (Matthew 10:29KJV)”

I’ve found comfort that the God of the universe takes note of a waning sparrow. Those words help me know God cares about any loss I have.

Sparrows are as bountiful as pine trees in Georgia.

Once more borrowing a phrase from my husband of below-the-fall-line origins, “They’re a dime a dozen.”

Hardly worth a thought.

In John Wesley’s notes on this verse we read, “The particular providence of God…extends to the smallest things.”

“…the smallest things.”

The fact is that God does allow sparrows to fall to the ground. And when he does, he knows. In the eternal order, somehow it matters. In this way, God is almost incomprehensible to me.

God catches the last breath of a tiny winged creature here in my backyard and at the same time hears the cries of each soul shattered in devastated Japan.

His vastness, his greatness, his knowing-all is beyond my understanding.

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31)”

It helps me to think of God’s immensity when I read of catastrophes like that of whole villages disappearing in the tsunami carnage. Because not only does he care about the smallest things, so much more he cares about all those he created in his own image. God’s heart is as great as God is.

Just a couple of days ago I played the familiar children’s song “He’s got the whole world in His hands” while ministering in a nursing home. I’ve often turned to the message carried in its lyrics in situations where people are marginalized: prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters--places where people are desperate to know of a God bigger than their circumstances. It seems to help.

Today, on this first Sunday in Lent, we remember that God expressed his immeasurable love and care for us through the death of his Son, and in answer to all the “Where was God?” questions, the answer is God knows, God sees, God cares.

About sparrows…about the devastated Japanese …about you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



Hosanna palms now blackened

And I, remembering their joyful wave,

Come heart bowed;

And wait

For the sooty cross members on my brow.


Thinking of Him

In wilderness days;

As I, in a lesser way,

Face my own uncharted land.

Time now

With the Sacrificial One;

Time for the soul grief,

The cleansing word,

The making-all things-new touch.

I rise to follow blood-stained prints;

To daily die

And in these ebony ashes bear

The sure seed

Of Resurrection hope.

Beverly Varnado ©2011

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

Monday, March 7, 2011


For months now, whenever there’s a prayer time at church, my request has been an unspoken one.

Why are some prayer needs hard to share?

Sometimes it’s because we would betray another’s confidence. Other requests might be for someone present who’s unwilling to share or doesn’t have insight into their own need. For some petitions, we’re simply not yet prepared to be vulnerable on the matter.

I believe too, we step back from requesting prayer for ourselves. We’ll ask for Aunt Sue’s gall bladder, but we hesitate to say, “I’ve had a big disappointment, and I’m battling bitterness.”

Our greatest needs are often the unspoken ones.

I find comfort in knowing that when I cannot share my request, God is already attending, and His precious Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) This verse in Romans precedes another verse that God has brought to mind these past months. “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” A beautiful result of living so long with an unspoken need is that God has made me more acutely tuned to the silent cries of others.

For now, my request is unspoken, but my wordless plea reaches heaven in a resounding fortissimo, and I watch to see what God will do.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cross Collection

A comment was made in this house recently about my cross collection.

“My what?” I asked.

“Your cross collection.”

I hadn't ever set out to have one, but as I moved through my house, this is what I found:

Hanging above my office computer is a carved wooden cross, which I purchased to support business in Israel.

Two metal crosses given to my husband and me shortly before he retired from Gateway church lie on a table in the den.

Above the back door hangs a cross of nails bestowed on me years ago by a courageous paraplegic friend.

A hand created embossed ceramic piece graces the kitchen. It at some point has had a bad fall, but because I loved this present from a friend so much, I patched it.

A crystal cross near where I have my time with the Lord serves as a focal point in preparation for Lent. Also a gift.

Upstairs, I found two wooden crosses like this one. Especially precious for they were bequeathed to us when our children were born by a since departed spiritual mentor.

A hand crocheted cross which serves as a bookmark.

A cross plaque. Again a present from a dear friend.

This is what I discovered without even looking very hard. I never set out to have a cross collection, but I do and so many of them are gifts from friends.

The hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” has been called by some “the greatest hymn in the English language.’ Written in 1707 by Isaac Watts, God has used the powerful lyrics to minister to generations. Here are the first, third and fourth verses:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Far from being merely decorative objects, what has turned out to be a cross in almost every room reminds our family constantly of the powerful love of God in sacrificing Jesus. And the crosses also serve to call us to surrender nothing less than our whole lives to Him. No, I didn’t set out to have this collection, but I, for one,  need these symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice.

When I surrendered my life to the Lord thirty years ago, for a long time, I wore a small gold cross around my neck. I did so, to remind myself that I belonged to Jesus. My life was not my own.

Today, lest I forget…I’m faced with tangible promptings in my home, because “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Come near...

I’ve probably mentioned before that God has often spoken to me through dreams. I understand this may sound strange to some, but years ago after much research, I found a strong Biblical precedent for God using dreams as one of the ways He directs our lives. So, as best I can, I try to listen and understand what God might be saying.

Daniel 7:1 reports Daniel "...wrote down the substance of his dream.” Therefore, I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details of my recent nocturnal revelations, and just say that I believe several of my dreams have to do with reclaiming something lost.

At the same time, what I’ve consciously been crying out for is a refreshing of God’s spirit. I am bone weary from months of difficulties, which have left me drained. My spirit needs a fresh touch from the Lord.

Lent is for many a time of reflection and self-denial. And so as Ash Wednesday approaches, I’m asking what I may do to remind myself of what Jesus has done for us all. What I hear is James 4:8: “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”

“Come near…”

Ten years ago, just after I had one of the surgeries for breast cancer, our church held its annual event to honor mothers. Sadly, because of the recent surgery, I was unable to attend. A college woman in ministry at the local university, Mandy, was living with us that year, and she took my daughter to the luncheon. When they left that day, she had one of my small living room sofa cushions under her arm.

“Where are you going with that?” I asked as she headed out the door.

Mandy stopped. “We’re supposed to bring something that reminds us of our mothers, and you’re like my mother this year,” she said.

As I studied the sofa cushion, I wondered what she had in mind.

Mandy held up the cushion. “This sofa is where you have your time with God every morning.”

That sofa is long gone. After thirty years of pets, one more reupholster job just couldn’t restore the old thing, but that spot in the house is still where I go to spend time with God.

I’m wondering if Mandy were living with us today, though, if she’d still be reaching for a living room sofa cushion. Might she find something else reminds her more of me? Like my cell phone, or the computer, or, (this one really hurts) the TV remote.

As the Lenten season nears, my heart’s desire is to be near God. In fact, it’s more than a desire. It’s a desperate longing. So, I’m planning to spend more time in this old familiar place in the house to be refreshed and to reclaim what I’ve lost through these challenging months.

I’m saving a seat for God, too.

Because he promised if I came, He would come.
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