Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beverly Varnado on World Magazine Radio

Just heard from a producer at World Magazine Radio that a story they recorded of me sharing about our family's 7,000 mile cross country journey is running again today. It's short, so here's the link.

If you'd like to read more about this journey, just click on the Dream Summer label below.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Overlapping prayers and stress relief

Through the years, Sunday mornings have often been stressful. If a shoe is going to go missing, or an IT problem is going to arise on a necessary piece of equipment, or an animal is going to act up, it’s going to be on a Sunday morning.

We once had a Bassett Hound that got stuck under a utility building on a Sabbath morning. As we worked to free her, I can still hear my pastor husband, Jerry, saying repeatedly, “This dog is working with the devil. This dog is working with the devil.”

At the time, it seemed a definite possibility.

Jerry, is now the pastor of a church in a rural area. On Sundays, If we can ever get in the car and travel beyond the more densely populated area of a university town, we almost always feel stress diminishing as we start to enjoy the scenery of horse farms, grazing cows, and crops in the field. In fact, we rarely speak on our route as we listen to music and take in the beauty around us.

Often, I see horses in this field.

These cows didn’t cooperate as I’d hoped for this photo. I usually catch them in a pasture much closer to the road.

The cotton field across the road from the church.

 The church is still small enough, that during the prayer time, Jerry gives us an opportunity to briefly speak a name or request aloud to the Lord. As worshippers lift their requests, I strain to hear what’s being spoken, but often I can’t, because several people may simultaneously speak theirs.

When we first started this practice, it bothered me that the requests overlapped. I wanted them to be spoken one at a time so that I could clearly understand, but then I realized it doesn’t matter to God.

Even if all of us in the service said our requests at the same time, God would hear each one.

What happens in our worship service is but a microcosm of what’s happening all over the world. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, God’s children are offering their prayers. Those prayers overlap many times over, but God is so great that He hears each one as if there were only one.

Knowing that ought to be the biggest stress reliever of all.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer . . .” (1 Peter 3:12).

“Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me”(Psalm 86:6-7).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When you sweep up the broken pieces

Jerry stood at the sink washing up a few things in the kitchen (bless him), when I heard a tinkling of glass.

"What's that?" I called from my office.

"A glass broke."

"You okay?"


If we’d only known then what we know now, we would have called that event in literary terms a foreshadowing.

A few moments later, the next thing I heard from my office sounded like a car wreck in the kitchen.

I leaped from my desk and ran in there. “What happened?” I said staring at one of the biggest piles of broken glass I’d ever seen in a house.

He pointed to a lower cabinet. “I opened that door there, and dishes seemed to leap from the cabinet. It’s like they were breaking on the way down.”

A movie reel flicked in my mind—something like a computer generated scene from a sci-fi movie of fragmented glass dispersing in slo mo.

I stooped to look at the glass and couldn’t figure out what it had been before it was this. Casserole dishes? Serving trays?

Sure enough, I noticed the shelf where whatever it was had been also had broken glass in it, as if the dishes had really started to break in the cabinet. I didn’t have any idea how that happened. But I knew what it meant.

We had to take every dish, pot, and tray from the top and bottom shelves of the cabinet and wash it to make sure no shards of glass were on them.

Hadn’t planned to do that.

Didn’t want to do it.

And yet, that’s what we did.

We also, swept and reswept to remove any glass from the floor.


Sometimes, you just have to drop everything and do what it takes whether you want to or not. Spiritually speaking, we’re going to face some times when stuff gets broken and people get broken, and we won’t have the answers we want either, but God does. We have to trust that if we do what we can to help clean things up, God’s doing His part. Because Jesus came for shattered lives, and broken hearts, and fragmented souls.

My friend Cheryl used to say, "People are more important than projects." And so, we drop whatever is in our hands to help, to love, to care for those who are suffering from brokenness.

I still don’t know what that pile of glass was.

But, as we sweep up the pieces, not knowing all that’s broken or even how it got that way, we know the One who does know—the One who was “ . . . sent to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). 

I guess I'm going to be on the look-out for some new casserole dishes. Or serving trays. Or both.

When have you had to drop everything and sweep up the pieces?

                 One Old Dawg
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Who knew?

Who knew that little girl looking into the future would find herself so quickly in it?

Who knew we'd set the table and arrange the flowers and find the number we'd put on those napkin rings would so soon be twenty-one?


Who knew or could imagine the "thousand miracles a day" that would be her?

Who knew the ones who were in that room waiting for her to be born would also be there to celebrate when the calendar page turned over two decades later?

Who knew Wilbur was there eyeing our plates, and that we never knew even when I took the picture?

Who knew Lucy was at that moment under the table cruising for crumbs?

Who knew I'd so soon have a child at an age where we wouldn't put all the years of candles on the cake?
Who knew I'd forget to move that yukky plate before I snapped this picture? But isn't she beautiful? And doesn't that cute grandchild beside her make you smile?


Who knew the unique combination of intelligence, creativity, beauty, and kindness that she would be?

God knew, of course.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Psalm 139:14)

So thankful for our sweet girl and happy twenty-first birthday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A comedian's death and being a consumer

Ever since I read about it, I’ve been grieving.

Grieving the comedic genius that was Robin Williams. Up there with the greats like Hope and Carson, he carved his own niche when he burst onto our planet and into our lives with his portrayal of a character called Mork. One of my favorite performances was his interpretation of real life medical doctor, Patch Adams, who advocated treating the whole person and brought laughter and joy to his patients, even those with terminal illnesses.

Media has in the past referenced William’s addiction and alcoholism, but his struggle with depression not so much. Who is to say which one came first? Who is to say which one drove the other? Those with mental illness often self-medicate. Mental illness is still something we hardly speak about.

A few days ago, this woman wrote a powerful post on the stigma of mental illness, the shame that can follow because of it, and the church's response. I know what it’s like to stand seemingly helpless as those close to me have struggled, and experienced what it’s like to be that child wearing a cloak of shame. Ann said it well. Bravo.

But something else related to William’s death has been on my mind.

In our culture, we are consumers. We consume stuff, but we also consume people. We devour their music, their performances, their words, their private lives. We forget that they are not just images on the screen, or a voice on the radio, but real live, breathing human beings. We forget the cost of what they do, the hours of private and personal struggle to achieve. We forget many times, those in the public eye, begin to live in a tilted wobbly world where they allow the accolades of others to define them.

I once overheard a group of church people talking about a young celebrity who seemed to be in a downward spiral. As they laughed and discussed her misadventures, I grew more and more sad. Sad that without God’s intervention, the path she was on would most likely end in tragedy. However, I was also sad for the church folk who seemed to think they were discussing someone who wasn’t even real. I wonder what their discussion would have been if it had been their daughter, their sister?

Someone might interject here that if one puts him or herself in the public eye, they’ve opened themselves to scrutiny. Maybe. But so many step unknowingly into the spotlight unprepared for what fame brings.

A year ago, our church began using My Most Wanted Devotional developed by prayer evangelist Terry Tekyl—a book to help us pray for those who don’t know the Lord. In the introductory material where Tekyl suggests we identify the ten people we most want to come to salvation, he writes that the first names we think of are family and friends, but he also encourages us to pray for those who are in the public eye.

So, after adding several family members and friends, I  wrote the names of a few people I will probably never meet in this life. Celebrities. Political figures.

I don’t know the difference my prayers make, but I believe that somehow, they do.

Who do you watch on television? To whose music do you listen? Whose books keep you reading at night?

I have more than ten in my Ten Most Wanted. And the list keeps growing.

Consider investing in people who, through their art, invest in yours.

And if you find yourself praying for some whose art you can do without, well, my friend, that’s fine, too.

Our prayers are going up for the Williams family.
"The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know" ( I Timothy 2:1 The Message).



Monday, August 11, 2014

If you want to build a wall and Miss Marion's Lessons

While editing a devotional book I wrote a few years ago, I came across this piece called Miss Marion's Lessons. Once more, God  reminds me to always build a bridge.

I will instruct you and teach you. Psalm 32:8

One Sunday evening, my seven year old, Bethany, and I reviewed the day’s happenings as she put on her pajamas for bed.

I had taught her Sunday school class for several years, but because of my recent breast cancer diagnosis, my friend, Marion, had volunteered to take over for a time. Miss Marion often told stories from when her twin boys were little. Once my son, upon leaving class, streaked up to me and said, “You’ll never believe what those twins have done now.”

“What happened in Sunday School this morning?” I asked Bethany hoping for another story.

“We played a pretend game and changed our names. Mine was Sassafras.”

I laughed as we pulled her pajama top over her head. “Great name. What else did you do?”

“We made presents for the other children that use the class room during the week.”

Tears sprang to my eyes.

The other children she referred to were from another church to which we’d opened our facility. The children were left unsupervised at times, and their imagination led them to do some interesting things with materials left in the classrooms. When I was teaching, we were careful to store literature and supplies where they couldn’t be harmed. I never felt good about this, but there seemed no alternative.

Sometimes, we’d leave paper and crayons for the children to play with during the week, but not often.

When Bethany said they made presents for these children, I almost cried, because it hadn’t occurred to me to do that.

Miss Marion was building a bridge instead of a barrier. She reached out rather than turn her classroom into a fortress. She taught the children to do the same. She also was instructing me and reminding me that we need to bless.

As I ponder this, I realize I have a relationship against which I brace myself. I feel myself building a fortress. I suppose amidst difficulties, that’s the human thing to do. However, Jesus in me would ask me to span the distance, to let the drawbridge down. He’d ask me to bless. It’s hard to reach over that irritating thing someone else is doing. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we may extend the love of Jesus to another and in doing so, amazing things can happen.

We never know all that happens when we expend our energies in teaching a child. I do know that while teaching my children, Miss Marion has also taught me.

 One Old Dawg
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take a look at K-Ministries

Instead of my previously scheduled post today, I’m promoting the new website of an amazing ministry.

Tammy in Asia has been a dear friend for years. We first came to know her when she was a college student, and later she became the children’s director at the church my husband, Jerry, pastored.
Tammy with a few kids in the late 90's just before her departure to Asia.

 A kid magnet wherever she went, she moved to Asia in the late 90’s at twenty-seven years of age to take on the daunting task of starting a children’s home. She’s now been the mama to forty-six for years.

Her new website just went live, so please, please, click over and look at what’s happening. You’ll love the pictures of the kids and check out all the ways you might be involved.

Many thanks
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. Habakkuk 1:5

Related: Utterly amazed
One Old Dawg
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Monday, August 4, 2014

About that control thing

God is in control.

We say we believe it.

Then we’re smacked in the face with a circumstance far beyond our ability to manage, and we feel we’re groping in the dark trying to find a handle—something to hold—anything that would help give us a sense of control. It can be really scary.

Even blessings can have this effect.

I have a dear friend who went through a huge remodel of a home her family had just purchased. She had small children and not only did she have the move to the new home with which to contend, but the unpredictability of whether she would have running water in the kitchen or a toilet that would flush, and the stress of having people hammering in her home eight hours a day had her in tears. As she sobbed, she kept saying, “It’s all a blessing. It’s all a blessing.” But the blessing of gaining what would be a lovely place for her family to live had stolen her joy and made her feel life was spinning out of control.

When I was recovering from Post Traumatic Stress, I had to face my need to control. Now, I’d tell you that I believed God was in control, but secretly, I knew I liked to help Him out. A lot.

I have another friend who struggled this way for years, and one morning, she says she woke up and heard God say, “Sylvia (not her real name), you take the day off, I’ll run things today.” It was the beginning of a new way of living for her.

If I’m honest, I still find myself struggling this way, sometimes.

One of the wisest men ever said, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

While we’re making our plans and trying to run the show, ultimately, God’s purpose and God’s plan prevails. Best to go along at the outset.

Right beside you, friends, as we let go of the reins.
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