Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When Thanksgiving feels like just feathers

At grandparent’s day, our granddaughter presented us with a trivet she’d made and decorated with a verse from Psalm 118. We love seeing it displayed on our stove.

A few days later at church, a tiny one wheeled up to me blond curls bouncing and held high three pieces of paper. “These are for you,” she declared.

I felt a smile spreading across my face as I took the papers. One had various fall foam decorations, one had a pumpkin, and another (my favorite) had colorful geometric construction paper shapes representing feathers, which this young artist had arranged around a brown turkey body.

A fine turkey, indeed. Definitely refrigerator material.

I’ve been thinking lately of a classic Thanksgiving children’s story by Lorna Balian, Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes its Feathers.

It’s about a woman who finds a turkey egg, which she goes to great lengths to facilitate hatching. Then she sacrifices to help fatten up the turkey, presumably for Thanksgiving dinner, but things take a sharp left turn and don’t go as planned. In the end (spoiler alert), rather than eating the turkey, she invites it to dinner. Instead of turkey to eat, she had, well, you know, feathers.

Now I have to say, that could definitely happen here. If we found an egg, helped hatch it, and feed it, I’m pretty sure it would wind up a sitting on a dining room chair instead of lying on a platter in the center of the table.

In fact, there’s at least one member of our family who will not be partaking of that big turkey thawing in the refrigerator. She’ll eat fake dressing made with vegetable broth and skip the meat all together.

Because sometimes it’s turkey, and sometimes it’s just feathers here, too.

And it’s feeling like that in more than one way.

It’s the first Thanksgiving of my life without my dad. An empty chair this year. I’m trying to be brave, but I know from experience, these first holidays can be challenging. Every time the tears start to well, I think of all that he’s left me that continues to bless . It’s not going to be the same, but somehow we’ll press on.

I’m very  thankful for the way God continually reminds me of the great circle of life  through the precious young ones like our grandchildren and the kids at church, surrounding me with new life.

Because yes, sometime it’s turkey, and yet even when it seems like just feathers, God is always there.

Habakkuk knew as he spat the feathers out of his mouth that no matter what, we offer God praise. He wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Friend, maybe it’s feeling a bit like just feathers at your house, too, but join me as we choose to rejoice in all that God has done despite what we may have lost or what we don’t have.

On a lighter note, this year, I might even take a bite of the fake dressing. Who knows, maybe I’ll like it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris, the city of light, and The Light

I’ve spent so very much time in Paris.

I journeyed there often during the four years I spent in Lida Sim’s high school French classes. I bought a scarf in a shop along the Champs-Élysées, gaped at the Arc de Triomphe, checked out a book from the bibliothèque, and stared slack-jawed at masterpieces of the Louvre.

I’ve had amazing companions on my travels to Paris. I’ve accompanied Lucy when Ricky toured Europe with his band, found myself as Audrey Hepburn did  in Sabrena, and oh, when Gene Kelley danced along the banks of the Seine with Leslie Caron in American in Paris, I was so there. So very much there.

But, maybe the first time I went to Paris, I went to mourn. As a little girl living in the suburbs of Atlanta during the sixties, I still remember the newspaper headlines in Atlanta papers, when an Air France plane crashed at Orly, in which 106 Atlanta art patrons died. The memorials from their deaths eventually led to the building of Atlanta’s glorious High Museum of art. Years later, at the opening of the High, I saw the casting of Auguste Rodin's The Shade, presented by the French government to Atlanta, memorializing those who died at Orly.

More recently, I’ve visited Paris through moving stories told by friends who have traversed its avenues on mission trips and birthday celebrations.

Well, maybe, I’ve never actually stood on French soil. The closest I’ve actually been physically was when I leaned hard across the English channel and gazed longingly over the divide. The truth is my travels have been vicariously lived through other’s stories or in my own imagination.

For many of us Americans, though, there is a corner of our heart where the Eiffle tower stands, and we feel a sense of belonging in the City of Light’s glow.

At our house, even our name and heritage largely points to the mother country and Parisian streets as the Americanized Varnado was originally spelled in the French, Varnadeaux. My husband has older relatives in Louisiana, who only spoke French until they entered school.

So, you see, last week, when the heart of evil stormed music venues, soccer stadiums, and cafes killing 129 and wounding over 300 others, our hearts broke as if it had happened in our own streets.

Just after 911, a woman, a complete stranger, held a door open for me in an Old Navy store. Our eyes met, and I thought for a moment, we might fall into each other’s arms crying. I have felt much the same way in the past few days.

As I hum “La Marseillaise ” under my breath, I pray for France―for her people, her leaders, the families of the victims.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I pray for a move of God’s spirit throughout her land, that Paris would be a city of light which transcends the radiance of street lamps, where the true Light penetrates the hearts of all who live there.

And I pray that our mighty God might arrest this evil that stalks her streets.

Vive la France!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33 :12).

For lovely images of Paris, consider clicking Here.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Telephone call from God

I've had this story rumbling around in my head for days. When I sat down to write this week's post, I couldn't get it off my mind. I didn't remember if I had written about it before, so I dug through the archives and found this post from over four years ago. I'm wondering if you might have a need you're wondering whether God knows about. Watch for that telephone call from God.


Our family has a very serious need. I do not share the details, because it betrays another’s confidence. But, I’ve been praying and fasting about it, not to hold God over a barrel in some way, but that I might be strengthened to persevere, to have hope, and to believe for God’s answer. During the fast, which ended about a week ago, I prayed Isaiah 58:6 repeatedly, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I wanted to DO something to solve this problem, but as I prayed, I kept getting scriptures that had to do with rest. It’s as if God said, “Trust me in this. Don’t act, just trust and rest.”
I’ll explain it by using a white horse as a symbol of the need. Our family needs a very special white horse. In addition, we need it to be somewhere other than the town we live in, somewhere like Bonner Springs, Kansas. We don’t know anyone there, much less anyone that owns one, and even if we did, there are so many white horses, how would we find the one animal suitable for us. It has seemed an overwhelming, impossible thing.
Here’s what happened. On Wednesday, I was outside, and when I came in, we'd received a phone call.



I pressed play on the answering machine. “Hello, this is Andrea Rain, and this message is for Jill. I received a message that you were looking for a white horse, and I have many. I’m sure that one will be suitable for you. Just give me a call. And by the way, I live in Bonner Springs, Kansas.”

No one named Jill lives at our house. It was a wrong number. But a wrong number with the message about the very thing we were looking for in the very place we wanted it to be. I played the message over and over and over, then I called Andrea and left a request for her to call me. Let me reiterate that we have not shared this with anyone outside our immediate family.

When she telephoned, and I relayed my story, she was amazed. It’s as if God dialed the number for her.

The wrong number for her.

The right number for God.

The right number for us.

This horse represents one of the most critical needs our family has ever had, but we sense the God of the universe ismoving on our behalf in a remarkable way. We stand in AWE.

UPDATE: It turned out that we didn't get our horse from Andrea, but we did meet with her. She was a wonderful Christian who agreed to pray for us in our search, and in a short time, we had the very horse we needed. In the years ahead, God would continue to provide for this need in such an extraordinary way that we still stand in awe. Today, we no longer need the white horse. Our God is amazing.

“…are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer, and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer from the throne, “It is done.” A. B. Simpson

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wilbur and where you can truly rest

It started early.
And nothing changed as he grew older.


That cat Wilbur has crammed his body into every basket, tray, sack, suitcase, laundry basket, box, and crevice he can find.

But why?

According to Dr.Patty Khuly over at VetStreet, the primary reason is, “Smaller spaces are safer. Most cats who need to sleep deeply will seek out a den like structure. A bathroom sink, as it turns out, seems more secure to a cat than a couch.”

Wilbur must really need to sleep deeply, because he's explored every possible option.

Dr. Khuly writes also, that cats like small spaces because they’re “cozy.” Makes them feel warm. And their wild side likes the “stealth” these spaces provide.

So that’s it. But then, Dr. Khuly made a point that struck a chord with me in my own circumstances. Maybe it will with you. Cats are notoriously independent. But she said, “Even the more secure among us want a place to feel snug and sheltered. Even if it’s something surprising as a soda pop box.”

We can seek out unconventional places for shelter, as well. We’ll squeeze ourselves into the confines of almost anything to escape what the world throws at us. That’s how folks become workaholics, alcoholics, or anything-aholics. Trying to feel safe in a very unsafe world.

But there’s only one place to  truly rest secure.

The Psalmist wrote in chapter 91, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

And in Psalm 62, “My soul finds rest in God . . . “

If you’re curled up seeking shelter in what seems like a dirty laundry basket right now, give it up. There’s a place that's made just for you.

And that’s God alone.

Just don’t let Wilbur see the empty laundry basket. He’ll want it for himself.
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