Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Listening for the sound of a heavy rain

Regarding my post last week about my new book contract, my friend, Rhonda wrote this (used by permission), “I feel as though I’ve seen this coming, almost like a motor you hear on the next street over approaching nearer. Or like . . . (hearing) the rain falling through the trees before it ever arrives in your yard. . . “

When I read that phrase about the rain falling, I could only think of a story in 1 Kings, which contains verses beside which in my Bible I've written, “Long been praying.”
In 1 Kings 16, we read of an evil king, Ahab, who rose up to rule Israel. It is said this king did more to anger the Lord than “all the kings of Israel before him.” Because of this, the prophet, Elijah, declared to Ahab  “. . . there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Then the Lord told Elijah to get out of Dodge and hide in the Kerith Ravine (well, not exactly), where ravens would provide food for him. After the brook he had been drinking from dried up, God directed him to Zarephath. A widow there would provide his needs.

Elijah met the widow who was gathering sticks and asked her for bread and water.

She replied, “As surely as the Lord your God lives. . . I don’t have any bread―only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it ―and die” (I Kings 17:12).

Elijah’s response to her is underlined and starred with dates beside it in my Bible. “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. First, make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says; ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land” (1 Kings 17:13-14).

Scarcity can come in many ways―financially, creatively, relationally, even spiritually, we can feel we, too, are living in the Kerith Ravine and the stream has dried to dust.

The stars beside I Kings 17:14 in my Bible mark times when in some way, life seemed a desert, and God challenged me to believe him that in whatever way I felt a lack, as long as I served Him first, He would provide.

It’s hard to believe when metaphorically you fear your lips will be parched and your stomach will be growling, but sometimes God allows us to get in that place.

And sometimes it can last awhile.

For Elijah and the widow, it was three long years of trusting God for their daily provision.

There’s so much more to this story, but in Chapter 18, God made such a serious demonstration of his presence and power, the people of Israel at last cried out, “The Lord―He is God.”

Elijah could then deal with the evil that had been in the land. That’s when he heard it, “. . . there is the sound of a heavy rain.” He repeatedly sent a servant up on Carmel to check for clouds, and on the seventh time, he saw a “. . . cloud as a small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.”

The next part of the story reads like this in The Message, “Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily . . . (Elijah) ran in front of Ahab’s chariot until they reached Jezreel.” (I Kings 18:45-46).

The rain didn’t come in drips and drops, and it didn't come slow. It came fast and in torrents, and even after that time of what seemed meager provision, God strengthened Elijah so much that he outran Ahab’s chariot.

Last week seemed a time of blessed downpour here at our house after a long drought, but the rain is coming and continues to come. That time of waiting and watching has hopefully made us stronger than we were before.

So my friends, if you too, find yourself in a place of seeming drought, remember these verses and like Elijah and my friend Rhonda, listen up for that “sound of heavy rain.” I close with this quote from C.H. Spurgeon, “Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! For God fails thee not.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Some good news and what a Moose, a Chevy Nova, and Fashion have to do with each other

"Of Moose and Men, available now," the notice read on the Facebook page of my friend, Doug Peterson. I could have never imagined how that one book promo would change my life.

The graphic on the book cover made me smile. It was Torry Martin nose to nose with a moose. I first met Torry at a screenwriting conference. He’s one of the funniest people ever. A Christian comedian, he has also written for Adventures in Odyssey and penned several screenplays.

Of Moose and Men is a book Torry wrote with Doug Peterson about Torry’s Alaska adventures. 

Got to be funny, I thought. And wow, did I need some funny.  I bought the book.

This was about a year after my dad died. I had grieved so hard and together with other things that were happening, my writing had suffered. I’d edited a novel in the previous year and kept up with my blog, but I was not working on a new book for the first time in ten years. I wondered if I ever would again.

Then, I read Of Moose and Men. Torry cracks me up, and in the midst of the laughter, my creativity began coming back. I thought, hey, I might have a female version of this story about my adventures on Seventh Avenue when I was a buyer and merchandise manager for a department store.

I began to tinker around with a few ideas, and before I knew it, I had several stories written. Maybe this could be a book. But then again, maybe not. Soon after, I hit a wall. I had to navigate through ten years of journals to write the stories, and I dealt with a lot of emotional baggage during those years, things that were not pertinent to the story. It was hard to read about it again in addition to the grief I was still trying to get through. So, I stopped writing the book.

But I remembered a dream I had a few weeks before where a red Chevy Nova was chasing me around in my backyard, similar to those animations in the movie Cars. Chevy Novas are muscle cars, and even though it was kind of a funny dream, I knew God wanted to give me power over the pain of my past, but I was running from it. I stopped running, took up the writing again, and let God deal with the pain.

I finished this past spring in time to take the book to a conference. The book, Faith in the Fashion District, is the story of how one woman’s life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry. It received very positive reaction from several agents and editors. I also had the opportunity to tell Torry Martin about what his book had done for me. He loved the story. We both cried. The image left is from the information sheet I did on the book (not the book cover).

After several weeks of waiting to hear from various publishers who were reviewing the manuscript, I received an email offering me a contract from Crosslink Publishers. I signed the contract this past Friday.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

Last Thursday, I also signed contracts for pieces in two separate book anthologies. Short and Sweet II, and Christmas Moments releasing soon (Authors receive no royalties for Christmas Moments as all proceeds are donated to Samaritan’s Purse. I love that).

I was so overwhelmed. This didn’t even feel like my life.

It was a big week at the Varnado household. You’ll be hearing more about all of this in the weeks and months to come with Faith in the Fashion District to be released in 2018, but I just wanted to tell you folks who take the time to read my blog every week, thank you. You see, I feel called to write for the Lord, but there have been times, I have been so discouraged. Often, it was your comments here on the blog and on Facebook that kept me going. Legendary writer, Elizabeth Sherill, says we write for one person, and so I have taken that to heart. If one person is touched by what I write, then my time has been well spent. So, thank you, dear friends.

If God has called you to something and it has been long and hard. Persist. Don’t give up. His timing is not ours. Oh, how much I have clung to that over the years. The important thing is that we’re good stewards of the gifts and talents God has entrusted to us.

This is a long post today, so I’ll close now, but there are still other parts of this story, which I hope to write about in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

“I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6 KJV).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When you're looking for someone equal to all emergencies

As I write, my area in the south is under an unprecedented tropical storm warning and what’s left of Irma is making the pine trees in my front yard increasingly frazzled. Here’s praying they are still standing tomorrow.

The hotels in our town are full of cars with Florida license plates and folks who don’t know what they’re going back to in the next few days.

A lot of uncertainty.

In these times, we hold on to what we know is certain.

“God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

This commentary on Psalm 46:1 says, God is “a help accommodated to every case . . . whatever it is, He is a very present help; we cannot desire a better help, nor shall ever find the like in any creature.”
Matthew Henry writes this: “God is our refuge just now, in the immediate present, as truly as when David penned the word. God alone is our all in all. All other refuges are refuges of lies, all other strength is weakness, for power belongeth unto God: but as God is all sufficient, our defense and might are equal to all emergencies.”

Max Lucado in reflecting on 9/11(the anniversary of which is today as I write), “This world can be tough on a soul. Yours needs an anchor: a double pointed cast iron hooking point that is sturdier than the storm. Storms still rage . . . God never promised a life with no storms. But He did promise to meet us in the midst of them.”

So friends, wherever you are and whatever you are facing, you “cannot desire a better help” for God is “equal to all emergencies.” In any storm or its aftermath God has promised, “to meet us in the midst of them.”

Praying for all those recovering from Irma.

Please consider a donation to Samaritan's Purse to help with hurricane relief HERE.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What can happen after a flood

I awoke in the middle of the night to see lights flashing across my bedroom walls and voices sounding nearby. I went outside where a law enforcement official stood in the street reversing the flow of traffic in front of my apartment building.

I pulled my bathrobe tighter around me. “What’s happened?” I asked.

“A dam broke at Toccoa Falls.”

“Anyone hurt?” I asked.

“They’re fine,” he said. "Go back to bed.”

I had the distinct impressions he was lying to me.
But I wonder if he was even aware of the scope of what had gone on just a few hundred yards beyond us.


The details emerged the next day. After days of rain, and without warning, an earthen dam broke above Toccoa Falls Bible College sending twenty seven million cubic feet of water plunging over a 186-foot waterfall creating a wall of water that killed thirty-nine people. It destroyed nine houses, eighteen house trailers and two college buildings with whole families swept away―almost half of those who died under sixteen years old. Students, professors, other college staff, and their families were gone. There had been no time to escape.

The grief in our community was palpable.

My dad, a banker, also volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol and was out in the next days as part of the search and recovery effort. I still remember his face when he told me his team had recovered one of the victims.

The flood occurred between our town and the water supply, so when one of the main lines was damaged from the force of the flood, we were without water for weeks. The Coca Cola Company trucked in big pallets of water in Coke syrup cartons. I still remember how glad I was for those cartons. On the far side of town, folks were less affected and I showered at various family members’ homes. But all of that trouble was nothing compared to the heartache of those who were burying their entire families.

How would the little college go on? The tragedy was so overwhelming and it seemed to me at the time this might put them under.

But it didn’t.

Out of the heartache, the mud, and the devastation, the college rose up and today, many years later, continues to educate and prepare pastors, teachers, missionaries, and others who serve in secular jobs. According to their website, “Graduates serve in places of Christian leadership throughout the United States and most nations of the world.”  Among them, a singer songwriter whose songs you may have known for years―Dove award winner, Aaron Shust.

Shust’s song Cornerstone seems appropriate now, because when the floodwaters rise and everything else has given way, whether literally or figuratively, it is good to know one Cornerstone remains steady.
 (If video fails to download in email, HERE please.)

Houston makes me remember this flood of long ago, for though I wasn’t in it, I inhaled the air that surrounded it. Even as I wrote this, I felt a bit shaky. But in remembering the flood, I also remember the mighty things that happened afterward. So for you folks in Houston who are standing in line for water, carrying debris out of your homes, and sloshing through the mud, our prayers and I pray, our support is with you. For those who have lost loved ones, oh, how our hearts grieve, too. We pray His comfort for you.

After the flood, we ask that God will rise up in the midst of your suffering to do something He alone can do and that Jesus would truly be your Cornerstone.

“. . . you are . . . fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Again, Samaritan’s Purse is asking for volunteers and donations. Contact them HERE.

And for those of you who may not have seen my Facebook post or my update on last weeks post, our friend T in Asia made it through customs in her words "unseen and unquestioned." Truly a miracle. Thank you for praying. She is now back with her 16 kids.

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