Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

No ponderings today, but since I sing with a symphony chorus, I wanted to share a piece from our recent Christmas concert--one of my favorites,"Little Drummer Boy." More of the performances from this wonderful concert are available on the same you tube channel.

From our house to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Gifts of comfort and love

Last Christmas I opened one of my packages from Jerry and found these inside:


Two Christmas themed handkerchiefs he saw me admiring in a gift store. He went back and bought them for me―a sweet gesture.

I love vintage handkerchiefs and ones that appear vintage. I have a whole box I’ve collected over the years, many with handmade lace.

One of them inspired the handkerchief noted in this excerpt of The Key to Everything.     

          “Harriet eased from the exam table and gave Genny a hug. 
 'Hurting people hurt people. But first things, first, honey.’ Harriet took a lace-edged handkerchief from her pocket and offered it to Genny.

            Genny stared at it a moment, the lace appearing to have been handmade. It was almost too beautiful to use, but she dabbed her eyes anyway not wanting to reject Harriet’s offer.

            Harriet fixed her gaze right on her. ‘Remember what I said about the legacy. You think about what your grandmother went through.’

            Genny nodded. It was a lot to forgive . . .”

You’ll have to read the book to learn what Genny found a lot to forgive.

But as for the handkerchief, it sends me back to another time, when time and love went into the crafting of them. They often found their way into the hands of a bride, a special purse, or brought comfort in drying a tear.

For many years, my husband would hand out his handkerchief at the altar when praying with someone. Many later confessed they kept the handkerchiefs. One woman who flew home to be with a sick relative took it with her on the trip. There were so many stories like this.

After my dad died, I was going through a coat of his and found one of his handkerchiefs. I cried when I found it and consider it one of my most precious possessions.

The Christmas handkerchief with bells is on my desk. Of course, this blog is called One Ringing Bell, and when I see that handkerchief, I’m reminded to ring out the good news in my writing.

So here I am doing just that, ringing those Christmas bells, and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace . . . " (Luke 2:14). And I’m praying you, my friends,  would both give and receive gifts this Christmas that bear God’s comforting power and speak of His love.

Today, as part of the Anaiah Authors 12 days of giveaways, I am giving away a digital copy of The Key to Everything, a mug, a bookmark, a small chalkboard, and a scarf.  Click on this link to register.

And please consider Faith in the Fashion District or The Key to Everything for those on your Christmas list.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

When you could be cheated out of giving (and a giveaway)

The forecasters weren’t doing us any favors. Predictions called for frozen precipitation from winter storm Diego this past weekend the dates scheduled for our community symphony and chorus Christmas concerts. We’d been practicing for months and foregoing the opportunity to realize the fruit of that practice made us all a little sad.

I’ve always seen these weekends as a great big gift to our community. The tickets are free and once they become available, thousands of them are gone in less than an hour. It is a tradition for many families to attend the concerts together. Several in my own family as well as friends planned to attend.

But the bad weather threat continued to hang over us. We prayed for a reprieve from it.

It made me think of something my pastor friend Warren wrote to me decades ago when he was mentoring me back from the train wreck I’d made of my life. 

“It’s a terrible thing to be cheated out of giving,” he penned.

Oh, how those words stung when I read them. Unlike the situation with the weather which was out of our control, it was my own selfish actions that had caused me to be cheated out of giving. A deep resolve formed in me not to allow that to happen again.

Paul quotes Jesus in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Seeing the joy a gift is to others does indeed bring a huge blessing to us. In this season of giving, it’s nice to stop and remember why we do what we do. We love because He first loved us. We give because He first gave to us.

It turned out that the snowy weather went a little north of us and our concerts went on as scheduled. The audiences seemed delighted they were able to open their gift from us.

As for us, when the last note had been played and sung, we went home full of Christmas wonder and gratitude because we were able to give. 

And speaking of giving, I'm having another giveaway this week on my blog. Please comment here or on Facebook to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Faith in the Fashion District and a mug. And please consider Faith in the Fashion District or The Key to Everything for those on your Christmas list. The contest ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, December 14, 2018.

The contest is closed. Susan Davis is the winner of a copy of Faith in the Fashion District and a mug. Congrats!!

Also, this Thursday begins the giveaway with Anaiah authors. Please join my new  page, Beverly Varnado Readers Page,  here  to keep up with the giveaways.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you're running a quart low

I can still see my dad back when I was in college with his head under the hood of my car. He’d unscrew the radiator cap and check the water, tug on hoses to make sure they looked good and occasionally say when pulling the oil stick out, “You’re running a quart low. Go to the service station right now and get a quart. “ That was back when gas stations pumped your gas and did things like clean your windshield and check your oil. My dad, however, didn’t want me heading  out of town to college without scrutinizing my car himself.

It’s that time of the year again, and I sense my heavenly Father saying, “You’re running a quart low. You need to stop what you’re doing and get your tank replenished.”

Last year after Christmas, when I suffered from shingles six weeks at the first of the year, I made a decision I would not allow myself to get under the kind of stress again that would cause diminished health. But even with all the safeguards I‘ve tried to establish, still I’m running a quart low.

A quart low of what?

In my experience, stress diminishes our joy.

How ironic that joy is the very thing the angels announced the good news would bring us, and yet the stress in our attempts to celebrate this good news decreases our joy. Mercy.

Nehemiah said, “. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

When the joy starts draining out of us, we can become weak and vulnerable, so how do we replenish?

By taking the time to rest, to pray, and offer our gratitude to the Lord.

I can hear you saying the same thing I say, “Oh, I’m too busy this time of year. I’ll pray more in January.”

That was true for me after this past Christmas when I was confined to the house for a week because the shingles caused me to be contagious for chicken pox. I sure did pray more in January.

So, here’s my plan:

1.       Pray more now rather than later.

2.       Stop and give thanks for all God is doing.

3.       Be present in the moment rather than planning for another day.

4.       Try to stop being in a hurry all the time, one of my biggest challenges.

5.       Pare my list down to something doable rather than working off one that stretches into infinity.

 I hope this Christmas season, I can allow God to pour the oil of joy into my life and stay strong. I pray you will, too, friend. 

Consider Faith in the Fashion District for those on your Christmas list--the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.


 Also we have giveaways coming up including The Key to Everything. Please watch my Facebook page, Beverly Varnado Author, for more information.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Caution, a rainbow, an egret, and a king tide

With dawn just breaking, I peered out the window at leaden skies. It rained most of the night, and I wondered if it would again. I wanted to ride my bike around the island, but being on a bike in a downpour is not much fun. Besides getting soaked to the bone, you can’t see for the rain pelting your eyeballs. Plus, my respiratory issues had only recently come under control. I didn’t want to set the stage for getting sick again. The prudent thing was to stay home.

But this was our last day here and my heart longed for a little adventure outside the confines of our four walls.

Maybe I needed to let caution go.

I went.

Here’s what I would have missed if I’d stayed home.

In the larger context, we may face situations where prudence would call us to do one thing, but if we’re prayerful, we could see God might call us to do something else . . . to let caution go.

That’s a hard ask for someone like me who has a tendency to suffer from the paralysis of analysis. I just want to walk around a decision and weigh every possible outcome. I want to make the right decision . . .  the wise decision.

However, if we can go with God in faith, that’s when we often encounter the amazing perhaps something like the rainbow, the egret, and the king tide.

Maybe you’re facing what seems leaden skies today and you’re wondering . . . should I or shouldn’t I.

Pray, listen for God and how He will lead you.  Chambers again, “We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eye on God.” 

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

If you haven't bought The Key to Everything yet, please check it out.

Also consider Faith in the Fashion District for those on your Christmas list. It's the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The answer to worry

I'm pulling this post from the archives today. I know you're out there busy, trying to get it all done this week, but friends, take time to worship the One who graciously gives us boundless love and beauty. From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. 

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and I sit by the water’s edge at sunrise as bottlenose dolphins arc and dive just a few hundred feet in front of me.

So very much to be thankful for, and yet here I am wrestling with a disturbing situation that caught me so much by surprise, it seemed like a solar eclipse, now threatening  to block the sun's rays as they spill across ebbing waters.

The dolphins circle back, and my gaze follows them, but I don't really see.

That’s when I remember what she once said about how worship is the answer to worry―how when we make a practice of getting out of our own heads and focus on the One who really is the King of the World, anxiety begins to dissolve.

That’s where I’ve been today. In my own head. Anxious. Worrying. Even with all this beauty. 

So, I make a choice―a choice to worship.

A choice to live the current moment of rising sun in praise to the one who created all of this wonder, and I start to actually feel the warmth on my face, the hope of what only God can do. And I see, really see those gleaming sea creatures now cruising so close to where I am. Anxiety begins to fade.

In a couple of days, we light the candle of hope. As the flame flickers, I remember again worship is the answer to worry. If we are to have hope, we must worship.

I read again the words of George MacDonald, the one who made such a difference in the life of C.S. Lewis,  “And the wind that blew from the sunrise made me hope in the God who had first breathed into my nostrils the breath of life; that He would at length so fill me with His breath, His mind, His Spirit, that I should think only His thoughts, and live His life, finding there in my own life, only glorified infinitely.”

Those words seemed to describe a life not vexed by solar eclipses.

A life . . .  lived in worship.

"Thank you! Everything in me says 'Thank you!' Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: 'Thank you!' Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength " (Psalm 138:1-3 The Message).

Anaiah Press, publisher of The Key to Everything, has just let me know they're running a special from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.  If you haven't bought The Key to Everything yet, please check it out on Friday.

Also consider Faith in the Fashion District for those
on your Christmas list. It's the story of how One Woman's Life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Heartache in the Christmas pillow aisle

Sad week last week.

And it all happened within twenty-four hours.

A man walked into a bar . . . and oh, how we wish it were just another joke.  But you know what happened. Twelve fell in a rain of gunfire, one a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting. 
In another circumstance, friends  lost their daughter in an accident leaving two teenage children without parents, their dad having died a few months earlier. Then, another heartrending situation close to us that I’m unable to share. Compared to these, this next one is the least, but our eighteen-year-old cat went into a steep decline. Her departure seems imminent. Now, I know she’s over a hundred in human years and has had a great life, but somehow those facts haven’t helped much. She sits on my desk as I write.

So,  I stood in a craft store last Friday looking at Christmas pillows and yet not really seeing them. I was praying in my spirit, consumed by the heartache of people I knew, and people I didn't know. I wanted to get my head above an ocean of sad. When I did focus on the pillows, the cheery sayings almost seemed mocking. It was NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The owners of this store chain are Christians so instrumental hymn arrangements piped through the overhead speakers and one of them filtered into my spirit. I tried to think what the words were and hummed it to myself. Oh, yes, “Be Still My Soul.”

As I pondered those words I heard someone say, “Beverly.”

I turned to find my friend, Sue, whom I don’t see very often.

“How are you,” I asked.

“Sad,” she said.

It turns out their family had also been dealing with a terrible tragedy this past week in addition to losing their beloved next door neighbor.

I shared a bit about our week and pointed to the words of “Be Still My Soul” that I’d pulled up on my phone. “The Lord is on our side,” I said. “We’re not alone." I told myself the Lord is also on the side of those who I've been so burdened for.

She nodded, tears in her eyes. We hugged standing in the middle of the craft store aisle, carts zooming around us, the overhead speaker breaking in for someone to bring Christmas tree G from the stockroom.  I thanked God He is indeed a faithful Friend in every change. And I thanked Him for an earthly friend, too. Right there in front of the Christmas pillows, God poured out a healing balm in my heart and Sue’s heart.

So, even through the sadness of these days, I’ve had a song. God met me with a touch of his grace in an unlikely way and He will do the same for you, too, friend. When those waves of heartache threaten to unravel your spirit, remember"Be still my soul.” God is on your side.

Amazingly, we may soon find, it will be looking a lot more like Christmas.

 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
Many prayers for those touched by these tragedies. Listen to "Be Still My Soul," here or here.
The books:


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Speak no evil and gentle spirits

A few days ago, my sister Tammy sent me a quote she’d seen online. It offered wisdom to always take the high road.

Before I shared the quote, I wanted to authenticate the source, so I went to a shelf in our den, and pulled down volume four from among fourteen.

I turned to October 6, 1774 in John Wesley’s journal.

  "I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Wesley rode over 225,000 miles on horseback (a distance equal to 10 times around the earth), preached 40,000 sermons, and God used him to turn a nation to Christ. I pay attention to what he said, and what he said about speaking no evil of the candidate we voted against and having gentle spirits toward those that voted opposite us is particularly appropriate for today.

You might say, oh it was different back then. Maybe. Maybe not.  The Boston tea party in December of 1773 had thrown a wrench in the political landscape in England, with some feeling the punitive measures too severe against the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was not all unicorns and fairy dust in 1774.

We have a close friend who is a bishop in Nigeria. When he visits, we drive him around, and he’ll say, “This is God’s country. No potholes.” We laugh, but during an election several years ago, we responded differently and told him we have our problems, too. He said, “Yes, but you can have a change of power in your country without gunfire.”

Back then, we agreed, but since that time, civility has taken a serious hit and political tension is increasing. I’m praying whatever the outcome of these midterm elections today, our Nigerian bishop would still be impressed by our ability in this country to have an election without unrest.

So friends, please vote if you haven’t already done so, but take Wesley’s words to heart.

I saw this video a few days ago and it touched my heart.

Yes, let it be so, “. . . a landside victory for civility.”
 If video fails to load
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" Proverbs 15:1.

 The books:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sometimes, we need a Farley

I have especially enjoyed the stories my friend, Pat, shares about her Farley. So, Jerry and I  went out to meet him this week. And before I go any further, let me say this is not a political post. This is about a four legged critter and his Biblical ancestor.

Pat's Palomino, Hudson, wanted to get into the picture, too, and gave our photographer, Jerry, a little fun trouble.
Photo courtesy Pat Daugherty

Farley, like all donkeys bears a cross on his back, the legend being Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and later the donkey followed Him to the cross, its shadow falling on his back.


I appreciate the Biblical story of Balaam and his donkey. Balaam heads to a place that is at best God’s permissive will and not according to God’s original direction. Unseen to Balaam, an angel with a sword stands in his way and the donkey maneuvers to save Balaam. Not understanding the donkey's actions, Balaam beats the donkey. That’s when my favorite part happens.

The donkey speaks to Balaam. “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28).

Shades of Mr. Ed (a cultural reference that’s sure to date me).

Weird, but what happens next is weirder.

Balaam engages in conversation with his donkey. “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now”(Numbers 22:29).

The donkey responds, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”(Numbers 22:30).

Then the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes to see the donkey was saving his life.

Sometimes, we need a donkey.

We’re headed off toward trouble, pushing for our own way, and God allows something to stop us in our tracks. We’ll blame circumstances, our boss, weather, friends, anything, but we still won’t see the real issue.

Then a seeming donkey, or a vessel equally bizarre, speaks.
Even then, we’ll argue.

I’m thankful God is patient with us, but watch out for those times God speaks through what seems like only a donkey. God may be saving us from what we can't yet see.

Farley didn’t talk to me, but I could tell he was thinking about it.

photo courtesy Pat Daugherty

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

List or Legacy?

Several years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Rusty Wright speak. Rusty is an award winning author, lecturer and syndicated columnist who writes much about connecting God’s grace to everyday life.

One of his mantras is to live intentionally.

It’s much easier to take life as it comes, but to live intentionally, we have to step back for the long look.

For some, this might result in the formulation of a bucket list. The popularity of this approach is evidenced by books that offer a list of things to do before we die.
There’s nothing wrong with a list, but if we are to make a difference for a people yet to be born, our lives will inspire others to seek and love God.

Living lives of worship, prayer, and Bible study is foremost but ultimately, we need to put feet on our words.

I know a woman in her seventies who through her writing is trying to reach as many people as she can in her lifetime with the Good News. A classmate from high school helps build houses for the poor, living out her Christian faith in a tangible way. Another of our friends continues to invest his time in the lives of the homeless. A couple of other church friends pour themselves into a food ministry for struggling families. We know missionaries approaching their sixties who are still on foreign soil. Another couple close to us invests much of their time and resources to fund a ministry and seminary in a country suffering financial collapse. Others spend their time mentoring. My own husband flunked retirement and continues in ministry speaking four or five times a week. 

I have heard parents say their legacy is through their children, and that can be true, but it doesn’t mean we get a pass for the years after the kids become adults.

My neighbor, Betty, has been teaching children at church for fifty-six years. She is eighty-six and one of the liveliest people I know. So for all of us who have said, let someone younger do it, well, sorry. Betty inspires me to keep at it doing whatever God calls me to do as long as I have breath to do it.

So, here is the bottom line. Writing a check isn’t enough. We need to be investing ourselves in God’s work with our time and our lives, intentionally doing that until we see Jesus.

So, what will it be―list or legacy? Why don’t we all take a step back and ask God this very dangerous question, “Lord, what do you want me to do with the rest of my life?”

I am convinced God will answer.

Speaking of legacy, Eugene Peterson died yesterday. He left a huge legacy for generations to come in his Bible translation, The Message. I end with a verse from Psalm 78:4 in Peterson’s translation: “We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation―God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done.”

The books:

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