Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Now, a message from a bike path

I pedal my bicycle up behind a runner and announce myself, “Passing on your left.”

I expect a wave or a “Thanks” but instead no response.

Where we vacation, the bike and running paths are the same. Safety requires bikers not pass unless the walker or runner is aware of it, because one step to the left and catastrophe.

In fact, once I forgot to give notice, and a woman lectured me on my error, which I fully deserved.

I say it louder. “PASSING ON YOUR LEFT.”

Still no response.

I creep up beside the runner. That’s when I notice the earbuds and nearly shout, “ON YOUR LEFT.”

She never turns and only acknowledges me until I’m ahead of her.

That scenario repeated itself day after day after day. Fully half of the walkers or runners I approached were not aware of my bike until I had passed them.

I’ve biked these same paths for years and never noticed this problem. I’m all for a good podcast, and no one loves music more than me, but the island where we spend a few days every now and then is so replete with beauty, I want to absorb every bit of it. Even the sounds. Sometimes, especially the sounds—the call of the seagulls—the distant roar of the ocean.   I even wanted to hear the whirr of the bicycle tires behind me or approaching footsteps.

This is not a safety post, but even so, please be careful out there. It’s a call to be in the now—to be aware of God’s gifts in the present time, and to unplug. The pandemic has caused us all to deal with our stress in different ways, and escaping is one of them. I get it, because I've had the same struggles, but being present in the moment is such a mighty thing.

In a recent Bible class, a friend was trying to remember a verse that had been significant to her. Because of the information she gave, I quoted Ephesians 3:20, “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . .”

“No, that’s not it,” she said.

But someone else read it from their Bible. “Now, to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . . “

“That is it,” she said, “The word, 'now,' made such a difference for me.” That word was not just a transition in language for her. She needed to know that God was at work in the now.

We can’t leave off “now’ like I did when I quoted the verse. There’s a whole lot we miss if we have plugs in our ears.

So, here’s a challenge. Let’s all take a day where we unplug and really listen to what God is doing around us—the things we might miss if we’re not intentional about listening.

And here are a few other verses with the word “now’ for consideration:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy . . . (Jude 24).

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17).

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13).

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

Now, have a blessed day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wise Words from a Wee One

An edited repost today with a few words from an unexpected source. Blessings. 

I point to the picture drawn from the vantage point of the man peeking through the branches. “And if this man in the tree is Zacchaeus, who is this?”

I gesture toward another figure below Zacchaeus, who beckons for Zacchaeus to come down.
A commotion starts as the three, four, and five year olds in my VBS class discuss the possibilities. Finally, out of the din to my left, one small voice says, “God on the ground.”
I wheel around in my chair to the child, blown away by the profound implications of those four words. Now, this little fellow had played a wise man in our Christmas play, and I wondered if his casting had been more on point than I realized.
I study the wee one's sincere face. “Yes, Austin, that is God on the ground. Thank you so much.”
Amidst what can seem at times almost overwhelming grief and heartache in this life, we might lose sight of my little student’s insight. Jesus was God on the ground come to say God loves us. He cares.
And he didn’t have to be. When he got the invite to the “We’re having a save the world party,” he could have sent in his RSVP― thanks, but no thanks. The idea of leaving heaven and suffering for the sins of the whole world might not have had the greatest appeal. It wouldn’t be what the cool kids on earth were doing.
But from the foundation of the world, Jesus was destined to be God on the ground, to walk where we walk, to feel what we feel, to suffer as we suffer, because once more, He loves us.
Though he has ascended into heaven, he has left us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, our guide, our teacher. So God on the ground has become God in the center of our being. Indwelling us with His very presence.
No matter what is happening in this old world, we may take comfort that God is present, suffering alongside, and offering hope. 
So, thank you my wise little friend, Austin, for the reminder. God on the ground means God loves us--even in our suffering.
 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Friday, July 16, 2021

Stan and Currahee Memories

Stan and I were only a few grades apart in school, but our paths didn’t really cross until several years ago when my sister, Tammy, made me aware of a social media group he helped to administer called, “Currahee Memories.”

Currahee is a mountain in north Georgia made famous by the movie Band of Brothers, which depicted the story of the paratroopers who trained on that mountain in preparation for D-Day. For those of us who grew up in sight of the mountain, it was and continues to be as one of my book characters says, the wallpaper in our minds.

As one of the site administers, Stan, and others posted remembrances of times gone by—local landmarks, photos of ancestors, street scenes, high school graduation pictures, and so much more. It was fun to check in to see the daily stream. Although, I haven’t lived in the area in decades, I always found something of interest. Interspersed among the posts were photos of the mountain, in every season, from many vantage points, and in all kinds of weather.

When the pandemic hit, for a long while, none of us knew what we were facing. I found myself struggling with for lack of a better word, homesickness. With parents and grandparents who lived in the area now all gone, I longed to hear the comforting voice of my mother’s mother who died over forty years ago. Maybe she’d say, “Honey, I lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and you can live through this, too.” And if I could have spoken to my dad again, he might have repeated something I’d heard him say many times, “Whatever anybody else can do, you can do.” That would include facing a pandemic.

Of course, I couldn’t talk to those people, again, but what I found is that “Currahee Memories” served to keep me connected to that part of my life.

The photo of Dad that Stan posted

In June of last year, my sister called and asked me if I checked the site that day. When I did, I saw a smiling photo of our dad wearing a bow tie, just like he wore when I was a little girl—such a comforting picture. Then folks started sharing about him. I probably wasn’t supposed to, but I screenshot the posts and shared them with my children so they would know how many people remembered their grandfather.

I messaged Stan, thanked him for the photo, and asked him where he found it because I had never seen the picture before. “In an old college annual from 1958,” he said. His love of history caused Stan to plunder library and newspaper archives to find material for the site. I can’t imagine how many hours he spent doing so with no thought of profit for himself.

My husband is a pastor and we were in ministry to so many who were hurting and grieving this past year in addition to what was happening nationally. Stan made it clear he wanted the site to be a safe place, free of political posts, and he kept that promise. On a sad day, it was nice to go there and know we wouldn’t be bombarded from one direction or another. As my sister says, “Stan was a bright spot in a very dark year.” I believe she speaks for many.

I hardly knew Stan was sick, and then he was gone. I wish we’d had more time with him.

To his family and close friends, I say, please know that when we remember Currahee, we will often remember Stan and all he did for us. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Thank you, Stan, for helping those of us who share a common love of the mountain to find glimpses of home and live through one of the hardest years we’ve ever had to face.

As the years go by, your work will continue to bless us. You are one of our best Currahee memories.

With much love and gratitude, 

Beverly Chitwood Varnado 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

An Uncomfortable Subject

I thought the picture above was a cute way to illustrate today's point. It’s from a few years back of our sweet granddaughter who was being squashed because her hound dog refused to budge. Our girl looks pretty uncomfortable, which is how our subject has a tendency to make us feel.

Jerry and I struck up a conversation with a man behind us at a recent conference. We discovered our lives had both been changed when we read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Then we discussed Lewis’ chapter on pride.

It’s uncomfortable to say the least.

The chapter is called, “The Great Sin.”

There are few who can read it without squirming. Lewis declares the center of Christian morals does not lie in sexual morality but in Pride, which he believes “leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

If you give that statement thought, you see that before we make a move against the laws of God, we first must believe we know better than God thus proving Lewis’ point.

When I first read the book decades ago, one of the many sections I underlined was about how we can know how much pride we have by how much we dislike it in others. He writes, “In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’”

See what I mean about the chapter being uncomfortable?

It’s a good thing God doesn’t give up on us, because this pride thing never relents either. A song written by Joel Hemphill comes to mind, “He’s still working on me.” No matter how long we live or how far we go with the Lord, pride is always trying to weasel in.

Lewis says if we think we are not conceited, we are very conceited indeed. The thing to do is to fess up about our condition and take it continually to the Lord.

Jerry often says the reason he asks people to come forward for an altar call is we must leave our pride in the seat to do so.

The uncomfortable message is to go forward with the Lord in any way, we have to leave our pride behind. It’s not pretty, and it’s not easy, but it’s the only way.

A verse the Lord continually brings to my mind is this one: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). This is kind of a funny story—years ago on a vacation trip, I was just strolling along a sidewalk and was allowing a prideful thought to rise big in me. In the next moment, I fell flat on my face. Literally. So embarrassing. As I hit the ground, I suspected the Lord was reminding me that when we let pride rise, we are going down. That’s because he loves us and wants the best for us. He will allow our momentary displeasure to accomplish his greater purpose. Please don’t hear me saying that every time we fall either literally or figuratively, it’s because of pride. I don’t believe it was pride when I suffered a concussion and broke my arm. And I don’t believe when bad things happen to people, it is always because of pride. But sometimes, it is. Only God and that person know for sure.

A few other verses to contemplate.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (James 4:6).

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Well, that’s it. You may be wishing you hadn’t come here today for this irritating post but thank you for sticking with me. And I hope it doesn’t happen again, but if you see me face planted on the ground somewhere, just pray for me. I’ll need it.

Just in time for the beach, a sale on the ebook of 

A Season for Everything, July 14-18. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Where love can spread and roots go deep

An edited repost today with what I hope is encouragement to keep after "old dirt."

Jerry and I stroll in a garden, and I say, “This place smells like old dirt.”

He says, “Isn’t all dirt old?”

That lawyer gene in him really gets me sometimes.

Yes, all dirt is old, but some of it smells old. My grandfather’s well-tilled yard became soft and black with decades of amendments that also included a few coal chips, which fell from winter buckets headed to stoves inside. On the other hand, most of my backyard doesn’t have that scent, because even after twenty years of my attempts to amend the Georgia clay back there, in many places, it’s still leaning toward hard red. 

To get old dirt takes time and work. 

The term "old as dirt" usually carries negative connotations, but spiritually speaking, we’re all aiming for old dirt—where love can spread, roots go deep, and God’s word establishes itself.

In Jesus’ parable about the soils, he said, “ But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

As believers, we aim to faithfully try and amend the ground of our hearts through prayer, Bible study, worship, and other spiritual disciplines. We also encounter challenges, which God wants to use to make our hearts the fertile fields he desires. It's often tough business, but the outcome can be beyond our imagination. So, we pray for a harvest that as others encounter us, they, too, might catch a whiff of old dirt, which will point the way to Jesus.

As a reminder to keep after that old dirt, with some artistic license, I painted a version of one of the garden photos above. I still can almost smell the scent of that place when I see it. 

Here's to fruitful gardening, friends. 

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