Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Those big piles and new life

The big pile gets bigger and we’re asking, “When does this end?"

A whole bunch of stuff, one thing after another as my mother used to say. It’s happening with world events but add to that what may also be happening in our personal lives, and all this piling on can be enough to leave us gasping for air.

But could it be that in the middle of that big pile may be something that bears the promise of new life? 

Reminds me of the time that stone got rolled over the tomb—just a pile of rocks and the one we’d counted on was dead.

The days tick off and we come up with our plans B, C, D, and Z because plan A is buried so deep, we’ll never see it again.

Or so it seems.

But plan A is about to electrify that dark hole with the blaze of life and fill the empty tomb with an echoing, “He is risen. He is risen.”

And if God can do that, then when we look at our big piles, we have to ask ourselves what would be impossible?

Didn’t God ask this same question of Abraham way back in Genesis? “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

Two thousand years later, Jesus said this as if in answer, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27).

Those big piles in our lives want to convince us there’s no hope for things to change, but as we look toward Easter, we keep our eyes fixed on the One that has the power to change everything.

So, we stay close to Jesus and continue to believe God for the promise of new life in all those big piles.

 Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available as well as her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Consider This

We made another trip to the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia on Saturday. We had gone a couple of weeks ago and found a few tulips blooming, but this week our timing was perfect.

The tulips were on full display and made the whole place a wonderland. From the entrance to the back beds of the garden, the flowers had burst forth in layer on layer of pink, orange, yellow, and red. Just when we thought we’d seen them all, we’d spot another area shouting for our attention.  

When we returned home that afternoon, I sifted through my photographs from that morning, and began another painting.

E.M. Forster observed, “Tulips were a tray of jewels.” That’s what they seem like to me, too. We want to hold the beauty close, and painting is a way of doing that for me.

Tulips are in the lily family, and I’m remembering Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

I’m considering the lilies once again as I dip a brush into a hue just shy of red. In the Greek, a shade of “consider” is learn thoroughly. It has been a lifelong quest for me to do so. Especially in light of the next words Jesus speaks about how even Solomon was not clothed like the flowers, and how if our maker clothes the grass, he’ll certainly take care of us who are of much more value. I’m reminded our questions about how we will find provision for our lives point to a lack of trust in God’s faithfulness.

Then we come to the verse that has been one of the bricks in my own foundation. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Because you see, I am tempted to fret about provision. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. But Matthew 6:33 keeps pulling me back to the truth of seeking Him and His righteousness first, and everything else follows. This is what I and all of us must learn thoroughly.

In these days of uncertainty, it’s a timely reminder of what to put first and what to keep first.

I have many photos from my botanical gardens trip from which to paint, and that should give me quite a while to do some considering.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available as well as her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

We look up

In the woods behind our church, a pair of hawks have built a nest high in a cradle of oak tree limbs. For those of us who are crazy about such things, it has caused quite a stir. We stand back there straining to see what’s going on until our necks ache from craning them backward, and we’re nearly blinded from squinting into the sun.


We can’t see inside the nest, so we ask ourselves questions like: Is there a clutch of eggs yet? When will they hatch? How are our raptors doing compared to the ones at Cornell University where we’ve been watching the live cam?  The Cornell hawk, Big Red, tends to lay hers in March, so we’re hoping we might have eggs, now, or perhaps soon.

You see what I mean about being crazy over such things?

We’ve been looking up in the spirit, too. To quote much beloved Dr. Mark Rutland, who once said something like, “God is up, but He’s not up.” We look up knowing God is not sitting on a compass point as we understand directions, but still, we do it.

We stand with expectancy, eyes turned heavenward, even while our hearts sag with grief, praying that God would work a new thing on this tattered planet.  We long to see a great deliverance, a rescue of Biblical proportions, a stop-the-clock, stand up and notice work that only God could do.

We look up for a people under siege, in trenches, in former subway tunnels turned underground bunkers, trying to survive in cities stripped of normalcy, and ask for God to soon intervene and stop the aggression.

Images of war sear into our brains the enormity of the brokenness, but we continue to look up. The Psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven . . . Have mercy, have mercy upon us . . . “(Psalm 123: 1, 3).

We echo the psalmist who perhaps was also a person in captivity or under siege, “Have mercy.”

We have many questions about this situation, but we will not stop turning our eyes heavenward, because we believe nothing is impossible for God.

When we gaze at the hawks, we ‘re reminded to look beyond to a God who sees their perilous nest of straw and sticks and who sees the calamity in Ukraine, and we remember the words of the apostle Paul, “. . . in Him all things hold together.”

We pray, "Hold this old world together, Lord." We continue to look up. (Colossians 1:17).

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available as well as her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

When what's old as the hills really matters

A thousand years before Jesus’s birth, David penned Psalm 18 in response to God’s deliverance from Saul and other enemies. A week ago, I opened to that Psalm as the scheduled reading for the day in a yearlong Bible reading plan. It seems written for this exact moment in history, which speaks to the transcendent power of God’s word.

Every day since, I have turned to it as a prayer for a people under siege in Ukraine.

I share a few verses here:

2. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.


6. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice . . .

14. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.

18-19. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

29.With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

32. It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

33. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.

35. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.

40. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight . . .

These words winging their way to us from three thousand years ago echo with the message that the apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews, which the amplified version renders, “The word of God is living and active and full of power . . . “(Hebrews 4:12). When we pray His word, we come to know God and His will in a greater way. Through the ages, many have found comfort, strength, and direction in doing so.

Though these expressions are to use a cliché' as "old as the hills," they matter immensely because their power is unchanged and up to the minute. David offered them in gratitude for what God had done, but I'm reminded thanksgiving often precedes the miracle, so perhaps we could offer them in faith for what God will do. Only God knows the full extent of what He may accomplish. In these days, let’s not forget to use our sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

Friends, continuing in prayer with you for Ukraine.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available as well as her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

A cold war kid, ashes, and our response

I grew up a cold war kid. The “What will happen?” icy tension the Cuban Missile Crisis brought to our home is still unforgettable. The threat of war hung heavy over us for days.

But in Ukraine, war is no longer a threat, but reality.

We have all read the stories rising out of  brave souls intent on holding on to their freedom—pastors and church workers who refused to leave and have turned their churches into sanctuaries for refuge and hospitals for hurting—the video Priscilla Shirer posted of people praying and singing in the subway as the battle raged above them—grandmothers armed and in street clothes ready to fight for what is precious. They follow the lead of a president who when offered a way out said, “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

It is humbling. It is inspiring. And it should move us to fall on our knees in prayer for these people.

Tomorrow, on the first day of Lent, we will have an Ash Wednesday service at our church. We are not normally a liturgical church, but on several days a year, we turn to words spoken through the ages and articulated in churches around the world. On Ash Wednesday, it is about repentance, and the need we all have to renew our faith.

After scripture readings and singing verses from that old hymn, “Have Thine Own Way,” we will gather at the altar as Jerry, the pastor, calls us to “repent and believe the gospel,” and he may remind us that we are dust and that to dust we will return. Then he will take the ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday palms and make the sign of a cross on our forehead which symbolizes repentance.

This service always strikes a deep chord within me. But this year I am especially thinking of and sorry for the times I have taken God’s gracious gifts for granted and how sisters and brothers in the faith at this very moment are contending for the gospel in ways that put their lives at risk. When I look back through the years to those dark days in my childhood, I am grateful this country suffered no attack during that time and realize that as a child, I, and many of you, could have experienced what the children of Ukraine are going through at this time.

The final blessing on Ash Wednesday moves me to tears, “Go forth into the world in the strength of God’s mercy to live and to serve in newness of life. May Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven, bless and keep you. May the Lamb of God who laid down his life for all, graciously smile upon you. May the Lord God order all your days and deeds in peace.”

I am praying for these ones on the other side of the planet that God would order their days and deeds in peace, that their sacrifices would not be in vain, that with God as the one who strengthens them, they would indeed rise to live and serve.

And as we bear those ashes on our foreheads, may the Lamb of God who died for us guide us to acts of love and compassion to help them in their plight. 

Praying for Ukraine.

“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love . . . “(Joel 2:13).

Samaritan's Purse-Crisis in Ukraine Response HERE (Unsponsored link).

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

 

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