Choose life

For years I had the same dream, increasing in intensity as the years went by.

I’m walking towards a small lake on a beautiful sunny day. The shore is lined with bright green grass and colorful flowers, the water flat and tranquil. I step onto a dock, which turns into a wooden bridge across the lake. I feel compelled to go forward. But when I near the middle of the lake, the wind abruptly builds, gusting against me. Heavy clouds rush to block the sun, turning the day to twilight. The once tranquil water is churning and dark, white caps on building waves. I want to turn back, but feel pushed on. As the storm howls around me, I realize the center section of the bridge is out, broken and falling into the water. I know that very soon, I’ll fall into the dark water and die.

I’d wake up with my heart pounding, and a terrible sense of dread that would hang over me the next day.

When I turned twenty-five, I had two wonderful daughters and a house in the nice part of town. I’d done all the things that were supposed to bring the Great American Dream, but I was slowly dying inside. Whenever I wasn’t with the girls, I was crying.

One day, after dropping the girls at school, I stopped the car, leaned on the steering wheel and cried, “Oh God, I can’t go on. I can’t do this anymore.”

Suddenly, though I was fully awake, the lake dream started, again.

As the waves began to break over the bridge, I shrunk in terror. Just at the point when I expected to die and usually woke up, since I was awake, this time I knew I really would die.

Then I heard a voice, calling to me across the water. I looked up and saw Jesus. (I don’t know how I knew it was him. I just knew.)

Standing on the far shore, he called my name and offered me his hand. When I ignored the waves and looked into his eyes, I felt called by his love and reached out in return. As I did, I was instantly on the far shore, surrounded by his love, with a peaceful lake behind me, green grass and bright flowers around me, the sun shining and birds singing. Most of all, I knew I was safe. And I knew I was loved.

I never had that dream again.

That moment was another step in the long journey toward wholeness and healing. When I responded and reached for his hand, I choose life.

…I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself …   Deut 30:19-20  The Message

What choice have you made?

Got hope?

What do you do with despair? When the wounds of childhood make trusting hard? When the pain of living steals hope?

When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote this poem.

Poem by Jane F Thompson
Poem by Jane F Thompson

Though I wasn’t aware of it, that ambivalence followed me through life. Until I finally embraced myself (see Fine Wine), my own pain in childhood, I was caught like a starfish on the Oregon coast, clinging to a rock, waiting for the tide to come in.

When I was a sophomore in college, floundering, wondering how to continue to live, I opened a book of T.S. Eliot poems to work on a paper for an English class. Going beyond my assignment, I discovered a division in the book (like between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible), beginning with “Ash Wednesday.” Eliot expressed my thoughts, doubts, hopes, fears and attempts at faith.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign? . . .
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still. …

Line after line, Eliot transcribed the agony I experienced in just living. When I reached the last section, I wanted to holler, to cry, to run out under the sky.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

Somehow, Eliot’s finding peace in spite of identical ambiguity comforted me, gave me hope to go on. I was not alone.

That began my true faith walk, and what a long road it has been!

But then, life is a journey, isn’t it? In spite of the switchbacks and setbacks, push-backs and throwbacks, we drive onward.

Even the Israelites, led by God in the desert escaping Egypt, had to make the trek.

At this point on the way, I no longer pray to love with detachment.  I have no need to be alone to protect my heart. My cries are heard. I’d rather spend my life caring, than freeze alone on the rocks.

I can reach out to the one who experienced my pain, who walked the trail, who knows what it means to love and be hurt, to reach out, yet be be shunned, to cry alone.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

And I have hope because my journey is into His arms.

They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalm 18:18-24 The Message  (bold mine)

Where are you on your journey?

Fine Wine

Among those who tasted the wine — the guests at the Wedding at Cana —  did anyone notice how special that wine was? Or were they too far gone after days of celebrating, or so busy with their friends and family, that they didn’t even stop to savor it?

When we run dry, do we dance to conceal our lack from others? Or turn to Jesus to see how he will meet the need, rejoicing in the refreshment he offers?

Are we aware of the times our Lord has met a need or lack in our lives, filled our everyday world with the divine?

Do we even know it’s available?

With two of my daughters, I’m working on The Healing Path. In chapter two, Dan Allender asks us to look at our desert places, times when we have experienced betrayal, powerlessness, or ambivalence, and their effects. He instructs us to talk about our silence, poverty, danger, or aloneness.

Although I’ve had prayers for inner healing for every area of my life, “desert” and “silence” smacked me in the face and brought me to a standstill. Supported with my daughters’ love, I took the journey inward.

After hours of thought and anguish — of silence — I picked up a pen. As the words flowed, I allowed that little girl to actually feel the agony — the rejection, lack of love, fear, and the lack of any acknowledgment of my feelings,

or that they mattered at all.

Janie  all rights reserved
Janie in Ocean City, NJ

For the first time, I suffered the pain as a helpless child in a cruel world, and I wept.

It became clear, like the flakes settling out of a snow globe.

Thanks to m_bartosch at
Thanks to m_bartosch at

When I was overwhelmed as I child. part of my heart had run for safety, and frozen over.

Rather than live a full life, I then allowed my mind to assume the job of living.

I worked hard to take care of the family, and perfected co-dependent skills. As an adult, that made me a good teacher, servant, missionary, church worker, etc. (Inside, I’m adding: wimp, doormat, approval-seeker).

And even though the Lord has worked in and through me for years, I’ve been frustrated to keep banging up against the same obstacles in my emotional life. Deep inside, something was missing.

No wonder. How could I live fully with a partially frozen heart?

As I wrote, I hurt and cried, as should have when I was wounded as a child.

Finally, transparent and aching, I opened the Bible. I flipped through the Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Philippians and Colossians, reading verses I’d highlighted over the years.

And somewhere in those pages, Jesus turned the water of my tears into wine.

Now, I can see how he has been turning water into wine in my life all along.

Just like the guests at the wedding in Cana, I’ve been holding out my cup, happy for him to fill it up, unaware of how great a miracle he offers.

How fine the wine.

courtesy of James Barker ay
courtesy of James Barker ay