Climbing higher, higher?

I listened to the reading of Jacob dreaming of a stairway extending to heaven and God speaking to him, and wondered, how did we come up with “I am climbing Jacob’s ladder”? Jacob didn’t make it, so it wasn’t his ladder. And only the angels went up and down. Jacob simply slept in the dirt with a rock for a pillow.sunset column

God said he would give him the ground he was sleeping on, for him and his descendants. God promised he would bless Jacob, stay with him, protect him, and bring him back to that place.

All Jacob did was wake up, rub his eyes, and turn his pillow into an altar.

Even then, he said IF God did all the things promised, then he would be Jacob’s God. Up until then, he’d only been his father, Isaac’s God.

Jacob didn’t even start with the faith of a mustard seed!

He did nothing to earn the dream.

Nothing to earn the promise.

Nothing to earn the love of the Strong God. 

But here we are, singing that song, trying so hard.

Often we think we actually are climbing higher.

climbing staircase

It depends on your flavor of worship what your style of climbing might be.

For some, it’s carrying a bigger, heavier, well-worn Bible, quoting verses if you’re really good.

For others it’s church and meeting attendance, for some, singing in the choir, serving at the altar, or giving impressive amounts of money. We can be cooks or greeters or arrange flowers, even teachers.

All of it can be just climbing.

The attempt to climb to heaven can also sneak into our worship styles, where some bow and work to look saintly and pious, while in other settings the more you move and the louder you sing the more points you get.

We can feed the poor, help the helpless, even serve as missionaries. We can make anything into a ladder if we spin it right.

keys

Dry Tortugas, FL

All those can be good things, but if they are simply a rung in the ladder, as the wise one said, Life is fleeting, like a passing mist.  It is like trying to catch hold of a breath;
    All vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity.  What good does it do anyone to work so hard again and again, sun up to sundown? All his labor to gain but a little?    One generation comes, another goes” Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4a The Voice

What a relief when we realize that we, like Jacob, have not, and never will, do anything to deserve heaven.

With the surety of the sunrise and sunset every day, God pours out his love on us.

sunrise in Maggie Valley
sunrise in Maggie Valley, NC
Sunrise in Florida Keys
sunrise in Islamorada, Florida
sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI
Sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI

God blesses us because of who he is, not what we do or anything we can accomplish.

He smiles at us because of his heart of love, not our best behavior.

Our minds can agree, but how often do we find ourselves still climbing?

 

Until we fall.

Until we are caught by nail-scarred hands.

And we are truly found. 

“God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!” Luke 10:9 MSG

 

Since music speaks so deeply to me, I often end a post with a song. As I wrote this, “Run to Jesus” played in my mind.

 

Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s graduation into heaven. Many sweet family members made this video for my Mom’s Celebration of Life after her requiem, using “Run to Jesus.” I’d like to share it with you now.

(If the link below doesn’t work, click on these highlighted words and follow the YouTube link.)

The paper at the end with two verses was in my grandmother’s Bible, which Mom found after she died, then tucked into her Bible. Now, it’s tucked in all our hearts.

Knocked down

My mother loved to describe my learning to walk, out on the grass behind our house on Oxmead Road, in Burlington, NJ. We had a nanny goat named Minerva. I’d attempt to stand, in typical toddler fashion with my diaper-padded derriere rising first, thus providing an irresistible target for our well-horned goat. Before I could straighten and get my balance, she would come running and butt me flat on my face.

Mom holding Janie w grandfather in background

For some reason, this was hysterical to my parents as they watched from the porch. I never got why it was funny.

But it did explain how I learned to get back up, again.

Janie in backyard
On back porch

And, obviously I did learn to walk (in spite of Minerva, who suddenly disappeared from our lives when she ate the sheets off the line, then went for mom’s roses).

I would have never walked if I’d stayed on my tummy, wailing into the grass.

We all get knocked down. Whether by cruelty, abuse, neglect, maliciousness, sickness, or a broken relationship, the death of a dream or a loved one, accidental injury or targeting by evil intent, we have all been sucker-punched at least once.
For most of us, way more than once.

So it isn’t about asking if we’ve been knocked down.

It’s about our determination to get back up, no matter how long or what it takes to get there.

(A note here about down time: YD gave me a wall plaque that I love. It reads:

Prayer: It’s hard to stumble when you’re on your knees.

A lot of wisdom there.)

I think much of our adult behavior is shaped by how we initially cope with face-plants. We form habits when we are too young to evaluate their effectiveness or cost to us, but we survive, so we figure it works.

We often continue responding the same way well into our adult lives, sabotaging our present circumstances.

It’s as if that take-down when we were one takes us down again at 14, 30, or 70, unless we are aware, and work to change our response.

Work is the operative word.

No habit goes without a fight. And I’m beginning to think emotional habits are the hardest of all to change. A knock-down can easily launch a temporary crippling pity party in me, and unmanageable frustration or rage in others.

My emotional journey would have started better if my mother had come off the porch, picked me up and comforted me, and restrained Minerva so I could learn to walk with nothing more than my own weakness or lack of coordination to trip me up.

She didn’t. (I know, now, she had her own take-downs that impeded her living and mothering, no matter how much she wanted to be a good mother. Forgiveness and healing have been huge here.)

There must have been more events like that, because I grew up thinking my feelings and pain didn’t matter, that speaking up wouldn’t bring assistance, and that I was helpless in the face of strength.

I’ve been knocked down a lot.

Like Minerva, the strong ones know a target when they see it.

But I have gotten back up.

Little Mac in Johnny’s arms
LIttle Mac on blanket, Virginia Beach, VA

When my precious little brother, Mac, drowned in Lake Oswego, through the love of my aunt and uncle in Philly, and the prayers and guidance of my grandmother in Ocean City, NJ, my aching heart came back to life in the hands of Jesus.

After we moved from Oswego, NY, I learned that my first boyfriend there had been killed, hit by a careless driver.

I cried all night.WalterThen I got back up, again.

 

Every time the Navy moved us, every three or four years, just when I’d left my introverted corner and made friends, I was thrust into a new situation. I didn’t think I could survive.

But I did.

My list goes on, as yours probably does, too.

What matters is I discovered I am not, in fact, ever alone. I never have been, even in my mother’s womb.

The Spirit of the One who loves me perfectly gives me strength to rise when I think I cannot go on.

At my age, the struggles are less about other people and relationships and more about my body not putting up a good fight. I have spent much of the last 2 1/2  years working to heal.

I’m doing everything in my power to get back up,

and kick fear behind me, no matter what my body does.

To live fully

To love more

Always looking forward to an eternal life with no knock-downs!

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter 1:3-5 MSG

How have you learned to get back up?

 

Kindly forgiven


But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said, Heads up! The days are coming when I’ll set up a new plan for dealing with Israel and Judah. I’ll throw out the old plan I set up with their ancestors when I led them by the hand out of Egypt. They didn’t keep their part of the bargain, so I looked away and let it go. This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be my people. They won’t go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons . They’ll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean. By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.
Hebrews 8:6‭-‬13 MSG

http://bible.com/97/heb.8.6-13.MSG