Under Construction

Continuing The Healing Path with two of my grown daughters, at every turn of the page I run headlong into my failures. All the times I journeyed poorly. Became blind-leading-the-blind for my children.

I really tried, most of the time, when my own wounds didn’t shout louder. To give my children a “so much more” life than I grew up with.

Neglect. Betrayal. Failure to act.

It’s a punch to the solar plexus as I recognize how my weaknesses betrayed my children, my needs took precedence over theirs.

Janie 4th grade
Janie 4th grade

Clearly, I haven’t been the person I yearned to be when I was ten, writing in the margins of my little white New Testament. My life did not take the track I planned.

But that’s not all there is.

When Jesus stretched out his hands and called me across the water, he began to work in me, sometimes breaking down and building anew, at times pulling up from my past to create an unknown strength.

It’s been a long pathway, full of twists and turns. I’m a work in progress.

Winding path in Switzerland © Jack H Thompson
Winding path in Switzerland © Jack H Thompson

At times, I jump in and try to help out. That never works out well. I’m still flawed, unable to make myself who I really want to be.

More and more, I sense that am being healed. Clay being reshaped by the Master Potter. Set free to be the person I was created to be.

I am fashioned by Love, to love. Created to create.

Whether you are in the “I’ve made too many mistakes” crowd or the “wait for me to get it all together” boat, I’m stretching a hand your way, inviting you to the dance of the “make-overs”. (HGTV doesn’t even come close!)

You are welcome to join the Under Construction Crew.

Come on in. The water’s fine!

Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. . . .
The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. . . .
This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. . . What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

Romans 3:9,14,28 The Message (YouVersion)

Where are you in the journey?

Crash in the heart of God?

As they entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the disciples basked in Hosannas. Finally, the kingdom they anticipated was unfolding—and they were in the right place!

But when Jesus passed the bread and wine—his body and blood? — confusion must have swirled in their eyes. Betrayal? Secret doubts struggled within. Where would they lead?

In the garden, the long week took its toll. They slept. Even after Jesus chided them, they couldn’t get beyond exhaustion. Jesus shared his ministry with them for three years. Now, he was on his own.

I think his struggle in Gethsemane was with more than physical pain. At the start, Satan had tempted Jesus with shortcuts to the vision. Now, Satan returned to say it wouldn’t matter. Even if Jesus went through with all this needless suffering, the world wouldn’t care—wouldn’t accept his gift of life.

Then Jesus was arrested, thanks to that no-good-Judas (relief— it isn’t me!). Jesus let them take him away. What was going on? Couldn’t the power that just raised Lazarus from the dead protect Jesus from scruffy temple guards? What about our kingdom?

There was no understanding it. No entering into it.

There still isn’t.

We can’t go where only the Lamb of God can walk. Only the one who was GOD and man could carry our sin—everything wrong we would ever think, or say, or do.

Like the disciples, we look for the kingdom where it fits our idea of power or success. You can explore your spirituality, and even be a god. Or stay in church, follow rules, but miss the kingdom, thinking WE carry the cross—that we can do enough, or be enough, to merit the presence of God.

For years, I tried hard to do it right, to carry my own cross. When I stumbled and fell, floundering, I found myself at the foot of The Cross. I looked up at Jesus, hanging there in my place. Blood dripped from his hands and feet where spikes tore his flesh.

And he smiled.

My sin nailed him there, yet he looked down at me, through his pain, and smiled.

For months, every time I prayed, my only answer was Jesus on the cross, me kneeling at his feet, and Jesus smiling.

Finally on Good Friday, the day many Christians recall the crucifixion, I once again knelt at the cross. This time, Jesus smiled and said, “Janie, I love you.”

Weeks after that, every time I prayed, seeking answers and direction, the response was simply Jesus on the cross, smiling and whispering, “Janie, I love you.”

I was a very long time in believing it.

Why is it so hard for us to accept a gift that another paid so heavily for?

Accepting the gift of life has been my journey.

As Jesus cried over Jerusalem, he cried in the garden for all of us who would needlessly stumble on in darkness, unaware of the relief, redemption and salvation he offers.

Because of what Jesus conquered in the garden and on the cross, every one of us can have our lives changed. From the weight of our past, mistakes we made and those made against us, or from fear of our future, the center of our lives can become real and whole.

“The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest


But God

Each week I bounce back and forth between my work in progress, a Pre-Colombian historical novel set in the Caribbean, and pondering my blog. It’s like living in two different worlds, certainly using distinct parts of my brain. I can go from an intense scene adrift at sea after a hurricane, all hope gone, to considering how a Bible verse I read this morning may impact my life, and perhaps yours.

I’ve viewed this as an incompatible tension, until I started reading Dan Allender’s, The Healing Path.

Dramatically different from anything I’ve read, he asserts that we decide which life experiences define us. Even if we have a childhood full of terrible experiences and only a tiny touch of love, we can choose to let that one touch define our future story.

As I read, I thought of my female protagonist, Kiva, a young woman from an eastern Caribbean island invaded by a tribe of cannibals, who flees her island to avoid marriage to the chief’s fierce son. She experiences one disaster after another, and reaches a moment where she must choose whether to give in to darkness, or respond to a chance for new life.

Driftwood © Jack H Thompson

I purposely create dramatic conflict for my fictional characters so they are forced to make decisions, grow and become all they were created to be.

My youngest daughter asked me to write my own story. My response was a shudder, saying, “Who wants to read all that misery?” She responded, “But look how much you’ve overcome! People need to know it’s possible. Your story can give them hope.”

That didn’t click until reading Allender’s book. Just as I do in my fiction, I actually get to choose my own story from here on out, by what I allow to define me.

Isn’t that exciting? Whatever side of the nurture vs nature debate you’re on (is it what happens to us, or what we inherit that makes us who we are), what really matters is what you choose to take from it.

By itself, this is simply positive thinking. I tried that, when The Power of Positive Thinking was all the rage. It’s only a Band-Aid, with a guaranteed let-down.

The difference for a Christ follower is his work in our lives. We call it redemption, and it’s much more than saving us a spot in heaven.

The Holy Spirit has been working in my life for years, guiding, healing, protecting, prodding, and directing (when I’d follow). In spite of the hard times, I’ve seen God work. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve felt God’s love when I was totally unlovable. I’ve been redeemed, and am being redeemed. And that is what gives me the faith and hope I need to write a new story for my life, from this point forward.

I’ve always been fascinated with Joseph’s story. His own brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. No matter how good he was, things got worse. Years later, Joseph, as Pharaoh’s right hand, saved his family, and thereby the Hebrew people. He forgave his brothers, stating, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph wrote the ending to his story, choosing to believe the whispers of the Spirit over years of the taunts of evil.

Have you resigned yourself to what has been? Believe it will always be like this, or fear it may get worse?

I am so grateful that Jesus offers hope.

Hope is the quiet, sometimes incessant call to dream for the future. The present moment is not enough to satisfy our soul completely; no matter how good or bad, the now leaves us hungering for more. And our insatiable quest for more is the root system of biblical hope. . . . Hope looks at the shattered remnants of the soul hit by the storm and envisions not merely rebuilding, but rebuilding a life that has even more purpose and meaning than existed before the loss. . . Hope takes the experience of loss and powerlessness and uses it as the raw material for writing a new and unexpected story. The Healing Path p 137.

In my novel, Kiva longs to return to her old life, before all the storms and losses she thinks are too much for her. But God whispers hope into her heart.

Ironic, isn’t it? I’ve been writing my own story all along.

Psalm 90 v1,2 on sand © Jack H Thompson
Psalm 90 v 1,2 on sand

Have hard experiences, or lack of good ones, tried to drag you down? Can you see a glimmer of light?

Is there a “but God” moment in your life, a turning point for a new story line?