I Never Hear a Sound

church in Switzerland ©Jack H Thompson
church in Switzerland
©Jack H Thompson
church in the Alps
church in the Alps

Beautiful, historic churches tower over villages and grace city corners in Switzerland, where I’ve been visiting Middle Daughter and her family. The old buildings have lovely stained glass windows, intricate stonework and impressive construction.

church above vineyard
church above vineyard
©Jack H Thompson

church spire over lake
church spire over lake
©Jack H Thompson

grill work and altar
grill work and altar
©Jack H Thompson
ceiling frescoes
ceiling frescoes
©Jack H Thompson

However, though the country celebrates numerous Christian holidays, many traditional churches attract only a handful of regular attendees.

church bells
church bells
©Jack H Thompson

Church bells toll throughout the day, calling the faithful, but life goes on as if no one hears.

family by lake ©Jack H Thompson
family by lake ©Jack H Thompson

Here’s a video clip I took on a hill, looking down into the valleys.
(Turn up your volume to hear the bells from two different villages. Click on the arrow to start the video. It’s pretty wobbly, but it gives you a sense of the way the bells dominate the countryside. If you can’t see it on your phone or tablet, you may have to change a setting.)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fl7/12424359725/

The next day, walking through an alpine village, I stopped to listen to the peal of the bells. Busy shoppers hustled by me, school children giggled on the way home from school, and skiers stomped from the shuttle bus.


children from school
children from school
©Jack H Thompson

As often happens, a song began to play in my mind, this one about how Jesus sings all around us, and we never hear a sound. (Click on the arrow.)

How often do we rush through our day, disregarding the call of the Holy Spirit, the yearning of our God to engage us?

walking away ©Jack H Thompson
walking away ©Jack H Thompson

While we strive, he sings to us in the beauty of creation.

swan ©Jack H Thompson
swan ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson

moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson
moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19:1-2 The Message

While we struggle with loneliness, he speaks through the warmth of friendship.

Caitlin kisses
Caitlin kisses

friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson
friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson

MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson
MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson

And while we scheme and work to make life conform to what we desire, he whispers to our hearts.

What compels us to push on, ignoring that voice, avoiding that face?

Are we trying to do it right? Make it right? Get everything under control so we can bring our to-do list, all checked and fulfilled, to gain rights to his presence?

Do we hide from his gaze, like Adam and Eve in the garden when they became aware of what their choice cost them, unable to bear those penetrating eyes?

Are we turning away out of anger, shaking our fist at a God who would allow evil and pain such as we, or a loved one, have suffered?

Or are we so competent, so intent on doing it our way that this Creator God I speak of is irrelevant?

profile ©Jack H Thompson
profile ©Jack H Thompson

Whatever the source of our discontent, he continues to pursue us, dancing over us, singing to our hearts, seeking us,

    offering the only gift we truly yearn for, though we often mistake our need for something far less.

With open arms and eyes full of love, he calls our name.

    He offers all-encompassing forgiveness that we do not deserve and cannot earn, which cost him everything.

And with that forgiveness, comes hope. And with that hope, comes faith to trust that he is great and he is good.

To trust his love.

If we stop.

And listen.

“Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 2:29 The Message

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
Driftwood

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?

Lavish gift-giving

manger scene
I had a dream, so real that it felt something like what I imagine Joseph experienced when the angel told him about the baby Mary was carrying. In the dream, God said we would have a son, and we were to name him Jeremiah.

Not long after the dream, I began having serious “female problems.” My gynecologist ordered an ultrasound, which revealed massive ovarian cysts and endometrial tumors. He said there was no way I could get pregnant. So certain the dream was real, I went for a second opinion. That doctor said not only could I not get pregnant, but if, somehow, I should conceive, with the pregnancy hormones the tumors would grow faster than the child, causing his death, or severe deformities. I rushed out of his office in tears, and cried for hours.

Finally I surrendered and scheduled the hysterectomy.

The day before surgery, I went in for routine pre-surgical blood work. The next morning, the nurse called.

“Don’t come to the hospital. You’re not having a hysterectomy. You’re having a baby.”

I was ecstatic, but, recalling the doctor’s warnings, fearful at the same time. At the end of the first month I began to cramp and spot. The doc said I was probably losing the baby, to just go to bed. A crowd from church arrived and prayed. Within two days I was fine, and back on my feet.

At twenty-two weeks I went for my first in-office ultrasound, a brand new gadget at that time.

Instead of all my fears, there was a beautifully formed little boy with ten fingers and ten toes, all a-wiggle, and a four-chambered heart, beating regularly. No cysts! No tumors!

The rest of the pregnancy was normal. When our boy was born, I couldn’t stand to name him after Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. (Silly me, as if a name could change God’s design for him. You’d think after those miracles I would be obedient!)

More than twenty years later, my youngest daughter (YD) and her family decided to adopt, to do their part in saving one child from a life of poverty, neglect and/or abuse. When the call came that a five-week-old boy needed a home in two days, they had to make a quick decision and arrange work schedules. YD was still recovering from hospitalization with a serious kidney infection, and their lives were already stretched to the limit with work schedules and their two children. I admired their hearts, but didn’t think it was the right time.

Nevertheless, when they left for another state to get him, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on adoption, cross-cultural adoption and bonding issues. I read about the children who refused to allow their adoptive parents to give them the love they yearned for, how they would back into a hug, never trust, never let go of some little rag they had brought with them, rather than receive from the parents trying so hard to give them what they really needed.

While I read, I felt God whispering to my heart.

“This is how you’ve been. All the years of struggle, wondering why you haven’t made progress, or why I haven’t changed your circumstances, you’ve been trying to do it yourself. And the times you have come to me, you’ve only backed into my arms.”

I learned that adoption is expensive, and marveled at their faith to borrow money to pay the fees, facing sacrifice for a year or two to pay it back.

God whispered, “I counted the cost, and paid with the life of my Son, so that I could make you my child. Will you let me love you?”

When I considered the choice my daughter and her family were making, purely out of the love of their hearts, with absolutely nothing to do with what the child would bring, I again felt God speaking.

“That is a small glimpse of my love. I love you because I AM LOVE. You cannot earn it, and you cannot lose it.”

Early in the afternoon, YD called to tell me the birth mother was on her way with the baby. “She only asked for one thing.” I waited. “That we keep his first name.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Jeremiah.”

We had our Jeremiah, after all.

Now certain that God was in this, tears coursed down my checks. My heart swelled with love for the child I’d have to wait several more weeks to meet.

When they came home, as my daughter put him in my arms he began to fuss. “Jeremiah,” I whispered.

He turned and looked in my eyes, drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He snuggled against me with a look that said, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you?”
Grammi and Jeremiah

Talk about love at first sight!

Jeremiah is three now, with dimples that could charm the spots off a leopard and a smile that lights up a room.

And when I hug him, I am reminded of the God who loves me, just because it’s His nature to love. Who had been trying to love on me for years, and I wouldn’t really let him. Who paid a high price to adopt me into His family, even when I was pushing Him away.

So I light the candles on our Advent wreath and move the statues of Mary and Joseph and the donkey closer to our little manger. The child whose birth we are preparing to celebrate made it possible for his Father to adopt me into his family.

I sigh and snuggle into my Lord, so glad I’ve finally run, arms wide open, into His warm embrace.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1: 4-6 (MSG)

Won’t you come?