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.


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.

Not a happy Valentine’s Day?

Facebook is filled with snapshots of happy Valentine’s breakfasts, dozens of roses, sweet cards and smiling faces. And everywhere, hearts. What if your valentine has passed away, leaving a huge heart-shaped hole in your chest? Or have you recently discovered your significant other has been cheating on you? Or the one who should be kind and caring wounds you with looks or words, or worse? Or your physical condition, or of one you love, through disease, injury or pain, prohibits fully entering into any celebration? Or are you are simply alone?duct tape rose
What if you feel you have more in common with the original Valentine, whose ending was pretty gruesome, than the pink-red-chocolate day so celebrated now?

A pity party seems more in order than a Valentine’s Party.

The truth is, even people who are doing their best cannot love us enough to live out the language of all those cards

Can’t fill the love-need we all experience, and on holidays like these, in greater intensity.

hearts and love drawing

At a low point during my college years I discovered T.S. Elliot, and sobbed over these lines at the beginning of his poem “Ash Wednesday”

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?

In junior high I wrote a poem full of young angst, concluding with:
“Teach me how to love, and yet not care.
Teach me how to love, and yet beware.”

When I reached the final page of “Ash Wednesday,” I came unglued (causing quite a disturbance in the library).

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
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.

(Emphasis mine)

T.S. Eliot’s poetry began my journey to peace. It started with learning contentment among the rocks.

That’s pretty bleak, I’ll admit, but that is where I was.

Maui rocks

It took many years of whisperings of Love for the Spirit to heal me to the point where I dared leave the rocks. Launch into the water. Swim with gusto.

Jane body surfing in Bahamas, JHT
Jane body surfing in Bahamas

There are still days when my desires don’t sync with my life, and I ask for peace to sit among the rocks.

I have it on good word that request is not useless.

I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

Isaiah 41:9-10 MSG

The good news about our circumstances causing pain is we find out what our hearts are trusting.

When we are left chasing the wind, empty-handed, we’ve found an idol we are best rid of. Not necessarily rid of that person, but we recognize we have made an idol, one we’d hoped to be the source of our heart needs.

There really is no greater blessing than knowing the only true Source of deep, complete love.

after glow

I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 MSG

And that love never fails.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.

It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.

(Emphasis mine)

Lamentations 3:20-32 MSG

Maui waves, JHT
Maui waves

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

Is this a Good Friday for you?

cross in dish by EZ
cross in dish by EZ

Isaiah 53:1-6 The Message

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,on him, on him.

crosses in dish by EZ
crosses in dish by EZ