Not one sparrow

My prayer request list is growing heavy. A young family loses their husband/father to a vicious cancer. A fiancée, instead of planning her wedding, dreads the anniversary of the jog her loved one never returned from last year. A son goes off to college, and two months later is diagnosed with stage four cancer. Others battle infections, chronic pain, family hostility, strokes, break-ups, houses that won’t sell, or bills that can’t be paid.

It’s pulling me to my knees.

Sometimes in tears, always with anguished heart, I lift the aching ones up to the father who cares.

In this huge, crazy world, how can anyone care about every person, every family, and every broken heart?

I know only one who can, because he is love. Love that never fails. The source of life, and in the end, all we have.

And not one sparrow falls to the earth without his knowledge.

The common house sparrow is probably the least noble or photographed of all feathered creatures. They certainly aren’t sought after by birders, since sparrows cluster in towns and cities, and their little tan bodies display little to warrant attention.

We’d expect him to notice great birds of flight, or colorful plumage

swan in Switzerland ©Jack H Thompson
swan ©Jack H Thompson
Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Black-bellied whistling duck
Black-bellied whistling duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Ecuador
Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Ecuador

Red Tailed Hawk, Celery Fields, FL
Red Tailed Hawk, Celery Fields, FL
Sandhill cranes in flight
Sandhill cranes in flight

or rare appearances.
Blue-footed Boobie, Fernandina, Galapagos
Blue-footed Boobie, Fernandina, Galapagos

Nazca Boobie, Espanola, Galapagos
Nazca Boobie, Espanola, Galapagos

Sparrows can’t swim, fish or land or take off in the water.
Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos
Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos

Galapagos penguin
Galapagos penguin

Anhinga with fish, FL
Anhinga with fish, FL

Galapagos Heron
Galapagos Heron
Brown Pelican, Sarasota, FL
Brown Pelican, Sarasota, FL
Great Egret, Celery Fields, FL
Great Egret, Celery Fields, FL

And they certainly aren’t fierce or noble.
Osprey, Florida
Osprey, Florida

Nevertheless, each tiny sparrow gets his attention.

And every hair on your head. Thick and curly, thin or balding, he knows them all, even the ones you washed down the drain in the shower.

He knows our loses in more detail than we do.

And he cares.

By now, are you singing this song?

All photographs are property of Jack H Thompson. All rights reserved
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When the dust settles

After a tragic loss, after the initial waves of pain and grief, when the dust settles, our vision clears, fresh and solid. The stuff of life that consumed so much time or energy or angst shrinks into pebbles beneath our feet. We wonder why it drove so much of our days. With arms wide open, we embrace the new day, the next breath, the ones still given to us to love.

And so it has been in the wake of my mother’s death. We celebrated her life with a marvelous assembly of family and love. We cried with I Can Only Imagine. We held each other, embraced by the cocoon of church family and our own caring. We remembered. With pictures and voices, we collected the stories, the history of our dear one who, at the end, had lost those memories.

Now, we bear them into our futures.

Not just the memories. We carry the love. Her legacy. A love imperfect, but wonderfully poured out.

After all of that, after my dear ones have gone home to their complicated lives, after a good night’s sleep, I look at the glow in the sunrise cloud and feel eternity.

As I walk through these days, I straddle here and there, earth and heaven.

The very best of my mother is close at hand, because heaven itself is not some distant galaxy, far away.

The Eternal kisses here and now with every flower bud that opens, every chrysalis that yields a butterfly, with every rosy-cheeked baby who giggles with delight as her daddy holds her high above her world. Every hug from a friend. Each glance from my sweet husband that says, “I know how you feel. I know the mixture of pain and relief. And I’m here for you.”

When I lift my voice to worship my Lord, as I picture his wonderful face, I see Mom, close by, glowing with love fulfilled. And I know what matters.

When the dust settles, love matters.

The rest is all fill.

Johnny and Mom
Johnny and Mom

(If you don’t see the picture and videos above, click on the title to view this on the webpage.)

What tragedy has given you clear vision? What have you seen when the dust settles?

Transcendent Love

I write this from my mother’s beside in hospice. After Mom was transported to the ER on Wednesday morning, a CAT scan revealed a hemorrhage inside her brain. She suffered hours of extreme pain, but regained movement and seemed to be improving. However, by Thursday morning, it was clear she wouldn’t recover. In the afternoon, she was carried to hospice, where our extended family has taken up vigil.

Janie and Mom at Hospice House
Janie and Mom at Hospice House

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, our own, or the shared journey of a loved one, the tyranny of the urgent goes to a corner.

Even breathing takes on a different rhythm.

Like the brilliance of the sun on the snow after a blizzard, true values rise up in our clear vision.

What I see astounds me.

If you’ve read my Glimpses for long, you have journeyed with me through some of the long healing process from the scars of my childhood.

Each person in our family has good reason to nurse their scars and protect the wound.

Instead, this week, love has transcended every decision, conversation, gathering. As voice messages pour in from Switzerland and NJ, emails and text messages from Maryland, Ohio and Texas, and anyone in driving distance joins the vigil, it is clear that our “Mommom” is a magnet for us all.

In spite of failings and her own hidden pain, she has loved us. Given us a sense of our true selves. Helped us to be real. (Read The Velveteen Rabbit.)

Mom has four living children, 10 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren who love her, but her greater legacy is the ability to transcend hardships, difficulties, differences, and yet love. To put aside preferences and pride. To seek the good of the other. To laugh in spite of grief, to hug and not retreat. To share the gift of tears.

So we sit by her side, at the moment simply listening to her breaths and watching her chest rise and fall, and savor her presence, her life.

Earlier today, as I wrote out my reflections on her life, I realized that transcendent love sprang from my little brother’s death, sixty years ago, which shook Mom’s world and cleared her vision. She ran to the Savior she’d been ignoring for many years. She’s been running that race ever since.

LOVE in her has become love through her. Reckless, transcendent love.