Needing a taste of heaven

a taste of heaven
Mom singing
Grief is a strange bedfellow. One moment I’m hugging a family member and celebrating the knowledge that my mother is now free from the prison of her mind and failing body. The next, I’m struck with longing for one more chance to spend an afternoon with her, even with her dementia-tortured mind.

It’s the little things that tear me up.

I pass the ice cream shop where I took her the last time we went out, my grandson grinning across the table as they smacked their lips over sundaes. She loved being with family, and was crazy about ice cream. Why didn’t I take her more often?

I leave an appointment and cringe at the “right turn only” sign at the end of the parking lot, the road leading to Mom’s place. Instead, I head the other way, aching over the number of times I turned that way, when I could have gone to see her.

There was so much more I could have done to make her last year better.

But I didn’t know it was her last year, her last month, my last chance to love on her.

So what do I do with my tears? The heavy weight of “if only” and “I wish I had…”?

My brain says she is happy now, so much better off with Jesus.

But I am here and cannot stretch to heaven.

My heart sleeps with grief, walks with loss, and aches with the hole torn asunder by her death.

So I cry.

Again.

And even before I blot those tears, my brother calls. Love soothes through the air waves, tender encouragement, and even chuckles when he says, if she could, Mom would scold me for feeling badly. He says I did enough. Time to let go.

To recall the last time we were alone, hugging her and praying with her and singing, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

It was fairly easy this past month, surrounded by loved ones. We are family. We share relationship and the thread woven through our lives by that unforgettable lady.

Now that we’ve gone home, “back to normal” life, I limp along, alone.

But not alone. That’s pity-party stuff.

My husband’s hug, my brother’s call, a sweet text from my daughter, a blog post from a dear cyber sister, Healing, like grief, comes in waves remind me that we are meant to connect, to share our hearts, and to reach out.

Hell is isolation, going it alone.

I believe God created us to need each other, to live connected.

To reach out to each other when we need a hand, to offer a hand, and when the moment arises, to share a taste of heaven.

But when I come to the end of it all, there is only one place for my soul to find rest.

This side of the curtain, I taste a bit of heaven when I splay my soul before my Lord in worship.

Since music touches me where thoughts don’t walk, I love many songs. But this is without a doubt my favorite modern one. I leave myself, my “should-a , would-a, could-a” self behind, and listen to the angels cry, His Glory Appears.

I’m sure my Mom is singing that now.

And because of the faith she shared with me, I sing, and I look forward to the day when we’ll sing it together, with all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

We are all wonderfully unique. When you are down, what do you seek?

Where do you go for a touch of heaven?

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

Wise men still seek him

Wise men find Jesus
Wise men find Jesus
January 6 is Epiphany, a day celebrated by Christians throughout the world, focusing on the wise men who traveled a long way, following a star. When they found Jesus, they knelt before the infant king with their gifts. What did he give them? What did they carry away in their hearts? Since they listened to the angel’s warning and returned to their homes without telling Herod where to find Jesus, they must have gained something far stronger than their fear of Herod’s soldiers.

What did you seek at the manger this Christmas?

Manger
Manger

Can you hear the angels singing,
Grace revealed that holy night?
Light to brighten all our darkness
All our wrongs He will make right.
Come and creep up to the manger.
God in human form now lays.
Hear him whisper that he’ll love you
Through-out heav’n’s eternal days.

Drawing closer to Jesus — that is where real life begins.

Go on back to the manger, and listen for those whispered words.

He says, “I love you.“

“I knit you together in your mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

“I have called you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

“For I know the plans I have for you“(Jeremiah 29:11)

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

As I began to type those verses, I was amazed at how they flowed. Love-words I found planted in my mind, sinking through the years ever deeper into my spirit.

When I was six, my grandmother promised me a dime for every verse I memorized — a lot of money, for her and for me!

Janie in VA Beach
Janie in Virginia Beach

Of course, I started with the shortest verse, “Jesus wept” John 11:35. Many times since, this verse has reminded me of his compassion, his understanding of our pain.

Later I learned: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.“ (Hebrews 4:15-16)

We lived with my grandmother for five months when I was in the fourth grade. I joined the Pioneer Girls at Ocean City Baptist Church. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” was their motto. Verses I memorized for badges, and love poured into me by the leaders, prepared me to receive Jesus the next summer when I stayed with my grandmother after my brother died. The following week I dedicated my life to serve as a missionary.

Years later, when I finally made it to the foreign mission field in Honduras, I began to memorize verses in Spanish. In another language, they are stored in a different place in the brain, and for me, in the heart as well. So the Word went deeper.

After eight years, we returned to the States and suffered culture shock and depression. In a Navigator’s training class in Salt Lake City, founded on scripture memorization, I began to get back on my feet.

The Gospel of John starts, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was God…..” Drawing near to Jesus begins with our experience of God becoming real in our lives, as the wise men at the manger, and grows as we get to know the living Word.

So I want to encourage you to take in the Word. Yes — memorize it.

I know from facilitating Beth Moore Bible studies that many feel they can’t memorize. We are all busy, and often time and sleep deprived. One more thing to do isn’t how we want to start the year.

But if we want more of Jesus, The Living Word, then honestly seeking him and having his words in our minds helps him to transform our lives.

For me, music is tied to worship, such as the verse above I wrote for Christmas to add to the song “Here is Love.” Music is a great way to learn scriptures. So, if you’re like me, find a song, or put a tune to the verse you’re learning. It could be your spoon full of sugar.

If you think you’re a hopeless cause, Ann Voskamp has come up with Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us: The Jesus Project. Click on it at the bottom and read her blog. She even offers downloads of beautifully designed memory verses.

With so much I could have said today, I hesitated to talk about memorizing Bible verses, because it can be just another must-do, or mechanical, or even something to pump up our pride, or to hide from pain. (We’ve probably all known someone who could quote the Bible, but behaved in a way we certainly don’t want to follow.)

But if we read, learn and mull over the Word of God because we are hungry for The Word who is God, to bring real life into us, that’s where the treasure is.

When I want to know how much air to put in my tires or what kind of antifreeze I need, I consult my car’s owner’s manual. If I want to bake a cake, I consult a cookbook (now, often virtual). And when I’m designing a new garden bed, I study the soil, micro-climate and plant needs.

Would we be wise to do less with our lives? Dig into your owner’s manual and plant some of that wisdom in your mind. (Sorry for all the mixed metaphors.)

If your life needs a jump-start, transformation, healing or simply more guidance, then I encourage you to seek more of Jesus, however you want to come.

“In the presence of a king, don’t ask for small gifts. He is God!” Charles Swindoll, Insight for Living, 30 Dec 2013

My New Year’s Prayer for you:

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1:17-19 (MSG)

Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us: The Jesus Project