For the Hurting, Fresh Air

Pain arrives on our doorstep, pain we cannot control, no matter how hard we wish, try, or work. I’ve heard from many in the last couple of weeks who are hurting, some from physical ailments or limitations, some from the sickness or deterioration of a loved one, some from unloving and selfish acts on the part of someone close, or who should be close. Some from their own weaknesses or errors. The good news is, there is hope. There is one who loves us, who knows what it is to be betrayed, hurt, in pain and anguish, even to death.

bird in morning light by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;

be alert for signs of his presence. 

Remember the world of wonders he has made,

photo by Jack H Thompson, Jr

God spread a cloud to keep them cool through the day

and a fire to light their way through the night;

He opened the rock and water poured out;

it flowed like a river through that desertPsalm 105: 5,40-41 MSG

waterfall in Africa by T.L. Bollier

Would you believe that thousands of years ago a prophet predicted what God would do for us in times like these?

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

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. 

Is 53:1a-2-6 MSG 

sheep near Otavalo, Ecuador by Jack H Thompson, Jr
sheep in Ecuador

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!   

God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

I Peter 3-5 MSG

Cross on dunes on Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach
flower in Maui by Jack H Thompson, Jr
flower in Maui

water birds in Isabella, Galapagos by Jack H Thompson, Jr

birds in Isabella, Galapagos Islands

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.

Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, But their silence fills the earth:unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome for the sun—a superdome!

The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, The daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape.

That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset,

Melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.

Ps 19:1-9 MSG

sunrise in the Abacos, Bahamas, by Jack H Thompson, Jr
Sunrise in the Abacos, Bahamas
Morning light, Santiago, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, by Jack H Thompson, Jr
Morning light, Santiago
sunrise by Jack H Thompson, Jr
Sunset in Bartholomew, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador by Jack H Thompson, Jr
Sunset in Bartholomew, Galapagos
View of snow-topped volcano from Quito, Ecuador by Jack H Thompson, JR
View of snow-topped volcano from Quito, Ecuador
blossom in the dew by Jack H Thompson, Jr
blossom in the dew

Have you felt your life being pulled together?

Look up

I found inspiration from an unlikely source, the Money section of our paper. The columnist, J. Robert Parkinson, said little things mean a lot, for example: raising our head rather than looking down. When we hold up our head we see what is around us, not just where we stand, giving us a greater prospective. That information puts us in a better position for decision-making or understanding. Head up, we more naturally stand straighter, which in itself can engender more confidence. And the erect posture makes room for deep breathing, better speaking. And, very important, we see others, make eye contact, and relate better. (Everyone wants to be seen.)

Lately, as friends have inquired about me, I say that I’m still dealing with considerable pain and have limited activity, circumstances mostly beyond my control, though I work hard at rehab. I must sound whiny, because I’ve received a lot of cheer-up, God-hasn’t-forgotten-you-messages.

In actuality, even as my world has diminished in terms of ability and activity, and pain remains, my vision has expanded. I know God is with me. From the beginning I looked up in desperation, and what I’ve seen in Jesus gifts me with an eternal perspective, and a deep sense of peace, of wholeness in spite of my brokenness, joy in spite of pain.

Even Jesus looked up when he performed miracles. The human side of him connected with the divine by looking up, away from the limitations of flesh and bone.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Luke 9:16-17 ESV

And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:34-5 ESV

How many times do we look down at our concerns, problems, or challenges, when looking up would give us exactly what we really need, even if we don’t know it?

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

Mark 16:1-4 ESV

Even if we should experience the worse that we can imagine, looking up to Jesus alters everything. When Stephen was being stoned for his faith, he looked up and saw Jesus. It seems the presence of Jesus took away his pain.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” … Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. … And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 7:54-60 ESV

It is a simple thing that can make all the difference.

Looking up.
Smokey Mountain Sunrise by Jack H Thompson, Jr

It doesn’t mean our pain will go away, relationships suddenly function well, or healing will automatically come.

We receive the ability to see beyond this world, this circumstance.

We receive the Light of Heaven

Has anything changed for you when you looked up?

Hold me tight!

I’m happy to leave 2015 behind. After almost paralyzing grief at my mother’s death in 2014, I expected 2015 to be a great year, time to downsize and simplify, organize my home, finish editing my books and get them published, and spend more time with family and friends. Instead, I spent the first half of the year semi-invalid, one infection after another leading to a week on IV antibiotics. In February I was advised to begin a strict, no sugars/grains, anti-mold diet. When I thought I’d whipped it all, ready to charge into a wonderful Advent and Christmas, I broke my hip. Life came to a roaring stop.

From appearances, God had deserted me, or didn’t care, and chose not to be involved in my life.

Nevertheless, throughout the year I’d felt God’s nearness at my bedside. My trust had deepened, to simply let Him be God, accept my life from His hand, no matter the circumstances.

As I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance, I cried to Jesus. Not many words. Too much pain. Simply gasps and, “Jesus. Help. Jesus.”

When the EMTs prepared to scoop me up, anticipating a painful journey to the hospital, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Jesus, hold me.”

Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to. Psalm 119: 73-75 MSG

He did.

Jesus held me as I was lifted off the floor onto the gurney, bumped out the door and across our lumpy lawn. In the sways of twists and turns on the road, and thumps of railroad tracks, I felt cocooned in love.

My oldest daughter rode with us, and in chatting with Ken, the EMT, found he’d done mission work in Honduras, where we’d served as missionaries for eight years. It was a sweet connection.

In the most painful ordeal of my life, tiny details began to spell out the difference between absolute horror and God’s providence.

The EMT gave me personal care all the way into the room in the ER, and didn’t leave until he was certain I was being attended to.

My orthopedist took charge of my care to be sure I got into surgery that day, no matter how full the hospital said the OR was. (He slept in the doctor’s lounge until the OR opened at 10:00 pm)

My daughter and her family had just moved close by from the northeast and was able to support me on a daily basis.

Throughout my two weeks there, individuals appeared at precisely the moment I needed help, or encouragement, or care.

And biggest of all, my family supported and loved me in amazing ways.

My list is long.

I am very grateful.

That is not to say it was a grand time. It was the worst, body jarring, deep and ongoing pain I have every experienced.

And the most humiliating and completely dependent time.

In spite of excellent individuals, especially in PT and OT, the facilities and atmosphere with staff in the hospital rehab generally left a huge amount to be desired. I haven’t lived a cloistered life, but I was often jarred by the lack of hope, light or love around me.

Given my own physical helplessness and emotional vulnerability, I could have been completely over-whelmed. Engulfed. Depressed.

However, when I’d cried out to Jesus on my floor, waiting for the EMTs, I knew I had a choice. I could cry and rage, alone. Or, I could trust Jesus.

It remained a constant decision, day and night.

I looked for Jesus in the persons he sent at crucial times.

And I chose to reflect his face in the dark places with so many desperate people around me.

It amazes me now how that simple choice changed everything. In spite of the pain and nausea, I was able to bless roommates, attendants, nurses, even the sweet lady who cleaned our room and was desperate for hope. It became my daily challenge to brighten the lives of those around me.

Laax mountain by Jack H Thompson, Jr w Psalm 16_11

The pain has diminished, but is a constant, and never gives me more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Therapy goes on. I’ve graduated from a walker to a cane. I look forward to being able to drive a car again, to go to the grocery store all by myself.

I still struggle to find words, largely thanks to the effects of anesthesia. (I’m a slow metabolizer anyway, and the older we get, the longer the effects last. And, of course, aerobic exercise is a little hard to come by to clear the brain.)

Sitting remains painful. I will only be at my desk a short while, a large reason for not writing sooner.

Throughout this ordeal, I have found great comfort in the words of Jesus.

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matt 6:33 MSG

During those prior months at home, I’d had time to be still. To really trust when there was little I could do. That had prepared me to relax into the love of Jesus when nothing else stood between me and incomprehensible agony of body and spirit.

During many long nights, snatches of Bible verses floated on my mind, along with hymns and songs based on scripture, easing my pain and settling my soul.

All that I could do was affirm my love and trust in God. He cared for everything else.

Not easy.

Certainly, not fun.

But there is joy in the morning. Always joy.

And there is abundant joy to share.

Matt 6:30-34
Matt 6:30-34

Has God made a difference in your challenges?