Crash in the heart of God?

As they entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the disciples basked in Hosannas. Finally, the kingdom they anticipated was unfolding—and they were in the right place!

But when Jesus passed the bread and wine—his body and blood? — confusion must have swirled in their eyes. Betrayal? Secret doubts struggled within. Where would they lead?

In the garden, the long week took its toll. They slept. Even after Jesus chided them, they couldn’t get beyond exhaustion. Jesus shared his ministry with them for three years. Now, he was on his own.

I think his struggle in Gethsemane was with more than physical pain. At the start, Satan had tempted Jesus with shortcuts to the vision. Now, Satan returned to say it wouldn’t matter. Even if Jesus went through with all this needless suffering, the world wouldn’t care—wouldn’t accept his gift of life.

Then Jesus was arrested, thanks to that no-good-Judas (relief— it isn’t me!). Jesus let them take him away. What was going on? Couldn’t the power that just raised Lazarus from the dead protect Jesus from scruffy temple guards? What about our kingdom?

There was no understanding it. No entering into it.

There still isn’t.

We can’t go where only the Lamb of God can walk. Only the one who was GOD and man could carry our sin—everything wrong we would ever think, or say, or do.

Like the disciples, we look for the kingdom where it fits our idea of power or success. You can explore your spirituality, and even be a god. Or stay in church, follow rules, but miss the kingdom, thinking WE carry the cross—that we can do enough, or be enough, to merit the presence of God.

For years, I tried hard to do it right, to carry my own cross. When I stumbled and fell, floundering, I found myself at the foot of The Cross. I looked up at Jesus, hanging there in my place. Blood dripped from his hands and feet where spikes tore his flesh.

And he smiled.

My sin nailed him there, yet he looked down at me, through his pain, and smiled.

For months, every time I prayed, my only answer was Jesus on the cross, me kneeling at his feet, and Jesus smiling.

Finally on Good Friday, the day many Christians recall the crucifixion, I once again knelt at the cross. This time, Jesus smiled and said, “Janie, I love you.”

Weeks after that, every time I prayed, seeking answers and direction, the response was simply Jesus on the cross, smiling and whispering, “Janie, I love you.”

I was a very long time in believing it.

Why is it so hard for us to accept a gift that another paid so heavily for?

Accepting the gift of life has been my journey.

As Jesus cried over Jerusalem, he cried in the garden for all of us who would needlessly stumble on in darkness, unaware of the relief, redemption and salvation he offers.

Because of what Jesus conquered in the garden and on the cross, every one of us can have our lives changed. From the weight of our past, mistakes we made and those made against us, or from fear of our future, the center of our lives can become real and whole.

“The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest


When the branches are bare

Spring is in full bloom here in southwest Florida. I’ve waited a few weeks to say so, in consideration of those who still shovel snow or stare at dirt-encrusted snow piles, instead of deep pink azaleas or an apricot colored Amaryllis.



Only three weeks ago, the deciduous trees (yes, we do have a few that stand bare for several months) sported nothing more than buds. Now, bright green leaves wave in the breeze. The Easter lilies have sent up fresh stalks and I’m hoping for blooms in two weeks. My Crepe myrtles unfurled new leaves just a day ago, and I’ve put in a few tomato, dill and basil plants.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?

None of us live in Eden.

Here, we don’t have a true fall. (Our seasons are actually rainy season and dry season.) When the days grow longer and the sap starts pushing, like permanent teeth taking their place in the mouth, the oaks shed brown leaves as the new ones push into place. However, before the oaks are painted bright green, thousands of leaves have to be raked and bagged.

Along with the amaryllis comes new growth of a wretched, invasive vine with vicious thorns.

thorny vine
thorny vine

And every bare spot in the yard is filled with ugly weeds that boast hundreds of seeds. (Interesting, they grow best in the poorest soil.) Even if I spray weed killer, they go to seed before they die. Pulling by hand is the only way to get rid of them.


Much as I yearn for beauty, peace, and an uncomplicated life, escape from disease, cruelty and death, as long as I live in this world, it will always be a mixed bag.

What I do with that bag is what makes the difference. Many circumstances I have no control over, but I get to choose my focus.

Will I look at the flower, or the thorn?

The old injury, or the sculpted tree?

© Jack H Thompson
opening in trunk
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape

When nothing else lines up, can I see the morning light in a spider web and take delight in small graces?

spider web in morning dew
spider web in morning dew

When the branches look bare, will I search for the bud or recall last spring, and trust that it will leaf again?

spring leaves
spring leaves

Are there bare branches in your life?

Does it seem like forever since leaves danced over you?

What do you see?

Fine Wine

Among those who tasted the wine — the guests at the Wedding at Cana —  did anyone notice how special that wine was? Or were they too far gone after days of celebrating, or so busy with their friends and family, that they didn’t even stop to savor it?

When we run dry, do we dance to conceal our lack from others? Or turn to Jesus to see how he will meet the need, rejoicing in the refreshment he offers?

Are we aware of the times our Lord has met a need or lack in our lives, filled our everyday world with the divine?

Do we even know it’s available?

With two of my daughters, I’m working on The Healing Path. In chapter two, Dan Allender asks us to look at our desert places, times when we have experienced betrayal, powerlessness, or ambivalence, and their effects. He instructs us to talk about our silence, poverty, danger, or aloneness.

Although I’ve had prayers for inner healing for every area of my life, “desert” and “silence” smacked me in the face and brought me to a standstill. Supported with my daughters’ love, I took the journey inward.

After hours of thought and anguish — of silence — I picked up a pen. As the words flowed, I allowed that little girl to actually feel the agony — the rejection, lack of love, fear, and the lack of any acknowledgment of my feelings,

or that they mattered at all.

Janie  all rights reserved
Janie in Ocean City, NJ

For the first time, I suffered the pain as a helpless child in a cruel world, and I wept.

It became clear, like the flakes settling out of a snow globe.

Thanks to m_bartosch at
Thanks to m_bartosch at

When I was overwhelmed as I child. part of my heart had run for safety, and frozen over.

Rather than live a full life, I then allowed my mind to assume the job of living.

I worked hard to take care of the family, and perfected co-dependent skills. As an adult, that made me a good teacher, servant, missionary, church worker, etc. (Inside, I’m adding: wimp, doormat, approval-seeker).

And even though the Lord has worked in and through me for years, I’ve been frustrated to keep banging up against the same obstacles in my emotional life. Deep inside, something was missing.

No wonder. How could I live fully with a partially frozen heart?

As I wrote, I hurt and cried, as should have when I was wounded as a child.

Finally, transparent and aching, I opened the Bible. I flipped through the Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Philippians and Colossians, reading verses I’d highlighted over the years.

And somewhere in those pages, Jesus turned the water of my tears into wine.

Now, I can see how he has been turning water into wine in my life all along.

Just like the guests at the wedding in Cana, I’ve been holding out my cup, happy for him to fill it up, unaware of how great a miracle he offers.

How fine the wine.

courtesy of James Barker ay
courtesy of James Barker ay