When HoHoHo-ing doesn’t cut it

Days are shorter. There is a slight chill in the Florida air, enough to make the Christmas lights fit in. (After living some of my childhood further north, Christmas ‘should’ be cold.) With limitations following my hip surgery, most of my preparations have been online shopping, though I’d much rather be outside on a ladder hanging lights. Since this enforced inactivity has gone on for so long, sometimes I feel out of step, almost futile.

Perhaps the very-pregnant Mary on her forever donkey ride to Bethlehem had moments like that. I wonder how many times she had to replay the angel’s words in her mind, and bite back complaints about the bumpy ride, or her weariness.

I wonder how many times she thought, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

When a child dies, I pray for the grieving family and say, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

When a careless or drunk driver crashes into a vehicle, killing a family or a busload of children, I say, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

When a plane crashes into a mountain, wiping out a complete soccer team of hopeful young men, one who had just learned he was to be a father, I say, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

When I recall my mother’s slow, cruel decline into dementia, and the aching loss after her death, I say, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

There is so much at work in this world that warps creation, thwarts our good intentions, strives to bend and destroy.

And, rather than jingling bells, at the time of the year when we expect cheer, we may feel out of sync with the bustle of activity and the brightness of the lights.


Like this bewildered bird who landed in a construction zone in the midst of traffic where winter nesting grounds used to be, sometimes we aren’t celebrating.

We feel more like life is chewing us up and spitting us out. Barricaded from life as it should be.

It shouldn’t be like this.

The Genesis account in the garden shows us what life should be like.
Maui gardensBird in flight at sunsethappy bird in Celery Fields
Perfect. Whole. Alive.

And walking with God in the cool of the evening.

Isn’t that precisely why Mary had to endure that bone wrenching ride? Why God entered our story, born as a human child, suffering all we suffer, and growing into a man who looked down from the cross and saw clearly, “It shouldn’t be like this.”

Then he cried, “It is finished!” and the work of redemption of creation began.

But the transformation isn’t complete yet. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate Advent. We look forward to the time when Jesus returns as king of the world.

And, finally, everything will be as it should.

No more tears.
No more pain.
No more brokenness.
No more sorrow.
No more death.

God will once again look on the world and say, “It is good.”

Until then, we live in a broken, hurting world. But even in the darkest times we don’t have to let our hearts dwell in the shadows, or the pain.

Jesus says, “Come to me.”

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matt 11:28-30 HSB

The Amplified Bible adds another layer of meaning:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. [Jer. 6:16.]For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. Matt 11:28-30 AMP

Whether you carry your own burden, or ache for another, do you sometimes find yourself out of step with those around you? How do you handle it?

Under Construction

Continuing The Healing Path with two of my grown daughters, at every turn of the page I run headlong into my failures. All the times I journeyed poorly. Became blind-leading-the-blind for my children.

I really tried, most of the time, when my own wounds didn’t shout louder. To give my children a “so much more” life than I grew up with.

Neglect. Betrayal. Failure to act.

It’s a punch to the solar plexus as I recognize how my weaknesses betrayed my children, my needs took precedence over theirs.

Janie 4th grade
Janie 4th grade

Clearly, I haven’t been the person I yearned to be when I was ten, writing in the margins of my little white New Testament. My life did not take the track I planned.

But that’s not all there is.

When Jesus stretched out his hands and called me across the water, he began to work in me, sometimes breaking down and building anew, at times pulling up from my past to create an unknown strength.

It’s been a long pathway, full of twists and turns. I’m a work in progress.

Winding path in Switzerland © Jack H Thompson
Winding path in Switzerland © Jack H Thompson

At times, I jump in and try to help out. That never works out well. I’m still flawed, unable to make myself who I really want to be.

More and more, I sense that am being healed. Clay being reshaped by the Master Potter. Set free to be the person I was created to be.

I am fashioned by Love, to love. Created to create.

Whether you are in the “I’ve made too many mistakes” crowd or the “wait for me to get it all together” boat, I’m stretching a hand your way, inviting you to the dance of the “make-overs”. (HGTV doesn’t even come close!)

You are welcome to join the Under Construction Crew.

Come on in. The water’s fine!

Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. . . .
The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. . . .
This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. . . What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

Romans 3:9,14,28 The Message (YouVersion)

Where are you in the journey?

Why I believe in Easter

My father was a man of great sin, and our family suffered from his choices. He hurt, abused, and almost destroyed us. As he lay dying, he faced it all.

For days, I had stayed by his side in the ICU. Near the end, he began to tear at the restraints, eyes squinting as into bright light. After a furious but silent fight, he grew quiet, cocking his head as if listening. Then he relaxed and flopped back. In minutes, again his body tensed and legs jerked against the ankle straps. He grimaced at some inner pain. Then his lips moved in silent confession.

I knew God was showing my father his sin. He repented. God forgave him and assured him that He would redeem the years the enemy, using my father, had devoured. The cycle continued for hours until, at dusk, he fell still.

That night he slipped into a coma from which his doctor said he would never awaken. Exhausted after two weeks at his deathbed, I asked why they didn’t just turn off the IV’s and oxygen, why keep him alive when there was no hope. The doctor said the machines weren’t keeping him alive–my father would go when God was ready—and that everyone in the hospital had great respect for the courage that had kept him alive this long.

Respect for my father–the alcoholic–the rage and fury of my childhood?

During the night, in the glow of machines, I realized his cheekbones were just like mine. For the first time, I was proud to have those strong bones, proud to be The Dutchman’s daughter. I rose and leaned over his bed. He opened his eyes as if I had called to him. He reached up and gently stroked my hair.

All my life I had yearned for that tender touch.

“I love you, too,” I whispered.

He smiled and closed his eyes. His hand fell back to the bed.

When morning came, my Mom arrived, fresh after two days of sleep. Completely exhausted, I dragged myself to our room and collapsed into bed. Several hours later, she shook me awake.

He was gone.

I felt cheated. I’d spent days at his bedside, then wasn’t there to say goodbye. God had brought spiritual healing to him during his last days, and I had felt a touch of the love I hungered for all my life, but now, I had nothing.

I grasped at emptiness, and found only pain, fresher than ever.

Several days later, Mom asked me to read a lesson at the funeral.

Choked with tears, I read “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” While I read, I begin to grasp that a God who was powerful enough to bring forgiveness to a man like my father, could bring life and healing to me.

My voice rang out as I ended: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:55,57 (NAS).

I felt the touch of the Father’s hand, the all-encompassing love of an eternal “Daddy” who will never hurt me or leave me.

And for the first time in years, I was able to pray.

Healing has been a process. What I experienced at my father’s death was a crack in the door, a chance for me to open the walls I had formed around myself–to choose life.

I have learned to release old hurts and receive love. God has redeemed the years of pain. Deep wounds have carved a crucible of joy that I can pour out for others.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart take courage.” Psalm 27:13, 14 (NAS)

Papa God, hold the little child in me who needs your strength and gentleness. Turn me towards the light. Fill me with your love, that I might love, and love, and love again.