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


Got attitude?

When you hear “attitude,” do you think of someone strutting, chin high – maybe even with a chip on the shoulder? Someone looking for trouble? Someone who expects everyone to get out of their way?

©Jack H Thompson
©Jack H Thompson

That’s certainly an attitude, what I call BA – bad attitude.

But in truth, we all have an attitude. Attitude is how we approach life, what we expect when we arise in the morning.

  • It can be an attitude of defeat, and we find it hard to get out of bed, because there is no hope, no matter what we do.
  • It can be fear, and we postpone or avoid whatever we dread, even if it keeps us from what we need, or from what is good for us.
  • It can be entitlement, thinking we deserve everything, and we are angered or upset when everything doesn’t come to us as we expect, or those around us don’t jump to meet our needs.
  • It can be confusion that twists and turns us throughout the day, keeping us from accomplishing what we’d hoped to do.
  • It can be a constant pity-party, interpreting everything that happens as proof that, “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me,” as we sang years ago, leading to a diet of worms.
  • It can be living short-fused, with anger ready to singe whomever doesn’t respect us, or gets in the way of what we want life to be.
  • It can be a neediness that sucks the life out of relationships, and deprives children of proper nourishment from parents.
  • It can be a need to control that drives us to strive to take charge of everything in our lives, and usually those around us. It wears us out, and drives people away.
© Jack H Thompson
© Jack H Thompson

Clearly, the way we think makes a huge difference in how we behave.

There is a lot of talk these days about picturing what you want, believing and you’ll make it happen. That can be taking attitude to the extreme, a kind of hocus-pocus, as if we were gods who could control the world with our thoughts.

All we really have control over is our minds. We are encouraged to “take every thought captive.” It’s up to us to choose our attitude.

We can choose to let life be a praise song.

What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks, to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak, sing your faithful presence all through the night,
Accompanied by dulcimer and harp, the full-bodied music of strings. Psalm 92:1-3 (MSG)

In reading through The Message (© 2002, NavPress Publishing Group), the Biblical paraphrase Eugene Peterson wrote when he realized so many people missed the excitement and passion of the original texts, I discovered these fascinating lines from a psalm.

Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,
Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.
So, God’s people, shout praise to GOD,
Give thanks to our Holy God! Psalm 97:11,12 (MSG)

© Jack H Thompson
© Jack H Thompson

Light seeds! Wouldn’t you love to be able to sow seeds of light into your mind that would grow and glow, giving you what you need to change your attitude?

Joy seeds to put a song in your heart, no matter your circumstances?

We canThis is the perfect season to start planting, because the seeds are giving thanks!

© Jack H Thompson
© Jack H Thompson

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Col 3:15-17 (MSG)

Since I love music, I’m happy to receive the command to sing my heart out, and welcome the chance to do so. For me, singing praise turns my heart to gratitude quicker than anything else. I usually have the radio tuned to a Christian station throughout the day, and participate in the Contemporary and Spanish music ministries at our church. Without music playing, there is usually a song running in the back of my mind. I’m learning how to let the song continue, even when I’m alone and don’t feel well, or a rude, aggressive driver cuts me off on the Interstate, or my mother’s dementia makes it hard to find her in the midst of her ramblings.

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.      Habakkuk 3:17-18 (MSG)

A deep revelation of the value of giving thanks came from Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, HarperCollins Publishing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can read her blog at

My youngest daughter and her family have fun ways to give thanks before meals. My favorite is everyone clapping out, “I’m thankful for, I’m thankful for, I’m thankful for.” Then they point both hands to one person at the table who gets to say what or whom they are thankful for at that moment. Even the three-year old loves to participate, and the chant goes on until everyone has had a turn. 

The more opportunities we build into our day to remember to be thankful, the more the attitude of gratitude will grow and mature in us.

ThanksgivingBe cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)

What are you thankful for today?

Seize Life!

For a while now I’ve reflected on beginnings and endings, unaware of how much more personal endings would soon become. I’ve missed a week here, because I missed a week in my life – and almost the rest of it.

After a “simple” hand surgery Tuesday last, disoriented with too much pain medication in my system for my slow metabolism, terrible nausea woke me in the middle of the night. After staggering to the bathroom, I accidentally took too much of an anti-nausea medicine which is very sedating. In the morning, I only responded with groggy words and my husband was concerned, but knew a friend was coming by in an hour to pick me up for church, so he left my cell phone by my ear and went on to work, calling me regularly. After I hadn’t answered more than twenty calls, he left a full schedule of patients and rushed home. When it was clear that I was deteriorating, he called EMS, and followed the ambulance to the Emergency Room.

I awoke in the ER, thinking I’d just had the hand surgery, with no memories of the preceding 24 hours. I couldn’t get my words out to answer their questions and couldn’t move my hands to follow their instructions — the middle of a nightmare.

After an afternoon of CAT scans and other tests, copious amounts of IV fluids, a huge amount of confusion and a great deal of humiliation on my part, they ruled out a stroke. Towards evening, I was improving, so they released me to my husband’s care. We arrived home to find my precious youngest daughter with dinner ready, and my sweet, declining mother with her arms open wide.

It was days before I really understood what had happened, and even more days before I began to feel like myself, as I was weak, had little balance and huge amounts of brain fog. But even in the midst of the splitting headache and waves of nausea, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the people in my life – my husband and his love and intuition, my family and their loving care, my dear friends from church who called and prayed – one who came and took over when my daughter had to return to her family the next day, and prepared food to last us several days.

As a child, I was always told to wait until I was older to do what I wanted and learned early on to postpone enjoyment. Life was scary and harsh, so I engaged reality as little as possible. That helped me to survive a rough childhood, but that is no way to live. How many of our early-acquired defense mechanisms now keep us imprisoned?

In the days that followed The Big Scare, the fog lifted, colors seemed brighter, everything around me more beautiful, and the people in my life even more important. I moved in a deep current of the joy of living and the desire to make every moment count.

And gratitude, in huge waves and gulps, filling me, washing me and releasing me.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 in The Message

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

With a fresh sense of the value of each moment, for living now, valuing my priorities, I’m relishing each task, learning to make the most of all of my life, not waiting for high moments or perfect circumstances.

Letting my Lord’s love pierce me through and through, I am choosing to gift that freedom to everything I set my hand to do, whether loading the dishwasher, walking the dog, playing the guitar or singing in church, hugging a hurting friend, dancing with my youngest grandchild turning one, walking with my husband in the cool of the evening . . . the full range is exciting to embrace, and it’s all a wonder.