The Power of Yes

Sometimes it feels like life is a swirling downward eddy. We don’t have options. Or we can have so many choices that confusion dulls our minds. We answer the call of highest demand, attack a few of the items on the top of our to-do list, if we’re lucky, and address the squeaky wheel in our lives. When we finally hit the pillow, we let out a long sigh, relieved the day is over. Then, if you’re anything like me, instead of drifting off to refreshing sleep, a scene from the day slips in. I give it a mental do-over, assuring myself it will help me do better next time.

Really?

The next day starts with sleep deprivation, and a growing list of Should and Ought.

It is usually a Bible passage, a sermon or a dream that brings me up short and asks, “What am I really following?” I say I’m following Jesus, but what about the days I churn through, ruminating over someone’s displeasure with me, or my sense of not measuring up, letting someone down, or simply not having the energy or time to do what I’d like for others.

Am I really following Jesus then, or worshipping at some other altar?

Would the photo show a selfie?

Would it be any better if the picture on the altar where I worship is a spouse, a teacher, a church, a neighbor, a child? Even a mission?

This line of thought started when I took a few minutes out for a little nap and feel sound asleep, which is unusual in the middle of the day. At the end of the dream, I drowned.

Yes. The dream didn’t stop when I was almost dead.

I couldn’t breathe, and I drowned.

Then I woke up, gasping for air.

Once the oxygen returned to my body, I felt strangely lighter. As if I’d left the load behind in the water.

Starting fresh.

Sounds a little like baptism, doesn’t it?

A song is always playing in the background of my life. This time Peter’s words played in my mind, “Lord to whom can we go?”

A large crowd had followed Jesus, excited by healings and miracles and words that made them happier. They’d eaten their full on broken bread from his hand. Then Jesus said some hard things. His eyes must have glistened in sadness as he watched most of them grumble and turn away, back to their own household gods.

Then he looked to his little hand-picked group of unlikely Messiah men, and forced the issue with them. “Are my words too hard for you, too? Am I too much for you?”

Peter, The Mouth, blurts out what his heart is pounding.  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He didn’t have all the answers. But at that moment, Peter chose to follow what he did know, not stumble on what he didn’t know.

Peter said yes to Jesus, to his love and power, and everything changed.

Hanging on to Jesus is really what free living is all about. We let go of all the good-that-replaces-the-best we carry in our hands, or on our backs.

We don’t need more theory, theology or understanding. Or more rules or laws.

We find a lighter life when we reach for what little we know of Jesus. We simply follow, even when we have no clue where he is going, or what he is doing.

He will reveal himself, his love filling every part of our hearts that we open to him with a “Yes.”

And everything changes, even if we don’t sense it right then. An eternal shift.

The power of Yes.

Why do we delay? Why are we fearful?
You see, this day has been given to us not for us to theorize and analyze but as a great gift given out of love so that we may once again, or for the very first time today, believe, confess, and truly receive. . . .
Don’t you see it? Today is our day to say yes to God – yes to His love, yes to His mercy, yes to His forgiveness, yes to His grace. 
  

Quote from a sermon preached by the Rev. Charleston D. Wilson The Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Florida, 16 August 2015

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