Climbing higher, higher?

I listened to the reading of Jacob dreaming of a stairway extending to heaven and God speaking to him, and wondered, how did we come up with “I am climbing Jacob’s ladder”? Jacob didn’t make it, so it wasn’t his ladder. And only the angels went up and down. Jacob simply slept in the dirt with a rock for a pillow.sunset column

God said he would give him the ground he was sleeping on, for him and his descendants. God promised he would bless Jacob, stay with him, protect him, and bring him back to that place.

All Jacob did was wake up, rub his eyes, and turn his pillow into an altar.

Even then, he said IF God did all the things promised, then he would be Jacob’s God. Up until then, he’d only been his father, Isaac’s God.

Jacob didn’t even start with the faith of a mustard seed!

He did nothing to earn the dream.

Nothing to earn the promise.

Nothing to earn the love of the Strong God. 

But here we are, singing that song, trying so hard.

Often we think we actually are climbing higher.

climbing staircase

It depends on your flavor of worship what your style of climbing might be.

For some, it’s carrying a bigger, heavier, well-worn Bible, quoting verses if you’re really good.

For others it’s church and meeting attendance, for some, singing in the choir, serving at the altar, or giving impressive amounts of money. We can be cooks or greeters or arrange flowers, even teachers.

All of it can be just climbing.

The attempt to climb to heaven can also sneak into our worship styles, where some bow and work to look saintly and pious, while in other settings the more you move and the louder you sing the more points you get.

We can feed the poor, help the helpless, even serve as missionaries. We can make anything into a ladder if we spin it right.

keys

Dry Tortugas, FL

All those can be good things, but if they are simply a rung in the ladder, as the wise one said, Life is fleeting, like a passing mist.  It is like trying to catch hold of a breath;
    All vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity.  What good does it do anyone to work so hard again and again, sun up to sundown? All his labor to gain but a little?    One generation comes, another goes” Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4a The Voice

What a relief when we realize that we, like Jacob, have not, and never will, do anything to deserve heaven.

With the surety of the sunrise and sunset every day, God pours out his love on us.

sunrise in Maggie Valley
sunrise in Maggie Valley, NC
Sunrise in Florida Keys
sunrise in Islamorada, Florida
sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI
Sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI

God blesses us because of who he is, not what we do or anything we can accomplish.

He smiles at us because of his heart of love, not our best behavior.

Our minds can agree, but how often do we find ourselves still climbing?

 

Until we fall.

Until we are caught by nail-scarred hands.

And we are truly found. 

“God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!” Luke 10:9 MSG

 

Since music speaks so deeply to me, I often end a post with a song. As I wrote this, “Run to Jesus” played in my mind.

 

Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s graduation into heaven. Many sweet family members made this video for my Mom’s Celebration of Life after her requiem, using “Run to Jesus.” I’d like to share it with you now.

(If the link below doesn’t work, click on these highlighted words and follow the YouTube link.)

The paper at the end with two verses was in my grandmother’s Bible, which Mom found after she died, then tucked into her Bible. Now, it’s tucked in all our hearts.

Some happy Mother’s Days are out of this world

As my girls and I made plans for Mother’s Day, I glanced at the photo under glass on my desk, family gathered around my Mom. Her sweet smile. The familiar ache built in my chest, pulling me into the dark place, wishing I could have one more Mother’s Day to shower love on her.Mother's Day joy

Then I realized that our little brother, Mac, who drowned when he was three, is in heaven celebrating with her.

little brother Mac
Malcom Bayard Foard III

And she is there with her dear mother, celebrating the life of a true servant-hearted woman.

Feb13^11

And my grandmother, Eleanor, is celebrating with her mother, Maria, who died when Grandmom was a girl.

Maria Tschanin Zimmerman
Maria Zimmerman

And Maria is celebrating with her mother from her native Switzerland that she fled during an Anabaptist persecution.

That’s as far back as I know family history on Mom’s side.

Enough to give me perspective.

Would I really want to drag Mom back to this little world, when so much has been opened up to her? So much joy. So much celebration. So much connection. So much life.

No.

I stroke the face in the picture, say ‘I love you’ again, and release her into the hands of Love who holds her forever.

Real love is like that, isn’t it? Loving, holding, and then releasing when necessary.

For the first time, I am truly ready to pick up the mantle my brother offered after Mom’s funeral—the matriarch of the family.

To continue to hold them all up in prayer, no matter how large the family grows.

To rejoice in their accomplishments and weep with their pain.

And to smile when my family is gathered around me.

Grammi love
Grammi love
grandchild fun at Easter
egg dying with grands
three generations at Christmas
three generations at Christmas
Siesta Key
Fun in the surf

The circle goes on.

So good. So good.

As she lay dying

His sister called, and early the next morning my husband flew west to be at his mother’s bedside. He and his sisters kept vigil. At the hospice nurse’s urging, they spoke to her as if she could hear them, even though she didn’t respond.

old hands

Back home, I waited and prayed. For three days, I prayed that the Lord would minister to them even as they ministered to her. Prayed that whatever remained for her spirit to transact with Jesus would take place.

After hours of thunderstorms, late in the afternoon the rain stopped. I grabbed my dog’s leash and pulled on my walking shoes. Outside, leaves dripped, shinning in the soft light of twilight. The grass and trees seemed greener, more vibrant.

When I stepped out from under our oak trees onto the street, I looked up and gasped. On my right, pink and purple clouds tumbled upward from a sunset of scarlet and tangerine.

As I turned to the east, peace poured over me. Pink cotton candy clouds billowed with reflected sunset colors, and two complete rainbows, one over the other, arched across the horizon. The outer bands of color fluxed in and out of the clouds as if someone were mixing watercolors.

A holy moment. A gateway to heaven. I couldn’t move.

double rainbow for  blog

Finally, Lily tugged, anxious for her long-awaited walk. I set out, often turning to witness the rainbows. I tried to snap their exquisite beauty with my cell phone, frustrated that the purples and greens wouldn’t come through. I was too close to capture the complete arcs and hoped I could move far enough west to get them. But when I came around the circle and out from under more oak trees, the rainbows had vanished.

But the deep peace abided, an other-world kind of peace that has no basis in circumstances or status.

Pure gift.

sunset

Not long after I returned home, my husband called, his voice hoarse with emotion.

“Mom’s gone. She’s gone to be with Dad.”

They had been telling stories and laughing about their hard-headed father, who’d died only months before. The sister who’d been caring for their mother so long was holding her hand when she slipped away.

I loved her very much, and I knew that somehow, the Lord had included me in her home-going, 1,300 miles away.

These tiny glimpses of heaven are promises of what is to come, encouragement when the sky is dark and life is brutal. When progress seems so long in coming. When we lose a loved one.

Have you recently experienced a great loss?

Or do you face the gradual seeping away of hope?

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)