Grace in 12s: a reflection on pain

Wiggle Room

When pain is raw

out there pulsing on the floor

like a live thing—

wiggle room is scarce.

 

When pain is long

thundering in echoes

inside one’s breast,

the fortitude

to engage grace

is spare.

 

When suffering is long…

we don’t really know how long,

do we?

unless one asks, or has been there

trudging with,

seasons of the journey.

Mud and muck cling to one’s shoes

and laughter bursts

at our hidden ridiculousness.

Oh, God, let us

keep sharing laughter

in journeys long and deep.

 

When pain is raw

the wiggle room to extend honor

grace-filled speech and action,

is narrow – barely squeezing by

CAUTIOUSLY: so I don’t tear open wounds

that might just begin to heal.

 

My power to heal

to effect and sustain change

is only so great as the source from which I draw it.

Come to the well, dear sister.

Come to the well.

I am talking to me.

 

jfig     6/2020

RW pic grace & fire

After a career-long of assessing and addressing pain, it remains apparent to me, that each person’s pain, is enough. That our service is not so much to avoid or get rid of it, but to hold it with and for one another, in order to strengthen what remains. To carry it for seasons, in often less than capable hands, through the grey dusk of mourning,  while we wait together for healing to come.

It is not hidden in scripture, that God commissions his followers to heal. I love the passage in Luke 10:1-11, regarding this commission:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1(ESV)

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  Luke 10:8-11(ESV)

I love that we are sent – invited to go – where Jesus himself is about to attend. I love that we are invited to bring Jesus close to the hurting. I’m reassured that we are given permission to leave when we are not wanted. That we are not meant to carry away with us, the weighty dust of, ‘You are not welcome here.’ That we are meant to leave with the attitude of our message intact: Nevertheless, the kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus also reminds his followers, (vs. 20) that the thing to be celebrated, is not the ‘works’ they have done, the authority they have wielded over demons. The thing to be celebrated is that they are among the company of those who have received grace unto salvation. The thing to be celebrated is grace. So far as I can tell, none among any of us is given the authority to say who receives grace unto salvation. None.

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 (ESV)

Raw pain demands our attention. We look at our smallish hands, stunned…how can we, as individuals, as a society, hold this much pain?  “Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.”  Oh, that I might be a bearer of the kingdom… with smallish hands.

The story in Luke 8, where Jesus, in the middle of a crowd, is called to the bedside of a dying girl, speaks. The child is ‘about 12 years old.’ Jesus is detained in responding. He chooses to be detained, to engage a woman who grasps his robe, pleading for help. She has been bleeding for 12 years. As long as the young girl has been alive. Each person’s pain is enough. Jesus attends to all: to the girl and to the woman; to the father oppressed by fear. He draws each of them up with kindness. He also has choice words for the ‘advocates’ in both situations. Please see Luke 8:40-56

“Luke 8:1 (NLT) – Soon afterward Jesus began a.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/luk/8/1/p1/s_981001&gt;.

Jesus, may I be one who bears the news of your healing presence, as you draw near to those who are hurting. May I quiet myself enough to realize where you are about to make yourself known; what town you would have me visit. Open my eyes, not just to the pain of the one who is dying a distance far-off, but also to one who is bleeding out along my path. Help me choose to carry kindness, the comfort of your impending presence. Give me caution to not fan the flames of false heroics, nor torch anyone with my words, or actions,  but to look for the fire of Your Spirit in the night sky, and follow where you lead. Follow you toward hope and healing, toward freedom and abundant life. Gird me with patience to hold the pain of others, its hot unwieldy expressions; that together we might see the healing dawn of your powerful grace; watch you resurrect life from the ashes of our self-absorption and hatred, our disdain for others, and woefully, for You. We need you, Lord Jesus. We need you, Father God. We need you, Holy Spirit. Bring your healing love that honors and resurrects life in the tiniest of increments. Come Lord Jesus. Amen

“Luke 10:1 (ESV) – After this the Lord appointed.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/10/1/p1/s_983001&gt;.
“Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Photo: Corinthians 1:8-11

 

Questions in the Margins: Hold You in My Heart

This poem is written to and for persons of color, your family and friends, in response to expressions of persistent pain and suffering you experience due to racial injustice.  In the Book of Philippians, Paul and Timothy write, “I hold you in my heart,” to the believers in Philippi. Believers who at least symbolically, were among those Paul had previously persecuted, even unto death. This poem is loosely patterned after that prayer.  Philippians 1:1-7

Hold you in my heart

 

I hold you in my heart

reaching out blood-tinged hands

across the barriers of history

to gather broken pieces of your soul

out of the ashes.

I don’t presume to

‘put you back together’

but to hold your story

as the sacred missive it is,

and lean with you toward

One Who Can Heal.

 

I hold you in my heart

defenses momentarily unlaced

by a glimpse – mere glimpse

of your suffering,

the color of your blood

draining ochre into the soil

on which we now stand.

Stand?

Nay, walk…

for this is a journey;

wretched soil for all of us

to leave behind.

 

I hold you in my heart

examining the color of mine

to ask where it might celebrate—yours.

wake late to the dream

birthed out of your nightmare;

that the passages that carried you through the night to freedom

might tunnel through the dark once more

bring me to your door

in a fellowship of love, art

music, work, laughter

and the overarching  grace of Christ’s righteousness.

 

I hold you in my heart

(it takes such a long while to quiet its thunderous beating)

I purpose to wait;

to not simply acquiesce

in verbal acknowledgement of complicity,

but to wrestle with the discomfort

until I can hear the faint, strengthening beat

of life’s muscle in your chest.

This is a labor of love.

 

I hold you in my heart

Your freedom is not for sale

Truth is, one cannot buy, nor sell, freedom;

Our freedom was purchased

before black or white or red ever set foot on this shore.

But I would like to scour stains

of what it has cost to realize your freedom,

by the washing of your feet;

pour the oil of joy instead of mourning

into the fissures in your soles

that black feet might dance once more.

I hold you in my heart

jfig  6/2020

RW joy hearts

jfig     6/2020

The journey to acknowledge white privilege has been messy for me.  If it were not for confidence in the grace which Paul describes, I doubt I could engage the difficult questions. #stillonjourney

Scripture reference is Philippians 1:1-7 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Questions in the Margins: Vigil

 

Barn

 

Vigil

Visceral despair—

to feel oneself abandoned

by the human race.

This crisis is not in the streets,

where twin daggers of hatred and despair

fell souls

before a body ever hits the ground.

Crisis is in our hearts

each blooded muscle seen

by the holy eyes of God,

first with love,  then with untainted justice.*

To be mourned is the heart that has so swelled with fear,

then hatred; another who so fears judgement

that neither can beat in rhythm with their Creator,

synchronized…in the brother/sister-hood of humankind

by the recurring image (image) ((image)), of God.

 

What do I know—of fear?

That is part of the problem.

If I am uncommonly awake with it now,

may its shallow gasp turn to vigil;

keeping watch, prayer-like

over others like me, if only in that they, too, bear the image of God.

Prayer-like, because my prayer alone, is not big enough for this;

must be joined by other choirs.

Fellowed, not by default

but by inventive grace

that keeps one on her knees

patellae buried into soil rich and deep

where mighty oaks might grow.

Once there invaded

the poisonous oppressions of sin,**

but I have seen a flower—

gentian purple,

sprout and flourish

against a broken bed of shattered rock.

 

My bent frame

can see

just that far. ***

jfig     5/31/2020

 

* Php 1:1-7

** Isaiah 61

***Isaiah 58: 6-12

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 30 Prevailing Winds

Prevailing Winds

Did the rocks cry out in wonder

their message echo long,  e’en as the boat

slipped off from shore, further and farther from view?

Did the village stare, astonished

at what had gone before, in them

all the frameworks shifted

of marketplace routine

in the wake of broad reach—individual and corporate

toward one man?

We will never be the same.

 

According to Easton’s

( Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

of Gennesaret

there is no longer a trace.

Yet we will be… never the same.

What remains?

This prevailing wind

shifts us in new direction

toward an everlasting shore.

Amen

jfig     5/2020

 

Set as we are midst the felt impacts of Covid 19, there are attributes of the Christ-following church that show up on radar—prevailing winds in the midst of global anxiety. To name a few:

refuge(s) of help, hope

generosity

deepening of connection through the navigation of challenging conversations

worship

creativity

 

Dear Reading Friend,

During the course of this journey, there were times when, caught up in the fine details, I needed to ‘zoom out’ to revisit the big picture of Jesus healing the sick. The best tool for that reverse zoom was not a camera, but worship. Three songs became an integral part of my Gennesaret journey. There were others as well, but these stood the test of time, and informed my close-up of Jesus.  Jesus the Healer, The God Who Blesses, and Jesus the One Worthy.  Although I do not think mine is the only perspective—as if I have figured out the ages-old questions of healing—I hope these songs bless your understanding of Him as well. You may, and likely will, see something different. I have picked up my flag and am following midst a great sea of followers, to see where Jesus takes us next.

 

“As It is (In Heaven)” by Hillsong Worship

The UK Churches version of “The Blessing” written by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. You can find it on Youtube.

“Is He Worthy?” by Andrew Peterson

 

 

This spring, I was the length of the pruning shears away from hacking this plant down. I thought it was dead! One of the gripping aspects of the Gennesaret story is that it describes the townspeople, leaders and villagers alike, recognizing Jesus and bringing all their sick to Him. This includes those one might think beyond repair. And Jesus? He is able to look beyond our brokenness and scars to find the created core – God’s image – still there, waiting for his resurrecting touch. It is in this seeing reach, us toward him, and He toward us, that life prevails—Hallelujah!

May this total engagement with what Jesus is about to do, grip us, the church of today.

Jesus, we come, fresh from worship, our faces shining and turned up, like these blossoms. Jesus, we come, not knowing the outcomes of our stories. We are reliant upon you: your merciful goodness, the triune power of resurrection, your healing touch—to heal us so that we might appear, like the citizens of Gennesaret, in the pages of eternity. Catch us up, we pray, into your fierce and determined embrace. You, who have not let go of the creation story, and are still restoring the garden. May we hold on tight, to you, Our Lord. Forever and ever. Amen

Thank you again. j

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 29 Ship’s Log II/Stranded

“After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” Mark 6:53-56 NLT *

Ship’s Log II

Left Gennesaret at dawn.

Too many stories to tell.

We just drifted past a lad

walking on water.

Was that the six-year-old?

I am sure it was he.

 

Stranded

Shattered

got here too late—

accustomed to my sanctuary of pain.

Jesus and his disciples have left

the shore – boat outline

receding in the distance

 

“He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might

he increases strength.”

 

There is a question

dropped like a pebble on the sand,

“Who do you say that I am?”

jfig     4/2020

 

**Isaiah 40:29

***Matthew 16:15

Recently, a young man asked me, “You have been a believer in Jesus for a long time. What ‘advice’ would you give to a younger follower like me?”

In your lifetime, Jesus will many times ask you this question, “Who do you say that I am?” This is an invitation…

Be honest with yourself, and with Jesus, when you answer. Life-changing conversation will follow.   jfig

Mark 6:53-56 Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
** ***Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

You can access scripture passages here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/ This is a terrific site from which to access multiple translations, commentaries and concordance info.

Dear Reading Friends: Thank you. It has been so meaningful to have your company on this 30 day journey. One more day… Thank you for reading, for commenting, for pondering and following along. Over the next 30 days, I plan to stop in and see what you are up to. In all things heavenward, Godspeed. jfig

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Altars Day 28

Altars

There is an art

to the ministry of receiving.

It requires some deep clearing of one’s pride

the cleansing (in me) of resentment

that I can not somehow

be more, all on my own.

Flex my bicep a bigger bump

to carry my own weight.

 

Aaaah, but biceps were made for lifting

not pushing oneself up on whatever crutches.

So carry I did

for a day in Gennesaret.

And the pain loosened round my chest

and my eyes cleared to look at the lost and hurting

and my exhaustion faded

(for a moment).

 

The bicep

(now strengthened)

was reminded to lift in supplication

at the altar in Gennesaret

to One who dragged his robe

through the streets of the marketplace

to make us whole.

Amen

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 27 Greyscapes

RW pic grey

RW pic grey ponder

Greyscapes

There is a grey space

murky before the dawn

where questions abound broad and deep.

 

Then and now

is there broad definition— heal

measured not in limbs and cells

counted and recounted

but in communion

weighed in hours spent

cloistered in the sanctuary of suffering

naked need – that seed of knowing?

Did God intend that we not know evil

but embrace knowing him?

 

Then and now

which ones fisted the hem

and did not let go

escaping the mortal bounds of earth

for the expanse

of eternity?

Leaving our hearts

half in Gennesaret

half in heaven.

This pain knows no bounds.

But

God’s love cannot

be removed

that which he births

remains.

 

Then and now

now that we have seen Jesus, scourged and resurrected, we

live in a land where it is not the certainty of knowing—

outcomes veiled

but the certainty of journeying

face to face, heart inside of mortal heart

is this healing?

 

“What’s next?” The world is in a situation where this has become almost a universal question? Although I ask myself, has Covid19 really changed anything for those who daily try to survive the extremes of poverty and vulnerability to secondary infections? When my oldest daughter was working in missions, she said to me, “I don’t know why they call it a mission field. In a field you can see a long way. They should call it the mission forest…” This poem is about that – the ‘what next?s’ of Gennesaret and now.

There is a grey space, murky before the dawn, where questions abound broad and deep, but without the insistence of daylight that one discern an answer. It is a safe space in which to contemplate. Space in which Jesus might ask a few questions of his own. The story of Gennesaret whispers a couple of those questions. I do not have the answers. Original sin was seduced by this slithering lie, ” you will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” We don’t have to know all the answers, though I might try some on for size, to see if they fit. The trick is in remembering that the answers have to fit Jesus, not me. He is the one with the healing robe.

jfig     4/2020

Jesus, we love you, for having held our questions for literally centuries, gracing us time  to wrestle, and the offense of misinterpreting/maligning your intent time and time again. There is a hunger deep inside, to know you and have our ‘needs met’ not by what we want, but by who you are. You are the dawn we seek, Holy One. Amen

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 26 Resonate

And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him
and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. Mark 6:54b-55 (ESV)
accident action danger emergency
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Resonate

Today I cried in my car

the radio said

15% of $ raised will pass

person to person,

buckets of silver encouragement

handed down the line

to be poured on the fire of sickness and death.

I could almost hear a spiritual singing out of the slavery

gifts no longer earthbound.

I cried because I know the person at the head of the line

fighting the fire

giving his all

 

Yesterday I cried in my throat

the county food bank picking up slack

of 5 ‘shutdown’ small banks

expanded mobile delivery

no child goes hungry…here

I cried because the effort

blew off the edge of the spreadsheet

shot heavenward

in a silver streak of visioned compassion

 

Last week I cried in my chest

foster parent added one more small wiggly body

to nurture like a fragile sprout

tho will take a while to grow

leaving question marks

what does it cost…

I cried because

I have raised a child – clumsy as it was

it takes more than one has in storage

 

I cried in a puddle in Gennesaret

because the people ran

ran the butcher and the potter

ran the farmer and his daughter

not just for their own

but for all the ones Jesus would own

by the bursting of his heart.

I cried because his heart

burst the confines of sickness

no death here

precursor to the grave

which could not hold him bound

 

Was it respect

with which Christ folded the grave-cloths

dismantling death’s power

but not the grace of having suffered?

Our all is earthbound

but when brought to Jesus – Gennesaret-like

human by human

penny at a time

minute offerings take flight

those ones that feel the coined weight, share the suffering

those ones marked all soar heavenward

toward eternity.

 

jfig     4/2020

 

photo of kid playing with kinetic sand while watching through imac
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com
The title, I know…?
Today, listening to stories on the radio, of ways in which people are stepping up to HELP midst Stay Home Save Lives efforts, I just started crying. People are trying so hard both to cope and to care. Giving everything they’ve got to teach at or from home,  to serve frontline or across the lot line, wrestling with questions of safety.
This crying is not new. When our children were younger than they are now, they participated in the Jr Ski to Sea Race, a multi-challenge relay in Bellingham, WA. Every year I watched kids from all over Whatcom county, with varying levels of physical agility to apply, put great heart into this fun, crazy race, I would be moved to silly tears by their all-out effort, their enthusiasm. The same thing happens when I watch a cross-country meet.(I know – some people cry at the movies, I cry at the moving…)
During this reflection series, I have studied different words in the Mark 6:53-56 passage, comparing translations. Often the nouns and verbs change slightly, but this one word ran stayed consistent across multiple translations and then in meaning for more, with the use of the word hurry. When the townspeople recognized Jesus, they went all out, to get their hurting friends and neighbors to Jesus. Perhaps that is why this passage intrigues me so. Jesus gave his all on the cross. He also gives his all here, in Gennesaret, healing each one… The townspeople gave their all, running to bring the sick from among them, running until they had brought them all. Should we let this move us?
On all these occasions, perhaps what moves me to tears, is this giving of one’s heart in compassion toward a person or toward life itself. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in  and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Mark 6: 19-21. Perhaps what catches our hearts in our throats when we see the goodness of others giving their all, is the image of Jesus, captured in that moment, in Gennesaret and in the here and now. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What have you seen Jesus do, or others do with his heart of compassion, that moves you?
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 25 Bandwidth

My friend Nancy talks about bandwidth – how much physical and mental energy one has to apply toward what enterprise.  How strong one is to carry emotional weights.  How able to discern relevance. She also talks about missional theology, and news that tells the truth, about the Psalms, and how they allow us to spill our fearful guts. When I think about women in my life from whom I learn how one might make a difference, these attributes come to mind: informed, determined, passionate, ingenious, focused. They are people who ask questions of situations and the status quo. They are my children and my parents; they are their friends and my friends. They are mentors who process through research, through reading, through listening to stories. And from these stories, these women gather nuggets of compassion whenever and wherever they find them.

When Jesus arrived in Gennesaret, the people immediately recognized him, setting off a community reaction – of running to bring the sick. (This astounds me, given our love for committees and task forces, lengthy assessments and decision-making trees). I am wondering, what stories they had heard…what nuggets they had gathered, by which they entrusted their sick to this almost stranger.

Bandwidth

Disembark, hem still damp

wind-scuttled.

IMMEDIATELY…

only yesterday

 

Jesus and co. navigated to remote space

refuge and rest

bandwidth narrow

 

Disembark rest

to teach

sheep devoid a shepherd

close up photo of a herd of sheep
Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

Disembark the late hour

to serve full banquet – fish and bread

to just 5000 (plus women and children).

 

Disembark the crowds

to pray.

Alone

 

Disembark striding the waves

to calm fear

suspend chaos…shepherd with sheep

 

Disembark the boat

close, but confused company

to heal the masses

 

relevance – we are sick; not he, she, they

these are our sick

can they come out to play?

 

we have heard…

this name

of Jesus.

 

jfig     4/2020

photo of people on street
Photo by Oscar Chan on Pexels.com

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 24 Poetic License

Today was Sunday, a day during which I decided to rest from worrying about whether or not I am doing enough during quarantine to help. I imagine that in Gennesaret, there were those who wondered about their roles as well. We – these imagined villagers and I – decided to bring to Jesus this prayer offering instead (perhaps you’d like to join us); because He is One who Heals.

RW pic fringe bin

Since becoming intrigued with this passage:

“When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Mark 6:53-56

I have sometimes made prayer fringes: the strands of yarn represent a prayer for healing, or in this case, a prayer of keeping for the individuals with whom I am trying to stay connected during Covid 19. And those who have graciously reached out to me. Those that I am ostensibly trying to help, while less certain what resources might suffice. Some of my more meaningful conversations during this time have been with my neighbor Dave, a retired entrepreneur who is willing to dialogue about what makes a difference. In Gennesaret, the villagers brought, the sick reached, and something of the fabric of Jesus healed. There were roles to be played. In Jesus time, a woman spun yarn and thread from wool and flax to make clothing for her family. In the marketplaces, weaving was considered women’s work and looked down upon.

RW pic Covid fringe closeup

Some connections are complicated and deep, years in the making, like the knots. Others are simple and sweet. The important thing is, this day of worry-rest, that I am just arrogant enough to believe that sometimes, the very best I have to offer is to bring another person to Jesus, weaving a prayer, with the recognition that He is One who Heals.

RW pic Tak's fringe

How to make a prayer fringe:

1. Choose a hanger. I like to use driftwood for the Gennesaret story context, but a common marketplace item – spoon, knitting needle – would serve the same purpose.

2. Tie, loop, fasten individual pieces of yarn or embroidery floss to your hanger

3. If you are praying for one individual, allow each strand to represent a particular item of prayer for that person. If you are praying for multiple individuals, each strand could represent one person in a common prayer.

4. The beauty of this project is that you can pray while you are slowly making the art piece. Once it is hung, it serves as a reminder to keep bringing those concerns to Jesus, the One who Heals.

Some passages that could guide your prayers: Philippians 1:3-11, Ephesians 1:15-21, Psalm 46, Luke 11:2-4

jfig     4/2020

“Mark 6:53 (ESV) – When they had crossed over.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 Apr, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mar/6/53/p1/s_963053&gt;.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved