Decades

Approximately
30 years ago, I
begged God
plz, plz, plz, take me
along
in your wondrous, matchless work—
set people free.

20 years ago, hands full
of laundry and littles, I
wrestled...hard
came away limping.
How???
"Absorb," He said
"Who I Am."

10 years ago, I
bartered. If
you give me a spacious place (to fold laundry and care for not-so-littles)
I will keep working on that.
Apparently, God
was unimpressed by my terms.
He did set me in a spacious place.

And then began to set me free.

jfig     thanksbetoGod

Sometimes it is meaningful to look back; to see what God was doing...when. Compelled by Isaiah 61, so much angst I experienced, in trying to make a difference, with what felt like limited internal resources for a global moment. All the while, God kept pouring in, filling the reservoir bit by bit with what (I did not know) I needed. Father, Son, Spirit—present and alive—abundant, full, overflowing in goodness. These verses: Isaiah 61; Luke 4:18-19; Psalm 18:1-3 are especially meaningful to me in the context of life purpose.

The God Who Stays

You are...
the God Who Stays,
light that remains when every.other.candle
lies extinguished.

Deep...
in the hollows of the earth
you carved a shelter,
holding space for resurrection.

We needed to know...
life can be born, and re-borne
in the sanctuary of
Your fire-breathing Presence.

How fierce...
this love that burns within, and without us
but does not consume
save the dross.

You are...
the God Who Stays.

You are...
the God Who Stays
long enough to shred two sides - 
the opaque curtain called 'belonging.'
We needed to know...
that Father stayed, too: waiting, watching
for vision's redemption—holiness unleashed
a billion twinkling stars, set free.

Which one of you first breathed
"It is finished,"
or was that merely cue—
Holy Spirit to join you

in the ripe, hungry
fields of men, women
few, many
unseen, longing?

You are the God Who Stays.

jfig      5/2022

Dear Reading Friend, this is the first in a 3-part ‘observation’ regarding the desperate, reverberating cry, ‘Abandoned!?…?!’; I believe there is a God who hears and tends to this cry. These are not easy words to hear, “I have been abandoned…” Nor is this easy truth to absorb. It seems one has to wrestle a bit. Perhaps a lot. The wrestling feels important: there is no other cry so crashing our airwaves right now. The following verses might be of interest: Philippians 3:20-21; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:30

I have chosen the attached photo because it speaks to me of both what we think we know, and of perspective. I have been wrestling with this topic for a while; years, in fact. When it comes to ‘knowing’, I have as much access to scripture as anyone; and more than many. I have much less Biblical scholarship. My perspective on abandonment is a narrow window; but a thoughtful one. I have tried to look a long way off. Toward that end, your constructive thoughts are welcome. j

daring prayer

Father of Holiness,

We long to see you—the pillars of fire by which you lead us lighting up the night sky—as you lead the way out of darkness into eternal light.

Help us to understand the gap between you and us that can only be bridged by the sacrificial love of Christ. May we dare to cross—toes engage the threshold—day after day following you into newness of life. May we willingly carry stones (while you carry us) that your good purpose will lay to extend the bridge, into spaces our eyes have yet to see.

We want to dance with you, in your company of holiness; stripped of sin and willfulness. We want to see your stars.

jfig 4/2022 #ps-almighty

Prayer of Return: Leaning

Prayer of return:  leaning

My soul might faint (faint it does)
but still must get up
and feed babies...
mine, and perhaps some others as well.

Even midst the valley of tears
babes hunger—
they are multiplying cells so fast

I am just beginning
to see
that you have not equipped me to keep up

But to lean—
lean heavily, in fact
on the God of infinite supply.

jfig     winter 21/22



Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:3.


And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide,” as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ Genesis 22:13,14

The year 2022 is full of things that need fixing and rescuing. But there is One who came to be our rescue. Prophets foretold it. Simeon saw it. Dare we believe it? Believe that He came not only to ‘rescue’ us from sin as individuals, but to invite us into the abundance of God’s goodness. Into belonging. Into H-O-P-E written overtop the anxieties that grab me when I read the news.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This post is dedicated to my friends at https://thedihedral.com/ who are a consistent source of encouragement to me.

Prayer of return: compost

Thank you for the feast-
invitation to go
deep into the roots of
Yahweh.
All the way
into the recesses
of why...

Both a question,
and a fledgling
nudge to
climb into the expansive limbs of
Who You are.
But I hear your heartbeat echo
when I am down here midst the roots.

Thank You for the feast
journey compost
turned, and
turned again
to rich, brown
worm earth.
Dust and living water.

Thank You

jfig     1/2022




A bit about prayers of return: My soul friend asked me, “Where are you returning from?” Good question. Places of doubt, skewed theology, giant looming questions. Places like dinosaur exhibits – things that look like they shouldn’t be real but are. On my worst days – willful disobedience. Busyness – days when it is sheer delight to step into the safe Presence of Yahweh and remember, this is home. Always, the welcome is the same. This is home.

Psalms 27, 32 and 84 talk about making God one’s refuge, a home with Him. You can access those readings easily here:

“Psalm 27 (NIV) – Of David. The LORD is.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 23 Jan, 2022. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/psa/27/1/s_505001.

And finally, John 14: 23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” This, friend, is an epic journey…

Scripture quoted is from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

While They Were Tending: Simeon

Let down. Covid, and cancellations, and a Savior has come into the world. But…has anything really changed after all? Winter storms, and wintrier loss and unexpected winds of change altering one’s landscape – for better?

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…” Luke 2:29,30*

Read Luke 2:22-35 “Luke 2 (NLT) – Then it was time for.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Jan, 2022. https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/luk/2/22-35/s_975022.

Let Down
Yes,
Simeon's answer is, yes.
All of eternity is altered
by this child's first breath.
The next breath...peace
is yours.

Like Mary's milk
let down to nurture the Christ child
(let down poignantly
a slight bit painful...tiny bit sweet),
we must lay down singular expectation
to nurture His Presence in the world.

The One who
will not let us down.
He is here
breathing hope and human dust
into everyday miracles.
Every day.

Where shall we find Him?
Simeon...
welcomed him from the arms of a stranger
(young girl at that)
from persistent whispers of Spirit Holy winds,
amid the long-sounding echoes of his own cautious journey.

Look—look for Him
Listen...
Nurture His Presence
He is here.

jfig     1/2022

Simeon practiced expectation. He tended the fire of belief by expecting God to be and do as He had said. For one who would follow Jesus, this practice is critical as breathing. Not because Simeon could see the circumstances of rescue, but because he could now embrace the Christ Child. For one who would follow Jesus, this letting-go of other notions, in order to fully gather in the wonder of the Infant King, is life-altering. Simeon allowed the Advent of the Messiah to frame his outlook toward what came next, as one of peace.

Holy God, I’d like to be like Simeon, embracing your Presence in a way that alters my own expectations; that allows you to fill me with wonder at who you are. Would you settle me into your peace, in such a way that I not only welcome what comes next, but my renewed expectations inform others that YOU ARE HERE. Help me to tend the fire of belief in a way that brightens the darkness of circumstance and softens the faces of those with whom I conflict. Peace. May I be one who can confidently say, I have seen your rescue. Every day. Amen

*Luke 2:29,30 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

While They Were Tending: Joseph

Matthew 1:19-21 ESV And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph...was a carpenter?

Joseph was a good man, a just man... one as he ought to be. *
unwilling...to cast Mary to public shame
though he might have.

Joseph...was a carpenter

Did he feel dismay,
pound his fist, spittle spray
at events going out of square?

Steady on...yet
navigating by Spirit dreams (this is paradox);
holiness swirling about and within him.

Pattern abandoned...Joseph crafted
shelter, protection
climbed a scaffold of discernment?

What form did decisive urgency take
 as Joseph waited,
with the rest of the world

for salvation to drop
from the womb
of a girl?

As they fled through the night
'protect' pumping through his veins
Joseph guards the salvation of his people.

See Matthew 1:18-25, 2:13-15. “Matthew 1 (ESV) – Now the birth of Jesus.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 24 Dec, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/1/18-25/s_930018.

Joseph didn’t wait for salvation from the womb of any girl, but his girl. The sense of responsibility must have been crushing. Yet there is no indication in scripture, that Joseph operated with anything but merciful kindness, patience, and the will to act decisively. Upon Holy Spirit dreams. Hesed. Prophecy after prophecy to be fulfilled.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

What strikes me at this moment in the history of the world, is Joseph navigating a delicate, but weighty interpersonal situation, while balancing the weight of prophecy and the world’s salvation. Did his actions qualify as basic kingdom carpentry? What about now, as Jesus-followers try to do the same…good and just actions, as we ought to be? The good news is, there is a Navigator. This poem ends in questions, because I do not have the answers (would have dropped the crossbeam at saving face). Joseph…was a carpenter. Who are you…and I?

jfig     12/2021

Some extra thoughts if you are interested:

In a sermon series this fall, about one’s acting purpose under God, author and speaker Gary Thomas asked the question, “What’s in your hand?” What would God have you do with that ? Joseph… was a carpenter.

Isaiah 5 enunciates the woes of the Israelite people – attitudes and actions that interfere with their delivery of God’s justice and righteousness to the world. One of those woes (vs. 8) alludes to pushing people out and away from receiving God’s promised inheritance. Joseph…did not do this. He protected God’s salvation for the world. Because he was a just man, a good man…one as he ought to be. This serves as a POWERFUL example to me. His tools? The literacy of his everyday craft, humility, kindness and seeming moment by moment reliance upon the Spirit of God. He did it by being who he was—a carpenter, a man, one reliant upon the Spirit of God.

Reflection Questions: Is there some arena in which you, like Joseph, are being asked to ‘not fear’ and trust both the work and the leading of the Holy Spirit?

What does it take, to move you from casting shame, to sheltering another?

Is there a way in which God is asking you to protect the delivery of his salvation to others in the world?

What tools do you use, to define who will be Jesus’s people?

These are questions I am asking myself, over and again, searching the night sky, for clues to navigation. Godspeed to you, in your journey of ‘bearing salvation.’   j

*This elaboration of the Greek word used for Joseph’s character comes from Strong’s concordance. You can access details via the Blue Letter Bible link above.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

While They Were Tending: Mary

Mary
Mary stoops, figure bent
by society— female, poor.
Confronted with a messenger
she bends lower still
tends the embers of belief.

"How will," she asks.
Not, "How can???"
I will, not what if
disgrace bends me until I
break?

She stirs the fire again
This is good news...I think. Elizabeth?
Run!!! Would you run?
To the one barren?
Unless you believed?

The whole story
of God's goodness
finds welcome, in the embers
of Mary's heart.
"Amen"

 jfig     12/2021


My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.   Luke 1:46-55 ESV

It is difficult for me to turn my gaze from how a thing is going to impact me; to how it looks resting on the altar, at the feet of a Holy God. Not so Mary. She drapes her wedding dress upon the altar and says, “Let it be.” As You say. She does not make the error of token agreement and then leave it all up to God. She willingly lays down her plans, her earthly security, and puts on the garments of a servant. Expressing gratitude. We have tried all kinds of gimmicks in our family, to facilitate expression of gratitude, with variable success. Mary rests her expression of gratitude upon God being who he says he is; doing as he says he will do. Throughout history. And the fire of her belief explodes in tongues of worship.

God with the mighty arm, you have used your strength to work the miracle of our salvation. Historically, we look for this, again, and again. We look for it now. Help us to recognize your salvation, as you lay it out before us in invitation, by your Spirit. While we wait with expectation, gift us the humility to bend in submissive participation to your good plans. Amen

Reflection Questions: How have you been able to enter into gratitude this Advent season? How is what you believe, informing your worship of God? May you experience peace, hope and adoration as you trust in Him.

While They Were Tending: An Advent reflection – Zacharias and Elizabeth

Zacharias and Elizabeth

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke 1:6

Empty quiver
empty womb, 
barren walls, 
too quiet home.
Waiting...
Pillars

Bent with age
and with leaning
extremities of body and will entwined—
together 
falling toward Yahweh.

Through sweeping rhythms
of hope
lament,
one's grief wringing clockwise
the other counter.

Grief will knock you down
but two did not collapse, defeated.
Pillars: righteous and faithful
ushering in
the faithfulness of God.

Do you hear the pillars echo—
Falling toward Yahweh?

jfig     12/2021

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.

Reflection questions:

In spite of individual and shared losses, as well as prolonged waiting; Zacharias and Elizabeth pursue faithfulness. Do you have access to spiritual friendship that steadies you through difficult moments or seasons?

How would you like to express faithfulness to Yahweh during this season of waiting and expectation?

Holy God, we rely upon you, the third strand that ties us together with one another in pursuit of you. Bless us with fellowship that corporately leans toward you. It is of your design. Make us dependent upon others in all the right ways, so that others can depend upon us, to point the way to your salvation. Amen

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

While They Were Tending: An Advent Reflection – Zacharias

Luke 1:13b “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.

Read Luke 1:5-25 “Luke 1 (ESV) – In the days of Herod,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 Dec, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/1/5-25/p1/s_974005.

Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the lord.

Zacharias
"Do not be afraid, Zacharias; your prayer has been heard..."

Zacharias means
'Yahweh remembers.'
Really?

Manhood stretched.
Quiver empty. Waiting
for an heir.

The fulfillment of purpose,
appointment of his division,
slow roll of lots.
 
Waiting...for
any of these
to find him.

Yahweh remembers.
"Do not be afraid,
 Zechariah."

Pinnacle priestly moment:
fingers tremble
light the incense

The light explodes—
into apparition?
But wait...

Do not be afraid, Zechariah
Your prayer has been heard, 
AND...
and...and...and...And.
Elizabeth...Son
John
Joy and gladness
Rejoice
Greatness
And... he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

Legacy.
Your God.
Faithfulness, step by weighted, waiting step

In spite of...the wait.
Yahweh remembers, Zechariah,
So do we.

jfig     2021


Reflection questions: I interchange the forms Zacharias and Zechariah in this poem, quite simply, because I think there is something beautiful about the word form Zacharias. As if a human could be cast in different lights. It is Zechariah’s aura of faithfulness, upon which the spotlight briefly rests, scene I in the story of Christ’s birth. Is it this faithfulness, seed of God’s own image cast in beautiful bronze glow, which Yahweh remembers? It would be well beyond my credentials, to suggest that God chose Zechariah for his role, because of his faithfulness. But I wonder (after Z. got over being flustered, of course); if God reminded Zechariah, and Zechariah reminded God (because they were on journey together), where exactly they were headed.

 “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Luke 1:6 When I read this story, I am struck repeatedly by the almost certain human impossibility of Zacharias and Elizabeth’s faithfulness. Surely such strength of character is improbable given a long wandering journey of grief. At least without some deviation of purpose, without resentment… Step after waiting faithful step, Zechariah’s footfalls echo Yahweh’s, a journey they have somehow, mysteriously pursued together, one reflecting the Other. How can this be?

In what way have you experienced God’s faithful presence in your season(s) of waiting? What would you like Yahweh to remember about your journey together?

It strikes me that Zechariah arrived at faithfulness, not just for his own sake; but as comfort and strength lent to his wife. For the sake of those he served as priest.  As a foundation from which his son, Spirit-filled, would move? Is there some way in which you would like to invite Father, Son, Spirit to keep you company now as you pursue faithfulness? Who is waiting with you, for the coming of His Salvation?

Lord, God Almighty, we long for the company of Your Presence, as we wait, and wonder… and wander.

THANK YOU for your faithfulness that guards our very being and gives us hope. Your strength, Your unwavering purpose. We need all this, and more. We need the mystery of you giving us strength not our own. Like Zechariah, may your faithfulness find its reflection in us. As we walk in it, may heads and hearts turn toward you in readiness for your salvation.  Amen

Isaiah 40:31 They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

2Cor. 2: 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.