Learning to listen: She Only Said It Once

She Only Said It Once

Her ‘voice’ barely registered

skimming along the fibers of my optic nerve.

Nevertheless

she spoke.

A concise, comprehensive gesture—

it’s in there.

 

In my haste

to keep us moving toward task completion

(that trajectory of necessary stuff

like getting to work, being prepared)

In my haste

I assumed

she ‘spoke’ of something else,

missed my question.

 

Thank God, I did not scold

just kept parroting my question.

But she only answered once.

 

Twenty minutes later…

when I stopped looking everywhere else,

and listened to her,

she forgave me;

but that is her story.

jfig   7/2020

 

My daughter Brie, is 22 years old. Clinically speaking, she is nonverbal, as well as discernibly developmentally delayed. In practice, however, she is at times profoundly articulate. This was one of those times.

Brie works two days per week at a farm supply store.  Stellar job coaches, engaged co-workers and graciously committed administration support her efforts. It is almost magical. Brie enthusiastically wears a vest that identifies her as part of the store family and the legacy that goes with it. She excels at go-backs, and job-site morale. Work was item #4 on the day’s list.  We couldn’t find her vest.

As we prepared (in advance, I might say) for her work shift plus line-items 5 and 6, I said, “Brie, it would help if you found your vest for work. It is almost time to get in the car.” We  finished putting on shoes and I left to load up activities 5 and 6. When I came back, she sat in the same spot, closing the zippers on her overnight bag ( she likes fasteners). No sign of the vest. It is not in its place in the closet. Not to worry, I think I have seen itWhere did I see it last? Vest or no vest, it is time to get in the car. As Brie buckles in, I ask her, “Where, ” and she makes one clean gesture toward her bag. Meanwhile I am looking: Perhaps it is in the horse bag, or still in the car from Monday…This may seem inane disorganization to you, but we take really good care of that vest. I could not find it in any of the places I had ‘last seen it.’

” I know you are excited about your overnight bag (item #6), but right now we need to find your vest…” By this time Brie and the bag were in the car, and I was still talking to the air about finding the vest – for twenty minutes.  Finally, we had to leave, so I grabbed the back-up vest, lacking her radio headphone safely stowed in the pocket; when it dawned on me that Brie had answered my question. Once. And I had failed to listen. I  underestimated her listening and her capability and the completeness of her response – repeatedly.

Woe to me, when I am too busy multitasking to listen to a quiet, less frantic, vulnerable voice. Whoa to me when I am too busy getting the job done, to regard and listen to another who is participating in that work.

 In practice, Brie is sometimes profoundly articulate: some of my friends would say, Jenny, you are being too hard on yourself. She couldn’t say it out loud, and that would have eliminated the disconnect. (It has been a twenty-two year decoding journey.) But that would miss the point. She can’t answer me in words. Or in sign language. Or with a voice box. She can’t answer me in the kind of voice that I am most used to hearing. She answered me with a gesture, with the means at her disposal, and I failed to listen.  If I listen, with understanding, only to those who speak in ways familiar or readily comprehensible to me…perhaps I need to change my pattern of listening.

Some further thoughts: I probably understand Brie in real time,  better than anyone else on the planet (except perhaps my husband.) If we are invested and willing, yet still falling short; how narrow is her window for being understood?

How reflective is this incident of my finesse in listening to others who speak in a form to which I do not gravitate, of matters less readily understood? I am not comfortable with loud, angry voices. I am not attuned to all forms of oppression. I can tell you I do not like assumptions being made based on the color of my skin. In Brie’s case, as a parent, it is my job to ask Brie to be respectful and appropriate. To work on maturing. But it is my job, my choice, my privilege, to listen. Am I willing to miss critical information because I cannot fully appreciate the way it is delivered? Or will I choose to learn something new, in order to understand, to facilitate someone else’s better today?

Am I in charge? Not really… How willing am I to listen to others’ good ideas about effective solutions?

In spite of all we thought we learned from the early months of Covid 19 about caring for one another, and what I thought I knew about prejudice; I am invited anew in 2020, to pause in my frantic hurry to where I am going, and listen to those whose stories are different, whose needs are different, whose dreams may be different, but at the core, sound strangely familiar. To choose to listen, for the nuances behind the content and method without assuming that those voices sound strange to my ear because they are somehow less capable or accurate. To first lose the oppressions in how I listen, in order to lose the oppressions in living.

jfig     lessons of 2020

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 10 Six Feet Day 11 Forever

SIX FEET

Maybe this year, we will not crucify Him

Six feet

Step back

Reassess

No mob, nor riot

Shouting “Crucify”

 

Step back!

Maybe this year, we will not crucify him

Distancing ourselves

From our fears

Character unknown

In such proximity.

 

Perhaps we will

Interrogate ourselves

Willfulness or honest conviction?

Which draws me

To the bedside

Of another’s pain?

 

Attend: Dare I exploit

Frail posture of another

For power

Or gain?

Maybe this year

We will not crucify him.

jfig   3/20

 

Dear Reading Friends, I thought I would not write a poem today. Instead, I found myself writing two – one for tomorrow – and being invited to reflect on these words from Jesus. I share them with the humility of needing them as much as anyone.  jfig

” This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”    Luke 22:10

“Why are you sleeping,” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”    Luke 22:46

“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”    Luke 22:48

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”     Luke 22:61

They asked then, “Are you the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”     Luke 22:70

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”     Luke 23:28-31

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.     Luke 23:34

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”     Luke 23:43

“Luke 22:1 (NIV) – Now the Festival of Unleavened.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 Apr, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/luk/22/1/p1/s_995001&gt;.

 

Lord Jesus, I am astounded that your gaze finds so many faces in the crowd, my face –   even as you are dying. You tell me the truth, don’t you? No one else invites me to be so honest with myself, and yet receive compassion. At this wide open altar of your making, I lay down – exchange – my fear and arrogance, for your words of invitation and truth. May they become the pillars on which I stake my living.  In your precious name,  Amen

Forever

One never imagines

Suffering an invitation

Yet here it is

His pain carrying mine

across his back.

 

His agony in the garden

beckons—

Living,

to choose dying

“Stay with me.”

 

And as our best efforts crumble

He stays with us

Forever.

jfig     4/2020

pic imprint2

 

“Luke 22:1 (NIV) – Now the Festival of Unleavened.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 Apr, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/luk/22/1/p1/s_995001&gt;.

Blanchard

pic cross down

Blanchard

What if…

someone had cut down the cross

before it.was.finished;

that earth-shaking, soulchain-breaking

echo lost… what if?

 

Who am I, then

to bury my hands (hide them)

in pockets deep

before carrying the dank, rank soil of shame?

Even such waste

decomposed

can grow a flower.

 

jfig   4/17

Brokenness and shame, words that are now in the front lobes of our ‘helping conversations,’  make us ask what is true – about brokenness and grief and shame. What is taboo? How do we navigate toward health and wholeness? My poem is meant to convey, that under God’s tutelage, those things that pain us most, can be worked for our, and others’ good. Perhaps I did not say it exactly ‘right,’… but I am more concerned that it be true. It takes careful hands –  starting with those beautiful nail-scarred ones of Jesus to sift the soil of our brokenness. If the poem was of interest, perhaps you would like to read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Romans 8

Your comments are welcome. jfig

 

 

Fissures

Sometimes life quakes, unsettling all our ground, even destroying things we thought were safe. This is a reflection for those times. jfig

fissures 1

 

Fissures

 

My earth splits and shifts

Gaping at awkward angle as splinters race along the fracture lines.

From aerial view, it might look like arteries

On my heart, if the lines rived in anatomical places.

 

What will grow in these at-first unnourished places?

What will grow?

Drip, drip, drip – water oozes into the painful space

left by what blade knifing into my hope and expectation?

What will grow?

In what fertile valley shall I plant my next hope, and the next, or next?

How many plantings will it take?

What will grow?

 

As I let the fissure breathe, moss grows green against the someplace rusted stone.

I can only breathe a few days at a time.

Let it breathe…

Living water trickles, chill lavage

Rearranging mineral deposits

In the rust and stone and green of my heart.

 

Oh, God, that I could feel the green

And somewhere in a far-off spring, the moss spring forth a gentian bloom

Feel the spring: the water spring… and the growth

The widened fissure breathes. New life. New hope. Altered sculpture of my dream.

Breathe

fissures 2

 

jfig 2015

Isaiah 30:19-26