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.

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: 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

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.

While They Were Tending: An Advent Reflection – Intro

Have you noticed? All the main characters in the Nativity story were simply tending to their ordinary lives, when suddenly… They step into their roles from the horizontal plane of everyday life. Spotlights find them in the mundane, sometimes painful, laborious and anticipatory; all of them waiting. With all of Israel they wait for Messiah, but each waits also in the angst of their individual postures in the world: Mary, for a wedding. Joseph, for his bride. Zechariah, for his appointment. Not unlike any of us.

In observing these characters through scripture, there are comments that pop; aspects of character that slip into Luke’s narrative. Perhaps it is these traits that allow each to respond a certain way in the critical moment? It is this question, that captures my attention.

Read Luke 1: 1-45 “Luke 1 (ESV) – Inasmuch as many have undertaken.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 Dec, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/1/1/s_974001.

Have you noticed? Waiting is not passive— but tends the fire of belief. Sometimes, it consumes an inordinate amount of energy, either anticipatory or fearful.  Year 2021, waiting in the slow line raises questions: Text, text, text…what matters? Tap, tap, tap…what am I worth? Diverse others behind and before me… What is her reality? His need? What…do I really believe about what is right and good? What do I really believe, period?

Year 2021—waiting. Have you noticed? Some of us are not adept.  Others, far too much so—practiced?

from Luke 1:3b,4 “I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

What do I really believe? This is a good question. Personally, if I am not careful to continue laying the fuel of hope, based on God’s undeniable faithfulness to me; the flame of my belief flickers, distorting what I see in the midnight sky. Fires(yours, too?) smolder lower and lower, hungry for oxygen. This waiting is one story of Advent.

Waiting
Waiting is not passive...
but tends the fire of belief.
Subconscious yearnings curl skyward
for fiery coal
held in God's hand alone
to touch one's lips
feet, fingers: propel these bones
that carry any purpose at all
into the kingdom of light.

Carry me...

Burst my heart, God
upon the dream of your making.
My fingers pick
at the timeworn threads
of dreams my way—
like lint upon a tattered garment.
Your hand massages the oft-furled script,
patient
as my feet find the rocky path.

The path...
straight by definition,
far from so, in experience.
Come, come to the manger
come with me—
to see the why
and the wherefore;
all the reason
belief has form.

jfig     2021

Reflection Questions:  For what are you waiting? What fuel lies banked in your heart? What will you do, as God breathes his living presence into the everyday drama of your life this Advent season?

THANK YOU for joining me. As we continue, I hope we will ponder together, pray together, worship and rejoice together. In his goodness, j

Prayers of returning: Longing

Longing; a meditation from Psalm 84

My soul longs
for the courts of the Lord
where you are extolled
and i, am not.

Set instead
to carrying—
one small ration
called hope...a flame.

Your breath—
alight in me
sets hope to dancing
on the walls of the world.

jfig     8/2021

In her book, Dear White Peacemakers, Osheta Moore includes in her description of white supremacy, the unwitting agony for one white, of striving to live up to a certain standard of excellence derived from skin color alone. And that without knowing that one is carrying this weight about on her back. Conversely, for one of darker-hued skin, there is constant pressure to prove that one’s humanness is more than painfully perpetuated untruths about color. Either way, we are all left striving to prove our worth.

In the courts of the Lord, all this striving falls away – eyes glued to our Creator, Provider, Healer, Messiah. Corporate activity is just that, pointed toward one end. Meditating upon Psalm 84, imagining the atmosphere of the ‘Courts of the Lord,’ the activity that is ordered there, has provided immense relief to me as I continue to wrestle with questions of racism, human worth, and how we live together on the planet.

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. ESV

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. NIV

“Psalm 84 (NIV) – My soul yearns, even faints,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 22 Aug, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/psa/84/2/s_562002.

“Psalm 84 (NIV) – My soul yearns, even faints,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 22 Aug, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/psa/84/2/s_562002.

Prayers of returning: meditations on Psalm 84. Peaceful

Peaceful - Psalm 84:5

i enter your courts
peaceful today
buoyed by rest
encountered here,
and my small ration of hope.

Vital...
'Zion' is worth the trek.
Though the valley be dark
it is, in fact
shadow.

Today's offering...
Sometimes i am blinded by your light
unwittingly linger; choose the dark— 
even Moses benefitted from
the cleft in the rock.

i enter your courts...quietly
bathe in Your
Light—
choosing...
Peaceful.

jfig     8/21

Dear Reader, Choosing to follow Jesus on pilgrimage is a big deal. There are so many uNeXpecTeD places he wants to take us – adoption, service, submission, risk. Think about it – He shares his inheritance…! I am convinced that one of the greatest challenges the Messiah ever faced during his time on earth, was to preserve our freedom to choose—whether to follow him, or not. An alternative would have been so much easier. In the whole broad realm of mental and emotional health, the ability to choose ‘peace’ remains, at times, relative to one’s circumstances and well being. This poem is not intended as admonition – rather invitation, and admission: some moments are easier than others, to choose the goodness of Presence that God offers. Blessings…j

Prayers of returning: day 3

rejoicing day 3

i come to you rejoicing, Lord
having breathed the delight of 

your goodness falls like rain
sometimes near
oft on some distant plain

cataracted eyes must peer
through cloud, smoke,
beyond
the staggering lightning of loss
to confirm that you are here.

i come to you rejoicing, Lord
having breathed the delight of your goodness

where i have been?
I lay it down—
unlikely gift, this surrender,
to take up the dance of rejoicing.
Your Goodness—
one dwelling where greed
is not a shame.

jfig     8/2021


Scriptural context: Psalm 84 - the courts of the Lord. I've been hanging out here for months:
"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord." <a href="http://"Psalm 84 (ESV) - To the choirmaster: according to." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 1 Aug, 2021. http://"Psalm 84 (ESV) - To the choirmaster: according to." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 1 Aug, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/psa/84/1/s_562001>.

Capitalization is intentional to reflect something of one's journey toward confidence, it's resolution, and where it ultimately lies.
'Rejoice' by Monica Stewart is one of my favorite paintings. Due to copyright - I can only nudge/NUDGE you to visit her gallery to see her full rendition.  Rejoice! | (monicastewart.com)

Finally, I should note that the broad expanse of my life has been filled with blessing - thanks be to God.

Prayers of returning…day 2

The past 7 months have been filled with anguish – like I have been floundering in some raging socio-emotional current, washing up in tatters from time-to-time on unfamiliar and desolate shores. Depleted. This week, God has mercifully filled my cup anew, like the long-awaited rain that is at this very moment beginning to patter. I extend this prayer to you, not because “I am back,” but to share my small ration of hope in the waiting. jfig

Prayer of returning...day 2
Cupped

Jesus, i return
to you, this morning
small gift of hope, cupped
carefully
in upturned palms
like a bird, ready
to fly.

For you...i offer
it back—this infant gift
so precious
to scatter like seed;
it lies safe in your benevolent hands.
My heart rests—abandoned
to you...dawning revelation of all creation.

Reveal...
I wait peacefully
for you.

jfig     8/2021
If you'd like a scriptural context, Isaiah 8:20-22 speaks of anguish. And Isaiah 9, the revelation of dawn.