Remember

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The Road

 

This Good Friday morning, I follow Jesus, surely at a cautious distance, as He walks. I wonder now, these long years into it, is there anything cautious about following Jesus at all? Jesus walks, stepping toward, walking into, sorrow beyond all measure. He does so, having long since the moments of creation, relinquished the idea of just fixing it all. He relinquishes again, the thought of just fixing the problem of sin, (and thereby annihilating our freedom to choose) and instead, invites us to become more : more than our sin, more than our weakness or  strength, more than our skill or lack thereof; the object of someone’s admiration or scorn. He invites us to become family; his family.

And so…long since choosing him myself, I follow. His stride is not faint. Though likely weak, his body’s vitality sapped by beating, his step remains confident. Mine, is anything but. Still, I am stunned that Jesus keeps inviting me(us) into the most sacred of His moments: into pain, into the uncertainty of question (Father…Father?). Into times and spaces usually reserved for one’s closest friends and family; opening the door to a communion of ‘knowing,’ rather than simply imagining. What kind of intimate invitation is this? What sacred sorrow might Jesus be inviting me to step into today, knowing fully that he has walked this path before?

I have never, ever, considered suffering an invitation before. Perhaps it functions as a constructive discipline, or necessary evil, but invitation? To feel the weakening heartbeat – then nothing – of laying it all down? Invitation – to breathe the last vapors of self-preservation and feel the faint stirring rise and fall, of other breath. His breath, for he is alive? Invitation – to be entrusted with the sacredness of dying to oneself, in order to give latitude to another’s air, a home to one who had no place to lay his head.

Surely, we did not deserve all this; even this folding and unfolding of the veil. What startling resemblance to swaddling… to grave cloths. Remember.

jfig     4-5/18

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

fringe in Gennesaret: a trilogy

The Fringe in Gennesaret

 

Recognition

“After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret.  When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed.  They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” (1)

In a region called Gennesaret, the recognition of Jesus led to a collective response. Given how much difficulty we have arriving at any type of corporate decision, the fact stands out to me – noteworthy – that upon recognizing Jesus, the people of the region brought all their sick. They didn’t debate, they didn’t do a feasibility study; they didn’t vote, they didn’t even question. They, according to Matthew, went through all the region, and brought all of them. Their sick. Matthew was reportedly a numbers guy, so his use of the word all, seems significant. Given how much attention, how much press, how much tax and NGO money is given to both figuring out how we should care for the sick, and then attempting to execute it; this universal response in the region of Gennesaret, is astonishing to me.

“And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.  And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” (2)

So deep was their recognition, that they brought; but they also assumed, presumed, hoped –  that if the sick could touch even the hem of Jesus’ garment, they would be healed. Matthew offers a picture of the keepers of society, the civic leaders recognizing a power larger than themselves. Upon our moment in history, when the presumed integrity of civic leaders – those entrusted with the care of societies and peoples – is fractured nearly beyond hope by broken promises at best and cruel and vicious intent at worst, this is a startling picture. All at the recognition of Jesus

I’ve been a caregiver on multiple fronts for many years; not formally of society, but in vocation, with family and friends, amongst the terminally ill. There is no one-size-fits-all to the healing arts we call medicine. Desperation might cause one to take risks for oneself; to grasp at an unproven alternative when all the reasoned approaches have failed. But caregivers do not take risks with their loved ones lightly. Those risks are taken with yearning for the salvation of the loved one’s dignity firmly lodged in the caregiver’s throat. Which means the people of the region, bringing their sick and begging Jesus to allow them to touch his garment, were bringing their sick wrapped in the fabric of their hearts.

And then we read…all. All of them were healed; as many as touched it. There is nothing in our society that heals all; not chemo, nor psychotropic drugs, not naturopathy. At our house we don’t even use the same anti-inflammatories. What was it in Jesus’s garment, stirring the dust of Gennesaret as he walked, the fringe caught, and caught again; that healed the sick, and some of society’s ills as well. What is it that one grasps, fingers tangling in the fringe?

(1)”Matthew 14:35 (NLT) – When the people recognized Jesus.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mat/14/35/p1/s_943035&gt;.

(2)”Matthew 14:35 (ESV) – And when the men of.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/14/35/p1c/s_943035&gt;

~ ~ ~

Dust

PICRW level2

 

flepht, flepht, flepht…the footfalls of Jesus stir the dust that lines the streets of Gennesaret. Dust stirs again, the sweep of his robe whorling small puffs of sand. Pebbles trickle across the path. Grit. Soon footfalls crescendo, as the message sweeps throughout the region, “Jesus is here!”

The sick, borne along the path on the strength of the townspeople’s mercy, now lie in the dust. Able voices plead for the broken, “Let them touch your robe – even that will heal them.” Their pleading falls to the earth, echoing in desperate cries, “Help me walk, help me breathe, help me to see. The sick one’s position on the path, is a plea for mercy, for all those who would see him well; those who long to witness a miracle – any miracle; those steeped in compassion; those weighted by life’s inconsistencies. “Help us, Jesus” The sick are not the only ones gasping for air…

So the blind bring the blind, all to finger the dirt and dung and blood threaded through the fringe of the garment worn by Jesus. The dried brokenness of the stiffened hem scratches, serrating each palm. Such an earthen journey – that of Jesus – his robe gathering up the dust of temptation and loss, the sorrowful mucous of dead cells and dead dreams, the crumbled decay of sin. Yet he does not flinch. Rather he waits, eyes of compassion; until one can reach to finger his wounds – those he enlisted on our behalf; his body, his cells, that we might be healed.

~ ~ ~

Traveler

There was a time when, unknowingly, I was afraid to get too close to the path; I feared to touch, for dread that the brokenness would somehow infect me. Unknowingly – because I did not yet know how well I reside among the broken. I don’t think I was afraid of being cut exactly, by an errant jagged edge. I was afraid that I would not be enough – that I would lack the strength , or the necessary wisdom, to pull together shattering pieces, and yet remain intact. Looking down at my palms, I see that I was right. In and of myself, without the love of Jesus flowing through the arteries there, I never will be.

But something has changed. How fully I belong among the broken, crying out to Jesus, presuming, hoping, that He is enough. I had not realized that Jesus could walk by to see me groveling in the dirt, his tangled fringe grasped in both begging hands, and yet, with eyes of compassion, find himself reflected there. I did not know that under his loving gaze, one can be broken, and still be whole.

The threads of fringe cross my palm. “Look at my hands,” this traveler exclaims, as in detail she examines the stains. No nail holes here… instead I encounter his suffering, all the suffering that Jesus will carry to the cross. In Gennesaret I am healed, fingering the world’s brokenness. For suddenly, I am free to grasp my own – to measure its width across his garment, stain upon stain, stiffened red. My soul is transformed, his palm laid upon my brokenness, and returning “Life.” I watch as his palm is laid across the sorrowful heap of another, roaring, “Hope.” There is another, quivering with fear, who upon his touch, begins to inhale the blessings of “Peace.”

Until I was among people who nearly all had some form of apparent brokenness, I was unable to fully examine my own. Nor could I allow Jesus to touch my wounds, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. In bringing the weary pain of others to God, I have often experienced that while I might think myself helpful in their rescue, it is God who is undoubtedly, in some regard, rescuing me.

Jesus…healer, I do not want to underestimate the power of your resurrection, made manifest, as you restore the image of God in us. Our brokenness, our return to simple dust, is a trail that you have walked, gathering up sorrow upon sorrow, braving the shards of our jagged edges, and holding our secrets; exchanging them all for your holiness. You have found us on the path, whether running, or carried there; the hem of your robe a grasp on the new life you offer. Our grasp is a plea, embodied, that you would heal us; even as you have embodied our sin. We confess our brokenness, and our sin. We are dust. But we are your dust, borne by you, in sorrow and in love to the cross of our making. We cling to you in hope – forever. Amen;

jfig   1/19

scripture reference: Matthew 14:34-36

You might also like to contemplate Matthew 27:32-54; Hebrews 2:10-18

 

imprints

 

Imprints

Early in December, as the reality of winter set in, it became apparent to me that there was a ‘thing’ in my life I could not fix.  Since the situation had resisted my efforts to grow it in a healthier direction for over a year, it occurred to me that perhaps I was not meant to fix it at all. Perhaps it would be better for everyone involved, if I allowed the winter, at least as far as my active role was concerned, and trusted Jesus to do his work of making things grow, whether I could see it happening or not; to trust Him to fix it.

Although I don’t think I’m prone to icons, I hung this cross around my neck, (I could fold my fingers  around it) to remind myself to trust. To pray certainly, but the goal was to put Jesus in a bigger role in the situation’s life, and me in a smaller role. So I hung the cross around my neck, and every time anxiety arose regarding the situation, I quietly gripped it. It put a few dents in my skin because it is constructed of nailheads, but basically it was a good reminder.

Less than two weeks later, our family was faced with a moral crisis.  I held onto the cross tighter during the day. I clutched the cross during the night. I prayed, ” Jesus, I can’t fix this, either.  I don’t even know how to begin…”  I prayed a lot of other prayers, too.  I cried and prayed, and fasted and prayed.  I have begged and prayed. And our friends have prayed. You get the idea…

Now it is 3 months and 4 days later. Over night, we made a very simple, humble decision out of those prayers about how to love God and our family well. Then this morning  I woke up early to get ready for church. When I reached down to peel off the cross before getting in the shower, there was not just a little temporary dent from the corner of a nailhead, but a henna-colored tattoo of three stations of the cross burned into my left breast, right over my heart. I stared at it, dumbfounded. When my husband came in, he stared at it, dumbfounded, “What …is that?”

pic-imprint-e1521414617416.jpg

I don’t  know what all it might mean; but in the setting of  having waited and prayed, and fasted and prayed; at the very least, perhaps it is an indication of God having imprinted the work of the cross on our situation. Perhaps He is imprinting the cross on our hearts. Perhaps waiting and trusting is exactly where we are supposed to be; our situation ‘unfixable,’ but our hearts malleable to the work of the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ – symbol of a deed so profound it transforms crisis to life-altering victory time and time again. The cross can change fear to hope. Rework grief to revelation. I do not yet know the full extent…but there are these imprints of the cross.

jfig  3/2018

burning coals…

 

rw pic grace 2

A few years ago, there was a TV series called “Burn Notice,” in which a spy is disclaimed by the US government. Burn Notice: “We have no further use for you… what did you say your name was?”

I have felt this way, related to my sin and failures: a deep burned-out despair in my gut that it is all over. A fear that I have failed to such an extent that there is no going back (or forward for that matter). I’m disappointed in myself, and certain of others’ utter disappointment in me, So I wallow in the ashes of burnt hopes and dreams….

But God doesn’t see it that way. He has a different version of burning coals.  God offers Isaiah a dream job; to be his messenger. It is conveyed in the imperative, but still… The only drawback is that the circumstances seem no-win: provide public service to people who don’t want to be served. Instead, they want to be fed the apple. The same one that Eve wanted, and that I want and maybe you want on any given day: to be our own little gods, doing what we want, when we want, how we want; yet still miraculously fed and protected by God against all odds.

But instead of leaping at the opportunity, however poorly stacked, to advance his status; Isaiah looked at God, looked back down at himself, and asked, “How could someone as unholy as me, ever speak for someone as holy as you?” And God took – in the hands of a seraphim –  a burning coal, touched Isaiah’s lips, and said, “I took care of that.” Really? Someone as holy as you, wants someone as unholy as me… to speak for you…on the world stage…because Jesus atoned, and that’s enough?  (See Isaiah 6.)

So Isaiah,  instead of wallowing in the burnt out ashes of his past and possible future failure, said, “I’ll do it.” Somehow, all he could see was God with the big G, and not the worrisome details about god with the little ‘g’. Burning coals were enough for him, and the claim that God could, and in fact wanted, to use him.

Then there’s Peter, rash and boastful. I cannot imagine what it felt like after…to betray the friend with whom he had walked and talked and witnessed do miracle after miracle. Peter is drawn in, by another disciple, to the courtyard of the high priest.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.”

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them: they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

“John 18:15 (ESV) – Simon Peter followed Jesus and.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 17 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/18/15/s_1015015&gt;.

What must it have felt like…to deny the friend with whom he had walked and talked and puzzled mind-bending questions; to have witnessed life and death miracle moments, and now be drawn in to another; only to conclude with a mutter, “No, I am not one who ever followed Jesus…anywhere…at all.

I can only imagine what Peter might have felt, from the despair I feel to fail the ones with whom I live and breathe every day; the ones who know how I have failed in the past, and that I likely will again. The ones who are still here anyway, thirty years later… I can imagine staring into the fire and wondering, with Peter, if one will ever feel warm on the inside, ever again.

But the burning coals of invitation, find Peter again:

That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

“John 21:7 (ESV) – That disciple whom Jesus loved.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 21 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/21/7/s_1018007&gt;

And this time, Peter leaps. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair, Peter counts the invitation real: to bring himself (and all his baggage), his need to perform (anything), and the real offering to contribute. He comes to a breakfast of grace and hope and continuing purpose. An invitation to follow. See John 21:1-19.

Long into my own journey of following Jesus, following in close company with others; I can imagine staring into the fire with Peter. While I sometimes feel a twinge of desolation while I wait for the coals to really take hold; if I am willing to take the leap into the grace of Christ my Savior, there is hope.

One thought further… the burning coals of Jesus invite me  into purpose, into fellowship, into overflowing grace. The thing that holds me disconsolate, is the thought that I must somehow be perfect, or perhaps even deeper, that it is my right to be perfect, and to be seen as such.  That somehow, along with Eve, I should be granted permission to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and therefore, be like God in this knowing. How I struggle to be in the right. Perhaps you do as well. The God of Isaiah, Jesus the friend of sinners, and the Spirit of the living God, invite us instead to be graced.  These feel like ‘big girl’ thoughts. I invite your comments. And I close with a prayer for us all.

Jesus, we journey in places that test us; tripping headlong like Peter, often at the slightest provocation. Our fears pull us down fast. Help us to be willing to follow; to see in you,  the burning coals of grace. Help us to move closer, to accept the searing definition of your purpose, and to watch, reassured, as moment by moment by moment you walk in the footprints of your Father’s will. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

astonishment…

 

Things that astound:

The idea that Jesus is not overly concerned with my filthy rags before seeking to grab a meal with me, continues to consume my thoughts. It is JUST REALLY AMAZING in the context of his holiness / my lack thereof, that he would keep choosing to engage me, a sinner; perhaps because I am finding it such a challenge to stay on level ground. Or maybe it is in thinking about how much time and energy I have spent trying to clean myself up, only to realize he really doesn’t care; or not so much that he doesn’t care, but he is not at all put off by my stench. Granted, I’m a set-free sinner, but one who continues to get tangled up in the nets of selfishness, wounded pride, arrogance, worry, anger, the despair of failure. I feel like a retro vending machine – SO MANY BUTTONS TO PUSH on me…

My reflection didn’t start there. I was simply thinking back over God’s faithfulness through the challenges of the past year. There were a few – personal, family, public, community. The list of astonishing ways in which God has faithfully shown up. began to grow… 

I really am stunned that God would choose to hang out with me. One because I’m kinda boring; and two, because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You’d think he’d give up… The ‘dinner with a sinner’ is grabbing me because it’s the same mistakes, but the attitudes behind those mistakes are starting to be revealed, and well, it isn’t pretty, nor socially acceptable, nor polite…

provision. The list within a list. Material: One of the ways my husband reflects God is that he is an amazing provider. He works, diligently. I think in 30 years, he has taken approximately 7 sick days, 3 of those post surgery. That’s 2.1 hours per year.  His daily efforts take care of our family,  but also other families, sometimes with little thanks from anyone. His wages pay for food and clothing and electricity and healthcare and educations. His thoughts provide wisdom. There is a lot of thinking of the other in him; of me, our kids, or what would be best for our family. Space – God has shown up to provide needed space – tiny moments of it, or rooms worth at the neighbors for visiting family. God has pushed wide the borders of our thinking to allow much needed processing space: time for asking honest questions and grappling with the answers. Friends – even though, due to confidentiality, I don’t share everything that is going on with me or someone else I love; God has provided friends whose laughter and discernment have held me up in the lonely places. Counsel of the Holy Spirit – this one gets its own asterisk.

comfort. It is in the nature of life as a Jesus follower to persevere. I think. The other day a friend suggested that it might be good (in the midst of that) to allow God to provide me comfort. The next day, just to reflect, I scratched out a list.  The depth and breadth of ways in which God regularly provides me comfort was astonishing. Things like the owl who tu-whoos deep and long into the night, the deep waters of the smile of a child. Even more astonishing was that on my list were places that sometimes feel hard, difficult, conflictual. But there they were on my list as places that provide comfort – not surface comfort, but deep, resonating consistent comfort – like a tuning fork for my personhood. Tim.

Counsel of the Holy Spirit. When we built our house, the tile mason found fossils of God’s creation in the entryway slate. It seemed apparent, that this was to be God’s house, his welcome at the door. I, however, am a stressed hospitalitarian. I like to cook, but I am not so good at greeting. We have other family members who rock that aspect of it, so I guess we are covered, but it is a skewed distribution for sure. 2018 has been a year FULL of hospitality, and it has stretched me to live into God’s story in the entryway. My prayers have been: God, HeLP! What is this supposed to look like? Where is your priority? Can you hold the wicked witch of no sleep at bay? God has answered every prayer…seriously. Astonishment.

When we built our family, we knew they were God’s, too. There have been a few questions…Why? When? Will you?  He seems to answer many of those with ‘Wait’. In the meantime, his faithfulness, his counsel to help us navigate, has been evident EVERY DAY. I don’t know anyone else who can sustain EVERY DAY like God can. There was evening, there was morning, there is a sun and dawn…

The Blossoming of Extraordinary Capability. It amazes me to watch God take the wraps off someone, and let their talents, gifts, capability explode. Or just blossom quietly in the nutrient rich soil of being true to who one is and what one believes and values. Our oldest daughter got married this summer. She and her husband value community, and so they planned a wedding that invited people into the process, sometimes letting go of their own expectations more than they imagined, to let someone else contribute a gift. The week looked really different than I had imagined, but there was a whole lot of blooming going on.

The wedding is just one example. Time after time, I have watched someone really young pull off something amazing with hundreds of details. How do they make these things happen??? At church this morning, our young pastor told us that from Genesis, God was purposing for us to be makers with the stuff of his earth. Hmmmm…

The Art of Orchestrating. As a mother of youngsters, on a household budget, I used to pride myself on being able to ‘make something out of nothing.’ I could put real food on the table, out of bits of this and that, and not have anyone say, ‘Yuk.’ Although I do remember suggesting that if my children didn’t like what was being served at home, perhaps they should check the menu at the neighbors (my husband said I couldn’t offer that…)

That is nothing, however, compared to what I see God miraculously putting together out of bits of dust. How does this Triune God orchestrate just the right word, for just the right soul, at just the right moment out of 11 billion moving people? He does it way too often for it to be coincidental that the chapters of 2 persons’ stories collide with meaning and hope. Or that nano-bytes of information drop into the correct diverse palm with split second timing. Does it surprise you, that in an individualized society, capable of fiercely guarding one’s own ideas and opinions, God can with a word, change that same one’s perspective? “Way too often,” is part of what is astonishing. Is there anything that his glance cannot touch? I think I will close with the following exclamation:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Romans 8:1 (ESV) – There is therefore now no.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/rom/8/1/p1/s_1054001&gt;.

Nothing can get in the way of God showing up – faithful. May the God of hope astonish you with the depths and precision of his life-changing love. May his faithfulness to show up midst the challenges, along the twists and turns of your journey to trust, give you an ever-deepening knowledge of who he is, and what he does, and perhaps, what he does not do. May you be amazed, to dine at his table, and find him good company. May your mourning turn to comfort, your despair to hope, as you trust in him. Amen

jfig   12/18

 

 

 

 

 

One duck…

one duck pic

 

I thought it would rain this morning… but at bus time, the clouds folded in, holding their breath, for one duck. One duck, center stage, danced across the canvas of the morning, the clouds holding their applause, while he plowed a wake.

We – woman, man,  child- so want to make a difference; our clumsy attempts often piling up like refuse; sometimes leaving scars and scrapping our  vows to ‘do no harm.’

The lake is near 400 ft deep in places, places right out there under the duck. It should take a dam; so it seems startling that one duck could  plow such a wake, turning it at will. Apparently there is power in webbed feet and winged prayers.

Spirit of God, hold up my winged prayers. Lift them to the heavens and stretch their weight along the trajectory of your leaning. Only for you, do the clouds hold their breath. Only for you. Amen

photographer’s note: I left the power lines…one duck.

jfig/11/18

 

Transfigure

sunrise 2

 

Today is day 2 of ‘springing forward;’ which usually feels like ‘dragging, one-step-at-a-time,’ in order to adjust to a new schedule.  As I accompanied my daughter, on her distracted and dawdling way to the bus, I marveled anew, that in spite of her profound array of special needs, she can pretty much daily  show up with a cheerful attitude and not too much coaxing and cajoling. The ‘pretty-much-every-day’ is what gets me.

As we trundled our way to the bottom of the hill,  dawn crept up the sky; this dawn, unedited and extravagant, delivering a message.  I was struck dumb, and continue struggling to find words. Even after the bus had come and gone, I stood still and let the majesty and the magnitude of God’s unspoken words wash over me.

I am here. Every day. Showing up.

Though the air is unseasonably warm this morning, there is a brisk wind out of the southeast – that too, an atypical direction. I could feel it picking up as God continued to paint the sky.

I am here in the storm. I was here BEFORE the storm.

I’ve been in what feels like a crop-flattening storm lately, so those words are ponder-worthy: What does it mean for God to have been here, displaying His Glory, before the storm? And why, today, does he deliver a message, not quietly on paper, but painted and wind-propelled,  across the whole sky? In one instant, the sky was 157 degrees of pink, from southeast to west-northwest. Before the day even started…

If God can paint the sky east to west, can he not then paint a life, my life, a different shade of storm-cellar grey? Can he not at least ‘brighten up’ my perspective? Can he not transfigure the bleak questions of this season; questions of fear and unknowing and loss, into some realization of the beauty of his goodness? Some realization of who he is, starling though it is against that stark grey backdrop?

We’ve been reading the book of Mark during this pre-spring.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
"Mark 9:1 (NIV) - And he said to them." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/mar/9/1/p1/s_966001>.

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him” This after Jesus has told them he must suffer and be killed and rise again. Can you imagine the questions in their minds? ‘Listen to him’…after his stark announcement of impending suffering, even death?

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” This… after the radiance, and a sighting of Elijah and Moses. Wouldn’t that still one’s run-on of questions just for a moment? Storm and light, juxta-positioned.

I feel like God completely transfigured the sky this morning. Midst the dismay of surveying what I have presumed to be ‘Crop damage’ from the storms in our life, I feel a bit like Peter,  I’ve experienced a great sense of loss and some hyper-anxiety. What to do, think, feel, say??? So when Peter suggests doing something…ANYTHING…I can relate. But perhaps I should still the questions, and listen…

sunrise transfigure

I was here, before the storm. “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

And from another story, I am here, in the storm; “Why are you so afraid?”

Jesus Calms the Storm
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
“Mark 4:35 (NLT) – As evening came Jesus said.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mar/4/35/s_961035&gt;.
“This is my son, whom I love… listen to him…”
Lord Jesus, the proclamation of the dawn, has left me speechless. Speechless enough to feel a burble of hope shift, and rise above the questions in my soul. Will you unfurl this hope – like the dawn, and transfigure me?

 jfig 3/2018

 

 

 

 

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

 

fearsome

pic fiddlehead

fearsome

the fiddleheads

are bent in prayer…

is this then

how one springs to life?

 

jfig   4/18

RW pic fiddlehead3

Several years ago, Amanda Hostettler led a worship seminar for our homeschool co-op, challenging us to ‘get on our faces,’ foreheads to the ground.  The physical action was intended to open a doorway – our hearts and minds to follow –  in worship. Obstacle one occurred in that Little Miss Sweetness was being squirrelly that morning, so I didn’t manage ‘facedown’ at the time. I later snuck away to the backstage closet to try again. Obstacle two:  my left knee was swollen from a mild running injury so I could not fully bend it to kneel. To get my forehead to the floor, I either had to stretch out prone, or resort to…heigh, ho, hoist the derriere, way up in the air.

I was hoping no one would wander in to witness my duck impersonation, but I also was struck by the vulnerability of my position. Certainly I felt vulnerable before man, both comically, and perhaps tragically, depending on whose story I carried at the moment. But I also was struck by my lack of vulnerability before God. I realized I had been withholding my deeper fears and concerns from God, trying to fix them on my own before darkening his footstool. I was  bringing him only the half-finished ‘middle stuff’, a modest representation of the things I felt I could let go of a little, and still have some sense of control; or offering the trivial stuff – treating him like a figurehead instead of a real God, one who is fearsome in power.

prompting…

So in that quiet closet sanctuary, tail to the sky I began to release to God all the tight-fisted fears and worries I had been holding: fears for my children, personal stuff, and marriage stuff and really scary stuff that I had no idea how to navigate. As I did so, I was filled with a peace I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Worship flowed out of a thankfulness that God was present, not pissed, at my inability to fix my life. He certainly wasn’t surprised by anything I told him…and he didn’t seem to think I was incapable, or unengaged, or incomplete. It appears he had been waiting all along,  patiently, to carry my burdens in his sufficiently more capable hands.

Lots of roles that we fill in life are fearsome: parenting, partnering with friends, spouse, loved ones as we all navigate the unexpected or the mundane; anything new …decision-making with consequences. How often I fail, or find myself assailed by a sense of failure, at not knowing enough, or not being able to do enough to fix a loved one’s illness, or a child’s learning struggle. Sometimes, not being enough to fill what is asked of one is fearsome,  even if the request is unspoken.

How novel, in that closet moment, to consider that we are not supposed to be enough. We are supposed to live as if there were a direct line flowing from God’s strength into our veins, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We are meant to live, wild with confidence, not in our capability, but in his; not in our outcomes, but in his steadfast determination. Certainly, we are invited to use whatever tools God’s Spirit gives us, but when the burden becomes too big and wide for our size-S hands, when our knowing is not enough, we are supposed to move the mountain by handing it to him in bucket-loads of prayer. We are meant to stay engaged by  simply preparing the way for Jesus to visit.  See Luke 10: 1, 19,20; Mark 9:14-29.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

19. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

“Luke 10:1 (NIV) – After this the Lord appointed.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 21 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/luk/10/1/p1/s_983001&gt;.

Mark 9:14-29. And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[fn] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[fn]

“Mark 9:28 (ESV) – And when he had entered.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 21 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mar/9/28/p1/s_966028&gt;.

When our third daughter transitioned from home to public school, she spent an hour each evening releasing her worries, observations, ‘what-do–I-do now’ questions to God. She told me, “Mom, I don’t really pray, I just tell God everything, like he was my friend.” She stated it with question marks, as if asking if that were legitimate. Gee whiz – do you think I might have caught on then???

A couple ideas continue to surface  from that day: God invites our vulnerability; he welcomes the intimacy. “I believe, Help my unbelief!”

And in bringing such an ‘offering’, I find myself springing to  life, to worship,  in the least likely places.

RW pic fiddlehead3

jfig   4/18