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.
Thank you for the feast-
invitation to go
deep into the roots of
All the way
into the recesses
Both a question,
and a fledgling
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
to rich, brown
Dust and living water.
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:
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*
Simeon's answer is, yes.
All of eternity is altered
by this child's first breath.
The next breath...peace
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.
Where shall we find Him?
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
Nurture His Presence
He is here.
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 couldsee 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.
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?
navigating by Spirit dreams (this is paradox);
holiness swirling about and within him.
Pattern abandoned...Joseph crafted
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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 waitwith 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.
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke 1:6
too quiet home.
Bent with age
and with leaning
extremities of body and will entwined—
falling toward Yahweh.
Through sweeping rhythms
one's grief wringing clockwise
the other counter.
Grief will knock you down
but two did not collapse, defeated.
Pillars: righteous and faithful
the faithfulness of God.
Do you hear the pillars echo—
Falling toward Yahweh?
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.
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.
Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the lord.
"Do not be afraid, Zacharias; your prayer has been heard..."
Quiver empty. Waiting
for an heir.
The fulfillment of purpose,
appointment of his division,
slow roll of lots.
any of these
to find him.
"Do not be afraid,
Pinnacle priestly moment:
light the incense
The light explodes—
Do not be afraid, Zechariah
Your prayer has been heard,
Joy and gladness
And... he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
Faithfulness, step by weighted, waiting step
In spite of...the wait.
Yahweh remembers, Zechariah,
So do we.
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.
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.
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 notadept. 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 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.
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,
as my feet find the rocky 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.
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
Longing; a meditation from Psalm 84
My soul longs
for the courts of the Lord
where you are extolled
and i, am not.
one small ration
called hope...a flame.
alight in me
sets hope to dancing
on the walls of the world.
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
Peaceful - Psalm 84:5
i enter your courts
buoyed by rest
and my small ration of hope.
'Zion' is worth the trek.
Though the valley be dark
it is, in fact
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
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 – Heshares 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