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.



time…

time studies us intently
a thoughtful potter
slowly moving clay

who holds the minutes
and the clay, and
each of us?

surely only a grasp unbreakable
can fashion porcelain

jfig    7/21

I saw  friends today, and last week - some of whom I hadn't seen in a long time. We are all different, never going 'back' to exactly the same. Old benchmarks of our knowing one another will be important in allowing us to catch-up quickly. So will listening, really listening, to where each of us has hung out and taken sustenance through these long seasons of 'social disconnect.' It feels important, as this poem hopefully indicates, to know how we are formed, and reformed throughout life; to have this grounding knowledge of oneself, and be able to articulate it in a way that allows others to know us, too. I hope, that in addition to being emptied out, you have been filled up during these long months of processing grief and uncertainty and probing questions of justice. I hope you have been filled up with the life-giving sustenance of that which matters. The theme keeps coming back - of all the things that matter, one of the most essential, is you.
jfig

Seen

In the waning light of hope,
 you are seen...

Growing up in the treed hills of western Pennsylvania, with two loving parents, my farm-based childhood was anything but oppressed. My father was present every day, and my mother, at 89, still lives a determined life of empowering others, though no one ever called it that, way back then. I have been slow to add my voice to the out-cries of women oppressed, though I feel its alarm bells viscerally. Now it is Holy Week 2021. I walk the stations of the cross, neither scholar nor historian, but a disciple, like so many others.  I am startled at what is whispered, the juxtaposition of Jesus' statements in the following verses, echoing even now, with great resonance.  Mine are just one pair of ears, but with grateful heart, I share it here - the utter compassion of a Savior who invites us to 'keep watch' as he re-writes history.  In his own darkest hour, he keeps watch himself; and continues to do so while we wait, between the cross and His resurrection of life.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19: 37-40

“Luke 19 (ESV) – As he was drawing near already.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/19/37/p1/s_992037.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26: 38-39

“Matthew 26 (ESV) – Then he said to them.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/26/38/p1/s_955038.

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23: 27-31

“Luke 23 (ESV) – And there followed him a.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/23/27/p1/s_996027.

Seen
In the waning light of hope,
women wait, bewildered
A few dare to believe—
the probability of change
Passover

Resolute voices cry Hosanna
but palmed branches bend
serrated question marks lying in the dust.
History has not been kind
Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Jesus falls on his face
Do his fists pound the earth?
If it is possible—TAKE THIS CUP AWAY
love poured out, to the
very.last.breath.

Over his shoulder
'Women, do not weep for me,
but for yourselves...your children.
You are seen
 in my very last breath.

You are seen
In my very last breath
hanging between sons' choices gone awry.
Love poured out, as
thieving Satan steals.

You are seen
in my very last breath
as humankind betrays its own flesh
again and again and again.
Disconnect.

Women, do not weep for me
History continues to be unkind
will ream the linings of your hearts
and wombs.
You are seen—when do the stones cry out?
When do the stones cry out? 

You are seen.

jfig     4/2021

Thickets

Straight and narrow:
it seems we have been advised
to stay.
It should not
surprise, then
that life's journey
braves the thicket
and the swamp
the deep, dark womb of forest
where the seeds of living are formed.

Straight and narrow
climbs the cliffs
hanging on in terror
to feel oneself sustained
again, and again
by the wise, tenacious 
love of God.
Do not skirt the thicket;
its briers frame
this fierce, improbable beauty:
the God Who Loves'
abiding embrace.

Dear Reading Friend,

A sharp contrast was drawn for me this week, between the orderly neatness of having it all figured out, and the messy struggle of ever-clambering to keep hold of the shirttails of God. I felt, deep in that place between stomach and gut, that I would rather choose messy; continue to sport all the scratches and mud splotches evident of the potentially infectious encounters of pursuing God wherever he leads, than wear the polished veneer of having stayed behind. I’m sharing these poems to invite your pondering, but perhaps also to bolster my resolve. Godspeed, Jfig

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Matthew 7 (ESV) – For the gate is narrow.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 27 Mar, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/7/14/s_936014.

Messy
i did not anticipate messy
mountains of laundry
the stain of anguished tears
for there are some that drip from a mother's heart
that stain one's shirt forever.

i did not anticipate seeing
when we each vowed, "I do"
sullen dark corners inside the hallways called me
no solvent could touch,
save grace

messy, this creosote
of banner borne, blood yet fresh
on the beams of his cross
my need sticky, with
splinters and nails

little did i imagine
his agony of stretch
nor such tedious debridement;
things Creator would not 
have me (w)bear

chafing - cautious dismantle
to recover image;
His Love
emblazoned on my heart.
messy.

jfig     3/2021

Those Who Make Room: Sometimes Suffering

Those Who Make Room: I admire those who, like Barbara Brown Taylor, can give their full attention to sacred ritual, and still abide in the real world of laundry and garden chores. About Ash Wednesday, she said that she felt a sudden urge to ask for more, more ashes; only to realize that it was not yet her turn for a full taste of death. Apparently, like Paul (and you and me), at that moment she still had work to do. She juggles perfectly, though. Ashes applied, she notes that she still has time for the common courtesies of please and thank you, between her and her God. Only a taste of death… How can I sustain reverent regard while keeping pace with dirty dishes and dirtier socks; Please and Thank you, and Yes, Lord, all in one breath?

I want to give Lent my attention, to recognize that something deep and personal, and earth-shattering is happening in the church calendar of life and death and legacy of sacrifice. I do not want a gimmick—because faith is much, much more than gimmick for getting through our days. I remember the time astute Aunt Ruth, at 89 years of age, told me that she no longer felt it necessary to give up chocolate for Lent. Coming from her, it was delightful discernment, besides the rescue of chocolate! Holding reverence feels less like giving up something, and more like opening up to something, so that whatever matters settles deeper, and whatever is unnecessary falls away from dis-use.  Like so many religious observations, perhaps Lent raises more questions than it answers. Sometimes Suffering is one of my questions.

Sometimes Suffering


Sometimes suffering
might be invitation
NOT to be minimized—
but perhaps made more
PRECIOUS
by what it costs to enter in.

Pain and sorrow
weave a surprising Hora.
'Havah Nagilah;' ribbons of intimacy spool
in and out the Godhead
as life and death tell their story
of who God is.

Sometimes suffering
might be invitation
And we are invited to hold the ribbon?

Harsh circumstance
strips down the bark of our defenses.
Requiem:
lay to rest
our ill-conceived notions
and cling to what is real.

jfig     March 2021

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY,  p 77.
Wikipedia references Psalm 118:24 as inspiration for the lyrics of Hava Nagila; but the whole of the psalm resonates with the intertwining of life and death. 


And because it feels scary to leave you with suffering wide open – Blossom





Blossom

To blossom
takes time
slow seasons of steady nutrition
infused through slender stems.
Fragile.
Blossom may mean wait,
and while you wait
hold open your heart.
Your petals will take on
astonishing hues
of God-love.

"Winter" may ask you to suffer
hardship of storms
attrition: leaves lost to blight
and insects,
infringement of priorities.
Take in the pale delicate notes
of that which gives you life.
Breath-taking.
This is my prayer for you.
Suffering is not easy—in any form.
In its season you have yet to bloom.

jfig     3/2021

Permit me, Lord: a prayer for 2021

 
 
 
 Permit me, Lord

 Permit me to love you, Lord
 in spite of weary, bedraggled form—my own. 
 Permit me to love you, Lord
 in ways that stretch the narrow, fearful hardenings in my heart.
 Stenosis of dismay
 temporarily halts my pursuit of holiness.
 Help me to run—swift pursuit;
 your open arms stretched wide
 between twin pillars of Christ's Kingdom,
 righteousness and justice never failing.
 May incense arise, my known 'poor spirit,'
 bent now to pour oil
 and light the flame.
 Reverence and need entwine, curl heavenward
 their soot a cure for my unknowing.
 I exalt your holy name,
 my Lord and my Redeemer.
 Amen 
 and amen.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

“Matthew 5 (ESV) – Blessed are the poor in.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 9 Jan, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/5/3/s_934003.

Wise Man

 
 

 Wise Man
 Do you want to be a wise-man
 behold the light
 that marks Christ's coming?
 Dare to migrate...
  
 Do you want be a wise-man
 pursue the One
 who brings the light
 first spoke it into being?

 So you want to be a wise man???
  
 Summoned before the face of oppressive power
 and reckoning
 choose to depart by a different way
 choose to be governed by justice and righteousness?
  
 Might I be a wise-man
 Believe you are who the prophets foretold.
 Oh, Holy Prince
 your peace transcends temporal security.
  
 Mighty Counselor
 we kneel at your cradle of wisdom.
 May we be wise—and willing
 journey far to rejoice in the light of your presence.
  
 "Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts..."
 Wise men.
 Grant that I might unwrap such gold, this frankincense and myrrh
 'Knowing You to be immeasurably who You say You are.'
  
 Might I, newly wise
 fall
 knees to earthen floor
 and worship the newborn King.
 
 jfig     12/2020 

Dear Reader,

Last week, the song ” Do you Want to Build a Snowman,”  from the movie “Frozen” kept popping into my head. Followed by  the wise men. Surely one could find more fitting comparative verse for the Prince of Peace! But the real question of this poem points toward a place of child-like longing that lingers forcefully in many of us, What part do you want to play in the story of Jesus? And the morechallenging grown-up question, What relationship with him, do you wish to have?

The content of this poem is carefully gleaned from Isaiah9:1-7 and Matthew 2:1-12. It stops me in my tracks to read the prophecy of Isaiah 9 moving toward conclusion with, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” ( emphasis mine) To not only end there, but to start there; to uphold there.  What do you think establishes peace and why?

“Isaiah 9 (ESV) – Of the increase of his.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 14 Dec, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/isa/9/7/s_688007&gt;.

With

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him… John 1:1-3a

With

In the beginning...
our begging souls long with time-distilled
thirst
for what, we toil to know.

In the beginning...
before light and darkness shaded the landscape
with ~ rooted essence
of God's first transcendent Word.

In the beginning...
the deep land of mankind
sprawls parched
looking over her shoulder; remembering.

Living water
some spring trickles deep in my soul.
Craving more
With

One's thirst awakens
in search of seed of all creation
Longing for company ~ the Divine spring
With a germ that nurtures life.

jfig     12/2020

Dear Reader,

In the darkening winter days leading into Advent, an astonishing amount of light has shone. Beautiful days of sunshine and frost’s sparkle. Small gifts of kindness that burst onto 2020’s scene of blatant uncertainty. Scripture passages that speak of thirst have stood out to me with references to mankind’s misguided attempts to fill life’s deep needs with distractions that do not sustain. Still, they are part of the journey; but what part? Our longings, reconfigured in pandemic, point to deep thirsts within. Thirst, and the scriptures that evoke it thematically, seem ponder worthy for a season. I’m trying to learn to ask the questions and let them echo a bit, rather than offer pre-packaged answers that do not resonate with where you might be in your story. Thanks for showing up here, I’m delighted to have your company. jfig

“John 1 (ESV) – In the beginning was the.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 5 Dec, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/1/1/s_998001.

If you liked this reflection, you might also appreciate Christian Lindbeck’s sermon on John 1:1-18; accessible here: Light in the Darkness | Week 1 – Hillcrest Church (hcbellingham.com)

Unveiling

 
 
 
 
 Unveiling
 Such beauty waits beyond the slash heaps
 One climbs their ruins—no small feat
 for one feeling small.
 Yet reddening corpuscles absorb air
 those that have not carried oxygen
 for long seasons of treachery.
  
 Treachery the lie
 that small ones have no strength.
 None of our strength is our own...
 'Tis gifted or granted, imagined
 for purposes far beyond
 even our most benevolent inclination.
  
 And yet, cells have not forgotten
 how to carry this breath of life.
 Lift the veil on beauty's unfolding
 her wonder un-reconciled to loss.
 Maker has seen to that
 with measured infinite supply.
  
 None of our strength is our own...
  
 jfig     10/2020 

This poem derives from figuratively carrying Psalm 27 around in my pocket, for long legs of life’s journey. You can access it here: “Psalm 27 (ESV) – Of David The LORD is.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Oct, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/psa/27/1/s_505001&gt;.

As one feeling small, I might hide. I do hide – afraid of what others will think of me.  But the Maker hides me with his very being; miraculously conferring holiness, strength, life, hope upon this fragile frame. Psalm 27 says that the Lord hides us in is tent, the place where He dwells. The Hebrew root is shineth. The Lord hides us in the awesome and devastating place where his being radiates with glory and majesty. Really???

Midst both my own journey, and the privilege of walking a bit with others, I often grow impatient (and fearful). Why does healing and the transformation that comes with it take so long? How are we to endure?  This poem is in no way meant to minimize the pain you might be in, as you wait. It is meant much like a prayer, to stand in the gap with and/or for you, and look for the light of Jesus’ coming to rescue those He lovingly created in his image. I pray He will lift you into the strong beauty of His Presence, and keep you safe.

 Lord God, sometimes we cannot believe for ourselves, that there is any reason to hope. And yet, here we are – still breathing the breath of life, that only you could have breathed into us. And so, we wait together, not just for you, but upon you, with the belief that you are who you say you are. Sustain us in hope, even as you sustain us by your mighty hand, we pray.

Luke 4:18,19