Questions in the Margins: Hold You in My Heart

This poem is written to and for persons of color, your family and friends, in response to expressions of persistent pain and suffering you experience due to racial injustice.  In the Book of Philippians, Paul and Timothy write, “I hold you in my heart,” to the believers in Philippi. Believers who at least symbolically, were among those Paul had previously persecuted, even unto death. This poem is loosely patterned after that prayer.  Philippians 1:1-7

Hold you in my heart

 

I hold you in my heart

reaching out blood-tinged hands

across the barriers of history

to gather broken pieces of your soul

out of the ashes.

I don’t presume to

‘put you back together’

but to hold your story

as the sacred missive it is,

and lean with you toward

One Who Can Heal.

 

I hold you in my heart

defenses momentarily unlaced

by a glimpse – mere glimpse

of your suffering,

the color of your blood

draining ochre into the soil

on which we now stand.

Stand?

Nay, walk…

for this is a journey;

wretched soil for all of us

to leave behind.

 

I hold you in my heart

examining the color of mine

to ask where it might celebrate—yours.

wake late to the dream

birthed out of your nightmare;

that the passages that carried you through the night to freedom

might tunnel through the dark once more

bring me to your door

in a fellowship of love, art

music, work, laughter

and the overarching  grace of Christ’s righteousness.

 

I hold you in my heart

(it takes such a long while to quiet its thunderous beating)

I purpose to wait;

to not simply acquiesce

in verbal acknowledgement of complicity,

but to wrestle with the discomfort

until I can hear the faint, strengthening beat

of life’s muscle in your chest.

This is a labor of love.

 

I hold you in my heart

Your freedom is not for sale

Truth is, one cannot buy, nor sell, freedom;

Our freedom was purchased

before black or white or red ever set foot on this shore.

But I would like to scour stains

of what it has cost to realize your freedom,

by the washing of your feet;

pour the oil of joy instead of mourning

into the fissures in your soles

that black feet might dance once more.

I hold you in my heart

jfig  6/2020

RW joy hearts

jfig     6/2020

The journey to acknowledge white privilege has been messy for me.  If it were not for confidence in the grace which Paul describes, I doubt I could engage the difficult questions. #stillonjourney

Scripture reference is Philippians 1:1-7 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Questions in the Margins: Vigil

 

Barn

 

Vigil

Visceral despair—

to feel oneself abandoned

by the human race.

This crisis is not in the streets,

where twin daggers of hatred and despair

fell souls

before a body ever hits the ground.

Crisis is in our hearts

each blooded muscle seen

by the holy eyes of God,

first with love,  then with untainted justice.*

To be mourned is the heart that has so swelled with fear,

then hatred; another who so fears judgement

that neither can beat in rhythm with their Creator,

synchronized…in the brother/sister-hood of humankind

by the recurring image (image) ((image)), of God.

 

What do I know—of fear?

That is part of the problem.

If I am uncommonly awake with it now,

may its shallow gasp turn to vigil;

keeping watch, prayer-like

over others like me, if only in that they, too, bear the image of God.

Prayer-like, because my prayer alone, is not big enough for this;

must be joined by other choirs.

Fellowed, not by default

but by inventive grace

that keeps one on her knees

patellae buried into soil rich and deep

where mighty oaks might grow.

Once there invaded

the poisonous oppressions of sin,**

but I have seen a flower—

gentian purple,

sprout and flourish

against a broken bed of shattered rock.

 

My bent frame

can see

just that far. ***

jfig     5/31/2020

 

* Php 1:1-7

** Isaiah 61

***Isaiah 58: 6-12

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 29 Ship’s Log II/Stranded

“After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” Mark 6:53-56 NLT *

Ship’s Log II

Left Gennesaret at dawn.

Too many stories to tell.

We just drifted past a lad

walking on water.

Was that the six-year-old?

I am sure it was he.

 

Stranded

Shattered

got here too late—

accustomed to my sanctuary of pain.

Jesus and his disciples have left

the shore – boat outline

receding in the distance

 

“He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might

he increases strength.”

 

There is a question

dropped like a pebble on the sand,

“Who do you say that I am?”

jfig     4/2020

 

**Isaiah 40:29

***Matthew 16:15

Recently, a young man asked me, “You have been a believer in Jesus for a long time. What ‘advice’ would you give to a younger follower like me?”

In your lifetime, Jesus will many times ask you this question, “Who do you say that I am?” This is an invitation…

Be honest with yourself, and with Jesus, when you answer. Life-changing conversation will follow.   jfig

Mark 6:53-56 Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
** ***Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

You can access scripture passages here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/ This is a terrific site from which to access multiple translations, commentaries and concordance info.

Dear Reading Friends: Thank you. It has been so meaningful to have your company on this 30 day journey. One more day… Thank you for reading, for commenting, for pondering and following along. Over the next 30 days, I plan to stop in and see what you are up to. In all things heavenward, Godspeed. jfig

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Altars Day 28

Altars

There is an art

to the ministry of receiving.

It requires some deep clearing of one’s pride

the cleansing (in me) of resentment

that I can not somehow

be more, all on my own.

Flex my bicep a bigger bump

to carry my own weight.

 

Aaaah, but biceps were made for lifting

not pushing oneself up on whatever crutches.

So carry I did

for a day in Gennesaret.

And the pain loosened round my chest

and my eyes cleared to look at the lost and hurting

and my exhaustion faded

(for a moment).

 

The bicep

(now strengthened)

was reminded to lift in supplication

at the altar in Gennesaret

to One who dragged his robe

through the streets of the marketplace

to make us whole.

Amen

Message from the Woods

 

Little Miss Sweetness and I took to the woods. Some of us are occasionally creeping out to isolated places concerned that to not do so might bear worse consequences than our exposure to the elements. We brought back a message for any who need to hear it.

RW pic H
h is for ‘hello’

h is for hello: We are your woods, growing still because some wise individuals collaboratively discerned that you would need us. May you have wise individuals still. You are not here; we have noticed. That is okay. We are practicing being: being green, flashing our native color, and growing, after  winter’s semi-hibernation. And we are taking an arguably needed sabbath rest. We are all in this together…

Do not worry. You will return to the woods once more; the Douglas fir and hemlock will be waiting, sentinels for your return.

 

RW pic ll sand
love letters in the sand

love letters in the sand: the nematodes and copepods are dancing;

we will be so*excited!!!to see you~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Today was just hard

In spite of having what we need of food and projects and space, I felt blue – that unsettling mix of thankful and sad. It was sad, to see cars in people’s yards with fresh ‘for sale’ signs. Demoralizing to see a SWAT team at the foodbank in a rural county. It feels heavy to hear of friends’ struggles to homeschool for the first time without the benefit of distance, the perspective that one’s children will survive. In reality, many of you have been teaching your children from day one. They will bloom because of and in spite of you. They will benefit from your efforts, but they will survive in large part because of God’s mercy, and his bold creative design that gave us curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. Our brains LOVE having problems to solve.

On the other hand, our hearts were built for nurture – of bodies and other beings.

RW pic message from the woods
the nurture tree

 

I wonder how many living, growing things this stump has nurtured – seedlings to saplings to trunks. An army or two of ants. Squirrels, lichens, ferns. It appears that we have been taking nurture for granted: teachers, transit drivers, nurses. When I was growing up (about a hundred years ago) the school cooks made sweet rolls for the teachers on meat and gravy day. Now the cooks and librarians are packing lunches and shipping them on the short bus to a neighborhood down the road. I wonder if school levies will pass more readily now; teacher salaries go up? Truck drivers, and maintenance workers and the kid at the pizza shop. Volunteers, and anyone who whistles or sings. In January, there was an article in the Week magazine, “Bad bosses: Will they ever reform?” This month, my friend’s boss is giving her unmandated hazard pay, because she is grateful for her staff, and wants to nurture their being…

My friend Nancy says, never waste a crisis. We are learning that some of our collective strength is found in the least celebrated places, and in our willingness to try something new; in being creative, and being brave. Everyone I know is tired, because we are all working hard to feed the cells of society; sending pipelines of aide up and down the stories of real, or imagined, class.

We are also being more honest, about when we are frightened and lonely and sad. We are wearing cloth and paper masks, but we’ve taken off some of the invisible ones we used to hide behind. Donning gloves, but looking for new ways to touch each other.

RW pic bleeding heart
bleeding heart

I believe in us, in the Creator’s God’s design that imbedded his image, creativity and nurture and sacrifice.

‘You will return to the woods once more; the Douglas fir and hemlock will be waiting, sentinels for your return.’

They will have grown. perhaps so will we.

jfig    4/2020

To my regular readers; I apologize for the radio silence. Poem 20 has been a challenge, both it and the fig fam needs refuse to stay within the necessary margins for concentration and productivity…everything keeps popping out at the seams. Just want to let you know that I have not given up on the poems or you.

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 19 Ship’s Log

Dear Reader, Today’s poem is from the perspective of one who arrived by boat. disclaimer:  At times, I have noted that while the vernacular of those who make their living from the sea, or in healthcare, may be crudely apt, it is no less reverent.

The scripture referenced in stanza 7 has provided critical navigation in times when I have felt repeatedly and perplexingly hungry, food in front of me.   jfig

 

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. Mark 6:53-56 ESV

 

Ship’s log

Moored

we anchored at dawn

immediately,

the disciples slipped from the boat—

and vanished.

 

Are they lost?

hidden

among the runners

bed wetters

pallet-bearers?

 

Terra firma

I sometimes needed

to pick my way,

a shifting substrate – 

choose cautiously what will undergird

as singular truth.

Pacific Rim shifting sand

 

Lost again…

have now gotten lost

at least

one hundred times

in Gennesaret alone.

 

Yesterday

He fed the masses

surely 5000

I am hungry again today…

waiting to see

what will happen

catch fish fish market fishing
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

 

Guide—

Without a guide

lost became quickly treacherous.

Thankfully, Spirit (Holy One)

redeems, redeemed, is redeeming

the missed steps.

 

Found

the map/Isaiah 8: 11-22

Picked our way.

Have once again arrived

at dawn.

Jesus. is here.

 

jfig     4/2020

IMG_5202
Red Dawn

 

photo of rocky seashore
Photo by Dima Valkov on Pexels.com

Three weeks ago, our pastor Christian Lindbeck spoke about living through unprecedented times by this truth: as Jesus followers, we are set free to love, not by arriving, but by walking, step by singular step, in the company of the Holy Spirit. http://www.hcbellingham.com/sermons/called-equipped-and-set-free-to-love-like-jesus/  (mins 55-60)

Galations 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Mark 6:53 (ESV) – When they had crossed over.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mar/6/53/p1/s_963053&gt;.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved

30 Days in Gennesaret: Was Anyone Six Day 15

Was Anyone Six  

for anyone who has ever loved and hoped for a sick child

 

Was anyone six

who lay on a bed

bruised and broken

afore he had…

lived?

 

First trip to market—

or do child and corner already belong

claimed by a cup

where alms trickle across his palm

(instead of caterpillars)

 

Did someone tell a story?

Who first

Jesus or lad,

imagination’s energy quite different

from one small.sickly.frame

 

Is mother at home?

heart shackled to his side

hope her companion

she – begging

for life

 

Did Jesus speak?

some have heard these words

“I know what she needs…”

“She is merely asleep.”

“Rise up and walk.”

“No one sinned.”

“I might be glorified” through

one small.child’s.dance

 

What did the child hear?

“Shhh…it’s our secret…”

pound right here

 

Did he remind Jesus of seven

hide-n-seek in the crowd

the game of a thousand temple questions?

hammer and nails…

hammer and nails…

 

There are bumps and bruises to be had

I must be about my Father’s business

hammer and nails…

 

Was anyone six?

did Jesus hold back a grin

for another tale to be told?

what hearts did he heal

as child clambered up…

 

Finish the market piggyback—

Does this not offend?

Child swagger

grounded

in hanging on to a bigger hem.

jfig     4/2020

 

IMG_5182

 

Dear Reading Friend,

This poem took me on a lot of tangents. In following them, I stumbled onto ideas I’d never considered before, so it was worth the journey. Thank you for joining me.

Questions to ponder: 

?   In what way is Jesus inviting you to ‘hang on, childlike, to the hem of his garment?

?   We are often reminded to ‘have childlike faith.’  In what ways do children uniquely image their creator?

The poem references these passages:  Mark 5:35-43; John 9:3; Matthew 18:3; Ephesians 5:1. You can access scriptures at https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Also, I lost a day somewhere…I’m not going to worry too much about that.  If you are still on day 15, we are not lost from each other, nor hopefully from the one who is leading the way. jfig

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 13, My Friend Alex

And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

“Mark 6:56 (NIV) – And wherever he went into villages.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 14 Apr, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/mar/6/56/p1/s_963056&gt;.

 

My Friend Alex

My friend Alex

strolls the marketplace

perusing.

She has a keen eye for color.

Vivid humanity

invites her back the next day.

 

My friend Alex

surveys the market

appraising.

Shades in justice catch her eye.

She leaves

paint swatches in hand.

 

My friend Alex

hurries to the market – determined.

“Examine these hues

marked disparity…”

Home…market

Something is amiss.

 

My friend Alex

storms the market:

“Why?”   “How long, O Lord?”

“Where is equitable?”

Day after day

she carries questions on the palette of her heart.

 

My friend Alex

‘moves’ to the market.

Study the fabric:

this Jesus garment.

It takes hours,

often days.

 

Teacher, What does it cost

to allow one’s heart to be broken?”

 

jfig   2/2020

 

What questions is Jesus writing on the palette of your heart? Is there something to which he is calling your attention? 

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 9 My Sister is Sick

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 NLT

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me. John 10:14 NLT

Today’s poem captures snippets of conversations I have had with a friend who has suffered much.  It alludes to the question that perhaps we all raise in one way or another, “Why does a good God allow suffering?” To really grapple with the question takes a certain amount of bravery, let alone live the stories that prompt it. Following the poem, is a scaffolding of scripture references from which to explore further if you are interested.

My Sister is Suffering

My sister is suffering,

years now into it

breathing loss in pinched increments

as if it were air.

My heart rends a little each day

waiting.

 

Translucent

her beauty,

shines through

as if the holes

filled in

with flowers.

 

“Jesus is here!

In Gennesaret.”

We conversed

on our hurried way.

I asked

“How will we know…?”

 

She said simply

I wait each day

his sustaining glance

his whispers round suffering

his assurance of keeping

I wait each day.”

 

“His voice I know

His whispered caress

‘Easy, my child

you’ve nothing to fear.

I am with you in pain

My strength will suffice.’

 

So filled up with Jesus,

this sister of mine

“Oh, Brother, I’ll know Him

It will take but a touch.

I’ll know him, dear brother—

let’s hurry, let’s fly.”

jfig     3/2020

 

Psalm 27:  John 17:3;  Romans 5:1-5;  Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 1:23,24;  John 10:14

Psalm 27:13 Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Photo was taken by Cathy Barger Hoesterey near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I chose this photo for the fierceness with which this young girl cares for her siblings.

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Formation Day 4

Formation

I have lain in the dust

I have borne a pallet

Undone by mercy – my heart has been changed by each

 

Encounter—who is this Jesus

whose vestments vibrate

sage power to heal

 

Heal quickly , my soul

Heal quickly

This Jesus, I must follow

 

I have lain in the dust

I have borne a pallet

…might I wash his feet?

This Jesus, I must follow

jfig     3/2020

 

Dear Reader, we encounter Jesus from so many different postures as we go through life. I hate to think of some of the stances I have taken as He has approached. In using reflection as a tool, I find it helpful to ponder those different roles and attitudes. Where are you today, with regard to Covid-19? Are you fearful, resigned, waiting to see what happens? How does where you have been in the past, inform what you need today? Jesus is nearby; with what will you encounter Him?  Thanks for reading… jfig

PS. I chose this image for its attitude of enthusiasm.