the God Who Stays,
light that remains when every.other.candle
in the hollows of the earth
you carved a shelter,
holding space for resurrection.
We needed to know...
life can be born, and re-borne
in the sanctuary of
Your fire-breathing Presence.
this love that burns within, and without us
but does not consume
save the dross.
the God Who Stays.
the God Who Stays
long enough to shred two sides -
the opaque curtain called 'belonging.'
We needed to know...
that Father stayed, too: waiting, watching
for vision's redemption—holiness unleashed
a billion twinkling stars, set free.
Which one of you first breathed
"It is finished,"
or was that merely cue—
Holy Spirit to join you
in the ripe, hungry
fields of men, women
You are the God Who Stays.
Dear Reading Friend, this is the first in a 3-part ‘observation’ regarding the desperate, reverberating cry, ‘Abandoned!?…?!’; I believe there is a God who hears and tends to this cry. These are not easy words to hear, “I have been abandoned…” Nor is this easy truth to absorb. It seems one has to wrestle a bit. Perhaps a lot. The wrestling feels important: there is no other cry so crashing our airwaves right now. The following verses might be of interest: Philippians 3:20-21; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:30
I have chosen the attached photo because it speaks to me of both what we think we know, and of perspective. I have been wrestling with this topic for a while; years, in fact. When it comes to ‘knowing’, I have as much access to scripture as anyone; and more than many. I have much less Biblical scholarship. My perspective on abandonment is a narrow window; but a thoughtful one. I have tried to look a long way off. Toward that end, your constructive thoughts are welcome. j
Prayer of return: leaning
My soul might faint (faint it does)
but still must get up
and feed babies...
mine, and perhaps some others as well.
Even midst the valley of tears
they are multiplying cells so fast
I am just beginning
that you have not equipped me to keep up
But to lean—
lean heavily, in fact
on the God of infinite supply.
jfig winter 21/22
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:3.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide,” as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ Genesis 22:13,14
The year 2022 is full of things that need fixing and rescuing. But there is One who came to be our rescue. Prophets foretold it. Simeon saw it. Dare we believe it? Believe that He came not only to ‘rescue’ us from sin as individuals, but to invite us into the abundance of God’s goodness. Into belonging. Into H-O-P-E written overtop the anxieties that grab me when I read the news.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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.
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
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.
might be invitation
NOT to be minimized—
but perhaps made more
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.
might be invitation
And we are invited to hold the ribbon?
strips down the bark of our defenses.
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
slow seasons of steady nutrition
infused through slender stems.
Blossom may mean wait,
and while you wait
hold open your heart.
Your petals will take on
"Winter" may ask you to suffer
hardship of storms
attrition: leaves lost to blight
infringement of priorities.
Take in the pale delicate notes
of that which gives you life.
This is my prayer for you.
Suffering is not easy—in any form.
In its season you have yet to bloom.
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
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.
we kneel at your cradle of wisdom.
May we be wise—and willing
journey far to rejoice in the light of your presence.
"Opening theirtreasures they offered Him gifts..."
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
knees to earthen floor
and worship the newborn King.
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 withrighteousness 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?
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...
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.
scribe the surface of Bagley lake
that life breathes,
beneath the season's fleeting veil.
flows along ages-old trajectory.
The Foundation of the world stretches ancient fingers
toward the fullness of time.*
Beginning to the end;
the end itself—endless.
Float, if you must
beneath this moment's sky
her sun not wasted.
Nor is winter's gloom,
though we tend to hasten time.
Who knows where our Spirit God hovers?**
*Ephesians 1:4-10; **Genesis 1:2
Ephe. 1:3,4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
In August, my Covid19 hiking buddy and I made it to the Mt. Baker Wilderness Area to circumnavigate the string called Bagley Lakes. Though not the most acclaimed hike in the area, its raw beauty still spoke volumes. Questions surfaced, just as they have in the past: are these really lakes, or just snowmelt puddles; and what is the difference? You can see right to the bottom – old logs and a dearth of fish. So what is the point, if you see the air for two of twelve months, with no trout nor tadpoles, and the rest of the time are covered up as if you didn’t exist by layers of ice and snow? Two things refuted my skepticism: Even though the water was crystal clear, the ripples were determined, not just from the wind, but from underneath. In its abbreviated season, the free-running water was determinedly going somewhere. And (2) in retrospect, we felt ourselves a part of the scenery, not merely observers. We could see where our footsteps had traced just 30 minutes prior; right there exactly. We were part of this day’s wilderness story, in a way that my companion visibly understood.
The reminder that any season, whether brief, seemingly benign, or harsh to the point of devastating, can still be part of God’s purposeful trajectory is hugely comforting to me. We don’t get to measure the seasons; they seem to take measure of us. But we can look across the valley to see where we have been; experience some surprise to see others who trudge there now. We can revisit the pages of story: how God’s triune company and unwavering intent have transformed us en route. I hope the thought that your story is not outside God’s trajectory, is comforting to you as well. Sincerely, jfig