My friend Nancy talks about bandwidth – how much physical and mental energy one has to apply toward what enterprise. How strong one is to carry emotional weights. How able to discern relevance. She also talks about missional theology, and news that tells the truth, about the Psalms, and how they allow us to spill our fearful guts. When I think about women in my life from whom I learn how one might make a difference, these attributes come to mind: informed, determined, passionate, ingenious, focused. They are people who ask questions of situations and the status quo. They are my children and my parents; they are their friends and my friends. They are mentors who process through research, through reading, through listening to stories. And from these stories, these women gather nuggets of compassion whenever and wherever they find them.
When Jesus arrived in Gennesaret, the people immediately recognized him, setting off a community reaction – of running to bring the sick. (This astounds me, given our love for committees and task forces, lengthy assessments and decision-making trees). I am wondering, what stories they had heard…what nuggets they had gathered, by which they entrusted their sick to this almost stranger.
Today was Sunday, a day during which I decided to rest from worrying about whether or not I am doing enough during quarantine to help. I imagine that in Gennesaret, there were those who wondered about their roles as well. We – these imagined villagers and I – decided to bring to Jesus this prayer offering instead (perhaps you’d like to join us); because He is One who Heals.
Since becoming intrigued with this passage:
“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
I have sometimes made prayer fringes: the strands of yarn represent a prayer for healing, or in this case, a prayer of keeping for the individuals with whom I am trying to stay connected during Covid 19. And those who have graciously reached out to me. Those that I am ostensibly trying to help, while less certain what resources might suffice. Some of my more meaningful conversations during this time have been with my neighbor Dave, a retired entrepreneur who is willing to dialogue about what makes a difference. In Gennesaret, the villagers brought, the sick reached, and something of the fabric of Jesus healed. There were roles to be played. In Jesus time, a woman spun yarn and thread from wool and flax to make clothing for her family. In the marketplaces, weaving was considered women’s work and looked down upon.
Some connections are complicated and deep, years in the making, like the knots. Others are simple and sweet. The important thing is, this day of worry-rest, that I am just arrogant enough to believe that sometimes, the very best I have to offer is to bring another person to Jesus, weaving a prayer, with the recognition that He is One who Heals.
How to make a prayer fringe:
1. Choose a hanger. I like to use driftwood for the Gennesaret story context, but a common marketplace item – spoon, knitting needle – would serve the same purpose.
2. Tie, loop, fasten individual pieces of yarn or embroidery floss to your hanger
3. If you are praying for one individual, allow each strand to represent a particular item of prayer for that person. If you are praying for multiple individuals, each strand could represent one person in a common prayer.
4. The beauty of this project is that you can pray while you are slowly making the art piece. Once it is hung, it serves as a reminder to keep bringing those concerns to Jesus, the One who Heals.
Some passages that could guide your prayers: Philippians 1:3-11, Ephesians 1:15-21, Psalm 46, Luke 11:2-4
Healer Jesus, we recognize that there is nothing indiscriminate in your extravagance, but that you invite all—all of us anywhere to receive from the storehouses of your grace and mercy; and in the marketplaces of Gennesaret, your healing. We acknowledge that you came to be about your Father’s business—that business of healing the scourges of sin, raising the dead, and giving LIFE in abundance. Restoring the beauty which you created. We are blessed to call upon your name in hope and longing for your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to do our part; reach up the shallow distance to your threads, come to the table and bring others with us. Today we are flying your flag and singing your praise. Amen
photo backstory: Compassion Celebration. Sa had recently returned from the Peace Corps, teaching physics in Africa. (in Portuguese!) Overstretched and overfull, she was willing to share all the goodness with cousin Bfig.
In writing this morning’s poem, I realized that I have come to hold some of it’s ‘observations’ as facts.; when , in fact, they are observations. Aaah, the lovely thing about Jesus; He holds each story unique. May you feel the power of his reading of your story, and writing you into his own. J
I. we run toward healing
concept of ‘fix’ clutched tightly in hand
healing, the way things were before
before divorce, before cancer
before diagnosis of mental illness
if only we could heal ourselves
I should, I must
whooshing up the chimneys of one’s soul
when the fire has burned itself out
hospice begs one consider another question
breathing better, or peacefully
allowing to breathe one’s last *
II. in Gennesaret,
in meeting the Healer
face to face, masks cast aside
to receive. Jesus could
heal a man (delicate subject)
while having breakfast over the ashes
if you are invited
one must let go of the clutchings
to take hold of the fringe
I reality, I have been ‘writing’ this poem for years, pondering the imperatives we bring to God when we ask for healing. The woman who was bleeding: what happened in the twelve long years leading up to the moment in which she finally reached out and touched Jesus’ robe, and He felt the power of faith go out? I recognize that thoughts of peaceful and breathing midst our current picture of Covid 19 seem mutually exclusive. If you are experiencing pain and personal loss as a result of Covid, I cannot begin to speak into your story in the moment. Only Jesus…
When we received confirmation from the genetics clinic, of a diagnosis for our seven year old daughter’s disability, our other children were 11, 13 and 14. They had some questions: “What does this mean?” “Well…if Jesus healed her, would he change everything?”
Where are the disciples? Has anyone seen Thaddeus…Andrew, James, John
? Did any come with leprosy. Who brought them? After how many seasons in quarantine??
? Did some wait sun-up to sun-down and into first light, like refugees, lined up with diseases like displacement and poverty, the adverse experience of terror
? Did Matthew really mean all: he was a numbers keeper, you know:
“soon the people were bringing all their sick to be healed and all who touched him were healed.”
? Was there a panic, what if I can’t get there in time?
? Did anyone get sunburned, lying in the marketplace.
? What questions did the children ask ? What answers were they given
? Did people talk to the beggars – or were they considered ‘unclean’ And at the end of the day?
? Did anyone, listening to the stories, sneak away to the harbor, freshly healed—to attempt walking on water. This I would really like to know…
? Were some taken aback at transformations; others’ ills completely unknown. Not just acquaintances, but family members, friends…
? Were the newly healed, newly clothed. By what method?
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 ESV
? what did healing look like. The way things were before, or did God’s kingdom coming in the Healer Jesus bring a new normal
? did old scars go away – the jagged lines disappear
? Does Jesus see me
? Who is He – really…………………………………………………who will I say that He is?
The poor, the old, the infirm were common to the marketplace in Jesus’ day. So were people who looked industrious – spinning, sculpting, bartering. And laborers arriving each day, looking for work. It is easy to overlook the pain another might be in, unless he/she chooses to tell us. Some shout it loudly but without clarity, for many to hear; others say nothing at all. While it is easy for us to make quick judgements, what was perhaps most unique in the presence of Jesus was that he knew, and still knows, the pain each of us is in, with or without our telling. I believe he invites this intimacy of story. On this day, however, the people invited Jesus to talk first, “Let us just touch your robe, simply that will make us well!” Their humble, though ramped-up asking of permission, must have started many an interesting conversation. Jesus responded. I wonder if the villagers not only saw Jesus, but also their neighbors differently that day.
Looking for Lentils
Husband, we are out of lentils
I traipsed early this market day,
before the sun went steep.
The market wavered before my eyes
miraging people who usually
‘take up space.’
It was not the glaring sun, no, that gave them new dimension
but the shadow of Jesus. I am certain of this.
Lentils I have forgotten.
I thought to buy goat
Oy, that dry old butcher is so gruff (though his lamb the most tender)
He was not there, his carcasses left hanging.
His young wife Abishah is sick – they say
for more than a year. Six children…
He left town at a run…is what they say.
We will feast on goat another time.
Looking for iron…the tool for your plow.
The Skeptic’s in his usual corner…
Offers plenty of opinion, he does, with his high prices.
Well-smithed, his tools! But unfeeling is he…
Today, he was joking
instead of kibitzing.
I went to market looking for news
well, gossip really
My friend sits with the potters;
gossip I got. She said
“I only sold two pots today…two pots!
Still, I’d take rampant joy over coins any day.”
Joy…perhaps she is lonely like me.
All those pot-makers… Who knew?
Jesus – how can he make things so different?
Melons and baubles dropped obsolete.
Olives an afterthought.
On display today—
patience, kindness, goodness.
That rascal Enosh carried Merari
all the way from far hill. They say
he found him, fallen in the ravine
on his way to barter grain.
Enosh usually has time for no one.
I wonder what changed…
And Rahab’s daughter, she is often out of town.
She rarely comes to market…
at least not this one.
She waited here with the rest of us
quiet, no harm in that,
after we heard Jesus was on his way.
Blind Ezer’s parents – every market
they kneel and pray
At day’s end, I saw them walking
walking minus their usual basket of chicken and fruit
Ezer was not with them.
First time I have ever seen them standing tall…
And the children. Husband, the children
You know how they play in the giant sycamore?
Nothing… they were all hanging on Jesus today
dancing at his skirts.
“Jadon, Jadon, our friend Jadon. His leg is shrivelled…shriveled like a stick.
Touch him…touch him, Jadon!!! I bet you could run real quick…”
Enough stories, husband, I’m tired now
To market I will go, another day.
Kindness and goodness all around
I will look for lentils…
unless Jesus is in town.
“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.”
? for reflection: How are your current circumstances changing the way you view others? Yourself?
? How might inviting the Healer Jesus into the picture, change your perspective?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I am struck again, Lord Jesus, by the fact that you keep presenting yourself to us – to taste, to feel, to touch – your broken body, your proven suffering and scars, your wearied robe. Do you know that we aren’t allowed to touch stuff in museums? And that we get impatient when kids tug our skirts? You present yourself to us, for grimy fingertips, and the rare bottle of expensive perfume. Today we pause, to see you, not just the insistent need that we bring, but you. Tell us your story – the one in the garden, or the one at the tomb, or even the one with breakfast on the beach. We will try to sit still, long enough to hear your voice. J
This poem was inspired by conversations with our twenty-somethings midst the Covid 19 outbreak. I caught a glimpse of what is to come in the handing-off of the torch. I dedicate this poem to my redneck brother (the brawny voiceover) and my servant leader SIL, Cheryl; who in very different ways, do a lot of carrying.
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. Matthew 25:37b-40