Darkness is not prevailing Covid 19 fell like an avalanche wiping out practices of life as we knew them. Racial unrest surged— the dam broke:its torrents of pain and violence carving tortuous new paths through community. Brick and mortar rubble: fires and tornadoes, and air-sucking anxieties darkened the atmosphere. But darkness is not prevailing. Real people unfolded wallets and schedules from their safety nests the kindling of kindness burgeoning in their chests as match to wick kindness set candles of compassion aglow in the darkness - like question marks. Kindness is the middle child sweetness by which the Spirit of Holiness tutors us in how to live and grow hemmed in, yet disconnected from one another Middle child in the house down the street kissed the Stone called Selflessness, and asked Mommy, how can I help? Nickels and dimes gleam in the grand scheme of things winging like iridescent butterflies. Hidden neighbors, hungry for righteousness (it's taste not wholly familiar) felt the palpable thirst of colored skin and asked the Keeper of the storehouses of snow and hail, Won't you fill the deep racial crevasse? Shovel in hand, Won't you fill...? A stick cross middles the hill marginalized outside of town; outside of belonging or protective walls, outside of resources. A lone transceiver picks up the signal of hearts in distress. Kindness kindles Compassion roars into flame - jumps another crevasse. It is finished. We are the embers of this eternal flame from which hope is born, and reborn Kindling of kindness finding the margins—Hope is reborn. jfig 10/2020 Often we feel marginalized, either in our distress; or in our ability to help. I've experienced both this week, my energy dampened by weariness and discouragement. When I sent out a quiet distress signal, asking people for help, it was the small measures offered with kindness, that made a huge difference and reset my outlook. An email saying I am praying for you, a shared moment of laughter, a flower intentionally put in my hand and another gently taken from it all pulled me back from the brink of despair, and filled me with both gratitude and hope. There was some chocolate, too. But since it is still in the wrapper, it was the kindness of the gesture and NOT the chocolate that made my heart happy. We are all on journey, some aspects long and wearying, others glorious and exciting. You may get to travel only a short leg with someone. Remember the kindling. Another's matches may be all wet. Ephesians 2:4-7 says that God gifts to us the riches of his mercy and grace...in kindness toward us through Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, might we, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, celebrate and emulate God's gifting of kindness toward us, and thereby become couriers of his mercy and grace. Amen
Trajectory Persistent ripples scribe the surface of Bagley lake evidence that life breathes, expectant, beneath the season's fleeting veil. Painstaking intent 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?** jfig 9/2020 *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
She Only Said It Once
Her ‘voice’ barely registered
skimming along the fibers of my optic nerve.
A concise, comprehensive gesture—
it’s in there.
In my haste
to keep us moving toward task completion
(that trajectory of necessary stuff
like getting to work, being prepared)
In my haste
she ‘spoke’ of something else,
missed my question.
Thank God, I did not scold
just kept parroting my question.
But she only answered once.
Twenty minutes later…
when I stopped looking everywhere else,
and listened to her,
she forgave me;
but that is her story.
My daughter Brie, is 22 years old. Clinically speaking, she is nonverbal, as well as discernibly developmentally delayed. In practice, however, she is at times profoundly articulate. This was one of those times.
Brie works two days per week at a farm supply store. Stellar job coaches, engaged co-workers and graciously committed administration support her efforts. It is almost magical. Brie enthusiastically wears a vest that identifies her as part of the store family and the legacy that goes with it. She excels at go-backs, and job-site morale. Work was item #4 on the day’s list. We couldn’t find her vest.
As we prepared (in advance, I might say) for her work shift plus line-items 5 and 6, I said, “Brie, it would help if you found your vest for work. It is almost time to get in the car.” We finished putting on shoes and I left to load up activities 5 and 6. When I came back, she sat in the same spot, closing the zippers on her overnight bag ( she likes fasteners). No sign of the vest. It is not in its place in the closet. Not to worry, I think I have seen it… Where did I see it last? Vest or no vest, it is time to get in the car. As Brie buckles in, I ask her, “Where, ” and she makes one clean gesture toward her bag. Meanwhile I am looking: Perhaps it is in the horse bag, or still in the car from Monday…This may seem inane disorganization to you, but we take really good care of that vest. I could not find it in any of the places I had ‘last seen it.’
” I know you are excited about your overnight bag (item #6), but right now we need to find your vest…” By this time Brie and the bag were in the car, and I was still talking to the air about finding the vest – for twenty minutes. Finally, we had to leave, so I grabbed the back-up vest, lacking her radio headphone safely stowed in the pocket; when it dawned on me that Brie had answered my question. Once. And I had failed to listen. I underestimated her listening and her capability and the completeness of her response – repeatedly.
Woe to me, when I am too busy multitasking to listen to a quiet, less frantic, vulnerable voice. Whoa to me when I am too busy getting the job done, to regard and listen to another who is participating in that work.
In practice, Brie is sometimes profoundly articulate: some of my friends would say, Jenny, you are being too hard on yourself. She couldn’t say it out loud, and that would have eliminated the disconnect. (It has been a twenty-two year decoding journey.) But that would miss the point. She can’t answer me in words. Or in sign language. Or with a voice box. She can’t answer me in the kind of voice that I am most used to hearing. She answered me with a gesture, with the means at her disposal, and I failed to listen. If I listen, with understanding, only to those who speak in ways familiar or readily comprehensible to me…perhaps I need to change my pattern of listening.
Some further thoughts: I probably understand Brie in real time, better than anyone else on the planet (except perhaps my husband.) If we are invested and willing, yet still falling short; how narrow is her window for being understood?
How reflective is this incident of my finesse in listening to others who speak in a form to which I do not gravitate, of matters less readily understood? I am not comfortable with loud, angry voices. I am not attuned to all forms of oppression. I can tell you I do not like assumptions being made based on the color of my skin. In Brie’s case, as a parent, it is my job to ask Brie to be respectful and appropriate. To work on maturing. But it is my job, my choice, my privilege, to listen. Am I willing to miss critical information because I cannot fully appreciate the way it is delivered? Or will I choose to learn something new, in order to understand, to facilitate someone else’s better today?
Am I in charge? Not really… How willing am I to listen to others’ good ideas about effective solutions?
In spite of all we thought we learned from the early months of Covid 19 about caring for one another, and what I thought I knew about prejudice; I am invited anew in 2020, to pause in my frantic hurry to where I am going, and listen to those whose stories are different, whose needs are different, whose dreams may be different, but at the core, sound strangely familiar. To choose to listen, for the nuances behind the content and method without assuming that those voices sound strange to my ear because they are somehow less capable or accurate. To first lose the oppressions in how I listen, in order to lose the oppressions in living.
jfig lessons of 2020
When pain is raw
out there pulsing on the floor
like a live thing—
wiggle room is scarce.
When pain thunders deep and wide
beneath one’s breastbone,
the fortitude to engage grace—
give and receive
When suffering is long…
we don’t really know how long,
unless one asks, or has been there
seasons of the journey.
Mud and muck cling to one’s shoes
and laughter bursts
at hidden ridiculousness.
Oh, God, let us
keep sharing laughter
in journeys long and deep.
When pain is raw
the wiggle room to extend honor—
grace-filled speech and action,
is narrow – barely squeezing by
CAUTIOUSLY: so I don’t tear open wounds
that might just begin to heal.
My power to heal
to effect and sustain change
is only so great as the source from which I draw it.
Come to the well, dear sister.
Come to the well.
I am talking to me.
After a career-long of assessing and addressing pain, it remains apparent to me, that each person’s pain, is enough. That our service is not so much to avoid or get rid of it, but to hold it with and for one another, in order to strengthen what remains. To carry it for seasons, in often less than capable hands, through the grey dusk of mourning, while we wait together for healing to come.
It is not hidden in scripture, that God commissions his followers to heal. I love the passage in Luke 10:1-11, regarding this commission:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1(ESV)
Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ Luke 10:8-11(ESV)
I love that we are sent – invited to go – where Jesus himself is about to attend. I love that we are invited to bring Jesus close to the hurting. I’m reassured that we are given permission to leave when we are not wanted. That we are not meant to carry away with us, the weighty dust of, ‘You are not welcome here.’ That we are meant to leave with the attitude of our message intact: Nevertheless, the kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus also reminds his followers, (vs. 20) that the thing to be celebrated, is not the ‘works’ they have done, the authority they have wielded over demons. The thing to be celebrated is that they are among the company of those who have received grace unto salvation. The thing to be celebrated is grace. So far as I can tell, none among any of us is given the authority to say who receives grace unto salvation. None.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 (ESV)
Raw pain demands our attention. We look at our smallish hands, stunned…how can we, as individuals, as a society, hold this much pain? “Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” Oh, that I might be a bearer of the kingdom… with smallish hands.
The story in Luke 8, where Jesus, in the middle of a crowd, is called to the bedside of a dying girl, speaks. The child is ‘about 12 years old.’ Jesus is detained in responding. He chooses to be detained, to engage a woman who grasps his robe, pleading for help. She has been bleeding for 12 years. As long as the young girl has been alive. Each person’s pain is enough. Jesus attends to all: to the girl and to the woman; to the father oppressed by fear. He draws each of them up with kindness. He also has choice words for the ‘advocates’ in both situations. Please see Luke 8:40-56
“Luke 8:1 (NLT) – Soon afterward Jesus began a.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/luk/8/1/p1/s_981001>.
Jesus, may I be one who bears the news of your healing presence, as you draw near to those who are hurting. May I quiet myself enough to realize where you are about to make yourself known; what town you would have me visit. Open my eyes, not just to the pain of the one who is dying a distance far-off, but also to one who is bleeding out along my path. Help me choose to carry kindness, the comfort of your impending presence. Give me caution to not fan the flames of false heroics, nor torch anyone with my words, or actions, but to look for the fire of Your Spirit in the night sky, and follow where you lead. Follow you toward hope and healing, toward freedom and abundant life. Gird me with patience to hold the pain of others, its hot unwieldy expressions; that together we might see the healing dawn of your powerful grace; watch you resurrect life from the ashes of our self-absorption and hatred, our disdain for others, and woefully, for You. We need you, Lord Jesus. We need you, Father God. We need you, Holy Spirit. Bring your healing love that honors and resurrects life in the tiniest of increments. Come Lord Jesus. Amen
“Luke 10:1 (ESV) – After this the Lord appointed.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/10/1/p1/s_983001>.
“Scripture quotations marked ESV 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.”
Photo: Corinthians 1:8-11
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.
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
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.
to feel oneself abandoned
by the human race.
This crisis is not in the streets,
where twin daggers of hatred and despair
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—
sprout and flourish
against a broken bed of shattered rock.
My bent frame
just that far. ***
* Php 1:1-7
** Isaiah 61
***Isaiah 58: 6-12
Did the rocks cry out in wonder
their message echo long, e’en as the boat
slipped off from shore, further and farther from view?
Did the village stare, astonished
at what had gone before, in them
all the frameworks shifted
of marketplace routine
in the wake of broad reach—individual and corporate
toward one man?
We will never be the same.
According to Easton’s
( Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
there is no longer a trace.
Yet we will be… never the same.
This prevailing wind
shifts us in new direction
toward an everlasting shore.
Set as we are midst the felt impacts of Covid 19, there are attributes of the Christ-following church that show up on radar—prevailing winds in the midst of global anxiety. To name a few:
refuge(s) of help, hope
deepening of connection through the navigation of challenging conversations
Dear Reading Friend,
During the course of this journey, there were times when, caught up in the fine details, I needed to ‘zoom out’ to revisit the big picture of Jesus healing the sick. The best tool for that reverse zoom was not a camera, but worship. Three songs became an integral part of my Gennesaret journey. There were others as well, but these stood the test of time, and informed my close-up of Jesus. Jesus the Healer, The God Who Blesses, and Jesus the One Worthy. Although I do not think mine is the only perspective—as if I have figured out the ages-old questions of healing—I hope these songs bless your understanding of Him as well. You may, and likely will, see something different. I have picked up my flag and am following midst a great sea of followers, to see where Jesus takes us next.
“As It is (In Heaven)” by Hillsong Worship
The UK Churches version of “The Blessing” written by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. You can find it on Youtube.
“Is He Worthy?” by Andrew Peterson
This spring, I was the length of the pruning shears away from hacking this plant down. I thought it was dead! One of the gripping aspects of the Gennesaret story is that it describes the townspeople, leaders and villagers alike, recognizing Jesus and bringing all their sick to Him. This includes those one might think beyond repair. And Jesus? He is able to look beyond our brokenness and scars to find the created core – God’s image – still there, waiting for his resurrecting touch. It is in this seeing reach, us toward him, and He toward us, that life prevails—Hallelujah!
May this total engagement with what Jesus is about to do, grip us, the church of today.
Jesus, we come, fresh from worship, our faces shining and turned up, like these blossoms. Jesus, we come, not knowing the outcomes of our stories. We are reliant upon you: your merciful goodness, the triune power of resurrection, your healing touch—to heal us so that we might appear, like the citizens of Gennesaret, in the pages of eternity. Catch us up, we pray, into your fierce and determined embrace. You, who have not let go of the creation story, and are still restoring the garden. May we hold on tight, to you, Our Lord. Forever and ever. Amen
Thank you again. j
“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.
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?”
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
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).
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.
There is a grey space
murky before the dawn
where questions abound broad and deep.
Then and now
is there broad definition— heal
measured not in limbs and cells
counted and recounted
but in communion
weighed in hours spent
cloistered in the sanctuary of suffering
naked need – that seed of knowing?
Did God intend that we not know evil
but embrace knowing him?
Then and now
which ones fisted the hem
and did not let go
escaping the mortal bounds of earth
for the expanse
Leaving our hearts
half in Gennesaret
half in heaven.
This pain knows no bounds.
God’s love cannot
that which he births
Then and now
now that we have seen Jesus, scourged and resurrected, we
live in a land where it is not the certainty of knowing—
but the certainty of journeying
face to face, heart inside of mortal heart
is this healing?
“What’s next?” The world is in a situation where this has become almost a universal question? Although I ask myself, has Covid19 really changed anything for those who daily try to survive the extremes of poverty and vulnerability to secondary infections? When my oldest daughter was working in missions, she said to me, “I don’t know why they call it a mission field. In a field you can see a long way. They should call it the mission forest…” This poem is about that – the ‘what next?s’ of Gennesaret and now.
There is a grey space, murky before the dawn, where questions abound broad and deep, but without the insistence of daylight that one discern an answer. It is a safe space in which to contemplate. Space in which Jesus might ask a few questions of his own. The story of Gennesaret whispers a couple of those questions. I do not have the answers. Original sin was seduced by this slithering lie, ” you will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” We don’t have to know all the answers, though I might try some on for size, to see if they fit. The trick is in remembering that the answers have to fit Jesus, not me. He is the one with the healing robe.
Jesus, we love you, for having held our questions for literally centuries, gracing us time to wrestle, and the offense of misinterpreting/maligning your intent time and time again. There is a hunger deep inside, to know you and have our ‘needs met’ not by what we want, but by who you are. You are the dawn we seek, Holy One. Amen