Grace in 12s: a reflection on pain

Wiggle Room

When pain is raw

out there pulsing on the floor

like a live thing—

wiggle room is scarce.

 

When pain thunders deep and wide

echoes reverberate

beneath one’s breastbone,

the fortitude to engage grace—

give and receive

is spare.

 

When suffering is long…

we don’t really know how long,

do we?

unless one asks, or has been there

trudging alongside

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.

 

jfig     6/2020

RW pic grace & fire

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&gt;.

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&gt;.
“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

 

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.

longings…

longings

 

The seraphim cover their eyes.

I wonder – do they peek

between their bony fingers

stripped lean for flight?

 

And Moses the cleft conceals

yet you can see, his feet,

as breathless,  he waits

while You walk by.

 

My heart sighs

neither, then, should I

surely – neither should I.

But oh, the longing is there

whispered …

Oh, God, I would love

to ‘see’ your face..

even a trace, fingered blind.

 

You replied.

 

 

 

jfig   1/19

 

photo 1/24/2019  Whatcom County, WA