Decades

Approximately
30 years ago, I
begged God
plz, plz, plz, take me
along
in your wondrous, matchless work—
set people free.

20 years ago, hands full
of laundry and littles, I
wrestled...hard
came away limping.
How???
"Absorb," He said
"Who I Am."

10 years ago, I
bartered. If
you give me a spacious place (to fold laundry and care for not-so-littles)
I will keep working on that.
Apparently, God
was unimpressed by my terms.
He did set me in a spacious place.

And then began to set me free.

jfig     thanksbetoGod

Sometimes it is meaningful to look back; to see what God was doing...when. Compelled by Isaiah 61, so much angst I experienced, in trying to make a difference, with what felt like limited internal resources for a global moment. All the while, God kept pouring in, filling the reservoir bit by bit with what (I did not know) I needed. Father, Son, Spirit—present and alive—abundant, full, overflowing in goodness. These verses: Isaiah 61; Luke 4:18-19; Psalm 18:1-3 are especially meaningful to me in the context of life purpose.

While They Were Tending: An Advent reflection – Zacharias and Elizabeth

Zacharias and Elizabeth

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke 1:6

Empty quiver
empty womb, 
barren walls, 
too quiet home.
Waiting...
Pillars

Bent with age
and with leaning
extremities of body and will entwined—
together 
falling toward Yahweh.

Through sweeping rhythms
of hope
lament,
one's grief wringing clockwise
the other counter.

Grief will knock you down
but two did not collapse, defeated.
Pillars: righteous and faithful
ushering in
the faithfulness of God.

Do you hear the pillars echo—
Falling toward Yahweh?

jfig     12/2021

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.

Reflection questions:

In spite of individual and shared losses, as well as prolonged waiting; Zacharias and Elizabeth pursue faithfulness. Do you have access to spiritual friendship that steadies you through difficult moments or seasons?

How would you like to express faithfulness to Yahweh during this season of waiting and expectation?

Holy God, we rely upon you, the third strand that ties us together with one another in pursuit of you. Bless us with fellowship that corporately leans toward you. It is of your design. Make us dependent upon others in all the right ways, so that others can depend upon us, to point the way to your salvation. Amen

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.

While They Were Tending: An Advent Reflection – Zacharias

Luke 1:13b “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.

Read Luke 1:5-25 “Luke 1 (ESV) – In the days of Herod,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 Dec, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/1/5-25/p1/s_974005.

Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the lord.

Zacharias
"Do not be afraid, Zacharias; your prayer has been heard..."

Zacharias means
'Yahweh remembers.'
Really?

Manhood stretched.
Quiver empty. Waiting
for an heir.

The fulfillment of purpose,
appointment of his division,
slow roll of lots.
 
Waiting...for
any of these
to find him.

Yahweh remembers.
"Do not be afraid,
 Zechariah."

Pinnacle priestly moment:
fingers tremble
light the incense

The light explodes—
into apparition?
But wait...

Do not be afraid, Zechariah
Your prayer has been heard, 
AND...
and...and...and...And.
Elizabeth...Son
John
Joy and gladness
Rejoice
Greatness
And... he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

Legacy.
Your God.
Faithfulness, step by weighted, waiting step

In spite of...the wait.
Yahweh remembers, Zechariah,
So do we.

jfig     2021


Reflection questions: I interchange the forms Zacharias and Zechariah in this poem, quite simply, because I think there is something beautiful about the word form Zacharias. As if a human could be cast in different lights. It is Zechariah’s aura of faithfulness, upon which the spotlight briefly rests, scene I in the story of Christ’s birth. Is it this faithfulness, seed of God’s own image cast in beautiful bronze glow, which Yahweh remembers? It would be well beyond my credentials, to suggest that God chose Zechariah for his role, because of his faithfulness. But I wonder (after Z. got over being flustered, of course); if God reminded Zechariah, and Zechariah reminded God (because they were on journey together), where exactly they were headed.

 “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Luke 1:6 When I read this story, I am struck repeatedly by the almost certain human impossibility of Zacharias and Elizabeth’s faithfulness. Surely such strength of character is improbable given a long wandering journey of grief. At least without some deviation of purpose, without resentment… Step after waiting faithful step, Zechariah’s footfalls echo Yahweh’s, a journey they have somehow, mysteriously pursued together, one reflecting the Other. How can this be?

In what way have you experienced God’s faithful presence in your season(s) of waiting? What would you like Yahweh to remember about your journey together?

It strikes me that Zechariah arrived at faithfulness, not just for his own sake; but as comfort and strength lent to his wife. For the sake of those he served as priest.  As a foundation from which his son, Spirit-filled, would move? Is there some way in which you would like to invite Father, Son, Spirit to keep you company now as you pursue faithfulness? Who is waiting with you, for the coming of His Salvation?

Lord, God Almighty, we long for the company of Your Presence, as we wait, and wonder… and wander.

THANK YOU for your faithfulness that guards our very being and gives us hope. Your strength, Your unwavering purpose. We need all this, and more. We need the mystery of you giving us strength not our own. Like Zechariah, may your faithfulness find its reflection in us. As we walk in it, may heads and hearts turn toward you in readiness for your salvation.  Amen

Isaiah 40:31 They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

2Cor. 2: 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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.

Thickets

Straight and narrow:
it seems we have been advised
to stay.
It should not
surprise, then
that life's journey
braves the thicket
and the swamp
the deep, dark womb of forest
where the seeds of living are formed.

Straight and narrow
climbs the cliffs
hanging on in terror
to feel oneself sustained
again, and again
by the wise, tenacious 
love of God.
Do not skirt the thicket;
its briers frame
this fierce, improbable beauty:
the God Who Loves'
abiding embrace.

Dear Reading Friend,

A sharp contrast was drawn for me this week, between the orderly neatness of having it all figured out, and the messy struggle of ever-clambering to keep hold of the shirttails of God. I felt, deep in that place between stomach and gut, that I would rather choose messy; continue to sport all the scratches and mud splotches evident of the potentially infectious encounters of pursuing God wherever he leads, than wear the polished veneer of having stayed behind. I’m sharing these poems to invite your pondering, but perhaps also to bolster my resolve. Godspeed, Jfig

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Matthew 7 (ESV) – For the gate is narrow.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 27 Mar, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/7/14/s_936014.

Messy
i did not anticipate messy
mountains of laundry
the stain of anguished tears
for there are some that drip from a mother's heart
that stain one's shirt forever.

i did not anticipate seeing
when we each vowed, "I do"
sullen dark corners inside the hallways called me
no solvent could touch,
save grace

messy, this creosote
of banner borne, blood yet fresh
on the beams of his cross
my need sticky, with
splinters and nails

little did i imagine
his agony of stretch
nor such tedious debridement;
things Creator would not 
have me (w)bear

chafing - cautious dismantle
to recover image;
His Love
emblazoned on my heart.
messy.

jfig     3/2021

Permit me, Lord: a prayer for 2021

 
 
 
 Permit me, Lord

 Permit me to love you, Lord
 in spite of weary, bedraggled form—my own. 
 Permit me to love you, Lord
 in ways that stretch the narrow, fearful hardenings in my heart.
 Stenosis of dismay
 temporarily halts my pursuit of holiness.
 Help me to run—swift pursuit;
 your open arms stretched wide
 between twin pillars of Christ's Kingdom,
 righteousness and justice never failing.
 May incense arise, my known 'poor spirit,'
 bent now to pour oil
 and light the flame.
 Reverence and need entwine, curl heavenward
 their soot a cure for my unknowing.
 I exalt your holy name,
 my Lord and my Redeemer.
 Amen 
 and amen.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

“Matthew 5 (ESV) – Blessed are the poor in.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 9 Jan, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/5/3/s_934003.

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 7 Hope is Lean

waiting…we are not very practiced at it nowadays. Jesus healing in Gennesaret does not (I think,) preclude any waiting that may have occurred that day, or even for long seasons before. This poem is a perspective on waiting midst suffering, for healing to come.

Hope is Lean

Hope is lean

Her oiled sinews stretch

Straining toward belief.

Precipice after precipice

She clings.

 

Hope is lean

Conditioned.

As hardship disciplines

She perseveres

While God sculpts charity.

 

Hope is lean

Earth’s fleshy questions litter about;

she scavenges for precept

some days haggard, hungry.

Bold precept remains,

Midst empty wrappers

Of fear and uncertainty.

 

Questions remain.

They, too, grow lean with examination.

Deceptions strip away

Expose this truth:

It is God who clings.

 

Still, desperation beckons

Tests one’s strength.

Gutsy—hope resists;

The recklessness of despair

is a deep crevasse.

 

Hope is lean

Suffering’s muscled core.

It is Almighty God who clings.

jfig   11/19

close up photo of plastic bottle
Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

 

1.Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  NLT

3-5. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. NLT

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.