Prayers of returning: Longing

Longing; a meditation from Psalm 84

My soul longs
for the courts of the Lord
where you are extolled
and i, am not.

Set instead
to carrying—
one small ration
called hope...a flame.

Your breath—
alight in me
sets hope to dancing
on the walls of the world.

jfig     8/2021

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

“Psalm 84 (NIV) – My soul yearns, even faints,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 22 Aug, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/psa/84/2/s_562002.

“Psalm 84 (NIV) – My soul yearns, even faints,.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 22 Aug, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/psa/84/2/s_562002.

Prayers of returning: meditations on Psalm 84. Peaceful

Peaceful - Psalm 84:5

i enter your courts
peaceful today
buoyed by rest
encountered here,
and my small ration of hope.

Vital...
'Zion' is worth the trek.
Though the valley be dark
it is, in fact
shadow.

Today's offering...
Sometimes i am blinded by your light
unwittingly linger; choose the dark— 
even Moses benefitted from
the cleft in the rock.

i enter your courts...quietly
bathe in Your
Light—
choosing...
Peaceful.

jfig     8/21

Dear Reader, Choosing to follow Jesus on pilgrimage is a big deal. There are so many uNeXpecTeD places he wants to take us – adoption, service, submission, risk. Think about it – He shares his inheritance…! I am convinced that one of the greatest challenges the Messiah ever faced during his time on earth, was to preserve our freedom to choose—whether to follow him, or not. An alternative would have been so much easier. In the whole broad realm of mental and emotional health, the ability to choose ‘peace’ remains, at times, relative to one’s circumstances and well being. This poem is not intended as admonition – rather invitation, and admission: some moments are easier than others, to choose the goodness of Presence that God offers. Blessings…j

Prayers of returning: day 3

rejoicing day 3

i come to you rejoicing, Lord
having breathed the delight of 

your goodness falls like rain
sometimes near
oft on some distant plain

cataracted eyes must peer
through cloud, smoke,
beyond
the staggering lightning of loss
to confirm that you are here.

i come to you rejoicing, Lord
having breathed the delight of your goodness

where i have been?
I lay it down—
unlikely gift, this surrender,
to take up the dance of rejoicing.
Your Goodness—
one dwelling where greed
is not a shame.

jfig     8/2021


Scriptural context: Psalm 84 - the courts of the Lord. I've been hanging out here for months:
"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord." <a href="http://"Psalm 84 (ESV) - To the choirmaster: according to." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 1 Aug, 2021. http://"Psalm 84 (ESV) - To the choirmaster: according to." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 1 Aug, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/psa/84/1/s_562001>.

Capitalization is intentional to reflect something of one's journey toward confidence, it's resolution, and where it ultimately lies.
'Rejoice' by Monica Stewart is one of my favorite paintings. Due to copyright - I can only nudge/NUDGE you to visit her gallery to see her full rendition.  Rejoice! | (monicastewart.com)

Finally, I should note that the broad expanse of my life has been filled with blessing - thanks be to God.

Prayers of returning…day 2

The past 7 months have been filled with anguish – like I have been floundering in some raging socio-emotional current, washing up in tatters from time-to-time on unfamiliar and desolate shores. Depleted. This week, God has mercifully filled my cup anew, like the long-awaited rain that is at this very moment beginning to patter. I extend this prayer to you, not because “I am back,” but to share my small ration of hope in the waiting. jfig

Prayer of returning...day 2
Cupped

Jesus, i return
to you, this morning
small gift of hope, cupped
carefully
in upturned palms
like a bird, ready
to fly.

For you...i offer
it back—this infant gift
so precious
to scatter like seed;
it lies safe in your benevolent hands.
My heart rests—abandoned
to you...dawning revelation of all creation.

Reveal...
I wait peacefully
for you.

jfig     8/2021
If you'd like a scriptural context, Isaiah 8:20-22 speaks of anguish. And Isaiah 9, the revelation of dawn.



On Our Knees

On Our Knees

We were not meant to know this evil.

We are on our knees
trying to stem the tide
of that which we were not
meant to know.
hands inept—ravaged and torn.

We were not meant
to bear in tender flesh
such intimate knowledge:
evil's searing pain,
prolonged stench of indelible ash.

This knowledge would betray us.

We grabbed the limbs of self-deception
eager to climb her rungs
shaking loose like pollen
clouds of arrogance, brutality
convoluted delusions of entitlement.

Voracious we climb. Why???

Still we are on our knees
intention desperate
flood held— just shy of our consumption
by unhidden promise
stretched out before Noah

And kept.

We have been meant, always
to wear the knowledge of God's Presence—garden green
but sadly trade  for sheep's clothing
choosing, still.
We are the wolves.

Set down thy thirst and fisted fork!
BEHOLD the deeds of the Lord
see the work of his hands—
they, too, are naked and torn.
We are on our knees...

jfig    4/2021

For months, with so many of you, I have listened to cries of distress across our nation and asked, What is wrong with our humanity? Probed the more puzzling question,  How did we get here, still? And wrestled with the disturbing, How am I complicit? I find myself begging for hope that will reach beyond my own boundaries and capacity. The title “On Our Knees” comes from this hint of desperation.  Our collective answers to these questions appear to fall far short of understanding; and the days appear to grow darker… My thoughts return again and again to these passages: Genesis 2 and Isaiah 5. Genesis 2 which describes Eve reaching for what she thinks is an edible fruit, but missing the end of the sentence…  She misses it again in Genesis 3, when Satan clearly states,  ” Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil(emphasis mine).”  Oh, how we want to be like God; in control and power and knowing. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…“1  And Isaiah 5  – a detailed litany of our continuing misguided appetites. I like Isaiah 5 because it does not tell me that I am all wrong. It tells me, because you do this, you still hunger and thirst. It gives me a list from which to choose; and I only have to absorb in my skin, the woe over which I trip. From its core, Isaiah 5 is also actionable. These passages have provided space from which to begin to understand what I see, feel, hear. Slowly, this reflection is beginning to shed light on where I act entitled, in my interactions with neighbors and friends, in the check-out line and with my spouse… I have friends who are convinced they play no part in systemic racism. I understand—it is frightening to consider the ramifications.

Self deception has no respect for color. We have poured in buckets of every hue imaginable. I believe it is important to ask ourselves the disturbing questions. Midst much chaos, it has helped to have some sense of where to begin.  I hope you find these passages helpful as well.

Bravely, jfig

1) Genesis 3:16,17. The Holy Bible, ESV 2001 by Crossway, Wheaton, IL. (www.esvbible.org)

Genesis 2:9,16-17; 2:25; Genesis 3:5-6

Isaiah 5, particularly 8-24

Genesis 2:16-17  But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

“Genesis 2 (NLT) – So the creation of the.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 24 Apr, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gen/2/1/p1/s_2001&gt;.

Isaiah 5:12b “but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands.”

“Isaiah 5 (ESV) – They have lyre and harp.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 24 Apr, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/isa/5/12/p1/s_684012&gt;.

Seen

In the waning light of hope,
 you are seen...

Growing up in the treed hills of western Pennsylvania, with two loving parents, my farm-based childhood was anything but oppressed. My father was present every day, and my mother, at 89, still lives a determined life of empowering others, though no one ever called it that, way back then. I have been slow to add my voice to the out-cries of women oppressed, though I feel its alarm bells viscerally. Now it is Holy Week 2021. I walk the stations of the cross, neither scholar nor historian, but a disciple, like so many others.  I am startled at what is whispered, the juxtaposition of Jesus' statements in the following verses, echoing even now, with great resonance.  Mine are just one pair of ears, but with grateful heart, I share it here - the utter compassion of a Savior who invites us to 'keep watch' as he re-writes history.  In his own darkest hour, he keeps watch himself; and continues to do so while we wait, between the cross and His resurrection of life.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19: 37-40

“Luke 19 (ESV) – As he was drawing near already.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/19/37/p1/s_992037.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26: 38-39

“Matthew 26 (ESV) – Then he said to them.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/26/38/p1/s_955038.

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23: 27-31

“Luke 23 (ESV) – And there followed him a.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Apr, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/23/27/p1/s_996027.

Seen
In the waning light of hope,
women wait, bewildered
A few dare to believe—
the probability of change
Passover

Resolute voices cry Hosanna
but palmed branches bend
serrated question marks lying in the dust.
History has not been kind
Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Jesus falls on his face
Do his fists pound the earth?
If it is possible—TAKE THIS CUP AWAY
love poured out, to the
very.last.breath.

Over his shoulder
'Women, do not weep for me,
but for yourselves...your children.
You are seen
 in my very last breath.

You are seen
In my very last breath
hanging between sons' choices gone awry.
Love poured out, as
thieving Satan steals.

You are seen
in my very last breath
as humankind betrays its own flesh
again and again and again.
Disconnect.

Women, do not weep for me
History continues to be unkind
will ream the linings of your hearts
and wombs.
You are seen—when do the stones cry out?
When do the stones cry out? 

You are seen.

jfig     4/2021

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

Those Who Make Room: Sometimes Suffering

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.

Sometimes Suffering


Sometimes suffering
might be invitation
NOT to be minimized—
but perhaps made more
PRECIOUS
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.

Sometimes suffering
might be invitation
And we are invited to hold the ribbon?

Harsh circumstance
strips down the bark of our defenses.
Requiem:
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





Blossom

To blossom
takes time
slow seasons of steady nutrition
infused through slender stems.
Fragile.
Blossom may mean wait,
and while you wait
hold open your heart.
Your petals will take on
astonishing hues
of God-love.

"Winter" may ask you to suffer
hardship of storms
attrition: leaves lost to blight
and insects,
infringement of priorities.
Take in the pale delicate notes
of that which gives you life.
Breath-taking.
This is my prayer for you.
Suffering is not easy—in any form.
In its season you have yet to bloom.

jfig     3/2021

Prayers for 2021: Scoot

 
 
 Scoot
 
 If
 we are all going to fit at table
 we will have to scoot
 down...in...over.
 Everyone will be talking at once
 Holy bedlam
 is not just the grandchildren.
  
 We are going to have to sit—forward/back
 nestled in to fit the (ahem)
 extra-wide flanks of our attitudes.
 We will need to squirm
 but stay
 long enough to smell the perfume
 of our differences.
  
 We might pause
 say 'grace'
 lest we forget.
 Look for a moment neither at ourselves, nor one another
 but outward
 beyond our voracious want ;
 then dig deeply into each his own gratitude.
  
 Gratitude
 grace, please pass the...
 Extend one's hand.
 Pause our recitation—where another should find his
 and dig deeply into each his own.
 How can I know where another should find the grace of gratitude
 without first hearing his story?
  
 This 'Grace' could take a long time
 dribbling
 passed hand to hand
 messy.
 If something must spill,
 Lord, let it be grace.
 Something must spill...
  
 We are going to have to 
 scoot
 down...in...over
 if everyone is going to fit at table.
  
 jfig     1/2021 

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.