With

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him… John 1:1-3a

With

In the beginning...
our begging souls long with time-distilled
thirst
for what, we toil to know.

In the beginning...
before light and darkness shaded the landscape
with ~ rooted essence
of God's first transcendent Word.

In the beginning...
the deep land of mankind
sprawls parched
looking over her shoulder; remembering.

Living water
some spring trickles deep in my soul.
Craving more
With

One's thirst awakens
in search of seed of all creation
Longing for company ~ the Divine spring
With a germ that nurtures life.

jfig     12/2020

Dear Reader,

In the darkening winter days leading into Advent, an astonishing amount of light has shone. Beautiful days of sunshine and frost’s sparkle. Small gifts of kindness that burst onto 2020’s scene of blatant uncertainty. Scripture passages that speak of thirst have stood out to me with references to mankind’s misguided attempts to fill life’s deep needs with distractions that do not sustain. Still, they are part of the journey; but what part? Our longings, reconfigured in pandemic, point to deep thirsts within. Thirst, and the scriptures that evoke it thematically, seem ponder worthy for a season. I’m trying to learn to ask the questions and let them echo a bit, rather than offer pre-packaged answers that do not resonate with where you might be in your story. Thanks for showing up here, I’m delighted to have your company. jfig

“John 1 (ESV) – In the beginning was the.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 5 Dec, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/1/1/s_998001.

If you liked this reflection, you might also appreciate Christian Lindbeck’s sermon on John 1:1-18; accessible here: Light in the Darkness | Week 1 – Hillcrest Church (hcbellingham.com)

Unveiling

 
 
 
 
 Unveiling
 Such beauty waits beyond the slash heaps
 One climbs their ruins—no small feat
 for one feeling small.
 Yet reddening corpuscles absorb air
 those that have not carried oxygen
 for long seasons of treachery.
  
 Treachery the lie
 that small ones have no strength.
 None of our strength is our own...
 'Tis gifted or granted, imagined
 for purposes far beyond
 even our most benevolent inclination.
  
 And yet, cells have not forgotten
 how to carry this breath of life.
 Lift the veil on beauty's unfolding
 her wonder un-reconciled to loss.
 Maker has seen to that
 with measured infinite supply.
  
 None of our strength is our own...
  
 jfig     10/2020 

This poem derives from figuratively carrying Psalm 27 around in my pocket, for long legs of life’s journey. You can access it here: “Psalm 27 (ESV) – Of David The LORD is.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Oct, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/psa/27/1/s_505001&gt;.

As one feeling small, I might hide. I do hide – afraid of what others will think of me.  But the Maker hides me with his very being; miraculously conferring holiness, strength, life, hope upon this fragile frame. Psalm 27 says that the Lord hides us in is tent, the place where He dwells. The Hebrew root is shineth. The Lord hides us in the awesome and devastating place where his being radiates with glory and majesty. Really???

Midst both my own journey, and the privilege of walking a bit with others, I often grow impatient (and fearful). Why does healing and the transformation that comes with it take so long? How are we to endure?  This poem is in no way meant to minimize the pain you might be in, as you wait. It is meant much like a prayer, to stand in the gap with and/or for you, and look for the light of Jesus’ coming to rescue those He lovingly created in his image. I pray He will lift you into the strong beauty of His Presence, and keep you safe.

 Lord God, sometimes we cannot believe for ourselves, that there is any reason to hope. And yet, here we are – still breathing the breath of life, that only you could have breathed into us. And so, we wait together, not just for you, but upon you, with the belief that you are who you say you are. Sustain us in hope, even as you sustain us by your mighty hand, we pray.

Luke 4:18,19

Grey

What if the dawn is grey
holding on to dying threads of darkness?
Alabaster beckons...
but first, we must know how to hold its worth.

Clouds transpose; lifting and boiling
not violently - they are pale
but changing nevertheless
some with great rapidity.

If we humans then, are momentary
one dare not miss the momentous occasion
to observe the sacred: translucent wisps in eternity.
Stand - still and reverent to acknowledge what God has done.

"God, you say. Where is He?"
He holds the clouds
sometimes covering what we cannot bear
(were never meant) to see.

"Peel back," He roars
Can you not fathom
the righteous bedrock
of my creation?

A gentle tutor:
"Beauty is kindred to peace...
My hope, will not disappoint...
Think on it."

Aaah, and much of the time, my friend
hope is pale, pale grey
It's time-hammered pewter a translucent pane
mercury glass between God and man. 

jfig   11/2020

This poem is dedicated to my cherished friend Donna, a gift-bearer of HOPE.

For more in-depth reflection, this poem draws from the following passages: Job 38-42; Philippians 4:8-9; Isaiah 5:12; and if you are feeling brave, Romans 5:5 and preceding.

2020:Beacons

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

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

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 &amp; 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

 

Questions in the Margins: Vigil

 

Barn

 

Vigil

Visceral despair—

to feel oneself abandoned

by the human race.

This crisis is not in the streets,

where twin daggers of hatred and despair

fell souls

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—

gentian purple,

sprout and flourish

against a broken bed of shattered rock.

 

My bent frame

can see

just that far. ***

jfig     5/31/2020

 

* Php 1:1-7

** Isaiah 61

***Isaiah 58: 6-12

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 29 Ship’s Log II/Stranded

“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.

 

Stranded

Shattered

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?”

jfig     4/2020

 

**Isaiah 40:29

***Matthew 16:15

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

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Altars Day 28

Altars

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).

 

The bicep

(now strengthened)

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.

Amen

30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 26 Resonate

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. Mark 6:54b-55 (ESV)

accident action danger emergency
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Resonate

Today I cried in my car

the radio said

15% of $ raised will pass

person to person,

buckets of silver encouragement

handed down the line

to be poured on the fire of sickness and death.

I could almost hear a spiritual singing out of the slavery

gifts no longer earthbound.

I cried because I know the person at the head of the line

fighting the fire

giving his all

 

Yesterday I cried in my throat

the county food bank picking up slack

of 5 ‘shutdown’ small banks

expanded mobile delivery

no child goes hungry…here

I cried because the effort

blew off the edge of the spreadsheet

shot heavenward

in a silver streak of visioned compassion

 

Last week I cried in my chest

foster parent added one more small wiggly body

to nurture like a fragile sprout

tho will take a while to grow

leaving question marks

what does it cost…

I cried because

I have raised a child – clumsy as it was

it takes more than one has in storage

 

I cried in a puddle in Gennesaret

because the people ran

ran the butcher and the potter

ran the farmer and his daughter

not just for their own

but for all the ones Jesus would own

by the bursting of his heart.

I cried because his heart

burst the confines of sickness

no death here

precursor to the grave

which could not hold him bound

 

Was it respect

with which Christ folded the grave-cloths

dismantling death’s power

but not the grace of having suffered?

Our all is earthbound

but when brought to Jesus – Gennesaret-like

human by human

penny at a time

minute offerings take flight

those ones that feel the coined weight, share the suffering

those ones marked all soar heavenward

toward eternity.

 

jfig     4/2020

 

photo of kid playing with kinetic sand while watching through imac
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

The title, I know…?
Today, listening to stories on the radio, of ways in which people are stepping up to HELP midst Stay Home Save Lives efforts, I just started crying. People are trying so hard both to cope and to care. Giving everything they’ve got to teach at or from home,  to serve frontline or across the lot line, wrestling with questions of safety.
This crying is not new. When our children were younger than they are now, they participated in the Jr Ski to Sea Race, a multi-challenge relay in Bellingham, WA. Every year I watched kids from all over Whatcom county, with varying levels of physical agility to apply, put great heart into this fun, crazy race, I would be moved to silly tears by their all-out effort, their enthusiasm. The same thing happens when I watch a cross-country meet.(I know – some people cry at the movies, I cry at the moving…)
During this reflection series, I have studied different words in the Mark 6:53-56 passage, comparing translations. Often the nouns and verbs change slightly, but this one word ran stayed consistent across multiple translations and then in meaning for more, with the use of the word hurry. When the townspeople recognized Jesus, they went all out, to get their hurting friends and neighbors to Jesus. Perhaps that is why this passage intrigues me so. Jesus gave his all on the cross. He also gives his all here, in Gennesaret, healing each one… The townspeople gave their all, running to bring the sick from among them, running until they had brought them all. Should we let this move us?
On all these occasions, perhaps what moves me to tears, is this giving of one’s heart in compassion toward a person or toward life itself. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in  and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Mark 6: 19-21. Perhaps what catches our hearts in our throats when we see the goodness of others giving their all, is the image of Jesus, captured in that moment, in Gennesaret and in the here and now. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What have you seen Jesus do, or others do with his heart of compassion, that moves you?
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.”