30 Days in Gennesaret: Day 9 My Sister is Sick

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 NLT

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me. John 10:14 NLT

Today’s poem captures snippets of conversations I have had with a friend who has suffered much.  It alludes to the question that perhaps we all raise in one way or another, “Why does a good God allow suffering?” To really grapple with the question takes a certain amount of bravery, let alone live the stories that prompt it. Following the poem, is a scaffolding of scripture references from which to explore further if you are interested.

My Sister is Suffering

My sister is suffering,

years now into it

breathing loss in pinched increments

as if it were air.

My heart rends a little each day

waiting.

 

Translucent

her beauty,

shines through

as if the holes

filled in

with flowers.

 

“Jesus is here!

In Gennesaret.”

We conversed

on our hurried way.

I asked

“How will we know…?”

 

She said simply

I wait each day

his sustaining glance

his whispers round suffering

his assurance of keeping

I wait each day.”

 

“His voice I know

His whispered caress

‘Easy, my child

you’ve nothing to fear.

I am with you in pain

My strength will suffice.’

 

So filled up with Jesus,

this sister of mine

“Oh, Brother, I’ll know Him

It will take but a touch.

I’ll know him, dear brother—

let’s hurry, let’s fly.”

jfig     3/2020

 

Psalm 27:  John 17:3;  Romans 5:1-5;  Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 1:23,24;  John 10:14

Psalm 27:13 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.

Photo was taken by Cathy Barger Hoesterey near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I chose this photo for the fierceness with which this young girl cares for her siblings.

 

30 Days in Gennesaret: Invitation and Offering

Dear Reader,

Mid-February, I was tucked away at the beach – reading, walking, writing – when the scene of Jesus healing the sick in the marketplaces of Gennesaret again caught my eye. As a caregiver, and as one who experiences brokenness, this scene intrigues me. Four brief verses of scripture, but so many perspectives. Upon the advice of my writing friends (a beautiful gathering of wise, faith-filled women), I have been practicing poetry. There at the sea, not unlike Galilee, an idea sprang to life. 30 poems for 30 days  –  I can do poetry month!

During those first hours of scribbled thoughts, I did not realize, at least consciously, how fraught with anxiety our sense of community and global health would immediately become. Nor do I want to ‘capitalize’ on the moment, rather be taught by it. So here, in words, we search, if not for a microbial cure, then space for our hearts and minds to breathe.

These poems are an invitation to reflect, to create, to ponder various perspectives, to pray. Reflection opens up teachable space, allowing us to sift through our anxieties and fears, our unanswered questions. I am convinced that we continually form and reform our beliefs about suffering, whether we register them as ‘theology’ or not. Throughout life, we pace the ground of hope and healing for individual lives, or that of community, It is our privilege to tread carefully toward nurture, or unaware, trample that which might sustain life. 30 days in Gennesaret is an invitation to be intentional in reflection. For this project, I have used as prompt the passages in the Bible from Mark 6:53-56 and Matthew 14:34-36.

When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. Wherever he entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. 

“Mark 6:53 (NKJV) – When they had crossed over.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Mar, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nkjv/mar/6/53/p1/s_963053&gt;.

If you would like to submit/share an original creative piece (poem, painting please, etc) to participate in this project, feel free to contact me directly. Thank you!   

…and Offering: almost ALL of us are caregivers in one form or another. I have been a mother, a physical therapist, a hospice worker, a good-intentioned but less-skilled listener, a neighbor, a special needs parent, a meal-maker, a daughter (my Mom does 3/4ths of the work), a wife, a friend. In what ways have you been a caregiver for the ‘sick’ in the territories of your life? When have you, yourself, been sick and reaching? All of these inform our observation, and our offerings of hope and perspective to one another. Not to mention what we offer back to God as belief.

As we approach Gennesaret, we are with the disciples, in a boat; it’s storming. We recently felt the death of John the baptist. Before climbing into the boat we observed the feeding of the 5000, that one small lunch… And frightening moments ago we pondered what it is to walk on water. The disciples’ conclusion as Jesus steps into the boat and the wind ceases, is to worship him, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  I’d like to complete this intro then, with a prayer, taken from my journal. It is what I hope my heart will remain, as we explore the marketplaces of Gennesaret together.

Sincerely,  jfig

 

A Follower’s Prayer

Father God, may my thoughts be so characterized by you:

that the psalm is on my lips in tandem with the questions

that the voice of fear is stilled to righteous caution

and the perverse seed of bitter entitlement is bled by informed compassion.

You, oh Lord, know my frame; its weakness and strength.

May that strength ever be, the wonder of who you are.   

 

 

 

“Matthew 14:22 (NIV) – Immediately Jesus made the disciples.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 1 Apr, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/mat/14/22/p1/s_943022.

imprints

 

Imprints

Early in December, as the reality of winter set in, it became apparent to me that there was a ‘thing’ in my life I could not fix.  Since the situation had resisted my efforts to grow it in a healthier direction for over a year, it occurred to me that perhaps I was not meant to fix it at all. Perhaps it would be better for everyone involved, if I allowed the winter, at least as far as my active role was concerned, and trusted Jesus to do his work of making things grow, whether I could see it happening or not; to trust Him to fix it.

Although I don’t think I’m prone to icons, I hung this cross around my neck, (I could fold my fingers  around it) to remind myself to trust. To pray certainly, but the goal was to put Jesus in a bigger role in the situation’s life, and me in a smaller role. So I hung the cross around my neck, and every time anxiety arose regarding the situation, I quietly gripped it. It put a few dents in my skin because it is constructed of nailheads, but basically it was a good reminder.

Less than two weeks later, our family was faced with a moral crisis.  I held onto the cross tighter during the day. I clutched the cross during the night. I prayed, ” Jesus, I can’t fix this, either.  I don’t even know how to begin…”  I prayed a lot of other prayers, too.  I cried and prayed, and fasted and prayed.  I have begged and prayed. And our friends have prayed. You get the idea…

Now it is 3 months and 4 days later. Over night, we made a very simple, humble decision out of those prayers about how to love God and our family well. Then this morning  I woke up early to get ready for church. When I reached down to peel off the cross before getting in the shower, there was not just a little temporary dent from the corner of a nailhead, but a henna-colored tattoo of three stations of the cross burned into my left breast, right over my heart. I stared at it, dumbfounded. When my husband came in, he stared at it, dumbfounded, “What …is that?”

pic-imprint-e1521414617416.jpg

I don’t  know what all it might mean; but in the setting of  having waited and prayed, and fasted and prayed; at the very least, perhaps it is an indication of God having imprinted the work of the cross on our situation. Perhaps He is imprinting the cross on our hearts. Perhaps waiting and trusting is exactly where we are supposed to be; our situation ‘unfixable,’ but our hearts malleable to the work of the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ – symbol of a deed so profound it transforms crisis to life-altering victory time and time again. The cross can change fear to hope. Rework grief to revelation. I do not yet know the full extent…but there are these imprints of the cross.

jfig  3/2018

journey: is love really pink?

Joy – quiet, beautiful joy, this elbow room of grace –  falls into our month by waiting, and praying, and watching one another choose grace, and the assumption of positive intent.

Woe – how easily we offend.

But this morning, after he chooses grace, I choose to wait… while you, God of all questions, offer a picture:

Wait…at 7:00 it is still dark, though one can hear the geese.

@ 7:08, and 7:09 muddy, burnt clouds of orange frame the South Pass. They rise, as does the sun, and grasp the edges of night’s blanket.

Wait…

I wait, walking… and wonder about pink. But while my back is turned, bold light seriously shakes the clouds. Nevertheless, pinkless, I walk toward home content. There is light. There is beauty. A gebillionth day God has made something that he called good.

Wait…7:53 and suddenly the sky is streaked with pink. I go searching for more – at the  windows up and down, but the glow remains saffron. Aaaah, burnished with time… but born in the fresh pink of grace. Thank you, God of longsuffering love, for grace applied.

pic RW journey

jfig; somewhere on the journey of marital love

astonishment…

 

Things that astound:

The idea that Jesus is not overly concerned with my filthy rags before seeking to grab a meal with me, continues to consume my thoughts. It is JUST REALLY AMAZING in the context of his holiness / my lack thereof, that he would keep choosing to engage me, a sinner; perhaps because I am finding it such a challenge to stay on level ground. Or maybe it is in thinking about how much time and energy I have spent trying to clean myself up, only to realize he really doesn’t care; or not so much that he doesn’t care, but he is not at all put off by my stench. Granted, I’m a set-free sinner, but one who continues to get tangled up in the nets of selfishness, wounded pride, arrogance, worry, anger, the despair of failure. I feel like a retro vending machine – SO MANY BUTTONS TO PUSH on me…

My reflection didn’t start there. I was simply thinking back over God’s faithfulness through the challenges of the past year. There were a few – personal, family, public, community. The list of astonishing ways in which God has faithfully shown up. began to grow… 

I really am stunned that God would choose to hang out with me. One because I’m kinda boring; and two, because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You’d think he’d give up… The ‘dinner with a sinner’ is grabbing me because it’s the same mistakes, but the attitudes behind those mistakes are starting to be revealed, and well, it isn’t pretty, nor socially acceptable, nor polite…

provision. The list within a list. Material: One of the ways my husband reflects God is that he is an amazing provider. He works, diligently. I think in 30 years, he has taken approximately 7 sick days, 3 of those post surgery. That’s 2.1 hours per year.  His daily efforts take care of our family,  but also other families, sometimes with little thanks from anyone. His wages pay for food and clothing and electricity and healthcare and educations. His thoughts provide wisdom. There is a lot of thinking of the other in him; of me, our kids, or what would be best for our family. Space – God has shown up to provide needed space – tiny moments of it, or rooms worth at the neighbors for visiting family. God has pushed wide the borders of our thinking to allow much needed processing space: time for asking honest questions and grappling with the answers. Friends – even though, due to confidentiality, I don’t share everything that is going on with me or someone else I love; God has provided friends whose laughter and discernment have held me up in the lonely places. Counsel of the Holy Spirit – this one gets its own asterisk.

comfort. It is in the nature of life as a Jesus follower to persevere. I think. The other day a friend suggested that it might be good (in the midst of that) to allow God to provide me comfort. The next day, just to reflect, I scratched out a list.  The depth and breadth of ways in which God regularly provides me comfort was astonishing. Things like the owl who tu-whoos deep and long into the night, the deep waters of the smile of a child. Even more astonishing was that on my list were places that sometimes feel hard, difficult, conflictual. But there they were on my list as places that provide comfort – not surface comfort, but deep, resonating consistent comfort – like a tuning fork for my personhood. Tim.

Counsel of the Holy Spirit. When we built our house, the tile mason found fossils of God’s creation in the entryway slate. It seemed apparent, that this was to be God’s house, his welcome at the door. I, however, am a stressed hospitalitarian. I like to cook, but I am not so good at greeting. We have other family members who rock that aspect of it, so I guess we are covered, but it is a skewed distribution for sure. 2018 has been a year FULL of hospitality, and it has stretched me to live into God’s story in the entryway. My prayers have been: God, HeLP! What is this supposed to look like? Where is your priority? Can you hold the wicked witch of no sleep at bay? God has answered every prayer…seriously. Astonishment.

When we built our family, we knew they were God’s, too. There have been a few questions…Why? When? Will you?  He seems to answer many of those with ‘Wait’. In the meantime, his faithfulness, his counsel to help us navigate, has been evident EVERY DAY. I don’t know anyone else who can sustain EVERY DAY like God can. There was evening, there was morning, there is a sun and dawn…

The Blossoming of Extraordinary Capability. It amazes me to watch God take the wraps off someone, and let their talents, gifts, capability explode. Or just blossom quietly in the nutrient rich soil of being true to who one is and what one believes and values. Our oldest daughter got married this summer. She and her husband value community, and so they planned a wedding that invited people into the process, sometimes letting go of their own expectations more than they imagined, to let someone else contribute a gift. The week looked really different than I had imagined, but there was a whole lot of blooming going on.

The wedding is just one example. Time after time, I have watched someone really young pull off something amazing with hundreds of details. How do they make these things happen??? At church this morning, our young pastor told us that from Genesis, God was purposing for us to be makers with the stuff of his earth. Hmmmm…

The Art of Orchestrating. As a mother of youngsters, on a household budget, I used to pride myself on being able to ‘make something out of nothing.’ I could put real food on the table, out of bits of this and that, and not have anyone say, ‘Yuk.’ Although I do remember suggesting that if my children didn’t like what was being served at home, perhaps they should check the menu at the neighbors (my husband said I couldn’t offer that…)

That is nothing, however, compared to what I see God miraculously putting together out of bits of dust. How does this Triune God orchestrate just the right word, for just the right soul, at just the right moment out of 11 billion moving people? He does it way too often for it to be coincidental that the chapters of 2 persons’ stories collide with meaning and hope. Or that nano-bytes of information drop into the correct diverse palm with split second timing. Does it surprise you, that in an individualized society, capable of fiercely guarding one’s own ideas and opinions, God can with a word, change that same one’s perspective? “Way too often,” is part of what is astonishing. Is there anything that his glance cannot touch? I think I will close with the following exclamation:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Romans 8:1 (ESV) – There is therefore now no.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/rom/8/1/p1/s_1054001&gt;.

Nothing can get in the way of God showing up – faithful. May the God of hope astonish you with the depths and precision of his life-changing love. May his faithfulness to show up midst the challenges, along the twists and turns of your journey to trust, give you an ever-deepening knowledge of who he is, and what he does, and perhaps, what he does not do. May you be amazed, to dine at his table, and find him good company. May your mourning turn to comfort, your despair to hope, as you trust in him. Amen

jfig   12/18