Yesterday was a real blackberry wrangler. The Himalayan variety is considered a noxious weed in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. And they are gnarly; grasping and scratching, and tearing out one’s hair. But after donning my hazmat suit, I kinda like those blackberry days… the gnarly things refuse to be ‘managed.’ Yesterday’s session turned out to be a little like church.

The blackberries spring up in seemingly devastated landscapes – clear cuts, vacant lots, abandoned farmhouses. In our case, they jumpstarted when we thinned the upper canopy; filling in where the undergrowth was traumatized by falling alders and cottonwood giants. In an uncanny way, they have allowed the elder- and salmonberry to flourish as well, and recreate habitat for small creatures. Preserving that habitat was part of our intent, but the blackberry invasion not anything like the method we had imagined.

As I climb and crouch among them, they seem almost desperate to grow, to reach the light. Their crowns are both hidden in the dark, and lurking in plain view. I used to be afraid of desperate people, afraid that something of the trauma that had ravaged their landscapes might rub off on me. But after half a century of trying to grow by cautious and thoughtful management, experiencing desperation myself with just a glimpse of the extent of trauma in our world; I am mostly impressed by their resilience, and in awe of their knowing to seek the light. I could cross-examine the foundations of what that means – to seek the light. But I know who spoke sunlight into being; and that seeking interface is enough to give me hope.

jfig  7/17


Blue-light Special

Little Miss Sweetness and I walk to the bus in the dark these late fall mornings. (She has never been afraid of the dark, adventuring out-of-doors at all hours when she was truly little – another story, for another time). But now cocooned by her backpack and raincoat, she would like to see that big leaf maple leavings are not flying insects, that the rain debris is not a snake underfoot. She is suspicious of little piles of decaying pinecones. She does not want to step on slugs…period. In my hand is a metallic blue flashlight. She’d like it to cast its beam about 24 inches in front of her two feet. Even though other wonders lie ahead, that in the daylight she impatiently loooongs to see, like deer and her friend Florie and the neighbor dog; in the dark of night, she is content to focus on the next step. This may seem like a subtle difference, but to one who watches her every day, it is a dramatic change in how she approaches these contrasting moments of life.

Afraid of the dark???? Me? Naaah. How frustrated we grow, with God shining his narrow beam of light on what stands right in front of us, in the way of growth, or healing, or further relationship with him. We are offended at the obstacles (I think I swore 4 times on the way down this morning.) We’d like the benefit of daylight shining on the distant FUTURE, so we know what to expect, how to guard our hearts, how to prepare.  We clutch our clumsy baggage, soggy raincoats, and attempt to muscle through the ‘discomfort’ toward a better dawn. But in fact, there are slippery slopes, downed power lines, things that would harm us if we don’t navigate carefully. God is patiently, presently, effecting His preparation in these moments. He wants us to know what is in the way of our knowing Him. He is subtly adjusting attitude, unravelling resentment, clarifying our knowledge of who He is; so we can learn how to do what He does.

Trudging back the lane after meeting the bus; the dark lingered, the rain continued. The quiet felt beautiful,  cocooned in the safety of in his Presence

tuesday morning…comfort for the broken-hearted

This morning, we are praying for the broken-hearted, grounding prayers in Isaiah 61:1, NLT

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,
for the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed. (1)
Jesus, be our comfort:
For those made lonely through absence of a loved one, may God use the starkness of loss, to backlight the beauty of all that was shared, and in this bring comfort. For all that was lost, may he bring solace.
For those ‘alone’ by mission or service: may God equip, and re-equip, to continue the task, and harvest the fruit; may you soar on the wings of God’s purpose.
For those made lonely by horrible choices: may the power of the anointing of the Spirit, enable Jesus to lead you out into a new life of hope and restoration.
For those made lonely by displacement – of career, of family, of homeland – experience the presence of Jesus. May you feel yourself ‘seen’ by those of God, and hidden from the enemy by the power of Jesus name. May the love of God, overcome that which would separate. See Romans 8:28-39
For those made lonely by misconstructions of thought: may God renew this thinking in line with His truth. See Ephesians 1:4-10. May His blueprint for your life, his image in you, begin to come clear.
May the church, the body of Christ, be an instrument, rather than an icon; enabled by his love and the power of his name, to push back the terror of darkness, and draw captives out into the light of fellowship, with whispers of hope.
“Isaiah 61 (New Living Translation).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 3 Feb, 2015. <;.

tuesday mornings…

The past couple years have been something of a mid-life, mid-journey crisis. I long to soar outside the bounds of time, energy and self-centeredness to make a difference in this world. In particular, I was seeing gaps in my capability to be a present friend in times of trouble, or present enough to even be aware of trouble on the horizon. Around the bend from that, was the ever-active voice in my head,  “You are not doing enough…in your community; nor in the world.” There are caregivers out there; moms, teachers, pastors, youth leaders and their wives(a whole superhero category unto themselves); who seem able to rally to a steady onslaught of needs, all while maintaining a good sense of humor. I am not one of them. Perhaps you are not either. This post is for us… I’m not going to talk about that ‘comparison thing’ we do, just share one compass-bearing of hope and help that God gave me midst that particular crisis.

One of my friends was in trouble – the collapse of a mission, scary, kid-stuff trouble.  Another friend, who is one of those superhero types, organized 40 days of prayer and fasting around the needs. (I am not good at fasting either, just in case you were wondering.) But the situation was so desperate, my ability to help so small, that I signed up to fast and pray every Tuesday during that 40 days. This did not turn out to be a major accomplishment on my part. And how God used it for my friend and her family is their continuing story. What it was for me, however, was an opportunity – to see God at work, to listen for his truth, to align my heart and mind with his purposes, to fill one tiny hole in the gap of his love and care for them. My time at prayer became an AMEN to what He was already doing. It was a privilege to say Amen, over and over and over. Like that old-time discipline of writing on the chalkboard after being caught-out in some misdemeanor. 100 times… Amen…Amen… Amen.

After 40 days, it just seemed easier to keep praying, about all the people and places in the world where the need is great, and the help small. For friends and family hanging onto hope under the see-all lights of despair.  About seemingly hopeless, and helpless situations brought about by the oppressions of poverty, sickness, evil in our world. One can hardly turn around without encountering desperate need, on every side. It is truly overwhelming to anyone who wants to be of help.

Tuesday mornings. Compass bearing: prayer. What are the landmarks?

  • I think God gave me a portioned task; one that I could do. In the midst of all the other demands that are never-ceasing in the life of a caregiver, I can focus and pray about these issues one day per week. I can be consistent, even if I don’t have the energy to be perpetual. Is that the only day I pray? No, but it is the day I always (or almost always), pray for these friends, at home and across the globe, regarding these issues.
  • Prayers are grounded in scripture, which lays a foundation of truth. upon which strong stuff grows, even in the most desperate of situations. Isaiah 61 reminds me of God’s intent. Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 reassure me of His power. Copyright law prohibits me sharing these verses in entirety here, but they are like pavers of gold, if you want to build a prayer walk. If your situation is one to which sin-leads-to-death applies, Ephesians 1 describes resurrection power. If you seek to countermand injustice, Isaiah offers hope and a dream for the future.
  • Finally, I am not advocating leaving someone’s side, for your prayer closet. But barring some other God-appointed role, I am confident that His filling of a hole in the wall of his kingdom with the putty of truth-filled prayers, is an offering of eternal value.                   Tuesday mornings…Godspeed


Some years, our family has been privileged to collaborate in crafting a Christmas carol. As we move from Thanksgiving to Advent, I am thankful for a God , who sees, and knows… Here is this year’s rough copy, based on Isaiah 61. When all the musicians get here, we’ll work out the transitions.


I have come…to find the lost, you lonely

Lend my truth, to light the corners of your mind.

I have come…to help the broke and hurting

Mend your hearts: I offer to you mine.

Let the little children come – the orphaned, lame, forgotten ones

Climb into the reaches of my heart.

Let the weary, burdened see; there’s rest in doing life with me

The blind, the poor – in seeing what I see.


I have come…to loose the chains that hold you.

You’re free to soar, unfettered by a past.

Beauty’s hope, in trade for broken dreams and burned-out ashes,

Joy will rise into a kingdom that will last.

The valleys and the hills made low, an easy path for us to go

Let the echoes ring, of the joy I bring.

I have come.

I have come.


(SPOKEN)   I have come, image of my Father’s glory.

HERE I  AM…  to offer you his love.

I bring strength for your trial, power for your struggle,

The gift of wisdom, and a peace that will not end.


(SING)   Let the children come…

Let the people see…

Let my kingdom come

When you believe.



Shalom, Fellow Caregivers;

It has been a …summer.  Rich, fun, testing. Good, in so many ways. But I hit the first day of school, and think, “Hurray for us, Little Miss Sweetness and me. We made it.”  It will take a much longer telling, to put faces and gifting on all that ‘we’;  the partners in crime and adventure,  who have walked the journey holding our hands and our hearts, shoring us up. So I will save that for another day.

But because I feel remiss in not writing more frequently, I want to share two quickies today: After searching for your desired passage, a listen link will appear under the chapter heading on the right hand side of the screen. Click! and Blue Letter Bible will read the word aloud to you while you fold laundry, or wash dishes, or rock the baby. It will read truth into the deep parts of your soul that feel neglected by just SO MUCH DOING. And, as promised,God’s word  will light your way, and produce fruit.

Shalom: God be with you, for the well-being of your soul.

The second, I ‘stumbled’ upon today, as all the back burner issues, some well beyond simmer, pushed to the front of the stove. This song cries, “Carry me to the cross.” Enough said.

Shalom: Peace be still


jlf 9/12