Jesus, The Hen: when it’s time to weep

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Matthew 23:27; Luke 13:34 NRSV
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Extended quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from The Christian Century (2/25/86)
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed –but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. …

… Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.

She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her — wings spread, breast exposed — without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

Click here for a deep reflection and call to lament by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled For the Hurt of my People.

Click here for a thoughtful reflecting on the question of suffering by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Suffering.

In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
– Suzanne Guthrie, Lament Over Jerusalem

The tears which flow from our eyes from time to time are illustrations of the tears which Jesus shed as he looked down upon Jerusalem and lamented, “How often I would have gathered you to myself as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not”. They are signs of the pain in God’s heart when even one sheep goes astray. Tears are an acknowledgement of the Fall, but as they flow from a truly-repentant heart, they are also the first signs of hope. The dam of sinful resistance has collapsed and the Water of Life can now flow. – Steve Harper, The Water of Repentance

Prayer: End the Madness by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
Hate compounds
Death surrounds
Evil abounds

Relief supplies rotting on docks
Vaccines waiting on shelves
The unsuspecting shot down
Abortions of convenience
The faithful persecuted
Riots in the streets
Human trafficking
Suicide bombers
Genocide
War

End our madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

Come quickly
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Rescue your beloved
Lord, where else can we go?

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For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

End Our Madness: a prayer for peace, justice and unity

PrejudicePrayer: End Our Madness
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Relief supplies rotting on docks
The faithful murdered at prayer
Vaccines waiting on shelves
Abortions of convenience
Riots in the streets
Millions of refugees
Human trafficking
Suicide bombers
Genocide
War

Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

Come quickly
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Your peace
Your unity
Your justice
Your hope
Your way, truth and life

Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
End our madness!

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

************
Prayer: End Our Madness © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Jesus, The Hen: when it’s time to weep

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Matthew 23:27; Luke 13:34 NRSV
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

The tears which flow from our eyes from time to time are illustrations of the tears which Jesus shed as he looked down upon Jerusalem and lamented, “How often I would have gathered you to myself as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not”. They are signs of the pain in God’s heart when even one sheep goes astray. Tears are an acknowledgement of the Fall, but as they flow from a truly-repentant heart, they are also the first signs of hope. The dam of sinful resistance has collapsed and the Water of Life can now flow. – Steve Harper, The Water of Repentance

In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
– Suzanne Guthrie, Lament Over Jerusalem

Click here for a deep reflection and call to lament by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled For the Hurt of my People.

Extended quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from The Christian Century (2/25/86)
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed –but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. …

… Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.

She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her — wings spread, breast exposed — without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

************
For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

#LukeActs2014: When all seems lost (Luke 2:41-50)

Searching by Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt)

Searching by Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt)

Reading for the week of January 12: Luke 2
Click Here for more information on the #LukeActs2014 Reading Plan

Have you ever lost something important? A much needed paycheck before it reached the bank. Your Social Security Card- who has my life? Your computer crashes- where went my life? My work, my plans, my memories.

What did you do? How did you feel?

In Luke 2:41-50, Mary and Joseph lose something beyond important.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

Over their lifetime, Mary and Joseph made this trip dozens of times. Three times a year a trip up to Jerusalem for the high, holy feasts.

  • Passover in the spring- the celebration of God passing over the first born of the Hebrew slaves and their release from captivity.
  • Pentecost fifty days later -the celebration of God providing the law at Mount Sinai.
  • Tabernacles in the fall- the celebration of God’s forgiveness and provision in the wilderness

Even though it was a familiar trip, it was a long and strenuous trip. Around ninety two miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem. At least five days on the road. They would take the route east down the Jordan River valley to avoid the steep mountains and shunned people of Samaria. When they reached the Dead Sea they turned west, climbing 3500ft up the rocky, robbers’ road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Even so it was joyful. Spending time with friends and family, joining other caravans of pilgrims looking forward to eight days of feasting and worship in the wonders of Jerusalem.

43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

It was normal for families to be apart during the travel day. Women and men spending time chatting with their respective genders. The children playing as the miles passed.

At night though you made your way to your own household. This night Jesus doesn’t show up for supper. Mary and Joseph begin to search the caravan. Family by family. Tent by tent. No, we haven’t seen him. The clock is ticking. The panic is rising. It’s clear- their son is lost.

Do we leave now and risk the robbers or wait till morning to retrace our steps?
Tick Tock.
The anxiety grows
What was the conversation like on the way back to Jerusalem?
A whole day’s journey
Tick Tock
Do they start blaming each other?
We made a plan. I thought he was with you. No you. I thought he was with them.
Tick Tock.
No trace
No Jesus among the rocks
Tick Tock
Fear growing
Exhaustion, too
Tick Tock
They search Jerusalem’s endless streets
Tick Tock

When does it hit them?
They’ve not only lost their son
They’ve lost the Messiah, the Promised One, the Savior

How do you pray at a moment like this?
I thought we were together, but I’ve searched and searched

Do they then make the emotional and theological leap?
I’ve lost God

It’s one thing to lose an important thing
Another to experience the sheer terror of losing a child
But to lose God
I thought we were together, but I’ve searched and searched

John of the Cross named it the dark night of the soul. A loss of hope, perspective, the ability to sense God’s presence. Prayers feel like they’re bouncing off the ceiling. Long held beliefs come into question.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, experienced it several times in his life. He went into the family business, attending Oxford University and becoming a priest in the Church of England. He and his friends were seeking God with all they had- studying the Bible, praying several times a day, working with the poor.

John felt a call to be a missionary to the “Indians”. It was a disaster. He made the long boat ride from England to Georgia only to find colonists. He preached and taught and fell in love and moved too slowly. She married another. He denied her communion and her father wanted him thrown in jail. After all, she was a governor’s daughter. John left under the cover of night, a broken, broken man.

On the boat back to England, a huge storm strikes. Everything fails him- his legacy, his education, his ordination. John is terrified to die. I thought we were together.

Surely the truly faithful never experience this. People like Mother Theresa. No, she experienced it throughout her life, too.

Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them.

In the end, John of the Cross, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, and so many others who have experienced a dark night of the soul find Jesus again. So do Mary and Joseph.

46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished.

After three days, Jesus is found alive. (I almost missed that!)

The flood of emotions- relief, guilt, anger, joy all rolled up into one. (I want to hug you and I want to ground you forever.) On top of that, there’s the astonishment and amazement. Jesus is found speaking with the best, most renowned teachers. Celebrity status. It’s like finding your 12 year old who’s into science talking to Stephen Hawking and holding his own. An uneducated boy from a rural community- not arguing, not debating, doing what rabbis do- listening to each other and asking questions.

His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?
Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

The first recorded words of Jesus. (almost missed that, too!) Had they ever heard him speak like this? Had they ever seen him like this? His simple, short response says so much.

The time is coming mom. A few more moments and I am an adult. I know who I am and I will be about my Father’s business. This is where you’ll always find me.

50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Mystery. Reality. Truth.

There are times when all seems lost. Our emotions betray us. Our understanding falls short. In these times we cling to God’s promises and walk through the shadowy valley. We never walk alone, even though it may feel that way. God is not distant. We are not abandoned. Our Beloved is near and will never leave us nor forsake us. Like our brothers John and John, and sister Theresa, and so many, many others, we cling to the promises, practices and places where Jesus is found. John Wesley returned to worship and study and preaching and serving the poor. Mother Theresa made the decision to keep doing what she had been doing when she last heard from the Lord.

Breathe in. We will find Jesus in his Father’s house. Among God’s people. In the Scriptures, the songs, the prayers. In the worship. In the words. In the welcome.

Breathe out. We will find Jesus about his Father’s business. In bringing good news to the poor. In proclaiming release to the captives. In opening the eyes of the blind. In releasing those held captive in chains of poverty, sin, injustice, addiction. In joining Jesus in his saving work of mercy, healing, and new life.

When all seems lost it isn’t. Just breathe

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For more hauntingly, beautiful work by today’s featured artist, Finnish photographer Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt), click here

For the graphics I created for my memory verses from Luke 2, click here

For the introductory post to Luke 2, click here

For more information on the art, scripture translation (NIV) and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

For Times of Despairing

Hope by Iranian Graffiti Artists ICY and SOT

Psalm 69:16-20 NRSV
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies. You know the insults I receive, and my shame and dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

Jesus’ life didn’t go well. He didn’t reach his earning potential. He didn’t have the respect of his colleagues. His friends weren’t loyal. His life wasn’t long. He didn’t meet his soul mate. And he wasn’t understood by his mother. Yet I think I deserve all those things because I am spiritual. — Hugh Prather, quoted in Secrets of a Good Life

Big Truth invariably comes from the edges of society, or those who have been to the edges, or the “wilderness” as it is here called (Mark 1:3). Jesus’ new reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the center is seldom ready for the truth because it has too much to protect; it has bought into the system and will invariably protect the status quo. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt,” and it is seldom comfort or security. – Richard Rohr

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Following Jesus means that we have to keep walking on the ground, keep struggling. The work of living does not necessarily become easier because we are disciples. In fact, discipleship can make life more difficult. At the same time, life becomes radically different. Our struggles and pains become different struggles and pains. The reason for this is that we are no longer living our struggles and pains alone. Following Jesus indeed means that we live our same life, but we live it in companionship with the one who understands us fully — our guide, fellow traveler, the one in whom we can trust our whole life. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

Deliver me, O God,
from a slothful mind, from all lukewarmness, and all dejection of spirit.
I know these cannot but deaden my love to thee;
mercifully free my heart from them,
and give me a lively, zealous, active, and cheerful spirit;
that I may vigorously perform whatever thou commandest,
thankfully suffer whatever thou choosest for me,
and be ever ardent to obey in all things thy holy love.
– John Wesley

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be afraid,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear. “Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway. But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day. – John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

Extended quote by Steve Harper from A Gift From Thomas Merton
The witness of the saints is not perfect consistency, but unceasing devotion. For whether it be Merton, Wesley, or someone else—what we find is that they are as devoted to God when they “don’t feel like it” as they are when they do. Their experience fluctuates, but their commitment does not. And that’s what makes their witness authentic.

It’s only those who try to project the idea that “every day in every way I’m getting better and better” who actually project illusion, rather than reality. It’s only those who believe the only witness they can make is that they “have the victory” who become the plaster saints, who must be treated carefully or they’ll shatter into a million pieces.

Give me a fluctuating saint any day—a witness that faces success and failure—pleasure and pain—advance and decline—happiness and heartache—with unwavering devotion to an unchanging God.

God,
Collect our tears
Tears of sadness
tears of joy
Tears of anxiety
nervous tears
Tears that don’t know why they run like rivers down the face
Gracious God,
collect our tears in your bottle
And pour them back on us as life-giving water!
– Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book: Year A

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For an article describing the brave work of today’s featured graffiti artists from Iran, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Blessing: New Life Out of Chaos

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Transforming Our Pain by Richard Rohr
All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become “sacred wounds” and not something to deny, disguise, or export to others.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying storyline of human history. Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals, so that we don’t just keep handing the pain on to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, humanity is in major trouble.

Genesis 1:1-3 NRSV
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Isaiah 45:17-18 NIV
Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.

May the God of the heavens
and of the earth
enter into the place within you
that holds the keenest chaos,
the deepest mystery,
the most intense darkness

and there
may the God of
sun and moon
stars and seasons
breathe the words
that will bring forth
a new world.
-Jan L. Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women

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It is with great joy that I recommend the art, writing, and speaking ministry of Jan Richardson. It’s a blessing to know Jan and to live near her, so I’ve sat in her circle many times as God used her to break open a new place in my heart that was in need of light and love. You’ll find the door to her many blogs and offerings here.

Prayer for a Friend in Need

consolation---jean-georges-cornelius

Consolation by Jean Georges Cornelius

I asked, “Are you ok?”
My friend said, “I am not.”

My heart breaks with hers
Your heart breaks with hers

You hold her truth with great compassion
We hold each other, clinging to your promises

You will walk us through this shadowy valley
You will bring light to this long, deep night
We know we will have trouble
We trust you will overcome

We watch
We wait
God of Grace

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Prayer for a Friend in Need © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
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