Lament, an essential spiritual practice for our violent times

mourn sorrowHow do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?

I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.

My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”

I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling All Things

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)  

  • I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
  • Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.

  • 1/3 of the Psalms are laments
  • Much of Job is lamenting
    • Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • 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
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.

Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.” – Katongole and Rice
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-7           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  

What spiritual practices help you stay resilient? 

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Lament Article © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for preplanning the worship services following your death

Ria Munk on her Deathbed, Gustav Klimt (1912), Oil on canvas

Ria Munk on her Deathbed by Gustav Klimt. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a growing trend to not have a funeral or memorial service following the death of a loved one.

Hear my plea- have the service!

Those who remain need it. It’s a critical part of a healthy grieving process. We need to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks in a season of death. It’s a mile marker moment. If we don’t stop, it will chase us.

Christians have even more reasons to gather. We stand on thousands of years of tradition. Good, meaningful, helpful traditions. Traditions of gathering as a community to lament, gathering to embrace the consolation of Christ, gathering to hear the testimony of a faithful Christian witness, gathering to claim Christ’s victory over death and offer of eternal life.

Here’s the heartbreaking part- I’ve sat with many Christian families who tell me their dying loved one told them “don’t go to the bother” of a service or “don’t go to the expense”. They think they are doing their loved ones a kindness, but the truth is they aren’t.

Here’s another heartbreak- If your worship planning is left up to family members who do not value your faith, there may be no service at all. These dear ones don’t understand how meaningful and vital this type of worship experience is.

Think about how not having a service would affect your friends who are believers. Think of the opportunity lost for your own family to hear about your faith and what Christ makes available to them as well.

In my tradition, a worship service following the death of a loved one does not have to be complicated or expensive or formal. It can be in a church or funeral home or cemetery, but it can also be on the beach or in a living room. It can be both faith-full and welcoming for those yet to believe.

The important thing is to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks.

Take time to pre-plan the worship service following your death. To do so is a tremendous gift to your loved ones since they will not have to make these decisions in the midst of grieving. To do so is a witness to your faith in the promises of Christ.

Click the link below for resources to help you pre-plan. Feel free to leave questions or ideas in the comments. I pray these resources are a blessing and a balm to you and those you love. – Lisa <><

CLICK HERE for a pdf of the following resources

  • Descriptions of the different types of worship services which may take place following a death. Remember, there’s no one right way to remember and give thanks for a life. Different types of services and locations are often combined at the preference of the family.
  • Descriptions of the different parts of a worship service to help in your planning.
  • A worksheet to record your planning decisions
  • A worksheet to help you write your testimony

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Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for planning the worship services following your death © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of practicing Lament)  

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • Only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

Lament in the Scriptures

  • We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • 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)
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair.  It is not whining.  It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?”
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-8           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Growing in Resilience: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61.10

Isaiah 61 10 robesGrowing in Resilience
Day 22, Read Isaiah 61
Reflection: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61:10, NRSV

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
When one suffers, we all suffer

Hear our lament for the ways we hurt one another and in turn hurt you
Our words weapons instead of life

Hear our wails for all shattered by sin and fear and shame

Hear our groans for all bent low beneath watching and waiting
for another in pain
or their own

Hear our tears for all captive to
their poverty
their addiction
their loneliness
their otherness

Hear our grieving for the powerful misusing their influence
The Forgotten… forgotten

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
Comfort us in your coming
Your freeing
Your healing

In your deliverance, there is a crown for our ashes
The oil of gladness pouring across tender brows till it pools in our clavicles

In the nakedness of our need you clothe us
Garments of Salvation
Robes of Righteousness
Jewels of our Belovedness
You dress us in your Victory
Wrapping us in your Joy and Delight
Swaddling us in your Promises made real

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Comfort Us © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Order of Worship for a Blue Christmas Service (also known as a Longest Night Service)

blue-nativity

A Blue Christmas Service is offered especially for those hurting during the holidays. It’s often offered December 21, the longest night of the year. Some come because they are mourning the death of a loved one. Some are far from home. Some suffer from illness, addiction, or estrangement. Some are lonely, struggling financially, or in conflict with another. Some hurt because of the great pain, need, and violence in our nation and world. The reasons for coming are many. We gather in the midst of suffering to remember God is good. God is strong. God is near. We are not alone and we have every reason to hold on to hope.

Pre-Service Set Up
People to greet and pass out programs
Blue strips of paper in the pews
Evergreen clippings place at the prayer rail
Anointing oil for prayer helpers
Tissues at the prayer rail and in pews
A table with 4 blue pillar candles and 1 white pillar candle
A box of matches
Blue tablecloth or white with blue runner for the table

Gathering Music

Welcome
This might include a brief explanation of the purpose of the service

Opening Prayer
One or all praying
Merciful God,
In this season of rejoicing, we come to you weary and grieving
In this season of feasting, we hunger for healing and relief
In this season of light, our hearts are veiled in sorrow and shadow
Will this season ever end?

“Yes.” We hear your, “Yes.”
Those who are weary will find rest
Those who mourn will be comforted
Those who hunger will be filled
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.

Lighting the Christ Candle
One person says– We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World. In the midst of our suffering, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Strike a match and light the white candle

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Scripture Isaiah 11:1-5, The Voice Translation
One person reads the Scripture
On this humbled ground,
a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising, will sprout from Jesse’s stump
a branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One, He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth
The impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

A brief message of hope is offered based on the Isaiah reading

Candle Lighting
Instrumental underscore- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Light one of the candles following each passage from Psalms
One person reads what each candle represents
The following passage from Psalms may be read by one or all persons

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of truth.
There is no need to hide or deny. God welcomes us as we are.

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ~Psalm 86:1

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of lament.
We recognize our wounds and cry out to God.
We accept God’s invitation to express every feeling and question.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of courage.
Courage to be honest, to seek help, to comfort one another.
Courage to dare to love and dream again.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ~ Psalm 28:7

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of hope.
God is good. God is strong. God is near, leading us to a day without tears and pain, without sin and death. Healing and deliverance are coming; if not now, then on that day.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. ~Psalm 65:5

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Cry out to Jesus by Third Day

Instructions for Prayer Time

  • You are encouraged to write your burdens and sorrows on the blue strips of paper and then place them on the table with the candles
  • Following that, make your way to the prayer rail
  • Persons are available to pray with you as you stand or kneel
  • Anointing oil is also available.
  • Please take an evergreen clipping with you as you return to your seat as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness

Instrumental underscore following the instructions

Prayer after everyone is seated.
One person praying as they place their hand on the blue strips of paper.

Jesus, you are full of compassion, you understand our pain. Our suffering changes our experience of you and the celebration of your birth. We are caught between remembering happier times and grieving what might have been. In our loss we feel cut off- disconnected, adrift, alone.

Root us in your steadfast love. Anchor us in your faithful promises.
Hold us, and all who weep this holy season throughout the world-
those who mourn, those far from home, those looking for work,
the lonely, the addicted, the abused,
the estranged, the oppressed, the enslaved,
the poor, victims of war, the sick and dying.
Shelter and sustain us all with your healing and hope, your peace and light.

We love you, we need you, we trust you,
We ask this in your name Jesus, praying as you taught us…

Everyone prays
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

Song
Suggestion- The Only Real Peace I Have by Allison Speer

Affirmation of Faith for Christmas
Adapted from the poem First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle.

ONE: Christians, what do you believe?

ALL: God did not wait till the world was ready,
till nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame,
God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh;
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Passing the Peace

Song Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All singing
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Blessing
Following the blessing, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. Persons are available to speak with you further about your situation. You are also welcome to set an appointment with the pastor or director of congregational care. (give contact information)

***********
This prayer is printed as a gift for persons to take home.
I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Perseverance

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Blue Christmas Service © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings 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!

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.

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 acknowledgment 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?

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.

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Prayer: End Our Madness © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
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