So much sorrow and grief in the world…if you clicked on this blog at all, with such a sober title, then you are facing what is true for you, and for all of us.
Take a moment more and let’s sit together over this. Or if you have 2-3 friends or family members you deeply trust, gather them for a talk that will begin the healing of both a current grief or a distant sorrow. Losses, whatever they are, endure in our minds and bodies. If we leave them unshared, we still attend to them, either by the work of keeping them buried or by numbing them with the aid of our idols or addictions.
“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side.” … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.” – Barbara Brown Taylor
When you think about a sorrow, grief, or loss in your own life (current or past), what comes to mind? Something always comes. We are all experiencing a global sorrow in the war brewing in the Middle East. Here in my town, a young widow and an older one are daily finding their way forward through grief. For you, maybe it is a past loss of great import…or even one you think is only important to you. If it’s important to you, it matters to those who care about you. We self-edit and compare our sorrows, but they stay strong and real in our own life experience.
What can we do to heal the ache of these sadnesses? To refuse to isolate ourselves and our losses from community? To experience hope again?
Adam Young describes the four conditions needed to allow us to work with sorrow and grief:
We own that our sorrows and griefs matter and should be taken seriously.
We need to gradually move from a posture of contempt toward our sorrow and grief to a posture of compassion and kindness and welcome.
We need to find a few people who can be the village for us… allowing us to risk sharing our sorrow and grief with other people.
We need to move our bodies in a way that allows for the integration and release of our sorrow and grief.– Adam Young
We can be very hard on ourselves regarding our sorrow and grief, because somehow we think we should get over it or not care so much or ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Even when we push our grief into the deep interior of our minds, or we try to forget through our “drugs” of choice, it is present. Closer to the surface than we imagine.
In the above podcasts, Adam Young quotes psychotherapist Francis Weller extensively, which is a huge help for those of us who have yet to read Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Weller emphasizes the impact of grief over time, on our minds and bodies and relationships. He encourages community as the place, or people with whom, to release our sorrow.
I’ve been reading The Deepest Place by Dr. Curt Thompson (the fourth book he has written and the fourth book of his I have devoured!). Thompson talks about the common nature of suffering in all our lives. Once we embrace that fact, then we can be more open and honest with “villages” of people who are there for us…and we for them. This has been so healing for me as I’ve opened up about my own sadness regarding the rupture of my extended family and the pain we have all suffered from it.
A group of us just today were hearing an update from a friend who has endured through a chronic illness for which her doctors have found no solution…yet. She is tired and struggling. Reading Thompson’s chapter on perseverance reminded me of her ordeal. Her faith in God and her determination to keep open and close to her community have given us all hope that the future will be brighter for her…and we will be there with her for it.
Until this book, published in 2017, and just now read.
Brené Brown has much studied wisdom on who we are in relationship to others. I’d like to share some of my takeaways from this little treasure of a book. [Sidebar: Not in lockstep with all her conclusions, but some are so rich and needful, I want to offer them to those of you who might not read them yourselves.]
1) Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brown talks about the crucial work of valuing who you are and what you bring to any community, family, or workplace.
“Even in the context of suffering—poverty, violence, human rights violations—not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. It broke all three for me. And when those things break, there are only three outcomes, something I’ve borne witness to in my life and in my work: 1. You live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting it on others; 2. You deny your pain, and your denial ensures that you pass it on to those around you and down to your children; or 3. You find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way. I certainly tried the first two. Only through sheer grace did I make my way to the third.” – Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 14
2) There are at least four elements of true belonging.
a. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
b. Speak truth to bullsh*t. Be civil.
c. Hold hands. With strangers.
d. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
These are chapter headings in Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness. Each could stand alone as inspiring to us in embracing how we are meant to live life. To truly belong. In community that is honoring to those around us, ourselves, and our Creator.
In a capsule, each element (or practice) speaks to the choices we make in leaning in to those both like us and not at all like us. In fact, we can see how we are doing in “braving the wilderness” – dealing with the strange and isolating sides of life – as we examine our daily habits. Am I willing to be in proximity with those different from me, those who think, speak, or act in opposition to me? With those who clearly communicate that I don’t belong. We collude with such opinions if we pull ourselves away, believing we don’t belong. We silence ourselves. We don’t show up. [I’m choosing not to hate as a daily practice and not to be counted out. Full stop.]
We can be civil. If we find ourselves in conversations filled with belittling, loathing, sarcasm, one-up-manship, then it is a sign we have bought into someone’s bullsh*t. Maybe even our own unchecked attitudes or opinions. Do we need boundaries sometimes? Sure…but if we can practice civility (even love) toward someone acting in ways that exclude or diminish us, maybe we can find a place of belonging to meet. To live with that person instead of forever without them.
The courage to take hold of strangers’ hands can open a whole new world of belonging and meaning to us. Concerts, sporting events, volunteering to aid people in need. People who link arms over something larger than themselves. Our children need us to belong and bring them along. I’m not sure if it was 9/11 or COVID or what has moved us to gather in small, tight circles. We miss out on a larger life in this way. A life full of purpose.
Brown uses the acronym “braving” in how to maneuver through whatever wilderness we find ourselves. You can see it in the image below.
3) Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. I want to return to this element.
Brown closed her book “Braving the Wilderness” with challenge and encouragement. We can have strong backs as opposed to rigid backs. A strong back is one that is capable of carrying burdens, ours and others, without becoming rigid with unmet expectations or misunderstanding. We strengthen our backs with showing up and growing capacity for caring. The soft front comes not from looking for the negative of rejection, exclusion, or insecurity. It comes from honoring what we each bring and what we each need. A soft front encourages, empowers, and elevates. We refuse to diminish our own place at the table, nor do we push others away, because they are not like us. Something to think about. And that wild heart Brown talks about? It’s that heart we can have when we don’t believe lies or attitudes that make us feel small or overlooked or outside the circle.
The heart becomes wild, free if you will, because we believe what is truest and most beautiful about ourselves, about others, and especially about God. The world is still a wilderness, but we don’t have to be afraid.
So…those are my takeaways from this special little book, and its author’s wild heart!
Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. – Psalm 3:2-3
Blessed be the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I give thanks to Him with my song. – Psalm 28:6-7
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. – 1 Peter 5:7-9
Last night, in the car leaving his taekwondo lesson, our 7 y/o grandson wanted to talk about the most recent conflict between Israel and Palestine. I was shocked that he knew about it given such an adult situation. Maybe he heard his parents talk. Maybe they were praying as a family for the conflict…now war.
He had amazingly mature thoughts and questions about it. You can imagine that it led to a discussion that went all the way back to Adam and Eve and all the way forward to Heaven and Hell. He wondered if America would ever have war and what that would look like. We talked about both the sadness of the situation for Israel and Palestine, and we talked about what our response as Christ-followers must be.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s. During the Vietnam War era. I also grew up with a mom who taught us not to hate. It was never acceptable. If we loved Jesus then we did not have the privilege or luxury or burden (however you see it) of hating another individual or group of people. It went against everything we understood of Jesus, including His very own teaching to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
During the Vietnam war, the culture was mixed (as it is today) with opinions on what was right and what was wrong. In high school, I wrote letters of encouragement to soldiers (brothers, friends, and sometimes strangers who became penpals). Writing to boys only a few years older than me…gone to war.
In college, I, like so many others, participated in protests of a too-long and too-costly war. Protests and prayer vigils.
Address God. (Focus your prayer on the One who hears and answers.)
Pour out your heart. (Bring Him your complaints and concerns.)
Request help. (Ask God for what you need.)
Express trust. (Affirm your faith in His character and His Word.)
Praise Him. (Worship Him because He is worthy.)
“Confessing trust in God is the hinge that turns our grieving into grace, tears into trust, and worries into worship.”– Jennifer Rothschild
If you’re like me, you’ve lost confidence in much of what we see in the news. Or at least, we sift through several accounts of events to determine what might be true.
This I know: something catastrophic is happening in the Middle East right now which will most probably have a wide ripple effect into coming generations. There is much to lament here. God’s face is the only one to which we can look with complete trust and confidence.
Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.
In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.
Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.
1)I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.
This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.
2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.
These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.
So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).
We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.
“As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).
Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills
The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]
What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!
[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]
I know I’m not the only one. The experience of feeling alone (or invisible) in a crowded room. OK, for introverts this may be a welcome experience. I say, however, that maybe we have different experiences of social anxiety – introverts and extroverts.
It happens to me in the church lobby of all places after the Sunday morning service. If I didn’t walk out into the lobby with someone, it is like I could walk straight through without being seen. Skirting around various little circles – backs to me. Sometimes, I engage with a set of eyes, not wanting to break in or interfere with a conversation, but too often, it’s eyes forward with the exit door in view.
You might be thinking “How weird”. I agree with you. My aim on Sunday gatherings is to watch for loners, new people, those outside of the small group conversations. Dr. Curt Thompson puts it this way: when we come into the world, we are looking for someone looking for us. We have that need for attachment throughout our lives. I want to be that person looking for the someone looking for someone looking for them (was that understandable?).
However…there are days, not just on Sundays but at work and definitely in any large group setting, that my default is awkwardness which is even odd for me. This has not always been my modus operandi. It seems to have crept up on me later in life…but I fight against it!
Just a few days ago, I read a piece and heard a song that have both encouraged and fortified me.
Have you ever read something or heard a piece of music that went right to your core? This:
Singer/songwriter Savannah Locke authored the article and co-wrote the song. She talks about how we can feel orphaned in life for various reasons. Those orphaned especially need to know they have a place – a real belonging somewhere (Psalm 68:4-8). We can take comfort in close friends and family, but the confidence of knowing we always have a place, Locke writes, comes from experiencing the love and care of God.
Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance. – Savannah Locke
It’s been decades since my college years, but there is one book I kept from those days. Through all the moves and all the pain of downsizing our book collections, Paul Tournier‘s A Place for You has remained.
Tournier writes “What we are looking for is not someone who will cut through our dilemmas for us, but someone who will try to understand them. Not someone who will impose his will upon us, but someone who will help us to use our own will. Someone who, instead of dictating to us what we must do, will listen to us with respect. Not someone who will reduce everything to an academic argument, but someone who will understand our personal motives, our feelings, and even our weakness and our mistakes. Someone who will give us confidence in ourselves because he has unshakeable confidence in us…The ideal support, then, is a presence, a vigilant, unshakeable, indefectible presence, but one that is discreet, gentle, silent, and respectful…All [people] are looking, in fact, for God’s support. It is an absolute support that men and women are looking for, a support without limit – and it obviously can come only from God.”
This is the place we need…this place that bolsters us in times of stress, fear, betrayal. This place, this Person, where our own struggle can point us to those with similar struggles and we can make room for them as well…see them as we are seen.
As I was sharing all the above with a friend, she pointed to a similar point of connection from a podcast she watched. Lysa Terkeurst was speaking about her own social anxiety, entering a room full of people alone. During a quiet moment after such an experience, she sensed a word from God in the following:
“You were walking in that room desperate for acceptance and approval. Instead of walking into that room bringing My acceptance, bringing My love into that room, bringing My peace into that room. Every single person in there is desperate for that same kind of acceptance, approval, and love. I don’t want you walking into any more of those rooms begging others for scraps of all that. Live from the place that I have accepted you; I love you. You are a conduit of My peace, My acceptance, and My love to other people. You walk into that room bringing that with you and the atmosphere will change for you…Doing that practice of walking into rooms eager to give that [peace, acceptance, love] to other people (will) change something in you. Live from a place of love, acceptance, not desperate for it from other people.” – Lysa TerKeurst, YouTube podcast with Louie Giglio, Minute 33:30+
Such a great word for me, too.
So…if you see me in a crowd of people, not engaging, and you also are trying to make a quick get-away, I’m looking for you. You have a place. We can all hold space for each other, especially when we trust in the One who is doing the same for us, and making a place for us…forever.
This week we have a special guest in our home. Dave’s mom. I don’t know about your relationship with your mother-in-law. Hopefully it is a good one. If not, I’m genuinely sorry. If there is any chance at all, don’t miss her…you never know what she would bring to your life if invited (back) in.
My mom-in-law prays. Her life has been one of serving others. Now, she is somewhat slowed down, but her devotion to God and others is still very much alive. Some might say hers is a small life…as my own mom’s appeared to be…to outsiders. This is not so for either of them. Where they lacked ambition to be known or powerful, there was/is no lack of love and wisdom. On the things that matter most.
When she comes to visit, we scramble to find the tv programming that she’s used to…encouraging to her. It’s nothing we watch really when she isn’t here, but when she is here, we catch some of the great music, teaching and reporting she listens to regularly.
Here’s an example. Tonight she was watching Kirk Cameron‘s Takeaways. He had two entertainers on his interview docket for this show. Mark Lowery and Zach Williams. I joined her for the Zach Williams’ interview. I’ve written about his music a couple of times. Gritty lyrics, great deep voice. He knows how to connect with his audiences – whether an arena of church folks or a prison cafeteria. He has stories to tell that touch people – a life going one direction with success as a musician, including drugs, fast living, and a marriage unraveling. Then his life turned quite a different direction.
The Takeaways interview isn’t linked yet, but below are two videos of Zach’s story.
We don’t have to keep going down a road leading nowhere good. I have that in my own life story. It’s for another day, but I’m thankful for my sweet mother-in-law who points us to life-giving attention-getters.
Prayer, focus on truth, and sacrificial love are three great gifts she gives us, whether sitting in our family room, or operating out of her own home.
Who or what helps you to shake off the doldrums and points you to a life of greater purpose and joy? Tonight my attention is captured by a a musician’s experience of a God who was never far from him. When Zach Williams was shaken in his tracks and turned his attention…God was there.
Thankful for a praying mom, mom-in-law, and grandmothers who remind us of a way to live that gives hope, joy, and real confidence. Enjoy some of Zach’s music below…and one piece by Brandon Lake about a praying grandma.
“Come,” said Jesus. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. – Matthew 14:29
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God [in prison], and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. At once all the doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose. – Acts 16:25-26
“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” – Jesus – John 14:12
Our frail human imaginations can’t often grasp the reality of a God as glorious as ours. That He would entrust us with “even greater works” than what Jesus displayed. What does that mean?
I’m no theologian, but maybe a bit means that in small hearts and faith, God can still work His mighty works in ways we can’t fully understand…as we live the day-to-day. Ours is to be attentive to His voice and to be ready to obey. How ever mundane we think our lives or common our circumstances, God must see things very differently.
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel, it is not possible to form an idea of what one man is capable of obtaining.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We know from the longer account of Peter’s leaving the boat and walking on water that he got distracted by the fierce wind whipping up the waves around him, and he faltered. Actually, beginning to sink, Jesus pulled him up and returned him to the boat…to safety.
That’s how we see it sometimes. The boat is what feels safe…rather than the safety of our eyes on Him wherever He takes us. Our temptation is to linger on the fact that Peter “failed”. His faith got him out on the water and he walked on top of those stormy waves toward his savior! Full stop! What encouragement to all of us! The event – both Peter walking on water and Jesus saving him and the rest of the apostles in the boat by calming the storm – grew their faith to the point of deep belief in Him as the Son of God.
I am guilty of thinking my life is small…and maybe insignificant. That my sin and poor choices set me up repeatedly for failure. Even writing this, the Spirit of God presses in to remind me (again!) that it is not so.
God is with us to always. The God of this whole universe. Beyond comprehension that He leans in to each one of His children. Ready to pull us out of the ditch and set us back on course…with a larger faith. Righting ourselves as we fix our attention back on Him. This God is the One who so thrilled the hearts of Paul and Silas that they should be worthy of the persecution that threw them into prison (Acts 16:25-26). Did they despair? Maybe…but not such that it kept them from praising the living God.
And an earthquake shook the prison such that all the doors opened.
We’ve all experienced shakings in our lives and water so deep we thought we’d drown. Rather than focusing on our own weaknesses and felt failings, we have it in our small faith (in a giant God) to grab hold of Him and to see doors open.
I am praying for this for you and me this morning.
You look around It’s staring back at you Another wave of doubt Will it pull you under? You wonder: What if I am overtaken? What if I never make it? What if no one’s there? Will You hear my prayer?
[Pre-Chorus] When you take that first step Into the unknown You know that He won’t let you go
[Chorus] So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose? Your insecurities try to alter you You know you’re made for more So don’t be afraid to move Your faith is all it takes And you can walk on the water too
[Verse 2] So get out and let your fear fall to the ground No time to waste, don’t wait And don’t you turn around and miss out On everything you were made for (gotta be) I know you’re not sure So you play it safe, you try to run away
[Pre-Chorus] If you take that first step Into the unknown He won’t let you go
[Chorus] So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose? Your insecurities try to alter you You know you’re made for more So don’t be afraid to move Your faith is all it takes And you can walk on the water too
[Bridge] (Step out) Even when it’s storming (Step out) Even when you’re broken (Step out) Even when your heart is tellin’ you Tellin’ you to give up (Step out) When your hope is stolen (Step out) You can’t see where you’re going You don’t have to be afraid So what are you waiting, what are you waiting for?
[Chorus] So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose? Your insecurities try to alter you You know you’re made for more So don’t be afraid to move Your faith is all it takes And you can walk on the water Walk on the water too*
Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:29-31
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
You know where you are right now. I can’t begin to stand in your shoes or carry the burden that’s yours right now. We rejoice together in the glorious days of victory. The long haul and the momentary defeat both draw us into ourselves…searching for what can get us over the next hill.
Two things. Christ and community.
I just heard this song for the first time this week. “You’re Not Done”. It was written by the band Leeland inspired by a friend gravely ill with COVID. Struggling to breathe. After this friend recovered, these lyrics poured out, as coming from the Lord, remind us of God’s sovereignty in all matters. “If you still have breath in your lungs, you’re not done.”
God is with us always…whatever is pressing in on us. Of the many graces He gives us for the battles in our lives, community is one of our greatest strengths. Leaning on Him, and leaning on each other.
If you are battle-weary, the song title “You’re Not Done” may not encourage your heart at first, but dig into the lyrics. They are meant to speak love, truth, encouragement, and mercy into our hard place. Don’t lose hope. The Lord’s in the battle with us. He knows what it is costing you. In the fighting and in the waiting, He will not leave your side. The victory is His and ours.
I know you’re tired, I know you’re weak And all of that fighting’s got you down on your knees You’re desperate for change, desperate to know There’s a light, still a light
[Chorus] Child, lift up your eyes For your help draws nigh Child, lift up your eyes It’ll be alright Every tear you’ve cried Let the sunlight dry Every tear you’ve cried It’ll be alright
[Post-Chorus] If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs, you’re not done
[Verse 2] I’ll be your strength and I’ll be your song I’ll be the solid Rock you can stand on, oh I’m with you always, you’re never alone ‘Cause I’m right by your side
[Chorus] Child, lift up your eyes For your help draws nigh Child, lift up your eyes It’ll be alright Every tear you’ve cried Let the sunlight dry Every tear you’ve cried It’ll be alright
[Post-Chorus] If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs, you’re not done No, you’re not finished, hey If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs (Hey) If you still have breath in your lungs (God’s just getting started, yes, He is) If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs (What the enemy meant for evil) If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs (Oh, God is turning it around for His glory and your good) If you still have breath in your lungs
[Chorus] Child, lift up your eyes For your help draws nigh Child, lift up your eyes (Ooh, oh) It’ll be alright Every tear you’ve cried Let the sunlight dry Every tear you’ve cried
If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs (God isn’t finished) If you still have breath in your lungs (Keep on keeping on) If you still have breath in your lungs (He’s making a way) If you still have breath in your lungs ([?]) If you still have breath in your lungs (Oh), you’re not done You’re not done (No, no) If you still have breath in your lungs (My child) If you still have breath in your lungs (Look up where your help draws nigh) If you still have breath in your lungs (He’s not done) And if you still have breath in your lungs (Oh, yeah) If you still have breath in your lungs (God) If you still have breath in your lungs (He’s just getting started) If you still have breath in your lungs (Don’t give up) If you still have breath in your lungs (Keep on breathing) If you still have breath in your lungs (Yeah) If you still have breath in your lungs (He’s your hope) If you still have breath in your lungs (He’s your joy) If you still have breath in your lungs (Yes, He is, yes, He is) If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs (Hey, keep holding on) If you still have breath in your lungs
[Outro] He’s making streams in the desert place He’s making a way in the wilderness, yes, I know (If you still) If you still have breath in your lungs If you still have breath in your lungs, you’re not done*
Mary stood outside the tomb, crying…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus. “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it that you’re seeking?”
Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
Turning around, she said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.” – John 20:11-18
Exhausted from grief and bleary-eyed from crying, she was expecting to have a bad day. When she found the tomb empty, and not remembering what Jesus had said before (about his own resurrection that would come)…she grew even more inconsolable.
At first, still consumed by her “bad day”, she hadn’t recognized him. This One who had restored her mind and redeemed her life. This One who knew her perfectly and loved her completely. She thought him a gardener.
He spoke to her but she turned away, in grief, thoughts clouded, blinding her awareness.
Until…He called her by name.
Then, she knew! She came back to her senses. The expectation of a bad day vanished as she refocused on the living Lord rather than the dead one.
We all struggle when a day looms full of dark possibilities, dread, or even deepening disappointment. Some of us have a bent toward being pessimistic,contrarian, or a diminisher. These bring a realism that has its own usefulness at times (well, not the diminisher…no, not ever useful in any positive way), but we don’t have to set up camp there.
If a day is beginning with a downward spiral (even if it’s only in our minds), we can (as my husband sometimes reminds me) “pull up”. Our perspective, our focus, is totally within our control. The same friend above also told a story about recently taking back her Saturday, so to speak. A bad storm had passed through and left trees leaning and branches littering her woodland yard. As she sat on her deck, looking at all the devastation, she was troubled at what it would take to restore order. It wasn’t going to happen that morning and no amount of thinking about it was going to make it better. So what did she do? She turned her chair…such that a different, more lovely view was in front of her.
[Thanks, Kathy, for that good word.]
Sometimes, we have to turn our chair…or as Mary Magdalene did, turn back around to the one speaking to her. What we think should be but may not be could just be in our perspective…how we’re looking at things. It also could be remembering that we are never truly alone in the prospect of a bad day. Look for helpers…it’s good advice.
That bad day we were anticipating may just turn out to be a bad few minutes in an otherwise good day. We can make it happen…by tuning into a familiar voice or turning our chair…for a clearing the head moment.
This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only Son lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible?
The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?
There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66
Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….
He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.
With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.
But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax
[Inserting here a talk done on Good Friday by a friend of ours – on the cross – fitting for today – then after her talk, I will close on Black Saturday.]
“What does the cross change?
“Everything” is perhaps our knee jerk reaction. The cross changes everything. But that can’t be right when we worship an unchanging God. God did not change at the cross. He was perfectly just before the cross and remains perfectly just today and will be perfectly just forever. He was perfectly loving before the cross, he remains perfectly loving, and he will be perfectly loving forever. He was sovereign, is sovereign, and will be sovereign forever. God did not change at the cross.
I think to see what changed we have to go back much earlier than Jesus’ lifetime. We have to go back to Eden. God created a perfect garden with a man and a woman and plants and animals. It was an oasis, idyllic, peaceful. And by peaceful I don’t mean free from worry or stress. I mean the hearts of Adam and Eve were at peace with God. It’s hard to imagine that. Hard to imagine no shame, fear, uncertainty. Hard to imagine walking and talking with God, completely vulnerable, knowing you were free from any sort of culpability. Adam and Eve were at peace with God, each other, and themselves.
Then they went to war with God. And each of us makes that same decision, to go to war with God, to sin against him and against our nature as image-bearers. We do not choose peace or freedom, we choose war and shame, darkness and loneliness. When I say war I mean we declare that there must be bloodshed. There must be death. Sin is a declaration that we will not live as God intended. God intended perfect peace. He intended that we all walk with Him, unashamed, in the light. We sin and we disrupt that plan. We may not desire the outcome of that sin, which is death, but the outcome is unavoidable.
So Adam and Eve sinned and that perfect peace was shattered and the cross became inevitable. As we read through the Old Testament, the cross feels like it’s in every story. We see God using men and women to foreshadow what is to come, the perfect prophet, priest, judge, shepherd, and king. We read the Old Testament and we see all the plans God set in motion to reach the cross. What we see also is imperfection. Imperfect prophets, judges, shepherds, and kings. Imperfect sacrifices leading to imperfect relationships. God is with His people but they cannot be at peace with him like they were in the Garden.
So, does the cross take us backward, to Eden? No. There’s no going back to Eden. That’s not the plan.
The cross is the culmination of the battle that started in Eden. We declared war in the garden and Jesus Christ declared victory at the cross. Oh death, where is your sting? We can ask that because the battle is over. Jesus Christ conquered death and we who believe have the promise of eternal life, starting today.
It’s strange though. It doesn’t feel over. I don’t feel at peace. Not with God, or others, or myself. It feels like the battle is very much ongoing and it often feels like I’m losing. So, what has the cross really changed?
I’m reminded of my favorite passage in the Bible, which is where Jesus is walking on water and Peter calls out to Him and Jesus says come. It’s an amazing story in so many ways but I’m always struck by the fact that Peter sinks and, it seems, is going to drown. Even with Jesus standing right there, standing on water exhibiting power over nature, declaring he is God, Peter is sinking under the waves. Jesus saves him, of course. But I imagine Peter, while grateful, was a bit unnerved by the sinking part. I’m reminded of this story because the reality of this Earth is that, while God is sovereign and He has won the battle over death, we do not live in Eden. We do not live in the new heaven and new Earth. We are waiting for Jesus Christ to return and while we wait, we will struggle. We’ll perhaps almost drown as we try to walk with God. But because of the cross, we will walk as freely as Adam and Eve walked with God. Death no longer has a hold on us.
So, we have victory over death because of the cross, which is our hope for the future. But what do we cling to in this daily battle? What else does the cross give us today?
I’d like to talk about just one thing.
When God looked at His Son, He was pleased. It’s such an amazing thought. That God looked from heaven at a man and was pleased. Picture it. Jesus is a man on Earth and God looks at him and addresses him and says He is pleased with him. That’s what the cross changes for us. When God looks at you who believe, He does not see your sin, He sees Christ’s holiness. He sees you, an individual He created in your mother’s womb whom He has loved from the beginning of time. But instead of your sin, He sees Christ’s holinesses. And He says, this is my daughter, in whom I am well pleased. This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Imagine it. The sight of you pleases God. The cross means that we no longer have a broken and distorted relationship with God because we, unlike any person living before the cross, are holy in God’s eyes. No matter how putrid our sin is, no matter how many times we have declared war with God, for those who believe and repent, we can walk in the light, free from the burden of our sin. Like Adam and Eve, we walk with God in peace. Like Jesus, God looks at us and is pleased. I pray you can feel that today. Feel that God knows you, knows your name and your face and sees you and is as pleased to see you as He is to see His own Son. Not because you’re obedient or you are bursting with the fruit of the spirit. To believe that your good deeds can make up for putting Jesus Christ on the cross with your sin is folly. Our sin led to the death of God’s one and only begotten Son. We cannot make up for that with our good behavior. To try and do so is to deny Christ’s sacrifice.
The cross takes that burden away and replaces it with freedom. We are free to walk in peace with God and to know and feel that God is pleased with us because of the cross.
So what does the cross change? Us.” – Amanda, Good Friday reading, Sideris Church
We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.
Another dear friend of ours, Beth, shared this message by John Ortberg from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.
“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “ – John Ortberg
Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!
Today is the waiting day.
We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.
We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.
We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.
We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.
We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.
We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.
In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.
We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.