A Witness to Every Tear

A Witness to Every Tear

Tears of grief,
of suffering, of pain, of irritation, of cleansing, of release, of joy.
Each one witnessed, acknowledged, known,
allowed to be, to flow, to gush, to trickle.
Each one a story - leaving a trail back to God.
What will it be like to no longer fear our tears
or stop them up because of shame?
What if our tears are the bridge which beckons:
”God, come near.
God, come see my hurt, my pain, my suffering, my tribulations.
I allow your compassion to see me as I am
and I open myself to your kindness,
your consoling love.
I let you console me.”

Revelation 7:9-17 (NLT)
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throneand from the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. 16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. 17 For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What words or image shimmered as you listened? Stay near to this gift and listen deeply with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Consider God’s sheltering presence over you and within you. Rest where he leads you.

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Worship in the Everyday Ordinary

A cursory reading of the spontaneous and glorious worship described in John’s vision or Revelation is filled with hard to grasp imagery and metaphor. These descriptions might overwhelm our understanding and possibly shut down our curiosity. Yet in this season of Eastertide where we live in the joy and possibility of renewal in the now, this text and our questioning of it might be just the place where God meets us today. How might we make room for the spontaneous moments of worship in our everyday ordinary? What beauty or glimmers of gratitude in the small things are worthy of our stopping to notice and simply offer our voluntary praise and thanks?

Revelation 5:11-14 (NIV)
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Did a word, or phrase or picture shimmer for you as you listened to the text? Journal or artistically express what you noticed.

Place yourself in this scene. Who are you? What are you witnessing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anything you want to say to Jesus or do for him? What does he in turn say to you?

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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Practicing Resurrection

On the tide of Easter morning, those who went to look for Jesus found an empty tomb. Some discovered him along the way, others went to look again, others were surprised that Jesus was the one to seek them out and find them. These companions of Jesus, women and men, inspire us to keep looking for the risen Christ. Where are you seeing signs of new life in your everyday life? Which practices help train you to keep looking?

Isaiah 43:16-21 NIV
This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word or phrase that stood out for you – that spoke just to you? Note it here, and then write 2-3 sentences about it.

What did you notice was your inner response as you listened? (longing, agitated, curious, confused, peaceful, joy-filled, hopeful, frustrated, anger nothing, etc.?)

Would you be willing to speak to God (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) about these feelings? Allow God to see you as you are. Ask for what you need. Linger in God’s presence.

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Naming Our Shame Story

Today’s short text is set near the end of a 500-year story. The Hebrew people were rescued from starvation by entering into Egypt only to be delivered out of the ensuing Egyptian slavery into freedom. On the eve of taking possession of the promised land, the Israelites, are about to taste and eat of its abundance.

As you enter this story in prayer, your own story of shame may surface - or it may be the shame story of your people, your family, community or nation. Gently hold whatever emerges in your prayer before God who continually leads us out of narrow places (Egypt) in our minds, hearts and habits into His expansive places of freedom (the promised land).

Those who the son sets free, will be free indeed…John 8:36

Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

10 While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. 11 The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. 12 No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If there was a word, a phrase, or an image that sought your attention as you listened, stay with it and listen deeper with Jesus.

If you noticed any place of tension, or some other sensation, in your body as you listened, gently follow it with Jesus.

Journal about your longing or experience of shame being rolled away in your life. Give that story a name.

Quietly rest in the presence of the Lord with any comfort or consolation given to you.

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For What Does Your Soul Thirst?

Thirst - physical, emotional, relational, spiritual - we all have it, even before we feel it. Jesus, the one who offered streams of living water to slake our thirst, he felt thirst too. Vulnerable, naked, poured out - he speaks of his thirst on the cross. He goes before us, identifying and naming our human condition, without shame. It’s ok to be thirsty. What if we entrusted our thirst to him?

Isaiah 55:1-9 NLT
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
6 Seek the LORD while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What caught your attention as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on where you are noticing your thirst or hunger for God. What is truly nourishing it? Offer up your need in prayer.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

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Pastor Laura VanNorman preached on Jesus’ words, “I thirst”. Listen here for a poignant teaching and reflection on two of Jesus’ last words before his death.

I Will Take Care of You

“I will take care of you” - oh, how we long to hear the essence of these words in one form or another. How often do we silently base our hope on someone doing just that for us? A parent, a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a sibling, a friend, a child? These are weighty expectations.

This is a weighty story of Joseph, his family and the God who is bigger than family relations, the weather, economic conditions, and earthly kingdoms. As you pray with this passage, invite God to deepen your knowing - knowing the God who truly takes care of you.

Genesis 45:1-15 (NLT)
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately! 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. 11 I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise you, your household, and all your animals will starve.’”

12 Then Joseph added, “Look! You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that I really am Joseph! 13 Go tell my father of my honored position here in Egypt. Describe for him everything you have seen, and then bring my father here quickly.” 14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. 15 Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Using all of your senses, place yourself in the story. Who are you and what are you witnessing or experiencing? Write out the story in your own words, allowing the story and conversation to be your prayer.

Does a word, phrase or image catch your attention you as you listen to or slowly read the text? Gently reflect on it in your prayer. Journal your conversation with God.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Reckoning With That Which Lasts

Painting a panoramic picture of those who trust in God, Jeremiah asks us to reckon with that which lasts. What are those things in our lives which are like a curse; chaff that is easily blown away? What provides an enduring anchor for our lives that not only gives us meaning but also holds us when life gets hard, ravaged and raw? Sit with these words long enough to allow wisdom and discernment to emerge for this season of your life. These words are not meant to keep us stuck in fear or shame but to guide us into the wisdom and freedom of a life anchored in God.

Jeremiah 17:5-10 TMG

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a specific word or phrase which was impressed upon your heart or mind as you listened to the text? Reflect on that and bring your reflection in your prayer.

What emotions were stirred in you in this time of listening? Gently notice them, name them, feel them and simply offer them as your prayer to God.

What longing does this passage stir in you? In the quiet, simply be with that longing between you and God.

Journal your prayer that flows out of your meditation and contemplation of this passage.

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Truth To Sink Our Roots Into

These words penned by Jeremiah are like bedrock which can hold our roots of faith. They affirm our identity, sense of belonging and purpose. Give yourself the gift of a slow steep in these phrases. What affirmation do you most long to hear from God today?

Jeremiah 1:4-10 NLT

The LORD gave me this message:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said,
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up
against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow.
Others you must build up and plant.”

Listening Prayer – An Experience of Lectio Divina

Listen In a comfortable, quiet place, slowly and carefully listen to or read the Bible passage. Notice any words or phrases or images that seem alive to you at the moment. Allow yourself to stop and hold them in your heart before God.

Meditate Repeat the words or phrases slowly to yourself. Or linger with the image. Allow them to interact with your inner world of memories, ideas or concerns. Ask yourself what meaning they may have for you.

Conversation Share what you are discovering with the words and/or images and how they touch your heart with Jesus. Ask Jesus what the Father is saying to you through this prayer time.

Contemplate When words or pictures are no longer needed, allow yourself to rest in God’s tender embrace. Feel the strength and tenderness of the Father’s love for you. Allow it to pour into your heart and fill you up. Linger here, resting in God’s compassionate care for you.

Cooperative Action Ask Jesus to show you what the Father wants to do from this prayerful listening time with you. If you desire it, ask him to cause that change to happen by the Spirit’s power and your cooperative action working together from this point.

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The Initiator of Our Belonging

Whether we find ourselves in exile, an outcast, or seeking refuge of any kind, these words of Isaiah cause us to exhale deeply and remember that our God is interceding and intervening on behalf of our identity. Savor a word or phrase from this passage and come back to it often this week. Notice what happens within your spirit, your breath and your shoulders as you dwell with these words. May God’s shalom wash over you.

Isaiah 62:1-5 NLT

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still.

Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent.

I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn,

and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.

The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory.

And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth.

The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God.

Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.”

Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,”

for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.

Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem,

just as a young man commits himself to his bride.

Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

For Prayer and Reflection:

What phrase or word shimmered as you listened to or read the text? Bring it into prayer with Jesus.

Reflect on your experience of God yearning for you; delighting in you. Where have you noticed this in your life? Where do you most long for God to delight in you? Bring these reflections into your prayer.

Rest quietly for a few minutes in any consoling words or pictures given to you.

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Come Holy Spirit

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Today’s text reminds us of the Father announcing his affirmation and blessing upon his son Jesus at his baptism as the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove. However mysterious is the action of the Holy Spirit, it does seem that the Father wants our communities to bear witness to the Spirit’s presence and action in our lives. Sometimes we need others to lay hands on us, pray with us and help us see the Spirit who has been given to us.

Acts 8:14-17 (NLT)

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17 (TMG)

When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.

For Reflection and Prayer:

Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that shimmered as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Perhaps you want to draw or color your prayer.

Reflect upon how you have experienced the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you where you may have missed the Presence. Journal what comes to mind.

Where are you longing to witness the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Bring this longing into your prayer. As the prayer comes to a close, give yourself some time to surrender in quiet trust that the Spirit is in you and with you.

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