The Power of Lament

At each church I visited in Mozambique there was time given for testimony from their people. After all the singing and before the message the women would sing until someone stood to share at which time they would stop singing. As soon as the person was finished their few sentences the women would start in singing once more. This rhythm of song and sharing was repeated until each person who wanted had shared.

I visited 9 churches and they were all the same in this regard. Even the songs being sung were similar in style and cadence except for one church. In Mutarara it was different.

When I had first arrived in the area it was after sun-set. I was given a seat and all around and before me were the children sitting. They had been waiting for me and once I arrived they drew in close.

Now in a land with no lights after dark I sorta shine like a glow-worm with my one little bit of flashlight. At least I assume I do. As for the ones around me I couldn’t see them whatsoever. I could tell though that the boys in front of me were scolding and hitting and jostling each other.

At first I was horrified. Gosh, they hate each other I thought. But over the course of my few days there I realized that Mutarara is just a hard land and the people themselves were hard to match; strength for strength, stamina for stamina. And it showed up in their song during testimony time.

The women broke into song as I’d seen everywhere else, but their song was a deep mournful lament.

It was beautiful and stunning. It felt more real to me than all of the happy upbeat songs I’d heard everywhere else. It rang more true and captured the difficulty of the land and the lives who lived there.

I was reminded how much I love lament and of the beauty woven through an honesty of sorrow. It caught my heart and I so wish I had recorded their song on my phone.

All I could do was bask in the beauty of their honest hearts before the Lord, a common reckoning of difficulty and its ability to strengthen us and to in fact make us glad.

Lament is an important part of our experience in this life. After all Christ himself was a man of sorrows. Will we join him?

Some years ago I knew a woman who was dying. She had an inoperable disease and was simply facing each new day with a strength that only comes when someone is facing death.

In the midst of her last few months she confided to me, “I look back over my life and I realize all the things I have not cried over, and now I don’t have the time.”

And in these few simple words is the truth to the power and beauty of lament, of tear, of grief. How it must be undergone in this life or we’ve lost our chance.

Where might you lament today?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Capturing God’s Heart – Volume 26 – A Glad Heart

2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It is the cheerful heart that intrigues me.

While this verse speaks about money and our tithes and offerings, I wonder how might the ‘glad heart’ principle apply to the rest of our life?

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A Bigger Church

P1340113 compressedGenerally speaking, as a body of people, the church is afraid. Battered back and forth by our own ideals of making a difference in this world with a compulsive need for theological certainty and stamped permission slips we’ve lost our edge.

We go toward certainty and permission, and then swing wide the other way. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that we can’t have it both ways. At least not at the start. For anything worth doing first requires guts and a certain ‘leave off the unexplainable parts’ in order to get a job done.

The need for psychological certainty is a living death for the church. Fear based ministry ends up being no ministry at all.

For we and everyone in the world are living messy lives. If the outside looks good all we have to do is dig a bit under the surface and we find all sorts of relics and dead bones and living fears. If we are afraid our aim becomes to stay safe and become certain.

God never promised us psychological certainty. In fact “lean not on your own understanding” directly implies that we will not have it all figured out.

Yet how often have we made love and service to people take a back seat to ‘our own understanding’. Unless all the ducks are lined up we hold back. And in that holding back, in that idolatry of ducks-in-a-row, how many potentially mighty acts of God have been aborted.

According to Daniel Goleman author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, one of the key traits of both emotional intelligence and resonant leaders is the ability to walk with mixed emotions and to hold ambiguity well.

According to this, we the church have traditionally been pretty low on the emotional intelligence scale.

My own journey of emotional healing and into emotional intelligence required me to give up my own “best understandings”. God has upset my ‘box’ of paradigms so many times that, thank God, I have finally figured it out that I don’t have God figured out.

How does the Church who claims the upper-hand on the knowledge of God reach for emotional intelligence, leave off our ‘best understanding’ and embrace ambiguity? And why should we?

The reasons are plain.

It is the emotionally intelligent ones who are leading the way. The ability to walk transparent, to examine oneself with good humor and frank understanding, to manage ones feelings and to lead others on a path of similar self discovery and humility is the work done by emotionally intelligent leaders.

Whether they know Christ or not.

Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind of intelligence. It is the kind of internal savvy that cannot be manufactured or controlled. Who we are shows up in our emotional intelligence, and our emotional intelligence interprets what we intellectually know to everyone around us.

Have it intellectually correct but without emotional intelligence and we are simply offensive. The content may be spot-on but without the highway of emotional intelligence the message dies before leaving the gate.

For in any group or group of groups, there are those who are the designated leaders, and then there are the ones that are the true influencers, the ones that people are paying attention to.

That one is always the most emotionally intelligent.

On the world stage, the church is generally not leading in emotional intelligence. Do I dare say that we are not okay with ambiguity. Might it be that we are not all that good at self-examination. Do we know how to learn from others who are not the same as us? How deeply afraid are we?

The only way I know to save the Church from itself is the same process that any one of us can employ to save ourselves from ourselves, and that is to get out there and get our hands dirty.

Entering into something bigger than us automatically strips us of pride and self-sufficiency, immediately challenges our primary assumptions, and brings us face to face with our own ugly arrogance.

We won’t have it all figured out, God shows up differently than how we might like, and in this we are loosed from fear and the need for psychological certainty. For when we let down our guard we find God in the smack-dab middle of all we don’t know. Such a blessed relief.

We are not called to know it all or to have God all figured out. It is not an intellectually-led discussion. We are in fact invited into relationship first and foremost, and relationships require emotions, and uncertainty, risking and listening and a whole host of other things.

Fear, paranoia, hunkered in, closed systems, big sticks, little self awareness, talking first before we listen, is all the work of the enemy.

God’s world is much bigger than that. May the Church be bigger than that too.

So Sad

new perspectiveMy weekend has been one of sadness.

Now sadness is an interesting thing. Years back I learned to be sad. Rather than fighting sadness I learned to roll with the pain, sitting in the sadness till the sadness lifted and I wasn’t sad anymore.

I am pretty sure that we all have sadness from time to time. I don’t think that I am any stranger or sadder than the rest of us.

At the same time, I get the distinct impression that most are not okay with sadness, that when someone is sad we rush to fix it.

My sadness of these past few days are a combination of a personal sadness of mine, added to a spiritual carrying of another’s sadness, added to a spirit of sadness that settled on me from an outside source.

It’s been quite a bit all at once and yet the only real difficulty in it all has simply been that I am very tired.

It was two years ago today that a friend of mine lost her son. It was a tragic accident and the marked loss has remained as sharp as ever. My friend relives the knife-cutting death of her son nearly every day, the sadness these last few days being particularly pointed.

I am helping to carry her sadness.

Another friend has buried anger and bitterness and these horrific lies coming at her (and out of her) about the origins and journey of her life. Over the weekend I came face to face with the power of these lies, and in it was nearly stifled with an immense sadness that permeated my soul.

I am experiencing her deep sadness.

To top it all off, I’ve a relationship of my own that is not doing so well. With bumps and hurdles the pain of that relationship has been most acute this past week. I don’t know what the answers are. There is no immediate help for the difficulties.

I am moving through my own sadness.

Years back I learned that it is okay to not be okay. I still remember the relief of finding that out and even more profound I realized that God is in the worst of it at all times.

I was going through a crazy difficult time that had me simply wanting to run. I was overwhelmed and in an over-loaded state of being. Everything around me was hard. I was exhausted.

And to my mind’s eye came an image of a gigantic pile of manure. You know, the kind you order for your garden each year and that sits in the driveway until it is all distributed.

Or if you live on a farm, that heap of manure to which more is added day by day.

Imagine that pile of manure as big as can be. Now imagine that this is how my life was. My entire life. One gigantic pile of poo. (it is how it felt at the time)

And to my mind’s eye came the crystal clear realization that God was in the center of the crap. That God was right there for me in the midst of all that was bad and wrong, as long as I didn’t run.

That instead of turning in the opposite direction I could enter into the difficulty and I would find even more of God.

I learned that God is in the shit.

All of it, all the time.

Personally I’ve hardly been more relieved by any other theology than this one. This theology meets us in the center of the worst of circumstance and the middle of profound sadness.

Even though we are sad, we don’t have to do it alone.

So I am doing my part joining in and carrying sadness for others. It’s not something I necessarily run to do and yet I am aware of the honor and the privilege of entering into the midst of others difficulties with a prophetic work of sharing the pain.

It is part of God’s Kingdom and part of God’s work.

For whom might you be sad today?

Maturing – Part One

P1320286 compressedMaturity requires stages and a progression that cannot be skipped.

We start with being completely wrapped up in ourselves. This is the mind of a toddler that thinks the whole world is an extension of him or herself. There is no distinction between what goes on out there and what is inherent within.

Growing a little older a child begins to understand that he is different than others and that others are not him, but the circumstances of the child’s world still directly reflect the child himself. What happens in the child’s world and to the people in the child’s world is still completely about the child.

At about the age of 12 our mind grows to understand that others are distinct people separate from us. We are able to step out of our own experience and put ourselves in the shoes of another. This is called the age of reason.

From here we immediately move into the independent stage. The teen years are critical for separating ourselves from our parents. Anything that parents put upon teens by way of expectations of maintaining the parents sense of self, supporting the parents egos, or playing out the parents un-lived hopes and dreams, will be automatically and often quite ruthlessly rejected by the teen.

For the teen must differentiate at all costs in order to mature.

Those who manage this differentiation go on to find their own successes. They express their passions, know their dreams and are freed in creative expression to find solutions that take them forward. They find out what they are good at and what they uniquely have to offer and bring to the table. Here we experience independence.

Only after this are we able to truly become interdependent. After all interdependence depends on two or more independent individuals. There can be no collaborations without complete people, for only a strong sense of self leads to powerful synergy with others.

Interdependence has us drawing from others and giving to others in a way that does not diminish either party. Those who are not yet independent cannot give or receive without feeling diminished and/or aggrandized, for their sense of self is not yet fully formed.

All of this to say that it is important to recognize where you are on the maturity scale and work accordingly in that place and towards the next stage.

For those of us who were traumatized in any way during childhood there is a possibility of being stuck at the age when trauma occurred. Trauma interrupts the natural development of any of us. Our emotions get stuck at that age, our reasoning gets stuck at that age, our perspectives get stuck at that age.

If for instance you or someone you know is always reflecting what people say and do as being about themselves, it is a pretty good sign that they are emotionally and cognitively operating from a child’s place.

I myself was stuck emotionally for quite some time at 9 years of age. For it was at the age of 9 that I was raped coming home from school one day. It took some hard inner work, the help of prayer ministers and psychologists and the simple healing of Jesus Christ to get me past that point.

But the amazing thing with healing is that once the stuck place (you know how we used to call a record that would skip and skip on the same spot a broken record), is healed, once the scars are erased in the power of Jesus Christ we go on to grow and mature at amazingly fast rates of speed.

As I have prayed and minister healing to many individuals over the years I am convinced that these ‘stuck’ places that began at childhood are often the root of many of our inabilities to get on with life and success.

There is a lot more to speak of regarding this, but I wanted to give a glimpse into some of the inner realities of our lives. Noting loud and clear that all of it can be healed and we can be freed to mature and find great satisfactions in life.

I’m a living testimony.


188 compressedIt has been an interesting week. I’ve spoken twice this past week, and I spent my entire weekend in silence and in small tasks about my home.

Under all of this is an undercurrent of unrest and agitation in my spirit. At the same time a deep rest has been pervading my soul.

It is an odd mix of energy and depth that I am not quite sure what to do with.

My own last month has been incredibly fruitful. With a myriad of projects completed, with a focus established for the next year and with traction on many fronts there is much movement.

And yet this unrest has me a little baffled.

Yet I suspect I know what it is.

I’ve raised five of my own babies and cared for numerous others over the years. Now babies are always growing and learning new things and moving through developmental stages.

At each stage of development, right before a babe learns to sit or to stand or to walk there is much fussing and frustration, tears and general fits of discomfort. It is easy to observe this in infants.

Yet as my children grew I saw it all along the stages. A little more difficult to see, as the development was no longer about sitting or walking or talking, it was there nonetheless. This same discomfort and frustration, a generally irritated state would precede any new stage of development.

Learning to pump on a swing, tie ones shoes, learning to read or ride a bike. Be it moving from childhood responsibilities to adult ways of thinking and being, all these stages and more were preceded by agitation.

I’m thinking this is where I am at and is the cause of my current unrest. For I’ve noticed in my own past years a similar process of growth and development and the agitation and deep frustrations that occur concurrently.

I’m thinking this continues on for all of us as we go through life. When do we ever really stop learning or developing?

Personally I’ve been on a growth spurt for a few years. I no longer recognize my old self, and really have little idea of who I will be in a years time.

But I do know that I won’t be the same. So I’ll settle into the growth spurt that is in process right this moment. I’ll take the frustrated agitation and give it space alongside these deep silent spaces.

Mixed emotions are difficult to navigate but are hallmarks of growth and maturity and emotional wellness.

I guess it could be said that growth isn’t easy for any of us. Whether we are seven months old and finding out how to crawl or whether we are forty-seven and finding new strengths, it doesn’t matter.

We go forward, growing forward, feeling our way, gaining in strength and new skills day by day. Who we need to be tomorrow we are not yet that person, so growth is simply and always necessary.


P1120124 compressedContext is everything.

One thing said in one instance is a completely different thing said the same way but in another context.

We hear words and we stop there. But there is so much more going on and a very large part of communication is taking into account the context.

Without context we make all sorts of fatal errors of judgment.

Context changes the application, it changes the presentation, and it changes the response.

Context does not change truth but it does bring to bear a heavy weight or responsibility upon that truth, a responsibility to present truth within the context by which others find themselves.

Speaking is about context. Listening is about context.

This past week I am struck afresh about how within the context of Jesus Christ all things are changed.

Our conversations about sin and sorrow have been completely changed in context of Jesus Christ.

For if we really got it, REALLY GOT IT, that Love covers over a multitude of sins, might not our condemnations and our judgments be completely put to rest?

Wouldn’t our experiences of joy and delight take on incredible depths and proportions in context of Jesus Christ, if we really got him?

Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure.”

Context. What is the context of your vision, your understanding and your perspectives?

Just this one verse alone challenges our thinking and our paradigms. For within the Christian community there is much ranting and raving about all the bad and wrong in the world. It is not hard to find multiple condemnations and forceful judgments coming out of the mouths of those who claim to know God.

But those things, the attitudes of our hearts that hate everyone and everything, is not the heart of God. Our hearts are not very pure when our focus only sees the bad and the wrong.

‘To the pure, all things are pure.’

It never hurts to truly challenge ourselves in regards to our hearts and the context from which we are living.

After all, our lives depend on it.

A Mixed Bag

P1330497 compressedEvery once in awhile my body doesn’t feel so good. This has been one of those weeks.

Over the years, I have my fair share of health concerns, although I rarely mention them.

All of this to say, my brain is not working so well this week. And so my writing feels flat and blah and I hardly know what to say.

Can you tell I am rambling…

It’s been a week of mixed emotions.

Sneaking over me in grand waves of giggles has been the sense that there is something exquisite about being human. That there is an opportunity, while we are on this earth and in these bodies, to delight, to relish and to make the most of something that is in limited supply.

I can’t explain it anymore than that. It’s just a growing and definitive awe of life that is threatening to overwhelm me in fits of joy.

On top of this, has been another giggly realization that this is one amazing time in history to be alive! This too is sweeping me away in grand expectation.

The emotion of these feel to me a gurgling spring of joy and delight, (I really don’t have words for them).

At the same time I’ve been feeling sick. Tired and with a foggy brain, my ‘normal’ productive self has been less so, and it’s been a bit discouraging.

Then: Thursday was my birthday. And oh my the wishes poured out and upon me! And I’ve nothing other than profound humility and gratitude for so much love poured my way.

I spent the day just as I wanted. Had no plans beforehand (other than an empty day), and made it up as I went. A supremely perfect kind of day for me.

And in my gallivanting birthday day, I wore myself out. And as I write this, am a bit lonely, (ill health always leaves me feeling lonely).

All this to say. Being human is in fact a grand mix of highs and lows. How there can be such great expectations, such amazing and profound delights and gurgling joys, alongside bodies and minds that don’t work as well as we like, and in the midst of tired and weary souls, I don’t know.

But it is how it works. For all of us. This I know.

All in all, (and this is what makes it all okay), is that God is deeply in the mix of all these concurrent and seemingly contradictory realities.

In fact, it is because of God that these realities exist. Mixed emotions are in fact, what God is all about.

God is the original passion, the original sorrow, the original energy, the original weariness.

God is the author of emotions and in order to know God, we must know emotion.

The older I get, the younger I feel. And it is primarily because of emotions, (I am more emotionally intelligent now, than I was at 12 or 20 or 30 years old). Once familiar with emotions, we are able to connect with anyone.

For beyond all of our stories, are emotions. Our stories will not be the same, but our emotions, they are the same.

And in the war over words, if we can read between the lines, and see to the heart of the matter, read the emotions, we are well ahead of the game. The world will be ours.

Without emotion, one of our primary knowing systems is cut off, and we are impotent.

Comfortable in emotions, we find intimacy with ourselves, intimacy with God, and intimacy with others.


P1330927 compressedToday has gone nothing as planned. Have you ever had days like that? Where no matter what you try it goes sour, where tasks that are ordinarily simple turn into vast quagmires of complication and delay?

Today is one of those days for me.

Uppermost in my mind, is how we deal with such days.

And I have a few tips (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) that I am eager to pass your way.

(get out your pen and paper, you will want to take notes!)

First and foremost: stress out

Throw a few things, yell at whomever is closest, wind yourself up and generally make sure that everyone knows you are having a BAD DAY.

Next: forget to eat

Make sure that your blood sugar goes real, real low. This way you can make a claim to hypoglycemia and maintain your innocence and victimization in the midst of having such a BAD DAY.

Then: make things up

Yes, you heard right. Make things up. Everything can be made to have a good end if we just tweak reality a bit. Enter in a bit of denial, add a dash of balderdash, mix in a good dose of imagination gone bad and wow! what a great day is becoming of your very BAD DAY.

Boy do I ever feel better!

Capturing God’s Heart – Overwhelmed – Volume 11

We are all overwhelmed at one time or another. Life has many dynamics to it, and we are often stretched beyond what we think we can do and beyond who we are.

And this is certainly true in ministry, where others are looking to us for answers and solutions and wisdom. In those times we are vulnerable to discouragement.

But I’ve discovered six principles that have helped to frame the challenges of our days and I want to share them with you.

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Out of my Heart

True HeartsI’m working out of my head lately. If you frequent my blog posts you have most likely noticed. And while our heads are important, they are not very moving.

Words without heart, without emotion, fall pretty flat. Even I am not satisfied with some of my posts these last weeks.

The best posts rather are those full of heart and soul. Brimming with raw authenticity these are the ones most loved and commented on; they are the ones that move us.

And I’ve a little secret to share. The only way for me to write from that place is to be in touch with sorrow and sadness.

When I am upbeat and in task mode, there is nothing inspiring to write.

The best writing comes out of my personal depths of difficulty and pain. Not that everything has to be going bad in order to get a good post, but I must be in touch with all that is not right and good.

‘In touch’ being the operative word.

To feel the depths of sadness sets the stage to feel the depths of delight and joy.

Without the stretch the one way, we cannot stretch the other way.

And safety in the middle, that controlled space where nothing is too bad or (god-forbid) too good, results in nothing. We simply are not moved.

We are working out of our heads.

Creativity rather, that place of an artist, comes from that core depth deep inside us. From the guts of our existence and experiences, here is where we find gold.

It is interesting that creativity is what saves us. Studies have shown that when we engage our creativity, regardless of what that might be, we no longer have need for addictions or false happiness of any sort.

Creativity draws from us something by which we are saved.

Its that depth of knowing, of raw reflection and naked frankness by which we come to enjoy life.

For art requires vulnerability and risk and that place where we put ourselves out there.

So in this head space, I’m working to connect with my heart. To feel the vulnerabilities, to name the dichotomies, to honestly see the difficulties, to cry aloud all of which terrifies me…

To enter into grace.

It is the very thing we shrink from the most,

Becoming the very thing which saves us.