A God Who Weeps

I heard a recent discussion asking the question of how we can come across as less judgemental and more accepting of people. How do we communicate to people that we accept them as they are and their past sins and mistakes do nothing to make us love or like them less? This is a really important question for the church as we have developed a reputation for judgement and disapproval. 

This morning in church we sang “Son of Suffering” by Bethel Music. There’s a line of the song that says, “There’s a God who weeps”. As I was singing the song this morning all I could see was the retreat I had attended the week before. It was a story retreat where a group of women gathered to share key stories from their past that shaped their beliefs and who they became. And hopefully, as the story was discussed in a safe setting, found freedom from lies, and healing from old wounds. (Think really intense group therapy.)

If I had to point at the most meaningful moment of the retreat it was when I cried and all the women in my group cried with me. And I think of that line again. “There’s a God who weeps”. 

I spent a weekend with a group of women that were almost all total strangers to me. And we shared things that revealed our true hearts and who we really were. And I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel unsafe. I didn’t feel the need to hide my wounds and mistakes. The reason I didn’t feel that way was there were rules laid out from the very beginning to keep it a safe space. The stories we discussed stayed in the group time and didn’t leave that space. I didn’t have to worry about someone coming up to me and starting a conversation I didn’t want. No fixing or unsolicited advice allowed. And, I knew that each of these women were coming out of a genuine need and desire to be there and we all had the same mission, do this story work in a safe space. We were all dedicated to this. And as we did the work, God moved in and mighty things happened, in the form of tears and nonjudgemental love being poured out. And when I left, I knew I had been on Holy Ground and I had no fear of these women betraying my trust. 

And I think about the church and all that it has the potential to be. All that Christ wants it to be. Why is it not a safe space? Why do we have to worry about gossip? Why do we have to worry about someone looking down on us if they truly knew everything we had done or what we were really like? Are we not all sinners? Don’t we all have hidden things we would rather not come to light? 

I can think of a couple things that are missing that give our churches a judgemental, unsafe status. Gossip is the first thing that comes to mind. If your favorite activity is to talk about other people and everything that is happening in their lives then you need to realize that you are not a safe person. There are so many things to talk about. Your own life. The news. The weather. The latest book/movie/tictoc/reel/show that you have seen or read. If you can’t think of anything to talk about except other people, then perhaps it’s time to start some new hobbies and expand your interests. If I know that what I tell you is going to be passed on to someone else, then I’m going to be very guarded about what I tell you. 

Another thing that comes to mind is Judging Talk. That’s where you sit around and talk about all the big sins that are out in the world and how you would never participate in such horrible things. Let’s think anything LGBTQ, abortion, being a democrat (if you live in the south), anything controversal like vaccinations, to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, the presidency. Basically any topic where you are setting up a GOOD GUYS vs BAD GUYS scenario. You have no idea what the other person’s history is or their personal thoughts on all these subjects. And when you decide to lay down the line on these subjects you are instantly putting up a wall that will separate you from anyone who thinks differently than you. Is there a right and a wrong? Yes. I believe the Bible is pretty clear on a lot of subjects. And not so clear on a lot of subjects too. As a Christian our job is to introduce people to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to convict people of sin and lead them to repentance. Not mine. My job is to love people and follow God’s word as best as I am able and let my life be an example to people who are younger in the faith. 

I feel like we have forgotten that the Church belongs to Jesus. It’s his. He wants to do his work in our gatherings. His agenda. We need to get rid of a lot of cultural baggage, stick to the word and let the Holy Spirit move as He wants to move. We get in the way of the mission of the church when we gossip, when we judge, when we put our political agendas first. 

I serve a God who weeps. A God who enters into my pain and who cares about the burdens I am carrying around. He is a God who brings me to a safe place, surrounds me with love, and pours healing on my wounds. I know that the experience I had on my retreat is not really replicable in a larger church setting.  I also know that church could be a lot more like that if we all had the same mindset and determination to make our churches a safe place where broken people can come and be loved without fear of judgement. 

Anyone Else Worried?

Last night I checked my phone one more time and then crashed into bed at 9:30pm. It was a long day. The kids were off from school due to the election, I had several meetings and errands and house cleaning and chauffeuring and cooking and as a backdrop to all of that, the knowledge that it was election day. 

I woke up two times in the night, grabbed my phone, checked the election updates page, then went back to sleep. 

This morning my alarm went off and the normal, “I don’t want to get up.” went through my head. Then I remembered, election. Oh yeah. I grabbed my phone. Checked the updates again. Just as I suspected and had dreaded. Both sides claiming the victory is obviously their’s and no real conclusive results yet. 

And thus begins possibly the longest week of the year as we wait for all the “officials” to do their “official” stuff and give us the “official” answer. 

This is not designed to be a political post. This is an exploration of the question, “So, how does that make you feel?” 

Right now I feel frustrated (I hate delayed gratification, I want to know the results now!) Helpless (I’m not a government official, a poll worker, a lawyer, or anyone with a position to do something to make sure the votes get counted quickly and fairly.) Powerless (I have no control over how people are going to react to the end result and I’m worried about people making bad decisions in their anger.) A little angry (why on earth is our voting system so convoluted??) Lots of doubts and fears (how are we going to move forward as a nation after the results are declared?)

I find myself pacing around in a state of restlessness. I actually got on my elliptical today because I just needed to be moving. I’ve done more cleaning in the last two days. I haven’t been able to focus on my book and have felt distracted. 

I have seen several people give the good advice that we need to just get on with life. That this election doesn’t change anything of real significance and life goes on. Which I agree with in theory. But I haven’t quite convinced my mind and emotions to grab hold of that. 

I would say I am definitely guilty of being Worried. 

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, here goes. Lord, I thank you for this nation that we live in. Thank you for the abundance that we enjoy. Thank you for the freedoms that we often take for granted. Thank you for all the good that we as a country have managed to do throughout our history. Please forgive us for all the bad that have also managed to do. Lord, I just ask for your will to be done right now through this election. I ask for your peace.  I ask that we as a country can reconcile our differences and learn to live in unity. And I ask that no matter what the results of the election, our response would be one of peace and joy. Knowing that you are still on your throne and your WILL will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that during this time your church will rise up and be instruments of peace to our fellow citizens. 

I ask all of this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen. 

I’m going to put on some praise music and get on with my day. Hopefully a little less stressed. 

Peace to all of you. 

“I Need You to Survive”

This past week I was having a bit of a rough time with my foster child. I reached out to her therapist to get some advice/strategies. She said, “If I could recommend anything, try to create opportunities for connection with her.” 

Hmmm. Ok. 

I tried it. More hugs. More positive encouragement. More time talking about her day. 

It really helped. 

No, she didn’t become a perfect angel, but some of the extreme behavior went away. 

I was talking to someone who was going through some bumps in their relationship. Have you tried just talking together about what you’re thinking and feeling? 

The person tried it. Things have improved a lot. 

Connections. We all need them. We forget just how crucial they are to our existence. I can tell you from experience that my mental health crises have been significantly improved by making emotional connections with other people. My marriage always gets a big boost when we take time to be vulnerable with each other and just share our thoughts and fears. My friendships are greatly improved by a night of chatting and catching up. 

In fact, I would say that the polarization in our country could probably be greatly healed if we spent more time focusing on things we have in common instead of our differences, searching for ways to connect, instead of loudly trumpeting our disdain for the other side.

It’s also the same with our walk with God. I start acting out. Feeling fearful. Anxious. Which makes me then act Annoyed. Irritated. Unable to Cope. 

The cure? 

Get re-connected to God. 

Open up my Bible. Turn on the praise music. Spend time in prayer. 

It renews my faith, my hope, my joy. I stop acting out. 

The New Testament has a theme that runs throughout. God has created us to be a part of a family. The Body of Christ. The Church. We all play our part. No lone rangers. Community. 

During this time of unprecedented stress and turmoil in our world, I would say that Establishing Connections, Re-connecting, is really important right now. We need each other. 

This Hezekiah Walker song is running through my head right now.

I NEED YOU TO SURVIVE

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me

We’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied

You are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me we’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied you are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me

I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you i need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you I need you to survive

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: David Frazier / I Need You To Survive Holding