We Cannot Find Peace

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…deeds are done which appear so evil to us
and people suffer such terrible evils
that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them;
and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it 

so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; 
and this is why:

our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, 
that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might 
and the goodness of the Holy Trinity.

And this is what he means where he says, 
“You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well”, 
as if he said, “Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, 
and at the end of time you will truly see it in the fullness of joy.

~Julian of Norwich from Revelations of Divine Love

 

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Today in the newspaper a whole page is devoted to the photos, names and ages of those cut down a week ago in the latest mass shooting, all victims of an unexplainable evil.

I cannot find peace in their deaths.  If I were their family member, there could be no peace for me in the ongoing anguish and despair of untimely senseless loss.  Only the intervention of the Holy Spirit can possibly change anger and grief to the fullness of joy. It can come as slow and imperceptibly as the still small voice.

I pray that those who have been hurt, who may never fully recover from their physical and emotional injury,  may come to understand how such evil may be used for good.  It is the hardest of all for our simple blind human reasoning to accept.

All manner of things shall be well – even as we weep until we are dry.

 

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We Will Weep and Know Why

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~to a young child~

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall”
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This morning we weep and know why.
It is not simply the sorrowful loss
of the perfection of spring and childhood
giving way to the dying of the fall,
the last gasp coloring of leaves and skies.It is the loss of innocence, of sense of reverence for life,
this blight man was born for,
this bleeding out for no reason.

What must drive one man’s selfish rage, loneliness and despair to compel him to deprive innocent others of their blood and life?

What unexplained evil overtakes one heart that he seeks to stop the beating hearts of others before his own is stopped?


When will there ever be safe havens again in society?
Not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not concerts, not any place people gather.

This is a day for lament, for tears, and for prayers to God that we cry out and bleed out the spiritual sickness that is infecting us all.
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When Sad Comes Untrue

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Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?
~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Return of the King

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.
~J.R.R Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring

Yet again unspeakable terror strikes down ordinary people living their lives–once again our soil is soaked with the blood of our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers.

In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.   We want to bring the dead and injured back to health again.  The major devastating earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the terrorist hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute, lays down his arms and calls someone for help with his overwhelming distress and anger.

We want so badly for it all to be untrue.  The bitter reality of horrendous daily suffering and sadness all over the earth is too much for us to absorb.   We plead for relief, beg for a better day. What has happened to the world?

Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks.  He knows and feels what we do.  He too wanted to see it rewound and replayed differently so He came to us to know our grief and sadness, to weep with us, to suffer for us, to die to end such evil.  And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured, in His time, everything sad will come untrue.

Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory.  It will be a new day, a better day when love is greater than anger, dissolving our grief – as it is written, trustworthy and true.

May that be a day when we can no longer overwhelmed with evil but we will overcome evil with good.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.
~Revelation 21: 4-5

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God Among Us: Sharing Our Sadness

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A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.
Matthew 2:18 and Jeremiah 31:15

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26: 38-39

God could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane. Otherwise we should have missed the great lesson that it is by his will alone that a man is good or bad, and that feelings are not, in themselves, of any im­portance. We should also have missed the all-important help of knowing that He has faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it except sin. If He had been incarnate in a man of immense natural courage, that would have been for many of us almost the same as His not being incar­nate at all.
― C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis

 …as you sit beneath your beautifully decorated tree, eat the rich food of celebration, and laugh with your loved ones, you must not let yourself forget the horror and violence at the beginning and end of the Christmas story. The story begins with the horrible slaughter of children and ends with the violent murder of the Son of God. The slaughter depicts how much the earth needs grace. The murder is the moment when that grace is given.

Look into that manger representing a new life and see the One who came to die. Hear the angels’ celebratory song and remember that sad death would be the only way that peace would be given. Look at your tree and remember another tree – one not decorated with shining ornaments, but stained with the blood of God.

As you celebrate, remember that the pathway to your celebration was the death of the One you celebrate, and be thankful.
~Paul Tripp

 

Written for too many innocents who have died this year at the hands of others…

There can be no consolation;
only mourning and great weeping,
sobbing that wrings dry
every human cell,
leaving dust behind,
dust, only dust
which is beginning
and end.

He came to us
for times such as this,
born of
the dust of woman and
the breath of Spirit,
God who bent down to
lie in barn dust,
walk on roads of dust,
die and be laid to rest as dust
in order to conquer
such evil as this
that could terrify masses
and massacre innocents.

He became dust to be
like us
He began a mere speck in a womb
like us,
so easily washed away
as unexpected, unneeded, unwanted.

Lord, You are long expected.
You are needed
You are wanted.

Your heart beat
like ours
breathing each breath
like ours
until a fearful fallen world
took Your
and our breath
away.

You shine through
the shadows of death
to guide our stumbling uncertain feet.
Your tender mercies flow freely
when there is no consolation
when there is no comfort.

You hear our cries
as You cry too.
You know our tears
as You weep too.
You know our mourning
as You mourned too.
You know our dying
as You died too.

God weeps
as tragedy happens.
Evil comes not from God
yet humankind embraces it.
Sin is a choice
we made from the beginning,
a choice we continue to make.

Only God can glue together
what evil has shattered.
He just asks us to hand Him
the pieces of our broken hearts.

We will know His peace
when He comes
to bring us home,
our tears will finally be dried,
our cells no longer
just dust,
never only dust
as we are glued together
by the breath of God
forevermore.
~EPG

the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Luke 1: 78-79

 

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully, lullay.

1. O sisters too,
How may we do,
For to preserve this day?
This poor Youngling
For Whom we sing
By by, lully, lullay?

2. Herod the king,
In his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might,
In his own sight,
All young children to slay.

3. That woe is me,
Poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and may,
For thy parting
Neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny Child,
By by, lully, lullay.

 

Good people all, this Christmas time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending His beloved Son

With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day
In Bethlehem upon that morn’
There was a blessed Messiah born

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear

“Arise and go”, the angels said
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find this happy morn’
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born”

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went that Babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Savior Christ behold

Within a manger He was laid
And by his side the Virgin maid
As long foretold upon that morn’
There was a blessed Messiah born

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

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God Among Us: Waiting in Silence

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We have waited in silence
on your loving-kindness,
O God.
~Psalm 48:8

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth be silent before him.
Habakkuk 2:20

 

Then hear now the silence
He comes in the silence
in silence he enters
the womb of the bearer
in silence he goes to
the realm of the shadows
redeeming and shriving
in silence he moves from
the grave cloths, the dark tomb
in silence he rises
ascends to the glory
leaving his promise
leaving his comfort
leaving his silence
So come now, Lord Jesus
Come in your silence
breaking our noising
laughter of panic
breaking this earth’s time
breaking us breaking us
quickly Lord Jesus
make no long tarrying
When will you come
and how will you come
and will we be ready
for silence
your silence
~Madeleine L’Engle “Ready for Silence”
 _________________________
In our weakness, we are so noisy.
We think strength
is in shouting and shooting.
Instead we broke you,
we break each other
and ourselves.
We have forgotten the power
of waiting in silence,
waiting for your silence,
so come now
clothed in our weakness,
to carry us home.
~EPG

 


A new Advent Hymn from Redeemer in New York City

O come, Desired of nations,
Whom priest and prophet long foretold,
Will break the captive fetters,
Redeem the long-lost fold.

O come in peace and meekness,
For lowly will your cradle be:
Though clothed in human weakness,
We shall your God-head see

O come, Divine Messiah,
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.
~In Silence, Advent hymn from Redeemer Presbyterian, New York

 

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
~from “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

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Everything Sad To Come Untrue

photo by Josh Scholten

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
J.R.R. Tolkien, Samwise Gamgee waking to find his friends all around him in The Lord of the Rings

“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.”
Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.

In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.   We want to bring the dead and injured back to health again.  The major devastating earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the terrorist hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute, lays down his arms, disables his booby trap bombs and calls someone for help with his distress and anger.

We want so badly for it all to be untrue.  The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb.   We plead for relief, beg for a better day.

Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks.  He knows and feels what we do.  He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently.  He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too has died.  And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured,  in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.

Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory.  It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.

May it come.

Quickly.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.  Revelation 21: 4-5

Mingled with Grief

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

What happened last night in Aurora, Colorado is not fair.  There could not have been a darker place than a theater where a masked gunman gassed, then shot and killed escaping movie goers at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.  I’m not a fan of the genre of troubled superheroes but my children and their friends and many of my patients are.  They like to attend first movie showings at midnight in big batches, celebrating an anticipated release together.  The young people who were killed and injured are just like them.  It is so unfair, just like so many violent tragedies instigated by a desperate person wanting to prove a point through random killings, then make the news in a “suicide by police” gesture.

The media has just released information that the young shooter is a neuroscience graduate student withdrawing from his program–someone whose motives are still unknown but whose struggles were undoubtedly apparent to his family and mentors.  He must be a bright and talented individual to have made it into a PhD program so this somehow compounds the tragedy.   One of the stark realities of our time is that before a shooter is identified by the media, there are dozens, maybe hundreds,  of people who wonder if and fear their family member (or patient) could be the one.   There are so many struggling with dark impulses and those around them often have a clue and have tried to help.   I’ve seen students in my practice with such thoughts and it is a heavy burden for them and for me to sort out how best to reduce the risk of them acting out their impulses.  There have been times when hospitalization isn’t possible, when meds aren’t effective or not taken, when counselors are ignored, when families are non-existent support.   That is when I can only pray on my own for light in my patient’s darkness, that he will not become the next headline, the next suicide, the next mass shooting.

There must be unfathomable grief today on the part of the families of the killed and injured, and on the part of the family of the shooter, and the recent University administrators and others who may have tried to help him.   There is no response possible except to love these hurting people as deeply as possible, surrounding them with hope and prayer.   They will never be the same.  The shooter has made certain of that.

The shooter didn’t extinguish the light nor has he extinguished himself, no matter how hard he hoped to.  We need to make sure he failed in his goal.  The media needs to draw a curtain around this tragedy and limit exposure.   To dwell on it only encourages this and the next mass murderer in their quest for infamy.

Our grief mingled with love grows the light brighter than ever;  prayers for mercy can effectively flood and extinguish the darkest of places.

Perhaps the last thing James Holmes might expect is that there are people who will pray for him as well.

It is only fair.