About crying in church

Image: Statue of Jesus with tear, Brasiliao / Shutterstock.comA short meditation from Richard Rohr to begin this post:

“Happy are those who weep. They shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:5)

On the men’s retreats now we speak of “grief work.” A very different kind of work for men! There is undoubtedly a therapeutic, healing meaning to tears. Is not weeping, in fact, necessary? To understand? To let go? To enter in? But Jesus is also describing the state of those who have something to weep about, who feel the pain of the world. He’s saying, those who can grieve, who can cry, are those who will give comfort and compassion to the world.

The Syrian Fathers Ephraem and Simeon understood tears. The Greek Fathers of the Church tended to filter the gospel through the head. The Syrians, like today’s feminist theologians, find the gospel much more localized in the body. The Syrian Fathers wanted tears, in effect, to be a sacrament in the Church. And St. Ephraem goes so far as to say, “Until you have cried, you don’t know God.” How different! We think we know God through ideas! But this is body theology: Weeping, wiping away the tears (Luke 7:38), anointing bodies for death (Mark 14:3-9), perhaps will allow you to know God much better than concepts and orthodox formulas.

Jesus claims the weeping class: The forgotten, the voiceless, the rejected will understand, he seems to say.  —Richard Rohr in Radical Grace

Weeping, wiping away the tears (Luke 7:38) perhaps will allow you to know God much better than concepts and orthodox formulas

I continue this post with a short quote from an essay by Mallory McDuff in Sojourners (followed by a recommendation):

A Southerner by birth and the daughter of an Episcopal priest, my mother always told me that church was the best place to cry. I remember her eyes filling with tears at the beauty of a hymn, the elegance of the liturgy, or the sadness of a season. As a child, I didn’t have to understand. I just had to sit by her side in the pew—and watch her muddle through.

I commend her essay, “Why I cry in church,” to you. I commend the power and mystery of tears to you. What are your experiences, favorite quotes, wisdom about tears (in church or anywhere)?


“Progress,” it may take a very long time

Saw this today during my time of prayer and meditation. Traveling with my own griefs, and walking with those willing to share their grieving, the words of Chardin affirm what we are all learning:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

This was posted on Facebook by “God in All Things

Finding courage and hope in tragedy, then sharing it

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[Nelba Marquez-Greene], the mother of one of the 26 victims of last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has written a powerful letter to the teachers of America. Nelba Marquez-Green had two children attending Sandy Hook Elementary that day. Her daughter, 6-year-old Ana Grace was killed in the massacre, her son was uninjured in the attack.

A teacher friend shared the letter with me as it was reposted. I agree with those who reposted the letter:

[Nelba’s] letter, which was posted on the Education Week website is powerful, and gut-wrenching, and encouraging all in one.

Take the time to read this mother’s letter to teachers (and to all who have ears to hear and hearts to love). Here are the words that leapt out at me. For each of us dealing with loss and grief (even if pale in comparison to this mother’s grief) these words are filled with light and hope:

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward.

No matter our sorrows and griefs, let us move forward in courage and hope.

Memorial Day | Military | Suicide | Please, talk

JD Schramm shares a story. Please listen well.

As a nation we pause on Memorial Day and remember those who have died in combat. They died in order that we may continue to enjoy the many freedoms of our democracy. While pausing to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf I am put in mind of those who are now serving or who have served both here and abroad and who have been changed and struggle.

The evidence is clear that suicides by members of the military are rising. See, for example this NY Times article: Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military. That those who serve us or who have served us are placed in such peril is something we need to talk about.

[About suicide]: Perhaps no other life-threatening condition on the planet can be so positively impacted by honest, forthright and intimate conversations with friends, loved-ones, clients and colleagues. As we do this, we demystify suicide. We render it approachable by creating a net of understanding so strong and a willingness to intervene imbued with such resolve, that people can no longer fall through the cracks.

Preface, Waking Up Alive Kindle Edition by Richard Heckler

At the start of this Memorial Day Weekend I was sent a post from the TED Blog: TED Weekends breaks the silence for suicide survivors. JD Schramm, the speaker, points out that “19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide live but feel extreme isolation from others. This can lead to second, sometimes successful, attempt.”  Follow the link to view Schramm’s TED Active Talk (from Palm Springs in 2011). Additional links are provided in the post so that you may continue the conversation he begins. His story is compelling, you will not be able to forget it.

May his talk encourage our action, especially for those who serve us or have served us in the military and now find themselves in a battle for their very life.

Do you have resources that may help someone who attempted suicide and survived? Please share this resource in the Comment section. Thank you.

Image source

Talking to children about tragedy and disaster

After the tornado in Moore, OK. Photo by Sue Ogrocki via thesilverpen.com

Talking with children about tragedy, especially if there is death and destruction, is a moment fraught with both possibility and danger. What follows is counsel from Hollye Jacobs (a mother, breast cancer survivor, nurse, and social worker) on her blog “The Silver Pen.” Hollye writes,

Begin-quotex7152In the aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado tragedy if you’re wondering how to talk to children about tragedy and natural disasters, you’re not alone. It’s totally normal to be bamboozled by such catastrophe. The key, however, is including children in the dialogue.

Many of you already know how important it is to me that adults talk with children and keep lines of communication open. Silence is NOT golden especially when television and other media are depicting graphic scenes of devastation. Children are being exposed to stories and photos of dislocated families, destroyed homes and a rising death toll. UGH. We MUST talk with children about natural disasters.

The thing of it is: when children are left alone with information, they have the capacity to imagine far worse than reality (even when reality is awful!). For example, young children often confuse facts with fantasy and may not realize that the same images are shown over and over again on television. Rather they may think that the disasters are happening over and over again. Yup. How awful is that?

Read the entire post: How to talk to children about tragedy and disaster

Hollye then goes on to detail 10 ‘simple’ concepts to put into action if you are called upon, or if you volunteer, to speak to a child or children about the tornado. She offers sound advice, good counsel, and counsel filled with hope. In her post she expands upon an earlier summary of how to speak with children after a disaster.

Infographic: Helping children cope with a natural disaster by Hollye Jacobs

More from Hollye Jacobs on speaking with children

  • Helping children cope with a natural disaster } a precursor to the post cited here about Oklahoma
  • Discussing cancer with children | addresses the broader topic of talking with children, especially Preschool children, in the context of Hollye and her husband talking to their daughter about Hollye’s breast cancer
  • The Silver Pen. Hollye’s website (which includes her blog posts). In her own words, ” The Silver Pen began as a way for me to document the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and oftentimes hilarious journey through, with, over and around breast cancer. One year later I’m still in recovery but now on a journey to find Silver Linings in all aspects of life.”

Image source. “A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, May 20, 2013.”

On grieving: thoughts from Amy

 It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself,
but the most inconvenient one, too.

–H.W. Shaw via Amy (in China)

Grieving, as many of you know well, is very personal. We grieve losses in unique ways. On top of that, each loss—itself unique across a spectrum of not-so-important to how-can-I-go-on important—calls forth a very different (and personal) response. Amy (an American living in China) begins an April 2013 post about pre- and post- grieving (and why it matters) this way:

The two-sided coin for relationships when you live overseas is that you get to meet a lot of wonderful people but you find that they rotate in and out of your life more so than the average person living in America.  For the most part I have been the one staying with others going. Years ago, I was preparing to return to the States for a three year stint. Coincidentally, my dear friends were doing the exact same thing, departing for three years.  Having someone going down such a parallel path was a rarity and provided an interesting and unintended “emotional” laboratory as my friend Anne and I reacted so differently to the upcoming return to the US.

As the months went by and the move became more eminent I cried during some of our conversations while Anne never shed a tear (I’m not just being dramatic in my retelling, she literally never cried, in stark contrast to the Tissue Queen, aka me, so I noticed). Anne and her family were leaving a few days before I would and had invited a Chinese friend and me over for dinner the last night in their home. Xiao Wu, a guy in his mid-20’s, and I couldn’t stop the tears. I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this was a really fun meal, she commented sarcastically.

What struck me is that again, Anne didn’t cry. I knew she’d miss me. Well, I thought she’d miss me. I certainly hoped she’d missed me and that our friendship had impacted her in some way that would lead her to grieve that we wouldn’t be a part of one another’s daily lives for a while. Was it too much to ask for one, small tear? Just one?

Intrigued? Want to know how she and her friend, Anne, did? Want a little clue into your own (very personal) way of grieving and how it may intersect and interact with other (very personal) ways of grieving? Read Amy’s post: How to know if you are pre- or post-griever (and why it matters)

When you check out her blog, The Messy Middle: Where Grace and Truth Reside, be sure to read the back story about the blog header: The back story


From Voice of the Day for 16 April 2013 on Sojourners:

I can’t explain everything but I know this:
In both the joys and pains of life, God is with you.
God rejoices and mourns with you. You are not alone.

Eugene Cho

I share this conviction. I’ve experienced this truth. Sometimes it takes more effort than at other times. Sometimes it takes longer to reach that place of abiding with the ever-present-God. But it happens. What is your experience?

More information: