Lent daybook, 23: Why are you downcast, oh my soul?

A Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. (You can see previous Lent daybook 2017 posts here)

Prelude to the Transition by Pawel Kwiatkowski (source)

Prelude to the Transition by Pawel Kwiatkowski (source)


Song for today: Cello Suite, No.3, Prelude by J.S. Bach (performed by Yo-Yo Ma)

 

Listen to all of the Lent Daybook 2017 songs at this playlist on Spotify:  Lent 2017


As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation[c] 6 and my God.
— Psalm 42:1-5 (ESV)

Prayer for today:

O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that You may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases Your sight. I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it? To whom shall I cry but to You?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare Your servant from strange sins.
— Augustine of Hippo, 5th century

Spiritual practice for today:

Today, if you are physically able, find a place where you can kneel for ten minutes without interruption. During this time, your knees will ache and you will most likely feel tension in your body because of the unfamiliar position you are holding. Try to ignore any physical signs of discomfort and simply focus on quieting your mind Recite Psalm 27:14: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (source: Simplifying the Soul)


(see all Lent daybook posts from 2016 here)

Lent daybook, 22: Their greed knew no bounds

A Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Join me, won't you? (see previous Lent daybook 2017 posts here)

Crucifixion at Barton Creek Mall by James B. Janknegt (source)

Crucifixion at Barton Creek Mall by James B. Janknegt (source)


Song for today: Half Crazy by The Barr Brothers

Listen to all of the Lent Daybook 2017 songs at this playlist on Spotify:  Lent 2017


They ate and had their fill; he handed them everything they craved on a platter. But their greed knew no bounds; they stuffed their mouths with more and more.

Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.

*

That’s when the Temple police reported back to the high priests and Pharisees, who demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him with you?”

The police answered, “Have you heard the way he talks? We’ve never heard anyone speak like this man.”

The Pharisees said, “Are you carried away like the rest of the rabble? You don’t see any of the leaders believing in him, do you? Or any from the Pharisees? It’s only this crowd, ignorant of God’s Law, that is taken in by him—and damned.
— Psalm 78: 29-30, 38-39 * John 7:45-49 (MSG)

Prayer for today:

O God, Who wilt consume at the last day the heavens and the earth with all the creatures they contain, to show to all mankind that nothing subsists save Thee… O God, Who wilt destroy all these vain idols and all these fatal objects of our passions! I praise Thee, my God, and I will bless Thee all the days of my life.
— Blaise Pascal, 17th century

Spiritual practice for today:

Use Psalm 78:1-39 as a template to list the times and ways God has provided for you in unexpected & undeserved ways.


(see all Lent daybook posts from 2016 here)

Lent daybook, 21: If you do not oppress the sojourner

A Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Join me, won't you? (see previous Lent daybook 2017 posts here)

Exodus from Mosul by Reuters (source)

Exodus from Mosul by Reuters (source)


Song for today: O God, Will You Restore Us? by Bifrost Arts

Listen to all of the Lent Daybook 2017 songs at this playlist on Spotify:  Lent 2017


The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
— Jeremiah 7:1-7 (ESV)

Prayer for today:

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
— Psalm 80:4-7 (ESV)

Spiritual practice for today:

Today, spend some quiet moments in prayer. Ask God where He is weeping in your life and in the world and join Him there. It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving. While tears are not required in grief, boldly ask Him for the gift of tears as you grieve.

(source: 40 Days of Decrease)


(see all Lent daybook posts from 2016 here)

Lent daybook, 20: Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God has done for them

A Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. (You can see previous Lent daybook 2017 posts here)

Arabs I (Cemetery) by Wassily Kandinsky (source)

Arabs I (Cemetery) by Wassily Kandinsky (source)


Song for today: Blest Is the Man - Psalm 32 by Katy Snow, Nathan Clark George

Listen to all of the Lent Daybook 2017 songs at this playlist on Spotify:  Lent 2017


David [said...]:

Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.

Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?

*

And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the “outs” with God, as yet unidentified as God’s, in an “uncircumcised” condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called “set right by God and with God”! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God’s action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.
— Romans 4:6-9, 12 (MSG)

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer (Collect for third Sunday in Lent)

Spiritual practice for today:

Today, fast from television (or another form of entertainment).

Read some good poems instead. (Here's my 5 favorite poems for Lent.)

Pray for God to gift you with a rested mind and an enlarged imagination for His good gifts in the world.


(see all Lent daybook posts from 2016 here)

An ERB Book Review: "The Way of Letting Go" by Wilma Derksen

I had the privilege of writing a review at Englewood Review of Books this month. ERB is one of my all-time favorite book sources, and I highly recommend signing up for their free email digest. You'll hear about books that may or may not be showcased in the mainstream "Christian market" book sites with reviews from people you may or may not know from the mainstream publications (people like me, for instance!)  As an added bonus, when you subscribe to their email digest you'll receive a free pdf of the excellent resource 101 Transformative Books for Churches to Read and Discuss.


The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen (Zondervan, 2017)

 

I collect radical forgiveness stories.

As I continue to come to terms with my own experiences of trauma, I search out forgiveness mentors through stories – real life or mythologized. Through reading a wide array of stories, I’ve discovered what is probably logical: No act of forgiveness happens without, first, an incident of suffering. In this way, I guess you could also say that I collect stories of suffering.

It was this habit that led me to Wilma Derksen’s memoir of trauma and forgiveness, The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness, released in February. Derksen, now an international speaker on victimization and criminal justice issues, was on November 30, 1984, a mother and struggling journalist. When her 13-year-old daughter, Candace, called to ask for a ride home from school. Derksen was busy with a writing deadline, and asked her daughter to walk home from school instead.  After that phone conversation, she never spoke to her daughter again.

It would take seven weeks for police to discover Candace’s body, bound, tied, and frozen in a shed near their family home. The investigators were able to immediately rule the death a homicide, but would take 22 years to charge Mark Edward Grant with murder. Now, 33 years following Candace’s death, the case is still tied up on appeals in the Canadian court system.

These details, and many more, make the Derksen’s story devastating. The family’s commitment to forgive their daughter’s killer makes their story profound. In the days following the discovery of their daughter’s body, the Derksens were faced with an unexpected question during a televised press conference:

“‘And what about the person who murdered your daughter?’

Cliff, my husband, was the first to answer it. And he said it with a kind of fait-accompli assurance.

‘We forgive.’

I would do the only thing I know how to do; I would let go.” (27)

The Derksens relied on their faith for guidance during that press conference, a faith that would be stretched thin in the following years.  At the time, though, their pledge to forgive captured the imagination of their community in Winnipeg, and then around the world.

“From then on we became known as the couple who had forgiven. In hindsight, I don’t think we had any idea what forgiveness looked like in the face of murder, but our state of mind at the time was such that we knew we had to say no to anger and obsession. We determined to resist anything that would keep us in a state of emotional bondage, both for our sake and the sake of our other two children.”

In many ways, Derksen’s story is also about identity, and the altered identity that accompanies trauma. The author describes a pivotal moment that occurred the night Candace’s body was found. A stranger showed up at her door and introduced himself as the “parent of a murdered child, too.” In this encounter, Derksen realized that her family’s identity would be unalterably linked with trauma. Consequently, Letting Go is the story of Wilma Derksen’s acceptance of her new identity as a victim of trauma, and her response to that identity as a victim who forgives.

The Way of Letting Go follows the Derksens through the next 33 years of learning how to keep their pledge of forgiveness and how to let go of the many barriers to personal healing they’d encounter along the way. “As I traveled across the country and met other people who have experienced the murder of a loved one, I would listen to their stories, and I started to incorporate their issues as well [as my own], distributing them into a list of fifteen issues that we faced. Except they weren’t ordinary issues – these were issues of monstrous proportion…” (32)

Derksen uses a monster metaphor to describe the fifteen most common “emotional landmines” she found in her own experience and that of those she met in her research. Through the rest of the book she dedicates a chapter to each form of emotional response to trauma using her own stories as illustration.

Wilma Derksen’s determination to survive debilitating grief has led her to spend years researching the science of trauma. In the book, though, she chooses to share those findings through the accessible language of anecdote rather than psychological terminology. In a similar way, Derksen chooses to use generic terms in her biblical references, citing speaking experiences among trauma victims in secular environments (including penitentiaries and Muslim nations). These narrative choices makes the book suitable for readers with various reading levels, (non)religious backgrounds, and experiences of trauma. On a personal level, I was grateful for her paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount which provided me with fresh insight sometimes hindered in traditional church language. I was also grateful for the inclusion of endnotes that provided some of the clinical terminology in the back of the book.

The only misstep is the early chapter in which Derksen introduces the fifteen “monsters” of grief as fifteen different movie villains any reader might recognize.  This is an interesting concept and might have been helpful as a summary rather than an introduction to her book. Without the benefit of knowing many details of her own story, I found the list of movie monsters distracting, even trivializing what, I’d already presumed to be horrific, real-life grief. The framework for the rest of the book is far more effective in describing the overwhelming onslaught of grief and suffering that trauma victims face.

Along with personal anecdotes, each chapter includes a paraphrased portion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and concludes with a simple, personal statement of letting go.  For example, in the chapter titled “Letting Go of My Rage”, Derksen recalls the time soon after Candace’s death she’d confessed to a friend her fantasy of killing ten child murderers to satisfy justice. From there she references the teaching of Jesus (whom Derksen refers to as “the Nazarene”), instructing his disciples that in His economy wanting to kill is as serious as the actual act. She concludes the chapter with a story of visiting an inmate support group for ten men serving life sentences for murder.  In her willingness to listen to their stories (and theirs to hers), she discovers that she “didn’t want to kill them. I understood them and valued very much what they had given” her.  She ends with a summary statement for this act of letting go:  “I had to let go of my rage and redirect my energy into battling for good.”

From the stranger who showed up at her door the night her daughter’s body was found, Wilma Derksen recognized that while she did not have any choice in receiving this new identity as a “mother of a murdered child”, she did have a choice in the way she responded to the grief.  From the blur of their own heartbreak, she and her husband observed a man who had suffered not only the death of his child, but had lost his own life to the abyss of bitterness, rage, and despair. By choosing the difficult, life-giving path of acceptance, surrender and forgiveness, Derksen invites us to consider a Gospel-shaped possibility for us all.


Go to my Book Reviews page to see reviews from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

p.s. This post contains affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward. When you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!