Pastor Ashley Newsletter Column Jan. 7, 2021

Cornerstone Church Family,

My hope for my newsletter article today was that I could write a message of encouragement for 2021, but instead I write to you the day after shocking and tragic events took place in Washington, D.C, during the presidential certification in Congress yesterday. As I scrolled through social media and watched the news yesterday, I felt overtook by the weight and gravity of all that was taking place, and has taken place, in our country over this last year. I suspect that many of you, as well, are feeling this way. Perhaps you resonate with one (or more) of these words: burdened, grieved, distraught, fearful, angry, sorrowful. We hold these things with the weight of many others, including the ongoing heaviness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficulty of loss, the uncertainty of the future (both personally and communally), troubled hearts for those who are sick and struggling in this time, and likely many other burdens that you can think of. In the Christian faith, there is a word for this – for what it means to bring these things to the Lord. That word is lament; it means to feel or express sorrow or regret, to mourn. In fact, there is a whole book in our Bible expressing lament, the book of Lamentations. I’ve always been particularly drawn to Lamentations 3, which moves back and forth between words of trust and hope and words of honest lament and sorrow. You see, when we lament, we’re not complaining, but instead we are being emotionally vulnerable and honest with our merciful and loving, gracious and good Father. We speak honestly about the state of ourselves, our communities, and our world.

In our staff meeting today, I took our staff through a practice of lament that I have become familiar with through a friend. I would like to take all of you through this, as well. So, if you have time, prepare to pause. Grab a pen and paper, as well as your Bible (I won’t be writing out the Scripture text for you, so you will need your Bible). Turn off the distractions. Find a somewhat quiet space. Mute your email notifications, put your phone down (unless, of course, you are reading this on your phone), turn off the news, silence twitter and Facebook. If you don’t have time right now, I would encourage you to come back to this at some point when you have about fifteen minutes to spare. It will be time well spent with the Lord, an anchor for your soul, I hope. Open the Bible to Psalm 13. This is a very short psalm that I am certain you have heard me speak about before. I constantly go back to this psalm because of its simplicity. Visually, and thematically, this psalm is broken into three parts.

  • Verses 1-2 are clear words of lament. As David cries out repeatedly, “How long”, you hear the anguish and sorrow in his voice. He is expressing his sorrow for his current situation. He is being emotionally honest with the Lord about the things which are grieving him, about that with which he is struggling.
  • Verses 3-4 are words of petition. David does not simply pour out his heart and walk away, but instead he asks the Lord to act. He boldly tells the Lord what he needs, asking to hear from the Lord, to receive the light of God.
  • Finally, verses 5-6 are words of hope, faith, and remembrance. Most importantly, these words remember God’s past faithfulness and goodness to stir in his heart faith and hope for the current circumstance. David recalls how he always trusts in God, because God’s love is steadfast. He remembers the joy of his salvation, the ways that God has “dealt bountifully” or been good to him in the past.

And this is David’s prayer. So, I want you to do the same. I want you to take ten minutes and simply write to the Lord. You could choose to follow the Psalm very closely, writing your words in a psalm-like form, or you could simply just journal freely through each of these stages:

  • First, write your words of lament: what are you grieved by, burdened by, overwhelmed by, angered by, confused by? What sorrows are you carrying? Write these words down. God longs to hear from you, to heal the deep hurt in your heart.
  • Second, write your words of petition. Boldly ask for God’s presence in your circumstance, for God to guide your path and light the way, for God to offer mercy and step into our brokenness, both personally and communally. Write these words down. God longs to hear your needs and provide for his people.
  • Finally, write your words of remembrance, your words of faith and hope. How has God been good to you? What truth from the Lord do you cling to? Where do you remember God’s faithfulness in the past so that you can have faith and hope for today? Where can you see God’s faithfulness and action in Scripture that gives you hope for how God will deal with the circumstances of our time? Write these words down. Not only does God long to hear from you but writing these words can be a balm to our own brokenness.

I hope that in this time you heard from the Lord, that you were able to breathe out the mix of heavy emotions swirling within and breathe in the goodness of God’s faithfulness and guidance. May you experience the peace of Christ as you continue in this week. I will see you Sunday at our Zoom lobby!

Blessings,

Pastor Ashley

ashley.skinner91@gmail.com