Hope Discovers Wailing

He was a beautiful young man – Native American, tall and proud of his heritage. An athlete, a musician, a college student – gifted in so many areas.

Then someone murdered him and dumped his beautiful body into the Kansas River. A hate crime? Certainly. Justice was never served. The perpetrator was never caught.weeping woman sculpture

We attended the funeral – colorful yet tragic. His closed coffin draped with the blanket of his tribe. His warrior shield propped beside it.

Throughout the service – a blend of Christian tradition and tribal ritual – we remembered his accomplishments and tried to find comfort in his journey to heaven. Still, the loss – so senseless, cut deep.

Then a special moment, scheduled on the program as “The Maternal Response.” Women from his tribe, aunties, matriarchs, cousins gathered around the perimeter of the sanctuary. On cue, they began wailing – their mourning in various tones and levels of voice reached a crescendo, then fell to pianissimo whispers of grief.

At the loudest point of volume, tears rivered down my face. These women had given us a gift – permission to grieve openly, to add our wailing to theirs, to express our sorrow at the loss and the injustice. Five – ten minutes – of shared grief. Moments that became one of the most spiritually freeing experiences of my life.

As the last whimpers sounded, my toddler son wiped my tears away and said, “Mommy crying.” Somewhere in my soul, a piece of the grief was salved with a patch of comfort.

Now, years later, I remember those wailing moments. As I continue to grieve the loss of Deb, I occasionally face days when wailing is my only recourse. Somehow, it helps. Alone in the house or standing outside near the Colorado river rock I bought to memorialize her – I unleash the sound of my grief.

It touches a different place in my soul – gives me permission to let go, to underscore how much this loss hurts.

Wailing reminds me I am not alone in the grieving. Like the women in that church, my tribe includes Deb’s children and grandchildren, her brother and sister-in-law, the extended family and all who knew her.

The waves of our shared grief reach out to the One who hears the wailing of fractured hearts. He understands because he, too, felt the pain of loss.

Then somewhere in my soul, he salves over the raw place with another patch of comfort. He wipes my tears and whispers the promise of future hope.

©2017 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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Hope Reaffirms

When I drove by the church building, I was certain this was the place for me. With a Southwestern façade and landscaping of wildflowers and hummingbird feeders in a setting of quiet woods – this was surely the place I could worship and feel a sense of belonging.

Picture of a wooden Christian cross on Saint Cuthbert’s Isle, Holy Island, Northumberland. St Cuthbert’s Isle was a small island used as a retreat by both Aidan and Cuthbert.

I wanted to rush home, grab my journal and find a cozy place near the church’s spring robins – to record my thoughts next to this lovely building.

Instead, I clicked onto their website for meeting times and drove back to the beautiful location the next Sunday.

It was the friendliest church I have ever attended in my entire life. Everyone welcomed me, asked my name and grasped my outstretched hand.

One elderly saint took me on a tour where a I fell in love with the inner décor – the sanctuary painted in a coral background, chairs placed in a welcoming semi-circle, three separate libraries – count ‘em – three! I imagined holding reign over a diverse book club and talking about the Reverend G trilogy.

Hallways with archways reminiscent of Santa Fe’s culture, stenciling at the top of the arches, an eclectic blend of flute, bongos and guitar for the worship segment.

Surely I belonged in this aesthetic setting where no one condemned my single mom status or wondered why I worshiped alone. I noticed several mothers without spouses, hugging their children close as they swayed to the sound of mellow chord progressions.

I wanted to sign up immediately and become a member in this love-infested organism.


Except for one major flaw: Jesus was missing.


No mention of Jesus in their bulletin, no singing about his love in any of the worship songs. Not once was his sweet name spoken during the sermon or the prayers. The homily seemed more like a delicate social treatise on the topic of acceptance.

I liked the idea of acceptance but missed underscoring the Lord who accepted me.

Social justice seemed to be their Savior rather than the man on the cross. And while I applauded their openness and willingness to love everyone, I wondered how that could be accomplished without the Son of Love.

As I left that day and walked sadly down the moss-covered stone steps, I grieved for my journey and another disappointment.

I would not – could not return nor could I accept the open arms of this sweet congregation when the foundation of my faith was so obviously missing.

Hope reaffirms my core value that without Jesus I am lost. And where he is not welcome, I cannot go.

So I drove home, processed the experience in my journal, then played some hymns on the piano that reaffirmed the meaning of the cross.

Although I fought the sadness for several days, I felt grateful that God would surely direct me to the place I need to be.

Even a “no” answer is an arrow that points away from error and toward the truth.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh