Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXVIII

“Send Me Home”

I woke up this morning to the news that Tim Keller had died over the weekend. Tim Keller was Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City with over 5,000 members. His ministry spanned over four decades. Tim Keller taught people how to live. After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2020, Keller began to teach people how to die–a mission he completed last Friday morning when he left this world at the age of 72.

Keller was an unlikely spiritual giant. His friends thought he was crazy when in 1989, he left small town America to plant a new church in mid-town Manhattan. But the fledgling congregation exploded, soaring from 50 participants to more than 5,000. Redeemer Presbyterian Church has become the launching pad for a constellation of other churches and related ministries across New York City and the world.

The most stunning feature of Keller’s ministry has been the makeup of his flock. At least 40% of Redeemer’s participants are Asian-Americans. One-third are single adults. Many Broadway artists were drawn to Keller’s teaching. More than anything else, he displayed a heart for skeptics. He spent decades dialoguing with secularists–listening to their concerns, respecting their doubts, providing honest answers to honest questions. Many of his 33 books address the 21st century’s underlying homesickness for God.

He routinely pointed out that our lives are more comfortable than those of any previous generation in history. Why then is our culture afflicted with such a pervasive feeling of hopelessness? “The great problem is how to have a human hope that can make sense of death, and help us to face the fear of death and even triumph over it.”

The British wit Samuel Johnson once observed: “Depend on it sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Given fresh motivation to concentrate his mind wonderfully on what lies beyond the grave, Keller released his book “Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter” in the spring of 2021.

He pointed out that human beings are fundamentally hope-based creatures. We all need to know that our stories are leading somewhere. What we believe about the future powerfully controls how we experience the present. Keller reflected: “The deepest desires of our hearts is for love that lasts.” But that’s the crushing thing about secularism. According to the materialist conception of the universe, all hope of a meaningful and personal future has been erased. Nothing awaits us but non-existence.

Recently I led a celebration of life service where friends of the deceased shared memories of their friend. They endeavored to provide a word of hope. Their friend wasn’t really gone. Her molecules were being re-circulated. She would become part of the grass and the trees. The next time we saw flowers, we would know it was “her.” But those words did not generate hope. I went on to share that same day that this woman whose life we were remembering was a Christian who had given her life to Christ. She had concluded her story wasn’t going to end in a cemetery.

Keller wrote: “Death used to be able to crush us, but now all death can do is plant us in God’s soil so we become something extraordinary.” He added, “Grieve with hope. Wake up and be at peace: laugh in the face of death and sing for joy at what’s coming.”

His son Michael reports that two weeks ago his dad had prayed: “I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus, Send me Home”.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain


Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXVII


Windsor Elliot was blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful faces. During the meteoric rise as a fashion model in the 1960’s, she appeared on the cover of Vogue four times. Diana Vreeland, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, coached her models with a six word maxim: “Fake it, Fake it, Fake it”. At the height of her career, Windsor began to grasp just how fake her life really was.

She never planned on becoming a model. Her childhood had not been easy. After her parents divorced, she became a ward of the State of California. For a while she lived in a juvenile center full of hopelessness, chaos and mindless authority. She grew up without a single memory of anyone telling her that trusting God might be a viable option for facing life. That was fine. She would carve her own path. That path took an unexpected turn at a party in Paris hosted by Salvador Dali, the world’s most famous surrealist painter. All the beautiful people were there. She was one of them but there was something about the whole experience that seemed fake. She asked herself “is there any authentic mystery and meaning to life-something that wasn’t fake?

Sometimes while walking down New York’s Fifth Avenue she cried out, “God, I can’t find you. If you are there would you please find me?”

Writing today under her married name of Jenny Guinness, she shares the story of how she became a follower of Jesus. Her memoir is called “Faces.” Jenny points out that everybody has three faces. First, there’s the face we’re born with. Second, there are the various faces we “put on” throughout our lives-the cosmetic, emotional and social masks we wear in order to appear happier or wiser or more alluring than we really are. Finally, there’s the face we are becoming-the visage that reflects the person who is gradually emerging over the course of a lifetime. Our culture is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the transition from Face 1 to Face 2. It’s the journey from Face 2 to Face 3 of course that actually matters.

Many of us struggle with what psychologists call the crisis of the False Self. There is a distance between who I really am and the person I think I should be. We put on a face that smiles, even though we are sad. A face that exhibits confidence even though we feel inept. The wider the gap, the more weariness we feel.

The most important call in your life is not what you do. It’s who you become. How does such a thing happen? It happens slowly. But as we offer ourselves day by day to God’s Spirit, it happens surely.

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:8, “And we all, who with unveiled face contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being His into His image with ever-increasing joy-increasingly glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” This is an astonishing promise. Our “face,” our real self is being transformed into Christ’s image-His very self.

That process begins in this world and isn’t completed until we receive the gift of wholeness and holiness in the next. In the meantime, we don’t have to fake it, fake it, fake it to make it through life.

By God’s Grace we can develop more and more of the beautiful “face” that reflects the identity of our Lord.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXVI

“Resting in God”

As I walk around Westminster Village on a daily basis I observe residents sitting, sometimes reading, doing exercise but I wonder how many of you are practicing the presence of God. Are you taking time to meditate, pray or just be in the presence of God? The Sabbath is a day of rest when we take time to focus on our relationship with God in worship and praise. But we need to find those timeless moments in each day to allow our souls to be at peace.

A woman gazes out her window, savoring a cup of coffee. A couple yawn and stretch on silk sheets, welcoming the rising sun. Friends walk together slowly through the woods. A teenager strums a guitar at the end of a pier enshrouded by mists rising from a lake. If only we could enjoy such contentment.

There is wonderful news! Such restfulness is just a transaction away. All you need is to try Maxwell House coffee. Or invest your nest egg with Fidelity. Or rent a cottage in the woods through Airbnb. Then you too will be able to find contentment. Here’s the irony. Restfulness can actually be yours right now, in the life you already have. And it’s free.

All you need to do is to receive a gift that God has always been willing to give. It’s connected to the deep wisdom of keeping a Sabbath-setting aside time in each day to make a break with your routine and the culture in which we live, move and have our being. The Hebrew word SHABBAT means stop, quit, cut it out. It’s part of the design of creation. It’s not a request or recommendation. It’s a command we find in Genesis. And it’s quite possibly the single most challenging divine directive for Americans in the 21st century.

That’s because activity makes us feel useful. And important. And maybe, from time to time, we even have moments when it seems as if we’re actually in control. There are things to be done: answering a dozen emails, breakfast, lunch and dinner and doctor’s appointments. But none of these activities- in fact no task in our life rivals the importance of placing ourselves in God’s presence. And then simply staying there.

The unidentified author of the New Testament book of Hebrews acknowledges that entering God’s “Sabbath rest”-resting from our strenuous efforts to make it through life under our own steam-is a major challenge. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:11)

When you think about it, that’s a wonderful turn of phrase. It takes effort to enter God’s rest. It takes planning and resolve to keep the Sabbath in a culture that is allergic to slowing down.

Author, Dan Allendar, adds that Sabbath comes down to replacing daily frenzy with the kinds of things that fill our souls with joy. There’s no consensus amongst followers of Jesus as to how we are to keep the Sabbath or even if there’s a particular day of the week-Saturday? Sunday? –that should be targeted. If you’re just beginning to consider a Sabbath experience, you might choose to carve out half a day. Or designate a block of a couple of hours in which you unplug yourself from the world.

What we really need is to just set aside the time in each week to enjoy what God has actually given to us.

Ron Naylor

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXV

“Shock Absorbers”

Have you ever wondered how woodpeckers can slam their heads into trees all day long and not have to pop a couple of ibuprofens? The answer is that a woodpecker’s body is essentially a giant shock absorber. All of its angles, from beak to toes, help distribute the force of the incessant pounding. Woodpecker craniums are also remarkably engineered. A “third eyelid” prevents a woodpecker’s eyes from popping out. There are special feathers whose only purpose is to cover the nostrils to prevent the inhalation of sawdust.

But the real ornithological miracles are the woodpecker’s brain and tongue. Studies show that the average woodpecker drills away at tree trunks, limbs, and the wood siding on houses about 12,000 times a day. The most powerful blows generate 1000 G’s. That would be 1000 times the force of gravity. Human beings cannot survive a mere 100 G’s. How does a woodpecker’s brain remain unscathed?

The answer appears to be the woodpecker’s unique tongue. The “business end” of the tongue-the part that can extend far beyond the beak, deep inside trees-is covered with tiny barbs that spear tasty insects and grubs that are hiding there. Then there is the other end of the tongue, which is one of the most remarkable features found anywhere in nature.

A woodpecker’s tongue extends backwards inside the beak, deep into the cranium, then through the right nostril, and finally around the entire crown of the head. Reseachers have concluded that the tongue is like a safety belt for the brain, holding it snugly during the most violent pounding. The brain itself is engineered for a lifetime of experiencing stress.

Human brains, unfortunately, are considerably more vulnerable to the pounding stresses of modern life. That’s especially apparent in the widespread experience of worry.

What’s the number one category of over the counter drugs in the United States? Headache remedies. And number two? Medications for gastric distress. Every day we have two choices: We can worry or we can pray. We can surrender to feelings of angst or we can surrender our anxieties to God.

Jesus was blunt: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:22-26)

God has given woodpeckers tongues and brains like no other. But he certainly hasn’t overlooked US.

We have the capacity to choose life’s ultimate shock absorber: TRUST.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain


Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXIII

“Telling Your Story”

Sometimes hope is born in the darkest places.  During the totalitarian regime of Josef Stalin, it was illegal to speak even a word against the government of the Soviet Union.  It still is it seems.  Political dissidents, artists and “undesirables” were routinely seized and sent away to the gulags, which were forced labor camps.  More than a million never returned.

One of them was a doctor named Boris Kornfeld.   Sentenced to years of “re-education” in the brutal gulag system, Kornfeld kept to himself.  He watched his back.  He took no risks.

Then something happened that he never expected.  He began to trust in God.  His heart was flooded with hope.

He didn’t tell anyone why, but he began to serve others.  He even used his surgical skills to save the life of one of the hated guards.  That act of compassion, he knew would bring trouble.  But when one of the vilest prisoners threatened him with death for helping the enemy, he realized he was no longer afraid.  Later that day he performed life-saving stomach surgery on a young man with a sad face.  He stayed up all night, sitting beside him as he hovered between life and death.

Suddenly he felt a break in the silence.  He talked for hours to the young man about the joy of meeting this God of mercy and grace.  He described how God’s love had driven the fear from his heart and how he had even felt buoyed by meaning in the midst of the gulags misery.  The young patient, gripping the doctor’s hand listened intently as he drifted in and out of consciousness.

Sometime around dawn, Boris Kornfeld was murdered by the prisoner who had threatened him.

He had shared his spiritual convictions just once.  But his audience of one, the sad faced prisoner lived on.  His name was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  Seized by the words he had heard from his doctor, Solzhenitsyn ultimately abandoned his loyalty to Marxism.  Kornfeld’s faith became his own.  Anchored by his trust in God, he won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature and became one of the most heralded voices for freedom in the 20th century.

It’s tempting to think that telling your own story, or speaking a word of encouragement when you have the opportunity, can’t possibly make a dent in this messed up world.

Don’t you believe it.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXII

How’s Your Spiritual Health?”

“So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

The Bible’s last book begins with seven correspondences to young congregations in the western part of what is now Turkey.  Each of them is a message from Jesus.  The final letter is to Laodicea, an affluent community in the Lycus River valley.  Laodicea was blessed with thriving commercial banking and textile operations.  What it didn’t have was a reliable source of clean water.

The proposed remedy came from a pair of aqueducts.  One was built downhill from Hierapolis, a small town perched on a rise a few miles to the north.  Hierapolis was famous for its steaming mineral baths.  Pipes brought hot water to Laodicea.  Colossae which was 11 miles to the south, had a generous supply of cold water generated by snow melt from nearby mountains.  Laodicean engineers built water pipes to that town as well. The community had two sources of water.  And the temperatures were a major bonus.

There was one problem.  By the time the water from Hierapolis had sloshed down miles of pipeline, the hot was no longer hot and the water from Colossae was no longer cool.  Laodicea was notorious for its tepid water.  It was neither soothing nor refreshing.  It was lukewarm.

That’s Jesus’s characterization of the Laodicean church.  In Verse 15 he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were either one or the other!”  This is, happily enough, the only time in Scripture where someone’s spiritual temperature makes the Son of God want to vomit.  There’s nothing in its text to make us conclude that Jesus favors extremism-that he applauds, for instance, bravado on the Far Left or Far Right.  This is a spiritual checkup, not an assessment of political or social energy.  The Laodiceans are apparently faltering in their discipleship.  It’s half-hearted and half-baked.

Is there any hope?

It just so happens that one of the New Testament’s most famous invitations is only three verses down the road.  Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.”  The word for the evening meal in Greek was DEIPNON, and it was the only sit-down meal of the entire day-and the only one enjoyed at home.  When Jesus says, “I will come and eat with that person,” he uses the Greek verbal form DEIPNEIN.  In other words, he’s inviting himself to dinner.  He’s interested in joining each of us at the place in our lives that is most personal and most intimate.

Have you been listening for Jesus’ knock?  Maybe you need to ask yourself some crucial questions:  Has my trust in God become lukewarm?  Has my heart for spiritual things become flat-lined?  Have I gotten used to feeling neutral about Jesus?

As we move from the Easter season, by God’s grace, may our hearts reach a temperature that will bring joy to God all week long.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXI


The Bible’s accounts of the signs and wonders that accompany the growth of the early church are inspiring.  They’re also exasperating.  If God really exists, and if he heals the sick, why doesn’t he do this all the time?  Why are there intensive care units?  Why is there a special row of graves for young children at many cemeteries?   If God performs miracles, why do some of those wonderful people in our lives linger for years as their bodies are gradually claimed by cancer or ALS or any number of other merciless diseases?

More than anything else we want to know.  Why doesn’t God tell us why?

Author and journalist Philip Yancey wrote Where is God When it Hurts?  His best seller on the problem of pain-when he was 27 years old.  When he was well into his 60’s he wrote a sequel.  It’s called The Question that Never Goes Away.  That title says it all.  Yancey admits that the answers he hears most often from Christians only seems to make things worse.

Why are you suffering?  God is punishing you:  No it’s Satan!  Neither:  God has afflicted you out of love, not punishment, for you’ve been specially selected to demonstrate faith.

No, God wants you healed!

Scripture, amazingly, never seems to come to God’s rescue.

Job, the central character in the Bible’s most extended discussion of suffering never learns why his life is falling apart even when he has a private audience with God in the closing chapters.  We never learn the “why” of pain in Ecclesiastes, the Old Testament’s tortured reflections on the apparent meaninglessness of life.  Paul, the New Testament preeminent theologian never gets around to answering the question that never goes away, nor does Jesus.  Even though he exudes God’s healing power like no one else-restoring sight to the blind, healing the deaf, mobility to the lame-he never tells us why such gifts aren’t given to everyone.

Instead of tackling the Why of suffering and the Why Not of universal healing, the Bible’s authors tend to direct us to the What Next.

Our call is to weep with those who weep.  To come alongside those who are hungry and in prison, and mistreated.  To intercede for the widow and the orphan.  To care for the dying and sick.  That’s not to say we don’t find powerful hints about the meaning of supernatural interventions on the pages of scripture.  Signs and wonders tend to happen throughout the Bible.

Despite the confident claims of certain preachers, there is no biblical teaching that God is obligated to eradicate all our pain in this world.  But we do receive God’s assurances that all our pain will be redeemed.  Ultimately, we have to make peace with the fact that we don’t always hear the Why we so desperately want to hear.

In the end, the questions that swirls around Acts 3:16 can only be addressed by the verse from John 3:16 which we consider on Good Friday.  (“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him will have everlasting life.”)

Sometimes in my life I think I’m hanging by a thread when illness comes, stress overwhelms or grief interrupts.  But fortunately, the thread is knit by God.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain



Chaplain’s Corner: CXXX

“Do Miracles Really Happen?”

First, do miracles really happen?  And second, if they do, why don’t miracles happen to everyone-to every person for whom we earnestly pray?  Both questions deserve serious consideration.  Acts 3:16 is a guide.

When inquiring about the reality of miracles we need to know what we’re talking about.  We’re not focusing on something trivial (“after my third trip around the block, God answered my prayer for a parking spot right in front of Jack’s Donuts”).  Or something that can be explained psychosomatically (“and suddenly my headache just went away”).  Or the dramatic ending to a basketball game (Ball State won on a last second shot).

Instead, philosophy professor Richard Purtill suggests:  “A miracle is an event (1) brought about by the power of God that is (2) a temporary (3) exception (4) to the ordinary course of nature (5) for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history.  Luke who is almost universally credited with the authorship of Acts, was clearly trying to show by means of his reports of healing miracles that God is able and willing to act in history.

In his book, The Case for Miracles, Lee Strobel cites a 2004 survey of 1,100 physicians by HCD Research which reveals that three-quarters of them believe that miracles happen today; that 55% of them have seen results in their patients that they would consider miraculous; and that six out of ten of those doctors pray for their patients individually.  But do contemporary “miraculous events,” which we can now examine with rational inquiry and medical technology turn out to be compelling?  Strobel reports a number of such events, including the experience of a woman named Barbara.

Two of her doctors, Dr. Harold Adolph and Dr. Thomas Marshall were so astonished by her case they have written about it in books of their own.  “Barbara was one of the most hopelessly ill patients I ever saw,” wrote Adolph.  She had been an active high school student-an enthusiastic gymnast and flute player.  Then she began to lose motor control.  Barbara was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis.  She deteriorated for 16 years.  One lung became non-functional.  She lost control of her body functions.  She became legally blind.  A tracheostomy tub was inserted into her neck.  She needed continuous oxygen and her muscles and joints were becoming contracted and deformed.  She was confined to her bed.  Her life expectancy was less than six months.

Then something remarkable happened.

In the spring of 1981 Barbara’s aunt and two other friends were reading aloud some prayers for healing.  That’s when Barbara heard a man’s voice speak from behind her-even though there was nobody else in the room.  The words were clear and articulate and spoken with great authority, but also with compassion.  The voice said “My child get up and walk-reminiscent of the words Peter spoke to the lame beggar.  Barbara began to move.  One of the friends plugged the hole in her neck so she could speak.  “I don’t know what you’re going to think about this,” she said, “but God just told me to get up and walk.  I know he really did!  Run and get my family.  I want them to be here with us!”

Here is Dr. Marshall’s account of what happened next:  “Barb felt compelled to do immediately what she was divinely instructed so she literally jumped out of bed and removed her oxygen.  She was standing on legs that had not supported her for years.  Her vision was back and she did not need her oxygen.  Her contractions were gone and she could move her hands freely.  That very evening there was a worship service at her church.  When the pastor asked if there were any announcements, Barbara “casually strolled toward the front, her heart pounding.”  The next day Dr. Marshall gave her a medical examination.  The intestine that had been vented in the abdomen wall was reconnected normally.  “This is medically impossible,” he told her.  “Go and live your life.”  That is what she did.

As a pastor for over 50 years I have been witness to a few stories like Barbara’s.  One even happened here at Westminster Village when a patient was admitted and was told after Covid he would never walk again. With our wonderful therapists, nursing care and prayer that man is walking, driving and singing in his church choir.  Let there be no doubt God uses doctors, therapists, nurses and prayer to do amazing things!

These remarkable stories are evidence of the power of God.  But then you ask why are there hospitals and so many funerals?  Why hasn’t God healed my loved one?  Why isn’t God healing me?   I will cover those questions in next week’s Chaplain’s Corner.  But the Book of Acts belongs to a different dimension of reality- namely that God is capable of the miraculous.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXIX


We all know that a lot of smart people do really dumb things.  A fairly large slice of any day’s headlines turns out to be a recitation of missteps, miscalculations, and mistakes of people who probably should have known better.  Why do educated, knowledgeable people routinely make decisions that shipwreck their lives and reputations?

The answer, according to the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, is that it’s quite possible to know a great deal about stuff, yet not know how to live.  Standardized methods of identifying “smart people”-whether IQ tests, SAT’s or ending up on Jeopardy Tournament of Champions-are not to be confused with measurements of spiritual and emotional health.  Insightful and informed people, in other words, are not necessarily good-hearted people.

As psychology professor Heather Butler points out in her October 17 article in Scientific American (“Why do Smart People do Foolish Things?”), “The inventory of negative life events captures different domains of life.”  Or to put it another way, there are lots of different ways to look like a fool.

Straight A students can forget they have to write a term paper.  People who are great at math and history can fail to get around to dieting and exercise.  Know-it-alls can run up a huge debt on credit cards, decide to drive home after a few too many beers, or crash their marriages by cultivating a hidden life.  Geniuses can be fascinating people.  They can also be jerks.  Knowing a lot about a lot does nothing to prevent someone from being rude, callous, unforgiving, envious, or bitter.  And that’s a recipe for a disastrous life.  So what’s the need of the hour?

It’s Wisdom.  The Book of Proverbs has one central aim:  “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”  (Proverbs 4:7)  The context of Proverbs 3:16 is an extended personification of Lady Wisdom.  She is portrayed as the ultimate teacher, mentor, and friend.  We read:  “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.  She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.” (Proverbs 3:13-17)

What does it mean to be wise?  Wisdom is knowing how to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons with the right attitude.  It’s essentially spiritual “street smarts.”

Notice in the text that wisdom, rightly pursued yields all the things that people say they value more than anything else:  riches, honor peace, and a life worth living.  Wisdom isn’t about getting a college degree or taking a few crash courses or experimenting with over the counter supplements to develop a better memory.

Instead, wisdom can actually be found.  It has a permanent address in God’s Word.  If we invest in reading, pondering, and reflecting on the pages of Scripture, we’ll discover that God has already passed along the insights we need to experience the lives we’ve always wanted.

The world says:  Be Smart.  Be Clever.  Be Impressive.

God says:  Be Wise.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXV

“Tears in a Bottle”

When you think of an archeologist painstakingly excavating an ancient site, what kinds of objects do you picture coming into view? Coins, pottery, inscriptions, and shards of bone are valued finds. But one of the objects that frequently ends up in an archeologist’s bag is a tear bottle.

At least 3,000 years ago, people in the Mediterranean world began the practice of collecting their tears in small vials. Romans preferred glass. Jews tended to use small clay vessels. Tears of loss, bereavement, and pain-not to mention love and joy-might be captured and then treasured as a special way to remember a person or event.

A tear bottle-technically called a lachrymatory-might be offered as a tender gift. Archeologists have found thousands clustered around cemeteries. Sometimes they were interred with the deceased. Family members and friends were making a silent statement: “This is how much I miss you. This is how much I love you.” The tradition was revived during the Middle Ages and again during Victorian times. Today you can order personalized tear bottles from a number of online vendors. After all, there are just as many tears flowing in our own time as in the ancient world.

Lachrymatories are even mentioned in the Bible. David writes in Psalm 56:6 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” This is extraordinary. God keeps track of our tears, recording them in “His Book” as if maintaining a ledger of our most private moments of pain. And our tears end up not just in our own bottles but in His Bottle. We know of no other statement from the ancient world that rivals such an intimate expression of God’s love for people.

There was a song a few years ago by Bette Midler about God watching us from a distance. But who wants a God who watches his messed up creation from a distance? When we are in trouble we want God “with us.” For the Hebrews, God was a God who displayed an astonishing emotional bandwidth. According to Scripture, He could feel frustration, regret, and deep joy. He could roll up His sleeves and go to work, hold His people tenderly in His arms like a nursing mother, or fly into a rage like a jealous husband stricken by the discovery of his wife’s unfaithfulness.

And He could cry.

In John 11, Jesus’ eyes well up near the fresh grave of his friend Lazarus. Jesus was saying, “This is what God the Father is like. He’s not on the sidelines of life, watching from a distance. He’s not neutral. He weeps with those who suffer. He welcomes our tears into his bottle.”

But what kind of God do you believe in?

You can be content with the philosophers, to stick with all the “omni’s”-that God is omnicompetent (can do anything), omnipresent (can exist everywhere), and omniscient (knows everything). Or you can believe this winter day that God is the kind of God who cries at funerals. And that God cries along with you as well in all your darkest moments.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain