brennan manning

Every Lament A Love Song: The Pulse Shootings In Orlando, FL

G. Rouault

G. Rouault

What Do We Do With Pain?

In ninth grade English class, my brutally honest professor once asked me, "Josh, do you know why your papers get C's?  Because your Christianity keeps you from writing honestly about the evil in the novels we're reading- and in your life as well."

He was right.  At the time, my understanding of evil was that any kind of worthy faith in God explained it away- if not with denial, then certainly with trivial answers and quickly referenced scripture verses.

A number of years later I spent a summer preaching through the different genres of the psalms for a church in Tennessee.  I didn't know it then, but that summer would become a turning point in my theology, in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with suffering.  That's because I learned that, more than any other kind of Psalm in Israel's hymnbook, there are Psalms of Lament, of sadness, pain, anger, confusion, ambiguity, and discouragement.

So what does it say to us, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, that God's people wrote more sad songs than any other kind in their hymns of "praise?"

Here is the audio link to a sermon on Psalm 13 I gave a few years ago.  The title is a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff's fantastic (and heartbreaking) book "Lament For A Son," where he says that every lament is [ultimately] a love song.

By the way, during that summer of preaching on the psalms, I tried to write a modern day psalm of lament.  I called it "I Need You."  A few years later it was picked up by a band called the Swift and got some radio play.  You can hear the song here.

You can hear the Swift's version of the song here.

10 Quotes & A Song About (Sweet) Forgiveness

"Sweet Forgiveness"


I was surprised to see you in the store recently.  And after all this time, the tears still welled up in my eyes.  (Chorus) I do forgive you with all that that means.  Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed.  And who can say if I’ll ever forget, all those things you did without regret.  But there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet.  You don't know this but we've talked.  I've begged you for answers with no response.  I've searched for peace. And all I want is to be free.  (Bridge)  Some people say that forgiveness is the key.  It opens the door and sets you free.  (Final Chorus)  I do forgive you with all that that means.  Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed.  And I will not live a life of regret, when I could live with love instead.  But there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet.

Download a free PDF of the lyrics and chords

Buy the song at iTunes



Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen. – Words of Absolution from The Book of Common Prayer

“Don't you want to be there/don't you want to cry/when you see how far you've got to go to be where forgiveness rules/instead of where you are?” -Songwriter Jackson Browne


We forgive people not because they deserve our forgiveness, but because we want to be free. – Author Mike Mason

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Author and Ethicist Lewis Smedes

“The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my ‘enemy’ the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. Forgiveness is truly a ‘breakthrough’ of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world.”  - Fr. Alexander Schmemann

When you forgive, you release yourself as well as the other person. You allow life to go on, to bypass your exaggerated sense of virtue and your worry about being offended. As long as you sit on your power to forgive, you suppress your joy in life. You also limit yourself: If you keep those you love within tight boundaries of behavior, you have to bind yourself as well lest you be a hypocrite. – Author and Psychotherapist Thomas Moore

[The Bible] does not say ‘Forgive everyone, unless they’ve said something rude about your child.’ And it doesn’t even say, ‘Just try.’ It says, If you want to be forgiven, if you want to experience that kind of love, you have to forgive everyone in your life- everyone, even the very worst boyfriend you ever had – even, for God’s sake, yourself. – Author Anne Lamott

 [Divine forgiveness] demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive. This ‘stepping over’ is the authentic discipline of forgiveness. –Author and Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen

 To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, "You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you've done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend." …Our unforgivingness is among those things about us that we need to have God forgive us most. – Author Frederick Buechner

...Whoever has been forgiven little loves little. - Jesus Christ


Orthodox Christians would commend to us their annual observance and celebration of “Forgiveness Sunday,” the first service of Lent where congregant and priest alike kneel before each other during worship for to ask forgiveness one for the other. Beautiful! Alexander Schmemann has written a short piece on this Christian Orthodox tradition HERE.

The Lyrics, Stories, and Artwork for "Count The Stars"


Get The Album On iTunes Here.

01 I Am Me (Salvation) To Fritz, Matt, Jeremiah, and Kevin 1. What I long for, what I fear, is to know and be known. But I hide. I disappear like a secret never told. In my guilt and in my shame, I begin to separate. I begin to lose myself until you call my name. Chorus: Then suddenly Iʼm me- who Iʼm meant to be. I am whole. I am home. I am seen. I am known. I am me. 2. Oh my heart begins to wake, then the chill begins to thaw. Yeah the memories start to flood and my tears begin to fall. Like a feast for a starving man, I can hardly take it in. And the saints and the angels sing when they hear you call my name. Bridge: I wonʼt be afraid. ʻCause when you call my name...

Hans Rookmaaker said “Jesus didn't come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human." And St. Irenaeus “The glory of God is man fully alive." Eastern Orthodox Christians talk about the goal of salvation as “theosis” or becoming divine. The Orthodox talk about salvation not as becoming a different person, nor as becoming God, but as becoming the truest, deepest, most redeemed versions of ourselves! In salvation, Jesus is making us who God intended us to be. This is the most personal song on the project. It reflects my theological and psychological theory of sanctification and change. I use the ideas of this song in therapy with clients, and in my own personal walk with Jesus, often reminding myself that, where as sin fragments me, Jesus wants to make me whole. He wants to make me “me.”

02 Your Kingdom Come (Kingdom) 1. The kingdom is coming. The kingdom is at hand. Through the great parade of providence, Godʼs kingdom expands. Until one day all thatʼs old will be made new. One day all thatʼs sad will be made untrue. We will lift our eyes to the King, Jesus Christ. Until then weʼll pray: Chorus: Your kingdom come. Your will be done on this earth as it is in heaven. 2. We are not abandoned. Weʼre children of the king. Redemption is our story but we havenʼt reached the ending. Our battle is not fought with the weapons of a war, but with love and justice all will be restored. The king will return. Heʼll and bring heaven to earth. Until then weʼll pray: Bridge Our tears are not lost. Our hope is not vain. One day- one day- weʼll see him at last so, Christian, hold fast. Hold fast and pray.

This song was written for my church, Lake Baldwin Church, in Orlando, on its seventh anniversary. I wanted to express the idea that praying the Lordʼs Prayer is not defeated resignation or mere wistful wishing for an easy fix to a complicated and sinful world. No, praying the Lordʼs Prayer is a bold act of faith, an action that theologians call a “speech act,” that is, a group of words that accomplish what they say. In other words, as we pray for Godʼs kingdom to be realized on earth, our prayer is answered, in part, as Godʼs kingdom is realized more fully in our own hearts and lives. The idea is that our prayer becomes our life. As we pray, so we live. I love the way the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts this: “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray (CCC, 2725, The Battle of Prayer).”

03 Count The Stars (Hope) 1. When I lay me down to sleep at night underneath a sacramental sky, I count the stars- count them if I can, then rest my dreams inside my Makerʼs hands. Oh I count the stars. 2. I count the stars for they are signs to me- pictures of a future I canʼt see. Like a mother with no child to hold, every starʼs a child I call my own. So I count the stars. (Chorus) On my darkest night a million beams of light ask me to believe that your promise is like a starlit sky- bigger than my dreams. So in my doubting dark I count the stars. 3. I count the stars when hope is hard to find, when there's no morning for my soul's dark night. And when my longing heart feels weak and thin, I lift my head and count the stars again. I count the stars. (Bridge) Oh help me see (that) your promise is bigger than my dreams.

I wrote this song for my churchʼs sixth anniversary, when we were studying the life of Abraham. Friends and members of my church were struggling with really dark life moments like infertility, existential doubt, and disappointments in careers and marriages. My pastor and a church member (the designer of this projectʼs artwork, Brandy Nicks) called the series on Abraham “Count The Stars” and I said, “Man, that would be a great song title!” I wrote the song that week and played it at church the following Sunday. As I began to play it live for other events, the song started to take on a life of its own. One couple at an event in Texas, in connection with Bryan College, my alma mater and the institution to which this recording is dedicated, offered to help pay for the recording. I contacted Ed Cash and we made the song together. After that, I used the song to help kick off my Kickstarter campaign and, after meeting the goal, we turned a one song project into a full EP. It was incredible. The message of the song was playing out in my own life! God was blowing me away with his blessings- in ways that far surpassed even my dreams.

04 Homesick (Desire) 1. Standing at the brothel door, past his lust there is so much more. For his sin, like an SOS, tells us of his soulʼs distress. See his longing. See his holy fire. See the journey of his heartʼs desire. Chorus 1: All our longings- theyʼre like sacred signs. And they point us to the God behind them all. Thatʼs why sadness, and every sweet romance- thatʼs why sunsets always make us homesick. 2. Lifeless marriage. Twenty years. Why want more, when she can disappear? But still desire calls her name, bids her cry the tears of faith. See her longing. See her holy fire. See the journey of her heartʼs desire. Chorus 2: All our longings- theyʼre like sacred signs. And they point us to the God behind them all. Thatʼs why laughter, and every moonlight kiss- thatʼs why silence always makes us homesick. Bridge: Hear the echo in the ache. Feel the longing in the pain. Itʼs the way you were made.

G.K. Chesterton wrote “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God.” And Brent Curtis, in an article titled “Less-Wild Lovers: Standing At The Crossroads of Desire,” says “In all of our hearts lies a longing for a Sacred Romance. It will not go away in spite of our efforts over the years to anesthetize or ignore its song, or attach it to a single person or endeavor.” This is a song about what we do with our desire for God, as seen through the story of a sex- addicted man, and a woman stuck in a lifeless marriage. This is a song about how our longing is a sign that points to the creator of the longing and the thing longed for. Though an uncomfortable message at first, this song is meant to deepen our awareness of how even our sinful patterns point to the deeper truth that we are all made in Godʼs image, and thus haunted by our truest identity every day, in every experience of life, good or bad.

05 Isnʼt That Amazing Grace (Identity) To Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen 1. Underneath the countenance of God we all try to hide. We forget how he loves us so, we forget weʼre Abbaʼs child. So when the lies are loud, let the gospel drown them out. Chorus: Come out, sinner, from those shadows, Every corner of your shame. Donʼt you know youʼre his beloved? You donʼt have to hide your face. Isnʼt that amazing grace? 2. But there are other voices in our hearts. Theyʼre imposters in disguise. And they tell us we canʼt trust his love- that on our selves we must rely. But when the lies are loud, let the gospel drown them out. Bridge: Donʼt believe the lies. Youʼre beloved, Abbaʼs child. No more guilt and shame, ʻcause isnʼt that amazing grace?

This is a song about the comfort of the gospel. As the beloved of God we donʼt have to hide in shame. Not only is our brokenness deeply accepted by God, it is that brokenness- along with the entirety of the fallen creation- that God is redeeming in Jesus Christ. The chorus “Come out, sinner” is a simple, daily invitation to rest in Godʼs grace, acceptance, and love. I believe far too many of us live the majority of our spiritual and relational lives in hiding simply because we donʼt know, trust, or feel Godʼs deep, abiding love for us. Two authors who have written extensively about Godʼs grace and our identity as Godʼs beloved, are Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen. This song was patterned particularly after Manningʼs book “Abbaʼs Child,” where he addresses the difference in living as Godʼs beloved verses living as the imposter, or false self.

06 Sweet Forgiveness (Forgiveness) 1. I was surprised to see you in the store recently. And after all this time, the tears still welled up in my eyes. (Chorus) I do forgive you with all that that means. Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed. And who can say if Iʼll ever forget all those things you did without regret. But there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet. 2. You don't know this but we've talked. I've begged you for answers with no response. I've searched for peace. And all I want is to be free. (Bridge) Some people say that forgiveness is the key It opens the door and sets you free. (Final Chorus) I do forgive you with all that that means. Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed. And I will not live a life of regret when I could live with love instead. ʻCause there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet.

I wrote this song for a sermon at my church. Our pastor was preaching on the Lordʼs Prayer, specifically the phrase “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” I began to think about the most difficult moments in my life, and the lives of others I knew- the moments where the miracle of forgiveness was most needed. And as I reflected on the power of forgiveness, the adjective “sweet” kept coming to mind. I pictured what it would mean for victims of abuse and affairs, betrayals and tragedies, to be given the gift of forgiveness for their perpetrators. And I mostly wept while writing this song. Initially I had no intention of recording the song because it seemed too dark. But as I began to play the song live in shows, the response was overwhelming as listeners came up to tell me their story of pain and forgiveness. So we recorded it in the studio with one emotional, live take on the guitar. No click track. And our hope was to keep it simple and raw.