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The Plough Diet: Cries from the Heart

May 23, 2017 by

Cries from the Heart book cover

I’ve been doing a lot of praying lately. Not that I hadn’t before, but, as Ann Morrissey pointed out last year in a post on Plough’s The Prayer God Answers, praying is like breathing – and for me recently, that breath has become ragged, rough, and hard to catch.

Another breath always comes, though, and with it a renewed cry for life, for faith. If they represent a heart’s genuine longing to reach out for the divine, even groans and sighs can become prayers (Rom. 8:26).

The husband of a friend of mine has been unemployed for four months, with a five-month-old at home and no new job in sight (anybody know of an opportunity for a sound engineer?). My sister Iris’s main caregiver fell seriously ill a week ago, barely survived an emergency operation, and faces weeks of recovery. As a community, we’re feeling the recent loss of our pastor, Johann Christoph Arnold. Three weeks ago, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Yet even in the midst of trouble, I’ve found there is also much to give thanks for. Thanks to God for Johann Christoph’s life – a man whose example pointed many to the clear, warm, and forgiving love of Christ, and whose humor and joy I was privileged to experience as a personal friend. Thanks for his wife, Verena, who is continuing on in God’s strength, showing us the grit and grace that true women are made of. Thanks for the safe arrival of a new niece; for the celebration of my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary; for Iris’s amazing resilience in spite of change; for two miracle babies born to couples who had been childless for many years.

Your prayer list is probably made up of concerns much like mine – the joys, trials, and heartaches of daily existence, all of them important, and yet so small within the grand and sweeping arc of the cosmos. But as Saturn’s rings are composed of trillions of tiny particles, all pulled into the orbit of a greater force, don’t each one of our prayers make up the substance of a much larger request? As acknowledgements of our fundamental helplessness before God and confidence in his mercy, aren’t we essentially asking him to pull us into his greater plan?

Saturn rings

This is what Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby recognizes in calling for a week of prayer leading up to Pentecost. He is asking people anywhere and everywhere to pray “thy kingdom come.” God’s kingdom, that greater plan in which “every tear will be dried” and perfect peace and justice will prevail – boy do we ever need it, along with the repentance and the reviving of first love that it will bring.

Is it possible for a sliver of that kingdom to come into our present time, into all of our personal problems, into the terrifying and disastrous needs of whole nations under the grip of wars, epidemics, and famines? Or are we condemned to simply suffer it out until that final, glorious day? With the insight and compassion familiar to readers of his books, Johann Christoph Arnold answers questions like these in Cries from the Heart: Stories of Struggle and Hope. Chapters with titles such as searching, despair, attitude, remorse, contemplation, unanswered prayer, and faithfulness contain stories of people who wondered, anguished, and believed.

Like myself. And, I suspect, you. May our cries, groans, triumphs pull us ever deeper into the magnetic field of faith, the centrifugal motion of stars and angels, toward the heart that pulsates a perfect plan even if it doesn’t make sense to you or to me. It won’t matter, then, if our breath is ragged and weak. Because another breath will always come: to provide strength for another moment here on earth, or to give us a first sweet inhaling of eternity’s air.

Learn more about Cries from the Heart: Stories of Struggle and Hope.


This post is part of a series highlighting books and resources available through Plough.com, the Bruderhof’s publishing house. Read previous posts in this series.

A note to my readers (were there any of you?). Following this post, I will be taking a break from blogging, and from Plough, to care for my mother. We’ll see how it goes.

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  • Thank you dear Frieda. And I will also be praying for you and your mission among the people you help each day.

    Erna Albertz
  • Dear Erna, I am always looking forward to your articles. All the best to you and your family. You will be in my prayers.

    Frieda