The Wilderness - A Lenten Journey


The Wilderness - A Lenten Journey

Originally created for the Convergence Music Project's national gathering in Nashville, 2017, these words and music, visuals and actions take us into the Wilderness, to examine ourselves and the gods we are tempted to worship on a daily basis, calls us to lament and confession and holy resistance. 

In the center of the space were seven rough-hewn, tree-like candlesticks and a forest of trees was projected on the screen at the front. Each person who came was given a blank tag attached to purple yarn. 


The Wilderness

Complete Liturgy and Song Lyrics


Singing Together

Amazing Grace




Scripture Reading

Luke 4:1

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan

and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,


Gathering in The Wilderness

Call and Response

 One:  We’re not even sure how we got here. But…

All:  We are in the wilderness.

A wilderness

Where fear stalks us.

And answers elude us.

Where bread tastes like stone.

Where we cannot see anything clearly

And we wander wondering what the next right step could be.

We’re not even sure how we got here. But…

All: We are in the wilderness.

And we want to get out of here.

Want to find a

less rocky path.

We want to run and hide, find a safer,

softer bed to lie in.

We’re not even sure how we got here. But…

All: We are in the wilderness.

And yet you call us

Call us to be still.

To listen.

To stop, right where we are right now and

Really listen.

To sit in this wilderness

And look at our lives

Cry and scream and confess, see and name and

resist the other gods before us and around us.

The gods of suspicion & division.

fear & hate, violence & power.

You call us to let go. And return to YOU.

 We’re not even sure how we got here. But…

All: We are in the wilderness.

And you call us to believe that

here in this wilderness.

here in this place,

There is also grace.


Singing Together

Only Grace

1.  Things are broken here.

Things are shared

Things are carried here

Hearts bow in prayer


It is grace, only grace

That brings us here, holds us together here.

It is grace, only grace

That brings us here, holds us all together here.

All together here.


2.  Things are dying here

Things are torn

Things are growing here

And burdens borne.



Amazing grace, hear the sound.

Here is where hope is found.



Stories From the Wilderness

 Psalm 69

Save me, O God,

for the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire,

where there is no foothold;

I have come into deep waters,

and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying;

my throat is parched.

My eyes grow dim

with waiting for my God.


Story One

Selections from The Sea is Big by Zena Agha


I have nothing to add. It is all said

Of bodies

And shores

And salted tears in the salty sea

And memorials in dinghies


And memories in homes



And ransacked

a deficit of humanity


Facing trouble at home

Displaced and disgraced

Facing borders not of our own

Misplaced and mistakes

No choice but to flee

Engraved with faded pigments of sanctity


The sea was big

The waves were bigger…

And I am helpless

And you are watching

And I am lonely

And you are watching

And I am alone

And you are scared


my memories are gone and the sea is big bigger than me

and the sea is blue bluer than me

and the people we paid who promised rubber in place of dignity are sitting beyond me

they want for nothing as we get washed ashore we have been gobbled then spat out…

and you share our images and you tweet our stories in 140 characters

with no protagonists

and your leaders shrug as they pass us by…

…the sea is big and I am small and the sea is blue and I am small and

I have nothing to add.

It is all said

Of bodies

And shores

And salted tears in the salty sea

That sea, so much bigger than me


Singing Response

Kyrie Eleison


Jeremiah 31:15

This is what the Lord says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

mourning and great weeping,

Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted.


Story Two


You Must Not Have Known

A song by Hannah Rand, written after the attack of LGBTQ people at the Pulse nightclub in Miami.


Habakkuk 1:2

How long, Lord, must I call for help,

but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!”

but you do not save?


Singing Response

Christe Eleison


Story Three

A prayer by a young black male, anonymous.

God of the cross and the lynching tree, of the jail cell and the street corner,

of the bible study and the police car, look upon the world you have made. 

See how it is full of hatred and how violence inhabits the earth.

Gunshots ring out under the heavens that declare your glory,

singing the destruction of your children.

The streets and sidewalks of this world you love flow with blood,

pouring out the cries of your beloveds.

Do you not hear them?

The clanging of cell doors ring out,

tolling the lives stolen by systemic oppression and unspeakable violence.

Do you not hear it?

How long, O God, will you keep silent? How long will we fail to be your voice?

In these days, as in days past,

our mothers and grandmothers have become mourners; our fathers and grandfathers have become grievers;

our children have become wanderers in vacant rooms; our communities have become filled with empty chairs.

Remember the people you have redeemed, Holy One.

Remember the work of salvation brought about by your love.


Singing Response

Kyrie Eleison



Psalm 22: 1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?


Matthew 27:46

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).


Singing Together



Why have you forsaken us?

Where have you gone?

Why have you forsaken us?

How can we go on?


Verse 1

There’s a woman who has lost her child

And a man who’s lost his way.

There’s a boy who’s keeping it inside

And a girl who cannot pray.



Why have you forsaken us?

Where have you gone?

Why have you forsaken us?

How can we go on?


We search for your face

We search for your grace

We want to follow your way.


Why have you forsaken us?

Where have you gone?

Verse 2

There’s a man who says he cannot breathe

And another with a gun

There’s a family who’s left everything

Just exiles on the run



There’s a man forsaken on a cross

Body broken in two

There’s a God hanging on a cross

Who feels it all too

Crying with us; dying with us.

Praying with us. Holding us too.   (repeat)

We search for your face

We search for your grace

We want to follow your way.

We want to follow your way.


Lament Litany


One:    Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our lament.

For those who’ve been tortured, beaten, murdered

because of the color of their skin,  Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our lament.

 For those who’ve been shamed, shunned, threatened and killed

because of who they love, how they look, where they’re from,  Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our lament.

For those who’ve lost relationships, lost homes, lost hope, who don’t even know where their next meal is coming from, Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our lament.

For those who live in fear…fear of the stranger, fear of scarcity, fear of violence, Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our lament.


Writing our Laments


Leader: For the next few moments, write your own laments on one side of the tag provided. You may want to write a person’s name or the name of a group or an issue or a country. You may want to write your own name.


Singing Response

(while writing laments)

Why Have You Forsaken Us?  (chorus reprise)



One:    Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our confession.

Sometimes we’ve turned our eyes from the pain in ourselves

or in our world. Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our confession.

Sometimes we’ve blown up in rage because of all the hurt we see and can’t fix, because of the ways we’ve been hurt, because of all we can’t control.  Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our confession.

Sometimes we’ve been silent, afraid to risk, afraid to be vulnerable,

to move toward others instead of push away. Lord, hear our prayer.

All:    Hear our confession.


Writing our Confessions

Leader:  Now take a moment, examine yourself and write your own confession on the other side of the tag you’ve been given.

Singing Together

Lovely Needy People

Verse 1

Oh you prisoners in your cells

All you in private hells

All:  Kyrie eleison

All you hungry and ignored

Who thirst for something more

All:  Kyrie eleison

You who feel so lost but are afraid of being found

You who are in chains but are afraid to live unbound

All:  Kyrie eleison,  kyrie eleison.


For all us lovely needy people

Living in this world that’s spinning

Round and round and round

Round and round and round

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy

All:  Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison


Verse 2

Oh you children ripped and torn

Battered, bruised and worn

All:  Kyrie eleison

 All who look hate in the face

Locked in hate’s embrace

All:  Kyrie eleison

You who’ve given up and can’t see anywhere but down

You who’ve lost all hope and think it’s nowhere to be found

 All:  Kyrie eleison,  kyrie eleison.



All:       There is mercy enough, there is grace enough.

There is love enough for all of us.




Liturgist:  Hear these words of assurance: When we cry out to God, God says “How can I forget you? See I have written your names on the palms of my hands.”

(Moment of silence)

Liturgist:  Hear these words of assurance: When we confess our sins, Jesus says “God forgive them,” even from the cross, and stands beside us with the love that will not let us go.


Singing Together

Lamb of God

 Lamb of God

With love poured out, you suffer with the world.

Have mercy, have mercy.

Lamb of God

who suffers with the world.

Grant us peace.  Grant us peace.


Sharing of Laments, Confessions and Candles of Hope

 Leader: How do we find our way out of this wilderness? We resist the temptation to run and hide. Resist denial and easy comfort and cheap grace. We ask the hard questions. We cry the bitter tears. We examine ourselves, confess our sin and call out to God for forgiveness.

But we don’t have to do it alone. So in a moment, we invite you to come forward and hang your tags of lament and confession on one of these candlesticks, these trees of our wilderness.

And then if you wish we also invite you to light a candle, as a sign of your commitment.

How will you be a force for good in the world? What’s one thing you will commit to do? It could be something as simple as “Be more kind.” Or “protest.” Or “Give money.” It could be “Love my neighbor as myself.”

Let that intention be your prayer as you light a candle.


Singing Together

Lamb of God


The Lord’s Prayer

One:    Let us pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us.

We will be using a new paraphrase.

Perhaps we can pray it with a new understanding and renewed commitment.

God of Love...

All: Who we experience as mother, father, friend, our deepest longing,

our best thought, our greatest hope.

Your love covers the entire earth.

Holding us all in your embrace,

All: You hold everything together.

We want to know what your vision for the world is -

help us.

We want to live in that vision –

guide us.

Everything we eat and drink,

Everything that gives us life and joy, it all comes from you.

All: We thank you for your mercy.

You hold nothing back.

All: Help us be that open and generous

with others and with ourselves.

You forgive us constantly.

All: Help us forgive each other.

Deep in our hearts we believe that this is your world and that you love us all.

Help us stand with you and with each other in that powerful love.

All: And together we will sing

of your mercy and grace and power.

Forever and ever.



Singing Together

Room for All of Us

 Verse 1:

They said no room

They said move on

They turned, turned you away.

We’ve been there too

Felt that alone

been hurt been hurt that way.



Your light comes shining

Into this crying night,

Bringing hope, bringing healing,

Your love revealing.

Your light comes shining

into this crying night

To say it's ok,

there's room for all of us here.


Verse 2:

Oh but it’s hard

To open the door

Not lock, lock love away

We’ve been there too

Felt too afraid

To see, to try another way


Chant:   We are on this earth to love




Singing Together

We Are On This Earth To Love(reprise)



Listen to recordings of the music and download the full liturgy here. 


Below is a live stream of The Wilderness from CMP 2017.

(Note: the music mix on the live stream isn't great. We recommend listening to the studio recordings at the link above to get a better sense of the music.)




Prayer by anonymous black man from Community Renewal Society.


"The Sea is Big" Poem by Zena Agha from





Song Information


Forsaken.  Music by Gary Rand and Hannah Rand.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.

© 2017 Plural Guild Music.


Lamb of God.  Music by Gary Rand.  © 2004.  Helical Music.


Lovely, Needy People (Kyrie Eleison). Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Gary Rand.

© 2016 Helical Music.


Only Grace.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2016 Mirasion Music.


Room For All Of Us.  Words by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2015 Mirasion Music.


You Must Not Have Known.  Music and Lyrics by Hannah Rand.  © 2016 Mirasion Music.


Because Black Lives Matter - A Weekly Prayer Ritual


Because Black Lives Matter - A Weekly Prayer Ritual

It seems like nearly every week there's another story of a person whose life has ended in violence because of  the systemic anti-Black racism that has authorized and empowered the targeting, assault and killing of black and brown bodies in this country.

Many of us are unsure how we can stand against these horrors. How we can cry out for justice. How we can say “No more.”

Of course, we must start with love. Real love. Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” That’s the call we hear from our scriptures (1 John 3:18, The Message). And as Dr. Cornell West has said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

We can practice real love in many different ways. Speaking out against racial injustice on social media, in our schools and offices and churches. We can also participate by getting involved with groups dedicated to ending racial injustice like the #BlackLivesMatter movement…they have many local chapters. As does the group, Showing Up for Racial Justice. 

We can also make space and time for lament. 

Rev. Jennifer Bailey, minister, community organizer, a Founder of the Faith Matters Network has said, “The type of healing we need can only be borne out of lament — a lament that holds space in the deepest pits of our beings for the piercing sorrow and rage being expressed by black communities, cultivates empathy, and puts restorative justice at the center of our collective action.”

We invite you to make lament a weekly practice.  Stop and take a few moments for a simple ritual of lament and prayer each week in your own home, by yourself, or with family members or a friend, or perhaps with a small group, or in your church.

Take a few moments to light a candle and name the names of people who’ve been killed. And name the names of black and brown sisters and brothers who live in fear.  Take time to weep and mourn and cry out to God in pain, grief and confusion, and yes, also, for those whose skin is white, to confess complicity in a system of injustice. 

We have created a prayer of lament for you to use if you wish, which you can also download here. Or come up with your own words.

You might want to kneel. You might want to create your own wailing wall or a jar of tears, writing names on strips of cloth or paper. We've also put together a Pinterest page with some ideas about ways to embody and ritualize our prayers. You can find that here

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church in New York has said, “Love looks like this: Prophetic grief. Tears falling heavy. And activism that ends racism.”

Join us in letting the tears fall, in confession, in action, in real love.




A Prayer of Lament

Things Are Broken Here



O God, things are so broken here.


So many black and brown bodies have been targeted, abused, choked, shot and killed.


Tonight we cry out in grief for ________________________(fill in names)


And tonight we mourn for the families and friends of these victims.


And tonight we must ask, How long O Lord, how long?


Lord, hear our prayer.


Tonight we also confess that we are a part of an unjust system that is tearing us all to pieces.


And sometimes we simply don’t know what to do.

And sometimes we’re too comfortable to do anything. 

And sometimes we’re too scared.


Forgive us. Change us. Show us the way to love.





Hear these words of assurance:

God hears our cries and says: “How can I forget you? See I have written your names on the palms of my hands. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or fail to pity the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I won’t forget you.”


And when we confess our sins, Jesus shouts, “God forgive them,” even from the cross, and stands beside us with the love that will not let us go.


Remain in that love. Be God’s love in the world.


Sing Together: We are on this earth to love.


We are on this Earth Response.jpg










Justice Begins With Tears- Creating Space and Time for Lament.

This is a gathering to lament some of the broken places in our world and our lives right now, developed for the OPEN FAITH 2016 CONFERENCE.

Click through this gallery to read through the litanies and prayers, and see the stations of lament created for it. Hear some of the music included in this gathering and download  a pdf below.

For this experience, we had four stations for lament, however, if you are planning worship gatherings for a congregation or small group that meets weekly, you might want to have a different station available each week, so you could spend more time with each one. 

Photos of stations by Lenora Rand, except close up of the bullet-casing cross which was provided by Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, Galileo Church's Lead Evangelist, Mansfield, Texas.  


Living in radical enough-ness.


Living in radical enough-ness.

Living in radical enough-ness

This is a meditation given by Lenora Rand at the Lenten House Gathering, featuring music from The Many and Rob Clearfield, Feb. 27, 2016

It’s almost spring. I mean spring could be coming sometime in the next few months here in Chicago. Definitely  by mid July.

So it’s time to think about spring cleaning. 

Have you heard about that book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō? 

In it, she says that real secret to cleaning out your excess is looking at all your stuff, item by item, holding each sock and pot and pan and tube of topical ointment and asking 

 “Does this spark joy?”

It sounded a little ridiculous, when I first read it, but it also made me kind of want to try it. 

Because here’s the thing: I have too much stuff. In my house. On my shelves, in my cabinets, in my closets. 

And, frankly also, in my life. 

I have too much to do. Too much I have to do, need to do, want to do.

Also too much fear. And too much shame. 

And at the same time, yeah, this is where it really gets crazy, I walk around feeling like I don’t have enough.  Not enough time, enough sleep, enough attention, enough money. 

I am also so painfully aware of all the ways that I’m not enough, of all that I’m lacking: the best looks, the most smarts, the greatest talent, the deepest spirituality…a respectable number of Twitter followers. The list could go on. And if I forget that for a minute, all I have to do, is open Facebook. 

Evidently I’m not alone in this. The author and social scientist Brene Brown, for one, has written a lot about it, this “culture of scarcity,” we all feel like we’re living in. 

In her book, Daring Greatly she says:

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress.”

So we don’t feel like we have enough. Even when we’re surrounded by plenty. Where storage containers have become a bazillion dollar industry.

This all made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Remember that one, from Mark 6: 30-44? All these people had gathered to hear Jesus and it got to be dinner time and the disciples went to Jesus and said, everyone’s getting a little hungry and crabby but we don’t have enough to feed them. And Jesus said, Really? Are you sure? 

The way I was told this story growing up was that Jesus said a prayer and something supernatural happened. What were a few loaves and fishes multiplied like magic. 

However, when I was in college I heard a minister interpret what went on that day in a different way, a way that actually seemed even more miraculous to me. He said, perhaps what happened on that hillside was that all the people there started pulling out what they had, the secret food they’d hidden in backpacks and stashed in purses, to take care of themselves, to make sure they didn’t go hungry, to make sure they had enough…and they started sharing… and when they did, it was enough for all. In fact they had extra…12 baskets of more than enough. 

Whatever you believe happened that day, it seems like the culture of scarcity was definitely turned on its head. Because Jesus proclaimed in word and through this experience, that when you trust, when you risk, when you’re willing to be vulnerable, there is enough to go around. 

That’s the upside down world Jesus came to usher in. That’s the vision of God Jesus came to show us. The God who makes sure there is enough. 

Enough love. Enough mercy. Even enough food and enough security, and enough room for differences.  And maybe the real miracle is being able to see that. 

To live in radical enough-ness. 

Because if we really believed we had enough, we might not need so much. We might realize how much we can let go of. We might understand what Jesus meant when he said we can lose our lives to find them. 

Lent, they say, is a call to do some spring-cleaning of your soul.  A time to say, with the Psalmist, 
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
In the measure of your abundant mercy, clear the crap from my life.

OK, I’m paraphrasing on that last part, a bit. 

Maybe the place to begin that soul cleaning is by taking a look at what we might be holding onto a little too tightly. Whether that’s our fear or our jobs or our money or our desire to matter or our time or our chocolate or our hurts, and then, asking Marie Kondo’s question: 

Does this bring me joy?

And maybe we ask a couple questions I imagine Jesus would add as well…like: 

Does this bring more love and hope and mercy to me, and to the world?
Does it help this feel like a place where there’s enough to go around? 

In a minute we’re going to join together in the Lord’s Supper. 

I don’t think it’s by accident that Jesus suggested this simple human act, of sharing bread and cup with each other, is the best way to remember him, to recognize him, to see what God is really like. 

Because perhaps, if we’re lucky, if we’re blessed, if we really open our eyes, we can, just like those 5000 people on the hill that day, know in the breaking of the bread, that there is hope for our hunger, for all our hungers, and in the sharing of the cup, see that there is a love that can fill our empty places, our feelings of not having enough, and not being enough.  

Perhaps we will be able to join Jesus’ mother Mary in the prayer of praise she offered in Luke, for a God who remembers mercy and fills the hungry with good things, who makes sure there is enough.

For all of us. For the whole wide hungry world.

And, yes, even more than enough.