Friday, August 24, 2007


Feeling empty-handed, she
Reached down to pick up each
One, every shred that had fallen.
Mercy whispered, You don't have to do that.

Running her fingers over every fiber -
Each one different, each one dark -
Gathering them and laying them across her knees she
Remembers exactly how she'd gotten
Each and every one.
Tired but determined
She threads the scraps together.

Time moves on and each piece,
One by one, is painstakingly (stubbornly) added.

She stares at it, lying in her lap -
Heavy, black, thick - then dutifully wraps her shoulders.
Are you really going to wear all that? but
Mercy is a voice she can't hear anymore.
Enveloped in her shroud, she falls to her knees

and buries her face in her hands

"What is the difference between SHAME and REGRET?"

This question was posed by my sister on her blog They Hang Like Paper Lanterns. The question made me think hard about what that difference might be. I intuitively thought that there was a difference, but it was hard for me to come up with a way to articulate it. Eventually I decided that it would be best to describe the process, in my mind, that takes someone from one to the other.

Reading down the left of the poem the letters say "FROM REGRETS TO SHAME" because I believe one stems from the other when properly cultivated. It's titled hand-made because I feel like every time I find myself weighed down by shame I can see how it was because I intentionally and "painstakingly (stubbornly)" dwelt on my regrets in my own mind. I run my fingers over them again and again, I piece them together and try to connect the gaps, and I build them into something that is cold and dark and thick.

If only I would listen to the voice of Mercy before I begin designing my heavy burden to wear. If only I would let Mercy tell me I don't have to do that. If only I would let Mercy keep that unnecessary weight off my shoulders.

But instead, I have a closet full of these cloaks, and innumerable more layered on my back.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
~Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Hope fosters hope, faith fosters faith, truth inspires confidence, and the light of joy can reach into even the darkest depths of sorrow.

These are lessons I've learned from the cyber world. Communication from long-distance friends, mass e-mails from a church member, or simple update newsletters are filled with such hope, faith, truth, and joy where I would never have expected to find it. These are from people whose beliefs should be shaken and whose faith should be waning -- burnt out believers, some whose faith has been tested and tried seemingly non-stop for the last year. Their stories are heart-breaking, but their words are so uplifting. They are simple words, not written to be printed and bound and passed on to future generations, but words meant to encourage their brothers and sisters who also feel the weight of this dark world bearing down on their chests, sometimes making it difficult just to breathe.

"Seriously, every time I think now about God and me and Christ and death and life and just blows my mind! I think all the time about what you said about "living and breathing gospel," and that really is such an inspiration to me. It needs to be my life. It needs to be what I am. I'm sitting here shaking my head in... awe, i guess... at what God is doing and has done and will be doing forever, and that's just with me! He's doing this same sort of stuff in people everywhere from every have I gone so long without seeing this?! without marvelling at it! without really wondering at it!"

"I had gotten in such the habit of looking for the broken places that needed the gospel - but I lost sight of the gospel in all of that, and lost sight of the God of Hope in all of that. We were at Summit Lake, and I think I started to realize that. And one night Bobby Armstrong prays this simple prayer. Finishes on "Thank you God for hope." and something just broke inside, and something lit up inside, and I laughed, and I cried. I always get to these desperate places of needing to hear the gospel, stripped and true. And God always blows my mind with those moments. Hearing people say, "I just need God" or this go round "Thank you God for Hope." I'm crying again just at the thought of those words - because that's the gospel. And my God how different the world looks in light of hope."

"My mother was a woman who loved the Lord, and she has received her reward. I understand submission, because I saw her live it every day —a strong, strong woman, and one who knew her place was to trust God. Submission doesn’t mean weak-willed passivity. It means strength voluntarily placed under the hand of God."

"Thank you for carrying us in prayer this last year. I believe that we had the physical and emotional strength to endure because of prayer. I believe that we were able to ask tough questions without chucking our faith because of prayer. I believe that the chemo effectively held the cancer in check because of prayer; I believe that Ann's body held up against the toxicity of the chemo because of prayer. I believe that Ann is alive today because of prayer. Thank you and praise God."

These friends found it important to share the hope, faith, truth, and joy God has stirred in their hearts in spite of their circumstances. They understand the value of encouragement, a word which actually means to come alongside. Though they weren't able to literally be next to me, I am so grateful that they took the time to come alongside me and to remind me of that which I have been promised - Hope.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceifulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
~Hebrews 3:13-14

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
~Hebrews 10:23-25

Sin is deceitful and hearts can so easily be hardened, but encouragement has an incredible ability to prevent such heartache. Let's encourage each other - let's come alongside even if we can't be next to each other - and help our brothers and sisters to breathe.

In the "comments" section feel free to leave any e-Hope you've received, or leave some of your own. It can be an oxygen tank of sorts.