Tag Archives: Trials

Breaking the Rules

It’s not about mercy
if your destination is Alcatraz

It’s not about rehabilitation
if you’ve ended up here on the Rock

Don’t plan to escape
if you try the dig, dash, and dive
you won’t be eating shark dinner
in San Fran by nightfall

You’ll be shark dinner

Best to avoid breaking the rules

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For the Poetics Prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today, Mish wants us to write a poem inspired by a sign. I chose the sign we saw while waiting in line to go on a tour of Alcatraz in San Francisco a couple of years ago. I’m glad I never had to spend hard time in a cell like the one below. Not that I’ve always followed the rules, but I never broke the ones that would land you here.

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Valley of Trouble

There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
Hosea 2:15 (NIV).

When from sin you need set free
When God’s hope you cannot see
When from Satan you must flee
Enter the Valley of Achor

When all you desire are sun’s rays
When you don’t know how to live today
When there’s nothing left but to pray
Enter the Valley of Achor

When the horses of anguish lope
When you need faith just to cope
When you’re seeking the Lord’s hope
Enter the Valley of Achor

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Billy Austin

Did you ever get a song
stuck in your head?
A happy little jingle
about sunshine ahead?

In my head tonight
is Billy Austin’s
Tale of tragic plight
Come listen

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I’ve been trying to write my 30-word poems this month without commentary. Each poem has presented challenges because of my self-imposed 30-word limit, but none so much as this one. Perhaps I should have waited until May to write this poem, but I decided to add an explanation instead.

Over the past week the song Billy Austin by Steve Earle has been running through my head. I know all the words by heart. It is a sad tale, a commentary on one aspect of our culture of death. It reminds me that the death penalty is a bit like us playing God when we have no business doing so. I cannot listen to this song without a tear (or two or ten) welling up in my eyes.

I hope you’ll take a moment to follow this YouTube link and give it a listen. Bring your tissues. And you can read the lyrics here.

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A Mini-Psalm

“He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Psalm 116:8 (NLT).

Dark fog surrounded me
Torrential tears drowned
I besought God,
Grant me relief from my despair

He answered me
Cleared away dark clouds
Dried my tears
Praise be to God

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Judas

Hey Judas
Traitor
Was it worth it?

Thirty pieces of silver
can’t buy loyalty
love or salvation

And you can’t
return them
and regain what you
gave up for naught

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Lost

Cerulean sky
An honest sun
Warm spring breeze
In an instant undone

This sun is a liar
On a crisp fall day
When everything changed
And I lost my way

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Light and Momentary

His light and momentary trouble
hanging on the cross
far outweighs my trials
each and every loss

He gained my salvation
eternal life with God
By His sacrifice I’m awed

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Extremes

Thirty words seem easy
compared to thirty thousand or more
needed for a memoir

With only thirty
you can just delete
all the ones you really don’t want to share

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Showing My Scars

This Saturday I’ll be speaking at a conference called Shattering Stigma with StoriesI attended this event last year and experienced the powerful and informative stories of real people who struggle with mental illnesses, including anorexia, depression, and bipolar disorder. One of my writing friends, Leanne Sype, was one of the speakers. When we later met for coffee, I mentioned that I had a strong desire to tell my story and that I was drawn to this ministry. So she arranged for me to meet with the woman who created the Shattering Stigma ministry at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church.

Well, almost a year later I’d all but forgotten about this ministry, thinking they were never going to ask me to speak at their conference. That’s when Leanne contacted me to ask if I would be on a trauma panel. It didn’t take much thought to know the answer was yes.

So, the conference is this Saturday. Oh wait, I said that already. Can you tell I’m excited?

It seems weird to be excited about telling my story of having endured trauma and struggled with symptoms of PTSD and depression as a result. But I am excited because I know that God will use my story, just as He used the stories of the speakers last year, to shine a light on the truth about people with mental illnesses. That truth is that they—we—are loved by God. He desires to step into our circumstances and bring hope and healing. He desires for us to be a part of His Church and He expects His Church to minister to us in the midst of our struggles and pain.

He expects us to show the scars of the wounds He has healed so that others may find healing, too.

 

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Pondering the Why of Suffering

When Jesus and his disciples encountered the man born blind as recorded in John 9, the disciples wanted to know why he’d been born blind. Was it the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that had caused this tragedy?

Why me? Why her? It’s a question we all ask in the face of tragedy and suffering. I know I do. Why did my mom have cancer not once, but three times? Why did her dad die of cancer when she was only 14? Why did my sister die of cancer at only 61?

Why was I raped by someone I thought I could trust when I was only 14? Why was I faced with the impossible situation of a teen pregnancy because of being raped again when I was only 17? Was all this tragedy ordained by God to make me the person I am today? Would I have been less compassionate and more judgmental if I’d never experienced all the suffering I have?

I have a friend who is a Christian and yet she lacks empathy and compassion. Her words reveal the pride and judgment of others that flow from her heart. She hasn’t experienced the trauma I have or anything close to it as far as I can tell. I wonder if I would have been just like her—legalistic and critical—if I’d been spared the fertile soil of suffering that mercy needs to grow.

Or perhaps my suffering and my mother’s suffering are God’s punishment for the sins of her parents, my grandparents, or even earlier generations. There is certainly scripture to support the conclusion that God punishes the children for the sins of the parents even to multiple generations.

Then again, my own suffering may have been the result of my own sin. The first time I was raped happened in large part because I disobeyed my parents and hung out with the guy who did it. And after that it was one sin after another that led to more suffering.

I’ll probably never know why this side of Heaven. I can speculate until I’m blue in the face and never know for sure. So perhaps it’s most profitable to stop asking why and focus on the next part of the story of the man born blind.

Jesus answers His disciples, saying that the man was born blind that God might be glorified. Then He heals the man. He gives the man who had never seen so much as a blade of grass full sight. He took the man’s utter darkness and gave him light.

He did the same for me and that’s what matters. He healed my brokenness that He might be glorified. I’ll admit that there are days when even that answer can cause tears of anger to well up in my eyes. Couldn’t there have been an easier way for God to be glorified than for me to struggle under the weight of multiple traumas?

Then I remember the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail by Pharaoh for a betrayal he didn’t commit, and then ultimately raised to a position of power in Egypt. When his brothers came to him for food in time of famine, fearing he would punish them for the wrong they had committed against him, Joseph responded: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV).

I ponder that perhaps God intended the harm that has befallen me for good, to accomplish great things for Him. This helps me let go of the “why” questions and focus on where I can encourage others who have been through similar circumstances and haven’t yet found His healing light. Perhaps I can even be used by God to save many lives.

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