Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something Encouraging

"In any case, you are in our thoughts and prayers…just look over the shoulder of whatever is bothering you, and know that Jesus is with you through it all and that whatever is bothering you will pass and Jesus will remain…"

This is from one of my uncles, I wanted to share it because it's such wise advice/encouragement.


I’ve been thinking recently about how people respond to me and to others who’ve experienced difficult situations and trauma... And I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference is between the responses that have soothed, encouraged, and given hope, and those that have hurt or frustrated me.

I was talking with some people recently who have had similar experiences to mine and we all pretty much agreed on what makes the difference between helping and hurting.

First, in order to help us, we need people to express love, empathy, compassion... Intellectual responses devoid of emotion expression are what makes us shut down faster than anything else. If there is no compassion, no empathy, no attempt to understand the struggle, there is no connection. Yes, we need to be encouraged with truth, scriptures, other peoples’ experiences... But if we don’t feel like people are trying to understand both our emotional reaction and our intellectual reaction, it’s hurtful and sometimes offensive. Intellectual reasoning can be very helpful; it just needs to be balanced with love. When we are in intense pain, when we are still trying to pull our thoughts together, while we are still in shock, whatever the case may be, we need empathy and love and active listening.

Second, many of us already know what we need to be doing and are trying to make our way in that direction. The reality is that there are stages we all go through as we process whatever it is that is causing the pain—and there are no shortcuts or ways to just make it go away. Avoiding it doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it fester. When we are in this process, we need people to be sensitive to where we are, and not try to fix us. Gentle encouragement is good, quick fix attempts are not.

Third, in my experience, one of the hardest parts of processing pain and suffering is trying to balance needing to allow myself to go through the emotional stages involved and the cognitive sorting out processes with not allowing myself to wallow in it for too long. That is really difficult. Where we are is where we are. With support we’ll get through it.

Fourth, and this should probably be first, if you don’t know what to say or how to respond, just tell us that. Listen, be compassionate, and give us support, but please don’t make something up because you feel like you have to say something. Don’t worry about needing to say something profound, just be with us.

I guess we can be like Job’s friends and make each other feel like Job—when he said:
“I have heard all this before.
What miserable comforters you are!
Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?
What makes you keep on talking?
I could say the same things if you were in my place.
I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.
But if it were me, I would encourage you.
I would try to take away your grief.
Instead, I suffer if I defend myself,
and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak. (Job 16)

Or we can help each other like this:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.... Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ (Luke 10)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
Albert Schweitzer

You can click on the image to see it bigger.

Friday, February 19, 2010


You can click on it to see it bigger.
That's a person in the middle holding a candle. Couldn't get it photographed very well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


If I were going to be completely honest about how I’m doing right now, I’d say that I’m tired. Tired of being in between life and Life. Tired of wondering how long the rest of this cancer process is going to take. Tired of lots of irritating low level physical symptoms that have started back up in the last week or so. Tired of being disappointed. Tired of waiting. Tired of things I wouldn’t put on here. Tired of drama. Tired of frigid weather. Tired of feeling ungraceful and ungracious and impatient and irritable. Tired of being tired.

The chorus of THIS song resonated with me tonight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tattoo Design... So Far.

It's about transformation, hope, resurrection, the spring, rebirth, all things being made new...
It's a collage made of various drawings my students have given me over the last four and a half years.
The bird, and probably the butterflies, will get moved up and around before it's all said and done.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


in the space between
life and Life


IT is there

but not
not much
not enough


martha depp 2.6.10

Monday, February 1, 2010


Yesterday I was reading Heaven again and was stunned by a thought. The thought was triggered by Randy Alcorn’s parallel between new leaves in the spring and the new life to come.

It occurred to me that there are parallels between our human life span, the twenty-four hour day we live in, the seasons of the year, God’s plan for the earth, and probably innumerable other things I can’t wrap my head around.

Our life span: We are born (birth), we live through our “prime” (life), we get old (deterioration- some of us younger than others), we “die” (death), we are transformed and made whole and new and perfect (resurrection).

Our twenty-four hour day: We rise in the morning to a new day (birth), we go about our day (life), we get tired and worn down in the evening (deterioration), we sleep (death), we wake again renewed (resurrection).

The four seasons: Spring (birth), summer (life), fall (deterioration), winter (death), and spring (resurrection).

The earth: Creation (birth), the time in the Garden of Eden (life), after the fall and ongoing (deterioration), all of the flawed/evil/painful on earth destroyed (death), and the renewal of ALL things (resurrection).

These parallels seem extraordinarily congruent...

I read somewhere that people who try to put life in a nutshell belong in one... And I know this is oversimplified, but as a general set of parallels, this makes a lot of sense to me.

This idea gave the term “spring fever” a whole different meaning. Of course I long for spring, and am full of energy and ecstatic when it comes with all of it’s freshness and color and newness—just like I long to wake up refreshed, just like I long for a transformed body, just like I long for the transformed New Earth. This is the same longing from the micro level to the macro level.

I’m not a math person. As in not at all—not remotely, but this set of parallels, of repeated patterns within patterns, reminds me of fractals. It’s seems as if God is the ultimate fractal artist/mathematician/creator of patterns. HERE is an example of a fractal.... THIS one and THIS one are gorgeous too. There are fractals in nature too... You can Google them if you feel so inclined, they’re pretty awesome.

THIS song makes a lot more sense, the lyrics are below but don't miss the video, it's beautiful. This set of parallels explains why I’ve listened to it more than 160 times. It’s because that deeper yearning is there, the yearning for the renewal of all things, the yearning for transformation, the yearning for all to be made right.

Morning Yearning
A fingers touch upon my lips
It’s a morning yearning
It’s a morning yearning
Pull the curtains shut try to keep it dark
But the sun is burning
The sun is burning

The world awakens on the run
And we’ll soon be earning
We’ll soon be earning
With hopes of better days to come
That’s a morning yearning
Morning yearning

Morning yearning…

Another day another chance to get it right
Must I still be learning?
Must I still be learning?
Baby crying kept us up all night
With her morning yearning
With her morning yearning

Morning yearning…

Like a summer rose I’m a victim of the fall
But am soon returning
Soon returning
Your love’s the warmest place the sun ever shines
My morning yearning
My morning yearning

Morning yearning…
© Ben Harper