Lessons From Prison:The Hand That Never Leaves You

“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” George Iles



Terkizi Oasis-Sahara Desert from space-NASA


This is a post of encouragement that should move our readers  profoundly. Please feel free to continue commenting on the SGM mess on the others posts. 

We would like to enlist the help of our readers.  Please read the following short post and write a comment of encouragement to our friend, Tommy Shore. 

Tommy became a good friend of my pastor who would visit him in prison and would bring him to our Sunday school class when permitted. I enjoyed speaking with him and asked him if he would ever want to tell his story. He took us up on the offer. TWW published his first post a year ago called God's Grace Revealed Through a Pair of Three Year old Reeboks. Here is LINK 


For those of you who do not remember his last post, here is his biography told in his own words.

 "I am 57 years old. I was born in Durham, N. C. and the youngest of 3 boys. I graduated from Jordan High School in Durham and was a quarterback in football and a point guard in basketball. I went to East Carolina University and played basketball there. I received my B.S. degree from ECU and worked as an Occupational Therapist for 2 years. I married my high school sweetheart and have 2 children, Erin and Bradley. I graduated with honors from Duke University's Physician Assistant Program and was enjoying a successful career in Orthopaedic Surgery until the onset of my addiction. 

Today I am divorced and working as a salesman at Rice's Glass Company. I was released from prison 6 months ago and truly enjoying, not only physical freedom, but spiritual freedom that only comes from Jesus Christ. I have had the wonderful opportunities to share my testimony at several churches and share of God' s message of hope. I still play pickup basketball as God has blessed me with good physical health. "


In this next story, he relates how he was brought to his very lowest, considering suicide and sadly viewing himself as "human detritus." However, in the midst of this, he experienced the presence of God.

Tommy teaches us that, even in the worst of circumstances, even when we have screwed up, God is in our midst, holding us, teaching us, loving us and weeping with us. Tommy's words are powerful. I wish I could get him to write a book because this is a man who could truly teach the church the meaning of the the word, "humility."




This is his story, told in his own words.


As I was lying in the fetal position on a cold jail cell floor I was obsessed with suicide due to a life of brokenness. I was alienated from everyone I had ever loved and totally devoid of hope. I felt overwhelmed with shame and guilt and was facing another prison sentence due to prescription drug addiction.

I came to the sad realization that I had nothing to live for and, as a result, I was the mere detritus of a human being. With a desperate last ray of hope I reached out my trembling hand to the God of my childhood. It was a last ditch effort to cling to divine assistance.

I was reminded of many years earlier when I was a young father with a wonderful and enjoying a successful professional career. I had graduated Magna Cum Laude from Duke University's Physician Assistant program and was employed in Orthopaedic Surgery. I had two wonderful children, Erin and Bradley. I was involved in a Rotary Club and coached little league at the YMCA.

It was at this moment of brokenness and state of consuming hopelessness that I reflected back to a traumatic moment in my son's life. Bradley had been swinging at a neighbor's house and when he went to jump off of the swing his feet got caught and he fell face-first on the hard ground. He was only 4 years old but immediately attempted to not cry but be a big boy for Daddy. This was a somewhat futile attempt as he split his gum and had dirt packed under the lacerated soft tissue.

I immediately picked him up and assessed the trauma and knew that his injury was going to necessitate a trip to the ER at the hospital that I was on staff at. My brave little boy was whimpering and trying so hard not to cry or seem scared but I could tell otherwise.

I began to tell him exactly what was going to happen, step-by-step at the hospital. His tearing eyes never left mine as I informed him of all that he would encounter. My heart broke as I held him close and could feel his fear and pain. He hung on every word that I said because he knew that I would be totally honest with him.

Sure enough, when we arrived at the hospital everything transpired just as I had told him. When I handed my son over to the nurse I knew, without a doubt, that I would not leave his side. My dear little boy was hurting and scared and I hurt with him. The doctor took a jet-lavage water pistol device and would utilize this to dislodge the dirt that was packed under the raw and bleeding gum. I knew how much this was going to hurt him.

They laid Bradley down on a table and wrapped him in a sheet and placed goggles on his eyes so he wouldn't get wet with the saline being sprayed. His eyes never left mine and my eyes never left my son's. My heart was breaking as the saline was being sprayed under pressure to his raw gum. I could see his tears falling and saw his pain and anxiety. At this moment, my little boy's hand came under the sheet reaching towards me.

There was no power in the world that would prevent me from reaching down and taking my son's trembling hand. He was scared and in pain but he knew where his support and comfort would come from.

And as I lay on the jail cell floor, desperately reaching up to my Heavenly Father, there was no power in the world that would prevent Him from reaching down and taking my trembling hand and providing the comfort and support that I so desperately needed at that time.

You can rest assured and remain confident that whatever painful event you are going through, God is aware of it and His hand will always be there for you, His child, to grasp hold of. And His eyes will never leave yours and nothing can come between you and Him.When you are scared or cry, His tears are mixed with yours and you can trust His words, " I will never leave you nor forsake you ".

Since that moment, I have grown in God's grace and continue to try and keep my eyes on Him. May you do the same.


We dedicate the next song to Tommy who so eloquently taught us how he came to Jesus.



Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 9:1-10:29 Acts 8:14-40 Psalm 130:1-8 Proverbs 17:2-3


Lessons From Prison:The Hand That Never Leaves You — 33 Comments

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    Wow, great post.

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    I considered saying more but prayed about it and think that God would simply like me to say, “Bless you, Tommy.” I will add you to my prayers of Thanksgiving that some people do come back from the abyss and give hope to those of us who have lost someone to suicide.

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    I’m not going to argue with you or question your decision to post what you’ve posted here rather than under another topic.

    I’m no fan of authoritarian churches either but comparing them to Auschwitz insults Jews and Christians alike, my friend.

    And please also know that your opinion of churches and the concept of Grace is just that.

    I, too, have been as sick as Tommy was and when I think of God’s Grace, one of the faces that comes to mind is that of an ordinary minister who cared for me without exhibiting any of the condemnation and shame you mention above.

    Bless you. Janna

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    I hear you. But, I have had 5 churches in my experience that have exhibited grace and love as well as an intellectually stimulating environment. It is the strength from those fellowships that demonstrate to me that God is alive and well in his church. I was able to see those who pervert His grace in a couple of other churches. I met Tommy in a grace full church. I only wish that you had had experienced such a place. But, they are out there.

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    The churches who strongest preach the “Doctrines of Grace” are the ones who seem to practice it least and really do not believe in grace as commonly defined and understood elsewhere. They are the Strong Calvinist(a)s. For them, Grace exists only for the elect, the chosen few, and the rest are condemned to hell. So if you disagree with them, you are obviously not elect and are a doomed sinner, which is a graceless attitude to have.

    I believe in a God of love, who extends, by grace, an offer to all. Grace is a gift, a love gift, that only needs to be accepted to be received (like any other gift, it can be rejected). Find a church that preaches about God’s love, more than about his sovereignty, his justice, or about condemnation, and you will find gracious people there as well. God has chosen to forgive those who stray if they but repent, turn to him for help in living, recognize that they cannot do it all on their own but need his help, and seek to follow and serve him.

    Stay away from churches that overtly state that their theology is reformed or Calvinist. Those are the “grace for the elect” people.

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    Thanks for your interesting comments. I like how you described grace. As an aside, I’ve noticed that there appears to be a lot of Calvinism-bashing on this site. 🙂 I don’t normally say anything about it because even though I’m about 24th-generation Calvinist on my mother’s side, he’s not my favorite historical figure nor do I consider myself a Calvinist in any meaningful way.

    However, I feel the need to point out that many people claiming to be Calvinist, such as some of the SGM crowd, have no idea what that term means historically. In my opinion and the opinion of people smarter and more scholarly than me, the Evangelical heavy-weights are hijacking and redefining Calvinism because it’s something they can rally the troops around.

    The point being that people who believe in predestination and the elect can most certainly exhibit grace John Calvin’s historial stern rectitude notwithstanding.

    Just a thought.


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    Having been brought up in Northern Ireland, a Calvinist stronghold, I’d have to agree with a lot of what you say. There is a deep spiritual error in the practice of Calvinism – it splits humanity into a ‘us’ and ‘them’ often with dire consequences. I think you’d like my story ‘The Prodigal Prophet’!

    Keep it simple and follow the Love flow.



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    When I was at my bottom and had no more strength to put one foot in front of the other, God reached down and touched my broken spirit. I was a self-centered drug addict and had lost everything that I had held dear. I did not deserve another chance. I was truly obsessed with suicide. But, for some reason, God saw a reason for me to live and I believe that is GRACE. I can’t describe it and although it seems simplified with a definition as ” unmerited favor ” it is far from that simple. Jesus gave His life on the cross as the ultimate gift of grace and I can only humbly accept it.

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    Hello Tommy:

    I like how you said that you can’t describe the Grace you felt. I, too, have been there. The idea that you haven’t really lived till you’ve lost everything is trite but true and people who have not felt that way look at the world differently than those who have, in my experience.

    In case that seems elitist, please know that I wouldn’t wish a major episode of anxiety and depression on anyone’s worst enemy and hope that anyone reading this never knows what it feels like to want to throw in the towel for good for even a moment.

    Tommy, I would only submit that God works in mysterious ways and therefore perhaps all the experiences you had, include the ones you feel guilty about, were part of God’s plan rather than character flaws that altered God’s plan.

    I certainly don’t look at you as broken failed person. I see humility in you that I don’t see in many successful celebrity pastors who are the picture of success by the world’s terms and others like them in different fields.

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    Northern Ireland is one place I’d like to visit. I never got higher than Edinburgh in Scotland.

    I don’t disagree that Calvinism can be divisive but would simply like to point out that organized religion in general has a tendency to put people in “us vs. them” categories.

    My only true problem with the Calvinism bashing and terms like “Calvinista” is that it implies that Calvinism is the problem underlying issues such as church abuse, and I really don’t think that’s the case. I apply the label Extreme Evangelicalism to movements I think are dangerous and yet that’s not the perfect way to describe the folks I’m trying to describe either.

    I guess we just need to be mindful about the effects and limitations of any terms we use.

    Best to all – Janna

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    Thank you for sharing your story. I am impressed with your ability to share about hurtful experiences. This is definitely a gift that needs to be shared with the world. It brought tears to my eyes.May God continue to bless your life.

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    What an incredible story. You helped me to see that God is with us in our darkest moments. Then he uses those moments to bless the lives of others. You have blessed my life.

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    Best story I have read all week. Thanks

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    Yes terms can be misleading. Abuse can happen in all traditions no matter what the labels. I do feel however that certain personality types are attracted to Calvinism in its ‘purest’ form.

    Though maybe I’m a Universalist Calvinist myself? A rare breed?

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    You have blessed me. May God be with you now and always.

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    @Dylan – thanks, I was “born” Calvinist in that my grandparents went to Calvin College and I at least one of them can trace the family tree back to a break with the Roman Catholic church in Germany quite some time ago. Thus I associate Calvinism/the Reformed Movement with less-than-interesting services at my suburban Church which had a 100% democratic polity, practically speaking.

    So even though I no longer embrace Calvinism, it’s non-trendy form (what I grew up with was not fraught with melodrama, believe me)is so much a part of my mindset that I’m not sure how the new Calvinist splinter groups operate.

    To wit, I was writing to a journalist in Louisville who was talking about how different groups of Calvinists in the SBC might not like and/or might like Dr. Mohler’s decision to drag the SBC into SGM’s mud pit.

    I didn’t have clue what he was talking about as the different Calvinist and anti-Calvinist groups he referenced sounded like political parties to me. The point being that I have no idea what pure Calvinism is anymore.

    Okay, this is Tommy’s post so you and I can chat about theological movements so other time in depth, Dylan. You’re welcome to ask Dee for my e-mail address if you like. Pleasure chatting with you.



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    I have been so touched by your story. As you have so vividly described, it is when we are desperate that we are most aware of God’s deep love for us as His children.

    I hope to meet you soon!


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    Tommy, I just wanted to say that sometimes there’s such a big difference between the way we see ourselves and the way others see us that we end up changing lives without evening knowing it.

    When I was not well a woman I barely knew cared for me wonderfully and courageously. She considered herself an agnostic but I never saw anything but the Grace of God flow through her.

    Like you, she felt she was broken due to the many mistakes she had made in her life. On a fundamental level she thought she’d failed a large portion of her life to date. By contrast, I think God put her on a path to being able to help the lives of people like me and it brings tears to my eyes even now to say there was never anything broken about her to me.

    I do not have a dramatic back story regarding depression and anxiety. I was just born with it and eventually it really went after me. But truthfully I’m glad that the person I was died during my last year of college, in a sense, because that person was not happy and not able to treat others with the compassion that this Janna can muster up at times.

    So I’m glad you’re speaking to others as you feel called and able to do so. Take care of yourself.

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    Tommy, You have given us a glimpse of Him in the pit of despair… right there with us. I know the road back was not easy. He never said it would be. Just that He is with us.

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    A Story About Grace From Someone Who Would Really Know the Meaning of That Word: A Holocaust Survivor

    I don’t mean to dominate this post but would like to share a take on Grace and it’s place in our lives from someone truly qualified to address the matter.

    When I was 13 a Holocaust survivor came to speak to my International School in Israel. I don’t remember many of the details of her story but know she had horrific experiences in cattle cars and survived at least two camps. The detail that seared itself into my mind was her description of seeing the jacket of Raquela, her 3-year-old daughter, in a pile of clothes outside a crematorium.

    Believe it or not I was once shy but I went up to her afterward and said, “What did you think about God in all this. After telling me that I was courageous for approaching her and asking a question (at my age I suppose) she said this:

    “You know how you have quarrels with your father? I had quarrels with God. But life has a price and we will never understand his ways.”

    It’s hard to to imagine more gracious take on God’s grace.

    For a long time if I felt persecuted for doing the right thing I would say at least life and God have not asked me to look at the coat of my daughter in a pile of clothes outside a crematorium but I don’t look at that way (on my good days at least) anymore.

    She’s right, life does a price but that price also comes with the privelege of helping ensure that others don’t experience what she experienced.
    And we will never God’s ways fully.

    And I leave that with you, my fellow posters.

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    Dee and Deb:

    Could you fix the post above. I only meant the title to be in bold. Thanks. Janna

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    Your description of what happened with your son and yourself at the hospital was very moving. Very powerful. The love a parent can have for their child… nothing quite like it. As pure as it can get for human beings (of course with plenty of imperfections)

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    When your at the throne of God’s sweeeeeeet grace…

    Flag me down, Cuz,  I’de  loved to chew da fat with ya, bro…

    In the mean time, I’ll be a pray’in for ya!

    Jesus is mighty fine, mighty fine..


    Put those spiritual “Chuck Allstars”  firmly in His court…
    you can’t go wrong…

    ya hear?


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    Tommy, My son is in a half way house after rehab for opiates-he’s so young. Pray for him cause I know the Lord has always had His Hand on him just like He has on you. You know how hard it is.

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    RE Janna L. Chan on Fri, Aug 05 2011 at 02:25 pm:

    Sobering story about the holocaust survivor to be sure. But how does the Augustinian/Roman Catholic/Reformed/Lutheran dogma about God’s unmerited favor (Grace) conflate with a Jewess who underwent unspeakable horrors during the Nazi regime given the fact that the Christo-centric doctrines of Grace are alien to the Jewish mind?

    On another level you wrote that we have the human power to stop such horrors as the holocaust before they even begin, to which I am all applause.

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    RE Elastigirl on Fri, Aug 05 2011 at 02:35 pm:

    When I was going down the toilet on a torrent of alcohol, it was those humans closest to me (wife, grandson etc.) who helped me to help myself. Imperfections? I’ll take those and the genuine love of one human to another over “spiritual” claptrap anyday.

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    @Muff Potter

    You’ve asked an excellent question, and I’m afraid to explore it in depth as this post is meant to be about Tommy’s story rather than complex theological issues.

    Therefore let me just repeat two themes that run through all my posts above: 1) the times I experienced God’s grace I couldn’t articulate it intellectually. In fact, I still can’t articulate it intellectually. 2)God’s grace is not limited to those who label themselves or who we would label as Christians.

    My hope is that those two thoughts give some food for thought to people (certainly not you, my friend) who become obsessed with primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues in lieu of having a direct relationship with God in addition to an intellectual relationship with God’s word.

    Fellow posters, I know what I said sounds controversial but let’s keep this post about Tommy and others suffering or who have suffered terribly from circumstances similar to his circumstances.

    I happily give Dee and Deb a blank check regarding giving my e-mail address to anyone who wants to chat with me directly about anything within reason.



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    Muff —

    “…it was those humans closest to me (wife, grandson etc.) who helped me to help myself. Imperfections? I’ll take those and the genuine love of one human to another over “spiritual” claptrap anyday.”

    Nothing like genuine love in action (tough and otherwise) from the people closest to us.

    Although genuine love in spiritual form (without the skin on) is entirely in a league of its own (if memory serves). I’m avoiding all christianese, which to me is some of that spiritual claptrap (for which I’ve developed quite a gag reflex). But for the sake of context, “love of God”. Experiential comfort kindness affirmation acceptance affection all on steroids. As Tommy can attest to.

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    When is your book coming out? I’m completely serious.

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    Janna — I’m feeling mighty complimented. Feels good.

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    @Elastigirl – feel as good as you like but I’m still serious. If you want to self publish I can help with that certainly 🙂

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    Fair enough Ms. Chan. Let it never be said that old Muff tried to hijack a topical thread with impertinence. (smiley-face emoticon goes here)

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    @Muff – the smiley face will appear if you type this sequence colon, dash, closing parentheses (or is it parenthese singular)

    Tragically if I literally demonstrate that 🙂 a smiley face will appear making it hard to describe the process.

    Arguably I hijacked the thread by getting getting into Calvinism and grace. I feel more comfortable answering now as others have had a chance to make comments while this was the featured post.

    The simple answer to your question would be that Grace never felt like unmerited mercy or any other intellectual conception to me. It felt like I was experiencing God’s love directly. Also, I’m not a Talmud scholar but Jews and people of many other religious traditions have a conception of Grace, in my experience/view. It’s not just a Christian thing.

    We traditionally say “therefore but for the Grace of God go I” when we look at homeless folks indicating that Grace is pejorative in essence. Now I look at it as “therefore but for the Grace of God go I” in a positive sense because without Grace I’d be another anxious unhappy affluent corporate lawyer instead of being a person who sometimes is able and willing to help others. such as those unfortunate enough to be homeless, in a very meaningful way.

    Thanks for your considered comment.