June 30, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham, a life for Him

Stephen Griffith, June 19, 2007

One of the great pleasures of my life was knowing and working with Ruth Bell Graham for more than 20 years.

When I first meet authors with whom I may work, I always ask them to name their favorite book. It’s a test to see a little bit of the character of the author. When I asked Ruth on our first meeting, without hesitation she answered, Men of the Covenant. Surprised, I responded, “Do you mean Alexander Smellie’s book about the persecution of the Scottish Church?” She just smiled and I suddenly realized it was more a test of me than of her. From that moment on we became fast friends.

Over the years I served Ruth as book developer, editor, agent and occasionally as the collator of her notes into rough chapters. We spent many hours talking books, poetry, theology, as well as details of her life. She also always asked, and showed interest, in the mundane details of my life.

Besides my time with her, I’ve spent weeks and months combing through her writings and poetry, changing and rechanging her edits. She could never leave well-enough alone. One week she would add a comma to a poem only to take it off a week later. Without fail, just days after a book was published, I would receive a copy of the book from Ruth marked up with changes for the next printing.

I’ve also spent many hours rummaging through her famous pack-rat attic looking for notes, photos, and other odds and ends. When it became difficult for her to climb the stairs, she would sit on the bottom step trumpeting instructions and asking for a play by play as I went through boxes. She only asked that I not look through one particular box. I can’t say I wasn’t sorely tempted to peak because they were love letters from Ruth to Billy and from Billy to Ruth. But I never yielded to the temptation.

I realized, in the two days between her death and her funeral, that I knew Ruth Bell Graham better than I knew anyone else in my life.

I’ve also learned more from her than anyone else.

My first lesson in working with numerous authors is that once put on a pedestal, about the only way off is to fall. Ruth showed that she could climb down and come along-side those of us down below. She was Christ-like in her ability not to be swayed by fame and public perceptions. She was truly “no respecter of persons.” She offered the same hospitality (sometimes to the utter horror of her staff) to anyone who knocked on the entrance to her home, whether it was the President of the United States and his wife, or someone who scaled the fence and arrived disheveled and seemingly off his meds.

Her often hilarious take on life was never at the expense of someone else. I learned from Ruth that the best humor never made fun of others. Her humor was self-deprecating and according to her, the material was endless. Making fun of herself also served the purpose of making her more accessible to those of us who also, often unintentionally, are the butt of our own jokes.

Putting her car in forward instead of reverse and careening off a cliff into a tree would be something many of us would rather not be circulated and would be better forgotten. It was a story she delighted in and she insisted we tell in several books. In fact, today if you look down the cliff in front of the Graham house, you will see a stop sign attached to a tree at the bottom of the hill.

Also Chistlike was her compassion. She would give someone the dress off her back. In fact, she did. I heard a story about an African pastor at a world evangelism conference who felt he could not return home without something for his wife. Ruth, hearing the distress in his voice found something to change into and gave him the dress she was wearing to take to his spouse. To me, it seemed too good of a story to believe and Ruth, of course, would not verify it. I finally tracked down an eyewitness to the scene who verified it so I could share it with the world.

Ruth was the most well-read person I’ve ever met. Her knowledge was vast—biblical knowledge, puritan writings, current non-fiction and some popular fiction (Jan Karon and Patricia Cornwell were great friends, but so were C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald whom she only knew from their books). Her ability to retain the knowledge she gained from reading seemed limitless. And although I tried hard to keep up with her reading, I never had her unique alchemy of turning knowledge into wisdom.

No one was as loyal in friendship as Ruth Graham. If you stopped being friends with Ruth, it was something you did, not her. And the nearest thing to judgment I received from her was when my hair was down to my shoulders. Instead of suggesting I get a haircut, she gave me some of her scrunchies to pull it back.

There is much more that I could say about Ruth, but the truth is, it would take several volumes. Suffice it to say, whenever I study the attributes and character of Jesus, it is Ruth that illustrates his love, faith, meekness, compassion, forgiveness, peace, gentleness, and goodness,

One of my great regrets will be never finishing our last book, How to Marry a Preacher and Remain a Christian. The book would have been funny, compassionate, erudite, loving toward her husband, and practical in her advice to spouses of ministers and evangelists. It would have been just like the Ruth I knew and loved. I will miss her dearly.


we all need a hug :)

This is something we all need...and it made me cry :)

Please go here :)


June 25, 2007

the Bible among other teachings

a dear friend [XXXX] emailed me and another friend [----] recently...

[XXXX's letter]

Hi ---- and [Teci]:

I found the following site. It is exciting since this website offers a lot of bible reference as well as more recent church documents about almost all Catholic dogma. I hope you will also find yourself open to knowing these and at the same time amused of these, praising our God for His beautiful saving plan for all -- even to the Gentiles, us.



and my reply...

hi XXXX! hi ----! :) XXXX thanks for taking the time to email us ha :) i just got to the site this afternoon...

i was glad to know that there's a Biblical Catholic website :) actually we [you me and ---] know of many Bible-believing Catholics :)

i first looked at the articles on Peter, Mary, and Sola Scriptura...

they're so long! and in the section on Mary there's even a debate. i won't go into detail because the website and other experts have tackled them more comprehensively. pero i'd just like to cite two to three statements regarding the Bible (anyway they talk of the same idea...):

A. from http://www.scripturecatholic.com/scripture_alone.html:
"I. Scripture Alone Disproves "Scripture Alone"

From Genesis to Revelation - Scripture never says that Scripture is the sole infallible authority for God's Word. Scripture also mandates the use of tradition. This fact alone disproves sola Scriptura."

teci's reply:

A0. If "Scripture mandates the use of tradition", then those things are in Scripture too...so, if there are traditions being followed until now like the Eucharist, we do them because they're written in Scripture. (sorry if it seems like we're going in circles, this has a point!) Then does that not show the authority of Scripture as well?

We have to follow what is said in God's Word. When non-Catholics talk about tradition, they are most probably talking of traditions outside the Bible. It seems strange to use the above quote as an argument to undermine Scriptural authority. Interestingly this is the last point I noticed! It sounds like it undermines Scripture but it actually upholds Scripture! (Probably the author didn't see this too...)

A1. I can't find it now, pero i think in http://www.scripturecatholic.com/mary_qa.html din, there was something John Salza said (he's the one defending Catholicism) about just because something is not written in the Bible doesn't mean it's not true. Ironically the same argument can be used by non-Catholics, for example in replying to the above quotation. I hope these kinds of arguments are not used because they can be used to "prove" anything. :) I mean, I can also answer that "just because something is not written in the Bible doesn't mean it's not true". (Sorry for being philosophical/annoying, I just saw it on the website though i still can't prove it hehe...)

A2. Whatever is not said by Scripture (A1 looks like a circular endless argument so let's skip that), there have been many warnings about false teachings. (Please, it's not my wish to attack anybody! As XXXX said, "Peace" :) ) My point is, let's be careful because it's possible, even easy, to be led astray.

For example, Peter warned against false teachers and their condemnation (2 Peter 2:1-3, 10-12):

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping...

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

John also spoke about antichrists (1 John 2:18-27):

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

My point is there have been many Jesus and His apostles and church leaders (early, until now!) about false teachings. Now how can we be sure that we're believing what is correct and true? Let's look to the Bible, recognized by both Catholics and Protestants as God's Word :)

A3. Following from A2, the issue (the main one?) dividing Catholics and Protestants is the Sola Scriptura claim. Personally and I'm sure it's not just me, we can all be inspired by our church leaders: Pope John Paul (ei XXXX i really really like him :) ), our priests, our pastors. Obviously they didn't write the Bible but we are encouraged by them, our faith increased, and so on.
But the question is what if a pastor says something that is ungodly/immoral/wrong? How can we make such a judgment in the first place? Our standard should be God's standard: since we all agree that the Bible is God's Word, then we can be confident if we use the Bible as our standard.
Definitely the doctrines of the Catholic Church Fathers helped in explaining the Christian faith to their flock. But again, what if a teaching does not agree with the Bible? What and Whose teaching are we going to choose?

A4. Connected to A3...Since we have the teachings of some Church Fathers dating back to the time of the apostles, how come they're not included in the Bible itself? (That would make things easier so that people nowadays won't debate/discuss these issues right?) The explanation I heard is that the believers --- including people who themselves saw and lived with Jesus --- saw value in the other writings but did not view them as divinely inspired so they didn't include them in the Canon or official Bible books. (Of course this is from our pastors; I don't know the Catholic Church's official stand here.)
Here's my point. If some writings are included in the Bible and some aren't, and those who decided were the people who were actually with Jesus (or, since it took some centuries din to establish the final canon, the experts and leaders of the faith), maybe we should look more into their criteria. Did our ancestors in the faith differentiate between the Bible and other writings? Did they hold the Bible as equally or more important than other writings? What does that imply for us believers now?

B. from http://www.scripturecatholic.com/mary_qa.html

J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, where does the Bible say anything about "biblical authority"? Please explain what you mean by this, since it evidently is the premise upon which your whole apologetic is based. Of course, I agree that the Bible is an authority; it is the written Word of God. But that same Bible doesn't teach that it is the only authority."

teci's reply:

Generally same reply as in A :) again, does the Bible teach that it is NOT the only authority?

Let's look at what the Bible DOES say about God's Word...

Now listen, Israel, listen carefully to the rules and regulations that I am teaching you to follow so that you may live and enter and take possession of the land that God, the God-of-Your-Fathers, is giving to you. Don't add a word to what I command you, and don't remove a word from it. Keep the commands of God, your God, that I am commanding you. (Deuteronomy 4:1-2)

I give fair warning to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If you add to the words of this prophecy, God will add to your life the disasters written in this book; if you subtract from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will subtract your part from the Tree of Life and the Holy City that are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don't add to it; don't subtract from it.
(Deuteronomy 12:32)

Jesus commented, "Even more blessed are those who hear God's Word and guard it with their lives!" (Luke 11:28)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Catholics and Protestants agree that the Bible is God's written Word. Catholics and Protestants agree that Catholic doctrines and dogma are written by leaders of the Catholic Church.

The two groups disagree on whether the Catholic doctrines and dogma are divinely inspired or not, and their relative importance. Again I will just go back to asking, IF there are inconsistencies between the Bible and other teachings, what would we believe? What would we choose?

Thanks again so much XXXX, for hearing me out on this (and emailing me and ---- in the first place) :) i really appreciate it :) ei, let's not fight ok! (the debate in http://www.scripturecatholic.com/mary_qa.html was really getting personal. love as God loves!)

thanks and see you around! may God continue to reveal more of Himself to us as we walk with Him every moment :)

June 21, 2007

"Where have evolutionists gone wrong?"

[teci: this article is well-written. as a scientist who believes in evolution, Prof. Pagel treats with utmost respect people who are neither scientists nor evolutionists. This article shows that it is possible to be objective yet respectfully maintain your stand on an issue. may we creationists do the same :) ]

[lastly, NOTE how many people are NOT believing in evolution anymore!]

Selling evolution
by Mark Pagel [1]
Nature 447, 533 (31 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447533a; Published online 30 May 2007

BOOK REVIEWED-Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives
by David Sloan Wilson
Delacorte Press: 2007. 400 pp. $24

Evolutionary biologists — those enthusiastic foot-soldiers of Darwin's grand notion that life evolves by a process of descent with modification — cannot understand why so many people reject the great man's theory, and often in favour of some form of creationist account of the existence and diversity of life on Earth. In the opening pages of David Sloan Wilson's new popular-science book, hopefully entitled Evolution for Everyone, we discover that 54% of adults in the United States prefer to believe that humans did not evolve from some earlier species. What makes this figure surprising is that it is up from 46% in 1994.

Where have the evolutionists gone wrong? One answer is staring them in the face but not often noticed. A double irony is that it derives from their own theory: if people differ in the strength or conviction of their religious beliefs, if children tend to acquire religious beliefs from their parents, and if religious people, for whatever set of reasons, tend to have more children, then it follows from Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection that religious belief will spread: quod erat demonstrandum.

The other answer is the one that evolutionary biologists, including Sloan Wilson, prefer and it provides him with the impetus for this agreeable little book: that if the evidence for darwinian evolution is presented clearly enough and often enough, any reasonable person will come around to the darwinian view. What is there to say? The usual answer, that we share more than 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, is becoming hackneyed. It is the strangeness of human behaviour that really puts the darwinian view to the test. And here there is much to discuss. We have enormous brains that make us shrewd beyond belief in comparison to other animals, we have the only fully developed symbolic language on the planet, we cooperate with and engage in elaborate task-sharing and reciprocal relations with people we don't know, we help the elderly, give money to charities, put on matching silly shirts to attend football matches, obediently wait in queues, die for our countries or even sometimes for an idea, and we positively ripple and snort with righteousness and indignation when we think others don't do some of these things. We even have a word for this sense of how others ought to behave — morality. Chimpanzees, and for that matter other animals, aren't like this. No wonder the creationists don't believe the darwinian account.

A popular view among students of human evolution is that special ideas may be needed to explain what is sometimes called our 'extreme sociality' — the helping, reciprocity and morality. Sloan Wilson is among the principal advocates of the view that humans have evolved by a process of 'group selection' in which groups of people — our hunter-gatherer or early tribal ancestors — worked together in ways that allowed them to outcompete other groups. Over time, this process moulded our psychology and social behaviour so that we became, as Sloan Wilson puts it, like cells in a body, or bees in a hive, devoted to the well-being of our group. Laughter, music, dance and religion are interpreted as aids to promoting a sense of group membership and mutual well-being. Sloan Wilson pays particular attention to ways in which religions prohibit murder and other antisocial behaviour within the group but offer rewards for those who use it against people outside the group.

The group-selection account is seductive, explanatory and may even be right, but what about our tendencies to cheat, deceive, manipulate and coerce? Why do we need so many laws, police forces, jails, speed cameras and tax offices? Why do we gossip incessantly about others' behaviours and reputations? Why do we compete so strenuously to get ahead and pay so much to get our children educated? Cells in our bodies and bees in hives are much better behaved, and don't have big brains like we do. Might it just be that the 3.5 billion years of selfish darwinian natural selection that preceded the invention of humans bequeathed us a legacy — of a species whose behaviours are largely driven by the selfish desire to promote ourselves and our offspring? Could it be that we humans acquired our supreme intelligence at least in part to manipulate social systems in ways that promote our individual reproductive success?

The intellectual ravine separating these two camps rises on the one side to a view of human behaviour as being for the good of the group and on the other to the view that it makes use of the group for individual benefit. It is a delicate and subtle debate and Sloan Wilson's popular accounts in Evolution for Everyone make for enjoyable and thoughtful reading. But perhaps even Sloan Wilson should not expect to change people's minds about religion. If our minds evolved to help us wade through the complexity of social life, to use groups for our own gain, and to help us rebound from 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', which set of beliefs, on balance, will be more useful, religious ones (whether true or not) or a belief in natural selection?

[1] Mark Pagel is professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AH, UK.

June 14, 2007

the Giver and not the gifts: Don Stewart is for profit, not a prophet!

first off: i have a sign on my research lab desk that says:
We Don't Believe in Miracles. We Rely on Them.

just to say that i'm all for great miracles from a great God :)


i came across a telecast (on local Philippine tv!!!) about the miraculous healing powers through a green prosperity prayer cloth. i sat there, openmouthed. i just had to write this (see below), the same thing i sent them through their prayer request form.

but in all things, speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) :) aye aye, sir!

(it seems i'm not the only one reacting violently about this guy:
* Finances, Fraud and False Teaching: The Troubled History of Don Stewart
* A Most Essential Question: How Many People are Truly Educable?

anyways, here's my reply to them :)


To --------- :

I'm happy to see that multitudes have been miraculously blessed by your ministry :) However, I saw your telecast about the "Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth", and I'm very concerned about the message that might be conveyed to your viewers.

#1. At the top of the Prayer Requests page, you included Acts 19:10-12 but the words read "This is a point of contact". Where exactly is that quote found? I looked at several versions of the Bible courtesy of www.biblegateway.com. I suppose the "point of contact" being referred to here might mean the place of Tyrannus, where Paul and the other Christians met daily. But again, the exact term is NOT IN THE BIBLE, and this is QUITE different from referring to handkerchiefs as such (as elaborated in #2).

#2. A handkerchief, a bracelet, and other objects as "Biblical points of contact"? Let us be careful not to diminish the power of God as we enlarge the importance of the instruments He uses. I quote the verse below because although it talks about a different matter, it raises the same point:

"And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." (Matthew 3:9 NIV)

Although the handkerchief is useful, God can and will be able to heal and bless us without it. He has done so for two thousand years. I do not wish to put you down in any way but I hope you are able to realign your focus and refresh your perspective.

#3. You quoted Acts 19:12 both in the broadcast and here in the website. But let us look at the larger context by including the first part of the sentence --- the preceding verse --- where I capitalized two words:

"GOD did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that EVEN handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." (Acts 19:11-12 NIV)

Again, the emphasis is on God Himself who heals, in some cases with handkerchiefs but not always. Viewers may be misled because you quoted this in the telecast then said "Clearly this is the Biblical pattern," which might lead others to think that they *MUST* have handkerchiefs to be healed or blessed financially.

#4. In the margin for your website, I noticed that the lowermost link, for "Donations", is quite larger than anything else. Several paragraphs in the website and some of the book titles do not even have the word "God" in them. Again, what message would this convey?

I hope that these questions and comments might be of service to you. May God bless and use you more as you seek to honor Him and Him alone.

Thank you very much.

Teci Pulido

June 12, 2007

for scientists and everyone else: honesty is the first step in the search for truth :)

from TOP scientific journal "Nature"
Published online: 11 April 2007; | doi:10.1038/446709a

Physicists question model of the Universe

The search continues for a non-standard theory.
Cosmologists gathered in London last month to voice their concerns over the current 'standard' model of the Universe. "There is a sense of desperation," says participant Douglas Scott, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "The standard model is horribly ugly, but the data support it."

For most in the field, that desperation stems from two unexplained ingredients in the standard model: dark matter, thought to help ordinary matter clump together to form galaxies; and dark energy, invoked to explain the observation that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

But physicists are increasingly questioning the model itself. Richard Lieu, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is one of those with doubts. He says he organized the meeting, at Imperial College London, "for scientists to come forward and present any misgivings they may have about the standard model", although he invited speakers from all sides of the debate.

A broad consensus over the standard model has emerged over the past decade. It is based on diverse lines of evidence, such as measurements of the radiation left over from the early Universe (known as the cosmic microwave background), the distribution of galaxies and the brightness of distant supernovae.

Scientists at the meeting were asked to re-examine assumptions made when these observations were analysed. For example, Subir Sarkar, from the University of Oxford, UK, argued that data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe (WMAP) — the NASA satellite that measured the cosmic microwave background with unprecedented precision — make sense without dark energy if density perturbations in the early Universe had a different pattern to that usually assumed, and if our patch of the Universe differs from other parts. This explanation might seem more complicated than the standard model, says Sarkar, but he counters that invoking dark energy is "a profound problem from the viewpoint of fundamental physics". Attendees were also asked to question the actual data. Speakers pointed out oddities in WMAP's maps of the microwave sky, such as the alignment of patterns on different scales along what has been cheekily dubbed an 'axis of evil', and the presence of more variation in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. Such unlikely effects could just be statistical quirks, but they seed uncertainty about how the measurements are being interpreted.

For the time being, proponents of the standard model say that they have yet to see a compelling theoretical alternative, but encourage those people who pursue them. "I doubt that anyone left that meeting convinced about some new idea," says Scott. "But having one's mind opened a little bit is healthy."

where is God when it hurts...in virginia tech?

Where Is God When It Hurts?
A sermon given on the Virginia Tech campus two weeks after the shootings.

We gather here still trying to make sense of what happened in Blacksburg, still trying to process the unprocessable. We come together in this place, as a Christian community, partly because we know of no better place to bring our questions and our grief and partly because we don't know where else to turn. As the apostle Peter once said to Jesus, at a moment of confusion and doubt, "Lord, to whom else can we go?"
In considering how to begin today, I found myself following two different threads. The first thread is what I would like to say, the words I wish I could say. The second thread is the truth.
I wish I could say that the pain you feel will disappear, vanish, never to return. I'm sure you've heard comments like these from parents and others: "Things will get better." "You'll get past this." "This too shall pass." Those who offer such comfort mean well, and it's true that what you feel now you will not always feel. Yet it's also true that what happened on April 16, 2007, will stay with you forever. You are a different person because of that day, because of one troubled young man's actions.
I remember one year when three of my friends died. In my thirties then, I had little experience with death. In the midst of my grief, I came across these lines from George Herbert that gave me solace: "Grief melts away / Like snow in May / As if there were no such cold thing." I clung to that hope even as grief smothered me like an avalanche. Indeed, the grief did melt away, but like snow it also came back, in fierce and unexpected ways, triggered by a sound, a smell, some fragment of memory of my friends.
So I cannot say what I want to say, that this too shall pass. Instead, I point to the pain you feel, and will continue to feel, as a sign of life and love. I'm wearing a neck brace because I broke my neck in an auto accident. For the first few hours as I lay strapped to a body board, medical workers refused to give me pain medication because they needed my response. The doctor kept probing, moving my limbs, asking, "Does this hurt? Do you feel that?" The correct answer, the answer both he and I desperately wanted, was, "Yes. It hurts. I can feel it." Each sensation gave proof that my spinal cord had not been severed. Pain offered proof of life, of connection—a sign that my body remained whole.

Love and Pain
In grief, love and pain converge. Cho felt no grief as he gunned down your classmates because he felt no love for them. You feel grief because you did have a connection. Some of you had closer ties to the victims, but all of you belong to a body to which they too belonged. When that body suffers, you suffer. Remember that as you cope with the pain. Don't try to numb it. Instead, acknowledge it as a perception of life and of love.
Medical students will tell you that in a deep wound, two kinds of tissue must heal: the connective tissue beneath the surface and the outer, protective layer of skin. If the protective tissue heals too quickly, the connective tissue will not heal properly, leading to complications later on. The reason this church and other ministries on campus offer counseling and hold services like this one is to help the deep, connective tissue heal. Only later will the protective layer of tissue grow back in the form of a scar.
We gather here as Christians, and as such we aspire to follow a man who came from God 2,000 years ago. Read through the Gospels, and you'll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: "My Lord and my God!" Do you know who said that? It was doubting Thomas, the disciple stuck in grief, the last holdout against believing the incredible news of the Resurrection.
In a tender scene, Jesus appeared to Thomas in his newly transformed body, obliterating Thomas's doubts. What prompted that outburst of belief, however—"My Lord and my God!"—was the presence of Jesus' scars. "Feel my hands," Jesus told him. "Touch my side." In a flash of revelation, Thomas saw the wonder of Almighty God, the Lord of the universe, stooping to take on our pain.
God doesn't exempt even himself from pain. God joined us and shared our human condition, including its great grief. Thomas recognized in that pattern the most foundational truth of the universe: that God is love. To love means to hurt, to grieve. Pain is a mark of life.
The Jews, schooled in the Old Testament, had a saying: "Where Messiah is, there is no misery." After Jesus, you could change that saying to: "Where misery is, there is the Messiah." "Blessed are the poor," Jesus said, "and those who hunger and thirst, and those who mourn, and those who are persecuted." Jesus voluntarily embraced every one of these hurts.
So where is God when it hurts? We know where God is because he came to earth and showed us his face. You need only follow Jesus around and note how he responded to the tragedies of his day: with compassion—which simply means "to suffer with"—and with comfort and healing.
I would also like to answer the question why? Why this campus rather than Virginia Commonwealth or William and Mary? Why these 33 people? I cannot tell you, and I encourage you to resist anyone who offers a confident answer. God himself did not answer that question for Job, nor did Jesus answer why questions. We have hints, but no one knows the full answer. What we do know, with full confidence, is how God feels. We know how God looks on the campus of Virginia Tech right now because God gave us a face, a face that was streaked with tears. Where misery is, there is the Messiah.
Not everyone will find that answer sufficient. When we hurt, sometimes we want revenge. We want a more decisive answer. Frederick Buechner said, "I am not the Almighty God, but if I were, maybe I would in mercy either heal the unutterable pain of the world or in mercy kick the world to pieces in its pain." God did neither. He sent Jesus. God joined our world in all its unutterable pain in order to set in motion a slower, less dramatic solution, one that involves us.
One day a man said to me, "You wrote a book called Where Is God When It Hurts, right?" Yes. "Well, I don't have much time to read. Can you just answer that question for me in a sentence or two?" I thought for a second and said, "I guess I'd have to answer that with another question: 'Where is the church when it hurts?'"
The eyes of the world are trained on this campus. You've seen satellite trucks parked around town, reporters prowling the grounds of your school. Last fall, I visited Amish country near the site of the Nickel Mines school shootings. As happened here, reporters from every major country swarmed the hills of Pennsylvania, looking for an angle. They came to report on evil and instead ended up reporting on the church. The Amish were not asking, "Where is God when it hurts?" They knew where God was. With their long history of persecution, the Amish weren't for a minute surprised by an outbreak of evil. They rallied together, embraced the killer's family, ministered to each other, and healed wounds by relying on a sense of community strengthened over centuries.
Something similar has taken place here in Blacksburg. You have shown outrage against the evil deed, yes, but you've also shown sympathy and sadness for the family of the one who committed it. Cho, too, has a memorial on this campus.

Life Matters
The future lies ahead, and you're just awakening to the fact that you are an independent moral being. Until now, other people have been running your life. Your parents told you what to do and made decisions for you. Teachers ordered you around in grammar school, and the pattern continued in high school and even into college. You now inhabit a kind of halfway house on the way to adulthood, waiting for the real life of career and perhaps marriage and children to begin.
What happened in Blacksburg on April 16 demonstrates beyond all doubt that your life—the decisions you make, the kind of person you are—matters now. There are 28 students and 5 faculty members who have no future in this world.
That reality came starkly home to me nine weeks ago today when I was driving on a winding road in Colorado. Suddenly, I missed a curve and my Ford Explorer slipped off the pavement and started tumbling side to side at 60 miles per hour. An ambulance appeared, and I spent the next seven hours strapped to a body board, with duct tape across my head to keep it from moving. A cat scan showed that a vertebra high on my neck had been shattered, and sharp bone fragments were poking out next to a major artery. The hospital had a jet to fly me to Denver for emergency surgery.
I had one arm free, with a cell phone and little battery time left. I spent those tense hours calling people close to me, knowing it might be the last time I would ever hear their voices. It was an odd sensation to lie there helpless, aware that though I was fully conscious, at any moment I could die.
Samuel Johnson said when a man is about to be hanged, "it concentrates his mind wonderfully." When you're strapped to a body board after a serious accident, it concentrates the mind. When you survive a massacre at Virginia Tech, it concentrates the mind. I realized how much of my life focused on trivial things. During those seven hours, I didn't think about how many books I had sold or what kind of car I drove (it was being towed to a junkyard anyway). All that mattered boiled down to four questions. Whom do I love? Whom will I miss? What have I done with my life? And am I ready for what's next? Ever since that day, I've tried to live with those questions at the forefront.
I would like to promise you a long, pain-free life, but I cannot. God has not promised us that. Rather, the Christian view of the world reduces everything to this formula: The world is good. The world has fallen. The world will be redeemed. Creation, the Fall, redemption—that's the Christian story in a nutshell.
You know that the world is good. Look around you at the blaze of spring in the hills of Virginia. Look around you at the friends you love. Though overwhelmed with grief right now, you will learn to laugh again, to play again, to climb up mountains and kayak down rivers again, to love, to rear children. The world is good.
You know, too, that the world has fallen. Here at Virginia Tech, you know that as acutely as anyone on this planet.
I ask you also to trust that the world, your world, will be redeemed. This is not the world God wants or is satisfied with. God has promised a time when evil will be defeated, when events like the shootings at Nickel Mines and Columbine and Virginia Tech will come to an end. More, God has promised that even the scars we accumulate on this fallen planet will be redeemed, as Jesus demonstrated to Thomas.
I once was part of a small group with a Christian leader whose name you would likely recognize. He went through a hard time as his adult children got into trouble, bringing him sleepless nights and expensive attorney fees. Worse, my friend was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Nothing in his life seemed to work out. "I have no problem believing in a good God," he said to us one night. "My question is, 'What is God good for?'" We listened to his complaints and tried various responses, but he batted them all away.
A few weeks later, I came across a little phrase by Dallas Willard: "For those who love God, nothing irredeemable can happen to you." I went back to my friend. "What about that?" I asked. "Is God good for that promise?"
I would like to promise you an end to pain and grief, a guarantee that you will never again hurt as you hurt now. I cannot. I can, however, stand behind the promise that the apostle Paul made in Romans 8, that all things can be redeemed, can work together for your good. In another passage, Paul spells out some of the things he encountered, which included beatings, imprisonment, and shipwreck. As he looked back, he could see that somehow God had redeemed even those crisis events in his life.
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us," Paul concluded. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:37-39). God's love is the foundational truth of the universe.

Clinging to Hope
Trust a God who can redeem what now seems unredeemable. Ten days before the shootings on this campus, Christians around the world remembered the darkest day of human history, the day in which evil human beings violently rose up against God's Son and murdered the only truly innocent human being who has ever lived. We remember that day not as Dark Friday, Tragic Friday, or Disaster Friday—but rather as Good Friday. That awful day led to the salvation of the world and to Easter, an echo in advance of God's bright promise to make all things new.
Honor the grief you feel. The pain is a way of honoring those who died, your friends and classmates and professors. It represents life and love. The pain will fade over time, but it will never fully disappear.
Do not attempt healing alone. The real healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community. Where is God when it hurts? Where God's people are. Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and on this earth, the Messiah takes form in the shape of his church. That's what the body of Christ means.
Finally, cling to the hope that nothing that happens, not even this terrible tragedy, is irredeemable. We serve a God who has vowed to make all things new. J. R. R. Tolkien once spoke of "joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief." You know well the poignancy of grief. As healing progresses, may you know, too, that joy, a foretaste of the world redeemed.

Philip Yancey is a CT editor at large.
Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today.

what?! A Jesus girl who *drinks*?!?! :p

A 40-something woman approaches [Donald] Miller with two plastic grocery bags filled with copies of his books. "I've already bought Blue Like Jazz 13 times," she gushes. "But I gotta have all these to give to people. I'm a Jesus girl, but I also like to go out and do tequila shots with my friends. This is a book I can give to those friends."

-- from "A Better Storyteller", in Christianity Today Online by Patton Dodd

a better story than what the world offers

"The chief role of a Christian," says, "is to tell a better story."

In keeping with the movie theme, Miller quotes at length from Robert McKee, the Hollywood screenwriting guru whose book Story (1997) is at once a detailed guide to the principles of narrative and a primer on the principles of meaning. Miller says that the criteria McKee instructs writers to use in editing their stories—Is there conflict here? Does my protagonist have a purpose?—are the same criteria we can use to edit our understanding of our lives and the Christian faith.

-- from "A Better Storyteller", in Christianity Today Online by Patton Dodd

a caution against smugness... :)

[Donald Miller] objects to overconfidence among evangelicals.

"If your mind is not constantly being changed," he says, "you're not following Christ."

-- from "A Better Storyteller", in Christianity Today Online by Patton Dodd

...now why didn't i notice that before? :)

[Keeping the Faith quotes from IMDB;
Forrest Gump
quotes from IMDB and Generation Terrorists :) ]

i love it when God speaks...
i love it when God speaks in surprising, gee-why-didn't-i-see-that-before ways :)

the following quotes are from two of my favorite movies of all time :) and yet, after seeing them again after so many years, why, i'm so pleased as plum that they were even more delightful than i thought :) in fact, the quotes below --- noticed just this week --- should have been the reason that the movies grabbed my attention and made them my favorites!

yet another example of God being praised for a new reason every moment :) not just because these are cool lines from great films, but because they speak about God as God speaks through them :)

without further ado, enjoy :) get popcorn if you wish :)


Father Brian Kilkenney Finn
: The truth is, I don't really learn that much about your faith by asking questions like that... because those aren't really questions about faith, those are questions about religion. And it's very important to understand the difference between religion and faith. Because faith is not about having the right answers. Faith is a feeling. Faith is a hunch, really. It's a hunch that there is something bigger connecting it all... connecting us all together. And that feeling, that hunch, is God. And coming here tonight, on your Sunday evening... to connect with that feeling, that is an act of faith. And so all I have to do is look around the room at this packed church... to know that we're doing pretty well as a community. Even if all of you failed my pop quiz miserably.


Father Brian Kilkenney Finn: I keep thinking about what you said in seminary, that the life of a priest is hard and if you can see yourself being happy doing anything else you should do that.
Father Havel: That was my recruitment pitch, which is not bad when you're starting out because it makes you feel like a marine. The truth is you can never tell yourself there is only one thing you could be. If you are a priest or if you marry a woman it's the same challenge. You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it's a choice that you keep making again and again and again.


Father Brian Kilkenney Finn: I don't doubt myself because of you. I feel like the best version of myself when I'm with you, and that makes me doubt everything else.

(Anna Reilly was wondering why she suddenly noticed a beautiful painting when she passes by it every day.)
Father Brian Kilkenney Finn: Sometimes we don't see certain things until we're ready to see them in a certain way.



Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Did you hear what I said? You cheated me. I had a destiny. I was supposed to die in the field! With honor! That was my destiny! And you cheated me out of it! You understand what I'm saying, Gump? This wasn't supposed to happen. Not to me. I had a destiny. I was Lieutenant Dan Taylor.
Forrest Gump:
Yo-You're still Lieutenant Dan.


Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?
Forrest Gump: I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: That's what all these cripples down at the VA talk about: Jesus this and Jesus that. They even had a priest come and talk to me. He said God is listening and if I found Jesus, I'd get to walk beside him in the kingdom of Heaven. Did you hear what I said? WALK beside him in the kingdom of Heaven! Well kiss my crippled ass. God is listening? What a crock of shit.

Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Well, maybe you should just pray for shrimp.
Forrest Gump:
(voice-over) So I went to church every Sunday... Sometimes Lieutenant Dan came, too. Though I think he left the praying up to me.
Forrest Gump: [dejected] No shrimp.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Where the Hell is this God of yours?
Forrest Gump: [narrating] It's funny Lieutenant Dan said that, 'cause right then, God showed up.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Forrest, I never thanked you for saving my life.
Forrest Gump:
(voice-over) He never actually said so, but I think he made his peace with God.