AFTER THE NEWS CREWS LEAVE, GOD REMAINS
TV news vans with telescoping satellite antennas have converged on the town of Roseburg, Ore. They huddle in parking lots surrounding Umpqua Community College, where a shooter stole the lives of nine students and teachers. For the next few days, reporters will document local folks recounting the horror, crying, remembering, and even staring like deer into the headlight of national news coverage.
Then, one day, the antennas will zip back down into the roofs of the vans. And as fast as they came, the reporters will be gone. The pain, however, will not go with them. And the little town will be left with a gaping void — not only from the absence of the national news but also from the deafening absence of irretrievable life.
I know this because two years ago I was the townspeople. The town had a different name — Prescott, Ariz. But we had a similar rural demographic and a similar story of tragic death — the loss of 19 firefighters overtaken by a wildfire. How odd it felt when the last news truck left.
What becomes of these communities, after they have left the national spotlight? Their grieving process stunted by bright lights and once-in-a-lifetime attention, how do these towns resume life or discover their new normal, once the TV vans leave?
The answer to how people get along for the months and years following a national tragedy lies deeper than the generic community. The answer lies in the individual people — the woven threads and strands who make up the weave that we call community.
Seven years ago, I left a journalism career to become a Christian minister. I moved from documenting the funeral procession to leading it, from observer of grief to participant among the grievers. In this role, I have learned that there is no easy answer to give to a heartbroken mother or a mourning husband. There is no single sentence that can soothe the sting of death, injustice, lost life and suffering.
And yet, I have seen — time and again — that there are paragraphs and ideas that do soothe the sting of death for many. Some thoughts — gripped by the soul and held as belief — do give stability, peace and hope in the midst of unthinkable, horrific pain.
Nationally, we are lamenting that this same senseless shooting keeps recurring across this country. It seems that only the names of the locations, victims and killers change from month to month, week to week.
And yet, I have seen — behind the scenes and long after the TV news vans leave — another recurring narrative. A more positive recurring story of hope, humanity, unity and rebuilding.
This positive narrative remains consistent in the empty wake, the churning months and years that follow a national tragedy. I have witnessed it, as a reporter, in the parents of drowned children, in the husband whose wife died, in the activist who fought for immigrants dehydrating in the Arizona desert.
I've seen this positive recurring story. In the moments of crisis when humans should most likely curse God and turn from any belief in a creator, many humans embrace their God and renew their spiritual beliefs.
More than ritual or obligation, I have seen souls anchor themselves.
Survivors from Umpqua Community College report that the shooter systematically targeted Christians for immediate murder. We don’t yet know why people of Christian faith were singled out for murder.
But the families of these murdered Christians, if they are anything like the believers I have met in the wake of other tragedies, will support each other, make meals for the hurting and knit tighter into their faith. They will mourn, but “not as those who have no hope.”
The surviving families of Christian victims will find solace in their belief that God transports all who cry out to Him into a place where there is no pain or injustice.
People far from a tragedy ask questions like: Where is God in the pain and suffering?
But I rarely hear that question in the huddle of crying of widows, sobbing dads and embracing friends. The people most broken down discover these Scriptures to be true.
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" and "The Lord upholds all who are broken down" (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 145:14).
Survivors of the tragedies I have reported on and ministered through have this in common. Many whose lives are most held together and stable credit a divine helper who hears their cries for help. Who answers. And who never leaves town. (Contributor: By John Dickerson for USA Today)
Americans are still in shock by this report of wanton murders by a hate-crazed stalker out to kill Christians. Little of his possible motivation — religious or otherwise — has been discussed in the news media. Please continue to pray for wounded survivors to recover and for victims’ families to find comfort and solace in God’s love.
“[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Ps 147:3)
PRAYER ALERT FOR ISRAEL - AT WAR FROM WITHIN
Israel is at war from within. I trust you are all following the news and if you are not there are plenty of sources you can go to: www.jpost.com, www.timesofIsrael.com, www.ynetnews.com. I am not going to repeat what you can find through those 3 sources.
What is happening is not a result of no diplomatic solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem, it is not a result of poverty amongst the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. This is a religious war fomented by Mahmoud Abbas (the head of the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas in Gaza. Its focal point is the Temple Mount and the lies that are being spoken to the Muslim Arabs of Israel.
The basis of these lies is their unwillingness to even acknowledge that the House of God once stood on the same mount where the abomination of Al Aqsa mosque now sits.
And the Lord said to him: "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 1 Kings 9:3
Israel has been falsely accused of changing the “status quo” on the Temple Mount and preparing to allow Jews to pray there. Without getting into the right or wrong of this, there is no truth to this accusation.
However Abbas in an address on Palestinian TV said last month: “Al Aqsa Mosque is ours. They [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.” And: “We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah.”
This was a clear call to the Muslims of both Judea and Samaria and in the rest of Israel, to attack Jews and to become “martyrs.”
This past Friday a televised Muslim preacher in Gaza held up a large knife and encouraged the Arabs of Israel to not only kill with their knives but to also rub poison on the blades to make them even more lethal.
There is a spirit of fear amongst the Jewish People in Israel, especially in Jerusalem and great pressure on the government to “do something” though it is not at all clear what can be done that is not already being done.
As this is a spiritual rebellion we are well placed to use our spiritual weapon of prayer to deal with the situation. This is a time for intercession, not spiritual warfare in binding the Principality of Islam - though we can appeal to the Lord to do that as He surely will when the time is right.
Pray for the people of Israel to be protected from the infectious “spirit of fear” and that in their distress that they will “look up” and cry out to the God of Israel who will reveal to them their King and Messiah.
Ask the Lord to reveal His tactics for dealing with this wave of terrorism. If the Lord can speak through a donkey He can certainly get the attention of the Prime Minister or anyone else in the Israeli security cabinet or the security services.
Pray for the government that when they understand what they need to do they will not compromise because of what the nations might say.
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25
In the midst of this murderous wave of terror much of the western news media is grossly misrepresenting what is going on here. This was a recent headline in a newspaper: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police.” The reality was that they had just stabbed 4 Jewish men but you didn’t find that out until later in the article. The clear lie is that Jews are killing Arabs for no good reason instead of the truth that they are stopping terrorists.
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Isaiah 59:14
Pray that many in the Church who do not have a revelation of Israel would realize that the world not only lies about Israel but also hates her. That this would cause them to seek the Lord for His truth about Israel.
For the Intercessors For Israel Team -
IMF: $3 TRILLION - DEBTORS FACE DAY OF RECKONING
Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.
This cocktail of financial risks is compounded by an environment of anaemic growth. The IMF forecasts global output will fall to its lowest level in five years at just 3.1pc this year.
"Low nominal growth would put pressure on debt-laden sovereign and private balance sheets, raising credit risks," said the report.
"Corporate default rates would rise, particularly in China, raising financial system strains, with implications for growth.
In a bid to manage the transition, the IMF urged authorities to play closer attention to the asset management industry and beef up capital requirements for emerging market banks.
In Europe, EMU authorities should press ahead with their plans for a banking union to plug the architectural gaps that have undermined the future of the single currency.
"What we want to achieve is a successful normalization of financial conditions and monetary policies together with a sustained economic recovery", said Mr Viñals.
"Three percent of global output is at stake". (Contributor: By Mehreen Khan for The Telegraph)
Most of us cannot fathom what “trillions” actually represent, but apparently the world’s private sector debt, as the International Monetary Fund reports, is staggering and on the verge of precipitating a new money crisis. Words such as “collapse” and “destabilization” are being used as a stark warning. Prayer is important, as is government leadership with fiscal responsibility.
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut 8:18)
CALIFORNIA FORCES CHRISTIANS TO DISOBEY OWN BELIEFS
Brown’s signature on AB 775 already has triggered a series of lawsuits, because it forces religious pregnancy clinics to tell women and girls that California has public programs to provide immediate, free or low-cost abortions.
The Pacific Justice Institute announced Monday the filing of lawsuits in both Southern and Northern California on behalf of clinics.
The organizations provide free medical services and counseling “as an alternative option to abortion to women facing unwanted pregnancies,” the organization said.
“Forcing a religious pro-life charity to proclaim a pro-abortion declaration is on its face an egregious violation of both the free speech and free exercises clauses of the First Amendment,” said Brad Dacus, president of the institute.
“We will not rest until this government mandate is completely halted,” he said.
The complaint argues the law forces Christian medical clinics to issue messages that violate their beliefs.
“The content of the government message memorialized in AB 775 directly contradicts the foundational religious principles upon which A Woman’s Friend operates, as well as the message it conveys to its clients regarding abortion,” the complaint explains. “As a result, A Woman’s Friend is subject to imminent adverse enforcement action against it by defendant.”
The law’s message is: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including allocating FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (insert the telephone number).”
It also requires that the message not only be handed out but also posted on the walls of waiting rooms on signs with specified dimensions.
The clinic, A Woman’s Friend, “offers, and will continue to offer, to women and girls a variety of services at its clinic.”
“Said services include medical consultations, pregnancy testing, ultrasound examinations and medical referrals. The plaintiff also provides education related to sexually transmitted diseases and infections, information and abortion procedures, prenatal education, nutrition information and fetal development education.
“They also provide Bible-based post abortion emotional and spiritual healing and recovery courses, and other practical support related to pregnancy,” he said.
It does not, the complaint explains, “counsel girls and women to obtain abortions.”
“A Woman’s Friend holds the biblically based conviction that human life is a precious gift of immeasurable value given by God and that the taking of innocent human life by abortion is evil and a sin.”
The second organization cited in the complaint is the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California, which offers services similar to A Woman’s Friend.
For both, the complaint states: “The requirement that plaintiffs disseminate the state of California’s message for which the clinic disagrees violates its rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as made applicable to the state through the Fourteenth Amendment. The law mandates speech that plaintiffs would not otherwise make.”
It continues, “At a minimum, the act unconstitutionally compels plaintiffs to speak [a] message that they have not chosen, with which they do not agree, and that distract, and detract from, the messages they have chosen to speak.”
The lawsuit seeks a judgment that the law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
“The context of delivering this government message is the center of a public debate over the morality and efficacy of abortion, for which these clinics provide alternatives,” the lawsuit reads.
WND reported the resolution to a similar case in New York.
At the time, constitutional attorney Herbert W. Titus of William J. Olson, P.C. told WND that according to the First Amendment, you “can’t be forced to carry someone else’s message.”
In New York, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said the state could require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff but not whether the center provides abortions or referrals, because that runs afoul of the First Amendment.
The ruling was left untouched by the Supreme Court.
Titus, who has taught constitutional law, common law and other subjects for decades at several universities, said it’s “not the government’s business to force anybody to carry the message of anyone else.”
“That is certainly what’s being done here.”
Thomas Jefferson, he noted, described that very action as “sinful and tyrannical.”
“It’s fairly typical of California, [which is] always on the cutting edge of making us more and more like a fascist country, in which the state determines what we can say and what we can’t say,” Titus told WND.
Titus also has served as a trial attorney and special assistant U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice. He holds degrees from Harvard and the University of Oregon and for several years had his own daily radio program. He has testified on constitutional issues before Congress and state legislatures.
The California bill makes no attempt at accommodation. (Contributor: By Bob Unruh for World Net Daily)
Give thanks for Herbert (“Herb”) Titus, who — among other plaudits — helped develop the now-thriving School of Law at Regent University in Virginia. This California law is typical of that state as Gov. Jerry Brown seeks to overthrow moral law in favor of forcing Christians to deny basic beliefs. Pray for a swift and morally favorable legal response.
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Ex 14:14)
IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST CONVICTED, IRAN NEWS AGENCY SAYS
A court in Iran has convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Iran's ISNA news agency said on Sunday, but the U.S. newspaper said Tehran was working a political angle by not disclosing details.
ISNA quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei as saying the California-born Rezaian, the paper's Tehran bureau chief, had 20 days to appeal the verdict. Rezaian was arrested in July 2014. He was accused of espionage.
"He has been convicted. ... But I don't have the details of his verdict," the news agency quoted Ejei as saying.
The case has been a sensitive issue for Washington and Iran, and Sunday's announcement did little to resolve it.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was monitoring the case closely. "We continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released," Kirby said earlier.
Iran has accused Rezaian, 39, of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security. The Post has dismissed the charges as absurd. The final hearing in his trial was on Aug. 10.
Earlier, Ejei told a televised news conference that a ruling had been issued but did not say that Rezaian was convicted.
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said that that statement from Tehran was "vague and puzzling," and Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the vague nature of that announcement showed Rezaian's case was not just about espionage but that the reporter was a bargaining chip in a "larger game."
"It's increasingly clear that the final decision about how Jason's case will be handled will be made by political authorities, not by judicial ones," Jehl told Reuters.
Rezaian's brother Ali had noted on Friday that his brother had been imprisoned for 444 days - the same length of time that American embassy staff were held after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
In a statement, he said Sunday's initial announcement "follows an unconscionable pattern by Iranian authorities of silence, obfuscation, delay and a total lack of adherence to international law, as well as Iranian law."
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted last month at the possibility that Rezaian could be freed in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials have played down the possibility of such a swap.
Two other U.S. citizens - Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant - also are being held in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared there in 2007.
Their cases have been raised in subsequent talks, including between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced. (Contributor: By Reuters News Agency - Reporting by Sam Wilkin in Dubai and Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Howard Goller and Grant McCool)
It is generally conceded, including by many of President Obama’s supporters, that he and Secretary of State Kerry were badly outplayed by Iran in the recent “nuclear deal.” The results have shown the world a strong Iran and a weak U.S. As a result, Iran wants to use Mr. Rezaian and Pastor Saeed Abedini as hostages for “trading.” Intercede for God’s mercy for our own broken nation and for these brave prisoners of an evil empire.
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them — those who are mistreated — since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Heb 13:3)
ARE WE READY FOR 6,000 PRISONERS TO RETURN HOME BY NOV. 2?
“No.” “No.” “No.”
That is how former inmates and advocates responded to my simple question at a Thursday morning new conference: Are we prepared to receive 6,000 inmates in a historic, four-day federal prisoner release program scheduled to begin Oct. 30?
“No” slid off their tongues frequently and quite easily.
Most of those 6,000 men and women who are in federal prisons will be sent to halfway houses and other such institutions. But not all of them are “returning citizens.” A heads-up to folks who live in a sanctuary city: About one-third of them are noncitizens facing deportation, something else that has made some people nervous Nellies.
But the mere number means we need to rethink how we police ourselves. Instead of thinking community policing, we perhaps should be thinking community crime control.
“The communities, the cities need to able to meet and to sustain the needs of those returning,” explained longtime community activist and no-sayer Tyrone Parker. “They haven’t met or sustained the needs of those already back here. There are no jobs, no housing. We talk to the baggy pants, and we talk to dreadlocks. We even talk to the short skirts. We need to speak to the person inside the person.”
Rhozier Brown, a convicted killer pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1976, painted a picture of a returning citizen that is rarely understood or represented in the media: A man imprisoned for 42 years comes home and finds his grandma’s home is torn down, a club he frequented is torn down. He looks for a public phone booth and finds they are gone too, and then, penniless, tries to bum a bus transfer only to discover they no longer are in use.
Prisons do not prepare inmates for their transitions home, wherever home may be, and our communities and budgets aren’t preparing them either.
Here are a few facts about what we’ve been dealing with in recent years:
- With more than 2.3 million inmates being given three hots and a cot, each week more than 10,000 of them are released from prison. The annual total is an estimated 650,000.
- The cry to the U.S. Sentencing Commission led to an April 2014 vote to reduce sentencing guidelines for many lower-level drug offenders. Then, in July 2014, the commission added to that list prisoners who were serving “unjustly long” sentences for drug offenses.
- Over the course of the next five years, an estimated 40,000 inmates will be eligible for early release.
Now you get the picture, and Mr. Brown, Mr. Parker and a few dozen other men and women say the time to begin the transition is now.
They say change is hard for a lot of people, and transition is more difficult if you broke the law, paid a price (sometimes twice if it concludes financial restitution) and can’t seem to find your way. But for “returning citizens,” those already “out” and those who will begin making their way to a neighborhood near you, the laws of this great country work against them.
At the press conference called by the National Alliance of Returning Citizens, ex-offenders and advocates laid out an agenda that includes pressing local, state and federal governments to reform public school discipline policies, reinstate voting rights, continue the push to ban the criminal arrest box on job applications and “provide immediate employment and training for returning citizens.”
They also want our governments to do something else: “Utilize current prisoners, and the influence they have in communities, to reduce gang violence and assist in gang intervention.”
That issue might be realized if only for the fact that, as we were learning about the early prison releases, the U.S. Justice Department announced October 1 that $53 million in grants was being ginned up to reduce recidivism among youths and adults.
In short, many of those in attendance at the press conference came from a hard place, but they did not make excuses. What they did, which is old-school and very impressive, is discuss community crime control — and it doesn’t mean they are patrolling the streets as gun-toting Bible-thumpers.
It means they arm families, returning citizens and communities with the tools to live with such mediating forces as churches and other faith-based entities, as well as community-based organizations, not merely “community organization.” The focal point: family.
Here again, I turn to Mr. Parker. I first met him in 1991, when he, James Alsobrooks and several other men were forming the Alliance of Concerned Men. At the time, D.C. was in the throes of several crises — chiefly violence, teen pregnancy, terrible public schools and substance abuse epidemics that left young children and teenagers to fend on their own. Things were so murderous, one neighborhood was nicknamed “Simple City.”
The newly formed alliance asked for books, computers, donations, volunteers and mentors to help turn the tide, and my family gave generously. The constants, including prayer and incremental payoffs, included working with other nonfinancial profiteers, such as Robert Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise to reach out to struggling families to bring about gang truces and peaceful solutions.
The truce and community spirit sustained those efforts until bloodletting and other suffering returned, as residents informed the mayor and other officials at a recent come-to-Jesus meeting in not-so-Simple City.
“The devil is on the loose, and we need to lock it back up,” was the warning of one worried mom at that meeting.
When I asked Mr. Parker where the leaders of our faith community stood, he simply said, “They’re straddling the fence.”
So allow my interpretation: They talk the talk in the buildings, but aren’t necessarily opening the doors to the community where they should be walking the walk.
Myrna Lee, founder of the A Family That Prays organization and one of a dozen women in attendance, spoke of the need for spiritual healing as one of the most important ways to meet and sustain the needs of the large influx of prisoners who soon will return home.
“We have to offer the hands-up,” she said. “We just can’t wait for the government.”
For those of you who think I’ve gone soft, that is not the case. I’m still a law-and-order kinda gal.
I’m not really into the slogans “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” etc. I’m into action.
And I’m saying this, too: If we don’t prepare ourselves for the tens of thousands of prisoners who are coming home, community crime control will get kicked to the curb.
I’m just saying. (Contributor: By Deborah Simmons for The Washington Times)
Pray for authorities to use wisdom and for local churches to find their God-appointed role in reaching out to these newly released inmates. For most of us, the scenes described here are foreign to our “normal” world. But these are real people, and some of us live in or near the cities that will be affected by the release of so many inmates in about two weeks.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1)