God Bless America - Remembering 9/11
NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
September 10, 2009
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Editor's Note: Tomorrow is Patriot Day and marks the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D. C. The following are excerpts from an edition of Notes originally posted on September 16, 2001. I'm re-posting it in remembrance of the events of 9-11-01. In the current political climate, there is so much we need to remember about that period in our nation's history - about our enemies; about ourselves, and about our God. I pray these "notes" will help.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." Psalm 27: 1-3
Like most Americans, we have watched a lot of television the last few days hoping to understand; to make some sense out of the senseless. The networks have been frantically shifting through every bit of information they can gather, trying to find those answers for us. But they've been unsuccessful. Not surprising. They've been looking in the wrong places. On Friday, our President called this nation to the only place where those answers can be found.
This week has been America's darkest and finest hour. We have felt the vile touch of evil squeeze our hearts with fear. We have starred into his dark, malevolent face and felt the bile of hatred in our throats. A generation that has grown to adulthood without knowing the true depths of the evil abroad in this world has now been introduced to him with undeniable clarity. The Internet is flooded with their testimonies. Their lives and ours have been forever redefined by that introduction. Yes, America, despite all the rumors to the contrary, there is a devil. And he roams this planet seeking those he can destroy.
And in response to this defining moment, we have seen the emergence of that spirit God breathed into all of His creation. First like a small light in a dark cavern and then flaring like a curtain being thrown back to reveal the sun, the light of God's love has begun to shine in men's hearts again. Strangers have become brothers and sisters, supporting and caring for each other as they stagger to recover from the cowardly and senseless acts of destruction on September 11th. Some risking their lives in the faint hope of giving life to others.
Will that spirit prevail? Will we recover? Can we overcome the evil that seeks to destroy us? I believe the answer is in the verses I've quoted from the 27th Psalm and in the choices we make in the days ahead. Do we chose justice or revenge? Do we allow hatred to feed the bitter fruit of prejudice or do we unite in the brotherhood of God's family. The scales are precariously balanced and the choices each one of us makes will determine if they tip towards or away from the Lord who is our salvation and our strength, our provider and our comforter.
I am reminded of a book Tony Campola wrote some years ago, "It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming." It's a book that helped me find hope at one of the darkest times in my life. Although I don't have the book any longer, and I'm terrible at memorizing things, I still remember the basic message of the book that blessed me and gave me the faith to go on. I find comfort in that message now and offer it to any one who's heart is aching from the losses we all have suffered this week.
On Friday Christ was crucified, died and was buried - but Sunday's coming.
On Friday the disciples are scattered and hiding in fear - but Sunday's coming.
On Friday the sky is blackened and the earth shaken by God's anger - but Sunday's coming.
Sunday when Christ will rise again.
Sunday when God's Son will become the fulfillment of all scripture and God's love to His children.
It's Friday and our hearts ache. Darkness seems to surround us. Life seems too hard. The suffering and the losses are too much to bear. But Sunday is coming! Sunday when Christ will come again and "prince of this world" will suffer the finality of eternal defeat. Yes, it's Friday now. The pain and the suffering are very real. But so is the hope and promise we have in Christ. His arms open wide to receive you, to comfort and heal your breaking heart. Run to Him now! Run into the comforting embrace of those loving arms. Those arms that opened wide upon the cross to receive your punishment so you could receive your salvation. Thank you Lord. It may be Friday now. But, we understand - Sunday is coming!!!!
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4
His servant and your brother,
Sheltered under His wings and overwhelmed by His love,
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER AND REMEMBRANCE
(President George W. Bush, National Cathedral, Washington, D. C.)
We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation's sorrow. We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who love them. On Tuesday, our country was attacked with deliberate and massive cruelty. We have seen the images of fire and ashes, and bent steel.
Now come the names, the list of casualties we are only beginning to read. They are the names of men and women who began their day at a desk or in an airport, busy with life. They are the names of people who faced death, and in their last moments called home to say, be brave, and I love you. They are the names of passengers who defied their murderers, and prevented the murder of others on the ground. They are the names of men and women who wore the uniform of the United States, and died at their posts. They are the names of rescuers, the ones whom death found running up the stairs and into the fires to help others. We will read all these names. We will linger over them, and learn their stories, and many Americans will weep. To the children and parents and spouses and families and friends of the lost, we offer the deepest sympathy of the nation . . . you are not alone.
Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.
Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on Tuesday, a woman said, "I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here." Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing. God's signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood. There are prayers that help us last through the day, or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers that give us strength for the journey. And there are prayers that yield our will to a will greater than our own. This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance, and love have no end. And the Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn.
It is said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a nation as well. In this trial, we have been reminded, and the world has seen, that our fellow Americans are generous and kind, resourceful and brave. We see our national character in rescuers working past exhaustion; in long lines of blood donors; in thousands of citizens who have asked to work and serve in any way possible. And we have seen our national character in eloquent acts of sacrifice. Inside the World Trade Center, one man who could have saved himself stayed until the end at the side of his quadriplegic friend. A beloved priest died giving the last rites to a firefighter. Two office workers, finding a disabled stranger, carried her down sixty-eight floors to safety. A group of men drove through the night from Dallas to Washington to bring skin grafts for burn victims. In these acts, and in many others, Americans showed a deep commitment to one another, and an abiding love for our country. Today, we feel what Franklin Roosevelt called the warm courage of national unity. This is a unity of every faith, and every background. It has joined together political parties in both houses of Congress. It is evident in services of prayer and candlelight vigils, and American flags, which are displayed in pride, and wave in defiance. Our unity is a kinship of grief, and a steadfast resolve to prevail against our enemies. And this unity against terror is now extending across the world.
America is a nation full of good fortune, with so much to be grateful for. But we are not spared from suffering. In every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom. They have attacked America, because we are freedom's home and defender. And the commitment of our fathers is now the calling of our time. On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.
As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God's love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country. God bless America.
THE GREATNESS OF AMERICA
(Alexander de Tocqueville)
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
Copyright © 1998 - 2009 by Stephen J. Hall - Letters of encouragement to Christians written by Stephen J. Hall unless otherwise indicated. Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition, would like to ask a question or make a comment, please contact us at: steveh.rbis@...
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-3 The Message)