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Text of the News Stories Surrounding William's Murder
and the Trials.
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Published and Unpublished Articles Written by Me
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A "Letter of Demonic Advice" in the style
of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
regarding the loss of a child and a short story I'd like to believe could come
Information on our book.
More Resources and Materials for Bereaved Families
(mostly dealing with faith and loss
and edited for privacy and repetition)
To the Chief of Police for Henrico County:
Dear Colonel Stanley :
I wish to extend to you and the entire Henrico County police force my deepest thanks for
your recent services to me and my family. It is with great regret that I have occasion to
write as it concerns the shooting death of my son, William Jenkins, on the night of August
12, 1997. On that night, as you are no doubt aware, your men and women served with great
distinction. As I understand the details, their amazingly quick and efficient response
coupled with some very good police work, ensured the capture and arrest of the robbery and
murder suspects within minutes of the crime.
I had the opportunity to speak to the officers who were involved in notifying the family,
the detectives handling the investigation, and several officers who responded to the scene
that night. I have been deeply touched by their concern for Williams family, and
their genuine sympathy for our loss. These are qualities which I feel go beyond a law
enforcement officer just doing a job. These are qualities which show their humane concern
for the people they are sworn to protect. I wish that I could thank each one of these
officers personally for their role in this incident. I hope you will see to it that they
are suitably commended for their prompt, efficient, and caring action in the face of
unknown risk to themselves. I am thankful that, in all the excitement, and with the
inherent danger of the events of that evening, no one else was injured.
When one reads the daily paper, it seems that there are many challenges facing our
communities. Chief among these seems to be lack of community responsibility and
accountability, and the unwillingness to get involved in the safety of our communities. We
often allow, even demand that all the courage in our community come from those who are
employed to stand in the face of danger. However, many times, we as a community must
exhibit courage as well, like the young Bullets employee who phoned in the emergency call
from the pay phone at the scene. If he had not taken immediate action, or had even looked
for a somewhat safer location from which to call, the outcome may have been much
different. In so many situations, it only takes a citizen making a timely phone call to
affect the outcome of a case. Be assured, I will always be a staunch advocate of community
involvement and responsibility when it comes to community and police efforts and
Without men and women committed to do their best, even in adverse and dangerous
circumstances, such as those who protect and serve us here in Henrico County, our
community would be a much poorer, not to mention more dangerous place for all of us.
Again, thank you. You and the entire Henrico Police force give us much to be proud of.
Father of William Benjamin Jenkins, (1980-1997)
August 21, 1997
Thank you for your kind response. Yes, William's beliefs were fairly well
known among his family and friends. He started trusting his life into God's
care very early, and soon after led his brother to the Lord. After that,
they both ganged up on his little sister. Since then, even though he has
suffered the usual adolescent angst and turmoil, his faith and beliefs have
not been compromised by his thoughts, which of course are of a more
superficial level. Of this we are assured.
William was not an evangelist, as many of us are not. He was however, a
solid, caring, loving person, who stood tall in a crowd and let people see
the power of a gentle and compassionate life. I am very proud of him, and as
I look back over several years, I have seen the hand of God sweeping aside
first a trail, then a path, and now a road for me to follow in this tragedy.
I trust that in questioning the exact way and reason for the existance and
arrival of tragic events in our lives, we do not, in fact, truly comprehend
the concepts of Omnipotence and Omniscience as they relate to God and his
workings in this sphere as well as we sometimes think we do.
August 25, 1997
Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. They are appreciated. First
off, please don't put yourself through the emotional or mental exercise of
trying to imagine what it feels like, or how you would react: A. It simply
is not possible for you to imagine the reality of the situation (a simple
statement of fact, as I could not have imagined it myself two weeks ago), and
B. It is unfair to yourself to try. We don't ask to be put in the "hot
seat." We are simply put there and we must deal with it. *However,* if we
trust the one who puts us there in the first place, His strength and mercy
will be made available to all those who call upon it. God does stand behind
*all* His promises. Of that I can personally attest.
I believe now, that faith in practice is very much like playing a musical
instrument. For years we play for ourselves -- we go to church, we pray, we
read the Bible. Sooner or later, it comes time for us to play in concert and
before others. That is when the world sees the *practicality* of faith in
its working in our lives. Until then, it is only an intellectual and
philosophical exercise. I am now, I suppose, spiritually speaking, in
Carnegie Hall, and as of right now, I believe I am playing well. I can only
hope and pray that I will maintain the endurance to continue playing well for
the rest of the program. Unfortunately, that program is going to be a long,
high profile media event, what with the capital murder trials which are
I will say this, the priorities begin to fall into line when one undergoes
this type of tragedy. Man's wisdom is stripped away. The Sermon on The
Mount shoots to the top of the reading list. And the deep and abiding joy
that Jack so often speaks of begins to be manifested. There are too many
blessings to be enumerated, too many to even believe, but they are there.
For all the years I have lived as a Christian, and for all the people I have
talked to about God and spiritual things, I have *never* had one person come
up to me as have many in this past week to tell me that they have been
"inspired" by my life and words.
God is Good. God Is. If He uses my son's death, and subsequently my
response to that event, as He certainly must have considered in the equation,
to open doors to hearts that have been tightly closed for years; if He uses
the prayers of those who have perhaps for years refused to pray, or even have
never prayed, to soften the heart of one who He has desired to save from
their sin and sorrow; if one person takes a step to right their relationship
with Him, I'll take all of this. Already people have begun to open up their
hearts. They have given to the scholarship funds we have set up in William's
memory, they have begun to pray again, and I pray for them.
I wish you Peace and Joy. Not as the world gives nor expects, but as God has
made available to us all. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. I
believe that it would be a sad Christian life indeed if we were never
considered worthy to be allowed to undergo trials and tribulations. If left
to ourselves, we would be spiritual couch potatoes. I could not be happy
with that any more.
August 28, 1997
Thank you for your e-mail. Obviously, this tragedy has deeply affected you
along with all the rest of us, binding us together across the distances.
Unfortunately, grief and sorrow strikes us all. Even if all the "evil" in
the world were somehow divinely removed, we would still have parents who pass
on, pets who die, and accidents due to carelessness. It is not that sorrow
comes that should be the surprise, only the manner in which it is manifested.
We have the resources in place to deal with grief, if we will put aside our
cultural desire for "happiness" long enough to realize that this really is a
part of life, and in many ways, part of truly living. For if we were not
willing to be vulnerable enough to be hurt, then we would not be vulnerable
enough to love in the first place. I know which I would prefer. The fact
that Tom Jefferson wrote that we have a right to "life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness," does not guarantee that in that pursuit we will
actually catch up with it.
The Psalmist says that "weeping will endure for a night, but joy will come in
the morning." This is one of the things that I hold to, and as a result, I
have received that Joy. Not Joy as in being happy, for happiness is simply a
superficial emotion, but the deep down joy of being alive, and being at peace
with the situation, regardless of the circumstances. One step closer to
relying on divine guidance, mercy, and support in order to daily live my
life. One step closer to taking a final shape as I am the clay being molded
by the Potter.
We cannot be responsible for the actions or trespasses of others against us.
All we can be responsible for is how we then in turn respond to them. Love,
Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and
Self-Control, these are the ways in which violence in our society will be
reduced. And only these can rightfully take their place beside Justice.
Justice accompanied by revenge, retribution, and rage only breeds more
violence. I do not wish that anyone should respond to our tragedy with anger
and hatred. Responding with peace and forgiveness is the only way to ensure
that good things can come out of this sadness. Injecting the society with
the elements above is the only way to keep things like this from happening
again. If we are successful in this, then the violence will simply
evaporate, because there simply won't be a human heart left in which it can
I know I can't change the whole world. I do know I can help change the
person next to me. That is all I'm after. I can influence my students, I
can provide leadership to my friends, I can help the community deal with this
tragedy. Today, that is all I can do, but it is enough.
William was an innocent lamb which was slaughtered. In truth, however, there
are many innocents who die every year, every day. If all those who were
affected by these tragedies were to come together, challenging themselves to
see how many good things can come out of their tragedy, inciting Good, I
suspect we would be living in a different world. Our scholarship fund is one
way of doing this, my push to make this a kinder society is another.
For my part, in my heart I have forgiven the criminals who have done this. I
forgive their trespass against me and I pray for them daily. They need more
help than I do at this time, for I do not think that society will forgive
them their crime. At least one of them will, in all likelihood, die because
of this. I will take no joy or satisfaction in that. As this man has set a
path for me to walk for the rest of my life, I fear that soon, twelve people
will set a path for him for the rest of his. I will not waste the rest of my
life, I hope he will not waste the rest of his, for I'm sure there is much
good he could do if he were to repent and turn his life around. I will pray
for him, and I hope someday he will be able to pray for me.
Do not be distressed for us. We will be okay. There are many who are much
worse off than we are. Every day is a learning experience, but there is a
foundation of faith that cannot be moved or shaken. That is where I will
build my house.
Keep doing good things. Please keep us in your prayers, as I will keep you
I wish you Peace,
August 29, 1997
Thank you for your message. Your prayers and thoughts are most appreciated.
One of the hardest things to deal with in this situation is knowing that
someone I don't know, indeed never knew existed, changed my life forever
simply by making a decision to kill my son. Certainly, this is a man who my
son William would not have judged superficially had they met under other
circumstances, and for whom I would have no ill feelings had I met him in the
normal course of a day.
As I look back on the whole event, I do not know how God works with His
creation when it comes to individual suffering, or tragic events such as
this. I plead ignorance there, as I believe everyone on this earth probably
should. I do not try to explain the event, I do not try to rationalize it, I
do not let it anger me. Certainly we live in a world which has many
problems. I hope that through this event, some of those problems may be
solved by the good things we are doing in William's memory. If everyone who
suffered a tragedy such as this were to take a proactive part in changing
just the small part of society that they can personally affect, I believe we
would be living in a different world. Unfortunately, an event such as this
can be so life-changing for the people involved that it is difficult for them
to look to their own actions following a calamity. We can only be
responsible for how we respond to those who sin against us. Some are just
too weary to respond with positive action.
I could not ever pray the Lord's Prayer again if I did not forgive one who
trespasses against me. And indeed, I adopt an attitude of forgiveness
knowing full well it will most likely serve only me and those close to me,
not the trespasser. As I have heard that he is callous of heart and
fatalistic regarding his future, forgiveness will not affect him, only my
prayers will. His heart is encircled by thick steel bands which will take
some serious work to loose.
I would submit that I am no *stronger* than you. After all, you pray,
you read the Bible, you have a personal relationship with God in your life.
That's where the strength lies. Strength such as what sustains me cannot be
generated from within. If asked two weeks ago, I would have maintained
vehemently that I would not have the strength to endure such a hardship.
Fortunately for all of us, we have another source. There is a reservoir of
strength that is made available to us in times of sorrow. God truly sets a
banqueting table for us in the midst of our enemies. The trick is to know
that it is there, and to partake of it so we don't starve.
No one can understand the Power and Peace which enters one's life when God
reaches down through time and space and touches a human heart. For years, I
have been singing and praying for "the peace which passes all understanding."
Now I have it. I don't enjoy the experience which brought this blessing to
me, but now that I find myself involved, I wouldn't attempt to be without it.
I pray that no one will ever again go through what I am experiencing. I know
that that prayer, while noble, will not come to pass.
We live in a world where we must bear much of the responsibility for its
condition. We cannot build walls and towers to keep the bad things out. We
must instead inject love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and all
the rest of the fruits of the Spirit into our society. Only then can we call
ourselves the Salt of the Earth, and the Light of the World. I truly think
that being about the business of heaven also means getting our hands dirty
here on earth as well. I would challenge your group to not just pray, but to
also do. Jesus often moved his disciples to action rather than prayer. In
fact, the only time I can recall that He charged them to "watch and pray" was
the one time in His life here on earth that they couldn't take action, and
Peter was rebuked for doing so (Jn. 18:10-11).
Please join me in actively trying to bring as many positive and good things
as possible out of this tragedy. I appreciate your personal resolution to
peace and mercy. It can be a hard lesson, especially since we must be given
the opportunity to put it into practice. Since only you will know the
thoughts of your mind and the condition of your heart at any given moment,
you will probably find that your friends, while helpful, will not be able to
hold you accountable as much as you will be able to hold yourself accountable
with Self-Control, which is a Fruit of the Spirit.
Remember, we have all the instructions we need. We have all the
guidance we need. We have all the information we need. All we have to do is
*implement* it. I thank God we are all sparrows, and we are all lilies of
I wish you peace,
August 30, 1997
Thank you for your kind letter. I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers
which have come our way, and will in turn pray for you as well.
Several things have become increasingly clear in these past two weeks (now
going on three, my how time really does pass quickly). I have received so
many wonderful messages from so many sensitive, caring, good and faithful
people. I have become convinced (though I knew it before, I had no evidence
of it) that we are living in a world where there is so much latent good just
under the surface, just waiting for an opportunity to manifest itself. I
hope that through my experience, and the experiences of others (though I pray
that no one will ever have to go through what I have had to endure, I know
that prayer will never come to pass), we will see that we must be called into
action in order for our society to be healed and improved. Only by injecting
love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, etc., into our world can we effect
change. All other measures are simply bandaging a festering sore.
Another thing I have realized is the enormity of the task before us. I have
no illusions that I will be able to change the world. But I can influence
those around me, my family, my friends, and my students. God uses us to
touch the hearts of others. He touches our heart, we touch someone else's,
they open their heart to Him and He touches theirs, and the process repeats.
I suspect that the results of this chain are much more profitable than even
that of the incessent newsgroup chainletter spam. ;-)
B., do not feel that you must be "prepared" for suffering. I think that
falls into the category of "take no thought for tomorrow." If you are called
to experience difficulty, remember the promises God makes to us in the Book.
He indeed sets a banqueting table for us before our enemies. If it were not
so, I would not be here. You may eat and drink your fill there, in order to
go back to dealing with sorrow and the world around you. It is not necessary
to know now, or imagine how you would handle a tragedy. First, it is not
possible for you to even begin to scratch the surface of someone's suffering,
second, it is not fair to you to try to do so. If asked three weeks ago, I
would have said the same as you. I would have no idea that I would have had
the strength to handle the situation this way. Fortunately for me, and
others in the same situation, strength is not generated from inside us. We
are given the strength from above to deal with the calamities that befall us.
God reaches down through time and space and touches a human heart. What a
If we are assured that God will not ask more of us than He knows we can
endure, then it logically follows that *any* suffering or sorrow that comes
our way is endurable. Think about it. If we *know* that He will not place
anything upon us which He Himself will not give us the strength to deal with,
then, if we are confidently walking with Him, we know that anything that
comes our way will bring with it the mercy and strength to bring us through
that particular valley, into the glory of His purpose. Too often we look at
this concept from the negative side (i.e. really bad things won't happen to
us), it's time to start looking at it from the positive (i.e. when really bad
things do happen, we will be provided for).
Forgiveness is forgiveness, period. It does not depend on who is on the
receiving end. It is a mercy which we bestow unconditionally, just like the
Father does. Forgiveness ministers to me and those around me.
Unfortunately, I suspect my forgiveness of my son's murderer will have very
little impact on him. From what I've heard, he has so many steel bands
wrapped around his heart that only the prayers of the faithful have a chance
of loosing them. I pray for him, and hope that someday, he may be able to
pray for me. We cannot be responsible for the trespasses of another against
us, we can only be responsible for how we respond to those trespasses. When
you think about it, the Lord's Prayer is actually a contract. Everything we
need is there, all we have to do is pray it with that intent, and I believe
that our world will be a different place.
We have all the instructions we need (hollow theological discussion
notwithstanding), we have all the information we need, we have all the
resources at the Father's disposal, and we have the Holy Spirit (and let us
not forget that the Holy Spirit's primary title is that of Comforter). All
that is left is for us is to actively incorporate all of this into our lives
and our world, for only then can we truly be called the Salt of the Earth,
and the Light of the World. We all need to play our music a little less for
ourselves, and play a little more for the world. It is a wonderful tune, and
they need and deserve to hear it.
I pray that things will go well for you. Do not be distressed for us, for
God's mercy will endure forever. We are truly a blessed people.
I wish you peace,
Sept. 2, 1997
Thank you for your message. One of the things (one of *many*) which I have
learned in these past few weeks is that there are an awful lot of people out
there who have suffered losses, many of them much greater than mine.
Everyone's suffering and sorrow is unique. I am sorry for yours, although I
am very glad you are being motivated by it.
I have a great deal of respect for your action put into practice with your
moving to support others in their grief. When something like this happens, a
person has one of two directions they can go. They can either turn inside
themselves, destroying themselves with grieving and mourning, perhaps even
allowing another tragedy to proceed from the first one; or they can turn
outward, exposing themselves to the world, but at the same time being able to
effect change while the attention is focused on them.
You and I, and many others like us have decided to turn outward. Not that
our grief is for public consumption, I will not give the media or the public
that satisfaction, but our actions following a tragedy will have an effect on
those around us. I have no illusions that I can change the world. One look
at the news this morning tells me that. I'm sure that Princess Diana's death
will result in much good, but even someone of that position will not be able
to inspire the wholesale change in society that we so desparately need. I
can, however, change my friends, the people I come into contact with every
day, influence my students, even perhaps have some influence through the
media. I will not lend my energies to "social issues" -- gun control, death
penalty, etc. I see them only as bandages on a festering sore. My focus is
to try to inject some love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy into
our community. If we can succeed with that, then the violence will simply
disappear because it will not have a human heart in which to live.
I don't demand that people believe as I do. I don't demand that they do as I
do. I only show them what I am doing with the strength and peace which has
been given to me. Hopefully, change will come. I don't want any more
sixteen year-old boys to die.
I think that if more people who had tragedies in their lives would try to
make as many good things come out of that tragedy as possible, we would be
living in a different world. Not only that, but they would feel better that
they had accomplished something worthwhile in their grief.
I hope you are successful with your book. But even if it never becomes a
best-seller, remember that it will certainly help at least one person, and it
will give your life a purpose for now. Keep listening to the "still small
voice." He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. He truly sets a
banqueting table for us in the presence of our enemies, all we have to do is
realize that it is there, and go to it for nourishment. All too often, many
people starve to death spiritually and emotionally while sitting right next
to it. I have watched people stay in the shadow of death for so long that
they themselves start turning into shadows. This cannot be a good thing.
One thing I have learned about shadows (and due to my occupation as a theatre
lighting designer, I consider myself an expert on them), shadows are finite.
They have a boundary, an edge. And that edge and that shadow is *always*
defined by the light around it. Shadows in fact would not exist if it
weren't for the light around them. That doesn't make the pain go away, and
it doesn't make the grief easier. But, it does tell us something about the
way the world was designed to work.
Please pray for us, as I will continue to pray for you.
Sept. 4, 1997
Thank you so much for the thinking of us. I hope that many will think of
their loved ones as you have, and come to appreciate God's gifts to us every
moment of every day. So often, before this happened, I often glossed over
many of the daily blessings -- a nice day, a sunrise/sunset, my children, my
wife, people I work with, etc. Something like this opens one's eyes in a way
that nothing else can. It is as if we have a special valve in our spiritual
hearts that is opened, allowing us to be more sensitive to the world around
us. We can more easily see the beauty and daily blessings of God, and I have
found that I am also more sensitive to the presence of evil things in our
society. We, through this, begin to share one more thing with the Father
which we had not previously, we begin to experience a small sense of God's
pain and sense of loss with His creation as well as the ability to see beyond
I think this added spiritual sensitivity is part of the way human beings are
built to naturally deal with sorrow and loss and grow into greater maturity
throughout our lives. I also think this is in line with how Lewis set up the
world in Screwtape. The "real" things that the spirit world could see were
concealed from human eyes. I think the fellowship of suffering allows
*us* to peek just a little at the "real" things as well.
I pray you will continue to be blessed with good thoughts and memories. Hold
them dear. Don't take *anyone* for granted, and teach love, compassion,
respect, and mercy to as many as will hear. For only then will we have God's
will "on earth, as it is in Heaven."
Sept. 12, 1997
Had a bit of a blah day today. Today is one month after William's murder.
In fact, as I write this, it is about the same time that he walked out the
back door into a killer's trap. ... I really am doing so
well, I can't even begin to count up the blessings. I had a chance to talk
to some of my colleagues today, and they were just so touched by my attitudes
and thoughts. I almost wonder if one really doesn't qualify as an "adult"
until something like this happens. There is so much growing up to do,
even after you think you've matured. Every day brings something
new to discover about yourself and those around you. I am in awe of it all.
Read some more of CS Lewis today. Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on
Prayer. In letter VIII, he deals with the concept of grief. This book
was written after his wife's death. Some very good insights there. He
acknowledges the reality of suffering, the very existance of it and the
simple fact that it is part of what it means to be human.
"You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. The human
situation writ large. These are among the things it means to be a man.
Every rope breaks when you seize it. Every door is slammed shut as you reach
it. To be like the fox at the end of the run; the earths all staked."
He certainly knows whereof he speaks. I don't think any one ever suffered
the way that man suffered when his wife died of cancer. And yet his faith
was strengthened, affirmed, and enriched by the event in a way which nothing
else could do.
Also re-read The Weight of Glory today, a fairly short essay on man's place
in the cosmos -- light reading
A couple of quotes worth mentioning:
"Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.
A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to
follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the
"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory
hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply
about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's
glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can
carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing
to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the
dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature
which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a
horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of
"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object
presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in
almost the same way, for in him also Christ...the glorifier and the
glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."
I guess this is why I want to push for kindness and mercy in the world. I
want to write things for others to read, I want to give the interviews which
will allow me to share the burden of the world, and let them see me give of
this freely. God's mercy is amazing.
I received the videotapes of the news reports which I requested from the tv
stations yesterday. I sat and watched them. I did not watch the news until
that Friday, so I missed all the initial reports. I am very pleased to see
how the media has handled this. I am afraid we will be doing business again
very soon as the preliminary trials are coming up at the end of the month.
It's just after 10:30 now. This would have been right around the time they
would have found William and would be converging on the killer. I miss him
so much. I spent 16 years of my life helping him become a man. Now, I think
he has finally helped me become one. The pain and loneliness is intense, but
bearable. The knowledge that he is gone is with me every moment, but the
good memories bring joy. I have seen so many people deal with grief by
letting another tragedy follow the first.
I don't pretend to understand the way He works in the interaction with His
world. I have to plead ignorance of that one. I, and all of us, simply have
to trust, and in that trust, we become more pliable clay in the Potter's
hands. I expect that I also don't know how someone can reach such a point
of despair and hopelessness in their lives that they would take the life of
an innocent just to commit a robbery for maybe a couple of thousand dollars
at the most. I don't expect that this man would give 2 cents for my
forgiveness now, but he has it. In many ways, that is worth more than any
sum he could have stolen.
I found out last week some more details of the crime. When William walked
out of the back door, the man came up to him and made him go back and ask the
manager to let him back in. William didn't resist, but went to the door and
through the peephole told the manager to let him in. As she was unlocking
the door, the man shot William through the neck, probably to accomplish
several things. It showed that he meant business, and it got William out of
the way so he wouldn't have to be watched also. William died instantly. I
looked at the bullet wound and it would have severed the carotid artery.
Instant loss of consciousness then death. After that, the man demanded that
the manager open the safe. It took her 5 tries. She thought she was going
to die as well. Fortunately, another employee had left the building earlier
and was waiting for his ride on the other side. When he heard the shot and
the manager scream, he called for the police from the payphone next to the
dining area. Quick thinking, and very courageous. I'll have to do something
for him, maybe a medal? By the time the man left the restaurant, the police
were on the way, and they caught him pulling out of the parking lot with two
other girls in the car. I didn't at first know that William was killed
*before* the robbery even took place. None of this changes anything
with regard to how I respond to the event, but it does give me some more
information than I already had and gives me a peek at his last moments. I
haven't had a chance to talk with the manager yet. I don't think she is
ready to speak about this to me, although I've let it be known that I would
welcome the chance to talk with her. She is in very bad shape. She has
received a major trauma, and she is getting some professional help now.
I spoke with a young woman recently after church, and it came to my mind that
it would be a rather sad and disappointing Christian life indeed for one to
never merit the challenge of tribulation or trial. All the verses which
speak of growth, e.g. being changed from glory into glory as it were, all
that motivation comes from God. If it were up to us, we would be the
equivalent of spiritual couch potatoes. Of one thing I am certain, all man's
wisdom has been stripped away. All that remains is God and His Word. An
Sept. 14, 1997
Your letter touched me deeply. We all have to work through many things in
our lives, especially when the adversity comes, (Note I didn't say "if",
because we are certain to have troubles and trials, only our culture tries to
convince us that we should be "happy" by consuming all the items it produces
for our lifestyles.)
I am very sorry about your father. Your anger and bitterness toward many of
the people involved is certainly understandable. I would venture to guess,
however, that not being able to save your father also weighs heavily on the
minds of the doctors as well. Think of it, all those years of training, all
that understanding about how the human body works, all the oaths they take to
do the very best they can to relieve suffering and cheat death, and still
they lost him. That is a very frustrating thing for them. The police
officers who found my son are experiencing some of that frustration also.
... The suspect they arrested (and they're
certain he is the trigger man) also robbed that same restaurant six months
ago. They are also linking him to several other robberies. I have talked to
some of these officers, and the frustration of not catching this man sooner
when they had the opportunity, and now the murder of a 16 year old boy as an
ultimate result is very difficult for them. I have assured them that I know
they did all they could, and I appreciate what they have done. My son's life
has touched them as well, and I look for good things to come of it. They are
also on my list of people to pray for.
With regard to all the evil you see around you, I regret that we as human
beings bear much responsibility for the condition of the world. God uses
those of us who can be used, (and those of us who permit Him to use us) to
change what we can in our spheres of influence. The first thing I asked
myself when I found out about my son was "What good can we bring out of this
tragedy?" Then I started to rely upon God to enable me to move to make good
things happen. So far, the score is Bad Things -- 1, Good Things -- Too
many to count.
I (like you) was given a gift. That gift for me was designed to last sixteen
years and eleven months. No one took it away from me, and if anything, I
became too attached to it while it was here (the poem you found speaks to
that). But I didn't take it for granted, and for that I am incredibly
grateful. Now I have another gift, and I need to find out from God how He
wants me to use this one.
My father died two years ago. It was but a small preparation for what I'm
going through now, but it was an important part of my life, because it is
*part* of life, whether we like it or not. Five years before, he had a
massive heart attack. We prayed, the church prayed, he recovered and though
he was weak, he went on to be with us another five years. In that time, we
learned to appreciate his presence, and he learned to appreciate this gift of
life as well. He took better care of himself, stopped smoking, stopped
drinking, and generally made the most of the rest of his life. When he last
went into the hospital, we all knew he wouldn't come home again. We had some
time to say goodbye, but even a lifetime isn't enough to say goodbye to
someone we love so deeply. Perhaps that's why we have eternity. Now, my dad
and William are getting to know each other better. They are taking long
walks through *real* trees, running without weariness, walking without
fainting, over the greenest grass that ever was. My boy, and my dad. I will
catch up to them someday, but first, I am going to share with as many people
as possible, the goodness and mercy of God, and try to instill some kindness,
compassion, forgiveness, and humility in our society so that it will come
more in line with the original intent of the Creator. Remember the line "Thy
will be done, On earth, as it is in Heaven"? We are the agents of God's will
here on earth. If we do our part, then this becomes a very serious
statement. The Lord's Prayer is more of a contract than most people realize.
It is because of this that I have forgiven the one who has trespassed against
me, as I know God has forgiven me, for wasn't my sin also part of mankind's
corporate sin that took His Son from this earth as well?
This is getting rather heavier than I intended, but I hope you will consider
what I have said, ... I recommend getting a copy of C. S. Lewis' _A
Grief Observed_. It is a very short book, a diary actually, about Lewis
dealing with his wife's death, and the effect it had on his faith, through
the initial anger with God and religious doubt (much like what you are
experiencing) through his resolution and reconciliation with God after some
time passed. It has helped me immensely. If you ever read the Narnia
Chronicles, I would also recommend going back and reading them again,
especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Last Battle. ...
Try to keep praying if you can, if you can't, that's okay for now. God
understands our deepest sorrows, and our hurts. He understands you. He does
love you, and even when it seems that He has withdrawn His attention from us,
I think that it is more that he is giving us some time and space to think
things out on our own for a little while, just like any good parent or friend
would. Certainly, it is only His constant attention which keeps this world,
and us, in existance at all. We are all sparrows, and we are all lilies of
the field in His eyes.
I wish you peace, and hope that you will come to a higher place from where
you are now. An even more beautiful faith awaits.
Sept. 17, 1997
>Talking of drowning; where is the "rock" upon which I can build my
Ah me, this sure isn't one for the coffee break is it.
If you've followed the group for awhile, you will know my situation. The
murder of my 16 year old son, the funeral afterwards, my forgiveness of the
killer, my feelings re: the condition of society and what can be done about
it, God's role in all of this. . . All I can say is that if it were not for
my faith and trust in the God you describe in your post (any other would not
do), my son's life, and mine would have very little meaning. One tragedy
would have led to another.
One of the most important books I've ever read has been Lewis' Surprised by
Joy. It is an excellent autobiography of his discovering of God's presence,
or perhaps better stated, his response to God's hunting him down. The first
half deals mostly with his early life, the latter half with more of his
conversion experience, but all of it interesting. Mere Christianity is also
a small book well worth reading. Some wonderful stuff there on the nature of
"religion" vs. faith.
Since my son's death one month ago, I have been nourished by several things:
All the C. S. Lewis essays, books, and stories I have been able to consume;
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) (I don't really care much for what
other people say that Jesus and the Bible says, I prefer to go right to the
source); and the Psalms. These have formed the foundation. Paul's letters
become the bricks and morter which build the walls to my house of faith; and
the rest of the Gospels and Jesus' teachings form the roof which keeps out
the wind and rain. In truth, I often call myself a "Follower of Jesus and
His teachings" as opposed to a "Christian." As such, my faith has recently
proven to be of more practical use in my life than I ever could have
imagined, as opposed to simply an intellectual exercise, or a habit. You
know, in a lot of ways this was actually rather surprising to me. Lewis
notes the same thing in A Grief Observed.
I don't know how much of this you really want to know, or where you are in
your spiritual journey on this ball of rock, but I do know one thing, as long
as we are looking only at our existance on this earth, all we see is dirt and
our feet. Once we look up, into the face of God, we take in all the beauty
and majesty of creation as well, and we have Hope.
I wish you peace,
Sept. 18, 1997
Tuesday was William's birthday. He would have been seventeen. It went well.
Emotional and sentimental, but all in all it was a good experience for us.
We found a decorative candle that William had given me for Christmas last
year (probably because he couldn't think of anything else ;-). We hadn't
used it, until now. Now, it's William's candle and we'll use it on special
occasions like this one. I hope it burns for a *very* long time. We
also brought out some of the flowers (now dry) from those days. It was a
good night filled with remembrances. Saturday we're going to find a nice
Just wanted to let you know. I'm doing very well, all things considered.
Good article in Atlantic Monthly (Sept. issue) on the grief of parents and
siblings who have lost a family member to murder. Good social conciousness
raising stuff. It's available online at www.theatlantic.com
I highly recommend it if you get a chance to read it.
Have to go now. Still have work to do tonight.
Sept. 19, 1997
Dear Mr. Whitworth, [editor of The Atlantic Monthly]
Thank you so very much for your your article dealing with the problems of
families grieving for the loss of a child through murder. As a father whose
sixteen year-old son was recently shot and killed during the course of a
robbery which occurred during closing time where he was on his second day at
work, I have felt the pain that Mr. Schlosser so eloquently and sensitively
wrote about. Although we have not yet had occasion to go through the
criminal justice process yet, a suspect was captured and is now awaiting
trial. In reading Mr. Schlosser's piece, we have been forewarned and
forearmed against the obstacles which we may encounter in the coming months
and years while dealing with this process to which we have been cruelly and
unnaturally subjected. We are fortunate to have a fine District Attorney's
Office and Victim and Witness Assistance Program in the county in which we
live. As a result, I don't think we will have an experience like many cited
in the article, though I have already met several people who have been
greatly disillusioned by the system as it stands now. I regret that so many
states, counties, and cities are so woefully insensitive to the lives
affected outside the courtrooms by those who appear in them. Their judicial
and legislative ignorance and insensibility is an embarassment and a shame
upon them. Their constituents deserve far better.
We as human beings are a great deal more responsible for the condition of
society than we have been willing to admit. We are also much more capable of
exerting forces for change than we care to attempt. I hope that your
publication will continue to push our communities forward to maximize the
potential inherent in our citizens. It will take a lot of work to get our
culture to alter its driving forces from greed, money, and power to those of
compassion, mercy, and respect for others. We must learn to hold people
accountable for their actions, especially those who are elected and employed
to serve our society with honesty, good judgement, and fairness. And we must
require justice when it is warranted instead of skirting it with
technicalities and vague legal and constitutional interpretations that do not
speak to the spirit of the law. We must stop making laws and decisions based
on convenience, budget, and selfishness, and begin to make wise decisions
based on compassion, good will, and common sense. Above all, we must not
neglect our children, for they are our hope for the future. We must make
whatever sacrifices are necessary to give them hope. A child without hope
grows into an adult without hope, and an adult without hope has nothing to
lose. That makes them the most dangerous animal on the face of the earth.
We cannot build walls high enough to keep evil at bay. Sooner or later, it
will scale those walls, undermine the foundations, or pull them down by brute
force. Our only hope is to change the society in which we live, one life at
a time if we have to. Each of us must work within our own sphere of
influence, creating ripples which spread outward, overlapping the ripples of
others until the entire community is affected and begins to care again. No
matter how daunting the task set before us, we must do it. If we do not, I'm
afraid that we deserve what's coming to us.
My sincere compliments to you, your staff, and Mr. Schlosser for one of the
most socially responsible pieces I have ever read. Those of us who are
grieving the loss of a child are grateful. You have done a good thing. I
pray you will keep up the good work. God Bless.
Sept. 20, 1997
Thank you for the compliment, and the information. I don't know in what
direction my efforts will proceed, but I think many in the community will be
surprised at what I come up with. It all gets back to the concept of holding
people accountable for their actions and their service. No ever violated the
constitutional right to free speech by insisting on polite behavior, and no
one ever violated the second ammendment by insisting that guns are not to be
used offensively against human beings outside of wartime.
It is ironic that of all the issues we have today being battled about in our
society, the opposing sides are really not that far apart on the root
concern, they simply disagree strongly on how to implement change.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid most of them are being duped by those who really
stand to make the money out of fomenting the controversy. Only by bringing
their arguments to a fever pitch are they able to keep the radical and
unthinking motivation at the forefront. And all the time the war is raging,
those who are really pulling the strings are sitting back and making money
off both sides. I wish I could say that this was a paranoid delusion on my
part. Unfortunately, if you look deep enough, and if you are objective
enough, you will always find that the root issue is obscured from the
participants because if they really found out that they were actually on the
same side, or were not so much the opposites as they supposed, progress may
actually be made. Always look for the dollar signs. They will point the way
to the real culprits.
I wish you peace,
Sept. 22, 1997
Your words are very encouraging. I can only say that throughout my life,
somehow God has been preparing me for this event. You know how utterly
imperfect my life is/has been, and yet God in His manifold wisdom can, and
is, using me for his Glory. It is almost as if He had said to me "Bill do
you love me more than all of these?" and I replied, "Yes Lord, You know I
do." And then He smiled a loving and painful smile and said "I know you do.
Do not be afraid, for I will be with you in all things." Then it was time
for me to go up on the mountain. I know now why Moses' countenance was
changed when he came down the mountain. No one can look into the face of God
and live. They can only look into the face of God and die, and their death
is to themselves. I envy Abraham. There will be no ram in the bushes for
me. Only obedience, leading to more obedience, leading to joy.
Knowing that He is in perfect control still doesn't take away the pain, but I
do have assurance. I've talked to and seen people going through this sort of
thing without His strength. I've watched them starve sitting next to a
banquet table. I pray for them daily, but once you're in it, it's even
harder to develop the relationship which will sustain you in time of trouble.
This is why it is so very important to practice (not just as in "put into
action," but also as in "to rehearse") our faith as we live and grow. As C.
S. Lewis observed, "We were even promised sufferings. They were part of the
program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accepted
it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for." (A Grief Observed)
I regret that there are a lot of Christians who are blind to how it works.
There are people out there telling them that if they have a strong enough
faith (always sounded a little like The Emperor's New Clothes to me), they
will have wealth and power, that nothing will harm them, and that they will
be perpetually healthy. Unfortunately, they neglect to tell them that this
*is* true, as long as we are talking about our spiritual lives. In
order to be wealthy we may be called to give up every material possession we
have; in order to have power we may have to be humbled beyond measure; in
order to be protected from evil we may have to experience sorrow and
suffering so that evil will have no foothold; and in order to be healthy, we
may have to bear the burden of an afflicted body. Such is the paradox of
following Jesus. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases..."
I do not believe God causes tragedies such as these in our lives, but I do
believe that through His omniscience, and omnipotence (both qualities
woefully misunderstood by our fragile and limited minds), He redeems the
situation with His servants. Through it all, we must be willing and able to
follow as He directs our paths. Another quote from Lewis if I may, "A cleft
has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow
our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential
point." (The Weight of Glory)
D., we are all in the infantry. I never realized just how important it is
for us to fight for this people that God created, even the bad ones. God
loves them all. He needs us to do the very best we can to bring this world
to accountability and responsibility. I am extraordinarily proud of CITA
[Christians in Theatre Arts, an international organization for artists] and
the role that this organization and its members play in the redemption of
creation. When I think how important it is to use our art and craft skills
to share Jesus with the dying, all the sacrifices we make, all the personal
hardship we endure, all the effort we put in which seems to return void, all
is most definitely worth it. If we weren't threatening the enemy's
stronghold, I'm sure there would be no opposition. Rest assured, there are
crowns awaiting us.
Sept. 23, 1997
You have some wonderful insights into creation. I am pleased that you have
seen all that is visible to us, and have recognized that there is much that
may be invisible. That is is the part where the trust, confidence, and faith
comes into play.
Sometimes as we reach for the things which give us the most hope in this
world, we are distracted by other brightly colored objects, or simply lose
sight of what we pursue as it becomes obscured by all the other things which
demand our attention; and then there is the problem of having to evaluate
this Object of Hope by observing others who say they have already found it.
Thus comes the problem of religion vs. faith. I always find it remarkable
that Faith, on a personal level only comes down to how you as an individual
relate to God, yet at the same time we are told in the Bible to "not forsake
the assembling of ourselves together." (Hebrews 10:25).
It's amazing isn't it. On the one hand, all we have to do is establish a
personal contact with Him. On the other hand, we need to establish personal
contacts with those around us. In the first case, we experience the eternal
constancy and steadfastness of the universe, in the latter, we experience His
expression of infinite variety. Some of which can be infinitely frustrating.
I would not presume under any circumstances to present myself as holier than
anyone, nor to give advice which I am not qualified to give. I am not an
evangelist, nor am I a theologian. I am but a simple man, made out of the
same dust of the earth as everyone else, who has been given the reluctant
opportunity to put my faith into practical application in my life in order to
influence the world around me to become a better place for all of us. I care
about God's creation and I love the people in it.
In Lewis' book _A Grief Observed_, he makes some remarkably insightful
observations, one of which is:
"We were even promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were
even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accepted that. I have got
nothing that I hadn't bargained for."
How true this is in our lives. The essential truth here is that grief will
happen to all of mankind. It *is* part of the program, for if all evil were
suddenly and divinely removed tomorrow, we would still have occasion to mourn
our parents, pets, and people who are the victims of their own carelessness.
I think that the point is that our faith provides us with armor, a shield as
it were to deal with grief and suffering. I have spoken to many sufferers in
my lifetime, and if it were not from the strength they derived from God
through their pipeline of faith, they would have been in abject despair, and
another tragedy would have likely followed the first.
I share your sorrow at the loss of your child. As cliche as it sounds, I
understand much (I would not presume to say "all") of what you went through.
Though your situation was somewhat different from mine, you and I have much
in common. Far from burdening me with your story, I would like to hear
more, if you care to share it. You may also find _A Grief Observed_ helpful.
Lewis was one of us, joined together in a fellowship of grief and loss.
What an absurd unlikelihood when you think about it.
These days, I take very few things personally. I certainly would not take
anything you said as an attack on my faith. If we disagree cordially, that's
fine with me. If we agree (and I believe we agree on much), then I am
delighted. When it comes right down to where the rubber meets the road, as
it were, and we have questions to which no one else seems to be able to
provide an answer, maybe it's time to get down on our knees and have a face
to face, and heart to heart talk with Him ourselves. That's finally what I
had to do many years ago, that's the way Lewis had to handle it (see
_Surprised by Joy_). Not to be presumptuous, but would you be more afraid
that God will not answer, or that He *will*?
Sept. 30, 1997
Hope things continue to go well for you. Yesterday for me was remarkably
interesting, but also a bit painful.
We had the first preliminary hearing on the murder charges, and things went
rather well. One of the female suspects is cooperating completely with the
prosecution. The lawyers of the other two are grasping for straws. The
manager of the Bullets (29 yr. old woman) was trembling the whole time (who
wouldn't be as she was only 10 ft. away from where her attacker was sitting)
but she did a great job giving her testimony. We still haven't seen the
crime scene photos yet, I suspect that will be very difficult. All in all,
the Commonwealth's attorney was pleased. His two inexperienced witnesses did
very well, and the evidence is very strong.
For me, it was almost like watching it in a dream. The man looked as if he
could have been one of my students (23 yrs old), the two girls looked
as if they could have been anyone's kids, (17 and 19). Such is the
way of crime. It twists the mind and the heart, all the stuff on the inside.
The testimony was that they were just driving around that night with nothing
to do and decided to rob someone. The irony is that William was actually
bigger and stronger than this guy. I miss him so much...
I did get to talk to W. (the manager) before the trial and give her some
perspective and encouragement. She was in a lot of despair. We talked for a
long time about lots of good things. She felt better afterwards. I think
she understands how to go about looking at this now. I wish I could erase
all the bad images in her head. They will trouble her for a long time.
Minor victory afterwards which I am thrilled about. When we left the
building, the Defense Attorney for the man was talking on camera ...
I went up to the reporter, and asked her if she needed
anything from me. I did 5 to 10 minutes on camera talking about William, and
my forgiveness for the killers, and how we as a community need to respond to
these actions. Guess who got the air time? I bumped the lawyer. :-) Not a
word of his interview was used, either at 6 or 11. I couldn't stand to have
the bad guys present their side to the public without a fight. I'm going to
keep it up. I'll take as much wind out of their sails as I can.
Oct. 1, 1997
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and sympathy. As I have
always believed, and now as I more fully understand, being responsible and
accountable are probably the most important things we can impress upon our
society. We have too many people making decisions which benefit or gratify
only themselves. I hope to make a small dent in society's armor of greed and
selfishness while I can. For a short time, people will listen to me when I
speak. I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can to teach kindness,
compassion, and mercy whenever possible.
Perhaps our paths will cross someday. There is much to be done, and many a
forum in which to do good things.
Oct. 18, 1997
From the posts I have read, I have felt so much sympathy for you. I am so
sorry for J.'s loss. Be assured that there are many who know of him only
what you have written, but we will remember him and hold his memory in our
hearts as if he were our own.
There are so many things we don't and can't understand, it is difficult to
know where to turn sometimes. I have always believed that there is a
spiritual side to our existance which is deeper than anything we could
imagine. Unfortunately, there are those out there who would exploit those of
us looking for help, any help, any message, any contact, any insight into our
futures and even our pasts. The desperation is almost ugly. I prefer to
stay away from those people myself. I feel certain that we have all the raw
materials to know, do, and find the answers we need. All we need to do is
begin to exercise our increased sensitive natures through the tragedy we
experience. God has made us this way, I think we can use it to our
On the other hand, If there is a place where our children abide which is
richer, fuller, and more real than the land of shadows that we inhabit, I
would not want William to pass that up in order to minister to my needs
constantly. And even if he were walking right next to me in a spiritual
sense every second of every day (which I sincerely believe they would do if
it would truly be beneficial to us), that's still not what I want, or need.
I don't want pictures, I don't want a ghost William, I don't want an
enshrined William, I don't even want a memory of William! I Want William!
In all his imperfect humanity, I want his physical presence. Obviously, I
will not ever have that again. It is not possible for his flesh to be raised
up again, it is not possible to replace our children when they are gone.
Hard words, but true, and only we know how true they really are.
Yet, I believe spiritually he warms my heart. He sits next to me when I need
his comfort, and I even seem to hear him say, "There, there. It's going to
be all right, dad. I'm fine, it's you I'm worried about." God's grace again
touching the lonely. The mourning being comforted. God makes provision for
us in many ways when the bad things happen. I know He has taken care of you,
and He has taken care of me. There is much to learn from grief, I just wish
the lesson wasn't so rigorous.
You get butterflies, I'm not sure what I get. Flashes of insight, thoughts
of how I can use what has happened to me to help others, ideas that I would
otherwise not have had, I'm not sure. I do know one thing, I can't dwell on
when I'll see the next "sign." That leads to a dead end. Before you know
it, I'll be so busy looking for signs, I'll be completely incapable of living
between them. I'll be looking in the wrong places for them, and I'll even
attribute things to him that he probably had nothing to do with.
Superstition at its worst and most grotesque.
I guess I sort of take them like rainbows. I know the conditions that make
them favorable, and I keep an eye out for them during those times. If I see
one, I am blessed. If I don't see one that particular day, well, I'll see
another soon, as soon as the conditions are right again, and I am not
The caterpillar is gone, the butterfly is in flight, the cocoon is empty.
William's cocoon is of no use to him now. I will let him fly where he will,
for I have no power over him anymore. That's the way God made it to be, and
I will trust that. Sometimes he soars where I cannot reach, and sometimes he
comes and lands on my shoulder. One day, my cocoon will no longer be of use
to me, but I'm not going to rush into the change. I still have a lot to do
here. I need to help keep William's memory alive and well, and I will see
good come of it. I have already seen much good come of it, and there is more
on the way, of that I am certain.
I pray for you every day. I hope things will go well for you. Thank you for
all the wonderful insight you have shared with the group. As I am still very
new at this, it has helped me on several occasions.
Have you ever read C.S. Lewis' _A Grief Observed_? A wonderful little book,
a diary actually, written in the days following his wife's death from cancer.
A remarkable piece of self-examination and questioning his faith and
understanding of the universe. I highly recommend it. It first helped me
when my father died two years ago. In the past few weeks it has been
Oct. 21, 1997
Nice to hear from you again. What a delightful story, one which reminds me
just how spiritually sensitive children are, before they are perhaps polluted
by the social overtones of our polarized religious culture. ;-)
Things are going well for us. We are progressing well, and I have several
projects and ideas from this experience which I would like to put into
action. I'm afraid I'm not the kind of person who can stand by and let
someone go through the same pain I am suffering. I have to take some sort of
action. Look out world! :-)
Seriously, I'm meeting with our Victim/Witness program here to discuss
documenting some helpful information for people involved in traumatic loss.
As helpful as the police were in their visit, sooner or later they had to
leave and get back to work. I want to develop a little booklet which can be
given to the families at first contact which can help them through the first
couple of days, and give them some guidance in some of the things which will
need to be done right away. We have handled this period rather well, and we
have some others which can lend some insight and input. This is not
something that just anyone can write to be helpful. It has to be written by
a victim. That is the only way to make it meaningful and helpful. It's the
only credential that matters. Just a little project to keep me busy. Yeah,
right. Like I don't already have enough to do. ;-) It will be a good
Please don't feel undeserving or guilty. In reality, as Jack often noted,
none of us really deserves all the generous and good things we do have.
God's mercy and compassion for His creation are overwhelming, and even in the
bad things in life, there is redemption and hope. This I believe with all my
heart. Do good with what you have and prove worthy in your service. Your
encouragement is greatly appreciated.
I remember the hymn we sung in church Sunday, the day after William's
funeral. It wasn't planned this way, but provision is often made for us from
beyond the arch of Time when we are in adversity. I cried when I got to the
"No storm can shake my inward calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
If Love be Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing."
The old ones in our faiths knew a great deal more about suffering than we
ever will. A poignant thought.
Dec. 22, 1997
As you can probably imagine, the holidays are a bit difficult for us right
now. I have had several bad moments in the stores recently. Too many
people, too much manufactured merriment, too much misunderstanding of what
compassion and generosity is really about. On the other hand, I have had
some very good moments in court supporting a family whose daughter was
murdered in July as they were going through the legal proceedings. The man
who killed their daughter and wounded four others with an assault rifle is
now in jail serving 138 years. A small victory for good, and a great relief
to this family. I will be in court again in a week or so...
Our trials will be the end of Jan. and middle of Feb. Please keep us in your
prayers during that time. I suspect it will be rather different being in the
front row then, as opposed to being behind the family in a supporting role.
Dec. 23, 1997
I fear I shall be shopping Tuesday and Wed. I tried to go to the mall on
Sat. Very bad mistake. Too many people, too much hustle and bustle, and not
a single shred of understanding of what true generosity is all about. I'll
never try to do that again. The rest of my shopping will be in small doses,
in small stores, and when others are at work. I really crashed hard when I
left. It was not a pretty sight.
Needless to say, this holiday season has not been the best for me, as you can
probably imagine, but I am doing well, and I am at peace. God's blessings
and presence have been overwhelming in the past few days, and it is, I
believe, only by His strength that I get through each day at all (which I
think is something we should probably realize from the day we are born. His
strength gets us through any, and every day all throughout our lives. The
trick is to recognize our dependence on Him and to adore Him for His
undeserved generosity and grace toward us. Then we shall develop the
spiritual eyes to see Him as He really is).
I hope you are finding these most holy of days to be a blessing to you.
There is much to be thankful for in our daily lives, and the vision of our
Lord's gracious face is everywhere before us.
Dec. 31, 1997
As I was reflecting yesterday on some things, I came to a surprising realization. I
realized that, in the common sense of the term, I find that I no longer believe in God.
That is to say, the concept of "Belief" is not part of my life anymore when it
comes to God the Father and Jesus the Saviour. This is not a negative concept, mind you,
it is a wholly and overwhelmingly positive one.
As I understand it, (and I even looked it up to be sure) belief implies a mental state of
acceptance of something which exists independent of the believer. Belief is the acceptance
as truth of the condition of a thing, regardless of its actual state. And it always
presupposes some sense of uncertainty or lack of direct observation.
For example, if I have left the bedroom window open, and I am in the living room, out of
sight of the window in question, I would believe that the window were open. And if asked I
would reply in that fashion, "I believe the bedroom window is open." Indeed, my
wife may have come along and shut the window behind me without my knowing, but I still
believe it to be open. My belief does not change the state of the object, nor does the
state of the object change my belief until it is within the range of my observation again.
So, the belief in the condition of something is predicated on the condition that you are
not in a position to directly observe the state of the object of that belief. We make the
same statements with regard to religion and faith, "I believe in God." or,
"I have faith in God." And silly us, we make these statements solely on the
basis of not being able to detect God with our five senses, or any other scientific
instrument. Why is it that God continues to elude nobel laureates while revealing Himself
to the likes of you and me? Because they are looking for Him for all the wrong reasons,
and we look for Him for all the right ones.
What a lovely thing enforced faith is. For it forces us to accept as fact the one unseen
thing that is most vital to see, it forces us to trust the one untouchable object that is
the most important to hold on to. For many, conquering the inherent uncertainty required
for belief and faith is the winnowing factor. Serving God is serious business, one which
requires humility and obedience and resulting in serious joy. One must count the cost of
their belief, and anyone looking for an easy street to live on need not apply.
So then, the atheist who says, "I don't believe in God." is speaking amiss,
because the lack of belief they profess is not accurately described in the sentence. A
better wording is, "I believe there is no God." And this, then would be an
accurate statement of their belief, and is how many thoughtful and reasoned atheists I
have spoken with actually refer to the situation.
Indeed, many of the most honestly skeptical (those who are not practicing hedonists, or
those who have come to incorrect conclusions or prejudices about God from observing badly
mannered people, "Christians" in particular) are simply witholding their
judgement on the matter until some directly observable evidence comes their way.
Unfortunate that their eyes are so blinded to the evidence presented to them by the very
fact that they have reasoning minds, and the fact that the signature of the Artist is so
boldly emblazoned on the world around them.
The statement, "I don't believe in God." can be legitimately made, however. And
though one may suppose it is a question of semantics, I think the distinction is
sufficiently clear. For there is no reason to believe that the window is open (going back
to our analogy) if one's hand is on the sash. The definitive, declaration of fact,
"The window is open." suffices at this point. The state of the window is
evident. It is a fact with requires no speculation, no recall of previous action, no
investigation, nor faith either. It exists in concrete form, no longer deniable or
debatable as a belief, no longer existing in a mental state of accepted fact, indeed there
is the fact itself complete and irrefutable.
I would daresay that Adam and Eve in the garden, in that constant and tangible presence of
God daily did not "believe" in Him in the strict sense of the word. Why would
they have to? Belief was not a part of their lives. They lived the reality of God's
presence. Trust, yes, but not belief. It was simply not necessary.
Belief is then a consequence of the fall. A resulting condition made necessary because of
our separation from God in the first place. Jesus' incarnation and resurrection then
brought "belief" to its knees, made it obsolete. No longer are we separated from
the Father except by our own weaknesses and pride. It is no longer necessary to believe in
God, it is only required that we come into His reality through Jesus, our portal into the
Holy of Holies. An then, we begin to live His reality in us, and practice His presence in
our hearts daily.
As for me, there is no use of anyone arguing with me the question of whether I believe God
exists. I don't believe in God anymore. How can I "Believe" in someone whose
face is before me every day? When their guidance is evident in all the opportunities which
present themselves. When His spike-riven hand clutches mine in an undeniable grasp,
keeping me from stumbling into the pit. There is no "belief" anymore, simply a
living in the reality of God's overwhelming being.
God is no more evident than in the lives of His saints. For those saints, no belief is
involved. No faith is required. A tangible presence of God requires no faith and no
belief. All it requires is an open heart, a humble spirit, and an obedient and trusting
response to His gentle voice, unencumbered by our human frailties which we daily strive to
put to death in order to live in Him.
It is in this conclusion then that I must acknowledge that all I have is His. I must
realize that undeniably, all my life, as well as the lives of all of us as saints, is a
testament to His mercy and kindness.
All my actions must be in obedience to His will. And though there are times when my
humanity and weaknesses get in the way, my lack of understanding and foolish pride take me
where I do not belong, God reaches out and shows that not even I in all my sin can present
to Him a situation or problem He cannot redeem. It would be better if He did not have to
redeem it, but redeem it He will. And He will redeem all actions, not just my trespasses
against Him, but also those who trespass against me, as well.
[T]he day after William's funeral, I went to church. Every one of the hymns was perfectly
chosen, every scripture reading was exactly suited to the day. But no human had planned
the service for us. Our tragedy was not in their minds when they were assembling the
program. But God knew, and our Lord made provision. The chorus of one of the hymns went
No storm can shake my inward calm,
While to that Rock I'm clinging.
If Love be Lord of Heaven and Earth,
How can I keep from singing.
Indeed, how can we keep from singing? You know, all I ever wanted to do all my life was to
serve God. And now, through His mercy, I am allowed in some small way to do exactly that,
and to do it with all joy.
January 11, 1998
Thank you for your kind note. Jack's [C.S. Lewis] works have been of enormous help to me
in recent months. I think the thing that makes his works so valuable is that he was so
"real." He did not offer hollow platitudes and advice, nor did he speculate. He
walked the path and saw the Light from the perspective of a traveller on that path. His
works then enable us to know what milestones to look for, and where the stumbling blocks
are. A truly valuable service of immeasurable importance. I am deeply indebted to him.
The most amazing thing of all, is that when he was jotting down notes in those composition
books, I'm sure he had no idea of the magnitude of the service he was accomplishing. He
was only going through the natural grieving process and tending to his own healing. And
while he was caring for himself and his personal needs, he was in direct service and
obedience to the Divine. And one day, what, nearly four decades later, it would help me,
and others like me to deal with our grief as well.
And as a footnote, I daresay he was experiencing somewhat of a similar obedience in
writing the Chronicles. Writing, as he put it, stories that he would have liked to have
read as a child. When God directs our obedient lives, *everything* we do has His watermark
on it, and thus can be used for His Glory and Purpose, even if we at the time see no
longevity to it at all. Obedience is the key. Keeping the face and presence of God before
us each and every day. Dwelling on Him, meditating on Him, and residing in His goodness
and mercy constantly. Therein lies the power of the Christian life in all its glory, and
the collective formidability of God's Church.
If only we all could flow within the river of God's will as freely and sublimely. Then, I
think, we would truly get a glimpse of how the earth was initially intended to operate,
and we would see greater evidence of God's Will done, here on earth, as it is in Heaven.
Unfortunately, I fear that there are many Christians out there who are not up to the task
of true Godly service, as Jack was. If they knew what was was *really* involved, I think
they would choose a deity who was much less personally involved in their lives. I fear
many of them have already done so.
My family and I very much appreciate your prayers. God's presence is nowhere more present
on earth than in the lives of His saints. I pray that He might continue His work in all of
us, keeping us in His good service and bringing us all to a greater level of spiritual
maturity through His redeeming purpose in our lives.
January 14, 1998
Many thanks for your kind words and encouragement. Fortunately, not all of us have to
endure our most terrifying fears, but I'm afraid some of us must. And figuring out how to
let God turn these tragedies into redeemed joys is what faith really is all about. Do not
be distressed for us, we are in the Mercy of our Lord.
Have you read _Letters to Children_? One month before he died, Jack wrote to a little
girl, "If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope
you may always do so." The irony in that one fine sentence is humbling, and the only
response possible is a quiet, heartfelt, Amen.
:January 14, 1998
Your testimony to God's redeeming nature comes through strong and clear. He is our
provider, our redeemer, and our comforter. You have been blessed by His moving you and
your family toward His purpose. Sometimes He has to take away the crutches we have used to
walk upon for so many years for us to realize that we can indeed stand on our own two legs
if we only keep our gaze fixed on His face.
The story of _The Secret Garden_ comes to mind. How one can be talked into believing one
needs support and inactivity, when one is actually perfectly healthy, and the intended
rest turns into confinement leading to atrophy. How often it is this way with our faith
Only trust, only keep His presence before you every day, that is all He asks of us, and in
return, His yoke will indeed be easy, not because it is a light yoke, but because He bears
the weight of it with us. Indeed, the heavier the burden, the more we need to rely on His
shoulders to be broad and strong.
I wish you all success and joy in your new direction and path. Seek Him daily, you will
not be disappointed.
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