Thursday, April 26, 2007
I heard Ebarb's story Wednesday at a program for National Crime Victims Week at David Wade Correctional Center, and it's one of those that forces you to think. His journey wasn't an easy one, but still, would I have the courage to do that if it were my brother?
We spoke after the presentation and he said something I always love to hear - "you probably won't print this." Then he continued saying he wishes the pardon board would consider the changes in a man when they look at commuting a sentence. The man who killed his brother has shown great remorse and become a solid Christian man, Ebarb said. But all the pardon application asks for is a prison record and the basic details of the crime and initial sentence.
"I think a lot of guys shouldn't spend the rest of their life here," Ebarb said.
Pretty amazing turnaround from a guy who planned to kill his brother's killer. But I have to admit, I sometimes wonder the same thing when I've visited David Wade for various stories. I've had the pleasure of meeting the men who have changed their lives and attitudes, usually through religion of some kind. One man in particular, Henry Alford exemplifies the rehabilitation that I think is one goal of the prison system.
He's in for life and has served 40 years between Angola and David Wade. He even escaped from Angola, but somewhere he found God. He knows he did a terrible thing.
Although he can't correct what he did, he has devoted his time in prison to other people. Now, he's almost serene in his approach to prison life. He regularly works with the younger men trying to set them straight so they don't come back to prison once released. He is president of the Lifer's Association which has raised money for various charities on the "outside."
"I ask God to bless them, and I ask God to bless my soul," he said. "It's hard knowing you've torn someone's life apart."
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The word comes from a Greek word meaning "to teach," and the books use a question and answer format to explain the faith. According to my church history class, Catholic catechisms developed to counter those written by reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin. But somehow the term catechism became synonymous with Catholic religious education. That probably came from the famous Baltimore Catechism, which all Catholics of a certain age can still quote reflexively.
So back to Barksdale Baptist - the pastor there has dug up a catechism written by Benjamin Keach, a 17th century English Baptist pastor, and he's using that in his Wednesday night prayer meetings. It's certainly an old-school format, but it's probably full of great information in a fairly easy to digest format. I would be interested to see what his members think...
And as part of my quest to find similarities in denominations here's a couple of excerpts:
From Keach's Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (1 Cor. 10:31, Psalm 73:25-26)
From the Baltimore Catechism section titled "End of Man":
Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
But does someone need to ring 33? Maybe a church somewhere. Anger toward this man is understandable.
It is incomprehensible, what he did and why he would do it. All the wasted life makes me sad and mad and very confused. But somewhere, is there a bell for his wasted life? A life lost to what — mental illness, depression, rage, antisocial behavior?
Many labels will be offered. None, in the end, will fully explain. But in the midst of all this loss, his was another wasted life.
If somebody doesn’t ring 33 bells, I’m afraid it will be one more way we ignore the need around us. If somebody doesn’t ring 33 bells, it sends the message that not all human life is sacred, which must be some of the thinking that would lead someone to so easily kill. If somebody doesn’t ring 33 bells, can we ever fully grieve the other 32?
My faith tells me that at least one place, 33 bells were rung. Surely God grieves the loss of every one of God’s children.
The massacre at Virginia Tech left enough loss and unanswered questions. Then, yesterday, sadness hit here in the newsroom when we learned of the death of our friend and co-worker Tim Greening.
People in the community often asked me what it was like to work with Tim. I think they expected me to say he was one of those loud, class clown types. But he wasn't. He was very quiet and understated -- until something struck him as funny. Then he'd make some comment just to the people around him or send an e-mail that would have everyone else laughing instantly.
Frankly, it just wasn't supposed to be this way. I'm of that age, where I'm beyond thinking of myself and people my age as invincible, but they aren't expected to just collapse. And now I'm left with the same questions I had earlier this week. Why?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
From a religious perspective, the questions increase exponentially. I start to think about the problems of evil, because no other explanation for such horror makes sense. What is evil? Where does it come from? How does God fit into that picture? How do we pray about this?
Theologians have always and probably will always wrestle with these questions. But I'll open it up to you. How do you make sense of this actions when looking through eyes of faith (any faith)?
UPDATE: College students at Centenary found the verse I was looking for earlier today and used it in their Memorial service today: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Rom. 8:26)
Monday, April 16, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
What do you think?
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In the midst of the Easter/Passover onslaught, I received a book that I almost over looked, The 13th Demon. Books show up on my desk all the time, but I looked again and said, Hey I know the author. It's a spiritual warfare themed novel, set in Louisiana, and sounds like it could be a pretty good read, especially if you're into that stuff.
I'm planning to write something for the paper, but I wanted to give y'all a heads up. The website is pretty cool as well. It even includes a video clip of a scene from the book.
When I actually get a chance to sit down and read it, I'll let you know what I think.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Photo: Greg Pearson/The Times
"Are we better people on Easter than we were on Ash Wednesday?"
Friday, April 06, 2007
Well, Dr. Joe Holoubek wrote an article looking at it from a medical perspective because people who were crucified usually took more than 24 hours to die. Jesus died in three hours. Here's pieces of the article:
Jesus died when He willed it.
For decades (my wife) Dr. Alice and I gave presentations on the sufferings of Christ at Calvary. We also researched and published scholarly articles on the subject.
I discovered, for instance, that there are 78 documented cases of hematidrosis or bloody sweat in medical literature. Other people, under severe stress, have sweat blood through unbroken skin.
In our more than 300 public meditations on the death of Jesus, Dr. Alice would show images of the Shroud of Turin, an ancient burial cloth of a man who was crucified, and discuss what the stains tell us about the wounds and battered condition of the body. But she refused to pin down a medical cause for Christ’s early death. Jesus died, she would say, when He wished to die....
There’s no doubt Christ was weak. He’d had no sleep for at least 30 hours, having walked to Jerusalem from Ephraim. He’d had nothing to eat or drink for about 20 hours—since the Passover meal. At the house of Annas and later, He took several heavy blows to the face and head. Then He was scourged and crowned with thorns. And yet Jesus was able to walk to the home of Pontius Pilate, to the palace of Herod and back.
He had to carry a 90-pound crosspiece on the path to Calvary. It surely was a stumbling procession, even with the help of Simon the Cyrene. And yet Jesus was able to talk clearly with the women on the scene.
His was a routine and professional crucifixion. Nails were driven through His hands and feet with excruciating pain but a minimum of bleeding.
Jesus probably coughed continuously from congestion of the lung. But He received enough blood to the brain to forgive his enemies, entrust his mother to John the apostle, and speak to the thieves crucified alongside him.
No one in a state of shock could have said all of this, especially from an upright position. Blood pressure would be too low or completely absent.
Then the dying Jesus let out a final cry. It is consummated. Or, in another translation, It is finished.
What was consummated? What was finished? It has to be that Jesus had completed the work his Father had sent Him to do.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I attended Mass at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, where as always we heard from the gospel of John about Jesus washing his disciples' feet. Then the priest called up 12 members of the congregation to wash their feet as a re-enactment. But the Rev. Peter Mangum, pastor at the Cathedral, told those of us still in the pews not to imagine ourselves in the place of those receiving the foot washing, but in his place as the servant.
"What would happen," he asked "if in Israel, Jews and Palestinians would washing each other's feet? If in Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants would wash each other's feet? If in our own country, people of different races, would wash each other's feet?"
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Photo: Times file photo from a hunt last year
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
SBCR spokesman David Westerfield said the conversation ranged from international conflicts such as Iraq, Israel and Darfuf to more local trends like keeping young adults here in Shreveport. In talking about hurricane recovery, the pastors reminded Vitter that the churches opened their doors and got involved before government showed up. Westerfield said Vitter mostly just listened and then encouraged the pastors to challenge their members to get involved in the community and do something about the concerns they see.
Those attending the hour-long meeting included many of the elite clergy from a pretty good mix of congregations: The Rev. Fred Lowery of First Baptist - Bossier, Bishop Larry Brandon of Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, the Rev. Ken Irby of Broadmoor United Methodist, the Rev. M.L. Agnew of St. Mark's Cathedral and others. Westerfield said the men were pretty quiet at first, and I'm guessing that's because a lot of these guys rarely sit in the same room.
"Part of the idea (of Community Renewal) is to bring people together," Westerfield said.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Sunday, April 1 to Sunday, April 8 is Holy Week. Everything about our faith gets compressed into these 8 incredible days. Holy Week shows humanity at its worst
It shows God at his best. It points in dramatic fashion to the problems that ail us. It points in dramatic fashion to the remedy that is Christ.
In the history of our faith, these are the days of Jesus’ fateful confrontation with authorities. On Sunday he rides into Jerusalem to the adulation of an adoring crowd. By the end of the week he is listening to their jeers and standing condemned as a blasphemer and an insurrectionist.
In the daylight hours of Holy Week Jesus carries on a grinding public life characterized by conflict with religious leaders. In the evenings he retreats to more private places and draws strength from friends. During a Passover meal on Thursday night he gives new meaning to the bread and the wine, instituting what we now know as the Lord’s Supper. Then he loses his freedom, and finally his life.
Easter’s glory only makes sense against the backdrop of this rollercoaster of highs and lows. The brightness of its joy gains its luster from the darkness of Good Friday. Christ takes all that death can give and gets back up again, glorified and triumphant.
Due to a rare convergence of events, this week will feature a veritable smorgasbord of religious events regardless of your persuasion. Holy Week began yesterday (Palm Sunday) for both Eastern and Western Christians, which marks the days leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. Passover, the Jewish holiday of liberation from Egypt begins tonight.
This means there are services nearly every day if you're interested. The Eastern Orthodox are having two services a day, most days. Seder meals for the Jewish community will be today and tomorrow (though I think all of those required reservations). Several black churches are having revivals the first part of the week. Other Christian services kick into high gear on Thursday. Churches are getting pretty creative this year. As I typed up the religion bulletins, I saw several featuring living last suppers on Maundy Thursday and a couple of silent breakfasts on Friday.
Whatever your beliefs, may it be a blessed week!