A Letter of John Powell to his student, the theology of faith

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith.

    That was the day I first saw Tommy.  My eyes and my mind both blinked.  He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.  It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.  I guess it was just coming into fashion then.  I know in my mind that it isn’t what’s on your head but what’s in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.  I immediately filed Tommy under ‘S’ for strange… Very strange.

    Tommy turned out to be the ‘atheist in residence’ in my Theology of Faith course.  He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God.  We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

        When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, ‘Do you think I’ll ever find God?’

     I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. ‘No!’ I said very emphatically.

     ‘Why not,’ he responded, ‘I thought that was the product you were pushing.’

 

     I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out, ‘Tommy!  I don’t think you’ll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!’  He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

 

    I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line — He will find you!  At least I thought it was clever

 

     Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

 

     Then a sad report came.  I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer.  Before I could search him out, he came to see me.  When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy.  But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe.  ‘Tommy, I’ve thought about you so often; I hear you are sick,’ I blurted out.

 

     ‘Oh, yes, very sick.  I have cancer in both lungs.  It’s a matter of weeks.’

    ‘Can you talk about it, Tom?’ I asked.

    ‘Sure, what would you like to know?’ he replied

    ‘What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?

    ‘Well, it could be worse.

    ‘Like what?

    ‘Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life..

 

    I began to look through my mental file cabinet under ‘S’ where I had filed Tommy as strange.  (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

 

    ‘But what I really came to see you about,’ Tom said, ‘is something you said to me on the last day of class.’  (He remembered!)  He continued, ‘I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, ‘No!’ which surprised me   Then you said, ‘But He will find you.’  I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time.

 

    (My clever line.  He thought about that a lot!)

 

    ‘But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that’s when I got serious about locating God..  And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.  But God did not come out.  In fact, nothing happened.  Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success?  You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying.  And then you quit

 

    ‘Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit.  I decided that I didn’t really care about God, about an after life, or anything like that.  I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable.  I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving.  But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.”

    ‘So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad.  He was reading the newspaper when I approached him.  ‘Dad.

    ‘Yes, what?’ he asked without lowering the newspaper.

    ‘Dad, I would like to talk with you.’

    ‘Well, talk.

    ‘I mean . It’s really important.’

    The newspaper came down three slow inches. ‘What is it?’

 

    ‘Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that.’  Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.  ‘The newspaper fluttered to the floor.  Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before.  He cried and he hugged me.  We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.  It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me.’

 

    ‘It was easier with my mother and little brother.  They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other.  We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years.

 

  ‘I was only sorry about one thing — that I had waited so long.  Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

 

    ‘Then, one day I turned around and God was there.  He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with Him.  I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon, jump through.  C’mon, I’ll give you three days, three weeks.”

 

    ‘Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour.  But the important thing is that He was there.  He found me!  You were right.  He found me even after I stopped looking for Him.’

 

    ‘Tommy,’ I practically gasped, ‘I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize.  To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love.  You know, the Apostle John said that.  He said: ‘God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.’  Tom, could I ask you a favor?  You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain.  But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now.  Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me?  If I told them the same thing it wouldn’t be half as effective as if you were to tell it.

    ‘Oooh.. I was ready for you, but I don’t know if I’m ready for your class.’

    ‘Tom, think about it.  If and when you are ready, give me a call.’

    In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me.  So we scheduled a date.

    However, he never made it.  He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class.  Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed.  He made the great step from faith into vision.  He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

    Before he died, we talked one last time.

    ‘I’m not going to make it to your class,’ he said.

    ‘I know, Tom.’

    ‘Will you tell them for me?  Will you … tell the whole world for me?’

    I will, Tom.  I’ll tell them.  I’ll do my best.’

    So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God’s love, thank you for listening.  And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven — I told them, Tommy, as best I could.

   If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two.  It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

    With thanks, Rev. John Powell, Professor, Loyola University, Chicago

 “The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you” (Zep. 3: 17)

  

Herman & Laura

1737 Linneman Rd.

Cincinnati, OH 45238

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Powerful Tips for A Better Life

These are really very powerful. Implement whatever you can.

 

1.        Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

 2.        Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.

 3.        Buy a DVR.  Tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

 4.        When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, ‘My purpose is to __________ today.’

 5.        Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

 6.        Play more games and read more books than you did in 2007.

 7.        Make time to practice meditation, yoga or stretching, and prayer. They provide us with daily fue  for our busy lives.

 8.        Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

 9.        Dream more while you are awake.

 10.   Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured from plants.

 11.   Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

 12.   Try to make at least three people smile each day.

 13.   Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.

 14.   Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

 15.   Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

 16.   Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

 17.   Try & pay an honest compliment to someone you wouldn’t normally.

 18.   Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

 

19.   Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

 20.   Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

 21.   You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

 22.   Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.

 23.   Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

 24.   No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

 25.   Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’

 26.   Forgive everyone for everything.

 27.   What other people think of you is none of your business.

 28.   However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

 29.   Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will.  Stay in touch.

 30.   Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

 31.   Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

 32.   The best is yet to come.

 33.   No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

 34.   Do the right thing!

 35.   Call your family often.

 36.   Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for _____. Today I accomplished ______.

 37.   Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

 

38.   Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don’t want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life, so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

 

      May your troubles be less,

      May your blessings be more,

      May nothing but happiness come through your door! –

Quotes from Benjamin Franklin

An excerpt from:

Great Quotes from Great Leaders

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security, will deserve neither and lose both.”

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”

“All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immoveable, those that are moveable, and those that move.”

“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.”

“Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.”

“He does not possess wealth; it possesses him.”

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

“Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

By The Way: FPI too busy talking to God

Sun, 06/08/2008 12:01 PM  |  Headlines

Christians are so close to God that they call Him “father” in prayer, while Muslims are so far away from Allah that they need loudspeakers to talk to Him.

This is an old joke, but I couldn’t tell you earlier because I was afraid. If Rizieq Shihab had found out, he might have beaten me black and blue or, worse, burned down my house.

Thank God, he is now in police custody.

If you happen to have watched the news (not the saucy gossip shows or soap operas) or read the paper recently, you would know of Rizieq, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

A radical group, FPI, attacked members of the National Alliance for Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB), who were rallying last Sunday at the National Monument (Monas) park to mark the 63rd anniversary of Pancasila state ideology.

The FPI made their attack because the alliance supports Jamaah Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect dubbed “heretical” by a government panel which also recommended it be banned.

The hardliners had earlier attacked Ahmadiyah sect members, their houses and mosques, and called Ahmadiyah a deviant sect.

The sect leader was once accused of blasphemy, but other than that I have never heard of the sect’s members committing theft, robbery, murder or any other crimes listed in the Criminal Code.

If they have their own interpretations of some verses in the Koran, it is only God who could decide whether it is right or wrong.

In 2006, FPI members vandalized the Play Boy magazine offices in South Jakarta, when the magazine first published its Indonesian version. They said the publication could damage people’s morality, but perhaps the real reason was that they were disappointed to find the Indonesian version didn’t have the same ‘hot’ pictures as its American parent.

They had also repeatedly attacked cafes, bars and nightspots during the Ramadhan fasting month because they believed the establishments violated existing regulations and would tarnish the Holy month.

And they committed all these violent acts in the name of God. Frequently FPI members shouted “Allahuakbar” (God is Great) while conducting their anarchic deeds. They also prayed a lot.

Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam followed by, not only FPI members, but all Muslims around the world.

The Muslim call to prayer, and prayer itself, can be heard in every corner of the city. It would seem it is a case of the louder, the better, so that everyone in the neighborhood can hear it. It doesn’t matter if it is still dawn or if it’s during school hours and the mosque is right next to a school. If one mosque is next to another, they may even compete to be loudest.

On Friday, mosques are crowded with congregations who enthusiastically come to pray and listen to preachers.

Non-Muslims also perform their religious rituals devoutly. Churches are always full on Sundays, when Christians and the Catholics pray and praise the Lord.

Indonesia is indeed one of the most religious nations in the world, a fact confirmed by last year’s religion monitoring study conducted in 21 countries by the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation.

Ironically, Indonesia is also notorious for being among the world’s most corrupt countries.

Being religious, corruptors must pray first before stealing state money, or perhaps they set aside a little of the corrupted money to build mosques or churches.

Another indicator of the strength of religion in Indonesia was in the huge number of people who enjoyed the recent movie Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), which is heavily loaded with religious messages.

President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono who watched the blockbuster along with several cabinet ministers reportedly shed tears because he was so touched by the story. But many joked, saying he had cried because he shared the pain of not being allowed to have more than one wife like the leading role.

Anyway, following the Monas attack, many people (mostly Muslims) demanded the ban of the FPI and some even called its members preman berjubah (thugs in Muslim robes) as they wore long white robes and headscarves during the violence.

Not only FPI members, but it seems many other Muslims, Christians and other deeply religious people are often too busy talking to God in one-way conversations, praising and worshiping God, reading the Koran, the Bible and other holy books, while turning their backs on fellow human beings.

Of course, talking to God is important, but if they think praying five times a day or going to Church every Sunday, or even everyday, is enough to allow them climb the stairway to heaven, maybe they should think again.

By the way, if you find the opening of this piece offensive, please accept my apology. I don’t mean to upset anyone, let alone God, who must be sad enough seeing the violence and frequent religious conflicts within this so-called religious nation.

— T.Sima Gunawan

Moderate groups under fire for silence over radicals

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Thu, 06/19/2008 9:59 AM

Moderate Muslim organizations and political parties have come under fire for failing to demonstrate their religious tolerance following a government decree against an Islamic minority sect.

As major moderate groups, the nation’s two largest Muslim organizations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah should have prevented the issuance of a joint ministerial decree against Jamaah Ahmadiyah, say Muslim scholars and political observers.

They told The Jakarta Post the decree showed the NU and Muhammadiyah were powerless to counter extremist and conservative elements in their campaigns for Islamism.

The anti-Ahmadiyah decree was issued by the government earlier this month amid intense pressure from many extremist groups, including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia.

The government-sanctioned Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) landed support for the decree.

“The NU and Muhammadiyah have so far been just too soft and too tolerant against small militant groups,” political expert Indra J. Pilliang of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said.

He said the two organizations had given too much space for hard-line groups to take the public stage claiming to represent Indonesian Muslims.

Indra warned that a “culture of violence” against minority groups would rise more quickly thanks to the inaction of the NU, Muhammadiyah and moderate political parties to foster religious tolerance and pluralism in the country.

The issuance of the anti-Ahmadiyah decree and a recent attack by FPI members on pro-pluralism activists from the National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB), who were staging a rally for religious tolerance, were clear examples of the dysfunctionality of the two moderate Islamic groups and political parties, he added.

“They have to get tough against extremist groups and strongly condemn any attacks to avoid widespread violence that can turn into mass fascism,” Indra said.

Muslim scholar and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan said the NU and Muhammadiyah had failed to control the MUI with their pluralism mission.

The MUI is led by clerics from the NU and Muhammadiyah but the council has often issued extremist fatwa, banning pluralism, liberalism and secularism as well as branding Ahmadiyah a heretical sect.

“What happens is the MUI doesn’t represent the voice of Muslims as a whole,” he said.

Anies said the NU and Muhammadiyah should take the lead in preventing several Muslim individuals or groups from taking violent actions in the name of Islam.

Rafendi Jamin of the Human Rights Working Group blamed the political parties for only caring about their short-term political interests and neglecting their mission for the betterment of the country, including promoting religious pluralism and tolerance.

All the parties should work together to fix Indonesia’s international image by not tolerating violence and respecting human rights, he said.

Indra said the country’s political parties were trying to woo more voters ahead of the 2009 elections by giving support for the anti-Ahmadiyah decree or taking side with the majority Muslim groups.

Such a stance was more popular than acting otherwise, he added.

Anies warned the religious violence could increase due to the government’s failure to provide jobs for people.

Truth links directory for those seeking more information.

I hope this site will helpfull for anyone to seek truth information. I got it from mailinglist worldcitizen.

Truth links directory for those seeking more information.

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Thousands of Indonesians rally against sect

06/18/08 12:18

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Thousands of Indonesians wearing white to show their religious piety rallied at the presidential palace here Wednesday to demand the banning of a minority Islamic sect deemed “deviant” by top clerics.

More than 4,000 people from an array of mainstream Muslim political parties and fringe Islamist groups chanted slogans, shouted Allahu akbar (God is great) and waved banners condemning the Ahmadiyah sect.

A speaker accused the sect of “staining Islam” and demanded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issue a decree to make it an outlawed organisation.

“We ask first that Ahmadiyah repent, return to Islam or make a new religion. If they don’t want to do that then they must be broken up,” Mohammed Alwi, a student from an Islamic boarding school outside Jakarta, told AFP.

“Ahmadiyah is a criminal organisation,” said another protester.

A small cordon of unarmed police was on hand to protect the palace but there was no sign of violence.

The protest comes after the government earlier this month ordered the sect, which has peacefully practised its faith in Indonesia since the 1920s, to stop spreading its belief that Mohammed was not the last prophet.

The ministerial decree stopped short of the ban demanded by Muslim leaders after the country’s top Islamic body issued a fatwa describing the sect as “deviant.”

The case has raised questions over Indonesia’s image as a tolerant, secular democracy and sparked violent tensions between moderates and radical hardliners. (*)

 

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