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  • Communion on the moon -Eric Metaxas-

    Buzz Aldrin on lunar surface July 20th, 1969

    Forty years ago two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. "I'm talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.

    And a few years ago I had the privilege of meeting him myself. I asked him about it and he confirmed the story to me, and I wrote about in my book "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask)."

    The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his minister to help him. And so the minister consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth's orbit and on to the surface of the moon.

    He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement:

    Buzz Aldrin

    "This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way."

    He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what happened:

    "In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup.

    Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.'

    I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.

    I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility . It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.

    And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the 'Love that moves the Sun and other stars.'"


    • Earning Your Desk

      Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom. The kids came into first period, they walked in, there were no desks. They obviously looked around and said, "Ms. Cothren, where's our desks?"

      And she said,

      "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them."

      They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

      "No," she said.

      "Maybe it's our behavior."

      And she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

      And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing, third period.

      By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in Ms. Cothren's class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom. The last period of the day, Martha Cothren gathered her class.

      They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. And she says, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily." She said, "Now I'm going to tell you."

      Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. And they placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. And by the time they had finished placing those desks, those kids - for the first time I think perhaps in their lives - understood how they earned those desks.

      Martha said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it."

      In 2006 the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their "Teacher of the Year." This is a TRUE STORY, according to


      • Laus Deo... a history lesson

        In Washington DC, there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument...
        this is a LAW.

        On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington DC, are two words: Laus Deo. No one can see these words. In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn't care less.

        These words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia, capital of the United States of America.

        Top of the Washington Monument Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.

        So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say...

        "Praise be to God!"

        Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, "Laus Deo... Praise be to God!"

        From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with it's division into four major segments. From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l'Enfant... a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

        Pastor Jeff Strite looking at Laus Deo A cross you ask? Why a cross? What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution. So, read on . How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who bother to notice.

        Praise be to God! Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message! On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore; on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians; on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6.

        Praise be to God!

        When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848, deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy ."One Nation, Under God."

        George Washington's Prayer - have you ever read it? If not, do so now.

        The Washington Monument in Washington DC

        "Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United states at large." And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

        Laus Deo!

        When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation's capitol, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look.

        You may forget the width and height of "Laus Deo," it's location, or the architects... but no one who reads this will be able to forget it's meaning, or these words: "Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." -- Psalm 127:1

        -Washington Monument by Peter Krogh-


        • Dear Mom & Dad

          This is the first chance I had to write to you. I'm sorry if I made you worry. I want you to know that all is well and I arrived safe and sound at Camp Heaven. Everything around me is more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

          The trip was short. I got here just after I closed my eyes and fell asleep. It was as if no time had past at all.

          I miss you so very much. I was told to tell you not to worry because I would be seeing you soon. Please pass this letter on to all my relatives, friends at home, and at school.

          I arrived standing before a huge gate.

          A Beautiful Angel was there waiting to greet me; he had very large wide wings protruding from his shoulders and was wearing a whiter than snow robe with a golden sash around his waist. A Sparkling Halo circled above his head; his whole being glowed as bright as the sun. I was able to see his face; it was unlike any face I had ever seen before...perfect, soft, and gentle. He greeted me with a loving smile. I asked him who he was; he answered with a low and echoed voice:

          "My name is Gabriel. I am an Archangel and Messenger of God."

          I could hardly believe what I was seeing: a real live angel! He extended his arms to me; I rushed and fell right into them. He embraced and held me tight, then said: "Welcome home Michael!"

          He held my body close to his. I was engulfed in Love, and a profound peace; joy flowed throughout my whole body!

          Mom and Dad, don't feel bad but the love I felt was a thousand times stronger than anything I ever felt before.

          He then said: "Come Michael, all your brothers and sisters are eager to see and greet you. Grab on to my cloak."

          We traveled through the air for a short while and landed on this wonderful outdoor arena that looked like a King's Palace all shiny and bright. A large group of men, women, and children had gathered. There were kinds of animals milling around. I noticed there were doggies too. I was so thrilled to see doggies. I saw lots of Black Labs, just like our Smoky Bear.

          Gabriel put his arm around my shoulder and announced: "Children, this is your new brother Michael; welcome him home!"

          Everyone cheered and applauded louder than a crowd at a sports stadium; they all came to greet me and gave me lots of hugs and kisses. I felt like a Super Star! Gabriel then said: "OK, enough kissing and hugging, it's time to celebrate!"

          I started hearing the sound of music playing but didn't know where it was coming from. I looked up; descending from the sky was an army of Celestial Angels playing the most beautiful and enchanting music I had ever heard. Each one had a different instrument: a trumpet, harp, bell, and others instruments. The Celestial Music permeated the entire palace.

          Then, suddenly,a huge table and chairs appeared in the center of the palace; they glistened like gems! The table was longer than a football field and filled with a assortment of all different kinds of fruit, vegetables, and breads; the spread was enormous!

          Gabriel seated at the head table stood, lifted his wine glass high and said: "Children, I hereby propose a toast to welcome the arrival of God's new adopted son, our new brother, and new addition to The Family of God, Michael! The crowd lifted their glasses and shouted: "Here! Here!" and sipped the wine.

          The Angels started playing a tremendous joyous sounding song. Everyone shouted out say: "Welcome Home Michael! Welcome Home! Michael!" Gabriel then said: "Hallelujah! It's time to eat, drink, and be merry! Let the celebration and feast begin!"

          Mom and Dad, I'm in Heaven! It's more wonderful and beautiful than words could ever express!

          Although I miss you and all my friends very much, please know that I am as happy as I ever could possibly have imagined. Everyone is always filled with Joy and Laughter and truly show their Love and concern toward one anther.

          Gabriel told me this will be my 'Eternal Permanent New Home and Family!' I can stay here forever and never have to worry again about getting sick, growing old, or have bad things happen.

          Please be well and take care of yourself! It's just like when you sent me away to those other camps for the summer, except this one is the greatest one of them all and will never end.

          I am in Heaven and here is where I was meant to be, where I belong, and where I will live in love forever and ever!

          Well, I gotta go now; they're calling my name to join in on another exciting outdoor game. I'll try to write again soon but it's hard to stop from all the fun I'm having.

          I love you both so very much!

          Your son, Michael

          -By Milton Lopez Delgado-


          • The Glasses

            Mother's father worked as a carpenter. On this particular day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to some orphanage in China.

            On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China!

            The Great Depression was at it's height and Grandpa had six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair.

            "It's not fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration.

            "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."

            Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States.

            He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my grandfather's small church in Chicago. The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage.

            "But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year.

            You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top.

            The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: "Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that."

            The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas.

            But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.
            Last edited by FineLinen; June 19th, 2019, 06:03 AM.


            • Sitting in hell, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to the land of the living to warn his relatives not to end up in torment in hell. He was told that the prophets who wrote the Scriptures are all the warning they'll get. Jesus raised from the dead to warn people about hell, but calling him a liar is not wise; He warned us the even though He would ascend from the grave that there would be those who end up in hell because they don't believe His teachings.
              "That man of sin must first be revealed." -- Jesus

              If you haven't tried: you've already failed. -- Aimiel


              • A walk with the lord

                I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

                As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, "I will work for food." My heart sank.

                I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

                We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them.

                I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car. Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: "Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square." Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner. I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack.

                Continued below

                A Walk with The Lord | Inspire 21


                • Value

                  A popular speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20 bill. A crowd of 200 had gathered to hear him speak. He asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”

                  200 hands went up.

                  He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He crumpled the bill up.

                  He then asked, “Who still wants it?”

                  All 200 hands were still raised.

                  “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” Then he dropped the bill on the ground and stomped on it with his shoes.

                  He picked it up, and showed it to the crowd. The bill was all crumpled and dirty.

                  “Now who still wants it?”

                  All the hands still went up.

                  “My friends, I have just showed you a very important lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.

                  Many times in our lives, life crumples us and grinds us into the dirt. We make bad decisions or deal with poor circumstances. We feel worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special – Don’t ever forget it!


                  • A box full of kisses

                    The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said,

                    "This is for you, Daddy."

                    The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, "Don't you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried,

                    "Oh, Daddy, it's not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They're all for you, Daddy."

                    The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.

                    Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

                    In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings, have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses... from our children, family members, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than this.


                    • Broken wing - don't judge a book by its cover

                      Some people are just doomed to be failures. That's the way some adults look at troubled kids. Maybe you've heard the saying, "A bird with a broken wing will never fly as high." I'm sure that T. J. Ware was made to feel this way almost every day in school.

                      By high school, T. J. was the most celebrated troublemaker in his town. Teachers literally cringed when they saw his name posted on their classroom lists for the next semester. He wasn't very talkative, didn't answer questions and got into lots of fights. He had flunked almost every class by the time he entered his senior year, yet was being passed on each year to a higher grade level. Teachers didn't want to have him again the following year.

                      T. J. was moving on, but definitely not moving up.

                      I met T. J. for the first time at a weekend leadership retreat. All the students at school had been invited to sign up for ACE training, a program designed to have students become more involved in their communities. T. J. was one of 405 students who signed up. When I showed up to lead their first retreat, the community leaders gave me this overview of the attending students: "We have a total spectrum represented today, from the student body president to T. J. Ware, the boy with the longest arrest record in the history of town." Somehow, I knew that I wasn't the first to hear about T. J.'s darker side as the first words of introduction.

                      At the start of the retreat, T. J. was literally standing outside the circle of students, against the back wall, with that "go ahead, impress me" look on his face.

                      He didn't readily join the discussion groups, didn't seem to have much to say. But slowly, the interactive games drew him in. The ice really melted when the groups started building a list of positive and negative things that had occurred at school that year. T. J. had some definite thoughts on those situations. The other students in T. J.'s group welcomed his comments. All of a sudden T. J. felt like a part of the group, and before long he was being treated like a leader. He was saying things that made a lot of sense, and everyone was listening. T. J. was a smart guy, and he had some great ideas.

                      The next day, T. J. was very active in all the sessions. By the end of the retreat, he had joined the Homeless Project team. He knew something about poverty, hunger and hopelessness. The other students on the team were impressed with his passionate concern and ideas. They elected T. J. co-chairman of the team. The student council president would be taking his instruction from T. J. Ware.

                      When T. J. showed up at school on Monday morning, he arrived to a firestorm. A group of teachers were protesting to the school principal about his being elected co-chairman. The very first community wide service project was to be a giant food drive, organized by the Homeless Project team. These teachers couldn't believe that the principal would allow this crucial beginning to a prestigious, three-year action plan to stay in the incapable hands of T. J. Ware.

                      They reminded the principal, "He has an arrest record as long as your arm. He'll probably steal half the food." Mr. Coggshall reminded them that the purpose of the ACE program was to uncover any positive passion that a student had and reinforce its practice until true change can take place. The teachers left the meeting shaking their heads in disgust, firmly convinced that failure was imminent.

                      Two weeks later, T. J. and his friends led a group of 70 students in a drive to collect food.

                      They collected a school record: 2,854 cans of food in just two hours. It was enough to fill the empty shelves in two neighborhood centers, and the food took care of needy families in the area for 75 days. The local newspaper covered the event with a full-page article the next day. That newspaper story was posted on the main bulletin board at school, where everyone could see it. T. J.'s picture was up there for doing something great, for leading a record-setting food drive. Every day he was reminded about what he did. He was being acknowledged as leadership material.

                      T. J. started showing up at school every day and answered questions from teachers for the first time. He led a second project, collecting 300 blankets and 1,000 pairs of shoes for the homeless shelter. The event he started now yields 9,000 cans of food in one day, taking care of 70 percent of the need for food for one year. T. J. reminds us that a bird with a broken wing only needs mending. But once it has healed, it can fly higher than the rest. T. J. got a job. He became productive. He is flying quite nicely these days.

                      -A True Story by Jim Hullihan-


                      • The Smell of Rain

                        A cold March wind danced around the dead of night in Dallas as the Doctor walked into the small hospital room of Diana Blessing. Still groggy from surgery, her husband David held her hand as they braced themselves for the latest news. That afternoon of March 10,1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24 weeks pregnant, to Danae Lu Blessing.

                        At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor’s soft words dropped like bombs.

                        I don’t think she’s going to make it, he said, as kindly as he could.

                        “There’s only a 10 percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one.” Numb with disbelief, David and Diana listened as the doctor described the devastating problems Danae would likely face if she survived. She would never walk, she would never talk, she would probably be blind, and she would certainly be prone to other catastrophic conditions from cerebral palsy to complete mental retardation, and on and on. “No! No!” was all Diana could say. She and David, with their 5-year-old son Dustin, had long dreamed of the day they would have a daughter to become a family of four. Now, within a matter of hours, that dream was slipping away.

                        Through the dark hours of morning as Danae held onto life by the thinnest thread, Diana slipped in and out of sleep, growing more and more determined that their tiny daughter would live, and live to be a healthy, happy young girl. But David, fully awake and listening to additional dire details of their daughter’s chances of ever leaving the hospital alive, much less healthy, knew he must confront his wife with the inevitable. David walked in and said that we needed to talk about making funeral arrangements. Diana remembers, ‘I felt so bad for him because he was doing everything, trying to include me in what was going on, but I just wouldn’t listen, I couldn’t listen. I said, “No, that is not going to happen, no way! I don’t care what the doctors say; Danae is not going to die! One day she will be just fine, and she will be coming home with us!”

                        As if willed to live by Diana’s determination, Danae clung to life hour after hour, with the help of every medical machine and marvel her miniature body could endure. But as those first days passed, a new agony set in for David and Diana. Because Danae’s under-developed nervous system was essentially raw, the lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort, so they couldn’t even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love. All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultraviolet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl. There was never a moment when Danae suddenly grew stronger.

                        But as the weeks went by, she did slowly gain an ounce of weight here and an ounce of strength there. At last, when Danae turned two months old, her parents were able to hold her in their arms for the very first time. And two months later-though doctors continued to gently but grimly warn that her chances of surviving, much less living any kind of normal life, were next to zero. Danae went home from the hospital, just as her mother had predicted.

                        Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life.

                        She shows no signs, what so ever, of any mental or physical impairment. Simply, she is everything a little girl can be and more-but that happy ending is far from the end of her story.

                        One blistering afternoon in the summer of 1996 near her home in Irving, Texas, Danae was sitting in her mother’s lap in the bleachers of a local ballpark where her brother Dustin’s baseball team was practicing. As always, Danae was chattering non-stop with her mother and several other adults sitting nearby when she suddenly fell silent. Hugging her arms across her chest, Danae asked, “Do you smell that?” Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, “Yes, it smells like rain.” Danae closed her eyes and again asked, “Do you smell that?” Once again, her mother replied, “Yes, I think we’re about to get wet, it smells like rain. Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced,

                        “No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest.”

                        Tears blurred Diana’s eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children.

                        Before the rains came, her daughter’s words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along. During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life, when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danae on His chest and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.


                        • Overcoming Obstacles: How Louis Zamperini Remained ‘Unbroken’

                          Initially, Louis Zamperini’s greatest obstacle was his own mortality. During World War II, his entire focus was on surviving, and the odds continued to be against him. He joined the Air Force in 1941 and was stationed on the Pacific as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator bomber. At that time, flying into combat was only half the danger. Due to numerous technical problems and inadequate training, more than 50,000 airmen died in non-combat related accidents. So it was not unusual that Louis’ plane crashed into the ocean as he and his crewmates flew on a search and rescue mission for another plane that went down earlier.

                          What was unusual, however, was that Louis survived the crash and the subsequent 47 days on a raft.

                          “The odds of being rescued if you ended up on a life raft were terrible,” Laura Hillenbrand, author of Zamperini’s biography Unbroken, told NPR in 2010. “The rafts were very poorly equipped.” Louis and his crewmate survived at sea longer than any other known survivors, drinking rainwater and eating the fish they managed to catch.

                          But his ordeal and struggle to survive had only just begun.

                          Emaciated and weak from sitting in the lifeboat, Louis was discovered and captured by the Japanese and eventually sent to a brutal POW camp where he was beaten, starved and overworked. Due to his fame—he had competed in the 1936 Olympics and was one of the fastest distance runners in the world—a jealous and sadistic prison guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, whom the prisoners nicknamed “the Bird,” singled Louis out for particularly cruel treatment. These events are dramatized in the movie Unbroken, based on Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. Amazingly, he survived two years in the POW camps before being released when the war ended. -Elizabeth Street-

                          Continued below



                          • Tell Them

                            Some 14 years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our opening session in the theology of faith.

                            That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. My quick judgment wrote him off as strange – very strange.

                            Tommy turned out to be my biggest challenge.

                            He constantly objected to or smirked at the possibility of an unconditionally loving God.

                            When he turned in his final exam at the end of the course, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, “Do you think I’ll ever find God?”

                            “No,” I said emphatically.

                            “Oh,” he responded. “I thought that was the product you were pushing.”

                            I let him get five steps from the door and then called out.

                            “I don’t think you’ll ever find Him, but I am certain He will find you.”

                            Tommy shrugged and left. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line.

                            Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was grateful for that. Then came a sad report: Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to me. When he walked into my office, his body was badly wasted, and his long hair had fallen out because of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice, for the first time, was firm.

                            “Tommy! I’ve thought about you so often. I heard you were very sick,” I blurted out.

                            “Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer. It’s a matter of weeks.”

                            “Can you talk about it?”

                            “Sure. What would you like to know?”

                            “What’s it like to be only 24 and know that you’re dying?”

                            “It could be worse,” he told me, “like being 50 and thinking that drinking booze, seducing women and making money are the real ‘biggies’ in life.”

                            Then he told me why he had come.

                            “It was something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked 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. But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging against the bronze doors of heaven. But nothing happened.

                            Well, one day I woke up, and instead of my desperate attempts to get some kind of message, I just quit.

                            I decided I didn’t really care about God, an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more important. I thought about you and something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you loved them.’ So I began with the hardest one: my dad.”

                            Tommy’s father had been reading the newspaper when his son approached him.

                            “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.”

                            Tommy smiled at me as he recounted the moment. “The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I couldn’t remember him doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.

                            “It was easier with my mother and little brother,” Tommy continued. “They cried with me, and we hugged one another, and shared the things we had been keeping secret for so long. Here I was, in the shadow of death, and 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. Apparently He does things in His own way and at His own hour. The important thing is that you were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him.”

                            “Tommy,” I added, “could I ask you a favor? Would you come to my theology-of-faith course and tell my students what you told me?”

                            Though we scheduled a date, he never made it. 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 humanity has ever seen or the mind ever imagined.

                            Before he died, we talked one last time. “I’m not going to make it to your class,” he said. “I know, Tommy.”

                            “Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?”

                            “I will, Tommy. I’ll tell them.”


                            • Thank you all for sharing these stories, was really interesting to read


                              • The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

                                Paris was one of the first places on my pilgrimage of healing following my husband’s sudden death on a wild river in Guatemala. Paris had always been a place of solace, and I thought that it would be a good place to experience my first Easter after Gary’s death.

                                On the day before Easter I asked my friends Don and Annie Hudson to join me for a concert of sacred music at Notre Dame, though I had hesitated briefly when I saw from the program that the theme would be “Les mysteres douloureux,” the sorrowful mysteries, with Gregorian chants and medieval polyphonies and pieces and improvisations played on the grand orgue.

                                We would hear the passion of Christ acted out in sorrowful chants, amplified by the swelling sublimity of the grand organ, with its more than 7,000 pipes. The tableaus began with the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by the flagellation, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross, ending with the crucifixion. I wasn’t to escape the sorrows of Easter, after all, but where better to experience them than Notre Dame, where even the most prosaic prayers seem to take on an exalted resonance.

                                As the six robed men of the Ensemble Gregorien de Notre Dame de Paris chanted the melodious words from centuries-old codexes and manuscripts, I was struck by the depiction of Jesus’s sense of injustice at what was happening and by his very human questioning of this anguish.

                                “Moi, je t’ai donne an scepter royal; mais toi tu as place sur ma tete une couronne d’epines.”

                                Me, I gave you a royal scepter; but you, you placed on my head a crown of thorns. Again and again, he repeats, O mon people, que t’ai-je fait? En quoi t’ai-je contriste? O my people, what did I do to you? In what did I sadden you? Reponds-moi. Answer me. Jesus appears to be resisting his fate, calling out to his tormentors and to God. But then he lets go.

                                “Tout est consommé.” It is finished. It is accomplished.

                                As I listened to the words of Jesus struggling against his destiny, I couldn’t help but think of Gary’s battle on the river, as he realized that he was facing his death. Gary’s struggle and his death had somehow become entwined in my psyche with the passion story of Jesus. I knew that Gary must have fought mightily. He must have resisted his fate with everything in his mind, body and soul. And then there was a point at which he let go. It was finished. Tout est consommé. A universal story, really. As Joseph Campbell and others have told us, there is only one story, with many faces, of the hero whose quest ends finally in sacrifice.

                                Resisting tears, I wrote a note to Annie Hudson, for whom I was translating: “The next part is about the suffering of Mary, sung by men.” And the tenors and baritones did their best. “Moi qui ne connaissais pas auparavant la peine, je suis fatigue de ma peine, je sui crucifee par ma douleur.” Grief I did not know before, but now I am worn out by grief and tortured by sorrow.

                                So many songs of love and death. So much sorrow. For a moment I was Mary and all women who have lost their men to a fate they didn’t choose. In this 12th-century recitation of her suffering, written by Godefroy de Saint-Victor, Mary resists consolation and asks that she take her son’s place in death. “Mon unique consolation est de vous plaindre.” My only consolation is to weep for you.

                                On the final page of the program, following the text of Saint-Victor’s Planctus, was a photo of Nicholas Coustou’s pieta, one of the glories of Notre Dame. Coustou’s rendering of Mary cradling the body of her son, her arms raised in supplication to the heavens, isn’t as powerful as Michelangelo’s, but Mary’s questioning anguish, captured at its peak, is eloquent enough. Like Mary, I had yet to be consoled, nor did I understand why Gary had to die. But I did feel another small bundle of grief lifted away by the music as it passed through glass and stone on its way upward. -Carol F. Chapman-