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School Shooting Survivor: How I Stopped Being Afraid

Trusting God in an unsafe world.

Last week, a shooter attacked a classroom at a community college in southern Oregon. In the aftermath, the media recounted incidents of gun violence through the decades. We thought back to the mass killings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina; a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; and a military installation in Texas. Then, of course, we thought about the horrific school shootings in particular, massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, and Sandy Hook Elementary.

Some believe we’re becoming numb to these attacks as they continue to occur, but for others, it feels like the opposite: We seem to have more reason to be afraid of our world than ever. The news immediately triggered familiar fears for me, because I am a survivor of a school shooting.

When I was in eighth grade, I witnessed a fellow classmate—a neighbor I had known for years—shoot and kill my teacher with a rifle. For 10 long years after, I waited for God to make the world a safe place. During that decade, I begged God for protection but held on to him in a fragile way, worried that he would let my world implode again without warning.

By the time I turned 16, I routinely suffered panic attacks. I became acutely aware of violence on the news and in the world. When I was alone at home, I would hide under the kitchen counter with the phone on my ear, anxious about anything I couldn’t see or know.

The thing about being afraid for a long time is that you get comfortable with it. And before you know it, you start to believe fear itself keeps you safe and prevents bad things from happening. Fear seemed to protect me. I thought that as long as I stayed vigilant, nothing bad would happen.

I believed ...

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The Pope's Growing Evangelical Flock

Catholics seem to be responding to Pope Francis encouragement to read their Bibles and pray on their own.

Under Pope Francis’ leadership, the Catholic Church is looking more, well, Protestant.

That’s especially true when it comes to prayer and the Bible.

“It is not for putting on a shelf, but rather to have it at hand,” Francis said of the Bible last year. “It is for reading it often, every day, either individually or in groups, husband and wife, parents and children; maybe at night, especially on Sundays. That way, the family can move forward with the light and the power of the Word of God!”

The Vatican has worked to increase scripture distribution under Francis, the American Bible Society (ABS) said. In the last year, according to ABS, the Vatican distributed thousands of copies of the book of Mark in St. Peter’s Square. Last week, half a million copies of the book of Luke were handed out during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. And the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated November 15–21 as National Bible Week.

Catholics seem to be responding: ABS research found 67 percent of Catholic Bible readers wanted to read the Bible more often, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. A third of Catholics (33%) actually did read the Bible more than the previous year. The ABS also found:

  • Almost all (96%) of practicing Catholics (those who attend a religious service at least once a month and who say their faith is very important in their lives) have a Bible at home. One out of five read their Bibles several times a week; 14 percent read every day. These readers average about 37 minutes of Bible reading in each sitting.
  • About seven in ten (69%) practicing Catholics say they read the Bible because it brings them closer to God; 20 percent because they have a problem they need to solve or direction they need to find; and 7 percent for comfort.

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Weekend Edition: September 25, 2015

Pope Francis, Syrian Refugees, and more on this week's iteration of Weekend Edition.

Pope Francis visits U.S. nuns involved in Obamacare contraception lawsuitReuters

It's worth noting that the Pope went to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns being pressed to provide contraception to, well, a group of old nuns.

Evangelical Missions Quarterly PodcastThe Billy Graham Center for Evangelism

EMQ is a staple of evangelical missiology and now has a podcast. Listen to and subscribe to the podcast—we will be promoting it regularly.

3 Strands of Your Church's History—And Why They MatterTrevin Wax

Helpful post from Trevin on your church's past.

Evolution of a CourtSandra Stanley

Read this. It bothered me. It's good advice.

3 Ways You Can Help Syrian Refugees From Your Home TODAY!Chris Martin

Here's a helpful article from my blog guru, Chris Martin.

Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today's Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups in your inbox.

Earlier this Week at The Exchange

Well, I guess when you look at it that way...

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Racial Reconciliation Begins with You

Lets break down the barriers that divide us.

"Those white Christians must read from a different Bible,” black columnist Barbara Reynolds wrote of the Religious Right after the November elections. In her USA Today column, she denounced the intent to cut aid to the poor, asking, “What kind of Christians stamp on the neediest?”

On this and other issues, many Bible-believing blacks and whites find themselves at odds. Despite differing rhetoric, they do read the same Bible and ultimately proclaim the same goals: equality, dignity, and justice. But their strategies and priorities can differ dramatically.

In light of all this, it was well that the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA) started 1995 off with a convocation on racial reconciliation (CT News, Feb. 6, 1995, p. 48). With the theme that reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel, they brought together in Chicago 180 black and white leaders. Much of the time was spent at racially mixed tables of eight, and exchanges were often candid. African Americans spoke of broken promises, empty rhetoric, resurgent racism. Whites described “double binds,” being misunderstood and rebuffed. The issues were complex, emotion-laden, prone to oversimplification. Yet there was a wealth of determined good will. After five years of joint commissions and a nearly 40-year history of carefully worded resolutions, members and friends of the NAE and NBEA were meeting face to face.

Most of us who read CT are white. What can we say to African Americans’ dashed expectations? How can we contribute to racial reconciliation? Adequate answers would require volumes. But here are a few modest—yet urgent—recommendations:

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From the Bah Faith to Porn to Alpha to Jesus

God has been faithful all during my winding journey to complete surrender.

I always wanted to be self-made. Raised in Caledonia, Ontario, I was identified in third grade as gifted, and from then on was keenly aware that I should “act smart.” I only participated in things I knew I would do well, and did my best to control all factors that could sabotage perfection. If I got a 93 on an essay, I demanded that the teacher tell me how I lost 7 points. For group projects, I asked my classmate to bring only the presentation board—and brought a backup board just in case. By age 17, I saw myself as a teenager who had everything under control.

Heading to college in London, Ontario, I was eager to be a grown-up. And the ultimate marker of my new independence, I thought, would be joining the Bahá’í faith. A local assembly met in Caledonia, and some of my closest friends were raised in Bahá’í homes, so I was already familiar with the faith. I remember leaving Bahá’í events buoyed by the leaders’ optimism about the future: no more war, poverty, or racism. One language, one currency, and equality of the sexes. It sounded perfect.

The Bahá’í faith grew out of Islamic culture in 19th-century Persia. A merchant, Sayyid Ali Muhammad, claimed to be the long-awaited Báb (“Gate”) to the knowledge of the twelfth Imam. Just before the Báb was executed, he appointed one of his followers as his successor. The new leader’s half-brother would declare himself Bahá’u’lláh (literally “the glory of God”).

According to the tenets of the Bahá’í faith, all major religions before 1863 were founded by “Manifestations of God.” ...

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