My wife and I spent most of the day picking up pastors at the airport and dropping them off at our church for a conference on transitioning into house church ministry.  We started around 9:00 am, and because of a distinct lack of planning, we ended up going back and forth about ten times throughout the day — wrapping up around 5:30 pm.

It wasn’t until we picked up our daughter, purchased up some much-needed groceries and got settled in at home that we found out the extent of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.  When we left our place in the morning, the story was just starting to register on the morning news.  By the end of the day, an unimaginable tragedy.

It’s strange how these types of events move us to self-reflection.  Hopefully, it’s more than just narcissism at work, where even world events point back to ourselves.  Massive tragedy reminds us that we are not in control, and how frightening that can be.  I remember when the Columbine shootings happened, during my seminary years.  I was sitting in a roomful of bright, devoted, funny and usually very chatty youth workers in a youth ministry class.  But there was a heavy silence that day, tears and confusion filling the space where thoughtful conversation normally existed.

I hate how the news anchors, and even the entertainment wrap-up hosts, roll out stories like this as the “big story” of the night.  They try to behave with a professional demeanor, forehead slightly wrinkled to convey sincerity. But there is always a hint of enthusiasm in the voice, almost as if they are glad to move on from tainted pet food and car bombings far away.  The graphic in the background lays out the statistics of the highest death tolls from different shootings in our recent history as if we were checking batting averages or free throw percentages.

Evil can be so real and present.  That lingering fear disrupts our security, brings up those dormant questions of theodicy — how can such evil and a good God coexist?  There are answers, great answers, to those questions. But to someone who just lived through such terror, how does any of this make any sense?

I hear the words of the psalmist and I want to be comforted.  I want these words to comfort others.  I want to believe.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging

May the real presence of God be closer than any terror, a refuge in the face of violence, strength when ours crumbles into the foamy waters.

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