Paradise Lost, Again

As I sit here at the end of the day in the peaceful environs of one my favorite places, my heart is heavy. It is inconsistent with my surroundings and almost defies description. My backyard hideaway is awash with the sounds of life. My next-door-neighbor is mowing his grass. Crows are making their presence known. Numerous other birds which I can’t identify by sound can be heard, as well.

Behind the trees—just beyond the meadow which is another neighbor’s back yard—construction is underway. You see, the old frame house, which had been vacant for quite some time, was razed a few months ago to make way for someone else’s dream to be built in its place.

Just now, I heard a horn honk. It sounded like it came from a car that just rounded the curve on the main road outside our development. The speed limit is just 25 miles per hour. No one ever pays attention to that though. This short section of the road has several notable features. There is a series of six sweeping curves with eight driveways and three major roads feeding in to it. Vegetation grows right down to the edge of the pavement. A full canopy of tree-tops covers virtually every inch of the roadway. I’m convinced that some of the people who pass this way each day use it to sharpen their skills just in case they are ever given the chance to drive on the grand prix circuit. Did I mention that no one seems to notice that the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour?

Thus far, we’ve had three of our children drive in-and-out of this development. We’ve often pointed out that if you make a right turn on to the main road, the risk is greatly diminished. The traffic generally is not moving as rapidly from this direction. There is also a full 75 feet, or so, of unobstructed view. We’ve warned our teenagers so often about the dangers of this intersection that we no longer have to give the full speech. The moment we open our mouths they know exactly what we are going to say. Still, we warn them. And, we are not going to stop warning them.

By now you may be wondering about the heaviness of heart which I mentioned above. Well, it stems from the events of the past several days—the shootings in schools, to be precise. I’ve really been in a wondering mood for the past several days. Specifically, I’ve been wondering about warnings. I wonder: Did the parents in Bailey, Colorado, warn their children that they were entering a potentially hostile environment when they walked through their schoolhouse doors? Because of their proximity to Columbine, perhaps they did conceive of it as a possibility.

While we know the school had a plan to respond to such an incident, I wonder if the principal of Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin, thought it would ever be put in place in his normally peaceful community. And, what can we say in regards to the innocent Amish children living near Paradise, Pennsylvania? The little community of Nickel Mines is barely more than 25 miles from my front door. amish-farmer-by-bill-williams.JPG

No postcard or travel brochure that you have ever seen does it justice. Perhaps it is because of my roots in farming country that I feel so close to God when I am in Lancaster County. When I’m looking at the handiwork of the Amish people and admiring their craftmanship, I always have the sense that the Lord is smiling in approval, because someone has noticed that one of His precious ones has done well.

No, I don’t imagine any of the parents of these children thought for even the slightest fraction of a moment that they were sending their children into harm’s way. The reason these children were attending this private school was to escape from the corruption and violence which characterizes the non-Amish world.

These thoughts have plagued me all day. This is why my heart is heavy. The events of the past few days have brought home the near-to-overwhelming, stark reality of the pervasive presence of evil. There is no satisfactory answer as to why things like this happen. We can’t sound enough warning bells to ensure that our children are safe from all harm, either. As one of the Mennonite neighbors of the Nickel Mines Amish stated during an interview: There’s evil in the world. That’s one thing we know for sure. It’s because of man’s sin nature that things like this happen.

It is so early in the process of determining what happened that I’m reluctant to write anything. However, one thing that seems to be emerging from the ruins of the Pennsylvania gunman’s life is the fact that he was troubled over something from long ago in his past. If what has been reported thus far is accurate, investigators have not yet been able to pinpoint anything in his past that corresponds to his confessions. His rationale for causing additional, untold suffering and pain is simply baffling? How could this possibly be considered a solution? What sort of sick, twisted, perverted thinking is this?!

Please, let us pray for all whose lives have been impacted by these tragic events.

© Bill Williams, October 4, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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15 Responses to Paradise Lost, Again

  1. Jennifer says:

    Looking forward to more on this!

  2. Donna says:

    It is sad that we deal with this type of tragedy. It is even sadder that we can’t protect our children. My heart hurts for those directly affected.

  3. Bill,
    I believe that that there is a very fine line between what we refer to as “normal” people and the ones who go “over the line.” There are so many people with so much baggage from this sin-filled world, and combine that with the enormous pressures of living life in this pressure-cooker society, it is my belief that the peace of Jesus is the only sanctuary that keeps us from the horrible acts that fallen mankind is capable of.
    That’s why we have to be about our Father’s business, especially in this day and time. I, too have a very heavy heart, thinking about my kids and others in a school setting today. In my blog I made reference to a thought that kept going through my head today. How long will it be before things like this begin happening in our churches? Think about it; people gathered together, with all the anti-Christian feelings found in this society. Only the Holy Spirit’s protection will prevent it.
    I’m praying for your family, Bill.

  4. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Bill

    Tough times, challenging times. I am surprised to hear this school is near Columbine, that makes me wonder if it’s not more of a spiritual problem.

    Bless you brother,

  5. Bill says:

    Actually, Mark, the Amish school is close to my home–within about 25 miles. The school in Bailey, Colorado is close to Columbine. How sad it is that there have been so many that it’s difficult to keep them straight!

    Spiritual problem, indeed! You hit the nail on the head with that one. I’m scheduled to be speak at a nearby church tomorrow evening on the topic of “Making Christ Your Cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:4-12). Seems to me like there is much in this text which speaks to our current needs. I sure would appreciate your prayers! -bill

  6. Oh it’s all so depressing.

  7. Greg England says:

    Yes, the darkness is deep. No, there are no answers that satisfy the questions. It is so sad that our children are the victims. Our hearts are heavy as we sense the hopelessness of it all. We have so many gang shootings (drive by) that leave children crippled and dead it’s almost a daily occurance. And we find ourselves groaning with the rest of creation for the return of Jesus.

  8. Bill says:

    Yes, Liz. I agree with you.

    But, I would like to point you to John’s comments above. He points us to the peace of Jesus as our place of refuge. He also suggests that we need to be about the Father’s business in order to keep from being overwhelmed by life’s circumstances.

    Blessings to you,

  9. Bill says:

    Yes, Greg. You are so correct. It sounds to me like the city of angels and the city of brotherly love have similar drug wars and turf battles. Out of necessity, I drove through one of the war zones a few weeks ago. It broke my heart to see the desperation on the faces of the people who were congregated on every street corner and storefront. My prayer is that something will bring about change deep in the souls of the desperate masses that surround us. -bill

  10. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Bill

    A lovely set of verses to be preaching about. I am sorry this catastrophe is so close to home. I was watching the amish man who lived next door to the killer and that amish man spoke of forgiveness – and the healing that is in forgiveness. I sat rooted to my chair… that amish man really had a profound capacity to forgive.

    Although the world is becoming a more difficult place – no doubt – we do not need to fear that. If Christ is our cornerstone (and He is mine) then I totally believe that His words are true. He said that NOTHING can happen to me without my Father’s consent. My faith is unshakeable on this. I won’t compromise on it.

    Paul said we should NOT be conformed to our society… in this I think he would say the same thing. The world has been sowing sin for a long time and now it is beginning to reap it. But that is NOT true for His followers, except where He allows it. Don’t give in to the fear of the people around us, live our lives according to the identity that God has given us in the bible… for example Bill will be teaching that we are being built up. That kind of thing.

    Bless you Bill,

  11. Cecil Walker says:

    Being both a teacher and a parent these past few days have shaken my world. My son’s campus is very much a “open / college type” campus and could easily be penetrated. For that matter, unless you limit access into any school through one site and put armed guards there, these tragedies could happen anywhere. My heart and prayers go out to these school communities who will never be the same again.

  12. Kathy says:

    I’m so thankful that it is God that holds the sword of vengence and not us. I’m so thankful that He has promised us what the eternal destiny is for those that would cause the little ones to fall. I’m so thankful that Jesus gives us shelter from God’s anger – it would be beyond description to fall into His hands when He is angry.
    I’m also so thankful for the example of this Amish community that is mourning so deeply but still has the heart and faith to seek forgiveness for the shooter and comfort for his family. What an example of deep faith than have shown the whole world. May we all follow that example, is my prayer.
    Yes, our hearts are heavy and we hold our children closer, reluctantly turning them loose for school and other activities. All we can do is show them Jesus and send them away on their daily activities with a prayer for their continued safety.
    Come LORD Jesus, come. Lift the darkness from this, Your creation!!

  13. Mark Wilson says:


    Just to let you know that I have commented on a similar thread over on John’s blog:

    My comment over there is very suitable over here too.

    I think that rather than join in the growing hysteria, how about we see the testing and the trial and the fruit that can come from this.

    Bless you guys,

  14. Niki Nowell says:

    In response to a few of the above comments. John wondered how long it would be before these shootings happen in our churches. I need to remind you that that has already happened…a few years ago in Texas.

    Mark, while I agree with you, the words “Nothing can happen to me without my father’s consent” are not comforting to the victim’s families. I imagine they would ask why God would consent to something so horrible happening to their child.

    Yes, there is evil in this world, but friends, being believers in no way exempts us from being effected by it in our everyday lives. I agree we should not live in fear. For some people that is a daily request from God – that he would protect us and help us not live fearfully.

    Mark, what did you mean by the school in Bailey being near Columbine possibly being a spiritual problem? Aren’t all school shootings a spiritual problem?

  15. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Niki

    You’re so right, I would never make those comments to someone who has lost someone they care about, I’d be much more comforting.

    I was talking at an abstract “what happened” sort of level.

    > possibly being a spiritual problem? Aren’t all
    > school shootings a spiritual problem?

    Good point. This is my experience – sometimes if the same awful thing happens over and over (like death in a family or divorce or school shootings) then the spiritual factor is more “in play” than usual. (If there is a “usual”.)

    We could counsel hurt people until the cows come home, but we’d miss out on the stronghold that needs to be dealt with. Doing both (repenting and counselling the hurt people) is then the best way forward.

    Bless you,

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