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Bush's Defining Moment
Christianity Today ^ | 11/02/01 | Tony Carnes

Posted on 11/02/2001 8:27:58 AM PST by sanchmo

The President, facing a grief-stricken nation under attack, finds his voice and his mission.

President Bush, from the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center, has led the nation with a deft spiritual presence that radiates solidarity with people of all faiths. "Bush's stature as a leader rose right before your very eyes," says Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The nation seemed to agree. A Newsweek poll taken a week after the WTC catastrophe found that 83 percent of Americans thought that the President appeared to be a strong leader. Bush administration aide Timothy Goeglein said he agrees with the widespread view that the terrorist catastrophe is "absolutely a spiritually defining moment for the country and its leader."

After the September 11 attack, Bush displayed great skill at expressing his spiritual and moral convictions. His development as a political leader took enormous strides forward as he spoke at the National Cathedral, at Ground Zero of the collapsed World Trade Center, at the White House, at a joint session of Congress, and on national television.

As revealing as those public moments were, the President has been more open about his Christian convictions in private. Christianity Today interviewed several religious leaders who have visited with Bush since September 11.

A few hours before his address to Congress on September 20, President Bush met at the White House with a broad spectrum of religion leaders. Bush had asked Goeglein, deputy directory of White House public liaison, to organize a meeting of religious leaders before the speech. Goeglein and his staff started calling.

Twenty-seven leaders, including 13 evangelicals, attended. The group included evangelists Luis Palau and Franklin Graham, pastors Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, and Charles Blake, and Edward Cardinal Egan of New York. Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Mormon leaders also attended the meeting.

These leaders were scattered across the nation at the time of the terrorist attacks. Lucado had just flown back to his home in San Antonio, Texas, when the White House called. He changed shirts and hopped back on a plane.

Palau, based in Portland, Oregon, was conducting an evangelistic festival in Santa Cruz, California. He took the first flight to Washington on a nearly empty Boeing 757. Arriving at his hotel, he noticed that "the only people roaming around were the military," he recalls. "The security people all had gas masks." The contrast of the beaches of Santa Cruz and the armed camp that was Washington couldn't have been starker for him.

Once inside the White House, the leaders were ushered into the Roosevelt Room. A circle of chairs was set up. Bush's chair was vacant and no one took chairs nearby. When the President entered and sat down, he looked around and said, "Hey, I feel lonely, somebody come and sit next to me!" Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis of New York scooted over.

Bush crossed his legs, putting himself at ease. "I am not Pollyannaish, imagining things are great," the President declared. "I feel at peace, but a lot of that is due to the prayers of the American people. This is a major wake-up call for America…. Now, I need your help as spiritual leaders to be truthful with the American people without creating panic."

Bush then outlined what his speech to Congress and the nation would cover. He told the group that only religious leaders could give the comfort and handle the spiritual questions.

"Government will do some things, but you need to be praying and be prepared for questions," Bush told them.

Palau, who took notes at the meeting, said Bush drew a comparison between himself and the country. Bush told the gathering, "I was a sinner in a need of redemption and I found it." The President was referring to the difficult time earlier in life when he was a heavy drinker and lacked a sense of purpose. But the gospel became clear to him through a conversation with evangelist Billy Graham.

Bush told the group that the nation was staggering and needed to get back on its feet. He said the devastation in New York challenged the nation to look deep into its heart. "I think this is part of a spiritual awakening in America," the President said.

Others who have talked with Bush recently and asked not to be named said Bush's disciplines of Bible reading and prayer sustain him.

Bush's faith is a vital part of his politics. "I don't think the President would consider himself an evangelical leader," says a prominent evangelical who knows Bush well. "He sees himself as a political leader and a man of faith."

Says another friend of Bush's, "He sees himself as the President of a nation made up of Jews, Muslims, evangelicals, Roman Catholics."

At the White House prayer session, Bush referred to his Christian faith indirectly. It was "a candid, natural way of talking about the Lord and his faith," one participant said. "He was very cautious and respectful in talking with the Muslims present, and he let them talk."

One purpose of the September 20 meeting was to "get Christian leaders around non-Christian ones so that [non-Christians] would feel welcomed," says Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

The embrace was welcomed. Bush managed to be true to his personal evangelical testimony, while also creating a tolerant and inclusive meeting.

Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said Bush has a divine calling in this crisis, and he read aloud from Romans 13.

"Mr. President, I have just come from the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. I stood where you stood. I saw what you saw. I smelled what you smelled," Kieschnick said. "You not only have a civil calling, but a divine calling…. You are not just a civil servant; you are a servant of God called for such a time like this."

"I accept the responsibility," Bush said, nodding.

The President came close to tears only when he described his first thoughts after hearing that the fourth hijacked airliner may have been headed for the White House. "The White House is an old building made of plaster and brick," Bush said. "If it had been struck, it would have collapsed and many people would have been killed, including my wife."

The President paused for a long moment, squinching the side of his face as he does when he wants to hold back his emotions. One observer said the President reminded him of a baseball pitcher before throwing—tension, restraint, and then the delivery.

"Those fellows who gave their lives—they gave their lives for freedom," Bush said.

After squinching a bit more, the President said, "We need to keep people praying."

Franklin Graham and four other religious leaders were invited into the Oval Office to pray with the President. Bush pointed out a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and said it was a reminder of his own calling to extend freedom and bring the nation together.

The fusion of personal piety and civic responsibility comes from Bush's deep sense of vocation. Bush says he sensed a higher call during his second inauguration as governor of Texas. He called a friend in Fort Worth, telling him, "I believe God wants me to run for President." The President now tells friends he understands God's call with greater clarity.

"Bush believes that the Lord prepares you for whatever he gives us," says one friend who visits the White House regularly. "The President really feels that this is his mission."

By meeting with top religious leaders and addressing Congress in the span of a few hours on September 20, Bush sharply focused the nation's attention against global terrorism as the country's greatest threat. "In our grief and anger," the President told the nation, "we have found our mission and our moment."'God is Back'
Since the terrorist attacks and the subsequent military action in Afghanistan, the change in national mood is unmistakable.

Relativism seems obsolete, or at least on the decline. A culture columnist at the Chicago Tribune recently declared that postmodernism, which rejects objective truth and traditional morality, has expired. "What lies in the mess in lower Manhattan and in the black gash in the Pentagon and in a field in southern Pennsylvania may be this," Julia Keller wrote, "the end of postmodernism and its chokehold on the late twentieth century cultural imagination." Praying and going to a religious service seems a natural, normal thing to do. As Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan put it, "God is back."

But for many American Christians, pulling faith and politics together poses grave risks. If one political perspective is identified as divinely guided, opposition may be branded as godless and immoral. Some fear that the fusion of the Stars and Stripes and the cross may again make civil religion a threat to biblical Christianity. American civil religion usually has downplayed denominational differences in order to exploit citizens' patriotism, essentially putting faith in the service of the nation. That, critics say, is idolatry.

But most analysts don't think this is a current danger.

"[Bush] simply didn't establish a new civil religion," Peter Berger, a sociologist of religion at Boston University, told ct. "But the scope of religions that are recognized—that range was widened to include Islam, and to some extent the religions of South and East Asia."

Berger added, "I think Bush has been remarkable in promoting pluralism, especially when you compare this to what happened after Pearl Harbor with Japanese Americans. It went from the President on down. They all said that it is absolutely unacceptable to hold all Arabs or Muslims accountable."

The U.S. response in Afghanistan is not immoral, Berger said. "Unless you are a complete pacifist, the U.S. is responding to an attack of horrendous dimensions and that fits any category of just war."

Bush's example of coping has been a powerful tonic to the national mood. Political observers say the President seems genuine, not calculated or manipulative. Ari Fleischer, press spokesman for Bush, watched the President interact with grieving families of the missing New York firefighters and police officers three days after the attack.

"He spent time listening and talking with everybody, just one on one, hearing their individual stories of their family members. It was gut-wrenching," Fleischer says. "Just having watched the President throughout all of this, there was a real transformation. It was almost cathartic. I just watched him change in the course of that meeting."

At the National Cathedral service, the President revealed how carefully he selected his words to fit the nation's mood. "We are here in the middle hour of our grief," he began. "We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who loved them."

Bush said the providence of God may not be what we expect, but we can count on the grace of God. "God's signs are not always the ones we look for," he told the congregation. "We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own."

From Berger's perspective, the President has every right to speak more openly of religious matters while attending a church service (as opposed to addressing Congress). "If I had to put myself in that role, and I am a practicing Christian, if I am asked to make a speech at my own church, I would use different language than if I was speaking to my class."

Since September 11, Bush's speeches have married his informal, choppy syntax with his newly forceful vision for the country. Presidential historian Wayne Fields points out that Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter and a graduate of Wheaton College, shares similar religious convictions with Bush.

Gerson crafted this elegant sentence in Bush's September 20 national address: "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them."

The Bush speech was widely praised. One political columnist wrote a favorable comparison of Bush and President Lincoln. "The yardstick on how to judge a President will always be Lincoln," says Allen Guelzo, a Lincoln scholar at Eastern College near Philadelphia.

Bush has "projected an image as a determined, farsighted leader," Guelzo says, but his pieties "are still bland and conventional" compared to those of Lincoln, who was tried by the fires of the American Civil War. "Whether Bush's growth and impact lasts will depend on his resolve" as he meets further tragedies.

Guelzo says Bush's "gift for malapropisms stimulated contempt in the communication classes. But when he has really had to do so, he has shown a real capacity to communicate to the American people at large. He will not ever be the Great Communicator, but he has surprised many." Like Lincoln, Bush seems to have a "third ear" for public opinion, Guelzo says, meaning Bush knows how to pick his words to fit the national occasion.

As Bush has spoken about his faith, he has expanded his role as a national spiritual leader, especially for evangelicals who have been his strongest political supporters. For some Americans, Bush is refreshingly different from Bill Clinton. "Clinton's religious gestures were such that people were immediately skeptical of them," Guelzo says. "He shows up at Foundry Methodist with a pulpit Bible under his arm. [He] thinks he can mimic the gesture and do the trick."

Bush used the power of the presidential bully pulpit when the nation's mood of grief and unity was disrupted by Jerry Falwell. Speaking as a guest on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, the religious broadcaster and chancellor of Liberty University said the terrorist attack was the fault of the aclu, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, and others, who provoked God's wrath. A Bush representative immediately contacted Falwell and Robertson to express his displeasure, and both withdrew their remarks.

Now that the U.S. military is engaged in Afghanistan, the American campaign against terrorism enters its next lethal chapter. In the coming months, the content of the President's and the nation's character will be tested in part by the Bush administration's progress in the war against terrorism.

During White House meetings, Bush frequently shows visitors a painting inspired by the hymn "A Charge to Keep." His autobiography, released during the 2000 campaign, bears the same title as the hymn. "I still have a charge to keep," Bush tells his visitors.

Indeed, a verse from the hymn seems to fit Bush's convictions: "To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill. / Oh may it all my powers engage, to do my Master's will."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: bush43; september12era
Exodus 9:16 - But I have raised you up for this very purpose
1 posted on 11/02/2001 8:27:58 AM PST by sanchmo
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To: sanchmo
Indeed. I cannot help but wonder how Osama could have miscalculated, even as Bush won things he just wasn't supposed to win (tax cuts, education bill, missile defense).

Truly, God stood by this country during the election fiasco.

2 posted on 11/02/2001 8:45:45 AM PST by hchutch
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To: sanchmo
bookmarked for later read
3 posted on 11/02/2001 8:47:25 AM PST by FRlurker
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: sanchmo
Bush is kicking you know what; not kissing you know what; Like some people we know. "The Art of War" written 2500 years ago says not maintaining your military to it's highest is dooming your country. Gee...who do we know that fits that description? Go George W. We love ya.....
5 posted on 11/02/2001 8:56:41 AM PST by freekitty
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To: sanchmo
Excellent article, excellent Biblical quote. Thank you.
6 posted on 11/02/2001 8:57:30 AM PST by SmartBlonde
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To: sanchmo
Bump for later reading
7 posted on 11/02/2001 9:04:05 AM PST by MJY1288
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To: sanchmo
Everytime I read another article that reveals my president's thoughts and strengths I am inspired yet again. And his "little" actions touch the entire country. They are cumulative. I believe God did bless America yet again when putting this God-fearing man in charge. He is not perfect, but he is good. And his actions will inspire millions in our country and others. God Bless America and keep her protected from evil.
8 posted on 11/02/2001 9:13:39 AM PST by Libertina
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To: sanchmo
BTTT
9 posted on 11/02/2001 9:16:27 AM PST by Guenevere
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To: sanchmo
Wow.

I am so grateful for all of these articles that give a glimpse of the "behind-the-scenes" moments with the President--it really adds to my faith to see in more and more detail how God has raised this man up to lead us.

-penny

10 posted on 11/02/2001 9:36:55 AM PST by Penny1
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To: sanchmo
Bush has "projected an image as a determined, farsighted leader," Guelzo says, but his pieties "are still bland and conventional" compared to those of Lincoln, who was tried by the fires of the American Civil War. "Whether Bush's growth and impact lasts will depend on his resolve" as he meets further tragedies.

Other than this paragraph, this is a wonderful article.

The President's faith oozes out of every pore of his body, and ESPECIALLY radiates from him eyes.

He speaks Scripture all the time without quoting it. Our nation is blessed to have him in the WH for this time.

Thank you, Lord!

11 posted on 11/02/2001 9:37:02 AM PST by mombonn
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To: sanchmo; Republic; ohioWfan; Wphile; mtngrl@vrwc; Hillary's Lovely Legs; Miss Marple; Howlin...
The President paused for a long moment, squinching the side of his face as he does when he wants to hold back his emotions.

I LOVE HIS SQUINCHY FACE!!!

Great read, Bush Babes, and all!

12 posted on 11/02/2001 9:50:28 AM PST by lawgirl
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To: lawgirl
Thanks for the flag. Excellent article.
13 posted on 11/02/2001 9:59:52 AM PST by Howlin
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To: lawgirl
Wonderful article. He is the right man for the right time. Unrelated to this, you think Rintense's quote of the day is going to be "This isn't a political campaign, it's war!"? I hope so.
14 posted on 11/02/2001 10:46:19 AM PST by Wphile
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To: hchutch
Do you find yourself praying more than ever before, with a renewed and deeper conviction? I know I do. And I agree with every word in your post. God knew what we needed, and He has always known what He wants. The hand of God is upon our nation, and we are all encouraged to engage. And He has helped the right man to lead us break down very evil barriers. For sure.
15 posted on 11/02/2001 10:58:29 AM PST by Republic
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To: lawgirl; Alamo-Girl
ME TOO! I love everything about him! This is the first I knew that Laura was in our WH during that very terrible day. Thanks for this flag. I would not have missed this article for the world. Sometimes ya read something that confirms what ya believe, just like this wonderful piece did. And it is SO GOOD to know that his head speech writer shares his religious convictions---it sure comes thru! :^)
16 posted on 11/02/2001 11:01:09 AM PST by Republic
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To: Republic
To: Ditter We have stumbled-I hope the test is not over. I am praying for a miracle. IT would be just like God to have a child bring down clinton and reno and craig and meissner and holder. Not to mention the filthy democrats who grovel before the clintno filth...and the reporters who were willing to also sacrifice ELian for special WH perks.

Please note the date! 45 Posted on 05/06/2000 15:13:05 PDT by Republic

17 posted on 11/02/2001 11:12:48 AM PST by f.Christian
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To: f.Christian
LOL---You remember old posts, eh? I still think of little Elian. It's not over, f., keep that tiny mustard seed close!
18 posted on 11/02/2001 11:16:07 AM PST by Republic
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To: Republic
Indeed! Thank you so much for the heads up!
19 posted on 11/02/2001 11:17:54 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: sanchmo
A Charge to Keep I Have click to hear the music

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill
Oh, may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will.

Arm me with jealous care,
As in thy sight to live
And O, thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give.

Help me to watch and pray,
And on thyself rely.
Assured if I my trust betray,
I shall forever die.

by Lowell Mason and Charles Wesley
20 posted on 11/02/2001 12:48:36 PM PST by Dubya_gal
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To: mombonn; Faith; GretchenEE; marylina; whoever; ejo; Hila; DittoJed2; Miss Marple
The President's faith oozes out of every pore of his body, and ESPECIALLY radiates from him eyes.

He speaks Scripture all the time without quoting it. Our nation is blessed to have him in the WH for this time.

Amen, mombonn!! How can we thank God enough for the mercy He has shown this land by giving us George W. Bush?!

Thanks for the ping, lawgirl. This article is awesome!!

21 posted on 11/02/2001 1:18:20 PM PST by ohioWfan
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To: lawgirl
Thank you very much for the ping.
22 posted on 11/02/2001 1:43:45 PM PST by ELS
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To: ohioWfan
Thank you so much for calling my attention to this thread.
23 posted on 11/02/2001 2:02:41 PM PST by whoever
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To: zion_ist; Thinkin' Gal; Jeremiah Jr; Yehuda; BenF; TrueBeliever9; Prodigal Daughter...
>>>Bush's Defining Moment
The U.S. on October 6, 2001 officially endorsed the creation of a Palestinian State.  President Bush said:

"PALESTINIAN STATE 'ALWAYS' PART OF U.S. VISION".

October 6, 2001 -- SOURCE : REUTERS


24 posted on 11/02/2001 2:28:41 PM PST by 2sheep
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To: ohioWfan
Thanks, ohio! What an excellent article. President Bush is truly inspired when he speaks; I just love to watch him. Wow, what a blessing he is to this country.
25 posted on 11/02/2001 2:50:07 PM PST by marylina
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To: sanchmo
When the President entered and sat down, he looked around and said, "Hey, I feel lonely, somebody come and sit next to me!"

GW reminds me of what Christ modeled to us: always extending his hands in welcome and with warmth; inclusive of all; slow to anger, but justified when angry; concerned about others feelings; never wanting to offend but never willing to compromise his ideals and values. I thank my God everyday for GWBush!

26 posted on 11/02/2001 2:51:16 PM PST by nicmarlo
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To: 2sheep
I'll have to read this later, but about that list of evangelicals, Bill Hybels prayed with the Moonies, so his name should be taken off for one.
27 posted on 11/02/2001 3:33:51 PM PST by Prodigal Daughter
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To: 2sheep
"PALESTINIAN STATE 'ALWAYS' PART OF U.S. VISION".

Blurred vision.

28 posted on 11/02/2001 3:44:56 PM PST by Lent
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To: sanchmo; kayak; anniegetyourgun; JulieRNR21; wendelmyer; homeschool mama; califordubya...
sanchmo, I neglected to thank you for this post earlier........Thank you!!

Ping for a great article about a great President!!

29 posted on 11/02/2001 3:49:29 PM PST by ohioWfan
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To: sanchmo
bump
30 posted on 11/02/2001 4:12:08 PM PST by homeschool mama
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To: sanchmo
Bumping for a later read.Thanks.
31 posted on 11/02/2001 4:13:26 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
BUMP
32 posted on 11/02/2001 4:26:40 PM PST by Wife of D28Man
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To: ohioWfan
Wow! What a wonderful article. Father all glory, honor and praise belongs to You.

ohioWfan thanks for the ping!!

33 posted on 11/02/2001 4:27:37 PM PST by wendelmyer
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To: ohioWfan
Thanks, OWF. I'm printing the article to send to my mother. Praise God for His work in George Bush!
34 posted on 11/02/2001 4:49:29 PM PST by Faith
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To: sanchmo
It was early last year that I became aware of then Gov. Bush's statement that he felt called to the presidency. Since the other guy never had a calling, I never doubted that W would win. Nothing can stay the hand of God when He calls - except our disobedience to that call. I thank God that W was obedient to the call.
35 posted on 11/02/2001 6:27:04 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: ohioWfan
God has blessed us in spite of ourselves. What a tremendous sigh of relief that George W. Bush is President instead of that other guy!

Thanks for the ping!

36 posted on 11/02/2001 6:28:06 PM PST by esther2
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To: sanchmo
Favorite New Bush Quote:

"America, Freedom's Home."

37 posted on 11/02/2001 6:34:01 PM PST by Deb
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To: ohioWfan
Thank you for your flag which alerted me to this article about our beloved President Bush.

Thanks be to God for His Mercy in giving us such a president just when we needed him!

38 posted on 11/02/2001 8:00:01 PM PST by JulieRNR21
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To: ohioWfan
Thanks for the flag OhioWfan. Excellent article.

"Those fellows who gave their lives—they gave their lives for freedom," Bush said.

39 posted on 11/02/2001 8:59:49 PM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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To: sanchmo
the President said, "We need to keep people praying."

Yes, yes, and yes. Our future hangs on our prayers.
We literally hold our own future in our (praying) hands.

40 posted on 11/02/2001 10:45:40 PM PST by GretchenEE
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To: 2sheep
As Rush pointed out, W can't lose with this Palestinian state proposal. Why? Because the prereq is that Palestine acknowledges the right of Israel to exist (and therefore, can't be at war with them for existing). If Palestine agrees, great. If they don't, no deal.
41 posted on 11/02/2001 10:48:45 PM PST by GretchenEE
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To: ohioWfan
Thank you for the ping. I would have missed this otherwise.
42 posted on 11/02/2001 10:54:24 PM PST by GretchenEE
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To: ohioWfan
I had a lot of difficulty making my computer heel so I could get to the site "I Can't Cry Hard Enough" that you sent me a heads up on ... finally got my computer to cooperate tonight. Tears here. It's the best tribute I've seen to the victims of the RUTHLESS TERRORISTS who killed thousands among us on September 11. No wonder Bush was so emotional the day after he talked with and listened to the families whose loved ones lay buried under thousands of tons of steel and concrete.

For any who haven't seen it yet: Can't Cry Hard Enough.

43 posted on 11/02/2001 11:51:22 PM PST by GretchenEE
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To: 2sheep
"G-d is back."

Jeremiah 51:33
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
"The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
When it is time to thresh her;
Yet a little while
And the time of her harvest will come."

Luke 3:17

44 posted on 11/03/2001 4:19:56 AM PST by Jeremiah Jr
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To: anniegetyourgun
I never doubted that W would win. Nothing can stay the hand of God when He calls

You know, I didn't doubt either, except on that Friday when the Florida Supreme Court (illegally) forced the count to go on, and I momentarily panicked, thinking that the Gore theft was going to succeed. Fortunately, my husband's faith was stronger than mine, and he settled me down by calmly saying, "Bush is going to win. Don't worry." and the US Supreme Court stopped the count the next day, and after that I was fine again!

God has so clearly called George W. Bush for this very time. He is very aware of that, and so, I believe, is every Christian is, or should be aware of it too.

45 posted on 11/03/2001 5:42:25 AM PST by ohioWfan
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To: 2sheep
Well scenary changes,it may be necessary to tell these idiots they get Fort Knox and Disneyworld as well for the moment to shut them up.
46 posted on 11/03/2001 12:13:47 PM PST by Governor StrangeReno
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