Saturday, April 9, 2011

True hero killed in Jerusalem bus bombing

Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness. (Matthew 25:23)

Mary Gardner, originally from Orkney, Scotland, spent 20 years working with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the West African nation of Togo where she completed a translation of the New Testament for the first time into the language of Ife, which is spoken in Togo and Benin. She then planned to also translate the Old Testament into Ife and had just spent six months studying Hebrew at the Homes for Bible Translators near Mevaseret Zion, close to Jerusalem [1]. On March 23, 2011, a bomb exploded at a bus stop in Jerusalem, injuring about 30 and killing one person, Mary Gardner. This was the first major bombing in Jerusalem in seven years. A bag had been left on the pavement near the central bus station [2]. The language of Ife (also known as Ana, Ana-Ifé, and Baate) is spoken by about 182,000 people in West Africa [3]. The people in Togo and Benin who pick up a New Testament, for the first time now in their native language, may forever be grateful for the work of Mary Gardner.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:12)

Wycliffe Bible Translators have made more than 700 translations available since they began in 1942, with several hundred more currently underway [4]. John Wycliffe was a reformation leader who completed a translation of the first English Bible from the Latin Vulgate in 1382. After he died in 1384, Wycliffe was declared a heretic and his bones were disinterred, burned and thrown into a river.

[1] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Mary Jean Gardner”, 23 Mar 2011,
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[2] BBC News, “Jerusalem bus bomb: Mary Gardner’s family pays tribute”, 24 Mar 2011,
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[3] Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
[4] Wycliffe Bible Translators, < >

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Speaking the truth in love?

Well, he went ahead and did it. We reported in an earlier post (9/12/10) that Reverend Terry Jones, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, had decided not to burn the Qur’an. He apparently had a change of mind and, on March 20th, Jones served as judge in a mock trial of Islam’s holy book, which was found guilty of “training and promoting terrorist activities … death, rape, torture of people worldwide”. [1] The latest news reports indicated that at least 20 have been killed and dozens more injured during protests in Kabul, Afghanistan. Following a sermon at the Mazar-e Sharif’s blue mosque, mobs formed, threw stones and breached the U. N. gates. Protesters chanted anti-American slogans, burned an effigy of President Obama, burned tires and blocked highways in other parts of Afghanistan.

Is Jones responsible for the deaths and rioting? There are two parts to the answer. First, those who committed the violent acts are responsible – not Jones. Humans have a pathological propensity to blame others for our own actions, claiming “I did this because he did that”. The truth is that each of us makes our own decisions to act and no one else is responsible. On the other hand, Jones knew his actions would lead to violence. In fact, he was warned last September by International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunnicliffe, whose organization represents millions of evangelical Christians worldwide. He told Jones at that time, “"If you continue with your action and violence occurs, pastors are killed, churches are burnt down, would you actually come with me and sit with widows and explain to them why you had to take the action you did?" [2]

Many prominent Christians have denounced Rev. Jones’ actions and we concur. Whereas a strong case can be made that Islam and the Qur’an have led to much violence from the 7th century and until present times, provocative acts like those of Jones are counterproductive. The Apostle Paul instructed believers in Corinth to proclaim the message of salvation, “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3). He instructed Titus to “be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds … dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8). As followers of Christ today, we should consider our actions by the standard: “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).

[1] Pittsburgh Tribune Review, “Quran protest enrages Afghans”, 1 Apr 2011.
[2] Jerome Socolovsky, Voice of America, “Religious Leaders Appeal for Calm After Quran Burning”, 5 Apr 2011,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

good mood = good health?

“Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down” (Proverbs 12:25)
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
“Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

Happiness is related to health and longevity, according to Ed Diener, University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology and senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, as reported in the journal Applied Psychology. Diener teamed with Micaela Chan, University of Texas at Dallas, to review studies of subjective well-being (SWB), which refers to an individual’s life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism, and positive emotions. They analyzed experimental trials and long-term studies to evaluate the health status of people who were stressed by natural events. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eight different types of studies and reached the conclusion from each type that a person’s SWB contributes both to longevity and better health among healthy populations.

People experience sad moods or joyful emotions because they attach an evaluation to events in their lives as to whether theyse are going well or badly. The researchers found that SWB is a broad category that includes a diversity of phenomena ranging from general optimism to low anger to work satisfaction. Positive moods, joy, happiness, life satisfaction, hopefulness, optimism, and sense of humor predicted longevity and were associated with reduced risk of mortality in healthy populations. Diener and Chan controlled the analyses for socioeconomic status and health at baseline and they cautioned that causality could not be definitively established because initial unmeasured states of health could not be measured exactly. However, they did control for many of the plausible variables. Furthermore, the large populations, coupled with the longevity of some of the studies, lend credibility to the results.

The data appear to be statistically significant because quite a few studies have large sample sizes and subjects have been followed for several decades in some cases. A small sampling of the many studies are listed briefly here:
• One study followed nearly 5,000 individuals for more than 40 years. Those who were most pessimistic as young students age tended to die earlier than their peers.
• An even longer study, which followed 180 nuns from early adulthood to old age, found that those who wrote positive autobiographies in their 20s tended to outlive those who wrote more negative accounts.
• Optimism and positive affect were positively correlated with improved immune response.
• Higher levels of depression and anxiety predicted coronary heart disease in healthy subjects in 11 of 11 studies analyzed.
• Many studies found that stress, anxiety, and depression are associated with deleterious changes in the cardiovascular system.
• A review of physiological pathways indicated that negative emotions enhance production of proinflamatory cytokines, which may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
• Low SWB was found to be related to telomere shortening, which resulted in physical ailments due to errors during cell replication, and were most often associated with major depression and old age.

Diener and Chan’s meta-analysis found: “In sum, moods and emotions are consistently found to be associated with biological measures such as blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone), and inflammation, as well as indicators of disease such as artery wall thickening. The researchers found that "the overwhelming majority of studies support the conclusion that happiness is associated with health and longevity."

Does this mean we should all strive to become Pollyanna-like, smiling as the world crumbles around us and ignoring anything negative in life? Maybe the subjects in these studies were simply too naive to recognize all the evil in the world? That is hardly the case due to the very large sample populations and sheer number of studies analyzed. Recognizing the bad, but choosing to see the good in life, is biblical. For example, the Apostle Paul, writing from a harsh prison cell in Rome, stated, “even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (2:17) and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4) Biblical advice seems to be corroborated – at least for physiological benefits - by empirical data.

[1] Ed Diener and Micaela Y. Chan, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2011, 3 (1), 1–43 doi:10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.
[2] Diana Yates, “Study: Happiness improves health and lengthens life”, University of Illinois News Bureau, 1 Mar 2011,