George W. Bush Delivers Emotional Eulogy for His Father, George H.W. Bush

by Scott Stump | In a heartfelt eulogy George W. Bush, the former president called his dad “the best father a son or daughter can have” during a touching memorial for the 41st president. Photo: Getty Images

The 43rd president of the United States stood up, composed himself and delivered a deeply moving eulogy during a memorial for his father, George H. W. Bush on Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington.

George W. Bush said goodbye to his father, George H.W. Bush, with a moving eulogy during a memorial for the former president on Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Bush, the 43rd president, had a rare moment of public emotion at the end of his 12-minute speech while reflecting on his father’s tight bond with his children, his love for his wife of 73 years, Barbara, and his enduring sadness over the loss of his daughter, Robin, in 1954.

“The best father a son or daughter can have,” Bush said, his voice breaking. “And in our grief, let us smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.”

Bush’s eulogy came in front of an audience that included the four other living presidents and first ladies as well as a host of world leaders. The elder Bush died Friday at 94.

Recalling some of his father’s enduring qualities, Bush called his father an empathic man who valued character over pedigree.

“He was no cynic,” Bush said. “He looked for the good in every person, and he usually found it.”

The elder Bush also “loved to laugh, especially at himself.” He also had some well-known quirks, including his hatred of a certain vegetable.

“His short game (in golf) was lousy. He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor,” Bush said. “The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way he passed these genetic defects along to us.”

The late Bush’s brushes with death, including being shot down over the Pacific as a Navy pilot during World War II, encouraged him to “live every day to the fullest,” his son said.

The elder Bush went skydiving on his 90th birthday near the family’s home in Maine and loved to crank up the engines on his boat and take it out for a spin on the Atlantic, even into his mid-80s.

“Dad was always busy, a man in constant motion, but never too busy to share his life with those around him,” Bush said.

The former vice president and onetime CIA chief had two speeds: “Full throttle and sleep,” Bush added.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Sen. Alan Simpson, of Wyoming, were the ceremony’s other eulogists. Each spoke about Bush’s humility, leadership qualities, sense of humor and loyalty as a friend.

Bush’s granddaughter, TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, also took part in the memorial with a reading from the Book of Revelations.

In the days following his death, the younger Bush and siblings Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy remembered their father as “a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.”

The two former presidents shared a heartwarming father-son bond that became tighter when the younger Bush was elected president in 2000. Both weathered the triumphs and criticism of the office.

In the final hours before his father’s death, George W. Bush told him over speaker phone that he was a wonderful dad.

The elder Bush was able to say goodbye, offering George what would be his final words: “I love you, too.”

Members of the public waited hours on Tuesday to pay their respects to the 41st president after his remains arrived in Washington, D.C. He is the first preside to lie in state since Gerald Ford in 2006.

President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.The White House - Getty Images.

President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.The White House – Getty Images.

The service in Washington will be followed by one on Thursday in Houston, where Bush lived, before he is laid to rest on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.

Scott Stump is a reporter @TODAYshow, contributor @NBCNews, freelance writer, Jersey Shore forever, and Northwestern Wildcat.



Abraha: An Aksumite Christian Ruler of Yemen in 570AD

by Sergew Hable-Selassie | Ancient Christian Church in Ethiopia | General Abraha was a Tigraian military genius from Axum. General Abraha became a Governor of present day Yemen and Hijaz (western Saudi Arabia) under Emperor Kaleb of Axum. When the Jews of Yemen persecuted the Christians in the land of Arabaia and Emperor Kaleb of Axum sent an army to stop the Jews from oppressing the Christians (image: Ethiopian News).

Abraha (Ge’ez: ‘Abreha) also known as ‘Abraha al-Asram or Abraha b. as-Saba’h, was an Aksumite Christian ruler of Yemen. Accounts of his origin differ. Procopius recorded that he was once the slave of a Roman merchant at Adulis, while Tabari says that he was related to the Aksumite royal family. Be this as it may, he was either one of the commanders or a member of one of the armies sent by Emperor Kaléb against Dhü Nuwäs, the Judaized ruler of Yemen, in the period c. 523-525 A.D. to exact vengeance for the latter’s persecution of Christians in his realm. According to Procopius, ‘Abraha later seized control of Yemen from Esimiphaeus, the Christian Himyarite viceroy appointed by Kaléb, with the support of dissident elements in the Ethiopian occupation force
A reference map of the empire of Kaleb of Axum

A reference map of the empire of Kaleb of Axum

eager to settle in the Yemen, then a rich and fertile land. This event may have happened about 530 A.D. although a date as late as 543 has been postulated by Jacques Ryckmans. An army sent by Kaléb to subdue ‘Abraha joined his ranks and killed the ruler sent to replace him (this is perhaps a reference to ‘Ariat) and a second army was defeated. In the version of these events preserved by Tabari details vary slightly. ‘Abraha is said to have been the commander of the second army sent by Kaléb after the first, led by ‘Ariat, had been annihilated by Dhü Nuwäs through a ruse. This second army of 100,000 men successfully crushed all resistance and, following the suicide of Dhü Nuwäs, ‘Abraha seized power, establishing himself at Sana’a and proclaiming Christianity. He aroused the wrath of Kaléb, however, by withholding tribute and Kaléb sent his general ‘Ariat once again to take over the governorship of Yemen. ‘Abraha rid himself of the latter by a subterfuge in a duel in which ‘Ariat was killed and ‘Abraha suffered the injury which earned him the sobriquet of al-Asräm, “scar-face.” After this Kaléb had to accord him de facto recognition. ‘Abraha’s rule was probably confirmed by Kaléb successor, Emperor Bétä-‘Esra’él in return for nominal tribute and he went on to become an outstanding figure in Yemeni history, ruling efficiently and promoting the cause of Christianity in the face of the Judaism prevalent in Yemen and the paganism of Central Arabia.

A number of legends of popular origin have been woven around ‘Abraha’s name in Arab tradition which have not yet been substantiated. Of these traditions, the best-known concern the expedition against Mecca. At this period Mecca was the thriving center of the pagan cult

Two years ago arab news published a small article about what the Saudi historians found and documented. “During their tiring journey across mountains and rough terrain, the young Saudi men took photographs of important landmarks, beginning from north of Najran, to the east of Asir, and then east of Baha. Some of the most important historical sites along the way included inscriptions of elephants on rocks in the Al-Qahr Mountain, southeast of Tathlith; an old well in Hafaer, east of Asir; and a paved road near Kara in Aqeeq principality in the Baha region.” Arab news said.

In 2014, Arab news published a small article about what the Saudi historians found and documented. “During their tiring journey across mountains and rough terrain, the young Saudi men took photographs of important landmarks, beginning from north of Najran, to the east of Asir, and then east of Baha. Some of the most important historical sites along the way included inscriptions of elephants on rocks in the Al-Qahr Mountain, southeast of Tathlith; an old well in Hafaer, east of Asir; and a paved road near Kara in Aqeeq principality in the Baha region.” Arab news said.

of the Ka’aba and the pilgrim traffic was in the hands of the powerful Qurays family. Fired with Christian zeal, ‘Abraha set out to build a magnificent church at Sana’a to serve as a counter-attraction to the surrounding pagan peoples. This aroused the hostility of the Qurays who feared that the pilgrim traffic with its lucrative offerings would be diverted to Sana’a. It is sometimes said that one of their adherents succeeded in defiling the church and this led ‘Abraha to embark upon a campaign against Mecca. This event is associated in Islamic tradition with the year of the Prophet’s birth, c. 570 A.D. ‘Abraha is said to have used elephants in the campaign and the date is celebrated as the Year of the Elephant, ‘am al fil.’ An indirect reference to the event is found in Surah 105 of the Quran. ‘Abraha’s expedition probably failed due to the successful delaying tactics of the Qurays and pestilence broke out in the camp, which decimated his army and forced him to withdraw. Another tradition relates the expedition to an unsuccessful economic mission to the Qurays by ‘Abraha’s son.

We are fortunate in possessing irrefutable epigraphic sources which throw further light on ‘Abraha’s career. Of these the most important is the long inscription on the Marib dam which records the quelling of an insurrection backed by a son of the deposed ruler Esimiphaeus in the year 657 of the Sabaean era, i.e. between 540-550 A.D.; vital repairs effected to the dam later in the same year; the reception of envoys from the negus, from Byzantium, from Persia and from Harith b. Djabalat, the phylarch of Arabia; and the completion of repairs to the dam in the following year, followed by a great feast of rejoicing. The inscription indicates that the reign of ‘Abraha was a period of security and prosperity for the Yemen. The royal title adopted by ‘Abraha is similar to that of his immediate predecessors and to that of Emperor Kaléb, “King of Saba’ and dhü-Raydän and Hadramawt and Yamanat and of their Arabs on the plateau and the lowland.” A further text (Ryckmans 506) discovered at Murayghän records a defeat inflicted by ‘Abraha on the North Arabian tribe of Ma’add in the year 662 of the Sabaean era.No reliable information exists about the date of ‘Abraha’s death although tradition places it immediately after his expedition to Mecca. He was succeeded on the throne by two of his sons, Yaksum and Masruq, born to him by Raihäna, a Yemenite noblewoman whom ‘Abraha had abducted from her husband.


Bibliography

T. Noldeke, Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sassaniden (Leyden, 1879), 200 ff.

F. Praetorius, “Bemerkungen zu den beiden grossen Inschriften von Dammbruch zu Marib”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Vol. LIII, (1899), 1-24.

E. Glaser, “Zwei Inschriften über den Dammbruch von Mareb,” Mitteillungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, VI (1897), 360-488.

A. Wiedemann in Orientalische Letteratur-Zeitung, 1 (1898).

Procopius (H. B. Dewing, ed.), De Bello Persico (London, 1957), I, xx.

Tabari (H. Zotenberg, ed. and trans.), Chronique (Paris, 1958), Vol. II, 184-208.

J. Ryckmans, L’institution monarchique en Arabie méridionale (Louvain, 1951).

——–, La persécution des chrétiens himyarites au sixième siècle (Istanbul, 1956).

Sidney Smith, “Events in Arabia in the 6th century A.D.,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. XVI (1954).

A. F. L. Beeston, ABRAHA in Encyclopaedia of Islam (1960).

——–, “Problems of Sabaen Chronology,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies , Vol. XXVI (1954).

M. J. Kister, “The Campaign of Huluban. A New Light on the Expedition of ‘Abraha,” Le Muséon, Vol. LXXVIII (1965).

Sergew Hable-Selassie, *Ancient and Medieval Ethiopian History to 1270 *(Addis Ababa, 1972).


This article is reproduced, with permission, from The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography, Vol. 1 ‘From Early Times to the End of the Zagwé Dynasty c. 1270 A.D.,’ copyright © 1975, edited by Belanesh Michael, S. Chojnacki and Richard Pankhurst, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All rights reserved.



How Royal Wedding preacher Michael Curry’s late grandmother inspired that epic sermon

by Joel Adams| Bishop Michael Curry : ‘I could hear her voice in the back. She was saying, I gotta see this’ (Credit: Reuters)

The preacher who became the unexpected star of last weekend’s Royal Wedding has said his unorthodox sermon was inspired by the spirit of his late grandmother, whose voice he could hear from the back of the church.

Bishop Michael Curry added initially he believed his wedding invitation was an April Fool – and that the amused reaction to his impassioned preaching by some Royals was “fine by him”.

The Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal church told the Daily Mail: “Yeah! My grandma was there, she was there in the room singing hymns.

“I could hear her voice in the back. She was saying: ‘I gotta see this, I gotta see this.’”

It is not the first time Nellie Strayhorn, Bishop Curry’s maternal grandmother, has provided inspiration from beyond the grave.

He has written of how her appearance in a dream, shortly after her death, helped set him on the path to God after a turbulent time at college when he describes being “close to the edge”.

She played a major part in raising the young Michael in upstate New York in the 1960s. After his mother died at 44 of a brain haemorrhage, his grandmother stepped in to play a maternal role in the life of the 14 year-old.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

He said: “She was a big influence, a profound influence on me. She was in her mid-70s by then, but she helped my father and she helped me.”

His fiery 14-minute sermon in Windsor – he had been allocated six minutes – prompted some barely-concealed giggles from members of the Royal Family but the 65 year-old insisted he would have reacted the same way.

He said: “Oh there were some funny moments. OK, I would have laughed, too. A sermon should have some tears, some joy.

“Emotions should be expanded. Laugh at me, laugh with me, it is all fine by me. Any way I can steer the message about the love of God, I am glad to do that.”

His Baptist style – his grandfather was a Baptist preacher and his reverend father converted to Episcopalianism only in middle age – may have stolen the show last Saturday, but initially he could not believe he had even been invited.

On receiving the call from Lambeth Palace he said: “What? Get out of here. April Fool or what? You have to be kidding me.”

This week Bishop Curry joined other faith leaders in a candlelit vigil at the White House to protest President Trump’s agenda as part of a movement known as Reclaiming Jesus.

“Love your neighbour,” he told a crowd of 2,000 at a Washington church before processing to Lafayette Park opposite the White House.

“Love the neighbour you agree with and love the neighbour you don’t like. Love your Democrat neighbour, your Republican neighbour.”

His oration bore the hallmarks of his sermon in Windsor, filled with references to the healing power of love, which Archbishop Justin Welby described as “raw God”.



The American Preacher at the Royal Wedding

by Rick Hamlin | In an inspired choice, Bishop Michael Curry to speak at wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (image: YouTube)

Who to get to preach at your wedding? Probably whoever is performing the ceremony. But what if you’re Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and you’ve got the world at your feet? (Not to mention millions clamoring for any gossip about a royal wedding.)

In an inspired choice, they’ve asked an American (like Meghan), the head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry.

No, he won’t be doing the ceremony. He’ll be doing something even more important. Reminding the wedded couple what true love is about.

Bishop Curry hinted at his sermon topic in a statement. “The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God,” he said, “and is the key to life and happiness.”

Usually the minister to speak at such a ceremony would be an English prelate. Not with this couple. Although the Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is decidedly American, owing its origins to those post-Revolutionary days.

Michael Curry is the first African-American leader of the denomination, elected in 2015. He is a thrilling preacher and charismatic leader. “Someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ” is how Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury put it.

What I love about Michael Curry is that he’s a truth teller. He doesn’t just stand on ceremony, even when he’s decked out in the heavy brocaded robes of his position. Take this, a quote from his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus:

“Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teaching seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”

I’ll be tuning in to listen to inspired preaching like that. Even if it is 5 a.m. on a Saturday.

The royal wedding:



Billy Graham’s 1949 Crusade Changed Mom’s Life

by Rick Hamlin | How the country’s best known Christian evangelist changed the lives of many and one in particular.

Billy Graham was in the habit of changing lives, and I don’t doubt that he changed my mom’s life.

I just talked to Mom on the phone who though she’s 91-years-old is still pretty sharp mentally (albeit she wishes her body had a lot less pain). “Oh, yes,” she said with wonder, “I heard him speak years ago.”

Admission Ticket to Billy Graham LA Crusade

He was young back then, and she was even younger. “I’d just graduated from college, and I didn’t really believe in much of anything in those days.” She certainly didn’t go to church. She’d married a good Presbyterian in 1948 but they didn’t go to church together either.

Then they went and heard Billy Graham speak in Los Angeles. “It was in a big place,” she said. “There were lots of people there.” It would have been in one of the big tents that were set up for Billy Graham’s 1949 L.A. Crusade.

And yes, there were lots of people there. Initially the tent was supposed to hold 6,000 people. It had to be enlarged to hold 9,000 people. The three-week gathering was so popular it was extended to eight weeks.

Singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen was there and had his life transformed. Because of the experience he went on to write the popular hymn “It Is No Secret What God Can Do.” (And we’d wave to him every year when he rode his horse on January 1st in the Rose Parade.)

Even more celebrated, the World War II hero Louis Zamperini was there, still recovering from his horrific experience as a prisoner of war. Thanks to Billy Graham, he came to faith, later becoming the subject of the best-selling book Unbroken which Angelina Jolie made into a movie.

That campaign of 1949 put Billy Graham on the map. He became nationally famous and then world famous, some say because newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst had proclaimed, “puff [promote] Graham,” and all Hearst papers wrote about him.

But Graham really didn’t need any puffing. The heavens shone down on his honest, heartfelt message and the closeness of Jesus that emanated from him.

As for my mom, well, she’s not famous at all, but she went on to have four children, raised us all to go to church every Sunday and became a wonderful Sunday school teacher herself. Billy Graham got that ball rolling.

They say that 250,000 people heard Graham in Los Angeles that year and that some 3,000 people came to Christ because of him. Nice to think of Mom among that number.