Saturday, December 22, 2018

God Loves Scrooge

God loves Scrooge, mean miser that he is.  People struggle to love Scrooge because it is so hard to love someone we do not like. But God loves Scrooge just like he is.

God knows that inside the ‘mean miser Scrooge’ is the ‘happy generous Scrooge’.  That’s who God loves, the Scrooge inside, because God can see the Scrooge inside even when Scrooge cannot see who he can be. Until one day he does see who he can be, and then people see the real Scrooge. That’s why people should love Scrooge too. Love him and then maybe one day you can like him too.

So, to the Scrooge, ‘the bad you’, in all of us, hear the good news of Christmas: you don’t have to change for God to love you. God knows who you can be, and God is going to love the real you until you become the real you.

If only perfect people could come to the Manger and hold the Baby, well then, the Baby would be mighty lonely and cold on Christmas Eve.

This Christmas Eve God invites the Skeptics, the Doubters, the ‘Not-yet-Believers’, the ‘I’m-too-Busy’, the ‘I-Have-Other-Plans’, the ‘I-Hate-Hypocrites’, the Scrooges lurking in all of us.  You are all, each and every one of us, invited to hold the Baby.  Be careful though: you know what happens when you hold a baby.  The baby doesn’t change. You do.

And that is the meaning of Christmas too.

“But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.”
-Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (Source: inward/outward Together)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Mighty Warrior, Prince of Peace

Desmond Doss wouldn’t carry a rifle.  That didn’t define his life. What defined him was what, or who he would carry.

As Desmond Doss and the troops of the 77th Infantry Division fought to secure Hacksaw Ridge, recently made famous again by the movie, they came up against seemingly insurmountable odds. One night, with his wounded friends calling out for help, while the enemy kept up its barrage, Desmond Doss ran back into the battlefield. He was on a mission to save those wounded soldiers. He carried the first one to safety, lowering him on a rope down the escarpment to the beach below. Then he prayed to his God that he might be mighty enough to save just one more. And he did. Seventy-five times, seventy-five lives saved by this one soldier who would not carry a weapon, but who would carry his friends.  In the end, Desmond Doss is transformed in the eyes of his superiors from one mentally unfit to serve to a hero who earns the rarely awarded Medal of Honor.

As we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, Joy Sunday, we find that God has a title, ‘Mighty Warrior’. (Zephaniah 3:17) Is this the Messiah whose coming again we await? Don’t we celebrate the Messiah who is the Prince of Peace? Is the Mighty Warrior also the Prince of Peace?

The picture painted by the whole of Scripture is textured with beautiful, multi-layered images of Messiah. When we take in the full picture we understand why we need a ‘Christ’.

The human race, the earth, the universe itself, is at war.  The war against sin and sins. The war against evil. The war against complacency in the face of hate and prejudice.  We are in a war, full of daily battles against so many demons of so many varieties.  We long for peace, a peace that will finally result in joy.

How do we ultimately find joy? We, wounded soldiers all, are carried by a Mighty Warrior to the shores of Peace. And when we are safely there, the prophet gives us one more picture which stirs our souls: The Mighty Warrior ‘will rejoice over you with singing.’  Joy, joy, joy. The Mighty Warrior, the Prince of Peace, sings with joy over you, his redeemed.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Jesus Meets Satan in the Capitol

If you visit the Illinois State Capitol you will see the encounter between Jesus and Satan. It is, of course, an encounter of symbols.  Representing Jesus: a Christmas Tree and holly. Representing Satan: a statue depicting a snake wrapped around an arm holding an apple.  The intended meaning of the symbol is displayed on a sign which reads: “”Knowledge is the greatest gift.” (source: Madeline Holcombe 

What fascinates me about this story is that the Satanic Temple, which sponsors the statue, claims on its’ website, "We do not promote a belief in a personal Satan…To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions."  In other words, Satan isn’t a person; ‘Satan’ is an ‘idea’ or a ‘belief’ that denies the personhood of Jesus Christ. If Satan isn’t a real person, then neither is Jesus. The symbols, in the minds of the Satanic Temple members, represent a battle, then, of knowledge versus superstition.  Christmas, they would say, is a myth created by the superstitious for the entertainment of the ignorant.

When boiled down to its essence, Christmastide is a series of symbols celebrating the gift of God’s Son to save a doubting, dying world.  Meanwhile, the ‘world’ not only denies Jesus is God but in fact sees the whole “Christmas” season as ‘archaic tradition-based superstitions.’  Christmas: ’tis the season for a good economy fueled by the duped, they say.

Much of the world is happy to celebrate the concepts of  ‘peace, joy, love and hope’. Even the members of the Satanic Temple embrace the "struggle for justice" and believe people should "strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures," according to its website. The question is whether the world waits this season for a real person.

What makes the members of the Church of Jesus Christ different from the members of the Satanic Temple? “Come and worship, come and worship, worship________, the newborn king.”

Fill in the blank.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

"Hold On For One More Day"

I am not sure if I should admit this publicly: I am a huge fan of the 1990’s ‘girl band’, Wilson Phillips. I love their close harmonies, and how they sing like they ‘believe it’.

My car radio service allows me to ‘tag’ songs that I want to switch to whenever they come on. (An expensive indulgence, but I am a commuter, so give me a break.)  One song I tagged is “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips.  You may find me zooming along on Hwy. 23 demonstratively urging myself and the world to believe that ‘things’ll go your way’.  As I was in the recovery mode from one recent rendition I started thinking about the background of this song, and how appropriate the song is for an Advent tune. Stay with me here.  

December, when the church celebrates anticipation by waiting in darkness for the light to appear, is a time when many suffer from depression.  I have experienced this myself. The demands of the season in terms of year-end work and family events; the off-the-chart expectations that everyone will miraculously become nice and friendly on Christmas Eve and Day; this is a formula for mild depression hitting lots of people.  It’s just too much.

So, here is my suggestion: memorize this lyric. When you are standing in line at the register; when you are chasing children to get ready for the holiday events; when you are struggling with how to pay for all of those presents you want to buy; just sing this line: “Don’t you know? Don’t you know things can change?...Hold on for one more day.”

Seriously, Chynna Phillips explains in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Story Behind the Song, that this song was born out of her own efforts to ‘stay sober’. She explains she was ‘at a crossroads’, where she could stay on a path in which her life would fall apart, or she could find the courage and strength to change direction. But first, she just needed to ‘hold on for one more day’, to get to tomorrow. This song became a #1 Hit because of its message of Advent Hope:  Your life can change. Just hold on, friend, for one more day; things will go your way.

Your Hope is on the way.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hunting Silence

Maybe I will need to take up hunting. I am not a hunter, not because I oppose it, but because there are other things I prefer to fill the “hunting hours” of my life.  But many hunters I know tell me that as they take up their places today in their favorite trees the true success of the hunt has already happened…they have found silence.  The leaves fall. The critters crunch the underbrush. Peace is found in the quiet of the woods.  Now, what happens in the deer hunting cabin may be less quiet, but that is another story.

I have a friend who wrote a book about the mystery of what happens in the cabin ‘up north’, and in the surrounding woods.  Dreams of Hidden Forest, by Ronald R. Strahl, tells a story which brings out the joy of finding a respite from the hurried life as one explores the relationship of all of trees and deer and bears and, oh yes, hunters, past and present.  One of my takeaways is that often the time spent hunting is as much a time of meditation as it is anything else. 

Simon and Garfunkel wondered about these Sounds of Silence, when the air is filled with “people talking without speaking/people hearing without listening.”  Prophetic words, don’t you think? Do we avoid silence because we need to make sound to prove our worth, to give life meaning? Or, do we fear silence, because of what we might hear in those sounds of silence. For people who pray, the constant challenge is not telling God what we want or need to say, but rather listening in the silence for God’s reply.  We fear the answer, perhaps.  We cannot fathom the silence of a God who speaks only when the time is right and when we can hear. So, we keep on talking, filling the silence with sound.  Thus my challenge to you: Find a silent place, and quietly mediate there for five minutes on this verse from Lynn Unger’s poem, Boundaries.

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

On Serving in a Divided Government

As I observed the formation of a new federal government and a new state government, I imagined what I might preach to the victors on the first weekend after their hard-fought campaigns. With the political campaigns behind, with the seemingly impossible task of governing ahead, consider how a crew of nine men learned to row a Gold Medal boat.

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt…. ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.’”

The ‘Boys in Boat’ “…were all tough, they were all fiercely determined, but they were also good-hearted. Every one of them had come from humble origins or been humbled by the ravages of the hard times in which they had grown up….The challenges they had faced together had taught them humility-the need to subsume their individual egos for the sake of the boat as a whole-and humility was the common gateway through which they were able now to come together and begin to do what they had not been able to do before.”
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, pp. 235, 241

May those who now have the privilege of serving our nation and states, divided as they may be politically, find within them the rare ability to row the boat together.  ‘We The People’, we whom they are called to serve, we deserve it.

For those who wonder if humility, if striving to learn to ‘row among the stars’ is unrealistic, there is always the alternative with which humankind has struggled since Cain and Abel.

‘First pride, then the crash—
    the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.’  Proverbs 16:18 (The Message)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Define Neighbor

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus (Mark 12:31a)

Say you lived next to Burt and Tillie.  One day Burt and Tillie’s house is struck by lightning and it burns to the ground.  You look out your window at the destruction and, as you look to what used to be the back porch you see them. Burt, Tillie and their cat.  They are wrapped in a blanket to keep warm from the cold penetrating their pajamas. You see that they, Burt and Tillie, not the cat, have slippers on.  They look stunned. They aren’t so much weeping as just in shock.

So you wander over to the neighbor’s house and you try to think of what to say. You know them as good, hard-working people who take care of their house and family. So, are you thinking, “I wonder why God punished them with a lightning bolt?”  Are you thinking, “I am sorry it happened to you, but better you than me?”  Are you thinking, “Do you think insurance will pay for this? What is an ‘act of God’ anyway?”  What you finally settle on to say is, “How can I help?”  They answer that they don’t know where to begin; they lost everything in the fire. But, they tell you, they are happy they got out of the fire alive.  You nod in agreement that escaping death by such a means is one good take-away.

You stand there a while longer, staring at the destruction, shivering with them.  You realize you have a full day of activities planned. So, you say, “Well, I am really sorry for all of this. I can’t imagine what it must be like. But, like I say, if I can help, let me know.”

You get home, turn on the television and see the film footage of the fire. Someone has started a relief fund for Burt and Tillie to help them get back on their feet.  Money is starting to come in, they say, from people all over the viewing area.  “Well,”, you think, “that makes me feel better! They’re going to be fine.  I sure am glad I told them how sorry I was for their loss, and I even offered to help. That’s what a neighbor is for, right?”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Healing and the Call of Fools

Why do some faith healings I am called to participate in turn out as desired and some not? Is there a point to healing oil and laying on of hands? Frederick Buechner’s words struck a chord with me.  I pray they help someone struggling with the presence, or apparent lack thereof, of Jesus the Healer in their quest for peace. As we pursue healing in Jesus’ name, may we always be willing to be ‘fools’ for Jesus.
“…Nowadays,…(miraculous healing) has usually been associated with religious quackery or the lunatic fringe; but as the psychosomatic dimension of disease (is) taken more…seriously by medical science, it has regained some of its former respectability. How nice for God to have this support at last.
For those who prefer not to believe in (miracles), a number of approaches are possible, among them:
 -The idea of miracles is an offense both to our reason and to our dignity. Thus…miracles don't happen….; -If the medical authorities agree that a healing is inexplicable in terms of present scientific knowledge, you can simply ascribe this to the deficiencies of present scientific knowledge.; -If otherwise intelligent and honest human beings are convinced, despite all arguments to the contrary, that it is God who has healed them, you can assume that their sickness, like its cure, was purely psychological. Whatever that means….
…You can always give (healing) a try. Pray for it. If it's somebody else's healing you're praying for, you can try…laying your hands on her as Jesus sometimes did. If her sickness involves her body as well as her soul, then God may be able to use your inept hands as well as your inept faith to heal her.
If you feel like a fool as you are doing this, don't let it throw you. You are a fool, of course, only not a damned fool for a change.
…Don't try too hard to feel religious, to generate some healing power of your own. Think of yourself…as a…clogged-up pipe that a little of God's power may be able to filter through if you can just stay loose enough. Tell the one you're praying for to stay loose too.
If God doesn't seem to be giving you what you ask, maybe he's giving you something else.” (First published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words; Edited for length; italics are mine)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Faith, Baseball and the Pursuit of Perfection

I am writing this Friday night at 4:36 p.m.  Two hours from now, to the minute, the pitcher will stretch. He will then pray, “Lord, whatever happens, be with me.” And at 7:09 p.m. the madness will begin.  Another post-season championship series, last stop before the World Series.

Leading the way in Game 1 for Los Angeles Dodgers will be this pitching machine, this man of faith.  What this pitcher believes is that his performance tonight is not about pleasing his team owner or manager, not his teammates, not his fans. No, tonight, like every night, is about pleasing God, about not wasting the talent God gave him.

This pitcher is one of the greats in the current era of major league baseball.  He has won many awards and carries a lifetime set of statistics to back up his belief that God is behind the talent in his left arm. That’s why this pitcher carries in his mind his favorite verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”(Colossians 3:23). For this pitcher the old pitcher’s excuse,  “I executed the pitch really well”, will never be applied to his performance. His goal is ‘outs’, not ‘hits’.

So, a little after 1 p.m. today, Clayton Kershaw entered Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, on a mission to use that talent God has given him to give glory to God. He won’t be pointing towards heaven on a big strikeout; he will let his pitching do the work of pointing to God.

I am writing this post a couple hours before the game begins because I don’t know how charitable I can be towards him if Mr. Kershaw emerges victorious.  He won’t say that God is a Dodgers fan, but neither will I say God is a Brewers fan. But God probably loves us relishing a well-pitched championship game.

Win or lose, Mr. Kershaw knows one thing: as he walks to the mound tonight God is with him. “I know he’s already there.” I want Mr. Kershaw to know God is pleased with him. I know he wants to be perfect.  He probably won’t be. But, that doesn’t mean God left the mound.  Play ball!
(Source: The Control Pitcher, Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, May 7, 2018)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Cup of Water's Reward

“Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” Mark 9:41 (NIV)

One of the foundational minds of Christianity is an ancient writer by the name of Augustine.  Saint Augustine of Hippo taught in the Church following his conversion in 386 A.D. My discovery of his comment on these words of Jesus took my breath away. I came to a clearer understanding of the operation of God’s mercy and the expansiveness of grace found in Jesus.   What Augustine says, in essence, is that those who are not yet receiving sacraments in the church still, by their simple act of offering a cup of water to God’s children, give evidence that they are being so guided by God’s mercy that they may also come to receive the ‘loftier gifts’. 

Those who are not yet ‘in the church’ are not ‘lost causes.’ Rather, look at their lives. Do they so much as offer a cup of water? The word picture Jesus uses is representative of any act of kindness done in the name of Jesus for the sake of Jesus.  Kayla McClurg summarizes it like this: “Help your neighbor, listen to a child, notice the lost, rejoice and weep with your sisters and brothers. By such quotients as these will you be known for who you really are….”

I do not intend by this to diminish the importance of public profession of faith in Jesus Christ nor of participation in the formal administration of the sacraments.  But, sometimes people are ‘professing their faith’ in a very public way just by offering a cup of water to the children of God.

It is not that the act of offering a cup of water saves anyone. Rather, the act reveals their inner hearts: as they love the children of Jesus they show their love for Jesus.

If you have family members who do not partake in the formal worship life of the church, do not despair.  Look at the evidence in their actions which reveal their hearts. Believe that God is at work spreading mercy and grace over them in such a way that they will certainly not lose their reward of life with God.

Dedicated to the memory of my Mother, Janet, who taught her family to love Jesus, and who ‘prayed hard’ for evidence that everyone she met loved Jesus too. She has her reward.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

"I Don't Mind Not Having The Money"

Danny sits on the sunny side most noon hours. I see him at the adult day care building when I walk to a local deli, and I wave to him. Lately I started calling out, “Hey Danny!” And Danny would smile his big smile and wave back with his one arm that moves.

About forty years about Danny was walking home from work along a highway when a car struck him.  He was rendered a quadriplegic, with some brain damage. Danny was my first personal injury client.  I put my heart and soul into his case but I was 25 and made some rookie mistakes.  The jury said Danny was entitled to a million dollars.  But, the jury also said Danny was mostly at fault and in Wisconsin that means you get zero dollars from the verdict. We didn’t talk again until Friday.

I was preparing a sermon about how when we welcome the ‘least of these’ we are welcoming Jesus.  I had avoided telling Danny who I was in his life, because, frankly, for forty years I have felt guilty about not figuring out a way to help him. What would be the point of reminding him of the trial?  He probably doesn’t remember. He looks happy. So I just walked by, waving.  Now, there was Danny in his wheelchair, one of society’s ‘least of these.’  I decided to walk up to him and confess my guilt.  I told him my name. He said, “Yeah, Te Winkle handled my case.”  I told him how sorry I was that I lost his case. He asked how much money he would have received. I told him it was a million dollars.

He looked up at me and said, “I don’t mind not having the money. God doesn’t want us to have so much money.  He wants us to love people, to love everyone.  I believe in Jesus. He is coming again, in the sky, way up there,” he said pointing to sun. “And we all get to go meet him, in the clouds. I can’t wait.” (Pause, reflecting) “It’s going to be so cool.”

“And then,” he continued, “we go to heaven, to be with Jesus, way up there, farther than the sun.” Boy, did he smile.

I could feel the warmth.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

My Father's Name is Abraham

I am Ashkenazi Jewish. It is in my DNA. Literally speaking, I am 1.7% Ashkenazi Jewish, according the lab results which studied my saliva. Now, this is good news!

All my life I told people I was ‘100% Dutch’.  I am happy to report that this is not close to the truth.  Somewhere in the not so distant past, between 1710 and 1800, I most likely had a grandparent who was 100% Ashkenazi Jewish.  My other past generations of grandparents were Scandinavian, French & German, British & Irish.  I have so many new holidays to celebrate and cultural traditions to learn!

Being Ashkenazi Jewish allows me to claim a heritage with Abraham. Yes, that Abraham, in Genesis.  You remember the scene: it was a dark, clear night. Abram stands outside his tent and God promises him that not only will he have a son born to his wife, but he will have more offspring than the stars in the night sky.  And here I am to prove it.

Sharing the DNA of the Jewish people does not make me a member of the Jewish faith, however.  For that, my mother would need to have been 100% Jewish, and I am not going to ask her to take a DNA test at age 88 (though it is tempting).  I am and will remain a Christian, thankful for that call on my life.  But I am equally thankful for the promise of Scripture that the Jew and the Gentile (everyone not Jewish) will dwell together with God. (Read Ephesians, among other sources).

It took a Greek-speaking Lebanese woman to show the Jewish Jesus how wide was the wide expanse of God’s love for all of humanity. (Mark 7:24-30)  So, for those Jewish by faith, those who are Ashkenazi Jewish by blood, and for those who share no Jewish DNA, God’s love is the same. 

And your father’s name is Abraham too.  Let’s have a family reunion! 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"I Weigh More Than the Orangutan"

We were watching Tommy sit in the corner of his home, getting groomed by his friend, picking away at the bugs hidden in the heavy fur coat.  We read the information sign which informed us that Tommy likes yogurt, nuts and popcorn. I talked about how I could live with Tommy and be quite happy. I love yogurt and nuts, and especially popcorn.  There’s a nice hammock to sleep in, and you get lots of visitors. What a life I could have with my buddy, Tommy.  We laughed about scenarios of me living with Tommy at the zoo.

And then my twelve-year old grandson read out loud how much Tommy weighs and, without missing a beat he asked me, “how much do you weigh?” (Slight pause, as a wave a realization comes over me) “Well Wil, I weigh more than the orangutan.”  He looked up at me with a face that said something between ‘wow’ and ‘you’re kidding, right?’

Moving on toward the dinosaur exhibit we came across a popcorn stand.  You cannot walk past a popcorn stand in the middle of an hours long excursion through the animal kingdom.  I shared my popcorn with Wil, and after we got through about half of the bag he commented, “You should go back and give the rest to Tommy.”  I don’t know if his concern was more for Tommy or for me.

The Milwaukee Zoo is home to over 1800 species of animals and fish. According to one source, scientists have recorded 20,000 species of fish, 6,000 species of reptiles, 9,000 birds, 1,000 amphibians, and 15,000 species of mammals. According to another scientific estimate there are about 8.7 million species of life on the earth.  The numbers are overwhelming.

I find it easier to just think of the fact that God made Tommy, and me, and we both like yogurt, nuts and popcorn.  And that on the New Earth, I will be able to share my popcorn with an orangutan. And there will be no scales.

“God made the wild animals according to their kind…” Genesis 1:25a

Saturday, July 28, 2018

"I Want To Be A Fireman!"

One of our grandsons was among the millions of little boys who was fascinated by firetrucks.  I recall clearly the private tour our firefighter friend set up for us so that Wil could sit try sit behind the wheel of the big red truck of his dreams.  Trying on the firefighter’s hat, he had this almost dazed look on his face, as if it was more than he could fully comprehend. If asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he would join the chorus of children declaring, “I want to be a fireman!” 

The early life fascination with the ‘uniformed’ professions, especially those who get to drive big, shiny vehicles, passes away in time as the same boys and girls instead dream of becoming famous athletes who get their pictures on the cover of video games. Yet some of the little boys and little girls do become ‘protectives’ as adults.  They do this, not because they get to wear cool hats and ride in shiny trucks, but because they care about saving people from danger.  Firefighters, police officers, first responders, they and so many more accept danger every day because they can make society a safer place, literally saving people from burning buildings.

People devote their careers to protecting others not for fame or fortune but because they love humanity.  As we are so tragically reminded every week, firefighters die fighting fires, police officers die taking the bullet which otherwise would kill someone else.  They accept the fact that in an effort to save others they expose themselves to giving up their own lives.

Why? The love of God spills out of the hearts of people called to protect society.  Thank God today for the little boys and little girls who grow up to become, to borrow Henri Nouwen’s phrase, ‘wounded healers’ for God’s children.
“Who can save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames? Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: Who can take away suffering without entering it?” -Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (Source:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Exodus of the Wild Boars, Part 2

The rescue of the Wild Boars was not without tragedy. But it is in this tragedy that we find the definition of ‘courage’ and the meaning of ‘hero.’

Saman Kunan was a former SEAL who volunteered to return to duty in the rescue mission. In what turned out to be a prophetic moment, as he waited to board the airplane which would take him to the cave, he promised, “We will bring the kids home.”

The world was saddened to learn that he died after he was returning from placing air tanks along the roughly 3.2km route to the boys, the method for replenishing the air supply in the cave.  He died from a lack of oxygen, showing the necessity of his mission and the danger that lurked in the cave for the team and the rescuers.  He death could have served to frighten or discourage the rest of the rescue team.

Instead, as news of his death became public,  Arpakorn Yookongkaew, Commander of the Navy SEAL Unit was seen declaring, “I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let his life be in vain”, as he sharply raises his right hand, piercing the air thickened with grief, an emphatic exclamation point on his resolve to bring the kids home. Still more prophetic words.

To Saman Kunan’s family, of course, he is still lost too young.  But, as with all those who carry in their being the courage to go where others would not go, to truly risk life for the sake of others, we pray that his family will see that, indeed, his life was not in vain. His life will live on forever in the memory of a world which witnessed prophecy become reality.

For reasons we cannot understand, sometimes sacrifice is the necessary factor to the success of a life-giving mission. Miracles often come at a great cost to one for the sake of the many.  While we cannot explain the ‘why’, we can continue to honor those who have the courage to ‘bring the kids home’, by remembering their sacrifice. These heroes model life’s perfect example. Romans 5:6-8.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

"The Exodus of the Wild Boars", Part 1

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.” Thai NavySEAL Facebook post (July 10, 2018, 7:11 a.m.)

I clicked the ‘heart’ symbol, along with 343 thousand others from around the world.  This was an event which captured the minds and hearts of people, truly, ‘from every tribe, tongue and nation.’  The act of saving a team of boys and their soccer team coach from a cave literally took the cooperation of humankind in a way which is rarely seen. What was not to love about this story of human beings acting to save other human beings just because they are members of the human race. If we could capture the spirit which led to this act of international cooperation and sprinkle it like dust over the leaders of the nations perhaps peace would prevail perpetually.

The picture of the helpless boys floating through the cave toward the light at the end of their journey, with one diver before them and one behind them, is a modern-day reminder of the moment when God’s people, the Israelites, are passing through the waters with the ‘pillar of cloud’ moving in front and behind them. The LORD, Yahweh, was in the pillar of cloud and fire which protected the people day and night. The lesson of the Exodus was and is, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14, NIV)

To people who can see with the eyes of faith there is no question. Our God, the God of the people of Thailand and the world, still carries people through the waters.

What remains for the people of God to do?

“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22:31)


Saturday, July 7, 2018

The 'Wall' Still Stands

Paul was afraid to speak.  The religious folks wanted him beat and imprisoned, if not killed. The local courts heard the case against Paul, but they dismissed the case because the complaints were about religious laws, not civil laws.  As far as the government was concerned, if Paul wanted to say that Jesus was God, well, that was of no concern to the city of Corinth.  And so the gospel spread. The freedom to speak religious ideas without government interference helped Christianity spread from cult status across borders and oceans.

Not to be missed was that though Paul was afraid to speak, he overcame his fear because the Lord told Paul, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)

What should the church celebrate at the birthday of the United States? That the famous ‘wall of separation’ still protects the ‘church’ from the ‘state’.  The President cannot make a rule telling me, as a Minister of God, what I may or may not preach. The Congress may not pass a law restricting the manner in which any religion practices its faith.

The phrase originates with Thomas Jefferson’s writing,  “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Source: Wikipedia, quoting Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802)
Do not be afraid to speak, friends. Love God. Love your Neighbor. Praise the Lord! No one can stop you from speaking the Truth.

The Wall is still standing. Now, that is something worthy of fireworks.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"The Earth is Flat..."

My first thought this morning: “When I consider the moon and the stars…who am I that you are mindful of me.’   How God, is it, that you make room in your Being, the Being that made the heavens, that painted the stars and the moon and pinned them to the black canvas, how is it that this hand made me and blessed me and preserved me?

My second thought: Is Polaris still the north star in Australia? Last night was a very warm night, and the bugs were manageable, so some friends could enjoy time staring at the stars. We followed the patterns which led to Polaris, that ancient star which guided ships for centuries, keeping them on their bearings since it always showed them ‘true north.’  My friend wondered whether this was true in Australia. I responded that it must be: I mean, sure the toilet water flushes in reverse, but North is North!  He wasn’t so sure. Which led to my morning musings and a discovery: you cannot see Polaris in Australia.  North is still North, but most places from the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere cannot see ‘up’ to Polaris because the Earth blocks the view.  (Don’t worry, they get to see the Southern Cross.)

Which led me to find that Polaris is central to the proofs offered against the theory that the Earth is flat.  Meet the cleverly-named The Flat Earth Society which believes that the earth is not a sphere. Those picture of the Earth from outer space? Just more ‘fake news’.  Some hold to this belief because ‘the Bible tells me so.’  (Which is yet more evidence that some people still don’t understand that God was not writing a science text book.)  I don’t know which troubles me more, that people insist the earth is flat, or that there are people who writing long papers about Polaris to refute them.

I mused on this until the first light appeared and the stars receded. I thought, well, they’ll be back in 16 hours.  Sounds simple. But it’s good to have something so simple to count on in our ‘world gone mad’, that Polaris and the God who made it will still be for all the ‘tonights’ of my life, holding the spinning sphere, and me.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Whose Child is This?

I changed my Profile photo on my Facebook page to a picture of me holding a newly baptized baby boy.  It was our Vacation Bible School Sunday, so instead of the usual ‘church’ background, there is a backdrop of an ocean beach where the children were ‘shipwrecked’, waiting for Jesus to rescue them.  When my wife, Jill, saw it she commented, “People are going to wonder whose baby that is?” 

A short time later I met with a woman who had lost her young son, and the verse the Holy Spirit led her to was, “’Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:8, NIV)  Earlier that day, while searching for new music take away the monotony of my morning walk, my music service selected the Talley Trio singing Orphans of God  (Twila J. Labar, Joel Lindsey).  The lyric is powerful, and you should listen to the whole song, but here is the part that got caught in my throat:
There are no strangers.
There are no outcasts.
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen, but hallelujah,
There are no orphans of God.

The pictures and sounds of the immigrant children at our border, separated from their parents, is a political problem with varying views of who is at fault. The parents? The politicians?  But the picture that keeps coming back to my mind is that some priest or pastor probably baptized those children and put a mark of the cross on their forehead, saying, “You have been marked as God’s own forever.” It is for the politicians to assign blame for the children’s plight. It is for the Church to be the presence of God who rescues these ‘shipwrecked’ lives.  It is for me, as a follower of Christ, to make sure these children know that they are not abandoned orphans of God.

The disciples restrained children from approaching Jesus. “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me….”  (Mark 10:13-14) 

Whose child is this?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Father's Faithful Footsteps

Fathers, when your children look back on your life, what is they will find you treasured most? Money? Lusts? Success? God?

That was the decision confronting the man who penned Find Us Faithful.  Consider his story, and the excerpt of the lyrics he wrote as a result:

“I wrote that song in response to years of being unfaithful,” (Jon Mohr) admits. “I always wanted to do the right thing, but my sexual passions and appetites were so strong….For the first eight years of our marriage, I continued to battle with my lusts and fantasies. I lived a tortured, double life….I was going to leave Luanne and our 6-month-old daughter. Then God confronted me one last time. ‘You know, Jon — you face Me now or you face Me later — but you will face Me.’ Suddenly, I could see it. I was such a fool. I was undone. I sat down with Luanne and a bath towel for a handkerchief! I cried and confessed everything I’d ever done; I left nothing out. Miraculously, when the dust settled she forgave me. I experienced an important truth. Because of the power of the cross and my obedience, I found freedom….I had to continue to fight to maintain freedom, but with new habits and staying totally current with God, I could remain free.…Now…I see that nothing is more important than finishing this race strong and leaving deep footprints; a legacy of faithfulness for our six children and four grandchildren!”  (Source: Reba Rambo-McGuire at

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion light their way,
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey,
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone,
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind,
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find. 
Words and Music: Jon Mohr / Copyright 1988 Birdwing Music/Jonathan Mark Music (One of my favorite versions of this song is performed by Steven Green,
God is asking you today, Dads, to make the commitment to make whatever changes you must make so that those who follow you will look back at your journey and find deep footprints of faith.  Is there really any greater legacy you could leave the ones you love?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Thoughts for Graduates Seeking Success

“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.” Emily Dickinson

Is the bar over which you plan to leap high enough that there is a chance you might fail?

Is the target toward which you aim specific enough, focused enough, that it takes some real skill and hours upon hours of devoted practice to achieve steady success in hitting it?

Is the finish line toward which you run distant enough that you will need a lifetime of devotion to finally cross the finish line and break through into your victory lap?

As Ms. Dickinson’s poetry reminds us, when we lose the battles we fight, the defeat makes ‘sweet’ to our minds and spirits the sound of success.  But these defeats might also be mere steps on the way to an elusive, gloriously far goal. If your goal is too small, or too ambiguous, or too close, you will know something like success, but not the sweetness of anticipated achievement which defeat teaches as we hear “The distant strains of triumph/Burst agonized and clear.”

May God grant you the blessings of health strong enough to leap over your highest barrier; with a focused determination to pierce the bullseye which gives you lasting joy; and with a life long enough to reach your finish line. But may God also grant you the spiritual strength, the emotional stamina, to survive enough defeats to know the value of real success.  And may you come to know, sooner rather than later, what it means to live a ‘successful’ life.

May you count success as sweet because you are always just one more step from the end you are destined to achieve.  Until, at the last,  you, like the Victor, rise for the last time.

(Success is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson in The Top 500 Poems, W. Harmon, ed. Columbia University Press, New York)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

When Mountains Don't Move

The most frustrating part of walking with God is that sometimes we arrive at the foot of the mountain of trouble we have been approaching and despite our earnest prayers for a way over, under or through the mountain, it just stands there, like the immovable force we feared it would be.

How we respond in that moment defines the rest of our journey.  Do we give up on God because we think God has given up on us? Because we doubt God really is?  As I have tried to help people find their way through these questions at the foot of their respective mountains I have started using some song lyrics which speak to my heart.  At first I thought that the words seemed trite, like making excuses for God.  But then, as I tried to pray them and live them as a response to the ‘mountains’ I have been praying about, I find them to be like a ‘third’ answer to prayer.  I would of course love it if all of the mountains would move in response to my prayers.  I accept that sometimes the answer which appears as a ‘no’ is really a ‘yes’ that is a better outcome than I could imagine.  But this ‘third answer’ brings comfort to my faith as well.

When the answer is not ‘yes’ or ‘no’; when God says, ‘trust in Me’; I wonder if this is the faith that Jesus told us would move mountains?          

When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
I will trust in You
Songwriters: Lauren Daigle / Michael Farren / Paul Mabury
Trust In You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Importance of Breathing In Baseball (and other pursuits)

When a rookie baseball player makes his Major League debut it is worth the watch.  Hitters can dazzle with a first-ever swing for a home run.  Fielders can make a highlight reel play.  But the MLB debut of a pitcher is really special.  No opposing hitter has yet seen his ‘stuff’, giving him little extra advantage.  But the nerves can get to the most hardened of players.  Which is why the advice given to Freddy Peralta by his Milwaukee Brewers Pitching Coach is priceless. Freddy describes his coach’s counsel like this:

"The pitching coach just told me to smile, breathe and pitch. So that was what I did." -- Peralta

Freddy Peralta, 21 years young, carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his 2018 debut and along the way he tallied 13 strikeouts. That is not good. It is great. It is elite-level pitching. Only five pitchers since 1908 (110 years!) have struck out at least 13 batters in a first start. See what happens when you apply the coach’s advice to your God-given talent?

As I listen to people relate the burdens and challenges of their lives I see that this coaching advice applies in most scenarios. The next crisis I confront I am going to try to channel ‘Freddy’ on the mound facing down All-Star hitters. “I can do this. Smile, breath, pitch; repeat.”  Perhaps Jesus was maybe the first to give this wise counsel. As he prepared to leave his friends and ascend to Heaven he told them to wait for the “breath’, the ‘wind’, for the Holy Spirit to appear. “You can be and build the Church I am leaving you to invent, but remember to let the Breath enter you first, and then, just breathe.” This is what Pentecost celebrates.

If you feel like this just cannot apply to you, then recall the promise that God’s Breath will create and renew you. (Ps. 104:30)  Or sing the last lines of this song of hope: “Out of breath, I am left hoping someday I'll breathe again/I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again” (Breath Again Songwriters: Sara Bareilles Breathe Again lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

Let the Breath enter you and you will conquer your opponent, you will achieve the victory.  Just smile, breathe, pitch.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Celebrating Birth Days

She is not as old as the calendar says she is.  Her quick wit and infectious smile belie her nearing the century mark (she is ‘really close’, but I am sworn to secrecy on how close!)

I had the opportunity to visit my dear old friend (meaning ‘long-time friend’) on her birthday, May 10, 2018.  I mention the date and year because this date is Ascension Day, the day the Church celebrates the return of Jesus in bodily form to the right hand of the Father, making way for the Spirit’s Pentecost arrival. I shared the text for Sunday’s sermon, where Jesus prays near the end of his earthly journey:  “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.” (John 17:11 NIV)

We smiled at our good fortune in having Pastor Donna’s upside down cake to share for this double celebration. And we talked about how fitting it was that, on this her “___th” birthday, she could have her mind directed to the joy which comes from knowing Jesus ascended from earth to heaven. And why, we discussed, could the departure of someone so loved be a source of joy to his friends? Well, why did Jesus ascend? To go to prepare a place for you, my friend! If it were not so, he wouldn’t have told us, Jesus says.

“Is my birthday always on Ascension Day?”, she wondered. I explained that, no, it was not. In fact, it is pretty rare for May 10 to be the Thursday which is the 40th day of Easter and 10 days before Pentecost.  “Well,” she said, “ it won’t happen again in my life time.” (pause…smile) “At least it better not!” (I told you she had a quick wit.)

“…I say these things…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (v. 13)

And on this day on which we celebrate my friend’s first birth, and anticipate her second birth, we saw in each other’s eyes joy.

O happy day.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Painting Jesus

“Illustrator/painter Gustave Dore, one of the patron saints of the DreamWorks team of Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen, was handed a painting of Jesus just finished by one of his students.   Asked for his critique, Dore studied it, his mind searching for the right words. At last he handed it back to the student.

‘If you loved him more,’ he said, ‘you would have painted him better.’”  (From the files of Leadership/Copyright © 2018 by the author or Christianity Today/

How is your painting of Jesus, the one that is your life, coming along?  Could it show a little more love?

Some days I think I would like to start over, but I know that I don’t get a new canvas. No ‘starting over’ in this class.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep on trying to fix up my painting. I have time to put a few more strokes on this canvas:

To soften the hard edges.

To brighten the dark corners.

To show in the corners of the mouth more joy.

To reveal in the crow’s feet of the eyes, more ‘I believe.’

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tony Has a New Liver! Amen!

One of my fears is that in my prayers I am ‘putting God to the test.’ Sort of, ‘Show us, God’.  I am aware of the somewhat related danger of using God as  the ‘great vending machine in the sky’, where we pray only when we need something, thinking that if we put in a prayer the answer we want comes out.  I try to stay away from that danger, not always with success.  I do try to follow the ‘ACTS’ model of prayer: Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication. It is based on the model Jesus gave us in the Lord’s Prayer. What comforts me is that Jesus prayed for outcomes too, hence his inclusion of ‘give us our daily bread’ and so forth.

In the end I believed that it was right to ask you to pray with all of those who were praying for Tony to receive a new liver.  In the course of several days Tony’s family was blessed with answers to prayers. First there was a shower of gifts, a downpour of love gifts, in the middle of a rare April snowstorm, which will relieve the family’s financial pressures. The women who organized the fundraiser saw their very hard work get rewarded in ways I am sure that exceeded even their dreams.

The second answer to prayers came a few days later when a liver became available and it was a match for Tony’s body.  The fact that a team of medical professionals can work 12 or so hours straight on a task which requires exact precision and unparalleled focus is another feat in which people with spiritual eyes can see God at work. The surgery was complicated, and there are many steps in the healing process yet to come.  Still, the hundreds, maybe thousands of prayers for Tony received God’s resounding ‘YES’!

It was a lifetime’s worth of miracles in the course of a week. I thank God for giving us this glimpse into his magisterial power and abiding love, for showing us that God does care for one person and one family in this way, and for letting us be reminded that God still uses human instruments, like you, to pray dreams into miracles.

To God be the glory. Great things God has done! Amen, Amen, Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Tony Needs A Liver, Amen"

Tony needs a liver, Lord.  We are calling on you, God, to show us your Glory through the delivery of a liver for Tony so that he can live and glorify your Name in his life. We pray that you will answer our prayers with a powerful “Yes”. We rely on your Word, God, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Many of Tony’s friends have been praying a version of that prayer. Tony is one of the most humble men you will meet. He is married. They have three boys, raised with servant hearts.  Now Tony needs a liver. “Tony was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) with Ulcerative Colitis when he was in the Army at the young age of 19.  He has annual follow ups (blood work) with his family physician.  He has been problem free for the past 23 years until this year.”  You can learn more of his story at .

A recent news article highlighted the need for organ donors.  It noted that “There were 35,000 transplant operations in the United States last year — a record number. Even so, more than 114,000 people across the country — and almost 2,300 in Wisconsin — are waiting for a life-saving transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
On average, 20 people die each day awaiting a transplant.”  If you are not yet a donor, I urge you to become one through your state’s organ donor registry.

The poet Maya Angelou wrote, “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”  I am asking you to be that rainbow by joining us in a prayer for Tony. If you want to help Tony and his family with the overwhelming costs associated with this disease and the months of work he will miss after the transplant, you can join the friends who are organizing a fundraiser on April 14. The details are here: If you prefer, please send a check to Hope Church, 612 Ontario Ave. Sheboygan, WI, 53081 Attn: “Tony Scherg Fund”.  We will present 100% of the collected checks to Tony’s fundraiser. 

…Tony needs a liver, Lord. Please send us Your ‘Amen’! AMEN!!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Clock is Ticking

Ray had received one of those reports that people dread. Even when you have been blessed with a long life you do not want to hear a doctor say, ‘I’m sorry. There is nothing more we can do.’ And when you ask the next question it is hard to comprehend the ‘…it could be weeks, maybe months’ answer.

We sat there in the hospital room. I was trying to gauge how Ray and his wife were dealing with this news. They were both life-long Christians, believers in the Resurrection. Still, for many people of faith, the questions that come about at a moment like this usually include some serious ‘why’ thoughts.  It is a mystery soup consisting of God and faith and doubt.

So I just came right and asked him, “Ray how are you feeling about this news?” He said, “Well, life is like a clock, and mine is now ticking toward ‘12’. Everyone dies. But I do not fear dying. I know heaven awaits me. What’s the verse? Was it the one about the deer? What’s that one?”, he asked. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God. For the living God. When can I go and meet with God.”

Or maybe it was the one about “why are you downcast?” “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.”  “Yes”, he said, “that’s it.”

For Ray the fact that the clock was ticking was not something to dread, but something to anticipate, like a deer panting for water. His soul was not disquieted because he knew that the grave was empty, and that he would rise with Jesus to ‘yet praise my savior and my God.’

It is this hope which stirs behind the rock on this Holy Saturday.  The ‘sure hope’ that the rock will be rolled away and that life will come forth.  The clock ticks for all of us. If you really can believe all of these things then you believe that the striking of ‘12’ on the clock does not signal darkness but the dawn’s proclamation, “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!”

Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Talk to You Soon, Jim"

“Jim died,” she said. “OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod,”, I said.

I was in my study, preparing for a funeral. I picked up the phone and heard the unexpected news. News you don’t want to be true, but you know it must be. “Stunned”. I think that is the word. And your mind starts to race through what was said; what you planned to say; what was never said.

Jim was the leader of our congregation when they issued a call to me to be their pastor.  We became close friends in those first months.  Jim knew the people better than I knew them. He knew where the skeletons were hidden. He knew where the potholes and sinkholes were and he drove me around them. I serve today because of Jim’s guidance then. 

As the ‘ship’ we were given to steer righted itself we could focus less on staying afloat and more on sailing toward a goal.  We discussed the dreams of what God might be up to at Hope Church.  We talked about how exciting it was to be invited to see God revitalizing God’s church.  We dreamed and debated everything: moving, name changes, remodeling.  Jim was my ‘bellwether’ friend. He was ‘old school’ enough that I could test how the changes I planned would be received by the congregation, and he helped me find ways to make the changes which survived our debates less stressful and more acceptable. If I could persuade Jim on a plan, then it was a ‘go’.

As time went on, and we entered our ‘smooth sailing’ years, our conversations shifted to family and friends, to Packers and Badgers.  He tried out his theories of what the Bible really meant and we talked about how Jesus was all about invitation, not exclusion. Jim grew in the Spirit and in his love of people in beautiful ways. We shared secrets, sorrows and joys.  Our last conversation, one week ago today, happened as I was out for a walk.  Jim finished our talk by saying, “You go finish your walk.”  I said, “talk to you soon, Jim.”

Now my friend is suddenly gone. I want to have that next conversation I promised him. I want one more hug from Jim.  Soon. If there is someone you want to hug, do it today.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sister Jean's Praying for a W!

Sister Jean is a most unique combination of ‘great-grandma’, cheerleader and chaplain.  A spry 98 years old, using a wheel chair for transportation, with a 98-watt smile serving as her headlight, Sister Jean has found her ’15 minutes of fame.’  If you believe if luck, then she is very lucky. If you believe in providence, then God is having fun watching his servant.

Sister Jean serves the Ramblers of Loyola University Chicago, a Catholic research university.  This past week, as a  part of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Ramblers men’s college basketball team scored an upset over a more highly ranked team (Miami) on a last-second shot. In the joy of the moments following, the courtside reporter for the national television cablecast caught up with Sister Jean on the sideline where she, enthroned on her chariot, received hugs and kisses from the sweaty players, and then gave an interview as to her opinion about why the team won.

“Thank God.” That’s who get the credit, she said. But, what was your prayer before game? “I asked God to help us. I told God we would do our part if he would do his part.”  She was not bashful about admitting that she called on God to help give the team the unlikely “W”. 

I often think about how to pray about sports, or anything else, for that matter. Should we pray for our team to win? With all of the billions of people in the world; with wars and starvation and injustice all around the globe, could God possibly care about my prayer request? Well, Sister Jean has had 98 years to think about it, and she has concluded God’s ears and mind and heart are big enough to care about the Ramblers and Syria on the same day. And her prayer is profoundly insightful in how it recognizes that the athletes have a part in the outcome.  I used to be quite bashful about praying for my teams to win, praying instead for things like ‘safety’ and ‘doing our best.’  From now on, I am using Sister Jean’s prayer. 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18