Saturday, January 20, 2018

You Are The Champion!

Who gets to decide if you achieved your goals, if you won, if you are the champion?  Shouldn’t you be the judge of your success?

The University of Central Florida (UCF) football team finished their 2017 season undefeated. That comes after going without even one win just two years ago.  But, the guardians of championships for the highest level of college football didn’t think UCF played good enough opponents to qualify for a chance at the national championship.  So, when UCF won its last game of the year over a very tough opponent, the school’s athletic director declared of their success: “National champions. Undefeated.”

And then the celebration began. The team went to Disney World and marched with Mickey Mouse to cheering crowds.  And the coaches got their big bonuses which they were entitled to if the team won a national championship.  Championship rings were ordered for the players and plans were made to raise a banner honoring the champions.  The sports world, of course, could not let this display go without serious criticism.  And to that, one writer responds, “Whatever! This rocks. (UCF) decided not to be disappointed because this season was not a disappointment.”  Exactly, I say.

As you prepare your goals and plans for 2018 you get to decide what will be your measure for success.  So, when you reach your goals, and I know you can if you want to, then celebrate!  Don’t let the ‘world’ decide if you are a champion, a winner, a success. You decide.  That friend who manages to find the only cloud in a clear blue sky, ignore her. That boss who is never satisfied, what does he know about you?  That co-worker who insists he outperformed you, why should he judge your success?

So, set some goals, realistic, yet challenging.  Set up a party fund so that you can invite your family and friends to the championship celebration.  Mark your goals down and put them someplace you will see them often, and right next to that piece of paper, place this story as a reminder that you will decide that you are the champion!

(Source: Sports Illustrated, January 15, 2018; “The Case for Controlling Your Own Happiness”, by Stephanie Apstein)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"When All the Buffalo Went Away"

“When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened.”
Chief Plenty Coups of the Crow Nation (1932)

Sometimes the buffalo go away.  And then our hearts fall to the ground, and the weight of our fallen hearts is so heavy that we cannot lift them up. We cannot even try.

So nothing happens.  Despair leads to depression.  Nothing.  We feel nothing. 

It doesn’t matter “why” the buffalo went away-that is not the source of despair.  It is that they are gone, and now the lives of a whole nation are changed, forever. Their reason for being, their raison d'ĂȘtre, went away.  When that happens we ask questions like, ‘Why am I here?’; ‘Why do I exist?’  Nothing happens because we hear only a voice of despair.

And then a  Chief Plenty Coups comes along with a vision or three, speaking hope for his people. The voice of hope says, ‘My life will be given new meaning. The buffalo do not give me a reason to be. I have the ‘courage to be’ in some new way, planning my future around some new source of life.’

When all the buffalo go away there will be heavy hearts. For a time nothing will happen. But, if you will listen carefully you will hear the voice of a prophet saying, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

Something is happening, though all the buffalo went away.

(Credits: What Does it Mean to Hope?, by Charles Pinches, quoting from Jonathan Lear, author of Radical Hope, at, July 10, 2017)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

'Immensity Cloistered': Meditating Upon Mystery

The poet considers the baby Jesus, awaiting birth from Mary’s inside: (Read it slowly. Repeat. Repeat again. Meditate on each brief word picture. Listen for the Spirit’s voice.)

“Whom thou conceiv’st, conceived; yea thou
           art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in darke; and shutst in little
Immensity cloistered in thy dear wombe.”

John Donne, La Corona (Donne, Poems of John Donne, 319)
(Source: Reformation Commentary on Scripture ©2015 T. George, Ed.)

May the divine ‘immensity’ enter in the little room you have prepared for the Holy One, and from there bloom forth, forever changing you and everyone you touch.

O Holy Night. O Night Divine. O Night When Christ Was Born.

Be Born. In Us. Today.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Prayer for A Boy Turning Ten

(To be read by the boy today and each ten years hence…)

A prayer for a boy turning ten, that during the span he celebrates the turning of many, many more decades this ‘may have happened to you’ more than not:

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost, green thrives, the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave a stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to do.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

Sometimes, by Sheenagh Pugh (sources: Good Poems, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor© (Penguin Books, 2002); Sheenagh Pugh, Selected Poems, (Dufour Editions, 1990)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Friendship Bench

Acacia is Tiny. That’s her nickname. Acacia’s arms are not fully developed. Acacia knew what it was like to not ‘fit in’ to school and social circles. She didn’t want other children to feel what she felt. So, this “Tiny Girl’ came up with a ‘Big Dream’: provide a Friendship Bench to every school in the United States and Canada.

Friendship Benches exist for children who want a friend to talk to, to play with, to remove the sense of being ‘all alone.’  If a child is looking for a someone to play with on the playground, she sits on the Friendship Bench and other children then come and invite her to join them. I asked one child whether her schoolmates were reluctant to sit on the Friendship Bench because they didn’t want to be noticed as being in need of a playmate. She looked at me with this quizzical expression meaning, “what are you talking about?”, and politely said ‘no.’

So I got to thinking about whether adults have any ‘friendship benches’.  If you walk into a restaurant and see someone alone at a table, do you ask if you can join them? If you walk into a bar and see someone alone at the bar do you take the barstool next to that person or sit three stools away? If you walk into your house of worship and see someone alone in a row do you sit next to them or start another row? Maybe children who grow up with Friendship Benches will be better at this sort of hospitality, of being the friend to one in need. 

I think about sitting on the Friendship Bench like I think about the season of Advent. It is waiting, sometimes all by ourselves, for ‘Jesus’ to show up. It is a frustrating business, this waiting alone. The hardest choice might be whether we want to sit on the Friendship Bench and wait or to remain in our rooms and sit all alone.

I pray this Advent season for those who are lonely, that they will find the courage to take a seat on one of life’s ‘friendship benches’. And wait.  And I pray that someone, maybe you, will be the Friend who will come and sit next to them and ask if they would like to play. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017


A prayer for you to pray today, if possible, with a Veteran.  It’s not too big a sacrifice to ask, is it? Healing happens through acts of genuine gratitude.  Love your neighbor…
Bless Them Abundantly: A Veteran’s Day Prayer
Dear Lord,
Today we honor our veterans,
worthy men and women
who gave their best
when they were called upon
to serve and protect their country.
We pray that you will bless them, Lord,
for their unselfish service
in the continual struggle
to preserve our freedoms, our safety,
and our country’s heritage, for all of us.
Bless them abundantly
for the hardships they faced,
for the sacrifices they made,
for their many different contributions
to America’s victories
over tyranny and oppression.
We respect them, we thank them,
we honor them, we are proud of them,
and we pray that you will watch over
these special people
and bless them with peace and happiness.
In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen.
By Joanna Fuchs

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Asking the Right Questions

The men wore silk top hats, the women their best dresses.  The prior evening’s snowstorm threatened to undo the entire event, but the winds of change were more powerful than the storm.  So, he ascended the podium, hat off now, looking so young, so dapper in his black jacket, silver vest,  with a silver tie adorning his crisp white shirt.

The speech early on had a captivating illustration designed to inspire a new generation about the passing of the torch.  This early word picture captured the ears of the listening crowd, even the world. Through another twenty-two paragraphs he tried to inspire.  The speaker, now almost preacher, began paragraph twenty-five with a fist gently pounding the podium. And then, as he got to the second half of the sentence he raised his right index finger, slightly bent, and with his distinct accent he spoke his most famous words. The crowd behind the lectern didn’t seem to hear or notice the moment, but for one man. He was a large man with big ears who possessed a keen sense  of greatness, and as the words echoed over the open air this astute listener raised his head and looked surprised, no-he looked aware,  that he had just heard a man declaim generation-changing sound:

“…ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.”

Has the  ‘ask not’ generation become the ‘what about me?’ generation?  A sign of “growing weary in doing good” is that the questions which we ask change;  the range of people we seek to care for, to love, grows more and more narrow until our sole concern, as with infants, is “me.” 

Generations change. Leaders change. Visions change. Nations change.  Questions change. What God expects of nations which claim to seek God’s blessing does not change.

Are we being asked the right questions today, questions which lead us to become an America we would expect God to bless?