why we talk about Tyler Trent

I have a few things here I’ve been waiting ’til the new year to say — some reflections on the year behind and encouragement for the year ahead. But as a proud alumnus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, I wish to first expand upon the powerful example of fellow Boilermaker, Tyler Trent. His story has gone viral. His inspiration has been deep. 

By now many have heard of Tyler… the smart young man diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 15 — after throwing a frisbee and breaking his arm. When his cancer was in remission, Tyler finished high school and was awarded a prestigious Presidential Scholarship to Purdue. Shortly thereafter, however, his cancer aggressively returned. 

No matter the setback, Tyler was an enthusiastic, devoted Purdue fan. Head football coach Jeff Brohm noticed Tyler, got to know him, and made him an honorary captain his freshman year. His sophomore year, his cancer progressed, and he would have to drop out of school. Even so, Tyler maintained an active presence when physically possible, culminating in being wheeled in on the sidelines during ESPN’s featured Ohio State/Purdue football broadcast. Tyler had predicted a victory for his beloved, huge-underdog Purdue — and Purdue promptly, surprisingly played arguably their best game of the season, blowing out the #2 team in the country.

But the kind of person Tyler was, fans of all teams began to cheer him on — “Tyler Strong” was the frequent refrain. Tyler gained increasingly more attention as his so obvious humble spirit attracted more than an ego ever could. Fascinatingly, Tyler prayed a year ago that he would live to tell his story. And he did.

Tyler passed away in the dawn of New Year’s Day.

“Tyler Trent is the spirit of Purdue,” wrote Travis Miller, the Site Manager of “Hammer & Rails,” a Purdue-focused website. Wrote Miller:

“… When Purdue stunned Ohio State in October it was Tyler’s night. He nearly did not make it to that game, but I am convinced that the energy of that night lifted him these last two and a half months. It sustained him past what his doctors thought. Unfortunately, cancer sucks. Hard. Tyler fought, but now his fight is over.

In the last 15 months the nation has gotten to know Tyler. What amazed me throughout was that it was never about his own fight. When Tyler would tweet it would rarely be about his condition. He only gave updates when they were major, like when he was forced to withdraw from school. Instead, he wrote about about what he could do for others. Here was a young man that knew his time was limited, but he spent every second doing what he could for others. He inspired others. He encouraged others. He strengthened them. His upcoming book is about pulling off an upset of cancer even though it will not physically benefit him. He spoke of how he was encouraged that samples of his tumor might lead to a cure someday, ignoring that meant there was no cure yet for him.

I was always in awe of his humility and his desire to serve.

Mark 10:45 says: ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This is the example we are called to follow, and Tyler knew what it meant to serve…”

I think that’s what stands out to me about Tyler and why I wished to pause briefly and focus on him today.

It’s not just that the world felt sorry for this young man, dying in his perceived prime; it’s not that his story was so strikingly different than anyone else who has struggled with this awful disease. It’s that Tyler Trent maintained his humility; he embraced his faith; and he encouraged others all the while, never allowing his condition to compromise his conviction.

So many of us/me, we become self-focused… complaining or indignant when something doesn’t go our way… pointing fingers when we’re irritated, offended or when life just doesn’t go right. And yet here was Tyler, who had far more reason than most of us to be all of the above, but never allowed the focus to be about him. He never saw himself as a victim.

When given the Disney Spirit Award at the ESPN’S College Football awards in December and welcomed with an extended standing ovation, Tyler was asked what the moment meant to him. He mustered, “Moment undeserved.” 

Asked then, also, what his message was to the millions who’ve been moved by his story, Tyler shared, “At the end of the day, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. As long as you rely on your faith, things will work out.”

That was only a few short weeks before he died.

So how do we honor Tyler Trent? How do we learn and grow from his example?

Let’s be humbler. Let’s be less self-focused. Let’s be more faithful.

And may we always remember what’s most important. 

Respectfully… RIP Tyler…


a kinder, gentler us

“… I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten who we are. But we’re the people who sundered the nation rather than allow a sin called ‘slavery’ — and we’re the people who rose from the ghettos and deserts.

And we weren’t saints — but we lived by standards. We celebrated the individual — but we weren’t self-centered. We were practical — but we didn’t live only for material things. We believed in getting ahead — but blind ambition wasn’t our way…

… I want a kinder, gentler nation…”

In his acceptance speech of his party’s nomination for President in August of 1988, George H. W. Bush called for that “kinder, gentler nation.”

If only we had those days back again… if only the younger generation knew those days… days when calls to kindness were first and foremost.

George H.W. Bush passed away yesterday at the age of 94, some seven months after his ever articulate wife, Barbara, also passed. And even though many mocked Bush’s call to kindness years ago, in the wake of his perceived lack of eloquence and charisma, there was always a sense of authenticity to said call over the course of his life.

After losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, for example, Bush left the following handwritten note to his successor:

“Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too. 

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck—


Friends, that is evidence of a kinder, gentler nation.

The current cultural challenge seems not that we don’t witness that evidence so often; the current cultural challenge is that we no longer accept such as good. I thus sometimes wonder if, as Bush said, we have forgotten who we are.

Said Bill Clinton yesterday, acknowledging Bush’s note:

“No words of mine or others can better reveal the heart of who he was than those he wrote himself. He was an honorable, gracious and decent man…”

Two other specific aspects seem especially notable to me about this honorable, gracious, and decent man… first, his boldness; starting with the jump he made after the Japanese shot down his fighter plane over the Pacific during World War II in 1944, Bush made seven more parachute jumps — including on his 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays.

And second, his faithful heart… while political pundits and onlookers may focus on his professional career, no doubt Bush’s prompting for calls of kindness was the fruit of his heart. George and Barbara lost their eldest daughter to leukemia just shy of her fourth birthday. It seemed to always affect them deeply, as they admitted in recent years they thought of young Robin every single day, no matter the decades later.

But remembering Robin wasn’t solely sorrowful. Said Barbara in an interview with “Today,” “Robin to me is a joy. She’s like an angel to me, and she’s not a sadness or a sorrow.”

May we remember George H.W. Bush with that same sense of joy… remembering him not as a saint, but as one who lived by standards…

… standards that never sacrificed kindness nor respect.



find the joy… thanks, Barbara.

We live in a viciously partisan atmosphere. Sadly. While the viciousness may or may not be rooted in valid emotion, the vicious expressions are making life worse and damaging relationships. It matters. We are losing respect for one another.

Hence, if there is ever a moment the Intramuralist can highlight that shows what’s better — what’s good and right and true and thus moves beyond the hatred and partisan viciousness — we’re going to grab it. We’re going to talk about it. And we’re going to encourage something better and wiser in one another.

Today, we find a glimpse of the better.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away yesterday at 92 years old. For 73 years she was married to George Bush, a man she met at a Christmas dance as a young teen. Before marrying, George, went off to World War II as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. He later named three of his planes: Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. There was something sweet about Barbara and George.

That sweetness is evident in her words…

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

“Cherish your human connections — your relationships with friends and family.”

“You are a human being first and those human connections — with spouses, with children, with friends — are the most important investments you will ever make.”

“You have to love your children unselfishly. That is hard. But it is the only way.”

“Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”

“You may think the president is all-powerful, but he is not. He needs a lot guidance from the Lord.”

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”

“I have had great medical care and more operations than you would believe. I’m not sure God will recognize me; I have so many new body parts!”

“Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life’s blood. But everyone has something to give.”

“Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.”

“You get nothing done if you don’t listen to each other.”

“Never ask anyone over 70 how they feel. They’ll tell you.”

“I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darn close. I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George, or for myself, because I know that there is a great God, and I’m not worried.”

“One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life — to marry George Bush — is because he made me laugh. It’s true, sometimes we’ve laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds. Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off , ‘Life moves pretty fast. Ya don’t stop and look around once in a while, ya gonna miss it!’ (I am not going to tell George you clapped more for Ferris than you did for George.)”

What a sweet, wise, and witty woman. Sweeter still, perhaps, is the gracious glimpse we have available this day, moving beyond the viciousness.

Find the joy.



in state or in honor

Henry Clay was the first.

Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson were a first.

Later it would be Rosa Parks.

Yesterday it was Billy Graham.

Yesterday afternoon, the body of America’s most famous evangelist lied in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. According to the Architect of the Capitol, “The Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens by having their remains lay in state or in honor.”

“Lying in state” ceremonies are typically reserved for deceased presidents and other elected officials. “Lying in honor” has become the utilized phrase for those who served us in a non-elected capacity.

Allow me to highlight a few additional, key words…

Most “eminent”… meaning illustrious, distinguished, renowned, esteemed, noteworthy, great, prestigious, important, influential, affluential, outstanding…

“Honor”… meaning integrity, honesty, uprightness, ethics, morals, morality, principles, high principles, righteousness, high-mindedness, virtue, goodness, decency, probity, character, scrupulousness, worth, fairness, justness, trustworthiness, reliability, dependability…

And yet I’m struck by how many intentionally dishonor… thinking Chestnut, Gibson, Parks or Graham — the only private citizens given such an honor — were somehow undeserving…

(… oh, how we let our differences get in the way of what’s right sometimes…)

Chestnut and Gibson were U.S. Capitol Police officers killed at the Capitol in the line of duty on July 24, 1998. They stopped a gunman in the Capitol, and were the first private citizens ever given the distinction of “lying in honor” in the Rotunda.

Parks was deemed “the first lady of civil rights,” after she first bravely refused to give up her bus seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Her act of defiance and continued advocacy infamously inspired many. When she passed away in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks became the first woman and the second black person to lie in honor in the Capitol.

And Graham was one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century. He was a friend to each President — regardless of party — and he helped millions from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, and demographics. Through his teaching and exhortation, those millions learned what it meant to love God and one another. He rested in honor yesterday.

Perhaps my favorite picture from yesterday’s memorial was the one of gathered senators, spouses, and other congressmen, cabinet members, family members, etc. — each still, with eyes closed, heads bowed, and mouths shut.

At that moment, partisanship didn’t matter.

Self-focus didn’t matter.

Difference didn’t matter.

All that mattered was honoring another.

Oh, we have much to learn…


good & faithful servant

To transcend generation, ethnicity, and division, is beautiful; it’s something most of us struggle with daily. For Billy Graham, the practice was not a struggle. He crossed cultural, social, religious and political lines. He befriended every President back to Harry Truman; Lyndon Johnson was, in fact, considered one of his closest friends. Graham looked at no man/woman better than self; he looked at absolutely no one as morally inferior.

Such wisdom… for both the believer and the skeptic… as said by Graham…

“Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.”

“The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.”

“God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are.”

“A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

“Sincere Christians can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology — absolutely.”

“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

“Self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”

“Auschwitz stands as a tragic reminder of the terrible potential man has for violence and inhumanity.”

“Throughout my ministry, I have sought to build bridges between Jews and Christians.”

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.”

“Read the Bible. Work hard and honestly. And don’t complain.”

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

“We have an idea that we Americans are God’s chosen people, that God loves us more than any other people, and that we are God’s blessed. I tell you that God doesn’t love us any more than He does the Russians.”

“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.'”

“Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.”

“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance.”

“I can’t explain 9/11, except the evil of man.”

“The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technology, horribly used. The problem is not technology. The problem is the person or persons using it.”

“God’s mercy and grace give me hope — for myself, and for our world.”

“The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

“There are a lot of groups that feel a little bit strange around me, because I am inclusive.”

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

“God knows what we are going through when we grieve, and He wants to assure us of His love and concern. He also wants us to turn to Him and bring our heartaches and burdens to Him.”

“It is not the body’s posture, but the heart’s attitude that counts when we pray.”


“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

“Just traveling,” he said.

To a man who admittedly had very few “sad days,” thank you, Billy Graham… thank you for representing Christianity well by pointing to God, speaking compassion, and by always offering both grace and truth in full and generous measure.

Well done.


I may be wrong

Every four years, at this time of year, we seem to get visions of sugar plums or ice skaters (or something) dancing in our heads, and I’m reminded of how enjoyable the Olympics can be… athletes coming together for fierce but friendly competition, regardless of nation, ethnicity, etc.

I think of so many who’ve gone before… Apolo Ohno, Franz Klammer, and Kristi Yamaguchi, to name a few…

… and to those we have our eyes on this February… Nathan Chen, Chloe Kim, and the “Shib Sibs,” Alex and Maia Shibutani.

I think, too, of Tonya Harding.

With the new movie “I, Tonya” undoubtedly, intentionally timed for its recent cinematic release, we are reminded of the disturbing 1994 event…

Prior to Olympic hopefuls Harding and Nancy Kerrigan descending upon Lillehammer, Norway for the XVII Olympic Winter Games, Kerrigan was intentionally clubbed an inch above the knee during practice by a man associated with Harding. The man was attempting to break Kerrigan’s leg in order to prevent her from competing in the games.

Harding was then hounded by the media during all public events at and leading up to the Olympics. CBS, in fact, notoriously assigned Connie Chung to follow the skater’s every move in Lillehammer. There, Kerrigan would physically recover and go on to finish second — Harding eighth. Two and a half weeks later, Harding pled guilty to conspiring to hinder the prosecution of the attackers; she also received a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Tonya Harding became one of the most hated sports figures in America.

“I, Tonya” chronicles this account. It also shares more — about the abuse she says she received from both her mother and first husband… about her “white trash” reputation… and about her fluid vulgar mouth, for example (a representation Harding denies). Harding — now Mrs. Tonya Price — is said to be pleased with the film.

As I read reviews and subsequent interviews with Harding, I was reminded of a few details.

First, the FBI found that the attacker had been hired by Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Jeff Gillooly’s. Jeff Gillooly was Ms. Harding’s ex-husband at the time.

Second, Harding’s guilty plea acknowledged that she knew who was responsible for the attack but only after it occurred. She then did not report it immediately.

In other words, even though the prosecution believed Harding was guilty of far more than her plea encompassed, Harding became hated for both what she did and didn’t do. The media mocked her — again, for what she did and didn’t do. The media encouraged us to hate her, even though the courts did not find her guilty of encouraging, planning, nor executing the attack.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner recently did an excellent interview with Harding for the New York Times Magazine. Harding claimed that no one had ever sat down with her before and listened to her side of the story. She believes the media in particular had only lied, tricked, and attacked her previously. In response to Harding discussing the media’s abuse, Brodesser-Akner writes:

“I told her about the essays I’d read about how we should have been kinder and protected her back then. She doesn’t want to hear it. What do we know about her? We never asked…

She doesn’t need our protection now, thank you very much. She needed it back then. Where were our think pieces then? ‘You all disrespected me and it hurt. I’m a human being and it hurt my heart.’”

And so it made me wonder…

According to Brodesser-Akner’s perspective, there are all sorts of contradictions in Harding’s account. But sitting with Harding, asking good questions, listening to her, trying to understand what influenced Harding’s behavior, and being willing to acknowledge that so much of what the public believes is inaccurate, Brodesser-Akner found herself having compassion instead of hate for the former Olympian; she had compassion on Harding, even though there is no denial that Harding did do something bad.

Where have we allowed that to happen to us? … where have we justified hatred because we are no longer willing to listen to another’s perspective? … where have we justified hatred, not realizing some details of our perspective may be wrong?

Respectfully… always…

the precious peace of marcus lattimore


Every now and then I come across a story that speaks loudly to me. Here’s one today from ESPN… about one man who used to be a star, but now has something better…

“Hours before he’s set to walk across the stage for a college degree he was never sure he’d get, Marcus Lattimore sits in his living room, watching a post-NFL draft show.

As highlights of former Ohio State standout running back Ezekiel Elliott appear, Lattimore isn’t sold. He likes Elliott’s power and play away from the ball, but his overall speed needs work, Lattimore says, and he doesn’t see him as ‘the complete back’ yet.

‘Not like Fournette,’ Lattimore says, speaking of LSU junior star Leonard Fournette, who will no doubt be a Heisman favorite again in 2016.

Lattimore should know. Just five years ago, he was Fournette, a record-setting freshman of the year tailback and Heisman contender for the Gamecocks with a bright NFL future ahead of him. Then came a torn left ACL as a sophomore and a catastrophic right knee injury as a junior — dislocated kneecap, torn ligaments, nerve damage — that effectively ended his career. He’s arguably the most talented player of his generation never to play a down in the NFL.

‘I think there’s always those players that get put in a category like Cam Newton or Deshaun Watson who dominate the game,’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ‘Marcus Lattimore was one of those guys in that category.’

And yet he now looks upon those injuries as a blessing.

‘Life is a little bit more enjoyable now because of what I’ve been through,’ Lattimore said. ‘… I wouldn’t change a thing that happened — put those knee injuries back in my life. I’m such a better person, overall. I’m wiser and I’m grateful for every single day that I get out of bed and I can walk, and I can run if I want to. The little things, they matter a little bit more than they did in the past.’

… As he says that, his right hand drifts toward his right knee, rubbing over a long, vertical front scar and then a horizontal one on the outside… these are permanent reminders of what Lattimore used to be and what he has become…

Through all that darkness, Lattimore found light in his reinvention. His decision to give up football allowed him to start his foundation and run football camps, while affording him time to speak to those in need. It also allowed him to go back to school — something he doesn’t think would have happened if he had made it in the NFL — to earn the degree he promised his mom he’d get.

‘I’m thankful for those knee injuries,’ he said. ‘They really saved me and now I feel like I can do anything. Every time I go speak, every time I’m able to stand in front of a crowd, I heal personally.’

…The Marcus Lattimore Foundation, started in August 2013 with $15,000 of Lattimore’s money from his NFL signing bonus, was created with the goal of helping high school athletes who might have trouble paying for treatment and rehabilitation for major injuries. It also provides college and life preparation.

Lattimore and various speakers meet with high school students to discuss topics such as NCAA rules, preparation for the ACT and SAT, how to work with school guidance counselors, how to conduct job interviews, résumé building and the importance of credit, debt and loans.

‘It’s fun being able to go to a city and see your work and feel the pride in what you do,’ he said. ‘I can tell you I’ve never had that feeling on the football field.’ “

Marcus Lattimore went from projected stardom to personal solace and strength through a series of unexpected and undesired circumstances. According to the more detailed, worth-the-read account on ESPN, Lattimore “went from bemoaning his injuries to thanking God for them.” He sees life differently now. He has something better; he has peace.

When we begin to thank God for what we have, as opposed to what we don’t — when we count our blessings regardless of what they are — when we quit all the comparison — when we recognize the beauty in the little things — we find peace.

Great story, ESPN. And Marcus Lattimore, well done.


excellent communication

thEvery now and then my youngest son says something that blows me away; in fact, in a world where healthy communication and intelligence aren’t always linked together, I am often impressed by the wisdom in Josh’s words.

(Note: let us never allow the labeling of “special needs” to cause us to conclude that there exists an inability — or a lesser ability — to communicate well with others.)

Today’s post, no less, is not long. I simply wish to share with you my gifted teen’s profound, transparent thinking; he teaches me much, even in the normal routines of daily life. Sometimes we just have to ensure our eyes and ears are open… such as earlier this week…

On Tuesday, Josh had an eye doctor appointment. It’s a somewhat rare occurrence for him, as we had not been to this particular physician for three years. The surroundings were thus somewhat foreign.

We immediately walked into the waiting room, which while rather large, still only hosted less than a handful of other patients at the time. There was a toddler waiting, who sat quietly off in a corner playing with a few toys. There was also an elderly gentlemen in need of care. Before we both joined them, I went to the window to check in, while Josh ventured off to select two seats for us in the room.

After a few minutes and even more in-need-of-filling forms, I finished registering and turned to find Josh. I saw him nowhere. I scanned the room, wondering if he had for some reason wandered off.

And then what to my wondering eyes should merrily appear, but in the back of the room, there was a miniature plastic house — one of those Little Tikes playhouses — with doors, windows, shutters and shades — that stood no more than four feet tall. I narrowed my focus, and sure enough, through the plastic window slats, I saw Josh’s big, blue eyes peek out at me. His smile was radiant and contagious.

So I strolled across the room taking a seat near an adjacent, outside window, eager to greet Josh in his newfound, gleeful discovery. He sat on the floor — this 8th grader taking up most all the space inside the house. I quickly realized, however, that his glee was gone. He sat there, stationary… and silent.

So I waited, giving him time to think and reflect. Then all of a sudden, he offered a single, serious, but not unhappy phrase:

“I miss being little.”

How profound… how honest… what an excellent communicator..

I miss being little…

May my eyes, ears, and heart always be open to what this young man has to say. He teaches many of us daily.


sharing a different story

ShuttlecockOne of my more fun (and shareable) college habits was to enroll in a Phys. Ed. class each semester, giving me at least one class where the load was light but I still received academic credit — also a class I would knowingly, thoroughly enjoy. Hence, if one would ever pull out that dusty old transcript, they would find among others, each of the following, highly-esteemed classes on my resume:

  • Racquetball
  • Basketball
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Bowling; and… (wait for it…)
  • Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Golf

It was great! Each was co-ed, adding to the fun — even though I was one of only two females in my male-dominated basketball class; in fact, it was obvious that our talented male classmates — several who starred on their high school teams — weren’t especially thrilled with me and my female cohort. Yet one day when I was playing the shooting guard spot, I was able to block a notably stronger competitor — one of the undisputed, most athletic men in class. My male teammate was then able to slide around him, finishing with an eye-catching, monstrous dunk. My teammate, who had not spoken to me all semester, then finally made eye contact; he offered his sole words to me that spring: “Nice pick.” It’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

Arguably, however, my favorite P.E. class was none other than Badminton. For whatever reason, there was just something endearing about this sport that I previously, primarily only associated with backyards and barbecues. I learned so much there. And it was there I learned that this casual summer sport meant so much more in other parts of the world; there is an entire World Federation, highlighting athletes graced with phenomenal fitness, agility, strength, speed, and precision… so much more than a mere light-hearted focus on that feathered, little shuttlecock in the summer.

I was befriended that semester by a young man who grew up playing competitively in Thailand. He played on the equivalent of an American AAU team. Erwin and I were fast friends, and so we often played badminton outside of class. Without a doubt, he sharpened me and my skills. I improved immensely — and came to love the game.

In the final weeks of that semester, the teaching assistant set up a round-robin tournament, in which we would play each class member one-on-one. I did fairly well, finding myself in a much-anticipated match against the #2 men’s singles tennis player at a Big Ten university. Obviously, while badminton was not his number one sport, he was very good. I was just an athletic competitor, loving intramurals, who had picked up the light racquet for the first time that semester.

The match was interactive and intense from the start… back and forth… back and forth. We were playing the best of 3 games, playing to 15, having to win by 2, with a person only able to score while serving. The match was intense; my time with Erwin had obviously paid off. Much to the surprise of the teacher, me, everyone in the auxiliary gym that day, and, that #2 men’s tennis player, this became an especially tight match. It went on and on, play after play — each strategically placing that shuttlecock in precise areas of the rectangular court. He won game one; I won game two. Next came game three.

By this time most other match-ups quietly paused to watch what was seemingly surprisingly evolving. I saw Erwin smiling often, cheering his precious protege on. And sure enough, as I felt the sweat increase on my brow — and actually saw it on my opponent’s — in addition to his altered facial expressions, realizing that this scholarshipped athlete (in tennis, no less!) was about to be beaten by a un-scholarshipped girl — my confidence increased exponentially. The match was over in less than an hour. Erwin and I embraced at game’s end. It was an awesome day.

For years I have proudly shared that story including the most memorable outcome, how this semi-humble Intramuralist beat a collegiately ranked, men’s singles tennis player in badminton. It was one of my favorite highlights. But in all reality, odd as this may seem, while I remember how I felt — and I remember the looks on the faces of the people in the room — I honestly cannot remember if I won or lost. I don’t know.

I have often wondered if that tennis player and I were in the same room again today, how he would tell the story. We were in the same place, same time, sharing the same experience, but sensing different emotions. He might say it differently. He might even say he won.

Remembering such — and remembering that one time badminton prowess — helps me give great grace to people whose perspective is different than mine… even when experiencing the exact same thing.


ask the pope

For the first time, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, is walking on American soil. And so I asked you, if you could ask him a single question — concisely and respectfully — with great wit always welcome — what would your question be? Here are your top 50…

  1. What is love?
  2. How can I pray for you?
  3. Do you pray for world peace?
  4. Can you explain free will?
  5. Which came first — the chicken or the egg?
  6. What’s your most embarrassing moment?
  7. Who do you think will be the religious leader in the end times?
  8. Do you ever get depressed or feel overwhelmed by the sadness and violence in the world?
  9. Who’s your favorite NFL team? Do you ever pay attention?
  10. What makes you so forward thinking and accepting?
  11. How do you feel when the Ten Commandments or a Nativity scene is ordered to be removed?
  12. When the Bible speaks of “the great prostitute,” to whom do you think it is referring?
  13. What is the ideal role between church and state?
  14. If you could be a rockstar, who would you be and why?
  15. What’s more important to you personally: the Bible or tradition?
  16. How would you diffuse the racial tensions in this country?
  17. Do you know how to use an iPhone?
  18. What are the absolutes in life?
  19. How have the political left and right marginalized God’s Word?
  20. Why does the Catholic Church believe that Mary was immaculately conceived when there is no supporting Biblical passage?
  21. What do you do when it all gets too much?
  22. How do you respond to the person who says “I was born this way”?
  23. “Tastes great” or “less filling”?
  24. Do you believe Islam is a peaceful religion?
  25. What are you doing here?
  26. What’s your favorite book in the Bible?
  27. What do you really think of Pres. Obama?
  28. Do you believe Christianity is “under attack”?
  29. Is world peace possible this side of heaven?
  30. Is it ok not to be Catholic?
  31. What would you say those at a #BlackLivesMatter protest?
  32. Do you think our police have a problem — or some have a problem with police?
  33. Why are you talking about climate change instead of The Gospel?
  34. Do you enjoy wearing what looks like a dress all the time?
  35. What’s the biggest problem in the American church today?
  36. Can you explain why so many use religion as a justification for war, violence, judgment, and other forms of hatred throughout the world?
  37. Coke or Pepsi?
  38. What do we not realize about abortion?
  39. Have you considered changing tradition to allow priests to marry?
  40. Why does the Catholic Church prohibit women from the priesthood? …do you see this ever changing?
  41. How serious do you believe the threats to religious liberty are in this country?
  42. Which candidate for President do you like best?
  43. What do you think about Donald Trump?
  44. If you had a tattoo, where would it be, what would it say, and why?
  45. Do you believe our country is spiraling morally out of control?
  46. Do you wear pants?
  47. What do you struggle with?
  48. What do you want your legacy to be? …what do you believe God wants your legacy to be?
  49. What is the number one thing we can do to honor God?

And… last but not least…

50. Do you think Pope jokes are funny??