an imperfect reflection

[Intramuralist Note: Beginning the week of April 1st, new posts will appear on Sundays and Wednesdays. We want you to be able to depend on what day posts will appear. So thank you. We so appreciate you joining in the conversation!]


It’s Easter.

For Christians across the globe, it’s one of the holiest, most meaningful days of the year. It’s one of the few days, the stores close, families gather, and we reflect upon what’s most important.

The focus is Jesus — a man recognized by most all major religions as truly walking this planet some 2,000 years ago… the only central leader of a faith whose body isn’t dead, decaying in a tomb somewhere… and how all but one of his inner circle is said to have died a martyr’s dead; people don’t willingly die for something they believe to be untrue.

Jesus is a person.

Jesus is not a doctrine or a theology. He is a person.

And that’s what makes him different.

A Christian’s faith is not in any well-defined dogma — in some magic “fix-it” or “fix-me” formula. Our faith is instead in a person. Jesus asks us to look at him, who he is, and become more like him.

I look at the extent of his character, all those traits that make him stand out more than any of the rest of us… he is kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting. He accepts people where they are at. It’s not that he doesn’t care how we live, but he doesn’t get hung up on where we’re at. He accepts us where we are, as we are, and encourages each of us to grow.

But here’s the thing…

As one who desires to love Jesus back, I am not all of the above. I am not always kind, compassionate, servant-hearted and certainly not accepting. Sometimes I’m unloving. Sometimes I’m arrogant. Sometimes, too, in fact, I’m a total, broken mess.

All that brokenness makes me an imperfect reflection of who Jesus really is.

Thank God that we each have opportunity to be the recipient of his amazing, unending, extravagant grace. As a mess, I need that. Daily.

And I think that’s part of the problem in the world today; we make assumptions about each other and the imperfect messes that we each are.

For those who are believers, we sometimes forget that we are imperfect. We sometimes allow ourselves to think we are somehow different than those around us — like any of us need a savior less than another. Sometimes we get puffed up or uncaring or treat others in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

For those who are skeptics, we sometimes forget that Christians are not Christ. We sometimes allow ourselves to base our faith on people other than Jesus — like if his followers are like that, “no way do I want to be.” Sometimes we get puffed up or critical or treat believers in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

The reality is that we — me —we are imperfect reflections of Jesus.

In my desire to love Jesus back for who he is and all he has done — walking this planet, exemplifying a wisdom and perfection that I humanly cannot — I deeply wish for each of us is to be more kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting.

Such a pursuit is life-changing.

Such is what I’m so thankful for at Easter.

Blessings, friends… always… to all…

the nun who boxes out

Early on in our marriage, as we were attempting to merge two hearts, households, hedge funds, etc., my spouse came up with a regular saying and reminder. It is one he has long repeated, especially when the going gets tough and the tough get going.

He simply says, “We’re on the same team.” It’s simple. But also true and profound.

There’s something beautiful about recognizing we’re all on the same team — where we root together for what’s bigger, instead of divisively getting lost, forgetting we’re all in this life together.

As I watch the seemingly big, 2018 NCAA basketball tournament come to a close, I have found something that reminds me of the bigger. We are not truly divided into Jayhawk, Rambler, Wildcat, or Wolverine fans. We are all, simply fans.

Sister Jean, the spunky 98 year old chaplain of Loyola Chicago’s men’s basketball team, reminds us of that. Her words and presence remind us of what’s bigger…

“Things turn out well when you work as a team, when you share the ball and you’re so kind to each other. And when you really like each other. That’s what happens with these young men, they really like each other.”

“They’re having what I call fun on the court. If you don’t have fun when you’re playing, you’re not relaxed enough to get the ball into the basket.”

And in response to a question asking if she’s the difference in regard to the Ramblers’ newfound success, “Oh, no. God’s been the difference and the young men.”

I love it. Here in a world that daily comes up with new ways to divide themselves, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt reminds us of what’s bigger.

Look at how these impressionable young Loyola players respond…

From Marques Townes, “Her presence and her aura, when you see her — it’s just like the world is just great because just her spirit and her faith in us and Loyola basketball and just her being around.”

Said Donte Ingram, “She’s like another coach. [In my first ever game], it caught me off guard. I thought she was just going to pray. She prayed, but then she starts saying, ‘You’ve got to box out and watch out for 23.’”

And said guard Clayton Custer, “For her to be doing what she’s doing at her age, it’s amazing, and it’s inspiring. And I think, I mean, I think her prayers definitely mean a little bit extra when she prays for us.”

Interestingly, many in the sports media have recently run stories discussing how in the wake of the scandals hitting college basketball, we’ve been in need of a “feel good” story. As so editorialized by The Guardian Weekly:

“… If you wanted to hope for a spiritually redemptive script for college basketball to follow, one could do worse than a series of games in which the sinning teams were punished and the lower seeds inherited the later rounds.

If you were to write this story, filled with unlikely game-winning moments that we reflexively call ‘miracles,’ why wouldn’t you include a basketball-obsessed nun helping her team achieve improbable victories? You don’t have to be religious in the slightest to understand that it would make a fantastic story if Loyola somehow made it the Final Four – or beyond – under Sister Jean’s watch.

For what it’s worth, even Sister Jean thinks that this is unlikely. After Loyola’s defeat of Tennessee she admitted that she only had them going to the Sweet Sixteen in her bracket, not any further.

She knows, as we all do, that sporting events aren’t morality plays. Still, a part of us wants to believe: even a staunch atheist will often lapse into talk of faith and belief when it comes to their team. That’s a big reason why Sister Jean has resonated so strongly with fans. She represents the pure and good in a game that is so often corrupt.”

Thank you, Sister Jean, for reminding us of something bigger.


look at our teens (listen, too…)

I love how often the children see what we cannot…

I love their passion…
… their enthusiasm…
… their unscripted response…

I love their curiosity…
… their bravery…
… their uncanny moxy…

I love their willingness to act…
… and their equal willingness to ask questions — even those seemingly “stupid” ones, that adults aren’t always courageous enough to ask.

Maybe that’s what I love most about children; they are not adults.

We allow things to get in the way.

To get in the way of what?

… of staying humble…
… of doing what’s right…
… of loving all others well.

We typically each love only a selected some.

So what actually gets in the way?

What keeps us from staying humble, doing what’s right, and loving all others?

Lots… understandably and unfortunately…

A lack of forgiveness.
And anger.

Sometimes intelligence, too.

As we’ve recently witnessed teens and tweens leading us in both prayer and peaceful demonstration, I keep thinking about how much each of us could learn from them if we, too, came together, humbly, worked across avenues and aisles, and committed to loving and listening to all others well.

Remember, too, therefore, who it actually is that leads the wolf, lion, and lamb well…

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.”

A child will lead them… the innocence of a child shall lead… no wolf nor goat nor lion…

They do not teach the wolf to eat the lamb nor the lion to devour the yearling. They instead teach them all how to lie down and work together.

Respectfully… humbly, too…

I hate them

I hate them.

Yes, I mean “hate.”

I loathe, detest, despise, and abhor. I hate them.

They are slimy… kind of briny, too.

Yes, I hate pickles. Ask my dearest Facebook friends. They regularly enjoy egging me on, finding the latest, creative Vlasic variety, making all sorts of kosher comments.

Did I mention I hate them?

Let’s be clear: I have good reason for hating them. They taste awful. Their texture is sludgy; they are not smooth; and their greenish color is simply not appetizing. And even though, according to Statista based on the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (and even though it’s totally crazy that we keep statistics on these things) 233.12 million Americans consumed pickles in 2017, it changes nothing.

I hate them. And every one of those actual 233.12 million is simply blind, wrong, or seriously misguided.

I hear you…

“AR, you hate something? … someone?

You hate it?”

Yes… yes, I do.

“But don’t you know that hate is foolish? How it usually represents more of a blindspot in the beholder than in the object of the abhorrence?”

You don’t get it.

I have a reason for my hate.

My hate is justified.

And the minute we justify our own hate, the minute we cement the blind spot… the minute we lose our objectivity — regardless of our intelligence. Our hatred has impeded our ability to think clearly — and our ability to love and work with the different.

This is tough, friends. I get it. Some things and people make us really mad. Understandably. But let us not be willing to sacrifice a greater virtue, giving our hate and judgment a life of its own.

I can hear you now. Here come even more kosher comments, disrespectful memes, and even that oddball ad that thinks someone, somewhere desires Chapstick in some sort of dill flavor.


And did you see Sonic? The drive-up fast food restaurant recently announced that they will be selling pickle slushies this summer.

Are you kidding me?

First pickle Pringles, then pickle vodka, and now the summer slushie?

These people are nuts! Don’t they realize how awful they are?

Or wait…

You mean they don’t all think like me?


one shining moment

Perhaps you saw it. Perhaps you did not.

When the University of Michigan men’s basketball team hit their improbable, last-second shot — shockingly sending the Wolverines into the so-called “Sweet 16” — pandemonium erupted on the court. As is often typical these days, the players and fans went a little, understandably crazy.

There was shock on both ends — in winning. And losing.

And then there was this, as depicted by Brian Smith, for

“… As Houston’s Cory Davis watched in disbelief along the sideline, he was met by an unlikely visitor. Mo Wagner, a forward for the Wolverines known for his grit and sometimes chippy play, stopped pursuing the chaos and momentarily reengaged his opponent.

The moment is worth championing on multiple levels.

God created us to celebrate when things go well. It completes the experience. To neglect the opportunity to celebrate would leave us feeling like we had one final piece of a puzzle that we just decided not to fit into place. There is nothing wrong with the rest of the Wolverines chasing each other around the court. You can even see Wagner start the celebration process.

But then he presses pause. Why?

I have no idea. I can guess, but ultimately, I don’t know why he stopped.

That’s a large reason why this moment was so beautiful. It was not normal or expected. It was not scripted. You can tell from Wagner’s body language that he did not start running with the intention of stopping to chat with Davis. It certainly wasn’t to mock Davis.

Something more like competitive empathy. Athletic respect toward a fellow player who competed at a high level and helped bring out everyone’s best. Understanding born out of his own experience with losing. A genuine compassion extended to the vanquished — perhaps out of relief that he wasn’t having to suffer the emotions that come with Davis’ fate. A simple display of class. Whatever — it was something worth noticing.

March Madness never fails to deliver memorable moments. The Cinderella stories, unlikely comebacks, and buzzer beaters will always make ESPN headlines.

But moments like these make sports so captivating for us. Against the backdrop of the Madness, snapshots of compassion and empathy continue to capture our attention — and keep us fixated to see what could potentially happen next.”

I’m reminded of a previous post penned last fall. It detailed the 14 warmup shirts worn by the Purdue men’s basketball team this season. Each wore a different word…


Isn’t it true? Against the backdrop of the madness, the above virtues capture our attention most. They last for more than one shining moment in time.


the other side of madness

Like many this weekend, I watched as dreams were dashed and brackets were bashed on the college hardwood. With improbable upsets and last-second shots moving from desire to reality, it was an exciting weekend for even the fair-weather fan.

None was as unlikely or historic as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s win over Virginia. Virginia was considered the strongest team in the tournament; UMBC was considered the weakest. With the upset being the first time a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, (if you were up late enough to watch it) history was made. It was an iconic moment in sports.

Let that sink in for a moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, amateur, young men.

So as the clock wound down and the upset evolved from the impossible to the unlikely to the seriously-are-you-kidding-me, jubilation was everywhere… Oh, how we love a good underdog!

The jubilation was everywhere! … yes … except in the hearts of the players and fans from the University of Virginia.

As fun as it was to watch the unprecedented glee from UMBC’s Retrievers — “Retriever Nation,” as is now being trademarked (even though a mere four days ago, said “nation” equated to a little more than five thousand fans), it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers.

The contrast was striking… untamed joy on one side… complete, unexpected shock on the other.

It made me ask, “How often am I aware of the other side?”

When the madness turns to sadness for a select group of people, do I:

… deny it?
… act like it’s no big deal?
… act as if only my perspective or emotion is important?

As the upsets continued — from my Ohio friends working through the unforeseen losses of both Xavier and the University of Cincinnati to Auburn, North Carolina, and Tennessee — I was struck by the postgame press conference of Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Bridges is considered one of college basketball’s best players and he just participated in the Spartan’s shocking defeat at the hands of Syracuse, a team which barely eked their way into this year’s bracket.

Said an obviously distraught Bridges, “I really just couldn’t believe that we had lost. I thought we had the best shot to win a national championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. It’s probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Note that: “the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Right — these are most likely, with all due respect, fairly immature 18-22 year old men — but it does not negate the fact that one person’s glee is still another person’s agony.

Does it matter?

Should the emotions of another affect me? Or affect how I respond?

While I pray for these young men — deeply desiring them to realize there is so much more of life to be lived and how God totally teaches each of us in the hard spots, so-to-speak, especially if we let him — I’m mindful that the elation of one should never blind us to the heartache of another…

… either on and off the college hardwood.


the down syndrome abortion debate

Some days I simply pause, completely perplexed at what current culture feels a need to next debate. Intelligent people on all sides of the aisle or all sides of something wrangle about all sorts of issues, each seemingly, boldly declaring that they represent the moral authority in the land. I see a world which is morally confused. And our intelligence has gotten in the way.

As referenced here last fall, for example, in Iceland, doctors are now required to tell expectant mothers about an available screening test that can indicate the presence of Down syndrome in their baby. CBS originally ran this story under the headline “Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing,” omitting the reality that only live birth stats were decreasing due to abortion — not because fewer babies had the genetic disorder. Close to 100% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland are now aborted.

An entire people group is being eradicated because of who they are and how they are born.

With the Icelandic development combined with already high American abortion rates when a baby is identified as having a third copy of chromosome 21, there has been a push in recent years for state legislatures to enact law which prohibits abortion based strictly on a Downs diagnosis. Indiana, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Ohio have already passed such legislation, with Utah’s legislature currently debating such a bill.

And hence, we debate. We debate what’s right. We debate who is right. And yes, sometimes intelligence seems to get in the way.

A week ago, longtime, well-known Washington Post journalist, Ruth Marcus, addressed the issue. Marcus is a woman the Intramuralist has long read and respected, as she is articulate, witty, and bright. She identifies as liberal with the Democratic Party (… and friends, for a more balanced perspective, please be reading people from both or multiple parties…).

While I respect Marcus’s support of abortion law, it was the following expression that made this parent pause:

“… I respect — I admire — families that knowingly welcome a baby with Down syndrome into their lives. Certainly, to be a parent is to take the risks that accompany parenting; you love your child for who she is, not what you want her to be.

But accepting that essential truth is different from compelling a woman to give birth to a child whose intellectual capacity will be impaired, whose life choices will be limited, whose health may be compromised. Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive impairment, meaning an IQ between 55 and 70 (mild) or between 35 and 55 (moderate). This means limited capacity for independent living and financial security; Down syndrome is life-altering for the entire family.

I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted…”

As a person who made the choice not to abort my child with Downs, I appreciate Marcus’s admiration and respect. Now let me be blunt in response.

My child with Downs, Joshua, was not the child I wanted either.

I didn’t want a son whose intellectual capacity was impaired, whose life choices would be different than mine, nor one who had to deal with a life-threatening heart defect. I didn’t want that. For him or for me. In fact — let’s get real here — I actually prayed that Josh would not have Down syndrome.

But thank God sometimes His answer is different than we ask. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know how much this young man — who yes, is different than me — would teach me. I didn’t know how much I could learn from one whose IQ is significantly lower than mine. I didn’t know how impactful it would be to do life and raise a child with a disability. I didn’t know how much it would change me — and yes, how much I would grow from being changed. I had zero clue how vibrant the life and amazing the impact a person absent of high intellect could be.

The reality is that Josh is thriving. The reality also is that if I was not given the responsibility to parent young master Josh, I would know no more of life and God than I already do.

Thank God He did not answer my prayer the way I asked. Had Josh been any different, I would not be different. I would have grown less.

Instead, I’ve grown to be humbler, wiser, and far more empathetic and compassionate for others — for who they are and how they are born… all because of that one very special Joshua… that one extra chromosome… and a God who knew better than me.

Respectfully… always…

what’s in a name? madness!

Ah, ’tis always one of my favorite times of year, regardless of the resulting madness…

As is typical, a plethora of Wildcats, Bulldogs, and birds tend to show up, and once again, they did not disappoint — as included are five of the untamed felines and two of the smooth-haired canines, with fowl flying in from Brooklyn, Creighton, and Kansas.

It amazes me, too, how the more dawdling animals embrace the court (no uptempo offense here). Hence, beware of those sneaky Bisons from both Bucknell and Lipscomb and Bulls from Buffalo, too.

There exist some perennial favorites, such as the Spartans and Dukies. But did you know that this year, there exists a pair of Spartans, with only one inhabiting the State of Michigan — and Duke, well, they are one of two teams hailing from Durham, North Carolina (… go, North Carolina Central, go… another bird, no less).

Can we talk about the Dukies again for a moment?

Years ago, I made a decision not to intentionally support anything associated with some kind of evil. So, sorry, Blue Devil fans; my loyalty is out. (That includes you, too, Arizona State).

Granted, this isn’t exactly a politically correct kind of field — you know the kind? “Politically correct” means we don’t talk honestly and openly about politics, religion, money, or sex. Thankfully, most of those remain missing, but note the faithful following in the Friars from Providence and Quakers from Penn.

We also have some identity politics that made the cut, albeit such a distinction always omits someone. Check out Iona’s Gaels — with a “Gael” equated to anyone of Irish-Gaelic ancestry — and the Seminoles from Tallahassee and Aztecs from San Diego.

We have the men from Syracuse, too, although they are just a color now. Then again, perhaps they find commonality with Alabama, whose crafting of the Crimson moniker came years ago, when the football team found themselves in a sea of red mud, staining their white jerseys crimson.

But lest we get lost in any one team’s individualization, it’s also true that multiple teams come to us in pairs. We have Raiders and Red Raiders, Cougars and Cougars (no women), Aggies and more Aggies (what exactly is an “Aggie” by the way?), the Wolfpack and Wolf Pack, in addition to an untamed Tiger quartet.

Standard animals are also included — especially the ursine crowd of Bearcats, Bruins and Grizzlies, and the lupine-like Panthers and Wolverines. The bear and wolf families will play among the familiar Gators, Retrievers, and Razorbacks, along with the more bovine Longhorns, Rams, and quite vocal Thundering Herd. True, some animals seem a little less intimidating on the hardwood, but we welcome all — we are an equal opportunity fan base — thinking of those small nibbling creatures closer to the order Rodentia, those mighty Jackrabbits and even Horned Frogs.

Unlike the small creatures, some teams are not animals but their names indeed imply speed. Hence, we welcome Murray State’s Racers and the Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago.

I must admit, some names simply don’t make sense to me. Who are they and why do they talk that way about themselves? For example, how many Pirates have you ever seen in South Orange, New Jersey? And what about Stephen F. Austin’s Lumberjacks? Didn’t the “Six Million Dollar Man” retire eons ago?

Let us not omit the more nondescript terminology, recognizing no matter the ambiguity, they are still endearing to a specific, faithful fandom. You go, Bonnies, Hokies, and Tar Heels!

Some have a more regal or rugged role — the Cavaliers, Titans, and Musketeers, for instance. One group from Southeast Florida actually depicts the weather; another is a little nutty from Ohio. Still more openly hope to climb to new heights (see Highlanders, Radford; and Mountaineers, West Virginia).

Note that once again, I learned much this mad time of year…

  • Tennessee’s team is called the “Volunteers” — not due to every Tennessean being so stinkin’ selfless, but rather, in somewhat of a disputed account, the nickname is tied to the state’s citizens’ prominent military role during the War of 1812.
  • “Sooners” denotes “can-do” individuals, invoking the spirit and enthusiasm of Oklahoma’s pioneer heritage.
  • And Wichita State’s “Shockers” was pegged over a century ago, referring to the summer jobs of many of their football players who harvested — or “shocked” — wheat. Their mascot, “WuShock,” is actually a bundle of wheat.

And last but not least, surprisingly, are my beloved Boilermakers, a name originally intended for insult but yet described the burliness and brawn of those mighty men from the banks of the Wabash in Indiana.

What’s in a name?


Let the madness begin.


a humble strength, calm trust, even Bush & Obama…

One of the truths sharpened in me as I’ve grown in adulthood is the need to sit under the wisdom of someone else. In other words, there is great sagacity in learning to submit to another. Submission isn’t a form of weakness, friends; rather, it is evidence of both humility and strength.

We see that strength in history’s wise men and women. None have ever been convinced that they are the wisest person they know.

I keep thinking of those wise men and women — something the Intramuralist craves. Hence, the below interaction caught my eye last week — the relationship between Billy Graham and George W. Bush. The former President spoke candidly as to the keen, deep influence of Graham — a man who befriended and influenced so many — including (I love this!) those named Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Obama.

Bush 43 spoke of first meeting Graham in 1985 on his grandmother’s porch. He would later spend extended time with the Reverend. According to the President, Graham “changed my life”…

“… I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind… I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for a while—that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick…

God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk—and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years…

Perhaps his most meaningful service came on Sept. 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral. It was no easy task. America was on bended knee—frightened, angry, uncertain. As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.

‘We come together today,’ he began, ‘to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.’ God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.

In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me—and us all—where we can find strength. And he helped us start to heal by offering three lessons: the mystery and reality of evil, our need for each other, and hope for the present and future. ‘As a Christian,’ Graham said at the 9/11 service, ‘I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come.’

A final story: One night while dad was away on a trip during his presidency, mother and I had dinner at the White House. Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.

It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, ‘Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New Testament. But don’t play God. He decides who goes to heaven, not you.’ Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.

Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.”

I love the wisdom of Billy Graham — a man who sincerely and passionately offered hope for all regardless of ethnic, religious or political background… a man who knew life was a gift… who was humble and strong and recognized both the reality of evil and our need for each other… who knew that God will always have this life figured out way better than we do… and who, no doubt, was incredibly wise.


fallen from grace

We noticed. My kids noticed, too. We have multiple sports fans in the family, so while it wasn’t discussed much at first, we all were paying attention. Once again, for the first time in years, Tiger Woods was relevant. At the lesser-known Valspar Championship — one of manifold Masters warm ups — Woods is again flirting with the leaderboard. He has played some excellent golf this weekend, as once again, in a seemingly instant nostalgic return, the silent gallery swarmed around him, progressing from hole to hole.

“It was his back, right?”

True. Since April of 2015, Woods has undergone three microdiscectomy procedures and a spinal fusion to deal with a disk issue in his lower back. At one point last fall, in fact, there was ample question of whether he would ever golf again. Hence, Woods has been largely AWOL and irrelevant the last four years on the PGA tour.

“But it was more than physical, yes?”

Also true. Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010; his dominance was unprecedented. That dominance was then pierced by the sudden, shocking revelation that the world’s most famous golfer — the married father of two — engaged in more than a dozen extramarital affairs. He proceeded to lose millions in endorsements, publicly apologize, reveal a sex addiction, and eventually divorce his wife.

Talk about fallen from grace.

Last week we observed something similar. Here was Kobe Bryant, accepting the Academy Award for the best animated short film, seemingly sincerely moved while publicly lauded. And yet in the current #MeToo environment, it was Bryant who in 2004 publicly acknowledged that he had an adulterous sexual encounter with a 19 year woman who “did not consent.” Kobe, too, fell from grace, also losing significant corporate endorsements and public respect.

So when one falls from grace, what does it take to be relevant and accepted once again?

Is it forgetting?

Do we just allow enough time to pass so we no longer remember the cracks in the character of the adult men and women we used to cheer on?

Do we let time go by, hopefully numbing the emotion we felt when people we loved did such dastardly things? Maybe if we forget, we never have to wrestle with some of the resulting inconvenient truths in our desired, ongoing support.

Or is it, rather, forgiving?

I recognize that forgiveness is not always a popular choice. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and I know we avoid it sometimes because it’s the only thing we can always hold against the person who hurt or disappointed us deeply. As one who bought both #8 and #24 Laker jerseys for one of my sons, for example, I was especially disappointed in Bryant’s behavior; I was angry I then had to have a more sensitive and sad conversation with my too young adolescent.

The key to forgiveness is the profound reality that it doesn’t allow the offender to get off the hook; it allows us to get off the hook — to no longer have to hold onto the anger and bitterness that potentially take root within ‘me.’ Let’s be honest: that looks good on no one.

As for the offender, in addition to understandable consequences for his/her behavior, he/she will still have some work to do… repentance, growth, and making amends. That is his/her responsibility.

Hence, for the person who repents — and for the person who forgives — I will enthusiastically cheer. Grace and forgiveness are always worth cheering for.

Go Tiger, go… hope you do well this weekend. And more.