Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quick: Who's the Best Fielding NL Second Baseman of All Time?

Baseball fans might be inclined to name people like Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson, Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, or Napoleon Lajoie in response to that question. All of them were great, both defensively and at the plate. Morgan and Robinson, at least, were also fantastic on the base paths, tremendous base-stealing threats.

But the best fielding National League second baseman of all time is playing the game in this era. It's Dat Dude, Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau on Tuesday, Phillips has taken over the all-time lead in fielding percentage by NL second basemen at .990 from the previous leader, Ryne Sandberg. The Hall of Famer and former Cub had a .989 career fielding percentage...

Since joining the Reds in 2006, Phillips has played 1,307 games at second base. He has committed 65 errors in 6,195 total chances.
One of the slams some fans put on BP is that he's all flash and no substance in the field. Phillips is flashy. Astoundingly so. But he's also effective. No opposing batter wants to hit balls within thirty feet of him. He's almost always sure to record another spectacular out.

That makes his record all the more amazing. Phillips often gets to balls on which other second basemen would be unable or unwilling to make plays. In a sense, he puts his fielding percentage in greater jeopardy than most players would because of his aggressive play.

I'm looking forward to the 2015 season, in which a Phillips recovered from last year's thumb injury, dazzles us again with his amazing and effective--historically amazing and effective--play at second base playing for my Cincinnati Reds.

Glad that the Reds linked to this article by Mark Sheldon on Facebook and that I spied it during a break from studying and preparation this afternoon.

The Job That Americans Would Fear Holding the Most

Politician. That's what a new survey by CareerBuilder shows.
Americans think being a politician is scarier than being a mortician or an infectious disease doctor. In fact, there's no job in the U.S. that workers fear more than being an elected official, according to a nationwide survey by CareerBuilder.

It's all that public speaking, rejection and accountability associated with the job that terrifies workers most.
Maybe all of these factors are things we should consider before opening our yaps about how bad "all" politicians are. We're all entitled to our opinions, of course. But character assassination directed at people doing work that we ourselves would find too daunting, sometimes because misinformaton or outright disinformation, is an abuse of our freedom of speech.

The Huffington Post article in which the findings appear reminded me of a piece of information I ran across and wrote about a few years ago. It discussed what jobs that the late business management researcher and thinker Peter Drucker identified as the four toughest ones in the United States.

On Drucker's list were, in no particular order: the President of the United States, a university president, a CEO of a hospital, and a pastor. I wrote about Drucker's list from the standpoint of someone who's been a student of presidential history all my life and who's been a pastor, now for thirty years, here

The whole top ten of fear-inducing jobs for Americans surfaced by the CareerBuilder survey looks like this, in order:
1. Politician
2. Microbiologist
3. Security guard at teen pop idol concert
4. Kindergarten teacher
5. Crime scene investigator
6. Animal trainer
7. Mortician
8. Radio, cellular, and tower equipment installers and repairers
9. Stand-up comedian
10. Parent
There are more than a few daunting jobs on that list, to be sure.

But none is more daunting or more rewarding than that of being a parent. From the Scriptures we learn that the role of a parent is the most important in all creation. Parents are to help their children prepare for adulthood and to introduce them to the God revealed to all the world in Jesus Christ. That's a big job! And no conscientious person wants to totally mess up when doing it.

Kindergarten teachers, crime scene investigators, microbiologists, and morticians all have the capacity to make mistakes that can harm people. That's what makes them frightening, I think.

Yet clearly, in a society that often expresses the value it attaches to the work people do by the amounts of money and perks employees and contractors are given, at least two, maybe three, and possibly all four of these professions are undervalued, especially in light of the good they do for people.

Read the whole article.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"The Priceless Payoff of Prayer"

Tim Keller is one of my favorite contemporary Christian pastor-theologians. He's the senior pastor of a Presbyterian congregation that he planted in New York City.

What's remarkable about Redeemer Presbyterian Church is that in the heart of Manhattan, a place thought to be utterly cynical and insusceptible to claims for the authority of the Bible as God's definitive Word to human race, the truth of the miracles it records, including Christ's resurrection and virgin birth, the reality of the existence of eternity, and Christ's teaching that faith in Him is the only way to life with God, made by Keller and the congregation, the church has grown and thrives.

Keller is the author of many good books which I've read and enjoyed. He has a new one out, called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.

A member of Living Water sent a link to an interview with Keller surrounding the book. I loved reading it. It appears on the Gospel Coalition website.

A sampling of a few questions and Keller's answers.
You recall being convicted upon realizing that the apostle Peter “assumed an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal” (1 Pet. 1:8). How do we rightly pursue such joy, especially when it feels far more elusive than normal?

"You just have to be faithful and regular in prayer. Most of us pursue joy in prayer, don’t get it, and then don’t stick at it. But as the Puritans used to say, “Mind your work, not your wages.” Prayer is a duty—even if we don’t get much out of it emotionally, we nevertheless owe it to God. Christians necessarily believe we depend on God for everything—a prayerless Christian, then, is a contradiction in terms. But if there is a secret to this, it may be right here. When we seek God for himself, not for some emotional payoff, and we develop habits of regular prayer, the sense of joy and of his presence is more likely to come and come more often."
Why is it so crucial to pray in Jesus’s name? What are some ways we pray in our own names instead?

"To pray in Jesus’s name means to acknowledge that we only have access to the Father’s attention and grace through the mediation and work of our Savior. So just using the words “in Jesus’s name” is not sufficient. We use the words to reinforce the required attitudes and motives. To pray “in Jesus’s name” is to come before God in both humility (knowing we don’t deserve God’s help) and confidence (knowing that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and worthiness), as well as grateful joy.

"To pray in Jesus’s name, then, is to be aware of the grace of the gospel as the basis of prayer, and to have our attitude in prayer deeply enriched—both humbled and exalted. When we consciously or unconsciously expect God to hear our prayer because of our relative freedom from overt sin or because of our service and moral effort, we are praying in our own name."
And this...
What advice would you give to those who struggle with getting distracted and losing their train of thought while praying?

"Martin Luther suggested meditation. For example, if you paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer, as Luther counsels, it forces you to concentrate. Almost any method of meditation can focus the mind and then engage the affections so that when you turn to prayer you won’t be distracted. It should go without saying—but I will say it—that what I mean by “meditation” is not any of the contemplative practices that aim at getting beyond words and rational thought into pure awareness of our oneness with God. Biblical meditation, rather, is filling the mind with Scripture and then “loading the heart” (to use John Owen’s phrase) with it until it affects not only the emotions but the entire life."
Read the whole interview here.

Should Surveilance Revealed by Snowden Spark Foreign Outrage?

To me, the most interesting thing in this piece, apart from the substance of the argument, is Fareed Zakaria's citation of the words of former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner: "Let's be honest. We eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."

I suppose that only former foreign ministers can afford to be so forthright. But it does put Edward Snowden's actions in an interesting light, suggesting that foreign governments' outrage at the U.S. government for its surveillance program may be a bit hypocritical.

Ordination Anniversary and the Importance of Blue Butterflies

On October 19, the folks of Living Water Lutheran Church, the congregation I serve as pastor, remembered the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination. I didn't know until this morning that the display pictured above was around on that day. It means a lot to me.

The butterfly, of course, is a symbol of resurrection. But the blue butterfly is especially important for me and more than a few friends in the parish I last served, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio. It was a favorite of Sarah, a young woman from Saint Matthew, who was always an example of faithfulness, grit, determination, fun, and good humor, a saint I look forward to seeing again one day in eternity.

What Heaven Celebrates


Giants Get Closer

They win again Sunday night to go up three games to two in the World Series.  Bumgarner was, again, amazing on the mound.

It's been a great series, which makes it all the more confounding to consider that its television ratings have been so low.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I'll Remember You by Bob Dylan

I know that it's hard for some folks to get passed the fact that Bob Dylan doesn't have a pleasing voice. But the man has written incredible music and I own almost all of his LPs. This is such a sweet, sad song.

Here are the lyrics, taken from Dylan's web site:

I’ll remember you
When I’ve forgotten all the rest
You to me were true
You to me were the best
When there is no more
You cut to the core
Quicker than anyone I knew
When I’m all alone
In the great unknown
I’ll remember you
I’ll remember you
At the end of the trail
I had so much left to do
I had so little time to fail
There’s some people that
You don’t forget
Even though you’ve only seen ’m one time or two
When the roses fade
And I’m in the shade
I’ll remember you
Didn’t I, didn’t I try to love you?
Didn’t I, didn’t I try to care?
Didn’t I sleep, didn’t I weep beside you
With the rain blowing in your hair?
I’ll remember you
When the wind blows through the piney wood
It was you who came right through
It was you who understood
Though I’d never say
That I done it the way
That you’d have liked me to
In the end
My dear sweet friend
I’ll remember you

Oscar Taveras' Death

So sad. He was a player of promise.

Cancer Killers?

This looks promising.

Good Advice

Curt Schilling was a great pitcher, who won big in the 2007 World Series, on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. He's recovering from cancer caused by his thirty year addiction to tobacco. Here, he talks about the experience of cancer and treatment for it. Schilling blames himself for his illness.

It's truly sad when people suffer from preventable diseases that have been brought on them by their own behaviors.

It's even sadder when people suffer from diseases that we have yet to conquer.

But Schilling's story is a cautionary tale for all who think that they're invincible. We're not. None of us.

"Autumn at the Lake"

Love this picture from Super Social Media Theologian, Eric Swensson.

Can You Handle This Truth?

[This was shared at the early worship service of Living Water Lutheran Church in Springboro, Ohio, this morning.]

John 8:31-36
I’ve never seen the movie, A Few Good Men. But like most people I’ve seen one of its most famous scenes. Tom Cruise’s character, a prosecuting attorney, demands of a witness, “I want the truth!” And Jack Nicholson, the witness on the stand, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Today’s gospel lesson asks us, “Can you handle the truth?”

The people with whom Jesus speaks in today’s lesson couldn’t.

We’re going to look at the truths Jesus reveals in this lesson and see whether you and I can handle them. Please turn to the lesson, John 8:31-36 (on page 746 in the sanctuary Bibles).

In verse 31, we read: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you hold to my teaching [or more literally, If you abide or remain in My Word, you are really my disciples..’” Truth number one, which seems to elude the people to whom Jesus is speaking, is that believing in Jesus is more than just reciting the Creed or enlisting in a "club" called "the church."

This is Reformation Sunday. We celebrate the simple act of a priest, monk, and Bible scholar, Martin Luther, on All Saints’ Eve (Hallowe'en), October 31, 1517, when, to the church door in Wittenberg, he nailed ninety-five theses for debate among clergy and scholars.

Luther had no intention of starting a Reformation. But his questions for debate challenged the teachings of the Church of his day.

Through his act, the Holy Spirit unleashed a Christian movement that pointed to the central teaching of the Bible that unrighteous, sinful human beings are made right with God not by engaging in good works, but solely by the charity (or grace) of God given to those with faith in Jesus Christ.

To be saved from sin, death, and darkness, we must only believe in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. That’s good news!

But, of course, believing in Jesus is more than the recitation of words or showing up for church functions.

Belief in Jesus is entrusting my whole life to Him, accepting His total authority over my life.

Because this idea so violently collides with our pretenses of self-sufficiency and our personal desires, the good news of Jesus is also a tough truth. And most people can’t handle it! (Including me, much of the time, I must honestly confess, though I crave to live for Christ more than anything.)

But Jesus isn’t done laying the truth on us. Look at what He says in verse 32: “‘ will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

This verse is widely misquoted and misunderstood. For example, the words "the truth will set you free" are chiseled into the marble on the front face of the Law School at my alma mater, The Ohio State University, as though Jesus were saying, “If you know the facts, you’ll be free.” That is NOT what Jesus is saying! Jesus means something, in fact Someone, very specific when He talks about the Truth: Himself.

Please turn to John 1:14, part of the prologue or introduction to the gospel of John (page 739 in the sanctuary Bibles). In his prologue, John calls Jesus the Word, God the Son, then tells us: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Then, please slip over to John 14:6 (page 752). It says: “Jesus answered [Thomas], ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Truth #2 then, is this: Jesus is the foundational Truth on which the entire universe is built. To build on any other foundation but Christ is to live a lie and a delusion.

To be in relationship with Jesus, to entrust our past, present, and future, our sins, and our identities to Jesus Christ alone, is to be in relationship with God.

To refuse relationship with and surrender to Jesus is to be out of relationship with God, separated from God.

The entire universe, in fact, is not as it should be because it is out of relationship, out of sync, with Jesus the Truth. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says that those who refuse Christ’s lordship over their lives, “...will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” Tough stuff. But Jesus says that as we stay connected with Him, meeting Him with trusts in the ways and in the places He promises to meet us--as we daily repent of our sins, pray in His Name, read and hear ans study His Word, fellowship with His people in the Church, receive His body and blood, and live under His grace alone--we will know the truth, we will know Him, and He will set us free.

Jesus’ original hearers, fellow residents of Judea who said they believed in Jesus, could not handle any talk of their needing to be set free. In verse 33, they protest: “‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’’”

This is denial, pure and simple. The whole history of the descendants of Abraham had been filled with their enslavement and subjugation under other peoples. In fact, except for a brief period between 140 and 63 BC, about seventy-seven years, God’s people had been slaves of other people for centuries! Most notable, of course, was the 430 year stint of slavery in Egypt. And even at the moment Jesus spoke with them, they lived under the dominion of a foreign nation, the Roman Empire.

But though we may shake our heads at this denial of reality, these people aren’t the only slaves in human history to deny their slavery. All of us are equipped with the capacity to not see when we’re enslaved to sin. Whether the focal point of our sin is the abuse of alcohol or drugs, gambling, too much time on the computer, workaholism, materialism, pornography, or whatever our gods of choice may be, a common first response when confronted by loved ones is to deny our slavery. “I don’t need it,” we crow. “I can quit it any time.”

Jesus doesn’t mince words in expressing truth #3. Look at verse 34: “‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’”

This is the unpleasant truth the human race does not want to hear. None of us does. And when called to the carpet for something I’ve done wrong, my first impulse is to let loose with a string of excuses.

Psalm 51:5 and the whole Bible tells us that we are born in sin. Sin is the condition of alienation from God and from other human beings, the enslavement to ourselves and our own desires that blocks out true, open, loving relationships with God and with others.

This is what we reference when we confess to God on Sunday mornings that “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”

From this condition of sin, we naturally commit sins. We really do not, by nature, love God or love others.

Other-mindnedness, which is what the Bible calls righteousness looks like, isn’t the default mode those whose first words are often, “No!” and “Mine!” (Ask any parent and they will confirm that.) We are slaves to sin. And it’s from this slavery that Jesus came into the world to free you and me. 

Look at what Jesus says in verse 35 of our lesson, please: “‘Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.’” Under the inheritance laws of first-century Judea, only the oldest son inherited all that his father left behind. And slaves had no rights to an inheritance at all. There was nothing they could do about their circumstance. They would spend their entire lives as slaves.

Absent God’s help, we sinners would have no hope of anything but eternal condemnation and everlasting separation from God and the life for which we were made. We couldn’t inherit life with God. Hard truth #4 isn’t specifically mentioned here, but if Jesus is speaking it to Jews who believed in Him, the first Christians, it’s true for you and me as well, and it’s truth that’s mentioned in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

We are all slaves who can’t free ourselves, who deserve death, as Romans 6:23 reminds us: “the wages of sin is death.” Death is what we deserve for our sin, a hard truth to handle!

Thank God for the promise that Jesus makes in verse 36 of our lesson: “‘...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

When we trust Jesus to take our sins on His shoulders and their condemnation into His very body, He crucifies our old sinful selves and sets us free from their power.

Martin Luther, as you know, said that on Judgment Day, God will look out over two seas of people, both groups composed entirely of sinners. One group will stand naked in their sins, having chosen sin over salvation by their refusal to repent for sin and believe in Jesus. By their refusal to believe in Jesus, they will have chosen condemnation, an earthly lifetime and an eternity spent in a chosen exile from the God Who made and loved them.

Luther pointed out that God will also look out over another group of sinners. Because of their faith in Jesus, God won’t see their earthly fallen selves. God will only see Jesus when He looks at them. They will be clothed in the forgiveness and new life Jesus gave to them and that they received by faith in Christ. Romans 6:23 tells us: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That is the greatest truth of all!

A few years ago, I read about the large number of emigres from Iran (Persia) who, in some independent German Lutheran congregations, are leaving the Muslim religion and coming to faith in Jesus Christ. These Persians were making public profession of their faith in spite of the fact that in many of their ethnic enclaves, their fellow Persians enforce Muslim sharia law, which says that if Muslims become Christians, they must be killed.

Why would these converts risk their lives to abide in Jesus and be His disciples?

One convert to Christianity explained, “In this [Lutheran] congregation, I heard for the first time that God is a loving Father who desires a personal relationship with every human being. This was news to me, because Islam had taught me...[that] God [is] a distant deity...”

The fact that God wants to have a personal relationship with each of us and that this God took on human flesh in order to die for our sins and rise again in order to secure that relationship for now and all eternity for all who believe in Jesus Christ is the good news on which the Reformation was built. It’s also the good news on which we can build our lives.

Those who build their lives on Christ will find, as Luther wrote in his famous hymn, inspired by Psalm 46, that God is "a mighty fortress," “a sword and shield victorious”! That is a truth we can not only handle, but celebrate, today and forever! Amen!

[The image above is taken from the 2004 release, Luther, which I highly recommend.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nothing is Beyond You By Amy Grant

Grant sang this Rich Mullins tune on the album completed by Mullin's band after his tragic death. Mullins had been planning on recording what he called "the Jesus record' and had done all the demos shortly before his passing. The song is based, in part, on Psalm 139:7-12.

God is There for Us Everywhere


You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go by Bob Dylan

Dylan is always writing new songs and always experimenting with his old ones. This is his country version of a song from his Blood on the Tracks LP.

Yer Blues by the Beatles

I mentioned this song on October 9, what would have been John Lennon's seventy-fourth birthday. It's a great Lennon song.

39 Years Ago Today

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

My favorite.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

You can read about it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

At Currituck

Every Breaking Wave by U2

Absolutely love this song!

Ocean by Ten Shekel Shirt

A love song to God inspired by the awe we feel when we observe this universe God has made.

38 Years Ago Today

The greatest team in National League history swept the Yankees to win the World Series. It was the second consecutive World Series championship for the Big Red Machine!

I Can't Do This in My Neighborhood

God Makes Good Stuff!

Brag of the Day

Learn about the lighthouse here.

Are we willing to soil our reputations in order to help those whose reputations are bad?

That's the provocative question raised by this piece.

My Office for a Few Days

Monday, October 20, 2014

Building on Christ Isn't Easy

Christ tells us that wise people build their lives on Him.

That makes sense. Christ is, after all, God in the flesh. God alone can give life. And God designed us in His image, meaning that He clearly has a better idea about how to live optimally than we do.

He also went to a cross and rose from the dead to eliminate the power of sin over our lives. When we trust in Christ, building our lives on Him, He gives us life with God that lasts for eternity. We can also enjoy His presence with us in the midst of the pain of this imperfect world.

But as deeply as I believe these truths, they aren't easy to live out. Not. At. All.

The world says, "Follow your heart," "Trust your instincts," or "Think it through." Sometimes, I believe those messages myself. And there are places for our hearts, instincts, and brains, of course. The God we know in Christ gave these gifts to us too.

Yet, we need to be wary of our hearts, instincts, and thoughts. The reason is simple: The Bible insists that our whole beings are born captive to sin and death. Left to our own devices, sin darkens and distorts everything we think and feel and sense. "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death," Proverbs 14:2 says.

This is why Jesus tells us to build our lives on Him, to follow Him, to trust in Him. Our Creator and Savior needs to be our true north, the One Who can lead us into life with God, away from death and separation from God.

Life is hard.

And often it seems that we could make our lives a little easier by using other foundations--our own impulses, the standards of the world, the stuff of the world. Maybe our lives would be easier if we built our lives on those things. In fact, it almost certainly would. "To get along," my cynical grandfather used to advise me, "you have to go along." "Eat, drink, and be merry," the unimaginative lot who think the world must end with a ride in the hearse tell us.

But, given the witness that Jesus rose from the dead, how much good will our getting along and going along do us when we face the Lord Who called us to lives of significance when He said, "Follow Me"?

One of the reasons we crave easier lives in this world is that we know, deep in our psyches, that life lived under the shadows of sin, death, alienation, and darkness isn't what we were made for. We know that we're meant for more than simply slogging along in a world that can be "nasty, brutish, and short." We're meant for full, abundant, joyous life with God that never ends.

To get that kind of life in eternity and to gain those wonderful foretastes of it that God offers to those who believe in Christ through things like His Word, the sacraments, and the fellowship of the Church, means saying no to the things God says are harmful to our souls (you can find those in the ten commandments, among other places in the Bible) and say yes to His freeing love.

True confession: Sometimes I suspect that I know better than God. Many times. Lots of times. I struggle with God a lot. (In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with God. Compared to me though, Jacob is a nobody in the wrestling with God biz. I'm a WWF superstar.) The path God seems to have marked out for me isn't always my first choice. But God has called me to trust that He actually knows more than I do and that though His ways aren't my ways, His ways lead to real life. My ways, by contrast, lead to death.

In my heart of hearts, it's life with God that I want.

God, uncloud my heart. Clear away the garbage of self-will and of death and help me to build my life on You.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:10-12)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Two Additions to the Amazon Wish List

This past week, I added Fred C. Kelly's biography of the Wright Brothers to my Amazon wish list. I saw and looked through it in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Fairborn this past week. It appears readable and accessible, two real assets for someone like me. That's because in other bios I've read of the brothers, I've gotten lost in confusion over the mathematics and science of flight, which, for example, the brothers figured out, revising previous calculations of optimal wing shapes hypothesized by Otto Lilienthal.

I just added Richard Norton Smith's new biography of Nelson Rockefeller. Smith is talking about the book right now on CSPAN. I love Smith as an historian and a writer. (His biography of George Washington is one of my favorite treatments of the first president.) And Rockefeller loomed large on the American political scene when I was growing up.

Reasons for Thanks

This morning was humbling.

The congregation I serve, Living Water Lutheran Church in Springboro, Ohio, decided to mark the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination.

I was talking with someone the other day and mentioned that the chief significance of this anniversary is that it shows how God has put up with me for thirty years. "No," this church member said, "He's put up with you a lot longer than that."

 True. Thanks, praise, honor, and glory belong alone to the God made known in Jesus Christ for His grace, love, and patience with a sinner like me. In light of this, it seemed appropriate to keep the entire day low-key.

During worship, Dan Mershon, with whom I work here, gave a thought-provoking sermon on the Gospel lesson, Matthew 22:15-22.

Folks from previous parishes were in attendance and it was so nice visiting with them during the luncheon.

Thanks to the people of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Okolona, Ohio), Friendship Lutheran Church (Amelia, Ohio), and Saint Matthew Lutheran Church (Logan, Ohio) for sharing this journey with my family and me, for the inspiration you have given to me, for forgiving my faults, and for living your faith in Jesus.

And thanks to the people of Living Water, who made this a special day of honoring God and thanking Him for His goodness.

Ah, Kansas City!

Here. My son linked to this article on my Facebook timeline.

The year 1993, cited in the article as the point at which things went south for the Royals, due to the death of Mr. Kauffman and the ensuing "fire sale" of young talent, was when I saw my only game in Kansas City.

A colleague of mine and I were attendi
ng a church convention and a friend of his gave him two box seat tickets on the first base side. George Brett was in his last season and, as often happens for great players at the ends of the MLB careers, he was playing first base. 

I'm really happy for the Royals and for Kansas City, a town I've enjoyed whenever I've visited.

God Made Us for Community with Others...So, No Surprises Here

From the Harvard Business Review Daily Stat:

THE DAILY STAT: Harvard Business Review

October 17, 2014

Why Does Food Taste Better if Someone Else Is Having the Same Thing?

People who ate chocolate in the presence of another person thought it tasted better if the other person had eaten the same thing, rating it 6.83 on an 11-point flavor scale versus 5.57 if the other person had been merely reading a booklet. This is even though there was no conversation about the experience, says a team at Yale led by Erica J. Boothby. Imagining another person’s feelings during a shared event may increase the cognitive resources you devote to it, thus intensifying your experience, the researchers say.
SOURCE: Shared Experiences Are Amplified

Eating with others can be one of the most intimate of all human experiences.

This is why eating with someone for whom you have lunch or strong bonds of friendship is so gratifying joyous.

It also explains part of what happens in the Holy Communion for Christians.

First, Christ gives His body and blood to us and we all get to experience this amazing gift.

In Communion, Christ gives His life to us in act of supreme love and grace that imparts forgiveness of sins.

This meal also draws us to together with an amazing fellowship of Christ's Church.

In Communion, eternity invades our time-bound world, allowing repentant believers a joyous meal with believers of every time and every place, including the saints who have gone before us who now live in eternity.

At the moment Christians receive the body and blood, the eternal now of God comes to us and, at that moment, we joyously fellowship and humbly receive the blessings of God's grace in Christ as we experience an earthly foretaste of the heavenly banquet.