‘Pandemic Saints,’ a poetic reflection

By DANIEL KIDDER-McQUOWN

Recently, I was offering a prayer of committal:
May the deceased join with the saints in Heaven.

It got me to wonder,
Who are the pandemic saints?

You know, the people who sacrificed the most,
Who led us out of the wilderness,
Who restored our soul in our hour of need?

The people who we now turn to in prayer,
Our role models and intercessors,
Those who truly understand our petitions.

It has been two years and four surges,
Countless death and long-term complications,
Lives upended
Forever.

Surely, goodness and mercy followed
The COVID souls into eternal rest,
And they must now see the answer
To my questions.

The deceased have become our reredos,
Watching and praying,
Comforting and guiding.

One night in the hospital chapel,
I overheard Sister Mary Catherine,
Reflecting on the pandemic of 1832.
Today’s response has been similar, she said.
People came out of the woodwork to help.
Regular people became
Extraordinary.

And the pandemic saints are all around us.

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Care to learn more?

THIS POEM is part of a column by the Rev. Daniel Kidder-McQuown, who serves as night chaplain at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The start of this column is a reflection Daniel wrote, headlined: Summoning spiritual resiliency after two years of coping with COVID

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Summoning spiritual resiliency after two years of coping with COVID

The World Health Organization’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

EDITOR’s NOTE: On March 11, 2020, World Health Organization Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the world, “There are now more than 118,000 cases of COVID-19 in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.” As the world marks the second anniversary of the start of this pandemic, we invited a chaplain to write about the spiritual toll of these two years as well as sources of resilience.

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Remembering the legacy of the 6 million we have lost

By DANIEL KIDDER-McQUOWN
Contributing Columnist

Recently, I met a patient who was the spark that led me to write this article.  Let’s call him Gregory. At the time I met him, Gregory had been suffering from COVID-19 for an extended period, and his situation was getting worse. I had been called in for spiritual support, and we prayed together with his family. He had a wonderful family, career, faith, and religious community. Sadly, and despite the best efforts of the care team, Gregory eventually died from complications due to COVID-19.

I share this sad story for a couple reasons. First, I want to highlight the plight of those who continue to suffer. I want to give a window into what health care workers are still dealing with. The virus continues. While we have come a long way in managing the pandemic, the virus continues to exact a heart-breaking toll on patients, families, and staff.

The other reason for sharing about Gregory has been his impact on me. Meeting him was like the tipping point for my reflections. These thoughts had been stirring and simmering for months. Gregory’s loss helped me realize it was time to write some of these down.

I share these reflections in hopes that Gregory’s legacy, and the legacy of all those who have suffered from COVID-19, may prove fruitful to you. Perhaps it will spark your own writing and sharing about spiritual lessons.

Countless healthcare workers around the world are exhausted. In this photo, Dr. Annalisa Silvestri slumps to the floor in her hospital in Pesaro, Italy, for a moment of respite in the midst of another 12-hour day. Photo provided via Wikimedia Commons by Alberto Guiliani.

Consider the Human Toll

I am a health care worker.

Throughout the pandemic, I have suffered like countless other health care workers, carrying the accumulated stress of coping. I’ve seen the toll this stress has taken. I’ve been through each “surge” or “wave.” Many of my colleagues who are nurses, respiratory therapists, techs, and doctors have faced symptoms much like post-traumatic stress disorder. Some moved away from the virus, away from the constant suffering, onto other clinical units or other health care facilities. Some have taken a hiatus from serving. Some have left health care altogether. Many have been infected themselves. And all health care workers have made immense sacrifices. They gave of themselves before the pandemic, but this grew to a heroic level in the face of COVID-19.

The suffering goes far beyond the hospital. Everyone in America and the world has been affected by the pandemic, as the recent numbers show over 6 million dead around the world and over 900,000 dead in America. Gregory’s death highlighted this reality for me. An entire family system and religious community were devastated by his loss.

The virus created a universal human experience. Even if a family has not suffered an immediate loss, everyone knows someone who has. Everyone has felt the pandemic’s impact.

A Deeper Spirituality

The pandemic has forced me to reach deeper into my spirituality. In order to continue to serve effectively as a hospital chaplain in the face of the pandemic, I needed to grow inwardly. I needed to find fresh sources of renewal for myself, if I was going to help patients, families, and staff to do the same.

Here are some of the spiritual lifelines on which I rely.

Living Water

Throughout the pandemic, one of my sources of renewal has been my prayer life. This has been a constant blessing, filling me up and guiding me whenever–and wherever–I have needed it.  The metaphor of “living water” was used by Jesus to describe renewal:

Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

For me, prayer has been this living water, my primary source of renewal and direction.

My prayer life has deepened. I remember my prayers of March 2020. At that time, we were all coming to terms with the scale and terrible power of the pandemic. At that time, my prayers were focused on immediate needs. How can I serve others in the face of the unknown? How can handle my fears and minister effectively? How do I minister to people who have lost everything?

Despite these difficult prayers, I found great solace. I discovered a sense that God had called me, and all health care workers, to such a time as this.

Letting Go

Fast-forward to 2022. We are now on variant number five (Omicron). The pandemic has become part of daily life. Now, my prayers have expanded in every way possible. I have found myself continuing to pray for the same things as I did in March 2020, but also for countless other things.

For example, I have learned to pray to completely let go of the future. I have learned to pray to release the future into the hands of God. “Let go and let God,” has become my lifestyle. The pandemic has made crystal clear to me that humans are not, ultimately, in control. And I am certainly not in control of the universe.

This prayer of letting go has had an odd, paradoxical effect. The more I have let go of the future into God’s hands, the more I have felt God’s guidance. By letting go through prayer, I haven’t let go of my responsibilities. On the contrary, I feel more empowered than ever by God to make a difference.

Suffering is Universal

Throughout the pandemic, I reflected on the Buddha’s teachings on suffering. In Buddhism, it is important to accept that “suffering” (dukkha in the Pali language) is a universal part of the human experience. Please note that dukkha has also been translated as pain, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and other words. But the point is, it is important to accept that everyone suffers in life, and no one escapes this reality.

I found COVID-19 reinforced this essential lesson. No one escaped the effects of the virus. Even if a person was not personally infected, they knew people who were. The virus has been a global, universal suffering.

Acknowledging the universal nature of suffering has been freeing. It has allowed me to see the pandemic as another part of life. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, I have learned to accept the virus, and therefore be free to experience all the other parts of life.

Being in health care has helped this. At the end of the day, COVID-19 has taken its place alongside all the other viruses that medicine has had to deal with.

In Buddhist practice, there is no spiritual progress without the acceptance of the inevitability of suffering. I have certainly found this to be true in my life. The pandemic reinforced and deepened this lesson. As the pandemic evolved, I evolved. The more accepting I became of COVID-19 as a part of a universal reality, the freer I was in other aspects of my spiritual life. The more accepting I was, the more I grew.

Enjoying the Little Things

The pandemic taught me to value life more than I had before.

This has been especially true with the little things in my world, which, as it turns out, are not “little” at all. They may have been regular, and I may have taken them for granted, but not any longer. I found myself valuing being at home more than I had before, appreciating my loved ones and friends more deeply, enjoying small tasks and chores for thoroughly, and finding more joy in small rewards and small pleasures.

I have found myself valuing my trips outside more than I had before. Over the past two summers, my partner and I have found a way to get out in nature more, and we have appreciated these trips more thoroughly than perhaps we did in the past. Now, trips to a restaurant or a grocery store are somewhat magical; we know what it was like to have it all taken away.

Taking Care

The pandemic has reinforced every compassionate instinct.

We have been reminded, again, that life is incredibly fragile and precious. It has been made clear once again that resiliency happens because we care for each other, and for ourselves. Without this compassion and care, we would not have made it this far through the pandemic. With this compassion and care, we can make it through anything.

Inviting You to Share

If you have your own reflections on spiritual lessons from the pandemic, please share them in the comments section of this article, or email me at [email protected].  I would love to read them and appreciate your journey.

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Care to learn more?

WHO IS THIS WRITER? The Rev. Daniel Kidder-McQuown serves as night chaplain at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. As a board certified chaplain since 2001, he has served in health care and higher education settings, as well as interim ministry in local churches. Dan, his spouse Kari, their family (including dog Esther and cat Spicy Pickles), all reside in Albion, Michigan.

A REFLECTION IN POETRY. This week, Daniel also has written a reflection in poetry that you may want to read and share with friends. He calls it, ‘Pandemic Saints.’

FOR FURTHER READING: Daniel also suggests that readers may want to see:

Remembering a great American spirit of freedom on Harriet Tubman Day

Conceptual prototype of a United States $20 bill featuring a portrait of Harriet Tubman, produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 2016. This U.S. government image was obtained by The New York Times in 2019 and published in the article “Treasury’s Inspector General to Review Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Delay,” June 24, 2019. Two years after that, The Washington Post updated the news story and featured a newer artist’s concept of a Tubman $20 bill.

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Heroine of the Underground Railroad, Nurse, and Scout in the Civil War,
Born about 1820 in Maryland,
Died March 10, 1913, in Auburn, N.Y.
Servant of God Well Done.
Inscription on Harriet Tubman’s tombstone

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By CAROL TREMBATH

On March 10th, 1990, President George H.W. Bush and Congress declared henceforth March 10th to be Harriet Tubman Day. It was on that day she died at age 93.

As millions of Americans nationwide see reminders of this remarkable woman, this week, we may find her referred to in many ways: Moses, Conductor on the Underground Railroad and General Tubman. She was also an abolitionist, humanitarian, spy, cook and suffragette.

Click this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

During her life, her circle of friends included such exceptional leaders as Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, William Still, William Lloyd Garrison, William H. Seward, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

What did she do to earn her place next to such brilliant leaders and dazzle the world with her courage, wit, intelligence, military genius and integrity of character?

How did a woman barely 5 feet tall, who could not read or write become such a giant?

Her family and biographers have the answer.

In Maryland in the fall of 1833, the heavens seemed to open up for the annual Leonid meteor shower. That year, it illuminated the night sky with a particularly spectacular show. For Harriet and her family, there was a sense of this phenomenon being a harbinger of impending calamity.

It wasn’t long after this that Harriet received a near-fatal blow to her head. It was the turning point in her life that changed her not only physically but spiritually as well. It happened when, as a young girl, she went with the plantation cook to the local dry good store. On the way, she saw an overseer chasing after a runaway slave. He ran inside the dry good store to hide, but the overseer was right behind him. Harriet ran inside too. The overseer was angry and he picked up a two-pound, cast-iron, weight and threw it at the runaway slave. However, it missed him and hit Harriet in the head, breaking her skull. She dropped like a stone and was carried back to her family’s cabin. She drifted in and out of consciousness for several months.

Harriet recovered, but she would have severe headaches and at times spells where she blacked out. Also, from her injury, she began to have visions and said she listened to the still small voice of the Almighty. She said, “I never knew a time when I did not trust Him with an all-abiding confidence. I talk to God as a man talks with his friend. Mine is not the religion of morning and evening prayers at stated times, but when I feel the need, I simply trust Him to set things right.”

In 1849, at the age of 29, Harriet escaped from the Brodess plantation and, crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, found freedom in the North. But what set Harriet apart from other escapees was her determination to return south thirteen more times to rescue others caught in the web of slavery. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, each person on her train to freedom represented a victory over tyranny and one more chorus of alleluia being heard in heaven.

As a conductor, she said, “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

Harriett always trusted in the Lord. She said she never went on a mission south to free the enslaved unless the Almighty approved. “When folks were given praise, I’d say, ‘Twasn’t me, twas the Lord! I always hold to Him: ‘I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me.’ And, He always did.”

Harriet was not only a cook, nurse, and spy, she was also the only woman during the Civil War to lead armed men into battle. This unprecedented event took place during the daring raid up the Confederate-held Combahee River in South Carolina—which freed over 700 slaves. Harriet many times followed men into battle and she witnessed some of the most horrific fighting of the war including the battles for Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.

She once said, “I did not take up the work for my own benefit, but for those of my race that need help.”

Harriet bore the scars of slavery on her face and back all her life. She never sought power and remained poor. After the war, Harriet retired to her home in Auburn, New York, and dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly.

Harriet was an active member and speaker for the suffragette movement. A month before she passed, she held the hand of a fellow suffragette and said, “Tell women to stand together.” She was also asked if women should have the vote. Her reply was, “I have suffered enough to believe it.”

Harriet was a fearsome woman who was rooted in her goal to bring light to others as she followed the North Star. Her courage and utter disregard of the consequences elevated her to the status of Moses. And so, like Moses who led the Israelite slaves through the Red Sea, Harriet parted the cotton fields of many southern plantations and led the enslaved into the Promised Land. She touched many with her great heart and many heard her strong voice saying, “Keep going.”

Carol Trembath with Harriet’s Great, Great, Grand, Niece Pauline Johnson

I too was touched by Harriet’s great heart.

During my life, I learned of Harriet’s courage and wrote a book entitled, Out of Slavery: A Novel of Harriet Tubman. I began to write the novel after attending a National Endowment for Humanities session. There I heard for the first time the story regarding Fort Wagner. The battle was the test to see if the first black regiment, authorized by Congress, would fight. It is also where over 257 Union soldiers killed in the battle were buried in a mass grave. To my astonishment, Harriet Tubman served their commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, his last meal. That was it. I knew I had to follow history and write about one of the nation’s most heroic women.

As I worked on the novel, I gathered up her energy, by visiting all of the places where Harriet lived, worked and fought. I also met Harriet’s Great, Great, Grand, Niece Pauline Johnson, and her extended family in Auburn, NY.

Care to learn more?

In honor of her life and by popular demand, in 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the center of the new 20 dollar bill. I am a member of the Harriet Tubman Boosters Club in Auburn, New York. They work diligently to have her placed on the new currency and keep her legacy alive.

To learn more about Harriet, visit the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in New York, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park in Maryland, The National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C., and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Other Resources

I can also recommend:

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.

Bradford, Sarah H. Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People. Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1886.

Larson, Kate Clifford. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an America Hero. New York: One World, Random House Publishing Group, 2003. You may also want to visit Larson’s own website, which has many more Tubman resources.

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Who is Carol Trembath?

Born and raised in the Great Lakes State of Michigan, Carol Trembath has been an educator, librarian and media specialist for 30 years. In addition to her biography of Harriet Tubman, she also has made water a lifelong focus and passion—and is the author of a series of books about Native American Water Walkers. If you enjoyed this story about Harriet Tubman, you’ll definitely want to read Carol’s earlier column about the Water Walkers, headlined: Carol Trembath on a Native Perspective on the Spiritual Wonders of Water. Carol earned a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University and a second Masters in Educational Technology from Michigan State University. Carol has been an educator in the Plymouth-Canton School District, Allen Park Public Schools, and the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. Carol is a member of the Michigan Reading Association, American Library Association, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

 

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With Christianity in crisis, Dr. David Gushee’s ‘Introducing Christian Ethics’ lays out a faithful path forward

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Christianity is in crisis—and our community of authors includes Christians who are in the vanguard of lifting up the timeless good news that made Christianity the world’s largest religious movement.

Need evidence of this crisis? We laid out much of it in our earlier story about the timeliness of a prophetic new book about E. Stanley Jones. Then, here’s another example of this crisis: Coming in May 2022, Brian McLaren—once celebrated as America’s best selling “evangelical” author—will publish a book titled, Do I Stay Christian? Chapter 1 of Brian’s book begins with two sentences that capture the hostility many people feel toward Christians and the anger many Christians feel toward political partisans distorting their faith. Brian writes: “Nobody is born a religious jerk. It takes a religion to help someone become that way.”

Click on this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page, where you will find it available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions. The book also is available from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback and Nook editions. You’ll also find it at Walmart.com, Powell’s Books—as well as bookstores around the world, including Australia’s giant Booktopia.

At this historic turning point in the faith of 2.4 billion people worldwide, McLaren certainly is not alone. This week, America’s most influential Christian ethicist Dr. David Gushee is publishing his magnum opus: Introducing Christian Ethics—Core Convictions for Christians Today.

This is a unique and powerful book. It becomes the capstone on a long series of Dr. Gushee’s books by giving readers 25 chapters drawn from his decades of teaching Christian Ethics at Mercer University—a career that has led to honors showered on Dr. Gushee from around the world. In recent years, those honors have included election by his peers for terms as president of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics.

In fact, Dr. Gushee felt so strongly about the timely need for this particular book that he summoned additional resources. That included substantial work by Mercer’s multimedia staff so that Dr. Gushee could include both videos and audio recordings of every chapter. Links to video and audio are right there in each chapter so readers can choose from three multi-media formats as they read this book: the text itself, video of Gushee delivering the message of each chapter or audio of Gushee’s voice.

This book is a multimedia package that no other publisher of religious books is giving readers today. Dr. Gushee chose this cutting-edge format because he wanted to be heard, loudly and clearly, in whatever form will reach people in the most compelling way.

Why did he put so much effort—and content—into a single book? Because Christianity’s core convictions are truly a life-and-death issue for millions of people, Dr. Gushee says in interviews. “They need convictions they can build their lives around.”

The crisis is real, Dr. Gushee argues. “I am seeing a fundamentalist religion with so many holes in it, and with so much absolutist talk, that when it blows up for people, they are left free falling. I believe people cannot float free.”

If you care to hear from Dr. Gushee himself about these issues, please watch a 59-minute “webinar” with Dr. Gushee hosted by Jeff Brumley of Baptist News Global. You can watch that webinar in the streaming screen that should appear, below, on this page. Or, you can go directly to YouTube to watch the webinar, which includes an array of buttons that make it easy to share this video with friends via email or social media.

In fact, if you are one of the many writers and teachers who follow our online magazine, at the YouTube site you can find a “share” code that will allow you to easily embed this inspiring video in your own blog, weekly column or congregation’s website.
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Care to learn more?

GET THE BOOKThe book is available via Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions. The book also is available from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback and Nook editions. You can find it at Walmart.com, Powell’s Books, and the independent-bookstore-related website alibris. In keeping with Gushee’s international work as a scholar and teacher, the book also is available around the world, including: Australia’s giant Booktopia, as well as Blackwell’s in the UK, Taiwan’s huge Amazon-like retailer Books.com.tw and Books Kinokuniya in Japan.

HELP SPREAD THE NEWS BY REVIEWING THE BOOK—You’ll have the most influence if you review Dr. Gushee’s book on its Amazon page. You also can be influential by writing about the book in the Amazon-owned Goodreads community.

LEARN MORE ABOUT DR. GUSHEE’S WORK. Visit his online home DavidGushee.com and you will find a wide range of resources from his biography to his most recent columns. Sign up for his free email newsletter to follow his ongoing work.

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The Glitz of the Super Bowl Left Me Wondering: Have we forgotten the true value of sport?

What is the value of a high school team? One might spend a moment peering back more than a century at the 1896 Indiana Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home football team. The visionary institution was founded in 1865 to provide a solid education and vocational training for orphans of Civil War veterans. Once those kids were given a good start, the Home’s mission expanded to care for all “at risk” kids. Among other remarkable accomplishments of the facility, the football team was integrated.

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By MARTIN DAVIS
Author of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

In the wake of the Super Bowl, one question continues to perplex journalists and academics alike:

How does the NFL–drowning in racism lawsuits, grossly overpriced tickets, merchandise, food and parking, player health issues, and the ongoing soap opera of team-owners-acting-badly–remain so popular?

How popular?

According to Variety, in 2021, 8 of the 10 most-watched TV shows were NFL games; so were 15 of the top 20. College football games also had two entrants on the top-20 list, meaning football accounted for all but three of most popular events people watched.

The answers to the question are as varied as the people who watch the sport. The league has perfect parity! No, it’s the unique pregame rituals! No, it’s that its something that people can watch together! No, football is “sewed into the psyche of America!”

… this could go on for several thousand words, but you get the idea.

Here’s the funny part, though. Among those who coach the sport at the high school level, the NFL isn’t necessarily all that popular.

I have no data sets to back that up. Just my, admittedly, limited experience coaching the sport—and my experience interviewing high school coaches nationwide for my book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches.

I, along with several coaches I’ve come to know over the years, are turned off by the sterility of the NFL game. It’s almost too perfect.

Take Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. The game was played in a gawdy—though undeniably stunning—$5 billion mecca. (The fact that it sits in Inglewood, one of LA’s poorer communities, is matter for another essay.)

The weather inside was perfect. The lighting was perfect. The freaking grass (artificial) was perfect. The fans were perfect (Hollywood moved to Inglewood for game day). The players were perfect. The uniforms were perfect. The halftime show was perfect. The camera angles? Yeah, perfect, too.

But all that perfection is rather akin to evangelical theology—all shine, no depth.

For evangelicals, all the salvation talk and dancing in the Lord isn’t enough when life’s most pressing issues face us. Just ask those who are leaving Willow Creek in drovers. (Actually, you don’t have to ask them—Willow Creek did and, to its great credit, published the results.)

Turns out that glitz can only take you so far. OK—glitz can take you really far.

But at the end of the day, it misses the bigger questions in life.

I can’t explain the NFL’s allure. I’m not that smart—or that interested, to be honest with you.

But I do have something of a handle on football’s allure. And it’s not the game. (OK—it’s the game a little bit—you don’t spend hours studying schemes and game film if the game itself doesn’t have some appeal.)

The allure of football—and I would argue any sport that requires a combination of skill, dedication, commitment, team work, and a willingness to sacrifice a lot to be able to play it—is what it asks of us.

Above all, it asks that we sacrifice everything for the other.

That’s what a surging number of NFL players are saying about their switch from playing at the highest level of professional football to coaching high school.

John Kitna, a former quarterback and now coach at Burleson High School in Texas said this of coaching his mostly underprivileged kids:

“It was just a realization that I wanted to help, do what I could do, to get them to college, to get the academic piece even if football wasn’t going to be their long-term thing. To help people chase dreams.”

At Milford Mills Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, Reggie White Jr coaches. He played in Super Bowl XXIX and had a solid NFL career. So why high school?

“I went to school here, this school system, we’re here in the Baltimore public schools, it’s family and that’s how I was treated by my coaches,” White said. “It made me want to be the person helping someone find their way, to achieve, get to college.”

That same line of thought resonates through most every person ESPN profiled in its piece about the 169 NFL coaches who now coach in high school.

That’s the part of the game that really matters. The part that most never see. Because honestly, for most people, it’s too darn hard.

It’s hard physically. It’s hard emotionally. It’s hard spiritually.

And that’s what makes it great.

In my own book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, I dive deeper into the lives of high school coaches and the impact they have on their players, their teams, their schools, and their communities.

I can’t say for sure how many of them watch the NFL—or the professional equivalent in their game— but I suspect most watch some and very few are totally engrossed in it.

That’s because those who really understand sport and its value are too busy doing it to watch it.

Or they’re too busy taking the lessons they learned in sports and using those to help people in their communities in other ways.

At the end of the day, what makes the game great has nothing to do with the game at all.

It has everything to do with being fully human.

No wonder the game is so popular.

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Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from Martin Davis? Then you will definitely enjoy his book: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website, MartinDavisAuthor.com, which describes his work as an author and editor. On that front page, you’ll also find a link to his recent columns for the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Freelance Star.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns.

You’ll be glad you did!

 

My Unforgettable Encounter with E. Stanley Jones

E. Stanley Jones arrived in India in 1907 and made friends with many other religious leaders and social justice activists including Gandhi and the Nehru family. In this photo from the early 1920s, Jones (with a stole over his shoulders in the front row) posed with a wide diversity of religious teachers.

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He felt obliged to see himself as having responsibility for the whole world, for as he saw it, that is precisely what a Christian is supposed to do.
From the introduction to 30 Days With E. Stanley Jones, by John E. Harnish

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By KEN WHITT
Author of God Is Just Love

I was familiar with the name, E. Stanley Jones, but I certainly did not know him, his story—not even his message. Yet two things happened when I found out that we were going to go to church that Sunday evening to hear him preach.

First, I called my parents, fulfilling my promise to them that they would hear from me each and every Sunday afternoon while I was traveling in Mexico. It was December, 1970. I casually mentioned our plans for the evening. Dad, usually quite reserved, burst forth with excitement and a couple of stories of Jones’ influence on his life and ministry—plus no shortage of envy that I would soon be face to face with one of his spiritual heroes.

Second, Alberto, a couple of years younger than me, burst forth with similar excitement when informing me of our plans to meet up with Dr. Jones at church that evening. What I remember best about Alberto was that he was, in his conservative Baptist family, a kind of rebel. He did not like church. But, he loved his beautiful Roman Catholic girlfriend, barely tolerated by the rest of the family. And he knew a lot about E. Stanley Jones.

Jones, Alberto informed me, was not a typical Christian. He respected religious diversity—thus would have blessed Alberto and his finance. He also preached on justice—thus affirming Alberto’s liberal political views, opposed in his family and their church.

Alberto specifically informed me that one of the many books written by E. Stanley Jones was credited by Martin Luther King Jr. with convincing him to use nonviolent resistance to fight the evils of racism in the United States.

Care to meet E. Stanley Jones yourself? Click on this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

My hopes soared for our evening of spiritual encounter with one of the greatest missionaries and preachers and prophets of the 20th century.

The next thing I remember about that Sunday evening in December in Mexico City is that a thin and tottering old man was pretty much carried to the pulpit by an usher.

Geez! He was so weak! Could this feeble preacher possibly stand up to our high expectations?

His voice also was weak, though from my point of view, plenty clear because he was speaking in English.

After the service, we shook hands and spoke for about a minute.

That was—oh my gosh—51 years ago. I am 72 now and Jones died in 1973. The one thing I will never forget is that E. Stanley Jones told me that I too am a citizen of the world. After all, I was speaking to him in Mexico—two Americans abroad.

I had felt a similar global tugging at my heart. Among many other possible choices to fulfill my degree requirements at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia, I had chosen to plan an international project in Mexico. I traveled alone across beautiful and somewhat fearsome regions, experienced my own version of a great train robbery (I was cross-examined as a possible conspirator), stared in awe over the Copper Canyon, took four weeks of Spanish lesson in Saltillo, rode horses through desert canyons—and unexpectedly met E. Stanley Jones.

Now, I have been a pastor for the better part of half a century. I have participated in or led 16 mission trips in Eastern Europe and Central America, preached and taught in Spanish many times, and learned along the way what an incredible blessing it is to know that I am a citizen of the world.

Thank you, Dr. Jones, for being where I needed you to be at just the right time so that our lives could touch. Thank God you were a citizen of the world, a respecter of all of God’s children and a passionate prophet for justice and peace.

E. Stanley Jones in his 70s. When I met him in Mexico, he was in his mid 80s.

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Care to Learn More?

Ken Whitt’s book God Is Just Love explores the theme of this column in much greater depth. What does it mean to be a loving citizen of the world today? How can people of faith foster love and resilience in our children while building sustainable, diverse communities? Through wisdom he has gleaned from scientists, scholars and lots of real families, Ken shows how God’s love is a hopeful compass in our lives. He encourages enjoying stories, songs and explorations of the natural world with children, and closes with “100 Things Families Can Do To Find Hope and Be Love.”

You’ll also find lots of stories, columns and videos at the homepage for Ken’s ministry group: Traces of God Ministries. While you’re visiting that website, please sign up for Ken’s free email updates, which contain inspiring reflections, columns and updates that Ken shares with his readers.

And please learn more about E. Stanley Jones by ordering a copy of 30 Days With E. Stanley Jones through Amazon right now.

 

Martin Doblmeier’s ‘Prophetic Voices’ remind us of our highest calling

Filmmaker Martin Doblmeier’s challenging chorus:

Bonhoeffer, Heschel, Niebuhr, Day and Thurman 

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By DAVID CRUMM
and EDWARD McNULTY
ReadTheSpirit magazine

EARLY EACH YEAR, especially during winter weather or the Christian season of reflection called Lent, many congregations challenge members to reflect on faith through the lens of film. During Lent especially, congregations like to add mid-week or Sunday-afternoon programs to encourage their members’ spiritual reflection.

This year, there’s a wonderful new faith-and-film resource from veteran filmmaker Martin Doublmeier.

The series is called Prophetic Voicesa set of five documentaries Doblmeier has produced over the years for public television and has personally shared nationwide in special regional screening events he has led. These five thematically related films are available now in DVD or via a license to stream the documentaries, whichever format you prefer. Right now, Prophetic Voices is available through Martin’s website: Journey Films. Plus, the DVD set also is available via Amazon.

When Martin himself leads a screening event, he finds that people make many helpful connections with issues they face in today’s turbulent world.

“All five of these—Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr, Heschel, Thurman and Day—faced life-and-death issues, just as we are facing so many very difficult issues today,” Doblmeier said in an interview about the film series. “The best way to prepare ourselves to face the defining issues of our time is to learn about the lives of those who grounded themselves in their faith traditions and found confidence to make the prophetic witnesses that inspire us today.

“They were not naïve. They understood the costs,” Doblmeier continued. “Bonhoeffer paid the ultimate price with his life. Heschel and Day found themselves on FBI watchlists and were harassed. Yet, these five showed us a moral and ethical framework that can strengthen us in today’s world.”

Meet the 5 Prophets

Who are these five prophets featured in Doblmeier’s film series?

Along with these five mini-bios, we are adding links to the reviews that our Faith & Film Critic Ed McNulty published in his Visual Parables section of our magazine as these documentaries debuted individually over the years.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER—Despite his untimely death at the age of 39 at the hands of the Nazis, German-born Dietrich Bonhoeffer has emerged as one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Educated in both Germany and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Bonhoeffer became one of the early voices of resistance to the rise of Adolf Hitler. He helped form one of the seminaries for the rebellious Confessing Church, a breakaway church whose members resisted National Socialism. To learn more, here is a link to Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables review of the Bonhoeffer documentary.

REINHOLD NIEBUHR‘s Serenity Prayer remains one of the most quoted writings in American literature. Yet Niebuhr’s impact was far greater, as presidents and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., often turned to Niebuhr’s writings for guidance and inspiration on the most volatile political and social issues of the 20th Century. Here is Ed McNulty’s review of the film.

HOWARD THURMAN—Born the grandson of enslaved people, Howard Thurman became a “spiritual mentor” for the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring many of the leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis. Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited was said to be in King’s briefcase where ever he traveled. Today it is considered a spiritual classic. Here is Ed McNulty’s review of the film.

DOROTHY DAY was a grandmother, anarchist, prophet, journalist, pacifist and much more. The FBI once considered her a threat to America’s national security. Despite often being critical of leadership in her own Catholic Church, the Vatican is now considering her for sainthood. Here is Ed McNulty’s review of the film.

RABBI ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL was a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr and the entire Civil Rights Movement, a leading critic of the Vietnam War, a champion for Soviet Jews and a pioneer in the work of interfaith dialogue. Here is Ed McNulty’s review of the film.

Purchasing These Films

Throughout his career, Doblmeier always has encouraged congregations to use his films to raise awareness and inspire action in their local communities. He makes that easy with his two-tiered level of permissions to show his films for groups.

“We came up with this approach a number of years ago,” Doblmeier explained in our interview. “The majority of people who lead congregations want to play by the rules in using films and streaming media. So, here is what we ask:

“If you want to show these films in your Sunday School class or your small group, we regard that as fair use. Just buy a set of DVDs or the pay the basic streaming fee. But, if you want to use our films to organize a larger public program, or in this case a film series—as a way to invite people outside your own immediate sphere maybe to come to your congregation for the first time to see these films and join in discussions—then we regard that as a public screening. If you are planning a larger public event, then we expect churches to pay for the public screening rights. But, even then, we try to be helpful with the costs. Along with the higher cost, we include five sets of the DVDs at that price—and congregations often use those as gifts for donors who help to pay the higher fee, or they sometimes sell the sets of DVDs as a way to raise the funds.”

The basic streaming rights can be purchased through this page, currently for $39.95.

If you prefer to own a set of the DVDs, rather than buying the streaming service, then go to Amazon and you will pay the same price, $39.95 currently.

If you do want to organize a five-week public film series, then the public-screening rights are explained and can be purchased here.

Care to learn more?

Here is a Journey Films video clip to help you inspire others about viewing these films:

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