Friday, April 17, 2015


Golan Heights, Israel

Snowy Headwaters for the Jordan River & Sea of Galilee


Sports Stars, Internet

The sports pages have been singing the praises of Jordan Spieth since he won this year’s Masters Golf Tournament. I hardly knew the young man until then, but I’m now much better acquainted with him. And there’s a lot to like. The phrase we’ve been hearing all week is that the young 21 year old is “wise beyond his years”. His family was gathered around the 18th green for his final winning putt. But his father reminded Jordan to lap the green and thank the fans who were applauding him. Everyone close to Jordan was there except his 14 year old sister whose neurological condition places her on the autism spectrum. He’s repeatedly stated that she’s the one special person in his life that keeps him grounded and he’s in constant awe of how she and her friends embrace life. She’s always expecting him to win and is so vocal on the course that she unfortunately wasn’t present last Sunday. But she’s obviously Jordan’s constant reminder that he’s playing a sporting game while she’s dealing with the tougher realities of life. The folks at Under Amour are still smiling, as they recently renegotiated his contract with them to a new ten year deal. The wire-to-wire four days in Augusta is estimated to be worth about $34 million in free advertising for starters. He really doesn’t seem to have any “kinks in the amour” either--with the possible exception of yelling at his golf ball like a craps player yells at the dice.

And then this morning I turned to the sports section of USA Today and quickly saw the pathetic headlines that read “Ego, Excess Bring Hernandez Ruin”. The follow up headline on page two read “Hernandez story a cautionary tale”. Aaron Hernandez had signed a $40 million contract before his 24th birthday. He was a super star throughout his football career. He threw it all away as a convicted murderer. The "unconditional adulation of us sports fans, the absolution of his handlers and the delusion of celebrity" led to his spiraling fall from grace. Surprisingly, Aaron was raised in a loving and stable environment. But he seemed to start going off the rails at 16 when his father died as he started his ascension in football. As life evolved, his Florida State Gators won a national championship and his New England Patriots reached the Super Bowl in 2011.

Both of these young men were born with a very special gift to excel at the top of their chosen sport. In Aaron’s case, the article concluded that “It’s an important reminder for every athlete. But it’s even more important for the coaches, agents, hangers-on and, yes, even fans who feed these athletes’ egos, enabling their boorish behavior. They might not have pulled the trigger, but they all had a hand in making Hernandez believe he could”.

Isn’t it ironic that we humanoids always seem so surprised when sports figures that we’ve elevated to god-like idols turn out to be flawed human beings? Since these gifted athletes are likely not well grounded, I suspect that they’re probably more surprised than we are at the time. I’m convinced that Jordan is standing on solid ground. I kinda thought that about a tiger I first met in 1997 when I got his rookie autograph in Florida. But then his father died too and the rest is history. We fans should do our best to keep any sport and its stars in the same perspective as this new young Phenom for the sake of us all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Window Pane Rain Drops, Chicago, Il
Two Rain Drops, Jamestown, NC

Listening to the Stan Getz cut of “Spring Can Really Hang you Up the Most” while April rain drops on the window pane complete the perfect expression of melancholy.

Window pane rain drops,
and meloncoly sax notes,
hang you up the most.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Torah Table End, Migdal, Israel
Magdala Synagogue, Migdal, Israel
Valley of the Doves, Migdal, Israel
Torah Table Top, Migdal, Israel

Mary Magdalene was among the few who had stood by Jesus at his crucifixion and watched in horror as her Lord was killed on that infamous Black Friday. She had entered the garden tomb before daylight to anoint the body on this first Easter Sunday and found the tomb empty. She stood in the garden crying because she thought the Romans had taken the body away. And as she turned, Jesus appeared and asked her why she was crying and who she was looking for in the garden. Mary mistook the resurrected body of Jesus for a gardener until he called her name, “Mary”. And she cried out in Aramaic “Rabboni!” which means teacher. He instructed her to go and tell the disciples that he was alive which left her with the Augustine legacy of the “Apostle to the Apostles”. Women had no status in this first century culture, but Jesus acknowledged women as equal reflectors of God’s image. Given this male dominated society, revealing himself first to a woman provides even more credibility for the resurrection. A purely fabricated account would have quite probably written a male into the role.

Mary was from a small fishing village on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. Magdala was destroyed by the Romans about the time the second temple was also leveled in 70 AD. She was also referred to as the Magdalene in the Bible. Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary, but that may be a reference to a complex mental or physical illness instead of any form of sinfulness. The male culture of those days who were uncomfortable with a female apostle may have intentionally merged Mary with the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Mary was not a repentant prostitute and these efforts to demonize her in particular and disempower women in general though the centuries are unfounded. She is now considered a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches with a feast day of July 22.

Father Juan Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, had a dream. He envisioned building a serene spiritual retreat for Christian pilgrims on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. This Galilee region in Israel was the primary location on earth where the Son of God lived out his human existence while teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God for mankind and healing the sick and disabled outcasts of society. A routine archaeological requirement in Israel with its centuries of history is to carry out a salvage dig on any potential building site prior to excavation. This work began in 2009 and almost immediately Father Salona described the miraculous discovery of a stone slab as providential. The subsequent discovery of a local coin dating from the year 29 confirmed the existence of a first century Galilee synagogue. And further excavation revealed a marketplace, water pools to cure the famous Galilee fish, and a large public building. It soon became clear that they had just discovered the ancient little fishing village of Magdala.

An ornately engraved stone that was found in the synagogue ruins was quite probably used as a table for reading the Torah. The time period places the synagogue right in the sweet spot of Jesus’ ministry and he quite probably read from the Torah on that table in this place. The Valley of the Doves contains a 22 mile trail from Nazareth to Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. The base for Jesus and his disciples was in Capernaum, just five miles away and their footsteps were all over this country. Our tour group not only traced their footsteps in the Valley of the Doves, but now we were also walking in and around the small village of Magdala where they visited and the Magdalene resided.

Mary of Magdala was present at the beginning of a movement that transformed the world. She was quite possibly more of a disciple than the disciples, but the culture of her time wouldn’t acknowledge her. As we move on into the twenty first century, God has revealed the birthplace of one of the most influential women in Christianity with the opportunity to also discover the woman who lived there. And now we all have the privilege of walking in the footsteps of the Apostle to the Apostles from Magdala and recognizing her rightful role as an early Christian leader and the first to announce the good news of the miracle of the resurrection!

The Hope of Easter, 2015