Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I've been waiting for four days now to hear two little old words.  Words that have seemingly escaped the experts in trying to answer the God questions surrounding the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Without being completely impractical, how about I list the definition of the words and see if that helps.  "The freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention."  Does that help bring the words to light?  Try "Free Will".

On Friday afternoon, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, "Evil visited this community".  As great as those words seemed at the time, they only began to offer words of explanation.  They should have been the prelude to much more.......

Today,  I viewed a video piece from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.  Huckabee was talking about that ever present comment when tragedies like this occur "Where was God?"  I agree with the former Governor on many occasion as he seems to put things into easy practical understanding. "We've escorted God out of our culture and off the public square", said the former Governor.  "But as soon as the tragedy unfolded, God showed up".

Hugs and tears and God's presence.....

I'd like to revisit a blog I wrote several years ago and re-post each September 11th. See if this doesn't help...

"You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11,2001.  Neither will I.  I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say "Good-Bye".  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, "Honey, I am not going to make it but it is okay......I am ready to go.

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.  I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to ME for help.  "I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!", I said.  "Of course, I will show you the way home-only believe in ME now.

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls.  I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven.  He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faiths has saved them.

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I was in Texas, Virginia, California and Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense me?

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name-though not all knew Me.  Some met ME for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought ME with their last breath.  Some couldn't hear ME calling to them through smoke and flames"  "Come to ME....this way......take my hand",  I offered.  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore ME.  But, I was there.    

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you were there in the explosive moment in time, would you have reached for ME?

September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  And I will be there for you as well.  Seek ME now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are "ready to go".

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments....


So, when I listened to Huckabee's comments for the first time, my reaction was to respectfully disagree.  "God was there", I thought. He didn't just show up when the tragedy took place.   He's always there.  Ever present.

I listened again to the former Governor's comments...and again, until I finally made the distinction.  In fact, his  commentary was much like the 9-11 piece.   The good deeds that followed the horrific shootings proved once again, God's presence.  We just don't realize it at the time.

Case in point.....

"Gene Rosen had just finished feeding his cats and was heading from his home near Sandy Hook Elementary School to a diner Friday morning when he saw six small children sitting in a neat semicircle at the end of his driveway.  A school bus driver was standing over them telling them things would be all right.  It was about 9;30 a.m. and the children, he discovered, had just run from the school to escape a gunman.

"We can't go back to school" one little boy told Rosen.  "Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher".

For the next several hours, Rosen connected with each childs family through the help of the school bus driver's phone log.  Rosen grabbed stuffed animals from an upstairs bedroom.....something he had shared with his grandchildren over the years.  He gave the six fruit juice and listened to their stories until their frantic parents arrived.  Rosen claimed his training on Friday was from his years as a grandparent.  

"It wasn't clear how the children escaped harm, but there have been reports that Victoria Soto, 27, the first-grade teacher killed hid some of her students from the approaching gunman".

Where was God on Friday?  Right there.  Using people like Gene Rosen....and other teachers at Sandy Hook, First Responders and so on and so on.   And that despite the Free Will we exhibit.



Friday, December 14, 2012


The scene has played out thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of times in neighborhood driveways in each and every U.S. town and city.  It's a game played one-on-none against an imaginary basketball opponent.  In many respects, it's a dream game.  One where real life and fantasy coincide.   The ball and player are in perfect harmony......scoring at will in every way possible. First, it's driving layups from each side of the free throw lane.....then several ten foot baseline jumpers.  Next comes running one hand scoop shots, followed by stop and pop shots at the top of the key.  Then come the bombs.  3 pointers from every spot on the arc.  When it's all said and done, you walk off the court knowing you've done something magnificent, probably unheard of.  You've broken every possible record in the books.  And people everywhere, know your name.  It's a dream for sure.  At least people say that's what it is.  That is.....unless your name is Jack Taylor.  And the dream becomes REAL.

Where the Dream played out.....Darby Gymnasium

It was the evening of November 20, 2012 when Jack Taylor and the Grinnell Pioneers readied themselves for Faith Baptist Bible at Darby Gymnasium..  Prior to warm-ups,  Taylor and several of his teammates huddled for some pre-game devotions.  In two previous Pioneer games, time had not presented itself for a blessed get-together.  Tonight was the beginning of something different. Matthew 25 was the focus that evening.  The word spoke of using the talents God has given you and more importantly using every moment you're given.  Jack Taylor and his teammates took the message to heart.

Here is the short version of Jack's night courtesy of ESPN writer Myron Medcalf:

"Grinnell's Jack Taylor didn't just amend the NCAA's record books when he scored 138 points--a new collegiate high mark--in his team's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible Tuesday night.  The Division III star wrote a new chapter.

There was a point during the second half where I hit a number of three's in a row--maybe seven or eight--I felt like anything I threw up was going in", Taylor said.  "I've been in the zone before but I've never taken so many shots."

Bevo Francis of Rio Grande held the NCAA scoring record with 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954.  In the 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College.  Frank Selvy is the only other player to reach triple figures, scoring 100 points for Division I Furman against Newberry in 1954.  The previous Grinnell record was 89 by Griffin Lentsch last November 19th against Principia.

Taylor said he entered the locker room at halftime under the assumption he'd racked up 30 points in the first half.  But when head coach David Arseneault whipped out the first-half stat sheet, he realized he was mistaken.

"Coach walked in with a stat sheet and said I had 58", Taylor said.  "you could see the team's eyes light up.  By the end of the night, Taylor was 52 for 108 (27 of 71 from the 3-point line) and he'd established a new collegiate record".
All eyes were on the 5' 10" Taylor that night.....

This week, Jack and I connected for some one-on-one time.  Conversation that is, not a game, mind you.  I purposely wanted to wait a while in talking to Mr. Taylor after the initial onslaught of media attention.  Here is some of our conversation:

MFV::  Was there a point during the game when the significance of what was happening set in?

JT:  Halftime is where I was really surprised.  I had 58 points.  The game plan for the  second half became that I would get a touch every time down the floor.  Not necessarily a shot.  Normally I play around 18 minutes a game, but played 36.  My teammates did an awesome job of getting me the ball.

MFV:  How did you handle the mention of glorifying God during your interviews?

JT:  My first interview was with ESPN.  I'm not sure I even mentioned God.  After all the interviews I did the first night, I started looking back and knew that I had to do a better job in giving God the Glory.  I prayed about that and asked for boldness in mentioning God in each interview I did.

MFV:  What do you feel the importance of your night was?  How is God using you?

JT:  I see a lot of doors opening.  I can influence others and I see that as an exciting opportunity. Especially with youth.  Being able to talk to people back home and ones that know me.  My little sister is in high school and I see that I can be a role model for her and others in her school.  Here at Grinnell, I can share my faith and let others know they don't have to be scared in talking about their faith.

MFV:  Picture yourself talking to a gymnasium full of young people.  What would be your message to them?

JT:  I would share my story of the two loves I have, basketball and the Lord.  Basketball used to be my religion before I tore my ACL in Prep School.  I had a friend that I was speaking  to about being a Christian and he said, "you're not a Christian".  That hit home.  From then on I focused on being a better person and living for the Lord.  I took that as a challenge.  That was the hardest time of my life.....when I had something taken away from me that I loved.  Now I look to be obedient.

MFV:  You took a long road to Grinnell.  First Prep School, then UW-LaCrosse and then Grinnell.  Why do you think that was your journey?

JT:  I often wonder about that.  I could have gone to Grinnell right out of high school.  But instead I decided to go to Prep School hoping I could land some Division I offers.  Then I tore my ACL and transferred to LaCrosse.  It wasn't my plan.  If I hadn't gone to Prep School, I wouldn't have met my friend who challenged me about my faith.

MFV: In talking about Matthew 25 before your big night, how did that have an impact on what took place?

JT:  I knew I was going to get more minutes that night.  I told my parents and girlfriend that our system at Grinnell would mean that I would probably get more shots too.  I think Matthew 25 opened my eyes to be more aggressive and play with the talents God has given me. (laughs)

MFV:  Have you thought about the meaning of 138 in the Bible and sought some words to that number, perhaps Psalm 138?

JT:  Wow, no I hadn't even thought of that.

MFV:  Well, let me get my Bible and look it up for the both of us....:

As Jack pulled up Psalm 138 on his computer, we both read of the provided wisdom.  And this is what jumped out.  "When I called, you answered me, you made me bold and stouthearted-Pslam 138:3

Additionally, Pslam 138 describes those who are close to God live in reality and those who believe in human power live in a world of fantasy.

I must say, for me anyway.....after our 138 exchange, I don't remember a whole lot more about what questions I asked and how Jack responded.  I do know that several minutes later he texted me and thanked me for sharing Psalm 138 with him and encouraging him to walk boldly through the doors God opens.

Hold On....Now that I think about it, I do remember a final question.

MFV:  Who do you want to play you in the movie?

JT:  (Laughs).  I hadn't even thought about that (laughs again).

Someday, yes someday, there might be a Taylor boy or girl out on the driveway playing imaginary hoops.....playing out the game of their life.  The difference is, someday, Jack will be able to tell them all about it.  And knowing kids, that might be a hard sell.

JT:  One time I scored 138 points in a game.  And it was the biggest single game point total in collegiate history.

Young Taylor:  You scored 138 points.  Right Dad.  Come on!!!!!  Game On.....

****  As a side note:  Jack has played 6 games since November 20th.  He has scored in succession, 21,18,39,12,36 and 37 points.  His highest minute total in any of those games is 18.  For the season, the Black River Falls, Wisconsin native is averaging 38.7 points per game.