This past Sunday, some casual curiosity might have peeked over my hometown after a miracle was pulled off to rival that of walking on water or feeding thousands with a few loves of bread and some fish. The Ohio State basketball team has been struggling, to put it rather mildly, in recent weeks to the point of their head coach being fired with less than a month remaining on the schedule. The first game after those departure proceedings was hosting the #2 ranked team in the country in the Purdue Boilermakers. Somehow, someway, they pulled it off. Perhaps just the chaos of the sport, perhaps divine intervention. Regardless, the new guy at the helm was a graduate of Upper Sandusky High School in Jake Diebler. Whether he will be staying much past March remains to be seen.
There was this one guy who would always pass up on the ashes. “I’m not much of an ash guy,” he once said. It’s not that he was trying to avoid considering his personal mortality. He knew it was going to happen someday. It’s just…he thought it was too dismal…or something. That word that often comes up on Ash Wednesday when the Gospel is proclaimed: “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting” (Matthew 6:16). And it’s not that he thought the whole dusty-cross-on-the-forehead thing was too much “Look at me for sticking with the church tradition!” or the like. He was just…so Gospely…so filled with hope…so glass half-full when it came to his own faith journey and others around. He thought the whole “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return” was…well, rather depressing in a way. That the church should remain committed to the Gospel of hope and love and death-defying Resurrection.
For our fifth wedding anniversary, Sarah and I made the trek across the pond to Iceland. Word was starting to get out about this not-so-hidden-anymore gem. We couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose amidst careers and before diaper dandies came along. There are only so many experiences in life that no matter how much the anticipation builds and the expectations soar about certain places or events or whatever else, that they can somehow still be met. Iceland was and is one of the few so far (I suppose diaper dandies can be a part of that list, too).
Sunday mornings were ritualistic even before the public worship portion commenced for us. I would always wake up about an hour before it started. By the time I was all ready to go, I would often be waiting for my mom to come down the stairs before we would get in the car to drive into town. And seemingly every Sabbath of needing to get to a certain place by a certain time, I would be stopped in my tracks by Charles Osgood. His voice brought a calming presence into that kitchen, almost felt like into the whole countryside, from the television set, as he anchored CBS Sunday Morning for over 20 years. During the week, that and other tv’s in the house would be filled with plenty of doom-and-gloom from the Rathers and Brokaws and Jennings of the world. But something about Osgood beautifully infused hope back into the human mix.
A couple weeks ago, I presided over a graveside service for the father of a good friend I’ve known since middle school. Unfortunately, he’s had to go through this twice in a several year timeframe: both parents in their 50’s, dying from cancer. It’s not just him who’s had to endure it, but his three children, losing two spoil-you-rotten/love-you-to-your-core grandparents. He may not be the most overly religious type, but when speaking to his wife in making preparations for the most unfortunate proceedings at a cemetery, she, like many children of God cling to in such heart-wrenching moments; she boldly asserted: “Well, it’s all part of God’s plan. We just have to go along with it…” or something along those lines.