Truths You Can Use

Something new and wonderful happened last night. The Chicago Cubs became World Series champions for the first time since 1908.
cubs celebrate
Amidst the celebration, we can learn so much to help us in life. Baseball is not just a sport. It teaches us about life. Here are ten truths we can learn from the Chicago Cubs victory:
  1. Be patient: Longfellow wrote “good thing comes to those who but wait.” The Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. This drought was the longest in baseball. But it ended. When going through difficult times, remember, as King Solomon once put it, “This, too, shall pass.”
  2. Honor the past: On my Facebook feed, so many friends posted pictures of deceased parents wearing Cubs hats. Baseball unites generations. Like faith, It reminds us we are part of a team, an idea, much larger than ourselves.
  3. Have a plan: When he came to Chicago in 2011, Baseball operations President Theo Epstein said, “I’ve got a plan.” He followed it. The Cubs executed on it. What do you want to achieve in life? Plan for it. Of course, you may need to make mid-course adjustments. But consistentency and persistence pay off.
  4. Celebrate good times: We live in anxious times. That makes celebrating  all the more important. Joy is infectious. When we celebrate our joy, we spread the spirit to others. Here in Chicago, even White Sox fans are celebrating the Cubs.
  5. Hope is powerful: Cubs fans know all the legends of curses and superstitions. Yet, we know they don’t matter. Hope does. Hope gets us through painful times. One man held a sign at the final game that said, “Now I can die in peace.”
  6. Momentum defies statistics: The Cubs defied all odds by winning three games in a row rally back from earlier losses. Momentum is powerful. It can push us to overcome pain and loss. If we start with small victories in our life, we can gain the energy to help us get big ones.
  7.  Trust: Facebook has made it possible for everyone to broadcast their game analysis to the world. Whenever a coach makes a decision, some people mock or question it. But sometimes we just need to trust. In life, God has our back. It may not always seem that way, and we have lots of questions, but sometimes we just need to act, and trust that everything will be okay.
  8.  Life can feel lonely: A good friend wrote before game seven about remaining a Cubs fan through the long drought and painful years of loss. Whether we are baseball fans or not, we will face those periods in life. And we will feel alone. But faith reminds us we are never truly alone. And Cubs fans knew that last night.
  9. We are a community: A few years ago I read a book arguing that the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s helped the city of San Francisco come together and overcome its many tragedies of the 1970s. Chicago faces many challenges. The Cubs may help bring us together to confront them.
  10. Great achievements take time: It took the Israelites 40 years to reach the Promised Land. It took the Cubs 108 years to win another World Series series. The the best things in life are worth waiting for. They take time to come to fruition. And we are lucky enough to live in such times.


The greatest teachers of the Bible did not tell stories. They did not simply proclaim laws.

They lived what they taught. They also invited others into it.

Think of people from whom you learned. Did they just say things? Or did they live them? The most important things are not always taught. They are caught. One of those values is hospitality.

Hospitality as a Way of Life

In Hebrew, the language of the Bible, hospitality is known as Hachnasat Orchim. The phrase means “welcoming guests.” This translation does not, however, do justice to the force of the Hebrew words themselves.

Welcoming guests is not just a nice thing to do. It is not simply a display of good manners. It is not even something we do because we want to be good role models for our children or our community.

Hospitality is a way of life. And it is that brings happiness and joy.

How to Make Your Home Welcoming

In the middle ages Jewish practice was to build a door on all four sides of one’s house so that a guest housewould have no hassle coming in.

This custom suggests that our concern in maintaining our home should be not be the decor inside. It is not the landscaping or architecture of the home. Our concern is that we not make it too difficult for people to visit.

Front-Porch People

That custom seems out of place today.  Today, as cultural anthropologists have pointed out, we tend to spend our time in the backyard rather than front porch.

The backyard is more private, and is frequently fenced in. It does not lend itself to the casual conversation and openness of the front porch.

The Bible, however, tells us be a“front-porch people.” Rather than not turn our home into a fortress, we can turn it into an oasis, a place of conversation and kindness.

Ultimately, hospitality creates community. It builds empathy. It opens up our lives and creates the enduring that lead to happiness and satisfaction.

How Do You Practice Hospitality in Your Life? 

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The Prayers of 9/11

The Prayers of 9/11

Many heroes emerged on 9/11. The firefighters and police officers who entered the burning building and debris stand out. Their memories continue to bless and inspire us today.

Among the overlooked heroes, however, was a group hunkered down in several white tents. The tents stood by the New York City medical examiners office.

Inside them was a rotating cast of pray-ors. They recited passage from the biblical book of psalms. They were following an ancient Jewish practice of continuously reciting psalms for the deceased between the time of death and burial.

It took months for some bodies to be identified and buried, and thousands of volunteers prayed without interruption in those tents for three months!

How It Started

The practice of reciting psalms immediately after death likely began thousands of years ago as a plea for God to show mercy upon the soul of the departed and ensure they not end up in purgatory. It continues today as a way of acknowledging and expressing our emotions, and focusing the mind away from the contemplation of death.

It also acknowledges our connection with the dead, suggesting we are part of one community. The living feel a responsibility for reciting psalms on behalf of the deceased.

One Community

That certainly proved true after 9/11. The number of volunteers grew every week. The practice not only brought comfort to the mourners and their families.

This continuous prayer affected many neighbors and workers near the site. Several police officers stopped in the tent and asked for their favorite psalm to be read.

Another volunteer at the time said the praying ”gives a sense of comfort and familiarity to these unstable times.” It is, he said, “a consolation, a way of grieving, and a way of being responsible.” This volunteer summed up the way prayer adds to our well-being during times of despair.

As we remember all those who perished on  9/11, perhaps we can comfort in the words of that most familiar psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” May God continue to be with us, and all those who remember.


In seminary, one moral dilemma seriously divided the class. The question was whether to give money to the homeless on the street in downtown Cincinnati, where the seminary was located.

This question concerned me directly, as I was also interning in Chicago and encountered several homeless people on my walk to the synagogue.

Most of the class said yes. We are not, Jewish tradition tells us, to “close our hand to an impoverished neighbor.”

The dilemma arises, however, because the neighbor referred to in the Talmud is a fellow Jew, and the tradition was shaped in a time when people lived in small villages, not major urban centers. Does the same practice apply today?

We never resolved the exact disagreement, but we did arrive at a consensus. We should try to have either a sandwich to give or a coupon for a McDonalds or other easily accessible restaurant. Why? Because those in need are fellow human beings, and each of us is created in the image of God.

What we have is not solely ours. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” the Bible tells us. (Psalm 24)

In other words, what we own does not ultimately belong to us. It belongs to God, and we are stewards of it for all of God’s creation.

In modern America, this approach can feel counter-cultural.  If we got it, we earned it, and it’s ours to do with what we please. We think a homeless person or a beggar must have done something wrong with their life, and it’s not our problem or responsibility to fix it.

Yet, the Bible reminds us we share one earth, and were created by one God. We are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19)

Are we looking out only for ourselves? Are we looking only for those we know or who look like us? Or are we truly doing for each of God’s children what we pray they would do for us? What do you think?