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Saw God in the Flight of Honor

John & Janet–MI

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Saw God Remembering

The donors had been thanked. The dinner had been served. The program was about to start, but not before the assembled ladies and gentlemen were asked to watch a 12-minute video.

The man with the free-flowing hair and the salt-and-pepper mustache turned to face the screen, his elbow propped atop the back of his chair. No one in the ballroom sat closer to the screen than he did.

The screen was maybe two feet from his face, the images of his most celebrated professional failure displayed and repeated. Vin Scully called the play, and Kirk Gibson hit a home run. Jack Buck called the play, and Gibson hit a home run. Bob Costas described the play, and Gibson hit a home run.

Dennis Eckersley took it all in with an easy smile. As he looked at the video, Gibson looked at Eckersley.

“I didn’t feel right sitting there, watching you watch that,” Gibson told him a few minutes later.

For the first time in the 28 years since that home run, Gibson and Eckersley sat in front of a room, next to each other, and talked about it. Tony La Russa and Orel Hershiser joined the panel, and Billy Crystal emceed, all for the benefit of Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation. The event, on Thursday at the Hotel Bel-Air, raised $300,000 to maintain and expand a support network for abused and neglected children.

Gibson’s home run has been elevated to the realm of the mythical, and not just because the Dodgers have not returned to the World Series since then.

The images have been seared into the minds of a generation of fans, almost as if pages in a Gibson flip book: hobbling to bat; wincing with each foul ball; stepping out of the box to recall Dodgers scout Mel Didier saying Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider if the count were full; reaching for that slider; yanking it deep over the rightfield fence; pumping his arms as he rounded first base.
The words have been seared into our minds, as well: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” Scully said.

The details remain vivid in the minds of the participants. It was Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, in which Gibson and the Dodgers slew the Bash Brothers and the rest of the Oakland Athletics en route to the unlikeliest of parades.

For the bottom of the ninth inning, the A’s handed a 4-3 lead to the trusted Eckersley. Mike Scioscia popped up. Jeff Hamilton struck out.

Mike Davis pinch-hit. He hit 22 home runs for Oakland in 1987, two for the Dodgers in 1988.

“It was horrendous to walk Michael Davis,” Eckersley said.

Or not, considering that the Dodgers had Dave Anderson on deck to pinch-hit.

“He was a lamb,” Eckersley said. “He was an absolute out.”

Gibson had sent his wife home in the early innings, the better to care for their rambunctious toddler. Not going to play tonight, honey.

Both of his knees were hurting. So was a hamstring. He had gotten a couple of painkilling injections and ice for his legs. As soon as he heard Scully say on television that he could not hit, he shuffled to a batting tee to try.

“Gibby’s going to hit,” Hershiser said he told Scioscia.

“Gibby can’t walk,” Scioscia said.

Anderson retreated to the dugout, and a thunderous roar greeted Gibson as he stepped gingerly to bat. La Russa, the Oakland manager, signaled for his outfielders to creep forward, worried more that a guy hitting on one leg would bloop a single over the infield than drive a ball over the fence. Eckersley geared up to throw fastballs, believing that the compromised Gibson could not catch up to them.

A couple of strikes, a couple of balls, a couple of foul balls, one a dribbler up the first base line that rolled foul before Eckersley could get to it.

“It would have changed my whole life,” Eckersley said, laughing.

The seventh pitch, the seventh fastball, and Davis stole second. That was ball three.

Full count. Backdoor slider, not a fastball. Home run.

“Ugly swing,” Gibson said. “I was just trying to get a little blooper over the shortstop’s head.”

“God knows I should have gassed his ass,” Eckersley said.

As the A’s staggered off of the field, pitching coach Dave Duncan had one word for La Russa. Duncan had suggested that the A’s walk Gibson and pitch to Steve Sax, but La Russa had wanted Gibson.

“Dumbass,” Duncan told La Russa.

In a Santa Monica home, Gibson’s wife danced with the couple’s 2-year-old son. A city danced, too, pumping its arms backward, just the way Gibson had.

Gibson pointed to Eckersley. Didn’t mean to show you up.

Gibson: “There’s a lot said about today’s ballplayers and how they celebrate. The arm pump was not really like me. It just happened.”

Eckersley: “Hooray for you. Too bad for me. It was the ninth inning. You can do whatever you want.”

La Russa: “If it would have been some disrespectful yahoo, it would have really hurt.”

Eckersley, 61, said he long has since made his peace with the home run, and not just because he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He even could appreciate the moment as it happened, he said, for he had found sobriety a couple of years earlier. He was grateful to be present, not despondent about the outcome.

On a quiet patio outside the ballroom, Eckersley said he would be forever connected to Gibson, and not at all upset about that. As the years pass, he joked, fewer people call him by his given name.

“It’s like my last name: ‘Hey, Gibson!’” Eckersley said. “Every time someone sees me: ‘Hey, Gibson!’”

If the two men can relive that home run again for a good cause, Eckersley said, he would be glad to help.

“I respect the hell out of Kirk,” he said.

Gibson, 58, fights to keep his Parkinson’s disease at bay. He works as a part-time analyst on Detroit Tigers broadcasts and with his foundation. He was supposed to be here last year, but that was when he was diagnosed with the illness.

“I had a little detour on the road,” he said. “I had to shake my boy Parky.”

On his right wrist, he wore an assortment of bracelets, including a gray one reading “Be Brave” and a yellow one reading “Think Loud.”

Parkinson’s disease can trigger speech and facial disorders. The “Think Loud” slogan refers to speech therapy designed to counter softening voices. Gibson also had to retrain his face to smile.

“We’ve taken how many pictures?” he said on the red carpet. “It’s good practice.”

He looked good. He sounded strong enough. As the panel discussion ended, he and Eckersley clasped hands and held them aloft.

“We’ve struck up a little friendship,” Gibson said on the patio. “We’ll take our time, as much as we have left, and enjoy it.” FREEP.Com

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in the Loss of an ‘Angel’

Angels’ Place

We are saddened to inform you that Annemarie Lopez, founder and board member of Angels’ Place, has passed away.

Please join us in prayer as we celebrate and give thanks for the life of a special lady who inspired the idea of Angels’ Place and worked tirelessly and humbly to insure its success.

She is with the angels and saints and her special angel Charlotte. Our deepest sympathy to her husband Ray and to the entire family.


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Saw God All Over the Place!

It has been a long 4 days, but I have seen God in SO many people.

I was in Chicago, helping my daughter, son-in-law and their 2 small children move to Portland, Oregon. My grandson is 3-1/2 years old and LOVES trains. On Monday morning I took him for one last right on the L-train. We had gone a distance, switched trains to come back and then got off to go to a park. He decided he wanted something to eat. I wasn’t looking where I was walking and I fell when I stepped in a spot on the sidewalk where the cement was missing. I went down and sprained my ankle. A woman was walking near me with a baby in a stroller and her own toddler. She stopped to help me up. She brought me a chair from a nearby outdoor seating area. She offered to bring a chair for my grandson and to stay with me in case he took off on me. Two gentlemen who were in the area also offered assistance and kept an eye on us until my son-in-law came with the car to get us.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I were flying with the 2 children from O’Hare airport to Portland. When we checked in, I asked for assistance to get to our gate. A wheelchair attendant came and gave me a ride. He allowed my grandson to sit on my lap. He helped us through security and took me right to the gate.

At the gate, a flight attendant saw me with my grandson and told me the food that would be available on the flight was not kid friendly and wanted me to know that in case I needed to purchase something for him before out flight.

While on the 4 hour flight, my grandson kept kicking the seat in front of him. The person sitting there never once complained. My granddaughter is 8 months old and teething. She was pulling papers out of the seat back pocket. She would drop them in the aisle. My daughter couldn’t always reach them to pick them up, but the gentleman across from her would pick them up. He also played peek-a-boo with my granddaughter.

When we arrived in Portland, my daughter and I struggled with 2 very tired children, our carry-ons and a car seat. A flight attendant helped us get everything off the plane where another wheelchair was waiting for me. This attendant was very friendly and again let my grandson ride on my lap. After a stop at the bathroom, I realized I had left something on the plane. He took me back to the gate to get it and then took me all the way to baggage claim where my husband was waiting for us.

Today, I was flying home by myself from Portland, thru Chicago to Flint. On the Portland to Chicago flight, there was a medical emergency. The crew asked in there were any medical personnel on the plane. The woman sitting next to me immediately signaled she would help. When we landed, the passengers were asked to remain seated to allow paramedics onto the plain. EVERYONE remained seated and I didn’t here ANYONE complain.

I had to change planes in Chicago. I had to go from one terminal to another. In Portland, I had requested wheelchair assistance again. It was very slow in coming and I was getting concerned about making my connection. The gate attendant called over to my second flight to let them know I was on my way. When the motorized cart finally picked me up, there were other people already on it. They didn’t mind riding around to get me to my destination because they had a 2 hour layover and had plenty of time to get to their gate.

I saw God in all of these people who helped my, my family and another passenger.

I also saw God in my husband. He drove by himself, from Chicago to Portland with a pickup truck overflowing with stuff for our daughter and her family to get them started until the moving truck arrives in about 2 weeks. He drove that in 3 days!

I also saw God in our second daughter. She lives in Seattle. She met us at the airport in Portland to drive us all to the new house. She had her car filled with things to welcome her sister to the Pacific Northwest. She brought toys and clothes for the kids, towels, bedding, paper products, food and most importantly, her love for her sister, brother-in-law and her niece and nephew.

Submitted by Mary W, Macomb, Michigan

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Saw God Waiting on My Desk


I came into the my office at work last Friday and found this waiting on my desk. That’s God!!


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Saw God in the Gift of a Prince



About 25 years ago our friend Ted Weber lost his life when hit by a runaway car while waiting in line for Prince concert tickets. Prince flew 30 people from Michigan to Boston to his stadium concert and then after the show he played a benefit concert in memory of Ted….all proceeds were donated to start a scholarship fund at Berklee College in Ted’s name.

John & Janet, MI

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Saw God in a Plate of Meatballs

I came home from a long day of work last week to discover that my wife had spent most of the day preparing my new, all time favorite meal—spaghetti with homemade meatballs and homemade sauce. It was absolutely delectable. Our three kids are also huge fans of this meal. Simple pleasure of a truly enjoyable homemade meal shared with the people I love.

Thanks for the effort Bunny!


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Saw God Feeding 1 Million

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in the Kitchen


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Saw God in The Challenge of Easter

The Challenge of Easter

Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore the radical claim of the Resurrection
Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
When was the last time you felt stressed out by Easter? So much Easter shopping to do, so many Easter cards to write, so many Easter gatherings to attend. Not to mention the endless stream of Easter commercials on television and online, the nearly unavoidable Easter-themed movies and all those tacky Easter sweaters that you’re forced to wear every spring. And don’t forget the travails of setting up the annual Easter tree and stringing Easter lights on your house.

Every year you lament how overly commercialized Easter has become. Can the holiday get any more money-oriented? You feel that way every year, don’t you?

Of course you don’t.

That is because Easter has stubbornly resisted the kind of commercialization, commodification and general crassification that long ago swallowed up the celebration of Christmas, at least in the U.S. Here’s a confession: It’s reached the point where I have begun to, yes, dread the Christmas season, and it can be fairly stated that I now dislike Christmas. By that I mean the commercial complex that has grown up around the holiday. (The Feast of the Nativity is another story. That I love.)

So how has Easter—with some notable exceptions, like ever-expanding Easter baskets with more and more expensive gifts for the kids—maintained its relative religious purity?

Mainly, I would say, because of its subversive religious message: Christ is risen.

That is quite a statement. And it’s one that non-Christians can readily grasp, even if they don’t believe it. Jesus of Nazareth, the man whose followers claim that he healed the sick, stilled storms, raised people from the dead and made the poor the center of his ministry, was crucified under the orders of Pontius Pilate and died an agonizing death in Jerusalem. Then, as his followers believe—myself included—after three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set aside those teachings that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable—say, forgiving your enemies, praying for your persecutors, living simply or helping the poor. You can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave, who demonstrates his power over death and who has definitively proven his divine authority needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.
In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.

This is unlike Christmas. To be clear, Christians believe that, at the first Christmas, God became human. This is the meaning of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” God took on flesh, a concept as bizarre then as now.

But the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.
In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, one of the few disciples who did not desert him at the Crucifixion. (The fidelity of the women disciples—in contrast to all but one of the men—is an undervalued aspect of the narratives of the death and resurrection of Jesus.) Mary arrives at the place of Jesus’ burial early in the morning, peers into the empty tomb and eventually sees someone. It is the Risen Christ.

But she thinks he is the gardener. “Sir,” she says, “if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” When he speaks her name, “Mariam” (the Greek texts preserve her original Aramaic name), she realizes who it is.

What is going on? How could Mary not recognize the person that she has been following for so long? In later stories, Jesus seems similarly hard to recognize. In the Gospel of Luke, when two disciples encounter him as they are walking to the town of Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, they don’t recognize him at all.

How is this possible?
More confusion: In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears as an almost ghostly figure, apparently able to walk through walls; in other accounts, he is decidedly corporeal. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says explicitly, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he appears to the unfairly named Doubting Thomas (for who wouldn’t doubt?), he says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

Ghostly and yet physical, recognizable but unrecognizable. Which is it? How could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have presented the details of such an important story with such seeming contradictions? The agnostic or atheist will point to this as proof that it never happened. I would suggest that it’s quite the opposite.

Most likely, the narratives reflect the struggle of the eyewitnesses and, later, the evangelists to understand and communicate what had been experienced. After all, no one had ever encountered what theologians call the “glorified body,” the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection. So they struggled to explain it. It was him, but more. It was his body, but something else. It was like this, but not like this.

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling.

But it was him. One of the most astonishing insights about Easter is that this is the same man who was crucified. Sometimes people speak, inadvertently, as if Jesus of Nazareth died on Good Friday and a new person, the Risen Christ, appeared on Easter Sunday. But as the Jesuit priest and New Testament scholar Stanley Marrow has written, for him to have risen as anything other than the Jesus the disciples knew would strip the Resurrection of all meaning.

As Father Marrow wrote, “Showing them ‘his hands and his side,’ which bore the marks of the crucifixion and the pierce of the lance, was not a mere theatrical gesture, but the necessary credentials of the identity of the risen Lord, who stood before them, with the crucified Jesus whom they knew.”

That has implications for all Christians. For one thing, it means that Jesus carries upon himself the visible marks of his human life. In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.

This is the mystery of Jesus’ two “natures”: human and divine. The divine one suffered human pain, and the human one is now raised from the dead.

But this was true before the Resurrection.

As mysterious as it is, Christians believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at all times—fully human when healing someone from an illness, fully divine when sawing a plank of wood in his workshop. So his teachings are not simply divinely inspired but flow from his human experience.

To take a homey example, during the time of Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, Nazareth was a poor village of no more than 400 people, as archaeology has revealed. The backwater hamlet was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” says the Apostle Nathanael when he first hears about the messiah’s hometown.

Jesus worked there as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as carpenter but also as craftsman, woodworker or even day laborer. It was a job considered below the status of a peasant, since a tekton did not even have the benefit of a plot of land.

‘If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.’
But a mere 4 miles from Nazareth was the bustling city of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by King Herod. Sepphoris had a population of 30,000 and included a Greek amphitheater that seated 3,000, a fortress, courts, a royal bank and so on. Most contemporary scholars believe that the poor carpenter from Nazareth almost certainly visited this cosmopolitan city, called the “ornament of all Galilee” by the Jewish historian Josephus. There Jesus would have seen beautiful buildings and houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes (the ruins of which one can still see today).

What did Jesus think when he walked back from the wealthy city to his poor hometown? How could his heart not have been moved by how the poor were forced to live in Nazareth? How could he have seen Mary and Joseph at their backbreaking chores and not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?

When Jesus witnessed injustices—the shunning of certain of the sick, the mistreatment of the powerless and gross material inequalities—he was inspired to preach against them not simply out of divine inspiration but because his human heart was, as the Gospels often say, “moved with pity.”

When we listen to Jesus, then, we are listening not only to a God who cares for the poor but a human being who knew the poor and who was poor himself.
What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word.

Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.

Jesus’ message still has the power to make us feel uncomfortable, as it did in first-century Palestine. It was just as much of a challenge to pray for your enemies in antiquity. It was no easier to hear Jesus’ judgment against the excesses of the wealthy during a time of degrading poverty for so many. It was just as subversive a message to be asked to pray for your persecutors as it is now.

By walking out of the tomb on Easter, Jesus declared something life-changing, something subversive and something that cannot be overcome by commercialism. It is a message that refuses to be tamed. The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive.

The Resurrection says, “Listen.”

The Wall Street Journal. Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of several books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship With Jesus.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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