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Saw God at Vacation Bible School

Two of my three kids are at Vacation Bible School this week. For my daughter, this is year number four at this special camp. For my son, it is his second. Each day at camp begins and ends with all 200+ campers gathering with more than 50 volunteers in the church gym. They talk about many things including how much they’ve raised during the week–each penny of which will be used to fill backpacks for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have one come fall. Then every single person in the gym rises to their feet and together rocks out to powerful, upbeat faith-based songs. Three women stand on stage and use American Sign Language to translate the songs. The campers have picked up the signs during the week and use them too–all this for the one camper who is hearing impaired! Over the years, I’ve realized if I get to camp pick-up 15 minutes early, I can come into the gym and witness the powerful experience of kids, who are mostly strangers, coming together to celebrate their faith in song. I am glassy-eyed each day. This song sticks with me today.

Jacquie–Bloomfield Hills, MI

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Saw God in Goodbye to Mr. Hockey

Detroit — Gordie Howe was square-jawed, authentic and credible.

There was not a splinter of pretense about him.

The great Red Wings player was also humble and capable of enormous grace. He was, off the ice, what other men used to like to call “a true gentleman.”

In his era, for men now of a certain age, he established an archetype of masculinity: Physical strength paired with kindliness, significant accomplishment with unpretentiousness, mastery with respect, aggression with compassion.

It was what fathers and mothers wanted to see in their sons.

For a post-World War II generation of baby boomers, he was a role model worthy of emulating.

To watch him on and off the ice was to learn important lessons in life, especially for boys growing towards manhood in Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s.

Howe was partly like the Marlboro Man, that silent, rough-hewn pitchman for cigarettes in television commercials that catapulted the brand to the top of sales by 1972. He was also a bit like Gary Cooper, the late movie actor of the 1930s through the 1960s who contributed to a paradigm for the American male, the strong, silent type.

Howe lived a hard life on the Canadian prairie of the Great Depression. He was the toughest guy in a hard-hitting, dangerous sport.

When he took to the ice, it was as if one of Cooper’s characters, perhaps Will Kane, the marshal “High Noon,” showed up on a dusty main street of some Old West town with a badge on his chest, a long-barreled revolver in the holster at his side. A man capable of handling whatever the situation required, a look of restrained danger in his eyes.

Like Cooper, Howe was natural and genuine.

But it was how Howe was different that evidenced his greatness as a man, a height he achieved coincident with his greatness on the ice.

Deflecting praise

Howe had a mischievous sense of humor, which he sometimes inflicted on himself, especially in response to the praise he so justly deserved for his domination of the National Hockey League from just after the end of World War II through the 1960s.

Sometimes self-deprecating and almost always self-effacing, Howe acted as though one might have accomplishments worthy of boasting, but to do so was ignoble.

In receiving praise, he deflected it gently to those who helped with the achievement that engendered it, or made a humorous reference to some recent failing to help restrain the ego and show the world a greater understanding of humanity.

He was the doting, successful father, who raised offspring of accomplishment and character.

The son of famous men sometimes have it rough. But one of Howe’s, Mark, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, among the few greatest defensemen of his era.

Another, Marty, played the game to considerable effect. The third, Murray, is a doctor.

He was a husband so loyal that he pushed his wife Colleen’s strengths to the fore, whether as his agent, his business partner or a candidate for Congress.

She spurred no insecurity in him because Howe knew himself.

He also was the guy who after scoring a milestone goal in his career posed with a puck with “700” painted on it, later handing the puck that actually went into the net to a longtime season ticket customer who struggled with his sight and other complications of diabetes.

Upon hearing of his death Friday, Allen Moore of Northville, the nephew of the man who received the puck, e-mailed, “A true gentleman off the ice and a legendary player on it.”

Encounter to remember

In the early 1960s, my brother had a chance encounter with Howe, while playing hockey at the old outdoor rink that used be part of the Butzel parks and recreation facility on the West Side.

As my brother Tim leaned over lacing his skates, he recalls seeing two large men’s shoes suddenly in front of him and hearing a voice.

“Excuse me, young man.”

It was a different era and my brother rose immediately to greet an adult, making his mother proud.

“It was Gordie Howe and he was speaking to me,” my brother said.

“Do you know where the Lamplighters are?” he recalled Howe asking.

“I was awestruck, simultaneously stunned by my hero’s voice and the softness and the gentlemanliness of that voice and his demeanor. This was Gordie Howe and I guess I was not expecting such a gentleman.

“It was a Saturday morning and I was 11 years old and was getting ready to play a pee-wee game. It was snowing at Butzel rink that day.

“ ‘The Lamplighters, do you know where they are?’

“ ‘They are on the ice, Mr. Howe. They are playing now, sir.’

“ ‘Thank you, young man.’ ”

We later learned Marty and Mark Howe were playing for the Lamplighters.

“In one move, he put out his hand and shook mine and with his other hand grabbed my forearm,” my brother said. “He turned to the rink and stepped out into the snow.

“He was gone. That quick.

“My hand, hell, the lower part of my arm had disappeared into his huge hands. They were bigger than my Dad’s!

“Gordie Howe had spoken to me. Gordie Howe had been nice to me!

“I don’t recall the name of my Pee-Wee team, but that meeting of my hero, my Gordie, is as crystal clear as if it just happened. I can hear the voice, I can feel that grip.

“I remember the niceness of our encounter.”

Lesson learned by an 11-year-old. No matter how big you get, how formidable you are or the loftiness of your accomplishments, kindness and compassion are key elements of life.

It was Howe’s expression of manhood, and his singular gift to many young men who are no longer young.

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God Slow Down

Jacquie–Bloomfield Hills, MI

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Saw God Saved in the Mud

Carolyn–Rochester, MI

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Saw God in a 200 Year Old Chair


Dan, I was blessed to be assisting Mass in Ars, France last week and not only held St John Vianney’s own chalice and saw his incorruptible body, but also his confessional where he would often sit for 16 hours a day. What a sign of God’s mercy that He would provide the Church with so fine a Saint to be the patron of parish priests.

God Bless
Dcn. Andrew Dawson

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Saw God in “The Greatest”

Nigel Collins
ESPN Staff Writer

Muhammad Ali told us he was “The Greatest” before he was Muhammad Ali, back when he was still Cassius Clay and few people took him seriously. That all changed, of course, but even after he had the world at his feet, nobody ever believed in Ali more than he believed in himself. That, perhaps, was his greatest strength. He didn’t think he was The Greatest. He knew he was.

But was he really? Was Ali the greatest boxer of all time? And what does greatness mean, anyway? What are the qualifications and benchmarks for such exulted status? And who decides these things?
Muhammad Ali died at age 74. His life and his legacy left an unforgettable imprint on sports, society and culture.

‘The Greatest,’ in and out of the ring
The world inside the ring just wasn’t big enough to contain the irrepressible Muhammad Ali on his way to becoming the best-known athlete in the world, William Nack writes.
If you look at the question strictly from a pound-for-pound point of view, Ali was not necessarily the greatest. Pound-for-pound rankings are just a game played in the arena of the mind, where boxers from all weight classes compete on equal footing.

Could Ali have beaten a heavyweight version of Sugar Ray Robinson or Roberto Duran? Could a middleweight version of Ali have beaten Carlos Monzon or Marvin Hagler?

Unless you take it too seriously, this sort of speculation is harmless fun, but it also reveals one important truth: You can’t evaluate a boxer on fighting ability alone, not when you’re dealing with the very best of the very best. The field is too tightly bunched at the top.

When you read the fighters’ plaques at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, you see some vital stats and a list of the inductees’ accomplishments. But true greatness is much more complicated than that. Intangibles play a major role in pushing a fighter beyond the ring and into the consciousness of the masses.
Muhammad Ali was charming, witty, brash and funny, but with an edge, specially in the ring. AP Photo
One of those intangibles is charisma, an overused word that should not be confused with popularity or financial success, though all three often go hand-in-hand. True charisma is like a spell that draws people to the source, often for reasons they can’t quite elucidate.

Ali was unique, something the world of sports had never experienced before and something from which it would never recover. He launched the era of unrestrained braggadocio and unabashed self-promotion that has since influenced athletes in virtually every athletic endeavor. But nobody has ever done it better.

His poetry, prediction and artwork were all part of the package, but they weren’t the brainstorm of a publicist, they flowed naturally from Ali with childlike candor. The authenticity was palatable.

Although much of what Ali said seemed to be tongue-in-cheek, the power of his words was almost as formidable as his fists. The nicknames he gave his opponents (George Chuvalo: the “Washerwoman;” Earnie Shavers: the “Acorn;” and George Foreman: the “Mummy”) elevated them in a strange way, regardless of any affront they suffered in the process.

Those who fought him looked back on sharing the ring with Ali as an honor, even, as was usually the case, they lost. To fight Ali was to be a piece of history.
Muhammad Ali was an entertainer inside and outside the ring. Bettmann/Getty Images
Ali was charming, witty, brash and funny, but with an edge. Alternatively, mischievous and malicious, he alienated almost as many as he attracted at first, but converted most to his cause by the time he was done.

For some it was Ali’s bravery in the ring that won them over, especially as he aged but continued to persevere and overcome. For others it was his fearless stand against the Vietnam War, for which he sacrificed what could arguably have been his peak years as a boxers. Whether you agreed with him or not, you had to respect the courage of his convictions.

He was a hero of the civil rights and antiwar movement, an advocate of religious tolerance, ahead of much of the United States in his foresight and outrage. The counter culture was in his corner from the start, and as the mood of the country began to change, he was a rallying point, somebody who led by example.

The only other two boxers who came close to having the sociopolitical impact of Ali were Jack Johnson and Joe Louis. Both are seminal figures in the history of boxing and the United States, and the only other boxers whose historical impact compares to Ali’s.
Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, was a rebel reviled by most of white America. Louis became a symbol of America’s strength by knocking out German Max Schmeling on the eve of World War II.

Ali was a little of each, a rebel with a cause who spoke truth to power. Rooting for him gave folks of all stripes a common cause, which eventually spread beyond the ring and into more profound realms of life.

Of course, all of this wouldn’t have mattered anywhere near as much if Ali was not a magnificent fighter. Boxing was the vehicle that kept him relevant until his iconic legacy became secure, part of our collective psyche.
Cassius Clay, left, defeated Ringo Bonavena by TKO in the 15th round. Bettmann/Getty Images
And what a fighter he was, the champion of the world at a time of unparalleled riches in the heavyweight division — Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers, Ernie Terrell and Oscar Bonavena.

He fought them all and beat them all, at first with unmatched speed and an unorthodox style, which mystified and frustrated all who stood against him. Later, with guile, courage and a willingness to fight on, he was confident he would prevail when others would have faltered.

Ali’s common touch was the glue that held it all together. He loved mingling with the people, hopping out of a car to playfully spar with random people on street corners or kids in playgrounds. He’d do the Ali Shuffle, crack a few jokes and make everybody feel part of him. He was the champion of celebrities and fat cats sitting ringside and champion of the downtrodden who couldn’t afford the price of a ticket.

Ali was The Greatest because he said he was, lived his life accordingly and convinced the world it was true. In the end, it’s the people who decide such things — and the people have spoken.


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Saw God Peeking Above the Trees


Julia–Troy, MI

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Saw God in Memorial



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Saw God on a Locker

Today was the last full day of school for my 8th grade son.  He will be graduating from the school he has been at since kindergarten.  When the kids got to their lockers this morning, a note with a quote was hanging from the lock.  Each note was different.  My son brought his home to share with me.  Great words to live by.

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” –Jay Danzie


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Saw God in a Singing Survivor

DETROIT — An 89-year-old Holocaust survivor has fulfilled her longtime wish to sing the United States national anthem at a Major League Baseball game.

Hermina Hirsch sang Saturday at Comerica Park in Detroit before the Tigers played Tampa Bay.

Hermina Hirsch reportedly has been a Tigers fan since she moved to the Detroit area more than 60 years ago. Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
The Czechoslovakia native lives in Southfield, Michigan. She was 17 when her family was split up and sent to concentration camps in 1944. According to her granddaughter, Andrea Hirsch, Hermina Hirsch and her older sister were shuffled between five concentration camps, including Auschwitz. She was liberated in January 1945.

WWJ-TV has reported that Hirsch has been a Tigers fan since she moved to the Detroit area more than 60 years ago. Hirsch has been singing the anthem for years during Holocaust survivor meetings in the Detroit area.

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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