Monday, July 25, 2022


 I shouted, “that’s my girl.” I was referring to Jamaican Shericka Jackson after winning the world title in the women’s 200 meters race. Her 21.45-second victory was the second fastest time in history. Interestingly, Shericka and I have never met, but she is still my girl.


What is it about sports that bind athletes and spectators? In a sense, athletes like Shericka represent us. She is a symbol of national and regional pride. She brings hope to our youth who fear failure when competing against the goliaths of first-world countries. Other athletes did very well at the World Championship games. However, after the women’s 200 meters race, Shericka was my girl.


There is so much for us to learn from sports. Athletes like Shericka teach us what it means to strive for excellence. Her pursuit for excellence began years ago. It included athletic skill, failure, disappointment, resilience, discipline and a teachable spirit. Interestingly, in sporting events, more participants lose than win. Hence the need to know how to handle failure.


Sports has a capacity to transcend barriers and to energize people, all around the world. Many of the values that underlie sports are the core values of social justice, values that should lie at the heart of our Christian faith. Sports mobilize people in far more ways than the purely physical.


Recently, I came across an academic paper in which Kathrine Marshall of Georgetown University identified a few benefits of sports. Kathrine believes sports can be used to inspire peace. She recalled that during ancient Olympic games, all fighting among warring tribes stopped for months. Even at this year’s Paralympic Games, an Olympic Truce was observed for seven days before and after the games.  


Kathrine Marshall’s paper also contended that in sports, high goals are set. There are no limits to the ambitions of achievement. Agreed, “the essence of excellence is dealing with disappointment and learning from it to achieve more.” Sports provides a platform that illustrates this truth.


When Shericka Jackson crossed the finish line, she was alone. However, preparing for that moment involved many others. She represented a team of professionals that worked tirelessly. They never showed their faces on the awards’ podium, but their contributions were invaluable. We all have similar support in the journey of life. Among those on my team was Mrs Esther Gerig. This week I attended her funeral. In the seventies, Mrs Gerig taught me to type. Like any athlete, I can say, without the help of others, I would not be where I am today. Teamwork is absolutely essential.


Integrity is equally essential. Enhancement drugs are not allowed in sports. The playing field must be level for everyone participating. In addition, rules of the game must be followed. Corruption undermines both achievement and trust. Shericka Jackson exemplified integrity. We salute her for illustrating that integrity is critical to success.


So you can now appreciate why I shouted, “that’s my girl”. Her achievements satisfied some of my need for fulfillment. She confirmed that much is achieved in our pursuit of excellence. The feeling of joy is not only in the outcome, but also in the process. That process requires teamwork, integrity, diligence and athletic ability. If the apostle Paul were around, he would agree. In writing to the Corinthians, he said: “… run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever”                  (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).



Monday, July 18, 2022


 This month, a few dear friends will be celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversaries. Within less than a year, my wife and I, along with two other couples we know, will be joining this august group of celebrants. Attending a recent ceremony was a couple who had just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. What an honour to be able to call these celebrants my friends.

Interestingly, they are not only my friends, we all share a common faith in Christ. I am confident that my celebrating friends will concur that our years of fruitful marriage is related to our faith. You see, our faith is more than a devotional experience. It is because of our faith, we participate in a community that challenges us to pursue excellence in every aspect of our lives. As a community we celebrate and console each other at appropriate times.

Our community of faith is universally known as the church. Membership in this group is monitored by the founder – Jesus Christ. As an institution, the church has been maligned and discarded by many. However, it continues to produce some of the more committed and distinguished people in society. Unlike other institutions, the church caters to the young and the elderly. It provides opportunities for intellectual stimulation and facilitates camaraderie among its members and their circles of influence.

When the apostle Paul was teaching the Ephesians about  the church, he used marriage to illustrate his point. He presented Jesus as the Head of the Church. Jesus paid for the church with His life. Furthermore, Jesus loves the Church and desires to fashion her to become “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless…” (Ephesians 5:27). Earlier in the paragraph, Paul argued that the Church should be viewed as the “body of Jesus Christ…”. The imagery Paul used suggests, intimacy, beauty and nobility.

Paul contends, just as Jesus loves and cares for His Church, “… in the same way, husbands ought to love their wives, as their own bodies”. In essence, our leadership as husbands ought to produce intimate, beautiful and noble marriages. This is so different from leadership that produces control, deception and thuggery. I believe we need to re-examine who influences our understanding of leadership in our homes.

My friends and I, all members of the “Jubilee Club”, will be among the first to admit that our marriages are not perfect. We made errors along the way. However, we learned from those errors and moved-on. We were aware that our marriages were designed to illustrate the mystical relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.

As Paul compared and contrasted the relationship between marriage and the Church, he admitted, “… this is a profound mystery…”. It is indeed a mystery to witness a man and a woman, from different cultures, influences and persuasions, pledge and honour their pledges for more than fifty years. To do this in a culture where such commitments are rare, that is a mystery.

To be honest, my friends and I believe Jesus guided our romantic choices and we further believe that He enabled us along the way. Furthermore, we also believe that fifty years is really about 18,262 days. We lived and continue to live one day at a time. Members of the Jubilee Club simply add the days and exclaim Hallelujah!

Monday, July 11, 2022


 According to The Gun Violence Archive, there have been 314 mass shootings in America, since January 2022. The non-profit group defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four persons were killed. The profiles of the killers vary in age and background. Interestingly, there is a constant redefining of the profile of mass killers in America.

Many have commented on the possible causes and solutions to this growing scourge on America. Following the recent mass killing in Highland Park, Illinois, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, stated that these young men accused of mass shootings reflect a deep spiritual void. He went on to suggest that some cases may require exorcism.

Despite the media cynicism to Dr Bennett’s opinion, we cannot ignore his thought-provoking contribution. Could we be mis-diagnosing demonic activity for mental illness? In attempting to answer this question, I found the writings of Catholic theologian John Bartunek to be helpful.

Dr Bartunek correctly contends that “not all psychological difficulties can be classified as mental illness. Some are linked to changeable patterns of behaviour or basic human maturity issues. These can be remedied by healthy living, sense of community, human and spiritual formation, the discovery of a mission in life, and other fruitful activities. For example, sometimes mild but persistent depression or problems with anger management are really rooted in patterns of sin that have torn apart a person’s interior balance.”

However, it must be said that mental illness is a reality. Mental illness goes deeper; it is a dysfunction or disorder rooted in the structure of one’s personality. Mental illness in these cases is not always caused by direct demonic activity. Many times, it is caused by traumatic physical or psychological experiences, or genetic/physiological imbalances, or a combination of any of these factors. In these cases, sometimes medication can help a person lead an almost normal life.

But we must also reiterate that demonic activity is also a reality. The Gospels often referred to persons who were delivered from satanic control. Satanic activity can be through “obsession,” by which a demon will bother a person from outside, causing chronic physical, physiological, or psychological pain. This can also be done through “possession,” by which a demon takes temporary control of a person’s physical and bodily capacities from within.

So then, the question arises, how can one tell if there is some demonic activity going on in the case of someone suffering some symptoms of mental illness? From my experience, I can concur with Dr Bartunek that usually there will be something in the person’s past that could provide  clues – they or their family members used to play around with the occult practices or engage in destructive reflections. Sometimes the only clue is that a psychosomatic illness is persistent and is non-responsive to normal therapy.  

That was the situation my wife and I encountered. A woman visited our home with a list of very distressing reflections. She copied these from the journal of a family member who was under her care. She feared that her relative could harm herself or others. She advised against confrontation and strongly encouraged us to join her in prayer.

Some time passed and we met the family member in a religious setting. Our intervention was sought when irrational and violent behaviour was displayed by this person. Nothing in her behaviour resembled the person we thought we knew. For more that three hours we battled with forces that controlled this young woman. Our only recourse was to call on the supernatural sources made available to Christians. She was delivered. Today, decades later, she continues to make meaningful contributions to her family and wider community.

I believe Dr William Bennett is on to something when he stated that “a deep spiritual void” must be considered when examining options to correcting evil. Interestingly, mass killers are not usually among persons who have filled the spiritual void in their lives. Jesus was correct, he came to offer a more meaningful alternative to purposeless living.