Monthly Archives: March 2010

Mascot Bracket: Final Four Update

The Mascot Bracket has come roaring back to life on the strength of Duke and West Virginia.  In my yahoo public group with 30 submissions, the Mascot Bracket is one of three that had two Final Four teams correct. Of the six brackets in this little contest, here are the standings:

1. Chalk, 62 points (62 possible)
2. Barack Obama, 59 (59 possible)
3. Mascot Bracket, 56 (72 possible)
4. My 3-year-old, 58 (74 possible)
5. Joe Lunardi, 53 (69 possible)
6. Fat Pastor, 53 (53 possible)

Possible scenarios:
Michigan St. beats Butler (Spartan would definately beat a bulldog), then my daughter will win with 74 points despite picking Montana to win the national championship

West Virginia beats Duke, Joe Lunardi will move up to either No. 1 or 2.

If Duke and Butler win, then the Mascot Bracket will be victorious, not only in this small pool, but in my whole yahoo group.

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Mascot Bracket Sweet 16 Update

To make a long story short, the Mascot Bracket has not done well – but it has had a few shining moments.

After Round One:

1. Barack Obama, 25 points
2. Chalk, 22
3. Joe Lunardi, 21
4. Fat Pastor, 19
5. My 3-year-old, 18
6. Mascots, 17

What made matters worse were the devastating losses of the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first round. The Mascots should have done better. I had the Cowboys winning the Midwest Region, but they lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. ATLSpartan told me on the comments section that I should have gone with the Yellow Jackets because they are plural, and a swarm of yellow jackets would likely do a Cowboy in. I probably should have gone with the Ramblin’ Wreck, which would have little trouble running over the Cowboy.

I should have known that the Racer would trample the old Naval officer. All he has is a sword, and Vandy doesn't even use this logo anymore. Now it's just a V inside a star.

But what really hurt was Vanderbilt. I had the Commodores going all the way to the championship, but they fell to the Murray State Racers. I should have known that someone ranking that high in the Navy probably would not have seen combat in quite a few years. Plus, the logo shows that they only have a sword. A thuroughbred, with jockey, trampled the old sailor.

In the second round the Mascot Bracket had some redemption.  Of course a Jayhawk would lose to a panther.  It was also obvious that a Gael would dismember a Wildcat, especially this peekaboo wildcat.  After round two:

1. Obama, 43 points (Like his presidency, Obama’s picks started off fast, but are now going to suffer a slow demise.  He had Kansas going all the way, but Northern Iowa was his big Glenn Beck Tea-Bagging party).
2. Chalk, 38 points (102 possible)
3. The Fat Pastor, 37 points (145 possible – The Ohio State pick in the Final Four is looking good, and I’m kicking myself for changing my mind at the last minute with ‘Nova. I had Duke in the Final Four because I thought everybody hates Duke, so no one picks them, but I chickened out at the last minute).
4. Joe Lunardi, 33 points (89 possible. The inventor of the term Bracketology is going down, and he is going down hard. He had Wisconsin over Kentucky and Kansas winning it all).
5. Mascots, 32 points (80 possible. Having two teams in the final four go out in the first round makes it hard to win).

These five brackets are all in a free yahoo group that has 30 picks.  The Mascot Bracket is tied for 28th.  The only bracket below the mascots was filled out by my three-year-old, who picked Montana to win it all.  I should add that the leader of the group is my nephew.  He is two.

P.S. How overrated is the Big East?

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The 2010 Mascot Bracket

It is bracket-time.  Here’s my second annual NCAA tournament picks based solely on which mascot would win in a fight.  I have made some changes after commenters pointed out two mistakes I made.  I entered  this bracket into a yahoo public group along with an expert, picking all the favorites, my three-year-old daughter’s picks, President Barack Obama’s picks, and my own actual picks.

There are a few rules to follow:

  1. Inanimate objects, e.g. colors and plants, always lose to animate objects.
  2. Predators beat non-predators and unarmed humans.
  3. Humans beat non-predators.
  4. Humans with weapons beat predators.
  5. Humans with weapons beat humans without weapons.
  6. Humans with superior weapons win.
  7. Supernatural beings and weather systems beat almost anyone.
  8. Ties go to the high seed.
  9. Prepositions lose to everything (see Hoyas vs. Bearcats)


(1) Kansas Jayhawks def. (16) Lehigh Mountain Hawks.  I’m calling this one a tie.  They’re both hawks.  The higher seed wins.

(8) UNLV Runnin Rebels def. (9) Northern Iowa Panthers. Human with weapon beats a predator.  This looks like a clear Rule 4, but a Runnin Rebel has Civil War weaponry, and a Panther is a serious animal.  I think the Black Panther would love to take a shot at a confederate soldier, but I’m sticking with my rules.  If the Rebel could keep his distance (maybe by doing a lot of runnin), he could win.

(5) Michigan State Spartans def. (12) New Mexico State Aggies.  An Aggie might have a gun, but not necessarily.  Plus, have you seen 300?  Their sparkling abs would shock the poor farmers into submission.

(13) Houston Cougars def. (4) Maryland Terrapins.  The first upset of my bracket is not completely off-the-wall.

(6) Tennessee Volunteers def. (11) Sand Diego State Aztecs.  The Aztecs were bad asses, but volunteers in the war of 1812 would have had muskets.

(14) Ohio Bobcats def. (3) Georgetown Hoyas.  Another significant upset.  You might be asking yourself, “What’s a Hoya?”  Well, that is a question that Georgetown opponents have been chanting for decades.  Wikipedia gives us the answer – it appears to have come from a chant, “Roxa Hoya,” which is loosely translated from Latin to “such rocks.”  Hoya is basically Latin for “Such as.”  So, if you’re using that – I think we finally found the only mascot that would lose to the Orange or the Buckeyes – a preposition.  Yet, their mascot is a bulldog.  A bobcat is a pretty mean cat, and I think it would beat even a bulldog.

(10) Oklahoma State Cowboys def. (7) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  The Cowboy wins unless he is allergic – but I cannot base this scientific endeavor on pure conjecture.  The Cowboy would squish the yellow jacket.

(15) UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos def. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes.  I thought that UC-Santa Barbara was known as the Banana Slugs, which would jeopardize their NCAA chances – unless they had the good fortune of going up against the Buckeyes.  A reader informed me that they were never the Slugs – that is UC Santa Cruz.  Even if they were the slugs, they would win over a plant. Since they are spanish-language Cowboys, it’s an easy upset pick.

Second Round: Rebels def. Jayhawks; Spartans def. Cougars; Volunteers def. Bobcats; Cowboys def. Gauchos, this is a tough one.  I’m not sure how I pick between an English-speaking Cowboy and a Spanish-speaking cowboy without looking like some border-patrolling, xenophobic a-hole.  I’ll take the higher seed.

Regional semifinals: Rebels def. Spartans, the glistening abs are no match a musket ball.  Cowboys def. Volunteers, Cowboys have superior weapons to soldiers in the War of 1812.

Regional Final: Okalahoma State Cowboys def. UNLV Runnin Rebels.


(16) Vermont Catamounts def. (1) Syracuse Orange.  Seriously, Syracuse kills me every year.  I don’t even know what a Catamount is, but if they move, they would beat the Orange. I’ll have to do some research before the second round.

(9) Florida State Seminoles def. (8) Gonzaga Bulldogs.  See Rule 4.

(12) UTEP Miners def. (5) Butler Bulldogs.  Bad day for bulldogs.  I’m counting the pick axe as a weapon.

(4) Vanderbilt Commodores def. (13) Murray State Racers.  The logo for the racers is a racehorse.   The Commodores gave us “Brick House,” which is a plus. They also gave us Nichole Richie, which is not such a plus.  Killing them softly with their song, Commodores win.  Commodores have swords.  Jockeys have whips.  This might be the excpetion to Rule 4, but I’m sticking with the human with a weapon over an animal.

(6) Xavier Musketeers def. (11) Minnesota Golden Gophers.  The Musketeers have an um, musket.  Gophers have buck teeth. Muskets win.

(3) Pittsburgh Panthers def. (14) Oakland Grizzlies.  This is one of the best contests of the first round.  I seriously am not sure who would win this fight.  My first thought was the Grizzly, but have you seen how big a panther is? I’m really not sure, so I’m cheating, and going with the higher seed.

(10) Florida Gators def. (7) BYU Cougars def.  This is another great contest of the first round.  Again, I’m not sure who would win.  The Cougar’s agility would come in handy, but I’m not sure it could do enough damage to the Gator, and one good bite is all it would take.  Plus, if the Gator could draw the Cougar into the water, it would be over.

(2) Kansas State Wildcats def. (15) North Texas Mean Green.  Even though North Texas uses a bird in their logo, they are still just a color. No matter how mean they claim to be, this is rule #1.

Second Round: Seminoles def. Catamounts, a Catamount is a wild cat; Commodores def. Miners, sword over pick axe; Musketeers def. Panthers, This seems like a textbook Rule 4.  A musketeer whould beat a panther, but muskets are not the most powerful and dependable of weapons.  This depends on the size ring we have.  If the Musketeer could keep his distance, he might win.  If this is close quarters, the panther would tear him apart.  That all being said, the musketeer would also have a sword, so I’m going with Musketeer; Gators def. Wildcats, the Gator just beat a Cougar.

Regional Semifinals: Commodores def. Seminoles, according to wikipedia, a Commodore was the highest rank in the US Navy until the Civil War, and today is the highest rank below Admiral.  Plus, the Seminoles lose points for racial insensitivity.  The NCAA shouldn’t even allow them in the tournament if they followed their own rules; Musketeers defeat Gators.

Regional Finals: Vanderbilt Commodores defeat Xavier Musketeers.


(16) E. Tennessee St. Buccaneers def. (1) Kentucky Wildcats.  I’m not happy about this, but Rule #4 strikes again.

(8) Texas Longhorns def. (9) Wake Forrest Demon Deacons.  I do not think Deacons – even Demon ones – generally pack weapons.  Longhorns, on the other hand are really big and strong and mean.

(5) Temple Owls def. (12) Cornell Big Red.  Rule #1.

(4) Wisconsin Badgers def. (13) Wooford Terriers.  This sort of depends on what kind of terrier you are using.  A rat terrier would be a snack for badger.  A bull terrier, on the other hand, would prove more interesting.  Unfortunately for Wofford, their mascot looks more like a Boston terrier.  Game, set, match for Wisconsin.

(6) Marquette Golden Eagles def. (11) Washington Huskies. Unless of course, the Golden Eagles are eagles made of gold, which would make them an inanimate object.  But in a fight between a gold-colored eagle and a huskie, I’ll take the eagle.  I just don’t see the Huskie being able to mount much of an offensive.

(14) Montana Grizzlies def. (3) New Mexico Lobos.  Another tough call, but I don’t think that the fact that the wolf is Spanish would help.

(7) Clemson Tigers def. (10) Missouri Tigers.  I’m picking the Tigers.  Rule #8.

(2) West Virginia Mountaineers def. (15) Morgan State Bears.  The third bear-type mascot in the field, and they go 1-2.  This time because of Rule #4.

Second Round: Buccaneers def. Longhorns, I’m really starting to not like this rule, according to this system, 16 seeded East Tennessee State is going to make a historic run; Badgers def. Owls; Grizzlies def. Eagles; Mountaineers def. Tigers.

Regional semifinals: Bucs def. Badgers; Mountaineers def. Grizzlies.

Regional Final: West Virginia Mountaineers def. East Tennessee State Buccaneers.


The original Blue Devils – French fighters during World War I

(1) Duke Blue Devils def. (16) Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions.  The Blue Devil name came from a squadron fighting in France during World War I.  If the lion is made out of gold, it might be tough, but it might also be inanimate.  If it is just a gold-colored lion, it would be a dead-colored lion after that bulls-eye shooting Blue Devil on the left was done with it.

(8) California Bears def. (9) Louisville Cardinals.  This is one of the most one-sided contests of the first round.

(5) Texas AM Aggies def. (12) Utah St. Aggies.  This will be a popular 12 over 5 pick on many brackets – but not mine.  Rule #8 applies.

(4) Purdue Boilermakers def. (13) Siena Saints.  A Boilermaker has a great big hammer.  A saint has a Bible.  While the Bible can be a pretty destructive weapon in the wrong hands, I’m going with the Boilers.

(6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish def. (11) Old Dominion Monarchs.  Monarchs are not inherently armed, and they are generally not used to fighting for themselves.  Irish, on the other hand, are a people known for their large cans of whoop-ass.

This is a bearcat. Check out the size of those claws.

(3) Baylor Bears def. (14) Sam Houston State Bearkats.  A bearcat is also known as a binturong, which actually looks like a cross between a bear and a cat, and it looks like a badass. I would like to pick the binturong, but Bearkats lose on general principle for spelling Cat with a K.  Bears and Grizzlies finish 3-2 in the first round.

(10) St. Mary’s Gaels def. (7) Richmond Spiders.  A Gael is someone that is Gaelic, or Irish.  They step on the spider – even if it is a big bad one.

Robert Morris signed the Declaration of Independence, which is cool, but this would not help him in a deathmatch with a wildcat.

(2) Villanova Wildcats def. (15) Robert Morris Colonials. Colonials are not inherently armed. Their logo shows them armed only with a flag. Plus, Robert Morris was just a big fat banker that helped finance the Revolution.  He would be a nice meal for a wildcat.

Second Round: Blue Devils def. Bears; Boilermakers def. Aggies, this comes down to a hammer versus a shovel.  In actuality, both the Utah State Aggies and the Texas A&M Aggies use a dog for mascot, so Boilermaker advances either way.  Bears def. Irish, It would be great to see a drunken Irishman wrestle a bear.  Great in the same way it is great to see a traffic accident.  Gaels def. Wildcats, the Gaels win because they are depicted as some pretty fierce knight-like warriors with swords and armor.Regional semifinals: Devils def. Boilermakers, Gaels def. Bears.

Regional Final: Duke Blue Devils def. St Mary’s Gaels.

Final Four

Vandebilt Commodores def. Oklahoma State Cowboys and Duke Blue Devils defeat West Virginia Mountaineers.

Championship: Vanderbilt over Duke

A Commodore, as previously stated, is a high-ranking officer in the US Navy.  The Blue Devils were named for a French military unit in World War I.  I’m going with the Commodores because I love America.

NOTE: This year I’m going to enter this bracket into a few free online contests to see how I fare.

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Jesus, Pilate, Barabbas, and centuries of violence

As we approach Easter, my church continues to work through Adam Hamilton’s 24 Hours that Changed the World.  This Sunday, we will be looking at Jesus before Pilate.  As found in the gospel of Mark, the story goes like this:

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Gospel of Mark 15:1-15 New Revised Standard Version

Here we have an incredibly powerful narrative of Jesus, Pilate and Barabbas.  If used properly, this story can be a mirror to our own souls – forcing the reader to ask the question, “What do you wish me to do with the man?”  In this dramatic scene, the people are given a choice.  The Gospel of Mark presents this choice in clear and uncertain terms.  Barabbas is describes as a rebel who murdered someone during an insurrection.  He was an enemy of the state – and he used violence to achieve his goal.

Barabbas was resentful of Roman rule and wanted, like so many Judeans at the time, to be free of Roman rule.  For centuries Judea had been under the thumb of one world superpower or another.  Rome was just another in a long line of foreign rulers.  The people longed to be free of oppression.  Barabbas had followed one path toward freedom.  We don’t know if he lead a great uprising, or if he was just a part of a troublesome skirmish, but the details of his crime are not important.  He is presented as a symbol.  He is the path of liberation through violence.

More than this though, he is the way of the world.  His path is the same path as the Romans.  Though he had the goal of overthrowing Roman rule, his means were the same that Rome used.  His path of violence was, in many ways, the only one that people knew.  It was the way of the world – it was the way of “might makes right.”  He wanted to make a new Kingdom, based on God’s law and God’s people, but he used the tactics upon which the Kingdom of Rome was built.  They were the same tactics on which the Kingdom of Perisa was built, and the Kingdom of the Babylonians, and the Kingdom of the Pharoah.

Jesus presents a different option. He was trying to build the Kingdom of God, which can only be built with peace, grace, humility and self-sacrifice.  Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies, to sell their possessions, to leave their families and their status and their well-being and their comfort.   Barabbas said, “Pick up your weapon and follow me.”  Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”

As we read the Gospel account of the people choosing to set Barabbas free, we must remember that the choice is ours.  Everyday we stand in that crowd.  Everyday we hear the chief priests – the pompous, the powerful, the comfortable, the talking-heads, the radio hosts, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors – egging us on to set Barabbas free.  Everyday we must choose between the way of the world and the way of God.

We work either to build kingdoms of men, or the Kingdom of God.  Every time we choose to work for the good of others, every time we seek out a closer relationship with the outcast, every time we sacrifice our comfort or status for the sake of love, we reverse the decision that was made that day.  When we pay a little more for fair trade coffee, when we make an effort to recycle our trash, when we pick up our Bible and spend some time with God, when we ask a friend if it’s okay to pray for them, when we go to worship instead of sleeping in, when we witness to our faith through word and deed, we reverse the decision that was made that day.

Don’t let evil ones tell you that the decision was made by the Jewish crowds.  Don’t let them get away with pawning off this decision on them, because we are there making the same decision everyday.  Don’t let Pilate off because he tried to “wash his hands of this.”  It’s not that easy.  Jesus’ blood isn’t washed away with water and a towel.

This text has been misused to justify violence against millions for centuries.  It has been misused by people who want to avoid the question, “What do you want me to do with this man?”  Don’t let Mel Gibson’s movie tell you that it was the Jews that killed Jesus.  Don’t believe the lies.  Too often, depictions of the gospels in drama – called passion plays – get lazy.  They allow and sometimes encourage the viewer to side with Pilate, the reluctant Roman, and denounce the actions of the Jewish mob.

Don’t forget that the road from Oberammergau to Dachau is only a short drive in a car, and throughout history has been shorter than that in the hearts of those looking for someone to blame.  Read about the history of Oberammergau.  Read about Hitler’s visit in 1934.  Read about the changes they have made since 2000, and wonder why it took so long.  I live close to the longest running passion play in America, and yet its website is conspiculously free of anything about the link between violence against Jews and passion plays.

There are those that have deeply emotional responses to passion plays.  Part of my faith development includes a powerful experience with a passion play.  They are designed to emit emotional response.  There is a basic human response to the suffering of an innocent that should invoke emotional response.  All I am saying is, be careful.

If you see a passion play this year, do so with your eyes wide open.  Be honest with your own feelings.  Those emotions you feel – are they about the sin you see in yourself?  Do you have a contrite and broken heart because you see yourself in the crowd?  Do you see yourself in Pilate, trying to wash your hands of a something that you had the power to stop?  Or are you angry with those that killed Jesus?  Are you quick to blame others for sin in which we all participate?

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A letter to Dick Vitale, clown prince of college basketball

Dick Vitale, in all his Dukie glory

Dear Dick,

Let me just say that at one time I was a big fan.  I loved your excitement.  I loved the exuberance you brought to broadcasting.  I loved the “Better get a TO, baby.”  I loved it when you shouted “Slam bam jam!”  But somewhere along the way, you went from being a broadcaster into a character.  I’m not sure when it happened, but you went from being a sincerely excited fan of college basketball that just happened to have a mic, and turned into a caricature of yourself.  You and John Madden actually have a lot in common in this regard.  Maybe it was the fame.  Maybe it was when ESPN and CBS turned March Madness into a billion dollar extravaganza.  I can’t pinpoint the moment you jumped the shark, but in my mind it coincides with the moment you became Duke’s press agent.

Everyone knows it.  You are a Duke shill.  Your devotion to all things ACC, and Duke in particular is nauseating.  I used to love Duke too.  I became a college basketball fan watching Johnny Dawkins against Pervis Ellison in the Final Four.  I remember watching Laettner’s shot in my basement.  I loved watching Bobby Hurley upset UNLV (though looking back now I believe a lot of the Duke love at the time was as much about race and culture as it was about basketball).  Duke is a great program.  There are a lot of Duke haters out there, and much of it is jealousy.  They have won a lot of games, been to a lot of Final Fours, and they seem to do it with class.  But your devotion to all things Coach K has reached its limit, and it became so clear in the last couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago Illinois upset Michigan State on their home floor.  The Spartans are the class of the Big Ten.  At the time they were ranked No. 5 in the nation.  Illinois was unranked, facing a difficult stretch of their schedule, and in desperate need of a signature win to help their NCAA tournament resume.  In addition to this, it was College Game Day’s game of the week. The Game Day crew had been there all day.  It was the first time that Game Day had been to Champaign.  So you and Digger and two other ACC guys had worked the students and fans into a lather since 9 a.m.  When the Illini won, the student section stormed the court to celebrate.

Was it necesarry?  Who cares?  It was fun.  It was exciting.  It was a big win for the Illini, and storming the court is something unique to college basketball.  It is a part of what makes college basketball special.  Yet you, the clown prince of college basketball, got on your high horse and admonished the Illini fans for celebrating too much.  Aren’t you the guy that has become a millionaire for over-the-top celebrations?  Your point was that the Illini were too good to celebrate beating Michigan State.  They should act like it was no big deal – even though your network was saying all day and all week that it was a huge deal.  The Illini fans should have shown more restraint.  OK, fine.  Illinois should expect to win at home.  I’ll give you that, Dickie V.

But then a couple of nights ago Maryland beat Duke.  Duke was ranked No. 4.  Maryland was ranked No. 23.  After the win, the student section stormed the court (they then went outside and rioted, literally).  Where was your admonishment?  Where was your righteous indignation?  Why shouldn’t Maryland show some restraint?  I didn’t watch the game, but I’m pretty sure you weren’t ripping the Terrapin fans – for doing the same thing as the Illini fans just a couple of weeks before.  What was the difference?  It was because in your eyes, beating Duke is something special. 

Apparantly, rushing the court is always justified when beating the great and mighty Blue Devils.  They have, after all, been to one Final Four and won one national championship since 2000.  But wait, that is the exact same resume Maryland has, and Maryland did it more recently then Duke.  And Michigan State has won one national championship and been to four Final Fours since 2000.  Yet somehow Maryland, a ranked team and probably a lock for the NCAA tournament, beating No. 4 Duke is cause for riotous celebration.  But when Illinois, an unranked bubble team,  rushes the court after beating No. 5 Michigan State, they should show restraint.

Come on, Dick.  We all know you are on Duke’s payroll.  We know that ESPN coddles the Big East and ACC, but this is ridiculous.  Next time you are about to start screaming about how great the Dukies are, maybe you should get a T.O., baby.


The Fat Pastor


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Three year old theologian

My daughter has a little Bible that she loves to “read.”  It is a little copy of New Testament and Psalms that is about four inches long.  She was sitting on my wifes lap the other day “reading” from her Bible, and said this:

“On the way to the cross, Jesus saw his disciples and said come with me to die and have peace.”

I thought that was pretty good.  Actually, I was pretty much blown away by what she said, but then she read from another passage.  I wrote it down as she was speaking, so this is what she said, word for word:

“Jesus went to the cross and died.  But he came back, and he was happy.  And they were all happy.  And the nails were gone and his tummy was fine.  And his body was awesome.  And he didn’t whine.  He was happy.”

This is where I am tempted to add my reflection, but I have a feeling that I couldn’t possibly be as poignant as her.


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