By Bob Hiller

As if I needed another reason to love Mike Trout, MLB’s commissioner has inadvertently offered me one. For those of you who don’t follow America’s pastime, Trout is arguably the best player in baseball. For what its worth, if you engage in arguing against that point, you’ll lose. If you’re a pitcher, he is a constant threat. Seven years in, he’s a career .300 hitter, batting .310 this year with 25 home runs and 50 RBIs (those are good numbers for the halfway point in a season, in case you’re wondering). I’m sure his weird analytical stats are money too. His arm is insane, and he is one of the top outfielders in the game. I think I can make a fairly good case that Trout’s swing is an aesthetic argument for the existence of God. He’s great with the fans, and somehow, for all he has going for him, he seems to stay out of the spotlight. At least, that weird spotlight we like to shine on our idols while looking for their warts.

By Bob Hiller –

Sammy Sosa hasn’t been to Chicago in 11 years. This man, who was right at the center of one of the most provocative sports stories in my generation, who brought baseball joy—which Cubs’ fans had so longed for—back to the Windy City, hasn’t been there for over a decade. Instead, according to a recent Sports Illustrated “where-are-they-now” story, Slammin’ Sammy has become somewhat of a globetrotter. The magazine caught up with Sosa in Dubai, living it up in luxurious restaurants, drinking expensive booze, basking in the glory of his wealth. SI quotes Sosa, “‘Look what I am today,’ Sosa says, motioning toward the opulence around him, ‘This is my life, and I don’t take garbage from nobody. I do what I want.’” Sosa, it seems, has it all. Except Chicago. He’s not been to Chicago in 11 years.

By Tim Winterstein

Since high school, I’ve been interested in my family’s genealogy. Nearly all of us German Lutherans as far back as I can trace, all of those generations are part of who I am. So far, there haven’t been any shocking discoveries, but there are certainly intriguing gaps in the records. At what point did my German ancestors settle in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (my father’s side) or Russia (my mother’s side)? What is the connection between the German town of Winterstein and my family? (One interesting speculation is that our ancestors were Sinti [Christian Roma or Gypsies] who took the Winterstein name after working as tailors for the minor nobility of Winterstein).

By Bob Hiller

In the unfortunately titled but always intriguing Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell offers a theory about why country music can do sad songs and rock and roll can’t. He says it is because country music is specific. In the episode, “The King of Tears, he compares “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones and “Boulder to Birmingham” by Emmylou Harris. Both songs were written while the artists were coping with sorrow. The rumor goes that Mick Jagger wrote “Wild Horses” while his then girlfriend, Marianne Faithful, was seemingly dying from an overdose (she lived). He sat by her bedside and sang “Wild Horses couldn’t tear me away.” The comment is general. It can be applied to any number of circumstances. It’s sad, sure, but it doesn’t really churn your guts. (Jagger says it was actually written by Keith Richards, himself, and Gram Parsons).

By Hillary Asbury

At the end of next month, I will be exhibiting at my church’s district convention in Irvine, CA.

This means that for the next few weeks I will be gearing up: getting my booth materials ready and organized, counting inventory, sending files out for print, and matting prints. I don’t enjoy this part particularly, but traveling with my work is always a little nerve-racking, and I insist on everything being done the right way before I go. As much as I get anxious about everything being just so, I love going to these conferences.

By Cindy Koch

It’s how all the kids are talking these days. Short, quick pictures in a language of their own. Emoji characters, each displaying a carefully selected message through tiny, pixilated picture. Even I am getting the hang of communicating this way. In our modern world of texts and picture captions, sometimes you need a good smiley face or sarcastic wink to convey the sentiment of our condensed disconnected comment. In a real face-to-face conversation, you might be able to pick up on the inflections in my voice, or hear the subtle laugh, or recognize the serious tone to distinguish just what we are talking about. But in cyber-land, tiny typed shapes take on a life of their own, traveling instantly over time and space, leaving the receiver to interpret our quick shorthand exchange.

By Cindy Koch

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’” (Mat 7:1-5)

By Cindy Koch

When it comes to her child, a mother isn’t afraid of much. Without thinking, she will run into disaster to save her little one. She will seek out the answer and remedy when her baby is sick. She will go to great lengths to make sure her child is safe and well cared for, unafraid of the consequences. It is in her nature to shield and love the creatures that God has given her. But there is an evil enemy that a mother doesn’t talk about. It is a terrifying force that lies just as close as her protection. A mother’s greatest fear is not the evil that threatens to harm her child from the outside. Rather, for the sake of her child, she is deathly afraid of her own evil that rages within.