The most inspiring man I've ever met

The first time I saw Paraguayan missionary Norberto Kurrle was two years ago on a video screen. I was sitting in the back of an amphitheater at a church service in Roanoke, Va., when a video cued featuring Norberto and his newly adopted two-year old daughter, Anahi, sitting on his lap. What he said will be forever etched into the deepest parts of my being. “I don’t know why this has happened,” he said, looking into the camera. “All I know is that there is still work to do.” What he was referring to was a car crash that occurred five months before on a foggy morning at 5 a.m., when Norberto lost the love of his life, Julie, and his only son, Timmy. He and Anahi were the only ones who survived

A letter to Coach Dave Bliss, my ragamuffin friend

Coach Dave Bliss, I’m not sure when I started calling you “Coach.” It just kind of happened. I suppose it’s fitting since that’s what you are—from your assistant coaching days under Bob Knight at West Point and Indiana; to your head coaching days at Oklahoma, SMU, New Mexico and Baylor; and even now as the athletic director at Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas. You’re a coach. And you have 500 NCAA victories to prove it. But I also think I started calling you “Coach” because of how you’ve coached me. As I reflect on my week-long visit with you in Texas in October, I find it remarkable how a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old kid can connect so well. You’re old enough to be my grandfather, but I f

A day in Wrigleyville, a journey into the miraculous

I see the world in stories. Always looking for the next plot that moves me. Always looking for the next thing that can take me on a journey and mold me. But sometimes a story isn’t in some far-off place, like hidden treasure for me to find, but is rather right beneath my feet—something that simply needs to be uncovered, exactly where I stand. That’s what this story is. It has to do with two things: my family and the Chicago Cubs. And it is a story that has indeed both moved me and molded me. It begins with my grandfather, Jim Copeland, my dad’s father. I never really knew my grandfather. He died when I was four or something. But I grew up hearing stories about him. Lots of stories. First o

Two families, two countries, one heartbeat

On the corner of Fourth and Walnut (about a half-mile from where I was born) in downtown Louisville in 1958, monk and contemplative Thomas Merton experienced a mystical revelation where he suddenly awakened to his oneness with all of humanity. He writes in his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers…Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one

How Monasticism Can Shape Our Souls and Our World

My borderline obsession with monks began about four years ago with Trappist monk and renowned author Thomas Merton. I had seen Merton quoted in the writings of Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning, two authors who greatly influenced the reconstruction of my spirituality, but it wasn’t until a drunken pastor began quoting Merton to me at a Halloween party that I decided to finally order Merton’s bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. It was the right thing to do. You should always trust a drunken pastor. Merton’s writings found me at a time when I was beginning to confront my own mental busyness, learning to let go of thinking I could outthink situations that could not be outthoug

Weekend In Virginia

As I write this, I see the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the softball diamonds at the Botetourt Sports Complex in Roanoke, Va. I come here every Labor Day weekend for the Interstate Church of God Softball Tournament. I don’t come to play softball. I come to write. I come to gather stories. I come to Roanoke to believe. I look out at the mountains, and I’m reminded of the storm a year ago that fell over the Blue Ridge like an avalanche, how I stood in the rain for a bit, not wanting to move, soaked, watching the lightning, mesmerized as if it were a fireworks show. I look at them now, over at the spot where the storm conquered them a year before; now the sun is beaming over them, the sky s