Faith, Family, Country, Sports

“Sweet Lou”

2 Corinthians 12:9 – “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

This past weekend, I saw this verse in action.

Lou StrongAlong with my good friend, Jonas Endreson, we visited our dear college buddy, “Sweet” Lou Caruso.

Like Paul, who wrote the passage above, Lou also has a “thorn”. He is battling brain cancer.

Since late last year, so many have been praying, pleading with the LORD, “to take” this thorn away. That has yet to happen, and the disease continues its slow march.

At the same time, GOD’s grace is overflowing.  It always does.

Though Lou is losing sight in one eye, his trademark smile still fills the room.

His short term memory is becoming more consistent, but his laughter is ever-present.

GOD’s “power…made perfect in weakness”.

Lou’s wife, Kim, lovingly “stands in the gap”, meeting this daily battle with dogged determination, and relentless praise for what the LORD has done and is doing.

Watching his father struggle, Lou’s son displays a patience and understanding far beyond his mid-teen years.

The Caruso’s are surrounded by an abundance of love and support. Their neighbors have helped supply meals for months. Friends drive hours to visit. Family members began a #LouStrong t-shirt campaign supported by many.

GOD’s “grace is sufficient.”

Currently, it is evident Lou cannot rely on his own power. Those human abilities have been diminished and continue to be attacked daily. The sting of the “thorn” is felt. It inhibit’s and slows the pace of life down. It makes the doable, difficult.

Yet, it hasn’t stopped Lou or his family!  It hasn’t crushed their spirit or resolve. It hasn’t destroyed their hope.  It hasn’t halted life.

GOD’s “grace” and “power” is sharper than any thorn. It allows us to “soar on wings like eagles”. It helps us to “run and not grow weary”. It makes us “walk and not faint.”

Make no mistake about it, at his weakest point, “Sweet” Lou is very “strong”.

Please keep my good friend in your prayers.






In less than 48 hours, Jesus will kneel in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Overwhelmed with sorrow” and the knowledge of what is to come, He will make a plea to heaven.

“‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:42-43)

I’ve always focused on verse 42. Jesus shows his humanity. Just like us, He would rather not endure the forthcoming pain. There must be a better means to the end. Still, He was committed to His Father’s will being “done.”

In “anguish”, with “sweat…like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44), God heard Jesus’s prayer, but He didn’t take the “cup”. Instead, He filled it with exactly what was needed at that moment…strength.

Just like us, Jesus was in the valley (though we can’t fathom the depth of His), and God prepared Him for the brutal journey to come. He is the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end. He has already been where He is leading us.

As He did with Jesus, God will always provide us with the strength to complete His plan.

Refuge – Anywhere

Psalm 23 is the famous passage where GOD leads us beside “quiet” or “still” waters. It’s the type of refuge we all desire.

The soothing sounds of a brook as it meanders over rocks and between crevasses. Maybe it’s the ocean breeze that makes the palm trees sing their coastal tune or the stillness of a mountain range. In any case, our response renders a deep sigh, smile or the fleeting “feeling” of total relaxation. In our finite eyes, and minds, the desired refuge is another place. Another time.

As stated in verse 2, GOD “makes me lie down in green pastures.” It doesn’t say our refuge will be found in greener pastures. That’s what we often think, though. My situation will be better if, if, if … I can get over there. Why? Because “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” That’s where calm resides and the new beginning begins. If I can just get there, it will be…

But the “Great I AM”, HE is a different cat and even tells us such in Isaiah 55:8 (NLT) – “For MY thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And MY ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

Who in their right mind would ever consider the cruel cross as a place to take refuge? As GOD’s love knows no bounds, neither do the places HE offers refuge. HE makes right out of wrong, good out of bad and beauty out of ashes.

Ask the thief that hung on the cross beside JESUS. On that day, he found “goodness and love” (v. 6), “right paths” (v. 5), and “comfort” (v. 4). He found…refuge.








Refuge. We all need it. That place to go in times of, as Webster’s dictionary puts it, “danger or distress.” It’s where we refuel, recharge, and reexamine what is happening in our world.  The results and answers sought after are often only as good as the chosen refuge.

Personally, my first choices would be working out, watching sports, or a few days at the beach. None of those are bad, but they only serve as a temporary band aid to lingering issues. The refuge that offers truth and peace comes from JESUS and HIS Word.

James 1:22-25 states:

“Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

Going to the refuge, that is GOD, is the only way to experience the peace HE offers from the craziness of this life.  I must be more consistent in not just knowing it’s there, but taking root in that place.

Open Letter to a Main Stream Media Columnist

(This is my rebuttal to a column written by Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald.)

Dear Mr. Pitts,

Your “open letter” to President Trump felt as though it would have been penned for our most recent past-president. So much of your diatribe seemed to pertain to the previous eight years our country endured. But, let’s be proactive, as President Trump is doing, and take a closer look at your correspondence to him.

In relation to the US Constitution, and the presidential election, via your own verbiage, “let me explain to you how this works.” The winner is not based on the popular vote but rather on the electoral college. The Founding Fathers set it up in this manner so, whether they lived in a bustling, cosmopolitan area of millions or in a rural region of hundreds, each legal citizen’s vote would count. (If you happen to differ with my synopsis, please take a moment to access Prager University’s YouTube channel. They offer two excellent presentations on the Electoral College and popular vote). Per your statement, the president has “324 million bosses.” I’d assume you’d want all their votes to count, right?

Included in those “324 million bosses” would be “all the other trolls you (Trump) have brought clambering up from under their bridges.” In an off way, I’d assume you are referring to Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables”? The Bible thumpers. Those who believe in God and those who don’t, but still cling to their guns? The Rednecks? The Uncle Toms? If I am wrong, please specify who these trolls are in your next column.

You also asked, “Just who the hell do you think you are?” We are citizens of this United States. Many, just like you, are “a freeborn American.” Others have taken the legal route to obtain citizenship into this “Shining City upon a Hill.” Truthfully, we either voted for Trump because we loved his views or, like myself, voted against another four years of watching our beloved country decay into a deeper cesspool of socialism while being sold off to the highest bidder.

We also do not like seeing the Constitution trampled upon. It’s laughable for you to assert President Trump feels entitled to “run afoul of the Constitution.” Too busy the previous eight years to watch your guy or were you hampered by selective reporting? The Chrysler Bailout? IRS political profiling? 2012 Recess Appointments? Changing laws without actual legislation? Implementing the Dream Act by executive fiat? There are many, many more examples. Again, in your own words, “Any of that ringing a bell?”

As supporters of President Trump, and his goal to “Make America Great Again,” we have not greeted him “with an out-thrust palm and a hearty ‘Sieg heil!” During Obama’s terms, we did not act “unruly” by rioting in the streets in response to his policies. Public property wasn’t destroyed and business windows were not shattered. We did not turn America’s main streets and highways into war zones. That’s the stuff of the Third Reich and their “night of broken glass.”

Based on what was written, your letter wasn’t to President Trump or his trolls. You must have been thinking of someone else.

God Bless,
Robbie Burns
“Troll” From Under the Bridge

A Perfect Fit

The Masters’ Green Jacket grew from near obscurity into golf’s most iconic victory symbol

(This story was originally written for Executive Golfer magazine in 2009)

As the official 2009 Tour season winds down…and the “silly season” kicks into high gear, I start to look forward to next year’s tournaments and especially The Masters. So, I got thinking, where did the tradition of awarding a green jacket to the champion originate? Here is the story.

Besides Joseph’s “coat of many colors,” the green jacket, awarded to The Masters champion, may be the most famous covering in history.

In 1949, Slammin’ Sam Snead posted a pair of sparkling 67’s in the final two rounds and secured his place in golf history as the first player to don the now coveted green jacket. But, how did golf’s Holy Grail come-to-be and was it as prestigious in its first year as it is now?

Go Green

If you have ever been blessed to walk upon the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, the stark, natural beauty is breathtaking. Its brilliance of natural tints and shades is an awe-inspiring introduction to Spring’s majesty. One color is clearly dominant above all others…green.

Pine trees, Oak trees, Magnolias, Chinese Firs, and Junipers, all green. Trash cans, you guessed it, green. Even the wrapping paper that covers the legendary pimento cheese sandwiches is green.

Shortly after the tournament’s inception, Augusta National officially went green. After three years of hosting the world’s best golfers, the popularity of the tournament grew (as did the crowds). For that reason, in 1937, Augusta National members were urged to purchase and wear a “green jacket” during The Masters tournament so patrons would be able to identify “a reliable source of information.”

Twelve years later (1949), the club started the now famous tradition of awarding a green jacket to the winner of The Masters. “Where and who that idea came from, we still don’t know,” comments Augusta National’s spokesman Glen Greenspan.

Based on researched media reports from 1949, the public did not know about the fresh, colorful addition to the winner’s closet. Most reporters focused on Snead’s putting woes, not the new addition to his wardrobe.

Nationally, The New York Times stated that Snead, “often called luckless because of his inability to sink short putts when titles were at stake…banged in long putts with the accuracy of a sharp-shooter.” The Associated Press reported the “uncertain putter,” finally “found a putter that would work.” One week later, Time magazine said the new-found putter was borrowed from Ben Hogan “who was still convalescing from a near fatal auto crash.”

Regionally, the South’s dominant news scroll, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC) heralded that the “Sweet Swinging Hillbilly Sammy Snead” captured “The Masters Crown.” Within the article, Constitution sports writer Bert Prather reported on the victor’s spoils minus any mention of the new threads: “Following the finish, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr. (President of the Augusta National) announced that $1,000 was added to the original $10,000 purse.” The AJC also ran a photo of Snead with Jones and runners-up Lloyd Mangrum and John Bulla. The West Virginian victor is pictured wearing a jacket, but no reference was made to whether it was the green jacket or not.

Locally, it took the Augusta Chronicle eight years until any mention of the champion’s green jacket received coverage. In 1957, Chronicle Sports Editor Johnny Hendrix wrote that “(Doug) Ford (below) was decked out early in the traditional green coat that marks The Masters champion.”


Green with Envy

1976 champion Raymond Floyd said, “It’s the ultimate.”

For Iowa native Zach Johnson, his 2007 victory was a real field of dreams. “It was an out of body experience,” Johnson said. “Just joining that fraternity (of champions) – you’re talking about the men who pioneered the game of golf – joining those guys and being able to wear that jacket for the rest of my life is something very, very special.”


David Wiechmann, of The Daily Toreador, might have summed it up best:

“The Masters is such a special tournament. Why else would you want to wear such an ugly piece of attire besides someone stuck in the 1970’s? But every year, more than 100 men play for the honor to have it slipped over their shoulders.

“The jacket is a status symbol on Tour. Every former champion wears their jacket the night before the tournament starts. This has to be one of the most intimidating scenes in sports. The green-clad is a club all of their own, and you have to be the best for four days to be welcomed into their group.

“The green jacket is the equivalent of being knighted. One green jacket can make you live forever.”

It can also provide a great night’s sleep. Following their first Masters’ wins, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickleson both impersonated Charlie Brown’s Linus and bedded down with the Green Jacket. Earl Woods’ found his son holding it tightly with a smile on his face.


Mickleson was awakened the following morning “bright and early” by his daughter Sophie who “snuggled up inside the jacket.” Giving him a “high five” she said, “Daddy you won the green jacket! Great job.” The most expensive down comforter could not have provided more warmth.

On the other hand, a closet empty of the “Masters Green” can cause a Tour player to have nightmares.

“It bothers me,” said Johnny Miller, who finished second three times. “You get some ‘Masters baggage’ in your brain. The more times you come close and don’t get it, the more it builds up in your head.”

No one may understand that better than Greg Norman. In 1989, Sports Illustrated’s Bob Verdi put it best writing, “It is possible that if he doesn’t earn a Masters champion’s green jacket soon, Greg Norman will opt for a straitjacket instead.”

“This place may finally have done me in,” said Norman. “I would have loved to have won here, but it’s not the be all and the end all. It’s just when you’ve been involved for a long time in the history of the tournament, you want the good side, too – the green jacket. Not for the jacket itself, but for what it means.”

Evolution of Green

Sixty years ago, no one could have fathomed the passion, intensity and homage this 2 ½ yards of light, tropical weight wool would create.

Snead, a three-time Master’s winner, once said “if you asked golfers what tournament they would rather win over all the others, I think every one of them would say The Masters.”

“Putting on the green jacket is something I worked so hard for, for so many years,” Mickleson said.

Larry Mize shared the same dream. “I am from Augusta and I worked at Augusta National. I was close enough to smell, taste, and ‘touch the untouchable.’ Growing up, it was always The Masters,” he said. “I always wanted to get the green jacket. I could not remember what the trophy was for winning. It was always the green jacket; that’s the first thing that came to mind.”


More than two decades since his improbable pitch, to win the 1987 Masters, Mize is quick to relay his reverence for the cloak of champions.

“It is my favorite jacket color,” Mize said.

Thirty-seven other professional golfers, over the past 62 years, would most certainly agree.

**Writers Note: Aussie Adam Scott celebrates his 2013 playoff victory in the rain on the 10th hole. One of the iconic green jacket photos in Masters history.**


Role Players: Who will be this year’s Harold Jensen?

In college basketball’s greatest upset, Villanova’s sixth-man shined

30 years ago, a group of David’s faced off against Goliath in Lexington, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for the 1985 NCAA basketball championship.

The eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats stood face-to-face with the top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas and their seven-foot giant, senior Patrick Ewing. In Biblical times, the odds were not in David’s favor. On the night of April 1, 1985, they were not any better for Villanova.


The Wildcats had already lost twice to Georgetown in Big East play (only by a combined total of nine points) but “Hoya Paranoia” had reached a fever pitch as Coach John Thompson’s defending national champions entered the title tilt on a blistering 16 game win streak.

It appeared the biggest opponent between Georgetown, and keeping its seat upon college basketball’s throne, would be themselves, certainly not Coach Rollie Massimino’s overmatched Wildcats.

That evening each Villanova player brought their sling and plenty of smooth stones, but, as in the original David and Goliath story, an unlikely hero emerged.

As David came “off the bench” to spark the Israelites, Harold Jensen did the same for the Wildcats.

Throughout the season, the sophomore was Villanova’s “sixth man” providing solid and consistent play. Jensen also averaged four points per game and shot at a 40 percent clip.  As The Toledo Blade described, he turned into the Wildcats’ “one-man bench in the tournament.”

During the final portion of the regular season, and into the Big East Tournament, Jensen struggled. That changed in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He hit a game winning layup against Dayton that fueled the Wildcats unlikely run to hardwood glory.

harold jensen dayton

Jensen went 0 for 6 in second and third round wins against Michigan and Maryland, the first and fifth seeds in the Southeast Regional. Facing second seeded North Carolina for a trip to the Final Four, Jensen was 5 for 7 in Villanova’s 56-44 come-from-behind victory.

Facing Memphis, and consensus All-American center Keith Lee, Jensen was hot once more connecting on 3-of-6 shots to defeat the heavily favored Tigers, 52-45.

But, he saved his best for last.


In front of 23,124 fans, the Trumbull, Connecticut native (#32 pictured above) played 34 of 40 minutes in the title game. Jensen’s defense was impactful; his shooting performance was legendary.

As a team, Villanova shot nearly perfect from the field (22 of 28). Jensen was perfect (starting point guard Gary McClain was also 3-for-3). Following his first made basket, CBS broadcaster Brent Musberger was a soothsayer commenting, “He’s a key man for ‘Nova tonight.”

Who knew?

Jensen connected on all five perimeter shots and was 4-of-5 from the free throw line for a total of 14 points, 10 above his season average.

He was Villanova’s “key” figure in the second half scoring 10 of his 14 points including an 18-footer with 2:35 left that gave the Wildcats a 55-54 lead, one they would never relinquish.


With “ice water in his veins”, as CBS color commentator Billy Packer said, Jensen sank four free throws in the final 1:24 to punctuate his remarkable performance.

“That season, that tournament was a turning point in my life beyond the sport,” Jensen said years later. “It taught me to believe in myself, and I’ve taken that through my whole life.”

Role players. They can make a huge difference. Three decades later, who will be the 2016 version of Harold Jensen?


HE died in my arms.  I felt HIS last breath; I heard HIS final, pleading cry.  When HE trembled from the pain coursing through every cell of HIS being, I also felt it.

It shook me to my foundation – every sudden jerk, each wrenching twist and turn from a body HE could no longer control.  And I could not put my arms around HIS bloodied frame and stop the hurt.  I could not help lift HIM up so a precious portion of oxygen could enter HIS failing and collapsing lungs.  HE tried so hard, several times to do so, but as the day wore on, HIS torn, beaten and ripped carcass of a body wore out.

How I wish I could have wiped the blood from HIS brow and stopped its downward stream into HIS blurred eyes.  Eyes with an eternal perspective.  Eyes which daily saw the prize HE always wants you to see.  Eyes that look into the sinful hearts of man and can still find some good.  Eyes filled with an unworldly gleam, a heavenly light.

This was replaced with pain, sorrow and bewilderment.  Eyes which asked the question “why?”, and knew the answer to that question.  But one thing remained.  As HE strained to raise HIS head, HE scanned across those who gathered, those who put HIM there – some mocking, some crying, others stone faced – the forgiveness was still there.

How I longed to bandage HIS back, which had been stripped of flesh, of form, and laid open to the elements.  HE could not even lean backwards upon me to gain a second of relief from the agony.

HIS back was a sea of blood – one massive wound torn and sheared from one side to the other.  Everyone who witnessed or those who have heard of this brutal event wince and cringe at the thought of the nails driven through HIS hands and feet.  But do not forget HIS back.  Unlike HE does each day for you, there was no one to watch HIS back because they had all turned theirs on HIM.


Every time HE moved, pushed HIS body upwards for air or grazed against me, the pain was excruciating as exposed nerves were met with splinters of wood, which lodged themselves and moved deeper into the rawness bringing unbearable pain with the slightest breath.

There was no rest, not one moment of relaxation or comfort for HIM.

I would have done anything to pull the nails from HIS ravaged feet and hands.  Instead they were pinned to a board like the fur of an animal hung above a mantel.  A conquering prize of HIS enemies, hung in the open for all to see and admire.  The prey – hunted, cornered and finally caught.

Feet, which had traveled so many miles, so the hands could perform miracle upon miracle were no longer of use.  Feet that people had knelt to kiss and hands they longed to grasp instead were covered in crimson red of HIS precious blood.

Now, their only movement was of strain and clutching to a life, which was slowly fading toward eternity with HIS father.

I understand for I was with HIM every slow, exhausting, torturous step of the way.  Through the mockery, the insults, the slander and spitting of the crowds, HE carried me all the way to Calvary.  And at the same time, HE was also carrying you.  Beaten, whipped, bloodied and stumbling, the “Rock of Ages” would not crack under my weight and your sins.

Even as the filthy sins of this world invaded HIS Holy and perfect body, HE found and gave you victory in death – the final act of service from the ONE who came to serve.

Today, you are washed clean, as white as snow from the blood of the Father’s Son.  You continue, though, to scar yourself with sin, after sin, after sin and JESUS remains to wash you clean.  Still, you do not seem to fully understand what HE went through for you!

But I do.  All I have to do is look either way, up or down and I see the stains of HIS blood – stains that will forever remain as a reminder to those who have accepted HIM or who are seeking HIM.  I am soaked in the blood of the ONE who came to give you life!  Are you?  I heard HIS moaning.  I felt HIS quivering body.  I understand.  HE died in my arms.

GOD Bless you this Good Friday,

Robbie Burns

“…at a distance…”

With Good Friday less than 24 hours away, I started reading the 26th chapter of Matthew and its account of that fateful day.  In verse 58, three words hit me square between the eyes – “…at a distance…” 

As athletes, being “…at a distance…” whether mentally, physically or a combination of both will keep us from being sold out and fully engaged “in the game.”  Not only does it have an affect on our play, but on those around us.

The same is true in our walk with Christ.

The first part of verse 58 states, But Peter followed him at a distance…”  How often do we do the same? Christ has called us to “…take up our cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  Now we can follow him “..at a distance…” but to truly follow, we must make the choice to be beside Him.

That cross isn’t going to carry itself. It cannot be carried from “a distance.” A batter cannot step into the batter’s box and expect to hit when the bat is still in the dugout.

Just as Jesus carried his cross upon his brutally beaten body, we (and I am speaking to me before anyone else) have to go pick up the cross first.  It cannot be done from a distance.

The second part of the verse said that Peter (it’s tough to be used as an example like this for thousands of years, but he made a great comeback!) “sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”

We are just like Peter…sitting down with the “world” to watch “the outcome.” We are believers but won’t proclaim it. We choose not to serve. We will not take the battle to the enemy in diligent prayer, in our own “War Room.”

We stay on the sidelines.

Thankfully, Jesus chose to meet the cross like two prize fighters do – nose to nose. He did not stay in his corner. He walked to the middle of the ring and courageously confronted the opponent – and won.

We can experience that too, but not “…at a distance.”

Buzz Williams – Teaching more than Basketball

It’s not because you are an excellent coach. You are.  (.600 winning percentage in nine seasons as a college coach. Five NCAA tournaments).

It’s not because you are charismatic and likable.

It’s not because of the way you get your Virginia Tech men’s basketball team to consistently play hard.

It’s because what you impressed upon, and demanded from them, regarding our national anthem.  You refused to allow their actions become a habit.


It’s because you put your job at risk and stepped out where many other college coaches might not have the courage to do so.

It’s because you drew a line in the sand.

It’s because you stood up for the men and women of the United States military that stand in the gap, putting their lives in danger, for us each day. And did so on a college campus. Even on a patriotic one like Virginia Tech, the college landscape is a haven for the politically correct.


Because you are teaching your players life lessons, and about more than X’s and O’s,  you have my utmost respect and a new fan.







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