Friday, September 30, 2011



Welcome to Fridays with Phyllis!

When it comes to baseball…I’m in for the long haul! I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan who learned to “Go crazy folks!” from Jack Buck. And I DO. I follow the game and the players, not obsessively, but enough to miss them when they’re traded.
I even notice what they do off the field, investing themselves and their money in projects to help others hit the ball out of the park!

I don’t keep a scorecard or collect signed balls, but I do add to my baseball facts a bit each year. This season the learning curve blocked me on what SB stands for. I never paid attention to it before, sitting in the column right next to RBI and HR which are easy to figure out. But SB? I texted my Son-in-law, who started out with the Cards as a bat boy when he was a kid and still works there. “What’s SB stand for?” He’s a man of few words. Texted back, “Stolen Bases.” I could not keep those two simple words in my head. I’d go to SB and my brain delivered Street Blues, Swinging Ball, South Bark. Finally, after I said Stolen BASES OUT LOUD and told someone how puzzling this was and said Stolen Bases to them out loud, on the 3rd day I kept it in my head.

So it’s been with mounting anticipation I’ve stayed up late with my laptop to watch out of town or catch games on XM or wherever I find myself on game day. I’ve agonized, sympathized, criticized as the Cards came back from injuries and defeat time and time again this season. I’ve watched their coach, Tony LaRussa,
explain his strategy to keep them focused, admitting when and why it didn’t work, always putting a frank and upbeat face on it, even tho his own facial expression seldom changes, win or lose! It’s been fascinating to hear Albert Pujols talk about his comeback potential and keeping his eye on the goal to do his best at the game.

The STL Cardinals are perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball this year, coming from 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves to win the wild card slot this week! After 162 games this season, fans now buzz about who’s the "team of destiny!" And so it goes…this baseball fever.

Why this fuss about a game, a national past time called baseball? Well, for one thing it’s Biblical. Yeah…. Right off the bat, the Bible starts out in Genesis, “In the Big Inning” God created the heavens and the earth!

Some stunning stats are tucked into my head as I bask in the unpredictable down to the wire, Wild Card win. It’s been more than an energizing distraction for me. I’ve learned from this team about being down but not out, about a daily enabling for the task at hand, about putting the naysayers’ doom and gloom aside, keeping your eye on the prize, staying in the zone, being a team player

In my exhilaration over this huge win and my anticipation for the future of this series…I’m thinking, "Wait a second, how did I help in this win?" This piece speaks to that, by Gerhard Frost.


I remember a moment long ago
In a small-town restaurant.

We’d played a basketball game –
Played away from home and won,
And were in a celebrative mood.
I was fourteen, and not very good,
Nor was our team, and this made victory
Sweeter still.

As we crowded into a booth
I jauntily said, “Well, we won!”
Quick as the flash of a knife
Came the remembered words:
“What do you mean, ‘we’?
You didn’t play!”

I can’t forget the words
Or the one who spoke them,
But I can turn to other words,
Sounding in my soul.
My Lord says, “This do in remembrance of me.”
Baptized into the death of Christ
I die in Him to rise again.
With no part in the victory
I’m still invited to say,
“We won!”

By Gerhard Frost, sainted Lutheran pastor, from his

Just as Cardinal Nation is able to say,”We won the NL Wild Card..and looks forward to winning the world series…the whole community of saints is able to say, “We won the victory over death because Christ won over death on a cross and we look forward to the eternal victory parade, marching through streets paved with gold!"

In my quest for new information with Cardinals stats, I didn’t know what SB was. And you know, life has a lot of things I don’t understand. But Heb 12:2 helps me here. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Keeping my eyes on Jesus steadies me in the race and keeps me focused through the wins and losses of life until the final win which He has won for me and for those who believe and confess that He is Lord.

Now there’s a game plan you can count on!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 16

This September we're focusing on learning. Today I’ll share a tip I learned from my Hair Designer, Jerry Dial. I’d mentioned how my daughter urges me not to use just any hair products. This conversation came out of her frustration when I collect the hotel giveaways and give them to summer camps or save money by using them myself! Jerry heartily endorsed her point. “I tell people that all the time,” he said. “If they’d just listen! They come back to me and say my hair isn’t performing and I say, 'I told you not to use any shampoo and conditioner that isn’t for colored hair,' for example! But they don’t listen and then wonder why they’re not getting good results!” By now I’m a believer, as Jerry sighs in exasperation from decades of experience!

It got better, in terms of learning as I listened long enough for more valuable counsel. Jerry had left conditioner on my hair that day for 10 minutes! I mentioned that to the shampoo assistant at the sink who said, “Oh yeah, you can leave that on overnight if you really want to condition your hair. Won’t hurt a thing!”

As Jerry reminded me to leave it on 3-5 min in the shower, I’m thinking, hey who has time for 5 extra minutes in the shower! I’m not a teenager and I don’t have kids banging on the bathroom door for my attention anymore, but I do have places to go and things to do! 5 minutes without writing for a deadline or finishing a job around the house is a loong time for a Type A like me. I kind of hinted at this with Jerry.

And he recited as he has... probably 3,923 times in his professional life, “Leave conditioner on 3-5 minutes. Start with washing and conditioning your hair and enjoy the rest of the shower at your leisure.” Now admittedly, I don’t spend much time on appearances. Hey, give me a break. First off, I have four kids. Then, too, I hosted a radio show for 20 years! I have a radio face, as they say? Who notices?

Well…Now that I’m intentionally slowing down to smell the roses, I might also take better care of my hair. After all it is a woman’s glory, according to the Bible. I’m listening to my hairdresser, who’s my kids’ age! But you know what…I’ve ENJOYED those shower conditioning minutes ever since! It’s not about the cost of the product. That little seemingly mindless routine that’s good for my also good for ME! I learned by listening, even though I thought I knew plenty about hair care. Then I acted on it. Learn, listen and do. It works, even for slow learners in hairy situations, like myself!

This learning moment is brought to you by the letter L for Listen! “Let the wise Listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance”—it reads in Pro 1:5. As my Hair Designer put it, “People don’t listen and wonder why they’re not getting good results!” Apply that Biblically to the way we live our lives. Jas 1:22 urges, ‘… be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”

We don’t listen and then wonder why we’re not getting good results! Jerry Dial keeps on giving accurate hair care advice. People can take it or leave it. God keeps on giving His life saving Word, here and now, and for eternity. We’re free to take it or leave it. Every Word of God is for our learning. Let’s listen as The Living God draws us to Himself, to sit at His feet and learn. He is so INTO us, He counts the hairs on our heads! My Hair Dresser doesn’t even do that, he just conditions them! God “conditions” my life when I let His Word sink in at least 3-5 minutes a day. And sometimes overnight. And always when I listen, I want to linger longer and I get good results.

So the next time you open your Bible or ponder God’s wisdom, let it soak in! His kind of “conditioner” is a great way to learn of His Unconditional love!

Have a refreshing weekend, delighting in the Lord!

September 23

We’re looking into LEARNING this month, and we’ve all heard there’s no such thing as a dumb question! One summer I learned something by simply asking, “Why me?” Nothing wrong with the question, just don’t expect the answer tomorrow or, maybe, ever! It involves seeing the forest for the trees. But how, when the “tree” blocks the view? My learning insights came on a tour of Germany. The first was up close and personal: a 23 hour “rain delay” in Charles DeGaulle airport. I can write a BOOK in 23 hours, if I know it’s coming! But whiling away the hours on airport “standby” is unnerving. Duty free shopping lost its appeal fast. My anxiety increased by the hour. I felt robbed. I was losing it, tired of no explanations. The “tree” loomed large!

I finally sat down to look at the situation. I could focus on WHY ME and a missed castle and grumble about the inaccessible Eiffel Tower that was within a cab ride. OR I could remember I had a choice. I could let this maddening incident ruin my trip, or stop whining and give it to God. I did That. “Here’s the mess, God. Please work it out and give me your peace, in J Name and for His sake.” My anger and frustration gradually subsided. I played checkers with a child who was whiling away his time with his parents who’d just come off the Concorde.

The hard bench that night was softened by the attitude adjustment which made me grateful for a place to lay my head. [Weeks later a Concorde jet crash made my layover seem insignificant.]

Soon I was to set one foot on each side of the Berlin Wall rubble. Our guide described the rainy night of October 3, 1989 when she and thousands asking “Why Me?” marched shouting, “We are the people. We are one nation.” And the walls came tumbling down. What a picture. She said the Church gave people hope that God was in charge of the big picture. He could see the forest for the trees.

Next stop, Leipzig, where J. S. Bach directed his “St. Matthew Passion” in 1727. Orphaned at age 10, forbidden by an older brother to copy music, he did so by moonlight, nearly ruining his eyesight. His brother destroyed the copy. He didn’t seem to ask “Why Me?” A self-evaluation summed up his life. “I worked hard.” Mozart said of Bach’s genius, “He is the father, and we are his children.” He composed “theology set to music,” yet died penniless and virtually unknown. His own sons thought his music so ordinary, they lost much of it. It was forgotten until 100 years later when Felix Mendelssohn, who rediscovered Bach, conducted the "St. Matthew Passion" once again. A terrible picture for awhile. As we celebrate the 260th anniversary of Bach’s death, imagine a world without Johann Sebastian Bach!

On to the Passion Play in Oberammergau, performed every 10 years since 1634 when the Plague threatened the town. A horrible picture. They vowed to perform a drama of the passion of Jesus Christ if God spared them further devastation. Ludwig Mudl, Theological Advisor to the Play, comments, “Neither mourning nor tragedy can extinguish the hope of those who believe!”

How are YOU facing your difficulties right now? Asking, “Why me?” Do you “Center” or “Reinvent yourself?” That can be helpful, but it doesn’t really touch the “Why Me?” question. My summer’s peek at “Why Me?” pointed me to the bigger picture. God sees the forest for the trees and He loves every single “tree.” The secret is to trust God for the BIG PICTURE when our personal picture overwhelms us. After all, the God of the Big Picture says I LOVE YOU in countless ways without ceasing. Puts a whole new perspective on Why Me, doesn’t it!

Have a great weekend delighting in the Lord!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What have we learned?

September is a time to refuel and restart our learning engines! Whether or not we’re in school, the sky’s the limit on how far we can expand our knowledge. Speaking of expanding, 10 years ago this weekend the skies over Manhattan expanded with smoke as the twin towers collapsed in the wake of terrorist attacks that ultimately killed nearly 3,000 people. These were innocent victims from 115 nations, with men outnumbering women 3 to 1, most of them between 35 and 39. Ages when it’s easy to assume there’s plenty of time left for learning.

The question is, what have we learned from 9/11? Volumes have been and will be written with sage reflections. We will be awed by the Ground Zero Memorial as an enduring tribute to the fallen and to the cause of peace. We can debate NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of a mosque near Ground Zero and his forbidding of prayer and clergy at the 10th anniversary ceremony at the site of the 9/11 attacks.

While the mayor has not spoken out against the display of the World Trade Center Cross made from steel beams found in that exact formation in the rubble, he’s also considering some Muslim prayers and maybe even an atheistic chant. There’s heated dialogue on border security and implementation of shariah law in our land. All of this makes for lively discussion, but back to our question. What have we learned?

I’ve learned that memory is a powerful thing. We remember where we were on 9/11. For many that moment, along with stories of heroism, redefined their lives.

Who could forget Todd Beamer saying the Lord’s Prayer to the operator, asking her to say it with his pregnant wife? Before he said, “Let’s Roll.” The stories in the media right now, 10 years later, continue to inspire us. What are they teaching? For a while, post 9/11, people were exploring what matters most as part of re-thinking their lives. This major change in American culture has had a pretty good shelf life, according to social scientists, in that the importance of relationships continues. I wonder if that accounts for the extreme prominence of social networking as every day millions of us connect through online social networks and sites? Perhaps.

So, I’ve learned memory is a powerful thing. On a deeper level I’ve learned that God’s memory is perfect. He doesn’t just create us in our mother’s womb and then say “Catch ‘ya on the flip side!” He remembers us with a love that makes it worth getting up in the morning, a love that never quits! His love wants to “ready” us for whatever we’re going to face. So I’ve learned to seek the Lord to be ready if and when my tower falls. Not literally, but it’s Biblical readiness and the tower can be a job or health or wealth or a relationship that’s crumbling.

Years ago I faced a potentially dangerous health condition and came across 2 Tim 1:7. I grabbed onto those words because I was scared. Here’s what readied me to overcome my fear. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind!” That was 30 years ago. My life was spared by God’s grace through surgery. My mind was changed from fear to the power of speaking a Bible verse to a scary situation. Now I can face scary circumstances that do NOT change, because I learned God keeps my mind clear through my faith in Christ. This readies me to persevere and learn lessons along the way.

I’m not saying if I were caught in a terrorist act I would know exactly what to do. But I know the One Who does.

There’s something about memorizing God’s Word that brings comfort and courage to face whatever situation into which He accompanies us! What verses have you tucked into your heart to pull out in the moment of adversity? If you don’t have any, just open your Bible and choose some. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the process. Jot them down on a post it note or on your screen saver. Memorize them.

What have we learned from 9/11? Whatever your answer, since we all play a role in the war on terror, let’s begin with love. God’s love, that is. We recognize evil, that God calls sin, and follow His advice to be on guard and live as peaceably as we can with all men. Towers will crumble, but we don’t have to. Even in the face of death itself, I’m going to remember that God remembers me. That's a lesson learned worth sharing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remember when September meant a fresh start? We can close our eyes and practically smell a brand new box of crayons, along with anticipation of old friends, new friends, any friends at all, a good teacher and maybe better study habits and grades this year! Looking back, I don’t recall the grade Mr. Becker gave me in math or my grade point at New Trier High School, but I do think of lessons learned and how they impact my life today.

After 20 years and 1400 “Woman to Woman” radio shows, I’m beginning a new chapter of my life. I do NOT have a specific agenda or plan for my “fresh start” this September. I do know how God designed me to function best with the gifts He gave me. I expect to write, speak and network for Him. There’s no contract to sign, no paycheck for direct deposit anymore! But there is anticipation of lessons to be learned and shared. Anticipation is half the fun!

In this new chapter, I figured I should call myself something and order business cards. I landed on the moniker; "Phyllis Now!" That’s quite a change for me since my school days when I wished for a different name. I mean, think about it, Phyllis. What can you do with that? I wanted something cute like Sally or Molly or DeDe or sophisticated like Anne or warm and bright, like Jennifer. But no, Phyllis it was and that was that. Nicknames were limited to Phyl. While I was proud of my last name, Muhlenbruch, no one could spell either name and it was quite a handle for life. In undergraduate school at the U of IL, I once received a letter addressed to Phillip Mulchinbaum, to join the ROTC! People murdered my name. My closest friends could call me Millis Phulenbruch, instead of Phyllis Muhlenbruch, and my godmother tried lightening up by turning my initials PEM into Pemme! None of that lifted the burden of being called Phyllis. You’ll notice in the 21st C approximately 2 girls being named Phyllis, and that may be an exaggeration.

What to do with a name you don’t particularly like? My dad sympathized and told me about a fellow named John Schliterbatz who detested his name and went to court about it. “I want to change my name, Your Honor,” he said. The judge indicated that would be possible, explained the procedure and asked what name John preferred for the change. “JIM Schliterbatz,” came the reply! I laughed over John and Jim, but “Phyllis?” Not so much!

Finally, in college, I learned that Phyllis is Greek for “green bough.” While I didn’t ask people to call me GB for short, it did make me like the name a little more. And then when I fell in love with Ps 1, the name Phyllis grew on me. Here’s the section that made my name come to life. Remember, “He” means he or she, as in a person. “Blessed is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:2-3 (NIV)

Do you see what I saw? Or as my friend, Pastor Bill Yonkers says, “I tell you that …to tell you this…” all of a sudden it hit me. I want to be THAT kind of woman. I want my green bough, my very life, to stay supple and nourished by the Lord like a tree planted by a stream so it bears fruit. In the fall I want to be colorful and though I may lose my leaves for a season in life, I won’t dry up. “Phyllis” became a beautiful name for me. I thanked my parents who were so happy I liked it at last!

And that brings me to Phyllis Now…which is what I’m calling myself in this new chapter of my life. What about you? This fall what’s your fresh start? Going back to school yourself or vicariously through your kids or grandkids? With or without school, there’s plenty of learning left, as long as you have life and breath. In the Book of Proverbs, God makes it clear that it is to our advantage, here and now and for eternity, to seek His wisdom. “Blessed is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold, more precious than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with her!” You may not need wisdom for your name that leaves you stuck, like mine did. But whatever has you stuck,” God pulls alongside to help you learn the lesson and pass it on. Because you’re not in this alone.

Have a great weekend, resting from your labors and delighting in the Lord!