Tag Archives: Baseball

Play Ball

Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked….

Proverbs 3:25 (NIV)

FYI: Major League Baseball players have reported for Spring Training. It is something that never goes unnoticed on my calendar. As an Iowan who annually guts out a long, cold winter (it was sub-zero when I left for cross-fit this morning) the start of Spring Training is the first reminder that winter’s days are numbered. As a Cubs fan, the opening of Spring Training has traditionally marked the resetting of hope, in which “this year” could be the “next year” that we finally win the World Series.

Of course, it finally happened back in 2016. I enjoyed reliving that moment this past New Year’s as it was regularly listed as one of the past decade’s top stories in sports.

When you spend most of your life cheering for teams who never win the big game and fall short on a perennial basis, it’s easy to fall prey to pessimism. I have written on multiple occasions regarding the fact that I, as an Enneagram Type 4, can easily transform pessimism into an art form. So, when the Indians took the lead in the bottom of the 8th it seemed so natural and appropriate for the dark clouds to hover and the rain to break forth. Here we go again.

But the rain ended. The Cubs came back. It finally happened.

In today’s chapter, Solomon continues to share with his children the benefits of God’s wisdom. One of the benefits that he lists is not having to fear “sudden disaster” or “the ruin that overtakes the wicked.” This is essential encouragement for the artistic pessimist within. But I have also learned along my life journey that this does not mean that bad things won’t happen. In part, what Solomon is saying is that there are natural (and predictable) consequences of foolishness and wickedness that I don’t have to worry about if I act wisely and do/say what’s right. In addition, the Great Story provides example after example of God strengthening and sustaining those who seek Him even in the midst of incredible suffering.

It is absolutely miserable outside the window of my office. It’s frigidly cold. The wind is blustering, and the ground is covered with snow. But, I don’t have to let that feed my natural pessimistic nature. This will not last forever.

They are playing baseball in Arizona.

Play ball.

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

On a Brighter Note…

In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:31-32 (NIV)

Have you ever had one of those stretches of life’s journey in which seemingly everything that can go wrong does go wrong? Yeah, it’s been one of those.

I won’t bore you with all the details but the past two weeks have included a trip to the emergency room, stitches, illnesses, hospitalization of loved ones, multiple broken implements, breakdowns, and a cracked engine block. Ugh. Bob Dylan’s bluesy psalm Everything is Broken has been flitting through my head as I try to keep my bent towards pessimism in check:

Broken cutters broken saws
Broken buckles broken laws
Broken bodies broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath feel like you’re chokin’
Everything is broken

Anyone who has followed my posts for any length of time knows that I’m a baseball fan. And, every baseball fan knows that winning streaks and losing streaks are all part of “the long season.” When a team or player is in a funk, you’re waiting for that one clutch hit or amazing play that signals a turnaround. So it was last night that Wendy and I watched our beloved Cubs win on a two-outs-bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off grand slam by Jason Heyward.

<Watch the Grand Slam!>

I thought to myself, “Maybe this is a sign that this funk we’ve been in is over.” Hey, cut me a break. Baseball fans are superstitious. Rally caps work! (Sometimes.)

Today’s chapter is the last chapter in a long journey through the anthology of the ancient prophet Jeremiah’s messages. The unknown editor who put the anthology together concludes the book with a historical epilogue. Interesting enough, it’s almost a verbatim copy of a section from 2 Kings 24-25. It gives a Cliff Notes summary of the Babylonian exile and ends with a bright spot: King Nebuchadnezzar’s successor releases Judah’s King Jehoiachin from prison, raises him to a place of honor, and he remains there for the rest of his life.

In other words, a book full of pessimistic, apocalyptic doom and gloom ends with a base hit in the bottom of the ninth. “This game’s not over, folks,” the editor is telling us. Put on your rally caps!

This morning I’m mulling over life’s ups-and-downs. We all have them. They come and they go. Some weeks it feels like everything is flowing and you’re on a roll. Some weeks, well, everything breaks. C’est la vie. It is what it is. The further I get in my journey the more wisdom I have to know the winning streaks will eventually end, as will the losing streaks.

I just have to keep looking for that bright spot, that base knock, that reminds me this game’s not over.

Featured photo courtesy of the_matt via Flickr

Silence and Spiritual Authority

But Jesus remained silent.
Matthew 26:63 (NIV)

Just last week, on the 15th of April, the Major Leagues celebrated Jackie Robinson day just as it does every year. Every player in Major League Baseball wears Jackie Robinson’s number: 42. It was on April 15th, 1947 that Jackie Robinson  walked out onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and broke the color barrier in baseball.

This morning as I woke up in my hotel room I happened to have a documentary about Jackie Robinson playing in the background and reminded me of the familiar story. When Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Dodgers, brought Jackie to the major leagues he made Jackie promise that for three years he would not respond to the taunts, insults, and attacks that he would face as the first black man to play in the major leagues. Jackie agreed.

The abuse Jackie faced in those years is well documented. The treatment he received in opposing cities was unjust and unfair. Racial slurs and terrible insults by opposing teams and crowds rained down on him non-stop from batting practice until the last out of the game. Pitchers threw at his head intentionally. Runners intentionally spiked him with their cleats, opening up gashes on his legs. But true to his promise, Jackie remained silent. And, he played great baseball.

It seemed like a bit of synchronicity that this morning’s chapter documented Jesus standing before His enemies. They taunted Him. They falsely accused Him. They beat Him and they mocked Him. But true to what had been prophesied, Jesus remained silent. And, He fulfilled His mission.

I’m simply reminded this morning of the power of silence in the face of personal attacks and social adversity. Human nature and our own culture desires – even demands –  justice at an intimate, interpersonal level. If insulted, return the insult. If he talks smack to me, I’m going to dish it right back. If falsely accused, make a spirited defense. On the face of it, Jesus’ encouragement to “turn the other cheek” seems foolishly weak.

But it’s not.

It took incredible courage and spiritual strength for Jackie Robinson to remain silent those three long seasons. His silence was, in fact, an act of spiritual endurance while it took a tremendous physical and mental toll.

Turning the other cheek is not running away, slinking back, or cowering in fear. Turning the other cheek requires standing in, facing your enemy, and defiantly presenting him the opportunity to do it again. It reveals and highlights the injustice. It makes known the truth of the situation.

After three years of sticking to his promise, Jackie was released from his bargain with Branch Rickey. Then it was the wisdom of Solomon that took over. “There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak.” Three years of remaining silent before his enemies had earned Jackie Robinson the spiritual authority to be one of the greatest voices for civil rights and social change. Jackie Robinson Day continues that legacy each April 15th.

I find it ironic that Jackie Robinson Day fell between Good Friday and Easter Sunday this year.

Jesus, likewise, followed His own teaching before the kangaroo court that had been hastily and illegally assembled to arrange His execution. He remained silent. He stood in. He faced His accusers. He turned the other cheek each time He was beaten. All that Jesus would endure took its lethal physical toll, but the spiritual power that was unleashed would conquer death itself.

“Harsh Realities”

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Matthew 10:34

Follow me for any length of time and you’ll discover that I enjoy the game of baseball. One of the many reasons I enjoy baseball is the way the game metaphorically reflects life in so many ways.

In the narration of his great documentary about the game, Ken Burns speaks about the game beginning each season with the hope of spring, and ending each year with the “harsh realities of autumn.” How often life is like that. The optimistic young soldier ships out with his head filled of dreams of glory and returns with his spirit tempered by the realities of battle. A couple begins their marriage in the fog of romance, but soon find themselves living day-by-day facing the sacrificial requirements of love. Just months ago we celebrated Jesus’ birth with greeting cards chalk full of words about hope for humanity, joy to the world, and peace on earth. In a few weeks we will remember Jesus’ kangaroo court trial, torture, and gruesome execution. Death must come before resurrection can even be a possibility. That’s a harsh reality.

In today’s chapter, Jesus is preparing his followers for what life is going to be like on their mission of taking His message to the world. It’s not a pep talk. It’s a sobering reality check. Jesus didn’t fill His messengers with visions of fame, fortune, and prosperity. He called them to austerity, humility, and sincerity. He did not send them out with hopeful promises that the Message they would carry would create inspirational social movements of unity, peace and brotherhood. He told them to be wary and shrewd, expecting opposition, persecution, and conflict. The sweet manger baby we all celebrated as the “Prince of Peace” has grown to deliver a more difficult message: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Along my journey I’ve come to accept that we as humans like to dwell on the things that are easy, optimistic, inspirational, and accessible. There’s nothing wrong with looking at the glass half-full and being grateful for it. We need hope and optimism to carry us in dark times. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that there is wisdom in being sober minded. We are quick to remember Jesus feeding a hungry crowd of people by miraculously multiplying a few loaves and fish. Few of us recall that just a day later Jesus drove that very crowd away when He asked them to “eat my flesh, and drink my blood.” The crowds wanted the former without the latter. We still do.

Baseball season starts in a week and a half. Right now fans like Wendy and me are experiencing the annual feelings of giddy excitement. Come the evening of April 2nd it will be hot dogs and cold beer at the Vander Well Pub. Every team’s record starts at 0-0, and everyone is hopeful. This year Wendy and I even get to feel the joy of our team starting the season as World Series Champions, and that’s a lot of fun. It does not wipe away, however, the knowledge that we’ve never felt it before.

Harsh realities of autumn 108. World Series Champions 1.

Play ball!

Rulebooks and Keeping Score

This is the ritual of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being….
Leviticus 7:37 (NRSV)

I like to keep score at baseball games. I’ve always been fascinated by the scorebook since I was a regular benchwarmer in the minors at Beaverdale Little League. I would sit on the bench next to the coach’s wife and watch her mark the book as a record of was taking place in the game. I never lost my curiosity for it.

Scoring a baseball game is relatively simple if the game follows a simple story line of strike outs, fly balls, and base hits. But when run downs involving multiple players take place and the pitcher’s mound becomes a turn-style of pitchers called in from the bullpen with runner’s on base, things get incredibly more complex in a hurry. Then layer over it the official scorer’s role of making subjective decisions of whether the batter reached on a base hit (he gets credit for it, and any runs he batted in, and the run gets charged to the pitcher who gave up the hit to the player who scored the run [unless the player who scored the run reached on an error – then the run doesn’t get charged to the pitcher]) or an error (batter doesn’t get credited for the hit, and the error must be charged to either the fielder who should have caught it, the fielder who didn’t throw it effectively, or the other fielder covering the base who didn’t catch it). You get my drift. It gets arcane in a geeked out way.

On our coffee table sits a copy of Major League Baseballs official rule book. On occasion, when a play raises a question about a play or how it is to be scored, I’ll pick it up and try to find the rule. It’s a small book, but it’s a labyrinth of regulatory text. There’s an entire section on how to score. Sometimes it’s hard to find what I’m looking for in rule 4.2 paragraph two, sub-section C line six. The game is still going on. I don’t have that much time if I’m going to keep up with my scorecard.

As I read the chapter this morning I was struck by the way it read like baseball’s rule book. The rules for sacrifice were so complex. It’s a labyrinth of offerings and sacrifices of different kinds for seemingly every occasion. It made me think that the ancient Hebrews had a different sacrifice for every emoji:

I’m feeling thankful today. How do I make an offering for that according to the Levitical rulebook? That’s section 2, offering 3.4, paragraph three.”

“Oops, I accidentally dropped my neighbors pint glass and a shard cut my wife’s foot causing her to jerk her foot back and kick the neighbor’s cat. To whom do I charge the error and who  has to make the guilt sacrifice? Is that a blood sacrifice or just a burnt offering? Burnt offering? Can I do that on the neighbor’s grill?”

It’s overwhelming just to think about living under the weight of that system. I can’t imagine it. Which was, I believe, part of the larger point God was trying to make in the grand theme of the Great Story. “You want to try and do it on your own?” God says. “Okay, here’s the rulebook. Have fun.” Trying to keep score in life, recording errors and then make up for every wrong doing, unintended injury, and moral oversight is impossible.

Then who can be can be saved?” Jesus’ followers asked when the subject came up.

It’s impossible for human beings,” Jesus replied, stating the grand lesson of the Levitical law. “But it’s not impossible for God. God is the one who can and will do it.

Jesus becomes the sacrifice, once for all.

Suddenly, keeping score becomes quite simple. Charge the errors to Jesus. All of them.

The Latest 05-01-2016

This past week was a bit of a return to normal after the long slog of production on Almost, Maine and then a long week on the road. I feel like I’m still trying to catch up on rest. Unfortunately, this week wasn’t much help as we ramped up to celebrate my 50th birthday.

The early part of the week was focused on getting caught up on work in the home office. Mom Hall came down to Pella on Monday to help us get ground cover on the flower bed (currently a weed bed) in the front of the house. I’ve had to mow a couple of times this week. Our new lawn (planted last fall) is still patchy. I’m not very good with green things. I’ve had a “brown thumb” my whole life. Almost every time I’ve tried to grow botanical things they die. So, I’m trying to do right by the lawn and do it right.  I can tell you that mowing a half-acre lot with my trust Lawn-Boy push mower takes a little more time and effort than our old postage stamp lawn on Columbus.

Me and a baby goat.
Me and a baby goat.

Mid-week I had to make a quick turnaround trip to northwest Iowa for business. My co-worker, Nick, is from that neck of the woods and I got treated to some local hospitality with a trip to the farm for steak dinner. I even got to meet the baby goats and the chickens in the barn. I also got a quick visit with friends Trav and Julie Else. It’s been so fun to reconnect with them since the old days at Westview when I played on Julie’s worship team and we were in “Supper Club” together.

The biggest focus of the week was my 50th birthday on Saturday. We actually started celebrating on Friday afternoon. I had a Board Meeting for work mid-day, then knocked off and we joined up with Kev and Beck. Becky’s birthday was Friday the 29th, and Kevin’s birthday had just been on April 17th. The past few year’s we’ve made a tradition out of celebrating all three birthdays together. The girls went for pedicures and to do some shopping. Kevin and I met at Casa Roose to watch the Cubs and enjoy a few birthday stogies on the patio.

The girls returned and the four of us headed to downtown Des Moines for drinks and dinner at Malo. It was an enjoyable time as we exchanged cards and gifts and consumed the scrumptious latin edibles. After dinner we stopped by the Plaza Pub to visit with some old friends of Kev and Beck. We capped off our birthday celebration at Casa Roose with a nightcap. It was the wee hours when Wendy and I returned home and got to bed.

Weather certainly did not cooperate with our birthday plans. The entire midwest was socked with perpetual rain and chilly temperatures. For my 50th Wendy had planned a baseball themed party for a handful of our good friends. The plan was to party here at Vander Well Pub while we watched the Chicago Cubs playing an afternoon game against the Braves. Those who wanted to join us would then head to Des Moines for the Iowa Cubs game against the Colorado Springs Skysox. The blanket of rain across the upper midwest resulted in both games being postponed.

The party commenced as scheduled. We put on the recording of Jake Arrieta throwing a no-hitter last week. Wendy did an amazing job with the baseball themed party. We had hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jack, snack pizza, and chips with salsa. Then there were the cupcakes she made to look like baseballs and a sundae bar. We ate  way too much!

We had specified “no gifts” but it was generally ignored. Let’s just say that the bar at Vander Well pub is better stocked than it had been before the party. The Parkers and Vande Lunes also went together on a framed poster of Shakespearean insults. It was perfect and will have an honored spot among the decor (which we still haven’t hung). I felt both blessed and honored by all of the cards and wishes I received in the mail and on social media. It was a good day.

Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.
Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.

By the time everyone left we had just enough time to get things cleaned up before our dinner reservations. Instead of the I-Cubs game, we gathered for dinner at Kaldera with the Burches, VLs and McQs. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it was wonderful to enjoy a laid back dinner with friends and get home at a decent time. We had a brief night cap at McQuade Pub before calling it a night.

From Madison's Facebook post wishing me a happy 50th

We are looking forward to having both Taylor and Madison home next weekend for Tulip Time. I heard from both girls yesterday as they called with birthday wishes. Taylor had a very nice post on her blog honoring my big day and Madison added an equally honoring post on Facebook. I missed having them here with me, but will enjoy a belated celebration next week.

Tulip Time is Thu-Sat of this coming week. The cold, rainy weather has ensured that we’ll have a few tulip left for Pella’s annual festival. The weather forecast is sunny and 75 degrees each day, and it will be perfect weather for the celebration. Wendy and I are, once again, playing Pella’s founding couple. We’ll be Dominie H.P. and Mareah Scholte and will be found at the Scholte House museum late morning and early afternoon. We’ll be riding our horse drawn carriage in each of the six parades. It should be a fun time. Come see us if you’re in town!