Tag Archives: Fortune

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

The Divine Good Luck Charm

Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.”
Judges 17:13 (NRSV)

Wendy and I are fans of the Minnesota Vikings. I even know the Vikings fight song and will sing it for you upon request. Granted, we have not had much to cheer about for many years. As we wind down the 2015 season, there is at least the prospect of our Vikes going to the playoffs and an outside chance they could win their division. I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath.

A life-long fan of the Vikings, I can remember being a kid and having so much life energy invested in that game on Sunday. A win could send me to the mountain top and a loss could ruin my life for days. Growing up in the 1970’s when the Vikings were a perennial favorite to go to the Super Bowl, there were more mountain tops than ruins – with the exception of the Super Bowl itself. 0-4. Woof.

Back in those blissful, ignorant days of childhood my perception of God was that of a divine good luck charm. Do the right thing and rub God the right way and the Vikings might win on Sunday. If they lost, well then I must have done something to deserve my tragic circumstances. My focus wasn’t on what God wanted of me, but rather what I could coerce out of God.

Looking back, it’s really quite silly. The story of Micah in today’s chapter, however, reminds me that my childhood perceptions of God are actually quite common. It seems to me that Micah was not looking for a relationship with his Creator, but rather a good luck charm that would assure his prosperity.

My spiritual journey has taught me that God is beyond what I can possibly fathom. God knows that our temporal fortunes in this life are of no eternal value compared to the true genuineness of our faith. Reducing God to some kind of divine talisman is demeaning and disrespectful, and I get the sense that this is why God gets so ticked off with idolatry. The narrow road winds to deeper, more meaningful places than wins and losses. It takes us through more painful tragedies and more life-giving victories.

We love our Vikings, and we will be cheering them on in the coming weeks. Who know? Maybe they’ll surprise us [Still not holding my breath]. Even if they lose, we’ll (once again) chalk it up as a spiritual lesson in faith and perseverance.

Skol!

chapter a day banner 2015

The Self Centric View of Blessing and Curses

source: 61056899@N06 via Flickr
source: 61056899@N06 via Flickr

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
    so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”
Job 5:17 (NIV)

As a child I remember seeing life in very simplistic terms. Life circumstances, I believed, stemmed from God’s approval or disapproval of me and my actions. When the Minnesota Vikings lost the Super Bowl each year (They were in four of them during my childhood), the loss could surely be pinned on a curse that was rooted in some wrong I had committed which resulted in God punishing me. If that cute girl I had a crush on just happened to walk down my street as I had desperately wished for her to pass by, then the granting of my wish must have been a sure sign I must be in good standing with my genie-like Almighty.

When I grew up and matured in my understanding, I realized that this simplistic view of suffering and blessing was not only misguided, but completely entirely self-centered. The outcome of the Super Bowl was dependent on me and my spiritual ledger sheet with God?Wow. That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a nine year old. Yet that’s what I believed. Each day’s good and bad events were dependent on these big spiritual scales next to God’s throne which constantly weighed my thoughts, words and actions. When the scale tipped towards good then good things happened. When the scale tipped towards bad, then I was in for a really bad day.

In today’s chapter, Job’s friend Eliphaz continues to give the suffering Job a piece of his mind. Eli’s words reveal his core belief, which aligns nicely with my childish, self-centric world view: Suffering is a clear sign of God’s punishment. His counsel for Job streams from the source of that core belief. To Eli, it is very simple. If you do good, then you’ll have abundant blessings that reveal your good standing with God to the world. If you do bad, then you’ll find yourself suffering like you are right now. The conclusion of the matter is simple: repent of whatever it is you did wrong, confess your wrong to God, and God will have compassion and ease your suffering.

My experiences along life’s road and my long sojourn through God’s Message has continued to reveal to me how incongruent this type of thinking is with the heart of God that I find revealed in God’s story. Suffering is not necessarily punishment from the Almighty, but this fallen world’s spiritual proving ground in which eternal character qualities of perseverance, maturity, wisdom, humility, and fortitude are forged. Jesus said to prepare ourselves for suffering, not to be surprised when it happens, and to embrace it when it does. Likewise, material blessing is not necessarily a sure sign of God’s favor, but may very well be a spiritual snare. What we commonly esteem as God’s blessing or favor may simply be the result of wise life and financial choices, but it can also be the result of deep seeded greed and heinous corruption. In fact, Jesus was quick to point out that material “blessing” is a common spiritual stumbling block and repeatedly told us to be wary – even shunning it if it’s getting in the way of our spiritual progress.