Tag Archives: Strike Out

…For 30 Minutes

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged….”
Joshua 8:1a (NIV)

Everyone who knows Wendy and me knows that we are baseball fans. In particular, we’re fans of the Chicago Cubs. Right now there is a lot of excitement in our house as the regular season opens next Monday night. The first game against Anaheim will start at 9:00 p.m. CDT. We will just be getting back from rehearsal. We’ll see how much of it we actually watch before we fall asleep. (Thank God for DVRs!)

Of all the major league sports, baseball’s season is truly a marathon. In the NFL’s 16 game season, every game is technically important, as one loss can come back to bite you when it comes time to the playoffs and home field advantage. In baseball, there are 162 regular season games between the beginning of April and the end of September. The best of teams will lose about a third of their games and occasionally suffer humiliating defeats. Even the worst teams in the league will win a third or more of their games and occasionally beat the best teams.

The Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, instituted a tradition in the Cub’s clubhouse last season. When the Cubs win, there is a party in the clubhouse for 30 minutes. Loud music, disco ball, dancing, shouting, and basking in the joy of the moment….for 30 minutes. Then, it’s back to work thinking about the next day’s game. Likewise, when the team loses, they are allowed to grieve for 30 minutes. Mope, scream, cry, commiserate, and feel the discouragement…for 30 minutes. Then, its back to work thinking about the next day’s game.

Our life journey is more like baseball season than football season. We all will experience our share of victories, and our share of defeats. No one, no matter how good the press and social media make them look, runs the table and is exempt from suffering loss and hardship. Everyone strikes out.

In today’s chapter, Josh and his team have just suffered an unexpected defeat after the huge victory at Jericho. It was the let down after the big game. Reality check. There is a sudden sense of gloom permeating the clubhouse. God, like a good manager, only lets the grief last for 30 minutes. It’s time to get the team’s focus on the next game: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. We’ve got a game against the King of Ai today, and I’ve got a game plan for one you’re gonna love!”

Today, I’m thinking about victories I’ve experienced in this life, and defeats. No matter how bad the loss, there are victories ahead. No matter how great the victory is, I’m going to strike out again at some point. As sure as the sun is going to rise and set. I need to let myself enjoy the victories…for about 30 minutes. Then I get back to work. I need to allow myself to grieve the losses…for about 30 minutes. Then get back to work.

Go get ’em.

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featured image by yozza via Flickr

Did I Just Strike Out, or Did I Hit a Home Run?

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Then I said, “Sovereign Lord, they are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?’”
Ezekiel 20:49 (NIV)

For the past couple of months I have been teaching a class for a handful of brave souls from our local group of Jesus followers. The class was intended for a those who feel that they may have a spiritual gift in preaching or teaching. I have been asked to teach and to mentor them. I encouraged anyone interested in being a better communicator to join us and a number of people did.

In the first week of the class I announced to the group that we would be breaking some new ground and that there was the distinct possibility that I could really miss the mark. Most people are used to taking a class that follows a published book or video series of some kind. What we are exploring, however, is how God uses the language of metaphor. We’re talking about metaphors in creation, metaphors in the names we find in God’s message, metaphors in the sacraments, metaphors in prophecy, metaphors in parables, metaphors in the arts and creative expression, and etc. Along the way, we are also touching on some practical advice for preparing and delivering an effective presentation or message.

One of the most important points I have made to my class is that when you deliver a message the job is to prepare and communicate the material to the best of our ability and leave the response and results up to the Holy Spirit. That is easier said than done. We all have a natural desire to know if our words have accomplished their purpose. Last night as I left the parking lot I called Wendy to tell her how the class went. “I’m not sure,” I ruminated, “if I struck out swinging or hit a home run.”

The question still nagged at me as I read this morning’s chapter. For 20 chapters Ezekiel has been preaching, prophesying, and performing his metaphorical productions as God instructed. Then, at the very end of the chapter Zeke questions God about his audience’s response. I can feel his heart. “Is any of this landing? Are my messages having any impact? Am I making any kind of a difference? Have a stuck out swinging or am I knocking it out the park?

I’m sure Zeke would have been encouraged to know that 2500 years later his prophetic messages would still be having lasting impact as we read them, meditate on them, study and appreciate them. But, in the moment, he’s just a messenger wanting to know if he’s making a difference. How very human, and in that I am encouraged this morning as well as being reminded of my own words to my class: “Just keep doing what you’re called to do to the best of your ability. God takes care of the rest.”

Three Indelible Life Lessons from the Game of Baseball

Last Saturday morning, Wendy and I went out to the local ball diamond to watch my good friend Nathan playing Little League baseball. I grabbed my camera to capture my buddy in action. Anyone who follows my blog knows that Wendy and I love the game of baseball (and our hapless Chicago Cubs). In fact, as time goes by our love and appreciation of the game only seems to grow deeper. We thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous, early summer morning watching Nathan play. It reminded me of all that is great about the game of baseball, and in particular I was reminded of three important life lessons that the game teaches me over and over again.

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1. “Everyone strikes out. How you handle it is what makes you a man.”

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
-from “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer

When my young friend Nathan was just a few years old, Wendy and I gave him a copy of “Casey at the Bat” for his birthday and this was the inscription I penned on the inside cover of Ernest Thayer’s timeless classic. What an amazing word picture of life. The very BEST hitters in the big leagues will fail to get a hit 7 of every 10 attempts. Time and time and time again we will try and fail in life. Those who learn from failure, who dare to walk back up to the plate, who keep swinging despite overwhelming failure will eventually knock one out of the park. You’ll never know the thrill of driving in the winning run if you let failure discourage you from ever trying again.

2013 06 08 Nathan VL Baseball 012. It’s Not About Winning or Losing, but the Joy of Playing the Game.

Wendy and I watched and laughed ourselves silly on Saturday as we watched the young boys of summer doing their best to play and learn the Great American Pastime. I can guarantee you that at the end of the game not one of the li’l sluggers knew the final score of the game. But, as the team ran the bases together at the end of the game the look of joy on their faces was priceless.

I have known many a man who has wasted time, energy and resources in a manic drive to prove to who knows who that he is a “success” through winning every game, closing every deal, burying every enemy, and acquiring every needless possession. Never have I met such a man who experiences a deep, abiding sense of peace, joy, and love. The further I get in this life journey, the more I’m convinced that what is important is not winning every game, but loving every moment.

In similar fashion, those who love the game of baseball understand realize that the game itself transcends wins and losses. Win or lose, an afternoon or evening at the ballpark is time well-spent. As Chicago Cub great Ernie Banks is famed for saying, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame….let’s play TWO!”

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3. The Point is to Make it Safely Home.

As we play the game of life, we will all make our share of errors. We all hit our share of foul balls. We all strike out. But as Yogi Berra said, “the game ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Every baseball fan can share stories of dramatic come from behind wins and walk-off “home runs” in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the end, the goal of the game is to arrive safe at home. Even the Prodigal Son eventually found his way home. Every funeral I’ve ever attended has included a recitation of the 23rd psalm (i.e. “The Lord is my Shepherd….”). The psalm ends with the words “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In other words, in the end the psalmist finds himself safely home. Baseball not only provides us a word picture for constant reminder, but even shapes home plate like a little house for added effect.

Our friend Nathan may, or may not, play baseball for long. Like millions of American kids (myself included) he may play a year or two of Little League only to hang up his bat and glove until his own children choose to run the bases. The love of baseball, however, lasts a lifetime, as does the life lessons baseball teaches each of us.