Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remembering Mickey Mantle's Big Hit

Early September 1960, it was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. That day all us Little League ball players from our small rural Southern Michigan town packed into the school bus and were off to Tiger Stadium in Detroit to watch our favorite Detroit Tigers take on those NY Yankees.

That small rural town was several hours from Detroit, and as such, it was a rare treat for any of us to see a Major league baseball game first hand. We listened to the Tiger games over the radio with George Kell and Ernie Harwell calling the games. Those were the years when Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, Norm Cash, Jake Wood, and Jim Bunning, among others were our heros.

When we got to the stadium we were seated out in the center field section of the stands. The Yankees were out warming up, and there he was right in front of us; Mickey Mantle! And over in right field was Roger Maris!

We started yelling "Hey Mickey!"... He turned and waved. He caught a ball, (it must have come from Yogi Berra in left?). We called out to him to throw the ball up to us. He made a motion like he was going to do just that but that ball returned to his glove and Mickey returned to his warmup. We were in awe. What a guy!

The game started. In the course of the game both Mantle and Maris hit home runs. I don't rememeber what inning it was when Mickey was at bat and hit that 2nd (as I rememeber) home run. I can still hear in my mind the crack of his bat hitting that pitch. We heard that crack all the way out in the center field stands. We watched the ball rise as it headed out towards right field. It keep going up and up and up. It was over the outfield fence and still going up. It cleared the stands and even then was still going up.

Was it going to hit the wall? No!!!

It cleared the wall and was out of the stadium! Mickey Mantle had just hit a home run out of Tiger Stadium, and from our center field seats we had the perfect view of it all the way up and out!

As I recall, the Yankees won the game and afterwards we climbed into the school bus and headed back to our small rural Michigan community. The memory of Mickey interacting with us during the warmups; the memory of that "out of the stadium" home run remain in my memory to this day. We had seen someone who was to us, one of baseball's larger then life heros. And even though most of us remained loyal Tiger fans, Mickey Mantle had a special place in our hearts and memories.

I am well aware that in latter years, after his retirement from baseball, Mantle had some struggles and failures in his personal life. For myself, those things do not take away from who he was as a major league baseball player, nor from what his presence met for the game. For us who as youngsters saw him play the game, Mickey Mantle was and remains a great baseball player and hero.


Official Mickey Mantle Website

(Up to 1961, the Detroit stadium had been known as Brigg's Stadium. 1961 was the first year it went by the new name of Tiger Stadium.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes Virginia, there really was a holocaust.

I have been watching Band of Brothers. Tonight I watched the segment titled "Why We Fight". This is the episode where Easy Company comes across a concentration camp near a town in Germany. The scenes are pretty graphic, tragic, and heart wrenching. It was right that the German civilians from the town were made to clean up the camp; lifting the dead bodies, facing and dealing with the reality of what their Nazi leaders had done. The occupants intered in that concentration camp had been put there not because they were criminals, but because they were Jews. That one fact alone was the sole reason for the Nazi's subjecting them to the atrocities they had endured and under which so many of them had been killed or died.

I remember as a young lad in elementary school in the late 1950's, seeing some of the grainy pictures of the concentration camps on our black and white TV set. Back then there was no question that the holocaust had happened. The evidence, hardly 10 to 15 years after the end of the war, was over whelming. And there was also the continuing hunt for the war criminals that had perpetuated those atrocities.

An example of the information that was and is available is Alfred Hitchcock's Documentary on the Holocaust. Movies such as Schindler's List and The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler as well as others are based on historical documented events.

To deny the holocaust is to deny historical truth; it is to bear false witness regarding the nature and criminal activities of the 3rd Reich. We must never forget. Yes, there were other holocausts in the 20th Century. They should not be forgotten either. But if we forget this holocaust, I believe those others probably will very quickly be forgotten too.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Christian Joy

"This spiritual joy consists in a delightful motion of the soul, generated by the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers, whereby He convinces them of the felicity of their state, causes them to enjoy the benefits of the covenant of grace, and assures them of their future felicity."

( Wilhelmus a Brakel as quoted by Anthony T. Selvaggio.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Joylessness in Reformed Chritianity

"I wasn't born and raised in the Reformed church. In other words, I am a Reformed immigrant. Like many people in the Reformed church today, I migrated out of broad based evangelicalism and non-denominationalism. Many of my friends, both ministers and laypeople, have had similar immigration experiences.

Recently, at the funeral of my father-in-law, I had the opportunity to get reacquainted with many of my Reformed immigrant friends. Much to my surprise, I found myself having a very similar conversation with this group. They shared with me that they felt like something was missing in their Reformed experience. While they were all satisfied with the doctrine, worship and government of the church they spoke of a missing intangible element. They had trouble articulating the exact nature of this missing element. I suggested a variety of terms to give it a name and the one that seemed to come closest was "joy." These immigrants perceived the Reformed church to be suffering from a deficiency of spiritual joy."

These conversations got me thinking. I did my own assessment of my Reformed experience and, I must admit, I had to agree that "joyful" was not one of the first adjectives that came to my mind to describe it. Then I began to contemplate why the Reformed church seems to be lacking in the joy department. My contemplation yielded two main reasons.

(The Joy of the Reformed by Anthony Selvaggio December 2009.)

If it was appropriate, I'd copy the entirety of Mr. Selvaggio's article. He goes on to discuss two reasons he sees for the lack of joy in the Reformed church; the migration of Evangelical malcontents into the Reformed movement, and "...perpetually circling the theological wagons." Please also note Selvaggio's evaluation comes from his position within the Reformed movement. This is coming from one of the Reformed's own.

Selvaggio proposes a remedy, and in so far as it goes, I believe the proposed remedy has merit as it does, in its own way, call for a focus on the promises of God.

That said, what was noticeable in my mind was his lack of discussion of joy as the fruit of the Spirit, and in fact, among the very first of the fruit of the Spirit as listed by Paul in Galations 5:22. This is where my own concern for the Reformed church comes to focus.

I spent a little over 25 years in a Reformed (Baptist) church. About 7 years ago we left that church and started attending a more mainstream Evangelical Baptist church. It is on the basis of that experience that I totally understand Mr. Selvaggio's statements, "...they felt like something was missing in their Reformed experience." and "These immigrants perceived the Reformed church to be suffering from a deficiency of spiritual joy."

One of the very first things we noticed about our new church, in contrast to the Reformed church we had left, was the much greater and obvious level of honest, genuine, authentic Christian joy expressed by the people and manifest in the life of the congregation corporately.

This raised a question in my mind. If, as the Bible says, joy is a fruit of the Spirit, what does that say for the joyless Reformed church? A tree is known by its fruit. If my Reformed theology and the Reformed preaching from the pulpit of the Reformed church is not producing the fruit of the Spirit in my life, then something is not right and we need to do some VERY deep soul searching.

This becomes even more critical and vital when I look at raising my children in such a church. It was that very concern that 7 years ago drove me from the Reformed church back into the Evangelical mainstream. (I'm still a Calvinist, but I no longer call myself Reformed.) If my children were to know true Chrisitan joy, the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit, then they need to be raised in a church and thological climate that clearly demnstrates that joy in the life of individual believers and in the corporate life of the congregation, and that along with all the other fruit of the Spirit as well.

I beleive there are probably some Reformed churches out there somewhere who have managed by the grace of God to hold and nuance their theology in a way that produces a noticable level of genuine Christian joy. That said, in a sizable part of the Reformed movement there is the need to do some VERY DEEP soul seaarching at this point.

Kyrie eleison...