Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strike Three!

He was a young Freshman pitcher from Flint. He came to Michigan State University to get an education with a major in history, and to see if he could get on the baseball team as a walk-on. If he could make the team, the prospect of an athletic scholarship could become a reality. He could very probably have gotten a scholarship at another school, but family tradition and the prospect of studying Civil War history under a noted professor among other things, brought him to Michigan State. This young hurler also happened to be by the cast of chance or design of providence, my dorm roommate.

So it was in that Spring of our Freshman year, one afternoon between classes, I went over to the ball-field where the University Freshman team was playing a game against the baseball team from a local community college. It was the bottom of the inning and the Spartan's turn at bat. It also happened Dave was coming up to bat.

It is a maxim of baseball that pitchers do not get very much batting practice. A pitcher's batting average will usually be one of the lowest on the teams. I don't remember what the exact count was; there may have been a ball or two, but Dave was quickly behind with two strikes. It also bothers me to this day that I do not remember if they were called strikes or came on a swing and a miss. But now the fun was about begin.

The pitcher wound up and threw the next pitch. Dave watched the ball go by.

"Strike three!" called the Umpire.

But as he was calling the 3rd strike, the ball hit the catcher's mitt, dropped and rolled a few feet away. Dave saw the muffed catch, dropped the bat and ran for first. The catcher was caught off guard by Dave's movement, but then recovering, grabbed the ball to throw to first to insure the out. He over threw the 1st baseman's glove, and there was Dave, safe at first!

What a whoop and holler erupted from his teammates! What would have been a strikeout, was by application of the 3rd strike rule and the catcher's error, a man on base. It was a real heads up play on Dave's part that turned a negative into a positive.

I don't remember anything else about that game, and as it was, it was the only game I saw Dave play in. He never did get that athletic scholarship and a year or so later, dropped baseball and concentrated on his studies. After those undergraduate days at Michigan State, he eventually went on to get a Masters and then a Doctorate in history with emphasis on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

If you are ever in New Haven, Connecticut, and wandering around the campus of Yale University, you might peer into a classroom and see David delivering a lecture on some aspect of the Civil War or Reconstruction. I don't know how much the Doctor remembers of his undergrad baseball days, but that one memory remains forever etched in his old roommate's memory.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On Being Sacked on 3rd and Long

It is easy to be thankful and praise God when you go into the end-zone and score a touchdown, and at those times you should be thankful and give Him praise..

But what about when you are deep in your own end of the field and it is 3rd and long, and you get sacked for a loss? Do you still give thanks and praise to God?

Is most of the reality of life's daily struggle for the masses of humanity around the world lived in the end zone, or is it in facing being sacked for a loss on 3rd and long?

This is the issue I have with the fixation some evangelicals have on the "super star Christian". Yes, the Tim Tebow mania comes to mind, but that is only one example among many over the years. The idea is that a person of pop-culture fame, be it sports, movie actor/actress, etc, who is a professing Christian somehow has a platform to "be a witness for Jesus" in a very public way. Of course when another famous pop-culture idol uses their platform of fame to expound on some latest left-wing wacko silliness, these same people find that offensive.

These thoughts have come from further reflection on issues and ideas I dealt with earlier in a post on God & The Super Bowl. The more fundamental problem behind that post and this one is the issue of how we allow pop-culture to influence what we view as important in the work of the Kingdom of God. It also assumes things about God and what the Christian life is about that do not line up with reality or the Word of God. But then a superficial "pop-evangelicalism" always has that foundational flaw; a disconnect from the reality of a fallen world and a fogginess regarding what God's Word actually does tell us about the life of the redeemed in that fallen and not fully redeemed world.

Frankly that is not really much of a "faith" to live by for the vast overwhelming mass of humanity all around the globe. Nor is it a "faith" I want to stake my hope on.

If I don't have a faith that helps me to live when I am facing being sacked on 3rd and long as well as when I am in the end zone, then frankly, I'd rather have no faith at all.

#justwondering #nittygrittyliving #yourgodistoosmall

Friday, May 10, 2013

For Love of A Mother

"What's the story with these chickens?"

"I don't know... We came down to visit Mom and Dad one time and they were here..."

Such was the reply I gave the dear little elderly gray haired lady standing next to me.

"I'd like to have those chickens. I really like them. They remind me of when we use to have chickens..."

The two fowl in question sat there on the lawn motionless as most lawn and garden ornaments and figurines are. They were part of all the accumulation of a marriage of almost seventy years that had reached its conclusion when my Mom passed away in early December, and Dad followed her a short two weeks latter.

Here we were four months later. All the odds and ends and household stuff to be sold off in the estate auction had been scattered around the yard, the garage, and the barn waiting to be bid off to new owners by the auctioneer. It was getting on into the afternoon, and the majority of stuff and already been sold off to whatever bidder was willing to dig deeper into their pocket then the other bidders.

"I really would like to get those chickens." the elderly lady said again. "I wonder if anyone else will bid on them?"

"Mom, if you really want those chickens, there is nobody here who is going to be able to outbid you for them..."

Those words of assurance came from the younger man standing with us; the elderly lady's son who was a friend of mine going way back to another lifetime ages ago when we had been in high school together.

It was going to be another ten to fifteen minutes before the auctioneer got around to bidding off the chickens. A few more times in that interval the conversation was repeated. The mom expressed her desire to get the chickens and also her fear someone would outbid her for them. The son again quietly assured her that if she wanted those chickens, no one was going to have enough to outbid her.

Finally it came time to auction off the chickens. I expected that at most they might bring twenty or thirty dollars. The bidding started. The son was bidding for his mother. I don't know how many bidders there were initially, but very quickly the bids were much higher then ever expected.

At that point the two remaining bidders were the son and another woman who I did not recognize. The woman would make a bid and the without batting an eye, the elderly lady's son would immediately raise the bid. The bids continued on up past all reasonable expectation. The other bidder stared over at my friend in frustration, then finally gave it up.

I smiled in my heart. Mom and Dad's chickens were going to a good home where they would be loved and appreciated by a kind elderly gray haired lady who has a son who demonstrated that you do not and can not put a price tag on love for a mother.

Copyright May 2013, J. William Newcomer, all rights reserved.