Category Archives: Christ

God, Jesus and Baseball

I was born kinesthetic. Not until some time later did I realize I had God to thank for that. Not until I came to know Jesus did I realize I had to do something about it.

FullSizeRender (4)Several Washington Nationals players drove this home for me during the post- game celebration of Faith Day at Nats Park. There, a group of professional baseball players who had just slugged it out for an awesome nine innings, sauntered over in street clothes to talk with us about God, Jesus and  baseball.

Great combination, huh?

I like to say (and even write :)) that I’m a Kinesthetic Christian, but these guys take this to a totally new level. They’re way better at being kinesthetic than I am. They’ve certainly made WAY more of their gift than I have made of mine.

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Yet, one by one, they share honest stories of struggle in the midst of their exceedingly successful careers in baseball – one via relationship, one due to injury and one in a dire crisis of confidence. When these guys thought they had finally “arrived,” the bottom fell out. Forced to give up what they had always dreamed about, a door opened to something they hadn’t known was missing. That’s when faith took hold.

Daniel Murphy calls it filling a “Jesus-shaped hole.” And he is candid about speaking – not just about God – but about Jesus. His savior is Jesus; he’ll say it again, Jesus. Because, says Murphy, “Jesus demands a response.”

Wow. I can get on board with that. God has a lot of names these days and shows up in a lot of places. But Jesus, now that guy makes demands. If you follow Jesus, he shows up and then asks, What are you gonna do about me?!

Over the weekend, the major league ball players wore youth-style jerseys with a spot on the sleeve to write the name of a person who has aided their career. Murph wore “JESUS.”  He’s proclaiming the name all over the tv screen, because Murph is all over the tv screen.  For his time in the spotlight Daniel Murphy’s got a platform, and he plans on using it. During his turn in the batter’s box he makes plain that he is a Christian and is doing his darnedest to be a good representative of the family tree.

God made him a good baseball player. Jesus demands a response.

IMG_7324All three ball players who were interviewed by Nats commentator Bob Carpenter confessed that it’s never easy in the “Big Leagues.” Here, as celebrated athletes at the top of their profession, they bubble in a daily cauldron of nearly unimaginable pressure… Perform now. The game, the season, your career is on the line. Talk about tension!

They have discovered the secret to tension. “There’s more to life than baseball…We need to be a light to all the others.”

Oh, what a welcome message that is to hear. As an avid sports fan and regular contestant, I confess that I cringe every time I hear an interview with a winning athlete that goes something like this:

Interviewer: “So what is your advice to young players who want to play pro ball?”
Athlete: “You just have to believe in yourself and never give up.”

NO!!! I want to holler back. Believing in yourself, even with the grittiest of discipline, will only get you so far. To get the rest of the way, you have to surrender. Surrender success, achievements, medals, trophies, and even the World Series ring. Give it all to God. Then, when you can subsist on what’s left after giving up all that, Jesus meets us, and it’s the best thing ever. Better than we could have ever planned, imagined, or dreamed.

God doesn’t want our trophies; God wants us.

This is the message these ballplayers are trying to live out. Wieters, Rendon and Murphy, plus Goodwin, Drew, Taylor, Lobaton and NY Met, Brendan Nimmo, are here to let us know it.

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I’m looking at you guys through different eyes now. You take kinesthetic to a whole new level, and its good, very good. I hope it takes you all the way this year because really, what would God do with a World Series ring, anyway?

It was a great game. It had me on my feet a lot, and I’m making no apologies for that. It’s just the way I’m wired. When I see a great play, I’m on my feet. Throw a guy out from center, peg a guy out from third, make a diving grab, homer, RBI, strike them out … I’m up! Clapping. Hollering. I can’t help it; I’m kinesthetic. I was born that way.

So now I am asking myself… Why am I not on my feet when my pastor hits one out of the park? When God makes a great play, why am I satisfied to applaud politely from my pew? What if I were as enthusiastic about my faith as I am about my favorite team?

Thank you for speaking up, Matt, Anthony, Murph and friends. God may speak with a still, small voice, but Jesus demands a response. You are living yours out in front of us. Thank you for reminding me that I must live out mine.

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Activism or Love in Action?

I was an activist way before is was trendy. Today, an activist is:

“One who takes vigorous action or pursues involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.”

If you are taking action toward your cause or your goals, you’re an “activist.” It seems like everyone in America is an “activist” these days.

Except we’re not. America today is anything but active. In fact, we’re setting new records for our inactivity. Physical inactivity, overweight and obesity are overrunning us. While health organizations plead with us to do a measly 30 minutes of daily exercise, we’re rushing to get our fast food so we can hurry back into “action” at our desks and computers.

We are activists without the activity! Absent is the healthy activity that can heal us, help stabilize our blood sugar and moderate our mood swings.

What’s the opposite of activist, anyway? anti-activist? in-activist? Sounds like a disease or an over-the counter-medication. Nobody wants to be that!

No. We need to emerge from this pseudo-activism into full-fledged action. We are all activists. We were born that way. We’ve just let that sag a bit. We are meant to take action; it’s what our bodies were made for.

We need to be present, to march, or gather, to protest or counter-protest, to be there in person, to show up. We need to put our bodies on the line, any line. That’s the gift this generation’s version of activism has given us. Let your unique and singular voice be heard in person and in action – carry signs if you like. Connect with like-minded folks, as you like, but also with those of unlike mind. That is the nature of taking action.

We do this from the platform we build for ourselves – not a stage or a podium – but a solid place. A hillside of sorts, a village green, where grains of soil, layered day by day, watered by gentle rains, are held fast by the roots of newly greening grass and sapling chutes. What we plant, tend and nurture may one day grow to give shade there.

Without such a platform, erected and built painstakingly by the physical labor of love, we are just resounding gongs and clanging cymbals, echoing the words of others rather than thinking for ourselves and standing for what we believe in.

Have you seen this image?

wheelchair vet stands for flag

As the flag of America passes by, the only one standing is the man in a wheelchair. Perhaps he’s the only one who sees something worth standing for. 

Activism or love in action?

By all means, sit for the American flag if you must to express yourself, but if you do, please stand for something else that gives your protest meeting. Activism absent activity is worthless. We must define ourselves not by what we’re against but by what we’re for. And then … take action.

All in. Heart, soul, mind and strength. There is no such thing as believing in, without acting for. We are of one nature, not two. What we’ve been given, we’re meant to use.

I’m an activist. I was born that way.

So are you.

The Message Our Body Brings to Life

Does it surprise you to look at these two photos, side by side?

The one on the left is among the tiniest of miracles, a cell in the brain. The one on the right is perhaps the grandest of miracles, the universe. Their similarity is striking. It’s all a matter of scale… and perspective. One wonders if they aren’t both the work of the same hand. (See my post: Divine Design makes you wonder.)

Why waste a perfectly good idea, right? As my friend Mary Lou puts it, “God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler.” When we have the ability to look with appropriate perspective, we may see the signature of the designer.

But I wonder if the similarity isn’t just in appearance. Often the structure of a thing gives us clues to its function. Perhaps our growing understanding of the operation of the brain cell may shed light on interactions across our universe. Could what’s in us help explain what’s outside us and help us manage what’s between us?

20_week_fetusIs it so far-fetched to think that the God of the universe has intentionally planted the answers to our deepest questions inside us? Is He patiently waiting for us to find them? I, as a student of the human body, find myself both dumb-founded to consider this and excited to think it might be so. Are God’s answers hiding in plain view, waiting to be acknowledged?

Certainly the beginning of new life begs us to consider God’s hand in its midst. Can there be anything more miraculous? Is there any more convincing witness to the hand of a Divine Creator?

Biblical writers certainly had this same awe, even though they had no ultrasound images to confirm their suspicions:

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, 

    intricately woven in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139: 13-15

But let’s not stop at the miracle of the development of one body.  All of us, the Church Universal, are being formed into the body of Christ. 

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ~ Ephesians 4:16

If we were designed to be joined and held together and thus to grow in love as we work together, our world today suggests we are far from God’s design. Yet, if God intends it, surely He has not made this an unsolvable puzzle. Perhaps the model for us as the Body of Christ is suggested in the workings of our own individual bodies.

Allow me, if you would, a moment of speculation as I put on my hat as physiologist. Science demonstrates that the human body is so much more than its anatomy – more than the skin we can see, the muscle we can bulge, the pulse we can touch, and the breath we can take in. Underneath all of these functions are the delicate and highly regulated interactions which make them work: organs and organ systems made up of tissues and cells all contributing what’s necessary for life.

The key to healthy life in the human body: cooperation among systems to co-exist while competing for a fixed supply of resources. Their successful interdependence is guided by a simple and familiar principle: to each according to its need. This delicate balance is maintained in response to the demands of life. Survival of the fittest is nonsense within the body because each part is necessary for the survival of the whole body.

No two systems in the human body are alike. Each is specialized for an essential task; none “considers” itself above the rest. How could it? What good would the heart be without blood to circulate? What good would the muscles do without limbs to move? What good is our breath if it can’t deliver what it inhales and exhales? What good is our skeleton without ligaments to allow it to stand? What good is a brain without means to connect and communicate? What good is sight without vision or sound without hearing?

Is this an echo of the message in First Corinthians?

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ~1 Cor 12:17-20

Could our bodies hold God’s message for our world?

They demonstrate so beautifully and seamlessly the choreography of interdependent parts negotiating life, giving and responding obediently for the good of the whole. There is no greater and no lesser, no greed and no hoarding, no scarcity and no hunger. The better the parts work together, the more abundant is the life.

Who in the world could have ever thought of that?

If we are to believe that our God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler who loves all He created, then God wastes not one bit. Each part is necessary and intended for the good of the whole. Each one is essential to the life of the body. Each interaction effects all others. Unique, for sure. Different, for certain. Interdependent, completely. No exceptions.

It is the genius of perfect living balance: I take only what I need, so you will have what you need. Our ultimate survival may depend on it. So simple that any body can show you.

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