Category Archives: Sports

Competitive Nearsightedness: it’s Treatable

CIMG4384Both teams were there. Both coaches. Lots and lots of parents. The only thing missing was the referee. No one wanted to reschedule this last game of the season, which didn’t determine anything in the standings. We just needed to get it played.

As it happened, there was a parent on each team who was certified as a referee. Both sides agreed to play the game under the officiation of these two dads and abide by the outcome. They each would take a half of the field. At half time, when the teams switched sides, the dads would stay: even exposure to both pairs of eyes, one half on offense, one half on defense.

Man, that dad from the other team, he was BLIND! He called everything against us. But our dad, he was exceedingly fair, giving their team every benefit of the doubt. Really. Not kidding. That’s the way I saw it. But actually, in the end, the fouls called were about the same. If they had been somewhat partial, it went both ways. Season over.

I discovered something that day: my eye bends what I see. If I have a team favorite or a preferred outcome, if I want things to go a particular way, if I want a certain team to win, I tend to see things that way. And think I’m right. In my spectating life, the foul is always on the other team. And even if you point out the transgression committed by my player, I am quick to argue: she pushed first, he was just defending himself, it was inadvertent…. Apparently, I am biased. I see things with my jersey color overlaid.

What a great lesson our sports experience teaches. If I’ve made up my mind what the outcome should be, I’ll see myself as right and act accordingly. Point out my error, and I will swiftly find ways of justifying myself. That doesn’t make me right; it just makes me feel right, and a bit indignant that you can’t see it my way.

Watching those two dad-refs do their best and then watching both teams shake their hands and thank them for the game, improved my vision. I suffer from competitive nearsightedness; I am biased when looking out for my own best interests. Life lived faithfully looks out for the interests of the other, even my opponents, to ensure that they haven’t been wronged.

Developing an unbiased perspective? That requires surrender in service to the game. It requires us actually to embrace and accept the wisdom of “may the best team win.” No, actually. And that’s not easy. It’s unnatural. Gonna take some time, and practice. Everybody gets better with practice.

As one who seeks to live a life which follows Christ, the evidence of my practice is a growing expression of the fruit of the Spirit in my life.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,  goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22

Am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Are you? Are we?

If we’re not getting better, we’re not practicing.

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To whom do you pledge your allegiance?

American flag prayerWhen they play the National Anthem, do you sit? stand? lock arms? kneel? put hand over heart? Do you sing? remain silent? Can you remember all the words? Can you reach all the notes? I’m pretty sure we’ve never given it so much consideration as a nation as we are doing right now. What does our flag and our National Anthem mean to us? to you?

Apparently, according to these Washington Post writers, it’s tradition. And tradition, these days, doesn’t go unaddressed, unchallenged or unopposed. So, if it’s so controversial, why not just begin with “Play ball!”? or at the ref’s whistle, the buzzer sounding or the starting gun?

Apart from the Olympics, when competitors gather, they are competing individually and/or perhaps for a team. Rarely do they suit up to represent their nation. And when they do — at least in the US of A — the only thing that’s similar about them is their uniform. Hair color, eye color (and sometimes eye multi-color — looking at you, Max Scherzer), skin color, body shape, size and distribution, tattoos, piercings, facial hair, facial features… I need not go on. We are a very un-uniform bunch. Even in uniform.

So, that’s got me thinking, as we stand before the game we’ve trained to compete in – as I stand before the game I’ve trained to compete in — whether it’s sports or academics, if it’s wall street main street, or putting on my game face for the rush hour traffic that’s sure to confront me — to what or whom do I pledge my allegiance? to what do we devote our effort? to whom do we commit ourselves in our day to day games?

Yes, for these professional athletes, this team, this game, this season is what they signed up for. This is their day job. This is how they earn their (very large) paycheck. I have no such obligation.

Or do I?

Scripture tells me that I was bought at a price. It wasn’t a bribe or a payoff or a paycheck, for that matter. It was a sacrificial offering, given without strings attached. Still, it was alot. It was everything. I was very expensive. God paid top dollar for me.

So, as I stand on the sidelines of my life, waiting to take the field for today’s game, what does my posture say about the allegiance I hold?

If you saw me there, would you know who I play for? Would I stand, sit or kneel? Would I remove my cap and put my hand over my heart? Would I look to my jersey or my colleagues to know whose team I was on? If the national anthem played, would I sing it?

It’s a good question: the game is about to start, who do you play for?

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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