Musings From A First Time T-Ball Parent

TBall

I’m a parent, and I’m a pastor- and if you’ve spent any time around us, you know that one of our greatest gifts (and perhaps curses!) is to draw spiritual principles out of just about everything that happens between us and our kids.  Much like our uncanny ability to alliterate in our messages- I mean, you do know that we dream about three points all starting with the same letter, don’t you?– we tend to inevitably process the events of our everyday lives through a teaching lens.  What follows in the paragraphs to come is the product of one of my latest such thought processes.  I mean, we really can’t help it here…so be gracious.

It’s a new season in our family- one in which we have three kids old enough to get outside the bubble of home and try their hand at some of the fine activities our community has to offer.  Our quest to “try some stuff” led us for the first time this spring to the t-ball fields with our two boys.  A few weeks in, it’s been quite an experience- good for some proud parent moments, a few head scratching parent moments, and a whole lot of laughs at the expense of small children and the adults trying to corral them into some semblance of an organized contest.

And of course, in true parent-pastor fashion, it has also called to mind some principles that apply well beyond the confines of preschool level sports to the life of every follower of Jesus, including you and me.  Here are four things that God is showing me through my time observing, cheering, and “coaching” (and I use that term verrrry loosely)…

1- Everyone has to start somewhere.  Have you ever thought about the fact that every professional baseball player in the world today was once three years old, toddling around a t-ball field in their hometown?  The first key to excellence- in baseball, or in anything else in life- is to simply get started.

When Jesus called His first disciples, they were far from world changing spiritual giants; they were actually stunningly ordinary, and more than a bit under-developed.  So how did they become the men who would one day take the Gospel of Jesus to the world?  They simply got started– by responding to one simple invitation to follow Jesus.  If you sense calling you to follow Him (overall, or in a specific direction within your relationship), have you taken the first step?

2- A little encouragement goes a long way.  I’ve been volunteering with my boys’ teams as an extra set of hands on the bases and in the field.  Do you know what I have found to be my primary role?  It’s not teaching technical skill; it is simply reminding the kids (approximately 57 times per game) to pay attention, give their best, and have fun doing it.  For example, I’ve used the phrase, “Run so fast that fire starts to come from your feet” more times than I can count.  Despite being a somewhat terrifying image, it seems to be a kid favorite.

How much do we need the exact same thing over the long road of our lives with Jesus?  While there is certainly a place for what we might call “technical instruction” (more on that in a moment), more than anything we need to be reminded of a few simple things- God’s great love for us, God’s constant faithfulness to lead us, and God’s amazing grace available to us at every moment through Jesus.  These core truths are the “fuel” for perseverance through the inevitable ups and downs of life.  What word of encouragement do you need to hear right now?  What word of encouragement do you need to give someone else right now?

3- “Showing” is far more powerful than just “telling.”  My three year old son, Asa, entered his inaugural season with a very interesting take on batting, one that could be generously described as a “tomahawk chop” in the general vicinity of the ball.  No matter how many times I told him to alter the direction of his swing, he just wasn’t getting it.  Turns out, he needed something more than a good “talking to”; he needed to see a different way of swinging.  After getting a glimpse of such a way from his coach, his teammates, and a family member other than me, he’s now slugging like a champ.

Often, our default mode of helping others grow in Jesus is much like my method of teaching Asa how to swing the bat.  We “talk at” people instead of taking the time to give them a glimpse of what following Jesus looks like in real life.  We don’t need perfect examples, but we do need living ones that we can observe and imitate.  This is why Paul could say with such boldness in 1 Corinthians 11:1- “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  Where and how do you need to be “shown” the life of faith?  Who in your life can you imitate?  Where and how can you become a “living example” for others as well?

4- The team win is far more valuable than personal glory.  We don’t do much fussing in 3-5 year old t-ball- but there is one area where we have had to lay a hard line with our players.  In their unrelenting zeal to “get the ball” while playing defense, several of our kids would consistently “dogpile” their teammate, attempting to wrestle the ball from them.  Aside from the obvious injury concern, this led us to teach a critical principle- The point isn’t for you (whoever you are) to make every play, but for our team to make every play.  When one person succeeds, we all succeed.  We can’t waste time and energy fighting against one another; we support and celebrate everyone else.

As I was saying that for what felt like the hundredth time, I was struck by how much we need that word as the church of Jesus.  How often and easily do we become fixated on amplifying our glory, or our church’s glory, or our ministry’s glory– forgetting that in the end, it is the “team win” that matters?  Are we as eager to support and celebrate others’ efforts to follow Jesus and help others follow Him as we are our own, or are we “dogpiling” others in an effort to wrestle glory from them and gain it for ourselves?  How much of our criticism of others is rooted in this very spirit of self-promotion?  If I could be this direct, we need to ask ourselves this question, and if we find the answer is in any way “yes,” it’s time to repent and ask God for His heart and His perspective.  Where are you most prone to seek personal glory instead of “team wins”?  Who do you need to take time right now to support and celebrate in their ministry efforts?

Now, who says t-ball can’t have eternal value?  Based on my experience, I beg to differ.  I pray these thoughts encourage and challenge you as you consider God’s call on your life today.

The Waiting Room

Waiting stinks.  No one enjoys waiting yet we know from Scripture that those who “wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  People who are willing to wait will soar like eagles, run without wearying, and walk without fainting.  These truths, however, do not make the experience of waiting more enjoyable.

We have great company when we are waiting.  People like Hannah, David, Joseph, and Abraham.  The company of people who have waited upon the Lord is not always good company.  In certain seasons of life, even the most faithful become impatient and tread on what God has in store.

Perhaps you find yourself in a season of waiting right now.  What can you do when you are not sure what to do?  Faithfulness is doing what you know to do now until you know what to do next.  I want to share a few stories and points with you from the Old Testament that I hope will encourage you in your waiting.  (There will be another blog or two in the coming weeks…but you must wait.)

Fight for faith in the in-between.  Faith is easier in beginnings and endings.  It is much easier to run hard and push yourself at the beginning of a race and at the end of a race than in the middle of it.  Abraham and Sarah struggled with this.  God promised them a child and they did not wait.  Sarah gave her maidservant to be Abraham’s wife so they could be blessed with a child.  This led to generation upon generation of strife between their descendants.  Abraham believed upfront and was faithful in the end, but he did not fight for faith in the in-between.  Sometimes giving in is giving up.  Don’t give in.

Fight the temptation to demand control of what is God’s and deny control of what is yours.  Abraham and Sarah could not control the womb but they had control of Hagar.  They decided to do God’s job instead of their own.  Often when we are in seasons of waiting or struggle we deny that we have control over things like character and conduct and try to control things like people and circumstances.  Be faithful with what is yours…even in the waiting room.

Don’t forget – God sees you where you are.  Hagar ran away because she was mistreated, but God saw her where she was.  Do not think that the tough place you find yourself in life is out of God’s sight.  He sees you even when you are struggling to see Him.

Work on why you want not just what you want.  Hannah wanted a child.  That is a reasonable desire…even a God-given desire.  She wanted a child to serve the Lord, not to satisfy herself.  The commitments she made to give her child in service to God were not manipulative nor dishonest.  Her promises were of a true and faithful heart.  She had a right desire for a right reason – even in the midst of her pain.

Grieve with God, not against God.  Hannah was in grief over her barren womb, but she brought that pain to a God she believed cared, not one she though was callous.  Allow your griefs and burdens to be his grief and his burdens.  Cast your cares upon Him not against Him.

Never try to find nor become a substitute for someone’s pain.  Hannah’s husband insensitively asked her if he was “better than 10 sons.”  NO!  You might be one great husband but you will never be one great husband and 10 sons to anyone.  You can only be the one thing you are.  Dysfunction is trying to be who you are in someone’s life and who you are not in their life.  Substitutes will eventually rob you of the joy for the real thing.

Be faithful with the life you have to be faithful in asking for what you do not have in life.  You will not be rewarded with much by being unfaithful with little.  We often reject what provision we have so we can show we deserve the provision we lack.  Hannah was faithful to the Lord and her husband with or without a son.  Be faithful.

Waiting is not a game, it is a reality.  It is often difficult, frustrating, and discouraging.  Being faithful in seasons of waiting says much about what you believe about the nature and character of God.  Our faithfulness is a response to God’s faithfulness.  We love him because he has already loved us.  Do not forget that just because you are waiting.

Don’t shout out…Shut up!

What if I told you to shut up? There would probably be a slug fest of words between the two of us! As a guy who has a loud voice and much to say, I need to be told to shut up sometimes! I recall a time where I was hanging with my youth pastor Steve Spence in his office. He was a busy dude but always made time for me as a mentor does, which I highly appreciated. But this one particular time I saw him the way I had never seen him before; a wave of frustration came over him…and it wasn’t his fault. I started a conversation that really aggravated him. I started talking about myself: Whether it was about how good I was at basketball, preaching, or about students who looked up to me. It was big head city! But what I thought was a great conversation, turned into a bitter taste of humble pie, when Steve stopped doing what he was doing, and turned to me with a flustered look and said…”Shut Up! Could you be any fuller of yourself?” Two fists just hit my gut worse than a fish fillet sandwich from McDonalds. At that moment Steve didn’t have to say anymore. It was clear. I was boasting in myself and praising my works. I was humbled in that moment by my mentor, because my head was so big that it was cramping his space and disturbing his spirit.

Talking about how awesome I am has never cured a disease, saved a person, or lead an army to victory. It actually makes me look ridiculous. It’s as if I must talk about myself just in case people don’t know of the accolades that makes me awesome! Ever felt that way? You’re in a conversation with people and someone is being encouraged or lifted up and your jealousy starts eating at you. In your mind you say “Now is my chance. They have to know about me! They have to know what I’ve done, who I’ve lead to Jesus, how many points I’ve scored in a game, how great my kids are because my parenting skills are incredible!” These may not be the exact things you’re thinking, but maybe something similar. And now your head can’t fit through a windshield, congratulations!

Question is, what are you really gaining from bragging about yourself?

Allow this verse to sting you like it did me:

Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you and not your own mouth; a stranger, not your own lips.”

Marinate on that for a moment.

As I was meditating on this passage last week, three things stuck out to me that I believe can help us all when it comes to shutting our mouths and allowing others speak for us. These three things came as a result of preaching to myself, because I have a problem with being braggadocios sometimes.

  1. Boasting and praising self is for my self-glory: God will not share his glory with others. When we try to put ourselves at the center of His universe, it’s insulting and selfish. God is at the center of His universe and deserves all the praise no matter what.
  1. Shut my lips of pride before humility shuts it for me: In the moment that my youth pastor told me to shut up, he gave me a lesson on how shouting out how awesome I am is no good. It tells people I think more highly of myself than I ought to. I can lose followers, and possibly even friends if not checked, and checked I was. Just because you have statistics, doesn’t mean you should share them boastfully. You ever hear about the kid in grade school who won the humble badge award but then got it taken away because he wore it? Get over yourself before you hurt yourself. Remember this wisdom from Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
  1. Let others boast, but don’t get puffed up: When others praise your name for something God did through you, let them do it. Whether it’s in front of you or behind your back, it’s OK for others to honor who you are. However, don’t allow it to make you think “I am the man!” that’s when pride will circle around again and knocks you back down.

I challenge you like I need to challenge myself daily, to shut up before you shout out. We need the gospel daily to remind us what true humility looks like. It’s Jesus taking on human flesh, living a sinless life, dying a dreadful death so that you and me can live for Him and Him alone. That will challenge you to make much of him and less of yourself. 

Clinton, Sanders, Trump

2016-election-banner

Which is the greatest candidate?  Here is one spiritual leader who is not afraid to tell you how to think in this political climate.

 

 

Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  [Matthew 22:36-40 ESV]

Ok, so he wasn’t asked which is the greatest candidate. Regardless if you are trying to determine how to vote (and I hope you will),  how to express your opinion on social media, or how you will invest your time and money; meditate on His words and allow them to become a powerful filter for your every thought, word and deed.

Ask
How will I love God completely in this moment? 
How will I love my neighbor with this decision?

*In case your wondering, I listed the current candidates who are mathematically able to receive a major party nomination in alphabetical order.  However, I hope you think of this blog as more about life choices than a few presidential candidates.