Perfect Pitch

Sometimes I do my best thinking while I’m in the car.  This is my private time with God usually as two young children fill my ears and attention when I’m at home, and when I’m at work, it’s hard to focus for long stretches of time on Him.

Today a strange metaphor came to mind during this time that I want to share with you.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

The trials in life are kind of like individual pitches in a baseball game.  Each pitch is an opportunity.  The pitch – fast, slow, sliding, curving, or sinking – must be quickly discerned (May the Lord help you if you’re facing a knuckleball thrower because it can do all three at the same time if that’s the case!).

Each of those trials is capable of blowing right by you untouched into the catcher’s mitt and striking you out at the plate.  Equally, each of those pitches represents an opportunity for you to individually shine.

Before you step in the batter’s box, you get your signal from the third base coach (the Spirit) who in turn is relaying the expectations and the game plan from the manager (God).

You step in the box and the pitcher starts his wind up.  Your eye tracks the pitcher’s arm and watches for the ball.  If your vision is clear then you can see the ball’s seams and “read the pitch.”  The spin and release point tell you whether it’s a sinker, slider, fastball, changeup, or curve and give you a fair idea of whether the pitch will be a ball or a strike.  Then and only then do you decide whether you should swing.

What makes the “read” hard for mankind is that our vision is not clear.  It is clouded because of the obstructions of sin, doubt, and unfaithfulness.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

When you can’t see the pitch, rarely can you hit it, and when you do, you usually hit it on the ground or pop it up sharply and get yourself out easily.  How can we see the pitch, the trial, for what it is and recognize what God wants us to do with it?

We have to admit our faults.  Our vision sucks.  His vision is perfect.  When we accept Christ into our hearts and place our faith in Him, He will start to heal our vision and turn it into His.  By trusting our coach on when to swing for the fences, to hit for contact, or to bunt as part of the game-plan, our vision will improve more as we know what pitches we should be looking for when we step up to the plate.  Our chance to really shine and put the ball in play increase as a result.

The pitches start coming.  You might hit a solid base hit, drop a bunt, hit a home run, or get yourself out on strikes, but even if you do, there will be another chance soon and you’ll get to step into the box again and look for your pitch once more.

 

Passion

I think one of the things that people would say about me is that I am a passionate person.

I am passionate about sports.  I love competition and the push and pull of a hard-fought football, basketball, or baseball game.  I love the thrill of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat – the buzzer beater in basketball, the successful Hail Mary pass in football, or the bottom of the ninth bases loaded hit to score the winning run.

I am passionate about my country.  I grew up with a deep understanding of freedom and the sacrifices in the past in order to win those liberties and the ongoing sacrifices necessary in maintenance of them.  I look at those men and women who have sacrificed limbs, years of their lives, families in some cases, friends, careers, and lives in maintenance of those liberties and freedoms.

I am passionate about my family.  I deeply love my wife, more than I could ever express in words. I cherish everything that she does and sacrifices for me and my sons.  I watch earnestly as they learn new things and hunger for new experiences and share their excitement in going out to tackle those experiences together.

I am passionate about truth.  The mission statement and purpose for this collection of writings is part of my passion, which is to share the unvarnished truth.  I mix in my opinion, but always with an eye on the truth of the matter.  Whether a million people happen to read my words or not doesn’t matter – the truth on it’s own is justification enough for me to expend my energy in this endeavor.

I am passionate about my God.  I wish I could say that I was the perfect follower of Christ and always place Him at the center of my life.  I try, but it is so easy to get out of balance.  It is so easy to put other things in the center of my life, even for just a moment, but as I have gained more perspective in life it has become easier to realize that my motivations, my focus, my hub are out of whack.  This perspective has given me the ability to go to God to re-centralize my focus on Him.  I don’t get it right all the time, but I know that He has already forgiven me for those moments.

That’s really the crux of passion if you think about it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

God, one and the same as Christ and the Spirit, is eternal, infinite love.  The triune nature of God is one of love and passion.  The God of the universe loved the Son infinitely.  The God of the universe loved the world, mankind, so much that He asked Christ, the Son, to die and suffer separation from the triune bond, even if only for three infinitesimal days from His perspective.

What passion.

How much passion must you have to ask your SON to die?

How much passion must you have to respond, as Christ did, by doing so?

To lay down His crown and authority for us?

I believe from the core of my being that He hung on the cross and rose after three days in the grave, yet I have a hard time grasping that amount of love and passion.  I want to desperately.

I could be ruled by my own passions… I could chase the desires of my flesh – sex, food, wealth, vanity, pleasures of every kind, but they do not fulfill me.  They fail to satisfy me, and leave me wanting more and more.  Instead of inspiring me, they ensnare me in an endless cycle of trying to gain my next “hit.”

I choose to be ruled by His passion.  As I want more and more, He freely gives of His own passion.

I know a lot of people who would ascribe to me the passions I listed above, amongst others, but what I desperately want people to see is that my passion in life is not my own, but His.

 

 

 

As a Phoenix

There is a strong push to not allow things to fail occurring in so many spheres of society today.  Banks are “too big to fail.”  Kids shouldn’t be “left out” of awards ceremonies so they don’t feel bad.  Countries can’t fail because of the financial repercussions.  Never mind that the “why” questions that such situations pose are convoluted to answer.  Has anyone actually taken a look at the repercussions down the line for a refusal to allow failure?

Once something becomes “too big to fail” or “can’t be made to feel bad” or “not allowed to default,” the extent of actions open to prevent these failures is limitless.  This ultimately encourages a decrease in inventiveness, perseverance, creativity, and improvement.  What motivation do you have to get better if you are never allowed to experience the cold feedback of failure?  Failure in and of itself is a fantastic motivation to put forth the extra effort, to take that extra hour doing batting practice to make the little league team, to expend those extra hours at work to make sure that your proposal is perfect,

In science, there is a theory that the universe could ultimately cease to exist in what is called a state of heat death.  The universe is in a constant state of energy flux as matter is compressed into pure energy in the core of a few trillion stars and then recoalesces into matter as it is expelled and cools over time.  These fluctuations in temperature, provided by the mass to energy and energy to mass conversions as the universe heats and cools like a giant ticking clock will eventually even out as the theory states.  At that point, energy and mass with cease to convert back and forth and the universe will stabilize it’s temperature completely – the universe will simply stop working.

By permitting the “thou shalt not fail” mindset in politics, business, and at home, we are slowly crushing the very spark of human of the human spirit and all of it’s ingenuity, creativity, and courage.  This equality of outcome is more counterproductive to society than anything else as it fails to inspire redemption, triumph over adversity, and discipline.

Businesses must never be “too big to fail” or bad business models, foolish management, risk-taking, and lawlessness will prevail.

Countries must be allowed to fail so that failed policies can be purged, leadership can be changed, and prosperity is again possible and hope can be renewed.

Kids must be allowed to fail so that they experience the crush of defeat early in life, and learn to not just overcome it, but to use it is as a motivating force in their life in pursuit of their dreams and ambitions.

Failure is a quintessential part of humanity.  Atheists will often pose a question for Christians that usually goes something like this: If God really exists, loves us, and wants what is good for us why would He allow suffering in the world?

To that question, I respond: How glorious God is and how wise He is that He would allow suffering and failure in the world, in order to prove His glory and power time and time again as He pulled the fallen from the ashes of their own personal destruction and used that temporary hell as a motivating force for mighty deeds for the betterment of mankind.  The beauty of creation, the ENTIRE point of existence since the Fall has been to not shock and awe the world into obedience, but to provide examples of men and women who rise up from the ashes like the mythological phoenix created anew, more powerful and stronger than before… reborn and tempered not by success, but by failure and submission.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Revelation 3:15

Out of adversity and the pain of defeat have come some of the most uplifting and moving successes of history.

George Washington lost a battle to the French at Fort Necessity.  In fact, he was defeated time and time again, such as at the Battle of Long Island where the American revolution came a hair’s breadth from being crushed between the three-times larger British army and the Royal Navy.  These defeats crystallized Washington into the man we see today in the lens of history. This man later forced a night march, on Christmas Eve, to take the Battle of Trenton from a professional Hessian regiment and turned the tide of the Revolution from one of nearly absolute defeat to one of astounding success.

Henry Ford was bankrupted five times before founding the Ford Motor Company and introducing the assembly line to the world as an industrial breakthrough.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and failed at his first computer business.  He went out to found and lead Microsoft to one of the most successful and profitable companies in the world.

Thomas Edison tried thousands of different designs that all failed before creating what we commonly know today as the incandescent light bulb.

Elvis Presley was fired after his first paid gig as a performer and became an iconic stage presence.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and became the best player of his era.

Babe Ruth stuck out 1,330 times and is credited as one of the best hitters of all time.

LeBron James lost a free throw contest in middle school and has gone on to dominate the game of basketball at every level.

The option to fail is not an evil to be avoided.  Failure, adversity, and defeat do not destroy the human spirit, they embolden it, to become greater, stronger, faster, smarter, to grow in faith, not in their own abilities, but those given to us by God.  It is the tempering fire, the blacksmith’s hammer, and the pain of discipline.

Failure is creative destruction.

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

Arthur Golden

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.

George Eliot

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:1-11

 

 

 

 

 

The Bishop of Rome

Viva Papa Francis.

I am not Catholic, but I respect the Catholic Church and the devoted people within it that daily follow Christ’s calling to be His emissaries in this world.  So today, I celebrate that Spirit-led election of the new Bishop of Rome and the titular head of the Church.  I pray that he is received a double-helping of the Spirit, the courage, bravery, and boldness of Christ in all that he does.

The elevation of this man to the head of the Church comes at a crucial moment, not only in our time as Christians, but also for Americans and lovers of liberty alike.

Why is that you might ask?  I wasn’t even so sure myself until I spoke with my Jesuit-educated bride about it.

The Church will benefit from a man that has lived a life of humility and service despite his titles and authority formerly as a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Argentina.  He seems to deeply believe that the calling of Christ is not to be taken lightly or to be abused, but rather it is a calling to service first and foremost.  The Church will also benefit from a man dedicated not only to service, but also justice.  The man himself, while open to “free-thinking” as espoused by the Jesuits is a rigid defender of the Faith and of Catholic doctrine, not just when it comes to Christ’s teachings, but how those teachings apply in the modern world.  He has come out against gay marriage, gay adoption, and a litany of other social issues that leftists and outsiders use to try to cleave the Church in two.  The arguments and defenses that the Jesuits use in defense of the Church doctrine are usually exceptionally well-thought out, well-versed in Scripture, but also well-versed in science, history, and philosophy.

What it ultimately comes down to for Pope Francis as he begins his tenure as the most visible ambassador of Christ in the physical world is that he will enter this post with humility, but I do not expect him to be timid or meek.  He will rather seek to emulate the founders of his order, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis.

The man may be 76 years old, but he is one of God’s Marines.  And to steal a saying – only two kinds of people understand marines: marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

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