Wednesday, May 30, 2007

On God and Baseball

May 30. The Yankees are in last place… 14-½ games out of first place. Sitting here tonight, my first thought is this: if I had $200 million to spend, we would never lose a game. Alas, checking my wallet, I’m only about $200 million short… which leads me to my second thought: are there any biblical insights that relate to the Yankee’s sudden demise?

Of course, growing up, I always “knew” that God was a Yankees fan. As the winners of 26 World Championships--more than any other team in sports--who could argue with the facts. But is that what the Lord really has to say about baseball?

My first stop is Matthew 5:1-12... The Beatitudes. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Does that mean Tampa Bay has a shot at the playoffs this year? Think not.

Psalm 146:2. “I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Did you ever see a player look up to the heavens after hitting a home run? Sometimes they will kiss their crucifix before circling the bases. Funny, but I feel an instant connection with players who openly display their faith. Equally funny, no one seems to be thinking about God after a strikeout…

1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” Note: if this was Joe Torre’s pep talk before Monday’s 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays, it didn’t work.

Romans 5:3 “... because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Ahh… so God was really a closet Red Sox fan all along!

1 Corinthians 9:25 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Maybe this is a good spot to end -- for no matter how the Yankees do this year, it will soon pass… but there are things I could be focused on instead that have eternal implications.

By the way… Yankees just scored 4 in the ninth to take the lead… Tampa Bay just lost so we’re already out of the cellar… isn’t there a reference in Hosea 2:15 about a door of hope??? Quick, hand me my Bible!

Monday, May 21, 2007

What's your 'nerve strength'?

Recently, many of us at church took the Gallup Strengths Finder Assessment – a tool that is used in the business world to develop talent, build teams and enhance relationships. Not surprisingly – everyone has different strengths and talents – and they say that finding someone who shares your top five in order is a one-in-seventeen million proposition. (

Gallup gives cool one-word “markety” names to each of the 34 strengths identified. One is called Achiever… a constant, relentless need for achievement – a drive to do more in order to feel good about yourself. The fact that this ranked in my top five did not surprise me. But of my many talents (ha, ha) this one is different in one regard: I think it’s my ‘nerve strength’ – the talent or strength that strikes a particular nerve – the one through which I judge other people. For example – I won’t think less of you if you have trouble seeing patters (Strategic) or if you’re not naturally inquisitive (Input). Likewise, I hope you won’t like me less because I don’t share your talents for Empathy, Includer or Woo (I don’t).

But I do judge people on whether or not they are Achievers. I think better of people who share this strength and less of people who don’t. And that's wrong. Even worse, there are people I love who are not Achievers – nor should they be. They have being given other talents and strengths. But I don’t naturally respond with this understanding. I get angry. Upset. Frustrated.

Do you have a ‘nerve strength’ like me? Perhaps knowing how God wired me will make it easier for me to be more understanding – and share a more Christ-like love. Gallup calls those who can turn thoughts like this into action Activators. Don't think less of me, but that strength wasn’t on my list.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Can I change my vote?

I’m a fan of pop culture. I get my news from Entertainment Weekly, and one my four “must watch” shows each week is American Idol. This past week, the consensus “best singer” was voted off Idol, leaving us with the unique, beat-boxing Blake and the young, big-voiced Jordin. Personally, I was not surprised.

Consistency, quality, purity, excellence (attributes used to describe the now-going-home Melinda) are values we all appreciate… but when it’s time to choose, we often choose otherwise. Edgy… risky… unique... we take a chance on potential, something new.

That thought came to me this morning while reading in the book of Jeremiah, "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” (2:5)

OK, so maybe it’s a big jump from Melinda’s demise to the fall of man. But if you look back in history, God gives it all, week after week – and anyone who experiences God knows it’s good. We praise God. We love God. And yet we all make choices that forsake this goodness. From Adam down to Ed.

Often I look up only to see that I have walked past “the spring of living water” as Jeremiah describes God’s goodness, and instead have dug my own cistern – a broken cistern that cannot hold water. Thankfully, when we realize what we’ve done and feel thirst, Jesus invites us to return the spring. (If only we never left!)

Perhaps part of me uses the Lord’s mercy as a free pass in life, but I also realized that at some point, just like American Idol, the phone lines will be closed and the final votes will be counted.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Upside-down agendas

On route to his first trip to Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he supported excommunication for politicians who backed Mexico City’s decision to legalize abortion. I was intrigued… what does excommunication mean?

Turns out that this does not mean you’re thrown out of the club (which I originally though) but it’s kinda more like a “censure”. You can’t serve as in a leadership role during mass, but you can still attend. It is usually only used with “influential public figures” and is meant to serve as pressure (repent in your ways!) than a punishment, per se. The only thing that struck me as odd was that if you were excommunicated, you could not participate in the sacrament of Communion.

In my heart, someone who is promoting the practice of abortion is not following in the footsteps of Christ (so repentance is on order)… but I am troubled by the fact that an excommunication seems to be driven more by political agenda than a spiritual one.

Catholics are not alone. A few months ago I was troubled even more by a piece in the New York Times that noted that leaders of several conservative Christian groups wanted the National Association of Evangelicals to stop speaking out on global warming as it was “diverting the evangelical movement from what they deem more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.”

And you wonder… why are so many people turned off by God?

In the early church, you get the sense that leaders saved their reprimands for the “insiders” (the true believers) and dealt with outsiders (non-believers) with heartfelt teaching and love. Somewhere along the way we turned that up-side down. We love ourselves and reprimand the outsiders. Ouch!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Celebrate what's unique -- as long as it's not you.

Having just returned from a family vacation on Arizona, I was awestruck by the beauty of the southwest (not to mention the Grand Canyon itself). While I am not a 'world traveller' per se, the vast diversity across geographies never ceases to be a source of amazement.

From the lush rolling green hills of Ireland, to the plains of northern Texas, to the stone-walls of colonial Connecticut, we as people can appreciate diversity in nature. We sometimes pay big money to experience new things. And I admit (even despite a rainy spring) I love diversity in the weather, too.

All around us, we celebrate God's creativity -- and how it manifests itself in so many ways around us. As John McCain said in last night's debate, "when I hike the grand canyon and see the sunset, I also see the hand of God."

Why is it then, this same diversity that we adore in the world around us is the very thing that pulls us apart as a people. We can appreciate uniqueness in everything, except others. We surround ourselves with people who look, think and act like us -- and are distrustful of outsiders. 'I've never seen a sky like that, how cool... did you see the color of that fish, amazing... uh oh, he looks different from me - I'd better be careful.'

In the book of Colossians, Paul writes 'Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.' So then... how many of us self-proclaimed Christians look at people from different cultures and backgrounds -- perhaps a young Iraqi who finds himself caught up in Al-Qaeda -- and say "I also see the hand of God". Perhaps we need to take a closer look.