Posted tagged ‘Cubs’

Feeling It!

March 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 25, 2017

                                          

There is a TV commercial airing these days from a high-tech mainstay that promotes one of their products that can help assess the shooting ability of a basketball prospect. Showing it several times during each March Madness college basketball game gets noticed by viewers. They add a small “megabyte” of humor to it, but the point is clear: Technology is a valuable tool in assessing talent and potential!

Moneyball was a book and movie about how the Oakland A’s baseball team used statistics and probabilities to figure out how to put a winning team on the field with a small payroll. I loved the movie! Once again, however, it brought the concept to the forefront of using technology and statistics as the determining factors in making decisions.

“Feeling it” seems to be getting pushed further and further back in the decision-making process. I can appreciate that. Hunches, intuition, and feelings are prone to being misread and misleading. If the Cubs had ended up losing the seventh game of the World Series against the Indians their manager, Joe Madden, would have been crucified for following his gut feeling and using relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman on short rest. He would have been rooming with Steve Bartram!

But, thank God, there is still some room for following what a person is led to do or say. Thank God Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a statistical probability!”; or Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t encourage Luke Skywalker with the line “May the analytical findings print-out be conclusive for you!”

It seems that churches have bought into the information and analysis age as well. One program that is being sold right now promises to be able to help churches fill their sanctuaries on Easter morning. Follow the program and have success.

My cynical side has always been a bit suspicious of a church whose worship leader guides the congregation into worship, complete with raised hands and tear-filled faces, but ends the gathering after an hour because there are two more worship services scheduled that morning. It’s like we trust the leading of the Spirit to a point…er, a time…and then the emergency brake gets engaged. It’s like leasing God instead of buying into him!

What happens when a church is “feeling it?” What happens when the Spirit is truly leading? Unfortunately, most times in recent history when the church has “felt it” has gotten communicated in grandiose projects such as new building campaigns and launching satellite campuses. “Feeling it” doesn’t seem to surface in the relational areas of being led to ask for forgiveness and the practicing of grace. It seems to be in gigantic Solomon temple-sized visions! Perhaps that has made the church, and its people, a bit hesitant about the whispers and leadings of the Spirit.

In my old age I still lace up my sneakers from time to time and play hoop. A couple of weeks ago I was playing with some young guys and every shot I took except one went in. In two pick-up games I made like… ten baskets (Not that I was keeping my “statistics” or anything!)!

“Feed the old guy!” was the increasing emphasis because the old guy was…”feeling it!” It went against success probability and 62 year old player analysis, but they kept giving me the ball and I kept burning the nets.

That “feeling” doesn’t happen very often now, although I still have a “shooter’s touch”, but when it does you’ve got to go with it. To carry it a bit further, there is nothing quite so frustrating as having someone “feeling it” and someone else reluctant to feed the fire.

That sort of summarizes the church, doesn’t it?. We are a people of faith, hatched by an unbelievable God-story… driven most of the time by statistical probabilities!

World Series Spiritual Revival

November 6, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 5, 2016

                                   

Pastor Fred was shocked when he walked into the sanctuary of his church, the Northside Free Temple, and witnessed an overflow crowd. His congregation, which usually ran about 45 to 50 in attendance on any given Sunday except Easter, was jam packed with close to 200!

What was going on? His first thought was that it was November 6 and Daylight Savings Time had ended early that morning. In the past, however, any time people had a chance to move their clocks back an hour did not translate into more people in the pews on that Sunday. Now people were packed in like sardines! So many new faces he had never seen, and many that he hadn’t seen in church in ages.

Perhaps someone was having a family reunion in town and the whole family came to church as part of the festivities. Probably not, however, since he could see a handful of ethnic groups represented.

And there was his butcher, Clyde, who was number one in cutting up a side of beef but about as crass and crude as they come…and that was around Pastor Fred!

In the back he could see his long-time barber, Phil. Was this the Bears’ bye week or something? Phil was usually either in Soldier’s Field on football Sundays or planted in front of his TV. He even had a haircut named “Ditkut”, named after Mike Ditka!

Then he noticed a red-haired middle-aged lady sitting halfway back with a Chicago Cubs baseball jersey on, and it hit him! Were a lot of these people here because of what had happened last Wednesday night in Cleveland?

Edith Pride rushed up to him before he could get to the pulpit. “Pastor, isn’t it marvelous? I’ve been praying for a spiritual revival for our church for years and God has answered my prayers! Look at all these people seeking spiritual understanding and guidance! I’ll be praying that God will inspire you with his words that need to be said this morning.” Edith usually was of the opinion that Pastor Fred was uninspiring. In fact, a couple of years ago she had tried to gain a following to have him removed as the pastor. Any problem, any time someone left the church or stopped attending for a while, she blamed Pastor Fred. In her opinion “scapegoat” was part of his job description.

“Pastor, there are souls here today that are hungry to be brought into the Kingdom!”

“Lord,” thought the pastor, “save me from Edith!”

A family with four young children had been funneled into the third pew on the left. The young ones had matching t-shirts, all with a Cub on the front. The mom decorated her neck with a thin scarf that also sported the name of their city on it. The dad modeled a polo shirt with the Cubs logo over his heart.

“Could these people be here because of the Cubs winning the World Series?” It was starting to sink in.

The service started and Pastor Fred read the Call to Worship from Romans 5. “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 out hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Amen.”

A hundred “amens’ echoed through the sanctuary, mostly from the new faces present. Gladys Watson came to lead the gathered saints in a hymn, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.”

The singing was loud and sung with heartfelt emotion. The pastor thought he heard someone in the second row complete the phrase “My hope is built on nothing less” with “Rizzo’s bat and Lester’s arm!” 

      After the last verse Pastor Fred invited people to greet some people around them. He walked down to the family in Row 3.

“It’s good to have you with us this morning.”

“Thank you, Pastor! We had to live up to our promise.”

“What was that?”

“The wife and I both prayed to the Lord on Wednesday that if the Cubs won Game 7 we’d go to church on Sunday.”

“Oh, really?”

The wife resumed the explanation. “We figured that if we believed in God enough to pray to him about the Cubs, we should believe in him enough to come into his house.”

“Well, it’s good to have you, and it’s great the Cubs won!” He wondered how the part of the service where people shared their praises and concerns would go? He found out about ten minutes later.

“Are there any praises and concerns today?”

Edith jumped up like a turned loose spring. “I just want to praise the Lord this morning. I can just feel the Spirit’s movement in our midst. God is so good, and faithful!” Edith took her seat, smiling smugly.

A hand was raised in the back and Pastor Fred encouraged the person attached to the hand to stand and share with the congregation.

“Pastor, I just want to give God the praise for Anthony Rizzo. What a first basemen he is, praise the Lord!”

“And, Pastor Fred!” The voice came from the pew in front of the Rizzo-lover. “I got on my knees in the top of the tenth and unashamedly shouted, “Lord, if you are who people say you are I know you can move mountains! So I’m asking that you move the runners along so our beloved Cubs can win this game. If you do that for me I promise to be in church each of the next seven Sundays- one Sunday for each game of the World Series.”

The amens thundered through the congregation.

A smaller voice rose from the left. It belonged to a little girl who couldn’t be any more than seven years of age. “Pastor, I love the Cubs and I think God does too! And I think Kris Bryant is cute!”

There was laughter throughout the church, except for Edith! Her revelation about spiritual revival did not have the Cubs as part of the vision. She’d be talking to the deacons this week about repentance and getting right with the Lord.

The Cubs’ spiritual revival sharing went on for another fifteen minutes. Everyone from Jack Brickhouse to Ron Santo was mentioned. By the end of the service Pastor Fred was beginning to think that this spiritual renewal, at least for one Sunday, WAS because of what happened four nights earlier. He started wondering if God could use the end of a 108 year drought to bring new life to a dried up church. One thing was for sure! He was going to the nearest department store and buying a World Series Champions t-shirt. He might even wear it under his suit and tie next Sunday.

Go Cubs Go!

Being With Obsessed Cub Fans

August 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               August 21, 2016

                                   

Yesterday my wife and I traveled up the highway from Colorado Springs to Coors Field in Denver to watch a baseball game. Not just any baseball game, mind you! This was a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies.

I said the Cubs! The team that has left more broken hearts in its littered trail of the past than anyone else!

I remember those fantastic starts to the season back in the 60’s and 70’s only to be fried away by the August sun. “August swoon” was a term that I think the Cubs invented. That, as well as, “Wait ’til next year!”

I grew up in Cincinnati Reds’ territory in the monster years of “The Big Red Machine”. I can remember watching games from the extreme upper deck as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, and Davey Concepcion dominated the astroturf. Spending my last college years and seminary years in Chicago brought me into the strange realm of Cub Nation. Each year I resided in Chicagoland the academic year would be ending with Cub hopes rising, but by the time a new school year began in late August the hope had long since flown south and been replaced by misery and disappointment. Like a new puppy helping a child move on from the death of a pet, the beginning of the Bears’ football season would be the grief solution for the latest lost Cubs’ season.

This year is different, however! 34 games over five hundred with 40 games to play…a 13 game lead over the hated Cardinals. My Reds looking up from 25 games out!  And last night in the Rockies’ home stadium with a crowd just shy of 50,000 there had to be 30,000 Cubs fans there! They were boisterous, many intoxicated by their team with the assistance of several beers. Cub jerseys were worn proudly. “Cub-anatics” conversed about where they were from, reminisced in last year’s journey to the National League championship series with the Mets. Optimism that this is the year was firmly entrenched in the crowd.

My wife Carol is one of those “Cub-anatics”! When a Cubs game is not on Cable TV I frequently find her sitting in our Honda Civic in the garage listening to the game on satellite radio. She loved being in the midst of Cub Nation yesterday, wearing her team shirt, rooting passionately for “the boys!”

I was caught up in the peer pressure and rooted for them as well. Happy wife, happy life!

And the Rockies management saw the Cubs coming! They aren’t stupid! Ticket prices became outrageous. Carol has sight limitations, so I needed seats that were close enough to help her understand what was going on, but not so close that we would need to take out a mortgage on the tickets. Our seats were lower deck in the left field corner. Quite honestly, she couldn’t see the ball when it was hit but she was captivated by the atmosphere.

A group of eleven people around us had traveled in from different parts of the country for the weekend series. They flew in from Chicago, Florida, Springfield, Illinois, California, and Arizona to see their Cubbies! Scattered around me I saw Cub jerseys with names of the past and the present on the back: Banks, Sandberg, Rizzo, Santo, Bryant, Dawson. People brought the past with them to cheer on the future. Carol posted a picture of us at the game on Facebook. I was taken back by all the comments from people saying “Go Cubs!” It was like having an army of “Cub-anatics” living the moment through us. Our nephew’s wife…the poster child of “Cub-anaticism”, sent us a message “You are bringing good luck! Keep it up!”  We had a responsibility!

It was an event! “The boys” raced out to a 7-0 lead and cruised. I expected people to start filtering out in the eighth inning, but at the end of the three hour game almost every one was still there. Cub fans bathe in the glow of a win. White flags with blue “W’s” on them came out in the crowd. Carol didn’t want to leave. I enjoyed seeing her enjoyment!

It was a great evening, one that we will remember for a long, long time!

What Would Jesus Say To A Little Leaguer’s Parents?

June 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              June 23, 2015

                        

Dear Jack and Jill,

I happened to be watching your son Benny’s Little League game the other night. Yes, I know…that’s probably a little surprising to you. You probably think I spend all my time in prayer meetings or talking to people from the top of a mountain, walking on water and turning water into wine…you know, “the work of a messiah!” But, actually, I kind of enjoy baseball. My favorite team is…you think I’m going to say the Angels, don’t you? Actually, it’s the Cubs! They need all the help they can get! As the Word says, “nothing is impossible with God.” But, of course, those words were written before the Cubs came into existence! Just kidding!

Benny seems like a sweet young lad. I couldn’t help noticing that he laughs and seems the happiest when he is with his teammates in the dugout.

I couldn’t help noticing your body language when he came up to bat. You tensed up like the physician was about to put a hypodermic needle in your backside. When Benny stood watching a third strike sail by him his teammates still offered encouragement to him when he came back to the dugout. I then looked at you and noticed that both of you had your head in your hands in obvious disappointment.

After the game Benny was smiling when he left his teammates, but Dad, as soon as he came to you the words of advice and correction started.

So take these words with a grain of salt or chew on them and be the salt!

Let Benny be a kid! Even when the local newspaper starts putting stats in the daily sports section, let him be a kid! I don’t know if you realize this or not, but I love kids. I mean…I love everybody, but I especially love kids who are just kids. That might sound like a strange way of putting it, but actually, some kids are made to grow up too fast, and…hold on!…turn into their parents too quick!

Benny wants to know you love him for who he is, not his batting average! God wants him to enjoy being a kid for a while before he learns how to hit a curveball!

Let me suggest that you focus more on building a child with character than one who can play six positions on the field. There are a lot of adult baseball players who hit for power, but have no character. Let Benny’s baseball skills develop alongside his character. The world is changed by people who want to help others much, much more than fastball pitchers.

Don’t sell out to the game! Keep a balance in your family life. Benny may love baseball, but don’t allow him to be obsessed with baseball. Obsessions pave the road to imbalanced. Passionate is different than obsessed. Passionate echoes his love for it, his enjoyment in it. It’s okay to be passionate.

Give him some space and grant him grace. Don’t try to live your frustrated sports life through him. I’ve noticed that too many parents buy into the idea of investing their kids’ lives into extended practices, a multitude of games, long weekends in strange places, and buying the best equipment with the hope that their child will end up on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. I worded that exactly the way I meant it also…”investing their kids’ lives!” They too often mortgage their children’s childhood for a future that the child may end up despising.

Here’s one last thing! What I noticed about Benny is that he has a caring heart. A couple of times he got a cup of water for a teammate who had just before that had made a defensive error. When he was sitting on the bench for a couple of innings he was encouraging his teammates. He helped the catcher get his equipment on, and one time put his hand on the shoulder of a kid who was smaller than him who had just gotten thrown out trying to steal second base. Benny is a great kid! And guess what? He will probably never be able to be a kid again. If you let him giggle in these years it will open up a laughter in his spirit and joy in his heart. Perhaps that’s where I’ll end it! Focus more on developing his heart instead of his muscle mass and throwing arm.

Have fun with these days! I’ll be watching and smiling, but for now…the Cubs need some divine intervention. They’ve got a series coming up with the Cardinals!

Holy Cow!

Jesus