Theology of The Simpsons

Image result for the simpsons churchFor almost the past three decades The Simpsons and American culture have been synonymous. They are an animated, but realistic American family, and while some of the portions of the show are over the top and unrealistic there are many lessons which have rooted from the show created by Matt Groening. Now I know what many of you are thinking, what on earth do The Simpsons and Theology have in common. On surface value, they have nothing in common, and many of their antics are often deemed as risque, unchristian, and controversial, but when looking closer there are some clear-cut theological values presented in the popular show. Then again there is theological value in most shows, sports, or positive aspects of life. However, it’s always interesting to explore such subjects. It challenges you to think outside of the box and to truly divulge in doctrine, find ways to understand it and develop your mind making your daily walk one with Christ.

When George H.W. Bush famously stated, “to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.” He placed this nation in a state of denial, that denial being that being this happy and humble family is going to happen. There is plenty of dysfunction in every human life and in every family. See the issue with The Simpsons is that they’re too much like us and many of us don’t want to admit it. How many people go to church every Sunday and sit and loath in a lengthy sermon and as soon as the pastor tell’s you that you’re free to go your rushing towards the door. Often times were too consumed with getting out we forget that Ms. Betty is patiently waiting for us outside the chapel. Not to mention the traffic jam which will soon ensue. Who can forget the lines which will be there at insert your favorite hometown diner? How many people are more consumed with professional football than they are with God.? Likewise, how many people pray only when they need God. Like I mentioned before there are some fictitious portions of The Simpsons which we can all point to realize that the show is a cartoon. However, for American’s to be more like the Waltons they would have to be something we are not. We can not expect to be this fictional ideal caucasian family. Not all of us can live up to these rural values.

Now I am not suggesting that we look at The Simpsons to answer life’s mysteries, but the reality of it all is the show has a value which your garden variety prude will stick their nose up at. The Simpsons show a society which is full of dysfunction and less than perfect individuals coming together to make a unique society which works for them. Heck, even the devout believer and notable “neighborino” Stupid Ned Flanders has his flaws. Much like my series on baseball, I will make a series of this while continuing the baseball series as well.

The Simpsons Teach Us Forgiveness

I don’t care what faith you follow forgiveness is true to just about all of them. When you get down to the details of the lovable family from Springfield, USA there is a whole lot of forgiveness which goes on. Just take Homer Simpson alone, your average American, overweight, dope, who miraculously is beloved by all. Homer is far from the model father, he does stupid and wreckless things frequently, and he has a tendency of alienating himself from his peers and family at times. However, at the end of the day, Homer is forgiven. With the exception of Frank Grimes, everyone Springfield finds a way to forgive Homer, because they realize he often means well, and he’s just Homer. Speaking of Frank Grimes, though, he again teaches us a stern warning for those who can not forgive. “Grimey as his friends called him” was unable to forgive for Homer for his Homerisms. While I doubt Matt Groening intended for this message to root from that episode Grimey died due to his inability to forgive Homer. However, the story of Frank and Homer is much like the parable of the unforgiving servant. He was forgiven of his debts, but was unable to forgive others and thus felt the wrath. Like Grimey, we one day could die from out inability to forgive others.

Let us not forget the countless times Marge had forgiven Homer. Homer has done a number of things which likely would have gotten a lot of men kicked to the curb. He’s impulsive such as the time he bought a snow plow or the time they purchased a crummy RV to one up Flanders. Their finances are often seen in turmoil to the point where they seek the help of a financial consultant who suggests they visit a financial panther, I mean planner. Homer frequents Moe’s Tavern. Not to mention the various employment endeavors can not be easy on their marriage. Regardless of this, Homer is still forgiven.

Now I could go on and on about the times Homer was in need of forgiveness and received it, but I’m sure many of you are aware of them. The point is many times we commit just as boneheaded moves. Many of us often partake in various shenanigans, but at the end of the day God still forgives us, he does so because he loves us. God’s grace is powerful and is a great gift. While Homer Simpson has committed countless amounts of sins he is forgiven like God forgives us.

To Be Continued….

 

 

Theology of Baseball and For the Love of the Game pt. 3

As a Cubs fan, there are some basics, and that’s love the Cubs no matter what and that the Cardinals are the enemy, but here’s the thing is that it’s a friendly rivalry. Unlike a lot of rivalries in my view its the best in all of the sports because there is respect. Its one of the few rivalries where you can go to the ball game before the game wearing your respected jersey’s and leave the game afterward in the same jersey still friends. There is some kind of harmony that exist between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Seriously, though, there is a trash talk, but there is respect. It combines two of baseball’s best fan bases with history, amazing ballparks, and an undying love for our game. As a child, I could not stand seeing the likes of Mark McGwire succeeding. I always hated seeing Albert Pujols (still one of my favorite players) leading the Cardinals, but when the Cubs and the Cardinals get together, in my opinion, its baseball at its best. No matter which team is on top the games are good for the most part. If you drive across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, etc. there is almost a clean split in most towns between Cubs/Cards fans. It’s something that combines midwestern lore and history.

A baseball like a cathedral when you enter is supposed to have a special feel for what you are about to witness belongs here. When a church is absent of the gospel its not the same, like a baseball venue which is not fit for the game that is about to be played. This is not nor has ever been the case for the Cubs nor the Cardinals. Walking into these venues baseball feels right and it feels like a home. Both venues feature history, iconic imagery, and an experience which highlights the features of its city.

In all honesty, though as much as I despise the Cardinals on the field, there is an underlying respect on my part and many Cubs fan’s parts. There is something special about going to St. Louis, and watching baseball because it’s a city that loves its baseball, I also appreciate the price of military tickets as well. However, it’s fun to watch baseball in St. Louis, but it’s also a painful experience. Their fans are passionate and there is something unique about the roar of their crowd. It’s not quite as loud as the roar a Wrigley, but the sound of the crowd is annoyingly unique. I’ll admit over a handful of some of my best friends are Cardinal fans. St. Louis for me is a place which is near and dear, but despised in my heart. There is something special about baseball in St. Louis, they are a juggernaut and when you think they’re out their not. They have a long history of elite talent Pujols, Smith, Gibson, Stan the Man, Hornsby, Brock, and so on and so forth. It’s a place which is a haven for baseball fans because it’s welcoming.

My first major league game was at Old Busch Stadium, and let me tell you, folks, there is only one way to describe that place “hot” it made you uncomfortable, but that’s often how many opponents feel walking into Busch Stadium because they’re ways a threat. A perfect example of this is July 28, 2002, it was a day I still remember. My parents let me stay up that night and I loved it. However, the end result was no so enjoyable. The Cubs took an early lead as Moises Alou’s RBI double gave the Cubs an early lead. Moises Alou’s big game continued as he drove in another. Corey Patterson would homer giving the Cubs a 6-0 lead. The sixth inning came and the game shifted. The Cubs’ lead went from a 6-0 to a 6-4. The Cubs would score in the 7th and 8th. It once again looked like the Cubs had this one in the bags as they held onto a 9-4 lead going into the bottom of the 9th. Miguel Cairo doubles to left scoring Fernando Vina. Jim Edmonds singles narrowing the lead from 9-6, they just won’t go away. The bleeding continued Tino Martinez drove in Jim Edmonds. Tino Martinez and Albert Pujols are on, and Edgar Renteria comes to the plate. Home Run, ball game over. Something so typical of that team. However, what was significant about that game is that the Cubs would see a number of key pieces in that game play a role. The next year the Cubs would go on a spectacular run and make it to the NLCS anchored by Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Corey Patterson, and with the help of the game’s starter Matt Clement.

Two years ago when the Cubs and the Cardinals squared off in the NLDS it was like a match made in heaven because in order to be the best you have the beat the best, and in the National League there was no bigger hurdle than the St. Louis Cardinals, and I say this with all due respect to the San Francisco Giants and other teams, but let’s face it they are the pentacle of success in the NL, if you beg to differ lets crack open the history book together sometime. Even though the Cubs did not go all the way in 2015 it was a stepping stone to their success in 2016. No longer were the Cardinals the big bad wolves, no, they were now in our rear view mirror in a sense. They became an achievable target. It was a symbolic conquest which showed the league these boys are for real. Simply put I don’t think you can call a National League team a success unless they clear the hurdle which is the Cardinals.

When the Cardinals transitioned from Tony LaRussa to Mike Matheny it was kind of a shot in the foot to the rest of the league because there never became much of a step off. During LaRussa’s days in St. Louis, he made the best of nobodies, it seemed like when someone would depart in comes another equally talented ball player. I mean seriously guys like Bo Hart, Hector Luna, and So Taguchi had a solid run in St. Louis. There pitchings solid and that usually was to the credit of Dave Duncan. There were times where I thoroughly believed Dave Duncan could get a dog turd to be a 5.00 ERA pitcher. I mean that’s a bit of a stretch. However, two things were consistent when LaRussa/Duncan was are the reigns was solid pitching and solid defense, pair that with crafty and timely hitting the Cardinals were always in contention. This mentality carried over when Matheny took over a smart, young manager molded in the “Cardinal Way.” Matheny’s hire was a home run something Matheny was not known for as a player. He’s got the experience and baseball knowledge that’s going to continue to make St. Louis a thorn in the side of my Cubbies for years. This team went from a Hall of Fame manager to likely another one in the making. Credit this to their management and scouting as well. The bottom line is they’re a well ran the organization and baseball know’s it.

When it comes to baseball, in my view there is no better baseball than the show that is put on in the Midwest between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a rivalry which will remain near and dear to my heart. Now that the Cubs are on top hopefully we can shift the tides of this rivalry in our favor. However, for now, I look forward to this upcoming season and the many more to come. Simply put baseball is at its best when the Cubs and Cardinals are at their best. They are two cornerstone franchises which share a level of notoriety shared only by the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers.

To Be Continued….

Theology of Baseball and For the Love of the Game Pt. 2

What can be given can be taken, and those who have suffered know all too well the value of breaking through and triumphing. For Cubs fans, we were much like the Israelite’s and our years in the wilderness. For every triumph we would have there would be an equally painful memory to go with it. However, unlike the Israelite’s we have made it out of the wilderness, while the ultimate goal of the Jewish people now is to eventually rebuild the temple. What was interesting about the Cubs winning the series this year was that it pinned the two longest droughts in baseball, and while the Cubs had become the epitome bad luck, that honor may actually belong to the entire city of Cleveland. One thing was truly mutual in this series and that was a shared pain, a shared desperation, and a shared hope. Cleveland really in the world of sports is the city of bad luck, and it simply seemed like a cruel prank that Cleveland got a taste of a championship in the beginning of the year only to see them do the typical Cleveland thing and blow it. As a Cubs fan, I can obviously sympathize with the Indians, they have had their fair share of near falls. Many times in the past 25 years the Cleveland Indians looked like a special team only to fall. However, one this was clear this year in baseball, someone was going to go home heartbroken.

I remember my first time thinking the Cubs could actually win the series, and most of us already know where this is going. It was 2003 and the Chicago Cubs looked like they were primed to be an elite team. They had the balance of youthful arms and veteran sluggers. The Cubs looked like they were something to watch. Baseball writer wrote this group is for real, and with their young arms, they will be good for a long time. Anchored by ace Kerry Wood, another young up and comer were making his mark, Mark Prior looked like the next big thing in his rookie season garnering Cy Young consideration, and his next season did not disappoint. The Cubs feature another young, but rawer talent Carlos Zambrano. Rounding out the rest of the rotation were veteran Matt Clement who drew a number of Abraham Lincoln comparisons because of his goatee and lefty Shawn Estes. With all of those arms, the Cubs looked ready to win. The offense featured Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou. The Cubs added veterans Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. Former first rounder Corey Patterson was finally coming around, and youngster Hee Seop Choi was getting an of hype. What could possibly go wrong?

Humble Beginnings

I was an optimist and when the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, a manager who had just lead the Giants to the World Series, in my 12-year-old mind this seemed like a perfect match. I was not much of a stats buff, but mostly and avid baseball fan at the time. When the Cubs first kicked off I remember racing home from school and trying to see the game. The Cubs had dominated the New York Mets, and it was against eventual Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. The Cubs won 15-2. Kerry Wood looked sharp, and there was some optimism for this season right out of the gate. They would go on to win that series, win twelve more in the month of April. The Cubs were in contention, but no pennant race is ever won in April. Moving into June I would have a similar routine of racing home to watch the Cubs. June was here and the summer had begun so it was playing baseball and watching baseball. The Cubs were 28-24. Nothing incredible about the record. June came and there were some struggles, but the Cubs would eventually rebound. The Cubs would enter the break one game over .500. In the first half, Hee Seop Choi was lost after a collision with Kerry Wood. Only Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were All-Stars. Nothing spectacular looked to come of this season at the break.

Fork in the Road

The Cubs featured what looked like an All-Star cast in the outfield, while they may not have actually been voted to the game, veterans Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou were two of the most feared power hitting duo’s that season, and both capable of hitting 30+ home runs. Between to two power hitting corner outfielders was Corey Patterson who was supposed to be the next big thing in center field. He looked like a 5 tool talent who was supposed to be the Cubs version of a Carlos Beltran like player, but things didn’t work out, but it looked like 2003 was going to be his year. Patterson was on fire and he looked like a safe All-Star selection all season long. He had 13 home runs, a sub-.300 batting average, and 55 RBI’s. His OPS was .839 and has stolen 16 bases. He was finally playing like the Cubs envisioned him to. July 6, the Cubs were playing the rival Cardinals, and while legging out an infield single, Patterson lands wrong and immediately people around the stadium are holding their breath. Patterson’s breakthrough had ended. It was a big blow to the Cubs who looked like they could make a solid run in the second half it Patterson could provide the same production. The Cubs big hole on the roster went from third base to third base, leadoff hitter, and center field. The Cubs looked to be in trouble.

The Trade that Changed It All

With those same Cubs on the fringe of being contenders, the Cubs made a run for it. They offered up comically named top prospect Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez, and Mike Bruback to Pittsburgh for Kenny Lofton and young and upcoming slugger Aramis Ramirez. The big knock on Ramirez was his footwork defensively, but that did not hold the Cubs back from pulling the trigger. They went out and acquired a bonafide lead off hitter in Kenny Lofton and another stable power bat in the middle of the lineup. The Cubs hit the lottery with that trade which would propel them into the playoffs. Lofton gave the Cubs a top of the order and stable defensive presence they were lacking. They needed speed at the top of the lineup. Ramirez was a plan b as the Cubs were seeking the services of Mike Lowell. Ramirez turned out to be the better option. Ramirez flourished with the Cubs and eventually would go on to become one of the faces of the franchise. His glovework improved and he became one of the most feared hitters at third base for the coming years. Following the trade, the Cubs would go 34-21 following the deal and nab the division as it came down to the wire.

The Pain Was Washed Away

For most of the year lefty, Shawn Estes struggled, and he was getting jeer reviews from the Chicago faithful. He has lost the trust of a lot of people looking on, but that didn’t seemingly deter him from coming up big when it mattered the most. The Cubs were in do or die mode, and if the Cubs would have lost against Cincinnati on September 24 they likely do not win the division. The Cubs bats exploded, but it was Estes who stole the show throwing a complete game 4 hitter. Estes for the first time that season was spectacular, and while his presence was not a major one it was on September 24 the Cubs chances of the Central division crown were in sight.

Can They Clinch It?

The Cubs had a day-night doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they won their first contest as their young gun Mark Prior in a solid performance to allow the Cubs to stay in contention. The same day the Houston Astros lost earlier giving the Cubs a chance to clinch the division on the 27th of September. The Cubs bats were ready for the challenge and the 9th inning came and veteran Dave Veres was on the mound he walked the first hitter. The next one came up and quickly flew out. Then former Cub Jose Hernandez came to the plate with one runner on he took strike one. Then Cubs fans hear Chip Carey say, “Double play ball, second base one, on to first, THE CUBS ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE CENTRAL!”

For a brief moment, the pain of the Cubbie nation was healed and it was on to the NLDS facing the Atlanta Braves. I remember seeing the celebration on the field and sitting at home just watching in awe as my team was going to the playoffs, maybe this would be the year, but only time would tell. People were beginning to see if their “Old Style Pledges” would have to become reality, and boy were there some interesting ones. However, for the Cubs fan bases and some of the hurting souls this would be a minor sacrifice to see the Cubs reach baseball immortality once again.

So Far So Good!

In game 1 against the Braves, the Cubs gave the ball to Kerry Wood who would only surrender one run. The Cubs loaded the bases in the 6th and were able to score. Kerry Wood helped himself with the bat doubling in two runs making it 4-1. The Cubs would close the door on a 4-2 victory. Atlanta would take game two. In game 3, Mark Prior got the better of Greg Maddux. Randall Simon smacked a two-run single and the Cubs would later get an insurance run off the bat of Aramis Ramirez. Prior would only allow two hits in the contest with the complete game. Game 4 was tight, but the Braves managed to squeak out the win as the Cubs made a comeback attempt in the 9th. Game 5 was all Cubs, The Cubs would take the early lead off the bat of Moises Alou. Alex Gonzalez would lead off the 2nd with a solo home run. Aramis Ramirez would give the biggest blow as he smacks a two-run homer in the 6. The Cubs would go on to win the game 5-1. The Cubs win their first playoff series since 1908, and people were ready. I went to bed happy that night and it was the talk around the school. We talked about who was the better players on the Cubs. The chatter was nothing, but Cubs. We are all in a state of happiness and that was our new focus. The Cubs were all we were thinking of.

5 Will Haunt Us For Ever

It was wonderful we couldn’t stop talking about the Cubs for the next couple days. We had such Cub fever you were a complete outcast if you were not wearing Cubs apparel. If you thought of wearing another team gear stand by. We were full of joy and were bleeding blue all over the halls. The NLCS had come and one of my teachers promised a free 10 extra credit points just because assuming the Cubs would win the NLCS. Many people could feel those deep wounds healing. Game One was a slug fest. Seven total home runs, and it looked like the Marlins had game 1 under their belts. Sammy Sosa had other plans, Urgueth Urbina tried to throw a backup slider, it didn’t fool Sammy. Sosa was 1 for 11 in the playoffs, he had been irrelevant up this point. The whole time the announcers said as long as he avoids the slider he will be fine. He obviously didn’t hear the announcers. Urbina throws ball 1 then responds with a swinging strike. Right before the pitch was thrown Al Leiter says, “Don’t throw that backup slider.” The pitch is thrown “He did it, he did it!” says one announcer while the Thom Brennaman says, “Sammy with a deep drive and we are tied!” Leiter replies, “Unbelievable, Thommy I said don’t throw that backup slider because it’s the same one Grudzielanek saw earlier in the inning. It’s one that stays in the zone and begs just hit me.” Despite Sosa’s Waveland shot, the Cubs would drop game 1.

Game two the Cubs were more fortunate in game two. The Cubs already up 3-0, Sosa comes up to the plate and shuts the door. Thom Brennaman makes the call “Sammy plays long ball, and I mean long ball!” The Cubs would win 12-3. The series would head to Miami, and the Cubs took the first two contest thanks to mid-season acquisitions, Randall Simon and Aramis Ramirez. I was so sure the Cubs were going to win the series that year, they were up 3-1 and they had Zambrano, Prior, and Wood taking the mound. And boy was I wrong.

I wished I was wrong, but I wouldn’t be. Josh Beckett took over game 5 and it was heading back to Wrigley Field. Before I went to bed that night I told my mom the same thing I told all my friends the next day at school, “It’s OK the Cubs, lost the game, there’s no way they beat Prior and Wood at home the next two games.” Pride got the best of me, and it got the best of the Cubs, we all assumed because we had such a dominate duo, history wouldn’t come into play. We were due, this was our year, no one would dare take this from us. We were 5 games away from winning the World Series, and we just dropped game 5.

Game 6, everything was going well. We had who we wanted to have on the mound. Mark Prior, our next big thing was out there mowing down Marlins. We were looking to celebrate our fish fry. Then it happened and it all unraveled. A pop fly went into left and Moises Alou thought he had a play, but fans seeing a fly ball do what fans do they reach for it. Alou doesn’t make the catch as we all know. The first thread was popped, Alou looked up to the stands and throws his hands down. The Wrigley faithful was in a wreck. People pointed their fingers to one fan, but many fans reached for that ball. Mark Prior pointed to the outfield begging for fan interference, but to no avail. The next thread was popped, I sat at home crying out “It’s fan interference, it’s fan interference, are you kidding me make the call blue.” People want to look back and blame the fan, but it was not his fault. The ball was in the stands, no guarantee Alou makes the catch. Then it gets worse. Dusty Baker chooses to leave Prior in the game when all other logic says otherwise.

The Cubs were 5 outs away, and after walking Luis Castillo, the third thread broke. Ivan Rodriguez hits a 0-2 pitch to left, and the fourth thread breaks. Baker still sticks with Prior. Miguel Cabrera grounds to one of the sure-handed shortstops in the game, number 5, Alex Gonzalez, but he bobbles what would have been the inning-ending double play. The 5th thread pops, and the bottom falls out. The bases are loaded and Derrek Lee doubles tying the game. Prior is finally removed, but it was too late. The Marlins score 8 runs in the 8th with the help of 3 future Cubs.

Game 7 came, but it was on better. The Cubs would eventually take a lead into the 5th, and lose the lead for good and the Cubs would go on to lose the series.

Wrapping Up

That season ended with so many what if and left thousands of fans in tears following the game. Baseball like life is not fair, but the Cubs took things for granted much like we do in life. God never promises that everything will work out for better, but he will give us what we need. For a moment that season the Cubs got a slim taste what it was like to be a winner, but in the final moments, they could not keep it together. The last three games had a number of what if’s, but it’s too late for those questions. However, how many of us do the same thing? We mope around when we get hit with adversity and we let it drag us down. Instead of building off the tragedy we ask God, “Why me?” or “How could them this happen to me?” Far too often we point the finger at God or someone else, but the finger needs to be pointed right back at ourselves. Other times there was nothing any of us could to do, but we still sit there and ask why. It’s not our place to ask why. It’s not our place to blame God. We are given trials from God to learn. The Cubs lost plain and simple and they can only blame themselves. In life, we can not assume everything will go as planned. We are not promised the next day or the next minute for that matter. In a split second tragedy can strike, the course of the game of life can change, and will we sit there and let it bring us down or will we go out and fight. The Cubs looked like the team of the future with their bountiful stock of arms, but it continued to get worse for the Cubs following 2003. The Cubs would end up seeing Mark Prior’s career end too early. They let Kenny Lofton walk. Sammy Sosa would become distanced from the franchise. While the Cubs would go on to add Juan Pierre and Derrek Lee in the coming seasons, Dusty Baker would later be fired. Lou Piniella was brought in to provide a change of face. The Cubs would bounce back, but not make it to an NLCS until last season after many harsh seasons. When we face adversity we must use it as a trial and not let it weigh us down. The emotions of that 8th inning weighed down the Cubs, but so much could have been done to potentially change the course of that game. Rather than 2003 being the year, we once again sat there saying “Next Year.”

To Be Continued…..

Theology of Baseball and For the Love of the Game pt. 1

Like many of you, I am an avid baseball fan, I would be what Joe Maddon calls a baseball nerd, by this I love everything about the game, the numbers, the stadiums, the rituals, and just the game itself. I get taken back by memories of playing, watching games, and going to games. It’s American to love baseball. It’s something that gives me chills. So like any normal baseball fan, I have my team, the Chicago Cubs, and the moment finally came in 2016. This was our year and there was something special about this team, about the win, and how it was done. During game 7 when Rajai Davis hit that game-tying home run I sat there next to my wife Kim and uttered “of course.” Realistically by the rules of nature, it was a borderline miracle the Cubs were there. I mean just a few days earlier they were on their last leg, on their brink of elimination, on the brink of becoming another great Cub team which couldn’t close it out. However, from the genesis of the season, there was something special. They were stacked and only got better as the season continued. For the first time in my life and pretty much anyone’s life we were the champions. So that was a special moment. My love for baseball began long before this moment and it was in the sandlot like many other children. I dreamed of being a baseball player, but God had different plans for me. Now being in seminary I can see my love for baseball was not a coincidence, but for a reason. It’s this beautiful game which gives me a sense of deep theology. When I am taken to the ballgame I can often feel the presence of God, and while many of you probably believe I am crazy at this moment, others know exactly what I am talking about.

Church of Baseball

Let me make one thing perfectly clear here, I am not professing that baseball should be your source of connection with God. This is not a Bull Durham type of post, but some of the facets of the beginning of the movie hold theological value. Ok, well this post will discuss some of the movies. When Susan Sarandon spoke those eventual iconic words it began to click in the minds of many people.

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball and it’s never boring … which make it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you gotta relax and concentrate. Besides I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250 … not unless he had a lot of RBI’s and was a great glove up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident and they make me feel safe and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime, what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul is the Church of Baseball.”

While there are some inaccuracies we can appreciate some of the value here. How many people have wondered around seeking the right place of worship? Many people these days walk around with deep holes within their being because they have not found their connection with God. Whatever that may be people connect to God in various manners. For me there is something calming and spiritual about baseball, whether it’s a perfect execution of a double play or a walk-off home run, baseball is surreal. I get emotional when I hear the national anthem, and I feel a lump in my throat when I hear their perfect execution of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It’s a beautiful game, and it’s a game which can bring us closer to God, and it’s a game which unites us. Baseball is America’s Pastime, and it has a new youthful vibrancy with the likes of Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw leading the way baseball’s future is well intact. It’s a game which holds dear to my heart, and something I wish to always have in my life. When I have children I wish to share the game as my dad did with me. He instilled the passion for the game which I now have. Baseball is more than a game, it is a pathway to life.

My First Step in the Cathedral

It was a rivalry game amidst on of the most exciting times in baseball. It was 1998 and I was heading to my first baseball game. As a proud boy from Illinois, I love my Cubs, win or lose. Rocking out my Cubs shirt heading into to enemy territory Busch Stadium. I was filled with an enthusiasm of attending my first professional baseball game. I had attended other games before, but that day I was going to see Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Kerry Wood. It was a hot day in St. Louis and we sat in a stadium which somehow made hot days even hotter. The traffic was heavy, and the spirits were high. We enter the stadium, and quickly I was ambushed by a stadium hand selling programs and I was handed a promotional photograph of a Cardinals player which I quickly wanted to discard. It’s almost methodical how we enter the game though you park your car. You look around and head into the building where you know something bigger than yourself is going to occur. You pass through the turn style and much like church immediately are greeted by other lovers of the game. You’re offered a bulletin or a program of upcoming things, and within a couple minutes, you find your way to your seats likely stepping over a couple people to get to the spot you want. We proceeded higher and higher and found our seats. The national anthem was sung and we were ready for some baseball. I looked down on the field and looked to the sky with bliss as I had my glove ready to catch foul balls which I clearly had no chance of catching.

While I was there for baseball, that passion I had I used to help me draw closer to God. While I am not promoting a personal worship of the game, in fact, that’s downright blasphemous. We can still find value from the Church of Baseball, we can use it as a link to God. My childhood passion for the game, which still seemingly lives within me is God given. For you see coming close to God is how God wants us to come close to Him, while I know this may rub a few of you the wrong way, but a church is not a building, no it’s a gathering of people in the name of God. Whether it’s the millions of fans around the world praying for their team or maybe the link between the impossible happening. See its when people truly believe in a team is when it is truly successful. No, I am not proclaiming a large fan base is the key, if so my beloved Cubbies would be one of the most successful teams ever. God is there when we need Him the most, and His healing is second to none. I was sitting in the hot sun in front of thousands of people all gathered for the same reason, to see a ball game. However, for some, it was a route to healing and a path to redemption. For that moment for many in that cathedral, people were silent only to stand when needed, only to cheer when they felt it was warranted. It was in that moment, a father saw pure joy in his child’s eyes and knew at that moment he could be just as happy.

So the ball game started and it stayed slow. We were expecting dingers in the midst one of baseball’s revival periods the great home run chase. Sosa, McGwire squared off and they saved baseball. Their methods may not be approved by all, but they alone saved baseball, because if it was not for that historic chase baseball could be dead. One of the biggest pieces of American History would be gone with the wind. Maybe, not obsolete, but not as popular. The first pitch was fired and I remember a Lance Johnson slicing a single to begin the game, but from that point on the Cubs were quite until the middle of the game. A few batters later, I was thrilled to see my then favorite player Sammy Sosa step up to the plate. He smacked a screamer into the right field only to be corralled before it could get down. The scare was over for St. Louis. A few innings later the Cardinals struck first blood, and Mark McGwire didn’t disappoint the hometown faithful. He drove one deep to left just shy of Big Mac Land. I was distraught as the Redbird Faithful took to their feet. However, I would get my moment soon. Soon after the Cubs took to the plate and Sammy was up. Sammy smacked a line drive to the wall. He was on with a double, Mark Grace would drive him in later to knot up the game. No home run, but we were tied and we had a chance. Later in the contest, the Cubs would take the lead and keep it for good. We left the game fighting the crowd, much like trying to get around the people who want to talk in front of your path at church. We hit the parking garage to be greeted by thousands of other cars, but that day was like no other because it was my first day at the big league ballpark with my dad, and I still remember the trill of going to that game.

The Game of Heart Breaks

The crazy thing about baseball it’s like life, it’s not fair. Your heart will ache, it will triumph. Whether it being in the form of being a Cubs fan prior to this season or seeing you team botch year after year. Baseball strikes a nerve of every baseball purist. To simply think about the game for some is as calming as talking to their pastor for others. I don’t believe that God created one way to learn about Him, and I believe that there are many ways to finding Christ, if there was on way to find Him, then we would all be lost. Why would God make us all different if He didn’t want us to connect Him in different manners? To see your team lose is almost as big as a blow as being shot by a metaphorical bullet. So you see, for every time you get to see the celebration about, the possibility of the following lurks the next possibility. Thus ending your World Series dreams, and breaking the heart of a  fan who finally understand baseball. Thus opening the door to an eight-year-old boy who finally understood the game getting his first taste of what it is like to be a Cubs fan. The first playoffs I ever watch ended quickly as the Atlanta Braves swept the Chicago Cubs right out the playoffs. 1998 was a good year for me, I had little worries, and was oblivious to the things in the world. I knew my God, family, friends, and baseball. However, for the first time in 1998, I truly understood baseball. I had played for a while, but I really developed myself as a fan that year. The world came crashing down that year as it flourished most of the year and this was just the beginning. However, little did I know that the game I fell in love with back in 1998 would be the foundation to my understanding of so much.

To be continued….

You Can Put It ON THE BOARD, YES!

I love baseball and always look forward to going to the game. Being a kid from Illinois I was a Cubs fan, but always had my eye on the White Sox. Never really a fan od the south-siders, but they were my dad’s childhood team so I always had a slight interest. I was thrilled in 2002 when I found out I was going to the game. My summer camp has received tickets and it was the focus of my whole summer. Like I have said before I love baseball, and there is no game that I would not be willing to attend MLB, AAA, AA, A, Rookie, Independent, NCAA, CICL, yadda, yadda.  They day had finally come and we had gotten on the bus. We rolled through Chicago and prior to the game had hit the Navy Pier, and frankly, I did not care. When we got to the ballpark I was ready for the game. The Sox were preparing for the All-Star game next year and were playing the Anaheim Angels. Prior to the game, the White Sox were honoring Mark Buehrle. However, finally the first pitch had come Jim Parque had the ball for the Sox, and the Angels would strike first as Troy Glaus would drive in Tim Salmon. I remember sneaking away from the group to get a closer look. Knowing I needed a buddy to leave I grabbed a few guys I know like baseball and we left our ok seats in the upper deck and headed around the ballpark. I remember making our way down towards the area near the dugout and watching as the players walked out we looked in awe. Aaron Rowand walked past and most of us didn’t care (no offense). Carlos Lee headed to the on-deck circle and we began to become a little more impressed, the big guns were coming out. Carlos Lee headed to the plate and out came Magglio Ordonez. Carlos Lee got on so, in the spirit of being at Comiskey Park, we yelled out the knocked off winkie theme “OH WEEE OHHHH MAAAAAGGGGGLLLLLIOOOOO!!!” Mags didn’t do much in that at-bat, bummer, but the game went on. The Sox would go on to win that game, and I had a blast. I remember complaining as the camp group had us leave in the middle of the 8th, but looking back I get it was Chicago, a ball game, night, and a 4 1/2 drive ahead. The best part of the game though was getting to see the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas play. I don’t care what team you like if you’re a baseball fan you like Frank Thomas. A massive force and well simply a massive man. Knowing for hurting the baseball with his bat Frank Thomas was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. When he stepped up to the plate I looked up to him and he was huge, granted I was a kid who hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet he stood about 2 1/2-3 feet above me. It was simply and awesome experience because I was finally able to see one of my childhood heroes play. Speaking of heroes many of us have heroes from the Bible as Christians, and most of us would likely have David on our list. Like Frank Thomas may have been the greatest player to play the DH position, King David was likely the greatest human king ever.

So like myself standing next to the Big Hurt, I was there a boy among men, a really big one for that matter. Since I wasn’t a baseball or an opposing pitcher I had nothing to fear with my encounter with a legendary giant. However, this was not the case for David. When he went up against Goliath he stood up against what many of his time saw as the greatest killing machine. Likely he had the jitter of a pitcher making his major league debut against Frank Thomas. The only difference at the end of the game that pitcher worst case was sent back to the minors, as we know David had his literal life on the line. However, unlike many pitchers, David prevailed, and the rest was history. However, I look back and can remember standing next to Frank, and studdering when I talked to him I could only imagine what David was thinking. However, what’s most important in that story is that we know God was with David and he went on to do much greater things.

Speaking of bigger things, the Anaheim Angels would go on to winning the World Series that season. Being slightly a superstitious young baseball fan I figured it was me seeing them play and a combination of me watching Angels in the Outfield almost every night. I mean we all know that wasn’t true, how dumb is that it was clearly Rally Monkey(still missed). Also, speaking of bigger and better things in the dugouts on both sides were two future Chicago Cubs managers, Dusty Baker who would lead the Cubs to the brink of a pennant, and of a long time coach Joe Maddon who of course would break the curse. As for David and Goliath, I could only imagine if Hawk Harrelson could have done the play by play on that one “Folks we have a young and up and comer a shepherd boy named David, but it looks like David’s a little out of his league today going up against the Philistines Goliath. And before we show you our picks to click, you at home select yours…Young David comes up with his sling in hand and he winds it around as Goliath laughs. The rocks is up back, back, back. YOU CAAAANN PUT ON THE BOOOOOOAAARRDDDD, YESSSSS! MERCY DID YOU SEE THAT! Let’s take another look the rock is up and it hits Goliath, HE GONE! David making it look like a can o’ corn. And this fight is ovah!

To Love, Love More, and Love Deeper

Today, I sit here and really don’t have much to write, so I’m going to just write and hope the good Lord leads me to send a message that is and at the moment I am thinking of 1 John 3:16.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Not to be confused with the far more commonly know John 3:16. this verse has a similar meaning. However, it takes us a little further. Jesus displayed pure love when he went to the cross to for the redemption of our sins, but how many of us would die for another person. It doesn’t matter what belief system you hold this is across the board seen as the ultimate sacrifice. To its core, it’s pure sacrifice. Nonetheless, we live in a selfish society, even the most generous among us fall short of this. Every once in a while we see stories of people laying down their lives for other people, most commonly withing our military and first responders, but one thing I take from this is we look at a verse like this and we immediately think of  the ultimate sacrifice, but God does not want us to go about our days to look for chances to take a bullet for a brother or sister, but He does want us to go about our days looking for ways to honor Him. We can look at this verse and take away the extreme, but there is still great value in laying down one’s efforts in submission to the will of God. If we walk around our houses today we will see a lot of things we do not need and have many things that we have that out neighbors do not have. If you continue to read 1 John it states,

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 What we do far too often is say we love someone, but do not show it. While for example when I was at a store with my wife I said I loved her, and I truly do, but I sat there and was selfish. I did not want to be in the store any longer. Rather than communicating why I did not want to be there I acted like a child, and not only made my time with her worse, I made her upset in the process. I did not intend to hurt her feelings I just wanted to leave. Now my wife and I truly love each other and got past it. However, in that moment my actions and my expressions relayed a different story. Likewise, we can say we care about others around us, but out actions say differently. Take for example how we vote, how we give, and how we ignore those around us. How many times do we see a homeless person and have the ability to give, but continue to walk? How many time have we complained about a higher tax, but the money is going to help others?  


Now, in reality, most of us do the right thing the majority of the time and love thy neighbor but it still does not mean we should not look back and assess what we could do more. There should never come a point where we stop trying to become better, serve the Lord better. There should be a desire within us all to improve ourselves and strive to love better, strive to be better disciples, and find ways to move forward the body. When we love we become the hands of the body which reach out and give. Love leads us to become the feet that go the extra mile. It’s love that allows us to be the heart of compassion.