Grace for Clueless Tee Ball Players and Me

God is the Coach

by Heather Bock

Last Saturday, my four year old had his first tee ball game.

It was a comedy of errors.

Several of the kids hit the tee more than the ball, sometimes knocking it completely down, but they ended up on first anyway. Any time any of the kids would make the ball move, most of the outfield would run in together to get it, bumping into each other in the process. During one of the first of these races, JP lost out in a battle with two other teammates to grab the ball, and he started crying, heartbroken. The next time he got the ball (I say got, not caught, because I’m not sure he, or any of the other players, ever actually caught the ball in the air), after being repeatedly encouraged to do so, he threw it half-heartedly toward first, as he was still in a temper.

After one of them would win out and obtain possession of the ball, most of the time the child would forget what to do with it. After many voices encouraged him or her to throw it to first, he or she would do so, only to have the first baseman miss it, or retrieve it and just stand there while the runner went right past.

JP wasn’t worried about going past. When he reached first, he squatted down on the base and started playing in the chalk.

My personal favorite: one little girl hit the ball, then kept a firm grip on her bat as she ran to catch the ball she had just hit.

The last hitter was a sweep batter, meaning that he or she would automatically get a home run in order to clean all the players off the bases and bring them back. JP was last twice, so he ended up with two home runs–the coaches standing on every base to encourage him to continue running the whole way (which was needed by the second home run, as he was walking, kicking the white foul line dust as he went).

The coaches had a lot of grace on those kids.

I imagined what it would be like if they forced them to strictly stay by the rules. I imagined them sending kids back to the dugout after they repeatedly hit the tee. I pictured them losing their tempers as the kids misunderstood what to do once again. And I laughed. I laughed because who wouldn’t give grace to those clueless little kids with their hats pulled cattywampus and their shirts as big as dresses half tucked into shorts as big as sails.

What is tee ball for, anyway? The purpose is for coaches (mostly volunteer fathers) to teach some littles the rudiments of how to play baseball.

I couldn’t help but think of my own heavenly Father as I watched all this.

Sometimes I cry in frustration when I mess it up, when I figuratively just can’t catch the ball. A lot of the time, I’m honestly trying to do my part but looking a little (or a lot) clueless nonetheless. When I do get the ball (i.e. I’ve started to do something right with God’s help), I’ve been known to forget what to do next. Most importantly, though, I listen for the voice of my Coach, my Daddy, and like those little bitties playing tee ball, I awkwardly bumble at obedience.

“For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust” (Ps. 103:14).

Sometimes my pride gets the better of me, and I like to think of myself as a Major League player, or at least a college player, who strikes out sometimes, who overthrows the ball now and then. But really? No, no, no. Compared to God, I’m just stepping up to the tee. And what’s the point of tee ball again? Learning.

What does God do in this analogy?

He gives instruction, then encourages me with cheers as I attempt to follow His Word.

God is the Coach Pinterest

Of course, He does have to send me to the dugout at times—four year olds do need discipline. He might chuckle at times, too, but never with derision. I imagine Him like I was on the sidelines: grinning at the awkward attempts, heart full to bursting.

“The LORD your God is in your midst; he is a warrior who can deliver. He takes great delight in you; he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you” (Zeph. 3:17).

 

The Covenant with the Man in the Coma

The Covenant with the Man in the Coma

by Heather Bock

Last week I wrote about how I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that I am valued, loved, and made righteous by what I do, and that the reverse is true when I don’t do what I should. You can read it here. This week, I want to bring you a story of someone who was willing to act, too–he was willing to do his part in a covenant with God, but God, in His grace, had other plans.

Abram grew up in a culture and with a father who worshiped other gods besides the one and only God, the Creator (Josh. 24:2). Abram may have known something about God and may have worshiped Him some, too, but he most likely didn’t worship Him alone. But God (one of my favorite phrases in Scripture) called Abram in Genesis 12. Continue reading

Move Away from the Mess to Move Toward the Mess: A Guest Post by John Hambrick

Two months ago, I wrote a review of John Hambrick’s book, Move Toward the Mess. The book is filled with great stories about people who took a chance on getting messy in order to reach others for Christ. I’m blessed to have John Hambrick now write a guest post for my blog about how with God’s grace, we must move away from our own mess and then go out to help others in the middle of their mess.

Mess

by John Hambrick

David Lee Windecher was a gangster.

He grew up in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Miami, Florida. He saw his first murder when he was in 8th grade. So he eventually joined a gang in order to get some respect and protection. It turns out you can also make some good money as a gangster – if you don’t mind selling drugs. David didn’t mind. So the cash started rolling in. Sadly, the chances are you’ve heard this kind of story before. It plays out the same way 1000’s of times every day. But what follows is much less common . . . and much more wonderful.

Fast-forward several years. David’s life as a gangster has resulted in multiple arrests. At the same time, he is making plenty of money selling drugs. But it’s a dangerous, stressful life. You can’t relax. You can’t rest. You can’t stop looking over your shoulder. There’s always someone trying to take what you’ve got, whether it’s cash, drugs, customers, or territory. Sometimes they’re even after your life. As a result, David was growing weary. Plus, he saw his younger brother and sister start to walk down the same path he’d chosen. Deep down inside he knew he was leading them into a lifestyle filled with pain and misery.

As he grew more despondent, his thoughts wandered toward the little Catholic Church in his neighborhood. He’d walked by its front door hundreds of times. One day he chose to walk in rather than walk by. It was the middle of a weekday. There was no service going on. It was just David. But as it turns out, it wasn’t just David. God met him there that day. David dropped to his knees and asked for help. He made God a promise. If God would get him out of the pit he’d dug, he would serve God. And David had a specific idea about what that service would look like. David wanted to be a lawyer.

Today, against all odds, David is indeed a lawyer. He owns his own legal firm in Atlanta, Georgia. David attributes this legal miracle to God’s intervention in his life. But David has taken things one step further. In addition to his law practice, he has started a non-profit called RED, Inc. “Red” was David’s street name. However, in the context of his non-profit it’s an acronym that stands for “Rehabilitation Enables Dreams.”

RED, Inc. is dedicated to fighting recidivism. Recidivism is that social pattern where once an individual is arrested, the likelihood that they will be arrested again and again starts to skyrocket. David thinks this is the result of a flawed legal system and the absence of personal, familial, and educational resources among those who grow up in poverty. He is building a program that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of 1000’s of young first-time offenders who are otherwise likely to go to jail over and over again, just like David did. All this is pretty amazing for a man who used to make his living selling drugs.

David’s life illustrates a pattern that God wants to hardwire into all of our lives. Granted, David’s circumstances are a bit more dramatic than most. But the pattern is the same for all of us. It consists of an on-going, two part cycle.

First, God wants to begin to lift us out of our own mess. The word “mess” here refers to the things we think and do that cause our lives to be less than what God hopes for us. Sometimes these things are obvious, sensational, and illegal, as was the case in David’s story. But for most of us, these things are much more subtle. It turns out that jealousy is just as spiritually deadly as cocaine. And gossip is just as evil as robbery. Either way, God calls us out of our mess. We Christians call this a variety of things. Some of us say this is about getting saved. Others talk about the start of a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Still others talk about beginning their faith journey. Whatever it’s called, it’s all about starting to rely on God’s grace to help us leave behind a messy life.

The second part of the cycle has to do with being sent back out to help others who are still deeply ensnared in their own mess. God doesn’t wait to send us until we have completely exited our own mess. This is because that process typically takes a lifetime. The point here is simple – God uses messy people to help messy people. Otherwise there would be nobody for God to use. So at some point we find that God is at work on our mess while, simultaneously, God is starting to use us to help other messy people. This is what a life dedicated to following Jesus looks like.

There are a lot of stories in the New Testament that make this point. One of my favorites is found in the Gospel of Mathew. In this particular incident we find Jesus is having dinner with some very messy people. The Pharisees (the very religious people of the time) think this is inappropriate. They think that godly people shouldn’t associate with messy people. Jesus hears of their criticism and says:

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13 RSV

The point is this – if our Lord, who was perfect, hung out with messy people, shouldn’t we do the same? If Jesus forms relationships with messy people in order to redeem their lives, isn’t that something we should be a part of?

The answer to these questions is “Yes.” If we’re going to follow Jesus, He will eventually lead us out into a very messy world. That’s where He is at work. This will require us to step outside of our comfort zones. We will be off balance. We won’t always know what to say. We’ll wonder if we’re being too religious or not Christ-like enough. There are no formulas out there. We’ll be forced to depend on the promptings of the Spirit. But we will be on the front lines of what God is doing in the world. And the opportunity to be a part of that is worth more than words can say. Just ask David Windecher.

 

john-hambric-homepageJohn Hambrick is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church (the urban campus of North Point Community Church). His experience in Pakistan, London, South Africa, and inner-city Los Angeles has given him a unique perspective on what God is doing in the world. Move Toward the Mess is his first book. John and his wife, Patty, have two children and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Find him at www.johnhambrick.net.

Book Giveaway

I’m in the middle of a giveaway for a copy of the book A Wife’s Secret to Happiness by Jen Weaver, which I reviewed last Wednesday here. Here’s what you need to do to enter my giveaway:

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Giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada only.

I will announce the winner next Wednesday, so look for it! If I don’t hear from the winner within a week, I will draw another name. Thank you!

DISCLOSURE (IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FTC’S 16 CFR, PART 255: “GUIDES CONCERNING THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”): MANY THANKS TO THE BLOGABOUT NETWORK FOR GIVING ME TWO COPIES OF A WIFE’S SECRET TO HAPPINESS IN EXCHANGE FOR MY HONEST OPINION.