To be right, or to love others where they’re at?

I subscribe to a daily Bible devotional called “The Upper Room.” This particular devotional series is a group effort by folks all over the world that contribute life experiences, and relate a scripture passage to it. Today’s message caused me to reflect, and genuflect, more than usual:

Matthew 7:1-5

7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
7:2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
7:3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
7:4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?
7:5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

The Daily Message (by Sandra Ramirez from Ohio)

I work with a father-and-son maintenance team. The father is jovial and easygoing, always ready to carry out his maintenance duties with a smile. His son is the sullen, quiet, despondent type, and I admit that I have formed an unfavorable opinion of him. One day I was in the break room for lunch at the same time as his father. I asked how his son was doing. He said, “Well, he’s doing better.” I asked, “What do you mean by ‘better’?” He told me his son had lost his young wife to cancer about a year ago. They had been married only one year, and his son was having a hard time adjusting.

The father’s words made me realize how quickly and easily we can judge other people without knowing anything about them. We sometimes even pass these opinions on without an iota of information about what these people might be going through.

Everyone has a story, whether we know that story or not. Matthew 7:3 reminds me as a follower of Christ to look beyond outward appearances in my relationships with my family, my friends, and my acquaintances and to share God’s love with everyone.

It seems that in this day and age, when the quick sound bite and the 30-second news items win the day, our relationships suffer. We’re so used to the quick greeting that if a conversation actually begins, we sometimes long for the next distraction (words first uttered by Alanis Morrissette 20 years ago). If we actually find ourselves forming a relationship outside of our comfort zone, we may start to pull away. We may even start to build walls with the bricks of our own prejudices and attitudes. And then we move on, relieved that we’ve thwarted one more messy relationship. Believe me, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. That’s the log in my eye…

Jesus calls us to get involved before we begin to form opinions. I’ve never felt that this passage means to not evaluate another person’s actions or attitudes…only that before we do, we need to invest in the other person first. We should get to know them in a way that makes it clear that we care for them enough to offer help, even it means telling a hard truth, but by doing so, we welcome them to love us enough to do the same.

What would the world look like if, instead of shouting at each other about how right we are, and wrong they are, we just tried to love each other where we’re at? Instead of calling the 17-year-old girl walking into Planned Parenthood a “whore” or a “baby-killer,” maybe we should reach out and try to understand why she’s there…was she raped by an older relative? Does she suffer from endometriosis so badly that she has to go on birth control pills? Instead of labeling someone a sarcastic prick, maybe we should consider that person has been hurt so many times that the only way they can cope is by keeping everyone at arm’s length? Instead of dismissing an entire group’s feelings of hurt based on a team’s nickname because by-God that’s what that team’s always been named, maybe some understanding of the last few centuries of denigration, reservation-living, broken promises, and shattered hopes should be considered.

This isn’t to say that we should always acquiesce or agree with the actions and words of those we encounter in our daily walks; just that a healthy dose of empathy in our daily lives might go a long way towards healing those that we don’t even know are hurting.

Alright, soapbox moment done. Good night!

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Perspective

Before Ethan’s playoff game today, I went for a “jog” around a nearby park; it’s hard to call what I do “jogging”, but it’s faster than walking, so we’ll make me feel better by calling it “jogging.”

As I was “jogging” around this particular park, I noticed two flags that were in the center of Frisco Commons Park. From the east side of the park, the view was this:

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A few minutes later, I took this picture of the view from the southwest corner of the park:

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Another minute down the trail, and I climbed a small hill to take this pic:

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What does it all mean? Sometimes, no matter how we look at something, there are obvious things that cannot be argued: the color of the flags, their relative size, the color of the sky, etc. To argue otherwise would be folly. Other things, we can infer: for instance, because the pictures were taken in North Texas, I could make an assertion that the wind must be blowing, although one can’t be 100% sure…maybe these flags were made out of cardboard or wood? Is that why they are horizontal? My experience would play a large role in determining my inference if I saw these pictures, but was not present when they were taken.

Based on my vantage point, though, there are assertions that I could make that would make no sense at all for someone in another location. Which flag stands taller, or is bigger? Are there even two flags?

Does our perspective depend on our geography? If so, what must it be like to move to the other side of the park, especially if your entire life experience has been rooted in only one location? Does my perspective from my location give me the right, or the authority, to dictate what others HAVE to see?

I don’t have these answers, but I am thankful that God has given me the opportunity to see a lot of things that I always assumed were true from another perspective.

Being a Little League Dad

I try really hard to not be THAT dad, the one at the Little League game that berates the umpire and his “hidden agenda” over every missed ball and strike. You know, the one who says “That’s horrible!” out loud when a kid misses a diving catch in center field or overthrows 2nd base on a steal attempt, but shouts encouragement when his own precious all-star misses a routine grounder or throws a bouncer to 1st base when a moonshot from short would beat the runner by ten feet. Usually during my kids’ games, I try to stay distracted through Facebook or YouTube, because I know that deep inside this calm, seemingly ambivalent exterior lurks a hyper-competitive monster that will do anything to rattle the other team’s pitcher, or insult the lineage of the field umpire for committing the egregious sin of calling one of my team’s players out on a steal attempt. You see, it’s a self-preservation kind of thing. Secretly, I’m kind of glad when my work travel schedule takes me away from some games…”Wow, sorry, honey, I really wanted to go to that game, but this Indian reservation outside Springer, New Mexico, really wants me to come show equipment at their STEM festival…for iPads that they don’t have.”

I know my limits, so I try really hard to seem disinterested…but all that monster needs is an opening, just one crack of daylight…

Tonight, our 11U Nationals (a team made up of 3rd and 4th graders, but forced to play 5th & 6th graders this spring due to the league director being an asshole to the team having six Triple A players on the fall roster…even though one never played) woke up that demon. Our gang was down to eight players tonight due to a season-ending foot injury to our starting first baseman, so they would already be taking an automatic out when the 9th batter was up. Still, they were up 4-0 after the first inning. The second inning saw a series of errors by our fielders, and the score was 4-2 when Emery came to the mound for a relief appearance.

He pitched well, and with the bases loaded and one out (score now 4-3), the batter popped up a ball between 3rd and home. Emery called off the catcher, who either ignored him or didn’t hear him, and the two collided on the 3rd base line. Emery crumpled to the ground, ending up flat on his back, not moving. The ball rolled away from him, into foul territory. The umpire made no signal. The runner on 3rd came home. Everyone started shouting for the catcher to pick up the ball…and Emery still hadn’t moved.

Then THAT Dad showed up. I raced to the opening in the fence and ran onto the field. By now, the coaches and umpire were gathered around Emery. As I approached the group hovering around #15 on the 3rd base line, I thought the worst: knocked out, concussion, broken nose?? No, even worse than that…I thought that the coaches would have to pull him, Dee and I would have to take him to an ER, and we would have to forfeit the game because only seven players would be left. I don’t know which of these would have been worse.

Fortunately, there was only a trickle of blood running from his nose when he was helped up, and after a few minutes of strategically-placed tissues and applied pressure, he was able to continue. He pitched his heart out, but when the top of the 2nd was over, we were down 6-4.

We came back to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the second, but due to the backup first baseman’s best Bill Buckner impression and a missed pickoff by the pitcher (after Emery was pulled), we entered our last at-bat down 9-7…and our missing 9th player as the 2nd batter, which meant an automatic out.

For the monster that lives inside me, this was all too much. Now, the backup first baseman should have never moved up to AA ball, the umpire’s strike zone was as inconsistent as a 19-year-old’s politics, and why on earth did we send the first batter of the inning (the smallest kid on the team) to the plate and allow him to swing???

Ground out, automatic out, strikeout looking…and just like that, the season was over. I silently gathered up my chair and our snack bag, and slunk away. The backup first baseman’s dad came up to make small talk, but I was having none of it; after all, his kid’s error cost our team a run when we had two outs.

As the team gathered around Coach James, an amazing thing happened: my heart softened to hear Coach James tell the kids how proud he was if them for playing a level up all season, and still finishing 4th in our division, and 7th out of 16 in our league…about how proud he was that, down a player, we almost pulled off a huge upset to start postseason play. And then it happened…one of the players asked Coach James if he would be coaching the Nationals in Fall Ball, and even though his answer has been the worst-kept secret since Lebron’s Decision announcement, it still hurt to hear it: “No, I will not coach in the fall.”

That many nine and ten-year-olds gathered in a small space outside of a Little League baseball field, and you still could have heard a pin drop. FieldsFam has always had good fortune with Emery’s baseball coaches, like Coach Jack and Coach Jon in our Lakeland City Baseball seasons, and Coach Jason and Coach James in North Texas. Now, it may be time to find a new coach. For anyone who knows Coach James, you understand how hard this is for our own little Laser Show…Emery adores Coach James, and I think secretly wishes that he was Emery’s dad. If I say something, it doesn’t matter, but if Coach James says it, it is like a Gospel Truth delivered on a cloud from Heaven, all golden and shiny and self-evidently important.

Now, the monster was in full retreat. Instead, memories of some really great times (and some hard lessons) from the last three seasons flooded back, and I was so thankful that I have been able to keep that monster in check this long…because if I hadn’t, my youngest son might not have been able to learn as much, or to fall in love with baseball as much, by being around a man like Coach James.

http://www.gq.com/life/mens-lives/201406/sports-dad

ring

If there is nae wind and nae rain, (or nae bourbon), there’s nae golf!

Watching the US Open at Pinehurst #2 reminds me of a lot of time spent in the Sandhills, and especially with my Aunt Elva and my Uncle E. Street Jones at their home on Holt Lake near Smithfield (southeast of RDU).  Of course, if you were in Street & Elva’s house, the bourbon would flow…here’s to them!  Much love, and I miss y’all.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/smithsonian-channel/for-bourbon-fans-kentucky-is-the-holy-land/?utm_source=smithsonianhistandarch&no-ist

It’s World Cup 2014 time!! (I’ll be over here, watching the US Open)

Unlike most Americans, I really don’t have a problem with soccer.  I am hard-pressed to think of a better experience for a young child (from an athletic standpoint) than soccer…shoot, I played for three years!  Still, it’s not golf, and when the World’s Largest Soccer Tournament coincides with the National Open Golf Championship at Pinehurst #2, I’m watching golf.  ‘Merica.

Four years ago, though, I did get caught up in the magic of the US Team’s run to the Round of 16.  I remember rushing home from an exceptionally hot & sticky morning at Cleveland Heights Golf Club (Ethan & Emery were participants in the Florida Southern College Junior Golf Camp) to see the US-Algeria match: if the US won, they would advance out of Group Play…a tie or a loss, and they were out.  Then, in injury time, this happened…

Or this, if you were elsewhere:

But this one…yeah, this one is my favorite, the call by soccer announcer Andres Cantor:

GOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!

 

Play ball!!

And so the Little League playoffs begin. Ethan’s 12U AA team has their opening playoff game tonight, and since four players are missing (two replaced by 10U players), this will probably be the final game of the season. Emery is one of those 10U players, though, which makes the team automatically better. ;o)

What have we learned? That just because a team won league play last season in A ball, that doesn’t translate to easy wins in AA. That fundamentals, if not practiced and made habits, will kill a team. That certain parents tend to forget that these are 12-year-old kids, not MLB players, and mistakes will be common.

Next season will bring change, though Ethan doesn’t know this yet. He has been relegated to full-time CF duty, with very little time at pitcher or 1B. He’s learned patience…he has it now in spades. The thing about baseball, though: when the season ends, no matter what, we get excited about next season!

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Where’s the first tee, and what’s the course record?

…and here we go.  My initial foray into the blogosphere.  I hope that those of you who stumble onto this blog enjoy it…I hope that it entertains you with stories/lies about golf, encounters with good food, completely amateur reviews of cigars (“well, it didn’t suck”), and recaps of golf courses that I have played.  I may even expound on SEC football, beer, and bourbon every now and then, too, for good measure.

Thank you for coming along for the ride!

 

SF