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When I arrived at home after work on October 10, it was late evening, and I started to catch up on correspondence via Facebook, text message and email. I was reading the prayer of the day on our RighTrak Missional Community text message group when the following text message from Kim Tavernier, whom I’ve never met, popped up:

“Good evening, RighTrak! Please keep the Tavernier family in your prayers. James has been home from work for three weeks due to an injury and needs physical therapy to recover and go back to work. We are strained in every way and anxious over the uncertainty of his injury and pain and when it will heal, and at this point, we are hoping short-term disability will replace the income he’s lost and protect his job. Please lift us up. Thank you!”

While I can read the words she texted clearly now, that night I was reading something different. It went something like this:

“Family needs help. Dad gets hurt. Family in need. Help with bills. Frank help them up.”

I immediately put down my phone and started to pray. I tried to pray for the family, but I couldn’t. I tried to ask for help, but I couldn’t. When I had trouble finishing my prayer, I decided to try to watch TV, but I couldn’t. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. I first thought that I couldn’t do anything for this family because I don’t know them, their financial situation, what the patriarch of the family does for a living, or what’s really going on. Then I started praying for me. Not in a selfish way, but I asked God, “What can I do?” And that’s when God spoke to me. Many things from my past—the good, the bad and the ugly—all entered my mind simultaneously. It came so quickly, I can’t remember it all.

In the past, I have been down, literally. Due to an injury, I was not able to move for a month nor walk for three months. I had no income, no insurance and no food. But I had bills to pay and existing commitments, neither of which I knew how I was going to fulfill. I talked with two of my dear Rotarian friends about my situation, and they ended up hosting a garage sale for me. As I witnessed this act of kindness from a wheelchair, we raised more than $1,200 in five hours—what a blessing!

So back to the situation with the Taverniers, I knew two things: First, whatever I was going to do had to be big, i.e. more than $1,000. Second, I knew I could not do it on my own. I didn’t know anything about this family—why the injury, if they had any kids, what their bills were, or what they really needed. But I still couldn’t stop thinking and crying as I am right now.

Even after talking to David LeFevre, who leads RighTrak and with whom I served on the first table, all I kept hearing was “It’s all you.” Everything kept coming back to me. For days, it felt like all I was doing was talking to myself, even when I was speaking with friends and guests at the restaurant where I work. I needed to do something. I suggested a garage sale for this family in need, but there was no place to host it and a lack of donations and volunteers with less than a week’s notice. God stopped the garage sale for a reason and pointed me to the first option I considered, the Rotarians. I kept hearing “You start this, and I will do the rest.” I didn’t know it at the time, but it was God’s guidance. He said, “Tell the men, then leave it in my hands.”

Why not tell the Rotarians? Why am I a Rotarian? Why am I among these people? It’s what He has been planning for me. Everything became so clear as to what to do next, and the yeses started flowing. I shared my plan with David, and he said yes. So did the West U Rotary Club’s president. So tell the men and women of West U Rotary, I did.

Because I followed what God instructed me to do, His blessings poured out on the Taverniers, as He worked in the lives of many Rotarians, RighTrakers and members of the Cross Community Church, where the Taverniers are members. David posted this Help a Family on Mission page on the updated RighTrak website—I don’t think it was a coindience that he just launched the new RighTrak website with the capability to raise money for multiple causes. It was God’s perfect timing. David and I announced it at our Rotary club meeting the following Thursday, six days after Kim’s text message requesting prayer. As a result, God worked in the lives of many to raise nearly $1,500 to help the Tavernier family.

I still haven’t met the Tavernier family or know the whole situation, but I’m doing what God told me to do and am watching Him take care of the rest. It’s as amazing as anything I have ever seen or felt. I anticipate that I will meet the family sometime soon, and we will cry together. And maybe then, He may let me finish the prayer I started the evening of October 10.

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As football and baseball compete for America’s heart as its national pastime, so too are the values reflected in those sports competing for America’s soul. The combative, warrior-aggression of football and all the impatience that goes with it versus the calculated collective effort of baseball with its seemingly slow pace. In part one of this two-part post I proposed that maybe we ought to take another look at the values we’re reinforcing, and I suggested that, as much as I absolutely love football, baseball might be perfect for America.

That’s right, baseball is perfect.

There is no need for time in baseball. There is no need to rush to score with a two-minute, no-huddle offense in baseball. There are 27 outs, and each team gets the same amount of them. There’s really no home field advantage because baseball stadiums never get too noisy (unless you’re Kansas City realizing a nearly 30-year old dream). There’s barely any need for instant replay, and it is used very seldomly. The game is focused around a diamond, which, when you think about this, is the perfect shape to illustrate man and the Trinity. You start at home, and you have to hit to advance. The only way home again is to advance to all of the bases. Each base is a person of the Trinity. Salvation is had for each person who takes a round of the bases of life. Knowing the Trinity is the way to home plate, the way to Heaven. It’s a diamond at the center of this sport and so, in a sense, it is God and His relationship with man at the center of it also. Baseball is symbolic of perfect unity of man and God. Baseball is symbolic for life. There’s just the field, a game, time to pass, hot dogs to eat and the rounding of the bases. The rounding of life. Baseball is the perfect sport to pass the time of life, and all you need is patience to enjoy the show. And like life, baseball endures. It endures strikes, performance-enhancing drugs, home-run-hitting obsessions and a gambling fiasco. It will also endure ebola. Don’t worry, we all will. Baseball is here to stay. It always has been.

You’ve heard the phrase before that “baseball is America’s pastime” and that can not be any more true. Since baseball’s inception in the 1800s, through numerous wars, economic downturns and civil rights movements, the majority of Americans played, discussed and watched one sport—baseball. Baseball was what connected us, much like God used to. And since baseball was a sport of order, perfection and patience, those values also connected us. Emphasis on past tense. What connects us today? Sadly, if you were to ask any American you would get different answers. But the real answer to what connects us today is social media. Social media literally connects us. Goodbye, God. Sadly it creates for us and speaks for us. Want to “talk?” Text it. Text it now! No need to wait. No need for patience. Just do the two-minute offense. No need to round the bases. We are a culture that has lost connection to our history, to our faith and to an ability to have a conversation. Baseball makes us have a conversation to pass the time. Baseball makes us slow down. America needs baseball.

To say “America needs baseball” basically means America needs God. We need to slow down and find our roots. We need a seventh inning to stretch. (Interesting that we stop to stretch in the seventh inning and that God rested on the seventh day. Coincidence?) We need to really connect and not connect in a rush. We need a conversation. God is not a two-minute offense, but He is a conversation in the ball park. God is the perfect game that does not need time or instant reply. All God wants is your patience and to talk. You see, with God there is no rush. We can’t hurry His timing. We can’t audible out of His will. And we can’t make His will happen in two minutes or less with perfect clock management and play calling. There is only the surrender to Him. We surrender to Him for the nine-plus innings of our lives and enjoy every moment with a conversation and a hotdog.

I love football. The sport is amazing. The aggression. The brutality. The creativity. The short half times. The rush. The ADD. The proverbial advancing to the end zones of life, land and conquest. But in the end, there will be no more land to claim. There will be no more natives to push around. America has taken it all that was once the frontier. The West has been won. We need to move on. We need to remember the sport that was played from the beginning and that endures on. We need baseball. We need to remember what connects us. We need to connect to God.

In Eternity there will be the perfect game played all day, forever. All we will do is enjoy the beautiful everlasting day on the diamond under the Son’s rays with the breeze of the wind, and we will continually round the bases with joy, forever. “Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. I don’t care if I ever get back …” Let’s get lost again. Let’s get lost and find a baseball game. Let’s get lost and find God. May He restore America back to what we once were—our pastime. Jeremiah 29:13-14 says:

  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.
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Use your imagination for a minute. Trust me, I think you will like this. I want you to imagine a football game being played in Heaven. Jesus is the quarterback, and you are His star receiver. It’s 3rd down and 8, and the defense, led by David and his Mighty Men, are showing blitz. Jesus looks at you and gives a nod; not just any nod, but a nod that says, “it’s coming to you so be ready.” A nod that says “It’s go time!” Jesus says, “Hut,” and thunder cracks as pads hit. You run as fast as you can, which is faster than ever because you are in Heaven, after all, and the ball comes just over your right shoulder. It is a perfect pass. Touchdown! The celebration dances ensue. Moses gives you a chest bump. Jacob does that weird jump-up-turn-and-bump-hips thingy (but this time Jacob isn’t limping because this is Heaven, remember). The crowd of multitudes of every tribe, tongue and nation cheer with a sound so loud that it shakes the stadium. Is your blood boiling yet? Good. America loves football. I would venture to say that this image is one that most decent red-blooded Americans would love to have of Heaven.

We love the idea of forcefully advancing. We love the idea of an enemy attacking or a foe oppressing and our taking the foe by force. “For freedom and country!” we shout. Some might say Jesus even likes this idea. He says in Matthew 11:12:

  And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.

This verse is one of the toughest verses in the New Testament to translate. (Just give this article a quick browse, and you’ll get a sense of how tough it is.) I share Martin Luther’s view that this verse is actually a good thing. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is advancing forcefully into this world and violent men are eager to join in on the fun. The word that describes this activity in the Greek is βιάζεται (transliterated, biazetai). “Violent men” is doesn’t do the word justice because it refers to people who pursue something because they are eager to attain it! Jesus wants violent men. When I read this verse, which is also accounted in Luke 16:16, I can’t help but think of football. I want to forcefully advance with Jesus down the football field of this life with men and women who want to do the same. I want to blow through the Kingdom of Darkness with the Kingdom of Light. I want to score all the touchdowns or make all the amazing tackles. The truth is that America also wants this (though not always for His Kingdom).

Even before the founding of our nation we have been known to forcefully advance. We forcefully advanced into Christopher Columbus’ “new world” by ingenious play calling and audibles where we blitzed our way through native territory claiming land along the way as we saw fit. The poor Native Americans never saw it coming. They should have had better practice and film study. Victory took a few hundred years but it has been moderately swift and easy. (To show our appreciation for the sacrifice of the Native Americans, we named a few sports teams after them. I’m sure they’re thrilled.) We still have this blitz mentality today, and it pervades the American psyche. Freedom is perhaps our highest value, but by “freedom” we do not mean our freedom; we mean my freedom. My individual freedom now and at any cost. Freedom without patience. (By the way, the Cowboys are playing the Indians…I mean Redskins… next Monday night. It’s probably going to be the highest rated MNF game in terms of viewings so far this season.)

The problem with the football mentality of life, faith and country is that it turns into a sort of attention deficit disorder way of viewing life. Why wait for something when you can have it now? We begin to make idols out of things because we can’t cope with having to be patient. We are obsessed with football and with winning right now. Here’s an example. In 1980, an NFL head coach had an average tenure of about 4.61 seasons. In 2003, the number of seasons dropped to 2.75 seasons, and the number continues to fall. Coaches and players are becoming sacrifices in our idol worship. When a player gets hurt on the field, does it bother us when people clap?

Exodus 32 tells the story of Israel creating and worshiping an idol. Do you know why, after all the miracles The Lord performed, they thought it was a brilliant idea to worship a golden calf? (The Charlton Heston version got this scene all wrong, by the way.) It was because Moses was taking too long getting instructions from God! They got impatient, so they made their own god.

  When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

Sounds pretty ADD to me. They fired Moses to look for a new head coach. The result was a divine dumpster fire. God even threatened to wipe out the whole nation of Israel and start over with Moses. Thankfully, Moses appealed to God’s merciful side.

We read that passage and think, how idiotic of them, but we shouldn’t be so quick to judge because we do this every day. Idol worship follows impatience, and it destroys a nation and dehumanizes people as a result. Israel didn’t want Moses. They wanted a golden calf. America doesn’t care about who is playing for their team or who suffers as a result just so long as our team wins. This mentality was exposed in Kansas City in 2012. The Chiefs were enduring a rough start to the season and poor performance by then-quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel had thrown two picks when he was hit by a Baltimore Ravens defender and forced out of the game because of the resulting injury. Then something surprising happened: fans cheered. It didn’t matter that a man was hurt. No, the fans got a chance to see a new quarterback play and hopefully win the game. It’s idolatry and dehumanization front and center, and it shows us what we really value.

What’s more, this false value is reinforced by the brutality we get to see at least four days a week on TV through both NFL and NCAA football. America needs to embrace patience and big-picture selflessness once again. We need to be reintroduced to perfection because we have lost touch with what it is.

America needs more baseball. More on that to come.

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