Did You Hear – They are playing baseball

I was a basketball guy. Still love the game, but hung up the high-tops roughly a decade ago when all of a sudden my dead-eye jumper couldn’t even find the rim, all of a sudden I was Bill “floor” Laimbeer minus the 3 ball. (Tangent warning, the NBA has become interesting again. Sir Charles is always talking about match-ups. The NBA game is all about if you have someone who can minimize the other team’s skill-freak-of-nature, or exploit your own. For a long time all the NBA teams seemed to be about trying the same thing (2 guard & big man). But now you’ve got radically different team visions competing. Maybe it is that only one team can have LeBron, so it became obvious you had to try other strategies. The Bulls have trouble scoring (especially since they lost their second unit from last year), but that is one of the best rebounding/defense teams I’ve seen. The Spurs, the Clippers, the Nets, the Rockets (my vote for most interesting team to watch), and none of those are the OKC Thunder, yet all are serious teams with different strategies.)

Anyway, enough basketball, this was about baseball. What I like about baseball is the stories. Baseball is a complex game filled with characters. Unlike basketball which is really “just about buckets”, and only has two stories (plucky team from nowhere and street smart flashy greatness, which once upon a time were racial tropes, but today Durant in OKC and Paul at the second LA team are plucky nowheres); unlike basketball baseball can have multiple stories on the field at the same time. Part of that is the timing, part is the history, part is the game design, and part is who covers it. The history which starts in mythology, the slower pace, the wide open spaces of the field and specialized skills at every position all beckon great writers. (Anyone who argues for taking the hall of fame ballot away from the writers is an idiot. Ok, the veterans committee can be a House of Lords making some tweaks.) If you don’t have the time to pay attention everyday but still enjoy the game and the stories it produces, a good journalist has made it easy. Michael Brendan Dougherty is editing something called The Slurve, a daily edited email newsletter of the stories around the league, along with game summaries.

The story that he highlighted yesterday and continued with a link today is pitcher Barry Zito. The Slurve’s essay was insightful – how Zito’s production in terms of wins and losses is defying his raw stats in terms of k’s and ERA and WHIP. The Slurve talked in terms of balance, crossing into the theological almost “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” territory. The Angry God being the raw stats and the thin thread being balanced upon. But that isn’t where I’d go. The link to the GQ interview talks a different insight in Zito’s own words.

To what degree are you a different person than the person you were in Oakland?

I think I’m a little bit less of a seeker these days. I’ve found something that I just really love, which is the Christian faith, and it’s new to me. I grew up being a seeker and being completely out of the box and testing and reading and trying all different religious things and kind of philosophical approaches and such, and it’s kind of a backwards route. Most people are raised very rigidly in an organized religion and then they try to fight their way out of that. I needed structure [laughs]. A lot of these kind of spiritual things are all based on the self and that was just too—I couldn’t handle that anymore. I don’t know. I think it led to a form of—it can lead to narcissism, I think.

What led the two of you to this particular faith?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think a lot of pain, you know, a lot of tough times and basically a need for strength outside of myself.

The strength outside of myself. Christ or the Word comes extra nos – outside of us. Faith comes by hearing. We are proclaimed righteous by grace through the work of Christ. Having trouble living up to the expectations of a $100M contract? Having trouble finding peace by and in yourself? Tired of the search? Maybe its a larger magnitude and a bigger stage, but those are things that we all feel one time or another. From where comes our strength? I look to the hills, my strength comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:1ff) From outside myself. And that peace passes understanding. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8) That doesn’t mean an 84 MPH fastball will get it done forever, but resurrections are great to see while they are around.

Struggling with Words

Its been a while since I put something up. The main reason is that I’ve been struggling with the format vs. the intent. The format of the web or specifically a blog really is an off the cuff give and take medium. Nobody enjoys a good ironic line or scathing bit of satire more than me, but most of the time that is against the intent of a congregation. Irony and Satire are at best 2nd uses of the law. They point out our failings, but unlike other methods, they are rooted in cynicism. We are sinners and this is the best we can ever expect; have a nice life. The intent of a congregation of Jesus is to refute that cynicism while affirming what casuses it. We are sinners, and this is the best we can expect right now. But we live in the hope of the new creation witnessed in the resurrected Jesus. A new creation that is never perfected here, but we certainly see it in changed lives and a million little things done every day at the urging of the Spirit.

The format is also one of speed, and the intent usually requires time. There have been many times I’d have like to put something up, but then said I’d think that goes under a church’s banner. Speed causes mistakes. Speed causes you to say things you regret. The blog is an experimental place first. It is like pan sifting for gold. There are a bunch of rocks that get tossed. That causes problems and stress when you stop to think that this is going under a church’s banner.

All that said, I came accross a quote the Rod Dreher threw up on his site here. I couldn’t not reference it. And start to think that maybe I’m expecting too much. That maybe my conflict is just a poor reason to avoid trying. That Luther’s snarky phrase – “sin boldly” – might not have a better use.

All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics; however, what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time, and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly because she is a Church of sinners. … All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. God has chosen to operate in this manner. We can’t understand this but we can’t reject it without rejecting life.

Human nature is so faulty that it can resists any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. When she shows a profit you have a saint, not necessarily a canonized one. I agree with you that you shouldn’t have to go back centuries to find Catholic thought, and to be sure, you don’t. But you are not going to find the highest principles of Catholicism exemplified on the surface of life nor the highest Protestant principles either. It is easy for any child to pick out the faults in the sermon on his way home from Church every Sunday. It is impossible for him to find out the hidden love that makes a man, in spite of his intellectual limitations, his neuroticism, his own lack of strength, give ups hi life to the service of God’s people, however bumblingly he may go about it.

It is what is invisible that God sees and that the Christian must look for. Because he knows the consequences of sin, he knows how deep in you have to go to find love. … You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it.

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures; I don’t want to discourage you from reading St. Thomas but don’t read him with the notion that he is going to clear anything up for you. That is done by study but more by prayer.