Monday, November 11, 2013

A Snapshot Story of a Significantly Super Satisfying, Stunning Sports Scenario

“Now batting for the Indians, pinch hitting for Matt Carson, number 25, Jason Giambi”

It was like a scene out of a classic baseball movie. The scenario was remarkable. A forty two year old veteran who had taken on the role of unofficial team leader and mentor was about to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game his team needed to win trailing by one run with a teammate on base and two outs.

Past his prime? You bet. No longer an everyday player? Certainly. But that night, he was the Indians best chance.  As his name was announced fans of over 25,000 rose to their feet in unison. They had been through a roller coaster game that night and had just watched their closer give up two solo homers in the top of the ninth, putting a much needed win in major jeopardy! It was the playoff push in the final week of the season after all!

Giambi dug in at home plate. A closer who was among the American league leaders in saves, looked into his catcher for the sign. A fastball whizzed in, and Giambi fouled tipped it.

Strike one!

Giambi stepped out took a breath and stepped back in.  As the pitcher began his windup for his next pitch, Giambi’s teammate Michael Brantley took off to steal second base and get into scoring position. Giambi took the pitch, a change up a bit low, and Brantley slid into second without a throw.

Ball one!

The crowd roared for Brantley! Not everyone can steal a base when everyone in the ballpark knows you are trying to do so!

Meanwhile, Giambi dug back in, and quickly the crowds attention turned back to him and his at bat.

The next pitch shot out of the pitchers hand, and the crowd held there breathe as Giambi swung!


The balled sailed up into the early Autumn, cool aired, Cleveland night sky at the pace of a shell shot out of a cannon.

The right fielder of the opposing team took two steps back to the wall, and looked up watching as the baseball floated and lofted long over his head and over the wall, landing in the seats about 20 rows deep!

Euphoria began to run rampant at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario that night. A whole row of friends from church who had decided to come to what was for many their first and only game of the season, stood with their arms raised in jubilant joy!

Exclamation of total amazement and sheer stunned screaming ensued!

“He did it! He did it! Oh my gosh he did it!” emitted out of my mouth over and over again as Giambi rounded the bases and his teammates poured out of the dugout, most of the jumping with arms raised headed to meet him at home plate!

Fireworks went off, but it was impossible to hear them, or the celebratory playing of “Cleveland Rocks” blasting over the sound-system as is tradition after each Indians victory!

To put it simply, Jacob’s Field hadn’t been that loud since the 2007 playoffs.

Nearly five minutes after Giambi had delivered what Tribe announcer Tom Hamilton would moments later call ‘the greatest pinch hit homer in Cleveland Indians history” fans were still on their feet cheering loudly. When they finally did begin to head home the streets were filled with cars honking their horns, that drew more celebratory cheers from those still walking back to their cars.

Cleveland was alive with excitement over their baseball team again!

Once in the car, my parents, best friend and I put on WTAM 1100 to hear Nick Camino who was hosting the post game show. He simply re-ran the Tom Hamilton’s call of the Giambi blast over and over again! Laughing hysterically and remarking in utter joyful bewilderment, “what did we just see?!!!!”


Now almost six weeks after witnessing that amazing moment in person, I still get joy goose bumps thinking about that night. I know it is unlikely I will ever witness anything like that again, and certainly not under all those same circumstances.

I think what made it all the more memorable to me was having so many friends in attendance with me that night. The fact that it was such last minute decision to attend the game made it even more special, as I had invited people on Sunday, bought the tickets on Monday and went to the game on Tuesday.

Though the Indians ultimately saw their October baseball dreams end after just one game (they lost the one game wild card playoff to Tampa Bay just over a week later), Giambi’s homer kept what became a ten game winning streak to end the regular season alive, and brought hope in successful Indians baseball back to Cleveland!

Therefore, I couldn’t have been happier when the Indians front office decided two weeks ago to resign him and invite him back to spring training next year. His leadership and mentoring of the young players will continue on, and who knows he may even hit a more dramatic homer next year!

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Living Better Stories: A Lesson Learned

“I wish there was a way to know you are in the good old days, before you’ve left them.”
-Andy Bernard (The Office)

If you are anything like me, you often view your life as an ever evolving story that God is writing before you eyes, and you simply need to try your best to stay close to Him in prayer and fellowship with other Christians, so that He can bless you in all that you do. Thus each decision you make, and each conversation you have, is a small part of the grand story of your life that God has known will occur since before time began.

I have read books also by some insightful writers like Donald Miller and Bob Goff who challenge each of us to live better stories with our lives. That means taking risks and trying new things, while trusting God throughout each and every adventure that we begin to walk out.

Part of living that story I think is not constantly looking back on our pasts and longing for ‘the good old days’ for extended periods of time. It is fine to look back and see what God has taught you, and remember the trials He has brought you through, but living consistently in the past is dangerous for our futures.

                    Solomon says as much in Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” If you find yourself asking these questions in your mid-20’s it is probably a good idea to ask yourself another question: what can I do at this point in my life to live a better story for The Lord?

                    I know this to be true, because back at the end of last December I hit a bit of a depression. I still was living at home with parents at age 25, still working at a part time job I have had since college, felt like I had no real gifts to use in serving Jesus, and was looking back to 2011 as being the ‘glory days of my life”

                    Not a good idea by any means. But it is where I was in those few days. Fortunately, I trekked down to Atlanta with many of the rest of my friends from Church to attend the annual “Passion” conference. Throughout those three and half days down there, God spoke to me a lot about the fact that He doesn’t save people and give them no gifts to serve Him with henceforth. He showed me that while I may not have the artistic talents I have always desired, He has blessed with gifts in hospitality, mercy and teaching. Not everyone has these gifts, but He has given them to me. I came back to Cleveland, ready to begin taking action to change my bummer story into a bright story!

                    First I began talking with my other good guy friends about seriously sitting down and hunting for a house for us to rent together. My best friend, another good friend and I met up, sat down and talked and prayed about who the other two men we should ask to rent this house with us should be. We soon found our fourth man, and soon after that, God allowed us to find our fifth man. All five of us then, with the help of an incredibly kind and fellow Christian Realtor found a house for all five of us to rent within our financial means. God has grown me incredibly in these last six months of living in Christian male community, and we have had many awesome times in this house already!

                    As far as finding a full time job has gone, well, I still don’t have that yet, but due to God, and my Dad getting on my butt about applying more and networking with people, I at least have had a couple of interviews and made a few contacts! I know God has this in His hands and am trusting Him to provide in this area! At least, I do have a job that allows me to pay my bills each month, though with very little wiggle room.

                    As far as knowing more now what my gifts are, well, I began teaching in the toddlers room at my church once a month and am stepping out in Faith by this month beginning to lead my very first Bible study at the house I share with four other fellas. This blends both my gifts for teaching and hospitality quite nicely.  I have also forced myself to try and listen more when people talk, and not always be the one talking. In doing that, I have found that people often want to share their stories with others who are willing to listen, and I can have a compassionate ear when these stories involve hard circumstances, thus operating in my gift of mercy and compassion.

                    I now don’t look back so often and think that my best days have passed me by, rather I realize that I am living some amazing stories and times right now, and unlike Andy from The Office in the quote at the top of this blog, I kind of have a feeling that I may in fact be in one of my best eras of my life right now, and I thus, am going to keep seizing each chance God gives me to continue living a great story! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Second, Second Chances: A musing on grace, forgiveness, and how strengths can also be weaknesses

“Everybody deserves a second, second chance”
-Michael Scott (“The Office”)

I recently realized that this is the way that I think about people that I encounter each day. One of my dear friends and fellow housemates told me this recently, as we were discussing one particular situation in my life, that he views me as ‘the most grace filled person he has ever met,” and though I had never thought about it in that way before, I realized that I do like Michael Scott, always give a person the benefit of the doubt, and many a second chance when they do hurt me or frustrate me in any way.

This as my friend continued to say, is an amazing gift from the Lord no doubt, but like with so many great gifts, it can also be used by Satin as a weakness as well. The way this strength and gift of mine is a weakness is that I can easily be gullible and also not see the truth about some people, when it comes to legitimate areas in which they have character flaws that God needs to work through in their lives.

I think it is for people like me that Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you outa as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

When dealing with people it is essential that we be observant and wise. That means we watch them and see how they treat not only us personally but others around them. Some folks without really even realizing they are doing it can be drains on us, and when I say that I mean in any capacity, mentally, financially, emotionally etc. People such as me will look at the positive parts of their personality, and continue to extend grace to them for their draining personality, sacrificing our own emotional health in the process.

This is where that wisdom needs to come in, and people like me need to realize that while we can still treat this individuals with grace, we also need to keep our contact with them to a minimum so as not to get drawn into their world of drainage. Call it developing healthy boundaries.

However, it is important that one doesn’t allow the proverbial pendulum to swing the other way and we become so careful of avoiding emotional drainers that we no longer seek to love and forgive those in our lives. People will hurt us; and some people who we love deeply will hurt us many times. This is a truth that is born of living in a fallen world. Adopting an attitude that seeks to forgive and reconcile with these people as soon as possible is essential to our emotional health as well. I am always one to seek reconciliation as soon as possible.

Being angry with another person drains my heart more than anything, and thus when issues come up I pursue the person until we talk whatever the situation is through thoroughly. If I have sinned against them in any way, I am sure to apologize immediately. Living with four other men has taught me of the importance of this, as I have had scrapes with a couple of my housemates over the past few months, but have always talked through them, apologized when I am led to via the Holy Spirit, and sought to peaceful resolve our issue before we all go to bed.

It is times like those that I realize how thankful I am for being able to forgive and extend grace abundantly. Grudges are never good among friends, and certainly not something Jesus wanted among any members of the body. Once again in Matthew, this time in chapter five, he even tells us to resolve a grievance before giving our gift or tithe in worship. It is that important!!

So I guess my ultimate point to this whole blog is that I am continuing to discover areas of truth about who I am and how I function. I am seeing more and more how indeed my areas of my greatest strengths are also my areas of greatest weakness, and I thus, am continually asking God for wisdom in those weaknesses.

God gives us ‘second, second chance(s)” so it is important that we do the same with fellow brothers and sisters in our community.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On Rest and Time Alone: A Realization

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
-Matthew 11:28

I love people! I mean I love being around people, especially my close friends and housemates pretty much all the time. I enjoy talking and telling stories. I always say that two of my favorite ‘c’ words are ‘coffee and ‘conversation.’ Lately, however, God has begun teaching me something about the importance of rest and time spent away from people.

Let me say this if you haven’t guessed it already, or if you know me already you will for sure know this fact about me: I am an extrovert. No doubt about it, but there is another category that dictates a lot about each of us, and that is the factor of when it comes to processing life as a whole, each person is either an external processor or an internal processor.  An easy way to diagnose which one you are is rather simple: when you think through situations, conversations and interactions you have had throughout your day, do you need to talk about them with another person to come to understandings about what you have experienced? Or do you tend to quietly think about such things inside your head, and then speak about them once you have drawn a conclusion?

If you are the type who needs to talk things through, you are an external processor, while if you think about things inside your own mind and draw conclusions that way, you are most likely an internal processor.

Now it would be easy for you to conclude at this point that all extroverts are external processors and all introverts are internal processors. However, this is not at all the case, as my two bests friends are examples of this. One of them is an introvert who processes things externally, while my other best friend is an extrovert who processes things internally. Which am I you ask? Well I am an extrovert who processes things externally! Yes that means I am the double whammy!  I am the person who truly talks ALL THE TIME!

Anyways that was a long introduction to tell you about what I have been learning of late, which is that though I easily CAN talk all the time, that doesn’t mean I SHOULD! Also, just because I CAN spend time around people 16 hours a day easily, it doesn’t mean I SHOULD!

Jesus modeled this very well for each of us. You see He was around people almost all the time, after all crowds followed Him everywhere, and He spent many of His days teaching the masses for hours on end! However, we are told several times throughout the Gospels that Jesus early in the morning ‘departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35b)

If Jesus our Lord and savior took time to get alone with the Lord and pray, I think it is essential for us to this as well. A great way to do this for me, as I have discovered recently, I to go out into God’s beautiful outdoor creation and spend time in prayer with Him, as well as participating in one of my recent hobbies of photography.

I have come to cherish this time of late. I have begun to at least once every couple of weeks, consciously take time to go out by myself to a park, or even just out of for a walk in my neighborhood, for 45 minutes to an hour and take pictures, as well as worship God for the beauty that is all around me. Springtime in Cleveland Ohio is a great time for this, as the sun finally starts to appear on a regular basis, and the trees leaves with their varying shades of spring greens provide quite a canvas in the background of one’s worship and prayer session!

What I have noticed is that I return from these hour long adventures, with a refreshed feeling that is unique and like that of being cleaned out within my heart. Oh I am not saying that all of my worries, concerns and fears simply melt away or anything, but the courage to face them, with Jesus’ help of course, is strengthened and renewed!

Not always does it need to be a time spent by yourself in prayer either, as going to a movie by oneself can be as beneficial to our heart’s health as a walk alone spent with the Lord. God can speak to us through both.

I plan to continue to do this from this point foreword in my life, as these recent weeks have been much more peaceful and enjoyable than I have had in quite some time!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Eight Statements You Most Likely Agree With If You Were Home Schooled: A musing

Growing up as a member of the first big generation of home schooled students, I have spent a lot of time discussing experiences with fellow home educated alumnus guys and gals, and it is always interesting to watch and listen as we talk, as several similarities and quirks tend to begin to show up in our histories. I have assembled a list here that is by no means complete or extensive, but still should make many of you in my friends circle who called your school your house as well, smile, chortle, or nod in agreement.

You have always kind of had a curiosity for what it would have been like to ride a school bus each day
Off the bat, this one applies exclusively to the ‘lifers’ as I lovingly refer to those of us home schooled folks who were educated in this manner from Kindergarten to our senior year in high school. From the time I was six years old, I often wondered what it would be like to hop on one of those yellow and black high off the ground vehicles with a plethora of small square windows and trek off to school five days a week. Later, I would think about how blessed I was not to have do that in the winter when it was cold outside, but on a sunny spring morning, I would still wonder sometimes…

You actually love to read even now that most of us in the first generation are in or out of college, and you enjoy both fiction and non-fiction work
The more I think about it, the more I realize that so many of my close home school heritage friends love to read! In fact we often talk about the books we have read. There are staples of course; you weren’t home schooled if you didn’t read “The Chronicles of Narnia” or “The Lord Of The Rings” (as a side note, I didn’t read “Lord Of The Rings,” one of the rare inconsistencies I have with my other HS friends). You also had to read at least “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” at some point in high school, and if you were a bit more progressive like me, books like “Dateable” and “I Gave Dating A Chance” too. 

You Possess A Very Varied Vocabulary
Let’s face it, no home schooler who is worth his or her salt is a boring person to have a conversation with. We have a tendency to use different descriptive dialog with good diction, and we know many a synonym for many commonly said words and statements. This ties in with the fact that we love to read, and read a lot as well. Reading classic work by classic authors and theologians forced us to look up words in the dictionary growing up, and while we may have hated it at the time, we are better conversationalists now because of this.

You Interact Well With People Of All Ages
Being home schooled meant that you would spend more of your time each day than other children your age around your Mom and possibly your Dad as well. This means you learned how to interact with them in a more mature manner faster than most children do. Then when you were around other adults at church or home schooler co-ops, you found you enjoyed talking to them as well. Oh don’t get me wrong, you could interact with children your age, but they tended to be less interesting than the adults, or your fellow home schooled peers as well. Basically “Brick Heck” on ABC’s hit sitcom “The Middle” said it best in a episode that aired back in January: “I am going to be spending most of my life around adults, so why shouldn’t I learn to talk to them now at age eight?” Home schoolers with few exceptions of course, seem to grasp this concept well at that age!

“Adventures In Odyssey” was the coolest radio drama ever!
I think I can honestly say that every single home schooled alumnus I know has this one in common. Whether it was during your lunch break, Car trip, or recess time if your Mom gave it to you, you listened to Focus On The Family’s wonderful radio drama series “Adventures In Odyssey” where you learned life lessons that were biblically centered from the main character of “Mr. Whitaker” who owned an ice cream shop and invented crazy contraptions like the “Imagination Station” that allowed you to time travel back and live out bible stories! From this series, you learned that the older a person is, the wiser they are, and thus you should respect them. You also learned that a show aimed at children was so often just as entertaining and enthralling to adults, as many times your parents would join you in listening along!

The words “Saxon Math” still can make your right eye twitch uncontrollably
It seems almost inevitable that at some point during your home-schooled journey through each grade, your parents decided to purchase a popular math curriculum used in schools known as “Saxon Math.” It was highly touted in the mid-90’s, but as so many of us soon learned, if you weren’t a person to whom math came easy, this curriculum flat out stunk! Not nearly enough explanations of how to do problems, or examples either. Talk about frustration to a level ten, this curriculum was it! Thankfully, after a year or two of this, most of our parents sought out other more underground but more well written math curriculums, and our hearts could beat a little less fast, and our eyes stopped twitching…except of course when we hear the name ‘Saxon’ today. Eye twitching yet? Oh, sorry!

You Have Confidence In Who You Are
To be honest this is one thing that one of my traditional school alums pointed out to me that I had never noticed before. He told me that I am extremely confident in who I am and that I don’t struggle with insecurities that most other folks do. This surprised me a bit, and he went on to tell me that this is both a blessing and a curse, as confidence is huge when it comes to surviving in society, but it is a downfall when it comes to being understanding that others around me are often not confident in who God has made them to be, and I therefore must not let this confidence lead to pride. As I reflected on this more, I realized that all my home-educated friends tend to have this confidence. We are a little weird in terms of our humor at times, and our certain nerdiness, but we like that about ourselves and we don’t worry too much about whether or not others around us like that side of us or not. Overall, I think it is a good thing, but something we all should be aware of as well, just as my friend cautioned me J

Ultimately, We Know That We Owe Our Parents, Especially Our Mom’s, A Debt Of Gratitude We Can’t Ever Repay!
Face it friends, our parents gave us a huge gift when they made the controversial decision back in the early to mid-90’s to home school us instead of putting us in traditional school. Back then, homeschooling was still a relatively new idea, and if your parents are anything like mine, they endured some scrutiny among friends and extended family members over this decision. Our Mom’s especially sacrificed a ton, as most of them gave up full time jobs and careers to stay home and educated us children! I know I can personally say that in those early years, I gave my Mom a very hard time when it came to doing school each day, especially when it came to math, the subject I hated with a passion! She tried everything from having my cars talk to me while doing math, to finding music to dance around to and recite my math facts in tune, but I still hated it. However, without my parents decision to home school me, I know I would not be the same person I am today. Certainly my faith in Christ wouldn’t’ be a solid, and my confidence in who I am wouldn’t be there. I also wouldn’t be able to say that I have friends of all ages, or have the close relationship I have with my parents, had they not chosen to sacrifice and educate me at home.

So yes, ultimately, this post is a way of me saying a very special “Happy Mother’s Day” to my Mom and all the home school Mom’s out there! Thank you for your dedication to us, for not giving up on us, and for pushing us to do our best, and instilling in us a confidence in who we are, both in our personalities and our identities in Christ!

Also, Mom, thank you for teaching me to read J