Batting Out of Turn


Score Card

Lamentations 3:23-25: The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

With a few exceptions in this choir, I don’t know if you like baseball or know anything about it or could care less about it, but you probably know that I am a Washington baseball fan. Going back as far as I can remember, I listened to the hapless Senators lose on the AM radio, and I still prefer the radio version today. Sometimes if I want to see what’s happening as well, I’ll mute the television and still have the radio on.  This also gives me an unexpected advantage: there is a seven-second delay with the television, so I can hear what’s going to happen before television watchers see it. As advantages go, it’s not much, but it amuses me and makes me happy.

I’ve listened to and watched hundreds of baseball games and read a fair amount about the subject, so I’d say I know something about the game, but not everything. If you want to talk to someone who probably knows more about the sport than anyone I know, talk to Larry Crowder, who has coached or played in thousands of games. Every Sunday, he gives me his read on the Nationals, and he’s always right about what happened and why and what they need to do to win consistently.

Larry also knows the rules of the game. I know the main regulations, but I heard about something recently in a major league game the other day that I didn’t expect. In a Mets-Reds game, the Mets came out in the first inning and had the first two batters strike out. The next player hit a ground rule double, and with the cleanup hitter coming up, things were looking good. But it turns out the player who hit the double had batted out of turn because his manager had given the umpire the lineup card from the day before. So the player at the plate (who was batting in the correct order) was called out without batting. It didn’t seem fair, but those are the rules.

Major league players are professionals earning big bucks and should know what they’re doing, so when I first heard this, I thought it was a rare event in the major leagues. Not so. Going back to 1881, it has occurred about 400 times. Shows what I know.

My expectation that big league players are infallible is, of course, misguided. The very definition of being human includes making mistakes. When we reach the age of accountability, we are expected to do what we know to be right. Of course, we don’t, and so, we commit sins. There is no way to appeal an umpire’s decision in this case and not suffer the consequences, but God is both judge and savior, so our sins are forgiven when we accept the reality that Jesus Christ died on the cross to erase our sins. Baseball is a game, but our lives and the lives of others are serious business, and we can accept God’s gift or throw our lives away. Praise God for the gift of love and forgiveness, and for setting us free, even when we bat out of turn. Amen.




Something More to Do

Annie Dillard

Something More to Do

2 Corinthians 3:18: “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more”

I don’t know if you’re familiar with a writer named Annie Dillard. She is an accomplished, luminous writer who has crafted poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. She is particularly known for her books about the natural world and our relationship with it in a way that is almost spiritual, although I do not know specifically what her beliefs are.

Annie Dillard published her first book in 1974, but recently said she sat down to write one morning, and, as she said, “I didn’t know what came next.” She was, unfortunately, finished with writing. I know that those who have read her books over the years have to be disappointed.

As a writer, I can identify with what she experienced. Every day when I sit down, I think, do I know what comes next? Is today the day I don’t have anything else to say? Is this it?

I am blessed that, as of now, I have more than enough to write about. A witness to that are the over 1,000 short pieces and five novels, to say nothing of these devotionals, which number about 1400. But I know that one day, one way or another, I too won’t know what comes next, and that will be the end of writing for me.

But I am hopeful. In spite of the possibility of one day running out of ideas, I believe God made us with the impulse to create, to reach out to our world and to touch the lives there. We will press on regardless, aware that if we can’t minister or create in one way, God has put other ways in our paths. The Gospel is about growing in Christlikeness through praise, prayer and deeds of kindness, and those will last us during this life, and all the way through eternity. Praise God for creativity, for allowing us to persevere, and for the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ, who has given us the gift of this life and the life to come. Amen.