Tag Archives: eschatology

Mixed Nuts: Apocalypse Soon, Conspiracy Theories and Other Nuttiness

Who did the Dye Job?

It was an interesting week and I took a couple of days off of writing to spend some time with Judy and it was interesting just to talk with her and others about some of the nutty things that are going one. Of course the big news was that Osama Bin Laden dyed his beard and had a fetish for watching himself on his Direct TV.  I wonder what he used to dye the beard with Grecian Formula, Clairol, Loreal, Herbal Essences or Manic Panic. If he hadn’t been on the lam so long he might have been their spokesman in the Middle East pitching hair beard dyes for men.  But he died undyed. I guess had he known that the SEALS were coming that he would have ensured that his beard was black.  I think the conspiracy theories inside Al Qaeda’s web were more about how he fooled them into thinking that the beard was its natural color and wondering where they can get the same brand than how the SEALS got him.

Of course in the West we could care less about the hair color we just wonder if the United States faked killing him and sent him to run the Donut shop in Buenos Aries that we had Hitler running after we faked his death at the end of the Second World War.  Rumor has it is that Elvis is still down there doing Elvis impersonations and has coffee there every morning along with the surviving aliens from Area 51.  People are demanding that President Obama produce a death certificate but the coroner’s office in Karachi Pakistan won’t issue the long form and thus conspiracy theories will abound so Jerome Corsi can write another book.

Harold Camping…The Rapture on May 21st?

Of course if you haven’t noticed only 13 shopping days left until the Rapture, at least by the calculations of a certified California nut named Harold Camping.  Evidently the 89 year old Camping believes that he alone has cracked the code about when Jesus is coming.  According to him the “Great Tribulation” began on May 21st 1988 when Fat by Weird Al Yankovic hit #99 on the Billboard Pop Chart and the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 11-6. The score is important because 11+6 equals 17 which according to Camping equals heaven. This proves my point that the Cubs are the key to understanding the Second Coming of the Lord. See Discerning the Second Coming: The Cubs are the Key and on the 21st of May 2011 the Cubs will be at Fenway to play the Red Sox in what could be the last inter-league game before Jesus comes back to whack and shwack the unraptured for 5 months until Friday October 21st 2011 which will be two days after the World Series begins.  Since there is no way to get the World Series in there is no way that the Cubs can win it and thus Camping has to be wrong.  Of course he was wrong in when he predicted the Rapture to occur in September of 1994 during the regular season but attributed this to a mathematical error.  Nonetheless there is no mathematical error on the donation link on his ministry website which he does take credit cards, so you can spend madly buying his stuff without having to pay for it…not.  See you the 22nd Harold unless you have absconded to Turkmenistan with your loot.

Speaking of “Nuts” evidently Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad is being accused of “sorcery” by his political opponents on the Council of Ayatollahs headed by Ayatollah Khamenei.  Evidently he was caught with the entire DVD collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.  He bowed to Khamenei’s order to reinstate the former Intelligence Minister who Mahmoud had fired after that man discovered the collection and sold both sets on Ebay with the proceeds going to the Old Ayatollah Home in the Holy City of Qom.  Ahamadinejad who has been on the lecture circuit tour proclaiming the return of the 12th Mahdi and doing all that he can to ensure the long absent Mahdi returns but he has not been so bold as to predict the date.

Los Angeles Apocalypse?

Of course the citizens of Los Angeles are pretty sure that the Apocalypse is coming soon after the Dallas Mavericks swept the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers. Adding to their apocalyptic misery the Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly unable to afford the end of May payroll and Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming back to Hollywood for a number of projects to include a Terminator story and a movie appropriately called Last Stand.

Mona Lisa: Where is her body?

Meanwhile in Italy an attempt is being made to find the remains of the real Mona Lisa using some kind of advanced riding lawn mower system.  Lisa who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after a photo shoot with Leonardo Da Vinci has been the source of constant speculation since her disappearance.  Elsewhere people are less concerned with finding Lisa and more concerned with their own apocalypse a massive earthquake predicted to shake Rome on May 21st.  The long dead pseudo scientist Raffaele Bendandi made the prediction that the earthquake would be so bad that the entire city of Rome would be shaved off the map to make way for a new Disney World campus.  Bad news for the Pope he will have to move back to Avignon. At least the Germans and French are getting along better.

In the United States people in the Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are building high tech Arks to survive the real flooding that is predicted to occur about around the 21st of May….coincidence?  I think so.

Have a great week

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under middle east, purely humorous, Religion

Learning from David Wilkerson: A Reflective Moment

David Wilkerson died Wednesday in a tragic car wreck on a rural East Texas highway bridge. I wrote about this yesterday and have had more time to reflect on Reverend Wilkerson’s life and ministry and what struck me again and again as I read his blog posts and some of his books, was how he defied being put in a neat box.  It is a time for us to reflect on the life of the man and the content of his ministry so we might learn from him and serve God’s people.

If you cherry picked his writings you could paint a picture of him to make him in your own image. His theology was classic Pentecostalism and he was a Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist. These two pillars were foundational to his ministry. He was a young Pentecostal minister before Pentecostalism hit the mainstream and became a fashionable faith for well off political conservatives.  Pentecostalism began as a movement among the not so well to do back in the early part of the 20th Century. I think that gave David Wilkerson a heart to go into the slums of New York City and begin a ministry to gang members, drug abusers and prostitutes, people that most churches across the denomination spectrum of the day held in distain kind of like the religious crowd back in Jesus’ day.  He certainly didn’t go there for the money or for that matter with the goal of building a mega-church.  He went there because he heard about the violence and the suffering and he was used by God to change a lot of lives.  Likewise he never lost sight of that ministry but took it worldwide and then in the late 1980s when New York was in the tank awash in poverty crime and gang violence he went back. He took a former theater in Times Square which was the hub of all sorts of nastiness and planted a church there which is there to this day attracting a wide variety of parishioners and pilgrims.  By the church-growth school models it was not a smart move but he was obedient to the call that God had placed upon him two decades before.

His message was influenced by his Eschatology or belief in the End Times.  That message saturates his writings as he called people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, something that if I recall correctly is scriptural even if one does not embrace Wilkerson’s Dispensationalism as their eschatology. The Creed even says it “and he shall come again to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Wilkerson was a Pentecostal in his understanding of this and also believed that God still speaks today and that the spiritual gift of prophecy was still operative in the church. In this he was not unique even if some of his warnings seemed overblown or did not take place.  However his messages were always full of sadness when he spoke of judgment and he obviously was not watching CNN on a daily basis to check out what changes he needed to make to his message to sell more books and tapes.  He was authentic and honest and the message that he preached came out of a heart that was broken for the people of the earth. Through his work with the least, the lost and the lonely he was very sensitive to injustice, greed and the cult of personality.  When he preached a message of impending judgment it was because he believed it and because like so many of the Biblical prophets, especially Jeremiah who he reminded me of.  One could disagree with his interpretation of the signs of the times but one could never doubt that he actually cared about those he was warning.

If that was all that you wanted to believe about him you could paint him as just another Fundamentalist preacher.  But he defied that label.  His work, preaching and life showed that he was a man who also embraced the call of Jesus to care for those who were not welcome in respectable circles making him somewhat of a social Gospel type as well. In his prophetic preaching he condemned the Social Darwinism of unfettered Capitalism and some of his harshest messages were to the financial elites especially the banking industry.

Another interesting thing about him was that as he grew in ministry he refused to judge or condemn individuals and unlike many popular preachers had friends who were homosexual.  He did not agree with their lifestyle and he was honest in what he believed about homosexuality when he dealt with them but he did not drive them away.  He hated what he believed were the sins of homosexuals but he actually had compassion for them and maintained friendships with homosexuals, in other words he hated what he believed to be their sin but loved them and had compassion for them.

Wilkerson held himself and others to very high standards of Christian conduct a direct outgrowth of Pentecostalism’s roots in the Holiness movement.  Again he wasn’t a hypocrite, in his writings he admitted his own struggles in regard to his faithfulness and what he believed were his own failings. When one reads his last several months of essays on his blog you see a man engaged in an intense personal spiritual struggle even as he sought to encourage others going through similar times.  His willingness to write about this was remarkable by present standards where so much allegedly Christian preaching is shallow and insipid pop-psychology covered with a veneer of Bible verses and baptized as “Christian teaching” by men and women that never admit their weakness or faults until a scandal erupts and they have to apologize.  His writings as I pointed out last night reminded me of Jeremiah the weeping prophet who undoubtedly suffered from severe depression and even a bit of Martin Luther who struggled with his own worthiness even as he proclaimed the message of being saved by grace through faith.

I think that we can really learn from David Wilkerson’s life without putting him on a pedestal and proclaiming him as some sort of extra-special Christian that he would tell us not to do.  He was not a man of pretense and if you read his writings there are in them a sense of humility and unworthiness that at times comes to the forefront.  I think we need to remember him as someone who was obedient and authentic in the way that he lived his life and conducted his ministry.  He didn’t seek out the approval of the rich or powerful and was not one who was a partisan political activist. Where he was politically active it was mostly at the local level in trying to help those without a voice.  He was not a pawn of either major political party. Liberals could agree with his messages against corporate greed while conservatives could agree with his message of personal responsibility.  He was simply a Christian minster who cared about the kind of people that Jesus hung out with most of the time.  He embodied the traditions of his Pentecostal faith and was not a man that pursued the latest and hottest ministry fads.

I think that those things make him unique and hard to copy. There will be those that seek to emulate him and if they do it in his spirit versus trying to “claim his mantle” as some would want to do they will do well. I hope that those that emulate him will do it in humility and seek to be who they are as Christians and ministers and care for those that he cared for rather than trying to mimic his prophetic messages.

As I read article after article about Reverend Wilkerson today I was struck that even those that disagreed with him had nothing bad to say about him. The closest thing to a snarky attitude in an article came from the Wall Street Journal which appeared attempt to smear him by noting that Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were fellow Assembly of God ministers and was the only paper to make light of his preaching.   The “liberal” New York Times, USA Today and others were much classier than the journal in writing about Wilkerson and good on them.

I didn’t agree with his eschatology and some of his teachings as I theological moderate from a catholic tradition. Likewise I see his struggle in his writings and I wonder about the circumstances of his death in light of those writings, but none of that takes away my admiration for his authenticity and willingness to care and be a voice for the least, the lost and the lonely.  We can only hope than in our time of economic crisis and political division that we will have more men like him who are authentic and faithfully proclaim the Word of God while caring for God’s people without seeking their own aggrandizement or power.

We thank God for David Wilkerson and for the lives that were changed through his ministry even as we pray for his family, friends and co-workers.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Religion

Dad’s Gift of Baseball to Me

Note:  This is a substantial re-write of a post that I did toward the beginning of this site. At the time I had very few readers and of course it had very few views.  I think sometimes there are times in life when you have to go back to things that are important.  Revisiting the better times in the past is sometimes a way for me to get through the more difficult days of the present. My dad has been in End Stage Alzheimer’s Disease for some time now. He is down to 112 pounds and when I last saw him in May was only occasionally able to have any meaningful communication and I was blessed to get a few minutes on a couple of consecutive days where we had conversation s that bordered on better times.  The funny thing they revolved around baseball for for dad and me was a point of connection through most of our lives.  If we could talk about nothing else, there was always baseball. I have been kind of down about his condition lately as he for all intents and purposes hangs between life and death, not really the man that I knew, the man who taught me to love the game of baseball.  My mom and I talked this week and she asked when I was coming out next.  The thing is I don’t know.  I just had to tell her that we would wait and see.

Me and Lefty PhillipsMe with Lefty Phillips of the California Angels in 1970

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” George Will

Baseball has always been a source of enjoyment for me.  I’ve noted in numerous other posts that God speaks to me through baseball.  For me there is something mystical about the game.  It extends beyond the finite world in some respects and there is symmetry to the sport unlike any other.  George Will’s quote at the beginning of this post is dead on.  Not all holes or games are created equal.

Oak Harbor Little LeagueMy First Ball Field, Oak Harbor Washington

Though I had played Little League Ball in the 1960s and well as a lot of backyard or sandlot games, it was  1970-1971 when my dad began taking us to California Angels games while stationed in Long Beach California that the game really captured me.  The seed of course had been planted long before games on a black and white TV, playing catch, teaching me to throw, field and run the bases.  We even saw the Seattle Pilots in person while stationed in Washington State. While my dad thrived on all sports, baseball was the one that he gave me as a gift.  He gave my brother golf, another spiritual game, which Zen masters love, but which is not to be compared with baseball because it is not in its purest form a team sport.

1972 Oak Park AL RamsOak Park Little League 1972 American League “Rams” I am at top left

Growing up with baseball was something that I cannot imagine have not done.  It was part of life from as far back as I can remember and this was because dad made it so.  It kind of reminds me of the beginning of the movie For the Love of the Game where home movies of a child playing ball with dad are shown during the opening credits and score.  I can close my eyes and remember vivid details of ball fields and backyards where dad would play catch with me play pepper and fungo and teach me to pitch.  He never did much with hitting.  When I had him in a brief lucid moment when I visited in May I thanked him for teaching me to love the game, told him I still heard his voice telling me to keep my butt down on ground balls and that he did not teach me to hit.  He simply said “you can’t teach someone to hit, it’s a gift, lots of people can’t hit.”

Binkley and baseballI wonder if my Dad felt this way at times?

Those days at Anaheim Stadium when it was called “the Big A” due to the scoreboard shaped like a large “A” with a halo ringing the top were magical.  I met players, got signed balls and hats, and was even selected as a runner up in the “My Favorite Angel” contest.  For that I met my favorite Angel, First Baseman Jim Spencer a Golden Glove Winner who later played for the White Sox and Yankees, and two tickets behind home plate.  I met Spence at the game as well as an autograph signing at a local Von’s grocery store.  When trying to look him up in 2003 I found that he had passed away on February 10th 2002 while I was deployed.  He wasn’t very old, only 54 dying of a heart attack. Before his death he was lending his expertise to the Naval Academy baseball team. In 15 years in the majors in which he played in 1450 games and only made 55 errors, a .995 fielding percentage, one of the best in baseball.  During the 1970’s he was considered one of the premier defensive First Basemen in the game.  He played in the 1973 All-Star Game, won the Gold Glove in 1970 and 1977 and played on the Yankee’s 1978 World Series team. He was one of my favorite players growing up. I think that is why I like sitting behind the plate in my little world of Section 102, Row B, Seat 2 at Harbor Park so much now.

jim_spencer_autographJim Spencer’s 1979 Signed Yankee Card, I have one of these

When we moved to northern California we reconnected with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.  This was during the A’s dynasty years and we saw a number of games including an ALCS game against the Tigers.  Seeing the greats like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Campy Campaneris and Vida Blue was awesome.  However our first love was the Giants.  We only occasionally got to Candlestick Park where they played in those days.  Candlestick if you have ever been there is a miserable place to see a game for nothing else that it is colder than hell, if hell were cold.   One game we did see was Ed Halicki’s no-hitter against the Mets in 1975.

halicki no hitterEd Halicki’s No-Hitter, Dad took me to this

While dad was deployed to Vietnam my mom would drop me off at Billy Herbert Field in Stockton California where we lived and let me see the Stockton Ports who were then the California League single A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  Those games were always fun.  I remember talking to Orioles great Paul Blair when he visited a military base that I was serving and he told me how he remembered playing in Stockton as a minor leaguer.

billy hebert fieldMy Childhood Haunt, Billy Hebert Field, Stockton CA, former home of the Stockton Ports

In high school and college due to other diversions I stopped playing baseball and did not have as much contact with it.  However it never completely left me, I always longed to be either playing in or watching a game.

Other major sports do not hold me captive the way baseball does.  I think there is the nearly spiritual dimension that the game has which makes it timeless.  Other sports such as football, basketball, hockey and soccer are limited to rectangular playing surfaces of set dimensions determined by their leagues. With the exception of a few old hockey rinks there are no individuality to these venues, save perhaps for team or sponsor logos.  Likewise all of the other sports play a set time clock.  If a team gets way ahead early, it is likely that the game will be over.  While it is possible that a game could go into “overtime” the overtime in these games has different rules than regulation time.  “Sudden death” “Shootouts” and truncated times show that these games are not meant to go past regulation time.  It is an aberration from what is considered “normal.” In these games a team with a big lead can simply sit on the ball and run out the clock. Earl Weaver put it well: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

Baseball is not like that.  In order to win you have to throw the ball over the plate and give the other team a chance to come back. The nine innings could in theory go on for eternity, as they nearly do in W.P. Kinsella’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, A story which is patently eschatological, though not in a pre-millennial dispensationalist manner.  Foul lines in theory go on for eternity, only the arbitrary placement of the outfield wall and the physical limitation of hitters keep the game within earthly limits.  I’m sure that outfields are a lot more spacious and have a wonderful playing surface in heaven.

Save for the late 1960s and early 1970s when fascists took over the design of stadiums in order to make them suitable to play football on, baseball parks have had their individuality.  Outfield dimensions, type of grass, the kind of infield and warning track soil which is used, are all determined by the team.  Some fields cater to hitters, others pitchers.  And with the overthrow of the stadium fascists at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the baseball park regained its dignity.  Gone were the ugly, drab oval stadiums, fields covered in often shoddy artificial turf.  The unsightly and even hideous venues such as Riverfront, Three Rivers, Veteran’s Stadium and others, even dare I say the Astrodome and Kingdome were demolished and made nice piles of rubble, replaced by beautiful ballparks each with its own unique character that reflect the beauty of the game.

three run homer by fiorentinoJeff Fiorentino Hits Three Run Homer at Harbor Park, my view from 102

This year for the first time in my life I bought season tickets for my local AAA team, the Norfolk Tides who are the AAA Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. I also went Norfolk’s Harbor Park to see the Commonwealth Classic an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.  Harbor Park was one of the first of the new generation of minor league parks and a wonderful place to see a game, or as I like to say “Worship at the Church of Baseball.”   When Harbor Park was built the Tides were affiliated with the New York Mets. As such the outfield dimensions are nearly identical to the former Shea Stadium, making it a very large yard and pitchers playground.  The outfield backs up to the East Fork of the Elizabeth River, shipyards and bridges dominate the view.  There is not a bad seat in the house. Since coming back from Iraq the ballpark is one of the few places that I have been able to consistently go where I am at peace, not hyper-vigilant and anxiety free.  In a way my season ticket has been both therapeutic and pretty essential to me getting a bit better in the past year.  Last year when the minor league season ended  it was difficult.  I am not looking forward to 6 months without a ball game here.

harbor park opening dayOpening  Day at Harbor Park: One of the few places of peace in dealing with my PTSD

With every home game the gift that my father gave me begins to unfolds again as I gaze in wonderment at the diamond.  This year is different; my dad is in a nursing home in the end stage of Alzheimer’s disease.  Last year he still knew enough of what was going on to talk about baseball, especially the San Francisco Giants and bad mouth the American League. Dad was always National League fan and he loathes the designated hitter. He used to call the American League the “minor league.”  He told me stories about the greats of his childhood and he was an avid fan of Pete Rose, he loved his high intensity play and hustle, something that he passed on to me. I can still recall him yelling at me to “get your butt down,” “stay in front of the ball,” “hustle down the line any time you hit the ball” and “don’t be afraid to run over a catcher or go in hard to break up a double play.”   Rose’s banishment from baseball for gambling hit him hard.  I guess it was for him like the banishment of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and for me the agony of the Steroid Era which was a stain on game but now is now history. Unfortunately it is being used by self-righteous politicians a bureaucrats to make baseball and baseball players look bad so they can look good.   At this point I say reinstate Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose and stop with the endless illegal leaks of documents and alleged positive tests of players whose names are being leaked out one or two at a time.  I think my dad would say the same now, if only he could.

Me and last last picMy Dad Carl and I, May 2009 Giants fans to the end

Dad gave me a gift, a gift called the game, the game of baseball.  Sure, it’s only just a game.  Right… Baseball is only a game in the sense of the Grand Canyon just being a hole in the ground and the Pacific Ocean a pond.  I’m sure that the Deity Herself must agree.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings

Discerning the Second Coming: The Cubs are the Key

This is a modified re-post of something that I did when I first started posting to this site.  At the time I had very few readers and this post was buried so far back that it was pretty much forgotten, except by me.  Since the Deity Herself speaks to me through baseball it follows that my eschatology, or theology of the end times has a baseball connection.Since the Cubs are currently in third pace in the NL Central with a record of 41 wins and 39 losses a week before the All Star break having just beat the Braves 4-2  I feel that is appropriate to re-address the topic.

The Creed says of Jesus that  “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  The Creed however does not say how or when. Since many guys with a lot less theological training than me are making mega-bucks writing books about the Second Coming of Christ simply by watching CNN, Fox News and a host of websites and newspapers.  I watch these guys vainly trying to match headlines to Bible verses to show why they are right, or at least how to make changes in order to publish another book,  I figured why not do this from Baseball.

While Hal Lindsey, Grant Jeffery, John Hagee, Jack Van Impe and groups like the Prophecy Club make definitive statements based on “years of study” of the Scriptures, history and current events  only to have to revise those predictions when people and nations refuse to do not as they predict; I prefer not to live my life waiting for Fox News to tell me that Jesus is on the horizon.  I remember back in the 1970s when I read Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and had the shit scared out of me.  What was way cool over the years was to see the revisions to the book as the world situation changed.  Likewise the new books published by others during the Gulf War and every stinking conflict in the Middle East which basically repackaged the same tripe with slight modifications due to world situation, political change or technological advances.  Even worse are the Left Buttocks series by Tim LaHaye whose books and movies sold more copies than People Magazine’s coverage of the death of Michael Jackson

My hair brained theory says that it all comes down to baseball, just as everything else in life. My belief is that when the Chicago Cubs win the World’s Series that we’d better start looking to the East, and pronto.

I’m actually somewhat serious.  I have no emotional investment in the Cubs, I’m a San Francisco Giants fan who has a fondness for the Oakland A’s.  I enjoyed the hell out of the 1989 NLCS when the Giants won the NL pennant against against the Cubs. I love the Giants, Willie Mays was and always will be the best baseball player who ever lived to me and though far away, and I can name player after player for the team over the years that I admire and I am really pissed at the way Barry Bonds has been singled out while guys like A-Rod and Manny get their wrists slapped and continue to play. Since I am such a partisan Giants fan with no emotional or spiritual attachment to the Cubs, I think that I can honestly say that I am impartial observer of this prophetic event.  At least as far as the Cubs are concerned.  I hold no personal animus against the long suffering Cubs, they are not the Evil Dodgers nor related to the anti-Christ, unless you are a Cardinals or Brewers fan.

Last year I was actually somewhat concerned that the Cubs were going to see Jesus back into town.   The Cubs were a favorite to reach the World Series and maybe win it. They appeared to have the best team in baseball and it was 100 years exactly since the last series that they won.  I was worried because as much as I believe that Jesus will come again, I have to confess that I’d prefer he wait until some following generation to do it.  The Cubs finished the regular season with a 97-64 record, the best in the National League.  The Evil Dodgers swept them in the NLDS ensuring that the Cubs would not make the series and calming my fears that Jesus might come before I could see the Giants win a World Series.

One has to look at history and see all the disappointment that Cubs fans have suffered over the years.  Think of the times that the experts said it was the Cubs time.  In 1984 they blew a 2 game to none lead in the NLDS and lost to the Padres.  In 1989 the Giants took them in 5 games.  In 1998 swept by the Braves, Remember the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins?  Up in the top of the 8th in game six and then everything fell apart shortly after the errant Cubs fan reached out and caught a foul ball that was almost in the glove of the Cub defender?  Swept by the Diamondbacks in 2007 and again swept by the Evil Dodgers in 2008.  There has to be something to this.  It is too eerily similar to guys like Hal Lindsey and others who keep reading the headlines and predicting Jesus’ return, and when he doesn’t they have to look at the headlines again, wait for another crisis and write another book.  Those who follow the Cubs are like followers of the Christian prophecy movement are always disappointed when their playoff prophets are proved wrong again and again.

Thus, all this considered I must be right, there is a correlation between the Cubs and and eschatology.  I could be full of crap, but I think I have something here, the Deity Herself I think assures me of this considering her love of Baseball. In the W.P. Kinsella novel The Iowa Baseball Confederacy a young man ventures to the end of a rail spur and ends up transported back in time to 1908 to a place in Iowa where the Cubs were playing an exhibition against a team of local all stars.  The game took on mythic proportions, and not to spoil the book, which I highly recommend, it tells of cataclysmic and cosmological significance of the 1908 Cubs.

I guess that to paraphrase Colonel Nathan R Jessup in A Few Good Men “The Cubs playoff defeats while tragic, probably saved lives.” I’ll end here, but to those who expect the Cubs to win the World’s Series you’d better be careful what you ask for…when you are rejoicing that the Cubs finally have won, Jesus may come and spoil your parade.

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Comebacks in Baseball and Life: 27 Outs- the Baltimore Orioles teach us a Lesson in Life

salazar home runOscar Salazar being greeted by Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Luke Scott

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” Earl Weaver

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

Last night something truly remarkable happened and it wasn’t something the latest in a political scandal, natural disaster, or war, coup d’état or international crisis.  Likewise no additional entertainment icons died and we have been Michael Jacksoned to death. His death while tragic is now becoming an annoyance as the media and everyone with an opinion about him, his family, his lifestyle, antics or the cause of death chimes in on those subjects.  The 24 hour non-stop news coverage is threatening to take on eschatological dimensions.  Even so, all of those things happen all the time.  They are not for all of the fanfare that remarkable or special be they wars, famine, death of icons, pestilence or scandals. Since they happen all the time they are not that remarkable.

No something much more remarkable happened last night which I am patently sure that the Deity Herself had something to do with.  Something that causes us to remember that nothing is ever certain and that almost anything is possible.  The Baltimore Orioles set the record for a comeback in a major league baseball game where a last place team came from behind to beat a first place team as well as their team record for biggest comeback set against the Red Sox in 1956.

The Red Sox have been great so far this year.  They are in the most competitive division in baseball.  The Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays are good teams and the Orioles, though bringing up the rear are showing promise as they continue to build a franchise based on a great farm system producing quality players.  They now are tied for the 3rd best team batting average in the majors at .274 with the Blue Jays and the 9th best slugging percentage.  What has hurt the Orioles has been pitching which is the third worst in the majors and this is slowly getting better as young pitchers developed in the minors are beginning to show up and do good things on the Orioles staff. The Orioles are not expected to be in the race this year, but the overall plan is to be contenders in a season or two.

However what matters now and makes this significant as it is an example of how something that happens on a baseball field can help us in life.  The game was delayed by rain delay of 79 minutes in the 5th inning. At the end of 7 ½ innings the Orioles were down 10-1.  It was a game that seemed to be over.  After all’ the Orioles had lost their last 8 games, going back to 2008 against the Red Sox and faced several outstanding Boston Relief Pitchers.  Likewise, it was not certain that to Sox would not score any more runs.  The Orioles pitching staff has not been consistent and the Red Sox have beaten up on the Orioles pitching staff. Things did not look good for the home team.  Then something happened. Aubry Huff singled to right to open this inning.  Huff was followed by rookie Nolan Reimold, who I have seen play many times this year at Harbor Park, who singled advancing Huff.  The Luke Scott doubled scoring Huff.  With 2 on and no outs Oscar Salazar, a hard working journeyman who was hitting .378 at Norfolk pinch hit for Melvin Mora.  Salazar took Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson to deep left for a three run home run.  Felix Pie (Pee-ay) who had relieved an injured Adam Jones drove in Robert Andino for a 5th run.

The game was now 10-6 as Boston came to the plate in the top of the 8th.  The Red Sox appeared to be getting something going.  With runners at 2nd and 1st with two out Jacoby Ellsbury hit a single to center.  Red Sox catcher George Kottaras trying to score from second was thrown out at the plate by Felix Pie for the third out.

In the bottom of the 8th the first four Orioles hitters; Reimold, Scott, Salazar and Wieters hit and Reimold scored against Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima who left the game.  Okajima was replaced by Takashi Saito who gave up two more hits to Ty Wiggington and Brian Roberts scoring Scott and Salazar.  To quell this Orioles uprising the Sox sent in the ever dependable Oriole killer Jonathan Papelbon who was 20-0 in save attempts against to O’s.  Papelbon looked like he was in control when he struck out Felix Pie for the second out bringing up Orioles Right Fielder Nick Markakis who had never had a hit against Papelbon.  Markakis hit a double off the left field wall to score pinch runner Jeremy Guthrie and Roberts to put the Orioles up 11-10.  In two innings the Orioles had scored 10 runs on 10 hits.  Going to the top of the 9th the Orioles brought in closer George Sherrill who shut down the top of the Sox order to get the save.

It was an amazing game.  A last place team that had no recent success against the first place team managed the biggest comeback of such a match up in Major League Baseball history and it was stunning.  Red Sox Shortstop Dustin Pedrioa said “It was a weird game, a terrible loss for us. That’s upsetting. Things just kind of spiraled on us.” While Manager Terry Francona said “We just had no answer. We went through everybody. Nothing we did worked.”  In the home clubhouse an emotional Orioles Manager Dave Tremblay said “That was probably the best game I’ve been involved in, right there. That was absolutely tremendous. When you talk about playing all 27 outs, that’s tonight.”  While Oscar Salazar said something that I think made the difference in the game, mental readiness to step in and play when it looked like the game’s ending was already written in stone.  Salazar who came up as a pinch hitter said “You sit on the bench 5 hours with the rain delay, but when they told me to hit, I was ready.”  As Salazar stepped to the plate and got ready to hit you could see the look of calm, confident determination that only years of hard work in the obscurity of the minor leagues can bring to a person.  A blogger in Boston had a banner headline: PAPELBLOWN and Sox Blow the Biggest Lead in the History of Earth.

Now of course the Red Sox being an excellent baseball team got their revenge at Camden Yards today, scoring 4 runs in the top of the 9th to tie the Orioles and go on and win in 11 by ascore of 6-5.  This being said they are the Boston Red Sox and as much as I have hope for the Orioles, the Red Sox are at this place in the space time continuum the far better team.

So here are the life lessons that I drew from this game.  First, no matter how bad things are you still have to keep playing.  I know this from really crappy times in seminary where it looked like I would never ever finish seminary and that all I had sacrificed to get through would be in vain.  There are 27 outs in a game and if you don’t give up, you always have a chance to win.  Life is not like football or basketball where people can run out the clock on you once they get a comfortable lead.  The other team still has to face you and if like Oscar Salazar and the other young Orioles you can step up and keep your head in the game you have a chance.

I have mentioned before how a number of people wrote me off in seminary making comments like “It’s obvious that you weren’t called to ministry otherwise God would be blessing you,” and “have you thought that maybe you were wrong to get out of the Army to go to seminary” or one that hurt the most, “you’re dumber than dirt for getting out of the Army to waste your time in seminary.”  I heard such comments from people in church, at work, people that I called for prayer and even some family members.  The toll on Judy was severe and though she was suffering she refused to even let me entertain giving up.  If I had quit I would not be here today, I had to gut it out with the odds stacked against me and at times when I even thought that God might have turned his back on me.

Likewise if you are riding high you can’t become complacent.  I do not believe that this happened to the Red Sox, but complacency kills.  Jonathan Papelbon noted “Give the other team credit. They put pressure on our bullpen tonight and we pretty much imploded. I can’t think of any other word that describes it better.”  The Red Sox infield also did something rather unique.  With two outs in the bottom of the 6th Dustin Pedrioa charged off the field followed by the rest of the infield thinking that there were three outs.  Only problem there were only two outs. The Boston Globe put it this way:

“And it’s hard not to attach some significance to that play in the bottom of the sixth, when the Red Sox infield trotted to the dugout with two out.  “I looked up and I saw Tek standing there all by himself,” said Francona. “The first thing I think is that I must be nuts. I’ve never seen that. Pedie came in and said, ‘I led the charge. I (screwed) up.’ ” Said Pedroia: “I think it was my fault. I got ahead of myself and everyone followed me.”

That is my lesson learned.  Watching the Orioles make this comeback against the Red Sox inspired me again to work harder and also reminded me from where I came and the struggles that we endured.  If you had asked me in the spring of winter and spring of 1989-1990 if I thought I would make it through seminary I would have said, I may not but I will do everything that I can to make it through.  Even 6 years later after finishing both seminary and CPE residency as Major in the Army Reserve Chaplain Corps I still had to work hard to overcome professional adversity.  I got my second chance in 1999 when the Navy signed me as a free agent to play on the big team.  My hat goes off to the young Orioles who fought back last night to win, especially Oscar Salazar who never gave up in 13 years in the minors.  They may not be in the playoffs this year, but they are doing the things that will make them contenders.  Any time a time does something like this against a team as fine as the Red Sox you know that they have the potential for greatness.  The same goes for anyone who has the determination to come back from adversity when defeat looks certain.

As Bert Blyleven said “The problem with being Comeback Player of the Year is it means you have to go somewhere before you can come back.”  Those places are not enjoyable places, but sometimes fighting our way out of them teaches us the value of persistence and perseverance.  These are far more valuable than having everything our way, and knowing nothing but success without knowing failure.  Without them we will never have the wherewithal to come back when things go bad.

Peace, Steve+

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