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“When You Are Lost, You are Not Alone” Doubt and Faith in Lent

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday was a convoluted day. It was Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and the beginning of Baseball’s Spring Training. It was also a tremendously busy day at work that included multiple meetings, conducting the Ecumenical Ash Wednesday liturgy, the usual program, administrative, personnel, and facility management issues. Likewise because it was Valentine’s Day I didn’t want to screw it up. Since I usually find a way to screw up birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and other assorted holidays involving marriage it was a bit stressful. Thankfully I did pretty well regarding Valentine’s Day, I started by trying to suck up in the days before Valentine’s Day doing little things to build up some extra points in case I screwed up on the actual day, and for once I didn’t totally screw the pooch, in fact I did rather well, but I digress…

Of course if I had wanted to be an ass I could have celebrated Ashentine’s Day, that is the rare day when Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day enabling asshat spouses, fiancee’s, or partners to tell their beloved that they can’t take them out for a fancy dinner because of the fasting rules prescribed by the Church on Ash Wednesday. This confluence doesn’t happen often, the last time it did was seventy-tree or seventy-four years ago, so cheapskates and other turds don’t get the opportunity to do this often, and the fact that I even thought of it means that while I may be a complete turd at times that I would never tell Judy: “Sorry, I can’t take you out or give you anything for Valentine’s Day because it’s Ash Wednesday and I don’t want to lead you to hell.” I value my life too much. That being said I can imagine that there are some people who will do exactly that, not because they really are trying to observe the true meaning of Lent, but because they are cheap asshats who look for ways out of doing something nice for their partner using the cover of religion to do it. But again I digress as I so often do…

The truth is that a decade after returning from Iraq I still struggle with faith and belief, and doubt is always a part of my life and Lent has never really been a good time for me. In the early years of this blog I masked my struggle with humor about trying to make getting through Lent focusing more on the outward displays of faith and the actions of prayer, abstinence, and fasting than really wrestling with why the penitential aspects of Lent are important; far from being onerous they help us remember our shared humanity; especially with the least, the lost, and the lonely.

That being said I do still have faith, more than I have had for quite a few years and when it came time to schedule an Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service at my Chapel to compliment our Roman Catholic Mass which was scheduled for the evening I decided to lead it. I am glad that I did.

Since I was not serving at this chapel last year I had no idea how many people might show up or what the composition would be. Since I’m in an odd situation being an Old Catholic Priest, in a sense occupying a line between Roman Catholicism and Lutheran Protestantism I never know exactly what to expect in such a situation. Thankfully I have been able to build bridges with our Catholic and Protestant communities in the ten months that I have served here and I had members of both congregations at the service. Again not knowing what to expect I used the liturgy from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, with a couple of more Anglo-Catholic modifications in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which I used in my previous denomination because it kind of splits the difference between Protestants and Catholics.

I do love celebrating the Eucharist and conducting the liturgy and it’s funny that after almost 22 years since I was ordained as a Priest I am beginning to acquire a taste for Ash Wednesday and Lent. This is especially true when I read the Biblical passages from the Lectionary associated with them, especially those of Ash Wednesday which include Isaiah 58: 1-12; Second Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6, and 16-21. When I read them, especially the passage from Isaiah I am continually amazed at how they speak to the state of American Christianity in the age of Trump. I’m going to try to avoid politics for tonight but I could see Isaiah preaching them today almost any church in America, especially the great Evangelical and Charismatic megachurches, and television ministries whose leaders have abandoned all pretense of being “Biblical” as they prostrate themselves before the President in pursuit of raw political power masked in an extremely thin veneer of religion.

In my sermon I did not hammer home on that but I did spend a lot of time with the Isaiah passage without being overtly political; which in my position that would have been less than wise. Sometimes it’s better to let the scriptures speak for themselves.

I also talked about doubt, something that many people, including Christians of all persuasions struggle with but few ministers really honor as a measure of faith. I used my own struggle with faith and doubt after Iraq. I struggled and I still struggle with faith, I believe but sometimes I don’t, and I am certainly not someone who thinks that he has the Christian life down, in fact sometimes my witness; my temper, my language, and so much more about me do not reflect Jesus. I am not okay with that, but it is the truth. Since Spring Training began today I let the congregation know that I am a Mendoza Line Christian, meaning that I have a Christian life batting average of about .200, just enough to say in the game.

Doubt is usually ignored, and most of the Christians who I know who struggle with doubt are afraid to talk about it in church, you tend to lose friends by expressing doubts or struggles in most churches. To me it is no wonder that the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States are those people with no religious preference and those who have either fled the church or those outside who look at the Church and find nothing redeeming in it. Sadly, most of these people actually like or admire Jesus, some even believing that he is the Son of God, but who are so disgusted by the actions of Christians that they have walked away. As Pedro Cerrano in Major League said: “Ah, Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.” 

As I finished my sermon I decided to read the words of the homily given by Father Flynn played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie Doubt. The film is powerful, set in 1964 and I won’t do spoilers to tell you what happens in it and how it ends, you’ll need to watch it yourself. But I will share the words of Father Flynn’s sermon because they are so symbolic of our time when so many people struggle with faith. His words which compare the collective experience of people whose world has been shattered versus those whose struggles are invisible to most people. I know what that is like and because of my own struggles I have come to be able to read the unspoken angst, fear, doubt, and weariness of the lonely.

“Last year, when President Kennedy was assassinated, who among us did not experience the most profound disorientation? Despair? Which way? What now? What do I say to my kids? What do I tell myself? It was a time of people sitting together, bound together by a common feeling of hopelessness. But think of that! Your bond with your fellow being was your Despair. It was a public experience. It was awful, but we were in it together. How much worse is it then for the lone man, the lone woman, stricken by a private calamity?

‘No one knows I’m sick.’

‘No one knows I’ve lost my last real friend.’

‘No one knows I’ve done something wrong.’

Imagine the isolation. Now you see the world as through a window. On one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people, and on the other side: you.

I want to tell you a story. A cargo ship sank one night. It caught fire and went down. And only this one sailor survived. He found a lifeboat, rigged a sail…and being of a nautical discipline…turned his eyes to the Heavens and read the stars. He set a course for his home, and exhausted, fell asleep. Clouds rolled in. And for the next twenty nights, he could no longer see the stars. He thought he was on course, but there was no way to be certain. And as the days rolled on, and the sailor wasted away, he began to have doubts. Had he set his course right? Was he still going on towards his home? Or was he horribly lost… and doomed to a terrible death? No way to know. The message of the constellations – had he imagined it because of his desperate circumstance? Or had he seen truth once… and now had to hold on to it without further reassurance? There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. And I want to say to you: doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

So as Lent begins I encourage those who struggle and doubt to realize that there are a lot more people like then they realize; and for those who are not struggling not to look down on the lonely, not to be afraid that doubt is contagious, but instead to do the little things that remind people that they are not alone.

Likewise it is important to realize that some of the people who outwardly appear the most sanctimonious, the most sure of their beliefs, and the most rigid in their opposition to others also struggle, and that their display of certitude masks their own doubts and their own aloneness.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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I like Jesus Very Much, but…

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I returned from my extended weekend near Washington D.C. this afternoon looking at a world that seems to me to be headed for the abyss I was heartened to see my wife Judy sticking it to greedy and rude people, not that there is anything wrong with what she did. But truthfully, if there is anything that pisses me off more than anything it is the supposed Christians who are the loudest in proclaiming their devotion to Christ are the rudest, most disrespectful, and entitled people that I have ever seen. I think, what the hell, no wonder people are fleeing the church and want nothing the do with Jesus. As for me, like Pedro Cerano, “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.”

I hate to say that but it is true. The people who have the most bumper stickers, t-shirts, and voice the most platitudes about Jesus and his love are sadly some of the most despicable people that I have ever met. So this weekend at an event where a number of people were both the most hateful and entitled, all while holding their “faith” above others, I decided to wear t-shirts fro breweries and bars throughout the weekend.

I’m sorry to sound so harsh, but if your faith is founded upon demeaning others then the Jesus that you worship above all, who is no help with the curveball won’t help you. Being a rather merciful kind of guy I do hope that you have purchased your asbestos water-skies for your eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire, otherwise it will real suck if I read the Bible correctly.

Honestly, if I see a post by someone blaming whatever misfortune, be it a natural disaster, or war on some poor people who happen not to be of white European descent, or who do not meet the supposed moral standards of these Pharisees, will first excoriate them, and then block them from any social media interaction. I have reached the point that while they can post their shit anywhere else, but I will not allow them to do so here or any of my other social media sites. I won’t be a party to it. To do that is simply to be a party to evil masked as godliness, and I cannot do that. If John 3:16 only applies to some people then the hell with it. Again that may sound harsh but what were the earliest disciples of Jesus talking about? That is a rhetorical question so don’t even try to go there.

Anyway. It has been a long day and since my return home I have had enough to drink. So if you want to challenge me to a fight it will be fair, because I’ve had more than enough to drink.

But since when this is officially posted I will be awake after a full night of sleep, you might stand a chance.

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Only Church that Truly Feeds the Soul

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“The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham (MGM 1989)

Tonight I am going to the last home game of the Norfolk Tides. The Tides are our local Triple-A Minor League farm team of the Baltimore Orioles who are now 7 games up on the Yankees in the American League East. I love baseball. For me it is a source of peace, comfort and meaning in the sea of so much hatred, violence, inequity and injustice, angst and despair that fills our world.

Now honestly, while things seem are not good we tend to see life at any given time through they could be worse and certainly could be better they are not nearly as apocalyptic as the bearers of bad news make them out to be. Barbara Tuchman wrote “Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts….The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five-to tenfold.”

This is especially true for those who follow that loathsome Trinity of Evil, the Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who make their living causing people to be angry, covetous, anxious and on edge.

When I read or hear some of the vile things being said by allegedly conservative Bible believing Christian leaders be they politicians, pundits or preachers, or in the case of Mike Huckabee a despicable combination of all three, I become more convinced that Annie Savoy was right… the only church that truly feeds the soul is baseball.

In fact when I hear the likes of the Partisan Political Parsons, any of the big Mega-Church Pastors or television ministry hosts, or even some Catholic bishops start spouting off I feel like I have left this country and ended up in Medieval Europe or maybe Saudi Arabia. I wonder where the love has gone. When I read the words of men like Pat Robertson, James Robison, James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, Scott Lively, Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and so many others I understand why people are fleeing the church in droves and so many hold the Christian faith, as well as other religions in such disdain.

Jonathan Swift once mused about the religion of his time, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough for us to love one another.”   Swift’s words are a perfect description of the American Religious Right as much as they are of non-Christian groups who hate, the Moslem extremists of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram and the Taliban; the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who think that they are the only acceptable form of Judaism and physically attack other Jews for not being Jewish enough even while persecuting Israeli citizens who are Christian or Moslem; and the Hindu fundamentalists that burn down Christian and Moslem villages in India.

Thankfully, though I am still a Christian and at that a rather miscreant Priest and Chaplain that struggles with faith and belief, I also belong to the Church of Baseball. I am so because I agree with the late Commissioner of Baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti, who said, “there is nothing bad that accrues from baseball.” 

While I am very frustrated at what I see going on in the Christian church as well as in other religions that dominate other countries or cultures, when I think about baseball I know that God still cares. Every time that I look at that beautiful green diamond that sits in the middle of the great cathedrals and parish churches of the Church of Baseball, my sense of hope and faith is renewed.

To true believers, that may seem like heresy. But God even loves heretics and unbelievers. For me baseball speaks to the soul, maybe it is because baseball is more than a game.  Conservative political commentator and long suffering Chicago Cubs fan George Will said “Baseball is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes or games are created equal.” 

If that is heresy I don’t care. But then what is heresy? I don’t actually think that Jesus would recognize a lot of what we Christians do today as even being Christian.  I could be wrong but I recall Jesus was really big into the whole “two commandment” “love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself” way of life; and he wasn’t really cool with pompous religious leaders that give preference to the rich and powerful, and seek their own political power so they can use the state to enforce their religious views on non-believers like we do.

That is why I find something so right about baseball. Unlike the message of the political preachers that specialize in making themselves rich by keeping their followers anxious and angry while preaching the message that “God loved the world so much that he can’t wait to come back, judge and destroy it because of fouled up humanity” especially women and homosexuals; baseball caters to our hopes and dreams while recognizing that none of us, even those who play at the Hall of Fame level are perfect.

Unlike the false religious message preached by so many members of the Trinity of Evil, baseball deals with reality and life so well because of its ebb and flow. It deals with the grind of the long season, the constant demand for excellence and quest for perfection; but there is a realization that most of the time you won’t get there, and if you do, tomorrow you won’t and that is part of life.

Personally I don’t understand why if the Gospel of Jesus and God’s grace and love is actually true that we can’t apply this to our faith. Jesus, at least in the Gospel accounts seemed to accept the imperfections and foul ups of his followers, and not only that seemed to accept the people who the really righteous, religious leaders rejected and treated as less than human.

In fact, my paradigm of understanding the Christian faith comes from baseball. In baseball perfection is illusory and that life is full of times when things don’t go our way. It is much like real life and what is presented in Scripture. Ted Williams, the last player to hit for .400 said “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

For some of us it seems like reaching the Mendoza Line* is the best we will ever do, and if we believe in God’s grace, that is probably okay.

Tommy Lasorda the Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager put things in excellent perspective “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.”  That is true in life and faith.

While I am definitely a Christian I struggle and I admit it. I have enough of my own problems to empathize with others that struggle, but who in embracing the wacky formulas offered by greedy self-serving preachers treat Jesus and his message like some sort of magical talisman or good luck charm. But sorry, I agree with what Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) said in the movie Major League: “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.”

Thus I have many problems with the perfidious political and prosperity preachers that seem to have forgotten the Gospel, who are basically Elmer Gantry like snake-oil salesmen more attuned to keeping their market share than tending their flock. In fact, I think are actually driving people away from Jesus, and the polls of Barna, the Pew Religious survey, Gallup and others as well as the statistics kept by various denominations say that I am right.

When I watch baseball I feel renewed. As Sharon Olds wrote back in the early 1970s “Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” That my friends is why I agree with Annie Savoy that the only church that truly feeds the soul day in and day out is baseball.

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The late great and legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell said: “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”   Yes, for me, the heretic that I am it is the latter, and tonight I am happy to be going to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

*Mario Mendoza was a Major League Shortstop who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other organizations. He was an outstanding defensive player but was not much of a hitter. His career batting average was only .215 but a batting average of .200 is considered the minimum that a player can have to remain at the level that he plays.  I think that my career batting average in both baseball and softball barely clears the Mendoza Line. 

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If I Wasn’t Already a Christian I Wouldn’t Be

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In the movie Major League, the Cuban ballplayer Pedro Cerrano commented to a Christian teammate “I like Jesus very much, but he no help with curve ball.”

I like Jesus a lot. In fact I believe in Jesus and am completely orthodox in the basics of the historic Christian faith. Now I did go through a crisis of faith when I returned from Iraq that left me for all intents and purposes an agnostic struggling to believe. When faith returned in the Emergency Room at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center to this day I believe that it was a miracle.

However, since that evening in December 2009 I have found that despite Jesus, that some American Christians can be among the most hateful, intolerant, narrow minded and vicious people on the planet. In light of the very real fact that people are fleeing the Church in ever increasing number and that the fastest growing segment of the religious population in the United States is “the Nones” or those that have no religious preference you would think that Church leaders and for that matter those that call themselves Christian would take a bit of time to reflect on what is going on.

The great evangelist Dwight L Moody once said “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.” I do believe that is true. The earliest Christians, men and women that followed Jesus when there was no earthly benefit to doing so attracted people to their faith and their Savior because their lives exemplified love, care and humanity quite unlike many of their persecutors. William Blake, the 18th Century English poet would say “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.”

However I have to say that if I was to be looking for Jesus by the recent experiences that I have had with people that call themselves “Christians” I would never consider becoming a Christian. Now I am a Christian and I do not plan on leaving the faith but I have to agree with Mahatma Gandhi that “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

This yesterday I received an e-mail from a woman upset with an article I wrote about the death of the Reverend David Wilkerson a couple of years ago. I was polite and even apologetic but in two subsequent e-mails she persisted and finally sent me an e-mail stating: “You are an arrogant pompous hypocrite a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing. Call yourself Padre tells it all. Now get thee behind me Satan. In Jesus name.”

I have for the most part stopped taking such attacks personally. Yes there are some times that they hurt or anger me, but in light of them I can understand why so many people hold Christianity, the Church and Christians in such low esteem. This particular person was so ignorant about what she was talking about and me that I could hardly take her comments seriously or be hurt by them. What scares me is how widespread this type of attitude is in some church communities and the effects that it has on so many people and our society as a whole. In light of this and so many other interactions I have had with “Christians” that I am tempted to agree with Mark Twain who said: “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.” Since I have written about these encounters many times I will not go into detail here other than to say that they make me tired and simply restate that if I wasn’t already a Christian I wouldn’t be.

The late Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador wrote: “I don’t want to be an anti, against anybody. I simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation: the affirmation of God,who loves us and who wants to save us.”

That is the kind of Christian that I want to be. I will strive to love people and tell the truth, and if need be confront injustice against any of God’s people. Hopefully in doing so I will be a witness that helps call people back to the love of God shown in Christ.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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I Like Jesus Very much, but He no Help with Militant Angry Christians

Did you ever have one of those days where a militantly religious person attacks you ceaselessly because they are offended at something you said and continues to attack no matter how many times you try to let it go? It has been one of those days for me. On days like this I get weary of militant, angry and all too often ignorant Christians.  They make me tired but even still I will serve to ensure that they have their religious liberty.

There is a scene in the movie Major League where the Cuban defector Pedro Cerrano played by Dennis Haysbert, who has an altar to his God Jobu in his locker to help him hit the curveball. One of the other players ask him about Jesus and Cerrano says “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.” Well for me Jesus is no help with militantly angry Christians.

I have written over 1200 articles on this site some of which attract criticism and so long as the critic is polite and sticks to facts I deal with it pretty well. However I find that the nastiest of my critics are supposedly Christian. I cannot believe the hateful, rude and uncivil manner displayed by these people and on rare occasion I have responded with blunt criticism of their behavior. In fact in posts where I have been critical of any faith it is Christians who are the most vicious in their attacks. Even Moslems that have written when I have criticized either the actions of Moslem extremists or aspects of their religion are more decent than these Christians.

The funny thing is that I never get attacked for big stuff, but rather having the nerve to criticize their favorite preacher or suggest that Christian leaders that they idolize may have feet of clay. Even people that disagree with me on doctrine or divisive social and political topics, including those espoused by Christians generally try to stick to some kind of ground rules when they comment. They stick to the issues and don’t for the most part make it personal.

However, there is a type of religious personality that cannot abide any criticism of their leaders. You name the religion and you will find people that are militantly aggressive and even violent to those that criticize their current earthly leader or some previous leader. It as if you criticize them you are criticizing God even when it is well deserved criticism completely backed up with facts. But then to such people facts don’t matter.

Likewise the viciousness levied by such Christians against “sinners” is appalling, especially homosexuals and people of non-Christian religions. Jeremy Affeldt, an Evangelical Christian and pitcher for the San Francisco Giants commented on his blog recently:

“It’s getting harder all the time to say, “I’m a Christian.” I’m not afraid to say I’m a Christian. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to say it! I’m embarrassed by how people view Christianity, as a judging faith. The way people view Christianity is not the way that sinners viewed Jesus. Sinners loved Jesus! They knew He loved them! And as much as it is possible, I want to be viewed like Jesus was viewed, as someone who loves people.”

I stand in total agreement with him. I deal with a lot of people who have been for a large number of diverse reasons been treated badly by the church as an institution or by some of the people who act as if they are the final arbiter of truth or God’s judgement.

I find it little wonder that people are leaving Christian churches of all denominations in droves. For most of these people it is not about God or Jesus, or even the Bible. It is due to the lack of love, care, compassion exhibited by Christians and the institutional corruption, lack of transparency, double standards and political machinations of churches over people that are not of their faith or under their institutional control. The surveys conducted by Christian pollsters like George Barna bear this out. When asked what words or phrases “best describe Christianity” the top response of 16-29 years olds was “anti-homosexual” while 91% of all non-Christians surveyed said this was the first word as it was for 80% of Christians in the survey. Here are those words that describe Christians. Personally I don’t like them but it is what it is.

Hypocritical: Christians live lives that don’t match their stated beliefs;
Antihomosexual: Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians – “hating the sin and the sinner” as one respondent put it
Insincere: Christians are concerned only with collecting converts
Sheltered: Christians are anti-intellectual, boring, and out of touch with reality.
Too political: Christians are primarily motivated by a right-wing political agenda

The sad thing is that we are not simply alienating non-Christians we are losing young Christians in this cesspool of Christless Christianity. I wrote about this about a year ago in an article entitled Reaching the Lost Christian Generation.I wrote another article when novelist Anne Rice announced that she was leaving the Catholic Church called Anne Rice and the Exodus. Both articles deal with reality that many conservative Christian leaders refuse to recognize. The fact is that in many western countries Christians and the institutional church behave as if they are both entitled to being at the top of the heap and play the victim when they don’t get their way or when someone dares to criticize them or their leaders.

Jesus told his disciples that people would know they were his disciples by their love for one another. It was a sentiment that even the Roman persecutors of the early Church echoed.

I just hope that despite my own faults that people who come to me in person, or on this site see me as someone that loves people hopefully as Jesus would. What grieves me about some of those that attack and attack and attack is that they try every nerve that I have, and the sad thing as most of them don’t take the time to actually find out anything about me or what I believe before they launch their attacks. I can in a small way understand Jesus’ frustration with the religious leaders of his time.

Here is to hoping that things will get better.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Bats Must Need Hats….Tides fall to Durham 7-2

Brandon Erbe got the start and the loss for the Tides

The Norfolk Tides had no luck on Saturday as they were manhandled by the Durham Bulls 7-2 on a beautiful North Carolina spring afternoon.  The Tides started Brandon Erbe who faced Durham’s Carlos Hernandez.  Today was Brandon’s second International League start for the Tides after a disappointing debut for the Orioles prospect in Norfolk on Monday.  Yet the Tides hitters failed to produce runs that might have supported Erbe and the relievers with Rhyne Hughes driving in both of Norfolk’s runs. It is starting to look like at least some of the hitters for the Tides might need hats for their bats like Pedro Cerrano in Major League.

Today the Tides got out to an early lead when the streaking Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to nine games driving in Robert Andino with a double to right.  Erbe held the Bulls scoreless through the first three innings then began to weaken in the fourth when Justin Ruggiano homered to right to tie the game.  The Tides lost an opportunity in the fifth when with Joey Gathright at the plate Jonathan Tucker was gunned down trying to steal second and as luck would have it Gathright doubled immediately following the out.  Robert Andino then grounded out to end the inning leaving Gathright stranded at second.

The Bulls took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Elliott Johnson doubled to score Fernando Perez. They would add to the lead in the sixth when Hank Blalock and Dan Johnson singled and Blalock was driven in on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Shealy. Chris Richard then doubled to left scoring Johnson. This brought Gary Allenson to the mound and Erbe headed to the clubhouse with Ross Wolf coming in to relieve Erbe. Wolf was able to stop the bleeding and end the inning.  In the top of the seventh Heath Rollins relieved Hernandez and sent the Tides down in order. Wolf gave up three singles in the fourth inning to Ruggiano, Blalock and Shealy with Shealy driving in Ruggiano to extend the Durham lead to 5-1.

Durham hitters like Dan Johnson continued to pound Tides pitchers

The Tides attempted a rally in the top of the eighth. Joey Gathright singled to left to begin the inning and was followed by Andino who struck out swinging.  Rhyne Hughes who had driven in the Tides only run came to the plate. Gathright took the opportunity and stole second base. Hughes then continued his hot hitting doubling for the second time in the evening to bring Gathright home.  Unfortunately for the Tides neither Brandon Snyder nor Scott Moore was able to extend the rally and the Tides went into the bottom of the eighth down 5-2.

The Bulls went back to work in the bottom of the eighth against Alberto Castillo who came into the game to relieve Ross Wolf.  Castillo fared no better than the previous Tides pitchers and gave up a single to Angel Chavez to start the inning. He got Jose Lobaton to strike out swinging and Fernando Perez to fly to right.  Then lightening struck when Elliott Johnson smashed his first home run of the season over the right field fence making the lead 7-2.  Winston Abreu came in to close out the game and did not disappoint the Bull’s fans.  After surrendering a base on balls to Josh Bell he got Jeff Salazar and Adam Donachie on strike outs and Jonathan Tucker to fly out to Center Fielder Justin Ruggiano to end the game.

Erbe got his second loss of the season pitching 5.1 innings giving up 4 runs on 7 hits including the home run by Ruggiano and striking out 4.  Hernandez got the win going 6 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits with 5 strike outs.  Once again Rhyne Hughes proved his value to the Tides with two doubles and two RBIs. He has now hit in nine consecutive games. Hughes is hitting .394 with a home run, triple and four doubles with 9 RBIs and scoring seven.  The acquisition of Hughes last year by the Orioles might well be one of the best moves made by Orioles management and one that good benefit the O’s later in the season or in 2011.  Hughes is on the 40 man roster and should there be a need in the outfield at Orioles Park.

The Tides and Bulls play Sunday to complete the series with Chris Tillman scheduled to take the mound for the Tides in search of his first victory of the 2010 season.  The Tides will return to Harbor Park on Monday where they will face the Gwinnett Braves.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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