Baseball, Barbecue, and Bonding with my Boys

photo2Whether or not I want to admit it, there is a good chance my boys will one day have kids of their own. Landon, Elijah, and Everett will have the opportunity to impress the truth of God’s Word on the hearts of their children. The life I am living in front of boys today not only affects them, but also will impact my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What am I doing to intentionally set aside time for my family? Am I creating space to teach and train my kids in the admonition of the Lord? Do my boys look and say, ‘I want to be like dad when I grow up

A couple of weeks ago, I took my 2 oldest boys, to Atlanta for a weekend of baseball, barbecue, and bonding. My wife and I discussed this opportunity several months ago, and we intentionally set aside time, money, and resources to further my relationship with my boys. It was an incredible experience! After driving 8.5 hours we went to a baseball game Friday night, hung out at the hotel pool on Saturday, watched Captain America 2, and went to another game on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday evening went to Fox Bros Barbecue, one of the highest rated barbecue joints in America.

We were able to let loose the entire weekend. Music was blaring in the car every chance we got. More important than any activity we did or restaurant we ate at was the memories that will last a lifetime. We intentionally had conversations with people at the baseball field, a homeless man outside of the hotel, our waitress at the barbecue restaurant, and the front desk employee at the hotel.

Our laughter was contagious throughout the entire trip! Whether it was in the car, the hotel room, or around the pool, my two boys laughed nonstop all weekend. Even shortly after Elijah got a little bothered by the hot sun during Sunday’s game, he saw the crazy mascots running around the field and laughed hysterically. I realized the importance of letting loose with my boys and showing them what it looks like to experience an exciting, memorable moment!

photo5My boys know how to ask questions! Are we there yet? Why are we not there yet? When are we going to be there? What type of cows are those? Why is that building so tall? How did he miss that ball? How was that not a strike? What is that person eating? Why are they yelling at the umpires? But the one that struck me the most was… Why doesn’t that man have a home? Whether or not they are intentional, my boys look at me as a wealth of information, knowledge, and wisdom! It made me think – what am I filling their minds with? I do not want to brainwash my boys (unless it is about creepy county fairs or cheap all-you-can-eat buffets), but I do desire to raise them in the admonition of the Lord! Am I filling their minds with Scripture? Am I living a life that they would want to imitate?

This weekend made me realize the responsibility God has placed before me! Whether good or bad, I am setting an example to my boys of how I think they should live. How I treat my wife will affect how they treat their future spouse. How I view God will impact their personal relationship with the Father. How I react to circumstances will influence my boys’ reactive responses to issues they face.

photoAs a father, there is a huge weight on my shoulders to live a life worth imitating for the cause of Christ! Fortunately, I have a Heavenly Father who walks me through every step of my life. He has provided the greatest example of what it looks like to be a father of grace, love, forgiveness, and truth! I pray my boys experience those same characteristics in and through the legacy I am leaving them!

Proverbs 4:20-27

“20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[a] paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.”

 

Baseball and a Life With Christ

00000000000000064122I remember the first time I took my 7-year old son, Landon to a professional baseball game.  We took the 45-minute drive from our home in Boca Raton, Florida to the old Marlins Stadium (a.k.a. Dolphin Stadium, Landshark Stadium, or whatever name sounded cool that week.)  I remember seeing his face as we walked aimlessly around the outside of the stadium, attempting to locate the entrance.  He was in awe, shocked and filled with wonder – not really sure exactly what to think.

After locating the entrance, we made our way to our seats…front row in right field.  As soon as we came around the corner and saw the beauty of the green grass, Landon’s face of wonder quickly grew into a face of amazement.  He was content and satisfied to be there.  The Cincinnati Reds (the real reason we went to a Florida Marlins game) were taking batting practice, and after watching in awe for several minutes, I picked my jaw up out of my lap and went to work on getting Landon a baseball.  With the crack of the bat, Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman, Brandon Philips, hit one to deep right field.  Starting pitcher, Mike Leake, scooped up the ball and looked up at me.  I know how loud and obnoxious my voice can be, so I knew he had heard me yelling the entire time.  He probably felt sorry for me and wanted me to just shut up and go away, but I was determined to get Landon a baseball.  I remember exactly what I said, “Come on Mike…toss one up for the little guy!”

I was blown away at his response.  “What is his name?” asked Mike.

I was in such shock, I really didn’t know how to respond.  I stuttered and finally muttered, “Laaannnddonn.”

“Well, here is one for the little guy – Landon,” Mike exclaimed with enthusiasm.

And with those words Mike Leake tossed a Rawlings Major League batting practice baseball to my son, Landon!

Not many occurrences have topped the emotions, enthusiasm, and excitement that went into and came out of that simple toss!  Landon could barely contain himself.  Although he was only four at the time, he recognized the significance of what had just occurred.  I was practically in tears.  If it were not for the Reds playing, we could have gone home.  The night was complete!  Just to see the look on my son’s face brought a wave of energy and exhilaration to me.  Mike was also thrilled, and at the young age of 22, he knew what he had just accomplished.  He had helped mold the bond between a father and son!

As we watched the game, all Landon constantly asked, “Daddy, who was it again that tossed me the ball?”  He continuously said, “We should call mommy and tell her all about it!”  The game didn’t matter to him.  He was caught up in the delight of a connection he made with a young man he may never see again.

For me, baseball is one of my “happy places.”  It is where I go to get away from the hectic agenda called life.  The green grass, the chants from the beer man, the sounds of fans pretending to know something about the game of baseball, and the constant crack of the bat make it one of the most enjoyable experiences I know.  I get worked up over the managers, the umpires, and the stupidity of the announcers.  I become emotional and excited with every shift of momentum.  It is truly the only sport where one second can change the entire outcome of the game.  All it takes is one pitch.  During a 162-game schedule, one pitch can be the determining factor for some teams making the playoffs or staying home for November.  But in all of the baseball games I have played, watched on television, and have watched in person, the most thrilling moment I have encountered was the simple throw from Mike Leake to Landon!

The question becomes… Why?  What made that artless toss so thrilling?  Yes, it created a tighter bond between a father and a son, but it was a baseball!  Today, I could not even tell the whereabouts of the baseball.  I am sure Marley, our Golden Retriever, has bit into and slobbered all over it.  I can guarantee it was at one time part of a heated discussion between Landon and Lorelei, our oldest daughter.  And I am sure it has been hit a time or two by a Wiffle bat in the backyard.  But why do we place so much emotion, excitement, and enthusiasm on such simple events?

I have challenged my own life with this.  Where is my excitement, passion, and enthusiasm for my relationship with God, for His Word, and for the plans He has for me?  Why am I not constantly seeking ways to tighten the bond I have with Jesus Christ?  Why cannot the “Mike Leake’s” of this world see the crazy enthusiasm I have for living out my relationship with my Savior?

It is so easy to get excited and jump up and down while watching a baseball game, a football game, a concert, or a wedding, but why don’t we carry that same excitement over into an authentic life with Christ?

I am currently walking this unfinished journey every day!  I do not have the answers to these questions solved, but I do have a growing relationship with the God who can give me the strength, courage, and wisdom I need to answer them.  I desire to be excited – in word and deed – about my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want others to look at me as a “Jesus Freak.”  I do not want to hold back from sharing the Gospel to Mike Leake, Mike Luke, or Mike Lake.  The quicker we all realize this, the more impact we can have on the millions of lost souls around us.  May we be passionate about the things of God and His perfect plan!