Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger … (or the bug)

Sometimes you’re the windshield
Sometimes you’re the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you’re a fool in love
Sometimes you’re the Louisville slugger
Sometimes you’re the ball
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you’re going to lose it all

Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger ...It’s just about that time –
World Series
for those of you that are into baseball.

Actually, it was just about that time when I first wrote this.  Now, at the time of this major update, it’s still a couple months off.

I’m not, but I couldn’t help thinking about it when I just heard the song from which the lyrics above are taken –

It’s amazing where God can be found. 
Even in The Bug  – by Dire Straits

There is something else that made me think of them.  It happens a lot when I hear the song.

It’s got to do with whether it’s better to be

  • the windshield or the bug

  • the Louisville Slugger or the ball.

Given that a Home Run ball can be quite valuable if it’s from the right person / the right time – maybe that one’s not so obvious.

But it’s probably easier to get your attention than using Sometimes you’re the windshield as my title.
Seriously – would you have been as likely to even take a look?

Obviously though – being the windshield is a whole lot better than being the bug.
And with that frame of mind – being the Louisville Slugger would be better than being the ball.

Or is it?

And that’s what really “drove” me to write this.  (Pun intended.)

I actually wrote the original version of this is September 2016.  So much has changed since then.  For instance, there was an event in the spring of 2017 that really forced me to make a decision about my faith.  Like possibly a last / final chance to decide whether I wanted to just “go home” (that’s die in Christian-speak), or continue living and do something more for God.  I left the decision up to Him.  You can read about that in God – is it time for me to go home? 

Obviously, I’m still alive.  And as you’ll see, it’s had a huge impact on what those lines above mean to me.  I’m just going through some older stuff I wrote – updating some formatting and making them more acceptable to Google search.  But this one.  This one needs a rewrite.  I’ll leave the original, but put everything new in brown text like this so you can identify it.

Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger …

I was working on another project when I came across some verses from James.  That was just before the song came up on iTunes on my PC.
Verses that I know in my head are important.
But ones my heart doesn’t like to be reminded of.  (I know – that’s not good grammar, but it’s what most people would say)

I no longer mind the verses below.  Without getting ahead of myself, I’ll just say that the hospital experience I mentioned also led me to experience, if not outright understand, the passage below.

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Yeah – I actually did that.  Even while being in the hospital with pneumonia and kidneys that were in big trouble.    I can’t begin to explain it.  I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if many people don’t believe it.  All I can say is that it really happened.  Even though even the sight of a doctor scares me.  My doctor told me afterward that I “beat the reaper”.

Trials and Temptations

Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Sure.  That bug is rejoicing as the windshield all of a sudden shows up at 65 miles per hour, crushing it before it has a chance to do anything.

And the baseball?  Thrown at upwards of 100 miles per hour?  BTW – hard to believe the ball goes faster than a car on the freeway, isn’t it?  But the poor ball.  While it doesn’t go splat like the bug, it does get temporarily flattened a bit from the impact.

And as people, we’re supposed to feel joy?

I never did before.  I used to wonder why I never felt this so-called Christian joy.  Or the Christian peace.  Now, I don’t wonder anymore.  It’s amazing.  So counter-intuitive.  And yet, so amazing.

4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

In the original version of this article, I ended with:  

I feel like I’ve had so much practice at being the practice ball –
and I don’t know why I can’t feel much joy.

I fear the answer is in verses 3 and 4.

You’ll read in a while what the reference to the practice ball is about.  But the point is, I was right.  The answer to why I couldn’t feel much joy, if any, was in verses 3 and 4. 

It’s all about perspective.  Oddly enough, it’s also about learning to be the bug and the ball.  And realizing that it’s important to be the best bug and ball, so to speak, that we can be.  Because then we experience the passage right after the one above from Philippians:

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The part about must believe and not doubt is critical too.  I think that’s why the nearness to death was my moment of truly knowing about my faith.  We’d all like to think that we have strong faith.  But we never really know, until it’s tested with something real and of great importance.

Some of us like to sit on the fence.  Assume we’ll make the right choice when the time comes.  Or at least, make the right choice later.  When I was younger, I was Catholic.  I remember this one priest used to say that we can’t sit on the fence.  We must make a choice about what we believe.  Sitting on the fence was choosing to not believe.  That one night in the hospital, I had to get off the fence. 

And I did.  Which is, I believe, why things changed so much.  I also believe that if I stayed on the fence, you wouldn’t be reading this.  Because I wouldn’t have written it.  

Weird, isn’t it?  But hang in there.  The reasons why that’s all true are coming.

Jas 1:9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

It’s all backwards.  Humble circumstances are a high position?  In what world?  Certainly not in this one.  The rich are all too happy to continue to use the poor to get even richer.  And then to take away what little the poor have left.  But James is talking something completely opposite.  And that’s what Jesus tried to tell us many times.

Jesus at a Pharisee’s House

14:8-10 Ref—Pr 25:6, 7

Lk 14:1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

Lk 14:5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

Lk 14:7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Lk 14:12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

This is just one of many times Jesus delivered a message about how backwards the world is, compared to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The thing about this is that God doesn’t need to test us so in order to see how we’ll respond.  He already knows.  The test is so that we’ll know.  Then we can choose what to do about that result.  If we “pass” – we can give praise and thanks to God for being with us and giving us the strength to get through.  If not, we can either ask for His help – or just keep going through life without Him.  Our choice.

Jas 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

This is a tough one.  It’s like the difference between God actually doing evil Himself and allowing evil things to happen.  It’s a fine line to walk.  Especially when we look at the religious doctrines of free will versus predestination.  For more on that, please check out The problem of predestiny, The Problem of Free Will, and The problem of Either/Or: Free Will vs Predestiny.

Jas 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Ultimately, as Christians, we should realize that anything good in this world must come from God.  That Satan only corrupts and destroys.

If those aren’t bug and ball kinds of verses from James, I don’t know what is.

It’s hard to remember them sometimes.

Like when you feel like your constantly being splatted onto windshields.

Or when you’re the batting practice ball.
At least if you’re a ball in the big game – tied at the bottom of the ninth with two outs – you’ve got a chance for glory.
But when you’re the batting practice ball – you just get hit over and over – with no chance for glory.

Going back to the ninth inning, it’s not for your glory.  It’s for the glory of the one holding that Louisville Slugger.  That would be God.  That’s the way I put it a couple years ago.  Not any more.  I realize, that’s not the way it is.  Keep reading – you’ll understand what I mean.

As Paul wrote –

1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Yeah – whether we are the bug – or the ball – be the bug or the ball for the glory of God.

Be the bug or the ball

Do you see it?  That we should be the bug or the ball?  

As much as it might feel good to be the Louisville slugger, it’s not. 

In an odd twist, it feels like the devil is the Louisville slugger.  Satan thinks he’s crushing us in this life.  And to be sure, many people are crushed by him, and will reside for eternity with Satan and his fallen angels.  But when God allows things to happen to us, like the testing, refining, teaching, Etc. – Satan is still the Louisville slugger.  And even though we appear to be crushed, we win.  After this life, we spend eternity with Jesus.

The same analogy holds for the windshield.  Satan’s the windshield.  We are the bugs.  And even though all of us die, we don’t all fall victim to Satan.

So, whether we’re the bug or the ball, we should be the best bugs and balls we can be, for the glory of God.

And consider it pure joy.

I feel like I’ve had so much practice at being the practice ball –
and I don’t know why I can’t feel much joy.

I fear the answer is in verses 3 and 4.

Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

As I pointed out at the top, the answer was in verses 3 and 4.  Actually, it still is in verses 3 and 4.  It’s not like I’m finished.  Like I’ve written before, we’re not pop-tart Christians, to be sure.  We’re more like the never-ending story.

If we go back to Philippians one more time, we read:

Phil 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

As Christians, we will be complete one day.  But not in this life.  But just knowing what’s coming, it’s already cause for joy, even in this life.  The trials and the testing we go through – it’s part of the process of completion.  That’s why James says to consider even the worst trials as joy.  Not because God’s sadistic and loves to torture us.  And not because we’re a bunch of masochists and love to be tortured.  But because we want – not just need, but really want – to be made complete.

However – I still don’t want practice to end before I’m complete.

As I’m doing this update now, I can say I feel real progress these last few years.  Not that I’m complete, because I know I’m not.  But because of a realization of the difference between needing to go through this – versus wanting to go through them in order to be complete.

Merely knowing we have to go through things we’d rather skip, whatever the reason, is a far cry from wanting to go through them.  There’s still the feeling of not really wanting to do them.  The thought that we’d like to avoid them.  The hope that God will relent and just snap His fingers or say the right words – and we’ll be complete without any effort on our part.  We’ll just wake up one morning and be complete.

That’s not going to happen.  I didn’t even consider it when I wrote pop-tart Christians, but it occurs to me now that even a pop-tart goes into the toaster.  In a way – goes through the “fire”.  Except that it’s wires heated up with electricity to cause the heat instead of flames.  But if you’ve read pop-tart Christians – that’s not how it happens.  One test doesn’t make a finished Christian.  It’s a lifetime of lessons and learning.  Of failures and successes.  Of perseverance.  And eventually, of joy.

One other thing I’ve learned is that I wasn’t the practice ball.  It’s all real.  It’s all the game ball.  And since we never really know when our life might come to an end, it’s always the bottom of the ninth.  And if there’s not two outs already, there’s always the possibility of a double or triple play to end the game.

But then, there’s also the possibility of a walk-off home run.

Better yet, if we learn soon enough to trust God, there’s the possibility of being so far ahead that the game is assured.  One huge difference between the Christian life and a baseball game though, has to do with how we “play the game” when that happens.  Or, as Paul wrote, how we run the race.

1Co 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

There’s no prevent defense when a Christian lives by following the Holy Spirit.  God doesn’t go into defensive mode.  God’s model is the best defense is a good offense. 

We cannot defensively live out the Great Commission.  When we just try to keep ourselves from being scored on – trying to protect our own “ticket to Heaven”, we are not fulfilling the Great Commission.  To me, it even calls into question whether or not we’re even as complete as we think we are.

This reminds me of what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, in Revelation:

To the Church in Ephesus

Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Rev 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Rev 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

This is a church that, by and large, has forgotten their past.  They were once a great church.  They were tested.  They persevered.  For a time.  Then they fell from greatness – because they no longer did the things they used to do. 

Essentially, they went into what we’d call today a prevent defense.  And the really weird thing about the prevent defense is that, seemingly, the team that uses it loses a lot!  And yet, it’s still very popular.  Why?  Maybe because it’s easy.  Probably from a false sense of security.  But it’s also because they just stop doing the things they did to get ahead in the first place.

In Christian terms, that would be like no longer doing the things that God planned for us, even before our birth.  We used to do them.  But we get too confident.  Too comfortable.  Too tired.  Because we ignore the Holy Spirit and try to coast in on our own.

But look at what Paul wrote: No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prizePaul doesn’t go into prevent defense because he doesn’t want to be disqualified.

And look at what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus: Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its placeIf they don’t get out of that prevent defense, they could lose their lampstand.  They could lose their existence as part of Christ’s Church.

So no – we’re not practice balls.  The times when I felt like a practice ball – was when I was so far from complete, or even feeling like I was being worked on – that it felt like practice.  Putting it into the baseball analogy – it’s like the first several innings of a game.  Even better, preseason games.  They aren’t “real”.  They don’t count towards getting the team into the playoffs.

But guess what.  They absolutely do count for whether or not a given player will even make the team for the regular season.  If we don’t play well – we’re not on the team.  We feel like there’s no hope.  Except, things happen.  Someone might get traded and you move up to the big team.  You might get better in the minors and move up to the big team.  It’s not for nothing.  There are real implications.  All sorts of things can happen.

So I no longer think I was a practice ball.  In fact, that “practice ball stuff” is very much responsible for me being able to do what I do today.  It was the real thing, the big game, all along.  No matter how painful it was, it’s what got me here today.  And I, for one, don’t want to forget that.  Don’t want to go into prevent defense.  

I’m sure that everything we go through is for more than just ourselves.  When we realize we’re not in a practice session, or in the preseason, but realize that this all real-life / the real game – we want to help others.  That’s a lesson Christians have all heard from Jesus.  But how many of us realize it was a message for us as well?

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Lk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Peter Got sifted.  He failed.  But he also turned back.  And when he did, he did strengthen the other disciples.  In fact, Peter is still strengthening Jesus’ disciples, even to this day.  It’s really no different for us.  Why would we think otherwise?  

Did Peter go into prevent defense?  Only for a few hours.  But look at what happened!  The prevent defense is what got Peter sifted.  But as we see from the rest of the New Testament, Peter also got out of that prevent defense.  Again, why would we think it’s any different for us?

So I pray for perseverance.

Perseverance so I can be an even better ball – or bug – than I am now.

BTW – if you’re thinking that means I want to get hit by the Louisville slugger all the time, day in and day out, think again.  Who says God can’t pitch strikeouts?  I don’t have to be hit all the time.  I just need to remember, if I do get hit again, why I’m in the game.

One other thing too.  Remember how I said that I changed my mind about God being the one holding the Louisville slugger?  I used to think He was the one with the bat.  But a better way to look at it is like God being the pitcher, like in the previous paragraph.  But also, God’s the one telling the devil whether or not he can even swing the bat.

So we have God throwing the pitches.  And God telling Satan whether or not he can swing at them.  A scenario like that explains why Paul wrote:

1Co 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

And it’s a scenario that shows – God really is in control.  He pitches.  He controls the batter, both with the kind of pitch and the ability to say whether or not to swing.  And, if we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives, we’ve got God with us the whole time.  It’s a no-lose scenario.

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