Listen, you smell that ("Ghostbusters")? That's the smell of grass being cut, predominantly in Florida and Arizona. What do you see? I see green grass, white lines, nice square bags on each corner, a planted pentagonal plate at the very top corner. Looks like a diamond.
Yes, February 18 is a special day for us in our nation. The answer to, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" will be answered. See, there is a period each year in which the nation has no choice but to follow football. It begins around the end of October and then ends about this time every year. Football, as George Will has noted, is a sport that is a combination of everything wrong with America. Specialized union players filling only one position, they call a committee meeting before each measure of work activity is done (a huddle), and then work briefly in the craft before returning to a committee meeting. And the entire spectacle of football is violence from start to finish (the 25 - 30 minutes of actual action out of the 60 on the clock). It does fill the void, more or less, as we wait for baseball to return.
Part of my annual tradition is to read a book about baseball each year as the season starts. This year is no exception, and the book is Rob Goldman's Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher. Goldman, a bat boy when Ryan pitched with the Angels in the 1970s, is a man who is now a friend of Ryan's and has nothing but admiration for Ryan (and what is not to like about Nolan - as we in the Houston area are prone to call him since he is, for the most part, a regular guy). Ryan grew the Texas Rangers into champions as president and then the managing owner, and after being tossed aside like bad deviled eggs by the same Rangers, he rejoined Houston for his son Reid, the president of the Houston Astros.
Such is the game of baseball. Baseball, as much about suffering as about victory, is a sport of attrition, a marathon over a period of seven months until a champion is crowned. Predicting a champion in the game of baseball is like forecasting the weather. Your odds are pretty good two days out, but to assess the potential weather in September when it is February is strictly a guess. In baseball, you literally reach the starting line together and learn whether or not the moves you made in the off-season to put the pieces together worked.
What causes the baseball thinkers to be wrong about the potential winners of the season as the season starts? Baseball is a marathon of sorts, beginning in February with Spring Training and ending in October in the World Series. A lot can happen in that length of time: key injuries; the rise of new stars not foreseen at the beginning of the year; the length of time of a slump not foreseen; and the unforeseen end of a career (pitcher for example) not expected. It can all let the air out of a predicted champion.
What caused the world to underestimate the group of men Christ had assembled to become his disciples? The book of Acts shows us the tremendous growth of a group of people not formally assembled and poorly trained in the ways of the world. They had Christ's teachings and reassurance of being with them always (Matthew), also known as the Word of God. Lacking any kind of education, they were also not formally trained. They knew fishing, tax collecting, and had one physician, albeit a physician in an era that traditionally allowed no real exploration of the body - probably more herbs and remedies. Paul, who joined them after Christ's call, was possibly the most educated, but had to break the complete bonds and trappings of traditions over thousands of years.
Yet the book of Acts shows us what can happen when we take the underestimated and least among us and give them the ability to take a simple mission and live it with inspiration. The book of Acts shows us how to make decisions (finding ways to take care of people while still adhering to the Word of God and spreading the word through teaching). They had no traditions. They had no formal ways of conducting business. They had the Word and allowed the Spirit to act within them.
In short, a small group were underestimated and yet eventually changed the world. From that, we pray we have much to learn as living in this world. Pray that we serve with that mission zeal that the disciples had. Pray that we rely on God's Word as our guide and that we allow the Spirit to work within us. Pray that we grow where planted and not make sharing the faith too complicated.
Hope Men's Ministry