He Gets on Base

(This is the second in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

Moneyball. Seen it (released 2011)? Read it (published 2003)? If your answer is no, go ahead and hit pause on whatever you’re doing, including reading this post, and get that done.

Yes, it’s that good.

If you’re a baseball fan, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re a movie fan, it received six Oscar nominations. If you love one liners, there are a plethora. So pardon my repetition, but if you haven’t watched or read it, you must.

Besides the one liner “Who’s Fabio,” one of the more memorable lines is when Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) asks Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) repeatedly why the scouts should consider several players that they otherwise weren’t. The answer over and over again was, “He gets on base.”

Beane and Brand were referencing principles based on sabermetrics, something not widely done at that time across Major League Baseball. Although it had its beginnings in the middle 20th century, sabermetrics had not been embraced by traditionalists. Beane and Brand were challenging tradition.

They didn’t care how the batter got on base; they just knew that the only way to win was scoring runs, and you can’t score runs without getting on base. If the batter is willing to take a walk, he still gets on base. If the homerun king hits a single rather than a homerun, he still gets on base.

This sounds fairly simple. But as a guy who had a whomping one hit all season in the only little league season I ever played, I can attest that getting on base is not simple. It requires several things. Several of those things are applicable to life, to what it takes to be considered worthy of the scout’s attention. Here is a short list.

Patience

Swinging at every pitch will not get you on base. Waiting for the right pitch takes discipline. Discipline and patience are teammates. It takes discipline to learn how a pitcher thinks, understand the rhythms of the game, and commit to the strategy of the manager. And this learning, understanding, and committing will require patience. The hitter who can grow in their patience at the plate and get on base will also grow in their value to the team.

Sacrifice

Every at bat is not a heroic moment. Just because you have home run capabilities doesn’t mean every swing has to be for the fences. Sometimes your ego must be checked by being satisfied with a single that gets that player in scoring position across home plate. A valuable player pursues humility and gets on base however he can.

Focus

Monumental, game-changing at bats often happen in a game. The at bat becomes a mind game or a cat-and-mouse exchange. When a normal at bat of four or fives pitches moves into double digits, the batter takes the upper hand. Why? Because he has made the pitcher see his focus. This out is not going to be easy. The hitter who can stay focused, deal with whatever pitch is thrown, raises their chances of getting on base.

The player who illustrates this so well for my team (Go Cards!) this season is Tommy Pham. As of the writing of this post, Pham leads the team in six of the twelve batting categories. His story? He was drafted in 2006 but didn’t make his big league debut until 2014 at age 26. For eight years he was working on getting on base. When he was brought up, he didn’t immediately have success. But he kept working at getting on base. So much so that this year is his most successful year, by far. Not only does he lead his team in six categories, he also is among the highest in several categories in all of baseball; in one category he’s seventh. Want to take a guess at which one? OBP-On Base Percentage.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Heartily means “from the core of one’s being.” Whatever our position-dad, husband, employer, son, leader, follower-God has given it to us. All he asks of us is to do it well, mean business, you might say, get on base. Each time it’s your turn to pick up the bat, approach the plate prepared to get on base. Grow in patience, practice sacrifice, and harness focus so when you stand before God he can say, “Good job. You kept getting on base.”

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31 Proverbs Highlights: #16-Character Pleases God

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him…Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city.  Proverbs 16:7,32 HCSB

God is more concerned about your character than your position. These two verses reveal a few things about character that pleases God:

  • God is pleased with those who pursue peace rather than picking fights or insisting on their position.
  • God is pleased with those who aren’t ruined by the pursuit of power but rather patiently surrender to his power.
  • God is pleased with those who discipline themselves even when capable of achieving rank or position.

Fruity Fridays: 3 Acceptances of Patience

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

Last Fruity Friday, Jeremy noted that patience is defined as “the capacity to accept…” So I’ve been thinking about the acceptances of patience. Here are three truths to accept that should deepen patience.

Accept the truth that God gave us all a purpose

That person’s personality that is so not yours has a God-given purpose. And it just might be to help you view a bigger picture of God. For example, you might be a planner like God, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t roll with your coworker who best creates under pressure.

Accept the truth that we all have flaws

If God realizes this about us humans, why do we have such a problem with this truth? Could it be that we’ve grown so comfortable in our flaws that we don’t see them anymore? That we think we’re okay and everyone else is the problem? Just reading that sounds ridiculous, right? But yet, it’s the stuff of impatience. Patience is accepting and loving people with all their flaws.

Accept the truth that everyone is on a journey

These journeys include emotional intelligence, relationship maturity, spiritual growth, financial responsibility, character development, leadership aptitude, among others. These days this seems to be even more challenging as the widening of generational journeys continues. Boomer, recognize the journey location of the millennial, and vice versa. One step toward patience could be simply pausing to consider the location of the other person’s journey. It’s okay that the two of you are not at the same place in your journeys.

You’ve probably been told to be cautious about praying for patience. Here’s a thought: the next time you sense the impatience rising, instead of asking God for patience ask God what truth he wants you to accept. May you see your journey move forward. Happy Accepting!

Fruity Fridays: Please Be Patient

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

by Jeremy Nixon

One day this past week I asked my 4 y/o daughter to get buckled up in my pickup truck so we could leave. In my head, that looks like her crawling in the truck and getting in her seat and buckling up. But what generally happens is as follows: I usually open the door and she hops in (lost in space) and gets in her seat, gets out of her seat, finds a toy she left in there and then plays with her sister and then crawls up front to pretend drive at which point I walk outside to see her NOT buckled up. I lose my #&#^$ then, well…she buckles up and all is well in the world, at least mine. She’s a lot like me, so I get her and I love her to death! I never knew a house full of girls could try my patience so much.

Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Clearly it’s something that I would say I don’t possess or at least don’t possess on a consistent basis.  

I asked a fellow fireman what he thought about patience and his answer intrigued me. I said, “What do think about patience, you know like in the Bible, the fruits of the spirit?” His reply: “It’s something that you need for all the other fruits.” I thought superfruit!! Patience is huge. With my house full of beautiful, loving girls, patience is something that is tested on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Love, joy, peace…yeah, got it, but patience; my, oh my, is it a hard one. Paul writes that if we live by the Spirit, then we should also walk by the spirit.   

What does patience look like in our lives? In my line of work patience is something that you have to deal with on many emergency calls throughout the day. Most of the time people seriously need help. They are calling you at their weakest moment and truly need help, but then there are the times when someone is calling just to talk or see someone. Patience is tested at 3am when we get called out to something that doesn’t actually require us or even a false call. Yet we still go. It’s what we are paid to do…for most it’s what we are called to do.   

Patience isn’t something that only we experience. Jesus had to show patience in his life on earth. The 12 disciples…need I say more? That ragtag bunch tested his patience on a daily basis, and it was His opportunity to model how to be patient to us. If God calls us to be like him and to show his love, then we have to be patient. God is love. Love is patient. I am so thankful that the Lord is patient with me (I’m one of the ragtags). 

I’ve talked about picking fruit and how dirty it is. Patience is sure not to disappoint because it is something that I believe is a very hard task. God has equipped us to be patient and to show patience. Just like my buddy said, it takes patience to get the rest of the fruits. I truly believe that the fruits all go hand in hand.  

Patience is a characteristic that God can use to reach your friends, neighbors and the world. Go forth…be fruity…be patient. I’m going to get back in the living room with the girls and work on my patience…it’s almost bedtime! 

Fruity Fridays: Level-Headed Transitioning

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

entry by Eric Vorhies 
I spent the last month thinking about how to define patience. Here’s what I came up with: The ability to transition from expectation to reality while remaining level-headed. 

  • Expectation: Drive home from work in a timely manner…and on a good day, hit only green lights

Reality: Stuck in traffic because there is an accident on the other side of the interstate that people are slowing down to see

  • Expectation: Go to bed at a decent hour

Reality: Three kids

  • Expectation: Living a long and healthy life

Reality: Getting diagnosed with cancer

  • Expectation: To be trusted by people in your workplace

Reality: The boss micromanages your every move in the most obnoxious way possible

Last one, 

  • Expectation: The person closest to you should understand you the best

Reality: The closer someone is to you the more monumental small misunderstandings will be

Patience isn’t always about just waiting for external forces to align properly. Most of the time it is about internally disassembling our expectations so that we can pick up the pieces and deal with reality. 
The more we lean on God, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, the quicker we can go through this process -whether it is a seemingly small thing such as trying to understand what your two-year-old is saying through his tears of frustration, or a rather large thing such as waiting to hear back about medical test results which will be delivered at the rapid pace of six weeks.

But I don’t need to go on about moments in life that may or may not cause some of you to become impatient. I want to share the best way that I know how to deal with potential impatience, or even active impatience.

“In the meantime” – this is the process of doing something different than what you had specifically planned to do. For instance, stuck in traffic? You planned on cruising right home, but you can’t. So, in the meantime, listen to some great podcasts…and learn a ton of stuff that you wouldn’t have made time for otherwise. Can’t land that dream job? In the meantime, land any job in the same field. Waiting with a four-year-old to get your tires aligned? In the meantime, get off your phone and play with him rather than expect him to stay entertained (that one was for me).

The thing that is really happening in these situations is that we are shifting our goals in the gap between our expectations and our reality. Your goal isn’t to get home as quickly as possible. Netflix isn’t going anywhere. Just get home safely and when you can, and if possible enjoy the ride. Dream job – maybe your goal should be to find a job that will lead you to the job that will lead you to the job that you really want. And while at Tires Plus, my goal shouldn’t be to kill time as much as it should be how to make the most of my time. 

One last story to drive this point home. Many couples have the goal to get pregnant and have kids. Some couples struggle to achieve this. I have some friends that had that exact problem. But at some point in the process, they took advantage of the “in the meantime” moments. They were able to use their struggle as part of their testimony, to grow more intimate with God, to lead other people through the same problem. Then one day, in glorious fashion, they became parents. But in order to do this, they had to shift their goal…or maybe, they figured out what their goal really was. That glorious fashion wasn’t due to a pregnancy ending in a delivery room experience. It was before a judge in a small courtroom in a small town. In the meantime, they changed their approach. They still became the best parents ever, but it just wasn’t how most couples do it. Because of their dependence on and trust in God, they were able to transition from expectation to reality. 

The greatest example of this that I see in the Bible is written in Romans 5.8, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  • Expectation: To live in relationship with God.

Reality: We couldn’t do it. 

  • Expectation: Sinners pay for their sins.

Reality: God’s patience paved the way for the sacrifice of Christ.

Under Construction 

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Patience. Who wants it? Who needs it? Apparently we all should and do, when we are looking for God’s completeness.

My devotional reading today included an illustration of a ministry leader pointing to a completed building project and saying that the building built him. Which led me to this question: Who or what has or is building me?

Looking at a trial with that question in mind should steer the mind and emotions away from making the experience about something that God didn’t intend. We can look at trials very horizontally when God intends all things to be viewed vertically. Vertical lookers ask where is God building, what is He building in me, in the organization, in the community, or in this relationship. Horizontal lookers ask how could God allow this, how could they treat me like that, where is the justice, or what were they thinking.

When the horizontal view has robbed you of your joy, step back. Look at “the construction.” Ask God what are the plans, what is He building in you. Then reply, “Thank you. You are in charge. You are wiser than I am. I look forward to your completed work.”