Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oh. So this is what it feels like. The White Sox won the world series. The last time they did that my dad (who died in 2000 at the age of 80) was negative two years old. That is a long time. A very long time. I have done some research and I think I have discovered the date of the first baseball game I ever attended. I began with the knowledge that it was a night game played during the week against the Detroit Tigers at Comiskey Park and the Sox won 7 - 0. That would fit only one game. It was played on September 2, 1964. I was 9 years old. And I was a deliriously happy.

I watched every pitch in all four world series games on a 31 inch television in my living room. I sat in the same chair ... MY chair ... for all four games. I do not believe that I missed a pitch. As a sports thing it was magnificent. My beloved White Sox, hero's of my childhood, the first team I ever saw play in person, executed a nearly flawless performance. And last night they won the world series. The Chicago White Sox are world champions.

So this is what it feels like.

I do not know what I expected. Exuberance, perhaps? I experienced that. Ecstasy? Present. Joy? Most certainly. Flashbacks of playing baseball on our neighborhood ball diamond while pretending to be Pete Ward, Ken Berry, Ron Santo, or Glen Beckert? Yes. I watched every post-game show I could find and absorbed every minute. I enjoyed it in its entirety with my baseball fanatic son as my baseball impaired wife and mildly interested son floated occasionally through the room. I propped a picture of my dad up on the edge of my chair so that he could enjoy the moment with me. After all, he was the one who got me hooked on the great American game. I had my childhood scrapbook of the 1968 Cubs and Sox on the table next to me. In it I had chronicled every game of both teams throughout that long, dismal, typical summer of Chicago baseball. It was all there with me. Sharing the moment.

And then it was suddenly closing in on 2 A.M. and I thought it best to go to bed. So I did. I lay there in the dark, on my back, listening to my wife quietly breathing next to me. That was the moment things began to fall apart in my baseball soaked world. Without asking for His opinion I heard God speak. He asked me which I enjoyed the most, a White Sox world series or the simple sound of my wife's breathing.

My wife won, hands down. It is better to lay in the stillness and listen to the life sounds of someone I love than it is to win the world series. And then God told me what it was that made baseball so important to me ... why it is a passion. And it turns out that it isn't the beauty of the game (though it is a thing of beauty,) it isn't the perfect symettry of the field (though it is a perfect diamond,) it really isn't even tradition and team and time honored statistics kept in painstaking detail.

It isn't the "what" of baseball. It is the "who" of baseball. You see, the man that bought me the tickets and sat with me in the bleachers and behind home plate is the same man who tossed the ball up in the air and hit it as high and as far as he could so that I could run across a field and chase it down, feeling that incredible satisfaction of leather landing in leather. The "who" of baseball is my annoying brother emptying out his paper popcorn holder, ripping the bottom open and using it as a bullhorn to cheer whoever was winning from 10 rows behind Sox catcher J.C. Martin at the "Boys Benefit Game" played annually at Sox park against the cross town Cubs. (I never could figure out who to cheer for. It was always an evening of exuberant pain.) That is, by the way, the same brother that I called within seconds of the Sox winning it all in the middle of the night. To call him was to touch him ... to touch our past. The "who" of baseball is sitting with my own wife and three children, sometimes right behind the dugout at Wrigley Field and sometimes huddled under a blanket in the frigid upper deck of Busch Stadium at April's "Good Student Night." These days the "who" of baseball is grabbing some tickets from on-line and running up to Wrigley Field's bleachers in mid-summer or, as was the case this year, a couple of great seats 5 rows off the field down the right field line at "The Cell." We were close enough to Jermaine Dye to hear him burp his pre-game snack.

But it's not what. It's who.

I never would have known this had it not been for last night. It seems that the best feeling I have ever felt is NOT my beloved White Sox winning the world championship. Don't hate me for saying this. Please don't call me a sissy. Friends, it probably is not even in the top ten. It does not come close to watching one of my kids lead their own church youth group. I've done that for thirty one years. And now both of them have done it. And they are probably just getting warmed up. It is not even in the ball park with the phone call I just got from my happily married daughter telling me that she's going to work at her church. She's going on staff within their preschool department. (Three of my three kids ... serving Christ by serving His bride. Only God could do that.) The Sox victory, as sweet as it is, should not be mentioned in the same breath with any one of the thousands of times my wife has slipped her hand into mine.

But the very best feeling I have ever felt is the indwelling Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is when He quietly whispers what I should say to the lost and seeking soul that has come to me for direction. Sometimes it is when He simply tells me that The Father really, really, loves me.

So there it is. My team won. If you are a Cardinal fan ... tough noogies. Nah nah nah nah nah. (thumbing my nose in your direction.) I shall rub it in all winter long. I will be merciless in my taunting.

But now you know the truth.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Some things on my mind at the moment...

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Need I say more?

The White Sox are in the World Series. The last time that happened I was 4 years old and had not even moved to Chicago yet. While watching the game last night I realized that my dog, Bailey the Killer Beagle, has white paws. White Socks. Hmmm. My dog is a White Sox fan. And I don't even think she knows it. One of my dad's customers in his door and window business was a guy named Tony. Tony owned Melrose fireworks. They are the company that manufacture and launch the fireworks at Sox Park in Chicago when the Sox hit a home run or win a game. Tony was a great resource for tickets when I was a kid. I remember one day I was at my desk at Lincoln-Way High School when his factory blew up. When a fireworks factory blows up ... it really blows up. Fortunately dad was not there at the time. They rebuilt the factory and they still have the Sox contract. Every time I see fireworks above Sox Park (ok, ok, US Cellular Field) I think of Tony and dad and those twilight double headers we use to go to. Or the "Boys Benefit Game" that the Sox and Cubs would play yearly. It didn't count but we always went and always had great seats behind home plate. And now they are half way through winning the world series. Life is surreal.

My youngest son, Christopher, just moved back home after serving a two month mission in Council Bluffs, Iowa. By the time he had been home for a day I realized what I had missed. Like, I missed the little stereo being left on the vanity in the bathroom every morning. He listens to it while he showers and then never bothers to put it back in it's spot. That bothered me until he was not here to do it anymore. I actually put it on the counter myself one morning. It just wasn't the same. I was really glad to see it back there bothering me on the vanity again Saturday morning. Welcome back, Chris.

My wife is going to have her gall bladder removed two weeks from today. That scares me. My wife is my best friend and the best person that I know. I do not like the idea of some strange surgeon putting her to sleep, punching little holes in her, cutting out a part that she supposedly does not need, stitching the holes closed, and then waking her up again. If she doesn't need the gall bladder ... why did God give her one? Did I mention that I really love my wife? I want her to be ok.

Here is the best thing that I know. God loves me and made room for me in His family. And then He went to a lot of trouble and expense to get me ready to move home when I'm done here. I spent a little money sending Christopher on his mission trip and bringing him back. No big deal. It was worth it because I see how God worked in his life while he was away. I wonder if, when God looks at me, He says "I spent quite a bit to get Ron where I want him on this mission trip he's on and I spent even more to make sure he gets home ok when he's done. But it's worth it. Because I love him and want him back here with me." I really hope so. I know how good I feel every time I look at my kids. All three of them. They amaze me. It is important to know that they feel welcome here and will always have a key to my door. To think that God might feel that way about me, well, it's just the best thing I can imagine.