Throwing Your Body Into It / Ministry

Over the past week or so, I've been working with one of my older daughters on her pitching. I am no pitcher. I never have been one. I was never very good at it. But I've watched a ton of baseball and I've now watched my fair share of little league games. I've seen a lot of pitchers.  One thing about my daughter...she's got a pretty good arm--not just "for a girl" but a pretty good arm in comparison to her teammates on the "boys" team. And so, for the last three years, she's spent some of her time on the pitchers mound.

Watching your own child pitch can mess with your nerves. You're ecstatic when they pitch well. You're furious at the ump when they don't call the "close" pitches. And you hate to watch their confidence get shaken and the bad pitches start to mount--particularly when you know "the game's on the line." A few weeks ago I was called on to be the "field ump" for a game and found it very difficult to cheer for my daughter while trying to be impartial on the plays. Fortunately someone relieved me after the first inning.

What I had noticed over a period of games was that my daughter kept missing in the same spot. She's a lefty and her misses all seemed to be high and outside to the righty batters, forcing the catcher to jump up to his right on lots of pitches. Another coach had noticed that one of our team's pitchers wasn't pointing at home plate on the step towards the batter. And I thought that might be what my daughter's problem was. So, for a morning, we worked on "throwing her body into it." I used phrases like, "I want all of your momentum going towards home plate" and "I want you to feel your whole body pulled towards the plate" and "I want you to have to take a couple of steps towards the batter because of your body leaning into home."

Over the 25 pitches we were practicing with, it seemed to work. She was accurate -- more accurate than previously. And she had some good velocity -- more speed than before. As I caught her, it was fun to feel the "pop" in my mitt on some of the faster ones.

I'm really not sure about all of the mechanics and physics involved here. I'm just a dad who wants to see his daughter pitch as well as she can. But I do know that, if she's going to be successful with this, she can't hold back. She does need to "throw her body into it."  She does need to push everything towards home plate.  She does need to focus her mind on the goal of getting that ball into the catcher's hands and not be distracted by the runner on first or the hit she just gave up or the fielding error behind her or the pitch before which should have clearly been called a strike.  She needs to direct all of her energy to getting the ball across the plate. She needs to be committed to that strike.

As stated Sunday morning, I have been reappointed here at Girdwood for another year. We've had a rough stretch over the last five years...not in a horribly bad way or anything...just that we've been focused on our building project.  It has, at times, consumed us.  It has, at times, taken our attention away from other things that really were more important at the time.  It has, at times needed all of our energy and focus and drive. And we have a lot to show for it.

Well, as we start another year, I really want to commit myself to the mission of this church..."Love God. Love others. Change the world." I want to throw my whole body into it. I want all of my momentum directed at this goal. I don't want to have my mind taken up by extraneous things. I want to run the race and persevere.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message)
Here are some of my thoughts as it pertains to my commitment to ministry:
  • The building--how can we use it to meet this goal and how can we organize ourselves in such a way that by working towards its completion we can be building community? One of the things I'm aware of is the need to keep in touch with our supporting churches and the possibility of a couple of trips to the Lower-48 to foster those relationships. The building is not our ministry but will be used as a tool for ministry. We need to work hard to make sure building is not our "end" but one of the means to the end--the glorification of God.

    Howard Snyder notes that "Christians did not begin to build church buildings until about A.D. 200. This fact suggests that, whatever else church buildings are good for, they are not essential either for numerical growth or spiritual depth. The early church possessed both these qualities, and the church’s greatest period of vitality and growth until recent times was during the first two centuries A.D. In other words, the church grew fastest when it did not have the help or hindrance of church buildings" (The Problem of Wineskins, p.69).

  • Community outreach--I'm a big believer that ministry is acted out socially, that we are required to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world and that we live in a world...a community...that hungers to see Christians acting like Jesus in the world.  This is the "missional" focus of the church.  We are "called" to be "sent."

  • Study--I'm already into a few more books this year and have a lot on my to-do list.  Personally, this blog has forced me to be faithful to some reading projects.  But I'd really like to see Disciple Bible Study take off and I'd love to see a "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey take root here. I think both of these would address the spiritual as well as practical needs of persons in our community.

    Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deut. 4:9)

  • Worship--Sermon Series is where it's at for me--at least in terms of thinking about planning. I like taking a concept and expanding it over several weeks. I need to prayerfully consider what it is that would be most helpful to the persons in our congregation...particularly as they interact with persons outside of the congregation.  We have some limitations on how we can use technology in worship, but we're working on it.

  • Faith--For my own faith, I surely need to spend more time in God's Word and in God's presence. And for my congregation's faith, I surely need to recognize that the people I pastor will not be trained to live in a counter-cultural way unless they have been transformed by the Way of Jesus.

  • My family--I need to do a better job balancing family life with work life. Last year I really felt like this was a struggle. My spouse worked more. I provided more childcare. And, for some reason, I think both areas may have suffered a little.

    "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)

  • Exercise--This is about my well-being. It's about me being available, long-term, for my family and it's about managing the stresses of ministry so that I can more fully commit to it.

  • Blogging--Is this a distraction or is it a vital part of self-reflection? I'm going to pull for the latter at this point. I hope to keep this up and I hope this is both informed by my ministry and informs it

I'm sure there are other ways for me to throw my whole self into this year. I pray that others will come to me and I pray that God will give me the strength to follow through on these points.