I Hate First Base

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My uniform was blue. Printed in white letters across the chest was “American Legion Post 294.” I wore an adjustable cap with white mesh and a blue front and brim. On the front over the blue in white was a big letter “L” for Legion. The hat made my head look small. We wore blue stirrups. I was twelve.

On game day I put on my uniform and walked across the street to the American Legion field. The field had a dirt infield and a fence encircling the outfield. The fence in centerfield was 200 feet from home plate.

I came to the plate with bases loaded. I was nervous. My heart was pounding. As I stepped into the box my heart was racing. I couldn’t calm myself down. Everything seemed to be at hyper speed. Eric Fagerman’s first pitch was right down the middle of the plate and I watched it go by. “Strike!” The second pitch was off the plate outside. “Ball!” His next pitch was borderline on the outside of the plate. I fouled it off. Strike two. The next two pitches were balls. The count was now full. I was even more tense and nervous than before. I could not stop thinking “I can’t strike out! I can’t strike out! I just can’t strike out!” Eric threw his 3-2 pitch down the middle of the plate and I swung as hard as I could. I made contact and I ran hard to first. As I ran, I could not believe what I saw. The ball I hit sailed over the fence in dead center. Home run.

I just hit a grand slam home run. I had never even hit a home run before. I couldn’t believe it. I just hit a grand slam home run!

I ran the bases with the biggest grin you have ever seen. I was elated. All my boyhood dreams come true. I touched third and then I touched home. Home run. All my teammates went crazy. They were so happy, so excited. Everyone was. Nothing like it ever happened to us. And the amazing thing was I did it. I hit the home run. Me.

I sat down in the dugout trying to wrap my head around what just happened. I looked out at the field to watch the next batter. But the batter wasn’t in the box. Something unusual was happening. Eric was on the mound but not to pitch. I was puzzled. “Why is he throwing over to . . .” Before I finished the sentence, from the mound Eric threw to first. The first baseman touched the bag. The umpire yelled “Out!”

I was out.

Officially my grand slam never happen. I didn’t touch first base.

I hate first base.

Wall. Warehouse. Me. And Maybe Jesus

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Waze is great. Except when it isn’t. But maybe sometimes she knows better.

My destination is the Bethlehem Bible College. From Jerusalem, I easily drive through the Israeli check point leaving Israel for the West Bank, on the outside of the security wall. The wall is a behemoth of concrete and barb wire. It’s two stories high.

After a couple of hours with the dear folks at BBC, I’m on my way back to Jerusalem. I start following the directions Waze calls out. “In a fifth meters turn right.” In one hundred meters turn left.” I think I’m heading back to where I started, back to the check point. But I’m not. Within a handful of minutes, I know Waze is getting it wrong. This is not the way back to the check point. The roads are narrowing. The dense residential areas disappear; replaced by dilapidated empty buildings.

I’m anxious. I’m angry. Waze doesn’t work in the West Bank! I don’t have a map. Google maps doesn’t work. Waze is all I have.

I’m now driving on what would best be called alleys not streets. I have little choice to divert from the path Waze sets out. What better choice do I have. It tells me, “Turn right for fifty meters than turn left.” I decide to see where the directions end.

As it turns out, the end is the security wall. I’m facing the security wall. My options are to turn around and go back from where I came or to make that left turn. I choose to make the left.

I drive slowly on a very narrow street, though it doesn’t seem to have always been. On my left side is an abandoned warehouse. Doors wide open hanging from their door jams. It’s empty. It’s deserted. The wall is on my right. Gray. Imposing. Grafftied. I slowly drive by the warehouse. The road ends here next to the warehouse. It is clear that the road hasn’t always ended here. I drive to the end of the street. Out of my rental car, I stand under the wall. It’s eerily silent. There’s no one around. Just me. I stand before the wall on what was a street next to an abandoned building.

I followed Waze and it took me to an extraordinary place. Ruins of a warehouse, two-story concrete security wall, me, and, I think, Jesus.

Thank you, Waze! I’m sorry I doubted you. I’ll never again. All along you knew where you were taking me.

You led me to see.

 

 

 

Who Will Pastor You?

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“Who will pastor you?”

“And will you please come back nicer!”

The last words I heard as I left at 7 AM for the airport en route to Israel. Half joking, half serious. Part accusation, part invitation. Seventeen pastors were on the tour. She said sharply: “Get pastored! It’s not like you won’t have plenty of opportunity!”

Opportunity is not my problem, however. My problem is I don’t seek pastoral care. Why? Perhaps it’s because I am a pastor. I know too much. I think the deep reason has to do with me. My distrust. My independence. My fear of being deeply known. My fear of being labeled or categorized. My fear of being Bibleized [I just made up that word – it means “to have a person’s stories of shame reduced or contained by Bible passages”]

So I don’t seek pastoral care. But he sought me.

Sitting on plastic seats with a plastic table cloth eating shawarma in that characteristic paper sleeve a pastor engaged me in conversation. In that Palestinian restaurant in Nazareth a pastor noticed me. Pursued me. We had more shawarma conversations.

Several days later, at another site, I walk through the gate of the entrance and pastor comes up to me. He says something that both surprises and delights me. Surprise because I didn’t expect it. Delight because my defenses were outflanked.

Rarely do my defenses fail me. I’m not often surprised. But when I am, feel impressed by the person who caught me. I feel the congratulatory. “Good job ! Well done! “ Maybe this doesn’t make sense. I don’t know how else to put words around it. I think my emotional defenses are so rarely penetrated. I’m so rarely outflanked.

At the entrance of the complex the pastor approaches and says, “Hey, I’ve watched you. I’ve noticed you never stay still. You’re always looking up something in a guide book or moving or pre-occupied by something. Have you ever read about ADHD? I know a little bit about it. I’ve pastored many who have it. I think you may have it. You should address it when you get back home. You need to care well for your body before you find you can rest in God’s love for you.”

I do have ADHD.

I don’t know if I came back nicer, but I did get pastored.