10 Character Building Lessons from Baseball

20160330_184712Baseball never fell on my radar let alone my schedule until my youngest son started playing little league. Since then, he’s played several years of travel baseball and now finds himself on the high school stage with JV baseball.

Regardless of the level of play, basic character building principles are inherent in the game of baseball. Advice shouted by coaches and parents on how to best play the game correlate well with how to live a life of excellence.

  1. Get dirty! While this may be a mother’s laundry nightmare, getting dirty in baseball generally means a player went “all out” to make a play. Sometimes in life, we need to “get dirty” in order to make a real difference.
  2. Make a play! Making a play can change the momentum of a game. When we find ourselves feeling stuck, sometimes the only way to break free is to do something out of the ordinary.
  3. Keep your eye on the ball! One of the most common mistakes in baseball comes when a player takes his eyes off the ball. When we lose focus, making progress and achieving goals becomes difficult at best and often impossible.
  4. Shake it off! While hopefully less common as the season progresses, mistakes do happen. Someone inevitably drops the ball or strikes out. The best approach when we make a mistake is to admit it, learn from it, and move on. Don’t let it snowball.
  5. 20160330_185001Down & ready! Some of the most embarrassing moments in a baseball game come when a player isn’t ready and sees a ball too late to stop it because he failed to pay attention. Life continually throws unexpected struggles at us, but many trials in life also come as surprises simply because we weren’t paying attention.
  6. Everybody moves! When the ball is hit, every player needs to move accordingly. Sometimes, just going in the right direction is all we need to do to move toward excellence.
  7. Put it in play! Hitting a baseball is probably the hardest task in all of sports, and a professional player who gets a hit half the time is considered productive. Simply putting the ball in play presents a solid chance at scoring. In life, some seasons are survived simply by putting yourself in play and seeing what happens.
  8. Get there! As fast as most players throw at higher levels of baseball, all out effort is required just to make it to first base. What would happen in your life if you gave all out effort?
  9. 20160423_122527Be a wall! One of the positions my son enjoys most is catcher. The catcher must stop every ball from getting by him to prevent base stealing. Hopefully, the mitt stops the ball, but often the catcher’s body must do it. Some seasons in life certainly require that we stand firm even as the hits of disappointment, fear and failure strike us one right after another.
  10. Smother it! Another phrase relating to catchers, this means covering the ball as it hits the ground in front of you. In life, some days come filled with needing to simply protect your time, your family and your faith. Some days, we just need to smother what’s important to keep it from getting away from us.

A teachable baseball player takes these foundational principles and builds on them in order to become a better player. Tommy Lasorda made the distinction this way…

“There are three types of baseball players. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

A person who realizes that baseball – actually, any sport – provides character building opportunity for a life of excellence, understands how watching or playing the sport really transcends the sport itself. The late, great Ernie Harwell brought the point home well when he said…

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”

Harwell’s quote brings Ephesians 5:16 to mind.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

Opportunities such as the character building lessons discussed above exist in every sport and in many other activities. Are you making the most of them?

The Impact of Other People & My Faith on Depression

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.

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The Impact of Other People

Had I not had relationships that mattered to me or that I at least wanted to matter to me, I don’t think I would have had hope. The first was the hope of a relationship with God, but more on that in a minute. First, let’s address the other relationships mentioned in the question.

My husband joined this journey with me when I was only 5 years into it. Since I was about 10 years old when depression hit, you’ll realize we got together pretty young. I could never do justice to the junk (the kindest word I can think of to describe it) I put him through over the past 25ish years or to the patience he continually doled out. Simply put, he never gave up on me and refused to leave me. He looked me straight in the eye on more than one occasion and said, “I will never leave you.” I get choked up thinking about it. I realize today that him never giving up on me made me unable to give up either.

I grew up in a very rules-oriented church culture, one where God was this distant being who seemed more like a master chess player than like anyone who wanted me to know Him personally. So, the first 28 years of my faith life included what I “should” do, including believing in God. Around age 28, that changed. I began to discover who I was in Christ, and I learned that Jesus not only wanted a relationship with me but that He gave me His Holy Spirit to comfort and help me. I learned that the Bible was a guide for life and not simply a book of rules. This process of correcting my wrong views about God and seeing life from a full-Gospel perspective truly gave me a new foundation to build upon as I began to live more and more outside of the pit.

Not sure how to characterize my family’s role, so I’ll just dive in to some specific examples. My dad was absent a lot and pretty self-focused, which does not bode well for the self-esteem of a little girl. My mom always loved and accepted me no matter my emotional state, but she had struggles of her own to contend with at the time.

My extended family was a factor only through two people. One individual told me, “You’re average and will always be average,” and another said, “You’re just not as smart as the others.”  Those statements took years to be undone as truth in my mind and still haunt me during times of weakness still today.

My journey out of the pit really began after I had my oldest son. When he was a toddler, I realized that I did not want his memories of me to be ones of a depressed an unhappy person. So, I began the journey for him. My youngest son entered this journey only about 4 years ago, but it too was a pivotal experience in that he needed me to live fully and completely outside of the pit in order for him to not live in one himself. For him, I took steps to fill in the pit of depression that had been my dwelling place for so many years, making it no longer an option.

Faith

The Impact of My Faith

I don’t remember not believing in God. However, I do remember not really knowing who Jesus was and what role the Holy Spirit played. Learning about relationship with Christ changed everything. My growth in faith coincides directly with my progression through depression and out of the pit forever. Depression was the trial of my life that drew me always closer to Him; it was either that or end my life. Realizing my inability to overcome on my own led me to realize my desperate need for Him.

(Note: If we had time and space, I would also discuss the role of Christian counseling as well as of the books I read during the journey.)

DISCUSSION: How do you see your role in the life of those you love who struggle with depression? What questions do you have regarding living out those roles?

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Following a Core Value to Establish Balance

Core Value

This statement “God. Family. Work. (In that order)” exists as the first stated core value for the company where my husband has worked for the past 22 years. Armstrong International encourages employees to honor God as their top priority, to establish and maintain a strong family life, and to work hard and do their best in their jobs. But their jobs come third.

The Armstrong family knows a strong business comes from employees with balanced lives, especially within core relationships. And this emphasis is likely why the company continues full steam ahead after 110 years.

Armstrong’s emphasis on God first, family second and work third creates a solid foundation for establishing and maintaining balance in life.

God First

Relationship with God creates a solid foundation for a balanced life. This core strength creates a stability out of which meaningful relationships with others can flow. Without relationship with the Father, you might as well give up on a balanced life because He is the scale providing accurate measure for balancing all areas of life.

Relationship with Christ through Holy Spirit fellowship and time in God’s Word makes truth the foundation on which a person can build a consistently stable life. The quality of every other area of life directly flows out of this relationship.

As we are obedient to the greatest commandments…love God above all and love others as self (Matthew 22:36-4)… we discover that balance not only happens consistently but even exists amidst chaos.

Family Second

Our relationships, especially with those closest to us, provide an outflow for the abundant love of Christ. In other words, relationship with Him makes relationship with others exist naturally. We can’t help but share His love.

Relationships provide input into our lives regarding balance. As we consider the quality of the connections we have with those closest to us, we know where to focus for more effectively living the love of Christ. At the same time, our close relationships also challenge our balance and ultimately strengthen us as we make the adjustments necessary for maintaining balance.

In fact, when making decisions about how to balance by…

  • Simplifying
  • Choosing to say “no” to good things to be able to say “yes” to better and best
  • Limiting commitments

…relationships provide a solid guide for specific choices.

Almost always, choosing what benefits relationships with those closest to us – Christ first and family second – presents the best choice for establishing and maintaining balance in our lives.

Work Third

With God as our top priority and with confident, stable, core relationships, our work life then becomes another extension of who we are in Christ. With that, our work becomes a way to…

Following the core value of “God. Family. Work. (In that order)” to establish balance won’t free our lives from trouble or stress, and it won’t always keep chaos and drama at bay. It will, however, provide a stability – a peace even – within our inner circle of existence that allows us to better function in all other areas of life.

DISCUSSION: How might this core value simplify your approach to achieving balance?

Guest Post – In This World, You Will Have Trouble!

Welcome Chris Patton from Christian Faith at Work for our guest post today. Chris’ blog is “not as much about how to be a Christian in business, but more about how to run a Christian business.” After reading today’s post, take a minute to learn more about Chris and his inspiring story. You won’t regret taking the time to do so! I know Chris’ blog (and of course his post for us today too) will bless you as much as it does me!

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In This World, You Will Have Trouble!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in John 16. Jesus and the disciples have just finished the Last Supper. Jesus is soon to be arrested. In between these two major events, He is teaching the disciples some of His most critical lessons. He knows He is near the end and I feel the intensity is climbing. Then He says it…

“In this world, you will have trouble.” – John 16:33

What Is Wrong With Me?

Am I sick or out of my mind? Why in the world would I see that as one of my favorite verses? I must be missing a screw somewhere, right? Wrong. Maybe I am very different from you, but I want to know the truth. I want to know what to expect. I don’t want it candy-coated.

Shoot Straight With Me!

When I was a kid and I asked if it would hurt when the nurse gave me a shot, I wanted to hear the truth. I wanted to be able to prepare for the pain. I did not want someone to tell me, “No, dear. This will not hurt at all.” I knew I would see stars. I just wanted someone to shoot straight with me!

I am not that crazy about surprises…at least not bad ones. I can handle surprise birthday parties or even, “Surprise, your wife is pregnant…with twins!” Those are good surprises and I can roll with that.

What I do not want is to be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking everything is okay. I do not want to be told that if I will just follow Jesus, then all of my problems will go away! I do not want to hear another preacher tell me that I simply need to pray this prayer and my financial struggles will disappear.

Jesus Is Clear

This is why I love these words of Jesus. He was straight with the disciples. He wanted them to know clearly that He was leaving them in a broken world and that trouble was a given. He did not want them relaxed or letting their guards down. Instead, Jesus wanted them to be prepared for what the world would soon throw at them.

Folks, Jesus wants us to know the same thing. In this world, we will have trouble. We will struggle. We will not breeze through this life simply because of our relationship with Jesus. In fact, as he says, the world will hate us. That hate will bring struggle. Please know this and do not be naive.

So Now What?

So, now that we agree that we will face trouble in this life, what are we to do to survive it? How do we prepare for these struggles and trials? How do we make sure we are not tempted to throw in the towel and drift away from God’s plans for us when life hits us in the face?

I believe the key to surviving the trouble that life will throw at us is to have the right foundation. If our view of the world is not based on a solid foundation of faith, then we will suffer significant damage when the storms roll through. With the right foundation, not only will we survive with minimal damage to our faith and our walk, but we will also be stronger for the next fight!

Foundational Truths

I think the foundation for our Christian walk can be boiled down into four truths. If you can internalize these four truths, then I believe God can accomplish great things through you. Internalizing these four truths will not eliminate opposition, rejection, struggle, or failure. In fact, I guarantee you will experience one or more of these issues in the process. At the same time, the final results will be greater than anything you could have accomplished or experienced outside of these truths.

  1. I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
  2. God has a plan and purpose for my life. (Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 2:10)
  3. God is good. (Mark 10:18)
  4. Therefore the plan and purpose God has for me is ultimately good. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Your Part

I urge you to memorize these four truths and the related Scripture. Internalize them in a way that, when you are squeezed, these come out. Repeat them to yourself when the storm is raging. Pray that God would show His faithfulness in ways that reinforce these truths in your heart.

And, last of all, commit my favorite verse to memory as well. But when you do, don’t forget the last part!

“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

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Be sure to check out Chris’ blog! Here are three of my favorite posts from Christian Faith at Work.

Solomon’s 8 Steps for Discovering God’s Will

Why You Might Not Like Tim Tebow

Warning! Your Foundation May Be Defective

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If you would like to guest post on Struggle to Victory, please read Recommendations and Guest Posts.

Sunday Reflections – A Foundation with No Building is Just a Swimming Pool

For 30 years, the Moskva Pool (Moscow Pool) was the largest open air swimming pool in the world. Originally the foundation for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the church was demolished to make way for the Palace of Soviets. That palace was never built. Construction began in 1938 and was abandoned three years later when the steel for the project was instead used for war material during World War II. The foundation was then made into a swimming pool.

Without a building, a foundation has little purpose. And certainly, a foundation is not even built without plans for a building to be built on top of it. In a spiritual sense, however, foundations are built often without anything being built on top of them.

Let’s be clear that for a Christian, the only true foundation is Christ, and the life of a Christian exists as “God’s building.” At some point, someone laid the foundation of Christ in the life of a Christian. Then, the process of sanctification (holiness or being set apart) hopefully takes place and builds a “building” that will survive the fire (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).

This process of sanctification serves as the building process that takes place over a Christian’s life. But what if that process never takes place? What if the foundation remains but is never used for its intended purpose? As with the Moskva Pool, the foundation will have to settle for less rather than for fulfilling its intended purpose.

Fortunately, Christians don’t have to settle. Through the process of living the Christian life and by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us to conform us to the image of Christ, Christians can build upon the foundation that is Christ. The following points exist as crucial aspects of that process.

  1. Be willing to be pruned. The Word of God prunes in order to prepare Christians to bear fruit. Likewise, life’s circumstances lead to additional pruning that allows for the process toward perfection to continue.  Be teachable and willing to change.
  2. Understand that there’s always more. Even when a building is complete, there’s always maintenance needing done. There’s always cleaning that needs to happen. As a Christian continually spends time with God, the light gets brighter to allow cobwebs and dust to become obvious even in the deepest and hidden corners. Stay open to correction.
  3. Focus on the top priority. A building is usually built for a very specific purpose. Likewise, a Christian exists to be with Jesus. That is our #1 calling. As we focus there, we remain joined to our Heavenly Father (John 15:1-6). Remember that your focus determines your reality.

For the Christian, sanctification comes through living a life of excellence. In practical terms, this means gradually increasing in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This lifelong commitment comes as we walk daily in obedience to Christ. This process of sanctification exists in a progressive sense in that we increase in holiness as we conform to the will of God.

Not sure where to start? Consider Paul’s advice for how to live life in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12. He advises living a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands. Doing so sets a good example for others as well as creates a life that “lacks nothing.” A quiet life, one absent of focus on constant drama, earns respect, which opens doors for sharing Jesus. Such a life allows Christians to live out the sanctification process in a way that encourages others to build on the foundation that already exists and to ensure they fulfill their purposes rather than just settling for anything less.

On a final note, realize that the best time to build on the foundation is now. Learn from the past and then move forward. While the Moskva Pool remained a foundation that missed its purpose for 30 years, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was eventually reconstructed, thus returning the foundation to its original purpose. Christians don’t have settle for where they are with building materials being used for other purposes. Returning to Christ is always an option.

DISCUSSION: What are some things that distract us from building on the foundation of Christ in our lives? What steps can you take today to eliminate distracts and return to His will?

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