Jesus Wept

  • By Mark Schlereth
  • 21 Mar, 2015

There is nothing I can say. There is nothing I can do. There are no words that can describe the heartache, grief, and despair that the family’s of Newtown, Connecticut are feeling  today, and there is certainly nothing I can say to ease that pain. There is however one thing I’m sure of…Jesus weeps!

I am the father of three wonderful adult children. I love them with every fiber of my being and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do, nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice, to protect their precious lives. Regardless of their present age, when I gaze upon them I still see them as chubby cheeked five year old cherubs, eyes sparkling with wonderment, and lips pursed with questions. I think about time. The time that we’ve been blessed to share as a family. Time to ride bikes. Time to play hide and seek. Time to have a game of catch. Time to teach. Time to coach. Time for band-aids. Time for hugs and kisses. Time for tears. Time for bed. Time for stories. Time to gather at the dinner table, heads bowed in prayer, giving thanks, then eating and laughing till our bellies ached. Time to just be together and do nothing. The time, that in the blink of an eye, was stolen from the families of Newtown… Jesus weeps!

Today I also think about the time I didn’t spend. The things I didn’t notice. The whispers I didn’t hear or simply choose to ignore. I think about the times I was home but wasn’t connected, too self-consumed with my next project, my next email, my next game, my next tweet, to busy to realize I was creating wounds that no band-aid could cover… Jesus weeps!

Life is short and tragedies like this remind us of its brevity. So many questions, and no satisfying answers. How do we make sense out of unspeakable evil… Jesus weeps!

( John 14:2 ) ” There are many dwelling places in my Fathers house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.” This is the rock where I choose to stand. I believe that God has something so special for us, something so grand, so gracious, so wonderful, that even our most vivid imagination is incapable of comprehending its beauty, and this is where I hang my hope. God promises life eternal when we accept his son Jesus as our savior, ( John 3:16), but he does not promise us tomorrow. So love well, hug and kiss deeply, listen intently, give unselfishly, pray without ceasing, as though it were your last day on earth, because it just might be.

( John 11:35 ) “ Jesus wept .” And today as a country we mourn and weep along side our brothers and sisters in Newtown, Connecticut. “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” ( Phil 4:7) amen.

By Mark Schlereth 10 Apr, 2016
Today I had the honor and privilege of attending the funeral of Dr. James Stanton Dixon . Jim, as he was known by his congregation, was my pastor and my friend. On March 23, 2016, without warning, Jim passed away at the tender age of 70 and has now gone to be with the Lord.

The service was both beautiful and powerful. A time for weeping, a time for reflecting, a time for rejoicing, a time for heartache, and a time for hope, but most of all it was a time to celebrate a life well lived.

The service started with the obligatory welcome and opening prayers, but it was the tender heartfelt brokenness of his adult children that had me and the rest of his flock reaching for a tissue.

It started with Jim's daughter, Heather, who through tears of sorrow reminisced about her father. "You knew him as a great man and pastor, but he was a better father...My prayer for every little girl is that they could have a father like mine," she said. As a father it touched my heart but also made me think, have I lived a life that if I were to die suddenly, my kids prayer would be that others would know the blessing of having a father like me? She went on to tell a story of a time when she was struggling and her father painted a glorious picture of Gods unwavering love for her. "You are a child of God, deeply loved by Christ, firmly in his grip, and he's never letting go." A fathers love for his daughter, illustrated by our Heavenly Fathers love for us, a vivid masterpiece created not with brush and canvas but with encouraging words of a caring dad.

The service continued with Jim's son, Drew, who with his fathers sense of humor, was able to impart pearls of wisdom passed on from father to son. Drew mentioned his fathers infectious zeal for living in the present. What a gift, to live in the present, a gift that far too many of us refuse to accept. We're too busy beating ourselves up for failures of or past, or too caught up in the worries of tomorrow. God promises us life eternal through his son Jesus, but he doesn't promise us tomorrow, so live in the moment you have been given. Drew talked about his fathers unexpected death and said something that struck me and made me ponder my life. "Even in his sudden death," Drew went on to say, "my father departed with nothing left unsaid!" If your life were to end today, would you have regrets about things left unsaid? If the answer is yes now is the time to reconcile, to reach out, to ask for forgiveness, and to say I love you.

Today, in my sadness, I choose to celebrate Jim's life . I pray for his entire family, that they may know a peace that surpasses understanding, and that God would warm their hearts and lift their spirits, the same way that Dr. James Stanton Dixon lifted ours during his 40 plus years of faithful service.

In loving memory,
- Mark Schlereth
By Mark Schlereth 25 Dec, 2015
It's   4:30 am   Christmas morning , the house, normally filled with the chaos of family is silent except for the constant ding of the appliances doing their jobs. I sit in the family room, my dog Dakota faithfully by my side, and bathe in the peace that early morning provides. The house beautifully appointed in Christmas cheer by my bride who works tirelessly to make our house a home. Sadly, it takes the wee hours of Christmas morning for me to recognize her effort, her selfless dedication, to our family. Our children are grown, but it's easy to drift, to get caught up in a dreamy could of nostalgia. Seems like only yesterday, the kids would be tapping me on the shoulder, gently waking me from my slumber, begging me to head downstairs to see what Santa delivered, and I would plead with them to go back to bed. It was a game! It's funny how life changes and roles reverse as we age. The kids, once awake with wide eyed wonderment, sleep and I will have to gently tap them on the shoulder and beg them to come downstairs to see Santa's bounty. It's still a game!

My mind drifts back to yesterday, Christmas Eve service and our pastor explaining the Christmas story. See, it's easy to look back, to get caught up in the warm glow of nostalgia, to long for the good old days. The Christmas story isn't about nostalgia, he explained, it's about hope. It's not a story of what was but what's to come. Jesus is the story of hope, the story of a new beginning and all we have to do is take a step of faith toward him. What keeps us from taking that step of faith toward Jesus? "I'm not worthy," you say. Jesus replies, "Not worthy? I died for you, the price has already been paid." "But Lord I'm not religious," you say. "Good, cuz neither am I," Jesus replies. "The church is full of hypocrites," you say. "Great you'll fit right in," Jesus replies. When Jesus was born in a manger God sends out a birth announcement via a host of angels, but not to royalty, dignitaries, or priests, but to shepherds watching their flock by night. God choose to announce the Saviors birth to the most common of folks in that society, to you and me if you will.

Luke 2:10-11
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.

As my world awakes, and I get wrapped in the unwrapping, tied up in the Christmas treats, and overwhelmed by the joy of family being together, my prayer is not to forget the reason for the season... Let me proclaim the good news....

TODAY MY SAVIOR IS BORN!

Merry Christmas
By Mark Schlereth 14 Aug, 2015

H- HONOR HIM

James 1:17
17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.

U- UNWAVERING

Hebrews 10: 23-25
23 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy.
24 And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works,
25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

M- MAN-UP

James 1:2-4
2 My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

I- INTEGRITY

Psalm 84:11
11 For the Lord God is our sovereign protector. The Lord bestows favor and honor; he withholds no good thing from those who have integrity.

L- LOVING

1 Corinthians 13:4-6
4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful.
6 It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in truth

I- INTENTIONAL

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,

T- THOUGHTFUL

Proverbs 19:11
11 A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Y- Yearn

1 Peter 2:1-3
1 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,
3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness.

By Mark Schlereth 10 Jul, 2015

I was standing in my kitchen the other day, seemingly no different than any other day of my life. My wife, Lisa, was chatting on the phone with a dear friend of hers and I was busy returning work related emails and responding to people on twitter as I’m apt to do. When she hung up the phone, without so much as lifting an eyebrow from the iridescent screen, I casually asked who she was speaking with. Not because I was interested, truth be told I was too selfishly engrossed with my stuff, I was just being polite, nosy, or both.

She told me who she had just hung up with and from behind my laptop I uttered, “oh that’s nice,” hoping that would suffice and we’d both go about our days without incident. Thousand one, thousand two, almost clear I thought. “I just had the most interesting conversation,” she said, which as any married man knows is code for: shut the laptop, set aside the cell phone, and remove all objects within eyesight that might distract you from paying attention to the conversation we’re about to have!

Lisa told me that her and her girlfriend talked about the kids, who they are, who they’re becoming, what purpose God has in store for them. I sat and listened, tail tucked firmly between my legs trying hard to stay on topic and not let my mind wander back to what I had been working on. As we furthered the discussion she told me that her friends dad had a saying, a family mantra if you will…

“Bloom where you’re planted!”

Four little words, such a simple concept, but as powerful as the oceans tide. I’m not sure about you, but if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to look at other people, to see their success, their good fortune, their blessings, and forget about your own. We look at our neighbors homes, cars, jobs, talents, community involvement, and everything else we covet and we become intimidated. We shut the door on life and toss away the key, convincing ourselves that we are some how inadequate, that we can’t make a difference…. Oh how wrong we are!

I remember going to Victory Bible Camp every summer as a young boy. We used to sing a song there everyday, “This Little Light of Mine.” Have you heard it? Do you remember it?

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, oh this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

“Hide it under a rock, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine, said hide it under a rock oh no I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine all the time!”
Matthew 28 verse 19-20 gives us a glimpse into the heart of God, a plan for us known as the Great Commission:

(19)- Therefore go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Sprit,

(20)- teaching them to obey all I have commended you. And remember, I am always with you, even to the end of the age.

I realize it sounds intimidating, a bit overwhelming. Make disciples of all nations…how can I make a difference in all nations?

Easy…All Nations starts at your front door! Open the door, walk outside and fix your eyes on the fertile soil Gods placed in front of you and start sowing seeds. Neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store, Starbucks, the dry cleaner, whoever crosses the path of your daily grind. Life beats all of us down, it’s hard, and we all can use a word of encouragement, a kind smile, and the love of Christ!

You don’t have to pack your bags to be a missionary… Let that little light shine…

“Bloom where you’re planted!”

By Mark Schlereth 03 Jul, 2015

I love the fact that regardless of era, we can compare Cy Young winner Mad Max Scherzer to, well Cy Young, or that we can sit at our favorite watering hole and argue the home running hitting merits of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Berry Bonds. I love the food. Peanuts, hot dogs, and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I ever come back! I love the stadiums, each a cathedral, paying homage to the heroes of yesteryear while showcasing the stars of today. I love the grass. Mowed and trimmed with surgical precision beaconing us to get lost in the deep green of the worlds largest emerald. I love the grounds crew, putting on a dance show to the speakers that pound out the beat of YMCA, and yet still managing to manicuring the infield dirt so it plays as smooth as glass! I love arriving early and watching BP. I love watching infielders gobble up a hard hit grounders and outfielders setting up camp under a can of corn. I love the strategic battle between the battery and the hitter. I love that baseball isn’t football and I love all the lessons the game has taught me!

Lesson 1: Pay attention to the signs!
When I was a kid I wasn’t a baseball fan. I suppose I could come up with a myriad of reasons for that, I could shirk responsibility and blame my parents or some rouge coach who turned me off to the game. The bottom line is it just didn’t interest me, I thought it was slow and boring and I would have much rather organized a game of kick the can or hide and go seek than play baseball.

When my son, Daniel, was just a little fella I got us both mitts, partially because he had an undeniable penchant for throwing stuff, and like a well trained dog, he loved to play fetch. That’s only part of the reason though, when you spend your entire life in a locker room you develop a Peter Pan syndrome, I don’t want to grow up, it’s a built in excuse to not accomplish the entire honey-do-list! “Clean the garage? How could I, the boy and I were working on baseball, how else is he gonna make it to the big leagues? Geese!”

The more I avoided chores the better he got, and as he progressed from level to level the more my fascination with the game I labeled as boring as a child grew.

Pitch by pitch a baseball game unfolds and if you’re not careful, like me as a child, you can fall victim to the laborious monotony of the game. Open your eyes, drink in your surroundings, pay attention to the signs, and you just might find that the game comes alive! As I started coaching my sons teams, from T-ball on up, I was exposed to the intricacies and strategy of the game and I was hooked, like walking into a beautiful cathedral to hear a world famous choir, baseball is a concert.

Before the pitcher steps on the mound to start the play into motion, a beautiful symphony of non-verbal communication occurs on the diamond replete with multiple conductors and musicians sporting leather instruments. Managers flash signs to to the infield and outfield making slight adjustments in alignment based on the batters tendencies. The third base coach, his hands, batons, indicate to the hitter and the base runner the play to be executed. As the pitcher sets himself firm to the rubber, his catcher, like a pianist tickling the ivory starts his fingers in motion, indicating the type of pitch and the quadrant where he wants the ball delivered. Every sign has a purpose and when followed it’s beautiful music, but one missed note and the whole concert can come to a screeching halt.

I find life can be a lot like baseball when you don’t pay attention to the signs. We can become so busy that we can’t see the opportunities right in front of us. We drive to work and instead of marveling at and praising God for another glorious sun rise, we curse the bright light, irritated that we left our sunglasses on the kitchen counter. Like drones we burst through the doors to our place of employment engrossed in our smart phones, oblivious to the mother with a stroller that could us a helping hand. We’re to important, we don’t have time to engage in human contact much less or relationship, we are that missed note at the concert and the sad thing is, we’re to self consumed to realize it.

“There is no better exercise in life than reaching down and helping another person up.” John Andrew Holmes.

Wake up, pay attention to the signs and you might just find that which you thought was dead and boring is very much alive!

Lesson 2: Lay Down a Sacrifice
I started coaching my son, and his baseball team when he was four years old and my oldest daughter, Alex, and her soccer team when she was six. I knew virtually nothing about either sport. A lot of parents assumed that I was some sort of expert because of my football background—WRONG!

Playing a professional sport doesn’t necessarily qualify you as an expert on anything, other than maybe the sport you play.

As the sun set on one season and rose on another, there I was in all my glory. Dressed in an array of free swag and tipping the scales at about 300 pounds, I looked more like a circus performer than a coach.

“Come see the Incredible Zubaz-wearing, whistle-blowing, chubby guy, sure to dazzle and entertain!”

I had been coaching my son’s team for several years when I finally mustered the courage to ask one of the other coaches why a batter doesn’t bunt with two strikes against him.

If you have been around little league baseball you know the bunt is really reserved for your weakest hitters and the kids who are still scared of the ball. So every time one of those players was up and had two strikes, the other coaches would always yell, “Can’t bunt now, two strikes, swing away!”

So being the great parrot that I am, I would simply mimic what they said every time one of those players was in that situation.

When I finally did get around to asking what that was all about, the other coach burst out laughing (as maybe you are right now). He explained that if a batter bunts with two strikes and it rolls foul he’s out. For years, I thought you didn’t bunt in that situation because it was against the rules!

As you progress through various levels of the game—from little league to high school to college and into the minor and major leagues—the bunt grows in value and becomes an incredible strategic asset. “Small ball” they call it and when it’s well-executed it can provide more excitement than a rocket ship launched over the fences by your clean up hitter!

Imagine this scenario: it’s the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. The lead-off man draws a walk, you’re up to bat and you get the sign to lay down a sacrifice bunt in order to move the runner over a base and into scoring position.

If you’re the batter it might be tempting to think, forge that garbage, I can hit this guy. I’ll be the hero when I crush a walk-off home run! But those illusions of grandeur quickly fade when you dig into the batter’s box because you realize that a sacrifice bunt is the right call. It’s about the team, not about you.

Just like a batter who gives up his at bat for the good of the team, there are times you need to lay it down for the benefit of others.

I take a lot of pride watching my son trot out of the pen and take the bump.
Not just because he’s pitched at the highest level, but because I was there through it all. I saw the sacrifice. I’ve seen the errors and the bad outings. I was in the stands his senior year of high school when he tore up his elbow in a game and I watched 20 scouts pack up their radar guns and leave the game.

I was there in the waiting room when he had Tommy John surgery a week later. I’ve watched his disappointment as he’s missed most of the last two seasons with shoulder issues. I’ve witnessed the journey and I know how hard it’s been.

Every time I see him take the field I think about the sacrifice our whole family has made. Every weekend during the season, my wife and I dragged his sisters from one dusty tournament to another to watch and support their brother. I know they didn’t always like it and, yes, they did complain from time to time, but they were always there to cheer and to support. Heaven help the fan that talked smack about their him cuz those girls would go on the attack!

Baseball has helped to teach me the importance of sacrifice. That setting aside your selfish ambitions to serve others has much bigger rewards in the end.

I can promise you this—you’ll never regret making an investment in the lives of your kids or families. NEVER!

Never even once will you say, I’m sorry I missed that TV show or that golf outing with my buddies because I was out playing and coaching my kids. NEVER!

In the end, hopefully many years from now, as you watch your family grow and your kids are blessed with kids of their own, you’ll see the the dividends of all your sacrifices.

Lesson 3: Don’t let pride blind you
Sure, it sound simple enough…but in reality it’s far more difficult than it seems! Baseball reminded me of this lesson the hard way several years ago and haven’t played catch with my son since…not because of a lack of opportunity or as a form of punishment but in the interest of self preservation!

In the summer of 2008 my little boy was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but before he could embark on his professional baseball career he was stuck in athlete purgatory, you know the place, it’s where the organization and his agent haggle over the value of the player and said player lays on the couch and eats your food…not bitter!

As the heat of summer pressed on so did the contract negotiations. One day bled into the next and before long weeks had passed. It was a nice break from a long college baseball season but eventually a pitcher has to pitch so Daniel began to throw in anticipation of heading to the minors. It was an average summer day in Denver, sunny, dry, and in the low 90’s, not much different than another day, that is until my son needed my assistance. “Dad, I need to throw a bullpen and can’t find anyone to catch me, what do you think, you in?” said the boy. I knew I was in over my head, but the deck was stacked against me. 1) my boy needed his papa bears help. 2) it was and athletic challenge and I’m a competitor. 3) if I said no he would have never let me hear the end of it. 4) I’m not smart. 5) I’m really not smart… So armed with nothing more than my pride and a flimsy piece of leather that once was a catcher mitt that had caught a thousand bullpens from this same little boy, I made my way to the yard. At my urging, and the promise of a good beating if he didn’t, Daniel started off nice and easy. With a flick of the wrist he was easily throwing the ball in the mid 70’s and I was amazed how quickly the ball covered the distance between the mound and home plate. As I started to feel more comfortable I allowed him to pick up the tempo, and with minimal effort he was peppering me with mid 80’s fastballs. Here’s where my stupidity kicks in, I got cocky, started feeling good about myself, and that when I said it, go ahead and fire one in here! STUPID.

My chest that had been swollen with pride just the pitch before was completely deflated as I took 94 flush to the right nipple! As I writhed in pain on my front lawn, desperately clutching my chest afraid to look at the damage, I wondered if the doctor on call at the emergency room had ever performed a nipple reattachment surgery because I was sure I’d have to fish it out of my t-shirt. I’ll never forget the look on my sons face as he sprinted over to check on me. Stark white with fear, scared for his fathers well being, then, relief when he realized his dad was fine, escaping the incident with only a severely bruised chest and a slightly blemished ego!

In baseball just like in life hard-work is a given, it’s required, but the great thing about a gift is it freely given you can’t earn it. Each and everyone of us has been blessed with unique talents and special gifts that we should give thanks for on a daily basis, unfortunately, far to often, we’re to busy patting ourselves on the back to recognize them.

There is an old saying in the world of sports that goes like this: there are two types of people in this world, those who are humble and those who are about to be!

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.

It both amazes me and embarrasses me how often I catch myself, wallowing like a pig in a sty of self absorbed pride. How I can somehow assign myself credit for a God given gift. My prayer is for humility and to recognize Gods gifts even it it takes a 94 mph fastball to remind me!

Lesson 4: What is Control?
I’ve had the opportunity to sit with hundreds of baseball scouts, players, managers and front office personnel and their answers to this question are always more or less the same.
Control in baseball parlance refers to a pitcher’s ability to throw strikes. More specifically, it refers to his ability to throw a baseball exactly where he wants it.

Regardless of whether you refer to it as control or command, a quality pitcher must be able to stand 60’6” away from home plate on a bump of dirt and paint the corners with such deft skill that Picasso would turn green with envy.

The experts will point to several factors that determine control in pitching:

  • Repetition of mechanics. A pitcher wants to repeat the same exact throwing motion with each pitch;
  • Location of arm slot and release point. Both are crucial to maintaining solid mechanics and deceiving the hitter;
  • Balance on the hill. The throwing motion starts with the feet so having a solid base is critical;
  • Ability to stay back. If a pitcher lets his body “drift” ahead that will cause the throwing arm to lag behind.
I could continue to bore you to death by regurgitating all of the key “control” buzz phrases I’ve learned while traveling the nation watching my son play. But that’s not the control I’m talking about.

Let’s go back to my initial question: what is control and—more importantly—what do you really control?
Watching my son pitch has been a real eye-opening experience for me. As a parent, my instinct is to protect. It doesn’t matter how old he gets or what he achieves, he’s still my baby boy and I want to protect him!

One of the hardest things in the world for me is to watch him have a bad outing. Whether I’m in the stands or watching at home, I realize there is nothing I can do. I can’t protect him. I have no control.
We are interesting creatures. We like to be in charge, the masters of our own domain. We believe we have control over ourselves, our lives, situations and maybe even other people.

Baseball has helped me come to the conclusion that nothing could be further from the truth. In my estimation, there are only two things that we truly control—attitude and effort.
That’s it. Attitude and effort.

Listen, we’ve all faced bitter disappointments in life, many self-inflicted and some not. Sometimes the guy behind you doesn’t field the ball, sometimes the home plate umpire is one eye short of a cyclops. Sometimes you just don’t have it.
You can let those life moments bury you or you can pull yourself up by your boot straps and keep fighting. You can choose to have a great attitude.

As for effort, well, here’s what I love about effort—great effort requires no talent. Think about that. Some of the most successful people I know wade in the shallow end of the talent pool, but the one thing they all share is a understanding of control.

Lesson 5: Swing for the fences
What is it that holds you back? What obstacles have you found impossible to overcome? Why haven’t your dreams become reality?

Have you ever felt limited by the people in your life? Is there an influential person in your life, someone you trust, who put you in a small box and closed the lid? A teacher, parent, sibling or maybe even a spouse?

Have you ever been that trusted person, putting someone you love in a box?

These are complex questions with no easy answers.
But one valuable lesson baseball taught me some 20+ years ago is that we would be wise to look in the mirror for clues.
It’s a lesson I’ll never forget:
I always wanted to be involved in my kids’ lives. It was a huge priority for my wife and I. As a professional football player, I was fortunate to have the entire off-season to play with my kids. An excuse to live a Peter Pan existence for six months a year. I assure you, I took full advantage. In our house there was always a game going on and if you weren’t playing it, well, you were the game!

My son, Daniel, was very skilled in the art of play from an early age, especially when it came to throwing and catching. Although I had never played baseball (truth be told, I found it boring) I thought it would be a good idea to sign the boy up for T-Ball.

For an overgrown child like myself, though, that wasn’t quite good enough. A boy needs a coach and who would be a better coach than me? (In case you’re scoring at home, the correct answer to that question is no one.)

Who would have known, Daniel at age five, would make to the Majors?

Stay low, keep your knees bent and throw strikes, I always said. To think that kid made it to the bigs with me coaching him for 10 years is a miracle. But I digress.

It was a Friday night. I don’t remember the inning and it really doesn’t matter. As is always the case in T-Ball, the bases were loaded. Daniel was playing first base.

The batter approached the dish wearing a helmet so big he looked like a real life bobble head. His coach lined him up to the tee and with one mighty swing the ball rocketed down the first base line. Daniel caught it on the fly and casually stepped on first for a double play!

I’d like to tell you that the crowd went nuts, but there wasn’t one and the few people who saw it were stunned into silence.

As we drove away after the game, I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see my little one, held in the firm embrace of the seat-belt in the backseat. I could see his little mind working on something profound. For several minutes, the hum of the engine was the only sound you could hear.

Finally I said, “That was a great game, son, and that double play was really something!” That’s when he made his “Swing for the fences” statement, “Dad,” he said with certainty, “tomorrow, I think I’ll turn a triple play.”
That’s when I went into “preemptive strike, manage disappointment” mode. I told him turning a triple play was virtually impossible. There are men who have played their entire lives and have never had an opportunity to turn one, I said.
I gave him a three-minute dissertation on why a triple play wasn’t in the cards. I tried with all of my might to reason with that little boy and his response was, Yeah, I think I’ll turn one anyway.

We got to the field early the next day. It was a beautiful spring Virginia morning. The bases were loaded (again) and Daniel was playing third base. By this time, I’d forgotten all about our conversation in the car the night before.
The batter whacked a line drive down the third base line. Just like the day before, Daniel snagged the ball in mid-flight, stepped on third, spun and threw a dart to second. The kid playing second base was actually standing on top of the bag, eyes firmly slammed shut, his mitt raised in front of his face like a shield to protect him from the oncoming throw.
When the ball introduced itself with a sweet “pop” into his leather glove, the whole world stopped for what felt like an eternity. Suddenly, like a swarm of bees, the team came running to me in the dugout shouting, “triple play! triple play!” as they threw their hats in the air with all of the enthusiasm of high school graduates.

After a celebration of hugs and high fives, the boys picked up their hats and made their way back to their positions because we were only halfway through the batting order!

I learned a valuable lesson that morning—Don’t place yourself or anybody else in a box. Don’t tell them what they can’t do. One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible comes from Hebrews 10: 24-25: Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of many, but encouraging one another, and all the more as the day draws near.
Dream big, encourage one another, ignore the detractors that try to bring you down and most of all—swing for the fences!

Lesson 6: Value of the 10th man
In the 2004 American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees jumped to a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead over their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. After a 19-8 shellacking in game 3, it felt like the Grim Reaper had hung his uniform in the home town clubhouse at Fenway Park.

It looked like all was lost for the Red Sox when they entered the bottom of the 9th inning of game 4 down 4-3. Mariano Rivera, the most feared closer in baseball, was on the mound for the Yankees in his second inning of work. The World Series seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

The Curse of the Bambino—so-called because the Red Sox failed to win a championship after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees—echoed off the Green Monster. The Boston faithful pulled their rally caps down tight over their ears to drown out the din.

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar stepped up to the dish with nobody out. He answered the crowd’s collective prayer with a lead-off walk. Enter Dave Roberts. He was part of a mid-season trade with the Dodgers and had not played a game in 10 days when he was called on to pinch run for Millar.

One, two, three times, Rivera threw to first in an effort to keep Roberts from stealing second base. Each successive throw drew a gasp from Red Sox nation that sucked the air from the stadium. That is, until Roberts swiped second base. The exhale of the crowd was a gale force cacophony of cheers. Now he was in scoring position.

The next batter, Bill Mueller, hit a single to score Roberts and tie the game. The Red Sox went on to win in 12 innings, launching one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of baseball. As a matter of fact, they never lost another game in that post-season.

Dave Roberts, the hero of game 4 of the ALCS, never played in a single World Series game in the Sox’ sweep of the Cardinals.

His story reminds me of how judgmental we can be sometimes. Isn’t it sad how we assign a value to people based on our perception of their position in life? We look down our noses at others because of how they dress, how beautiful they look, how much money they make, how popular they are or whether they’re in the starting lineup or sitting on the bench.

If we’re honest, we’ve all been guilty of thinking like this at one time or another.
Dave Roberts and his clutch performance in the 2004 ALCS is a reminder to never underestimate the value of a single person. From the janitor to the equipment manager to the owner, every one of us is wonderfully and beautifully created in the image of our Heavenly Father…So never underestimate the value of the 10th man.

Lesson 7: Never Take a Called Third Strike
It is amazing to me how one moment can define a person for a lifetime. Say the name Kirk Gibson and you can’t help but hear the melodious voice of Jack Buck saying, “I can’t believe what I just saw!”

It’s still one of the most memorable moments in baseball—the bottom of the ninth inning in game one of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. Dennis Eckersley was on the mound for the A’s, who had a 4-3 lead. Gibson was called on to pitch hit, even though he had injuries to both legs and a stomach virus. He willed himself to the dish.

There were two outs, a runner on second and a full count when Gibson launched one out of the ballpark, clinching the win for the Dodgers. It would be his only at-bat in the entire series, which the Dodgers went on to win in five games.

It’s the stuff that legends are made of.

Kirk Gibson will always be remembered as a hard-nosed, gritty player. But what if a Dodger scout hadn’t told him that Eckersley was sure to throw a backdoor slider to a lefty with a 3-2 count (which he did)? What if he left the bat on his shoulder and took strike three? How would that have changed the public perception of him?

One thing is for sure—had Gibson not taken a hack there wouldn’t be a Kirk Gibson highlight. It would be a Dennis Eckersley highlight.

I spent the better part of a decade coaching my son’s baseball teams and there were few things that were more frustrating than watching a kid take strike three. For those keeping score at home, that’s the dreaded backwards K, the mere thought of which sends quivers down my spine.

Look at the message it sends—I don’t want to be at the dish. I’m paralyzed by fear. For the love of Pete, please let this guy walk me.

With that kind of thinking you can be sure that the batter will wilt as quickly as a parched flower on a hot August afternoon. And when the umpire calls strike 3! he’ll sulk back to the dugout, bat still firmly attached to his shoulder.

You can also be sure that the walk from home plate to the dugout will be a long one. Every eyeball in the stands will be judging him. Their whispers confirming that the pitch was too close to take.

Fear makes cowards of us all.

I’m not sure who coined that phrase but it’s complete garbage. Fear makes cowards of some. What separates the achievers from the non-achievers? Achievers don’t let their fear stop them from trying.

I played 12 seasons in the NFL and truth be told, I was scared stiff every game. What if I can’t block this guy? What if I miss a block and let my team down? What if I make a mistake that costs us the game? I would get myself so worked up and so nervous that I would vomit before every game, including the pre-season games!

Think about that. That’s more than 200 games and there wasn’t one in which I didn’t have an intimate rendezvous with the trash can.

Fear is a given. We all experience it. The real question is what do we do with it? Do we let it paralyze us, forever condemning ourselves to a life of sulking back to the dugout, head hung in shame, our bat merely a useless prop? Or, like Kirk Gibson, do we take a hack?

People love to tell you what you can’t accomplish. They love to tell you all of the reasons why you won’t succeed. And when you give up without even trying, they will comfort you, tell you it’s all right, that it’s all for the best. Personally, I think it makes them feel better about their own fears and their own lack of accomplishment.

I say embrace your fear. Let it motivate you to take the bat off your shoulder and take a hack!

Lesson 8: Failure is not a person…it’s an event!
This spring training I was invited by Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to speak to his coaching staff. He wanted me to share my championship experience, testimony, and anything else that was on my heart. I was honored and immediately accepted the invitation because it provided me with two opportunities that I love. First, I got the opportunity to share with a group of men that want to be great coaches and impact young mens lives. Secondly, I got to hang out with my little boy for a few glorious days watching Big League spring training. Shortly after my presentation I found my way back to the clubhouse where I enjoyed breakfast and small talk with my son and some of his team mates. That’s when Hurdle called us up for a team meeting, essential personal only, as I made my way for the door, Clint stopped me, you’re essential, you’re a Bucco now! My chest swelled with pride and I swear I could almost hear my sons eyes roll, “now he’ll be insufferable,” I’m sure he thought.

The Skipper began to address the team about the day’s schedule when he laid out this pearl of wisdom, so steeped in truth that almost knocked me out of my chair, “Failure is not a person, it’s an event!” Baseball is a game based on failure, name one other thing in life where you can be successful only 3 out of every 10 times and be considered a Hall of Famer. Think about it, “Failure is not a person, it’s an event,” that’s a statement freedom. Freedom to tweak your swing, change your arm slot, to throw your change-up on a 3-2 count, to take a hack! Freedom to compete, damn the consequences, and at the end of the day, win or lose hold your head high.

Life is a lot like baseball, you’ll strike out, miss a sign, throw a wild pitch, lose a fly ball in the sun, get a bad hop, blow a save opportunity, you will fail…but that doesn’t make you failure.

Lesson 9: There’s no place like home
Baseball has had such a huge influence on our family…there isn’t a game that I watch that doesn’t bring back memories, some great, some not so great, but for me it’s a constant reminder of how richly God has blessed me with the only thing that really matters in life…..my family. I watch baseball and remember the long car rides, three kids in the back bickering with one another and every 10 minutes asking how much further we had. I remember the walk-off homers, the no hitters, the feeling of euphoria that comes with success, and the suffocating disappointment that accompanies failure.

As a family we’ve sat in the stands and watched Daniel strike out the side, greeted by a cacophony of cheers and high fives and we’ve seen him walk the bases loaded and get yanked in disgust by his manager. We’ve heard the roar of the crowd in affirmation of a job well done, and heard the boo’s and jeers that accompany a lousy outing. I’ve witnessed with pride my wife and daughters, with tears of anger, get in the face of a nasty hecklers, defending a son, a brother, and I’ve seen them celebrate with perfect strangers over a game saving strikeout.

When the game has ended, the lights turned out, all the autographs have been signed, and the din of the crowd no more than a whisper. Win or lose the only people left are family members reminding all that’s there’s no place like home!

By Mark Schlereth 21 Mar, 2015

I am the father of three wonderful adult children. I love them with every fiber of my being and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do, nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice, to protect their precious lives. Regardless of their present age, when I gaze upon them I still see them as chubby cheeked five year old cherubs, eyes sparkling with wonderment, and lips pursed with questions. I think about time. The time that we’ve been blessed to share as a family. Time to ride bikes. Time to play hide and seek. Time to have a game of catch. Time to teach. Time to coach. Time for band-aids. Time for hugs and kisses. Time for tears. Time for bed. Time for stories. Time to gather at the dinner table, heads bowed in prayer, giving thanks, then eating and laughing till our bellies ached. Time to just be together and do nothing. The time, that in the blink of an eye, was stolen from the families of Newtown… Jesus weeps!

Today I also think about the time I didn’t spend. The things I didn’t notice. The whispers I didn’t hear or simply choose to ignore. I think about the times I was home but wasn’t connected, too self-consumed with my next project, my next email, my next game, my next tweet, to busy to realize I was creating wounds that no band-aid could cover… Jesus weeps!

Life is short and tragedies like this remind us of its brevity. So many questions, and no satisfying answers. How do we make sense out of unspeakable evil… Jesus weeps!

( John 14:2 ) ” There are many dwelling places in my Fathers house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.” This is the rock where I choose to stand. I believe that God has something so special for us, something so grand, so gracious, so wonderful, that even our most vivid imagination is incapable of comprehending its beauty, and this is where I hang my hope. God promises life eternal when we accept his son Jesus as our savior, ( John 3:16), but he does not promise us tomorrow. So love well, hug and kiss deeply, listen intently, give unselfishly, pray without ceasing, as though it were your last day on earth, because it just might be.

( John 11:35 ) “ Jesus wept .” And today as a country we mourn and weep along side our brothers and sisters in Newtown, Connecticut. “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” ( Phil 4:7) amen.

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