"I love to tell the story..." I live my life at the nexus of science and faith. I am a scientist by training, and paid to tell the story of NASA Science, but I am married to a pastor and active in my church. I believe that "threads of glory" from God's larger Story weave their way through all the other stories we tell and I seek expose them through my writing. I live in Waldorf, MD, with my wife Laurie (a United Methodist pastor), son Brady (12) and daughter Becca (10).
Friday, October 3, 2014
Practice: Not a Spectator Sport
Brady's first time pitching.
I like to go to Brady’s baseball practices.(Which is a good, since they account for many
hours of a parent’s life during the season.)I watch intently as the coaches lead the players through pitching,
hitting, and fielding drills for about two hours. At one practice recently, the kids were
warming up their arms.I was standing
near the dugout, and the coach asked me to throw him a ball.It wasn’t pretty—a wounded duck if ever there was one.
After my stupendous throw, it occurred to me that while watching
many hours practice may have taught me a thing or two about baseball, it has
obviously not “taught” my body how to throw a baseball correctly.No, for that to happen, I would have to
actually get out on the field with the kids and participate in the practice.It would be pretty humbling to get out there
as a nearly 44-year-old man and practice with kids, but since I didn’t play
baseball growing up, that’s really where I would need to begin.
There’s no getting
around the fact that if I want my
ability to play baseball to improve, I would
have to put in the practice.No one can do it for me.
Just like baseball, church is not intended to be a spectator
sport.While we can gain something
simply by showing up on Sunday and “watching” the worship service, there’s a
limit to how far that can take us.Unless we actively participate in worship and in prayer, fasting,
service, etc., on a regular basis, we shouldn’t expect to see tremendous
transformation in our lives.Just as in
baseball, even if we do practice, our progress will be slow, which may not seem
all that encouraging.
But then life unexpectedly “throws you a curveball” and all
you can do is “react to the pitch”.There
isn’t time to think about your response, you can only let whatever is in you
flow out of you. When, in that moment, you
“step to the plate” and “smack it out of the park” spiritually, you start to
realize the value of all those hours of practice.The drills seemed pointless at the time, but
they actually served a purpose! They
trained you to respond “as you should,” almost without conscious thought.
This fall, the Adult Sunday School at my church is doing a
study called Animate: Practices.Essentially it’s an opportunity for us to
practice seven different spiritual activities: Prayer, food, worship,
sacraments, money, service, and community.There is an accompanying DVD and journal.The DVD speakers are well-known Christian
pastors, authors, activists, etc., so we can think of these as “coaches” who
share what they’ve learned on their journey in hopes that it helps us as we
seek to practice.
Just as my baseball
game hasn’t improved that much sitting watching my son’s practices, our ability
to pray, worship, serve, and so forth, won’t substantially improve just by
watching a DVD.We have roll up our sleeves and practice
what we’ve discussed and seen demonstrated on Sunday.
grace is free but our growth requires
So while the class gatherings are important and the
fellowship and discussion is great, I would say the journal is the most
critical part. Each week, there are six
exercises related to the activity being studied.These provide opportunities to practice what we talked about on Sunday
during the week. Of course, the exercises are optional, but it’s been said that,
“we get out of something what we put in”.
I can’t say I do them all, but I’ll
share a few of my experiences in the next few posts.