Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Play Ball!

My oldest son began playing t-ball two years ago. I remember that first season of knowing that he had a real knack for the sport but getting SO frustrated that all he seemed to do was gather dirt in his glove and then gloriously, and completely unaware that there was a game going on around him, throw it up in the air. Thank goodness he has an amazing coach who also "coached" us as parents that when the kids were on the field, that only he and those who were base coaches would do the correction and instruction. We were allowed only to toss out positive words of encouragement. Wow was that difficult! I so wanted to scream, "Pay attention to the ball!" or "Stop kicking the dirt!" I admit, the occasional, "Baseball Ready!" escaped my lips. I knew my son would know my voice and snap to it if I said something and what truly positive thing can you say to a 5 year old kicking and throwing the dust of the earth into the faces of his teammates?

Then there was the issue of the coveted "game ball." At the end of each game, the coach would present one player with the ball used during the game (or a very dirty used one if that particular ball was not able to be located in the moment) with the coach's signature and a written comment about how they had played the game. You could see the eager anticipation of the kids as they gathered in a circle and peered hopefully at the coach's face. The ball signified that you had what it took. You were good at this. You had something to offer the team. My son was the last player to receive the game ball that first season. It was sort of a "mercy game ball" if you will - the concept that every child is a winner. But although we could see that, our son was thrilled! He had what it took! The next season, he came alive and although there were still irresistible moments of dirt kicking and throwing, he got the game ball mid season. It began to dawn on him that the earlier in the season you get the ball, the better you are doing. The following season, he received TWO game balls which was quite a feat being that there were more players than games.

So this year as he moved up to "real" baseball - machine pitch baseball; my husband and I have been encouraging him. It is much more difficult to hit a moving ball than one that is sitting right in front of you. They actually make you sit down if you strike out and what a bummer that is! But he has tasted success and he is determined to be a baseball player. The players have also been progressively learning how to encourage one another. What began as, "Let's go Ironbirds, let's go" (over and over and OVER again...)has gradually progressed into, "Hey Kevin, great play!" and "Wow Max! Awesome hit!" It is awesome to hear how excited they get over each others successes!

Tonight, our son got the game ball! Not at the end of the season, but still toward the beginning of the season and he knows what that means! He really does have what it takes. He is able to be good at this and he does have something to offer his teammates. He has also learned how to give encouragement to his teammates and to be truly excited for them when they have earned the game ball. We can learn so much from children!

Why is it that we think positive things about others but rarely go out of our way to tell them? When we see others who possess talent why do we sometimes resent that they do instead of being excited with them? Especially when they are on OUR TEAM? We had another gifted speaker at MOPS this past Friday and she talked a bit about this concept of how we compete with one another and try to be self sufficient instead of encouraging and supporting one another and drawing from the body of Christ working together. God didn't intend for us to live life on our own. He created and gifted each of us uniquely and perfectly to allow the body to work as a whole. It might be time for you to speak life into the sister or brother who represents the hands or feet of your body. Maybe the eyes are a little dry or irritated and could use some cool refreshment. How about the person who represents the pinky toe and offers balance unable to be achieved without what they contribute? Let's agree together to speak the positive words that come to mind the next time something pops into our heads. We need to encourage one another to live fully the purposes that God is calling them to. Let's not just impersonally chant, "Let's go...," But rather encourage each other in specific ways.
Hebrews 10:24 (The Message)
22-25So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

Many blessings!


Jimmy Parker said...

Great message Shanda. Thanks for doing your part in the body to lift and encourage the rest of us!

Daveda said...

You are so right! I think that much of the time this comes from insecurity inside of us. If we were truly confident in who called called us to be we would not be so intimidated by the blessings of others. Also, not knowing how much God loves us. As if someone else's giftings somehow take away from us. Thank goodness God has more than enough to go around!

Kathryn said...

I love this, Shanda.

And, I laughed as I remembered Katy, at age 6, when she first started playing soccer. Most of the team wandered around the field picking wildflowers instead of focusing on the ball!

Positive reinforcement rather than criticism is so important (and, in fact, I had an opportunity to do some of that this week in an effort to spur her on and encourage her to do her best job on her homework!).

Unity and encouragement in the Body of Christ is so imperative, and, in fact, our pastor's message this past Sunday focused on just that.

Thanks for reinforcing this through your writing!

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)