Taking losses home

The Pirates are in a slump. Last night Manager Clint Hurdle was asked if he “took the losses home with him.” Hurdle said no, or at least, not nearly as much as he used to. He said he had a wife and kids at home who needed him to be present for them. When he got to the ballpark in the morning, it was “game on,” but he always remembered his family at home.

Clint Hurdle is a committed Christian who credits faith with not only turning his life around, but saving it from alcoholism. Like many of us, Hurdle works in a profession that can be all consuming. If you don’t drive yourself to distraction (or worse), others will. The commentators on the sports talk show this morning were questioning Hurdle’s commitment to winning.

But the Christian faith has a lot to teach us about this. Jesus was a guest in the home of his friends Martha and Mary. Mary was doing what disciples do; she sat at Jesus’ feet to learn. This irritated Martha, who demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help in the kitchen.

Now, disciples do need to sit at Jesus feet. And it is important to show hospitality to a guest. Jesus talked about serving others all the time. One of the last things he did was host his own disciples for a meal.

Martha’s problem was not in the overwork, but in expecting Jesus to ratify her agenda for how her life was supposed to go. We can get so distracted by what we’re doing, we think the busyness is the point. Martha didn’t know it, but Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die. She would never get to be with the Lord in such a personal way again.

So how do we know what to do in the moment?

There’s no rule to tell you how to handle every situation, but the more you assume the posture of a disciple, at the feet of the master, the more likely you are to get it right.

Come and see

I’ve been at our church’s camp this week, and some of the counselors have been sharing the ways they’ve been blessed by campers, and how they have been a blessing in return.

One counselor told me how he had his kids each make a paper heart that said, “I love you,” and then give them to someone else. One young camper refused to take part. He’d made a heart, but had written the words “I don’t love” on it. The counselor knew the back story behind the hurt, and was determined to show the child the love of Jesus Christ. But how?

Just then, a girl came up and gave her paper heart to the boy. He held it up proudly. He kept it with him the rest of the week; put it under his pillow when he slept. It turned out to be the just the opening the counselor was praying for.

The Gospel of John says that Jesus recruited his disciples in a seemingly random, serendipitous way. “Come and see,” he told some men who happened to be walking behind him.

I wonder why we make things in the church so hard. We worry what we’ll say to non-Christians, when what is most needed is a heart for love. We think in terms of programs, when paper hearts will do. Could church be as simple as, say, hanging out with a hurting child?

Come and see.

Masters of our fate

One of my first pastoral calls as a new minister was on an older gentleman who was in recovery after major surgery. Like many of the Greatest Generation, he ‘had never been sick a day in my life.” He volunteered that he had always lived by the poem Invictus, with its famous words, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

This puzzled me, because in that moment, he was hooked up to all kinds of machines, some pumping liquids into him, and some pumping them out. For the hour or so I was with him, he wasn’t even master of his bed pan.

Reciting Invictus is a way for us to maintain the illusion that we really are the master of our fate. Living in a country with so much freedom and wealth contributes to the illusion for many. If you go through life healthy, from one success to the next, there may be nothing to challenge the illusion.

But for most, there eventually comes a time when you’re flat on your back. The loss of control can seem worse than the crisis itself.

But there’s good news.

The Apostle Paul said that God was pleased to have “all his fullness dwell in Jesus Christ,” so that “in everything, he might have the supremacy.”

When we finally admit that we’re not masters of our fate, that’s when Jesus Christ can step in and do some of his best work.

God never meant for us to be the captain of our soul. That’s why he sent us his Son. 

Enough police?

Harvard Business School professor Clay Christenson tells of having a conversation with a Marxist economist from China as the man was finishing his time as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard. Christenson asked him what had surprised him about his time studying in the US. Without hesitation, the man said, “I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy. The reason why democracy works is not because the government was designed to oversee what everyone does. Rather, democracy works because most of the people, most of the time, voluntarily choose to obey the law.”

The US was the first nation in history formed on the idea that people could govern themselves. On Independence Day, it’s good to remember how radical an idea that is. What made the founders think that self-government might work? 


The founders understood that the Christian faith had created a shared sense of personal and public responsibility among the people of the colonies. They understood they could never pass enough laws to get people to act responsibly. Rather, people had to act on their own out of a shared sense of the greater good.

In his short book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, Eric Metaxas summarizes the career of preacher George Whitefield, the most important founding father you’ve never heard of. The short, cross-eyed Whitefield was the first truly international celebrity. His commanding sermons made the wealthy and the worker weep. When Whitefield died in 1750, an incredible 80 percent of the people in the colonies had heard him in person. Like no one before, Whitefield proclaimed the Gospel directly to the people, showing how all people, rich and poor alike, were sinners, but sinners beloved by God.

Whitefield had created the shared understanding of public virtue that made democracy possible.

So how does a democracy function without this shared understanding?

As Christenson concludes, “If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”