Archive for April, 2011

“WASHER PITCHING”

April 28, 2011

When I was young, we pitched washers at school.  We didn’t have all the fancy boxes with holes or pieces of PVC pipe placed in holes in the ground.  Much of the ground on the school campus was red clay.  The only thing we needed were the washers.  We would use the washers to dig  “washer size” holes in the clay.  This distance between the holes were not measured as they are today.  We would dig one hole and then make a normal throw (in our mind) to determine the place for the other hole.

There was a little “washer pitching” while I was in the army, but I didn’t play the game very much until I moved to Jasper.  We would have cookouts and pitch washers, along with dominoes, hearts, etc.  The chairman of the “Go Texas” committee convinced me and a friend to enter the washer pitching competition at the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo when in was held at the Astro Dome.  The competition was fierce.  Some of the teams had uniforms or vests decorated with championships they had won.  We looked out-of-place with jeans, western shirt, cowboy boots, and Stetson hats, but we did reach the championship round where we lost by one point.  One of the teams we pitched against had these vests advertising all of their championships.  I asked my opponent if the highly decorated vest helped him pitch.  He didn’t take the comment too well, but it accomplished my goal.  We slaughtered his team.  Not bragging….facts are facts.  Anyway, we had a great time and the competition was great.

When Pam and I were in Omaha at the College World Series a couple of years ago, we saw quite a few fancy portable washer pitching boxes, etc.  There is a lot of tailgating at the world series.  In fact, I believe there are many people who attend the CWS who never see a game.  Some may not even be a fan of baseball. 

At the Longhorn Baseball games in Austin, there are many tailgating groups playing all sorts of games.  Washer pitching is very popular and we also see some games that I’ve never seen before.  It is amazing what the imagination can create at the tailgating events.

Competition can be a great thing.  It can relieve tensions and serve as distractions from the troubles in the world.  The big thing to remember is that we are just playing a game with friends and losing is not a “deal breaker.”

When it comes to serious competition there are many problems such as over training, lust for worldly success, money and medals. There is pride if you win and distraction from doing God’s will. When you lose there is anger, disappointment, envy, regret and resentment. The disappointment and low self-esteem incurred by people losing is causing suicides, drugs, family breakdown, crime, injuries, anger with God, and people not being thankful to God. These things are not from God.

Non-serious competition is probably good when it is for exercise, personal motivation and used as a means to lead people to God.

God’s kingdom is about loving, sharing, contentment, praise, joy and giving, which are the opposite of competition.

“PLaN ahEAd”

April 19, 2011

 

“PLAN AHEAD” looks much better than “PLaN ahEAd” doesn’t it.  When I plan ahead, I have determined a way to reach my goal.

In  case you don ‘t know, I love Longhorn Baseball.  Each Christmas Pam and I make a gift of season tickets to each other for the coming baseball season.  You might say I have a plan to reach my goal.  You might also believe that my goal is to go to Austin each weekend the Longhorns are in town.  If that is what you believe, it is because I have told you my plan without disclosing my goal.  In order to have a plan it is necessary to first decide on the goal. 

Now for the surprise!  My plan is not to spend each weekend watching Longhorn Baseball.  My goal is to spend quality time with my lovely wife, with a bonus of watching baseball.  I make this commitment each Christmas when it is time to renew our season tickets.  It is also time to make my contribution to the Longhorn Foundation for the benefit of student-athletes.  The contribution is the plan and the goal is to benefit students…the bonus I receive is parking next to the stadium where we visit with our baseball friends before the game.

We have a weekly sales meeting at my office.  Each person brings a positive statement to the group at the beginning of the meeting.  During the meeting each person will decide on “three imperatives” for the coming week.  Three is the least number of must-do actions to do without fail.  This forces each of us develop a plan to accomplish these goals. 

If I don’t know where I am going (goal), it is impossible to decide how to get there (plan).  A plan doesn’t always work out exactly the way we intended.  We many times have bumps in the road that cause us to make adjustments in the plan, but  the goal remains the same.  If Longhorn Baseball didn’t exist, I would still have the goal of spending quality time with Pam.

When I left the ballpark last Sunday, my goal was to come home.  I had a planned route which included stopping for a meal.  When I discovered I had left Pam’s hang-up clothes at the hotel, this didn’t change my goal…my plan just had to be adjusted to return to the hotel and take a different route to achieve my goal. 

God’s word teaches us about planning ahead:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.  Proverbs 16:1-3

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.  —Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  —Proverbs 19:21

“THE PAINS OF WITHDRAWAL”

April 18, 2011

From “Habits” posted February 1, 2011:

Habits are something we all have, many of them are actions that we take for granted and do without thinking about.  Sometimes, habits can be very helpful.  For example, we were not born being able to walk.  We had to  learn.  We fell and practiced until it became a habit.  So it is a great thing that we don’t have to learn to walk each morning when we wake up to start the day.

I have many habits.  Some I will admit to and  some I won’t.  I carry a comb and handkerchief every day and have for many years.

Don’t laugh at the condition of my comb.  I haven’t used a comb in many years so it doesn’t matter what the teeth look like.  I just must have the comb in my left back pocket in order to start my day.  The left rear pocket for men is usually where they carry their wallet…that is why there is a button on the pocket.  A wallet is reasonably safe in this pocket, but so is my ugly unused comb.

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Well, maybe my ugly comb is not  reasonably safe in the pocket designed for my wallet that I don’t carry.  I lost my comb Sunday and don’t ask me where I lost it.  If I knew, I would immediately go to that place and find it.  I discovered my comb was missing when I returned to the parking lot after the baseball game between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  I wasn’t really upset, but I didn’t tell Pam about my loss until we stopped in College Station at the Chicken Oil Company for a burger and Texas toothpicks.

When I look out the back window to back out of my parking space, I noticed Pam’s side of the clothes rack seemed rather empty.  At that moment, I knew I had not checked the closet when leaving the hotel.  Speaking of habits, I follow the same routine as I unload the hotel room and load the Escalade.  I won’t go into the check-out routine, but it is one of those habits that are learned and developed.  Again, I am of the opinion that habits are both good and bad.  We called the hotel and they had already tried to call.  We went back to the hotel and retrieved Pam’s clothes (I didn’t forget mine), and were on the way home with very little delay.

So, the ugly comb pictured above no longer exists…at least in my possession.  I now have an empty left back pocket and I am going through “withdrawal pains” and checking my pocket every few minutes.  I have check this pocket for years because the comb needed to be straightened to the proper position all during the day.  I know I will live through this loss.  In fact, the withdrawal pains are already subsiding.  I am sure I can make it through this ordeal.

The Bible does not specifically speak of “habits’ as such.  However, much is said about the meaning of the word:  “a thing done often, and hence, usually done easily, an act that is acquired and has become automatic.  We all have habits, whether good or bad.  However, for the Christian, the whole of their lives is one of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. 

Romans 12:2:  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

This implies exchanging old, (bad) habits for new (good) ones, in order to please the Lord.

 

“REVISIT – ‘THREE THINGS'”

April 14, 2011

I began this blog over one year ago with a post entitle “A Valentine Gift for Pam.”  My second post was “Three Things To Do Each Day”  on February 12, 2010.  I have enjoyed posting the past 14 months and 128 posts and 3,454 hits later, I am surprised at the results.  The reason for this post has always been to write about something that is possibly interesting to others and ending with a short lesson or words of encouragement.

One of my favorite blogs is “Three Things To Do Each Day” and the following was taken from this posting:

What are the three things I try to do each day?  Many days we get so busy getting ready for the day we forget three things that would have an impact on the rest of our day.  When we start our early morning routines we sometimes leave out the most important thing……emotions.  Believe me, I understand being “brain-dead” during this early morning rush.  I guess you might say its the most boring part of our day. 

TRY THIS….YOU’LL LIKE IT!

1.  Cry

2.  Meditate

3.  Laugh

You might say:  “JB, have you lost your mind?”  Hopefully I haven’t.  I’ve been this way for a long, long time.

CRY:  Why would anyone want to cry.  What happens when you cry?  It relieves tension and often gives you a cleansing sensation (like have clear sinus).  So, what do you have to cry about?  Maybe nothing personally.  It not, great!  I don’t mean feel sad.  I mean really, really cry.  Lyndsey has a word for this.  She calls it WOMP! (sic)  What about crying for this nation’s moral decay and the fact that it seems to get worse each day?  Nehemiah WEPT about the walls of Jerusalem had fallen and the gates had been burned.  Israel was in danger from the surrounding Kings.  But, it was not about the walls.  He wept because of the sins of Israel.  He fell on his face, wept, prayed, and confessed the sins of his people.  Nehemiah knew source of protection for Jerusalem was.  He called on our Protector.   What about the people of Haiti during their time of crisis?  If I really, really need to cry, I picture in my mind the pain and suffering of Christ on the cross and the brutality that he suffered for me.  If I were the only one in the world, He would have suffered just for me.  When we really cry, it prepares us for the next thing for the day:

MEDITATE:  After a cleansing cry, we are ready to meditate.  It really has a way of  humbling us.  You might have your own way, but each morning I read the Bible and dig deeply into the Word to receive wisdom for today’s trials.  Now we are really getting ready to face the day so we can:

LAUGH:  When I say laugh, I don’t mean turn up the corners of your mouth 1/4 of an inch.  That is really not even a smile.  Sometimes I laugh really hard when my day starts off in the pits and I look back and see how God has already blessed me this morning.  Now isn’t that funny?  It’s funny to me because I feel so dumb not to recognize God’s grace in my life. 

WARNING!!!  Don’t try to do all three of these at the same time.  You and/or others may think you’ve lost it.  It begins with crying, which is the lead-in for the other two.

After you’ve read this you might want to say:  “JB, how is that working for you?”  IT WORKS FOR ME!  After you’ve tried it, ask yourself:  “How is that working for me?”

If you don’t tell me, I’ll never know.  So I would be happy for your response after you started your day with these three things.

Today’s Update: 

As I look at conditions around this nation and the world today, compared to a year ago, conditions have not improved.  In fact, there are more problems than ever.  It is a good time to cry for this nation and turn to the One who has the answers.  We cry out to God, yet there seems to be a silence.  There is a famine for the sound of His voice in answering our prayers.  Without faith in God, there is no hope.  Even with all of these troubles to cry about, I still meditate and try hard to find something to laugh about.  There is always something that will bring laughter to our souls.  These thoughts of famine come from the study of Amos 8:11-13:

  “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord, They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, But shall not find it.

Is the Lord being silent to our prayers to bring this nation back to Him?  I wonder!

“SAVE (BASEBALL)”

April 13, 2011

 

Trevor Hoffman, former closer for the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers, is the all-time saves leader.

In baseball statistics, the term save is used to indicate the successful maintenance of a lead by a relief pitcher, usually the closer, until the end of the game. A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in Rule 10.19 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. That rule states the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:

  1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
  2. He is not the winning pitcher;
  3. He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
  4. He satisfies one of the following conditions:
    1. He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
    2. He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
    3. He pitches for at least three innings

If the pitcher surrenders the lead at any point, he cannot get a save, but he may be credited as the winning pitcher if his team comes back to win. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

A blown save (abbreviated BS or B) is charged to a pitcher who enters a game in a situation which permits him to earn a save (this does not include entering the game before there is one out in the 7th inning, although pitchers that enter the game before there is an out in the 7th inning and while their team has the lead are in a situation where they could earn a save by pitching the last 3 full innings of the game) (a save situation or save opportunity), but who instead allows the tying run to score. Note that if the tying run was scored by a runner who was already on base when the new pitcher entered the game, that new pitcher will be charged with a blown save even though the run will not be charged to the new pitcher, but rather to the pitcher who allowed that runner to reach base. On the other hand, a tough save occurs when a pitcher enters a save situation with the potential tying run already on base, but still earns the save. Since this is guaranteed to be a high pressure situation, earning tough saves is the mark of the great closer.  

A notable occurrence of the “three innings pitched” save scenario is the save earned by Wes Littleton in the Texas Rangers’ 30–3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on August 22, 2007. Littleton entered the game at the beginning of the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Rangers had a 14–3 lead, and pitched the final three innings. The Rangers subsequently scored an additional 16 runs, resulting in the final 27 run margin. However, despite the final score of the game, Littleton was credited with the save as he met all four criteria: 1) he was the finishing pitcher in the game that the Rangers won, 2) he was not the winning pitcher (the Rangers were leading when he entered the game), 3) he was credited with at least 1/3rd of an inning pitched, and 4) he pitched at least three innings (the 7th, 8th, and 9th).

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I often get a little confused about how a pitcher earns a “save” in baseball.  In all the years of watching baseball, especially Longhorn Baseball, I had never read the rule on saves.  So, I decided to read the rules and understand it once and always (unless my memory fails).

I get real excited when the closer (pitcher) comes into a close game.  It takes a certain type of pitcher to take on the roll of closer.  In the last few years at The University of Texas, there have been a couple of closers that have really been impressive:  Huston Street and Chance Ruffin.  The Longhorns have a freshman pitcher this year that has the potential to be a great closer.  There is something special about the closer entering the game.  His job is different from a starter or middle inning relief pitcher.  Most of them seem to be “bulletproof,” with such concentration on the business at hand.  They only have 1 to 3 innings to pitch, so they are able to give their all to the situation at hand.

A “save” in baseball is really exciting to me.  As I pondered this, I can only imagine what a “save” means to God.  There is no comparison in a “save” for a pitcher in baseball and a soul “saved” for God.  Just use you imagination for a moment.  Imagine God looking down from Heaven and seeing the process of a soul being “saved” through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Now that must be an excitement that is beyond our understanding.  Salvation is not just available during the last few “innings” of the game.  It is available in the early innings.  The game I speak of is the game of life leading to eternal life.

When God is concerned, there is no BS (blown save).  When He comes into the game, He can be depended on get the “save” and make certain of the win.

“HINDSIGHT”

April 7, 2011

Model “A” Ford

I had an interesting conversation last night with my brother David.  This is not unusual because all of our conversations are interesting.  The conversation somehow turned to “hindsight.”  I am always looking for a subject for posting on this blog.  We talked about how our hindsight is much better than our foresight.  So, what is hindsight all about?  It is recognition of the realities, possibilities, or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc., after its occurrence or the ability to understand, after something has happened, what should have been done or what caused the event.  So, bearing that in mind, I thought of a couple of stories from the past.

My brother and I would visit my mother’s parents during the summers of our younger years.  We called mother’s dad “Pa.”  The Model A Ford above is not a picture of Pa’s auto and he didn’t drive automobiles.  He tried once, but that’s another story.  That story involved him buying a new Ford and on the test drive, drove into the barn and pulled back on the steering wheel and hollered “whoa!”  He had always driven a wagon pulled by a couple of mules and they responded to a pull on the reins and the command whoa.  This time, the Ford didn’t whoa and he crashed through the gate at the end of the barn.  He never drove that Ford again.

Back to my story about hindsight.  The Ford was used for carrying vegetables from the farm to either the house or to the farmers’ market.  The Model A needed some alterations to be used as a truck.  The entire back had been cut out and a board flooring had been added.  Use your imagination a little bit and you will be able to see a pickup with a roof over the bed.  Well, the kids were allowed to ride in back  and hang their feet over the end of the bed.  This wouldn’t work today, but our maximum speed was probable 10 to 15 MPH.  Pa never drove, so one of my uncles was assigned this duty.  I can remember sitting on the back and dragging my big toe through the sand on the dusty road.  It was mostly sand, but there would be an occasional rock and as luck would have it, the rock would find my toe.  At the speed we were traveling it never was a major injury…just a little stinging and throbbing.  This is an example of the realities of hindsight.  We were riding and looking out the back at where we had been rather than looking forward to where we were going.  We could see that there had been a rock in the road ahead of us, but we were not prepared by foresight.  And it was a little late to take action to avoid what had already happened.

Another story I thought about was not from my childhood, but from Pam’s early years.  Her father’s parents lived in a small town in the mountains in Virginia.  They would take summer vacations in Virginia.  There were six kids in the family and they traveled in a station wagon.  This was before Interstate Highways and the trip was a real ordeal.  It took three hard days of driving on narrow highways and part of the trip was through the mountains.  One of Pam’s brothers always caught ‘horny toads” to take on the trip for the Virginia cousins.  He always rode on the last seat in the back of the station wagon with his shoebox of horny toads.  The back seat faced the rear, so the only part of the trip he was able to see was where they had already been.  So, he experienced three days of hindsight.  I am unable to tell you what went through his mind during this backward trip, but knowing him, I can imagine.  He was a sort of mischievous kid and Pam told me this morning that he usually managed to let his shoebox lid come off and his horny toads spread through the station wagon.  There were four girls and two boys, along with mom and dad, and I can only imagine the reaction of the girls.  He probably had some foresight on their reaction because he had seen it on previous trips.

I am not trying to say that hindsight is not important.  It is very important if we see the reality of our prior actions or decisions and learn from it.  We can use hindsight to make better decisions and avoid bloody big toes and/or punishment for our horny toads “accidentally” getting loose in the station wagon. 

In the Bible, God used prophets to speak to the people about what is coming in the future and pointing out the effect of their decisions in the past.  The lesson for Israel was to use their hindsight in making current decisions that would impact their lives in present and future times.  Foresight may seem hard at first, but it is a God-given ability that is based on faith.  We can’t change our yesterdays or even our tomorrows.  Only God controls our todays and tomorrows and we are able to have a peace that is beyond our imagination by placing everything in His Hands by faith.  Each day of our lives is a lesson to be learned and used for God’s blessing in our tomorrows.  He truly “Has the Whole World in His Hands.”  The end result of the realities of hindsight and the faith in foresight is to bring glory to God.

 

“SOME PEOPLE HAVE IT”

April 5, 2011

From the Wisdom Book:

Man’s mind,

once stretched by a new idea,

never regains its original

dimension.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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You see things

that are and say, “Why?”

But I dream things that never were

and say, “Why not?”

——George Bernard Shaw

Infinity Scarf

Cupcake

Some people have it and some people don’t…imagination and creative ability.  I happen to be in the “have-not” group.  On our last trip to Austin and Longhorn baseball, Lyndsey sent the pictures above to Pam on her i-phone.  I had to check with Google to find out what an infinity scarf was.  It you don’t know, check it out yourself.  Pam sent the pics to my e-mail and I got permission to post them here.

When I was growing up in the country, I knitted a scarf one winter.  It took me all winter to finish it, so spring had sprung and gone.  Summer had arrived and it was no time for any kind of scarf.  So, I never wore the scarf.  It wasn’t my imagination or creativity that caused me to take on this project…it was winter boredom.  The crazy things you have to do with you hands and fingers while knitting or crocheting just didn’t fit with this country boy.  What I lack in imagination  and creative abilities, I make up for with determination.  I can do “figuring” and determination.

Pam and Lyndsey both have the ability to see mental pictures of things and bring them to reality.  Pam should be a shopping consultant for women and/or a home decorator.  She has an eye for such things.  Me, I just like it or I don’t like it.  Lyndsey has an awesome imagination that enhances her creative abilities.  These are great gifts.  One thing that makes these gifts great is the way they are used by each of them to bring pleasure to the lives of others.

Just this morning Pam visited a friend to give some advice on coordinating jewelry with a dress for a special occasion.  This is not an isolated instance.  Many of our friends appreciate her willingness to help with her taste in styles.  I am known for my taste in women…not all women, just Pam.  She and a friend just recently helped decorate a local restaurant that was remodeled after a fire.  The restaurant owner is a long-time friend.  These are just a few of her “free gifts.”

Lyndsey can actually lose herself in projects.  Most of her projects are “dreamed up” for the pleasure of others.  She has been known to work into the wee hours to have something special for someone the next day.  The infinity scarf was for herself, but the cupcake was for a friend’s birthday party the next night. 

I have often wondered….”Why didn’t God give me the gifts of imagination and creativity?”  But, when I think of it, I am glad He didn’t.  Wouldn’t it be boring if all of us had the same gifts and talents?  Why are we gifted with different talents?  It takes each of us using our God-given talents to accomplish His plan.  It is through these gifts that we glorify God in how we use them.  Now, isn’t that a lot more exciting that if everyone belonged to the “have group” or the “have-not group?” 

I have decided to be excited about who I am in Christ and enjoy the talents of others to the fullest.  I am not in competition to be like anyone else or have their imagination or creative abilities.  I pray that each of us will bring glory to God in the use of our individual abilities.