Pray for the many youth and adults traveling to Puerto Rico in July on their Youth Works Mission Trip. May the Spirit of God dwell within them richly!
The other night we took the kids to the Madison Mallards Baseball game. They were playing the Wisconsin Rapids Rattlers – the second of a three game series. We were the guests of Dunham Sports, thus Ben and Joey were each were able to invite a friend. The evening would include hotdogs, brats, burgers and soda in the Dunham Sport’s tent. Believe me, I’m aware of how much that same meal would have cost me at Miller Park!
Anyway, on the way into the ball park, a young woman, an employee of the Madison Mallards, asked three of the boys if they would be interested in running in the fruit race at the bottom of the second inning. In the fruit race, three young children dress up as healthy snacks – an apple, an orange and a strawberry and race around the bases. So there I was in the stands watching my little Joey race toward first base dressed as a giant strawberry along with his friends Sean and Kyle Fahey. Melissa and Ben were down on the field urging them on and Rachel and I were up in the stands with thousands, literally thousands of screaming people. Even as I watched them run I thought: Why are all these people cheering? Certainly no one really cares who wins this race? Certainly they’re not cheering for a particular favorite fruit? There was such joy in the cheering, such effusive energy, and such pure abandonment. Why all the cheering? And as the race ended and the cheers died down, I looked around the ballpark and took in the scene.
It was a spectacular June evening and the stands were full. The smells of summer abounded – the grills were fired up, the beer and soda were flowing freely, the children were eating cotton candy and licorice ropes and popcorn; the home team was ahead, the flags were flying in a gentle summer breeze and the Duck Blind was rowdy as usual; there would be fireworks following the game, tee shirts were being tossed into the stands, and free custard was being given away. It was summer at its best! I smiled and thought to myself: They weren’t cheering for fruit…they weren’t cheering for a race…they were cheering for life! People were watching three young boys run around a baseball diamond dressed as fruit and cheering for life, the beauty of life, the gift of life!
It was a wonderful evening, one that I will remember long. The Jewish people have a phrase for this experience – they say le-chaim – to life. I think that’s what we were feeling at the Mallard’s game last weekend. For a few hours on a beautiful Saturday evening we were reminded that in a world of flooding and destructive tornados we still say le-chaim – to life! In a world where we are weary of fighting each other, tired of all the political dissension, and tired of the division we still say le-chaim – to life! In our personal lives that are filled with grief and stress, and health problems, and family issues we still cheer le-chaim – to life!
This moment at a ballpark was I think a gospel moment. Jesus constantly urged his followers to drink deeply of those moments that gave them life – that allowed them to affirm life – that helped them to cheer le-chaim – to life! Jesus is often portrayed in the scriptures as lingering over a meal. It is recorded that he would steal away by himself to rest and be refreshed. Jesus allowed himself to be cared for by others. He would accept invitations to dinner, and have his feet anointed, and was the focus of attention at gatherings. He is pictured as a man who could enjoy the moment, and dwell in the beauty of life. Jesus was a man who had no problem cheering le-chaim – to life!
So I suppose this July message is really more of a prayer for all of you. I pray that you will find those moments this summer to be refreshed and refilled. I pray that you will dwell leisurely in those times of family and friends. I pray that you will take time to feel the warmth of sunshine, or a cool breeze, or the sweet smell of flowers. This summer I pray that in the midst of a weary world you might find those moments of joy that you will remember long. And when you find them cheer for the beauty of life itself. Cheer for all you are worth: le-chaim – to life!