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Batter Up Field of Dreams

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?’  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!'” ~ Isaiah 6:8

“Oh, put me in, coach!  I am ready to play today.  Look at me; I can be centerfield!” ~ Centerfield by John Fogerty

“Mr. Weaver, we are ready?  Are you ready?”  Interestingly enough, that’s how a reading in a devotional I’ve been using for this year read one Tuesday morning in January.  It was totally out of the blue, and eerie and surreal.  There was no way for me to know or expect that my last name would appear in that way in this devotional.  And to call me out like that, was it a message from God?  Definitely seemed like it to me, and it sure got my heart racin’ as I’ve felt like I’ve been in waiting mode for a long time now.  Could this mean something’s just around the corner for me?  Oh, let it be so, God.  Let it be so!

Well, now 2 months later and I can’t say a whole lot has really happened.  At least not as I can tell.  My wife has gotten a full-time job and one she’s enjoying.  That’s significant!  I’ve had a part-time job as a weekend overnight hospital chaplain now since September 2014, but my family and I have still been waiting for a full-time opportunity to open up for me and I am still seeing a whole lot of nothing it seems.  A year has now come and gone since I agreed to resign from my last pastorate and often I feel left to still wonder, have I made any progress?  How much further down the road am I really?  Have my chances and situation improved all that much?  Etc, etc…

Sure I’ve completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE–Chaplain internships), which also is significant.  BUT, a person needs a total of 4 units of CPE plus 2000 hours as a chaplain after that to be considered for certification as a chaplain.  I am definitely not on pace towards completing that too soon as I sit right now as my family and I decided around the same time I read that line in my devotional that I shouldn’t sign up for another unit right now as we feel we need something to support us with more income (all of my internship hours have been unpaid, so since February of last year I’ve only gotten paid for about an average of maybe 15 hrs a week since September).  At that rate we’re really not getting anywhere fast, and we’re closing in on the one year mark of living with my wife’s parents in their house.  Seriously, how long, O’ Lord!  Not to mention, I feel still left wondering whether my vocational journey and outlook is really all that clearer at all yet (for the record, I do believe it is, but more pieces of the puzzle still need to come together).

I’ve really liked being a chaplain this past year!  It’s really seemed to suit me better, and I’ve felt good at it most of the time.  I’ve felt fulfilled by it too as it seems to pull on quite a few of my heart strings and it is an amazing job to get to do and to serve people in this way.  I have felt many times like I could say to God, “Look at me.  I can be a Chaplain.”  Still no other opportunity has come along other than what I currently have.  Plus, competition-wise, I fear I still don’t have enough CPE units or certification, and it could be years before I accomplish everything.  So, what do I/we do?  Then also, I hate the ask the questions below…

Am I waiting in vain?  Have I kept trusting and believing in vain?  Have I stayed in the game (gotten more training and moved in the direction of chaplaincy) in vain and should I get out while I still can and do something else?  Did I even follow God into ministry in vain in the first place?  A voice within me screams, ‘No!  No way!’  However, it seems I have very little to tell me otherwise.  As I said in my last blog post, I’ve pretty much struck-out in ministry.  After 2 pastorates in just four years and also 1 disappointing ministry experience during the summer after my first year in seminary, that feels like just a horrible and embarrassing at-bat experience.  Does that mean the writing’s on the wall and I should never step into the batter’s box again?  That’s seriously disappointing to think about, and I still have this fire, drive, desire within me vocationally as a pastor (and I don’t just mean congregationally either).  Don’t I still have more to give?  I am not washed up yet!  Put me in, coach, I am ready!

Opening day of baseball was just this past Monday for the 2015 season.  For me that’s always an adrenaline boost of a time.  It means spring has come, days are nicer, longer, and warmer, the grass is greener and outdoors more enticing.  Also, every year since I stopped playing baseball in college that inner-desire to strap on my cleats, run out on the field, and play hasn’t weaned one bit.  I still have dreams about it at night and my adrenaline flows.  It seems like I wake up every time just before I get the chance to actually play again.  I still think I can play, my time was so short-lived, and my potential barely tapped.  If the opportunity still existed today, my heart within is still the same–“Put me in, coach!  I am ready to play today!”

As I’ve continued to think about these things recently, the Apostle Peter has risen to the surface as may one who can relate.  He struck-out too, right?  He denied Jesus and being his follower 3 times in row on the night Jesus was arrested and led away to be tried, beaten, and later crucified.  Peter’s clearly“OUT!”, right?  He can only just return to the dugout until it’s time to go out in the field or his next at-bat comes.  That is if another at-bat is still in his future.

Peter is often referred to as being reinstated by Jesus in the Gospel of John 21:15-22.  This event occurs approximately 40 days after Easter morning as Jesus had told his disciples he would go ahead of them to Galilee and meet them there.  Jesus appears to his disciples one morning while they are fishing by the sea of Tiberias (Galilee).  They had just fished all night and caught nothing.  Jesus appears on the shore telling them to throw their net on the right side of the boat and they will catch some.  How absurd must that have sounded to them that morning?  We’ve been here all night fishing on both sides and nothing, what’s going to be different about this moment right now?  Seriously, this has all been a complete loss, right (in vain)?  Also, should you really be telling us how to fish (remember, Peter and a few other disciples were fisherman by trade before Jesus called them)?

The disciples end up showing Jesus the benefit of the doubt and suddenly they catch a crazily huge amount of fish.  That’s when they realize it’s Jesus on the shore appearing to them once again.  Peter jumps out of the boat and run towards him and they end up having breakfast with him on the beach that morning.  It’s there that Jesus and Peter have a little heart-to-heart talk that’s usually entitled in most bibles as Jesus Reinstates Peter.”

But, I’ll ask you, look at the story in John 21:15 and following.  Does Jesus ever really reinstate Peter here?  Can you tell whether Peter was actually ever not-instated given the way Jesus treats and speaks to him?  Sure, in his own way I imagine Peter was down-and-out in his own guilt, shame, and grief, and probably for most of the 40 day period between Easter morning and that particular morning.  He likely thought for sure that he had disappointed Jesus and didn’t necessarily deserve to still be his follower or leader in his church.  And really he’s correct, that’s everyone’s story.

But I don’t see one indication here that Peter was ever really dis-instated (or whatever the opposite of reinstated is), pulled out, benched, chastised, moved down in the batting order, demoted, etc…  Sure, I do think Jesus’ triple asking of Peter “Do you love me?” along with Peter’s responses, tie into Peter’s triple denial.  However, Jesus never brings this up himself.  There’s no definite indication of forgiveness being granted, or any slap on the butt and a, “Get back in there, kid!”  It doesn’t seem to me that Jesus ever treats Peter like a non-player, or even any less of a player than he was before.

So, now what?  Well, I/we keep doing what Jesus instructed Peter to do, “Feed and take care of my sheep/lambs” and “You follow me!”  No matter our life’s journey our call and place in the game as disciples of Jesus is always the same, feed and take care of my sheep/lambs.  And, no matter what seems to happen for or in the life of others and not necessarily us, “You follow me!”  Getting bent out of shape in the face of things happening in other people’s lives and not ours, like Peter did in reference to the disciple whom Jesus loved (John), will never change our circumstances.  At most it will only serve to keep us down and out and out of the game even more.  That’s not how Jesus sees us or treats us!  Jesus is the One and Only, sent from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

So then brothers and sisters, let us stand firm.  Let nothing move [us].  Always giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because [we] know that [our] work in the Lord is not in vain.” ~ I Corinthians 15:58

Maybe as well, it’s all of the above that later helped Peter pen his own exhortation in I Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

So then, whats most important for me and you no matter our season in life or certain circumstances?…  BATTER UP!”