Last week I sat in the heat with an occasional breeze blowing toward my welcoming back. The heat, which bordered upon unbearable, embraced all those seated in the metal stands watching a baseball game. It was there that I bit into a near perfect hotdog and watched my great-nephew play baseball. As I ate, my mind shifted from the heat to the taste of what I held in my hand and was only interrupted by the action of the game and a cold Coke. It was one of those moments that a person can let go of the complicated and enjoy the simple – a small miracle in the middle of dust, heat and the daily news.
Today I remembered my family and that five-dollar meal at the baseball field as I was mowing my yard. Thinking of that hotdog meeting my taste buds and being under the influence of a Phillip Yancey book I had read that morning titled, Rumors of Another World, I began to see all the God sized finger prints that can be found in a ball field snack and a game of baseball.
Taste buds have always amazed me. My mouth can take in texture and taste and make a decision as to whether to swallow or spit into a napkin. The tiny buds help me decide to reject or accept what I have placed into my mouth. However, when I think about the ability to taste I can’t help but ask, “Who are we that God would allow us to taste?” The same thing happens in another area when I think about the fall foliage of Tennessee. I grew up in a place that surrounded us with color during the fall, yet now I live in a place that has its own graces of color with white sand and blue water. I miss the fall colors while enjoying the others. Facebook images in October make me homesick and sometimes I park beside a small fall colored tree in Piggly Wigley’s parking lot to help the yearnings for home subside. I then ask, “Who is God that He would give me the ability to savor color?” I can give no other answer except the one that Yancey quotes from St. Augustine, “The world is a smiling place,” because God is the “giver of gifts.” God was not forced to design taste buds or color. We could have been designed like earthworms who are comfortable with moist soil and who do their jobs daily noticing only various degrees of darkness and light. God places earthworms in spots that need their castings and tunnel making ability to help the soil produce plants that in turn lavish us with colorful flowers and grasses. They can feel us walk, yet they notice not the colors of the flowers they helped to grow. God’s loving connection through out the earth floods us with what we need, desire and enjoy. In awe I accept His gifts of taste and color and wonder at His desire for the world to offer me some of its pleasures.
Leave the taste of hotdogs behind and move on to the game. In this particular baseball game, a blonde headed pitcher named Charlie hurled a small solid ball at a speed that made me glad there was a fence in front of my face. A single pitch is a miracle in and of itself. Bone, muscle, and tendon meet the fingers in such a way that only a sports expert can explain. Pure muscle memory and the flight of the ball meet the rules of the game as an umpire decides with his eyes whether or not it is a strike or ball. Each pitch was made up of biological laws that played out in front of me. The miracle of cells that form muscles and muscles that form shoulders and bones that support aggressive movement and neurons that fire are all deep lessons in and of themselves. If we travel past the pages of thick science books and look for the wisdom behind the world of the cell and all that cells can build, we can find the whisper of a Master Creator that knew what it would take to throw a ball across the plate on a hot day in June.
God’s finger prints do not stop there on the mound. The Law of Physics that states that matter cannot occupy the same place at the same time is what every batter knows to be true. Without this law the ball would never fly in the opposite direction of the pitch. The bat meets the ball and forces are unleashed that can send it into all kinds of flight patterns that a rocket scientist can understand. The ball’s flight enters a trajectory of patterns repeated in the universe and these ancient patterns are hastily and unknowingly interpreted by another player standing in the outfield who desires to catch the ball. As the outfielder positions his body to intercept the flying ball, the spinning earth is following its own orbit at speeds that the outfielder’s body is designed to ignore as the pushes and pulls of the universe occur without his notice. In the stands the spectators watch the event not even considering that if one could increase the spin of the earth or slow it down it would affect the spin of the baseball on earth and the outfielder would miss the ball as it would land somewhere outside of the field. The Master of mathematics once again displays how He holds matter together and allows it to consistently dance before us in the dust. It is all a grand connection that would score high in Jennifer Lopez’s World of Dance if we could just sit back and watch it all at once in the theater of the universe.
Think now about the world of sound where invisible waves carry the crack of a well hit ball into the waiting miniature bones of the ear. Any baseball player knows the sound. It is the certain sound that makes spectators rise to their feet before the batter has even turned to run towards first. The sound is sweet and is a musical prelude to the home run or at least a double. The sound of the game rides the invisible air that fills the ear and the lungs at the same time. The rise and fall of the chest is carried by the runner as air fills his expanded lungs and dumps its benefits into the blood stream so that energy can produce the movement toward home. This breath is the wind that propels his body. Only a Master engineer can take gases and fluid and use a heart to translate it into life which in turn produces a new score on the scoreboard.
As people watch the run toward home many of the spectators do not notice what I notice. I see a young, emerging man cross the plate with all his being in tow. The tens of thousands of points of DNA he holds in each cell matches some of mine. His place in my life makes him different from all the other boys I see on the field. My knowledge of his humor, the tilt of his head and his winsome attitude endears him to me. I know his past and where he fits into the realm of what I call family. If I think about him I see flashes of him and his brother dressed in their Halloween finery as pumpkins, Elvis, and a race car driver. I see small boys playing in the sand, athletes posing with medals, and family portraits.
On the day of the game his smile, joy, anger, or pain from the game pulls me into various emotions as I try to guess how he is responding to the highs and lows of the game as a young teenage boy. Sometimes I think that if I could crack the code of the emotions of a freshman school boy or a Senior in high school then I could surely understand the laws of the universe. Emotions are more elusive than the air we breathe. Emotions can throw us into the dust or send us to the roof tops. They can control us or teach us. They allow us to feel our way through the game as if riding a roller coaster. They can help us feel pleasure or defeat. They soar and then soon settle into the past like pictures in a scrap-book. Without this gift of emotion who would want to play the game or even watch? It is the fun of the contest that God has placed within us that beckons us to go for the win day after day even after defeat. Without emotion the smell of sweaty feet on the ride home or the sight of the scoreboard would be meaningless. Emotions, as unkind or as kind as they are, once again lifts our chins toward a God who would give us such an ability to chase our passions and to feel deeply.
On the day of the game I did not sit in the stands next to my precious niece and think about all of this. It was a day of spending time with people I love and enjoying two games of baseball while holding a hotdog in my hand…a day of simple pleasure for the most part. It is when I stop and think deeply about the simple that I find God hidden in every crack and exposed upon every surface of life. The simple things of earth open the door to the grand and holy. Nature is His magnifying glass if we dare to peer through the lens to watch it magnify Him. How sad it is that the world looks intently and can only see its own reflection.
I once thought that God was only about heaven…a Savior only for the hereafter. I did not see Him in the day-to-day world that was often mundane. Once I truly met Him I grew to understand that He is larger than eternity and that eternity surrounds the ordinariness of today. He is the past, my seconds and The Forever. Since He binds the world to Him, my taste buds meeting a hotdog can open up thoughts that I can chew on as I mow the yard. Each thought of what it takes to play the game of baseball can lift my heart high and expose me to a small piece of His infinite grandeur. No wonder Paul in Ephesians 1 prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” It is the “eyes” of the heart that can unfold before us the truth of another world that absorbs this one. God uses the weak things of earth to bear a testimony before our eyes…even hotdogs and ballgames.