Buckeye softball…Whitney…and BELIEVING

My favorite softball team, The Ohio State Buckeyes, opened the season in Clermont, Florida last weekend. And one of the greatest singers ever died Saturday… a tragic end full of life lessons.

I thought of one of my favorite Whitney Houston songs Sunday while following the final softball game of the weekend…

We were moving mountains long before we knew we could…There can be miracles when you believe

Though hope is frail, It’s hard to kill

Who knows what miracles you can achieve

When you believe, somehow you will

You will when you believe

Whitney Houston grew up in the church, got her start as a gospel singer alongside her mother Cissy. There was little indication Whitney attended church much in the past 25 years. But she spoke in more than one interview about her love for Jesus, and she believed she was a child of God. Religious? Probably not, according to society’s definition. A lover of Jesus? It seems so.

The tragic aspect of this lies in Whitney’s profession of a love for God, but no love for herself. What good is it to believe God loves me, if I don’t believe in myself, if I don’t grab hold of that love?

Whitney fought her demons long and hard, so the following is said with no malice toward her. It is my experience that “professing without showing” is too often the case among Christians. If I tell you I am committed to working out daily, but my pant size keeps growing, are you going to follow my workout regime? Didn’t think so.

If I tell you I believe in God, in His power and what it can do in my life, but you see no change, no evidence of belief, are you going to jump up and run to Bible study with me? Didn’t think so. My “believing” has to be something people SEE, not something I just talk about.

Which brings us back to Buckeye softball…

The writer and softball fan in me loves the grit of a northern team that plays 25 games on the road before having a home game, the integrity that is evident in playing “The Ohio State way” (as defined by Head Coach Linda Kalafatis) and the mojo that fuels the Buckeyes.

I don’t know Coach Kalafatis well. We have spoken twice, met once briefly, have mutual friends. I certainly can’t speak to her faith journey.

What I do know is that she has a gift for reaching and inspiring young women… she pulls the best from them, teaches them about being a scholar and an athlete, about hard work, playing tough, winning graciously, losing with your head up but your jaw set…and doing it all as a team.

These aren’t softball lessons. They are life lessons. They are lessons about believing in yourself, in your team/family, in the power of your commitment to a common goal. Lessons which can inspire and benefit all of us.

The 2012 Buckeyes have a mission – to go from Worst To First in the Big Ten. It is a challenge that will require all the lessons mentioned, as well as belief. Correction…BELIEF. From every player. In herself. In her teammates. In the coaching staff. In the midst of every game, every practice, every situation.

Truthfully, the first steps of this journey began in the disappointing 2011 season… steps taken through the frustration of watching teammates go down with injuries, irritation of losing close games, the heartache of two young ladies losing a parent – two beloved members of this family gone.

We were moving mountains long before we knew we could…

The foundation of a grand mission is built when you can walk through that kind of difficulty, keep your head up, and learn lessons. Whether we are 19 and playing softball, or 49 and playing life, the best lessons always come from the lowest times.

During those times in the pit and the climb out, belief has to walk, not just talk.
You know people, don’t you, who talk about faith, trust, blah blah, then fall off the edge every time something goes wrong?
Yeah, I know them too…and it makes me scrunch up my eyebrows and say, “Hmmmm? What was all the T-A-L-K about?”

There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail, It’s hard to kill

Again, I know little about the source of Coach Kalafatis’ inspiration. But I know she keeps her team very even-tempered, never too high or too low. And while the expectation is that they will be excellent each and every day, these kids understand there is more to a season than one game… and there is more to life than a softball season. LIFE lessons.

So here is the non-softball related point…there is a segment of our population that is highly critical of anyone whose beliefs don’t match theirs exactly – in both substance and expression. This attitude is close-minded and dangerous.

I love Jesus with all my heart, I live every day in that love, and I boldly say I would not be here without His grace.

Whitney Houston knew that same love…knew it in her head, but never allowed it to break the bonds in her heart. Since her death, I have heard people criticizing her: crack-head, druggie, spoiled superstar.

And while we waste time judging her, people cross our path every day who want desperately to feel that love, to BELIEVE in who they are, in their purpose, in their worth. But they hear our criticism of others and it pushes them away, keeps them from reaching out to us.

There are folks who have the wonderful gift of inspiring people to greatness, cultivating belief in a common goal, leading and pushing us through ugly valleys until the mountain is conquered, the prize won. Maybe they don’t speak the name of Jesus, or have a bumper sticker on the car. But they are affecting people in an incredibly positive way.
And some Christians would do well to imitate that.

I choose not to join in the movement to push my beliefs into the political arena, to be nasty all over social media pages above views that differ from mine, to arrogantly demand that people embrace the love of my Jesus. Certainly, the hope is that all will come to know His saving power. But hitting people with a Bible never works.

Instead, I choose to hang with folks whose arms are open, whose lives are filled with joy and peace.

I choose to spread my beliefs through kindness, with smiles and laughter.

I choose to carry my Light gently so folks like Whitney, who know about God’s love but can’t quite make it come alive for them, might grab hold of that love, might see that it absolutely changed my life, and can change theirs as well.

How about you? Are you walking, or just talking? Are you preaching or showing?

For the next few months, I am also going to spend glorious afternoons watching my favorite softball team on their journey to making an epic comeback. It will be a journey full of FAITH and BELIEF, and maybe a miracle or two….a team of determined young women lead by a one of the most gifted coaches in the country – a woman who, by all accounts, is gracious and kind, generous toward her players, demanding but encouraging, full of life, and good, positive energy.
Go Bucks – shine your light…it will be great fun to watch!!

Who knows what miracles you can achieve when you believe,

Somehow you will, now you will

You will when you believe