“Clayton Kershaw tossed a six–hitter to become the majors’ first 14–game winner, Justin Turner homered twice, and the NL West–leading Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Kansas City Royals 5–2 to complete their major league–best 10th sweep and sixth straight victory. The streaking Dodgers head into the All–Star break owning baseball’s best record of 61–29. They’ve won 18 of their last 19 at home, where they lead the majors with a 39–11 mark.
“Kershaw (14–2) allowed two runs and six hits on 99 pitches, struck out 13, and walked none to set the Dodgers’ record for most wins at the break. The old mark of 13 was held by Orel Hershiser, who had 13 in 1988, the last time the franchise won the World Series.”
To the casual reader, all this talk of “numbers” may be numbing … but to the avid fan of baseball (especially the Dodgers), these two paragraphs speak volumes. This is especially true this time of year when the “Midsummer Classic” is scheduled … tonight’s MLB All–Star Game … showcasing the best of the “boys of summer.”
On the opposite coast, New York Yankees’ phenom, Aaron Judge, leads professional baseball’s Major Leagues with 30 home runs. He has already broken the Yankees’ single–season record for rookies … a record that stood since 1936 and held by the Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. In the middle of the country, Chicago Cubs’ fans are scratching their heads wondering what’s happened to their defending World Series champs! The “Cubbies” are struggling to hold onto second–place in a weak division, chasing a dozen Major League teams with better win–loss records than theirs.
The “Midsummer Classic” is traditionally scheduled slightly past the midpoint of the season. This annual All–Star exhibition game has been played since 1933, with the National League holding a slight edge in victories at 43–42, although the American League has won the last four consecutive games. There have also been two ties … what?! … why?!
By now, you’re probably asking, “What’s all this baseball talk got to do with ‘equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus’” … which is what StrongStakes is all about. The answer is found in the timing. The “Midsummer Classic” is a bench–mark that teams and individuals use to evaluate their progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set months ago before the season began.
The apostle Paul actually wrote about this in one of his N.T. letters …
- “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
If you’re new to this blog, then you may not have read the first article posted last December 30th … Goodbye 2016 … Hello 2017! The primary point of the article was to approach the new year with intentionality, by reviewing the previous year, then setting realistic goals for the year ahead. In that post I included links to two down–loadable handouts:
- Reflecting-on-2016 consists of 20 questions for review.
- Preparing-for-2017 consists of 20 questions for planning ahead.
Some of the topics covered included …
- Healthy character traits
- Spiritual Disciplines
- What will we read this year?
- What damaged or damaging relationships might need to be addressed.
- Who is it that we might encourage this year?
What better time than right now … a little more than halfway through 2017 … to evaluate our progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set before this new year began?
Invest some time reflecting on your progress toward your spiritual goals, using the handouts as prompts or guides. Maybe even mute the sound on your TV or tablet during the commercial breaks in tonight’s game? If you’re watching the game with a friend or family member(s), ask them to help you evaluate, too. The stakes are higher for us in terms of our “spiritual success” than for tonight’s All–Star players. The apostle Paul continued in his letter with this profound comparison …
- “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self–control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Enjoy the game!
Peace & Joy!