Missing First Base

First Base

We’ve come through another series of the exciting sports event of World Series Baseball. Once claiming the title of America’s Greatest Sport, still held by many, thousands love to watch two teams battle for the title. There is one great story of this event we need to remember.

“In 1924 the World Series, the New York Giants and the Washington Senators were tied after six games. Griffith Stadium in Washington was packed for the final game on October 10, 1924. At the beginning of the ninth inning the score was tied at three runs each.

New York didn’t score any runs and Washington came to bat. The home team fans screamed for one lone run, which would win the series and the world championship for the Senators. The first two men made outs and it looked like there would be extra innings. Then a player named Leon ‘Goose’ Goslin came to the plate.

Two strikes were called and then two balls. The crowd was watching every pitch. On the fifth pitch, Goslin stepped into the ball and slammed it to left center field. The crowd became delirious; it looked like a home run, but it hit inches below the top of the wall and fell back onto the field of play.

Goslin was running around the bases, slowing down for a triple when the third base coach waved him on to try for an in-park home run. The shortstop took the peg from left center and fired the ball to the catcher. Goslin slid into home in a cloud of dust, seemingly a split second before the tag. The catcher followed the routine of throwing the ball around the bases, just in case, while waiting for the umpire to make the call. The umpire delayed his call. After consulting with the other umpires he cried, ‘You’re out!’

Washington player/manager, Bucky Harris, along with his team and fans rushed onto the field, protesting the call. The umpire secured order and announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the batter is out…not because he didn’t beat the ball at home plate but because he didn’t touch first base!’ The players were always required to touch each base with their foot as they rounded the bases. Goslin didn’t do this!

The game went into extra innings. In the bottom of the twelfth inning, Early McNeely hit an infield ground ball that should have been an easy out. The ball took a bounce over the third baseman’s glove into left field. That was enough to score Washington catcher Ruel from third base with the winning run. It was the first World Championship Washington won. What a World Series.”

Angel Martinez, colorful and well known Hispanic evangelist from San Antonio, Texas, remembered this World Series story in his special message “Play Ball.”

He said First base represented “Salvation.” Second base represented “Baptism and Church Membership.” Third base stood for “Christian Service.” And Home plate was “Heaven.”

Martinez said you think you’re doing all the right things and believe you are sliding into home plate just ahead of the catcher receiving the ball. You’re safe. The game is won.

Identification in Baptism and Church Membership (Second Base) and outreach and service through Evangelism (Third Base) are very important and wonderful. But reaching Heaven (Home Plate) will not be what is expected if Salvation (First Base) has not been touched.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit…But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord…Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” [John 3:16; I Peter 3:18; Isaiah 53:5-6; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23; Revelation 3:20]

Getting up to bat, hitting the ball and running the bases won’t count if you miss First Base. We may look like we’ve made it Home. But the Umpire Who sees it all and knows we must play by the rules will call us “out.”

John Henry Newman said, “Fear not your life shall have an ending, rather fear it shall never have a beginning.” That’s First Base…that’s salvation.

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

A Simple Mistake… A Great Loss

Baseball Game

Do you remember the Baseball World Series of 1941. It was an unforgettable contest between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Let’s revisit that time.

The Yankees won the first game of the series by a score of 3-2. Brooklyn returned the favor in the 2nd game with a score of 3-2. The Yankees took the third game 2-1. In the 4th game, the Dodgers were ahead 4-3 at the top of the 9th inning and looked like they would tie the series. The Yankees had two outs and Tommy Henrich was at bat with three balls and 2 strikes. Henrich swung at the next pitch but missed the ball. This should have ended the game, but the Dodger catcher, Mickey Owen, dropped the ball. It hit the heel of his mitt and rolled toward the Dodgers dugout. Henrich ran to first base before Owen could retrieve the ball. Next at bat was ‘Joltin Joe’ DiMaggio. The Yankees scored four runs in the final inning and won the game 7-4. This gave them a 3-1 lead in the series. The next day in game 5 the Yankees beat the Dodgers 3-1 and won the 1941 Baseball World Series. Some attribute the Yankee win and the Dodger loss to that moment when Mickey Owen dropped the ball. Though he lived to 2005 he could never get away from that fatal mistake in the 1941 World Series. The New York Times obituary was titled, “Mickey Owen dies at 89, Allowed Fateful Passed Ball.” Even in his death he could not escape the results of his 1941 game 4 error.

Some trace the origin of the phrase “dropped the ball” to Mickey and this event.

Often we are all like Mickey Owen. How many dropped balls have been a part of our experience. Mistakes, though unintentional, have had damaging results. Sometimes it has been less monumental. Other times it has been catastrophic. It has been the difference between winning and losing. In some instances, the difference between life and death.

Our actions are vitally important? An opportunity comes…and goes…because we drop the ball. A relationship, once so special, falls apart because we drop the ball. A life-changing step is never taken because we drop the ball. Someone needing our help is disappointed because we drop the ball.

Baseball Game TicketFinancially, career-wise, relational and in many other areas we can easily drop the ball. It’s also true in the spiritual realm. Look at the story in Matthew 22:35-40, “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” Jesus was paraphrasing the words from the Jewish Torah. When we consider His challenge it must be evident that we all have dropped the ball.

There is time to correct our great mistake. Admit our failure, get back in the game and play with God-given energy what lies before us. We never know when our series may end so let’s be all that God wants us to be. We can begin now to be more focused, to be on top of our actions, and to hold onto the ball when it comes our way.

The words of Hebrews 12:2 can guide us: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entraps us, and let us run with patience the race before us.”

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

A Great Departure

Departing Couple

Henry Van Dyke, author, educator, and clergyman in the late 1800s to early 1900s, wrote:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at that moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”

Life has its beginning and ending, but it also can have its beginning again. We may go through painful experiences that take friends, family children, spouses or parents from us. We sorrowfully say our last goodbye. Those we’ve loved and cared for slip from our presence. Like a grand auction there “going, going and gone.”

Many look at life from this human perspective. This is all there is. There is no tomorrow, no hope, no expectancy. Those we bid farewell simply disappear. They are no longer in our plans. After a while, they may not even be in our thoughts.

But there is something beyond a distant horizon. Departed ones don’t just vanish. They may be out of our sight and consciousness. They may go beyond our ability to even see them, sometimes even beyond our eyes of faith. But when we can no longer visualize them something wonderful happens. Their spiritual seaward journey moves toward an appointed destination. On a distant but real shore, a crowd sings, “Here they come!” What awaits is beyond description.

Someday people will say “goodbye” to us. Are we certain of our direction and destination? Will there be a heavenly crowd singing for us “Here they come!”

Job, through all his losses and troubles, dramatically declared: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25-26)

In our uncertain world, these are things that are sure.

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

What Then?

Important questions at Kirby PinesImportant questions face us daily. “Why me? Why this? Why now?” Answers are difficult to find. Reasons are hard to discover. Solutions seem wrapped in secrecy. But more than these there is a unique and powerful question that covers a vaster scope of life. It is the dramatic two-word statement, “What Then?” Issues rise and fall. Circumstances revolve around a sphere greater than earth. We can’t believe what we see in the mirror and are challenged to amazement and at times even bewilderment. I think this question is best illustrated in the words of J. W. Green.

When the great, busy plants of our cities shall have turned out their last finished work, When the merchants have sold their last order and dismissed every last tired clerk, When our banks have raked in their last dollar and have paid their last dividend, When the Judge of the earth wants a hearing and asks for a balance—


When the choir has sung its last anthem and the preacher has voiced his last prayer, And the people have heard their last sermon and the sound has died out in the air, When the Bible lies closed on the altar and the pews are all empty of men, When each one stands facing his record, And the Great Book is opened—


When the actors have played their last drama, and the mimic has made his last fun, When the movie has finished its last picture and the billboard displayed its last run, When the crowd seeking pleasure has vanished and gone out in the darkness again, And the trumpet of the ages has sounded and we stand before Him—


When the bugle call sinks into silence and the long marching columns stand still. When the captain repeats his last orders and they’ve captured the last fort and
hill, When the flag has been hauled from the masthead, All the wounded afield have checked in, And the world that rejected its Savior is asked for a reason—


Time runs out. Events finally finish. Plans, at last, are completed. It’s all over. “What Then?”

Are we ready for the curtain to come down? Are we prepared when the music stops? What will we do when our last breath is taken? These are things we cannot avoid! These steps each of us must take!

Proverbs 27:1 declares, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In James 4:13-15 we read, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”

Moses declared long ago, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It’s been said, “We cannot go back and make a new start, but we can start now to make a new ending.”

We can prepare for our “What Then?” this very moment. Are we ready?

Till next time, Don Johnson, KP Chaplain

Then and Now

Then and Now at Kirby PinesThe events that capture our thoughts at this season often prompt us to remember history past. We focus on the Person and the places that dramatically changed the world. We wonder what it was that caused people 20 Centuries ago to be so committed in the early days of Christianity. The depth of commitment of the early Chris- tian leaders is remarkable beyond our understanding. Consider the following:

St. Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopa.
St. Mark expired at Alexandria, after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
St. Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece.
St. John was put into a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward banished to Patmos.
St. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward. St. James the Greater was beheaded in Jerusalem.
St. James the Less was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club.
St. Phillip was hanged up against a pillar at Heiropolis in Phrygia. St. Bartholomew was flayed alive.
St. Andrew was bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died.
St. Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies.
St. Jude was shot to death with arrows.
St. Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded.
St. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica.
St. Paul after various tortures and persecutions was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.

These early disciples and leaders of Christianity had met Someone, heard what He said, witnessed His betrayal, arrest, trial, rejection, crucifixion and resurrection. Their lives were so changed. Their faith was so fixed. Their love was so deep.

Would anyone living in those troubled times and circumstances have been willing to die for what they knew to be a lie? Could they have endured such terrible and painful pressure, and even give their lives in death for what they knew was false? A thousand times “NO!” Christ was alive…without doubt.

Those who loved and followed Christ did so with steadfast dedication. They did not love merely in word, but indeed as well. They literally sealed with their life what they professed with their lips.

Looking at Christ’s sacrificial love and monumental resurrection was motivation to cause them to say with Isaac Watts “Loved so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” (When I Survey)

It’s not just how we come to the Cross and the Empty Tomb, it’s how we leave them.

Would we today follow Christ in such a sacrificial manner? Would history record our dedication like those martyrs in the beginning? If we are not living for Him today we will certainly not die for Him tomorrow.

Let’s be ready now and in all the days ahead to let others see the depth of our commitment and the price we are willing to pay in knowing and following Christ. (Philippians 1:21)

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

When Tragedy Strikes

We continue to stagger from unexpected tragedies like the Valentine’s Day Florida high school murder of students, teachers and coaches. Another sad reminder of how unstable life can be, another addition to similar events before that found us unprepared. What great grief was felt by the parents who sent their children to school never imagining it would be the last time they would see them alive. Dreams shattered…hopes smashed…the future stolen. Each family walked through its own set of bewildered unbelief at what had taken place. Each one dealt with the sorrow in personal responses that only they could embrace.

Sometimes these circumstances overwhelm and engulf us. How we respond is extremely important.

In another time, somewhat different than these recent events, some other children died. Their circumstances and conclusion were special. Here is their story as related by Ernest Emurian.

“The French liner, ‘S.S. Ville du Havre’, was the most luxurious ship afloat when it sailed from New York in November 1873. Among her passengers was Mrs. H. G. Spafford of Chicago, making the trip with her four children, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mr Spafford, a highly successful businessman, had business commitments and was unable to accompany his family on this voyage, but planned to join them later in France.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, several days out from New York, sailing on quiet Atlantic Ocean waters the Ville du Harve was rammed by an English sailing vessel, the ‘Lochearn.’ In two hours the ship settled to the bottom of the ocean. Two hundred twenty-six passengers were drowned. Among that number were all four of the Spafford children.

Nine days later when the survivors landed at Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford sent her husband a cablegram of only two words: ‘Saved Alone.’

H. G. Spafford had already gone through one great tragedy. The business matters that prevented him from making the trip with his family were the result of the great Chicago Fire. It had destroyed all his business establishments. Now he struggled with the greater loss of his children.
Spafford booked a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over the Captain called Spafford to his cabin and said, ‘I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Harve went down.’

Dare we imagine how he felt. Sleepless, he began to put his thoughts and feelings into words. He wrote five sections that later would become one of the greatest expressions of faith in tragedy that has ever been stated.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

– Living Stories of Famous Hymns, pp. 66-67

Such great faith in deeply troubling moments. Would we have responded in this way? Do we have a trust that would so characterize us amidst such tremendous times? Can we look up regardless of terrible events and say “It Is Well With My Soul?”

We cannot predict when good or bad things will come, but we can claim the Lord’s Presence whenever or whatever it might be.

If we do not walk in right paths under Divine guidance in the usual steps of life we will not find strength and support when our world falls apart. Let’s start now!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain