Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

The Mariners are fighting for a playoff spot. Many of us are old enough to remember the Mariners “refuse to lose” season in 1995. Making a remarkable playoff run and then beating the Yankees seemed like a miracle. In that final Yankee game Edgar Martinez hit a walk off double, driving in Ken Griffey with the winning run, securing the series and sending the State of Washington into a frenzy. That game marked the first time that our little girls got to eat dinner in front of the television. It is a memory that our family will never forget.

Where were you born? I was born in DeKalb, Illinois. Where were you born? My real question is not about geography, it is not about location but about your starting place in the journey of life. In baseball terminology I am asking, “What base were you born on?” The question has to do with the birth lottery. I was talking with a man this summer who made millions of dollars as an analyst on Wall Street. He mentioned someone he worked with who was very proud of his position and wealth. My friend commented that this man had started life on third base, born into wealth, privilege and seemingly endless opportunities. He was born on third base and was still there, 90 feet from home, living the high life but having made very little actual progress.

The conversation really got me thinking. What base was I born on, and where am I now? Progress is somewhat subjective, it could be measured in a variety of ways, and money is certainly not the most important variable. What base was I born on? My family lived in a rather pedestrian home on the wrong side of the tracks. We had enough, but there was nothing extravagant about our existence. On occasion we would travel somewhere, always by car, and, if necessary, we would stay at the common man’s Marriott: the Travelodge. My mother was the first in our family, and only one in her generation to go to college, she attended the state university in DeKalb so she could save money by living at home.

What base was I born on? Well, I was born in a land of freedom and relative safety. I had many opportunities to work, play little league baseball, fish in the Kishwaukee River and take part in a small church where everyone knew my name. I was born into a loving, if sometimes dysfunctional family, I never doubted for a minute that I was loved by my parents, grandparents, and extended family. Taking all of that into consideration, I would say that I was born on second base, halfway home, a head start on most of the world’s population.

I visited the Tiny Houses last week, I spent time with residents, and I marveled at how Coyla Shephard’s vision has changed lives. I talked with a young woman who was going to school full time, working full time, and paying her own bills. She was doing all of this with no car, and no support from family. Her attitude amazed me, she was thankful and gracious. She said, “This little house is a dream come true for me, I am so happy.”

What base was she born on? What base were you born on? Some in our world are not born on base at all, they are in the on-deck circle or in the dugout waiting for their chance to get in the game. Life is not fair; we know that the good die young, some children are born addicted to drugs, the sins of the parents are visited on the third and fourth generations that follow. Life is not fair, everyone does not have an equal chance. You don’t really think that your intelligence and work ethic would have allowed you to live in your house, while spending the winters in the desert, if you had been born in Somalia or Haiti, do you?

Most of us won the birth lottery, most started life on second or third base, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. And being human, we have all had our share of difficulties and challenges, but it is easier to overcome those hurdles when you are on second base.

We won the birth lottery. Recognizing this reality, naming the blessings that we inherited, and acknowledging the opportunities that have been given to us, could change our attitude. This change in attitude might help cure us of our self-righteousness. A change in attitude might in turn inform our generosity. The truth is, there is really no such thing as a self-made woman or man. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.

What base were you born on?

We have been richly blessed, but in God’s equation we are never blessed in isolation, we are Blessed to be a Blessing to others.

Good luck Mariners and happy Labor Day Weekend to you!

One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, I am your

Pastor Jim
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