Making enemies inevitable

‘Linda never had one enemy’.

That headline awhile ago in our local paper jumped out at me. Linda was a homicide victim in a robbery gone bad.

The headline (and the story) indicated that she was a friend to everyone she met.

That got me thinking: Is that a goal worth striving for?

I don’t want to antagonize anyone. I’m sure most people don’t. Many of us want to get along with everyone we meet.

Getting the job done

Work is a good place to practice that. The boss hires a variety of people in the same office to do the same or related jobs. We have no choice but to work together. Whether we become best buddies outside of work is irrelevant, really. We depend on each other to get the job done.

Certainly, we shouldn’t make enemies at work. That destroys morale, and makes working together nearly impossible. There are ways to solve disagreements.

Not knowing the full story

We say or do things for a reason. I may not know why you said or did that. Even if I’m upset or angry with you, I don’t know your full story. Perhaps you have a very good reason for your reaction. (Perhaps not. I don’t know.)

But does that mean right and wrong don’t exist? Is there ever a time when making an enemy or two is acceptable?

I never met Linda, so I don’t know her story at all. But if she never made an enemy, I wonder whether she got involved in anything in the community. If she did anything meaningful. Or if she just slid through life being nice, never causing a ripple, never standing up for herself.

Say something, do something

Because if she did share an opinion or take a stand – about nearly anything – she’d make an enemy somewhere along the line.

Common courtesy says don’t discuss politics or religion in public. There’s a reason for that. Many people have strong opinions on either or both of those subjects, and rarely change their minds.

enemies 2

Did Linda have any type of faith, or did she have political views? If so, she must have kept them to herself.

Otherwise, she would have had an enemy or two.

While I try to get along with everyone I meet, I don’t always succeed. I have de-friended a few people on Facebook, and I have been de-friended more than once as well. I de-friend or un-follow people when their politics turns to hatred. A few of you on the very far left or the very far right cross that line.

Do my politics or faith create enemies?

Possibly.

Social issues and faith

My blog page is titled “the liberal conservative.” How’s that for being offensive? I get involved in certain social issues, which is my liberal side. My faith tells me the Bible is the inspired word of God and every word in it is true (not always literal, but true). That’s my conservative side.

They go together.

Jesus was very involved in social issues. He healed people and talked about justice. He gave women more respect than any other man in His time period did.

Jesus also challenged the religious leaders of His day, calling them blind guides and hypocrites for the ways they imposed their own rules, not God’s rules, on their congregations.

Because of that criticism, Jesus made enemies of a few very powerful people. He didn’t intentionally make enemies, but He didn’t back down when confronted with tough issues either. Those powerful people eventually killed Him.

We Christians often forget that. We want a calm, peaceful, placid faith that gets along with everyone.

Hell is a real place. Jesus talked about it.

Mercy requires a decision

Jesus was very much misunderstood, then and today. Everyone faces judgment. Jesus offers mercy to all. Not all of us accept God’s mercy, but it’s available to anyone who is willing to receive it. That was, and still is, His message.

But accepting Jesus’ mercy means we follow His way of life – which is the best life we can possibly have. That means we will have to change our allegiance from the other things we worship.

Many people aren’t willing to do that, and get angry when Jesus and His followers say things like: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

You either believe that or you don’t. There’s no nice guys third option.

No wonder Jesus had enemies. No wonder Christians are being persecuted and killed across the world in record numbers today.

https://www.newsweek.com/christian-persecution-genocide-worse-ever-770462

Do I have enemies? None that want me dead, at least to my knowledge, here in the United States where I live.

But when I say I follow Jesus, I’m also saying that I don’t follow any other religion’s leaders. I’m also supporting a certain lifestyle, instead of other lifestyles. Christianity is true, and other religions aren’t. There’s no middle ground. (Other religions don’t leave room for Christianity either if you truly follow one of them, so it works both ways.)

Take a stand

When the headline says ‘Linda never had one enemy’, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. That tells me she never took a stand for anything meaningful.

If we stand up for something – anything – we will make enemies. Do you support the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo? Other people don’t. Do you support spanking children? Many people oppose you. Do you support how your local government spends its budget? Not everyone does.

We must pick our battles. Some people fight too many battles – they oppose every issue that comes up, it seems. I ignore them, for the most part. They aren’t credible.

Think through an issue before you take a stand. Tell me why you oppose it. Or support it.

If I disagree, at least I will respect you for your thoughtfulness and thoroughness. And you will force me to think the issue through to defend my stance.

If we engage with life at all, we will have enemies. That’s pretty much a given.

Don’t let that discourage you.

Stand up for what you believe in.

But again, pick your battles. Don’t fight all your enemies. Many of them aren’t worth the effort.

Justice for all, mercy for some

A few lessons I’ve learned or re-learned through a year-long study of Romans in the New Testament:

  • We discover order in nature, but we can’t learn about sin and salvation through nature.
  • Justified: Acquitted of all charges. That doesn’t mean we are innocent, just not guilty. There are no consequences for what we’ve done. This is grace – an act of God. We do not contribute to it.
  • Justification is a one-time act of God. Sanctification is the process of becoming like Jesus, which takes a lifetime.
  • Law reveals sin, but can’t cure it. A CAT scan may find a disease, but the CAT scan itself can’t cure it. Same principle. Jesus, not the law, is the medicine we need to have our sins forgiven.
  • The Old Testament laws weren’t written down until Moses wrote them – 430 years after Abraham lived. Sin still existed, even though no written laws did. See Adam and Eve.
  • God did all the work to offer us salvation from our sins. He initiated, taught, died and resurrected, all while we were sinners. We don’t have to get it right before God saves us. We accept God’s forgiveness; then sanctification starts.
  • Our trespasses can be counted. Grace is infinite.
  • We also died on the cross and were buried with Jesus, and were raised from the dead with Him (see Romans 6:1-4). Burial means death to sin is final.
  • No one is “free.” Everyone serves someone or something, whether we realize it or not.
  • While Jesus delivers us from the power of sin, it’s not a one-and-done thing. Recognizing this conflict proves that we are His.
  • Sin does not define us. The struggle with sin defines God’s forgiveness and love.
  • We have conflict, but not condemnation.
  • Suffering is temporary; glory is permanent (eventually).
  • Justice keeps us on Death Row. God chooses to give mercy to some people. This is not about us. It’s about Him. We have to trust God’s character, because there’s no way we can understand this.
  • God sent the apostle Paul to people (Gentiles) who weren’t even looking for Him. God operates that way frequently.
  • We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. So often we blame our bodies for sin, but it starts in our minds. Always.
  • All people are far more important than humanists imagine us to be. All people are far worse than humanists suppose.
  • Loving God and others is not behavior modification. It’s a heart issue.
  • Harmony and dissonance: Do my notes blend in with the melody? There are no lone-ranger Christians. My notes, played correctly alongside the in-tune notes of other Christians, will make beautiful music.
  • If we respond to evil with evil, then evil never ends.
  • If we respond to evil with love, we absorb the evil. This is not normal.
  • God is in control of all things. This is not difficult to understand, but it is difficult to accept.
  • Following God does not always mean that all goes well. See Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or Daniel in the lion’s den. Sometimes God brings us through the fire. That often glorifies Him.
  • God establishes authority for our good. Anarchy brings chaos. Even poor leaders are better than no leadership at all.
  • Light shines brighter in darkness than it does in the daytime.
  • The purpose of the law is to help us live together well. We can do this only if we love each other. (The law no longer applies when we die, of course.)
  • Food and drink won’t matter in heaven. Righteousness, peace and joy will.
  • “Accept” means to welcome or receive, not simply to tolerate.
  • The gospel is simple, but it’s not simplistic. The plan of salvation has a few easy steps to follow, but living them out takes a lifetime of learning and doing.
  • Don’t study evil; we know it already. Study God’s word.
  • Avoid people who reject Christ. Don’t argue for the sake of arguing.
  • God has won the war. The battles of this life will end soon.

Shorten the game, permanently

Cleveland Indians reliever Josh Tomlin, left, waits to be pulled during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on June 30, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

 

When was the last time someone pitched long relief in Major League Baseball?

That happened when a starting pitcher got knocked out of the game in the first, second or third inning, and the relief pitcher who replaced him stayed in the game for three or four innings, sometimes even longer.

Long relief.

These days, if a starter leaves the game early, a parade of relievers comes in for one or two innings at a time, draining the bullpen of just about everyone available. But since each of them pitches only one inning (20 pitches or less, most likely), he’s available for tomorrow’s game as well. Flexibility, not performance, is the goal.

If a relief pitcher does his job well, he still gets taken out after an inning or two.

That’s why bullpens are such a crap shoot. If a reliever is having a good day, why not ride him? Save the rest of the bullpen for another day.

Instead, when teams put six or seven relievers on the pitcher’s mound in the same game, at least one of them is likely to have a bad day at the office. Oh well.

No purpose anymore

I did a Google search of middle relief or long relief pitchers. The current definition of “middle reliever” is anyone who isn’t a starter or closer. There’s no such thing as a long reliever anymore, unless it’s Andrew Miller – and, when healthy (which he isn’t at the moment), he pitches at most two innings at a time.

That’s why Josh Tomlin has no role on the Cleveland Indians, and hasn’t most of the season. He flunked as a starter earlier this year, so he became a mop-up guy who pitches only when the outcome of the game has already been decided. As a former starter he’s physically capable of pitching five or six innings at a time. But since that role doesn’t exist in today’s game, he gets an inning here, a batter there, just like any other reliever.

If he gives up a hit or two, he doesn’t get the chance to straighten himself out.

He wasn’t trained for one inning of relief. No wonder he’s struggling.

Baseball experts say he’s washed up.

Perhaps he is.

Or, perhaps he needs a new opportunity with another team, since the Indians no longer have a place for him.

Starters don’t finish

Which brings me to my second point about pitching.

News flash: Baseball games are nine innings long. No one, and I mean no one, associated with Major League Baseball remembers this anymore.

Starters are groomed to pitch six or seven innings, no more. Even all-stars.

MLB: JUL 12 Yankees at Indians

In the past week, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer – both All-Stars this year – pitched shutout ball for seven and eight innings, respectively. Since they reached their pitch count maximum, they were taken out of the game.

The relievers cost both starters a win – and lost the games themselves. Badly.

 

Last Saturday, Kluber left after seven innings with a 3-0 lead. Reliever Neil Ramirez, who has had a good year so far, actually, gave up three runs to tie the game in only one-third of an inning. The game went extra innings, when Tomlin gave up three more runs as the Indians lost. (Five relievers pitched the four innings after Kluber left.)

MLB: JUL 10 Reds at Indians

On Tuesday, Bauer cruised through eight innings and exited with a 4-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians brought on their closer, Cody Allen, to pitch the ninth. He promptly gave up three runs and left the game with the bases loaded. The next reliever gave up a bases-clearing double and another run-scoring hit. After doing nothing for eight innings against Bauer, the Reds scored seven runs in the ninth inning – seven runs! – and the Indians lost probably their worst game of the season.

Protection, not performance

But no one cares, because it’s only July. Got to save those precious All-Star arms for September and October.

That’s the mind-set in baseball. Protection, not performance. No one is allowed to finish what they start. Games are decided by the crap shoot in the bullpen.

That’s why there will never be another 300-game winner. Ever.

The last to do it was Randy Johnson in 2009. I was blessed to see him pitch for the Yankees in Detroit in a playoff game in 2006. He is one of only 24 pitchers to reach that milestone.

Meanwhile, no pitcher reached 20 wins in a non-strike-shortened year for the first time in 2006; this was repeated in 2009 and 2017.

Kluber and Bauer pitched shutouts, and the team lost both games. That’s great for their personal stats, but not for the team.

The Indians have an outstanding starting pitching staff, and one of the best hitting teams in all of baseball. But their bullpen is awful. They should win the American League’s Central Division easily, because every other team in the division is rebuilding its roster and not seriously competing for the post-season.

Not a winning formula

Do the Indians have a recipe that could lead to a World Series victory?

History says no.

The 2013 Detroit Tigers were built in a similar fashion to this year’s Indians. They had an outstanding starting staff led by Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, and a top-notch batting order with Miguel Cabrera at the peak of his career.

But, in the words of Rob Neyer of SB Nation:

 

Now, about the relief pitching. Once the Tigers finally settled on a closer in June, their bullpen was no longer a running joke. Still, Detroit’s relievers did finish the season with a 4.01 ERA, fourth worst in the league and the worst among the league’s postseason teams. By the end, (manager) Jim Leyland didn’t seem to have much confidence in any of his relief pitchers, which left him making changes just about as quickly as the rules would allow …

Ultimately, this was a team that could really pitch (for seven innings) and really hit, but couldn’t do much else at all. Which can work. Which did work. It worked for six months, and given a little luck it might have worked for one more month. But the baserunning and the fielding and the relief pitching wasn’t likely to improve all of a sudden. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera got hurt and stopped hitting fastballs, and Prince Fielder drove in exactly zero runs in 40 postseason at-bats.

When you’re built solely on starting pitching and hitting and you take away the hitting … well, there’s just not enough left.

 

https://www.sbnation.com/2013/10/20/4857258/alcs-2013-detroit-tigers-red-sox-season-review

The Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics in the Division Series, then lost to the Boston Red Sox in the Championship Series.

The Indians of 2018 better keep hitting – all the way through October. Otherwise, the team has no chance to win the World Series.

The starting pitchers aren’t able to finish. The bullpen, as it stands, can’t finish.

And the Indians are one of the better teams in baseball.

That’s the way Major League Baseball is played today.

Many people complain that baseball games take too long. The latest proposal is to institute a time limit.

Here’s another option: Cut the game to seven innings.

Make starting pitching relevant again. And take away the need for long relievers.

God’s affection at Christmas shows up in July

Hollywood would recast the Christmas story … A civilized person would sanitize it. No person, however poor, should be born in a cow stall. Hay on the floor. Animals on the hay. Don’t place the baby in a feed trough; the donkey’s nose has been there. Don’t wrap the newborn in rags. They smell like sheep. Speaking of smells, watch where you step.

“Because of Bethlehem Love is Born, Hope is Here” by Max Lucado, page 131

 

This describes my workplace. Perfectly.

I work with developmentally disabled adults. Some of them are not sanitary, and make it difficult for the rest of us to be sanitary. I won’t get too specific, except this one example: I drive some of these individuals in a wheelchair-accessible van. One individual I drive wets himself, through his clothes and adult Depends, and the bench seat where he sits. He does this a couple of times a week, at least.

It smells in there. I’m constantly cleaning it and spraying Lysol.

I can’t keep a full roll of paper towels in the van; he takes it apart and puts his hands all over it.

Jesus was born in a place like that.

Messy. Unsanitary. Possibly even unsafe.

At the day program where I work, washing my hands is not a simple chore.

This is real life. Some of these folks don’t know any better.

And I stay.

God came to me – and you – in a place just like this. He didn’t arrive in a climate-controlled hospital room like our three sons did, surrounded by nurses and doctors who made sure each was healthy before they sent him home.

Thank God for hospitals.

But Jesus never saw one, and I don’t work in one either.

 

lucado

You, like Joseph, knocked on the innkeeper’s door. But you were too late. Or too old, sick, dull, damaged, poor, or peculiar. You know the sound of a slamming door. So here you are in the grotto, always on the outskirts of activity, it seems.

Page 133

 

I’ve been fired twice, relocated once (I quit first, though), and downsized once, all in the past 10 years. I’m hardly unique. Nobody works in the same job for an entire career anymore: My two oldest sons also have seen their jobs phased out – and neither is 30 years old yet.

Both have landed on their feet. One has landed his dream job; the other has a decent position, but still isn’t where he wants to be.

Both make more than they spend.

Because my wife has a good job, we do too. I provided for our family of five as our sons grew up, but those days are long gone.

I knocked on the innkeeper’s door, but I don’t have the passion, drive and self-promotion to thrive in today’s job market. Nor am I willing to relocate again. AARP asks me all the time about age-related job discrimination. Maybe that plays into it, or maybe it’s just me.

Old, dull, damaged, peculiar … especially peculiar. I don’t have the “presence” that employers are looking for. I don’t come across as enthusiastic with all these great ideas on how to improve your company.

I was a copy editor, for heaven’s sake. Behind the scenes. Making you look good. It’s never been about me.

Even newspaper executives don’t get that anymore, if they ever did.

So, my newspaper career is done.

And I’m in a smelly, unsanitary day program for developmentally disabled adults.

I’m glad I’m there.

Because, hopefully, I can make a difference.

 

You do your best to make the best of it, but try as you might, the roof still leaks, and the winter wind still sneaks through the holes you just can’t seem to fix. You’ve shivered through your share of cold nights.

And you wonder if God has a place for a person like you.

Find your answer in the Bethlehem stable.

Page 133

 

I was looking for something to read the other day and found this Max Lucado book on the shelf. We received it as a gift for a monetary donation we made, obviously around the holidays, to a radio station we listen to.

I’m reading a Christmas book when it’s literally 90 degrees outside.

The timing is perfect.

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t dream about being where I am now. I had a great job in a wonderful town with great friends and plenty of community involvement.

Life happens, as we all know. Society has changed a lot in the past 15 years.

For all of us.

And not always for the better. Right?

Depends how you look at it.

I’ve met many wonderful people in the past decade or so since my life got bumpy. I’ve joined Facebook and LinkedIn, meeting new people and reconnecting with long-ago friends. I’m in a job that tests my patience sometimes, but that’s how I learn patience.

 

It really comes down to that: God loves us. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.

Let him love you. If God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. You might question his actions, decisions, or declarations. But you can never, ever question his zany, stunning, unquenchable affection.

Pages 134-5

 

This thought is timeless, for all people, for all seasons.

It’s why I get up a few minutes early every morning and spend a little time with God, just me and Him, before the day begins. Get right with God before punching in at work, before reading all your Facebook emotions, before doing yardwork or exercise or whatever else I’ll do today.

Start the day right, and the rest of the day has a better chance of turning out well.

Whatever that means. When something goes awry, there’s a lesson to be learned, a trial to endure or patience to reveal. God’s affection never wavers.

That’s the point of Christmas. And we don’t have to wait until December to experience it.