Sunday, January 7, 2007

Spring (Training) Is in the Air

My plan is to post a Sabbath reflection on Sundays. This is my first crack at it. Here’s what I’m thinking. During the week I’m trying to write about fairly serious subjects, although I may not always take them seriously. The Sabbath is about re-creation; Sabbath observance is God’s way for us to be reminded that successful living is not based on our efforts and that sometimes we need to stop and remember that God is in control. The Sabbath is also God’s way for us to rest, recreate, and recharge. Therefore, I intend for my Sabbath posts to be about things that do that for me. I will be posting on Sundays about things that are fun for me and that I enjoy.

Yesterday was January 6. Here in Augusta, Georgia, the temperature was in the mid-70s and the sun was shining. I wore sandals and a t-shirt and grilled chicken on the patio. Naturally, my thoughts turned to baseball. Yet another college football bowl game (the International Bowl!) was being played and the NFL wild-card games were going on, but still I was thinking about baseball. Actually, the reason that I was thinking about baseball is that I placed an order for tickets to two Atlanta Braves Spring Training games that will be played in Orlando in March. I’ll be ordering tickets for three more games before I’m finished.

My trip to Florida to watch Spring Training games has been an annual occurrence for about ten years. I started going at the invitation of my mentor and adopted father, Dr. Howard Giddens. Dr. Giddens was my professor in the Christianity Department at Mercer University in the late 1970s. He took many a “preacher boy” under his wings and I’m glad that I was one of them. I think that we became especially close because of the death of my father just eleven months after I graduated from Mercer. Dr. Giddens started going to Spring Training with his father and brother in the late 1940s. Every year they would go to St. Petersburg to watch the teams practice and to attend the games. During the time that Dr. Giddens was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Athens, GA, quite a large group of men from the church began going with him. Eventually, though, the group was pared down to Dr. Giddens and his brother. Dr. Giddens had asked me to go for several years but I was unable to make it.

Finally, though, he said to me, “Mike, if my brother and I are going to keep going, we really need for you to go and drive for us.” I was teaching college at the time so I told him that if they would go during my Spring Break I’d go. They agreed. As it turned out, his brother was unable to go that year and never went again (he actually died in an automobile accident one year while Dr. Giddens and I were in St. Petersburg). The trips that Dr. Giddens and I took will forever live in my memory as some of the highlights of my life. He told me a lot about his life, particularly as we were driving to Florida and back. He kept teaching me as we talked about life, family, and ministry. We love many of the same things and shared in them while we were in Florida. We both love books and we spent much time in the motel room reading. We both love baseball and we spent much time watching it and talking about it. We both love good food and we spent a lot of time eating it. Our times there were marvelous.

A couple of years ago a friend who is a member of the church I pastor wanted to go with us and take another man from our church who is the biggest baseball fan I have ever known. Last year that friend and another friend went with Dr. Giddens and me. Dr. Giddens won’t be going with us this year but yet another friend from the church will be. One day I may have a group as big as the one he had accompanying him from Athens. I hope so because any way that I can keep his legacy alive is all right with me.

Several years ago Dr. Giddens and I were at Legends Field in Tampa to watch the New York Yankees. I was wearing a Georgia Bulldogs cap. A fellow from New York (or somewhere up there) said to me, “You don’t look like a Yankees fan.” “No,” I said, “but I am a baseball fan.” “Well, that’s ok,” he said. That’s why I go to Spring Training—I’m a baseball fan. But while I’m there this year or any other year, I will never read a book, eat a meal, or watch a game without thinking about Dr. Howard Giddens. And that’s a very good thing.

No comments: