Every day, all summer my life was a mirror of the movie “Sandlot”. I played Little League ball that summer. Second base and occasionally I got to pitch. But when the season was over the guys in the neighborhood would gather in Randy’s back yard and play ball all day. We kept hydrated by drinking from the garden hose behind home plate.
I was also into cars in those days. Not Hot Wheels, but real cars. The game we played as we were driven here and there by our moms (our dads were in Viet Nam at the time) was to identify the cars we passed. It was pretty simple. Pretty much you had your standard American cars and the occasional Fiat. We didn’t know the Japanese made cars in 1966.
At ten girls were still something we had to endure. But about a year later that began to slowly change. But even for the next couple of years they couldn’t compare to baseball and cars.
The kids in my neighborhood had come face-to-face with our own mortality a year or so earlier. We couldn’t have been home from school for 30 minutes when I heard screaming. Looking out my window was one of my classmates running down the street, frantically calling for her momma. A few minutes later the news quickly spread that her little sister had been struck and killed by a car while crossing the road to get to the local grocery store.
Mom took us to her funeral and to the burial at a roadside family graveyard. Before that I had been to a couple of funerals. But they were all “old” people. Now I knew the possibility of dying wasn’t reserved for grandparents. Kids could die, too.
My friend Randy (the one whose backyard was our sandlot) invited me to his church when I was ten. We always went to church somewhere. All of us. I had been christened as an infant. Mom played the organ. But when I asked if I could go to Randy’s church, Mom said, “Yes”. Sometime soon after she was checking it out for herself.
I’m sure that I had been in places where Jesus and His gospel were explained before. But, if so, it never connected with me. For some reason (I understand it better now) I was ready to not only listen to it, but to ponder my own mortality and consider what I was hearing. I knew He was God, but never had I believed that He was my God.
The pastor’s sermons were putting it all out there in that little church. There was no air conditioning and often he would have to take off his coat (apologizing as he did) and loosen his tie. A couple of big fans on stands circulated the summer air. His preaching was both passionate and compelling as he invited anyone who had not yet put their own faith in Christ to do so.
I was hanging on to my parents’ beliefs. But he made it plain that their coattails wouldn’t pull me into heaven with them. So, on that 31st day of July, fifty years ago I said “Yes” to Christ’s offer to give me as His gift a new life. I’m eternally grateful I did and that He made me part of His family. Best of all, it was pretty simple. Simple enough for a ten year-old boy.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” - John’s Gospel.