Words from a burning heart

by Tim Stouffer

The musky scent of damp leaves greets us each morning as we leave the new warmth of our houses behind and hit the sidewalks of Ely. Crunching softly on the way to work and crunching loudly on the way home. The failing summer sun has still been strong enough to warm things up during the day and dry out the leaves. The smell of freshly raked lawns is rich and loamy.<BR><BR>We’ve been playing baseball at my house, chasing the ball through the leaves, losing one and beginning again with a tennis ball or an old wiffle ball. Getting in one last hurrah with our gloves. The cars go by and the people smile and wave. Lucy and Simon will connect with the bat every once in a while and I’ll have to chase one down to the end of the block.<BR><BR>The intermingling yellows of the syrup maples and the birch shake in the breeze above us. The mountain ash have turned a beautiful orange and the shape of their leaves takes on orange feathery winged shapes on the edges of your vision. The rare bright red leaf tinged with pink will blow by. The beauty of the dying leaves is extraordinary.<BR><BR>Like the beauty of the dying arc of a well-pitched ball that falls into the path of a child’s eager swing of the bat. Followed by laughter and surprise that I hope will never die. This time of simple pleasures. This embracing of change.<BR><BR>I remember the two of them as babies and infants. Dependent and new. Now they could play this game of baseball on their own, and often do. It is an unexplainable feeling to play together with them, though. To catch a ball that they throw to me or field a fly ball from their bat. To swing away at a pitch thrown high and fast by my son. To see the joy on her face when my daughter catches a ball.<BR><BR>Baseball, like family, is defined by the team. There are opportunities for individual achievement, but each member has their own responsibilities, their strengths, their weaknesses. Sometimes in a life of faith we wish we could read the signs as easily as a batter watches their third base coach. We are happy, however that three strikes and you’re out is not the rule of mercy.<BR><BR>As I chase another ball down the street, I think of how grateful I am for my team’s manager. God’s goals are long term. His love and guidance keep our team together. And... if I look to the right place I can see his son Jesus, down the baseline, giving me the signal... “swing away.”