Lessons from Teddy Ballgame // Keeping it in the Family

It’s baseball season – my favorite time of year. Every year I try to read a baseball-related biography. As I was considering which one to go with this year, I realized I didn’t know very much about the man known as the greatest hitter ever. I knew he was the last person to ever have a .400 batting average for a season, that he was a WWII hero, and known as one of the all time greats, but that was about it. So I picked up Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville.  It is a great biography – well written, interesting, comprehensive. [Ted was known for some incredibly salty language, so go in accordingly.]WilliamsMontville

Ted Williams’ life is much more interesting than I anticipated.  His was a fascinating life lived at high speed – totally fearless, and always his way. Here’s my first takeaway from his life…

Family Must Always Come First 

Williams’ father left at an early age, leaving his mother to raise two young boys in San Diego. His mother was a member of the local Salvation Army post where she became so heavily involved that her boys were left to virtually raise themselves.  They had hardly any supervision, support, or nurture from their mom.  Ted and his brother Danny were left to rely on aunts, uncles, and neighbors. Ted channeled his passion, his energy, his hurt into baseball. I’m sure Ted’s mother thought her main ministry was as a soldier and evangelist with the Salvation Army.  I’m sure she did great work in that ministry.  But she neglected her children in the process and it had drastic effects that still echo today.  Before God trusts us with a ministry or a mission, He trusts us with our family – it’s our first calling.  Care and ministry of our family must always take priority.


Ted Williams said he hated God, he had a history of treating women terribly, and was an absent father himself.  Ted’s outlook on God, women, children and life in general was determined by the way he was brought up.  Because his mother thought serving at the church was more important than caring for him and his brother, be became angry and it impacted the rest of his life.

Our families must come first.  If we neglect our families for the sake of our ministry, we are, in effect, abandoning our first ministry. 


Ted Williams – 1950

If there were a Mount Rushmore of baseball players Ted Williams would probably be on it. He was truly great.  He was the epitome of dedication, persistence, hard work, and immense skill all wrapped up in one package. But as great a player as he was, he was equally bad at having a family.  He generally lived for himself, with little to no regard for his kids or wives. When Ted became older, his son John-Henry took advantage of his father, squandered much of his money and became generally regarded as a pariah.

After Ted’s death, all his children took up numerous lawsuits with each other, with Ted’s former wives, and others. At his death there was no joy, no celebration on an amazing life – just anger between his kids.

When we neglect our families, there are consequences that last generations.  This is a great lesson for me: no matter what I’m doing or the seeming importance of my job, nothing will be more important than raising my kids and being there for my family. Nothing.

What the Bible Says About It…

You shall teach them [the law of God] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

I have a few more thoughts on his life.  I’ll share in the next post.  Thanks for reading!  I welcome comments!  If you have any, leave them below.  I’d love to read them.

Angrily Speaking

This Fall I studied the book of Jonah with the young adult group at my church.  It is truly a fascinating story full of sailors, killers, super-plants, destructive insects…oh yeah and a giant, man-swallowing sea creature. It sounds like it should be the next Biblical movie blockbuster, right?

So, there is a verse in Jonah that jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to shake it.

In the last chapter (4) Jonah is angry at God.  He’s angry because God didn’t destroy the city of Nineveh like Jonah wanted him to.  The whole city turned to God and they were saved from destruction for their terrible wickedness (they are called a “city of blood,” known for ruthlessness toward Hebrews).  That they weren’t punished made Jonah pretty upset – upset to the degree that he wanted to die (vs 3).  Jonah just couldn’t deal.

Then God asks Jonah a question (the first of 3 questions God asks Jonah in this chapter), “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Most of us get angry from time to time.  Sometimes anger comes and leaves quickly, other times anger moves in our hearts and sets up a permanent camp. Either way, we all experience it for one reason or another. In these days, with all that’s happening in the world such as Ferguson, the NYC grand jury verdict, the political landscape, the economic landscape, ISIS, Ukraine, and so much more, there is plenty of anger to go around.

The question God asks Jonah is a good question for all of us: “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

Um…maybe not

Often times we really don’t have a good reason to be angry if we are honest with ourselves [See: cut off in traffic, long line at the store, Starbucks is out of pumpkin spice latte, spouse doesn’t load the dishwasher the right way, etc].

In those times we are just more concerned about our own agendas, our own preferences, our own lives than anything else.  Sometimes we simply need to get over ourselves.  After all, Paul writes how Christians should look to other people’s interests over our own (Phil 2:4).  Think, if only we did that more how great that would make the world in which we live?

Um…maybe so

On the other hand, often times we do have a good reason to be angry.  Anger is often a result of deep hurt (see: being abandoned, lied about, cheated on, abused, betrayed, etc). It’s natural to be angry when we have been hurt or seen others hurt. And God understands this hurt.  He knows it well. Jesus suffered all of those same hurts and much much more. The author of Hebrews writes that we have a High Priest who knows and understands our weaknesses (4:15). God empathizes with our hurt.

It’s not wrong to be angry.  Anger is a natural emotion. Jesus himself was angry (a great study for another day).  But living and dwelling in anger is unhealthy.  It keeps us from experiencing the full joy of life God wants for us. Living in anger keeps us weighed down, burdened, blinded, and not able to reach our full potential for joy & happiness.


Image © Gabe Lawson

The problem with Jonah was that he couldn’t see past his own hurt.  It was like a giant wall blocking him from any perspective.  That’s what anger does to us – it blocks us from really seeing anything except what’s directly in front of us.

Jonah forgot that before God spared the Ninevites from punishment, God spared him too. When God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran from God and boarded a ship to the end of the world. He was subsequently thrown overboard to die in the sea, but God sent a fish to rescue him.  Jonah didn’t deserve to be rescued. After all, he deliberately and intentionally disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God saved him anyway.  And in the belly of the fish Jonah sings God’s praises saying, “In my distress you listened to my cry,” and “Salvation comes from the Lord (ch 2).”

How soon Jonah forgot these praises when God extended salvation to people he didn’t think deserved it.  Anger blinded him.  Anger caused him to forget that God saved him too when he didn’t deserve it. Jonah wasn’t living in the joy of his own salvation. He was living in the bondage of past hurt, causing him to forget the very salvific nature of the God he served.

Let’s not make the same mistake Jonah made.  Sure we may have good reason to be angry. But instead of living in anger, let’s view it in relation to the character of God and what he has done for us. It’s all about what we decide to focus on.

Have we been hurt and mistreated? Yes, and it’s certainly unfair. God knows this.

But we have also been saved from death by Jesus taking the punishment of death in our stead (Galatians 3). Like Jonah, we were saved from death even though we didn’t deserve to be saved at all.

When life is viewed from the perspective of Christ and the Cross, it makes it a little easer to let go of that hurt, anger & bitterness.

Letting go of hurt and anger is not easy.  It is most certainly a process. It takes courage to let the anger go. It takes the grace of God, to be sure. But once we do, we will experience a fresh feeling of liberty, hope, and joy.

Let us not be weighed down and blinded by hurt that we didn’t deserve.  Instead let us live in the joy of knowing we too have been, or can be, given life that we don’t deserve.

Scripture on anger:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.  – Psalm 37:8-9

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. – Proverbs 29:11

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20