This year was like the last few Christmases.  When family members asked me what I would like for Christmas, nothing came to my mind except sox and underwear – and this year I didn’t even need underwear!  Fortunately for me, my family is both generous beyond what I deserve and very creative.  I am truly blessed … and always come away feeling inadequate in the “gifting” department.

One gift I received is a book, “The Final Season” by Tom Stanton (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin Press, 2001).  Under the subtitle “Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark”, it is the author’s diary of attending every Detroit Tiger game during their last season in Tiger Stadium (aka Bennet Park, Navin Field, Briggs Stadium).  Three games in (out of 81), I am loving the book in many ways.

The first two paragraphs of the jacket cover were the only appetizer I needed.  “Maybe your dad took you to ball games at Fenway, Wrigley, or Ebbets.  Maybe Yankee Stadium or Candlestick Park, or listened as Red Barber or Vin Skully called the plays on the radio.  Or maybe he coached your team (I didn’t do any of these things) or just played catch with you in the yard (finally!).  Chances are good that if you’re a baseball fan, your dad had something to do with it – and your thoughts of the sport evoke thoughts of him.”  I think my dad did play catch with me on occasion (more often my brother), and we did make an annual trek to Detroit to picnic on Belle Isle and then attend a Tiger double header.

“If so, you will treasure The Final Season, a poignant true story about baseball and heroes, family and forgiveness, doubts and dreams, and a place that brings them all together.”  The handwritten note on the inside cover provided a great conclusion.  “Our shared 1901 has been all peanuts and Cracker Jack.  Can’t wait for the new season and a 2022 Tiger’s playoff run!  (Yes, I would like to borrow this when you finish).”  My thought:  It might be that the only two things about which I am more passionate that (our) Detroit Tigers, are my family and my Lord Jesus and his Kingdom.

While I get the feeling that the author grieved greatly over the closing of Tiger Stadium, I rejoice in what our city/team has done (and his thoughts may have changed since 2001).  I have many great memories of Tiger Stadium, but I do not miss it.  I love what they have done with the corner of Michigan and Trumbull – it would be great to walk on that field in 2022.  And who could ask for a better stadium than Comerica Park?

What are your top three passions – and what are you doing to nurture them?  Life is travelling at such a fast pace that I fear we seldom take the time to pause and consider a question like this of ourselves.  Yet, if we do not, we may well pay for it in the future!  So I urge you to spend some time with this question – after all, for all anyone of us knows, this may be our “final season.”

These final ten days of 2021 have been incredibly blessed in my first two passions as well – and plans are in place for more of the same as we roll into 2022.  Mass quantities of quality family time, worship services, individual conversations at church, over the phone and in person had me exhausted on Monday, and then energized by Wednesday evening.  Though some of the conversations have been tear-filled, I sense that God@Work in them all.  2022 is poised to be a significant year for the kingdom – even if it is the final season for any, or all, of us on this earth.

Stanton goes on to write, “Our lives aren’t about the big stories that shape history.  They are about the little ones that play themselves out in the places we treasure – homes, school, and ballparks (and congregations, I must add) – and with the people we hold dear.”  I could not agree more – for my life story has no huge hero headlines, “just” a multi-year litany of blessing after blessing.

So I return to my earlier question.  What are your top three passions – and what are you doing to nurture them?  At STL’s New Year’s Eve service (5:00 p.m.) I will compare the reptilian, reactive part of our brain with the reasoning zone.  For Spirit filled followers of Jesus, every situation gives us the opportunity to observe the circumstances, organize our thoughts (using God’s promises, gained wisdom, trusted advise, and prayer) and then act … instead of bouncing around in fear.

It is said that Martin Luther, when asked what he would do if he knew that the world would end tomorrow, responded, “Plant an apple tree.”  Not a huge, headline act, but a little one with long-term potential.  What if this is your “final season” – isn’t really the question.  Rather, the question is, “How will we respond as we are told ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’ (Psalm 31.24)?”

I am truly blessed in more ways than I can count (I also received a dozen gold-toes) … and so are you … and I suggest we all mark 2021 as the final season for living as though this is a lie!  And a new season to “be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9)  “Oh, how abundant is his goodness, which he has stored up for those who fear him, and worked for those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 31.19)

The Final Season