Elliot Sachs, our seven year old grandson, just finished his second baseball season, enjoying the sport and learning a great deal. Part of the challenge the coaches had with their young players was in trying to get them to pay attention. The coaches were constantly reminding the kids where they needed to be standing, to be ready in case the ball was smacked in their direction and where to throw it to get a runner out.
When they were at bat, the head coach led the team in a chant, “Hits and runs! Hits and runs!” The assistant at the pitching machine encouraged each player who came up to the plate to watch the ball. Although Elliot’s team had scored several runs, whenever the coach was asked about the score, he told them 0-0.
This was the topic of much discussion among the boys in the dugout who couldn’t quite figure out why the score was always tied at zero! Elliot piped up with his observation that maybe it was because the coach wanted them to focus on playing the game and not be concerned about the score! Yay, Elliot. Mind in the game!
A similar theme, only in a different setting, was found in a taped version of the book, “Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel J. Brown. As Al and I took our friends, Joe and JoAnn Payne on a three day road trip around northern Michigan, we listened to the captivating story about a crew team from the University of Washington during the early 1930’s. The Huskies’ varsity coach had a vision of winning gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. His 1933 freshman team held great promise, even though unskilled and green. However the young men had to learn to concentrate so that their movements could be synchronized and their power utilized to the maximum to propel the racing shell through the water.
Their coxswain would chant “M-I-B” or “mind in the boat!”over and over in time to the strokes of the oars. To be successful, nothing else could enter the minds of the oarsmen during the race, not even the position of other shells competing for the prize. The freshman boys struggled with this. Easy to relate! The M-I-B chant was a good reminder for me to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Mind in the boat!
Just before the Paynes left, the four of us attended a neighborhood concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in which our daughter participated. Although the featured selections were difficult and incredibly fast in places, the musicians played beautifully. It was amazing to watch the various strings sections, their bows dipping and rising in unison, to hear the crescendo of the final notes and then see everyone stop at precisely the same moment, bows suspended over their instruments. The musical score had to be followed exactly while keeping one eye on the conductor. How did they stay together?
Again the importance of concentration was demonstrated. As the musicians practiced individually, rehearsed together and played the music repeatedly at many concerts, this skill was honed to perfection. They were masters of “mind in the music!”
Whether it is in a game, a race or playing in a concert, complete attention is required. As Christians, our chant should be “M-I-L...” mind in the Lord! Distractions and wrong thinking create conflict, causing us to stumble from the path as we try to follow Jesus and affecting others too. So how do we become better at focusing on Him?
A determination to think about things that are right, true and good, to study the Bible diligently, to learn from others and to trust God are important components of this process. When we give God permission, the Holy Spirit begins to renew our minds.
Don’t get discouraged! This is an ongoing project in which we work together as a team with Him both individually and collectively. God promises that He will finish the good work He has begun in us. Take heart! Let us keep our minds in the Lord!
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV
Judy Lowery lives in Michigan. The Good News column appears regularly in The Porterville Recorder. You can read more at Judy’s blog, goodnewswithjudy.blogspot.com.