#ITFDB

Baseball season is over. My family will enjoy the rest of college football and count down to bowl month. We will also stuff ourselves with lasagna and cheesecake for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s tradition.

IMG_1179
The day Clayton Kershaw pitched a full game in 99 degree weather.

Full vulnerability moment- I was sad yesterday when the Dodgers lost. That is an understatement. I was an absolute wreck. Today I threw myself into reading about medieval saints in Sicily and Augustine. It helped, albeit mildly.

I tried to avoid social media and focus on my own life- what I actually have control over. Then I went on Reddit/Dodgers and watched a video of the highlights from the season. And I sobbed again.

This was a special season. The last time the Dodgers went to the World Series, I was nine months old and Kirk Gibson hit a walk-off homerun to win the first game. This year, on the exact same day, Justin Turner did the same thing to win game 3 of the NLCS. Apart from that, I went to 14 games- 12 regular season, 1 playoff, and the first game of the World Series. Each game was unique. Records were broken. Clayton Kershaw pitched a full game in 99 degree weather as we sweated in the Loge. My sister finally got her UFO ice cream sandwich. My dad and I laughed uncontrollably when Yasiel Puig licked his bat (something that would make several folx a heck of a lot of t-shirt money).

I watched the Dodgers lose twice at home. I got frustrated during the losing streak. I got to know the players, their significant others, their hilarious mannerisms. The players, a group of unlikely rookies and unknowns, all pointed to the press box when Vin Scully called his last game after 67 years. I cried when Dave Roberts talked openly about losing his father, because someone very, very close to me lost his father this year too.

Baseball season marked my move back to California after five years. I spent more time with my best friends and my family than I have since college. The final loss debilitated me- it seemed like the stars had aligned just to be shattered. But I realized after watching that short video that I would have been sad regardless. It meant the end of a really special time, the dog days of summer transitioning into a beautiful fall in Los Angeles. My home.

I remember my first Dodger game. I was seven, and my dad took me to a Sunday day game. Hideo Nomo, one of the first Japanese players in the major leagues, pitched. My dad asked me to translate the fan’s signs in Japanese. We sat in the top deck with barely anyone around, and my dad made sure I could sit in the shade so my skin wouldn’t burn. A father and son sat behind us, and after chatting for a few innings, he gave us his business card and a coupon for a free light bulb at his hardware store. That game marked the beginning of my love for the Dodgers, and baseball as an “intellectual” sport. As a softball player for fourteen years, I live for the statistical analyses and the situations of every play. My dad used to quiz me in the car before my games. “Runners on second and third, one out. Where does the center fielder throw?”

I feel lucky to have a story like that. My dad and I still laugh about the light bulb salesman, and he still quizzes me. It’s interesting to read the theories about sports as a kind of religion. I see some similarities. Community especially.

I do hope one day I’ll get to see the boys in blue win the Series. Regardless, I know I’ll get to the ravine next summer and hopefully every summer after that. Congratulations to both teams, it was a fantastic World Series. I leave you with the words of the great Vin Scully:

May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sees, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer. You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know, in my heart, I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But, you know what, there will be a new day, and, eventually, a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ooh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball.

Abundance 

Every time I hang out with a group of college chaplains, I seem to be on a beach and stuffing my face. Not to mention enjoying the company of my favorite people on earth. For the past three days, the Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) chaplains met at Chapman University for their annual conference. We spent one day on Chapman’s campus and one literally overlooking the white sand stretches of Laguna Beach. This was my first time at the ACURA gathering; though I had been to three previous National Association for College and University Chaplains (NACUC) gatherings (the other college chaplain association) and have experienced the same mixture of joy, understanding, and community at each one. College chaplains are people who think deeply about everything they do, and believe strongly in working together in any way possible. 
I’ve been indulging greatly the past few weeks. USC football games, Dodger Stadium visits, cooking with organic butter, enjoying all of the pumpkin and apple delicacies (yep, I’m all in on the stereotype). Even my mind has been offered abundance: on Stanford’s campus it seems like every day there is an enriching talk or workshop that gets me excited and makes me want to buy 50 more books on Medieval Buddhist Feminism or Jovinian’s ridiculous claim in the early church that everyone should be treated equal. I watched Clayton Kershaw throw a masterpiece game last night only 50 feet from home plate at Dodger Stadium in game one of the World fricking Series. There is so much and there are so many for whom to feel grateful, and I do. 


Sitting with the marvelous Rev. Jim Burklo while the sun set behind Chapman’s impeccably manicured athletic field, he asked me a difficult question. “Where are you in your faith journey?” Even though that question never has a real answer for me, I usually say “I’m thinking about this or that.” But lately I’ve been struggling with losing faith in lots of things. Will women ever feel safe walking alone? Will the victims of hurricanes and fires ever feel truly “relieved?” Is the academy really just a bunch of people arguing for the sake of arguing? 
In my courses I’ve been reading about asceticism among the early Christians. Talk about a contested topic! The desert fathers and mothers I once admired from an interfaith appreciative perspective are now poking holes in my worldview. They lived in the exact opposite way I have been living these past few weeks. Or did they also live abundantly, in their own way?
It seems simple, but the Buddha’s assertion that the “middle path” as the true way to enlightenment has always spoken to me. Moderation. We talk about that all the time these days- eat one cookie, not five. Buy one shirt, not one in every color. Know your limits. We fulfill our desire but don’t deprive ourselves. Could this balance be more difficult than absolute abstinence? 
I flew first class once as a lucky upgrade (I don’t think that happens anymore… maybe?) and after getting those full six inches added to my chair and eating an actual meal, not peanuts, in my seat, it was hard to fly the next time. Actually it was awful. Admittedly, I even thought about upgrading at my own expense. Had I not experienced it, I would probably experience mild envy but forget it every time I snuggled in to my economy seat. 
When we taste abundance, we seek to keep it. But if we strive so hard to live constantly in abundance, eventually it becomes the norm. And then we are seeking again. Moderation is not so much a practice in limitation as it is in recognizing when we are not limited. It sounds like gratitude, in a way. The presence of abundance is recognized and enjoyed.