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Minor League Odyssey - Postscript

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NOTE: This entry is a postscript to my series of entries describing my game-day experiences on a tour of the Minnesota Twins farm system; it describes what led me to make this trip in the first place. Please be advised that it is very different from what has gone before in this series. It is longer, more personal and, in contrast to the light-hearted tone I tried to take with the previous entries, it is written from a more serious perspective and has a strong spiritual component. If this is not your cup of tea please just skip over this post and go do something else. If, having read this disclaimer, you still want to know why I did this, read on.

I guess you could say that the idea to take this trip has its roots going back to Labor Day 2011 when my mother and I were in an hiking accident along the river bluffs southeast of the Twin Cities. The details of the accident are immaterial, but the result was my mother lost her life and I was left with a broken ankle. It was two-plus months before I could use my left leg and another two-plus months in outpatient therapy building my strength back up and learning to walk normally again. During that time of healing and recovery I spent much of my emotional (and physical) energy both grieving the loss and settling the business affairs of the estate, including fixing up and selling the house where I had grown up and where she had lived for forty years. In addition, the church I had been serving as interim pastor finally concluded their search for new permanent leadership, so I found myself without employment (fortunately, the inheritance eliminated any short-term financial concerns).

As the work progressed on the house to the point where it was ready to list, and as the estate began to be wrapped up, I began to look ahead to what might be next in my life. In one sense, I knew this was a new beginning. Always before I had had members of my immediate family as a part of my life. Now, with my mother’s death (preceded by my sister five years ago and my dad in 1999), and being a lifelong bachelor, I am in a real sense entering new and uncharted territory. The simple question I have been asking myself is, What do I do now? Is it time to get back to my called profession and look for a church where God might be leading me to serve? Or do I go a new direction and look for a new career entirely? Do I stay in the Twin Cities area (I had moved back here a few years earlier out of concern for my mother’s health) or do I consider relocating? And if so, to where?

I was aware of the biblical tradition of how the ancient prophets discerned God’s will for their lives – by spending time in the wilderness and allowing God to speak to them in their wanderings. The story of Elijah, fleeing from Ahab and Jezebel and taking refuge on Mount Horeb, and there hearing the voice of God in the silence of the night, was particularly poignant. In a similar way, many other cultures have the tradition of a “vision quest” when seeking direction for their lives. Then, as I was driving back from a short camping trip at one of Minnesota’s many state parks, I heard an interview on public radio with a woman who, after the death of her mother, made it her goal to hike the Appalachian Trail, and subsequently did so. The idea began to take shape that I needed to find some way to go on a quest or do something out of the ordinary, both as a part of the grieving process and as a way of seeking direction for the future.

It was about this time, in April, when the Twins season kicked off, and since I didn’t really have anything else better to do with my time I began to follow not just the parent club but to keep track of the farm teams as well. One evening, while perusing the box scores, the idea came to me to visit some of the teams – perhaps Beloit, or perhaps New Britain and Rochester because their proximity to each other. And then, finally, why not visit all of them? I promptly dismissed the idea as both expensive and excessive (it would take 2-3 weeks to accomplish), but the idea continued to linger. If I was looking for a longer time of reflection and journeying, would this not work? And then, getting out the calendar and sitting down and looking at the home schedules of each team, it became clear that there was a perfect window of opportunity to actually do this trip if I wanted to. It was almost as if the schedules had been designed with the intent of making this trip possible. From that point on I began to realize that this was something, not just that I wanted to do, but something that I had to do. The final straw was when my mother’s house sold, receiving an offer less than a month after listing and closing at a fair price in less than two. This final removal of an impediment, when many houses are sitting for months without interest, signalled to me that the trip was meant to be, so the planning began in earnest, and on Tuesday July 31st I headed out on I-94 for the first leg of this odyssey.

The idea of writing about it comes in part from that interview I heard on public radio (the woman in question actually wrote a book about her experiences), and also from my participation on the Twins Daily site, which I discovered in early May. I had posted many comments on the forum threads, and I knew that some also blogged about this or that. I had toyed with the idea of blogging as well, but never did so because there was never a topic on which I really felt the need to write. I will say that when the trip started I was still on the fence on whether I would blog about it or not, but the day after the first game I just sat down and started typing and my thoughts flowed out naturally and formed the first entry. I decided from the start that this would be written primarily for myself, to help me document my own experiences and allow me to go back later in life and look at this trip again, to allow me to relive it. If others found the entries interesting, that would be a bonus, but if not, it didn’t really matter to me. This was a part of my own process of healing and discernment.

So did the trip accomplish what I hoped? I would say yes. I saw a lot of good baseball (which in itself was part of why I did this), and it was good to see parts of America that I hadn’t visited in years, and to just be on the road and travelling. More importantly, though, it did the job of getting me out on an extended “quest” in which I could allow God to speak to me and give me direction. In that respect, it turns out that the drives between the cities were more important than the games themselves. While I occasionally let the radio search for stations to pass the time from place to place, for the most part I drove in silence, with only my thoughts for company. Winding through the Appalachians, heading down through South Carolina into Georgia and Florida, going back up the coast on those marathon days between Fort Myers and Hartford, driving through the genteel countryside of Connecticut – those all became times for God to speak in the silence of my soul. There is no one point that I can look at and say “This is the moment” when I knew what God wanted next. But, through the process of the whole journey, I did come to what I believe was a discernment, and I now have a gameplan for the direction I go from here. Whether it works out as I hope and expect, who knows? In one sense, I have a process in mind and not an endpoint, so God could still lead me in new and unexpected ways. But I do enter this new time in my life with gratitude for what I had before, for the joys and blessings my family gave me while they were with me and for the legacies they left me, both tangible and intangible. I enter it with a renewed sense of purpose and a willingness for God to lead me wherever God chooses. And I enter it having watched a lot of baseball, which is always a good thing.
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