JUST ONE SWING OF THE BAT By Lori A Alicea

Batter Up!!

We’ve all been summoned to the plate of our calling.

In this game called life we’ve been preparing for opportunites of our calling as long as we can remember; or maybe the opportunity has been waiting for us to prepare just as long.

Either way, you’re on deck and the umpire is kicking up a dust storm in his loud and obnoxious impatience,

Batter Up!!
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Your fans have been filling up the stands in their support of you for years during the spring chill and summer heat, cheering and encouraging the truth that
you were truly born for this.”

From the dugout watching the other players you doubt yourself until it’s your time at bat.

You question what God has called you to do.

“Have I prepared enough for my inning?
Have I prepared at all?
Am I ready to face the fast pitch?

I have to be ready because”

When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.
John Wooden
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Your inning has finally arrived.

It’s now or never.
Nervous or not.

Batter Up!
2017yes ethan baseball 4The crowds cheer you on to hit the ball out of the park.

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God just wants you brave enough to take your place at the plate, to swing;
And keep on swinging.

Because in our lack, (albeit confidence, skill or ability),
Remembering when we are called,

God makes up the difference with
Just one swing of the bat.
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We’ve all been called for great things.

The roster of greatness doesn’t find your name in the minors, the majors, or the big leagues though.

Roll call finds you in the perfect will of God for your life, where His plans of prosperity, hope and a future abounds.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

For the love of the game and team you have been chosen and called to,
2017yes IMG_7654Your eyes must be focused on the ball of your opportunities,

You must be diligent in the small plays,

Be a team player, be teachable; be coached in God’s wisdom,

Be willing to leave your base of comfort,
Or steel the next base if need be,
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To round home and score a big win for the Kingdom,
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That you might receive the game ball and prize God has prepared for you;
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Receive the championship ring of His reward.

We’ve all been summoned to the plate of our calling.

In this unpredictable game there are the wins, the defeats.
Assuredly, we will be hit by the fast pitch of our losses, the strike outs.
Yet we will celebrate sliding into home for the winning run if we faithfully remain in the game for God.

We must be brave enough to take our place at the plate, to swing;
And keep on swinging.

To face our fears, our lack, (albeit confidence, skill or ability),
Remembering when we are called,

God makes up all the difference with
Just one swing of the bat.
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SUMMER DAYS OF OLD By Lori A Alicea

Flipping through the old vintage calendars of the late sixties, early seventies, I can still recall bits and pieces of those hot summer days of my childhood that lasted from June until Labor Day, a holiday signaling summers end and the first day of school.

When June 1st came though and the school bell rang for the very last time after a half-day of kids cleaning out their desks, a mass exodus of screaming and jubilant students burst through the doorways in celebration, starting the clock of their long anticipated three month vacation from studying and tests. Labor Day might as well been a year from then as it seemed so far away on the eve of summer vacation.  The calendar weeks that followed were scheduled fun around family, kids and so much more.  But first on the minds of many kids, including myself, is that tomorrow morning, we’re all sleeping in.

Remembering the summer days of old replays my 8 mm memories of a simpler life void of distractions.  Technology wasn’t common place back then.  Communication between loved ones was intimate and face to face, or sentiments handwritten in a letter to those living a distance away.  Microwaves weren’t common place either back in the day and we didn’t miss it as we weren’t in a hurry, and the meals weren’t hurried either because the dinner table was an oasis where families spent time reconnecting with one another after the hours of the day spent apart.  Most houses in our neighborhood didn’t boast of central air, but box fans in the open windows and thru the unlocked screen front door circulated a cool breeze throughout the rooms most days.

Born into a family of six children, we didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it either. We shared our hand-me-down clothes and shared three bedrooms between the six of us.  I don’t ever recall feeling crowded sleeping in a room with two other sisters.  What we lacked in material things we made up for it in love; love for God and love for one other.

Summer season always kicked off with a community little league parade of baseball players loaded up in the backs of a caravan of pickup trucks with the town fire station leading the way in a blaze of sirens. Ball players threw candy into the crowds lined along the streets while the parade made its way through town ending its route at the little league field, welcoming folks of all ages excited for opening day with the first smells of hot buttered popcorn.

For as long as I remember, my brother played baseball during our summer break. His wool-blend uniform appeared stifling in the scorching June heat but the true  love of baseball overshadowed any irritations.  I loved watching the crowded concession stands of Babe Ruth wannabes  buying and stuffing their mouths with wads of bubble gum that came wrapped with a baseball card, all hoping for that desirable rookie of their favorite team.

Mother always made sure we kids attended a week of vacation bible school. Back in the day when mothers didn’t work, scores of children lined the church steps at 9:00 am where selected boys and girls carrying the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible led the way into the sanctuary for a few songs before class.

Vacation bible school was about getting kids excited to learn and watch those famous bible stories come to life on flannel graphs, following up with related crafts, and snacks. Walking single file for a brief recess outside, I loved being a kid passing the church kitchen table reaching for a Styrofoam cup of Kool-Aid and cookies stacked in twos.  Best of all, the five days of vacation bible school ended with a Friday night celebration where parents enjoyed a program presented from each class, then traveled room to room to see their child’s work from the week on display.

In addition to vacation bible school, mother diligently saved through the year so we girls could attend a week of church camp located a few hours away. Girls from all over the state enjoyed cabin living, swimming, hiking, boating, crafts, bible lessons and the best food ever served in the mess hall.  Mornings began around the flag pole where prayers welcomed the day.  In the evening seated in an outdoors theatre type setting in full view of the lake and a campfire, we enjoyed Vespers together, a time of singing and preaching.  I gave my heart to Jesus at church camp one summer, remembering the moment like it happened an hour ago.

The summer days of old is a scrapbook of many moments; planned and spontaneous.  As a child I never took for granted the lifetime memories my mother planned during our years of summer vacation.  But those spontaneous “out of the blue” summer surprises delighted me also.  Like the unexpected times when dad told mother to load up the station wagon with us kids for a short trip to town, where carhops served and perched a tray of frosty mugs of root beer on your “partially rolled down” window.  I also treasured those unplanned Sunday family nights at the outdoor Drive-In where the latest G-Rated movie for kids was being shown.  During those hot summer days, dad would every now and then spring for seven soft-serve cones from the mint green ice-cream truck travelling the neighborhood; one for each of us six kids and one for the dog.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our July 4th celebration.  That particular day Dad was busy in the backyard grilling BBQ ribs and mother could be found in the kitchen preparing corn on the cob, watermelon and her famous sweet tea.  We always thanked God for freedom amid our family seated around the dinner table.  At night the neighborhood gathered together, setting up their blankets and lawn chairs on an open lot of our town square to enjoy the firework festivities.  We kids delighted to share a few boxes of sparklers, as many other kids that 4th of July.  Neighbors and old friends conversed from blanket to blanket catching up on summer news and plans for back-to-school shopping.  Though privately the light display saddened me as the mid-air explosions of fireworks reminded me of war and “bombs bursting in air”, I still found room to relish my siblings and firework show.

In the sixties and early seventies of my younger childhood summers, these memories remain as a sweet slice of watermelon, retaining their taste in my mouth as those simple pleasures of a simple summer, staying the times and hidden in the heart of a simple little girl as her
summer days of old.