My Travels – MLB Stadiums: Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks (March 31, 2014)

Camelback MountainAt the end of March, Kara and I flew to Phoenix to take in Cactus League spring training and cross Chase Field off our bucket list.

If you’re a big-time baseball fan, traveling to spring training is a must. This was my first time at spring training and I’m kicking myself for waiting this long to experience it. The Rockies and Diamondbacks share a new stadium and the new Cubs Park is a beautiful ballpark.

We climbed Camelback Mountain in the middle of Phoenix, which is a great climb and an incredible 360 view of the city. We also drove up South Mountain to watch the sun set.

Next, we drove up to Sedona to do some hiking over the weekend. If you can afford a jeep tour (or got lucky, like we did), it is well worth the cost. There’s a small brewery in Sedona called Oak Creek Brewery that has one of the best BLTs I’ve ever tasted. We also made a day trip up to the Grand Canyon and were tourists for a day.

Devil's Bridge - Sedona, AZWe headed back to Phoenix for Opening Day with the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Giants were in town and the festivities were fairly decent, but nothing too special. In fact, it felt more like a good Friday night than Opening Day. The Giants won on a late Buster Posey homer than landed two rows in front of us and we checked stadium #29 off our bucket list. Only one more to go!

If you’re taking a trip to Chase Field, here are a few tips to keep in mind…

  • Chase Field has access to a fair amount of parking lots and the Metro Light Rail public transportation. The stadium parking garage was fairly cheap ($12) for baseball parking, especially on Opening Day.
  • Chase Field does have a retractable roof, which they opened right before first pitch. Very nice! Also, a 747 flew over the stadium late in the game. Can you say distracting?
  • The most impressive part of Chase Field is the food selection. It ranks right up there with AT&T Park (San Francisco). I ate orange chicken from Panda Express and Kara had a burger from Fatburger. This year the Diamondbacks introduced the D-Bat, an 18″ long corn dog ($25). It looks great, but it’s a heart attack waiting to happen.
  • I was very impressed with the sight lines around the stadium. No matter where you’re waiting in line, you’re almost guaranteed a good view of the field.

In the end, Chase Field made our top 10-12 of MLB stadiums. Good game, great food, and a much-needed vacation to a beautiful part of the country.

Chase Field Opening Day 2014

Lent – Paul’s Wilderness

This is part of a series of devotionals throughout the season of Lent. Each week is a different theme to deeper explore the emotions and significance attached to Lent and the buildup to Resurrection Sunday.

Read: 2 Corinthians 11:24-29

Paul's shipwreckThe Apostle Paul understood wilderness experiences. Most of his wilderness experiences had nothing to do with the desert. This passage is Paul’s list of all the unbelievable struggles he faced carrying the Gospel to others.

As a pastor, my heart aches for other pastors and ministry leaders. We experience some of the most offensive treatment, both inside and outside the Church, with an incredible deficit of encouragement. Part of the experience simply comes with the territory; Jesus told His disciples we will have troubles, the world is going to hate us.

If you’re a pastor or a ministry leader, whether in a church, nonprofit, ministry, paid or volunteer, whatever capacity you’re serving in, this is our wilderness. There are times where you ask if the struggle is worth the reward.

Wouldn’t it be easier on my brain, my heart, my marriage, and my family if I weren’t serving this way? Yes, it’d be much easier, but this is the ministry where God’s called us to serve. This isn’t a death sentence as much as Bonhoeffer’s words remind us it’s an invitation to come and die to ourselves so Christ can be exalted in us.

Our struggles in North American ministry are pittance compared to what Paul suffered and others around the world are still suffering for the Gospel. And yet, our struggles are still very real and grating on the soul.

If you’re not a pastor or a ministry leader, you probably know someone who is. The call to ministry is often thankless and lonely. Many times simply serving in ministry leadership is more of a wilderness than a refuge.

When we recognize the depth of our sin during Lent, the nature of Christ-filled community also demands we recognize the effect of sin on those around us, including leadership. Of all the struggles Paul listed, only two or three were caused by nature, the rest by people…

  • What part have we played in creating a wilderness experience for pastors and ministry leaders?
  • What sin are we responsible for that’s caused sleepless nights and angry conversations with God’s chosen leaders?
  • How has our sin affected the lives of those God’s called to lead His Church?

Today is about repenting of the effects of our sin towards spiritual leadership. We cannot sin in community and expect community to go unscathed. You might need to make a phone call, meet face-to-face, apologize, reconcile, whatever it is to start building restoration and forgiveness.

Maybe you simply need to encourage a pastor or ministry leader in your life. Their massive deficit of encouragement needs to be refilled with love and support from a community called together for the Gospel. Their choice to lead God’s Church is enough of a challenge; we are called to make it easier, not harder to serve.