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  • Luke Bilberry

Little League lessons

Editors note: Luke’s wife, Kathryn, passed away in April 2024 from an extremely quick & aggressive type of cancer. They have a 1 year old and 3 other kids. He sends out periodical updates.


HUDSONVILLE – A couple years ago Kathryn signed Noah & Wyatt up for T-ball, and then I was informed that I was also signed up as an assistant coach! Don’t you love it when you are “volun-told” to do things. I have to admit I was not a big fan of helping.


There is a tension between being a dad on one side of the fence and the coach inside the ballpark. But I have to say that my love for coaching baseball has grown, and this season of ball was an unexpected blessing. I didn’t know how much those young men would encourage me.


When our season ended with a tough loss in the playoffs, and I had to wipe some tears from my eyes, I realized that I must be getting old because little league became a metaphor for life.


Lesson 1 – Being on a team is the dream


We were made to play as a team. There is no way that any of us could truly ever survive on our own. We all have points of connections and people on our team. When that team is working together some amazing things happen. I don’t know how my family and I would be where we are today without the team that has rallied around us. Our church, the kids’ school teachers, and unbelievably generous people have carried us.


Lesson 2 – Coaching & Cheering > Criticizing


We all need people in our lives who are coaching us and calling us to more, but we need to recognize the difference between coaching that builds up and criticism that tears down. I saw our team play better baseball when they were cheering each other on and when they knew the coaches were in their corner. I was crazy blessed by the way our team cheered on Wyatt after missing a few games while we laid Kathryn to rest in Texas. As we were walking up the boys started cheering his name (Wyatt, Wyatt, Wyatt). I wish you could have seen his smile, it was a mile wide. When you're on a team and you're cheering one another on it is a pretty special thing.



Lesson 3 – Everything can change in a moment, it’s what you do next that matters.


Baseball is all about the moment because one hit, one pitch, one play can change everything. You can go from winning to losing in a moment. You can go from feeling fully in control to out of control. A sweet catch can fuel the team and crush the batter. A great hit can make the kids shout and shake the dugout fence like maniacs, and bad plays can cause you to lose your way in the game. We had a few of those tough moments, the boys got tagged out, they struck out, and ultimately lost what they had been working for. These moments had some of the boys angry, frustrated, and disappointed but it’s what they did next. They put their gloves back on and got back in the field. They hustled and got ready for the next play. They took a knee, let their frustration out, and then they picked their heads up and shook hands with their opponents.


This is life, like a baseball game things will go the way we want or something unexpected will come and try to keep us from playing the game. This is one of the biggest lessons I continue to learn in this season.


With Kat’s cancer and death I have been reminded over and over again it’s what I do next that matters. It’s the reason why I do not think questions like, “Why would God let this happen” are helpful. Why doesn't it help? We live in a broken world and death is the cruelest picture of its brokenness. Our world changed drastically in a moment, and so the question I’m asking for the Bitter & Bilberry Team is not “why God?”, but how should we respond to God? What we do next matters. We can’t change the past. We can’t change the loss our team just took, but we can choose to respond and stay in the game.


So as I took a knee with the boys after our final loss, and I saw the tears in the boys eyes, I got to tell them how proud of them that I am, and I reminded them that what we do next matters more. The reality is as much as I was trying to coach them, I was trying to coach myself in the game of life. I needed the pep talk to get up, to keep showing up, and to keep my head up.


So thanks Panthers and Hudsonville Little League. I didn’t realize how much I needed you this season. I’m praying you show up in the game of life and play ball.


Grace & Peace,

Luke


P.S. Thanks Carthage Bulldogs and Uncle Jarrod you took a little of the sting away from our trip to Texas by letting Wyatt play on y’alls amazing new field.


 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke is the Executive Pastor of Multiplication at Chapel Pointe. This role entails overseeing the organizational movement and developing strategic plans to continue advancing the Gospel. With a passion for church leadership, Luke pursued a Masters in Christian Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary. He loves outdoor adventures with his four children.




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