John Piper, Fathering, and Kirby Puckett

“Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!” More than twenty years ago a father yelled this encouragement to his chubby, baseball-loving son on a baked dirt infield at Elliot Park near downtown Minneapolis. That chubby kid never forgot that piece of advice.

For some reason my dad’s encouragement at that scrubby baseball field has resonated in my head a lot over the years. I am not really sure why. Anyone who’s read John Piper’s books or has listened to him preach knows that he has made some profound, challenging, mind-blowing, tongue-twisting, soul-wrenching (and of course BLOOD-EARNEST) statements. But what I remember most is that “Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!”

A child remembers those things that matter most to him. What mattered to me was baseball and Kirby Puckett. But more than that what mattered was that my father knew that those things mattered to me. He knew just what to say to keep my stubby legs churning to that first base and to every first base in every baseball and church softball game in the decades since. He knew my propensity to ease up and give up, and he knew that Kirby Puckett would inspire more hustle than any bribe, threat, platitude, compliment, competition, cliché, or bombast ever could. He knew me.

What matters to me now, that neither my dad nor I could have known then, is that this advice still rings in my ears. It has morphed from a simple encouragement to run hard into an encouragement to parent hard and work hard. My dad was parenting hard on that summer day at the park, and it matters to me two decades later. In this same way I want my parenting to resonate with my two daughterss in the decades to come.

What will encourage my children in that unique, poignant way that gets them going and sticks with them? What matters to them that can be spring boarded into motivation and memories? Am I paying attention to what they love so that I can be part of indelible memories and live in their minds as a blessing for the next decades of their lives?

“Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!” See dad, I was listening. It’s just not what you thought I would remember.

I originally wrote this in the summer of 2011, and it still holds true. Fathers’ Day seemed like just the right time to post it again.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life