A cartoon tacked to a bulletin board shows a picture of a young boy wearing a baseball cap and holding a bat and a glove. Standing next to his father, who is absorbed in reading the newspaper. the boy says, “Play with me, or trade me!”

Playing with our children is a great way to bond with them and build cords of affection that last a lifetime.

Paul Lewis told about standing behind the backstop, watching his son David catch a baseball game. Shouting words of encouragement, he was sure he was watching the next Yogi Berra, the renowned catcher for the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1965. On the other hand, Lewis sensed it was important not to pressure his son.

He observed that catching baseball is a lot like fathering. The first requirement is to catch. By that, he meant hovering at home plate and not allowing anything to get by. As a father, he wanted to “catch” every moment he could with his kids. When he played with his children, it showed them he liked them, that they were important to him and he considered them to be fun.

Working together, wrestling on the floor or just acting silly became times of bonding. It also made it easier for them to obey when he had to insist.

The second requirement of catchers is to throw well. Lewis compared that to being prayerful, to being alert, quick and accurate in asking God to protect his children from the negative influences that would drag them down. All fathers have to make judgment calls. That’s when we ask ourselves, “Was I too strict or too lenient? Were my words loving enough? Did I control my temper? Did I have the right balance of work and time with family?”

Baseball players know training is important, too. As we observe Father’s Day this weekend, let’s remember the challenge of training “a child in the way he should go” so that “when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

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