This year has brought a delightful change in my personal life, even an answer to prayer in that I have been able to resume my favorite of all pastimes, golf. Because of various circumstances I have not played what I consider to be the greatest of all games for the past several years. Not only has God provided the opportunity for me to play, he has brought several new friends and peers into my golfing circle here in Dallas for what has become a weekly game of competition, fun and fellowship. I’m beyond elated at this blessing!
I started my love for the game at the age of 12. My dad had played a few times in his younger years and decided to take it up again in his 40’s and brought me along to share the experience. It was an instant hit with me. I love all sports and quickly found out how challenging and difficult this one is…I’m still finding that out some 47 years later! How good am I? Good is relative. As the saying goes, the older I get the better I used to be. I do all right; I have my share of pars, an occasional birdie and of course one or two obligatory “blow-up” holes during each round. My fondest memories over the years? I have accomplished the cherished “hole-in-one” feat, not once but three times. No, I’m really not THAT good, but God is full of grace. Those are a trio of shots I shall never forget. (I actually just narrowly missed a 4th ace this very week!) Yes, golf is special to me. I’ve had the blessing of playing the world’s first golf course in St. Andrews, Scotland. I’ve attended the unparalleled Master’s golf tournament in Augusta, GA on three occasions. (For the uneducated reader, this is a golfer’s Heaven on earth!) If I were to begin telling stories of my golf experiences in this writing, you would tire of reading well before I was done pontificating. Fear not – your endurance level should be safe.
With the introduction completed, you may be asking yourself, “so why is he writing about this?” Well, in a nutshell, it touches so many areas of life. Perhaps that is why it is as special a game as it is to me.
A Few Golf Lessons
Patience. I have always wanted to be an excellent golfer, and for most of that time, I have wanted that NOW. Golf is a game that involves many factors. One can learn to hit a golf ball 300 yards and still score very poorly. By the same token, one can be limited in how far he can hit a golf ball and still score rather well. There are simply so many things to think about on any given shot that patience has to be developed to learn to play the game with any expertise whatsoever. Along with that, playing with others in this quiet, private gentleman’s game will test one’s patience without trying. I have played with probably a couple hundred guys over the years. Some guys hit the ball all over the place. Some guys are in a hurry. Some guys play slow. Some talk too much. Some are in their own little world and oblivious to anyone else. On and on it goes, and I’m probably listing myself in several of those quirks that my fellow golfers must put up with on any given day. Friends, the need for a good dose of patience cannot be overlooked in this life. The sooner we acquire it, the more we will enjoy life itself. Ever noticed how God is never in a hurry? He reminds me of the old Heinz ketchup commercial. Can you say S-L-O-W? He’s never late, but He surely doesn’t show up a day early either. But rest assured knowing if He spoke something to you He will bring it to pass in His time. We must run this race with patience...GREAT patience. A lot of times we get a word from God and grow discouraged if we don’t see it come to pass in the next month. I clearly remember a vision He gave me one night when I was 18 yrs old. He showed me leading thousands of people in glory filled worship to the Lord. Yet at the time I was only an organist in my little church. Well, in due time I found myself singing before 17,000 people in Shreveport, LA. God fulfilled the vision...I only had to wait 28 years! Run your race with patience. Yes, it IS a virtue! God grant me more!
Perseverance. Golf is a strange game in that every hole is a new hole. If I had the wheels come off on the previous hole and shot a ridiculously high score, I must regroup on the next tee box and begin again. If I made near perfect swings on the previous hole and recorded a birdie (one shot better than par) I have no guarantee of a good score on the next hole. If the round of 18 holes is going poorly early on, I must dig deep to find resolve just to finish the round with some degree of self-respect. Well, such is life. The Christian walk is one that requires much perseverance. We’ll never find our way home if we quit after a bad day, week or even a bad year. Great times come and go. We’re up, we’re down. We win battles, we lose battles. Blessings come our way and so do trials. A lot of golfers like to pick their ball up when it gets within 3 feet of the hole instead of putting that last putt. It’s sort of the macho thing to do when playing with others. I’ve never liked that. That's probably because the question remains on whether or not that last putt would have gone in. The hole is not over until the ball goes in the cup or is so close you couldn’t miss it if you tried. Finish what you started. If God gives you a calling of some sort, see it thru to completion. He’s counting on you to finish strong. That’s why mercy is there. That’s why grace is there. He will help you in every test and challenge of life. Refuse to give up, no matter the circumstances. We must persevere in every area of life!
Principle. Golf is a unique game in that you are basically your own referee. That’s right – you get to make the call, ump. Out or safe, 3 pointer or foot on the line, touchdown or out of bounds – in golf you don't have to look for the guy wearing the striped shirt - you’re the boss! That’s a heap of responsibility for the “I just want to win” thinker. So when I’m on the course, and I hit my ball into the woods, and I am alone in those woods with the ability to move my ball from behind a tree so I have a clear shot to the green…..get my point? Who’s to know? Correct answer – ME! Principle is a big word, often called integrity (ok, so I needed a P word to go with the other two.). If I go ahead and quietly move my ball to a better position (also called cheating in some cultures) who am I really getting ahead of here? First of all, I have noticed that those who do that sort of thing usually end up losing the game anyway. But if you do fool others and win dishonestly, what have you won? Nothing much, and you’ve lost self-respect, which is the first key to happiness in life. For what does it profit a man to win a dishonest golf game but lose sleep at night? A man who cheats at golf will cheat at life too. Principle is important to God. He calls us to live life right, to walk in His ways, not our own. Imagine playing golf with Jesus….probably not going to find Him writing down a 5 if He shot a 6. He expects the same of us. Integrity is defined as doing what is right when no one is watching. For many years I failed with that in a couple of areas of my life. I believe His grace is giving me strength to be the same man in private that I am in public. I’m certain I fall short many times, but my heart is set upon being one God can trust in any situation. May He find us walking in a manner worthy of our calling. If we live by principle, even when there is no glory attached to it, we will indeed find favor in His eyes.
Well, those are my thoughts on golf. I can’t wait to get back out on the course next week and work on my game. How about you? Which of these areas is the weakest part of YOUR game? What might the Holy Spirit want to teach you today? Patience? Perseverance? Principle? I could have continued to write about things like Passion, Practice, and Power on the golf course, but time and space were limited. Good food for thought, though. If you have a comment or question, join the blog below. Always love to hear from you!