Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, travel

“Fore” What?

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” 
1 Corinthians 9:24-25

I don’t play golf.  You might say, “I thought all preachers play golf and eat fried chicken.”  Well, one out of two isn’t too bad.  I am a big fan of fried chicken but golf has never been my thing.  When I was at Cobden a good friend of mine named Andy would occasionally take me to play.  Most times I would wack the ball and I would hook or slice it.  I’m really not sure what that means but I do know the ball didn’t go anywhere near the hole.  It generally went towards Australia.

Sometimes, and I admit it was rarely, I would hit the ball and it would go right down the fairway.  I don’t know who was more surprised; me, my friend Andy or the ball.  At any rate it occasionally happened.  But that was the problem…the fact that I couldn’t seem to consistently make it do the right thing was very frustrating.  So finally I looked at Andy and said, “You know Andy, I don’t understand why I am paying good money to be frustrated.  I can stay home and be frustrated for free.”  And boom…that was my last golf game.  I do still get frustrated, but boy, have I saved money.

Well, with all that said, when we went on vacation with the family a month or so ago our condo overlooked this beautiful, world class golf course.  Some famous guy designed it and the whole purpose of the course was to be challenging.  Of course, for me that translated frustrating.  I was amazed though about how carefully they maintained the course.  Early every morning the crew would go out and prepare the course for that day’s lesson in frustration.  Each person had a job and a piece of equipment to get the job done.  Like I said, it was very impressive.  And then I noticed something.

Every couple of days, a guy would sneak out on the course and play a trick on the guys paying to be frustrated.  First, he would go to where they would tee off.  That is the place where they smack the ball and see if it went towards the hole or towards Australia. He would move the tee backward or forward and change the distance to the green.  Pretty tricky.  But he wasn’t done.  He would then go the green and move the flag and hole around—this side or that side—closer or further.

The whole point was to confuse the guys hitting the ball—to make it more challenging or depending on your perspective, frustrating.  The golfers would tee off from a different place toward a target that had magically moved over night.  What worked the day before wouldn’t work the next.  It was different, it was challenging… it kept them on their toes.  How about that.

As I watching all of this, it occurred to me that God must like golf too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they got their ideas from Him.  You see God is all about helping us grow to be more like Him. To do that He introduces things in our lives that challenge us.  You might say He occasionally moves the tee and moves the flag.  Now, that might be frustrating but that isn’t why He does it.  He does it to strengthen our lives—our game.

I don’t know if the Bible has an example about golf (though it does tell us to be “holy”)  but it sure has a good one about running.  Paul says that we should realize that in a race everyone runs but only one can win.  We are to run to win.  But the race isn’t about meters and miles—it is about becoming like Jesus. So, what’s the deal about becoming like Him?  Well, the more we become like Him, the more our lives will have less “slices and hooks” and less consequences.  Life is better, much better, with Jesus. When my life finally gets a little slower, I just might take up a hobby but I still think I can find something that will allow me to get frustrated for free.  I’ll leave golf to the other guys.  For now, the next time I get a little frustrated, I’m going to remember that God may have intentionally moved the tees or the flag to help me be like Him.  Oh wait…here He comes now.  He’s inviting me to take a rest and ride in the cart with Him.  I think I will…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Call a Plumber

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I knew it, I just knew it.  A month or so ago, my wife told me that she had dropped her special eye liner down the drain in our bathroom.  It was the kind that was encased in a holder like a pencil and one day the eye thingy just slid right out.  Now, I’m not sure what an eye liner even does but I know it was important to her.  And, since it was important to her, it was important to me.

With my limited, and I do mean limited, knowledge of plumbing and drains, I did know that there is a thing called a trap on a drain.  It is designed to catch things and keep them from going wherever the water goes…the place of no return.  I also knew checking the trap was not a big deal.  You unscrew a couple of things and when you are done you screw it back on.  No deal, right? Uh, well, usually.

Well, I took it off and dumped it out.  There was some really ugly stuff in there but none of it had to do with eyes.  So after cleaning it out I screwed it back on and checked to make sure every thing was nice and dry.  It wasn’t.  One of the joints was leaking.  So I took it apart 3,291 times and 3,291 times it leaked.  I finally called it quits and asked my real plumber son-in-law to swing by and check it out.  The diagnosis was simple.

The problem was a cheaply made part from China that was apparently barely staying together before the eye-liner thing.  The answer was to buy a new part, screw it on and bam—you are back in business.  So, I go to store number one and buy the part the guy says I need.  I bring it home, take it apart, wrong part.  Bummer.  So I went to another store and bought another part that the guy said I needed.  I brought it home, I took it apart and indeed it was the WRONG part.

If nothing else, I am persistent.  I went to a third store where the nice guy behind the counter sold me a whole bag of parts at a very good price.  “Yay!” I said.  I went home, opened my big bag of parts and discovered indeed that it would fix a problem, for someone, somewhere—but not my problem.  They didn’t fit either.  I gave up and went on vacation.

Sometimes a trip to Florida with family will give renewed clarity and determination.  When I got home, I decided if I just tried harder, if I just adjusted and twisted enough I could make one of all those parts work.  Well, I got on the floor, dumped all the parts on the floor and took it all part again and…failed.  Miserably.  In fact, instead of one leak I now had two.  By now I was certain of two things.  I was not a plumber and I was very glad God called me to be a preacher.

Well, I decided to give it one more try. This time I took the old broken parts with me to the story. Store one and two were closed but store three was open.  I walked in and the nice guy said, “Can I help you?”  I told him I honestly wasn’t sure. I gave him the short story of how I now owned a small plumbing supply business and I needed this part—and I showed him the dirty, slimy old part.  He reached down and pulled a bag full of parts off the shelf and together we looked.  There, inside the bag, was the part I needed.  He saw it, I saw it.  Things were looking up.

I bought the bag of parts and took them home.  I managed to rig the other leak with some electrical tape—hey it worked—and then I put on the new part, the right part.  It took exactly one minute to screw on the right part and ta-da—it didn’t leak.  Success. Victory.  I was one happy shade-tree plumber.  Of course I now own two bags full of parts that I don’t need—yet—and probably spent enough to pay a plumber to fix it but it was done and I was the hero!  I’m going down today to apply for my plumber’s card.

I bet you are wondering what today’s big truth is all about.  We could talk about frustration. We could talk about determination.  We could talk about some other word that ends with “ion.”  But the big truth is this.  I kept trying to put the wrong part in the right place and no matter how hard I tried—it just wasn’t going to fit.  It was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole—it wasn’t gonna happen. 

Of couse, we do this all the time in life with God.  How many times do we have an issue or a problem and we are sure we can cram something into that place that doesn’t fit and be happy?  How many new cars, houses, and televisions have been bought trying to scratch an itch that only God can scratch?  Sometimes we just know if we “get religion” or start going to church or start this or stop that everything will be ok.  Our life, our marriages, our fears will all be better or disappear.  Those may be good things but they are not THE thing.

The thing is a personal relationship with Jesus. You may have heard how He came to bring light into a dark world—including your dark world.  You may have even heard how He came to set things right between you and God—in fact, make it possible for you to call God Father.  It’s all true and it’s all right there in the Book.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a chunk of the Bible, said “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” That just means we are saved by believing and not doing.  It’s really quite amazing. So if you have a plumbing problem…save yourself some time and frustration and call your son-in-law the plumber.  If he isn’t one, hire one.  But if your life is a leaky mess, call on Jesus.  No matter the problem, no matter how big the problem—He is the fixer.  He can take care of it and you.  Why?  Because He loves you—a lot.  You can rest in Him when life wears you down.  You can turn to Him when life gets crazy because…He’s got this.