Tuesday, May 26, 2009

low-frustration golf

We played a golf course yesterday that had five tee boxes, each marked by a different color: gold, green, white, blue and black. From gold, the forward tees, the course plays at 5,188 yards. From the black tee box, what some call “the tips”, the distance is a much more challenging 7,186 yards.

As a golfer, you want to make a choice that is both challenging and fair. You want to stretch your abilities without being aggravated. After all, you're supposed to enjoy the day.

Now I am no Tiger Woods, and playing from the tips would have been a disaster. Moving up to the blue tees would be been easier, but breaking 100 from there is near-impossible for me. At 6,300 yards, however, the white tees gave me a chance to score better than 100… even 90 if everything fell into place. White tees made sense: it promised a challenge without the guaranteed frustration.

Now Michael played with us yesterday, too. He’s a much better golfer than I am, but he has not played much recently so he’s not as sharp. While he could have handled the blue or black distance in his prime, he too chose white for the same reason: it promised a challenge without the guaranteed frustration. Golf is supposed to be fun.

Lately, my walk with Christ has not been so much fun. I’ve been extremely frustrated in my behaviors, my choices – especially compared to where I was three years ago.

And it dawned on me. Maybe I’m playing from the wrong tee box.

A few years ago, I was closer to God. And by letting God into my life, with joy and consistency for several years, he did some amazing things. He could hit the ball long and far. And if his putts didn’t fall in, they came pretty close to the hole.

Then I stopped playing. My time with God became less frequent, less purposeful. And my “game” got rusty.

Then this day comes when you decide to get back in the game. So you pick up your clubs and head for “the tips” just like the old days. And your drive goes into the woods. Your recovery shot bounces off the fairway. The approach shot lands in the river. The chip flies over the green. And putting? The first one short, the second long and the third rims out. And if these golf terms don’t make sense to you, trust me that the frustration level is extremely high.

So you put down your sticks. Walk away. And a few weeks later you get the urge to try again… with the same results. And the frustration only increases. An endless cycle? Maybe not.

As a Christian, you want to make choices that are both challenging and fair. You want to stretch your abilities without being frustrated. You should enjoy your walk with Christ.

For me, that means spending more time with God. Being more purposeful in prayer and scripture. Giving up a little more control each day. Giving Jesus a chance to work through me. And knowing that this may not happen overnight...

In the interim, I’m going to move up to the forward tees. Play within my game. And start to have some fun again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

what did you do with the peace?

Two pastors from Kenya are visiting our church, and last night they spoke about their ministry. The work they are doing is inspirational—and the lengths they will go to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ is simply amazing.

They spoke about being stoned because they believed in Christ. They showed a video of 5,000 people attacking their church, injuring many. They spoke of gun shots. Wives being kicked out of their homes because they had faith in Jesus. Brothers hunting down brothers who converted to Christianity. Having no rights, no protection. They talked about persecution and suffering.

And above all – the great joy in which they served the Lord.

Toward the end of the evening, pastor Guerim read from the book of Acts.

In many ways, members of the early church were like these pastors from Africa. Persecuted. Attacked. Hunted. Here in America, they noted, we have peace. Here in America, these two pastors do not wake up and pray for protection, as they have every day for years. They are safe. A time of peace. And so he read Acts 9:31.

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
When the early church enjoyed a time of peace, Guerim noted, they did not sit by idly, content to worship the Lord. They were strengthened. They were encouraged. And they used this time to do amazing things—to grow in numbers.

When the time comes and we face the Lord on judgment day, Pastor Guerim believes Americans will be asked a question unlike the questions asked of he and his African brothers.

We will be asked – what did you do with the peace?

Friday, May 1, 2009

friday fun... it's torture

Was reading a CNN report on a survey, which concluded that the more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists.

Then this memory popped into my head from my early teens of my mom saying "if i can sit through an hour of church, so can you."