Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Yep, I Hit The House

I heard it hit the house.  It hit it hard.  I stood there in disbelief as I tried to figure out just how in the world I hit the ball that far off course.  I mean I'm not exactly Tiger Woods on the golf course.  Actually the only similarity you might find is that both of our names start with the letter T.  While most of the time I find myself hitting from the trees along the right side of the fairway, on this rare occasion I yanked one to the left.  This golf course is located in a neighborhood so there are houses lining the golf course.  So, as I set up to hit my second shot there was a home located about 25-30 yards to my left.  The house's location to the ball took it completely out of play, so I thought nothing of the house. There was absolutely no way I could possibly hit this house.  It was not a difficult shot as the only issue was a large oak tree slightly left of where I needed to hit the ball. I pulled out my 3 hybrid and lined up to hit the shot.  Remember most of the time my shots go right.  However, for some reason on this hole I hit two shots in a row to the left.  Yep, that oak tree that was to the left?  It took a direct hit.  As I braced myself for the ball coming back at me, I heard it hit the house that was completely out of play.  To make matters worse there was a lady sitting out on the patio.  Her scream made me think not only did I hit her house but her as well.

My first thought was that thought you get as a little boy when you hit a ball through someone's window. "RUN!!!" "Run, Tim, Run and don't look back!"  Unfortunately at my age and current athletic state, running was not an option.  I couldn't blame it on my golfing partner as he was in the golf cart.  I had no option but to approach the lady.  So with tail tucked I set out to retrieve my golf ball.  She met me half way with golf ball in hand. I apologized half a dozen times, assuring her that I am not that bad, but that stupid oak tree was the real culprit here.  With heart rate still racing, she handed me the ball and told me that was a first for her.  Now, before I go any farther let me just say that I did not hit her with the ball.  I came really close, but thank God I missed.

I don't know how many golfers play that hole every day but multiply that times 365 and that is a massive number of golfers over the course of a year.  Perhaps some have nailed her house while she was not sitting out on her shaded patio, but I was the first to hit her house with her sitting out there? Of course I was because her house is completely out of play for each and every level of golfer.  Yet, somehow I managed to hit the ball that far off course.

Along my Christian journey, I've felt that far off course a few times.  No, it wasn't intentional, but there I found myself nowhere near where I should be.  Where I wanted to be.  Where I was trying to be.  Let's face it, we all miss the target a lot as we play this course called life.  Our efforts at loving one another and forgiving one another, much of the time look like that misdirected golf ball.  Our attempts at obeying God fall way short of where we expected to be when we teed off.  If we'll be honest with ourselves, our motives, thoughts, and desires are often nowhere near the fairway.  Just like my errant golf shot, we often find ourselves doing things or saying things that leave even ourselves scratching our heads.  How in the world can we be this far off course when we are desperately striving to hit our shots down the middle of the fairway?

There are a lot of reasons. I don't know that much about the golf swing to know exactly what I did wrong on that pathetic shot but I'm sure it involved my left elbow, wrists, follow through, swing plane, and what I was thinking before and during the swing among other things.  So it is when we miss it in life.  It could be any number of things.  It could be the result of our approach, our habits, or how we think.  It could be the product of what we think about God, how we see ourselves, or how we view others. Past wounds, unforgiveness, and fears all affect what we do and why we do them.  And sometimes the enemy plants himself, much like that oak tree, in the way to assist us in getting completely off course.

In golf when you make a bad shot, you take a penalty stroke and take a drop.  You're not eliminated.  You just continue to play on.  I did just that.  Unfortunately, I did horrible on that hole.  But, it wasn't just because I hit the ball bad.  Its because I couldn't get that shot out of my head.  Every time I approached my next shot, I was thinking about that pathetic shot.  So, I hit another bad shot. And then another one. And then another one.

Regardless of how off course we find ourselves on our journey, we've got to learn how to forget about the past and play on.  We need to be less concerned about how we got here and more concerned about how we play from here on out.  God is great at forgiving us and extending grace to us.  We need to take notes from Him on how to forgive ourselves and to accept His grace that redeems our past. That bad shot did not define me as a golfer.  I'm not Tiger Woods but I'm also not as bad a golfer as that shot would like to define me as. When you find yourself in the trees on your journey, or on the fairway to a completely different hole, remember that your current location does not define you.  Yep, you are way off course, but take a deep breath, forget about how you got there, take your drop and get back in the fairway.

Now, if you find yourself continuously in the woods as you journey through this life, addressing the issues that consistently get you that off course is a must.  Sometimes that requires a different set of eyes that can see things we are blind to.  Find a believer, a counselor, a minister who can walk you through those issues.  As you humble yourself in that way you'll discover that you end up in the fairway a lot more than you used to.  You won't have to try really hard to hit it straight. You'll hit it straight because its in you to hit it straight and you've decided to deal with the issues in your life that cause you to get off course.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Read The Fine Print

I like to watch America's Got Talent.  I'm not sure what the attraction is for me, but I enjoy watching the show most of the time.  After watching this year's finale, my wife noticed the fine print rolling at that end of the show.  So, I backed it up and paused it long enough to read it.  Moments earlier I watched as they announced the winner thinking, there's a new millionaire.  I know that Uncle Sam will get a huge hunk of that million, but before taxes that's what the winner wins.  Or, is it?  All season long the show mentions that the contestants are competing for a million bucks and a show in Vegas.  However, when you read the fine print, things are not as you assume them to be.

Kenichi, this year's winner does not get to take home a million.  Not even close.  His million dollar payout is done through an annuity over the course of the next 40 years. So, what does that look like in dollars and cents?  About $25,000 per year before taxes.  He can elect to take a lump sum payout, but that is somewhere around a third of the million promised.  And that too is before taxes.  Now, I know that the exposure one gets from that show can equal huge dividends in the years to come, but they do not instantly become a millionaire as the show would like each of us to think.

Now, I really don't care how much they win.  I'm thinking a $25,000 annual addition to my bank account would be a really good thing.  The point I'm making is that a lot of times there are things we assume to be true that just aren't true.  It's only after a closer look that we find out the real truth.  I don't know about you, but I like knowing the real truth.  I can't stand fake, fraud, or deception. I hate hype and manipulation.  I despise white lies, black lies, and every other colored lies.  I just want to know what's real and what's true.

Ever since I was a kid I've been a "seeker."  Let me explain what I mean.  When I was a child I remember having conversations with my Dad prior to entering a store.  "Now Tim, don't touch anything!  I mean it.  Keep your hands to yourself and don't touch anything!"  Those pre-store speeches were the product of my inability to inspect anything from a distance.  I had to touch it.  I had to feel it.  I wanted to know what it was made of and how it worked. Around the house, I would take things apart not because they were broken but because I wanted to see what was inside.  Stereos, televisions, computers, watches, cars, cameras, and many other things fell prey to my desire to get a closer look.  Often, I wasn't able to put them completely back together which would result in a different conversation with Dad.  To this day I still struggle to keep my hands off of stuff when I enter a store and I find myself occasionally taking something apart just to see what's inside.

This "seeker" thing in me also manifests in my desire to get the "real" story when I see a movie based on a true story.  I have to know just how historically accurate they are.  Although I'm often disappointed in the "Hollywood" version once I know the truth, at least I can't rest good at night knowing the truth. So, when I say I'm a seeker, what I mean is that at the very core of who I am, I need to know the truth about a thing.  I'm never content to take something at face value.  I want to go deeper.  I don't want to just put my feet in the water, I want to jump in.

So it is with my journey with God.  I'm not content to just hear about Him.  I'm not ok with hearing somebody else tell me what they think or believe about Him. I want a hands on, first hand revelation of this Creator of the universe.  Don't get me wrong, I value those who know this God and I love hearing them share their encounters and experiences and the truths they have learned about Him.  What I'm saying is that's not enough for me. I'm not content with second hand knowledge when I know I can get much closer than that.  Much like walking down the aisles of those stores and seeing something on a shelf.  I can't help myself, I've got to get a closer look!

Religion, tradition, and culture paint a picture of God that is not at all accurate.  If we simply accept that picture as an accurate portrayal we'll miss what is real and what is true about Him.  We have to move past all of that.  We have to be willing to slow down and get close enough that we can see the fine print.  From my experience I can tell you that as I've determined to take a closer look, there is much about God that I once thought was true that I no longer do.  Assumptions I've made about Him in the past have given way to the truth as I've determined to move past the fluff of religion, the traditions of men, and an increasingly deceptive culture.  God is real but we'll never really know Him if we allow anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us.

I'm sure that many don't really care about how the whole million dollar payout is handled by America's Got Talent. To be honest it's completely irrelevant to me except for my unquenchable desire to know the truth.  I just had to put the TV on pause and read the fine print.  In the same way many are content with their concept of who God is and what He's like.  They are less concerned with knowing the real truth about Him as they hold tightly to assumptions about Him that they are convinced are true.  I can't approach my journey with Him that way.  I have to put things on pause every now and then and evaluate what I believe about Him and why.  Are they assumptions?  Are they true?

The truth is that Kenichi will get his money for winning America's Got Talent.  He'll just get it in a completely different way than most who watch the show assume he will.  Knowing that truth is not life changing for any of us.  However, not knowing the truth about who God is and what He's like?  That's a completely different story.  It's the difference between freedom and bondage.  It's the difference between life and death.  Choose to slow down and get close enough to read the fine print!