I play a round of golf about four times a year. I struggle to play because I do it so infrequently. But every now and then I hit a shot that feels right and goes in the right direction. That one shot brings me back out in three or four months, with the hope that I will hit another shot of similar result.
If you don't play golf, think of something that you would like to do but struggle with it as well, especially if you do that activity very seldom. It could be bowling, or maybe painting or needlepoint, or just about anything that intrigues you.
Now the obvious help to any of these situations is to practice them more often. I would likely improve at golf if I played at least weekly, but then I would have to decide if that is how I want to spend my time each week. For some there is nothing better, but I have others interests too, so a weekly golf outing would affect the time that I have available for other pursuits. But rather than managing time in order to get out on the golf course more, I want to reflect on the lessons that I might learn from how things currently are.
The first thing that I would benefit from learning is an improved sense of patience. I know, many of us talk frequently about the need to be patient. Here I mean a patience that allows not only for a look at the big picture of not having too many expectations for my golf game when I play so seldom, but also a patience that allows me to be patient with the next shot even when the previous one has flown into the trees or the water hazard. This is a patience that operates from moment to moment. It is an immediate return from the frustration of a bad shot, to a calm approach to the next one. It is a patience that allows for thoughtfulness and peacefulness.
A second lesson I take away is that the next hole really has no relationship to the one that I have just finished. Yes, the eighteen holes all work together to form my final score, but each hole stands on its own. As I walk to the next tee, I am given a new start, unless I am still fuming over the last hole and allowing that to guide my next swing.
It seems to me that next hole is a little like the dawning of a new day. We can awaken and celebrate that God, in grace, has given us a new day to start everything afresh. Or, we can be so held down by the events of the previous day that we find ourselves reliving those events, perhaps even heading for a poorer result.
Again, if you don’t play golf, insert your own activity into those places. For I believe the lessons are the same, the promise is the same, the grace is the same.
Another pastor and I are working on the possibility of establishing an Artist-in-Residence program. We are sifting through ideas, considering funding, discussing what we hope to accomplish through the program. We are envisioning what this would be like, how it would benefit the ministry that we share together.
I have been envisioning what my home office will look like when I get through all of my assorted papers and files that always threaten to overtake the room like creeping vines can take over a forest. I at least have a vision of how nice it will be, and so I have something concrete to work toward.
Our lives are like this too, it seems to me. We are the ones to shape and mold who we are and where we are going. Now I know that just like those creeping vines made of paper that are living in my office, there are many factors that work to shape our lives as well. It begins with parents and teachers, includes friends and even enemies, it extends to co-workers and bosses, and the list goes on. But we also, I believe in faith and know through experience, have a loving God who is always waiting to be invited in to help us in that shaping and molding of who we are. Unlike most of those other people though, God never imposes anything on us, but rather waits to be asked to walk along with us.
I have always thought that being an architect would be fascinating and fun work, designing buildings from homes to churches to shopping malls. I admire those who have the creativity and the vision to design such spaces.
Of course, in a very real sense we are the architects of our own lives, and perhaps a whole lot more. We may not have to think about where to install electrical panels and wall outlets, but we are responsible for determining the source of power in our daily lives. We may not have to plan for the installation of plumbing, but we are in charge of watering the gardens of our lives.
We are given the task of envisioning our lives, and of making them full and wonderful, through the presence of those whom we welcome in, and through the grace of God as well.
As I stood in church last Sunday, singing a song – which I don’t do very well, but which I try to do with some volume and as much being on key as I can muster – I looked out at the gathered people, people whom I love, and I wondered, “How committed are these people to what we are doing here at Gateway Christian Church?” And, at the same time, “How committed am I to what we are doing?”
I think about such questions, because the level of commitment by people, the commitment to any endeavor in which they are engaged, impacts how much it succeeds, however that success may be measured.
And so I wonder about my church, and ask, “What does commitment mean in places such as this?”
For some, commitment is being there; it is their presence among us. For some, it is supporting things financially. For some, it is the time that they give to help ministry happen.
The question is, what if everyone in a particular setting gave all three of those – presence, financial support and time? How much would happen, and how powerful would it all be?
Perhaps the first question, the first question each of us need to ask in any setting where we find ourselves, is, “What would happen here if I did all three?”
Sometimes we long for the commitment of others. But we always need to start with ourselves.
As I was in a store the other day, I saw a display for, “Not Your Father’s Root Beer.” It’s not your father’s root beer because it contains alcohol. Now I haven’t tried it, so I have no thoughts about the taste and whether your father’s root beer may have better taste or not.
What the display did prompt in me however was a question about how we try to use alcohol to “make things better.” In this case, someone thinks that they have made root beer better by adding alcohol. But the bigger question that concerns me is how people try to make their day better by drinking after work. It may be two drinks at the bar on the way home. It could be opening a six-pack in the privacy of one’s living room while watching television. It may be a few drinks with friends while complaining about how awful work was today.
Now don’t misunderstand me. This is not a rant about the evils of alcohol. I enjoy a beer occasionally, as well as a glass of wine at times. I do not drink and drive, and have probably visited a bar not more than three or four times in my lifetime. But as with almost anything, the use of alcohol is a choice we make, and I am interested in those choices.
Life is stressful. Work is often stressful. Getting along with others is a challenge. People often feel the need to recover from the day.
Some people do that by zoning out in front of the television. Others do it by drinking, alone or with friends. And some do it by turning around and either giving to others or being with others in life-giving ways. Some people will recover from the stress of the day by donating their time to help people who are homeless, or to serve on a community board of directors, or perhaps by tutoring children or offering music lessons. Of course, those things can sound like more work to some, but it is usually a different kind of work, a work that breathes life into the persons offering themselves and into the people touched by their giving.
If the day has been stressful, and you need to recover from it, consider doing something that will truly feed that deep down spirit in you that is longing for fresh life. Giving to others tends to do that.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.