Today I Realized why my Golf Buddies Don’t all Keep Score

I love keeping score. I love statistics. I have entered on my computer every score of every match I have played and where I placed. I know I have annoyed a few of my golf buddies by adding up the score in the middle of a round. I learned early on some of my golf buddies don’t want their scores recorded, which as a statistics buff I found odd, but I learned to live with this uncanny fact. Granted I learned that there was more I needed to control on the golf course besides my swing. I needed to control my attitude. Your opponents, sand traps, water and woods can create some real challenges and obstacles, but all of those are beyond my control. I found there was an attitude inside my head that if I did not control it will surely do me in.

I tried not worrying about the score for the first several holes. I learned that most pro golfers do not even look at the leader board until they are over half way through the course.

I tried not worrying about the ball I just sent into the water or the other one that just now landed me in the woods. The only swing that matters is your next swing. The present is the only thing that matters. Do your best now. The past is gone.

I tell myself most of all enjoy a beautiful day on a beautiful golf course with your buddies. After all aren’t friends what life is all about. What golfer on his death bed wants to be surrounded by his trophies? None. They all want to be surrounded by their family and friends. I agree with this concept, yet I know after a super bowl victory Tom Brady does not text on Twitter, “Spent a fun evening with friends playing football.”

So what is it about the game of golf that makes it such a gentleman’s game (or ladies game just the same) to the point that score rarely matters when playing with friends if it matters at all?

Today while reading about Tiger Woods’ drama off and on the golf course over the years something just as profound as it is simple and obvious dawned on me. Fist of all I do not mean to single Tiger out as an example. Fact is we all have our struggles and demons. The pressure placed on him in childhood may have been less than ideal. His own expectations in adulthood may have been unreasonable. Like many of us he tried so hard to control all of the obstacles around him that he lost control of himself. While becoming a famous household name he was known by millions, but did he know himself anymore? Admittedly he did not. Relationships were unsatisfying. Instead of seeing people as friends he only saw them as obstacles in his way of greatness.

This is when the profound, simple and obvious dawned on me. I also Googled Arnold Palmer this afternoon, and found when Arnold Palmer was on his death bed in a Pittsburg hospital he was surrounded by family and friends. He was not surrounded by his trophies and awards. People were not obstacles in his way of greatness. People were what Palmer’s life was all about.

I realized why so many of my golf buddies don’t keep score or at least not as meticulously as I do. The happiest person on the golf course is not the one with the best score. It is not the one with the most money in their wallet. The happiest people on the golf course are the ones who are at peace with themselves. They control their own attitude instead of controlling the people around them. Their integrity buys them peace in the woods and sand traps as well as on the fairways and greens.

The greatest opponent is the one inside your head. The greatest achievement in golf is to walk off the 18th green at peace with yourself. And a score card wont ever reveal the peace in your heart.

I’m not Racing With the World Anymore. I’m Walking With Jesus.

I am writing today from the beautiful, alligator infested Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful, alligator infested Tampa Bay area.

 

Today I woke up for the first time being 48 years old. Funny, I thought I would be old by now but I’m not.  I still feel like I’m in my twenties. You know it’s funny. When I was in my early 20s I thought it was cool when someone in their 40s would hang out with me at a ball game or something. It made me feel so mature. Now I think it’s cool when people in their 20s and 30s hang out with me! I remember when I was in my teens and 20s I thought it was so cool that John Kennedy was the youngest elected president of the United States, just in his early 40s. It gave me hope that young people could do great things. Today, I think it is so cool that Ronald Reagan was the oldest man elected president  of the United States, pushing 70 and even re-elected at 74! It gives me hope that even in my older years I can do great things. Today, I have reached an age, where instead of drawing inspiration by what young people can do, I draw inspiration from what old people can do.

Yet today, as I woke up for the first time being 48 years old, one thing did trouble me. I have known Jesus all my life, and yet I am still so unlike Him. I look around me, and my life is full of people who are a lot more like Jesus than I am. People half my age or less, (And believe me there are more and more of them every day!) who are more patient, selfless, and thoughtful. There are those who are just coming to know Christ who I see making sacrifices and doing thoughtful deeds that I should have thought of but did not. While I should be teaching, I learn from others every day.

Yet as I stand around feeling like a midget in a world of spiritual giants I am reminded of a verse I now see in a different light.

But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

Sure, I understand, Paul is talking about people who think they are so important when they compare themselves to others. Yet if it is not wise for great people to compare themselves to others, then wouldn’t it be also foolish for lowly people to do the same?

When I took up golf I wanted to be good. I kept record of all my scores and if I won or lost. I would be on the third hole already thinking about how many strokes I was behind. Then I read golf instruction books telling me how dangerous that was. These books told me not to worry about my score or how far behind I was. They said to just worry about my next shot. The only stroke that matters, is the one you are getting ready to make right now.  Sure you want to stay out of sand traps, and it’s good to know if you were lined up wrong, or topped the ball which is why you ended up there. But once you are in the sand trap the only question is, how are you going to get out? It doesn’t do any good to look at your golf buddy who is proudly standing on the green in two shots. It doesn’t do any good to think about how these sand traps are placed in random places where even people who make good shots can still end up in them. After all, life is filled with random “sand traps” in random places where even the best of people can fall in them. Don’t look around at everyone else. Don’t ask why me? Simply get your sand wedge club and get out. That’s all you can do but don’t feel helpless, because that is also all you need to do! Golf is a long game of 18 long fairways filled with water hazards and sand traps. By the end of the game everyone has had to deal with them all! You are no different.

I am learning not to compare myself to others or look at past mistakes in my golf game. It gets me nowhere. My golf buddies tell me, that while I am keeping careful score, that pro golf champions don’t even look at the leader board till the end of the first round. I guess they already know what I am just learning, that the game is long and by the time it is over everyone will have had their challenges and struggles. By the end of it all a lot of random things will happen to them all. They can’t control what is going on with the other golfers on the course. They can’t change their own past. All they can do is, take their next shot. That’s all that is on their minds. I guess that is why I saw Bubba Watson, calmly hit out of the woods next to the green a couple years ago on his way to win the Masters. Even though his previous shot went into the woods, he won the Masters Championship by simply focusing on his next shot.

The wisdom I found in a golf book reminds me of the wisdom Paul shared centuries ago.

but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

So today, while I wake up at 48, and find myself way behind in the spiritual race, I realize it’s not a race against others. Jesus did not tell me to race with everyone else. He told me to walk with Him!

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NKJV

I’m not looking at past failures today. I am not discouraged watching those who are way ahead of me in the race. I may be waking up today deep into the woods. It’s okay. I’m taking Jesus by the hand, and we are going to walk together today. He will get me out of the woods and onto the greens that David talked about in psalms 23:2.

So, while the only thing I regret about waking up being 48 years old today, is that I am not as much like Jesus as I should be by now. Nowhere close actually. While I see people half my age, and people who are just recently coming to know Christ, who act a lot more like Jesus than I do. I am reminded not to compare myself with others, or even look at past failures. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, His forgiving, unconditional love, and will allow His love to continue to change my life to make it more and more like His. On this day as well as any other day, I am so thankful for my compassionate Savior, and all my family and friends who love me unconditionally!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Its 2013 And Jesus is Breaking Out The New Wine!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Every creation of Jesus is better than His creation before.

Bruce Springsteen sings a song called “Glory Days.” In the song he talks about running into old friends and talking about glory days gone by, when they were much younger. I can relate. When I was young I loved to play basketball. However, about a year ago, after teaching an evangelism class at the nearby church school, I walked into the gym and saw a basketball. I picked it up and started shooting baskets. No, truth is, I tried shooting baskets. I could not make a basket to save my life. As I walked out of the gym I told myself, this must be why old men like me play golf. We just can’t do what we did when were young anymore.

This morning I picked up my Bible started reading the book of John, as I am reading through the New Testament. I read in chapter 2, where after Jesus turned the water into the wine, the host of the party accuses the servants of saving the best wine till last. I thought to myself, that is how it is with Jesus! God’s plan is not for us to grow old and talk about glory days gone by. The best is always yet to come! Jesus has created a new year, and like the new wine, every creation is better than before.

A couple weeks ago at a home game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a ceremony remembering their super bowl championship 10 years ago. Some friends of mine and I kind of laughed to ourselves, that you know things are pretty sad for the team when you have to go back ten years to find something to celebrate. This is not how God has designed life to be. In Psalms 23:6 David declares, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” David did not serve a God of glory days gone by.  He served a God ready to bless and prosper Him every day. After years of captivity, when Israel was tempted to long for their glory days gone by, Jeremiah reminded them that the best days were yet to come! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

As I enter 2013, I am not looking to make it like the good ole days. No, I am looking for it to be better than ever!  When the Israelites entered Canaan they were to take all of the land. However Judges 1 tells us, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Really? Those chariots of iron were just too much for God, huh? I don’t think so. That was no excuse, and God knew it.

Earlier in Joshua 17:18 God Commanded, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” So what was the problem? Zephaniah wrote about the church, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees.” Those who are settled on their lees, are riding on their past experience. I imagine this was true of the Israelites when they entered Canaan. They had crossed through the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had seen them through a lot. Let’s stop now and just rest. Why go further? The iron chariots were just the excuse they used to stop where they were, content to rest. They became a bunch of has-beens, relying on past experiences.

When I was in my early 20s I drove out to a little town in Western Oklahoma to preach one Sabbath. I went downstairs into the basement where the drinking fountain was and I saw several nice large children’s Sabbath School rooms- all empty! During lunch after church, an old patriarch told me those rooms used to be filled with children, and I could tell by the way they looked, that he was telling me the truth. He explained how those children have all grown up and moved away and started families elsewhere. Logical explanation, and I am sure a lot of children had grown up and just moved away. Even so, even as a young Bible Worker at the time, I had enough experience to know that if you gave me a church directory from a few years ago, I could still find a lot of them right there in town. I will never forget the feeling I had, standing alone in that empty hallway on Sabbath morning, peering into all those empty classrooms, imagining what they looked like full, back in their day. Back in their day? That is a term God does not even know! He is the Great I AM! Not the Great has been!

Friends I can guarantee you, God never would have given us 2013 if He did not think it would be better than any year before! There are fresh victories to be gained. We may even have to change our ways and try something new. When I was a kid I tossed the basketball around and never thought about golf. Today I stand in tee boxes facing fairways I have never seen before, or even thought about when I was younger. I’m not a kid anymore. Life is moving on and my God is moving along with me, taking me to new challenges and victories. I remember when my late grandmother went into a nursing home for a while. Many would have seen that as the end, but my grandmother made new friends!

In 2013 we will meet new people, new opportunities and new victories! Let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate their super bowl of ten years ago- while I celebrate new victories each and every day in 2013. By God’s grace, instead of looking at how vibrant my church was in days gone by, I will be looking at it in 2013 and think, wow! I have never seen such life before. Sorry Bruce. I can’t sing that song of glory days gone by with you. I am still experiencing God’s glory today!

It’s 2013 and I can see Jesus breaking out the new wine!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Glimpses of Our God; Mulligans and Grace

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “What’s the deadly spiritual trap of thinking that because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do? How can you protect yourself against falling into that deception?”

On the golf course we have another word for grace. It is called a “mulligan.” After you make a terrible shot, your partner may offer you a mulligan. You take another shot and the first shot does not count. It’s like it never happened. I love grace and I love mulligans. However, one day, when I first took up golf, I was golfing with Ron, my good friend and golf mentor. We were on the 6th fairway at the Rivard Golf Course in Brooksville. It is a par 5. I was about 50 yards away from the green and about to make my third stroke. If I hit the green I would be on in 3 strokes, and with two putts could easily make par. My third stroke went wide left and hit a tree. Ron, who is very gracious and forgiving told me to take a mulligan. I graciously accepted and dropped another ball at the original spot and tried again. I hit the tree again. Frustrated I grabbed another ball and dropped it and hit again with the same result. Now I was becoming very frustrated because I knew I could do it, it just wasn’t happening. It was just bad luck and I was determined I wasn’t going to let bad luck control my scorecard. I dropped another ball and got ready to experience more “grace” by taking another mulligan. Then it occurred to me that I may have been taking advantage of the mulligan system. Many take one mulligan but I was taking several. I asked my friend Ron, “does anybody else do this?” Referring to taking multiple mulligans. Ron, who is very forgiving and graceful, shook his head in disbelief and with a hint of frustration in his voice firmly said, “no!”.

Grace is a wonderful thing, but it is not intended to let us make the same mistakes over and over. Sure, there is always forgiveness.  When our heart is broken because of sin, the Psalmist declares in Psalms 51, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” I know with all my heart that God will never turn away a heart that is broken because of a sin no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. At the same time grace is more than just forgiveness. Grace is a power that helps us overcome our failures.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace gives us good works.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith. Romans 1:5

Grace gives us obedience

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

Grace gives us power to live Godly lives in this present world.

We have a relatively new senior pastor at our church who likes golf. Pastor Brad  allows me to take mulligans, but  he never takes them himself. He holds himself to a higher standard than what he requires of me.  To me that is a model Christian. Freely forgiving others while holding himself to a higher standard. Funny thing is he wins all the time.

One day we were playing on the Babe Zaharias golf course near our church in Tampa. The second hole is a par 4. My first drive went short and wide left towards some trees. I wanted to take a mulligan, but since Pastor Brad wasn’t taking them, I thought I better just play it straight and accept another double or triple bogey. Strange thing happened on my second shot. Using my fairway wood, my second shot sailed close to 200 yards and the ball landed next to the green. I chipped onto the green and my first putt fell in the hole for par! I walked off the green and thought, “Wow! Even with a bad drive I made par without taking a mulligan.” That felt good.

To me, my friend Ron and my friend Pastor Brad, make a good combination of grace. Ron sitting in the golf cart patiently as I kept hitting the tree over and over with my chip shot, and Pastor Brad challenging me by holding himself to a higher standard. I have learned in golf, that what I need instead of a mulligan is a really good second stroke. I have also learned that when I make double par the world does not come to an end. I need both Ron and pastor Brad in my life as well as my golf game. They give me the proper balance I need to improve my game. While I may not always need mulligans, I will always need grace, because grace is  more than a second chance. Grace is the power to improve my game and my life.

InLightOfTheCross.Com Charity Golf Classic

When I heard that a family in our church was battling breast cancer and loss of job, it was suggested that we do a charity golf tournament, to raise money to help them fight this terrible disease. I had never organized a golf tournament before, but found myself volunteering, without even really thinking about it. I was so eager to help this well desserving family, that I did not consider how qualified I was to organize this event. There was a lot of work to it. Recruiting players, finding a course, getting sponsors. I donated $100.00 myself to name the event “In Light Of The Cross.” There were also hole sponsors, and closest to the pin, and longest drive contest sponsors. Of course people would want food. While working 50 plus hours a week as a Bible Worker-Lay Pastor on top of this, I was overwhelmed. Thankfully Dera Nolan, a good friend from church, messaged me on Facebook and asked if I needed help. Did I??!! I welcomed her on board and she was a huge help. She helped find sponsors and also recruited a few players. She helped me get Eddie Kearse and the his Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Pathfinders club involved with serving food, making the sponsor signs, and serving as caddies, for a tip towards the charity. Several others helped out big time, including Karen Alayon, and it was a huge success, taking in over $1,000 to go towards the family and their medical expenses.

I did a lot to save money, so that the event would be fun but also low budgeted so most the money would go to the family. Instead of trophies I bought blue ribbons. We found a nice reasonable executive golf course in Temple Terrace, called Terrace Hills Golf Center. They provided us with good rates. It is a nine hole course, which I thought would be good so that people could come and support the event without it taking too much time away from weekend chores, like an 18 hole course would.

It was a best ball, team tournament. Instead of every man for himself, we had teams of three or four and each team got to play the best ball of their players. Being the competitor that I am, I wanted to play every man for himself, but Dera explained to me that people would be more willing to play on a team, than individually for confidence reasons. If they make a bad shot, a better player on their team can make up for it with a great shot. It worked!

Today was the tournament, and everything went great. I played too, which was kind of stressful as I was also making sure everything else was going well for everyone, but with my cell phone and everybody else’ help all went well. Many of the players had already played in best ball charity tournaments so there was not too much for me to have to explain to them. I can’t wait to do this again for another family next year! Enjoy the pics! http://inlightofthecross.mysite.com/Golf.html

John 16; Know When to Stop

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

John 16:12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 

 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:

I am so glad we have a Jesus, Who knows just how much truth we can handle, and when it is time to lead us on to more truth. I remember when I was first learning how to play golf, I went out with a friend of mine from the Carrollwood Seventh-day Adventist Church. He would give me tips, on my swing and my stance. After several tips, all of which I appreciated, he told me there was a lot more I needed to know, but he was not going to tell me anymore today, because he knew nobody wants to be told all day long what they are doing wrong. I thought how cool. He knew both how to teach me, but also knew when to stop. Even Jesus, knew when to stop and leave things up to the Holy Spirit to lead His disciples into more truth at a later time. I pray that God will give me wisdom, like he did my golf buddy, and let me know when to stop “preaching” to people and let the Holy Spirit lead them on when they are ready.

It reminds me of a joke I heard a long time ago. One Sabbath, a cowboy went to church. When he entered, he saw that he and the preacher were the only ones present. The preacher asked the cowboy if he wanted him to go ahead and preach. The cowboy said, “I’m not too smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I’d feed him.” So the minister began his sermon. One hour passed, then two hours, then two-and-a-half hours. The preacher finally finished and came down to ask the cowboy how he had liked the sermon. The cowboy answered slowly, “Well, I’m not very smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I sure wouldn’t feed him all the hay.”

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 3; Top Ten Ways to Avoid Stress And Live a Productive Life

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To download the Sabbath School lessons to your android phone click here.

In conjunction with this week’s SS lesson on Stress, here is my top ten list of

The Top Ten Ways I Avoid Stress and Live a Productive Life

10. Make Life as simple as you can. Avoid clutter. Every few months I go through my apartment just looking for things to throw away or give away. I do the same with my life. My life is simple. I am not embarrassed by being a simple person living a simple life. Life was never meant to be complicated. It is complicated because of sin, not by God’s design. The closer we get to God’s design the more simple and happy life becomes. When I was a kid I walked into Taco Bell and there were 9 items on the menu. That was great! I bought the bean burrito. Now I walk into Taco Bell and there are over 50 menu items and I buy the bean burrito. Today Their menu board looks cluttered and confusing. Why does Taco Bell make life complicated for no reason? Why do people make their lives complicated for no reason? I have seen so many people stress themselves out doing needles projects, and then look at me like I am lazy for not helping them out. I am not lazy, I just don’t think your daughter really needs a $7,000 sweet sixteen birthday party, so forgive me for not helping you put it together. Take her to Taco Bell and buy her a bean burrito, and say, “Happy Birthday!”

9. Have a planned daily routine. I cannot tell you how important this is. When I first started working at UPS I had to get up at 2am to get to work by 3am. It changed my whole life. In orientation class at UPS they told us, in order to cope with these strange work hours we had to have a planned daily routine, not just at work but all day long. Once I got into a planned daily routine, life got so much easier and working at one of the most stressful jobs during the most stressful hours became fun and enjoyable.  I actually miss it!

8. Exercise! If you have a desk job, you will think so much more clearly if you exercise your whole body. Exercise clears the brain so you can think and study better. It makes life more balanced and healthy. I used to obsess about things a lot. Now that I have taken up golf in the last few years, instead of stressing and obsessing, I go play a round of golf and come back to work with a clear mind, and emotionally balanced attitude.

7. Music. I am not a musician. I do love to listen to music though. In the car I have to have more lively music, but while working on my computer I have to have classical music. I was never into classical music until about 11 years ago when I got a computer. The music with lyrics distracted me from what I was reading or writing, but classical music, for the most part, does not have lyrics so it worked out great. Now I have several classical CDs and attend symphony and orchestra concerts. Music keeps me from being stressed. I remember years ago, while working as a Bible Worker in the Weatherford Seventh-day Adventist church, I would be having a stressful day. I would stop by the church office for something, and if nobody was around, I would go into the sanctuary, go to hymn number 86, “How Great Thou Art,” and sing my heart out so loud it raised the roof. Then I felt much better and went about the rest of my day with a renewed attitude.

6. Write. Keep a journal to record your thoughts. Start a blog. There is therapy in writing. I have no way to prove this, but I also believe there is emotional therapy in writing your feelings out by hand instead of typing. The important thing is to write. I kept a journal in my teens. I look back and read it now and discover things about myself that I did not see at the time. I even look back and see clues as to why I annoyed certain people even though I could not figure it out at the time. When I first moved to Texas, before laptops and cell phone texting, I would go into restaurants with pad and paper and write letters back home while I ate. Then I made friends where I was at, and went to eat with them, and stopped writing letters back home. I miss that. Even today I will occasionally leave my laptop at home and go to a nice restaurant and write a hand written letter back home.

5. Don’t take yourself seriously. Laugh at yourself. A while back someone insulted me in public and I was very offended the person insulting me said what they did in front of everybody. Later, while talking to some of the people within earshot of the insult, I realized they did not even hear what the person said. They were not paying attention, and had other things on their mind. The only person who remembered it was me. I wonder how many times I have been stressed out from embarrassing situations that are recorded in my brain and nowhere else.  I have learned not to be so intense. Some insults that I have taken to heart in the past, I found out later where not given as intensely as I took them. Being melancholy, I think everything has to be perfect. I have realized, that being a perfectionist is a flaw. I don’t need to stress because of the small dent on my  new car. I don’t need to stress because of a little dust on my bookshelf. I don’t need to stress because a friend is a little upset with me. Relationships, like everything else, don’t have to be perfect in order to be absolutely wonderful.

4. Set goals, but don’t cut your wrists if your goals are not met. Have a minimum and maximum goal within reason. For example, as a Bible Worker, I have a goal of how many people I want to contact every day. Some days I can contact 40 or more people. Some days I can only find 10. So 10 is my minimum goal which I can live with while I try for 40 or more. Some days, I get a phone call from a Bible student who is struggling with something, and I take the day and just hang out with them, encouraging them. That is okay too. My goal was not met, but I am not cutting my wrists over it. That would freak my Bible student out!

3. Pace yourself. Take time to relax. Sometimes I will be working on a Seminar presentation or sermon and I get a mental block. I put down my laptop and take a walk. I relax my brain, and then the ideas for my presentation or sermon just start popping into my head. Sometimes my best ideas come on my day off while I am relaxing and reading  or praying.

2. Remember all stress is relative. During the 1998 home run record chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark Mcgwire, I believe it was Sammy Sosa who was asked how he was handling the stress of chasing the home run record. He responded, “This is not stress. Having no food on the table is stress.” Last year, after the Tampa Bay Rays lost a close game, radio announcer Andy Freed refused to call the game a “heartbreaking loss.” He said “having a child in ICU at All Children’s Hospital is heartbreaking! This is just a game.” While a little stress is good as it keeps us shooting for our goals, remember it’s all relative. Some things need to stress us out but not everything. What will it matter ten years from now or even next week?  Several years ago I was working in the church office as an office administrator as well as Bible Worker. There was an older man who could come into my office and talk my ear off while I was thinking about all the things I needed be getting done. He was a dear man, very close to Christ. He would tell me stories, while I would fret about getting all of my work done. A few years later, while sitting at his funeral, I asked myself, Was I really all that busy?

1. Prayer and Bible study. Jesus accomplished so much that John says the world could not hold the books that would be written if everything He had done was written down. Still, He spent long hours in communion with His heavenly Father. Before we can live like Jesus, we must pray like Jesus. His life was spent between the mountain and the multitude. We can’t expect to accomplish all He accomplished without praying like He prayed. I talk with people who tell me they are too busy to study and pray. Life is just too busy, they say. I say, if life gets too stressful and busy for prayer and Bible study then forget life! I won’t live without my time with Jesus! If life gets so hectic that I don’t have time to spend with Jesus, then life has just defeated its own purpose! My life has no purpose without God, so why would I let life make me so busy I have no time for Him?  You can accomplish so much more in life, after you spend time with God and leave your stress with Him, than you can by ignoring Him and carrying all that stress yourself.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 13

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS Lesson covers Romans 14-16. Now Romans 13 ends with Paul telling us “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Paul is telling us to set a high standard for ourselves. In Romans 14 He transitions from looking at self to our attitude towards others, telling us, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations,” and “Let us not therefore judge one another any more.” What jumped out at me here, is that while Paul is telling us to set a high standard for ourselves, he also tells us not to judge our brother just because he does not have the same standards we do. This reminds me of something a pastor told me back in Texas, “We need to be conservative towards ourselves and liberal towards others.” How I interpret that is, We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard but not expect anyone else to have the exact same standards we do.

 

I remember when I was first learning how to golf I would go to the driving range. I was self conscious with the other golfers there who could see me. I don’t say watching because in reality they probably weren’t paying any attention to me at all but I thought they were. I did not want them to see me mess up. I would be relieved though when I saw them mess up, because it made me not feel so bad about myself when I saw that they too messed up. Then I remembered, something Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Again I was reminded to not watch others, but to strive for a higher standard.  I pray for God to help me reach His standard while at the same time accepting and not judging my brother.

 

 You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of the Cross.

I Sure Do Rest A Lot!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while. Mark 6:31

Here is an article on how working overtime increases your risk for heart attack!

This week’s SS lesson talks about the importance of rest, and that is something that I get plenty of. I do not apologize for saying this and why should I? Our western culture has the erroneous idea that being “too busy” is some sort of status symbol. It’s not. It’s not healthy and it’s not productive. Don’t get me wrong. I do my job. Like many gospel workers I put in about 60 hours a week. My blogs and Internet ministry do not count towards my hours worked. Being salaried I may never clock into work but I never really clock out either. Here is the key, I pace myself. I work hard but I also play hard. I don’t apologize for my golf hobby. It keeps me balanced. I used to obsess over things at work. Now I just go play golf. When I come back I find God has been taking care of things for me. I enjoy kayaking and watching sunsets. I enjoy sitting on the park bench reading my Bible and spending time with Jesus as friends and not just work associates. These things keep me balanced so I do not obsess, and by pacing myself I am more productive in my ministry than I would be otherwise.

Some have hinted that I need to be very secretive if I sneak in a game of golf after working 14 hours the day before, or that I should not be posting on Facebook that I am enjoying a sunset on the beach after having had Bible studies with 12 people earlier in the day. So in defense of myself (Not that anyone has placed me in defense mode) and other gospel workers for that matter, consider this; While you may happen to catch your pastor on the golf course on a weekday afternoon, what you did not see was him at the emergency room till 3am praying with a family in the waiting room. While you may see your pastor picking up his kids from school and taking them to Dairy Queen for the afternoon, what you did not see was him on the phone from 2-4am talking someone out of suicide. I speak for all gospel workers when I say, we are busy. There is a lot you see us do but there is even more you don’t see us do. 

The Gospel Worker, and everyone else needs time to rest. We need to recharge our batteries, but even during our “down time” when the mind is relaxed and clear, we can have some of our greatest bursts of inspiration. Some of my best ideas for evangelism have come on my day off while I was just relaxing or sitting on a park bench “with Jesus.”  Pace yourself. Work hard. Play hard, and when Jesus tells you, go ahead and come rest a while.

We all need a little Mary as well as a little Martha in all of us. I have to remind myself in the mornings, when I am tempted to hit the floor running, that I am not going to be any help to the multitude until I have first been alone with Jesus. I sure do rest a lot, and it makes me a more productive worker, and if I pace myself right, I will be a productive worker for decades to come.

A Sense Of Humor Is No Laughing Matter

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

2:Am on a January morning in 2001 I rush out of my apartment and down the steps into the parking lot to drive to UPS where I worked. My car is not in its regular space. I walk up and down the parking lot and can’t find it anywhere! I finally realize my 2001 green Hyundai Accent has been stolen. I go back inside and call UPS. I then called the police department and they came out and took a report. As soon as the insurance company opened I called and they told me to go get a rental car. I called my friend David Mellandorf who came by on his lunch break to pick me up and take me to get the rental car. On our way to the rental car agency we pass Taco Bueno, like Taco Bell only better. I asked David if he wanted to stop for a bite at Taco Bueno and that’s when it hit me! Last night I was doing my laundry at the apartment laundry mat. After throwing my clothes in the dryer I went to Taco Bueno for a burrito. On my way back I drove straight to the laundry mat to get my clothes. Not used to driving to the laundry mat I then walked back to my apartment, put my clothes away and went to bed. I got up and rushed to my car forgetting that I had left it at the laundry mat the night before!  Once I reaized what I had done I called the apartments on my cell phone and sure enough they said my car was right there at the laundry mat! I had reported my car stolen and missed a day of work just because I forgot where I parked my car.

The next Sabbath, when I went to preach in Breckenridge there was a note in the bulletin saying, “William your car is in the church parking lot. Don’t forget it when you leave.” All of my friends gave me a hard time for that and even today my friends from Texas will ask me if I have lost my car lately. It was a dumb mistake but it has been good for a few laughs over the years.

This week’s SS lesson talks about the importance of a cheerful heart and good humor. People with a sense of humor live happier and longer. Yet having a good sense of humor does not mean that you think everything is humorous. It just means you can sense what is humor and what is not. Since the general consensus concludes that I have a sense of humor, I have taken it upon myself to make some rules on joking around. Here they are:

Rule # 1: Don’t Tease People About Things They Can’t Control.

I love to laugh with my friends and make fun of myself about the “stolen car” incident. However years earlier I had another car in Texas with no air conditioning. One of my friends would tease me about it in the hundred degree dry Texas heat. Let me tell you something. While you are sitting still at an eternal red light, sweat dripping, in the 100 plus degree heat, no air conditioning is not funny! There was nothing I could do about it. Once I had the money for air conditioning they no longer made my model of car and no A/C was available.  I had no control over the situation. You could have teased me about being a Texas Rangers fan even when they were the worst team in the league, but I chose them and could chose another team anytime I wanted. I was stuck with that car in the 100 degree Texas heat.

Rule #2 Let People Know When You are Just Joking.

Just because I tell one joke does not mean I joke around all the time. Some people don’t know that. You tell them just one joke and somehow they decide that’s all you do. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I may laugh harder than anyone else when I laugh, but you know what? I also cry harder than anyone else when I cry, and I do cry. I love my life and I vividly sense all of it, the good and the bad. For those who cannot tell when I am joking or being serious here is a clue. I don’t lie. If you ask me “are you joking” I will tell you right away yes or no. I may pull your leg until you ask me, but once you ask me point blank I will not pull your leg anymore. So if I say I am not joking, I am not joking. I am being serious.  People with a sense of humor are serious people too. Again a sense of humor senses what is humor and knows what is not humor. There is a difference between joking around and having a sense of humor.

Rule #3 Jokes Can Be Affirming!

I have to admit it. With my good friends that I am comfortable with I can joke kind of rough and they can be rough right back. Most of the jokes you hear are on sitcoms are insults. I am learning this does not have to be. My last few years in Texas I worked with an amazing man. He was a Jehovah Witness, and was always joking around with me. It took me a year or so to realize that even though he was always joking around he never insulted anyone-ever! All of his jokes were positive jokes. I do not know if that was because of his religion or not, but I have always admired him for that. It is possible to use a sense of humor to compliment people instead of insulting them with it. For example instead of negative comments about being bald, how about saying God doesn’t cover perfect heads? If you joke rough with someone make sure you have their permission first. If someone jokes rough without your permission forgive them and pay them a compliment instead. Don’t censure. Lead by example. They will catch on soon enough. If you think teasing someone back they way they teased you will teach them a lesson you are wrong. All it does is tell them you approve of such humor. If you do not approve of their humor, rather than retaliate just don’t participate.

Rule # 4 Leave peoples’ Bodies Alone

Just because I make a comment about my thin hair or pot belly does not mean I want you to chime in. Often when people make negative comments about themselves even jokingly, they are looking for you to counteract it with affirmation not insult. There is something I want to make clear. If you tease someone about ANY part of their body you have just given them permission to tease you about ANY part of your body and I do mean ANY and you know what I mean.  Respect the entire body.

Rule #5 Humor is Not Mean Spirited.

There were a lot of jokes this last election that went beyond trying to be funny to being outright mean.  For a moment forget that I am a nice little Bible Worker as I say something just as blunt and clear as I can. When you call a political leader “stupid”, “idiot”, and “incompetent” then that just makes you look like a stupid incompetent idiot. Show some class and couth.  I am applying this to all political parties here. Nothing charms me like a politician sincerely complimenting his rival.

Rule # 6 Don’t take Yourself Serious.

I have to admit I am not too bright sometimes. There have been times people have been mean spirited towards me and I laughed with them thinking they were just joking and having fun.  Either way you have to see the lighter side of life. Years ago when I was a UPS supervisor, we were having a terrible day. All the packages were stacked all around the end of the belt when they should have all been loaded in the package cars by now. I was overwhelmed, and when my boss came by I told him, while looking at the mess of boxes, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.” He told me, “You might as well laugh, crying isn’t going to do any good.” Humor has always helped me get through tough times. When I got real sick last fall ladies were bringing me food left and right. It was great! Later I told them looking back, all that I went through was worth it all just for their delicious dish that they made for me. When I first picked up the game of golf, I was playing with a buddy and I was doing lousy! I was actually doubling par on every hole! Finally around hole number 14 I hit another lousy shot and then I could not control myself! I fell to the ground doubling over in laughter! My friend, not sure what I was doing, asked what was wrong. I told him I was just laughing at how terrible I was playing! Once while getting ready to putt another player nearby asked if he was in my way. I told him I had no idea until after I hit the ball. I am no pro today, but I don’t play as bad as that anymore. Crying never did get me anywhere, but hard work and a good sense of humor will get you anywhere!

More studies and devotionals are available at In Light OF The Cross.