Wednesday, November 09, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS: EPILOGUE: THE MORNING AFTER

Yeah, I know: I said "November Musings" would be over with my last post. Consider this post a postscript, an epilogue, a sequel.

Donald Trump is now the President-elect. After watching the news coverage, seeing the victory speech of Mr. Trump, the concession speech of Mrs. Clinton, and checking out social media commentary, I feel compelled to offer my own observations, warnings, and exhortations. These are "raw" thoughts, so if they lack a certain subtlety and refinement, well, that's the nature of politics.

1. One of the consistent themes in the news coverage was the sense of surprise."Nobody expected this." "How could the polls be so wrong?" With all due respect to our professional pundits, they began Mr. Trump's candidacy with dismissal. They continued it with the narrative that Mr. Trump only had a small, narrow minded bunch of supporters. But in my decidedly un-scientific observation, Mr. Trump's base was a lot larger and more diverse than the pros admitted.

2. I appreciated the gracious words of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton in their respective speeches. I especially want to commend Mrs. Clinton for "practicing what she preached" in accepting the results of the election with class and dignity.

3.The popular vote shows a razor thin support for Hillary Clinton. Take note: roughly half of the citizens of our country voted for Mrs. Clinton! I strongly dislike the demonizing of the voter. Intelligent, passionate, patriotic citizens supported Hillary Clinton and they cannot be casually dismissed or ignored. We may disagree on issues, but now is the time to address the concerns in a way that unites us.

4.Take note: roughly half the citizens in our country voted for Mr. Trump! I strongly dislike the demonizing of the voter. Intelligent, passionate, patriotic citizens supported Donald Trump and they cannot be casually dismissed or ignored. We may disagree on issues, but now is the time to address the concerns in a way that unites us.

5. (Yes, the previous two points were identical).

6. I'm already seeing opinions around Facebook, particularly from these political opinion "papers," that are heralding the doom of our country. As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, the disaster scenarios that are often predicted by opponents rarely come to pass. Relax folks. Don't leave the country, don't hang your heads in closeted anger, and, whatever you do, don't take a page from the opposition and start digging up conspiracies and voter fraud.

7. Several conservative Republican sites are already gloating. Even Mrs. Clinton's delay in giving her concession speech has been characterized as "cowardly!" Good grief. It's over. Even athletes shake hands after a hard-fought match.  Not to overuse an Anchorman line, but, please, for the good of the country, "Stay classy, conservatives." As I've already pointed out, half the country chose Hillary Clinton. That's a whole lot of people to be against.

8. Finally, a personal note: someone recently said that I was trying to be "politically correct." Them's fightin' words! If you knew me, I mean really knew me, you know that I have very strong political opinions. And I'm not ashamed to tell you that most of my opinions are right (well, I meant as in "correct", but yes, on the political spectrum as well). But as I think I've mentioned in previous entries, I believe how we argue our position is also important. No longer do I feel the need to blow up my opponents when they are wrong. Do you really want to listen to or work with someone who calls you a "cotton headed ninnymuggin?" or characterizes your views as so much "feldercarb?"

9. (on the other hand, I wouldn't mind engaging in dialogue with anyone who can tell me the source of "cotton headed ninnymuggin" and "feldercarb.")

Well, there it is. The real conclusion to my "November Musings" series. And guess what? Jesus is still King of kings and Lord of Lords! Pray for the President-elect and pray for our country. Let's turn now to lighter things. . .

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #5 LAST THOUGHTS: MY CODE

As I write this, our country (USA) will be electing a new President in a little more than 48 hours. The two leading contenders are Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. And to hear supporters of both candidates say it, this will be one of the most important elections in our history.

But regardless of who wins (and trust me, barring a third party upset of epic proportions, one of them will win), one thing that will not change is my code. I don't remember when I came up with this, but a few administrations back, after carefully considering what the Bible had to say about my attitudes toward the government, I came up with some principles that would govern how I speak to and about our elected officials (it references the President specifically, but can apply to any kind of leader).

Word of warning: it's easy to follow this code when the President in office is "good" (read, "a President I support"). The challenge is with the President of a different party, or one that makes unpopular decisions, or that gives evidence of doing things that may not be good for the country. But as I study the Bible, I find the principles are not labeled with a D or an R. If Paul can pray for the cruel, pagan tyrant named Nero, do I have a reason not to pray for a President for whom I did not vote?

A couple of quick disclaimers: 1) I am not perfect and at any given time, I have slipped and violated my own code. I don't offer this as judgment, merely as aspiration.  2) We're still friends, whether you agree with me or not.

This will be split between "My Code" and "Guiding Scripture

My Code
1. I will refer to the President as "President Name" or "the President." I will avoid using just the last name unless the context of the reference calls for it.

2. I will avoid the use of pejorative nicknames for the President. While well done political satire and humor has its place in our history, I will continue to disapprove of proverbial "cheap shots."

3. As much as possible, I will give the President the benefit of the doubt.

4. I will not automatically believe every bad report about the President, unless there is clear and compelling evidence to support it. I will not entertain news of failure unless it can be objectively verified.

5. I will celebrate the victories and wins of the President that are for the good of the country (not just for the good of the President's party).

6. I will exercise my right as an American citizen to "speak truth to power," to speak against policies and practices that violate my convictions or that I feel are contrary to the best ideas of this country.

7. But when speaking in disagreement, I will always temper my comments with respect and consideration to the man or woman holding the office.

8. I will pray for the President, for his or her success, health, safety, protection, and that he or she would seek and heed the wisdom of God.

Guiding Scriptures:


1 Peter 2:13-17 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.


1 Timothy 2:1-2 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.


Acts 23:1-5 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’"


Also see 1 Samuel 24, in which David, presented with an opportunity to kill Saul, refuses to harm the Lord's anointed.


Thanks for reading the "November Musings" series, one of my rare forays into politics. If you have not already done so, make sure you vote and pray. And remember, on Wednesday, November 9, I predict that Jesus will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords!


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Friday, November 04, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #4: QUICK THOUGHTS BEFORE NEXT TUESDAY

As I type this, there is only one weekend between me and Election Day. So I want to use this post to share four quick thoughts about what could and should happen on Tuesday and beyond. No major theme here, no in-depth analysis, just shooting through my keyboard. As always, whether you agree or disagree, be nice.

1. No candidate is going to "save" America. There are dozens of reasons why the grand promises of the would-be POTUS fail to materialize, most of them out of the control of the candidate. When Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump make these sweeping pronouncements about what the next four to eight years will be like under their watch, I just smile.

2. The horrible things we think the opposing candidate will do to America will likely not happen either. Again, there are dozens of reasons for this, but gloom and doom predictions rarely persuade me as to my voting preferences. Nuclear war has never happened, guns have not been confiscated, and, as of this date, I am still free to worship in the church of my choice. Please understand, I am not blind to the issues or concerns that face our country. It's just that, if I had a proverbial nickel for every celebrity that threatened to leave the country if (fill in the name of candidate) won the White House, I'd be able to buy a nice dinner for my wife. Maybe things won't be spectacularly rosy under one administration, but I doubt it will be a total disaster under another.

3. Whoever is elected is my President, whether they got my vote or not.  I've actually had people get mad at me for saying this. "He's not my President," they announce.  Ummm, yes he is. Defiantly proclaiming that the new President is "not my President" or refusing to accept his or her position in the Oval Office is really no different than threatening to leave the country if the opposition is elected. It solves nothing, it changes nothing.

4. I'm a bit of an idealist, so I think this is a good time to remember that we are one nation, under God. If we let this election continue to negatively divide us, we've lost something far greater than our guy or gal being in the White House.  One of the most disturbing elements of this election is the candidates declaring their contempt for the voters that are for the opposition. That's not cool. If, as the experts are predicting, this election is close, then theoretically half of the voting population will be on the "other side." That's when we realize that we are still American citizens and the President has the responsibility to work with all of us, not just the ones that voted for him or her.


In my next (and possibly last) installment of "November Musings," I will share my personal philosophy of how we should treat the President--any President. I've used this "code" for several administrations and it has served me well.

Until next time, remember that on November 9, Jesus is still King of kings and Lord of lords!

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Friday, October 28, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #3: WRESTLING MEMORIES

Why do I seem to have such a problem with this election? I think it has to do with professional wrestling.

I better explain.

When I was a lad, pro wrestling was a staple of our Saturday afternoons. Wrestlers would travel to a city, put on their show, and then head off to the next one. In our area, the local channel had a show called "Championship Wrestling," which featured these contests. The wrestlers would be interviewed between matches and promote their next battle to be held at the fairgrounds or gymnasium. Championship Wrestling was "must see TV" for our family over the weekends.

I kind of suspected the made-up nature of the contests (could a human body really get pummeled into near unconsciousness, then get up a minute later and fight some more?), but I didn't really care. As a young comic-book geek, these were real life superheroes battling it out. There were the good guys (faces) and bad guys (heels). The faces would be good sportsmen, fighting hard, but following the rules. The heels, naturally, cheated and were arrogant, mean, and nasty.

A typical scenario was during a tag team match. The good guys being pummelled by the bad guy as he desperately reaches out his arm to tag his partner, who was also reaching out. Just inches away from deliverance, but they can't make contact. But then something happens and the face outside the ring unintentionally commits a minor infraction (it has to be minor, because,as a good guy, he follows the rules). The ref rushes over to him, turning his back to the wrestlers in the ring, and begins lecturing the guy about the rules. Meanwhile, the other heel enters the ring and joins his partner in beating the tar out of the good guy. The face outside the ring desperately tries to explain to the ref what's happening, the crowd is yelling and screaming for the ref to stop the carnage, the announcers are shouting into their microphones atop the card table set up at the side, while the ref continues to chew out the good guy outside the ring.

Oh the humanity!

Face vs. face matches were good to watch. Though no less choreographed, they tended to focus more on technique then annihilation. And after the match, the good guys would shake hands with each other. You could feel the mutual respect oozing out of them as they spoke to the interviewer afterward. Face vs. heel matches, on the other hand, usually ended with the good guy offering a handshake to the bad guy, only to have the bad guy respond with a sucker punch or kick in the stomach.

(Tim, what does this have to do with the election?) Stay with me....

As professional wrestling got bigger and more popular, I noticed things changing. In today's matches, I'm just as likely to see the good guys double team a bad guy as the other way around. There's still the arm straining moment of the tag, but if they can't make contact, and if they can get away with it, the face is more than willing to infract a rule or two to help his partner. Faces are just as rude and arrogant as their heel counterparts, and if I had children as young as I was "in the day," I would be embarrassed to hear the language they use in the pre- and post- match interviews.

Yes, there are still faces and heels, good guys and bad guys. But since their is no real distinction in technique or persona, the only way we know who's who is, well...marketing. Since the face cheats, uses foul language, and does not show respect to his opponents, all that's left is to promote him as a face (which the big pro wrestling organizations do quite well). And in the world of professional wrestling, even that can change, with good guys becoming bad guys and vice verse.

Which brings me to my election point: I honestly cannot tell the face from the heel. Yes, I know that issues are important and there is much at stake, so we should ignore the personality of each candidate and focus on what is truly important. After all, if we elect him or her, then untold disaster will befall us, so isn't it worth putting up with less than graceful conduct in order to ensure a victory?

When I was in my teen years, I gleaned a piece of wisdom from (believe it or not) a comic book. I don't remember the title or issue number, but I remember the dialogue. The young sidekick seemed to support a move against the villain that would have helped the cause, but was rather underhanded. He reasoned, "But if it stops the bad guy, isn't it worth it?" The hero replies, "I believe it's important to win. But we still need to be the good guys when we do it."

Marketing and political campaigns do not persuade me. Promises don't sway me. Lofty vows of grand change if elected or ominous warnings if the other person is elected don't carry any weight with me. As long as the candidates do the same stuff in the same way, I have a problem.

I guess what I'm looking for is a face.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #2: THAT TAPE

In this valiant attempt to bring clarity to the November presidential election, I struggle with a lot of things. I've already shared in a previous post about my overall struggle regarding the real potential to tick everyone off. But the other challenge is that there are so many elements on which to shine a light, which one do I tackle first? Let's go to the tape. . . .

The tape, of course, is the revelation that Donald Trump bragged to (then) entertainment reporter Billy Bush about his ability to "have his way" with women (yes, I'm being diplomatic about something that at best was a rude, crude description and, at worst, an admission of possible assault). The exchange was caught on tape and recently released. Mr. Trump has characterized it as "locker room talk" and apologized. Many GOP lawmakers, evangelical leaders, and a host of others have repudiated the candidate. And, of course, in late breaking news, a few women have said that Mr. Trump's statements were not words only, but actions. To be fair, their accusations have not been substantiated, and Mr. Trump denies them, but they are certainly a cause of concern.

Three trains of thought come to mind:

We can't easily dismiss the claims against Donald Trump
So why did this 11 year old tape take so long to surface and why did these women wait until now to reveal Mr. Trump's treatment of them? First of all, regarding the women, it is not uncommon for a victim to remain silent. Some of it is born out of fear, some of it is embarrassment, some of it is a certain amount of self-doubt (did I somehow encourage this? was it my fault?). I would hope we've come far enough of our understanding sexual assault that we not dismiss these accusers out of hand. And I have to admit (with my limited knowledge), nothing the women have said so far sounds in-credible. It all sounds very consistent with Donald Trump's public personality and, yes, with his "locker room talk."

Which leads us back to the tape. What was on the tape was disgusting. Deplorable. Degrading. We can dismiss it as "locker room talk," but let's face it: the behavior it describes and even the language that is used is unacceptable.  But some of my conservative, Christian friends have said, "it's not that big a deal. Why are we condemning him for something he did  eleven years ago? He has apologized, so we should forgive him and move on."

Yes, I agree whole heartily we should forgive Donald Trump. But "moving on" might be a little more complicated. I can forgive the drug addict who steals my electronics to feed his habit. But I won't leave him unsupervised in my house. I will look for signs of continued drug use. I will love him and encourage him and rejoice in his victories. But unconditional forgiveness is not blindness. Or naivety. Yes, I forgive Donald Trump. But it took him eleven years to "confess" his sin (and only because the tape surfaced) and there have been no indications that he is a different man than before. Maybe he is. But we only have his public personality to evaluate and they suggest (not prove) he may have the same attitudes toward women as he had eleven years ago. Moving on is not so simple.

This could be a set up
But let's take a look at the other side of the coin. Aside from his "locker room" tape, there is no solid evidence to substantiate the claims of Mr. Trump's accusers. And while I prefer to give victims the benefit of the doubt, yes, some women do lie. We cannot blindly reject the idea that this could very well be a set up. NBC has had the "locker room" tape for eleven years, but during the entire run of the hit series The Apprentice, it never saw the proverbial light of day. While there are certainly legitimate reasons why the alleged victims may not have spoken out for eleven years, the fact is, they are only speaking out now, during a critical election season. The timing is more than convenient. Saturday Night Live brilliantly nailed this in a sketch portraying the Clinton campaign celebrating, with Hillary Clinton unable to contain her delight over this damaging revelation.  So there exists at least the possibility that these allegations are unfounded. Until more substantial proof surfaces, the question will remain unanswered.

What all this says about media and society
However, another troubling part of this whole thing  is the sudden focus on morality in our society.  Hey, I'm a stuck-in-the-mud, old fashioned values, Bible-believing Christian, but I get a little distressed when I hear representatives of the liberal left pontificate about the terribleness of Donald Trump's tape. Whenever Christians speak out against sexual situations or obscenity on television or movies, they are widely condemned as prudes, Puritans, or Pollyannas who want to destroy our civilization by imposing their narrow view of what is right or wrong in society. Meanwhile, we are treated to all types of  depictions of immorality, a great deal of which involves the degradation of women. It seems more than a little, I don't know, uhhh--hypocritical?

And then there are the athletes and celebrities who make fun of Donald Trump by saying that he's probably never been in a locker room, because men don't really talk that way in locker rooms. I beg to differ. The expression "locker room talk" existed before Donald Trump's apology and has always meant the kind of crude, bragging conversations that usually center on women. In some cases, it's little more than tall tales, but regardless, some men really do talk that way.  Let's tone down the feigned shock. If every newscaster or celebrity had tapes of their off-camera words and deeds, it would be quite a revelation to a lot of admirers.

And yes, NBC fired Billy Bush for his role in the "locker room" tape, but I noticed it did not prevent them from putting him on the Today Show in the first place. Only when they were stuck between exposing the "terrible immorality" of Donald Trump and showing their own media personality involved in the same thing did they take action. What else could they do?

Suddenly, prominent people who have never regarded the Bible as anything special are pulling out quotes to inform us all what "good Christians" should think about all this. While I'm glad to see anyone reading the Bible for guidance, I fear that many of these folks don't really give a flying care about what the Bible says; rather, their main goal is to maybe point out what they perceive as hypocrisy among Trump supporters. Where is the tolerance? Where is the very Biblical and Christian virtue of forgiveness? And that is an ongoing irritation, not only in this campaign, but in society overall: people who don't believe the Bible trying to convince the faithful about what the Bible says. Just something to think about.

Please do not take my comments as a rejection or endorsement of either candidate. Like many Americans, I'm struggling with this election. These posts represent what one of my teachers called, "thinking through my keyboard." I welcome your comments, but name calling, foul language, or general mean-spiritedness will not be allowed. Good points made logically and consistently (with maybe a dash of humor) goes a long way, even if you disagree.

And remember: no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #1: WHY AM I CONFUSED?

I did not want to chime in to the rumblings of the 2016 Presidential race.  For one thing, I have some very well defined convictions about politics and Presidents in general that would most certainly irk people on both sides of the political spectrum. For another thing, this contest in particular is so explosive that I feel like anything I say will provoke the ire of the devoted of both parties. And finally, I make it personal mission to avoid irritating people, even if I profoundly disagree with them. I would prefer to engage in intelligent dialogue with someone who disagrees with me and depart as friends than have someone call me names, then stomp off.

So there you have it: irksomeness, ire, and irritation. You've been warned. I think this will take a few posts, since I don't want to overwhelm you with everything at once.  And now is probably a good time to remind you that the opinions are mine alone and do not always reflect the views of my church, its leadership, its staff, my friends, family, the dog, my daughter's cats (who live with us and about whom I am tempted to fire off a blog or two), or any political party. I'd also like to remind you that your comments are welcome, but rudeness, crudeness, foul language, name calling, etc. might get you deleted. My blog, my rules.

And now that we have the disclaimers out of the way. . .

I've been asked how a "good Christian" could possibly support Donald Trump. The question has been asked by liberals, conservatives, non-Christians, and atheists. It's a frequent subject on social media, with some writers going so far as to indict the whole of evangelicalism and even Christianity as a whole. The outrage over the so-called "religious right's" backing of Mr. Trump was happening long before the revelation this week of a crude recording, but it certainly intensified with the tape. "How can you, a 'good Christian,' possibly vote for this man?" the pundits cried.

In an upcoming blog, I will address the recording and what it says about our society, but for now, let me establish that I have not thrown my support to Mr. Trump. People ask me who I'm voting for and I just shrug and say, "I honestly don't know." I think framing the debate in terms of what a "good Christian" should do or think is misleading. Saying someone should reject Donald Trump because a "good Christian" would reject him carries about as much weight as saying a "good Christian" should reject Hillary Clinton. I've heard both. And, to be blunt, it's just so much noise.

Donald Trump speaks to many issues with which I agree. Secretary Clinton speaks to many issues with which I disagree. Oh that the choice would be that simple. Mr. Trump verbally expresses his support for my faith, while Mrs. Clinton has verbally denigrated the things in which I believe. I wish the decision rested solely between the candidate who says, "I'm for you, Bible-believing Christian," and the candidate who says, "I'm against you." Simple. Easy peasy.

Except, from what I've observed, Mr. Trump is the kind of person my dad warned me about. My dad and I did not see eye to eye on Christianity and he was pretty sure that this young teenager was turning into a wild-eyed fanatic. And he would warn me about how I'd be walking in a strange area and somebody would come up to me and start talking about the Bible or Jesus and, like a man in a trance, I would follow him, whereupon I would be robbed, beaten up, or worse. My dad's opinion of my naivety notwithstanding, I got the point. People will say or do almost anything to ingratiate themselves. I've seen candidates for local offices suddenly become active church members, only to vanish after the election. I've been invited to pray at secular gatherings, just because the host wanted "the Big Guy upstairs" to smile down on the proceedings (which often involved alcohol).

The tipping point to me was the speech at Liberty University, when Mr. Trump referred to "Two Corinthians." Yeah, it's a minor point. And yes, I've heard some preachers use that terminology. It's not like the original Greek designates the correct usage of the name of a book. It's not really that big a deal. Except, well, it was a large, evangelical student body. Most Bible-believing Christians would use the designation, "Second Corinthians." Unless they were not that familiar with the Book they were quoting or the audience to whom they were speaking. At that moment, I felt like Mr. Trump had asked someone on his staff to find a Bible verse he could use for his speech. But contrary to my dad's assessment of my ability to spot a con artist, I felt like he was trying to win me over. It didn't work. And adding that to the rest that was said and the rest that would be said, I have to say I cannot whole-heartedly support Donald Trump.

But that doesn't mean I'm voting for Hillary Clinton either. I don't have time to list everything, but her social/political stands alone often run contrary to my own beliefs. Nor is she attempting to spin those positions to assuage my concerns. With Mrs. Clinton, I feel as though I am a non-entity, a throw back to the dark ages. Bible-believing Christians will be tolerated, unless they get in the way. I have a problem throwing my hat in the ring with someone who, to put it simply, is against most of my convictions.

So what's a "good Christian" supposed to do? I don't know if "good Christian" always applies to me, or even if it should apply to me at all. While I am not ambivalent about the Bible and the Christian faith. I'm not as certain on the instersection of faith and politics. Yeah, if they violate the Scripture, it's easy, but if both go against it, then what? Hopefully, I'll be addressing some of these questions in future posts.

And one final word: no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

TAKE THE NEXT SHOT

I don't play golf or even really follow golf. My experience with golf is limited to the course at the Family Fun Center or a stint at a video game console. Nobody would mistake me for a good player. Or an average player.

I did not intentionally turn on the tv to watch the last few holes of the Open tournament. It's just what was on while I worked on something else. I tuned in just in time to watch one of the champions miss what would normally be "an easy shot." And then I watched one of his opponents knock a ball right into an ugly looking sand trap. I saw balls go into the rough, into the bushes, into other sandtraps, and roll teasingly away from the hole the player was aiming for.

And I thought, "that's exactly what would happen to me!" As one who has stretched a par 4 hole into 7 or 8 stokes at the moving drawbridge, I am familiar with bad shots. And if I was in the Open, I'm sure I could hear the commentator intone with his soft British accent, "Looks like another bad shot for Tim. He really is a poor player."

But they don't say stuff like that about the pros. Why is that? How come the highly talented golfer who makes a bad shot still get to be called "highly talented?" Why don't people boo the pro bowler who fails to knock all the pins down?  Ever think about batting averages? .300 or .400 is respectable, but it still means the player missed 6 or 7 times!

The answer is simple: it's not the bad shot that defines the player, but the next shot.

I saw this played out on the Open.  The player had knocked the ball in the sand trap. He walked over, calculated his stroke, then hit the ball onto the green near the hole! And the crowd goes wild! If we're watching highlights that evening, the sports anchor will play that amazing, out-of-the-sand-trap shot and heap accolades upon the skilled golfer. The bowler picks up the spare and the batter gets the hit.

Yes, a hole-in-one is a great accomplishment. But if all a player ever did was get holes-in-one, would golf be so interesting to watch? Probably not. The real measure of a golfer's skill isn't so much their ability to put the ball in the cup, but in their ability to get out of a bad situation.

And how many times have I let my own bad situations, my own "bad shots" define me? I can't tell you how many "sand traps" I've been in, some from circumstance, a lot from bad decisions, but all accompanied by the soft thud, the groan of the crowd, and the commentator whispering, "What a pity, this is tough one for Tim." And I'm sure I'm not alone.

So what sets us apart? It's in what we do to take the next shot. We remember that God is with us, not just in the good times, but in the bad. Especially in the bad. The enemy will mock and belittle us with that soft whisper that we're no good, look where we've landed, we really are bad at being a spouse, a parent, an employee, clean and sober, or (fill in the blank). But God says, "This isn't permanent. Take the next shot."

Yeah, I know, it's more complex than that. It may take a series of good shots to overcome one bad shot. But as a wise man once observed, "Success is getting up one more time than you fall down." But don't let the bad shots define you. Take the next shot. Rejoice in the victory.

And the crowd goes wild!

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