Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rake the Bunker

If you have spent any time on a golf course, then you have spent some time in one of the courses many obstacles - the bunker. My uncle likes to refer to them simply as 
‘sandy beaches.’
I always feel as though my golf ball has a magnet in it that is drawn to this bane of my existence. These sandy beaches are placed strategically all over each golf hole, in the fairways and near the greens. It’s not as if getting the golf ball in the cup is not hard enough without these things. Nevertheless, bunkers are always near.

Lying nearby these traps, you will always find a rake. No, it is not another obstacle to avoid…the rake is put there for the golfer to clean up his/her mess when they are done. 
It is the golfers duty to put the bunker back the way they found it. This is done so that those coming behind you can have the same opportunity that you were presented with.

(Courtesy: BourneAmenity)
I so love the analogies about life that golf presents to us. One of the words you will hear associated with golf is honor. Your score, replacing your divots, and raking the bunker is all about honoring the persons that will be playing behind you.

So many individuals have lost this trait when it comes to life. Many just want to play through the course of life, never taking the time to clean up their mess. We often forget that it was our shot that put us in this bunker to begin with. Sure, you will finish what you set out to do…but you have left a littered path of unfinished business in the process.

(Courtesy: RittenHouse)
How many apologies have been left unsaid?
How many opportunities have been started…yet never finished?
How many lessons have not been learned…all because we didn’t take the time to STOP and RAKE?

This reality never seems to confront us because it doesn’t really affect us in the moment. Where it shows up is later on - long after our round is complete. Your failure to clean up your mess has made it that much more difficult on those coming behind you.
Our companions. Our children. Those that follow our circle of influence. For this very reason, the struggles of a former generation will plague those of the generation to come. With every passing generation, this course of life gets that much more difficult to play. 

Rake the bunker. Whether you feel like anyone is around watching or not, it’s the honorable thing to do.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is God Really...

There is nothing more terrifying for some children than a grown up tossing them up into the air and then catching them as they return back down to their waiting arms. I have witnessed some children that absolutely love this feeling. They will smile, laugh, and then beg for mom/dad to do it again.

the Hill '3'
Forest Hill, MD

My daughter is not one of the latter. She despises heights and will literally pull my hair out if I so much as raise her above my head. As any good (mischievious) father would do, I never allow this stop me from tossing her into the air when I get the chance.

Last evening, I had an epiphany of sorts that is so elementary, yet incredibly powerful. As I see the ‘terror’ in my little girl’s eyes when I toss her into the air, I can sense that she doesn’t completely grasp that her daddy is going to catch her on the way back down. In other words, she is full of doubt – worry – concern. In that split second of time, there are questions abounding in her little mind. Why is my daddy doing this to me? I’m being tossed and flipped around against my wishes, dangling in the unknown. I don’t like it up here.

The thing is: Just because I know she doesn’t completely trust me doesn’t change my love for her – nor does it change the fact that I’m her daddy and I would never let her fall. I have everything under control.

As an adult, do you ever just feel like you’re being tossed and thrown around against your wishes? Do you ever have questions about what and why God is doing what He is in your life? Those moments when it feels like you are free falling and no one is going to be there to break your fall.
In rushes the doubts – the questions – the uncertainty . . . Is God really in control? 
Is He really going to catch me?

American Visionary Art Museum
(Baltimore, MD)

Let me share with you: 
Having these kinds of thoughts is ok. As a matter of fact, I would be worried about you if you didn’t. 
Without these experiences, we would never have to worry about learning to trust Him.
Just because you are filled with doubt doesn’t change the fact that you are His child. 

Quite often I have set my own self back because my doubts and questions consumed me so much that I began reaching to fix things on my own. I failed to allow His process to continue its work in my life.

Storms of life and prison experiences will cause you to wonder. But just because you don’t fully believe in your moment of confusion doesn’t cause Him to turn His back on you.
My little Sam doesn’t always trust daddy to catch her when she is tossed…but that doesn’t stop me from catching her.

Don’t allow the doubts to ever rob you of knowing, ‘He’s my Father’. I don’t always get the ‘why’…but He does. And that’s enough.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Do Nothing

Mistreated? Looked over? Hurt? Left out? Talked about? Disrespected?

These are just a few words that describe how many of us have felt at times in life. Through these experiences, how many times have we begged God to get us away from it all? 
How…Why…What have we done to bring these moments on?

Inner Harbor - Fell's Point
(Baltimore, MD)
I just completed my 10,000th reading of Gene Edwards classic, The Tale of Three Kings. 
If you have not consumed this book, please do not hesitate to get a copy. It will take you no more than thirty minutes to read it, but it will take you a lifetime to get it.

The story speaks of the relationship between King Saul, King David, and David’s son Absalom. Without ruining the book, there was one principle that resonates throughout the reading.
David was sandwiched between these two individuals who both wanted to destroy him. One was a king – the other was his own flesh and blood. He was anointed by Samuel to be the leader of God’s people, yet he spent years doing nothing. After spending years leading God’s people, he decided once again to do nothing when his own son plotted to take the kingdom from him. When I use the word nothing, I don’t mean that he did not work, fight, and serve to fulfill his calling. He chose to do nothing when it came to responding to the arrows thrown at him physically (from Saul) and verbally (from Absalom).

David said, “I seek His will, not His power. I repeat, I desire His will more than I desire a position of leadership.
As He did with every encounter with Saul, David said, “…today, I shall give ample space for this untelling God of ours to show us His will. I know of no other way to bring about such an extraordinary event except by doing nothing! The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep.” (Gene Edwards)

Bethesda Fountain - Central Park
(New York, NY)
When will we ever learn in our humanity that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto God – which (by the way) is only a reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
We often times want out from under the ‘arrows’ that are being thrown our direction, when the greatest decision we could ever make is to do nothing but endure. Experience it. 
Find joy in it. Let it build within us the character needed to lead.

There was a reason that David was described as a man after God’s own heart. 
Understand that he was not perfect, for David was a sinner too. Yet, David got it. 
He submitted his human desire of authority and control to the will of His Heavenly Father.

Do what you have to do to dodge the onslaught of whatever ‘arrows’ that are being hurled your way. But while dodging, refuse to become a Saul that would destroy the Absalom in your life. By doing nothing, what you are really saying: “if it is going to be done, it’s Gods to do.” 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Consumed with Comparison

A news report concerning an individual taking their own life is always one of the most heart wrenching things. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a coroner had concluded that famed guitarist Ronnie Montrose took his own life. He had played with the likes of Van Morrison and Herbie Hancock along with forming his own band in the 1970’s.

The saddest part of this 64-year-olds life was revealed in a statement by his wife, Leighsa Montrose. She said, “He was tormented by clinical depression for much of his life. This was brought on by self-doubt that caused him to harshly evaluate his performances, even when audiences were giving him multiple standing ovations.”

We so often find it hard to believe that amazing musicians, athletes, or entrepreneurs do not see what a gift they possess. There is no question that individuals are driven by not ever being satisfied – but there is a difference between being driven by dissatisfaction and being overcome by it.

(Forest Hill, MD)

Ronnie Montrose was an extreme case of being overcome by self-doubt to the point that it caused him to take his own life. Reading this tragic account of a life consumed by his inability to see his gift, has caused me to wonder how many individuals have destroyed ‘what could have been’ because of the very same thing.

One of the saddest things in life is when a person becomes consumed with comparison. You are unable to see the difference you are making. You cannot hear the handclaps of appreciation. And you are never able to feel the pats on the back for a job well done. These things mean nothing to you because you are so consumed in self’ish’ness. This selfishness overtakes selflessness because our thoughts focus on never being good enough. We live every breathing moment trying to be sure our world is pleased – instead of the Master of the world that is to come.

(Forest Hill, MD)

Scripture declares that God has already given to us everything we need to accomplish the work He has for us to do. How tragic not to enjoy life and appreciate the gifts and opportunities that He has placed in and around you. 

Allow a Godly confidence to replace our human comparison.

Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Controlling Destiny

There comes a point in the schedule for all athletic teams where it is said that they “control their own destiny.” According to their win/loss record within the division that they play, each team reaches a point where if they ‘win out’, then they control the opportunity to reach the playoffs and have home field advantage while doing so. These teams ‘earn’ this right through hard work and dedication to putting the team before personal gain.

It has been said of life that it is a lot like a game. Some days you win – Some days you lose. But what do we do about this word … destiny?

Do we ever really control it?

I have heard it mentioned in the presence of extraordinary people that they seemed ‘destined’ to achieve this level of greatness. While it does feel that way when we look upon the superstars of the athletic world – the timeless musicians who record hit after hit – and the writers who can paint a beautiful masterpiece with the printed word…we miss the journey of what it took to get there.

Camden Yards
(Baltimore, MD)
Quite possibly, this is not what you desire to hear: destiny was never ours to control to begin with. Scripture says that He formed me in my mother’s womb…He chose me and set me apart to do His work.
Speaking from human experience, it is no picnic allowing others to be in control of anything we do. As a child, we just go along with what our parents say because we have not ‘learned’ any better as of yet. Then the teenage years show up and all of a sudden we get so much smarter than mom and dad. We begin to crave control so that we can do what we want when we want to do it.
While God did choose us…He places the decision squarely in our hands as to whether or not we choose His way to get there.
He chose David to be King…He went so far as to have him anointed while he was only a shepherd boy…but David wasn’t prepared yet. He killed a lion – He killed a bear – and He killed a giant named Goliath that was threatening the armies of the Lord…but he would not stoop to take control of his destiny by destroying the cross he had to bear.

You see, King Saul ended up being David’s cross. King Saul was head and shoulders above other men. His physic – His looks – His charm…
If anyone was destined for greatness, it had to have been Saul. He was so gifted; He won so much that he eventually felt that he could finally take control. He seized his destiny so strongly that it led him to consulting with a witch and numerous attempts at taking the life of David. 
The ultimate cost was his death at the hands of an Amalekite.

The quickest way toward destruction is seizing control. 
But the path to greatness has a cross with your name on it. Don’t destroy it. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Good for you...Bubba Watson

You simply cannot love sports and not be completely captivated by what takes place during the first week of April. Also, it serves as the week of my birthday…so that doesn’t hurt anything either.
But what a great sports week it is: The National Championship for Men/Women NCAA Basketball. Opening Day of Major League Baseball. It also sets the stage for ‘a tradition unlike any other…The Masters.’  

(Forest Hill, MD)
The Masters concluded yesterday (Easter Sunday) with a two-hole playoff between 
Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen. While both players stared down enormous pressure, Bubba Watson pulled off one of the most incredible shots in Masters history. On the second playoff hole (No. 10), Bubba’s tee shot found the woods to the right. (One of my buddies told me that this is why he watched yesterday: A guy named ‘Bubba’ was hitting golf balls out of the bushes. J
Bubba did the impossible and hooked his shot out of the trees and onto the green just some ten feet from the flagstick. He then was able to make par and win his first green jacket.

He said a lot in his post match interview that touched many…but I loved what he said when asked: “Bubba, what was going through your mind as you walked up to the ball on that last playoff hole? It was surrounded by trees and lying on pine needles that had been trampled by spectators all weekend. What were you thinking about?”

Bubba simply replied: “My whole life I’ve known, If I have a swing – I have a shot.”

Bubba proved the power of belief. He proved (through golf) what can happen if you only picture the shot in your mind ahead of time. He dreamed his shot – then hit it.

Hamburg St.
(Baltimore, MD)
How many are facing obstacles, in the present, that have caused you to feel like it was over? At some point, every individual has been told that you no longer have a shot to accomplish your dream. I can only imagine how easy it would have been for Bubba to give up hope on No. 10. Don’t forget, he is the one who hit the ball among the trees in the first place. 

(Courtesy: WRBCTV)
Maybe your marriage has been driven into a place where you simply see no shot.
Possibly you’re traveling a path of dreams that have been trampled down by those around you who don’t believe.
You might even look at your current surroundings and be overwhelmed by what you see.
But if you can swing – then you have shot. 
The most important thing is to never lose sight of your shot. This journey is going to take you to places that test your mettle. But if you will keep swinging, then you can say the words uttered by our newly crowned Masters Champion: “I don’t know how to put into words the way I feel. I never got this far in my dreams.”

Good for you Bubba Watson – What a thrill to see one of the good guys get it done! Keep swinging…

Friday, March 30, 2012


Who wouldn’t appreciate the opportunity to have a do-over on some things in life?
In sports: when a team loses by one or two points, the commentators will go back to a play that if the team had only done something different, they might have won the game.
In relationships: many individuals could say, “If I had only reacted this way, we might have survived that crisis.”
With our present circumstances: If we had only done this or that, we would not be where we are - doing what we are doing.

If only we could have a do-over.

While reliving those life-altering moments, we fail to realize that in reality they were
life-halting moments. Possibly because of a decision, a reaction, or a choice, we have remained in that exact spot … for that is where a part of us died.

World War II Memorial
(Washington, D.C.)
I love what Mark Batterson said yesterday in his blog: 
He said, “There are some battlefields that I’m not meant to die on.”

Life is one fight after another. It is one choice after another. It is reacting to the circumstances that roll into our world every single day.
Mistakes are made in the heat of battle. Situations arise that are beyond our control. Many times, storms take from us the things that we hold so dear.
With this understanding, there must be a pro-active decision made in the deepest part of our hearts that says, “I will not die here.”   

(Forest Hill, MD)
What battlefield have you been lingering on for long enough? That decision – That storm – That mistake … you were not meant to die there. 
Some have been fighting the same thing for years, and can’t figure out why they are unable to defeat their foe. Tragically, in the end, they surrender and they die there. 
Don’t be a casualty of the choice to surrender to what seems overwhelming … get up and fight your way off the battlefield.

For you were not meant to die there.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where do you Stand?

It is amazing how we often times take the simple things for granted. 
For instance: being able to stand on your own two feet. I found out this past week what it was like to lose this ‘simple’ blessing.

Rolling right along with life, paying no attention to the warning signs, my body let me know that it was not well. Accompanied by strep throat, some overlooked things in my diet caused me to be standing one moment and then coming to myself on the floor the next. 
Please notice the word from the previous sentence - ‘overlooked.’

Inner Harbor
(Baltimore, MD)

Each of us has so many things that go overlooked on a daily basis. My body let me know quickly that there were things that needed immediate attention because of what I had overlooked.
This caused me to pause along this path that I am walking daily to wonder, ‘is there anything else I am overlooking?’ For life is not afraid to sweep our feet right out from under us to get our attention.

So the question must be asked, “Where do we stand?”
Where do we stand:
- In our relationship with Christ. Do we choose Him and die daily to our own way?
- In our marriage. Does our companion KNOW without question, that other than Christ, they mean more to us than anything else in this world? Do we put genuine focus into the daily needs of our spouse?
- With our children. Are we missing in action? We are blessed with the gift of being a dad or mom, yet we are held hostage by our own choice to give time to other ‘things’ we deem more important.  
(Forest Hill, MD)

Are we willing to do inventory before we get knocked off our feet? Warning signs are there…we just have to look for them. Stop allowing yourself to believe that it cannot happen to you. Don’t overlook the warning signs that trouble is ahead. Find out now where you stand…because what is taken for granted will someday knock you off your feet.   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It Matters

Not only have I heard it, but I’ve also said it more times than I want to remember.
Questions such as:
Where would you like to eat?
What would you like to do?
Where do you want to spend vacation?

Those questions quite often lead to the response: “I don’t care. It really doesn’t matter.”
Then we get upset when someone chooses something that we really didn’t want. When you think about it, we are some messed up people. J

Battery Park
(New York, NY)
Unfortunately, we treat our ‘process’ with God the same way. I think many times God simply wants us to care about where we are headed as much as He does. When ‘it’ doesn’t matter because God is going to do what He wants to do, prayers become purposeless. 
When we get a complexion that God is for us, but He also must have something against us…fasting loses its meaning. 
When we just don’t care, joy is stolen from our lives because our emotions are regulated by the happenings we experience.

Following Christ is all about surrendering our will to His, but that is not an excuse to just start living like ‘it really doesn’t matter.’ There is a scripture that I am putting to memory this week that seems to fit here: Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Living righteously is a choice to care. Caring enough to live above reproach. Caring enough to not be affected by the happenings around you so much that the joy of life is stolen away.

Rockefeller Center
(New York, NY)
The point is - deep within us, it does matter. That is why we get bothered when someone does make the choice, but we really wanted something else. God would love to give us our hearts desire, but we choose to give the impression that we really do not care.

By chasing after the kingdom of God and giving our best to live by God given principles, it forces us to care. Show the savior that this life He has given to you really does matter. He will then give you everything you need, to get where you desire to go.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Without Scars...No Story

There is something special about getting together with friends and reminiscing about old ‘war’ stories. I take great pride when someone notices the long jagged scar underneath my chin. I take them back to a time that I don’t even remember – I only have heard my family tell the story two million times. I fell down off a stool at the destructive age of two and split my chin wide open. Every year I come up with a higher number of stitches than it actually took to sow up my wound. I believe at last count it took 462 stitches in order for it to heal properly.

The scars are not usually what bother us, for it is the experience of obtaining those scars that we often times want to avoid.
Without the wound, there would never be a scar…without the scars, there would never be a story…

Time's Square Flag
(New York, NY)
In John 20, you can read where Jesus rose from the grave after His cruel death on the cross. He appeared to show Himself to His disciples, but Thomas was not there when He first appeared unto them. (Vs 25) So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

We live in a world that is filled with skepticism. Many individuals truly wonder how that Christ could love them after all they have done. There are those who doubt how that a companion or friend could actually change and become new after the life they have lived.

National Mall - Washington Monument
(Washington, D.C.)
With all of these questions abounding in the world, many Christians are afraid to show their scars…while many professing Christ followers refuse to endure the ‘process’ of maturing in Him because we rebuff being wounded.

Babies fall off of stools and get wounded. I’ve learned the hard way growing up that you don’t put your hands on things that are hot because you will get burned. Maturing in the physical realm is often painful because some things just have to be experienced.
It is no different in the spiritual realm. We come to Christ and are made new, but there are moments after we take up our cross and follow Him that we get wounded. We go back to the grace giver to be healed and scars are left to tell the story. Without wounds – no scars. Without scars – no story.

Your circle of influence does not need Mr. or Ms. Perfect. What they need to see is what Jesus has healed and made new. We need more Christians unafraid to be wounded, for a doubting world needs to see our scars and hear the story that follows.   

Monday, March 5, 2012

Give it a Shot

I am amazed when I look back over my life at all the things I have left undone. 
You know what I’m talking about. The: I meant to do this - The: I meant to get that done – 
The: I meant to reach out to that person.

Many of our path’s are littered with ‘meant to’s.’ We start out with the best intentions, but the unexpected shows up and turns our steering wheels in the opposite direction.

I heard John Maxwell say recently that many organizations are full of people that get ready…they aim…and aim…and aim…and aim. No one is willing to pull the trigger and fire.
Organizations, churches, marriages, and many individuals have been held back from greatness for this very reason. Many are still aiming, wishing, and hoping for greatness to just show up instead of focusing on what fixes the underlying issue.

(Bethesda Fountain)
Central Park - New York, NY
What is that underlying issue in your life that keeps you from pulling the trigger? For the most part, we are either afraid of success – or we are afraid of the ‘process’ that leads to success. So our lives are constantly filled with I MEANT TO’s. We might accomplish a task here and there, but we never reach the potential of what could have been.

After the death of Christ on the cross, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples went fishing. Scripture tells us that they fished all night long and caught nothing. Jesus showed up (they did not yet know it was Him) and said, “Cast your nets on the other side and you’ll catch fish.” Here are seasoned fishermen who had fished all night and caught nothing. Yet, this guy walks up the next morning and simply says, ‘Have you tried the other side of the boat?’ They gave it a shot and more fish than they could pull in filled their nets.

(National Mall - Lincoln Memorial)
Washington, D.C.
There is a trait that these few men had to have had in order to experience this incredible miracle. Don’t think for one minute that these guys were not prideful in their work. They knew exactly what they were doing. They had no idea that this was Jesus who said to cast your nets on the other side. They could have made the decision to tell that individual standing on the bank, “Do you know who we are? Mister, we have done this for a living and have tried everything during the night. Who do you think you are to instruct us?” They could have…but they didn’t.

Humility caused them to give it a shot. Pride will keep you aiming for a good life. Pride will keep you hoping one day for a successful marriage, a successful family, and career. Pride will keep you from recognizing God’s voice as He speaks to you. Pride will keep you ready and aiming to accomplish this or that…but it will fill you with such doubt and fear that you will never pull the trigger. Pride will keep you from taking the shot.

James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Give it a shot, and don’t fear the success that follows.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Hope

Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually PhotoShop life? Just imagine being able to cover up all the blemishes that show up. You could actually take out individuals or objects that you do not want to see. A sky that looked to be plain and dreary can be replaced with a beautiful blue that warms even the coldest hearts.

If only. . .

Battery Park
(New York, NY)
It is an obvious point, but what we see in our eye line cannot be changed by human efforts. There is not some magical PhotoShop app that we can download to change what is going on around us. 
For this reason:
* We doubt.
* We hurt.
* We are confused.

Notice that none of this can be changed by human efforts. We do our best to cover the blemishes so that no one can see the ugly. We fake a smile in order for others to think that the sky is always blue in our world. Yet with every button we push, the picture gets more and more disfigured.

There is a scripture that most of us could quote, but have the most difficult time downloading. The download is difficult because it takes so much more than just pushing a button.
II Corinthians 5:6-7:
6 We are sure of this. We know that while we are at home in this body we are not with the Lord. 7 Our life is lived by faith. We do not live by what we see in front of us. (NLT) 

How is it possible to not live by what we see right in front of us? The only way is to live life by faith. Faith is defined in Hebrews as the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things you cannot see. It is a choice to hope…it is a constant search for gathering evidence of His hand at work in your world.

Central Park West
(New York, NY)
Choosing to live in this kind of place, you make the decision to let go of the controls. It lets the Master know, You decide how the picture looks. If you need my imperfections to be seen by others, You know what is best. If my skies need to be gray in order for me to mature, You have charge over my days. I cannot see it…but You can.

So, I hope…