Today’s Word from Pastor Jim… 

“Golf is not a game of perfect.” Bob Rotella

I grew up on the golf course. In the first decade of my golfing life, golf was about competition. Competition against myself and competition against other players. There are no defensive players in golf, there is no one in your way, preventing you from hitting your best shot or playing your best game. Golf is a profound mental exercise. Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.” Golf is a mental game that rewards those who practice. Nothing can take the place of muscle memory; muscle memory can only be developed with repetition. Consequently, golfers spend long hours hitting balls on a practice range, practicing a variety of shots, and practicing putts from varied distances. Golfing great Gary Player said, “The more I practice the luckier I get.”

In the fall of 1978, I found myself on a NCAA Division 1 golf team, walking the fairways of some of the best golf courses in the world and competing against outstanding college amateurs. Physically all was good, mentally I was done. I had lost the desire to compete. The competition was no longer fun. The errant shots brought me more angst than the good shots brought joy. When the game ceased to be a game, a good walk turned into a good walk spoiled. At that point pretty much all competition was removed from my life. I enjoy playing Candyland with my grandkids now, but then again, I am not trying to win.

Competition was over, but practice continued. Soon my life would be consumed with religious practice. Repetitive rituals of liturgies, weddings, funerals, prayers, and preaching. Somewhere along the line I realized that I was not alone in my practice; my doctor was in family practice, my lawyer was in legal practice, my dentist had a dental practice, my account was in an accounting practice and every Wednesday night the choir practiced. Most everyone was practicing something. From sports to marriage, from parenting to professional endeavors, everyone was practicing. Practice implies occasional failure on the road to improved results. When life is consumed in the pursuit of perfection or in competition which creates winners and losers, then inevitably imperfect humans like us will be given over to despair or frustration. Soon this earthly journey, a gift from God, becomes a graceless slog. Like golf, a good walk spoiled. Life is not about mastery, there is not a single thing in life that I have mastered. Perhaps life is just about practicing, practicing every day. Practicing kindness, practicing forgiveness, practicing tolerance, practicing the piano, practicing yoga, practicing prayer, practicing generosity, never expecting perfection.

Practice not perfection. A few weeks ago, I pulled off an accomplishment rare to seasoned preachers. Karl was there, he can attest to this considerable feat. On a joyful Sunday morning, I achieved a trifecta of joke telling failures by including three jokes that fell flat in a single sermon. To my credit I kept practicing and experienced similar results at all three services. Had it been golf I might have thrown a club, had it been a competition I would have lost, but I was just practicing life, and a friendly crowd of parishioners gave me love after the sermon.

Golf is not a game of perfect. Don’t expect perfect my friends, cut yourself a break, enjoy the journey and keep practicing.

One beggar telling another where to find bread, I am your

Pastor Jim

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