Monday, August 31, 2015
Hang onto Your Hats,
Wrightsville Beach, NC
I always return to the ocean beaches to walk the shoreline at sunrise and listen to the calming influence of the synchronized waves lapping onto the sands. Every sunrise has its own personality and beauty fused with the fluorescent sky and blue waters. But the unseen presence that is always near the water in varying degrees is the ocean breeze, caressing the skin and soul and subliminally reminding us of the divine presence that always accepts an invitation to walk with us.
MILESTONE POST NO. 600
Sunrise Surge, Wrightsville Beach, NC
1God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Sunrise Stillness, Wrightsville Beach, NC
10“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
11The lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Touche' Ball, Greensboro National GC, Summerfield, NC
One of the old sayings in golf is that “hazards attract, fairways repel”. If you’ve watched much professional golf on television or live, you’ve probably observed that the fairways and greens are always roped off. These containment barriers are used mainly to hold back the fans and keep them out of play and harms’ way. I’ve only played one round of golf within the confines of the ropes when I participated in a Pro-Am tournament at Inverness in Florida. It was a weird experience in many ways including having physical boundaries within the prime real estate of staying well inbounds. And of course, life is also best played within the ropes.
All too often we weekend golfers find ourselves outside the ropes on many of our golf shots. Many low country courses have vast waste areas that have been left native to the area. Midwestern courses have tall grassy rough areas that are almost impossible to locate errant balls. Heavily wooded country that has had courses selectively logged to cut out the fairways for a golf course present their own challenges, but at least they do yield the occasional tree monkey shots that careen back into the fairway off a tree trunk. And then there are all the water hazards in the form of oceans, lakes and small holding ponds where many players have ritualistically drowned or baptized their golf ball on the edges or deep in the center. A good rule of thumb when hitting over water is that you can either hit one more club or two more balls.
The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida where Pete and Alice Dye created the diabolical signature par 3, 137 yard 17th hole is probably one of the most infamous island greens surrounded by water. The 17th is considered by many to be the most intimidating hole in the game. Mark Calcavecchia once stated that “It’s like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal”. It’s been said that golfers who have been watching play on this green for years and finally have the chance to play it will hit balls until they either hit the green or run out of golf balls. The PGA estimates that over 100,000 balls find the water around the island green every year. And the 18th is a 462 yard par 4 formidable finishing hole with water all along the left side of the fairway that gathers in its share of golf balls. Ironically, the professional players did not like the course when it first opened due to the severity of play. Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying, “I’ve never been very good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car” and J. C. Snead called the course “90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck”. Dye tweaked the course soon after and it’s now considered one of the greatest tests of golf.
But never fear, if there is an opportunity for golf equipment manufactures to sell any kind of gear, they’ll come up with something. And so the product of choice for any golfer who has hit into a hazard or brush, but most especially water, is the now infamous ball retriever! Many golf balls find their way under the ropes and into the water on the roll. So many of them can be spotted just out of reach. That’s where a telescoping retriever pays for itself in just a few rounds, depending on the skill of the owner. Of course, this generates more than just a few wise cracks on the course such as “My retriever wasn’t long enough to get my putter out of the tree” or “I always get my retriever regripped right along with my clubs”. And we must be vigilant of our role as a hunter not a gatherer, lest our dreams are no longer of conquest but only of salvage!
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Migrating Wildebeests, Internet Domain
I was out wandering the green, rain soaked fairways of Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC, today in hot and humid August weather while observing the PGA Wyndham Championship. This year’s tournament took a turn for the better as one of the sport’s shining lights, albeit a dimming one, Tiger Woods, announced late that he would participate for the first time. The bad news is that this hasn’t been a good year for Tiger and he’s in danger of missing out on the lucrative playoffs for the season. But the good news is that his presence immediately prompted the sponsors to crank out thousands more tickets for the event and secure more parking space for the golf fans.
I had watched Tiger in his more competitive days in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow tournament. And it was first in Charlotte that the phenomenon of the superstar was first graphically illustrated to me. We had maneuvered about three holes ahead of Tiger’s group and were patiently waiting in a grandstand for them to approach the green. The fans began to slowly migrate around the ropes on either side of the fairway as the empty grandstand seats began to fill. By the time his group had made their way up to the green thousands of fans lined the fairway and the stands were packed beyond capacity. The same phenomenon was no doubt also occurring on national television. That’s when I first associated what I was visually witnessing with the great wildebeest migration in the endless African Serengeti and Masai-Mara ecosystems!
The annual odyssey of two million wildebeest grazers including 300,000 calves follows a regular circular pattern over an endless journey of 1,200 miles in search of green pastures. It's one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. One of the key events in this journey involves the perilous crossing of the Mara River between July and October. The wildebeest must navigate many hazards including ravenous predators such as lions and leopards that follow the vast herds and take out the weak stragglers. Then when the migrants begin crossing the Masai-Mara River in narrow groups, massive five-meter long crocodiles lying in wait attack them from the unseen depths of the water. Thousands of wildebeests never finish the circle of life each year. In October the herds turn the corner and head back to the Serengeti as the rainy season starts in Tanzania.
The game of golf also follows a rather circuitous path as individuals who religiously practice the sport engage in the game of playing fetch with yourself. We depart the first tee and circle around to the ninth green next to the clubhouse. Then we repeat another cycle off the back nine and again return to the clubhouse. The path is fraught with obstacles like sand bunkers, water hazards and even predators if you’re the betting type. But unlike the lions pursuing the massive herds on the Serengeti, the massive herds pursue the Tigers in golf. The fans anxiously move in lock step as they approach their prey. Occasionally, they even obtain a trophy autograph in their frenzied obsession. The majority are appreciative and well-mannered with the exception of a few stragglers who have obviously stumbled onto the occasional clump of locoweed. Apparently it triggers random outbursts of gibberish like “You the man!” and “Get in the hole!” which can become very annoying. I also observed a few red-shirted men wired for communication walking inside the ropes with the Tiger, presumably for security. Now, there’s a switch!
As we witnessed once again today, when their prey is finished grazing on the green and makes the turn to the back nine in search of greener fairways, the madding crowd likewise evaporates within minutes. And you have to wonder, if the Tiger walks into a perilous water hazard, will the worshiping herd blindly follow?
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
First Light, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Beach Time is measured in Waves not hours.
"We are so little reconciled to time that it sometimes astonishes us. "How time flies!" It's like a fish being surprised by the wetness of water--unless of course he may walk on land someday."
And someday time may be meaningless to us.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Morning Solitude, Jamestown, NC
Every season has its special moments. The colorful turning leaves of fall are glorious, the stark whiteness of a fresh blanket of snow brightens our winters and the new growth and promise of spring is always bursting with optimism. And of course, mid-summer displays the fullness of nature at its mature best.
The dawn of a new summertime day this morning was one of those career moments in life. The overnight temperature remained in the seventies and a light breeze stirred the shimmering leaves in the trees. I quietly slipped outside at first light and turned on the backyard sprinkler. A fresh batch of rose blooms were opening their petals to greet the sun’s rays. Song birds and cicadas were welcoming one another and raising their melodies in rhythm with the oscillating sprinkler in praise of their Creator. The fresh water droplets gathering in the tree branches invigorated their spirits and small bodies as a summer dry spell lingered. The rainbow spray attracted more birds and satiated the parched green grasses to new life.
I gathered up the morning newspaper that had been deposited overnight in the driveway as another K-Cup was filtering a warm cup of coffee. Then I settled into a patio chair and simply soaked it all in. This was truly one of those present moments in life that I like to characterize as being "in the eye of the hurricane".
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Reflecting Sunshine, Jamestown, NC
It’s been said that some folks light up a room by simply entering and others by exiting. Mary was unquestionably one of those who lit up every room she entered and that light has been dimmed now that one of the long-time stalwarts of our church has passed on to her life triumphant. When anyone came into contact with her it was impossible not to respond to her infectious smile and demeanor. And she was very active in brightening the lives of all those she perceived to be in need along with acknowledging the lives of folks of all ages from toddlers to seniors. Her nephew characterized her as the unquestionable family matriarch who was always available for guidance and support. Her parent’s choice of a name was fortuitous. The prime question asked at her celebration of a life this week was “What do we do now that she is gone”?
The movie “Beyond Narnia” is a short account of the extraordinarily creative life of C. S. Lewis. His classic “Chronicles of Narnia” tales have earned him worldwide recognition for his Christian thinking and writing. He was set on a bachelor’s life until Joy, a divorced American woman with two boys who had read and admired all of his writings, entered his life. They eventually married and their love for one another grew until cancer took her life much too early. Lewis was ultimately able to begin his return to daily life and the lives of his two young step sons. When the youngest was finally able to approach him and ask, “Jack, what we gonna do?” Lewis simply replied, “We carry on.” And that was what they set out to do.
And that is what our church is challenged to do. Our leaders reminded us at Mary’s celebration service that we best honor the life of one of our dedicated sisters with the same optimistic faith that she instilled in everyone she met. When we have no control of these events in our lives, we need to remind ourselves that we always have one alternative---how we positively respond. We rally our emotions and rise to meet the new sun with a new resolve. God works with his people to bring good out of every life situation.
Loved ones who go before us are forever woven into the fabric of our being and forever influence who we are for the rest of our lives. Of course we never forget and we are forever changed. We rebuild and are whole again but never the same. We wouldn’t expect nor want to be the same. And we honor their lives by filling the void and “carrying on” with their positive example.