Sunday, September 27, 2015
Loaves and Fish Mosaic, Tabgha, Israel
The disciples were so impressed with the miracle of Jesus feeding a multitude of five thousand with a young boy’s five barley loaves and two small preserved fish that it is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. We’ll never know exactly what happened on that grassy plain near the Sea of Galilee, but it was miraculous! Jesus was demonstrating to all of us how to share our generosity and showing us that “Little is much when God is in it!”
I was excited to arrive with our group at the Church of the Loaves and Fish early on a cool February morning, but we had to wait outside as other pilgrim groups were already inside the small sanctuary. Groups were also gathered outside on the veranda singing impromptu hymns, some in foreign languages.
Our group was finally able to enter the church and experience a simple stone alter over a large rock outcropping, that tradition says Jesus used to bless the young boy’s offering. We all silently paused awhile in this spiritual place and then began to disperse outside to make room for others. Because visiting this location was one of my primary reasons for making this long journey, I lingered behind to study the ancient mosaic of two fish and four loaves in front of the alter. When we later asked about the missing fifth loaf, we were given a very beautiful answer; “We are still receiving it”. After all, even Jesus referred to himself as “the bread of life”!
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Lookin' Left, High Point, NC
(With apologies to Yogi)
• Ninety percent of golf is played on over 7,000 yards of heavenly green grasses. The other half is played on hell’s half acre.
• OK, we’ll determine the first tee order alphabetically by height.
• When you come to a fork in the cart path, take it.
• You can’t think and hit the golf ball at the same time.
• Nobody plays that golf course anymore. It’s too crowded.
• A nickel Bingo point ain’t worth a dime anymore.
• Hitting a provisional shot into the hazard is déjà vu all over again!
• Even if you’re lying five off the green on a par five, just remember that it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.
• If golfers don’t call for a tee time at your golf course, how are you gonna stop them?
• I usually play a four-hour round of golf from 1 to 6.
• I don’t play much winter golf ‘cause of my 50 degree rule and it gets late early out there.
• I practice putting by pairing off three golf balls at different distances.
• Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t scoring.
• You can observe a lot by watching how the pros throw their putter into a lake.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Fallen Feather, Jamestown, NC
Wanderlust for the Hero's Journey
I’ve had a wanderlust with automobiles since I was just a kid growing up in central Kansas. My uncle drove up in a new dark navy Olds Rocket 88 one day and I immediately recognized that this sculpted Adonis on wheels was the perfect fusion of art and engineering. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could drive a car and begin the Hero’s Journey. In the meantime, I probably added a hundred miles or so to the family car driving it up and down our driveway. Since then, I’ve easily logged well over a million miles behind the wheel of these modern chariots.
My friend and I made a daring escape away from the driveway and around the block in our sleepy neighborhood one sunny afternoon. As luck would have it, a friendly policeman noticed the probability that the driver of my dad’s car was sitting on a pillow to see over the dashboard. He pulled us over and asked if I had a driver’s license. I’m pretty sure that he already knew the answer. Fortunately, I was contrite enough and he was forgiving enough to follow us back into my parent’s driveway with my assurance that I wouldn’t venture out again until I was old enough to have a license—and no longer needed a pillow!
One of the milestones of my life was the day my father helped to finance my first automobile. It wasn’t the convertible that I had coveted, but it was a Ford Victoria hardtop that I quickly began to customize. The convertible with a teenager behind the wheel would have been trouble anyway. Ironically, I recently paid more for a lawnmower than that first car that sparked a lifelong love affair with these machines! A car has always represented more than basic transportation for me. I’ve owned a variety of automobiles since then and I’ve always taken pleasure in detailing them on a cool Saturday morning in the fall. There’s nothing like driving a car that’s been cleaned and shined on a bright fall weekend day. I swear that they have more energy—just like a kid or pet dog that has just emerged from a bath!
This September Saturday morning was no different than many others. The air was cool, the sun was shining and only a slight breeze stirred the trees. I was putting the finishing touches of a liquid shine on the hood of my car. The metallic surface was reflecting the blue Carolina sky like a clear Blue Ridge Mountain lake. And then a very petite and fragile feather drifted ever so silently out of the sky and landed ever so softly right in front of me. As you may know, feathers are a sacred universal symbol of flight, serving as messengers between this mortal world and the other side of the thin veil. Their primary message is that “all is well.” And on a glorious fall morning in September, how could life be anything else?
Monday, September 14, 2015
Touch of Fall, Jamestown, NC
Receding green chlorophyll begins to reveal true colors
at the tip of a lone Maple leaf.
It's been said that one's true character is revealed
when all those around withdraw leaving the person alone.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Sunflower Golden Spiral, Greensboro, NC
Beauty is a mystery in its knowing, but yet we know it when we see it. It exhibits itself in the golden spirals of a sunflower’s seed arrangement, the florets of a daisy, the bracts of a pine cone and the branches of a tree. These Fibonacci numbering sequences are nature’s mathematical order in the universe all around us. Mathematical proportions that are pleasing to the human eye were discovered ages ago by the Greeks and Egyptians in the form of the Golden Means, the Golden Sections, the Golden Proportion and the Golden Ratio. They are subliminally evident in our observations of the Greek Parthenon, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa” and the pyramids.
Fibonacci numbers have been called the Fingerprint of God that is hidden throughout nature and man’s creations. They certainly belie randomness. In fact, the Golden Ratio is seen in the proportions of the sections of a human finger. We have 8 fingers in total, 5 digits on each hand, 3 bones in each finger, 2 bones in a thumb and 1 thumb on each hand. The ratio between the forearm and the hand is the Golden Ratio. There is a beautiful Golden Proportion related to the width of the white in our eyes and the distance between our eyes.
It’s been said that if you look into the face of a flower, you look into the face of God. And it would seem that when you look into the face of a sunflower, you look into the beautifully patterned order of all creation that shows the way into the Language of God in the form of spiraling DNA double helix strands.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Fellowship Meal, Sea of Galilee, Israel
Philip Yancey in his book on Vanishing Grace relates the results of a survey in which Americans were asked what words they would most like to hear. The first choice was predictable; “I love you”. We were made in the image of a God who is defined by love for all creation, including all of us. He wants us to thrive and we need to look no further than the cross to understand the depths of that love.
The second choice was “I forgive you.” In an act of moral justice and unconditional love God became flesh and blood to offer himself as a sacrifice of radical grace so that we could be forgiven, no matter what we may have done in our life.
Finally, a rather surprising third choice of words Americans would most like to hear was “Supper’s ready!” Our God is a relational divine presence as witnessed in the triune godhead at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River near the Sea of Galilee. We humans enjoy fellowship around the dinner table and enjoy each other’s company. Jesus constantly engaged others around meals and feasts including his first miracle at a wedding feast, feeding the 5,000 and of course, his last supper has been immortalized! And our natural response to the blessings we receive in life is to offer ourselves as willing clay vessel dispensers of God’s grace to a world thirsty for love, forgiveness and fellowship.
Monday, September 7, 2015
Friday, September 4, 2015
Spring Azalea, Jamestown, NC
Masters Suspended, Getty Images
It’s been said that a good golf course is heaven at a lower altitude. And April in the southeast welcomes azaleas, sunshine, and April showers. Those April rain showers resurrect the land and all that’s green, including some of the most beautiful real estate on earth. The first full week of April signals the arrival of The Masters Golf Tournament played in Augusta, Georgia. This is the first of four majors played each season which marks the career of all winners. Even casual golf fans will tune in to watch the Masters just for the beautiful scenery if nothing else. I had always longed to be there in person. Just the names of some of the holes at Augusta give you the idea such as Pink Dogwood (2), Flowering Peach (3), Flowering Crab Apple (4), Magnolia (5), Yellow Jasmine (8), and Carolina Cherry (9) on the front nine. It’s a spring ritual like nothing else for those of us who love to play the game and admire those who have come as close as human beings can come to mastering the game—at least mastering the game well enough to better most other human beings. Leading up to the 2006 tournament there had been seven out of eight Masters experiencing a rain delay in Georgia.
The legendary Bobby Jones envisioned the course and the first Augusta National tournament was played in 1934. The tournament is steeped in tradition. A green jacket has been awarded to the winner ever since 1949 and it is retained at the clubhouse for the golfer’s use every Tuesday before the tournament at the Champions Dinner. Honorary past champions hit the first tee ball to commence every tournament. A par 3 contest is played on Wednesday in a family-friendly atmosphere where many players go out of their way to lose, since no winner has ever won the regular event. Historically, fans arriving early can place their portable chairs around the ropes and leave them there to be undisturbed whenever they return. A disruptive fan with a pass can also immediately have it confiscated for life. Caddies must wear a uniform consisting of a white jumpsuit, a green Masters cap, and white tennis shoes. The defending champion always receives caddy number 1.
Tickets to the actual tournament are sold only to members of a patrons list which is closed. People are said to keep tournament tickets in the family for years, but there are a limited number of tickets available on the internet where demand far outstrips supply. I had my first knee joint replacement at the beginning of 2006, followed by a heart attack on my first day of therapy, followed immediately with a stint, followed by quadruple bypass six weeks later. As I was starting my heart surgery recovery therapy, I received a call from the owner and president of the company I had been consulting with in Mexico. He calmly informed me that he had just acquired an incentive on the internet for me to get back on the job. He now had three tickets to the Masters and one of them was mine if I could get my doctor’s approval to board a plane to Atlanta in eight weeks. I made it!
I flew into Atlanta just before the tournament and the three of us stayed on an estate that was primarily an expansive man cave with a driving range, shooting range, indoor batting cage, television rooms, bar, game room, pool tables, etc. We got up early on Saturday morning after the night’s violent storms and drove through tornado debris on the outskirts of Atlanta. The weather was ominous but we arrived in the unpretentious town of Augusta, parked in a remote lot and made our way to the course. My companions asked me to check out rental seats as we made our way into the course in the madding crowd. That’s the last time I saw them until after the rain delay. Cell phones and cameras were forbidden on the course, which made it impossible to communicate. We had agreed to meet by a telephone complex, but we never made contact there either.
Fortunately we had distributed our tickets as we departed the SUV in the parking lot. I finally entered the course through security and it was indeed enchanting and even more like hallowed ground than seen on television. The grounds were lush from all the rain and flowering blooms were almost everywhere you turned. I took the time to route myself through a nearby permanent merchandise building where I purchased a golf shirt, an umbrella and two Masters hats, one promised for my physical therapist. Then I made my way over to the telephone complex where I did not find my two companions. So I walked to a green and just took in the experience of being at the Masters. We made it for a few hours and then the lightning and thunder of another approaching storm became more ominous. In minutes the rain began and sirens sounded to suspend play. A loud speaker was encouraging fans to leave the premises and return to their vehicles until the all clear siren was sounded. Once again I made my way to the telephone complex but could not find my travelling companions, so I decided to walk to the SUV to see if they were there. They were not and I did not have the keys.
I walked back to the main gate in the rain to regroup with the telephones where it turned out my companions were waiting on me and getting more impatient by the hour. That’s when I began to lose my star-struck innocence at the Masters. A gate attendant (bridge troll) wearing a green jacket barred my return. That wasn’t mentioned in the loud speaker address. I was told that once you leave the course during a rain delay you cannot reenter even though there were still plenty of people inside the gates. I proceeded to provide the litany of trials that I had overcome to get to this place and this time. It didn’t matter to the green jacket. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Another green jacket was summoned. I repeated my sad story. It didn’t matter to the green jacket. I asked to quickly slip just inside the gates by the telephones to get my friends and leave again, but it didn’t matter to the green jackets. So, I stood outside the gates of paradise in the cold rain with my fresh zippers on my left knee and my chest getting colder and wetter. Finally my two companions walked to the gate and we all agreed to blow the joint! So much for the fantasy of paradise!
We drove back to the man cave complex outside Atlanta, had a couple beers with some warm food and watched the conclusion of day three on the big screen television in dry clothing. The next day we slept in and spent the balance of the day watching the final round where Phil Mickelson hit the brilliant 207 yard six iron off the pine straw on 13 through two pine trees and onto the green over menacing Rae’s Creek for a birdie and a two shot lead to clinch the 70th Masters major championship. And I still look forward every April to welcome spring by watching the tournament on television. But be careful what you wish for because I also still wince every time I see one of those green jackets!
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Towering Tee, Internet Domain
I’ve had only one opportunity to play golf close to its beginnings when I was on a corporate team that was installing and training for an MRP operations system at one of our subsidiaries. We were working in a small town just outside Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. We had walked into the midst of a thirty year period now known as “The Troubles” where the Protestant majority wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom and the Catholic minority was pushing to become part of the Republic of Ireland. By the time we arrived on the scene, the British government had imposed direct rule on the area from London in an attempt to quell the unrest. Ultimately, 50,000 people were adversely impacted by the violence. The company car that had been reserved for our use had been blown up by police the week prior to our arrival, since it had been recovered as stolen. Stolen cars were generally wired booby-traps. There were recurring news accounts of men being “knee-capped” or shot in the knees in drive-by reprisals. We were instructed to always be seated in a restaurant with our backs to the wall and eyes to the front door after being checked for weapons in case someone busted into the room shooting.
Our small team was working long hours for two solid weeks to prepare for the systems installation. That left us with a Saturday for some R&R before we turned on the new system and began the rigorous process of debugging and trouble shooting. So we discussed the possibility of playing a round of golf on one of the local historic courses to stay out of harm’s way. It was early spring and the winds coming off the white capped Strangford Lough were raw and cold. Our hosts at work arranged for golf clubs and a tee time for three of us. I was very fortunate to find a wool stocking hat that evening which proved to be a life saver.
We arrived at Scrabo Golf Club early on Saturday morning. Green fees included 18 holes and a pint of beer. The famous landmark Scrabo Tower overlooking the course was built as a memorial to the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry. From this vantage point on a clear day you can see the coast of Southern Scotland, Northern England and the Isle of Man. Christy O’Connor has written that the formidable opening hole is “awe-inspiring and terrifying. You get to see the entire hole rising above you. There are glorious views and your drive rifles up a hill flanked by razor-sharp gorse. At the top sits Scrabo Tower and the green. Two mighty shots are required.”
We were quickly introduced to intersecting fairways which really gets your attention. There were blind shots all over the course due to the gorse covered contours of Scrabo Hill. I hit what seemed to be at least a 300 yard five iron to a par 3 green because I over shot it into the wind and my undersized ball sailed down into the depths of the lough. One of my playing companions stepped off the front of a tee box, slipped on the wet grass, and immediately disappeared from sight down the hill. Errant balls that found the dense gorse were lost for all time. The raw winds coming off the lough were bone chilling and numbing. My two partners saw their escape chance as we trudged close to the shelter of the clubhouse on the 15th green and they bailed on me. But I was determined to finish my one opportunity to play a round of golf in the cradle of its creation, so I soldiered on. When I finally stumbled into the clubhouse and a warm fireplace, my companions asked how I shot. With no sane golfers left on the course as witness, I softly muttered through my chattering teeth and a wry smile, “All birdies!”