Golf, Pomegranates, & Ownership

Publication1Back in the Fall of 2000 I allowed myself to be taken somewhere to do something I swore I would never do.  I went golfing.  My brother-in-law talked me into going out for a round of golf just to have some fun.  As many of my friends know, I like a good joke, and I was pretty sure that for this day, the joke would be me.  I was fine with that.  I figured if nothing else, I would have the opportunity to make him lose a bunch of golfballs, so that was okay too – joke would be on him!

Well, two things happened that day that neither of us were expecting.  While we were both pretty sure I would lose, I think he was very surprised to only beat me by single digits.  The other big surprise was that I loved it.  I had a great time, and before I knew it, I was looking for clubs and a bag of my own.  Got in quite a few rounds before we had to close out that season.

When Spring came I bought a membership and was at the course as much as possible.  I started getting up early and hitting the course before the sun was up.  I figured if I could see the ball, I could hit it.  If I hit it, well then I just had to figure out which direction it went. (Lost a lot of balls those mornings)  I was able to get 9 holes in before going to work in the morning!

I was very aware of the fact that I did not want this new hobby to take time from my family.  That is why I golfed so early.  They didn’t even miss me!  Then I could golf on the weekend too without them feeling like they were missing out on my free time.  It worked pretty well.  Then I started to want to golf in the evenings too, but that was going to cut into my family time.  Here is where things started to go wrong.

I decided to take a couple of my afternoons and work shorter days so I could play 18 holes after work and still be home on time.  This was awesome!  I was getting in about 99 holes a week and my family didn’t feel neglected!  I was a master of time management! Or was I?

By late August I was starting my workdays by 7am after playing 9 holes, but was on the golf course by 1pm.  I worked a commission sales job at the time, so my hours were pretty flexible. Before long, it started to catch up with me.  Conditions in my stores started to suffer, and several little things began to pile up and show that I was not devoting the time I should be to my job.  Family was still feeling no real loss, but work was definitely feeling it.

Bad things always seem to eventually get found out, and this was no exception.  I narrowly escaped with my job, and for the next 9 years I fought with trying to keep the mistake of that summer from taking my livelihood.  Elephants and Zone Managers never forget…

Reading my Bible yesterday I was in Numbers 20.  The Israelites have started their new careers as wilderness wanderers, and the complaining has really ramped up.  God has told the people that their doubt is going to keep them out of the Promised Land, He squashed a major rebellion that resulted in thousands being killed, and He had to make sure that everyone understands that when Moses and Aaron talk, it is time of the people to be quiet.  But, they entered a particularly dry spot in the region and they started to complain again.

And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”    – Numbers 20:3-5

So, basically they are saying that it would have been better if God had killed them all when He squashed that rebellion.  Then they go on to blame Moses for not taking them into the Promised Land like he said he would when they left Egypt.  They even took it so far as to point out the very obvious lack of fresh produce!  They forgot that it was their disbelief in God’s ability to give them the Promised Land that put them EXACTLY where they were.  It had nothing at all to do with what Moses said or did.

When my golf game got the best of my work performance I could have blamed my family.  If I had been able to play 18-27 holes of golf every night  then I would have had more time to spend at work.  If work had paid me more and made my route small enough to sufficiently do my job in 30 hours then I could have golfed and still had time to spend with my family.  If my brother-in-law hadn’t asked me to go golfing in the first place… The thing is, it wasn’t the fault of anyone but me.  I messed up.

Today the culturally accepted way of doing things is to find someone you can blame for your current situation if it is bad.  You can give yourself credit if it is good, but you must have someone to blame if it is bad.  Well, I guess it isn’t exactly a new concept. The Israelites did it a long time ago, and Adam and Eve played the first recorded Blame Game in the Garden of Eden.  I guess it is how we just tend to default.

What we are missing is Ownership.  Being willing to stand up and say, “Yep!  That was me.  I’m the one that put in more time each week golfing than working.”  “I’m the one that didn’t believe God when we could have just walked right into the Promised Land.” “I’m the one that didn’t (fill in the blank for yourself).”  None of us want the blame, but there are times that we know exactly who should be taking it.  I find that I can identify those times most easily by analyzing just how hard I am trying to find someone else to blame the problem on!

As a believer, I live under grace.  As a Relentless believer, I am called to own my mess as I cling to grace.  Grace allows me to admit where I am wrong without fear of being cast away from God, but I am not exempt from the consequences of my wrong-doing, and I will not learn anything unless I own my mess!  That is key in spiritual growth!  Make mistakes, admit mistakes, ask forgiveness for mistakes, learn from mistakes and then go make a new mistake!  It is a process!  When you stop making them then you are done! (That won’t happen while you are alive, so just stick to the process.)

So, what mistakes have you made lately that you need to own?  I’ve recently watched somebody own one, and I was very impressed in how he handled it.  He sought forgiveness with humble spirit, and he received it.  Time will tell if a lesson was learned, but at least the first step was taken.  It was OWNED!

By the way,  I pretty much gave up golf after that.  I’ll still play, but I will probably never have a membership again.  It owned me.  Now I own it!

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Caleb – A Whole-Hearted Man

caleb (1)Imagine with me for a moment.  It is a dry and dusty day on the border of the Promised Land.  40 days earlier, Moses sent 12 men to look at the land of Canaan to see what  was waiting for them there.  Tension is high as everyone keeps looking to the hills to see if they can see any sign of the scouting party.

Finally, there they are! As they draw closer to camp, you can see that they are carrying a huge cluster of grapes.  The fruit is so large it is being carried by two men!  As questions begin to fly, the men report that the story God had told them was true!  This truly is an amazing land that holds vast resources for all the people of Israel.

As excitement fills your heart, you see another man step forward waving his arms.  He begins to speak, and you are told that there are also giants there.  Formidable armies encamped in huge cities that you would never be able to overthrow.  There are enemies wherever you look.  Defeat fills your heart as you hear those words.  How can God do this to you after He promised this paradise?  Anger begins to rise.  Some of it is directed at God, some at Moses, some at these men.  Your doubts and fears are carried along with the rest of the people and soon the noise is palpable.

Wait, who is that?  Another person is stepping forward.  Is that Caleb?  He was one of the men that went to spy out the land.  He is waving his hands and getting people’s attention.  The crowd dies down and Caleb speaks,

“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

7599303_f520Caleb came from the tribe of Judah.  I have found a couple listed meanings of his name.  One meaning is “dog”, – not that flattering – but the other is “whole-hearted” or “all of the heart”.  As names in that culture usually carried great meaning in the  individual’s life, I have to wonder if the name “dog” might have had something to do with a tenacity that he showed as a very young boy.  Maybe when he set his teeth in something, he just would not let go.  I’m not sure, but if you continue to read about Caleb’s life (and we will, Dear Reader), you will see a Relentless determination in him.  He is definitely an “all-in” kind of guy.

Think about what he must have felt as he walked back into the camp with that big cluster of grapes.  The people were all looking at these 12 guys with excitement.  The Bible doesn’t say who spoke first when the scouting party returned. Caleb was the first speaker identified in Numbers 13:30, but I wonder if he and Joshua were the two carrying the grapes.  I wonder if Joshua spoke up with Caleb and told the people about all the good things that were there. What did Caleb think when another member of the scouting party gave the doom and gloom message?  “What are you doing?  Don’t you see you are going to scare them?  We don’t have anything to worry about because we are God’s people!”  Did he throw down the grapes and rush forward yelling for their silence?  All I know for sure is that when Caleb stepped up to speak, the people got quiet enough to hear him.

As we know, they didn’t listen for long.  The people turned on Moses, decided they would ask for a new leader, and it looks like Moses and Aaron appeared to be afraid for their lives as you read the beginning of chapter 14.  It says they fell to their faces in front of the congregation.  Things were looking pretty dicey, and then:

“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” – Numbers 14:6-9 (ESV)

What boldness to step out like that!  These guys knew that God had the entire thing under control.  They knew that He would lead them and that they would have everything God had promised.  They didn’t hesitate to stand up.  They did and said the right thing.

So, as you would expect, the people decided to stone them.  I’ve had days like that…  Just as it looks like they are going to die, God Himself steps in to stop the people, and He is not happy.  God is ready to wipe out the whole bunch of them, Moses ends up begging for the lives of the people, and God lets them live. He punishes the people by telling them that because of their unbelief, everyone over the age of 20 will not see the Promised Land.  Instead, they will wander around the desert for the next 40 years until every last one of them dies.  Well, almost all of them.

 “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” – Numbers 14:24

Caleb had a different spirit.  I think it was that Relentless tenacity of a pitbull that was whole-heartedly determined to follow God.  As God saw Caleb’s heart and actions, He rewarded him for the stand that he had taken for God.  Caleb may fade into the background a bit, but whenever we see him, he is still standing strong and giving it all. Eventually he did enter the Promised Land with Joshua.  He fought for God, and he claimed the promise of God for his family.  The best part is he did it with that same tenacity!

Caleb has been a hero of mine since I was a little guy.  As an adult I see the lessons in his life more clearly, and he has grown even more significant.  He showed a Relentless pursuit of the things God promised, and as he followed God, he was blessed with health and strength for the journey that took him even into his eighties.  I want to be that kind of man.  His name resonates in my heart as a man’s man.  Even more, as God’s man.  One day I would like God to say of me that I was a servant of His with a different spirit because I had followed Him fully.

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