How do I Measure Up On Father’s Day?

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It’s 105 degrees on a hot Las Vegas high desert afternoon. I have the rare occasion to go golfing with my son.  We are both duffers-my handicap is, well, um-Golf! We schedule a 3:00 PM Tee Time as only idiots play golf in 105 degree heat-this way we have the course to ourselves.  After two holes we decide keeping score is not beneficial to our male egos and discard the score card.  At three holes my back is reminding me why I don’t play golf more often.  After six holes it is doing so with four-letter words and exclamation points!! After twelve holes I’m grateful that I rented a cart instead of walking the course. We finish and cool down with an adult beverage and talk about our better shots on the course-we each had two I think.

Why do this knowing the physical outcome? Because spending time with the boys is something I value more now than when I was a young father, and because I missed out on too many opportunities with them along the way.  There could never be enough time to make up for time wasted. Whether spent wisely or squandered, it remains spent nonetheless.

The next morning I roll out of bed and on to the floor after a couple hours of sleep, only to hear those words every man wants to hear from his beloved wife-“You walk like an old man!”. Nothing says love like verbal reminders of your aging physical limitations and resulting posture. No time to ponder it now-we are picking up the grandkids for a day at the amusement park. A day of thrill rides, corkscrew barrel rolls and loopty-loops on roller coasters should do the trick!  Oh, and can’t forget the Big Shot that shoots you up about 300 feet into the air in about two seconds, compressing a normal spine into 12 inches of bone and nerves where vertebrae used to be! And then just as quickly it drops you with a sudden free fall with a stop that eliminates any remaining vertebrae from the previous rapid ascent. Honey if you thought I was an old man this morning, just wait until tomorrow!

Why, you might ask? Two reasons. First, when it comes to thrill rides and amusement parks I’m still just a big kid at heart-to die on an inverted roller coaster would be the best way to go. More importantly, I learned the hard way, as mentioned above, that time squandered can’t be recaptured.  Your children have a way of making you realize how quickly time flies, but your grandchildren teach you that time flies at hyper speed. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to be with them and create memories that they and I can share until it’s time for me to die on a roller coaster. There is nothing more precious to me than having fun and spending time wisely with my grandchildren.

It’s the morning of the third day now. My wife knows not to say anything about my posture or speed because the weekend isn’t over yet.  It’s my grandson’s fourteenth birthday and he and I are heading to the ballpark for a baseball game. I asked the lady at the ticket window for the soft seats in the air conditioned section. She didn’t appreciate my humor or have knowledge of my situation.  It’s all good. The seats are rigid but we are in the shade for a hot afternoon of America’s favorite past time.  This was important to me-he had never seen a professional baseball game-I was the one who was privileged to expose him to the sport-he’s now hooked! We threw back a couple dogs each and washed it down with our over priced souvenir ball park drinks. I dropped him off at the house and he says “Thanks papa-that was fun-Love you!”. That’s why! That’s my reward-that makes the pain go away-that’s why I’d do it all again next weekend and probably will.

So you might ask if I’m making my case for a Father of the Year Award-hardly. In fact quite the opposite is true. I’m not a great dad-it didn’t come naturally to me.  I’m a man on a mission to compensate for missed opportunities, for time wasted, for disappointing memories or memories missing in action I left behind with my kids. People joke about a middle-aged man with a sports car over compensating for various short comings.  When you see me with my grandchildren the smiles are genuine but I am compensating for all the years I came up short as a dad. I only hope I live long enough to someday even out the scorecard somewhat. If I died today, there would be way too many gaps in my life’s “dash” where the kids are concerned.

Most people use Father’s day as a day to celebrate and reflect on those father-figures who made impacts on their lives, as well we should. However I use it as a grading opportunity as I look back over the past year on my performance as a Dad and a Papa. I am usually left with more questions than answers as I honestly review and grade the areas that are most important to me:

Do my kids and grandkids know beyond any doubt how much I love them?

Am I doing enough to create fun and lasting memories? 

Am I genuinely engaged in their lives or just there for the fun stuff?

Am I showing the boys what a real love relationship should look like and how to properly treat their eventual mates?

Have I taught them the importance of faith and do they see Jesus in my life and character?

Have I fulfilled Proverbs 22:6, to train them and teach them the right paths to navigate in their adulthood?

I am not a fitting candidate for any awards, but I have learned some valuable lessons in my quest to make up for lost time.  First, don’t lose any more time dwelling on lost time-a no brainer. Second, don’t tell yourself it’s too late to do things the right way now.  You can’t go back and fix or rearrange history, good or bad.  You can however resolve to go forward and make every moment count. Third, pray-pray for your children and grandchildren daily, for their health, their safety, the salvation and their happiness.  And then pray for yourself, that God will continue to reveal His fatherly character in your life so that you can accurately emulate it in the lives of your family. In many cases, you are the only Christ they may see. And lastly, just be there-show up-be open and available and always have your proverbial “The Dad is In” shingle hanging and obvious for them to see at times when they need you.

Fathering kids is easy and instinctive-being a dad is difficult and a life-long learning process.  I hope some day I measure up. There’s nothing more desirable in this life I could ever hope to achieve than to be a loving Dad and Papa in the eyes of my family.

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It Takes Balls-Golfing and Christianity

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It takes balls to golf the way I do-lots of them!  When often asked what my handicap is, without a thought I tell them-Golf!  I love to play, even if only once or twice a year.  There is a sane madness in trying to knock a small ball into a hole located four hundred yards away with a club that has a mind of its own. There is no more humbling sport to an otherwise natural athlete than the game of golf.  If you don’t believe that watch one of the Pro Ams sometime when pro athletes team up with pro golfers-it can be amusing to see a millionaire athlete shank a shot into a tree or worse, a spectator. And there may be no other sport in which the name of God is evoked more often!

I find that the tiniest of sand traps appear to be the Mojave Desert from the tee, and the smallest of water hazards may as well be Lake Superior. No matter how hard I try to avoid them, they become magnetic fields seeking small white round objects with a force much greater than my aim. This past week my son turned thirty so I thought it would be fun to do something memorable for the occasion.  I took him and his younger brother, neither of whom had played on a golf course before.  I was wise enough to reserve the last tee time so as not to be a hindrance to players behind us.  They would have been playing through us on every other hole. Being the experienced golfer I was I went first and drove a beautiful drive that landed right down the middle of the fairway-that is the fairway of the adjacent hole we weren’t playing. I haven’t sliced like that since I was a meat cutter on the west side of Indianapolis. Being the great leader I am the boys followed suit and we all agreed after the first hole that keeping score was not going to be beneficial to our esteem. But they will never forget how we celebrated a milestone birthday!

I have been a Christian much longer than I have been a golfer, but I wonder sometimes what my true spiritual handicap would be considering my game. There are those times when I feel like I could knock it in the hole from five hundred yards away-I feel blessed, I feel like I’m walking upright and doing the things I need to be doing to develop my Christian game.  And then there are those days when I knock it on the green only to three or four putt-nothing seems to be working.  The harder I try the worse my score and the greater my handicap.  I’m sure each of us if truly honest could say much the same thing.

I know in my life those things that are to me sand traps or water hazards-the things I need to avoid that draw me in.  But just like on a golf course, seeing and recognizing hazards does not always equate to staying out of them.  The harder you try the more balls you lose-the deeper the trap the closer to the edge you land, making it impossible to hit your way out of it. And even if you are fortunate enough to avoid the hazards on your way to eventually hitting onto the green, the cup can appear to be nearly the same size as the ball, much like the hoop and over-sized basketball at a traveling carnival-impossible to sink.

Unlike golf, God has given us an unlimited amount of mulligans in the form of grace.  He knows my game and that left to my own ability, I could never finish the course.  He doesn’t make the drives any straighter or the hazards any smaller-He doesn’t make the cup the size of a crater like that commercial on TV.  He just doesn’t keep track of how many strokes it takes us to sink it-He’s pretty forgiving that way!  And with God, those who finish well under par and those who, well don’t, receive the same prize at the end of the day-the victor’s crown of life to those who remain faithful and remain in the game, even with soggy sand filled shoes to show for it.

The Apostle Paul said “I have finished the course”.  He too must have been a golfer.  Paul gets me.