Thursday, July 23, 2009

Staying Out of the Kitty Litter

(Thought about this the other day when I caught 30 minutes of the British Open, which unfortunately was the 30 minutes it took for Tom Watson to make a 7 on 17. Gotta love your Tom Watson.)

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” -- John 1:6

"Dying ain't no way to make a living." -- Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

Beloved teaching golf pro Harvey Penick told this story of a beginner who wanted to practice getting out of the kitty litter, golf lingo for sand traps.

“We’ll practice that in time,” Penick told him. “But first I want to teach you how to stay OUT of sand traps.”

We all hit into hazards. Not enough club. One gets away. Bad swing. Sometimes we fail to look for traps at all, just swing away.

And wind up in trouble. In the kitty litter. In the he Archie Bunker. On the beach. In the sand trash.

In real life, the Bible calls this sin and tells us it’s always the problem. And it always hurts somebody. And dishonors God.

Remember how painful and uncomfortable and costly it can be to forgive? So why are we still choosing to put others in that difficult position, sinning against them and God, then begging for forgiveness, begging for help out of the trap? Maybe we should practice more to avoid the traps in the first place. God always provides a bail-out area, a safe place to hit it.

You talk about a great way to save everybody some trouble ... stop hitting it into the traps. Just stop. See that big green spot over there, that safe place? Hit it there. That's the land of friends and love and peace and joy. It's a place where a "good lie" is a good thing! It's a clear shot to the pin. It's how the hole was designed to be played. That big safe spot is a place where people smile and arms and hearts are open. And that's a beautiful thing. Life's hard enough, plenty, without fiddling around with the traps.

We can't lead sinless lives, but we can lead sin-less lives.

Here's a thought, one that scares me because I've been there: If we continue to walk in darkness, play a risky game, maybe we haven’t accepted God’s saving and cleansing grace after all. It's possible to not know what you're doing because you don't know what you're doing. Make sense? Think! That's not "you." Get out of there. Aim for that big green open spot. Aim for the light.

Our walking in the light as He is in the light puts lots of hot coal between us and the more disastrous, life-altering sins. We can be conformed -- by the renewing of our minds, by reading his Word, by prayer, by staying close to brothers and sisters in Christ. That's how you stay out of the Archie Bunkers. Who wants to hack it out of that?

The more we keep it out of the traps, the more we can reflect the nature of Jesus and the image of God to a world that longs for Light. Be quick to forgive, and don't put others in a positon of having to forgive over and over. Stay out of the traps. Play the game the way it was meant to be played. It's hard, it's not always safe, but it's good.