Friday, July 25, 2008

Four Hours On The Golf Course

No time for a day off this week.
But I did take four hours out of the middle of the day to do something I really enjoy. Can you guess what it was? I'm not very good at it, but to me, there is nothing like being on a golf course. Some guys like to fish. Some enjoy hunting. Some prefer cycling or canoeing or tennis. I enjoy "pasture pool".
Pictured here is a shot of the 3rd hole at Diamond Links Golf Course, near Cannonsburg, KY. It's a 135 yard par three. This shot was taken from the women's tee box. The men's tee is on the next level up, and one cannot even see the pond from that view. This is a tough little hole. Although I have baptized a few Top Flight balls in this pond over the years, yesterday my shot landed to the right of the green near the cart path. My chip shot ran toward the far side of the green, and I two putted for a bogey. (I hate par 3's) The course wasn't crowded yesterday. The humidity was low. I had good company, and I hit my irons pretty well (at least for me). All in all it was a real nice four hour retreat.
There was a time (way back when I was in the insurance business) that I tried to play a round of golf once or twice per week - but alas - no more! Yesterday's 18 holes were the first time I have played locally since last summer. I did get a round in back in April when I was in New Orleans for a week, and we played two days (July 3 & 4) at the Pocahontas County Country Club while on vacation, but that is it so far for 2008. Will and Asher's other grandfather, Lance Clanton, and I had been talking about playing more often, but it's a little hard to find the time. So yesterday we worked it out for Poppy and Papaw to hit the links. It was time well spent.
It's not that I work for a bunch of slave drivers. Far from it! In fact, when I was first called to serve as pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I was told in no uncertain terms to be sure I scheduled a day off every week. I try to do that, but as every pastor knows, we don't work a conventional job. We do ministry, and ministry knows no time clock. Most people understand that - but a few don't. I'll never forget the guy that told one of my pastor friends, "Why didn't you have time to visit me? You guys only work three hours a week!"
A pastor's duties consist of more than making three pulpit appearances a week. Yes, there are those public moments, when the pastor is in front of the congregation. However, most of the work is more private - under the radar, but just as necessary as his exposition of the Word. The preaching and teaching ministry is tremendously important to the evangelism and discipleship purposes of the church. The pastor must devote the time necessary to read, study, pray, and stay fresh in his preaching. Sermon preparation is important. Planning your preaching and teaching ministry requires lots of preparation, and there is no substitute for Spirit led, well planned preaching and teaching. Effective messages don't just happen. This all takes lots of time, but as every pastor knows, there are also other pressing duties.
Administration issues take a good bit of time. There are phone calls to take, messages to return, letters and cards to write, and questions to answer. Committee and deacon meetings are always on the calendar, and there are any number of deadlines that need to be met. There are always folks who need counseling and prayer. There are folks having surgery and in the hospitals. Homebound members and elderly people in the nursing homes who sometimes feel forgotten. There are funerals to conduct, families to console, and the occasional wedding to officiate. We are blessed at Westmoreland to have a wonderful secretary, excellent bivocational staff people, efficient committees that run well, and deacons and yokefellows who help carry much of the ministry load. However, there are times when only the pastor will do.
Yesterday was one of those days when I had five people to see in four hospitals in two cities. Furthermore there were two important projects with which I had to confer with my secretary, Sonia, before she left the office at three o'clock. And there were some other things I had to take care of in the office.
Knowing all of the above, and that there would not be opportunity for a full day off this week, I called Lance on Wednesday night to see if we could get a round of golf in on Thursday. I started the day at 7:00 AM with visits to the folks in the two Ashland Hospitals, met Lance at the golf course, enjoyed 18 holes, and made it back to the church an hour before Sonia had to leave. Thankfully, somebody way back when planned well enough to put a shower in my office. After a quick clean up, I had three hours to get the other things done that I needed to do and by 6:00PM I was able to take off for the two Huntington Hospitals where I had patients to visit.
There were any number of other things that I could have done during that four hours spent at Diamond Links. In fact, the pastor of any church with nearly four hundred active members could probably find enough ministry work to do 24/7. But there are some times when you just have to take time to pull away for a while. That four hour segment yesterday was special.
By the way. I shot a 53 on the front nine and a 47 on the back side. I'm never going to get any better if I don't play more often - but I don't see it happening soon. There is Vacation Bible School next week and then there is that pesky oral surgery I have coming up...
Perhaps I'll get that day off the next week and Poppy and I can hit the links again.

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