Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I have been thinking a lot about "the rules" lately. Perhaps it is the last few weeks in the Lectionary, where in Mark, Jesus is imparting a lot of wisdom about rules.

I have come to the conclusion that everything I have learned about The Great Commandment (To love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself), as well as the rules and canons of the Episcopal Church, well...I hate to admit it, but I learned it all from an old Jewish guy on the golf course.

I've told you before about my friend M. with dementia. Back in the day, before his dementia robbed him of his cognition, we were golf buddies. We spent a lot of time in my formative years as a golfer with him teaching me The Rules of Golf.

M. was very adamant, early in my golfing career, and especially when I started playing in the club tournaments, to know The Rules of Golf inside out. I was not crazy about this exercise. I would rather have spent my time on the driving range or on the practice putting green. But M. constantly quizzed me about not just "the rules", but about the DECISION BOOK on the rules. The decision book has ever more hypothetical problems. It's kind of the equivalent of not just studying the Torah, but the Talmud and the Midrash.

We had amazing conversations, like "What's the status of a snake on the golf course?" I learned very quickly to answer, "A live snake is an outside agency. A dead snake is a loose impediment." That sounds sort of stupid, but it's not. If an outside agency moves your ball or steals it, you are supposed to replace the ball where it was. If a loose impediment is next to your ball, you are allowed to move the loose impediment if it is obstructing your shot.

I realized just how important the rules of golf were to M. when he was full bore into his dementia. We were watching a movie about when Francis Ouimet, a local nobody, won the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1913 against the legendary professional golfer Harry Vardon. In the movie, Ouimet hit his ball in a bunker in which there was water in the bunker. Now remember, by this time, M.'s dementia had robbed him of the ability to find his way from my office to the hospital cafeteria.

I said, "Hey, why's he hitting the ball in the water? He can take a drop in the bunker b/c he's in the standing water in the bunker!"

M. calmly looked at me and said, "They didn't change that rule until the late 1950's. In 1913, he would have had to hit it out of the water."

I think about all those hours, drinking beer in the clubhouse and rehearsing hypothetical golfing situtations to how the rules would deal with them. We talked about all the reasons why knowing the rules could help other golfers play a fair game and how there were no "referees" out there on the golf course, so it was important to be able to "do what's right."

The more I think about those conversations, I realize these talks carried over into my sense of my own Christian duty, my own sense of right and wrong, and what I am coming to learn and understand about the rules and canons of the Episcopal Church.

Here's what I learned, and it holds so true for my church and my faith as well. Not just "The Rules of Golf," but "The Rules of Jesus:"

  1. Recognize the rules are not about you, but about “the integrity of the game.”
  2. When you learn the rules, use them consistently, fairly, and evenly. Even if it means calling a penalty on yourself.
  3. Use the rules to help other players get what’s fair and allowed, not just to call penalties on them.
  4. The “decision book” on the rules is three times as thick as the rule book itself.
  5. The most important rule book in the Rules of Golf is the one that says, “When there are no rules, rule in equity.” The most important rule in the Bible is the Great Commandment.
I'd say those are mighty important things to know!


Turns out it is not really what you were being told. You follow what you THINK you were being told. You end up in "the wrong place at the wrong time." Yet you do the best you can with what you've got to work with, right where you are, and other peoples lives are positively touched and changed, as well as your own. In the end, you lived your life in that period in a way that honored Christ.¨

That´s what I´s not about perfection (besides, I´d be a worse pain in the butt if I got it all correct and therefore move myself into the most sinful pride catagory)´s about ¨being¨ and ¨being part of¨ and doing ¨my part¨ AND sometimes that isn´t what it ought be but I find that out (or not).

Whew, I love the golf story (I played golf as a kid because my Dad did and so did my Mom and I even had kid golf clubs of the serious nature)...I took golf from Betty Hicks at College...she was a treat to know...but, I never got over being bored as I went through the paces of being a, I became another kind of ¨being¨instead.


Wow, golf lessons from Betty Hicks! I'm impressed!

As for the thoughts about "mission" and "perfection", I agree 110%. One of our mentors last night pointed out "mission is where you are." So true!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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