Cranmer Cup 2016 Celtic Manor
This week I played golf for Great Britain and Ireland Anglican clergy against our North American counterparts. It is played in teams of 16 in a similar style to the Ryder Cup. For the first time in 10 years, GB&I won.
During the 4 day match it was suggested that the Christian spirit in which to play each game was to wish your opponent that they win. This it was suggested was the competitive outworking of really loving each other. Emm! I personally wished my opponent that they play well, and in playing that was what I sought to do. If I got to the end of the round and felt that I had played well then I was happy, the result was secondary.
In sporting competition is this what it means to love my golfing partner? What do you think?
When we think about changes in our personal or professional futures, it is easy to be tempted to try and make it happen. To push, encourage, or otherwise seek to influence the situation. One of the lessons I learnt very early in my Christianity and ministry is that it is good not to seek to always micro or macro manage all the outcomes. We are on holiday this week, amongst other things, playing golf in
Cornwall. This lesson is a bit like playing golf. The way to play one’s best
golf, is like the lesson in many sports, to stay in the moment. Not to think or plan ahead too much. Most good golf is played by concentrating on the next shot, not getting ahead of ourselves. To say to myself, I am going to play this hole really well, is not about having confidence, it is getting ahead of myself. I played well today, for those who understand golf, I had 3 birdies today on a very hard golf course. I am not good enough to plan to do this I have found all I can do is to do the basics well, to focus on putting a good swing on the next shot and living with whatever happens.
During lent, I am seeking to be faithful to the next small step. To do the right thing in the right way and not try to manage what the outcome might be.
My favourite sea views often have islands in them, this is one of them. The Ayrshire Coast, a place I first went when Spring Harvest was in Ayr many years ago and Paul and I were on the team. Now we go every couple of years to play golf and enjoy the scenery – my other favourite view here is the Turnberry lighthouse. This week I will have seen it up close as I have played the Ailsa course – a week with a different pace of life, a different set of challenges to the day and an opportunity to re-create.
I am a golfer, not a very good one but I love the uninterrupted four hours or so of wandering around the countryside. Last week when I was playing they were doing some work on the golf course – when that happens the technical term which is used is ground under repair – there is usually a white line around the area and you get a free drop if your ball lands there.
I have ground under repair in my life – these are areas I need to boundary and have the freedom not to go there – take the free drop to use my golfing metaphor. Sometimes it is a short term thing like at our All Souls service because I was helping lead and needed to be able to play my part in facilitating others remembering I didn’t add any names to the list to be read out. I did my remembering at another time in another place. Other times it is a long term thing and I can’t always work out if the ball is just in the area or not. That’s how I feel about being childless – I can go there and share and talk about it relatively freely at sometimes but there are other occasions when I need to be more protective of myself and let God continue to do a bit more of the ground work that needs to be done.
I will always have ground under repair in my life as I grow and mature but what I have learnt to do is to give myself the free drop and say I don’t need to play there at the moment – the time is not quite right or I don’t have the right tools. When it is the right time then the ground gets repaired and I move on but just like the drainage ditches at our golf club sometimes I need to go back and deal with ground under repair at a deeper level which may take more effort but in the end gives me a better place to play.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I say wise things to other people which I really need to listen to myself! I have been reflecting today on whether I still struggle with the notion that there is a hierarchy of spiritual activities.
Each year as part of a research methods module that I teach I get students to do a corporate mini-research project on a topic of their own choosing. A few years ago now they chose to do something around how they connected best with God. What emerged from the research was the way they best connected with God was through nature.
This afternoon I spent time with six other clergy, we were walking and talking along tree lined paths and I was admiring the changing colours of autumn, it felt like a spiritual time being outside in changing weather in a changing season and I have come home feeling refreshed and renewed. When I read that it sounds like a helpful supportive time and a good way to spend a Friday afternoon even if it means spending Friday evening catching up on my study.
However, when I add that we were playing golf there is a part of me that feels like that means we were on a jolly and it wasn’t a spiritual activity. I still carry a bit of baggage about what are “spiritual” activities and what are not and somehow sport is not as spiritual as art or journaling or poetry. However, I have been passionate about sport all my life and sometimes in playing sport I have this notion that Eric Liddle had “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. [not this bit!] And when I run I feel His pleasure”. I feel God’s pleasure when I am out enjoying his creation even though I may also be hitting a little white ball along the way. This is one of those things where I need to listen to myself when I talk about spirituality and say how important it is to find ways where you genuinely connect with God. I connected with God this afternoon and that is a good thing, I believe that God is pleased when we connect and I should be too and not have a little bit of guilt diminishing the pleasure. Hopefully writing this may mean that this is another little bit of baggage I can dump!
If I could keep my head still I would be a much better golfer! I so want to lift my head to see where the ball is going and as soon as I lift my head the ball goes not very far so is not difficult to see! Being good at golf is a lot about rhythm and repetition – on shots where my rhythm is good it feels like the most wonderful game in the world. At other times it is the most frustrating game in the world – I try so hard and do so badly! Paul’s mantra for golf is fun and focus – there is a lot of wisdom in that, if I am not having fun playing golf then that is four and a half hours of my life I am never getting back where I could have been having fun!
On holiday I like to keep my head still in other ways too – still in taking time to take in surroundings and see God in God’s creation and still in not letting my mind wonder into things I can do nothing about – one of my default frustrating habits! So another lesson from my holiday is keep my head down and keep my head still and that results in the joy of a well struck shot or a deeply observed encounter with creation.
I love golf but I am not very good at it! There is an amazing hole on the Kintyre course at Turnberry where you hit a blind shot towards a marker post in the form of a stone cairn (we were in Scotland) and then hit your second shot towards what just looks like the sea – you can’t see the green or a flag. It is a case of hit and hope! I did my classic, lifted my head to see where the ball went so topped it and it zoomed off along the ground and I was worried that it would end up in the sea! However, when I eventually walked down the hill and found my ball this was the scene that confronted me – a beautiful secluded beach and one of the prettiest places my golf ball had ever landed!
In much of my life at the moment it feels a little like this, I give something my best shot and hope! As a newly ordained Curate I am getting to do lots of things I have never done and this is my attitude – most of the time. Sometimes that is hard because I am someone who likes to be competent and I can’t expect to go from no experience of something to competent in one step with nothing in between! And there can sometimes be the temptation to avoid doing something new because we lack confidence or don’t have the capacity at that time to trust God with the outcome of something. There are times when we have to do what it is that I did on that golf course – launch out into the unknown in the hope that we have chosen the right direction. My ball didn’t end up where I had intended but the diversion offered an unexpected joy. Other times that is not what happens, I hit a ball and it ends up in a bunker which feels like a bit of a dead end for me as I can’t then get the ball out first time (or second or third sometimes)! So each day I wake up knowing that I will probably face at least one hit and hope scenario and although I don’t tend to pray for my golf balls to end up in good places I do pray as I metaphorically hit and hope trusting God with the outcome and knowing that God will be with me and guide me wherever I am hitting the next ball from!