Again, Be Careful What You Ask For

How often do you pray? Me? I pray daily, usually (from a habit of doing so when I was still working) every time I get in my car or ride my bike. And when I pray, as I suspect you all do, I ask God to do things for me.

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I ask to be forgiven of the sins I have committed and to strengthen me to avoid them in the future. I lift up those I love and care about, and then I get into the other things.  You know, things like protection or help in remembering the Hebrew I am teaching myself.

On Monday and Wednesday, as I am driving to meet my friends for our golf game, I also pray for God to help me maintain my composure and not get so angry when I duff a shot.

You see, as I have mentioned before, the one thing that gets my goat faster than anything else is when I screw up a golf shot. I know the Pro’s do it, and often, and that it is only a game, and that most of the reason I get angry is because of my own pride. But, still and all, knowing why something happens doesn’t always help to control what we do when it happens.

Besides, I don’t like doing anything half-donkey and that is not a bad trait; but, when it gets out of control, that is not a good thing.

So, yesterday I prayed for better control and to have the peace that the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) gives if and when I mess up some golf shots.

I prayed, and that was that. I know God hears our prayers, and that he will answer. Sometimes it’s “Yes”, sometimes its “No”, sometimes it’s “OK, but not yet”, and most of the time it is not what we expect or when, but it is always exactly what we need.

Now I start to play. The first hole starts off OK, a nice drive, a good second shot, and then the game goes down the tubes. Instead of getting bogies or pars, as I usually do (I tend to score in the high 80s or low to mid-90s), I was getting double and triple bogies. I couldn’t sink a putt if I was aiming for the Grand Canyon, and my wedge, which is usually my best iron, was on strike.

It took me, and I say this to my credit, only until the 4th hole when I realized that God was answering my prayer from that morning: he was teaching me how to not get mad by giving me every opportunity to practice not getting mad.

As I said, the answer to prayer is not often what you expect it to be. I was hoping for a supernatural calmness that was from the indwelling Spirit, but instead, I was thrown into a lousy game and told, “Sink or swim”; or, in this case, smile or scream.

Through these lessons, I am learning how God works. For me, and maybe this is what happens to you, too, God will answer my request to be better by creating the environment where I need to be better, then throwing me head-first into it! He will not miraculously change my attitude or my personality, or even my thinking: no, he will create the opportunity for me to learn to do what I want to, and sit back and watch how well I do. It is up to me to become better, and he always has my back, meaning that if I fail he will take me out of the test.

At one point yesterday after my drive sliced into the next fairway, I dubbed the next shot into a strand of trees, then hit a tree, I screamed, “Alright already- I am failing the test!” (It wasn’t loud enough for anyone else to hear.)

Then I asked God to forget what I said, and confessed I am still in need of help. I gave in to the fact that this was going to be a bad day, and I should just play and enjoy the company of my friends. After all, no one can be good all the time.

I guess that confession was a passing grade because then I calmed down and my game improved.

I was also thankful to God for answering my prayer. I didn’t necessarily like the way he did it, but I was thankful.

In case you’re interested, I shot a 51 on the front nine, but a 42 on the back nine, so I ended up playing my usual game. However, more important than learning a lesson about self-control, I received an answer to prayer, which is always a blessing and more important than any score could ever be.

Today’s message is this: remember my experience and review, in your own life, how many times you have been answered by God but maybe didn’t realize it at the time. And, as I said in my message from the other day (Always Be Listening), when you pray, remember that you will receive an answer, so stay alert.

God will not change you but he will give you the opportunity and the tools to change yourself. He will place you in the fire, which is the only way the dross can be burned away, and when the fire gets too hot, he will pull you back out again. The best part is that the more often you are placed in the fire, the more heat you will be able to take, and the more purified you will become.

Thank you for being here; please subscribe and share this ministry with others. If you have had a similar experience, I would love to have you share it with me and my subscribers.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Why I Get Angry Playing Golf

Before I start today’s message I am excited that later today Donna and I will get to see Avengers: Endgame. I promise no spoilers in my next message.



Now for today’s message.

I play golf in a league on Monday (9 holes) and a full game (18 holes) on Wednesday. I get to play with the same guys on both days.  I too often get really angry with myself when I screw up a shot (or maybe more like two or three in a row) and would like to say that this explosive anger I demonstrate is not typical for me in the other areas of my life. Normally, I am pretty patient with most things. Golf, however, gets under my skin in an instant, and before I know it I am thrown out of the cart, and my evil, twin brother Skippy takes over my game.

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Shaul (Paul) tells us in Ephesians 4:26 that we should not sin in our anger. The anger he is talking about is not being pissed off when I follow a great drive with a duffed chip. That is not the kind of anger that Shaul was talking about; however, that doesn’t justify throwing a club, or (what I have forced myself to do instead of throwing the club) wham my golf bag with the club.

Yesterday I bought some cookies and placed them in a pocket of my golf bag for the turn-around. During the front nine, I got angry at messing up and swatted my bag a few times. When I went to eat the cookies, I discovered that I had smashed the cookies and now had a bag full of crumbs. Karma.

I have prayed, really I have, asking God to help me to take away this stupid, energy-wasting anger, but he hasn’t really done anything. Not that he should, because this is something that I do and therefore is something I need to stop doing. My golf buddies understand, and they are all much better at maintaining their composure than I am. That just makes me feel even worse about myself.

So why do I get so mad when the way I am playing golf is the way I should be playing golf? I mean, really- I am not on the PGA tour and never will be. I am a Bogie-plus golfer (that means I will normally score one or two strokes over the par for a hole), so my normal score for 18 holes is in the mid-nineties. Most of the time I will get mad, then relax, then get mad, then relax and do this during the game, and at the end find out my score was what it should be after 18 holes. It then I have to ask myself: what did I get so mad about? I played my normal game!

Here is where God helps me: he uses that still, quiet voice talking to me in the back of my head telling me the reason I get mad is that I am prideful. I think I should be a better golfer than I am, and I know I can be, so when I am not doing as well as I think I should, my pridefulness takes over and I get frustrated (at myself) and that results in anger.

Right now my friend Frank is bobbing his head up and down in agreement with me (aren’t you, Frank?)

So, nu?  Now that I know what the problem is, I should be able to fix it, right?  WRONG!!

Knowing what is wrong is a good start, but that is all it is- a good start. I know where to begin walking humbly with my God (Micah 6:8), but how far can I walk humbly before I backslide? With people I can go miles and miles…with golf, not much past the third hole!

Here’s the worst part…I know it is only a game! My life will not change if I score over 100, or if I score under 90. I’m sure if I don’t get mad my friends will feel less intimidated and I will feel much better if only I can get a handle on this anger thing. I do NOT want to manage it- I want it to go away, completely!

I always pray for self-control, and God keeps telling me this is something I need to learn on my own. I understand that- it isn’t that God isn’t willing to help me, but he won’t do it for me. God has taught me that I must find the strength to overcome my sinfulness, and I can do that by calling on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) NOT to change me, but to remind me I need to change and to warn me when I start to wander off the path of righteousness.

It all comes down to Free Will- our God-given right to choose. I can choose to get mad or I can choose not to get mad. God leads me, he shows me the way, he tells me how to act and instructs me what to do. But in the end, I am responsible for my actions and that is why God will not control me. The same goes for you.

Our God is a God of action: he wants us to walk with him not sit around waiting for him to do it for us. If I want to be less prideful I need to walk in humility- I need to keep myself in check, and I need to remember to work on it. God will help me by reminding me, by having people in my life help me, and by letting me screw up and embarrass myself so (maybe) I will think twice the next time before I do the same, stupid thing again.

I don’t think I am the only person with trouble managing anger in one way or another, and I am thankful that I lose control mostly only with my golf game.  But that is no excuse to allow it to continue.

What makes you angry? Is it godly or is it prideful? We all, each of us, need to ask ourselves this question when we feel the rage starting; and then we must try to stop it before it is noticeable. This is what I have to do more earnestly for myself, and I will still pray for God to help me.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just don’t get mad. If only it was really that easy.

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I welcome comments, suggestions, and even disagreements- all I ask is that you be nice.

L’hitaot and Baruch HaShem!


Eating My Own Words

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I play golf twice a week, or I should say, I attempt to play golf twice a week.

In truth, I’m not bad: I usually score in the mid to low 90’s, but along the way, I do have issues with controlling my temper when I duff a shot or involuntarily send a ball into Poseidon’s domain. I have been known to use choice verbiage, slam my club into the ground, or gently toss my wedge about 50 feet (it’s just so I don’t have to walk it over to the cart. Well, OK…you got me- that’s not really the reason.)

Overall, this behavior is not very “godly” of me, is it?

Yesterday, while I was apologizing to one of my regular golf “buddies” for behaving so badly, excusing it by saying that I am just too hard on myself, he reminded me of things I say on my blogs about how Believers need to act in public and set a good example. I asked him, in a jokingly way, if he was throwing my own words in my face, and he smiled and said, “Yes, I am.”

It made me stop to think how hard it is for us to practice what we preach. Now, that in and of itself is not a terribly unique or outstandingly remarkable observation; in fact, it is something that we all know. But it is also something that we need to work to achieve because when we DO practice what we preach, we can be more effective in proving that what we are saying is valid and useful.

After all, if someone preaches about sinning less in their life (as I often do) but makes no progress on their own, then how can you trust that they even know what they are talking about? Yes, there is the old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach” but that is no excuse in real life.
For instance, how many of you would trust a skinny chef? How many of you would hire a contractor who needs to borrow your tools?

We should always be aware of what we say so that we do not insult or hurt anyone, but we also need to be careful of what we say because we may have to eat those words one day. I know that in my case if I had to eat words that I use when golfing I will have a very upset stomach and a bad flavor in my mouth for days. In truth, there ain’t enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to handle what I would have to deal with!

NOTE: there are two “Acid Test” proofs of one’s spiritual maturity:

(1) driving in traffic without screaming at the other drivers; and

(2) golfing without cursing.

So what is my point to all this? It is simply that we need to learn to do what the apostle James (James 3:1-12) tells us is the most difficult thing there is to do: control the tongue. We must think first, and (again Jimmy gives good advice here) be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to get angry. After having a double or triple bogie during the game, and after all the anger and club smashing I did yesterday (not all that much, but more than two or three times), I still ended up within a stroke or two of where I usually end up, so what, really, is the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the big deal is: it is my ego, it is my pride, and it is my failure to accept I made a mistake because I think I SHOULD be better than that. And I won’t accept that I’m not.  Oh, gee- that’s gonna fall under the pride thing again, isn’t it?

So thank you, Frank, for throwing my own words back in my face.

I am going to close today’s message with this piece of advice, which I pray I will remember next time I am on the links:

You never know when you will have to eat your words, so make sure your words are always sweet. 

Be Careful What You Ask For

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I love golf. I have been playing since I was a teenager. For about 30 years I didn’t swing a club and now that I am retired, I am able to get back into the game.

My game hasn’t been as good as it was: no surprise there. However, I should be capable of playing what we call “Bogie Golf” and I am getting closer to that goal.

What’s this got to do with anything? I’m getting to that.

When I pray, I constantly ask God for better self-control so that I can pray as David prayed: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer”  “(Psalm 19:14.)  I have often written how God always answers prayer, and sometimes (in my life) he has told me that when I ask him to change me that he will, but I have to work at it, too. I have to learn to call on his Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to help me achieve that change. This is what happened to me earlier this week while playing a round of golf- God answered my prayer by giving me the opportunity to practice self-control. Here’s what happened…

I was playing a pretty good game for our 9-hole round (league play) but starting at the 6th hole I screwed up a number of shots and ended up with a really bad score for that hole. I got a little teed-off at myself, and from that point on the game went downhill at an alarming speed until I ended up with a score that was nearly 10 strokes higher than I usually get. For 9 holes, no less!

I was angry, using language I shouldn’t, and smacking my club into the ground (at least I wasn’t throwing it like I did when I was a teenager.) I was also embarrassed because later, after cooling down a bit, I realized that I failed to do what God had been giving me a chance to do- be acceptable before him, and also honor him by acting in a way that others would see my self-control, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Needless to say, I apologized to my golf partner for my actions next time we got together, which was two days later to play on a different course.

I am patient with others when I teach but I confess I have little patience with myself, never accepting less than what I think I should be able to do. So, on my way to this next game, I was praying and asking forgiveness for my lack of self-control. I also asked God to continue to help me, and that’s when I knew, yes I just knew, that I was going to have another bad game.  Not that I wanted another bad game but I knew that even though he is God of all the universe, he would give me another chance to show that I could pass the test. Which meant that, no matter how hard I tried, I was going to hit into the water, duff shots that I shouldn’t duff, find nearly every sand trap on the course and probably end up with another really lousy score.

But this time I was ready for it!

(I did have a lousy score, again, but not as bad as the other day and this time I maintained my self-control throughout it all.)

This story is the reason today’s message is about being careful what you ask for. God always answers prayer: sometimes it is “OK”; sometimes it is “OK, but not now”; and other times it is just plain “NO!” The tricky part is that when God is willing to answer our prayers, his answer isn’t always what we expect or when we expect it, but it is always just what we need, just when we need it. God answered my prayer to have better self-control by giving me the opportunity to work on it through my golf game. At first, I didn’t realize this, and that is why I failed so miserably at it. Through more prayer and the leading of the Ruach, I was able to discern what really happened that day I did so poorly: God was answering my prayer. I asked, he answered and I messed it all up. I wanted God to just intervene, to just re-wire my brain-housing group so that I would automatically have better self-control so I could be more like he wants me to be.

I forgot how a long time ago when I asked God to change the way I think about something, he gave me this answer: “It doesn’t work that way.” He gave me the insight to see that the way it’s done is we each have to work at those things we ask God to change in ourselves. It is up to us to work with God to make that change happen. And God will provide the opportunity, which is why we need to remember that through the experience of having tsouris in our life, even something as insignificant as a golf game, we can learn how to channel his Spirit to overcome our troubles.

I am somewhat proud to say that I was able to figure this one out fairly quickly and hope that going forward I will remember when I ask God for something to remain always on the alert for his answer.

I recommend that you do the same.