What golf teaches us about life?

Justin Thomas took home the Wannamaker trophy as the 2022 PGA Champion. Many experts thought Scottie Scheffler would be the winner but he missed the cut meaning he didn’t get to play over the weekend. It is often said, ”that is why they play the game”. Others would say, ”It just wasn’t his week”. Another friend remarked, ”You can prepare well but you can’t control the variables.”

Last week, I wrote about how the first three verses on Psalms 23. Here is the link http://thankfulinallthings.com/musings-on-psalms-23/ if you don’t subscribe (which I hope you will 😀) or missed it. We must first acknowledge that the Lord is our shepherd who does not want us to want for anything. Golf like Life is hard and times can be tough at times. Therefore, God makes us rest and provides times of peace so that we can strive to walk the paths of righteousness with our souls refreshed. Why? Because the circumstances of life will come which we won’t have control of the outcome. That is when we must be able to trust that our Shepherd or a caddy/coach for a golfer is there to protect, provide comfort, and lead us out of the adversity that has come our way.

Each golfer has a yardage book for every course on which they play. It shows the exact distance to every place on each hole This book helps the player hit the right shot so that it avoids any hazard that has been placed between the tee and the green. The more the golfer plays a course, the more notes are written so they can better understand the best way to achieve success. The bible is our yardage book for life. The more we read it and take notes on what it teaches for each life situation, the better we will know how to live life well. When we are challenged we can choose to trust and not fear. We can find peace and comfort knowing God is with us whether walking by still waters or facing the valley of the shadow of death.

Believe it or not John 11:44 can provide a golf and life lesson at the same time as well. The well known story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, ends with Jesus saying to his friends and family, “now take off his dead clothes off so he can go home.” You see, Lazarus arms and legs were bound to his body so he couldn’t free himself without others help. In golf, there might be a few things that hinder you from hitting the ball properly. We need others who we trust to help us correct our mechanics allowing our swing to be freed up to hit the proper shot. Jesus teaches that we need others to help us live our lives well. Yes, we have the yardage book called the bible but it was not a mistake that He sent the disciples out in twos. https://biblehub.com/niv/mark/6.htm We need others to encourage us so we can be free to live the life God intended for each of us. We also desire folks who have our best interests in mind to help us correct our life mechanics so we can become the best version of ourselves.

Let’s all go out this week asking others to help us take off the things that restrain us from living the way God intends for us to live. Let’s also be willing to be that trusted friend who helps strip away things that keeps someone from living their best life.

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Musings on Psalms 23

I have been reciting Psalm 23 several times a day over the last couple years. Sometimes I just say it from start to finish. Other times I personalize it adding prayers for me and for others. Sometimes I fall asleep before finishing it at bedtime. And then there are the times when I’m in the middle of it and can’t remember the rest 😃 As many times as I have read it or set it out loud, I came across something this week that I’ve never thought about before.  This post will be my thoughts on the first three verses and how God prepares us for when adversity comes our way.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Do you see it now? One verse leads us into the next. Each one prepares us for what is to come. First, we are to acknowledge that the Lord is our Shepherd who will provide all that we need. Secondly, He does not ask us to lie down in green pastures, He make us do it. He knows we need rest even when we might not think it is necessary. Once we have rested, he gives us the opportunity to experience the peace that comes from being led to still quiet, waters. There is nothing more peaceful for me than being at the ocean when there are no waves and the sun is yet to rise. It does indeed “restoreth my soul”

He has created us. He leads us. He calls us to rest so that we can be restored. Why? So that when adversity comes our way as it does each and every day, we will not fear because He promises to be with us. May this thought process cause you to “go out knowing that goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, knowing you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6

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Do you want to be a Lion or a Shepherd?

I was perplexed this week when I saw people posting that “I want to be a lion who refuses to talk, walk, and sleep with Sheep”, As I thought about it more I realized this is what is wrong these days in our world. How can we find Unity if we choose to not associate with others who we think aren’t like us? Luke 15:2 reminds us “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus was the true Lion. He knew who He was and what His mission was in life. He obviously did not refuse too talk, walk, and sleep with Sheep.

Jesus goes on to teach, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”

So, I am confused. How can we create Unity (Uncompromised Never-ending Intensity Toward Yes), if we won’t talk or walk with those sheep who are looking for someone who is strong like a lion to follow? Maybe I am missing something but this thought process seems to be one of arrogance rather than leading others with a servant hearted humility. Another way of putting it is “If we are always looking up to God, we won’t have time to look down on others” Let’s also remember those who think of themselves as lions now, were shaped by others as they matured. What would have happened if those who taught you the way had chosen to not “talk, walk, or lie down” with you when you needed their help?

A.W. Tozer says, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” Isaiah 11:6 reminds us,

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

The little child Isaiah writes about is Jesus. My encouragement is to change the saying from “I am a lion, not a sheep” to “I am brave and fierce enough to be a shepherd to the sheep”. People who will help others to lay down in green pastures, let them enjoy the beauty of still waters, and lead them through tough times because they trust us and see out care for them.

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How did Easter cause you to seek God?

UVA Easter Sunrise Service

Charles Stanley reminds us that we need to be mindful of our priorities. Where do you invest our time and energy? What or who occupies our thoughts?  “As important as our earthly pursuits, responsibilities, and relationships may be, they cannot compare to the value of a life spent seeking the Lord.” The beginning of the year brings New Year resolutions? Easter brings the hope of a new life and the promise that our lives can be made new when we look to Him. How did you seek the Lord during the Easter season? I hope it was a time of refreshment and led you to a renewed desire to reorient your priorities so that life can be all God intends for it to be.

What does it mean to be renewed/refreshed? Why is it important? It is getting warmer outside again. As you walk by a pond, stop and look at it. It may look fine but in fact, it may be stagnant which can lead to fish kills and the rapid growth of floating green organic matter. It happens when there isn’t a constant exchange of living water that keeps a pond environment alive and healthy. Water comes in and fills a stagnant pond during a rain or a snow melt. But there is no outlet to keep the pond water fresh. The same can be said for how we live. Our lives can become stagnant because we are set in our ways which keeps us from receiving the fresh ideas and living water God wants to give us. https://www.biblestudytools.com/john/4-14.html Like a pond, we have to have an outlet to get rid of the stuff that holds us back from being a better version of ourselves so God has room to intervene and make us better.

Easter gives us that outlet. It comes in two ways. Confession and Forgiveness. 1 John 1;9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This becomes the outlet that takes away the toxicity from our hearts. Forgiveness does the same thing. Buddha says it this way, ““Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” That is why Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer to ask God for forgiveness and then do the same thing to others.

So let’s remember that Easter is not just a one Sunday deal but an event that happened which changed the world forever. Let knowing God sent His Son to die be the living water that brings hope to your life every day. How awesome is it that gives us the outlet through confession and forgiveness to let go of the old so that we can be continually be refreshed and molded into the people for which God created us.

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It is Holy Week. God wants to be in a relationship with us

How is your Prayer life? If you are like me, you wish it would be better. Tim Keller writes in his book, Prayer https://timothykeller.com/books/prayer, that it should be like the medication you take daily to make sure you remain healthy. You know it is important and therefore, you try never to take the pills. Prayer should be the same way. Taking the time to pray daily helps us live our lives in the way in which God intended. Through the help of the Holy Spirit it brings us into a relationship with our Father. Craig Denison describes it this way. “”If you ask for a deeper friendship with the Holy Spirit, you will find he is the best friend you have ever known. This is because “friendship with the Spirit is like any other friendship in that it develops over time. Like a new friend, you must get to know his character and personality. Spend time just talking with him, listening to him and allowing him to work in your heart and life. Prayer is your gateway to experiencing the things of God. Walk in relationship with him, follow his guidance, and make a new best friend in the Holy Spirit.”

For the regular readers of this blog, you know I wrote about having the proper “swing thoughts” as we go through our days. The Masters was this week. I read two different stories that helped me think about why we might find it hard to pray regularly.

The first was about someone who caddied for someone who was playing in the same group with Tiger Woods. When he found out that this was happening, his first thought was, “what will I say to him if I get a chance?” He didn’t want to say something stupid. He wondered if Tiger would even acknowledge him. This is true for many of us when trying to pray effectively. “What is it God wants for me to say to Him?” “Does He even care what is going on in my life?” This Holy Week answers that question. He sent His Son to die for us BECAUSE He wants to be in a relationship with Him. That relationship allows us to communicate with Him. Like Craig Denison shared, “Prayer allows us to develop a stronger friendship with God so that can develop the the proper “swing thoughts” on how to live.

The second story was about the Scottie Sheffler who won The Masters even though he four putted the 18th hole. It solidified his #1 ranking in the world but Jim Denison shared this interesting fact. “Before Scheffler could win the tournament, he had to do something very important a few months ago: RSVP to his invitation to play. According to the New York Times, Augusta National sends invitations each year to golfers it wishes to invite to the tournament. They must signal their intention to play before they are permitted to compete.”

Want to be better about praying? Like Scottie Scheffler, You must first signal your intention to receive the gift God has for you. https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/idolchatter/2022/04/masters-champion-scottie-scheffler-says-he-plays-golf-to-glorify-god.html He has invited you to be in relationship with Him. Your first prayer needs to be, “Thank you Lord for giving the opportunity to communicate with You.” Then know it doesn’t matter what we say as long as it is sincere and honest because He really does care what is going on in your life. One prayer will lead to another and your faith will become stronger as you watch those prayers being answered. Why not make this Holy Week a significant moment in our life? Where you began to pray regularly with the proper swing thoughts allowing you to see life from God’s perspective. Close your eyes. Let your swing thoughts be Seeing (Visualize) it, Feeling the Love He has for you, and then being free to let yourself trust Him for the outcome versus trying to do it all on your own.

Happy Easter week everyone. For those of your in Charlottesville, join us for an Easter Sunrise Service in the UVA Amphitheater. We will be there from 6:45 am to 8:00 am. Please subscribe to this blog if you want email notifications for when new content is posted. I can be reached via email at michael@mrg7175.com

How Significant Moments propel our lives forward

Have you ever had a “Burning Bush” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus%203&version=NIV experience? I am guessing your answer is no but if you think about it, I am also guessing you have had your own “holy/significant moments”. I am reading through Exodus right now with some friends and wrote this prayer after reading about Moses’ burning bush encounter with God. “Lord you are my refuge and my foundation. You are my encourager and my strength. Let me step forward like Moses saying, “Here I am! The question then remains, “how do I have the courage and confidence to go where He wants me to go?”

The story in Exodus confirmed what I wanted to write about this week. I hope to encourage you to think back to those significant moments that changed the direction of your life. The snake turning into a staff and the arm healed of leprosy allowed Moses to be reminded that God is with Him no matter where he goes. The wonderful book, “Hinds feet in High places” by Hannah Hurnard, teaches us how to look back so we can be encouraged to move forward. It is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear.” She does it by keeping pebbles in a satchel to remind her of the times the Shepherd helped her when she wanted to turn back.

What pebbles do you have in your satchel? If you have never done it before, take some time to look back on your life. When you do, you will see that you persevered in those moments which makes it easier the next time a big decision needs to be made or you are going through a hard time. For me, like recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it strengthens my faith. Remembering those past moments allows me to have an even stronger faith that God is with me and will walk me the most difficult of times.

My son and I are golfers. We were talking the other day about how to handle a tough conversation. He shared with me the concept of “swing thoughts”. You see in golf as Dave Cook writes in the book, Sacred Journey, https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Days-Utopia-Sacred-Journey/dp/0310335493 , visualizing allows your brain to prepare the proper swing thoughts so you can hit the right shot.. Dave shares we must “See it, Feel it, Trust it”. If I can see the shot, feel the swing I need, I can then trust that I will hit the ball properly. The same concept can be used in our lives as we look back on the significant moments. If we have the proper swing thoughts, we can make sure we say the rights things, not overact or get defensive, or maybe even forgive someone who has done your harm. Looking back and seeing that you made it through other tough situations will help propel you confidently into the next one. The confidence comes from having the right swing thoughts where you reach in your mental pocket and pull out the pebble reminding you that you will get through whatever challenges you next. It may not be as cool as a burning bush, but I can assure you God is there encouraging onward toward being the best version of you.

Thanks for joining me on this #thankfulinallthings journey. Please subscribe to the blog so you can receive email notifications when new content is posted. I would love to hear how what I write is encouraging you. I can be reached by email at michael@mrg7175.com

Sometimes, it is better to just listen

It has been a wild week. So many things coming at me from so many different directions. God spoke to me in such amazing ways through scripture and via folks much smarter and stronger in their faith than me. Each one came just at the right time. They lifted me up and helped me navigate the challenges and stressful situations that were on my calendar. I share them with you hoping that they will help you in the same way they helped me.

Henri Nouwen wrote: “I really want to encourage you not to despair, not to lose faith, not to let go of God in your life, but stand in your suffering as a person who believes that she is deeply loved by God. When you look inside yourself, you might sometimes be overwhelmed by all the brokenness and confusion, but when you look outside toward him who died on the cross for you, you might suddenly realize that your brokenness has been lived through for you long before you touched it yourself.”

David wrote Psalms 3 after he ran away when Absalom declared himself King. It is appropriated called the morning song. https://www.easyenglish.bible/psalms/psalm003-taw.htm “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Isaiah 55:9-11 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it”

If you have taken the time to read what came my way this week, I hope you too will go into this coming week knowing God is with you and meets you no matter what circumstances your facing. To face these extremely challenging times, you first need to know who you are and where your identity lies. My identity is in Christ and the way Carol Wimmer describes what that means is how I will end this week’s blog.

“I am a Christian”

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,”
Now I’m found and forgiven.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say… “I am a Christian” I’m not holier than thou, I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow.”

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The power in learning how to wait

Like Advent, Lent is another season where we are taught to wait. This blog originated after my recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome. GBS paralyzed me from my head down. March 17th marked three years since my arms went back over my head. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie
“We will be encouraged and strengthened in our faith when we recognize the ways in which God is operating. These glimpses of His handiwork will motivate us to stay the course and help us maintain a godly perspective on life.” This Charles Stanley’s quote reminded me of the fact that God has made many wait until they were ready for what He had for them to do. Sarah, Moses, Noah, Esther, Ruth, John the Baptist, Paul and yes, even Jesus, all were made to wait. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill lost elections before being raised up to do great things. We remember that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but forget that his sisters, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother needed His help, but Christ delayed before traveling to their home (John 11:3-6).

As we wait over these next four weeks to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, ask yourself, ”for what are you waiting?” Have you made a request to God that hasn’t been answered? Are you asking for relief from some type of adversity? Change your question to, ”what is it that you are preparing for me? What do I need to be doing to be ready for the task ahead?” It really is a matter of perspective. No wonder they say ”patience is a virtue” https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/patience-is-a-virtue.html

The season of Lent is a time for personal reflection. If you are facing what seems like a dead end, why not take the time to stop and check out what is around you. Like the Israelites in the desert, what might look like the end, may just be a bend in the road that though longer, will take you where you are meant to go. As Charles Stanley shared, no matter what challenges we face, ”we are to stay the course with the proper perspective”

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In the Prodigal Son story, which character(s) are you?

We all are the main characters in our own stories, the central planet in our life’s universe. Everything revolves around us. Dottie’s mom summed it up best by saying, “wherever I go, there I am”. Likewise, we all become the support cast for other people’s stories as protagonists, antagonists, serving minor roles, or even extras in your story.

A life changing book for me was Henri Nouwen’s Portrait of a Prodigal Son. Back in 1992 Henri Nouwen received permission to visit the museum which houses the Rembrandt masterpiece daily and even into the night after the museum was closed. Nouwen spent literally hours and days alone sitting in a chair gazing at each character in the painting, studying every detail in hopes of discovering its spiritual reality for him. Before being introduced to this book, I had studied and given talks on this Luke 15:11-32 parable https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2015:11-32&version=NIV more times than I can count. It wasn’t until I read this wonderful portrayal that I realized there was more than one main character in the story. I have no excuse because the 1st verse starts with “there were two sons and if you know the story, the father also plays a huge supporting role in Jesus’ teaching.”

The lessons most of us learn from or try to teach in the story is 1) How selfish and greedy the younger son is in asking for his inheritance. It is like he is saying Dad, “I wish you were dead” 2) The same son after squandering all he has been given realizes he would be better off as a servant to his father than living the life he had created by his stupidity. He chooses to go home and ask forgiveness knowing he is unworthy of any kindness from his father. 3) We learn how strong a father’s love is for a child. He has waited for this day; yearning for his son’s return and offers nothing but love and forgiveness. The moral to the story is quite obvious. We learn from these two characters that God knows we will screw up as we think we know how to live life best without Him. We also see that He will be waiting for our return and when we do, He will welcome us and restore our position of being his children. Isn’t it great that there is a happy ending for this wayward child? But wait, is it really a happy ending?

This book did not end well for me. Why? Because like I shared earlier, verse 11 says “there were two sons.” When I started reading what Nouwen wrote about the older brother, tears began to stream down my face. I had never seen what this passage of scripture was trying to teach me. Why? I am the oldest son in my family but my role in this story is I am always trying to do what is right and seeking the approval of my parents, family members, etc. It was like in 2nd Corinthians 3:14, “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.” Gratefully, a veil was lifted and I saw myself before God in an entirely new way. I could not relate to the Prodigal. What I was made to see was my “older brother self-righteous mindset.” My Father you owe me attitude was just as bad as what the younger brother had done. It was like a slap across the face when my thinking I could earn God’s love was not unlike what the younger brother had done by asking for his inheritance.

The sad part of this lesson from Jesus is, unlike the child who came home with a repentant heart, we don’t know if the older brother ever realizes his selfishness. Verse 28 says, “he became angry and refused to enter the celebration for his wayward sibling.” I am so glad this particular blind spot of my character was removed. Like the Father waited for the Prodigal, I know he also kept watch hoping the older brother would see the error of his ways and return to the party asking for the same forgiveness his brother had rehearsed over and over on his way home. I am so glad I read this book many years ago. It allowed me to realize God’s forgiveness and joy because, like the Prodigal Son, I had returned into His waiting and outstretched arms. I also know when I stumble and find myself back in an older brother mindset, God is always there to love and encourage me forward regardless of how many times it happens.

I hope you will take the time to read and meditate on Luke 15:11-32 and then read this insightful book. When you figure out which character best suits you, ask your loving Father to forgive you. He promises to restore you to your rightful place as an heir to the throne, his adopted Son or Daughter in Christ. Romans 8:17

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Stop Listening to others and Talk to yourself

Do you let others tell you who you are or who you can or can’t be? How can you make sure you live the life God created for you?

There are encouragers in this world but there are also those who want nothing more than to discourage us. They want to “rain on your parade” by saying what you are trying to do won’t work or can’t be done. In many cases, it is because they don’t want you to get to a better place than them. Isn’t it so easy these days to look around and wish you were someone else. Social Media allows you to see people living what look to be wonderful lives and having the kind of success for which you are striving. The discouragers or the people whose lives look so easy can make us feel second rate causing us to think, “I could never be that kind of person”

Listening to or watching others can cause us to go down a mental rabbit hole which causes us to say things like, “I can’t, I will never, There is no way, or I wish.” That is why God says to Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The lesson here is we are to speak the right things into our minds and our hearts instead of letting others tell us what kinds of lives we can live. A coach shared this thought process with me years ago. “Do not let others plant bad seeds by saying it can’t be done or that we aren’t good enough. Instead, allow only good seeds to be planted and then pick the right people who will encourage, nourish, and fertilize those positive thoughts. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” That faith; those good seeds planted in your heart will allow you to slowly but surely cross the T off I Can’t; turning your mindset to I CAN! Why, because you BELIEVE.

So what will you speak into your life today? How will you keep from letting the negative thoughts ( the bad seeds) from strangling the wonderful things you want to accomplish? Meditate on this, the Word of God. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32 Free for what? To live the incredible life God has for you. One that produces abundance beyond anything you can imagine. John 10:10 Then go out and show others that goodness and mercy is what the Lord intends for all of us.

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