Festschrift to My Brothers II

Festschrift to My Brothers II – First Principles Considered a Second Time

You can tell from my face I have been in the sun recently. I spent the last three days at Callaway Gardens playing golf. I promise I used sunscreen. However, I failed to reapply on a timely basis.

Why Callaway Gardens and golf? For 22 years, fraternity brothers of mine have been putting together three days of golf as an annual reunion. It is open to any ATO but draws heavily from those at the University of Alabama between 1976 and 1985.

This was my fourth trip. I stayed a way for years sure that the debauchery was no different from that which WE (emphasis on we including ME) lived in Tuscaloosa. And to a degree I was right about that. Some things have changed little.

The golf itself varies greatly. There are a few ringers, that is really good golfers. But most are more like me. They play very little. I myself have not played since this tournament, called “Divot Masters,” last year.

Consequently there are a number of shanks. Do you know what a shank is? It is when the golfer swings and barley catches a piece of the ball. It usually shoots hard left. A wise ATO never stands ahead or beside a Divot Masters golfer while he is on the tee box.

Sadly there are also a number of whiffs. Do you know what a whiff is? In baseball, we would say it is “a swing and a miss.” Basically, a strike. But in baseball a strike is completely understandable. The ball that is “whiffed” is often traveling at 100 miles per hour. Not so in golf. In golf, the ball is stationary. And to add insult to injury, the ball has been teed up. To miss it is awfully embarrassing.

Sometimes when we study the Scriptures, we shank. Or worse, we whiff. . .

So began my sermon Sunday. Thanks brothers for the sermon material! But now to my point.

So what do we shank or whiff? That the Christian life is about relationships, ours to God and out of that relationship ours to each other! Remember Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. All else hangs on these two commandments. If we can get these things right, all else will fall into place. He teed this one up! And yet we shank or whiff this one at home all too often.

And relationships begin with acceptance. Unbeknownst to many, this is where Divot Masters or the ATOs excel.Remember I stayed away from this annual reunion for 18 years out of my own insecurities. Last year, I wrote:

But the truth be told, my insecurities kept me away. Wanting to think I am personally confident in my call, I was not sure others would be. People were sure to wonder if the dramatic change in course was real. Heck, I am fairly certain members of my own family of origin wonder the same though I am 23 years down this path of ministry including a year of mission work in Bolivia.

That is what I thought. This is what I experienced:

What did I find? What had I missed? What did I rob myself of for 18 years? An incredibly strong fellowship! You might not know it from the outside. The ribbing is incessant and none of it is new. I am convinced boys wrestle to show their appropriate affection for their male friends. Attend any junior high church function to confirm that. Men, on the other hand beat the crap out of each other verbally, with insults. About the best you can do at Divot Masters, especially after making the turn and the beers consumed before [the turn] set in, is “your drive didn’t suck nearly as bad as his.”  I was reminded again and again I would be a good golfer if I could only aim. Thanks Shane.

Some of the memorable zingers from this year’s outing were mine. “Ministry has sown in me a great deference for the elderly. So you go first Albright/Nash.” And “Landers, you didn’t hit that as crisply as some others.” Had my A game on. The groove comes in knowing that you are accepted. Others were in rare (in reality quite typical) form. Not just a few brothers lamented Rob Clark’s absence. After all, who would give the seafood buffet speech? No good deed goes unpunished at DM.

I was struck Friday night when an after dinner laugh fest turned deadly serious. Someone had received a text about the medical trials of one of our brothers. Most of us have not seen him in 20 years but deep thoughts became the immediate order of business. Appropriately the sobering news broke up the party. I am confident prayers followed.

“Acceptance” does not mean anything goes. It doesn’t mean a blanket approval of paths or ethics at odds with what most of us hold dear. But even being at odds in such ways doesn’t prevent relating at a basic level. It does not preclude a sense that our lives are inextricably intertwined because of a shared experience some thirty years ago.

What we do well as ATO’s at Divot Masters, we all want do well at home. Too often unconditional love and acceptance does not mark every interaction with our children and with our spouses. Like us they need to hear “You can’t do anything to make me love you more. And you can’t do anything to make me love you less” especially when they fail to meet expectations. Mother Teresa said it well when she said this: “Love doesn’t measure. It just gives.”

This is how God loves us. This is how we are meant to love one another. And too much is at stake at home for a shank. To be sure, we, nor our families, can afford a whiff!

Long live Divot Masters, the Taus and the creed that binds men together!


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