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CLERGY CORNER: Lessons “on the course”

Posted on 17 May 2018 by LeslieM

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

I was fortunate to have within my last parish a parishioner who owned a golf shop. Not only did he line me up with a new set of clubs, but he gave me some free lessons from his computer-simulated golf course.

Jack was an accomplished golfer and it had been years since I had picked up a club, so he let me take a practice swing. I lined up on the ball, adjusted my grip and swung. I felt this wonderful sensation of a true connection. I thought to myself, “Jeff, you are a natural.” And then Jack shared with me the results. I sliced it and I sliced it good. The ball landed on a fairway alright, but not the fairway in front of me.

Then Jack adjusted my stance, my posture, my grip, my swing and then I swung. Everything about this felt awkward. There was nothing that felt right. But, when I completed my swing, Jack applauded, saying, “Congratulations, you are a chip and a put away from a par.”

I know that if I practiced and practiced, and spent a lot of time on the course, there may be a day when awkward would feel natural and natural would feel wrong. My muscle memory would be sound and I would have a completely different game. Alas, parish ministry doesn’t afford me a lot of opportunities for golf. But I never forgot that experience. When I did what felt good, it turned out to be wrong; and, when I did what felt wrong, it turned out to be right. Wouldn’t it be nice if every good action had a corresponding sensation? In life, that doesn’t always happen.

So what is a good example of this happening in life? I can paint a scenario that is all too familiar, unfortunately. There is the peaceful community disrupted by a random act of violence. Perhaps a gunman or a bomber unleashes a wrath of hatred that brings death and destruction to innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The perpetrator is identified and quickly becomes, in the eyes of the public, Public Enemy No 1. And, as a pastor, I know that my faith community is shaken to the core and it is obvious that the pain we are all feeling calls us to prayer.

In our tradition, we pray the prayer of the church with each petition ending with “Lord, hear our prayer.” And we pray the prayer out loud: “Lord, we pray for the victims of the most recent act of violence, for those who were killed, those who were injured, as well as their family and friends …Lord, hear our prayer … Lord, we pray for our community as we witness another act of violence. We pray for peace … Lord, hear our prayer.” And then I name the name of “Public Enemy No. 1.” I pray that God be merciful and comfort his or her family and friends in this time of crises. I can assure you, though the words “Lord, hear our prayer” are spoken, there are a few audible gulps and moans.

From the perspective of the one leading the prayers I must admit, it felt natural to pray for the victims. It did not feel natural to pray for Public Enemy No. 1. Yet, my faith dictates that this must be done. In spite of any feelings I may have, I am called to love my enemy. Like an awkward golf swing, it does not feel right but it is the right thing to do. It doesn’t feel comfortable. I must admit, if I prayed for God’s wrath to smite this perpetrator of violence it would have felt very comfortable. The problem, of course, is I would have “sliced it.”

I know that many people rely upon their feelings when they make a decision, saying or thinking, “It just felt right at the time.” Comfort can be deceiving and, oftentimes, we find ourselves facing ethical dilemmas calling us to do the right thing, not the comfortable thing.

It may not feel right to pray for our enemies, but it is the right thing to do. May God give us the strength to do the right thing, even when it doesn’t feel comfortable.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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Norman ‘signature course’ opens

Posted on 24 January 2013 by LeslieM

Pages 09-16By Gary Curreri

Greg Norman hit the ceremonial tee shot off the first tee of Pompano Beach’s Pines Golf Course last week. It signified completion of his first ever Signature Golf Course for a municipality.

The Pines Course has been closed since April 2012. The course is one of two owned by the city of Pompano Beach, and the first municipal course revamped by Greg Norman Golf Course Design.

Norman, who has won 80 professional events, including 20 U.S. PGA Tour titles in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, said he got his start playing on a municipal course.

“I have been hearing some great reviews and the test of time is still ahead of us,” Norman said. “I am sure everybody is going to enjoy the course. It’s a significant day. We wanted to come in here and make sure that the people would be able to play and keep it affordable. Some of the holes are designed where the ball will gravitate toward the hole depending on the pin placements.”

Norman has designed or redesigned 12 courses in Florida and 84 overall around the world since 1987, including Dubai, Australia and South Africa. Two years ago, the city put out the redesign for bid and the process culminated last Wednesday with the official opening. The course has been open since Jan. 1 for play.

“We took a pig’s ear and turned it into a silk purse,” Norman said. “The important factor is that the city of Pompano absolutely loves it and, hopefully, they will see an increase in rounds.” The new course, which is next to the other municipal course, the Palms, features new Celebration Bermuda turf and irrigation, improvements that should keep the course playable and keep maintenance costs down. It is estimated that there are 94,000 rounds played on the two courses annually.

“This course will definitely be a destination, not only for the residents, but also for attracting tourists from around the world, which means an economic engine for our city,” said Pompano Mayor Lamar Fisher. “The course will be affordable in relation to its quality, complimenting a full service of facilities.”

Commissioner Charlotte Burrie called the day “a beautiful day in paradise.” She becomes a 50-year resident on Feb. 4. She said she played the courses when she younger “and all of the body parts worked.”

“I have never seen the Pines Course any more beautiful than it is right now,” Burrie said. “With a vision of ‘build it and they will come,’ it is beautiful. We have already seen an increase in play and we have received all favorable comments.”

Pompano Beach Golf Pro Bob Loring, who has been the head pro for the past 11 years, said he has already seen an increase in members.

“We have a Greg Norman Signature Golf Course that is close to the beach,” Loring said. “What a great combination for the city of Pompano Beach.”

Loring also shared with the audience how there was a concern about the placement of a cart path and, within a day, in the pouring rain, they moved the path from one side of the fairway to the other. He said the course has the “what” factor.

“Before, when golfers would come in after their round, I would say, ‘what’s the matter?’” said Loring, of the redesign that cost about $4 million. “Now when they come in, they say, ‘what a golf course!’ The Pines course is what you achieve when you combine a city with a vision and a visionary golf course architect.”

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