Sunday, November 6, 2011

"I said, 'Give me the putter.'"

"Give me the putter."  
That's what Poppy said.
"Give me the putter."
An old man.
An occasional golfer.
And Poppy said...
"Give me the putter."
The putter.
I've been in this place of trying to find my fit in this thing we call "ministry" for something like 25 years.
I've tried being the youth pastor, planning events and being very cool around teens.
I've tried being the children's pastor, doing slap-stick comedy to minister to kids.
I've tried being the pastor, wise and future-seeing.
I've tried being the preacher, shouting and sweating and taking in deep breaths.
I've tried being the missionary, adventurous and self-denying. 
I've never really tried to be me.
All these attempts had aspects of being me, but being defined as such, just didn't fit.
These weren't all failures. 
They even had great successes!
They were used by my Daddy to build me up and teach me.
But being defined by any of these definitions, alone, just didn't fit. 
I tried to wear everybody elses stuff and, man, it just didn't fit.
I never really tried to be me.  
I tried to be what everybody else said I should be and, man, I just can't do it.
I never REALLY tried to be me. 
Give me the putter.
I knew my gifting, my talent, my strength had to do with collecting sentences and putting words together...but I tried to do everything else.
So much so that I lost sight of those gifts, and talents, and strengths.
Like a bearded, island-trapped man drifting away from a blood-stained volleyball...I was drifting away from what made me alive.
And I was glad to do it.  
I became so convinced that these things, about which I felt such passion, were in no way a modern-church marketable skill set.  
I was there for a long time.
It's funny how things work. When we start pushing away from the things we lived for, we eventually can't even see them anymore.
Eventually, we trade those faded dreams for something more substantial.
Something more marketable.
And once you've drifted that far from the things that make you feel alive, it's pretty hard to get them back.
And sometimes, it takes something like having your life fall apart, to bring those things back into view.
Give me the putter.
That kind of what happened to me. 
My dream, gifts, talents and myself...became separated by about 5000 miles...
And I lost everything.
I was broken, and I was angry.   
I was angry at the One who gave me this gift in the first place.
The One I claimed I was following, when I walked away from gifts...well, He brought me back.
Give me the putter.
I was down there. 
Somewhere down there where rock bottom is all you've got to stand on...
Where there's nothing left but echoing drips of water drops, and a voice.
A voice calling me up.
Down there, you realize something.
Give me the putter.
You realize you don't need alot...
You realize you just need what works.
What works for you.
When the only way to look is up, you tend to look up.
On that rough-solid pit floor...
I found my dream, my passion, my gift...again.
Poppy said, "Give me the putter."
So I started using my gift.
I started writing.
I started collecting sentences and pithy phrases.
And I used the tool I had.
I wrote.
I wrote about my burden.
My burden?
The state of the church.
I wrote about my passion.
My passion?
Changing the world.
Give me the putter.
I wrote.
And I wrote.
And I rewrote.
And I wadded up and tossed aside...
And I rewrote again.
I wrote on aircraft jump seats, and park benches.
I wrote in Starbucks and in hotel rooms.
I wrote while sitting next to the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Stephens Green, the Arch, and at Israel's Mediterranean Sea coast.
I wrote in Macbooks, iPads, smartphones, notebooks, memopads, napkins and the back of pre-departure reports.
I wrote in almost every major U.S. city...
And I wrote in Rome, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Zurich, Moscow, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Santiago.
And then, I sat in Santiago...
And I didn't write.
I didn't write. 
I doubted.
I looked at the plethora of mediums upon which I'd placed my words...
I looked at my words.
I looked at my sentences.
Not paragraphs.
Most of the books I've read, contain chapter after chapter of sentences put together in paragraphs.
I just had the sentences.
My collection of sentences.
And I doubted.
I was discouraged.
I self-deprecated.
I was dying.
I didn't want the putter.
I cried.
And I cried.
And I sat there and, cried.
And didn't want my gift.
I didn't want "Ollie's way of doing it."
But then, I wrote.
I wrote about the doubt.
I wrote about the fear.
I wrote about feeling the duplicity of being both a withered flower blossom and a skinned-knee skating failure.
I wrote about getting scooped up, loved on and believed in.
Believed IN.
See, the one who gave me this gift, reminded me that he believed in the gifts he'd given me.
And he believed in me.
And I resolved, to believe in my gifts as well.
I realized a few things...
I realized I have a burden.
I realized I have a passion.
I realized I have a calling.
And, I realized I have a gift.
I realized, that for the first time in either twenty-five or forty-two years, these four converged into one dual action capsule: my dream and God's will.
Give me the putter.
And I hinged on a ledge of throwing it all away, because I doubted the gift, the tool entrusted to me to reach this end.
But then, in a search for a few pieces written over the last couple years, I read through a few former blog posts, and I decided this:
I like the way I write.
I get excited about my oxy-moronic phrases that don't quite fit.
I spend hours mulling over two words.
This is the gift I've been given.
Give me the putter.
I made a solemn vow. 
I vowed to my Daddy.
I vowed to my family.
I vowed to the Church.
I vowed to the world.
I will embrace this gift, this tool, and use it...
To lift my burden,
To indulge my passion,
To fulfill my calling and, 
To realize my dream.
I know it may not be the conventional tool.
I know it may not be the wisest tool.
I know it may not be the tool of theologians and scholars.
But, it's the one that fits.
That fits me.
Give me the putter.
I don't stand alone in my rebellion.
There was a destined-to-be-king, adolescent shepherd who stood with me.
When called upon for the simple task of defending his nation at war, he stood in my rebellion.
He used what he knew he could use.
The over-sized body armor owned by the king, didn't fit this kid.
I mean, it seemed wise to wear it...
But he rebelled.
And his rebellion kind of paid off.
You know that story.
But you may not know the other story.
It's a story about Poppy.
I didn't know Poppy well, you probably didn't know him at all.
But I sat in a mortuary's chapel yesterday.
At the culmination of a week of doubt, and deliverance.
Decision and determination.
A week of resolution to use the gift I've been given to fulfill the challenge of my calling.
I heard this story about another rebellion.
One of my best friends, Joe, stood behind a flag-draped casket at the front of a chapel.
He was recounting the life of a great man, his grandfather.
A sailor.
A daddy.
An encourager.
An admonisher.
A "Poppy."
By serendipity, one of the final stories resonated so deeply in my heart.
By Divine design, settled my resolve.
By a whisper from my Daddy, encouraged me to use the gift I've been given.
Joe told a story of his annual golf battle with his Poppy.
They played a course, better described as a cow pasture.
Poppy didn't own his own clubs, but used Joe's.
On the final hole, this old man was about 40 feet from the green's edge.  
And then, several more feet to the hole. 
Poppy looked at his grandson, Joe...
And said, "Give me the putter."
The incredulous, and golf-knowledgable, grandson rebuffed this request!
"Poppy! The putter?!"
Joe recommended more appropriate clubs. (I don't know golf.)
He recommended clubs that would work for such a shot.
Poppy said, "Give me the putter."
In half pity for Poppy, in half competitive foreknowledge of this impending win...
Joe relented. 
Poppy took hold of the putter, adjusted his stance, took aim at ball...
And swung.
Over ant-hills and patches of grass, onto the green and into the flag's pole, the ball travelled...
And fell...
Into the hole.
In amazed disbelief, Joe stood with his mouth open! 
"Wow! Poppy! Wow!"
In the midst of Joe's confoundment...
Poppy looked at his grandson...
And said,
"I said, 'Give me the putter.'"
Give me the putter.  


  1. Wow, I for one am glad you listened. That was amazing. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for being who you are.

  2. Jolly Ollie. As I read this blog giant, elephant sized tears are streaming down my face -- I can feel my heart breaking, getting softer - feeling better. You will never know how much this blog resonated with me today -- how much I NEEDED to read these EXACT words at this EXACT time -- especially after today -- when thoughts and memories of youth ministry days gone by filled my head -- all of those old fears and doubts came rushing back - making me feel like, well, a piece of crap -- until just like our Pa Pa does -- he sends someone's words (YOUR WORDS OLLIE) to soothe and heal my soul, to refresh me and let me know it's gonna be okay. To have the pleasure of knowing someone -- who KNOWS he is hearing HIS voice -- and writes HIS words down. OLLIE: YOUR ideas ARE relevant; YOUR words ARE needed -- YOUR gift is UNDENIABLE. Thank you for being medicine for my soul today. Thank you for not apologizing for being YOU anymore. Those big elephant tears are still falling but Ollie -- you saved my life today. Thank you my brother. (Lori)