Thursday, March 19, 2009
Life is a Fairway
Yesterday for the first time in at least 3 years I went golfing ..It was a wonderful Spring day , four men brought together in Gods purposeful way. Golf is a game that engages all the senses , the budding trees , the flags fluttering in the distance the sound of the ball going into the cup, the taste of fresh mud as your wedge cleaves into the soil , the smell of sun lotion and Ben Gay , The camaraderie was enjoyable , each person cheering each other on , and some good natured kidding and gamesmanship . Although the Starter Pistol gag was a little extreme. But considering this is the South I am blessed it wasn't a shotgun .
My only regret was the game I had planned to play remained in my mind and not on the fairways . When I was much younger I would frequently end up playing with these " older " golfers . It was not unusual for me to blast the ball far past their best efforts ...yet steadily they moved forward more often than not they actually played in the designated fairway , they hit it short but straight , simply by playing each long hole as one stroke more ( par fours became par fives , par fives became par six ). Mixing in some great short game play these old golfers would sail around the course posting scores in the low to mid 80's.
My game was usually more dramatic , turning 3's into par fives and par fives into threes as I would post scores in the low to mid 80's as well . When I was playing competitively in college I played to a solid 3 handicap , spending several hours a day working on my game , and while playing cursing every shot that was less than perfect . In those days I owned several club records including the greatest distance for throwing a Driver with no wind assist ( 123.5 yards ).
I wasn't much fun to play with in those days ...I was grouchy and my style of play left me alone in one distant fairway or another ...it wasn't until much much later that I started to enjoyed golf on a whole new level , this really started to happen when I actually had to pay to play . I had little or no time for practice , I started to put less pressure on myself and simply enjoy spending time on the course. I started to notice some interesting changes in my game . I was actually hitting the ball longer , much longer , due in part to the change in golf equipment ( metal woods, graphite shafts ) And a change in body weight ( I was no longer a slender Adonis , instead I had become a chubby wood nymph ..... Middle to long irons where just a little off , and the short game was unpredictable . But when I posted a score it was usually in the high seventies to low 80's . I found myself actually enjoying the people I was golfing with , especially my favorite foursome stubby , lefty and hoot. Not only an interesting group of nicknames but an interesting trio , these three guys had worked in the Portland Steel mills and were all now on disability leave since an unfortunate explosion in the foundry. Stubby had lost three inches off his left leg, Lefty was one armed , and hoot had no hearing and no balance . Suddenly I found myself wining more beverages than usual at the the 19th hole . Although in time Stubby became quite a good golfer when he learned to take advantage of uphill lies.
All good things often come to an end ..and this was no exception , married with child on the way...responsibility crept into my life , like a dust bunny under the couch ...for the next 13 years golf was pushed aside as I worked to provide for my family. I worked as hard on providing asI had worked on my youthful Golf game , I returned to grouchy and not being much fun to live with and in time I squandered the relationship , and watching my daughter grow up ...as quickly as a golf ball can swerve dead left and into a lake , I found myself alone with nothing but debt and set of golf clubs that had once ruled the Astoria Golf and Country Club Fairways ...
To take my mind off the failed marriage , I worked as a fireman at a local resort , Black Butte Ranch in the Foothills of the Cascade Mountains ..I had been very active with the local Volunteer Fire dept. and through this association I started also helping out at the resort , It was a busy department with a fair share of motor vehicle accidents , ambulance calls , forest fires and a few structure fires . We lived on site and that provided me with shower facilities since I had given the house to my former family. I also had golf privileges there and started playing regularly ...we couldn't play when we were on shift but we could hit balls and practice putting if we carried our radios .
It was at this time that I met Lori ...we met on the Internet , in a Christian Chat Room on AOL . In a short time I had found that special someone ...Lori and I were married in 1996 , by then I had once again put away the clubs ...I had actually sold my Ben Hogan Irons. left most of the rest at the fire department. Lori and I moved away from Oregon in 1999...we moved to Tennessee and I started working at the Opryland Hotel ...while in Nashville I tried to pick up Golf again , but I was surprised by how expensive it had gotten , and how humid it was in Tennessee..I couldn't understand why everyone used golf carts , that is until I tried to walk 18 holes on a pleasant July day . My golfing outings were few and far between. I found a public course that had a practice area which I could hit some and shag them , and as I moved up the ladder at the Hotel I started to play more often and thought about getting into some amateur tournaments ...And then came 9/11 .
After the attack I made a decision to move back to the Northwest ...In March of 2002 I drove to the Northwest with out a Job prospect but fully trusting in Gods Providence ..on the way I had a book on tape by M Scott Peck called Golf in the Spirit ...and it kept me company from Nashville to North Bonniville Washington . There my first stop was a Hotel Property called Dolce Skamania Lodge ...it was a great wooden building sitting above the Columbia River . the property had beautiful Golf Course carved into the mountains . After my first interview all I could think of was this is the Job I want , there are no others ...I was asked back for a follow up interview I was surprised , overwhelmed and blessed to have been offered the position .
Skamania is about thirty miles from Portland in the Columbia river gorge ..it is one of the most beautiful places in the world ... Housing would be a problem , or not , in a matter of hours I had located a nice apartment in a wooded area just a few miles from the Hotel . Lori was in Nashville but it would be joining me in a few weeks ..the job at the hotel was a dream job , I was the front office manager and the weekend MOD at night , part of the Job included dining at the restaurant with my wife and critiquing the food and service , not to mention unlimited free golf.
Lori and I were close to friends and close to my daughter , we could drive to the ocean in a few hours or explore the Columbia River Gorge and its vast number of waterfalls and trails. My Golf game improved dramatically and it was certain I was going to do very well in the Senior golf tournaments in the area. I made it a point to visit some of the courses I had grown up on in the Portland area and set personal bests on most of them ...even though my game in many ways had suffered from the years , my attitude and enjoyment of the game was so positive and encouraging ...And then it all came to an end ...Just before Thanksgiving of 2002 I was downsized ...my position at the Hotel had been eliminated , low occupancy in part to 9/11 , forced management to eliminate some management changes and I was low man on the totem pole ...
This remote beautiful area I worked in which was at one time such a friend , became a liability ..and soon it became apparent that Lori and I would have to return to Tennessee where Lori's parents had suggested we could share their home with us ...We returned in June of 2003 and I went to work again at the Opryland Hotel ..assuming that with my experience I could easily work as a front desk manger ..I was humbled by a job offer for a front desk agent ...We needed the income and I accepted ..It was at this time that I received a small inheritance and we used the money to purchase a High end Digital SLR and I started reestablishing a relationship with photography ...soon I was passionately addicted and found myself also working for the hotel as what can be best described as an on site photographer. In time I was promoted several times. I was watching our income and found that I could either take photos or golf in my spare time . Golf was about $30.00 a game and photos were for all practical purposes free .. I choose photography. I played in two church tournaments. and twice in the Opryland employee tournament. These four tournaments were all a four man best ball format and in all of them our team did very well . The highlight round was at a local Lebanon Golf Course where my church team had three straight eagles ....and ended up scoring 59
I left Opryland February of 2006 ...and decided to reinvent myself as a Commercial/portrait Photographer ...I picked up a few weddings , some portrait work and some commercial work... but income was very scarce at one point to make ends meet I tried to sell my clubs ..but at the last minute held onto them .
One night as I was coming to the inescapable conclusion that I was going to have to give up my current " dream " job ..I was speaking to a friend of my wife , she was talking about her daughter's volleyball team and how disappointed she was with the quality of the photos she had of her daughter playing Volleyball , ..I offered to go to a game and take some photos, at the same time she told me of a company in Smyrna that had been taking the photos ..so I also decided to contacted them to see if they needed any Photographers.
I dropped off a resume at Micheal's Photography and a few days later I was contacted by a Dave Warren he asked me to come in for an interview ...Dave hired me and for a year and a half I worked for Micheal's as a free lance photographer ...I loved this job and it also became the glue that held our developing photography business together ...David and I developed a friendship based on our Christian faith , Photography and an Interest in Theater ...David even extended to Lori and I an invitation to come and see a production of Guys and Dolls at some place called Lamplighters theater ...Lori and I love theater , and we were involved with a theater company in Mt Juliet ...we loved the production and were really excited to find out that the Theater Company called Lamplighters was sponsored by a Church ...Lori and I had always wanted to start a Church based theater company . we had wanted to reclaim the arts for the Glory of God ..and here was a church doing it ! Only problem was we where very happy in our church home and we lived about 25 miles away from the Smyrna Church.
Lori and I went about our business we directed a play for the Mount Juliet Theater group and had great reviews ...in fact we shared some review space with a local blogger with another show at Lamplighters .."Much ado about nothing " .
That spring ( 2008 ) was interesting . I was on the board for the Local Community Theater , and was involved deeply in our local church ..Leaving Opryland had been very good for my Church life , Sundays could be spent at church regularly..we even had the opportunity to belong to a Sunday school class...with a modest but steady income from the Photography business , the ability to return to doing some theater and a developing church family ...everything seemed in perfect harmony ...
Then ...I started losing confidence in the Theater Company , who was in my opinion starting to experiment with titillating theater in order to build an audience ...one board member in particular was very uncomfortable to work with ...I choose to leave my board position , then I ran into some problems at the church I was going to and was asked to leave over theological differences ...
Lori and I decided to do some Church shopping and while preparing our list we accepted another invitation from my friend Dave warren and his wife to visit Smyrna Assembly ...the Church that sponsored Lamplighters .
We were simply overwhelmed by the Church service ...while we lived in Oregon we had gone to an Assembly of God and loved it , and we felt right at home ...Lori actually had tears in her eyes after the first service ...that was the first week of June ...and soon there was no doubt in my mind that this was the Church for us ... The worship filled such a void in my life , a void that I had tried to fill up with academic study in theology ...now I seemed much more at peace with myself and my relationship with God ...A few weeks ago Michael's Photography went through a " change " , I no longer have that account , but that has afforded me some " spare " time . I am in a play ( 12 Angry Men ) at Lamplighters. Ironically for the first time in years I am not angry ..I am feeling strangely blessed ..I look back down a series of fairways , of challenges , friends and opportunities all bringing me, a child of God born in Denver Colorado , with a wonderful woman , born in Pennsalvania to a town named Smyrna , with a set of golf clubs I should have sold several years ago.
Yesterday the day I started talking about I went golfing with my Pastor and two Church Members , I played horribly and left physically tired and drained , but it was without a doubt the best golf experience I can remember ...for me it was more than a game , it was an affirmation of Gods steady and mighty hand on my life ...A God who knows when to prune and when to graft , a God who knows how to knit and weave , and bring all things into harmony and unity in His time ... A God who bears us on wings of eagles and can even remind us in a great and ancient game of His grace and love ...
Looking back there has been no random actions ...all is part of a plan still playing out ...and I feel so blessed and so humbled to have been invited to the game .
It was a pleasant spring day , one day in a stretch of days that trail back to the foundation of time , a day purposefully and deliberately planned ...and I was so thankful to participate in it ...
Posted by Kenn K Stilger at 8:53 AM