Was he pointing at me? I hope not. I’m not even sure where my clubs are. I rarely golf. Or, did he mean…?
Putt, putter, putz. It’s a dictionary day for sure. Words are so wonderful and strange. I’m so glad we have them. Imagine going through life with no words. Hand motions. Gestures only. What limitations would be tossed upon us. But, then again, for some… that’s all they’ve got. So, I’m thankful for lots of stuff today… faith, family, friends, honest work and for the power of words as they inform us, shape us and challenge our moments as well as open doors and cause dreams to be transformed into reality.
I had some time to think about my life this past Summer in a way that I have not previously. Surgery will do that. Recovering helps. The doctor told me in May that I’d be in the hospital for about 5 days and then home for 10 more days with no driving, or lifting and or bending and then an additional 10-15 days before I would be able to return to work. This was then the recipe for ‘puttering around the house’ once I was released from the hospital. Yikes. Yuk. I like my work. I enjoy what I do. So, I said to the doctor, “that’s like 3-4 Sundays and all the days in between.” He smiled and said, “yes.” Don’t you love self-direction? So, all the messy details of surgery and recovery aside, I embarked on much of the month of July and part of August a path that would force me to engage in some ‘down-time’ and caused me to start thinking… “is there something about this ‘puttering’ thing?” What if we began to look at life as ‘puttering around the Kingdom?’ This could become a life-style for not just a few weeks, but for all the days of our lives… but, it seems there needs to be some clarifying here…
So… to the dictionary…
put·ter verb (used without object)
- to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner: to putter in the garden.
- to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the house on a rainy day.
- to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.
Then there is:
- a flat-faced golf club used to hit the ball into the cup;
- one who uses that flat-faced golf club
But, whether one desires to meander around the house or play a round of golf it seems that none of us want to be a…
Putz noun Slang
- fool; jerk.
…unless maybe your name is Saul of Tarsus and you are trying to make a point about what it might be like for you if you really wanted to follow the path of Jesus. But, in our culture I have yet to hear a 9 year old tell his or her grandparent, “I want to be a putz” when asked the question, ‘and what do you want to be when you grow up?”
So, back to puttering. There is a gift here. Engaging in a certain amount of puttering requires some knowledge of the big picture… a picture that often seems endless and even overwhelming at times. Are so many of us tired so much because we work too hard, too long and don’t take time to putter? Just asking. Don’t shoot the putter-er! And yet there are limitations. I can sit at my desk and I can tend to bills, and paper-shuffling and reading and note-taking and projecting what my weekends will look like in the coming quarter. That seems like some effective puttering. But, puttering around the house and moving furniture, straightening book shelves, painting the garage and cleaning out the storage shed require the force and energy of more than just one person.
James, the brother of Jesus, once wrote… “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:22 (NLT/2007)
Man, there’s that ‘fool’ word again… and yet, there’s that good teaching moment which calls my very existence into question. Am I going to be one of those kinds of persons who knows what to do? Or, am I going to be one of those persons who does it? And wow, there seems so much to be done.
So, here’s what I’m suggesting. Let’s give puttering some focus. Let’s allow puttering to be a behavior becoming of a travelling Christian…one who goes through life with some purpose and putters their life away for the good of the Kingdom. Maybe Mother Theresa is a good example of that. Maybe Jimmy Carter is, too. Neither of them did their work alone. Tending to the dying is communal work and building houses for the poor can never be accomplished by just one person.
So, how can our puttering around the kingdom be of value?
- If we listen to God’s Word, as James says… then we’ll need to take time to read it and digest it. We won’t do this alone and it may require us to putter off to a class to discuss how any of us would put God’s Word to work in our lives. I like that James makes the distinction between being ‘doer’ of the Word and not just “words.” The difference is obvious.
- Pray your way through the puttering. Staying in touch with God is like taking a good hard look at the road map before putting the car in gear and getting on the highway. Once we’re on the highway, there are signs to help. Our prayer posture includes not just talking with God, but listening, too. I think God putters around the Kingdom like that too! It’s God’s way of setting the agenda… of diagramming the mission. Do you recall the prayer written on a piece of paper found in the wallet of the corpse of Father Mychal Judge 11 years ago this week? A simple prayer we all can recite daily…
“Lord, take me where You want me to go, let me meet who You want me to meet, tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way.”
…the prayer he carried with him into the World Trade Center as he puttered his way with the NYFD to save lives and in so doing gave up his own.
- Pick a passion. Hey, how great it would be if the whole world got behind the “end hunger in our own lifetime” Bread for the World project. But, then there would be no one to support Lutheran World Relief’s malaria ending campaign or no one to support Water2Thrive’s efforts to dig a well in the middle of a village in Tanzania and change the future of a community who has seen its women and children walk 2-3 miles each day for a couple of gallons of mostly clean water as a daily task for as long as anyone around that village can remember. Would puttering our passions be a good thing for the kingdom? So, I’ll share with you my passion if you share yours. I’ll try and support your efforts, too, as a way of puttering my way forward.
- Be persistent. Puttering around the Kingdom doesn’t need a season. To be a persistent putter-er one not need a prescription from the doctor and wait til surgery is required. Our work as servants of the living God can be done at any time, any day or any hour. The best news is that we see ourselves taking part and being involved for the whole of our lives!
- Be encouraged. Be encouraging! The ways of God are not the ways of men. And this is clue for all of us. The data is clear (see Norman Cousins’ book, “The Anatomy of an Illness”) that as we desire to have good health and maintain positive self-esteem, “doing for others” is the key. Could part of our puttering around the Kingdom include finding ways to encourage others at each corner and intersection of our relationships? Some have discovered, when pointed out by another, that they’ve added this component to their daily posture that they don’t even realize their intentionality. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant by “being perfect!”
- Advocate puttering. That may seem like an oxymoron to some but if we are going to keep moving for the sake of the gospel, then coaching others will be necessary. Perhaps part of your puttering would be to perfect the “teacher look”… you know the one where the teacher raises their eyebrows and cocks the head a bit down and to the left…just as a quiet way of getting the point across.
Some may murmur or grumble a little about this. After all, the dictionary’s definition of puttering isn’t all that flattering or forceful. It doesn’t seem to promote picking up one’s cross to follow Jesus…Will I accomplish more by racing through, full tilt, no holds barred and forcing stuff into place? And for me, that’s the point. A slow and steady wins the race…turtle vs. hare mentality… keep our eyes on the prize appraoch to life may serve God and the church and the world best! I served a congregation once where two pastors had heart attacks on the job. One, not long after the dedication of a new sanctuary. 1913 and … when USA life didn’t seem so hectic! In fact, it was the next week. And the other had his heart attack in the pulpit. Same thing. Circa 1964. Someone told me they named the church library after him to assuage their collective congregational guilt for demanding too much of him. Well, that’s what I was told. Don’t shoot the putter-er! In that same setting, my predecessor there left quickly and quietly after a very short tenure. In fact, one colleague told me, at my surprise of him accepting a new position in another congregation, the reason for his move was one of the old timers there said to him … “Well pastor, you know we treat our preachers like we treat our horses around here. We’re ride him ‘til he drops…then we get us new one.” No puttering there! Or as former bishop Paul Blom reminded us, take note to not “should on” each other and not “should on” yourself so much! Puttering around the kingdom SHOULD diminish that! Perhaps. And in the end that will be for each of us something we will need to consider in our own hearts and minds.
So, truth be told… I do know where my golf clubs are. My game is not on par with Jack or Tiger; but I might do OK vs. Jimmy C or one of Mother Theresa’s sisters… and even though I like the game of golf and it is intended to offer a “relaxing” time… it is very frustrating. So I guess I will try to do that more often… as I am the creator of my own frustrations… and the next time that guy murmurs, “putz”… I’ll know a) he’s right. I am; and b) it’s like our faith… practicing it is good for everyone…
Blessings to you as you putter about God’s Kingdom today and in the days to come!