The Phil Files

Musings & messages on everyday worship, Jesus, and the stuff of life.

Archive for the ‘funeral’ tag

My Bucket of Balls

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Today (Wednesday, March 3), I am traveling back to Austin where I will help with the funeral of Jackson Bradley, famous golf teaching pro and devoted follower of Jesus. Jackson passed away after a rich full life of playing on the PGA tour, being a famous golf instructor, being club pro at some of the most cherished golf courses in the country, and using the last two decades of his life to share Jesus with people he loved. One of his greatest joys was in helping begin Bible studies at a halfway house that eventually became Freedom Church, a church plant made up predominantly of ex-offenders who were turning their lives around with the help of Christ.

After the post on Lynn Anderson yesterday and while preparing for the funeral message for today, I came across this powerful insight written by Miles Alpern Levin, about a month after he was diagnosed with cancer. His blog on inspired many and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate message to share for all of us!

I went to the driving range the other day and I was thinking … I was thinking how you start out with a big bucket full of golf balls, and you just start hitting away carelessly. You have dozens of them, each individual ball means nothing to you so just hit, hit, hit. One ball gone is practically inconsequential when subtracted from the your bottomless bucket. There are no practice swings or technique re-evaluations after a bad shot, because so many more tries remain. Yet eventually you start to have to reach down towards the bottom of the bucket to scavenge for another shot and you realize that tries are running out. Now with just a handful left, each swing becomes more meaningful. The right technique becomes more crucial, so between each shot you take a couple practice swings and a few deep breaths. There is a very strong need to end on a good note, even if every preceding shot was terrible, getting it right at the end means a lot. You know as you tee up your last ball, “This is my final shot, I want to crush this with perfection: I must make this count.” Limited quantities or limited time brings a new, precious value and significance to anything you do. Live every day shooting as if it’s your last shot, I know I have to.”  — Miles Alpern Levin, July 7, 2005.

I know Jackson would have quibbled with Miles — well actually, he would have been much firmer than quibbling — about wasting all those practice shots early in the bucket of balls. “Don’t want to groove that bad swing and ingrain those bad habits!”

Jackson wanted you to loosen up with some short shots, then he wanted you to waste nothing — not one ball in the bucket. But, we all do, don’t we. We all mess up, goober up, stumble, sin, flub up, hit a shank or two, and then we notice the bucket of balls is getting thin on balls. I know Jackson had regrets — times and people he wished he could go back and do better with. But I am most thankful that the years I knew Jackson, he lived life recognizing the preciousness of grace and the opportunity to make a difference.

And yes, Jackson, I still shank one from time-to-time because of that square to square curl the three fingers on the back swing thing that you despised and tried so hard to help me get out of my swing. Blessings, dear brother, I’ll catch you on the back the nine, where our swings will be natural, the iced tea will be sweet, and nobody will ever need to improve their lie.

Written by phil

March 2nd, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Some Gifts Mean More

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On Friday, a little over a week ago, I did a funeral and graveside for an incredibly cool man who was everything good about where I live — you can read more about his story in my Heartlight article this week. He was born in Coleman county, Texas, about 70 minutes south of Abilene. He was buried less than half a mile from the little stone house in which he was born. In between, he lived 86 years as a farmer, a vet of WWII, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

When this precious man’s first wife became very ill, he attended to her faithfully and tirelessly. As time passed after her death, he then convinced a sweet lady to marry him — even though she had “sworn off men” completely when her drunken, womanizing husband abandoned her to raise two little girls by herself — which she did masterfully, often working two jobs.

God gave them well over a decade of marriage, but after the last four months of his battling to stay here for his family, she told him it was okay to go home and be with the Lord. He did a few hours later, slipping peacefully away to be with the Lord.

I was honored to officiate at his funeral and graveside. Knowing that I would not take money for a funeral, her “thank you” was for me to send that money to Compassion International to help take care of “our girl” and other children. And that’s where the generous “thank you” will go: to provide mosquito nets for the beds unknown children so that they can have a chance at life, family, friends, and faith.

Some gifts just mean more.


My prayer is that you will add your gift to this one and help us Bite Back against this leading killer of children. You can learn more about Malaria Prevention Day from the following resources:

My Recent Article | The Bite Back Web Site | Compassion Malaria Prevention

Yes, some gifts just mean more!

Written by phil

April 22nd, 2008 at 9:44 pm