It happened when she was playing Goony Golf.  My darling of a granddaughter was introduced to miniature golf by her daddy. 

She loved her Crayola colored ball and somehow, found a dozen different ways to grip her club.  She cheered when she hit it through the alligator’s mouth and moaned when the ogre blocked her path. 

She was only 8 but she played with the intensity of PGA pro and made sure her daddy kept an accurate score as she raced through the course.   

Then came the 18thhole.  She lined up the ball and followed through.  It ascended the ramp and dropped right in – a hole in one!   She was ecstatic – – until she went to retrieve her ball.  With astonishment and alarm, she cried, “Hey it’s gone!”  

We explained to her one of the cruelest facts of life.  In miniature golf, you always lose the ball on the last hole.  It drops through the green into the great black abyss below.   It was the final, inarguable signal that the game was over. 

Her sense of loss was profound.  The injustice distressed her, and she wanted her ball back. 

Having processed it a bit, she then decided to warn others.  There was a group of pre-teens approaching the 18th hole.   Our little Paul Revere cried out, “Hey girls, excuse me, do you know that when you hit the ball in the hole you can’t get it back?”

I was really sad for her and sorta sad for me because, it ate my ball too. “Oh man, I can’t believe the game is over.”  

As it is, my game really is nearly over.  I am reminded of it every day in my work as a Hospice Chaplain.  I care for people who are rounding the last bend of the last lap of their lives.   When the ball drops – that’s it. 

I got another kind of frightening reminder the other evening.  2 doors down someone fired a semi-automatic weapon at a neighbor – five rapid fire rounds.   I ran for cover.

All reminders that my game is almost over. 

There’s very little I can do to make it longer, but lots I can do to make it count.

The apostle Paul gave some advice.  I love the way Eugene Petersen translated it in THE MESSAGE, “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!  Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” –  Ephesian 5:15-17

Such good counsel! 

“Watch your step”:  We can shorten or negatively complicate our lives by stepping off the narrow way and into the mire

“Use your head”:  We need to impound the impulsive and think before we jump

“Make the most of every chance you get”:  We should seize the opportunities that God brings and savor them along the way.  

“Don’t live carelessly or unthinkingly”:  We need to be deliberate about the way we live.

“Make sure you understand what the Master wants”:  This is the factor that brings it all together.  When we seek to know, understand and do the Lord’s will, we get the absolute maximum potential benefit out of this life, while making a sound investment in the life to come.

As a pastor of 32 years and a hospice chaplain I have sat with many who were facing the end of life.

I might dare to categorize them into two groups.  Those who were prepared for the end of the game and those who were not.

The prepared, generally speaking, were financially comfortable, if not through their own foresight in planning, through the kindness of family.  They enjoyed rich relationships with family and even friends – mostly church friends. 

Despite their afflictions, they looked beyond themselves and took an active interest in others.  They could smile and laugh and face death with a sense of ease because they had an eternal hope.  When they passed, they were celebrated rather than mourned!  

These things were often absent from the lives of the unprepared. 

The difference?  The prepared understood the will of the Master and ordered their lives to that end. 

Some of us are racing through life playing Goony Golf and forgetting that the 18th is coming.    

We need to slow down, tee up the ball, make sure that it is on target, follow through and savor the experience along the way. 

A PRAYER: Lord I have but one life to live.  Help me to live it well!