" He maketh the ball to lie in the fairway and leadeth it around water hazards. Yea, though we walk through the rough, we will fear no bogey.... Our putt runneth over in the cup, and dwells there."
- The golfers 23rd Psalm, from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days
Every year when Masters Week approaches, I never fail to remember our family's arrival in the South, slightly before the first week of April more than 30 years ago. ...
I knew it would be different here; knew we could enjoy the early morning Easter Sunrise Service without boots, hats, or winter coats; knew flowers would cover the earth with more beauty than the snowy remnants of the lingering New England winter we had left behind.
But I can hardly approach this particular week now without remembering that year, and other early impressions of the South I didn't expect to have.
My first surprise happened when we registered our second-grader for school. There, in large letters across the entire back wall of the classroom were the seven last words of Christ. Lots of words, really: seven last sayings which are traditionally called, "words."
I was shocked. Hadn't they heard of the Supreme Court's decision down here? If you can't pray in school, you certainly can't teach religion there. Separation of church and state seemed to be in effect everywhere else we had lived. There must be something to this "Bible Belt" stuff after all, I thought. Since my child was learning his own religion, and we had never voted against prayer or Bible reading in the schools, I was delighted with this unusual discovery.
So imagine the greater shock when I learned that schools not only close for Good Friday down here; they close for the entire week before Easter.
Oh, my. This shock turned out to be a burst bubble. It wouldn't have mattered when Easter or Good Friday occurred on the calendar. Schools here, throughout the Augusta, Ga., area, are always closed the first week of April for The Masters, which that year just happened to be the same week.
It wouldn't be fair to single out the golfing community for mixing the sacredness of Easter with the secular.
Most of us worship in new clothes that Sunday even though we know, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). And the most devout among us indulge our young with candy-filled baskets and ourselves with specially prepared meals, even though we know the holiday we are celebrating is about defeating death and living not just with the new clothes we'll replace next year, but forever.
In the spirit of "The Sabbath - even the Easter Sabbath - was made for man and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), it would be, dare we say "unChristian," to deny clothing merchants their Easter windfall, or rail against colored eggs and the Easter Bunny. Such sermonizing, rather than increasing the Kingdom's fold, normally drives the unchurched away.
But we can celebrate individually and internally. God sees that, too. We who have lost loved ones can rejoice at their victory over death.
We can sing our Hosannas and Hallelujah Choruses with fervor and confidence even in new clothes.
And in a welcoming gesture to our golfing guests - many of whom attend our churches the morning of another Master's Day we share - we can celebrate good, wholesome and exciting events like Masters Week amid the glorious surroundings which God created for us.
He didn't make man for the creation, either.
Barbara Seaborn is a local, free-lance writer, and author of the book, "As Long as the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County's Past." E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.