Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Don’t Miss the Adventure

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7

It was one great adventure!  Every year, except for covid year, our youth pastor takes a group of people to canoe on the Jack’s Fork River in Southern Missouri. Last year, people were signing up in the foyer after services and something very strange happened.  I spoke.  Well, that was not strange since I often say too much.  But what I said was definitely strange.  I looked at my wife and said, “We should do this.” Of course, she fainted and required CPR, but after reviving her, she signed us up. Now I like adventures, a lot, but I am not a fan of cold water, make that very cold water, canoes, and falling out of a canoe and trying to get back in. The potential for all of that was part of this adventure. But it was too late. We were going.

It is funny how things can grow in your mind.  The more I thought about this the more I was certain this was not going to have a good outcome.  I began to say, half in jest and half believing it, that I was going to die.  I wasn’t sure if the cause of my demise was going to be drowning or heart attack from the cold water, but I was going to die.  As the days passed heading toward the day of the great adventure, the dread became more and more real.

Now, I need to be honest. My fear had nothing to do with the water, cold or not. My greatest fear was embarrassment.  I just knew, given the wobbly nature of a canoe, that we would end up in the water. I was cool with that…no pun intended. The problem was the spectacle of me trying to crawl back into the boat.  I could just imagine my slightly (well, perhaps more than slightly) pudgy body struggling to go over the side and back into the boat.  And, by the way, it was not an unfounded fear.

You see, years ago, at another event at another church, I was on the back of a jet ski with a friend of driving.  We were zipping along and then, all of a sudden, he was zipping, and I wasn’t.  I slid right off the back of that jet ski and right into the water.  Well, he circled back around, and I spent the next two hours (ok, a slight exaggeration there) trying to crawl back onto the jet ski.  And, yes, people were watching and yes, people were laughing, and I was dying…not from drowning but from embarrassment.

Well, here I am years later, and that scar still has all the makings of a fresh wound.  Whenever a situation like that comes around, fear creeps in and I want to run in the opposite direction.  Fear does that, you know.  Fear will cause us to miss a lot of great opportunities, a lot of great adventures, and the crazy part is that the thing we fear often doesn’t materialize or at least isn’t nearly as bad as we thought.  But such is the way of fear.

So, we went and guess what?  We didn’t lose it.  Though several folks ended up in the water, somehow, Judy and I didn’t.  It was probably my well experienced (not) and expert (not) command of the canoe.  Actually, it was no small measure of grace.  Oh, and by the way, while the current did make recovering some of the boats difficult, it wasn’t from the depth of the water.  In most places the water was only a couple of feet deep.  In other words, if we had dumped, I probably could have stepped right back in the boat.  Hmmm…how about that.

If you find yourself facing the unknown or maybe the possibility of reliving a part of your difficult past, don’t assume the same outcome.  And, better than that, remember that the thing we fear is usually not the monster we think it is.  And, better than that, there is a loving Father, who wants to walk with you no matter what.  I love the verse in the Bible that teaches me, that reminds me, that fear doesn’t come from God…it comes from the devil.  The enemy knows fear paralyzes…he knows it causes pain, and he knows he can control us through our fear. But regardless of all that, one thing I do know is that no matter what my fear, my God is bigger than my enemy and because of that I can rest assured that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

The One in Control

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

I soon discovered who was in control…and it wasn’t me. My adventure with my wife, Judy, down Jack’s Fork River in Southeast Missouri was a lesson in life. Jack’s Fork is a tributary to the Current River. The key word there is “current,” because there is one, both on Jack’s Fork and its big brother. At the launching place the current is hardly noticeable. It all seems so serene, so gentle, so docile. The reason for that is the fact at that particular point, the river is somewhat wide…at least compared to downstream. It seemed to be saying, “Come on in.  Trust me.” We have a saying for that “Liar, liar. Pants on fire.”

As Judy and I launched from the shore I was immediately impressed with how stable the canoe seemed to be. “This isn’t so hard,” I said. “This is going to be a breeze,” I said. “We’ve got this,” I said. I decided it would be good time to test my steering and guiding capabilities for the canoe. If you want to go to the left…you paddle on the right. “Paddle, right,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. I decided to try the other way, “Paddle, left,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. Hmmm. It kinda reminded me of my teenage kids. It kinda reminded me of me when God was saying one thing and I didn’t listen.

Well, I tried “Plan B” of the steering plan and that is when the guy or gal in the back drags the paddle in the water. If you want to go left ,you drag your paddle in the water on the left side and if you want to go right you do the opposite. Now this produced some results…I think. I say I think because sometimes it seemed to work and sometimes it didn’t and there was a reason. You see I might have been in the back trying to steer but really, it was the current that was the boss. And too soon that became apparent.

About ten minutes into the trip, the river narrowed a bit and took a turn to the left. The water went from gentle to a class 14 rapid…the kind you see on television when people are dying. Waves, 15 feet tall, threatened to swamp the boat. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the current was definitely faster and stronger, and we did lose four or five boats there. Somehow, Judy and I survived the challenge but trust me it had nothing to do with skill and a lot to do with grace.

But here’s the deal. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I wasn’t in control. The current took us where it wanted. The best I could manage was to manage to stay away from the hazards and stay somewhere in the middle of the swift water. It would pull us this way and push us that way and we were along for the ride. Even in smoother water it seemed we spent a lot of time going from side to side instead of down the river.

I think I know the problem…inexperience. I knew the basics, I knew some of the mechanics, but I just didn’t have the time in the saddle, if you get my drift, partner. Someone who had done this a lot wouldn’t have had the same issues Judy and I did. With experience, you learn to read the river and use the current to your advantage. And, equally important, you learn to work together as a team. By reading the river and working as a team, you overcome the obstacles and hazards and that increases your chances of arriving safely…and dry.

Speaking of dry…Judy and I did arrive dry. The only time we got wet was when we stopped for a rest and some snacks and then it was a welcome relief to get in the cold water. So, whether it is in marriage or family, at home or at church, or at work, perhaps we should learn to “read the river” and work with, and not against, one another. The wisest guy to ever live and the author of one of the books of wisdom in the Bible said it best, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” The current may be strong but two might just be able to overcome it. It gets better.

You see, the same guy says in the same place, that a three strand cord is not easily broken. You see, often our best efforts are just not enough. Sometimes those currents can become raging rapids and sometimes it happens with little or no warning. Why not invite a third party along for the ride? Why not invite God along for the journey? I know that He has all the experience in the universe and beyond and the One who made river, knows the river better than we ever will. As you are navigating the river of life, take a moment and listen from the back of the boat. You will hear the Whisper say, “Hey, take a break. I’ve got this.” And do you know what? He does. Bro. Dewayne