Monday, September 27, 2010

The telltale wake

 The news a woman killed a 1,000 pound alligator in a SC lake took a bite out of my enthusiasm to go kayaking. I checked the map to see if there were any connecting waterways linking my lake to that one. But the prospect of a warm day bathed in the round yellow light of September triumphed over fears of reptiles. 

We launched our boats and set off paddling. I automatically chose a point in the distance to set my course by. That was how my father taught us to drive a boat. He would show us a landmark and tell us to line up the bow with it. The he would go sit in the stern with my mother. It didn't seem as if he were paying attention to how we were driving, but whenever we started to zig-zag, he would holler,"Point the bow toward the hill." I'd glance back at the S-curves in the telltale wake trailing behind us.

Some weekends we'd sleep on the boat. On one such outing, I woke early before anyone else. I looked out the cabin window and saw we were drifting toward shore. Believing the anchor had come undone, I sat in the pilot's seat, picked a tree on the horizon, and turned the wheel toward it. The boat kept twisting and turning, as I, the only one awake and able to save the ship, sat at the helm with my face fixed on a point in the distance.

After a while my father woke up. He watched me for a few minutes before informing me that although the drift gave the illusion we were nearing shore, we were still secure at anchor. (Although he was kind not to mention my efforts were futile because the engine was off,my siblings were quick to so.)

The memory of that experience helps me appreciate the imagery in Luke 9:53. Jesus "was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem." He wasn't deterred, dismayed,or diverted. He understood both the the suffering and the glory, and set His face toward His purpose.

I wish I could claim to always know exactly what to do. To be able to say with courage and conviction, God told me thus and thus. The truth is, some days I circle around on anchor, others, I'm buffeted by waves and distractions. And then I hear my father say,"Point your bow to the landmark."

And I realign my course toward the One who is faithful and true, because I want my Father to look at my wake and say, "yet with respect to the promise of God,[she] did not [zig-zag] in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Romans 4:20).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beware the sag in the zip line

 "If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again."--Groucho Marx

My students used to love to sidetrack me into telling one of my stories. As the dreamy look glazed my eyes, and I launched into an animated reverie, they would give each other a grin and cast a furtive eye at the ticking minutes on the classroom clock. I knew what they were doing, but figured there were valuable lessons to be had in life stories as well as in textbooks.

And so,when my friend, Lorie, responded to my post about leaving the rat life behind, with a comment that she could now call me a swinger, I was reminded of the time. . .

We were zip lining through the rain forest. It was the third time I had taken a mission team to work at the Home of Life for children in Costa Rica. Each year, on our day off, the team opted for the canopy tour. We hiked high into the forest, donned helmets and safety harnesses, and whizzed along a cable strung from one tree stand to another. Since I had already done this several times, I was confident that I could hold on with one hand and manage the camcorder with the other to get some live video of the experience.

I waited until we got to the longest stretch of cable. "Keep up your speed," the guide warned. "There's a sag in the middle and if you go too slow, you won't be able to make the rise to the platform. Either you'll have to haul yourself in, or someone will have to go get you."

I stepped off the stand and entrusted my body to the harness. The cable zinged, as I sailed along. But in the attempt to get the camcorder at a better angle, I twisted myself around--just enough to slow down--just before The Sag. As I began the upward slope to the platform, I could hear the dread in the guide's voice as he hollered, "You're not going to make it. Grab the cable so you don't slide back."

Letting the camera hang from my neck, I reached up and started hauling myself, hand over hand, as we had been shown. My friends on the platform twenty or thirty feet away, tried to help reel me in with their calls of encouragement. The guide, who probably didn't want to have to go get me and haul us both in, ordered me on,"Pull, pull."

But the last fifteen feet might as well have been a hundred. I had no more strength. I hung there like a pair of wet pants on a clothesline.

The point is, ah, yes, there is a point. The theme that's running through my mind lately is that God is doing a new thing, not only in my life, but in many of the lives around me. But new things don't usually pop up over night. There is a space between old and new, between then and now, between here and there. And sometimes in that interface between one thing and another, there's a sag. We get stuck. We don't think we can make it to the other side. Our friends' cheers lack the power to pull us in. We don't like hanging there, but can't do anything about it.

Thank God for the One who has been watching us all along, the One with strength enough to rescue, the One who hooks us to His belt, wraps His arms around us and hauls us in. Thank God for the assurance He won't leave us hanging in the sag between here and there.

 If you have any thoughts on new things, old things, or the space in between, join in the conversation.

P.S. Didn't want to poke through all my stored-away pictures for a personal one, so I took the above shot from the web site of Monteverde Canopy Tours.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Car Thief, God Moment

As I snuggled on my couch for my 5:30 a.m. devotions the other day, I was unaware of the person rifling through my car on the other side of the wall. When the car horn beeped, (perhaps at the moment the perpetrator threw away my Mercy Me CD), I leapt up, grabbed a flashlight, and ran to the door.

The car door was open, which I took to mean the thief had fled. Indignantly foolish, I approached the car slowly, aware that I was alone, in my pajamas, and except for my foot-long metal flashlight and yipping pooch, defenseless. Other than some Christian CDs, my favorite soundtrack, O, Brother Where Art Thou? and an ashtray full of change, nothing was missing. I called the police anyway in case there were other incidents in the neighborhood.

As the officer wrote the report, I could see he was weary. It had been a busy night he said. Two armed robberies and two house break-ins. But I suspected there was more to his heavy spirit. By the time he left, I had learned the deeper story, the one that stole his energy and weighed his being.

Being a Miss-I-See-A-Lesson-Everywhere, I settled back down with my coffee and let the excitement of the early morning events roll over me.

Lately I had been doing something I knew I wasn't supposed to be doing. The facility that bordered my property had recently banned pets. But every morning for the past three years, I had walked the dog there. So, I decided to continue--under the cover of darkness, early in the morning around 5:30. Although I didn't expect to encounter anyone in the dark, the possibility of doing so, coupled with a guilty conscience, was beginning to bother me.

Now I knew for sure others were out and about in the dark. I had been oblivious to the danger around me, but the One Who is Merciful had given me both protection and mercy as He taught me a lesson. I resolved to stop being so careless by not locking doors, and to stop endangering both my physical and spiritual well-being by my defiant, forbidden walks.

But there was more than my own personal lesson involved here. As I wrapped up my prayers of thanks, I remembered the officer whose life intersected my own that morning and whose story lodged in my spirit.

Surely the One who protected me knew the one with the difficult job of protecting others. Perhaps the One who hears my prayers had arranged this brief encounter in my driveway so that I could pray for the one who was weary.

O, Lord, may you cause your face to shine upon him who is weary, who feels life has taken a hard turn, who needs to know You who sees, and cares, and holds all things in your hands."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Leaving the rat life behind and swinging from the trees

My husband and I were enjoying the pastoral scene at the bird feeder. Not only were all the regulars present--chipmunks, squirrels, doves, cardinals, and towhees, but also a newcomer. I squinted my eyes as I focused on the furry, hunched up haunches.

"Is that a rat?" I asked. Alarmed that such a nefarious creature was within spitting distance of the house, we debated what to do. Bob worried if he put out a trap, he might catch the chipmunk, which although a nuisance, doesn't have the image problem the rat does.

Putting our hopes in the neighbor's cat, we kept a vigilant eye. Day after day, the rodent took its place with all the other creatures under the feeder. I have to admit, he behaved himself. Not a New York City sewer rat this one. He didn't rush around twitching his nose and gobbling all the food. He obeyed the bird feeder protocol.

"He's forgotten he's a rat," Bob said.

My assessment was far less generous. Regardless of its dining manners, it was still a rat. I wrote trap on my shopping list.

Later that day, I read an article about some other animals that seemed to be having an identity issue. The orangutans in a Dutch zoo had forgotten they were supposed to swing from trees. Apparently their initial  enclosure had been too small for arboreal travel, and so they had gotten used to sitting on the ground. The zoo hired a gymnast to swing from the treetops in hopes of enticing the sedentary primates off their butts and into the trees of their new facility.

Prone to seeing (and stretching) analogies, I considered the implications in my own life. I am only too happy to forget I was once a rat, but now, thanks to the grace of God, I am a new creation. Still, it is easy to settle, to be satisfied with the tidbits I have. In doing so, I begin to forget who I am and what high treetops I am called to live in. I need the examples and encouragement of others to cheer and challenge me on to new heights, as I cheer and challenge those behind me, still sitting on the ground.

The apostle Paul said,  "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."  Phillippians 4:9