I just re-entered reality…Do you know that transitionary frame of the moment when you are between two worlds, the world you just came from, and the world you normally find your existence in? This last week I was with a group of kids from our student ministries program at SVA.
It was a wild week with kids from every kind of background, and quite a spread of ages. We headed North early Monday morning to Diablo Lake, unloaded a bunch of canoes, and put everyone in them; most of whom had never been in a canoe, and definitely had not been in a situation where you needed to team with another person so intensely to get from point A to point B!
After about 5-6 miles on Diablo, we arrived at Diablo Dam and had to have our canoes portaged up and over the Dam and drop us in Ross Lake, our destination for the week of camping, canoing and fun!
It was kinda rainy the first day, but slowly each day dawned brighter than the day previous. We found rock cliffs to jump off.Some were ready to leap into the unnown, while others had to take some time to warm up to the idea of hurling their bodies off a cliff a long way down to the absolutely clear water below!
The week would be a week to read through Colossians together. It was great to see some Jr. Highers reading a chapter of Colossians in the morning…again at lunch…and then to go through it all together at campfire…the Logos slowly creeping into the conscience and sub-conscience of each kid, no matter where they were at spiritually.
What makes these canoe trips so powerful for me personally is that these old- beat up canoes – that we have been using on retreats for years, are the same canoes that I paddled when I was 19 years old on my first canoe trip to Lake Chelan in 1983…that was the trip that forever changed my life…that was the canoe trip that I sat alone upon a rock- looking up the lake and told God, "Okay…I’m done,…I give up…I am wholly yours for whatever you want to do. I will go wherever you want me to go…I will do whatever you want me to do.
After that canoe trip, I did one more year at Central Washington University, then I transfered to Bible College, and I have been church planting ever since. Before that trip I was planning on being a high school music teacher…after that trip I began a God-centric adventure that is still going on today.
As I shared some of my story, a bunch of the kids began to come up to me one by one to say that they were making that commitment even though they really didn’t know what it all meant. I responded that I still don’t know what it means most of the time, but that God does, and as long as He is in the drivers seat we can glide across the waters of life sure that what we encounter will deepen us, grow us, open our eyes to see the God-reality around us all the time!
Perhaps what was most impacting for me on this trip is that my daughter Emma and my son Liam were there…Jr. Highers on their first canoe trip. I know God was working deep within them, I could see it in their eyes. That brought me right back to being 19 again and re-experiencing the dynamism through their eyes. Watching some of their canoe firsts like: struggling to paddle into the wind…figuring out that the only way to move ahead is to keep the bow pointed into the wind and power it out… that is a life lesson that is still with me.
So often we get tired and let the wind catch us sideways. That will always take us backward, never forward. And what is really amazing is that sometimes, even when you keep the bow of the canoe facing the wind…and you are powering it out…your eye is watching the shoreline, and it seems that you are not moving forward very much…the wind seems so strong…but sometime in life to go forward you need to simply hold your ground…don’t quit…don’t let the lack of movement discourage you. If you do, you will be moving backward and that will really cause you to enter the lake of discouragement!
Other firsts like looking off the rock cliff that seemed to not be so high from the canoe, but when you reached the top you think, "Oh my God this is high!" But by this point you’re committed and you simply jump even though you’re scared. Isn’t that an incredible moment…the pause after you KNOW you’re going to jump and everything inside you is screaming, "DUDE DON"T BE A FOOL!" But you jump anyway, and on the way down you’re thinking…"What did I just DO!"
How about learning to navigate relationships when you get triggered by others, and you are living in such close quarters…that’s life together, life in the church, life with a family. We are all different. We are all triggered by different personalities…yet we are called to a higher kind of living called love.
I was overwhelmed a few times as I thought about all the kids that have been in these canoes on so many different lakes. Learning different books of the Bible, and experiencing God in so many ways. I thought about how many of them have given their lives to Jesus on trips in these battered old aluminum canoes.
They are so much more than canoes…they are portals of grace where God gets you away from ipods and X-box. Away from T.V and all things electronic…a place where you are left with that which is the most scariest realm in the universe…simply you.
To be alone with yourself…your thoughts…your God. Our ADD culture has a very hard time with that, and when we have trouble stilling our minds we get angry, antsy and often give up. But God is good with even the effort! I believe the church would transform at an exponential pace if we would practice silence…centering…dealing with our thoughts…and finding God in the blank spaces between the notes and between the myriad of thoughts that create our reality.
The canoes transport you to a place where God has been waiting for you to come to simply be with Him. To throw away the prayer lists and the what-ifs, and calm your mind, breathe the air, look at the water falls and know that He is.
It takes some trips like this to come to the realization that God actually dwells inside of you…in your heart…and that after a while you can go to that place the canoe took you without a canoe…hmmm, think on that one for a while.
Not every life changes so dramatically…but every life is effected and affected. Many of the kids still don’t get all that Paul was speaking to the church of Colosse…it probably seemed weird, non-relevant, hard to grasp…but they were initiated into the spiritual dimension where the Word transforms degree by degree.
We are a people stuck with the notion that we must get it…understand it all…motivate and inspire! Right? Believe it or not, God is able to use the obscurity of Paul’s letters and transform the heart of a Jr. Higher, even if they were antsy, being funny, puzzled and illuminated! It’s probably time we learn that it is all Christ…all Him. Even when we are at our masterful best at communicating the Truth…it is Jesus only.
I wonder what these kids will do 10 years from now and a couple more canoe trips? Will they change the world? Will they plant churches? Will they create music that morphs the heart. Will they love their spouse with all their heart? Who knows, but there is one mystery that I am sure of….They are definitely more than canoes!