Thursday, July 29, 2010

beyond the bow. . .

Trip Thirty-one
Polecat Bay and Tensaw River
July 29th

This evening was a trip unlike any other.

We have had trips before with more beautiful scenery. We have seen more beautiful sunsets, although the one this evening was lovely. We have had trips where the still waters enabled us to tie our boats together, dangle our feet in the water (okay, I'm the only one doing the dangling) and chat about our life. We have had trips with great friends along to share the enjoyment of kayaking. But no trip we have been on in all the time we have been kayaking has ever topped this one for just sheer fun.

As soon as we put in, we noticed how rough and choppy the water was. The wind was up a little and in our face, but not windy enough to account for the onslaught of wave after wave we encountered. Many of the waves even had little whitecaps. Our perfectly balanced little Wilderness Rippers handled the rough water wonderfully. Our kayaks rocked port and starboard, fore and aft and yet stayed perfectly afloat. I loved how my boat would rock and crash over the larger waves, splashing water all over my face, arms and legs. I admit, I looked to see where the highest, hardest waves were falling and set my sights in that direction.

We paddled north, up the river, but we both knew with the setting sun and the crashing waves, we wouldn't get too far. Still, it was one of the longest times of continuous paddling we have done. We couldn't stop concentrating for a moment, although the key was to keep our bodies loose and relax and feel as if we were a part of the boat. I felt if I let my mind drift, I would soon be drifting in that water, and I'm quite sure that wouldn't be my idea of fun -- especially getting back into the boat in those waves.

As we paddled on, the wind died down a bit and so did the waves. I felt so disappointed, as if the ride at the fair was over much sooner than I thought it should be.

I had hoped for the return, the wind would be at our backs and we could ride some of those waves in, but as is often the case, the wind and the current had changed direction as we did. Now the waves beat directly on our starboard side and the current pulled in the opposite direction. It was strong and I found myself having to fight hard to stay on course until I could break free of that part of the current and move more to the center of the river.

When we reached the bay area where we had put-in, the water had become much calmer and the sun was just about to tip under the horizon. We were able to rest awhile on the water and watch the glory of the sunset before we pulled our boats in and loaded up the car.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peace and Quiet

There is a scene in one of our favorite movies in which parents are pleading with the rowdy occupants of the boy's bedroom for a little "peace and quiet". The guest in the room promises he'll be quiet, then the parent's son, with a sly grin, says "I'll be peace." It's a cute, comical scene in a very funny movie.

The truth of the matter is that we all plead for peace and quiet in one way or another. Some seek it in a situation, or a scene or a set of circumstances. Some find it in music or sound, some in the lack thereof.

True peace and quiet, however, is found in a person, the person of the Lord Jesus.

"And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." Isaiah 32:17

"When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when He hideth his face, who then can behold Him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only:" Job 34: 29

Many of us find turmoil and stress every time we read the news or listen to the television. The world and our country seems headed in directions different from our own values and desires and we feel distressed and powerless to facilitate any change in the direction. But if we know the Lord, we can affirm that He is our peace and that the work of His righteousness in us "shall be peace." By faith we can know that quietness and assurance which is the effect of righteousness. The Scriptures tell us that "God has not given us the spirit of fear," and we do well to refuse the temptation to grab onto the fear so offered us by every media venue.

Job tells us that when the Lord gives us quietness, who can make trouble? The God of the very universe is in control of our life, our city, our state, our country, our earth and our universe. It is His word which keeps this world from careening into outer space. It is His power that keeps the oxygen molecules together which we breathe and His wisdom which causes our bodies to take those breaths automatically without any thought or effort on our part. If we can trust Him for all this, we can trust Him for the rest. He is working to will and to do of His good pleasure in us and in our world and He will accomplish His purpose. He is completely trustworthy and we can have quietness and assurance in Him. He alone is worthy of our faith.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

beyond the bow. . .

Trip Thirty
Polecat Bay and Mobile Bay
July 24th

Today's trip was something we had planned to do, decided not to do, then planned again.

We had planned to go kayaking in the afternoon, so we started out in the morning to finish all our errands before then. Some of those errands took us to the Eastern Shore and as we crossed the Bay way we took special note of the condition of the water we intended to be floating upon in a few hours. Especially concerning was the effect of Tropical Storm Bonnie. Although not headed toward us, these storms are usually large enough to have far reaching thunderstorms.

As we looked out across the water, it was as slick as glass and the skies clear of any threat of rain. Hopeful of a fine time kayaking later, we traveled from store to store completing our rounds, one of which was to try on some wet-suits. We hope to insulate ourselves against the chilly water and continuing our kayaking into the winter. We had kayaking on our mind all day long. That is, until lunch.

As we reached our lunch destination, we noticed the skies had turned a foreboding gray. Before our food arrived the rain started pouring down. It continued as we traveled home, across the very bridge we had crossed before. I had to raise my voice so Glen could hear me over the rain when I asked him if he thought we would go kayaking that afternoon. We both laughed as we knew the question as a joke.

Once home, though, the rain stopped. Within a few hours, the gray clouds blew away and the skies were finally clear. We took advantage of the time we had and loaded the boats into the car.

We put in at a new place we had noticed on our trek across the Bay way. Off the Causeway, we put into Polecat Bay, where the Tensaw River empties into Mobile Bay. Our intent was to cross under the Bay way to the USS Alabama nestled on the shore of Mobile Bay.

As we entered the bay, we encountered some of the booms placed to contain the oil from the BP oil spill. Only there was no oil. There was no sheen of oil on the water, no oil on the booms, no oil on the buoys in the bay and no oil in the water I cupped in my hands. It was as if the oil had disappeared.

At one point one of the booms was partially submerged, about the width of our kayaks. Glen took that opportunity to cross over the boom to the water closer to the battleship. Our little eight foot boots looked tiny next to the 680 foot battleship.

We paddled further down parallel to the shore until we realized we had a good bit of water between us and the put-in and not as much sunlight. To the west, the sun was already beginning to descend and paint the tips of the gray-blue clouds (perhaps to match the battleship) a bright white. To our east, the clouds had parted to reveal a white, full moon.

We headed back with purpose toward the battleship. Not only did we have to go back to the put-in, we had to find that submerged part of the boom as well. Looking up at the battleship, I could see some of the last visitors to that great vessel walking down the gangplank. A young boy stood at the railing watching us and I stopped paddling for a second to wave at him.

We came parallel to the battleship and found the breach in the boom. By this time, the young boy, along with his mother, had walked around the deck and were standing on the side toward us. We had to line our kayaks perpendicular to the breach in the boom to be able to fit through. I found it much easier, too, if I paddled up a good deal of speed before I tried to go over the obstacle. I reached it first, so I lined up and paddled fast to make sure I made it over. As I passed over the boom into the bigger bay area, I could hear the young boy cheering for me, then I heard his mother shushing him to be quiet. I loved hearing him cheer and knowing someone had enjoyed watching our little adventure.

Paddling back to the put-in and the river, we were against the current with the wind in our faces and the light was dwindling. I had lagged behind a little and since I know Glen always feels uncomfortable when he can't see me, I picked up the pace to catch up. It was shortly after that I saw it.

It was quick, just a flash in the western sky, the single thing that causes me more concern on the water than any alligator. . .lightening. I told Glen what I had seen and we both put our paddles in high gear. Looking up, I saw the gray clouds that had formed just overhead. Being on the water while holding a metal paddle during a sudden thunderstorm is never where I want to be. We both paddled hard and fast, which was more difficult going against the current. I could feel the sweat running down my face and my back.

We passed a boat house and I knew the put-in was close, but I wasn't sure how close. Did we have to go past that boat up there, too? No, suddenly the put-in was right before us, we had reached it much faster than I had anticipated. We were both sweaty and tired as we pulled the boats in out of the water. A quick dip in the water would have felt nice, but we weren't about to take a chance at that!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

beyond the bow. . .

July 19, 2010
Trip Twenty-Nine
Chacaloochee Bay


This trip was a spur of the moment trip. We had planned on going to the gym to workout, then Glen asked me, "Would you rather go workout or go kayaking?"

Now I would rather kayak than just about anything, so there wasn't much use in even asking the question --we decided to head to the bay for kayaking. We rushed to pack the car because we knew we only had a short amount of time before sunset.

We put in at our usual spot off the Causeway into Chacaloochee Bay. This time, instead of heading north up the bay or east to the Apalachee River, we went west toward the city and into the sunset. We set our sights toward the western shore and paddled. I set a mark of the RSA tower and only veered off course to avoid the marshy areas.

Although it was only one and a half miles to the shoreline, it seemed the more I paddled the further away the shore became. Our light was diminishing, too, as the sun -- hidden by a huge cloud -- gradually sunk further into the sky. At one point Glen told me we would have to turn around in five minutes, so that we would have light to reach the put in. I looked to the shore and thought surely if we paddled hard enough we could make it there in five minutes.

After bracing my feet and tightening my core muscles, I stabbed into the water with my paddle and pulled my boat with all the strength I could muster. After a few minutes of that, I stopped to assess my progress and to catch my breath. Glen shouted an update. "We'll turn back in two minutes."

I still had two minutes to try and catch that shoreline. I paddled again, but not with the same intensity, and soon the marsh which lines the shore was in sight, within a few strokes. I turned my boat toward Glen's just as he was telling me it was time to turn back. Since I know I would not have wanted to, or attempted to, paddle through that marsh, I consider we were close enough to the shore to say we had met our goal.

On the return paddle, with our backs to the western sky, we couldn't see the glorious sunset unfolding. At one point we stopped and turned to watch the sun paint the sky and water colors that have no names. Then we continued to the put in and sat motionless in our boats, watching the sunset and marveling in the beauty of our God who could create such a scene.

It was a wonderful trip. The temperature, of both water and air, were perfect. The large cloud kept us cool and provided reflections of the sun that amazed us. Then it moved just in time for us to watch the sun dip into the water. The breeze refreshed us and challenged us as we paddled against it.

We topped off our trip with a visit to a local coffee shop where the folks didn't mind if our shorts and shoes were wet, but were glad to have to see us and share their coffee.


Frances and I had one of those unplanned experiences yesterday that turned into an amazing time of wonder and blessedness.

We had planned all day to work out in the early evening. The day was very nice, however, and the thought occurred to me that a kayaking trip might be a little more pleasurable than lifting weights.

“Would you like to go kayaking instead of work out?” I asked Frances. Although she enjoys working out - I think - I didn’t have to twist her arm. “Let’s go!” she responded, and we had packed, traveled, and were in the water in less than 40 minutes.

The afternoon was a joy in every respect. We paddled in a familiar river, but decided to go west instead of our usual journey to the east. The sky was clear except for a very large cloud bank in the west that blocked the setting sun. This made for a very moderate temperature, and with a gentle breeze, we were more than comfortable and didn’t even break a sweat (amazing for a mid-July afternoon in the subtropics!).

More wonderfully, however, the aforementioned cloud bank created a beautiful filter for the rays of the sun. Frances and I both love clouds, especially those that accompany sunrises and sunsets (see her accompanying photos). You see colors in the sky that defy description and label, not to mention the sparkling hues that dance on the water.

The latter vision transfixed my gaze yesterday. The river was fairly choppy, and the movement, coupled with the filtered light of the sun, created on the water the most beautiful color of pale blue, or gray, or white, or, well, I don’t know! Again, words haven’t been for the palette of the Artist who sometimes seems to enjoy dazzling us with new displays of His beauty, creativity, and desire to fill our hearts with unmitigated joy.

This surely happened yesterday. Every minute of our voyage involved the thought and expression of how great and good is our God. I recall the same feeling while listening to the music of the Boston Pops Symphony several months ago when it seemed that every note, melody, and harmony caused me to tell the Lord, “You are so beautiful!” I have been graced throughout my lifetime with so many such moments, and as I have often surmised, if our Heavenly Father chose to never bless me again, I would still be indebted to Him forever.

I am also reminded of the cost that made such blessed possible. Every good thing in our lives comes to us by way of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. His sorrow, agony forsakenness and death purchased for us the loving favor of the God who rejoices in our joy. “He giveth us richly all things to enjoy” declared the Apostle Paul who also proclaims the price for the blessed we will forever know. Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (I Timothy 6:17; II Corinthians 8:9).

Finally, the gift of sharing such a moment with Frances made the experience completely overwhelming. As I wrote in a song to her about our kayaking experiences last year,

“Another day is given to us to share the wonder of grace, a gift for which I could never find a way to give enough thanks.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"I Like Playing With You"

Yesterday, my grandchildren came over to visit. Often when they visit, they love playing with Grannie Frannie's collection of teddy bears. They love to sit on the couch or chair and be totally covered up with all the soft brown bears and then explode from the midst of the pile of fur.

My granddaughter Emma, especially loves to play with the bears. A few of the bears have clothing that is removable. She enjoys taking the clothes off one bear and putting them on another, then repeating the process again and again. I confess, I enjoy it as well.

We were sitting on the couch together, quietly playing with our bears and out of the blue she said to me, "I like playing with you."

Such a sweet little thought from an almost three year old girl, but it had a pronounced effect upon me. It swelled my heart beyond anything she could suppose. Imagine Grannie Frannie, the one who has all these bears and tons of other neat things to play with, would be thrilled to hear her say that she loved playing with her! And I did. I told her, "I love playing with you, too."

Of course, immediately I thought of how little I remember to tell the Lord how much I love Him and I thought how my simple expression of would bring no less joy to His heart than did Emma's declaration to mine.

"For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised" (Psalms 96:4)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Today is the 234th birthday of our nation.

I have just finished reading "1776" by David McCullough and I am amazed at the sacrifice and suffering endured by the army of the American Revolution and that they were able to bring about a victory against the forces of the British when outnumbered and out-supplied.

Mr. McCullough concludes his book with this thought:

"The (American Revolutionary) war was a longer, far more arduous, and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate. By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly war in American History, except for the Civil War."

In reading this book, I am reminded of the little-remembered fourth verse of the Star-Spangled Banner:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause. it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Happy July 4th to you all, and ever may her banner wave free.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

beyond the bow. . .

July 3, 2010
Trip Twenty-Eight
Apalachee River

This was a late-afternoon trip, but not intended to be a sunset trip. We put in at Chacaloochee Bay because that's the closest put-in to our house and we knew we didn't have much time. We decided to go up the river because we hadn't been to the river this season.

As we paddled the canal to the river, we passed the restaurants on the Causeway, which are usually closed in the mornings when we kayak. Now they were full of people and the loud noise from the band (I apologize, but I could not in any context apply the word "music" here) blasted out over the water and drowned out all the beautiful gentle river sounds.

It seemed strange kayaking in front of an audience. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious. I was very aware of my stroke, my form and my relation in the river to Glen. I was glad when we reached the turn to the river and would be out of any one's line of vision. How surprised I was, when we made that turn, that the sound from the band vanished away and I could once again hear the birds, the lapping of the waves and the wind in my ears.

I was surprised how different the river looked from the last time we had paddled here. Some of the "landmarks" from last year -- like the partially submerged tree upon which birds perched -- were gone.

We didn't make it too far down the river simply because of the restraint of time. We didn't want to be coming back to the put-in in the dark. I'm glad we made that decision.

We kayaked back down the canal, past the restaurants and the same band was playing the same songs, only by now to different customers. We discussed coming back to this spot the next night to watch the fireworks for the 4th of July which would be just across the road. We could kayak, then sit in the water at the put-in and watch the fireworks -- we would have a perfect vantage point.

As we came closer to the put-in, Glen noticed a large alligator need the reeds. We gave him a wide berth and paddled past him. We lined our kayaks up to the put-in, Glen on the right and mine on the left. Glen started in first and I was a few feet behind him, always the most reluctant to come in off the water.

As Glen's kayak began to reach the shore, he motioned to his left and immediately I saw him. There was a gator right at the water's edge -- right between us. With my boat already in motion, I wasn't sure how this small alligator was going to react being flanked by us, but he simply submerged and disappeared.

Usually I dawdle in my boat because I don't want to come off the water, but this time we both moved very fast. We got ourselves and our boats out of the water in record speed. We packed the car and resolved we definitely would not watch the fireworks from the water or from the put-in, but from the safety of a near-by waterfront park!

"On God's Leash"

We have the sweetest beagle on earth. But being a beagle totally governed by that wonderful nose of hers, she cannot be outside off-leash.So when Sparrow goes outside, she is always on her leash.

Sometimes when I walk Sparrow I know exactly where I want to go and exactly the route I want to follow. Usually I shorten the retractable leash and keep her close to my side. This is especially true if I perceive something dangerous to her along the way. Some days I don't have an exact route, only the destination is important. On those days, I may give Sparrow a longer leash and let her explore a little, or let her choose which turn in the road to take, as long as she leads us in the general direction we need to go. If Sparrow tries to go in a direction against my leading, a quick tug on her leash usually turns her back in the right direction.

Our dear friend Arman made the statement the other day, "I am on God's leash." Immediately I knew what he was trying to communicate. What a comfort to know that the Lord has us "on His leash". Perhaps as I do with Sparrow, sometimes He may have us with a shorter leash, keeping us closer to the path, at other times, perhaps He gives us more room, but we can never break free of His leash, nor do we ever want to. It is what keeps us near to the One who is our comfort, our peace, our safety, our joy and our wisdom.

Another friend, Steve, made the comment, "I feel crazy because I'm not worrying about anything." When the Lord Jesus holds the leash, decides the path and makes sure that we are walking in the path, of what should we worry? Our life is in His hands and who better to hold it that the One who created it?

"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." (Isaiah 30:21)

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalms 23:1-2)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Walk, Don't Walk!

Yesterday Glen and I were crossing the thoroughfare in front of our local shopping mall. In the past, I had no hesitation to step out into the street with the sure conviction that the motorists had no desire to strike down a pedestrian. While I never put myself in danger, I was not timid in the least regarding traffic. That was until our recent vacation.

A "Don't Walk" traffic signImage by bhermans via Flickr

In Boston, I was thrilled to notice signs posted in the intersections, in clear sight of the motorists, which reminded them it was Massachusetts law for them to stop for pedestrians. There were no such signs in New York City.

The pedestrians in NYC take their "Walk, Don't Walk" signs seriously and for good reason. As soon as the red hand appears on the sign, New Yorkers appear glued to the sidewalk. This is because as soon as the traffic light turns to green, the motorist in NYC are zooming past apparently without regard to whomever may have stumbled into the crosswalk of the intersection. Only in the villages and back streets would one dare to cross without the wisdom of the "Walk, Don't Walk" sign.

As Glen and I reflexively stood on the curb of our little thoroughfare and watched the mild amount of traffic, I thought how like our spiritual life the traffic was. We know there are dangers out there: distractions and deceptions, things that pull at our flesh and tug at our souls in ways that do not glorify the Lord or edify the brethren.

We are always wise to acknowledge the existence of these dangers, to steer clear of their potential impact in our lives and to seek the wisdom and guidance the Lord has put in our lives: His Scriptures and the fellowship of His children. These are our "Walk, Don't Walk" signs. Never should we step out into the dangers, either impervious to the havoc they could wreck on our spiritual lives or imagining that there are no dangers at all.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." (Proverbs 3: 5-7)

"This is the way, walk ye in it. . ." (Isaiah 30:21)
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