“I” Trouble

I have eye trouble. Maybe, I actually have “I” trouble. I think that the truth is, I have eye and “I” trouble.

You may be saying to yourself, “That boy right there ain’t right in the head.”

Well, you may be right. But, that is a different problem entirely from my eye/I trouble.

See, “I” have a natural tendency to see what is wrong with you and be blind to what is wrong with “I”…er…me.

Heck, I can spot the guy that dresses funny all the way across the Walmart parking lot while I don’t have a clue that Bozo the Clown wouldn’t be caught dead wearing my outfit.

I guess that is like being farsighted. Or is farsighted where you can only see things close up? Eye don’t remember.

I used to know a guy that had a nose that was so big, I couldn’t hardly talk to him. I mean, this was a cartoon quality nose. I have never seen such a thing on another real live person. I used to wonder if it hurt his neck to carry that thing around all day.

I still nose him (sorry) but he had something done with his nose that makes it look way too normal for his face now and I still talk to him distracted by his nose while I wonder what the heck they did with all that extra nose they removed.

I’m not going to transition from eyes to noses now. I’m just trying to show that eyes seem to do things I don’t really want them to do. Maybe my tongue is in some sort of conspiracy with them against me.

See, when my eyes notice something about other people, it gives my tongue something to talk about (that should usually remain unsaid).

Matthew 7:3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Jesus gets right to talking about my eye problem. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to remove specks from the lives of others while I have a log sticking out of my eyeball socket.

Not only can I not see well, with no depth perception (depth perception is a requirement when seeing what others are dealing with) but I don’t have long enough arms to perform any delicate surgery on someone else when I have this giant Sequoia hanging off my face.

Another quick side note here is that a lot of specks in others lives clear up when I remove my own log. It seems that I am responsible for placing specks much more than I have removed any.

Jesus may sound a little harsh by using the word “Hypocrite” here. But I’ve learned hearing Jesus say that to me keeps me willing to hear other truth. While flinging the “Hypocrite” word around generally shows I am in denial about something pretty serious.

I can recall grabbing the log in my eye and pulling, twisting and tugging on that thing from sun up to sun down and that thing never budged.

For a lot of years I just gave up on it and stumbled and struggled clumsily through life wondering why life was so hard.

Life is tough with a log in your eye.

Finally, after a lot of mishaps, missteps and a lot of other thing that start with “mis”, I sat down with God and talked to him about this thing.

We came to agree that I was just going to ignore the specks, splinters and other lumber products in the lives of others and set to work, working together, to remove this log and heal my eye and the damage the log has done.

I could never ever have gotten to this place where I am today without God being the project manager on this huge task. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the work is all done either.

Yeah, the big old log is pretty much gone. But the way I was used to seeing the world lies to me about what I see now. It tells me that what I saw in the past was truth and what I see now is just my imagination.

So, I have to seek truth…even if I don’t like what truth has to say.

I still have an I/eye problem. But it isn’t the same as it was. It is more manageable and easier to maintain.

Oh, I know that this speck I have here and there can still somehow turn into mighty logs again, but not as long as I am willing to allow God to keep them clean.

I even seek out guys that have had successful log removals to help me with my specks. I can see clearly most of the time and life is a lot easier. Depth perception really does make my spiritual walk less hazardous.

I don’t have to look on others and see their specks to make me feel like I am worthy of something. It is a lot more fun to look at others, ignore their specks and see they are worthy of more than I can give.

How to Fix Something

How many times has some Christian pointed out your flaws and you went straight home and started working hard to fix them?

It isn’t because you are flawless. No, you aren’t flawless. I’m not flawless. No one is flawless.

Why doesn’t claiming to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking anointed words, throwing in some bible scripture and heaping on some guilt and judgment turn this world into a little bit of heaven?

Seriously, I have never shamed, goaded, guilt-ed, judged, proclaimed, taunted, protested one single person into any meaningful change other than they hated me and avoided me for decades and will probably continue to do so for decades to come.

Nope. Pharisees, with all their lawmaking and enforcing were never really known for their great success at drawing people into the fold. They were better at making themselves feel better about being in an exclusive club.

Jesus didn’t start off the Sermon on the Mount by telling everyone they were an abomination to God and heading for hell.

In fact, I heard all that stuff for a long, long time and felt no inclination to make a true attempt to turn all of my life and will over to God’s control.

It was more like, “I don’t really like this part of my life so God can have that…for now…if I have to.”

I kept what I wanted and no amount of gum-bumping and tongue wagging was going to change any of that even if it was supposed to be speaking Christ to me.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”

The only power judgment and condemnation has is to inflict pain and paste a giant “Judge me, condemn me” poster on my back.

Jesus didn’t inflict pain to bring people to holiness. He accepted pain for them on the cross. I suppose if we are willing to die for those we claim to want to save by our words of judgment and condemnation, we could maybe have a right to speak. Otherwise, I need to keep my big yap shut!

We do have power to change things in our words, though. But it doesn’t come in the form of pointing my finger at the beaten down, deceived sinner that is struggling to understand a world that has been turned upside-down and confusion rules lives.

Revelation 12:11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die.

My mission isn’t to conquer sinners. It isn’t to conquer sin. Nope. Sinners need to be saved and only God can conquer sin. My mission is to defeat the lies of the great deceiver and to destroy him with a liberal dose of the blood of the Lamb…and the words of my testimony.

While I have never pointed out a person’s faults (without them asking me to) and got big spiritual superstar results a single time (in fact, my finger=pointing has poked some people in the eye and they cannot see the truth to this day when otherwise, they may not be so blind), the words of my testimony, words about my faults and flaws and failings and the mighty hand of God being constantly at work in my life making things better has had a profound effect on some folks.

Not everyone. Some people just roll their eyes and wait for me to shut up. It just isn’t their time. See, it doesn’t matter whose testimony it is as long as it is about what God can do in a messed up life.

Heck, the life doesn’t even have to be all that messed up. It just has to have needed God.

The last time I gave my testimony, at least a dozen people spoke to me wanting to know more, to tell me what they wanted to change in their lives, to just tell me they needed to hear it.

One guy walked up and said, “Tonight I found out how selfish I am.”

I didn’t tell anyone they were selfish. I just talked about how I have been selfish. God took it further.

God fuels the words of my testimony, he invites me to share them and he makes them more than just idle chatter floating through the atmosphere.

Do you want to make some real change around you? Tell people what God does for you. Write it down. Look for opportunities to share it with others. Maybe even, be a special speaker at an event of some sort.

Don’t cheat the world of the power of your own testimony.

Carry On

Day two of a migraine.

When these headaches get this long and drawn out, sometimes going for nearly a week, I feel like life is being stolen away. It hurts to do anything. Even sleeping is a challenge.

After a couple of days I start to wonder, “What if it never goes away?”

Right now, even after just twenty or so hours of cranial pain, I’m hearing Crosby, Stills and Nash singing, “It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore!”

At least my misery is accompanied by great harmony.

But I am not writing this morning to gripe about my migraine. I suspect at some point today, I will suddenly notice it has lost interest and wandered away to pick on someone else.

This, too, shall pass.

Yep. This is temporary. It is just one of those things that tries to convince me it is worse than it really is.

I can remember days thinking I had a brain tumor and was going to go belly up at any second.

My best friend died from a brain tumor. It gave me a new perspective on migraines. I can do a migraine.

Oh sure, I may do it like a little boy takes his medicine but I can do it.

In fact, even though I was no fun yesterday, I managed to do a few things I couldn’t get out of doing. It’s amazing how that happens.

I think it is the same way with my depression. I don’t know if you folks can tell but it has been worse lately. I really don’t want to admit to that. I’ve been struggling to keep the news from myself.

Maybe I told myself that news and it gave me this migraine. Who knows?

Whatever the trigger for my problem is, I ‘m going to see a doctor today.

Wellll, a dentist actually.

My depression will be better in no time.

Don’t think so?

Shucks. I thought I had it covered. OK, at some point this morning I will contact the right person for the job.

The good news is that I know a lot of the right things to do when my depression gets like this. I don’t feel like doing any of them but I do know what they are.

One of them is to talk to the doctor. I never want to talk to the doctor but doing it usually makes me feel better.

One of the things we need to remember as people with mental illness is that when the sickness starts getting worse, it takes away our desire to do things that help us.

Another thing I need to do is to keep writing. Sitting here pecking away at this keyboard seems to put everything in some kind of proper order I can deal with. It kind of focuses those irrational thoughts that are flying every which direction into something I can actually work with.

I’ll also be reading some Psalms. David was great at writing about his pain and working his way around to his healing. It seems to really strike a chord with me.

Prayer. I’m going to make extra efforts to pray. For me, prayer has to extend beyond just jabbering all my complaints to God requesting relief, healing and strength.

It requires me to shut up and listen. Stop everything and sit and listen. It’s amazing how that makes prayer so much more productive, not that production is the primary goal of prayer but, to be honest, I hate doing things that don’t actually make a difference.

Last of all, I’m going to get with friends that are like me. When I get together with thirty or forty people that struggle just like I do, there is some kind of contagious hope that spreads around the room when even one person shares a victory of any kind.

You know, there are a lot of people out there that are going to do other things with their pain today. They are going to apply a generous portion of pain killers or alcohol or just stay in the house and not let another soul know they are hurting.

Maybe they will eat everything in the fridge or take it all out on someone that can’t fight back.

Maybe they will hide in a fantasy world of pornography and sex.

Whatever it is, in the end, it just masks the problem while it grows and grows secretly consuming the soul.

So, I guess whatever I do today, I need to be sure to keep the costume off of my real problem and face it head on and take it with me to all the places that healing comes. I can’t go back to letting it take me to those places that distract me and make me believe it will all get better if I can’t see it growing.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone. I am just typing. I’m making a plan that will lead me to somewhere better and marking out the places I should NOT go. I’m setting up safe boundaries and getting ready to walk even if I feel like stopping.

These days used to defeat me before they even started. Today, I know that it is going to take more than one bad day to set me back and every new day the clock starts all over again.

Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice
But to carry on
. Graham Nash and David Crosby

I Get Like This

I get like this.

I hate it.

I get so stressed out by everything.

The news chatters like they have no brains at all. They have all just become puppets trying to recruit us all into the puppet brigade. I turn it off easy enough.

But, people repeat the nonsense over and over and over until they think it is truth. In all my life, I have never seen so many people basing their opinions on such crap.

Whether you are left or right, if you are latching on to “facts” because they support your stance and are not willing to consider the fact it may not be true, welcome to puppet world.

And then many of those same people make fun of Christians because they believe in God who is perfectly willing to prove himself to an open heart.

But, I am used to all that. I can dance through that silliness standing on my head. Don’t ask me to dance while standing on my head. I don’t even know if that’s a thing.

Right now, it seems that at every turn, I am pushing through resistance. I’m fighting through endless opposition that I’m afraid is at least stopping any progress if not pressing me backwards toward impending doom.

Thoughts come rushing in as I lean into the oncoming storm.

“Give up. Let the wind blow you to where you feel no pressure, no strain, no fear of falling.”

Thoughts try to take over.

I’m tempted to manipulate truth to justify what my thoughts are saying to me. There are a million reasons to give in, to give up.

But every single one of those million reasons is a lie.

See, truth has a lot of push back. It isn’t easy to get to the heart of it. It is continuously buried and hidden under the lies of the deceiver.

Mankind tends to swallow those lies. We have been prone to nibbling at lies since the serpent appeared in the Garden of Eden.

When I try to make myself the center, as most of the lies we hear zipping around us seem to tell us to do, truth is out on the fringes in the periphery. It is hard to see and harder to live.

But when I face the storm, weather the anxiety and doubt, I move into the center of truth. It is like a hurricane. Things can get pretty rough until I find the center.

I used to make up my own truth. On the surface it is easy. Kind of like the foolish man building his house on the sand. There was a quick and easy construction job but it collapsed when the wind blew.

When I made up my own truth, I was constantly rebuilding. Rebuilding sucks.

Truth is the firm foundation. It stands when the storm hits. Not even the big, bad wolf can huff and puff and blow it down (oops, wrong story).

When I build, it isn’t so much repairing and rebuilding but adding a new wing, another story or a major home improvement.

To be honest, I sat down and started writing to explain why I wasn’t writing today or maybe even all week. But, somehow, a tiny particle of hope zoomed off the screen and smacked me right in the center of my cranium.

Yeah, I have been here before. I have stood at the corner of “Give Up” and “Go on”. I have been down both roads. I know what lies down both roads.

I know that if I press on toward the center of truth, the calm will come and I can rest.

I also know that if I turn away, I spend a lifetime trying to outrun the oncoming storm and no shelter is built well enough to shield me from it.

This day may begin with some trudging and maybe even some crawling. But, as long as I trudge and crawl in the right direction, the sun will shine on me soon.

Yeah, I get like this.

I hate it.

But, I know I can get through it.

Timing is Everything

Timing is everything.

Oh, it has been said before but I’m reminded again as my daughter’s car is in the shop.

Her car had a timing chain failure.

In case you aren’t familiar with car engines, a timing chain goes between the cam (or cams) and crankshaft.

Ok, stay with me now. The crankshaft moves the pistons which burn the gas and turn the crankshaft and sends power to the wheels so the car goes.

In order to do that, air has to get in the cylinder that the piston travels in. So the cam opens a valve that lets air in.

But in order to get compression, the valve has to close.

Then another valve has to open that lets the remaining gases out of the cylinder and this goes into the exhaust.

That chain makes sure that the cam is doing what it is supposed to be doing while the crankshaft is doing its thing.

If the chain slips or jumps a tooth or fails entirely, well, the timing goes wherever and bad things happen.

Timing is everything.

You can spend thousands of dollars for a high performance engine and if the timing isn’t right it will fly into pieces.

Still with me? Sounds kind of complex to some folks, I know. But I hope I didn’t lose you.

See, all my life I have been building things that flew to pieces. I’ve been trying to live a high performance life with a broken timing chain.

I get my crankshaft turning at red-line speeds and then the shrapnel of my efforts flies all over the place and sometimes people get hurt.

I forget about getting the timing right. I don’t work hard to align my efforts with what God’s part of the equation is and how it affects my life.

There has to be a connection, not just a connection, but a tuned connection between God and his plan and my goals for the day, year or whatever.

Sometimes things are just a little off and my pistons don’t make anything fire, they just push air. Sometimes, I look like I am doing something but I’m not moving at all.

I’ve found that these morning get-togethers with God are like getting things checked out and making sure I am in sync with God, so that something happens when I hit the ignition for the day.

Something besides flying apart.

God is a big part of my life. He is my strength and my salvation. But, I am a big part of it, too. It is vital that these two things work together.

Timing is everything, at least, a big part of everything. It can turn futility into success and success into expensive trash. It is important to get it right.

With that, I’ll end this week on the blog. Have a great “time” this weekend.

Know the Code

This is the last day I write about the floating adventure. If you don’t know what I am talking about, go back and read over the last two days. If you do know what I am talking about, please read anyway. Maybe today will be better.

For those of you that haven’t done this type of thing, here’s how the transportation thing works. I leave my truck where we put the kayaks in and a local outfitter comes and gets my truck and takes it down to the place where we are getting out of the river.

Then I load up my stuff and head home happy and exhausted at the same time.

What could go wrong?

Well, lots of things like someone wrecking my truck, it gets stolen or they just forget about me and my truck is still sitting up at who-knows-where waiting for who-knows-who to bring it to me.

Fortunately, none of that stuff happened and when we arrived at Riverton, which doesn’t seem to be the name of a real place other than a parking lot and boat ramp by a bridge, the truck was there, intact, locked and safely waiting for our arrival.


See, I had them lock the keys in the truck because I have one of those keyless entry codes you put in that magically unlocks the doors.

I have trouble remembering that code so I keep it with me all the time. It is in my contacts on my phone.

My phone was now several miles away in Davy Jones’ Locker at the bottom of the river.

I tried real hard to remember the code.

That didn’t work. Apparently, after forgetting, trying real hard to remember is futile. All it accomplished was to show me how great of a job I had done forgetting.

I am great at remembering things I should forget and forgetting things I should remember. Maybe that is my super-power!

After a little bit of trying everything I was equipped to try short of busting out a window, I decided that the answer to the problem was NOT there in that parking lot.

I couldn’t call for help because, well, my phone had drowned and was lost at sea. Besides, we were in no cell signal country. The phone might as well be at the bottom of the river.

So, I dragged my tired behind out of the little park to the “highway”. It was, of course, deserted and all I could hear was dueling banjos inside my head.

I looked to the right, nothing but highway.

I looked to the left. It was up a steep hill but right where the highway turned, there appeared to be a mailbox.

I went left and trudged up the steep hill, praising myself for my great ideas (for the sarcastically challenged, this is, indeed, sarcasm).

I got to the mailbox and there was a sign attached to it.

“No Trespassing. Police take notice!”

I figured I may not be welcome here so I looked further up the hill and saw what appeared to be a parking lot of some kind and a sign I couldn’t read.

It was the place that shuttled my truck for me. There was a nice guy inside who called all over looking for a locksmith to come and bail me out.

After just two short hours in the ninety-five degree heat, the truck was unlocked, loaded and we were heading home.

Here’s a valuable lesson I learned: Know the code.

I knew where the code was and what it did and had faith it would always work but I didn’t know it.

Colossians 3:16 says to let the word of God dwell, live, thrive in you richly. Know the code!

Don’t just know where it is, what it does, have faith that it works. Use it to unlock the things that make life go in the right direction, that move us to a better place and enrich what may otherwise seem desolate.

Let me tell you, when that truck door opened and the engine fired up and that air-conditioning hit me in the face, ninety-five degrees and Missouri full-blown humidity seemed like nothing anymore.

That’s one of the things I try to do every day. I try to take the code and put it to use, to let it sink into my mind and memory and let it be ready to use at any second.

See, God’s Word is powerful. But it isn’t really doing its job if I just know where it is and what it does. I have to hide it in my heart so I am ready put it to work in my life. It is the key that unlocks what seems impermeable.

It is what unlocks the walls around my depression, my anger, my hate, my addictions. It makes them vulnerable and brings them under its submission.

It is really good stuff. People are trying to dismantle it but there will always be more power in one of God’s words than all man can create.

Know the code. It works.

My Plan was All Wet

Yesterday, I wrote about my experience of dumping my kayak and losing my phone in the depths of a hole in the Eleven Point River in southern Missouri.

Someone asked me how I found my way without my GPS and my phone. Well, that’s a good question.

The short answer is: I was always going to find my way with or without a phone.

See, the river only goes downstream and no matter where you get out for the night, home is always downstream.

I just stopped knowing where I was when the phone went in the drink.

I had a lot in that phone pertaining to the trip. My GPS, my map, my waypoints, my clock and all sorts of other things that I used to make my plans about where we had to be when.

All I knew about where we were spending the night is that it was between zero and four miles downstream from where I lost the plan and from there it was ten more miles to the take-out.

So, I was pretty much forced to try to stop thinking about how much it was going to cost to replace my phone and glasses and just head downstream until I found some sort of river camp with the name Whitten.

I remember seeing a sign ahead (there were very few markers of any kind along the river) thinking, “Here it is!”

Then I saw, “There it wasn’t.”

I was so disappointed because it was at a point that I was hoping not to have to set up camp in the dark.

But, no matter what, that river was going to take me to camp, even though my plan had fallen out of the boat.

So, I tried to look at where I was, smile at the beauty that surrounded me, hear the birds and animals and the gurgling of the river as it roared and faded to silence over and over again around every bend and drop.

My plan changed. My plan kind of went out the window.

But, my destination didn’t change and the only way I wouldn’t have made it to camp was to quit.

Even if I didn’t paddle, I’d have eventually managed to float right to where I needed to go. Better late than never.

I can’t tell you how many times my life has tipped me over and soaked my plan in its depths.

I’ve been discouraged and lost.

But just like that river has been flowing by that camp site for centuries, God’s plan for my life has been flowing through all the places he wants me to be.

Losing sight of my plans never once changed God’s plan.

1 Corinthians 4:18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Just like when I was on the river, my plans and being able to see where I was right at any moment wasn’t as important as staying focused on where I was going.

When I am discouraged and lost in this life, I need to press on toward the unseen. God’s hand will get me there even when I have no clue how far I have yet to go.

God’s plan is kind of like the river I guess. Going downstream, all these different lives and plans all converge into something much bigger. Going upstream is hard and wears me out and there are so many different ways to go but they all eventually end.

Whatever happens on this journey, this adventure called life, I need to remind myself that I will arrive at my destination no matter what. So, I might as well take the time to fish a little along the way.

And Over He Goes!

Last week I went and spent a couple of days floating and fishing the Eleven Point River in…well, it isn’t in any towns that I know of. Let’s just call it southern Missouri.

The river is a designated wilderness area which means that anything not wilderness-y isn’t allowed. The campsites were primitive even by primitive standards. The trees were old growth and enormous.

The only signs of humans were the occasional river campsites and the remains of a couple of mills from over a hundred and fifty years ago.

So, I decided to get my fishing buddy and load up kayaks to visit this wonderful land of mystery.

The first few hours were nothing short of a blast, although fishing seemed to fizzle out after the first couple of miles.

There was plenty of other stuff to keep us occupied like rushing water and obstacles of boulders, trees and overhanging branches to challenge us at every turn.

I was carelessly shooting through little rapids and paddling like I knew what I was doing feeling like Lewis or Clark or maybe a much older Huck Finn.

There was no cell signal on the river but I had downloaded navigational maps and my GPS could tell me where we were. In my mind, knowing where you are means something even though if we weren’t where we thought we were and couldn’t get where we were going, that was kind of a moot point because there was no possible way in the world to let anyone know we weren’t where we ought to be and couldn’t get where we needed to go.

I had just figured out we were where we needed to be and sat my phone in a basket that I had attached to my kayak with Velcro so it would stay firmly in place should the unthinkable happen.

I was lazily cruising a deep hole and needed to do a little steering to reach the next straight stretch of river.

Then the unthinkable happened. From now on, the unthinkable when I am kayaking is totally thinkable.

My kayak spun sideways and before I could figure out I was hung up on something just below the surface, the current tipped my kayak over violently ejecting me head first into the water.

My brain wasn’t keeping up with all of this at all. It was still trying to keep from falling in when I needed to be thinking about getting my head above the water.

Then there was a loud WHOOSH! What in the world was that?

My PFD, personal flotation device, had deployed automatically. CO2 had inflated the life vest that was apparently smarter than I was in these situations and I popped to the top of the water next to my upside down boat.

I managed to clumsily get my kayak right side up and float us both down to some shallow water where my feel touched the bottom and walked the whole mess over to the shore.

My Velcro worked. That little basket was still firmly affixed to my kayak! Unfortunately, it was empty. My phone was somewhere at the bottom of the river.

I looked around some more. It seemed everything else was in tact. I tried to readjust my glasses but was unable to. My glasses must have ejected from my face when my body ejected from my boat.

I’m fairly certain I would have survived this whole ordeal without my PFD. But, maybe I would have gone deeper into that water. Maybe I would have gotten tangled with some trees in the depths. Maybe I would have whacked my skull on a rock. Maybe a lot of stuff.

I’ve always looked at life jackets as nuisances encumbering my freedom of motion and cramping my style.

After that experience, I’ll wear my life jacket like it was the most stylish accessory on the planet.

I think that is how I treated God for a long time, as cumbersome and cramping my style.

I’d grudgingly take him on and look for any excuse to disengage.

But then, I got tired of sinking to the bottom of the muck and mire of the refuse of my desperate efforts to live life on my own terms while leaving him behind because I would more concerned with him cramping my style than my own well-being.

Romans 6:12 Do not let sin control the way you live; which is subject to death. do not give in to sinful desires.

It is funny how I somehow rationalized my rejection of God’s hand of protection in my life as not being sin but rather some sort of me improving on what God is. What kind of stuff was I smoking? I mean, that reasoning isn’t reasoning at all. It is insanity.

If I am living for self and making self appear to be better than it is, that is letting sin control the way I live and, unfortunately, death is lurking right around the corner…or just below the boat.

Living life, abundantly, does not mean I am encumbered by God but instead, I am empowered by him. I can go into the deepest depths and face the fiercest challenge and he is with me ready to WHOOSH to my rescue if I am overcome!


Where do I start? Last week was something.

First off, there was a lot of preparation for that float trip. I did a LOT of preparation. I tried to think of everything I could possibly ever need. I got all of that stuff together and carefully packed it away to take on the trip.

Of course, once we arrived at the campsite miles from anything, no cell signal, no people around, there was immediately a situation we were not prepared for.

But, there were, at least, no deal-breakers in the “not-quite-ready-for-prime-time” bag of tricks. What was not prepared for was merely some inconvenience and irritation.

What really strikes me is that there is just no way to replace experience with preparation.

This was my first crack at a true wilderness kayaking trip. I read about it, I made lists (that I seemed to misplace), I thought about all the things that could go wrong and planned how to avoid or recover from them.

But, for all of that stuff (which probably saved me tons of grief) I didn’t manage to cover all the bases.

I was much less comfortable trying to sleep. I needed another layer between my old bones and the hard ground in order to get anything resembling good rest.

In addition to that, a bunch of clothes wadded up in the hood of my sleeping bag was not even close to the pillow I needed to prop up my melon.

So, the first morning out, I felt like someone hit me with a shovel all night long and the second morning I felt like they had given up with the shovel and started smacking me with a sledge hammer.

I still have some spots that feel bruised just because the weight of my body pressing against them on the rocky ground produced a soreness I have not experienced before.

Experience. There’s that word again.

I really wanted to plan so well that it compensated for my lack of experience taking a trip like this one that goes off the grid.

Well, here’s one thing my experience taught me, I LOVE the grid!!!! Don’t let anyone talk you into voluntarily leaving it.

I have some experience with this river and what it takes to do it better. But, I’m not sure that even if I prepared perfectly and executed flawlessly I could enjoy it immensely.

No matter how you do this thing, it is difficult and uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some tremendous moments along this little adventure. Hearing the rushing water announce there was white water ahead, seeing eagles soaring above, hoot owls echoing through the night air, waterfalls crashing from the cliffs, I hope those things are etched firmly in my memory right at this moment.

Of course, I want the beautiful rainbow trout to be etched as well, since all the photographs I took of everything met an untimely demise. I will probably elaborate on that part tomorrow.

I guess, though, that at this point I plan to limit my future kayaking to simpler, less extreme stuff that doesn’t get too far from the comforts of my camper and the local convenience store.

I did get some good experience, though. I just haven’t been able to process what it will be good for.

One thing is for certain, if a man wants a little excitement in his life, it is as close as the local wilderness. Just remember, not all excitement is the same thing as fun! Sometimes excitement is losing something important, or maybe not so important but expensive.

But, most of my injuries over the days on the river were not from crashing into boulders or falling on slick rocks. Most of them were from sleeping on such hard ground so I guess that is a plus feature.

I’m glad to be home. Maybe that is the real takeaway from all of this. A good old boring day at my house with nothing interesting going on and no excitement to get the adrenaline flowing and no obstacles to conquer isn’t such a bad thing once in a while.

Experience. This trip was certainly an experience. I do know one thing about experience. It is only valuable if you use it for something. I suspect that this trip gave me some experience that will be valuable on the next trip even if from now on I float lazily along a slow tailwater dangling flies in front of hungry trout.

And, if I ever hear anyone talk about tackling what I tackled last week, I may be able to make it less painful for them and it will be easier to enjoy the beauty of the trip without being distracted by kicking themselves in the backside for goofing something up along the way.

In my life, I have experienced a lot of things I feel like I had best not experienced. But, here I am, still recovering from some of those things. I suppose my recovery will last until my experiences end on this planet.

Maybe the key to a successful life isn’t in not experiencing hard and painful things but surviving them all and learning to use them to make future experiences more fruitful.

One thing I is for sure, if I recover the right way, the chaff will blow away from my memories and the value of what I experienced will remain.

Isn’t that an amazing thing? I mean, almost a week ago, all I could think of was how hard the ground was, how hot the sun was and how expensive those things that lay at the bottom of the river were going to be to replace. But, already, those thoughts are fading and I have to dig for them a little bit while the memories of one of the most beautiful rivers I have ever seen is coming to the forefront and overtaking all the discomfort and frustration.

I may not (more than likely not) ever take that trip again, it will be because I like my bed and air conditioning too much to wear myself out and NOT because I am afraid to give it a shot.

And, if I choose to never do it again, I will know what I am missing. That’s worth a lot right there. There’s a lot to be said about “been there, done that”!

There are a lot of people that sit on their sofas telling us what they think about our experience without knowing anything about what it is like to actually do it.

I think we have to just file those folks in the “no clue” category and move on with a grin. When they get off their backsides and go see what it is all about, then their opinion can get access to our thoughts on the subject.

Well, that’s my rambling for today. Tomorrow’s writing will be more organized and have a point and all that stuff. But today, I am kind of just clearing my head for the week ahead.

Until the next time, happy floating!

What’s In a Nose?

Well, yesterday I got the dreaded phone call that every grandparent dreads.

“Dad, can you pick up Oakley from the day care? He has a rock stuck in his nose.”

I never got anything stuck in my nose growing up. At least not that I can recall. But I am pretty sure Oakley will always remember this rock.

I went to pick him up. He looked terrified to see me.

“Buddy, you aren’t in any trouble and this is an easy fix.”

The tears that were teetering on the edges of his eyes began to flow down his cheek and I took him out to the truck where we began our journey to get the rock extracted from his booger box.

He looked terrified still as we drove to where a doctor would make quick work of removing the nose boulder.

I was surprised how big it was. The little guy must have worked to get that rock in there. I guess I’ll never know what was going through his mind as he worked the pebble up his nostril.

Once the rock was out and he was sure it was gone, he changed. The terrified look went away, the tears left his eyes, his smile returned to his face.

As we walked away, he told everyone, “I got the rock out of my nose!”

No one was expecting that declaration and he was met with many smiles.

He had great news and he shared it with EVERYONE. He was filled with gratitude and joy.

I suppose I write this blog because I want to declare to everyone that the rock is no longer in my nose.

This is not such a big leap for me to make as an analogy since I suffered from a cocaine addiction and was always putting things that were bad for me in my nose.

It has been over thirty-one years since that rock was removed. I’m still grateful and if anyone will listen, I will tell them all about it.

I think that today, after all that God has done for me, the biggest struggle I still have is with anger. When I give in to that anger, it always seems that after the storm, I am left with a big old hunk of stone up my nose.

Saying I’m sorry is often as hard as admitting I have shoved a rock in my nasal passages and I need help.

I have to admit that I often wish my 0-60 time was as fast as my righteous to arrogant, angry jerk time. There is not one single thing that I battle that can sneak up on me and overtake my day like anger can.

It is there in a flash and when it finally subsides, you got it, I often find I have to extricate something from my big, fat nose. There is always some damage done to myself that I can’t fix on my own.

But here’s the thing, I don’t have to sit ashamed and terrified for being completely irrational and stupid. I can confess my acts to God and he can make the impossible seem simple.

I hope you all have a great weekend and leave the rocks where they belong. Keep your nose clean!