Archive for May, 2012

I’ve taken members of my family to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area on the Minnesota / Ontario border four times beginning in 1998. The BWCWA is a heavily forested, roadless region dotted with thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The way you get around is in a canoe and by foot.  The waterways are connected by portage paths that hearken back to the days when the Native Americans roamed the land.  Paddling your canoe across the lakes and through the quiet streams is an incredible experience.  Carrying all your stuff from one waterway to the next is hard work.  And while it is not “fun” in the traditional sense it carries with it a strong sense of satisfaction to successfully negotiate a difficult portage in an efficient way.

The times we have gone to the BWCWA we have used a map and compass for our navigation.  I really enjoyed the navigation aspect of our trips because we were forced to use a skill set that we weren’t familiar with and it required focus and attention to detail.  The skill of successfully using a map and compass is called orienteering.  Simply stated orienteering requires;

  • accurately identifying your place on a map,
  • determining true north with the compass,
  • adjusting the map to align with north on the map with true north, (for you true orienteering experts I am skipping the discussion of declination for sake of simplicity)
  • selecting the direction you want to go on the map,
  • transferring that direction on the map to the direction over the lake you want to travel,
  • picking out a landmark in the direction you want to travel,
  • striking out toward that landmark with a consistent focus upon heading directly toward it.

On one trip we covered 50 miles in 7 days with about 15 different portages.  To cover this distance with a group of young men required that we be efficient with our travel time.  Mutiny was a constant concern…  Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but it was important that we not paddle aimlessly around the lake trying to find the portage.  Being able to accurately select the location of the next portage from 1, 2, or more miles down the lake was crucial to paddling the shortest route and minimizing the pain and soreness that our “fun” generated.

As I think about those trips I realize that there are a few keys that made our orienteering successful.  Obviously the map and compass were essential.  We had to know where we were, where we were going, and what lay between us and our destination.  The map showed these things provided we knew how to read it.  The compass told us where True North was.  It gave us a constant and correct location of North which we could then align our map and then our direction to.  With the map and compass as essential tools, we also had to have the right map and we had to understand how to read it.  Finally we had to have a focus upon the point we were heading toward and we had to paddle.

I’m struck by how well this mirrors life.  Our map is the Word of God.  It gives an exact picture of the lay of the land… what lies around us, the path we should take, the dangers that lurk if we go the wrong way, where our destination is, as well as lot’s of detail about areas we aren’t likely to explore.  The compass is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity who comes to live in us when we are born again.  The Holy Spirit is our guide and counselor constantly pointing toward truth in a similar way to the compass always pointing toward true north.  The Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit together can always show us the right direction.  However we still have to focus upon the point which they identify and we have to do the “work” to get there.

At any one of these points we can get off track.  There are a lot of lakes in the BWCWA and if you don’t know where you are, the map can be confusing.  Map reading takes some practice.  The most important concept in reading a map is to know where you are.  Unlike modern GPS which tells you where you are, paper maps expect you to be able to pick out your location.  The bible has some verses which help with this.  Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  That’s the starting point for all of us.  But the next step is found in several places but I like the standard from John “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Holy Spirit who resides in the believer is gentle and loving.  He does not demand or control.  He prompts, counsels, encourages, and gently corrects.  There are three terms used that describe a negative reaction that we can elicit from the Holy Spirit: we can grieve the Holy Spirit, we are told not to quench the Holy Spirit, and finally Jesus mentions blasphemy or sin against the Holy Spirit.  I’m not going into these in-depth now, but the point I want to take away is we can choose not to follow the direction the Holy Spirit much like we can ignore the information our compass gives us.  We do this to our detriment, but we do have this choice.

Picking out a landmark is one of those subtle points of orienteering that make navigating on the water so much easier than land navigation in a trackless area.  The corollary to this is being actively involved in the Church and being well read of inspirational literature.  Here are a few general landmarks that often come up – asking what would Jesus do, considering what my dad would do, reading about examples of others who have lived selflessly, observing humble, faithful followers in the Church.  These give me a landmarks to aim toward.  These are examples that the Word and the Holy Spirit point to.

The last step in this four-step process is the work we do.  We can do the first three and yet still end up dead in the water if we do not exert our will, strength, and energy in striving toward our destination.  As I think about this point it brings to mind the multiple different paddling experiences I have had… many times in beautiful weather with light winds or even a slight breeze behind me.  The time when we rounded the corner of an island and then headed into a strong breeze that was beginning to lift whitecaps.  It was day one of the week so our canoes were heavily loaded and riding low.  My anxiety was mainly for my wife who was in the canoe with our son Jon.  We really had to stroke long, hard, steady and the going was tough, but we all made it.  There were paddles in rain and mist that made the selection of a landmark more difficult and we had to trust the map and compass, constantly consulting them to be sure we were headed in the right direction.  We have made it through in all these cases.

When I say the last step is the work we do that includes the times of Godly rest.  God rested on the seventh day of creation which gives us an example we are to follow.  Our pastor is about to take a well deserved and necessary sabbatical.  We wish you well Pastor P!  Isaiah 41:31 tells us that “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, the will run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  The work is the sum of activities that we undertake to get to the destination we are striving toward.

One of my life metaphors is that life is an adventure.  I see the map, compass, landmarks, and the work before me.  And in my heart I hear God whisper, “Dan, come out and play.”

Have a blessed day.

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On my last flight home, I arrived in the Atlanta airport early enough to jump on the flight an hour prior to my scheduled flight.  “Now your backs probably won’t make it until your scheduled flight” the agent said.  “Do you still want me to book it?”  I paused only briefly before saying yes.  I figured I could eat supper in the airport restaurant while I waited for my bags.

We arrived and sure enough the bag did not.  However I hadn’t counted on all the restaurants being closed.  As I headed to my car in the economy parking lot my dilemma was how to pick up my bag when I came back without having to pay an extra parking tab.  Now as silly as this is to say, this was a big deal in my mind.  I saw an airport employee and mentioned my concern.  She told me surely the officer who monitors the pull-up parking area would be understanding and let me zip in and get my bag.

A Chic-fil-a sandwich later I arrived 10 minutes before my bag was scheduled and I parked in the “Absolutely No Unattended Cars” area in front of baggage claim.  I quickly ran in to verify that my bag hadn’t arrived, which is hadn’t.  I also looked for but didn’t see any police officers.  I waited in the car until I saw people begin streaming out with big roller bags and I realized my bag must have arrived.  As I hustled back to the door I saw a large, very observant policeman constantly scanning the cars at the door.  As I tried to scoot past him he said, “Is there someone in your car?”  I’m just running in to…  “Is there anyone else in your car?”  I’m caught and I know it.  While I am committed to the truth I have to admit the thought zipped through, “Say yes and you can probably run in and get the bag before he knows any different.”  Instead I began “No, but I…”  “You can’t park here.  You have to move it.”  But where am I to park?  “Pull into the parking garage. it’s only a dollar.”  Aaargh – that’s NOT what I wanted to do!

Admittedly this sounds so silly now, but I was angry.  I have to admit I gave the guy one of my best, steely glares…  Okay maybe it wasn’t that intimidating, but it was shouting my displeasure.  Of course it would only work if he would make eye contact which he never did.  He was too busy being observant and watching for “parkers and leavers” such as myself.  I pulled away mad, but immediately the Holy Spirit started correcting me about my attitude.  I turned on the radio as I pulled into the parking garage right next to the baggage claim.  Not surprisingly there was Focus on the Family interview in progress where the husband was explaining how the Holy Spirit had helped him see the error of his ways in being a-less-than-understanding husband.  Aaargh again!  Can’t I just be a little angry about not being able to rush in and get my bag.  I walked briskly up to the door which took an entire 45 seconds.  The Holy Spirit was beginning to get through as I realized it was only a dollar and I WAS trying to break the well-intentioned rules.  Of course I then spent a little mental effort casting blame on terrorists and I still thought the officer was rude, so I didn’t even try to make contact as I walked past him into baggage claim.  (I really showed him what happens if he is rude to the paying customers.)

It took me all of 20 seconds to find and pick up my bag and I was right back out.  While I was feeling good that I was finally heading home, I was beginning to feel some regret for my thoughts and even a few of my actions… the old steely glare, while not noticed, was really a bit rude.  By the time I was pulling out of the parking spot and figuring out which way to the exit, I had to admit the police officer was only doing his job, I was trying to break the rules, and it didn’t really cost me much time.  I was moving toward contriteness as I pulled up to the booth to pay my dollar.  I handed the woman my ticket and a five.  The guy on the radio was still explaining in rather humorous terms what a dolt he had been (somehow it sounded vaguely familiar).  The woman in the parking booth smiled sweetly at me as she handed me my five back and said.  “You get it all back.  There is a 15 minute Grace Period so nothing is owed.”

Okay Lord, hit me with a two by four, I think I get this one!

My daughter recently put in her blog how she desires to go beyond just controlling her actions and reactions to having her thought life under control.  I can identify with that desire.  I know that I have made progress in submitting much of my life to the Holy Spirit and there has been transformation, but as this painfully true story illustrates I still continue to be challenged.  I doubt I am alone but I am determined that I will press on until every thought has been brought into submission.  Two scriptures come to mind as I wrap up.  Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  This is my step 1.  And when I do slip up I go to step 2 – Philippians 3:13  “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

God has created a grace period in this life for us to benefit from.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit is persistent, loving and kind.  He wants to meet with us, to relate to us, to live IN us.  I encourage you to live large in God’s grace today.

Have a blessed day.  God’s peace in abundance to you and yours.

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