Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simmering Summer

I was out on the lake yesterday afternoon. The sun was hot. The occasional breeze was hot. The water that dripped off my paddle was as warm as a tropical river. In the trees, the cicadas buzzed. Cicadas always sound hot to me. Summer in the Carolinas, yet there were signs of change. The elegant cardinal flowers were blooming. The green in the swamp maple leaves was fading. A single, perfect yellow leaf drifted down from a tulip poplar and rocked gently on the mirror smooth water. The orb weaving spiders had webs hung in the bushes. The wild grapes were beginning to turn purple. That raises the question, if I want to pick grapes, how can I pick the minimum number of spiders? I’d like that number to be zero!

When I’m tired, my mind often defaults to the horrible “what ifs”. I’ve learned to recognize that tiredness can trigger this undesirable behavior, and I quickly ask for forgiveness and for Jesus to change my mind. When it happened recently, the word to me was, “Live in the now, not in the maybe.” Living in the maybes and what ifs means I’m missing the present moment. So I’m working on living in the now, enjoying this hot, sticky day without looking for fall. But the signs are there, it is coming. Jesus urged people to pay attention to Kingdom signs, as well as weather signs. We have His word on it; He will make all things new. We can’t know the day or the hour, but we know a new kingdom is coming. Live in the now, but keep your eyes open for signs of His coming.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Putting it Off

I’ve been reminded that the longer you put off doing something, the harder it is to actually get it done. Especially if there are no deadlines involved. The problem started over spring break with a kayak adventure that left me speechless.

The park and lake were crowded on a Sunday afternoon. Looking for some quiet time sounded like a good theory, but wasn’t working out. First, a large pontoon boat full of party people hailed me, “Come aboard, Sweetie. We have single men!” I paddled past in silence. Then I heard a motor start and they cruised up beside me. “Come aboard and have a cold one. We’re following you! We love your hat!” I kept going and headed for water too shallow for them to follow. Up one of my favorite inlets, I drifted, admiring the wild, pink azaleas. I tried to pray but, out on the road, happy motorcyclists were celebrating spring by shifting rapidly up through the gears. I went home feeling bad. First, I had nothing either spiritual or clever to say to the fellows on the pontoon boat. (My friends’ immediate reaction to the story—“They must have been drunk!”) Then I couldn’t clear my mind enough of the distractions to pray. It took a couple of weeks to realize I was suffering from false guilt, not the kind that leads to repentance and renewal, but the nagging sort that keeps you from seeing real problems. I didn’t write about the events. I have still been kayaking regularly, but not writing. So I decided to just sit down today and write something, finally.

Leigh and I had an idyllic trip in the spring. We went up the main inlet as far as possible, picnicked on a gravel bar, the banks covered in spring beauty, trout lilies and wild violet. After lunch, she held her hand out patiently and tiny blue butterflies sat on her fingers. We paddled downstream with her making up songs about how lovely it was. Then, out on the lake, a wasp flew by her. She freaked. I found out that the advertisement was correct; the double seat kayak I bought is remarkably stable. She cried, tried to crawl under the seat, tried to crawl over the seat, screamed and implored me to stay away from the shore. It was an unhappy ending to a beautiful day. She didn’t want to go out again. I was disappointed.

Yesterday she had gathered enough courage to try again. So we set out with her and me in the double and Chet in the single. She wanted to show Grandpa her special gravel bar. Since we had a heavy rain storm Saturday night, the water was high enough to get up the creek. When we came to logs, she implored us to exert ourselves, to persevere—her words—and we squeezed under tree trunks and pushed floating logs aside. We made it up to the gravel bar where she skipped rocks across the little pool. No wasps, a much better trip. Even her discovery, while we were loading the kayaks on the truck, that her pink Crocs would not only float, but one of them was sailing away from the dock, didn’t ruin all the fun. I’ll admit, though, I wasn’t really cheerful as I pulled the single kayak back off the truck and assembled my paddle to chase after the sailing shoe.

For us, it was a delight to be out with her. I hope that she not only enjoyed the afternoon, but feels taller for confronting a fear successfully. The afternoon reminded me of a sign I saw last week that said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”