The Gift

Several months ago, with weather still warm and sunny, my wife and I purchased a boat. Hold your fire ... this vessel is no splurge of luxury. Our new yacht, stretched to its uttermost, is less than 13 feet long. It's flat as a pancake unless filled with air. With my abundance of hot air, a friend kindly observed, it could serve as a small dirigible. But, no, we are the proud owners of an inflatable kayak built for two.

"We call those ‘divorce boats,'" grinned the salesman, after he had taken our money. We chuckled along with his embellished stories of couples pushed to their limits by a tandem kayak. Not us, we thought, our minds humming with the romance of the open sea.

Then came the bright fall day when we hefted the bundle of vinyl into the car and headed to beautiful Trillium Lake, tucked into the forest at the base of Mount Hood. We inflated the boat, cinched up life vests, picked up our paddles and launched out onto the placid surface.

Fifty yards from shore we discovered those confounded paddles were defective. There was no other way to explain why the kayak refused to go in a straight line. Spectators on shore began to gather with voyeuristic delight. Had the lake been frozen, we could have won a prize for involuntary figure 8s.

Frustrated, I took a break in shouting futile instructions at the back of my wife's head. After a moment or two of blessed silence, the laughter spontaneously erupted: "Divorce boat!" we both exclaimed. We took it easy after that, enjoyed the view and, after a few more self-inflicted lessons, began to master the essence of a straight line. The paddlers, not the paddles, had been the problem all along.

Now we'd like to try a river with some ... modest whitewater.

Life is not always a peaceful lake. Whitewater is the very nature of our world — constant, unpredictable change. Management guru Stephen Covey suggests the greatest need we have in this sea of constant change is something that DOES NOT change. Besides change itself, Covey says, there are two other important constants in this whitewater world: principles and choice.

I believe he's right. Principles: We turn to Scripture as the source for principles of Christian living that provide a changeless core to our lives. And choice: where those principles are adapted to the needs of daily living.

The challenge is in the choice. Jesus understood that, and it's why He sent us a gift — the Comforter, the Heavenly Helper. This gift, Jesus said, was sent to guide us into all truth, to help us develop the adaptable core so essential to coping with a whitewater world.

So have patience with the character dripping cold water down your back. Don't despair when your best efforts leave you going in circles. Put down your paddle. Take a break. Take a breath. And, before you resume your task, breathe a prayer of invitation to that Gift, the Heavenly Helper now here.

Pull quote: "Fifty yards from shore we discovered those confounded paddles were defective. There was no other way to explain why the kayak refused to go in a straight line."

December 01, 2011 / Let's Talk