Category Archives: Adventures

Casting Your Net

Monday, I wrote about canoeing where dangers lurked by air, land, and sea, (which hadn’t occurred to me beforehand but seemed to be the case à l’époque)!  (I will say that tourists can do much more dangerous things abroad than would ever be allowed in America, so never assume a tour is really safe just because you can choose to do it…such as hanging out at the edge of Victoria Falls in Africa.)At any rate, it wasn’t until we finished our exploration through the mazes of mangrove tunnels and came out to Lake Cartagena that I began to relax,  and when we were reunited with our English-speaking tour guide, he assured us that he’d not seen a single crocodile in the lake for forty years. Okay… However, there is good fishing in the lake (as attested to by this cormorant),   so at least some birds and one man spend their days fishing on the lake. Our guide poled us over so we could watch the lone fisherman in action.

Apparently he and the cormorant were willing to take the risks, although after hearing about alligators migrating north to Georgia in the U.S. and seeing crocodiles on the shoreline of the Panama Canal not far away, I wasn’t totally convinced it was completely safe.   However, the fisherman was working hard, and he was catching fish and crabs!I felt inspired by his hard work and courage! Jesus calls us to be brave and follow him, promising to make us fishers of men (and crabs?). It’s pretty easy to say, “Ya, but it’s dangerous! I might get killed. (Many do in the 68 countries where Christians are persecuted.) So, should we leave our boats and give up?                                Or, shall we follow Christ and cast our nets?

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” (Proverbs 22:13)“He [Jesus] saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

So You Want To Paddle Your Own Canoe?

In Cartagena, Columbia, we  had a chance to go canoeing through a mangrove swamp, which I anticipated as being reminiscent of our canoe ride in Nepal last fall down the Narayani River.                    You, know—beautiful day, park-like setting, relatively safe.  Only, this time I was hoping we could paddle our own canoes, because…well, just because it’s good exercise and lots of fun.  I was disappointed to see men lined up to escort us, although I knew it might be a bit tricky trying to pole with a stick; I was used to sitting down with a paddle. Nevertheless, it looked like not all the canoes were attended, so I hopped in one that had no apparent captain, hoping they’d let me try my hand at the helm!     Not so fast! There were strong, capable young men assigned to each craft,                              so I settled back to relax and enjoy the ride…sort of… Being a tropical country, and having seen some crocodiles lounging on the bank just the day before, I quickly realized that it was a great idea to let experts pole,  since if I were just trying to learn, I might land our whole canoe in the water!       I had visions of a crocodile or an alligator jumping out of the water           to bite off somebody’s hand at any moment, and it gave me the creeps!  I tried to ask the young man poling our canoe how dangerous it might be, but he just smiled and shook his head as if to say, “I don’t speak English,” so I kept my hands well inside the canoe, tried to hold very still, and hoped for no crocodiles!

What had we gotten ourselves into? I had failed to research this tour option! 😦 Have you ever been for a ride through a mangrove swamp? In a way, it’s awe-inspiring. Frogs and fish darted through the cloudy water. Iguanas hid among the branches overhanging the passageways, and termite nests, looking like discarded Darth Vader helmets, rested on trees. The air was alive with bird songs, although the songsters were hidden behind tangles of branches and flew off skittishly before I could get any good photos. The only birds large enough to be unsettled by our canoe were great blue herons  and the great white herons, who fished silently along the edges of the byways.  Our canoe was almost as quiet as we glided through the maze of tunnels.
The only sound was our guide dipping his pole in and out of the murky water. I suspect we were all being still to escape notice, but for whatever reason,
I had a lot of time for reflections!

Considering the possibility of a poisonous snake dropping down on us from above, a deadly reptile attacking us from the muddy waters below, or catching malaria or other insect-borne disease from the mosquitoes in the air surrounding us made the whole experience seem a little surreal.  I kept remembering terrifying stories like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and thought about the horrible fears and dangers that slaves endured while running away from their masters toward freedom, back in the dark, early days of America.  Can you imagine how desperate people must have been to wander through the mangrove swamps in southern Florida in an effort to find freedom?  We were at least dry, sitting in a somewhat protected environment, which I found out later was an old, original dugout canoe made from mahogany! Most importantly, we were being carried along by someone who knew the way  through the tangle of tunnels  and had the strength and experience to get us safely “home” after our wild ride.       How about you? Have you—like me—wanted to paddle your own canoe? Have you been surprised by how much more complicated and potentially dangerous life is than you ever imagined? It’s definitely been much harder for me than I remembered from earlier experiences.             It’s all too easy to get into a situation where it’s not obvious      which is the best way to actually get you where you feel like you need to go! Alan and I are reading a wonderful book by Joe Stowell called Following Christ.       If you’re tired of paddling your own canoe, try following Christ. It’s simple, and following Christ takes the pain and frustration out of trying to find our own way to freedom and happiness. He loves us and will help. Besides, only Jesus has the wisdom and strength to get us safely home to heaven, which is where we’d all really like to end up…right?! Even if you’re not yet sure it exists?? I mean, if a heaven exists, wouldn’t you want to go there?!

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

 

Never Smile at a Crocodile…Even If You’re in a Big Boat

Have you ever wondered why they say, “Never smile at a crocodile!”? Crocodiles can measure more than 20 feet long and weigh up to 4,400 pounds. Australian crocodiles have the world’s strongest bite, up to 8,000 psi (pounds of pressure per square inch). In the water, it’s alleged they can swim as fast as dolphins, and on land they’ve been known to take down animals as large as cape buffaloes. Crocodiles are extremely aggressive, and humans are on the menu. So…that’s why you should never smile at a crocodile! They’re deadly.                Although I have no penchant for befriending crocodiles,  peering down at them (from the safety of a big bridge) while  they bask in the sun along the Tarcoles River is  a popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica.  Because of the abundant wildlife, if you can put aside your fear  of crocodiles, a cruise down the Tarcoles River is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Alan and I weren’t the first to board, but I noticed that the front seats were still available. Perhaps it was in hopes that if a crocodile attacked our craft, he would be too full after eating those of us in the front seats to want dessert. Whatever the reasons, Alan and I were happy to enjoy front row seating on our adventure! There’d been a torrential downpour that drenched everybody earlier, but late afternoon was beautiful, and the ride was soothing…magnificent even!    We caught sight of a ring-tailed lemur sitting in a tree with his back to us,        and there were herds of Brahman cattle with their faces to us,                                         watching us curiously as we drifted by.     The steep banks of the river were pitted with holes where swallows nested…       as well as all sorts of colorful birds, like this stout little green heron.    In fact, there was a veritable river bank run going on with creatures galore! I’m not sure if it was the highlight or lowlight, but we did see lots of crocodiles.   Although most stayed at a respectable distance, one came over to check us out.         In fact, he came right over to check me out, but I didn’t smile. 😦 Thankfully, he took the hint and left. Really, though, I think he would gladly have eaten me for lunch except the boat was a lot bigger than he was. The afternoon passed all too quickly, and soon it was time to return to the ship. I am thankful that I don’t have to swim in the river of this life without protection!     Anyone who asks can be sheltered by the protective care of God our Father. It really isn’t any safer to swim down the stream of life alone than it would be to swim down the Tarcoles River. (See the crocodile hiding behind that snag?) (This is a close up from the last photo.) In the Bible, we learn that someday “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” will be cast out (Revelation 12:9), but until that day, we are in need of a refuge, because Satan is even stronger and more deadly than a crocodile.    Thankfully, our day ended with a gorgeous sunset and no further excitement.     Although we were very late, our ship didn’t sail away without us. Praise God!                          Back on the ship, we were able to get clean, dry, warm, and fed!

Want a refuge from the storms and dangers of life? God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).

In John 6, the disciples were in a boat but frightened during a storm at sea and asked Jesus for help. He rescued them, and in that chapter we learn this lesson: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
(Acts 16:31)

Failing to Expect the Obvious…and Getting Prepared for Next Time!

                  In Puntarenas, Costa Rica, you can walk right off the ship,  and there are excellent beaches close by, so it was a little hard to resist just spending the day swimming.  However, we wanted some adventure we couldn’t experience in America,  so we opted for a skywalk through the jungle  canopy of the Villa Lapas Rainforest in Carara National Park.  Up until that day, the weather had been gorgeous: Glassy seas, balmy blue skies, and about 82° every day.  The weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies, but there was no rain predicted, so Alan and I left our umbrellas and rain gear in our room and bounced off the ship expecting another gloriously warm, wonderful, dry day.  Even the tour guide agreed with our assessment of the situation, as did everybody on the tour.  After a lovely drive into the countryside, we stopped at Hotel Villa Lapas for a bathroom break (since free public restrooms are pretty much nonexistent).  While there, I noticed a sign listing the nearly 400 species of birds that have been sited in the greater Carara area.  It was a bird-lovers paradise, and the air was filled with singing, although I really couldn’t recognize more than a few species and only got one reasonably good photo of a toucan sitting high up in a tree, where he was checking out the tourists from a safe distance.

We saw a lot of unusual things, like the nests that termites build in the trees,  and some rather attractive iguanas sunning themselves on logs far, far away.  There were butterflies flitting here and there, but they moved so fast among the tree tops that I never did get a single good photo.There were also reputed to be monkeys, but try as we may, we never saw one. On our “skytour” hike, we wound our way through the mountainous rainforest  and across a series of hanging bridges built to span the gaps between the hills.  It was a beautiful day, and we all took delight in enjoying our bird’s eye views  of the vast Pacific Ocean in the distance,  the mountains,  and the jungle surrounding us,  as well as below us!  In the afternoon, the weather became very hot and humid,  and clouds began gathering off in the distance, but in a rather ominous way! In just a few minutes, we could tell that things were going to get ugly! We were about exactly halfway through our hike, so there was no turning back but no easy way to get down the mountainside, either. There was nothing we could do but push on to the finish line! We tried to hurry,
but all of a sudden we were in the midst of a torrential downpour!

This is the last photo I dared to take before wrapping my camera in the folds of blouse. I leaned over so my hat became a bit of an umbrella. The path was treacherously wet and slippery, but thankfully there were some handrails at critical junctures and nobody had a bad fall. By the time we returned to the bus, we were all soaked to the skin. The guys stripped off their shirts and there was literally a stream of water running down the aisle of the bus from all the men trying to wring out their clothes. (We were parked on the mountainside).   In less than an hour, the storm came and went, but we were all soaked, chilled and a little shaken by the sudden cloudburst. And…we had a river cruise to take yet! It was after dark when we finally finished our day—so late that the ship had to wait an hour past departure time for us to get aboard. (Thankfully, if you’re on an official tour from the ship, they won’t leave you stranded.) Although our camera and cell phones survived, our passports got totally drenched and are a bit rumpled to this day, even though they eventually dried out! On the way home, it occurred to me that I should have been better prepared. There’s doubtless a good reason why they’re called rain forests! Next time I’ll carry a small umbrella, just in case! You know, my whole life is kind of like a skywalk through a rainforest! Is yours?   Breathtaking, but it leaves me breathless sometimes…and it’s unpredictable. We have an “umbrella” on our insurance policy. Do you? Did you know there’s an “umbrella” for our spiritual insurance (assurance) too? It’s found in the person of Jesus Christ, who died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God. We don’t have to worry about the judgment of God, because Jesus is the guarantor for all who trust in him.  So, we can say with Amos: “Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24), because, How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” (Hebrews 9:14-16).

 


The Art of Life

How is your January coming? Have you noticed that it takes a certain amount of leisure to be meditative and creative? I have to confess that between all the marvelous company (beginning November 21 and lasting into January, which made me extremely happy but exhausted) and a strangling cold that wouldn’t relinquish its grip until Alan and I went on a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal (where we rested in healing, sunny, 82° sea breezes)…until these past two months came and went, I’ve been so focused on living that there’s been precious little time for meditative reflection or writing. Have you also noticed how valuable it is to take a step back from your daily routines every once in a while to gain perspective and recalibrate your spirit?  During our break, I was encouraged by these words from Leonardo da Vinci: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”*  Isn’t that the truth…not only for the creative genius of a Renaissance man, but for the creative art of making our lives a work of beauty and goodness?   I’m well, refreshed and ready to begin anew. Here is my first offering…a little poem that came to me while enjoying this peaceful Pacific sunrise last week:

Light

I long to write a poem:
Simple.
Elegant.
Filled with God.

Even more, I long to be a poem:
So filled with light that all are drawn to the Light.
So beautiful that those who draw near are also warmed and filled.
So deep that even eternity will not end our unity.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

 Jesus prayed, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).

(*The three middle photos weren’t taken in Central America but from a different vacation, with our two youngest sons, while visiting da Vinci’s residence in Amboise, France known as Clos Lucé.)

Where Are You?

(The following devotional was written by my friend, Lisa Walkendorf, and I think it’s a great reflection to begin our journey into the new year. As Pastor Rick taught me, “Wherever you are, be all there!”)

We spent a day touring Athens, Greece before flying home from a mission trip recently. We saw amazing sights and marveled at history mixed within current culture… current sites built along historic ones.   Ruins were visible in the midst of town.   We (like many others) came as tourists to study and reflect on the past.  It is incredible that items from the 5th century BC have survived  and are still preserved for us today! We marveled as we toured the archeological museum.   When we reflected on the day, our group shared what most impressed us,
and there were certainly many options to choose from:  *The Acropolis   *Mars Hill where Paul preached his sermon to the Athenians, noting their worship to “the unknown God” and introducing them
to the known God, who created everything (read more in Acts 17:16-33).  *The delicious, cultural food *The archeological museum  and ancient artifacts.   * All the sites in town.   *And, fellowship with our team members!

One friend shared that she took a picture that impressed her most, but it was not a pretty picture!   It was simply a sign giving directions that stated: You are here. She reflected on the literal reminder “You are here.”  This is where we are.  This is the only life we get to live.  There’s not some other life to live than the one we have.  Some day people may be looking back to this time frame, perhaps viewing it through a museum lens of what was important to us culturally, relationally, and spiritually.

We are here now.  We have this time to love family and friends, to reach out to others and share the good news about Jesus.  It can be helpful to reflect on the question, “Where are you?”  and to be reminded, “You are here!”

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV) – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) – “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Where are you today?