July 17, 2016

Beware of Making Sharp Turns on Your Spiritual Path



Photo source:  Billy Lush Board Company, Knoxville, TN

The day after paddling with my uncle at Watts Bar Lake, we headed to downtown Knoxville to try out the hydro bikes at the local paddle shop. Hydro bikes are something I’ve never done before, so I was very excited to try something new on the water.

These bikes look like actual bikes from the pedals up, but instead of wheels they have a similar feature on the left and the right as do the amphibious airplanes that land on. This is what keeps them stable and afloat in the water. In the front where the front wheel would be on a land bike is a front rudder. The handle bars are what turn the rudder so you can control the direction of the bike.

The guy who was working at the paddle shop told us not to turn the handle bars sharper than 45 degrees or else the rudder would be turned sideways and we would just be wasting energy pedaling and getting nowhere (much like if you turn the handle bars too sharp on a regular bike).

Just like in our spiritual walk, if we turn too sharp to the left or too sharp to the right, we can get stuck or stalled in our spiritual journey. Yes we will experience a few curves in our path, but we mustn’t overcorrect. We must make the adjustments in our steering that are within our control, and trust God to do the rest to get us straight and back on the path.

Failure is a part of life and there will always be times when we as humans will fail. But God’s promises do not. He is always available to help us straighten out our lives and start over. When we acknowledge our sins, He is ready and willing to help us start again.

July 16, 2016

Is Your Heart Properly Equipped?


Photo source:  http://surfboardline.com/gerry-lopez/


Last week, I got to go paddle boarding at Watts Bar Lake in East Tennessee. I was visiting my uncle and it was his first time paddle boarding. The paddle board he had borrowed from a friend was missing its fin, and my spare fin did not fit the fin box of his board, so we had to make do without one. 

I let him use my board so he could have one that was properly outfitted, while I tried to manage with the board that had no fin. It’s amazing the difference an experience can be when you’re not properly equipped versus when you are.

The purpose of a fin for a paddle board is to make the board go straight and keep it stable. I quickly found out what it was like to try and paddle without a fin:  my board wanted to go in every direction other than straight! Add to that the wind we were experiencing and I was just being blown around in circles unable to control the board at all. It felt like when you’re in a bumper car and you start spinning around. No matter what you try to do to try to make the car stop spinning, not much really works. I wasn’t able to get to where I was trying to go, and if I did, it took A LOT longer without the fin.

That’s what our spiritual life can be when the Holy Spirit is not living inside of us. We are not properly equipped to remain on a straight path. We’ll go in every direction, jumping from one new “self-help” gimmick to the next, oftentimes finding ourselves wasting time just going around in circles with no real results. And we can’t stop our spinning in circles in our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to stabilize us.

How do you get the Holy Spirit inside you? It’s pretty simple. You just admit your need for Him and accept the invitation He’s already extended to you, and in turn invite Him into your heart. He does the rest. And you can rest in that, trusting He will direct you on a path that is straight and stable. 


May 31, 2016

Listen for God's Voice


Last week I found myself in a bit of a precarious situation. I decided to go out for an evening paddle last Wednesday evening despite some looming clouds. All day the skies had vacillated from sunny to cloudy and back to sunny again. It never did rain and the weather report didn't seem to call for rain, so I decided to go for a paddle in the clouds.

When I first started out, I thought what a perfect evening for a paddle! The current was low and the water was calm, the winds were low and the clouds shielded me from the blazing sun. Even the bugs were on their best behavior which is a rare thing in the evenings.

Since the current was low, I decided to go downstream and went about 2 miles before turning around. Once I did turn around, I could tell the current had increased since I first went out, but that was no problem. Then about half a mile later around 6 or 6:30pm, the bottom dropped out.

The rain fell so hard there was little visibility. The water ran into my eyes so I had to keep my eyes squinted to almost fully closed so my contacts wouldn't get wet or pop out, making visibility even worse.

Then the winds picked up. While I had no wind at all going downstream, I now had a head wind while also having to go against a stronger current and pelting rain drops. I had to return to my knees to lower my center of gravity in the strong winds and had to paddle with all my might. Anytime I'd slow down or switch hands with my paddle, the wind would try to blow my board back downstream.

There was no one around, not one boat, not one fisherman. Everyone had taken cover from the pouring cats and dogs, but there was no place for me to go. I just had to paddle the remaining mile and a half back upstream.

I have to admit, I was getting nervous and a bit scared. All I could do was pray, "Lord, please just get me back to the harbor." Fortunately, there was no lightning or hail, and despite the winds the water was still pretty calm. I'm so thankful for that.

I did finally make it back to the docks, but my legs felt like Jello. Having to paddle that far on my knees made them so shaky. And I was shivering from the wind blowing on my drenched skin. But I was glad to finally be back safe and sound.

Two days before this experience, I had written something down in my journal. Now, you must know that when I write in my journal, I do not record my own thoughts, and I don't write in first person. Instead, several years ago I changed from recording my own thoughts to instead recording the thoughts I felt God was sharing with me. It takes a lot of quiet time and focus to hear the still, small voice of God, but oh how powerful it is when you recognize it!

And it's even more powerful to journal in this way, writing it as if God is saying it to you, and then going back and reading it later. It shows how God knew what He was saying and knew what was going to happen. And even more important, it shows how God keeps His promises.

Two days before my frightening experience out on the river, God spoke to me through the scripture verse Isaiah 43:2, and I wrote it down in my journal as if He was saying it to me directly:  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." I was so amazed and comforted by this. God knew where I would be two days from then and He kept His promise to keep me safe.

If you've never spent time trying to hear from God, I encourage you to do so. God starts off by speaking to us softly with a still, small voice, so you have to get quiet to hear Him. Turn off the gadgets, get off social media, and get to a quiet place every day to listen for His voice. Start with reading your Bible because that's one of the first places He'll speak to you. Pay attention to the well-meaning people in your life because He speaks through them too. You'll be amazed at the difference in your life when you begin to develop these simple yet powerful daily habits.

April 30, 2016

Don't Give Up On Pursuing Your Passions


It's been a while since my last post. I attribute that to two main reasons:  1) unlike last winter, there weren't as many opportunities to paddle this winter due to dangerous river currents all winter long and 2) I've been busy revamping my business.

You may recall from some of my past posts that I had been feeling frustrated with my work as an image consultant, feeling restless and discouraged. In fact, I started feeling that way around the same time I first took up stand up paddleboarding.

Up until Christmas of 2015, I was in prayer for a year and a half asking God to show me what I should do. Should I quit the business I had put 8 years of hard work into building a brand and do something different? If so, what was that "something different"? What did it look like? Was it going back to work for someone else (ugh!) and lose my flexible schedule (double ugh!)? Was it offering a different service to new clients?

A year and a half felt like a really long time, but the day after I got my new inflatable paddle board, an answer came so suddenly and quickly while I was in, of all places, the shower! What came to me was so very clear and I was able to see how all of my past experience and all the hard work building the name of my business fit in with this "something different." It was like a flashing neon sign that said:
PASSION
God was showing me that I am to use my past coaching and career advising experience, my spiritual gift for encouragement, and my love for living life to the fullest and taking risk to help others discover and pursue their passions in life and career.

I am now a Passion & Career Specialist. Since making this change at the end of 2015/start of 2016, I feel like what Peter must have felt like following a long day of catching no fish at all to letting down his nets at Jesus's command and having his nets overflowing with fish. I have been getting more steady business without even trying than I had when I was previously doing image consulting.

And get this:  for several months I had been racking my brain trying to figure out how I could "marry" my skills with my love for SUP. God made it clear that I could do some of my career and life coaching sessions out on the water, letting my clients use my new board (now that I have two instead of just one!). I could parallel many of the lessons I teach to SUP beginners with the lessons I coach my clients on.

In fact, just today I began to outline what that will look like because several of my clients have already said they would love to do a session on the water while learning how to paddle board. And, after a long hard winter, it's finally the season for it!

In addition to sharing SUP with my clients, I'll also continue sharing my own adventures, this time more through my business in addition to this blog, and this time through some live video and interviews with others talking about their own passions. I hope you'll check it out!

A couple of weeks ago I did my very first Periscope broadcast, just a short little video talking about my passion for SUP and beautiful weather, encouraging others to get out and enjoy their own passions. You can see the recording of the live broadcast here (please be kind, after all it was my first 'Scope!):



And last week I took the new inflatable board out at Percy Priest Lake following a wonderful and soul-rejuvenating women's church retreat entitled Finding Who I Am In Whose I Am:  Studies from the Book of Colossians (how appropriate, right?!). I spent much of my time laying on my board basking in both the warm sun and in God's provision and perfect timing. I am blessed.


December 20, 2015

Beginning With God's Best

 

"God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him."---Jim Elliot

I've been considering trading my current 12'6" x 28" SUP race board in for a 14' x 23" race board. I feel like I've plateaued on my speed with my current board and know that a longer, narrower board will be faster. I took some time to do a little research and talk with my knowledgeable friend and owner of the local SUP shop to find out what the cost would be for such a board, and how much I could get out of my current board.

During our conversation, there was something that just kept gnawing at my gut. Something wasn't feeling right. Even though I found out I could probably get more for my current board than I expected, I knew I wasn't going to make any decisions until I test drove a 14' x 23" board.

Now, I've paddled a 14' board before, and loved how it felt, but it was a little wider (27"). But when I got on the 23" wide board to test it out, I did not like how it felt (it's amazing what a difference a few inches make!). With a board that narrow, I knew it would take me some time to get used to its lack of stability.

This reminded me of my first board purchase. I first test drove an 11' x 23" board. The owner of the shop said it would take at least five good paddles for me to get used to that width, and my response was, "I want something I can enjoy from the beginning" so I got a 12'6" x 28" race board.

This reminder took me back to the beginning of why I began paddle boarding. It was never to be the fastest or to try to win any races. It was to have fun out on the water and get fit while doing so, and maybe improve my paddle stroke, but never to be in competition. I know that if I couldn't enjoy a new board from the first day, it didn't make sense to pay that much money for a new 14' x 23" board.

I left the meeting a little disappointed and still feeling that gnawing feeling in my gut about what to decide. As I was driving home, I was craving something sweet and saw a Cracker Barrel while waiting at a stoplight. It was also my birthday that day so I decided to stop and treat myself to my favorite cake, the Coca-Cola cake, which is now a permanent offering on the Cracker Barrel menu (it used to be seasonable, that is until I participated in a focus group for Cracker Barrel and explained to the market researchers that fudge cake is a year-round thing and therefore should be offered year-round!).

While I was waiting for my cake, I checked my email on my phone and noticed I had a sales promotion in my inbox from the SUP shop that I was about to delete, but decided to open and read it instead. It was a promotion for a sale on an inflatable rec board (a wide-body board that is the opposite of a race board). The more I started reading about it, the more I started to realize that if I was going to get another board, it should be this one (which I never would have previously considered).

First, this is one of the better inflatables (inflates/deflates quikly, is sturdy and indestructible, is portable, comes with a paddle). It was on sale, and was a third of the cost of the 14' race board I had just test driven. Getting an inflatable board at that sale price means I wouldn't have to sell my current board to be able to afford it (and I do LOVE my current race board). I started thinking about how I've been wanting to paddle other places without the hassle and expense of having to purchase and fit my car with a rack and strap mechanisms to transport a race board (which would have probably run me close to an additional $500).

The more I gave all this some thought, the more excited I got about the idea of the inflatable board. I have plans this year to visit Cumberland Island National Park and surrounding areas, and would love to be able to take a board with me that I can just toss into the trunk of my car. And the fact that it's indestructible means I can explore some really cool places without the worry of my board getting damaged by rocks (and I can even learn to surf with this board!).

But something else I realized that made me even more excited is, the inflatable would be an affordable way for my friends to paddle with me. The inflatable is great for people of any skill level, beginner included. And, it would be free for them, allowing them to paddle with me more often. Having an extra board would allow me to share my joy with more people than before!

All of a sudden, that gnawing feeling in my gut was replaced with a feeling of "rightness." It felt right to spend the money on something I could share with others and was more versatile. I was so excited! All of this reminds me of the verse Psalm 37:4 "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Sometimes we take this verse to mean that God will give us what WE want, but in reality, He teaches us to desire the same things He desires for us, His best. I went into this situation thinking I wanted one type of board, but then God showed me what type of board He knew would be best for me.

Of course though, I slept on the idea before making the final decision (because this is not a cheap hobby!), and then the next day I added a brand new inflatable to my fleet! So, who wants to join me on the water this spring?



"But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?" (Luke 14:28)


November 15, 2015

100 Miles Of Motivation

On October 12th I joined something called the Fit For Fall 100-Mile Paddle Challenge. It was just a simple challenge between a group of us regular paddlers to paddle a total of 100 miles between October 12th and December 11th. I was hesitant at first to join the challenge because I wasn't sure with the weather turning colder and the days getting shorter that I would be able to complete the 100 miles within the allotted time frame. But, it was all for fun so I joined in without expecting to really care about my results.

I've never considered myself a very competitive person. But, as I started logging more and more miles due to the great weather we've been having, I became motivated to reach the goal of 100 miles. Not only did I complete the hundred miles, I did so by November 11th, one full month before the challenge ends, and was in 2nd place on the leader board after completing my last paddle, coming in at a total of 102.3 miles. This was a good feeling, but even better than that was the experience of getting to know the other challenge participants at an even deeper level while out there paddling together, working toward a common goal.

There were a lot of days when I was paddling by myself, but also several days where I was with a group, or paddling with one person. This gave me the opportunity to talk with them and learn more about them. It was the one-on-one paddles that led to the deeper conversations which seemed to naturally gravitate toward topics of faith.

Our conversations weren't about the paddle challenge, but instead about the challenges we were each facing in life. It was encouraging to know I wasn't the only one facing similar challenges. And it was an opportunity to be an encouragement to them too.

Even though I've already met the 100 miles ahead of most of the other participants, I'm going to still participate through to the last day of the challenge when weather permits because I want to continue investing in the new relationships this past-time has brought into my life. Who knew the Fit For Fall challenge would not only make me physically fit, but also spiritually fit?


September 26, 2015

Going The Distance


Last week I did something I never thought I could do...I paddled 16.4 miles from downtown Nashville to Rock Harbor Marina. Now, I've never done any kind of runners' marathon before, nor have I ever had the desire to do so, but my love for stand up paddleboarding outweighed the lack of interest in a long distance effort.

Even though this event was not a race, it was a personal challenge since I have only ever paddled seven to eight miles at the most. In the days leading up to this long-distance paddle, I prepared physically with mileage building paddles, strengthening exercises, and muscle stretches. But I knew I also had to prepare spiritually and mentally for it. I had my small group praying for my safety and for strength. And I personally prayed for God's strength and for good conditions.

Despite the fact that our group had a head wind and little to no current to help carry us downstream faster, we did it in a lot shorter time than we expected. I figured it would take five to six hours, but I finished in four hours and 15 minutes! The weather was perfect. Temperatures were comfortable, yet there were sunny skies even though the forecast was for mostly clouds (I had prayed for sunshine!).


Not only was I surprised at how fast I completed the 16.4 miles, I was also surprised that I didn't start feeling tired until about mile 11. When the fatigue tried to set in, I just kept repeating to myself, "with Christ anything is possible," and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

With two miles left to go, I got my second wind. My muscles were hurting immediately after I finished. I thought for sure I would be sore the next day and would sleep like a rock that night. But, I tossed and turned from the adrenaline rush I was still on, and the next day I had only a little soreness in my triceps and my abs. I felt great!

In reflecting on the experience, I was trying to think what I would write for this post. Then I received from one of my clients a devotional that described just what I was feeling all that time out there on my board:



How Strong Are You?


"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13)

The small squirrel, scurrying like crazy to get out of our way on the walkway, was holding onto a good-sized pinecone.  He wasn’t about to lose his treasure! Amazing that he could grasp and drag something almost as large as he was. And how many times have you seen an ant picking up a crumb larger than itself?

We can work out, have great biceps and abs. We can exercise our brains and have great info and knowledge. But supernatural strength comes from the Lord, above and beyond our own abilities.

You are stronger than you think with God’s help and power behind you. It is good to know where our inner strength comes from and who gives us that gift.

So how strong are you? Very strong, in Christ. And that is good news!

You have the mind of Christ: 
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Phil 2:15) 
"'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." ( 1 Cor 2:16)


The Lord gives you wisdom: 
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  (James 1:5)

The Lord gives you strength: 
"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure."  (Psalm 18:32)    
"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you." (Isaiah 41:10)
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." .(Isaiah 40:29)


The Lord gives you direction: 
"In all your ways acknowlege Him, and He will direct your paths."  (Proverbs 3:6)
"The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps."  (Proverbs 16:9)


In fact, 'greater things you will do’: 
"Very, verily I say unto you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  (John 14:12)
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being."  (Ephesians 3:16)
"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." (1 Chronicles 16:11)


Inspirational Messages
Sally I. Kennedy ©2014

August 12, 2015

Take Refuge



As I've shared in a couple of the previous posts, I've been discouraged which has caused me to feel weary of my current reality, so of course I decided to combat those feelings with an afternoon paddle since today was so sunny with comfortable temperatures.

Despite the sun and great temps, it was a windy day on the water. I had a very strong head wind I kept having to fight while also paddling against the current upstream. So, I decided to take a little break from my battle with the wind by paddling inside one of the coves along the riverside. I knew the cove would shield me from the strong winds and be a temporary escape from them. I was right.

Once I was back there, everything became so quiet and peaceful. I had to slow down my pace since there were many tree branches and roots in the water to maneuver around. The peace and beauty inside that cove was awesome. I could actually see the fish in the water. Different kinds and all very large. I also was able to see more turtles in the water than I do in the actual river.

I went as far back into the cove as I could get before fallen trees blocked my path. Once I reached that point. I just laid down on my board and soaked in all the peace and beauty. It reminded me of the many scriptures in the Psalms that refer to God as a refuge, a place of protection and a place of solitude. Here I could get the quiet I needed to relish in some of God's beauty and be protected from the harsh winds of reality.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him!

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”


The Encouragement Of Others

Photo: Creative Commons, by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

In my last post, I discussed the how we can find encouragement in solitude. But, of course, we can also find encouragement from others.

Later that evening after posting my last blog, I went out on the water with another paddler. We went out in the harbor to teach ourselves how to do more than just stand on our boards. We wanted to learn how to walk on our boards and how to do turns requiring us to be able walk backward and forward on our boards, a very difficult and challenging task for just about every paddler when first trying it. This is something I've been wanting to learn, and it was my goal to learn it before the end of the summer. So, I tired it.

At first, trying to pick my feet up off the board felt nearly impossible. It felt like my feet were glued to my board. I thought for sure I was going to completely lose my balance and end up in the water, or even worse, face plant on my board. But I knew I had to lift my foot and trust that, if I take that first step, God would guide me the rest of the way.

My fellow paddler and I would occasionally look over to each other to see how we were both doing. She encouraged me as she saw me trying to walk (I wasn't graceful, but instead looked like a baby taking its first steps). And while it felt good to have encouragement from her, it felt even better to encourage her! She was doing awesome, and I just kept saying, "There you go! You've got it!" Just saying those words to another person lifted my own spirits so high.

One of the things we both realized as we were trying these new techniques is that we had to go back to the basics, the things we learned the first time we ever stood on a board:  don't look down (it was only after Peter looked down that he began to sink) and stabilize yourself with the paddle in the water.

While I still have more practice to do to be able to walk more confidently and more gracefully on my board, I felt like those first steps, though small and awkward, were a huge start. I started to feel "unstuck," and I don't think I would have tried as hard to make myself take those steps if there wasn't someone there by side encouraging me and challenging me. I've been feeling stuck in a lot of areas of my life lately, and it helps me to become unstuck when I have friends who encourage me as I take one scary, wobbly step at a time.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)

August 11, 2015

The Encouragement Of Solitude

video

One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. In every type of professional work I've done, I've been able to use my gift to serve as an encouragement to my clients and my students. In certain friendships and relationships, I've had the opportunity to be an encouragement to others in times of sorrow and anxiety and have also received encouragement from them. It is an encouragement to myself just to be operating in my gifts. So, when business is slow and opportunities to encourage others are limited, I get, well, discouraged. Business has been really slow this year compared to previous years, so I've been experiencing discouragement a lot more frequently of late.

But, I am currently listening to a podcast series by Dr. David Jeremiah on the topic of encouragement. He says that people are in more need of encouragement today than ever in the history of the world. He talks about different ways in how we can be an encouragement to others, and how we can be an encouragement to ourselves when we need it most (and boy do I need it right now!). He says that one of the ways we can encourage ourselves is through solitude.

Solitude may be something some people are uncomfortable with, but I have learned to relish it, even when I don't feel like being alone. Here's what Dr. Jeremiah had to say about solitude: 
God used certain people in a mighty way, but before He could, He had to teach them to be alone, teach them what isolation was all about. There is ministry in solitude and if we don't learn how to cultivate that, we will have a very difficult time encouraging ourselves in the Lord. To be quiet so you can talk to God and so God can talk to you. King David understood the importance of getting alone, and so did Jesus. If a man considers his time to be so valuable that he cannot find time to keep quiet and to be alone, that man will eventually be of no value to anyone. To spend all of one's time with people is soon to have nothing to give any of them of any value.
For me, there are a few things I do in solitude that serve as a big encouragement for me. First and foremost, it is reading the Word at the start of each day and recording in my journal what I think God is saying to me through His Word, as if He were talking directly to me. When I later go back and read what I've recorded, it's often what I needed to be reminded of at exactly that point in time, or it's to confirm that He did what He said He was going to do.

Music is also an encouragement to me, whether it's the soothing music made with instruments by talented musicians, or music made by nature (the sound of the birds, the cicadas, the water). Being alone outside, especially paddling on the water, is helpful for me. God's Word reminds me of the hope I have in Him, while being on the water makes me forget my sorrows and anxieties, at least for those couple of hours. As you probably gathered from the video above, the rhythm of the paddle strokes, coupled with the sounds of the water and the birds make everything just melt away for me.

I love paddling on my own when I'm feeling discouraged (which was how I was feeling the day I shot the above video, and how I'm feeling today as I write this post). But I also enjoy it when paddling with a friend or a group who can also serve as an encouragement. I hope whoever is reading this blog is finding encouragement from the words God has put on my heart to share. What are your own spiritual gifts? (If you've never taken a spiritual gifts assessment, you really should!). How are you using them, and are you getting encouragement from using them in various areas of your life?

July 31, 2015

Let Light Shine Out Of Darkness



Tonight was a blue moon. I have been wanting to do a full moon paddle for so long, but the last two full moons it was too cloudy to see the moon. Conditions were finally near perfect tonight (I say near perfect since the bugs were REALLY bad tonight). But bugs or no bugs, I was determined to see the moon reflecting off the water.

As our group paddled out, the sun was still setting, and the direction we went gave us a beautiful view of the sunset. But once the sun was almost gone, we turned around to see the huge moon rising up over the horizon in the opposite direction.

It gave me comfort to know that, even when there are times that seem to be getting darker, God's light always shines through. Even if it is just a hint from a far-away star, or from the fullest of moons. God's light shone tonight, in the setting sun, the rising moon, and even in the shooting star we witnessed after returning from our paddle.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)


Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
(Psalm 136:3-9)

July 5, 2015

Strength For The Moment

This entry is from a friend I met last year while paddling. She has become a sister in Christ and I'm so thankful for her contribution to this blog! Enjoy!

My husband and I became almost immediately addicted to stand up paddling from the first moment we tried it. It was on a mini vacation to a lake house when we rented our first board and discovered, as we jokingly refer to it now, the “SUP lifestyle.” That phrase can certainly be interpreted a few different ways, but for us, it just means that stand up paddling has changed the way we enjoy any free time that we have - including vacations - which are now spent almost entirely on the water. And we absolutely love every single second of it. Well, we did until our most recent trip.

We were excited to finally be visiting a lake we read about in a magazine and we were eager to get on the water. The first day we set out to see a waterfall on what we knew would be an 8-10 mile round trip. It was a great day and we were proud of ourselves for going a greater distance than we had on our previously longest paddle (8 miles) on the Cumberland last year.

Encouraged by our success we decided to go on a 14 mile round trip paddle to another waterfall the following day. Our thinking was “if we can easily paddle 10 miles, 14 is probably not a big deal.” And it might not have been, except we made some wrong navigational decisions and added another three miles to our trip equaling SEVENTEEN miles total. We aren’t endurance athletes. Or even athletes. And it was HOT and sunny that day, around 88-90F. Although we miraculously felt unusually strong and energetic for the first 15 miles, exhaustion hit on the last 1.5-2 miles and we started to wonder if we had the strength to get back. But we had no other option. No one to call for a pick-up, no current to float on, no sail to raise, no engine to start; nothing to do but focus and paddle. If I could have called anyone to come and get us I would have done so in a minute. We really wanted to quit.

At that point, I could barely even stand to look at the shore because it was so far away and felt impossible to reach based on the strength I had left. I literally counted paddling strokes on each side of the board before I would allow myself to look again, hoping that I would be closer than I realized. Throughout that stretch when we were exhausted and had no choice but to keep paddling, I started thinking about what a metaphor this experience was for life.

When painful circumstances occur in life, often there is no visible end to the suffering. But in those seasons, we all have no alternative than to keep “paddling,” no matter how painful or how questionable the outcome seems to be at the time. Sometimes we have to just put our heads down and not even look for a finish line other than the end of the next minute, the next hour, the next day. And that is how we arrive at our destinations. Eventually, seasons pass. Finish lines become visible. Rest awaits.

For no reason known to him at the time, that morning my husband packed about four times more water than we normally take. It was like manna because we had just enough to last us until we got back to land. In keeping with His promises to always provide for our needs WHEN we have them, God gave us extra strength AND extra water that day at exactly the right time.

In retrospect, we experienced first-hand our Lord’s name “I AM” that day. I heard a pastor say once that God did not refer to Himself as “I was,” or “I will be,” but “I AM” because He is always in the present. I hope the next time when our strength is failing and the shore line seems unreachable, literally or figuratively, that we will remember how God faithfully plans in advance for our needs, whether that is an extra few bottles of water, or divinely infused physical strength, and delivers at exactly the right time.