Safe

From the pebble beach of Blue Marsh Lake that yellow September day, I gazed at the sky above the vicious locust trees and asked Jesus what he had to say to me.

“A storm is coming.”

That’s what I thought he said.

Had I just imagined the words? A wisp of mare’s tail cloud hung low in the sky above me. Had the cloud placed thoughts of a storm into my mind?

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I held still, waiting for more words from Jesus. It was a hot day, with skies as blue as blue could be, so why were the birds all darting for cover in the low forest underbrush? “Prepare for a storm.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I kept those words in my heart. And I prepared.

Two months later in a riverside campsite under the pines, I tucked the first clean pot into the dish hammock and clearly heard these words in my heart, “Leave here and find your teammates.” I glanced at my watch. My co-guide had asked me to find her if she wasn’t back in an hour, but only half that time had passed. “Don’t overthink,” I told myself, “Just finish the dishes and find the group after the hour has passed.”

I heard pounding steps on the trail just as the final plates were being rinsed. I stood up and jogged out of the campsite before the panting messenger could ask me to. I wished I’d have listened to the Holy Spirit when he told me to find the group. I could have saved this messenger a lot of effort.

We waged war for hours, and by the time the war was in recession, our stuffed-crust campfire pizza was stiff and cold. The sun had set, and the moon had rolled out of bed to take his turn in the sky. One by one, the headlamps blinked out in the campsite. This war was not over, but the soldiers all needed rest.

I sat under the pines facing the tents and watched, and prayed. Many animals roam the woods at night. As snores rose up from the solo tents around me, the noises in the forest rose to rival them.

Owls hooted back and forth across the river in their comically quizzical way, and a grouchy ibis squawked at his unwanted neighbor in terse, short sentences. Rustling leaves told me the toads were a’hopping.

A howl broke out on the riverbank, downstream, and then moved closer. Panthers pass through this area, once in awhile. This noise wasn’t made by a panther, but it made me think about a hiker’s story of meeting one nearby.

Black clouds winged across the sky, sometimes revealing a handful of very bright stars, sometimes dropping bits of rain.

Silent, unseen battles swept through the campsite, passing, then receding.

All alone in this black campsite, palmettos poking my neck and mosquitoes nibbling my ankles, I wrapped a tarp around my shoulders and stared up at the sky. I asked Jesus for things, and gave him other things, and thought about the unusual fact that I wasn’t  scared.

I felt so cozy, all alone there under the pines, in the middle of that active battleground.

Relieved, and comfortable, like showing up at a spring when your body has just traveled 25 miles under a hot sun.

The girl who could never sleep without her head being buried under a pillow– who could not walk outside at night without both a light and a big dog, was sitting cross-legged in a campsite at 2 a.m. with more peace than most people feel at church on a Sunday morning.

It was Jesus, obviously.

I’m not always so good at receiving love from Jesus, or from anyone else, but under those pines, in the short recess of that war he’d told me to prepare for two whole months in advance, I was recieving love from him like there was no tomorrow. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to spend a night sitting cross-legged in the woods with Jesus. But it fills you up inside.

When my watch beeped for the 5:30 making of coffee, I felt alive.

We human beans are pretty good at finding earth-things that make us feel safe. But a gun, or a dog, or a flashlight, or a man, or a can of pepper spray—these can’t know two months in advance that you’d need to prepare for war, and teach you how to prepare in exactly the right way.

A gun can’t answer the questions on your heart. A dog can’t tell you to drop what lies you are believing and what truth will set you free. A flashlight can’t fight the battles going on in unseen places. A man can’t protect the minds of the kiddos from bad dreams while they sleep. A can of pepper spray can’t make you feel so joyful in the middle of a battlefield–so secure that you could fall asleep.

It is a good place to live, with your spirit seated in the presence of Jesus and your body joining the armies of heaven in their battles on earth. I have much to learn about it.

But I’ve learned this so far: When you live in Jesus, life is 100% unpredictable. But it is 100% empowered. And 100% safe.

10 Reasons Why YOU Should Take A Canoe Trip This Summer

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1) If you love nature

If you love to explore wild, un-touched parts of God’s creation, if you love to see the sun rise and fall on each new day, if you love the taste of the rain, the smell of the forest, the songs of a feathered choir, the gentle rocking rythm of the current against your canoe, if you want to effortlessly spy on a trout, or an eagle, or a deer or heron or bear quietly going about it’s business from your watery vantage point, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

2)  If you want to get up close and personal with Jesus.

If you’re tired, if you’re wounded, if you’re restless, if you’re running, if you’re seeking, if you’re on fire with a message from the Lord, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

3) If you want some peace and quiet.

If freedom from all schedules and technology, or floating quietly between solemn mountains, or solo time on a rocky beach or dappled forest floor, or worship around a campfire, or staring up at endless stars as you fall asleep sounds revitalizing to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

4) If you love adventure.

If navigating a boiling rapid, or learning to read a river map, or orienteering through the wilderness, or cliff-jumping, or rapelling, or learning how to make your campfire stay alive through a rainstorm sounds like fun to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

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5) If you want long-lasting relationships.

If you want to lay your burdens down and be held up through it all by people who truly care, if you want to have meaningful conversations that do more than just skim the surface of reality, if you want to encourage people, if you want to be encouraged, if you want to be prayed for, if you want to struggle, laugh, cry, rest, pray, eat, sleep, sweat and play with a group of people who start as strangers and end as tight-knit friends, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

6) If you love camping.

If you love the smell of wood smoke, picking out the perfect spot for your tent,

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falling asleep with the cool night air in your lungs, cooking food over a crackling fire, digging and using a latrine… COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

(Ok, I’ll admit, that latrine bit was purely cynical. But if you DO love it, I’d LOVE to have you!!!)

7) If you like to work out.

If you love to paddle, or if you love to hike, or if you love competing to see who can haul in the biggest dead tree for the campfire, and if you want to see how much stronger your muscles are after a week of exercise in the fresh, clean air, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

8) If you like to sport a good tan.

It can’t rain for seven days straight, can it? If you love the way the reflection on sunshine off the water transforms your skin into a deeper shade of brown and fills your body with energizing vitamin D, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

9) If you like swimming.

If the thought of water games like gallumping and splash wars, or the thought of a peaceful late afternoon swim after a day in the hot sun sounds refreshing to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

10) If you want to learn something new.

The wilderness always has a fresh, new metaphor in store for what God wants to say to you and me…. each and every day! If you believe that technology can be distracting and demanding, and want to leave it behind and go to a place where Jesus is the primary teacher….. COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

“The wilderness is God’s place. He can do what He wants there, and no man can mess it up.” Dan Lapp, Trail Blaze Outfitters LLC

This is a statement I firmly believe in, too…. because I’ve experienced God’s transforming power in that setting so many times myself! There’s a reason Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days before starting His ministry… and there’s a reason He often went to a mountain alone to pray.

Being temporarily stripped of cultural noise, time, deadlines and expectations is a powerful experience! Would you like to try it?

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To see a list of available trips, or to schedule a private one for a group of your own, visit TBO’s website. We can’t wait to meet you!