Thankful for Small and BIG Things

I’ve never thought I was ever close to drowning. But late this summer I got closer than I ever want to be again.

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Our crazy little granddaughter, Miyah

One of our granddaughters, 8-year-old Miyah, wanted to go fishing, and I wanted to take her. We planned a trip to one of my favorite places, a small lake nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by luscious grasses, with an easy in and out ramp, as well as comfortable restrooms and drinking fountains.

As I loaded the equipment that morning, I paused to consider which life-vest to wear. Our granddaughter would bring her own. The decision to take my best life-vest was determined by who my fishing partner would be that day. Should something unforeseen happen I wanted to be sure Miyah would be safe, so I tried to assure my own safety.

I love to fish, and Miyah was excited too, though she wanted nothing to do with worms,  and she wanted to catch a fish but did not want to touch a fish. When we arrived at the lake, we loaded everything into the boat and set sail.

We were off for a fun day.

My anticipation was high. I hoped Miyah would catch a big one, and that lake was a great place for that to happen.

Motoring across the lake, I was looking for a special spot where the fish might be biting. We tried numerous places. Miyah made suggestions and I tested my best hunches. We soon understood the bass were going to be elusive that day.

My boat is simple, but perfect for such an adventure. It’s an 11’ inflatable, highly durable, safe craft with tough, redundant air chambers, and you can add a wooden floor. Comfy bass seats on spider legs made for good seating. As we searched for the right spot, I turned back to adjust the electric trolling motor. Unknown to me, the spider legs of my seat were sliding across the slick wooden floor, and one leg suddenly dropped into a crevice between the wooden floor and the inflated side of the boat. This caused the seat to tip abruptly and, faster than you could snap your fingers, I was thrown into the lake and went completely under in about 15’ of water. My life-vest immediately popped me back to the surface. One of our daughters asked me later, “Dad, were you scared?” “No,” I said, “I didn’t have time to think about it.”

As water dripped from my face, I quickly assured Miyah that I was okay, and everything would be fine. We were quite a distance from shore, and I did not want to try to climb back in the boat for fear it might topple and throw Miyah into the water. So, I swam, pulling the boat back to shore where I could get back in safely.

It was then I noticed I was no longer wearing my glasses; they were undoubtedly at the bottom of the lake. Then I felt my cell phone in my pants’ pocket, well underwater, as were my car key-fob and other keys attached to a belt loop. Later I discovered I had pulled a new fishing rod, with a brand-new reel I had just bought, into the lake with me. It was about a $1400 quick dip in the lake!

A Sheriff happened to be in the parking lot. He kindly let me use his cellphone to call Mary to let her know we would be a little longer than originally planned. Soaked or not, this fishing trip was not over.

While we were dry-docked, Miyah caught some fish from the shore, screaming with excitement, but also screaming because she did not want to touch the fish. Well, what are grandpas for if not to help get the fish off the hook?

Fishing was not all that good that day, but Miyah had many compliments about how she liked fishing and how she liked my boat. She was all smiles. It was a good day.

This thank you is for a big thing. The Psalmist said, “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life” (Psalm 12:7). In this case, I had experienced that.

It was also a big thing because of what did not happen. I’ve thought of that incident so often. If I had chosen not to wear a life-vest, or if I had chosen a less buoyant one . . . or if I had gotten frightened and gulped water as I went under, there could have been a far different outcome.

Every time I’ve pondered the what-ifs of that day, I’ve been sobered, and I’ve been profoundly thankful. God kept us from harm. God guided me as I selected the life-vest I wore that day. That, too, I’ve relived many times – standing in my garage, staring at my life-vests, making a momentous decision to pick what is probably the best one I own.

Like you, I’ve had to remind myself to be thankful for the small, overlooked things, the many blessings we all take for granted. But there are big things too – a successful operation, the “we did not find cancer” report, safe delivery of a baby, a breakthrough on a big project. And, as in the case of that memorable fishing trip, even big things that did not happen.

Here’s more family fishing fun . . .

 

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A Short Tongue with a Long Lesson

Contradictions. Counterintuitive. These words described my wonderings as I tried to learn a new skill. It was a crazy thing. I was trying to learn how to back-up a trailer with a short tongue.

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Now that’s a short tongue!

I had built the trailer from a kit so I could haul my eleven-foot inflatable fishing boat to favorite fishing spots. Backing it up never came to mind as a difficulty. Until I tried it. Embarrassed by the difficulty I had on my first attempt, I was convinced that everyone watching me try to back down the boat ramp at my favorite lake surely thought I was an incompetent idiot.

Then I discussed this with one of our sons-in-law. He affirmed that to back-up a trailer with a short tongue is a challenge. That was comforting, but I had to learn how to back-up my trailer.

There are videos on YouTube and elsewhere on how to master this talent. I watched several. One important approach was repeated more than once; I had to adopt that method. It was to steer from the bottom of the steering wheel, not the top. When backing up a trailer with a longer tongue, you can successfully steer from the top; simply turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction you want the trailer to turn. A snap. I tried that with my short tongue trailer and nearly jack-knifed the trailer numerous times.

I had to practice. One afternoon I hooked up the trailer and drove to the outer areas of the parking lot of a nearby Farm and Fleet. Again, I was convinced that the few people watching me trying to back-up that trailer were certainly wondering what I was doing, maybe even thinking about calling the police. I didn’t care. I had to master this. I lost count of the number of times I pulled forward and backed up that trailer. I talked to myself about that key point – “steer from the bottom of the steering wheel, not the top. Turn the same direction you want the trailer to turn.”

Slowly I began to get it. Doing the opposite thing of what I had learned about backing up trailers was the key. “Amazing,” I said to myself; steering from the bottom of the wheel, turning in the same direction I wanted the trailer to turn, made all the difference. It worked!

As I drove home from the Farm and Fleet parking lot, I once again discovered that God is active in every aspect of our lives. I’m reading James Bryan Smith’s book, The Magnificent Journey right now, and I was reminded again of this exciting reality when I read these words:

        51BxCbwfauL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_ - Copy“But what happens if we understand grace to be God’s action in our lives? We then live each day, each moment, in the expectation that God will act. We open the possibility that every aspect of our life – from gardening to parenting to our vocation (may I add learning to back up a short-tongue trailer) – is an opportunity for God to interact with us.” (James Bryan Smith, The Magnificent Journey, IVP  Books, 2018, page 31)

As I drove home, I thought of things Jesus said that are so counterintuitive. God blesses those who are humble. God blesses those who show mercy to others. Getting even? Jesus said, if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do to others what you would like them to do to you. Counterintuitive!

Jesus contradicted what we are commonly told will light up our lives and give us rest and peace. You know the often hollow promises of our culture. Consider Jesus’ contradictions.

    >Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

   >Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

   >Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Steer your life by the counterintuitive adventure of following Jesus, that frequently contradicts familiar advice. While learning to back up my short tongue trailer I learned that what may seem not to make sense, may steer you in the right direction.

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