Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekly Reflection - Faith Lessons from a Boater

This weekend we went on a boat trip with a boat club from our boat manufacturer, Regal. It was a gorgeous, albeit hot, weekend for boating. During our trip home from Longboat Key to Tampa today I had a lot of quiet time to reflect. From it comes my Sunday reflection Blog!

This was our first trip with our new color GPS (global positioning system for you non-boaters) on our 26 foot Regal cruiser. It was a good thing that we had it, because our depth finder has been broken for some time and one thing you need to know at all times when you are boating is how deep the water is in relation to the draft of your boat (how far the boat extends down into the water). We need a minimum of just over 3 feet to be safe.

On the way down to Longboat Key, which is near Sarasota, we followed our neighbors Gene and Linda. I told Michael that I thought that following was a good idea, since we didn’t have a working depth finder. He agreed, as the depth finder on our new GPS doesn’t work over 20 mph.

It wasn’t until we got to Longboat Key that we found out that theirs wasn’t working either! At one point we came dangerously close to running aground, just as we were pulling into the marina!

Faith lesson #1 – Following someone else is not always a good idea if you don’t know their depth
In life, as in boating, if you choose to follow the behaviors and attitudes of others, it is good to first know where they stand in their faith. Not only do they live a life of faith, but how deep are they in their walk with the Lord? It is best to take responsibility for your own life and your own faith and if anything is out of order in your life – get it fixed!

When you travel in a large body of water like the Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico just past the Sunshine Skyway bridge enroute to the Intercoastal Waterway (which is quite wide at spots) like we did on this trip, conventional wisdom would indicate that the shortest distance between two points is as the crow flies.

The quickest way to get in trouble boating is to go as the crow flies or to rely on what you see above the water to navigate. Even though you can see many miles in front of you, there can be many shallow points. The price you pay in hitting them is not just having to slow down tremendously (or worse stopping instantly), but also that you may take in dirt into your engine’s intakes.

We have had two occasions where we took sand or dirt into our engines and each time it cost at least “one boating unit” to fix the problem (the euphemism for boat is “bring on another thousand”, so a unit is $1000). It is often faster (cheaper and safer) to go around the shallows and come back around using the channel markers.

Faith lesson #2 – Trying to take shortcuts in our faith can be dangerous
If we believe that we know best and do not follow God’s directions and guidance, then often we are stopped cold in our tracks. We then need help to pull ourselves out and if we got “dirty” in the process in our hearts and in our minds, there is cleanup to be done. Fortunately for us, getting clean is not an expensive process as it is with a boat, as Jesus has already paid for our sin and all we have to do is ask and he forgives.

Now I’ve made it sound really dangerous and difficult to boat. Well, it would be if there weren’t boating charts and GPS systems that show an image of the charts on the screen. On the way down to Longboat Key as I mentioned, we were following friends who had been there before. That was good, as we didn’t have to study the charts to see the destination in relation to our starting point. What we did do was turn on our GPS, which tracked our progress and the exact track we took on the way down. Since the GPS was new, we saw landmarks on the track, but could not see the depth indicators like you do on the paper charts. Michael hadn’t had time to study the GPS unit as it was just put in earlier in the week.

As I said, Gene and Linda cut a bit too close as we were going into the marina. Our GPS does have a depth finder built in, but it only works below 20 mph, as the “chatter” stirred up by the engines causes it to malfunction when you go fast. But as we were cutting into the marina, we heard the depth alarm and slowed way down. Now Gene’s boat is a couple of feet longer than ours but has basically the same depth, so we knew if we stayed right in his wake (directly behind him), that we would be ok. If he ran aground, we would too and if he got through, so would we. So we cautiously followed, at a safe distance.

Faith Lesson #3 – Our charts and depth finder are found the Word of God.
If we are zipping along too fast in our lives though we tend to not have time to get into the word and to focus on our destination. And if we are following the lives of others we run the risk of not listening to what God wants for us specifically and if they run aground and we are right behind, it could be catastrophic. Also, we may not be able to hear the depth alarms if we are operating in the “shallows” of life. Actually the word shallow is perfectly here. If you read my blog from a few days ago, I stated that the Enemy’s chief goal is to keep us in the shallows. He doesn’t care if we get “dirty”. The Enemy doesn’t want us where the living water runs swift and deep – where the water is clear and pure. But that is precisely where God wants us to be.

The next chapter of the story is that when we took the time to go through the GPS unit, we found that we could display the water depths on the unit itself, so even though the depth finder didn’t work, we could safely navigate our way home.

One of the first times we went boating we were in a neighbor’s boat and he had a GPS where we tracked the trip out and followed it on the trip back. Well, we forgot one important thing – the tides. When we went out, it was high tide (deeper water) and the trip home was at low tide. So even though we thought we were operating safely, we had a rude awakening when we ran aground. It took five of us in the water pushing and a boat to tow us out to deeper waters. Had we not done that, we would have had to wait for the tide to rise (could have taken hours!).

So today, even though we followed our path from Friday, we adjusted for the portion of the path where we knew Gene had cut too closely near the marina and we had to adjust all of the depths on the chart down about 1 ½ feet for low tide. The saying live and learn is appropriate here!

Faith Lesson #4 Overlay God’s Word into your spirit
If we study God’s Word and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all that we do and say, that is like the chart overlay on the GPS. We will sense when we are getting in shallow water by what we have studied and we will hear His “depth alarms” when we are treading where we shouldn’t.

Just because we’ve been through a certain situation before, it is possible for there to be things that we aren’t immediately aware of that cause it to be different. Sometimes God wants us to learn something different, so he urges us to go another way. Listening to His voice is the safest way to navigate, particularly through tough times.

They say that following the straight and narrow path is a good thing to do. Well, as we were coming past Bradenton and entering back into the Bay, there was one section that was indeed straight and very narrow. We had to slow down and be very careful. If someone was going too slow and we wanted to pass, we couldn’t give them a very wide berth, so we had to pass very slowly. When we were going through that area, the water just to our right and left was extremely shallow. Normally the flat bottom fishing boats, catamarans and jetskis are ok in that water, but since it was low tide, today we saw a jetski aground with two people pushing it!

As you are navigating in waters such as this, one of the most important things to watch for are the channel markers. Any regular boater can tell you that “red, right, return” is the most essential thing to memorize. What that says is that where you see channel markers, the green one will be on your left and the red one on your right, when you are “returning”. Now I’m not going to take this blog to go into detail as to how you can tell when you are returning (because obviously it isn’t personal to you!), but suffice it to say that you need to stay in between the two channel markers in these areas, as to be outside of them will take you into shallow water.

Faith Lesson #5 The Fruits of the Spirit are our channel markers
To stay in the deep and clear water, we should follow Galatians 5: 22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Seeing these in our lives signals that we are following along the right path – listening to and obeying God’s Word.

The red markers that signify shallow, dangerous waters are those highlighted in Galatians 5: 19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We are home safe and sound. I pray that this Blog blessed you. May God’s tender hand be on your life this week, showing you the way.

Chicke Fitzgerald


Reality Check said...

Wow, what a great illustration! This is serious sermon material. Thank you for such an easy to understand explanation of the Word of God. To quote from Robrt DeNiro speaking to Billy Crystal in the movie 'Analyze This', "You...You have a gift!" Thanks for sharing it with us.


Kathleen said...

You have wisdom beyond your years little one. I admire your ability to put it into words. I passed this on to my Relief Society (womens group) president and to Jeanie Foster. I loved your metaphors. It touched my heart that you are making this journey and sharing it at this time of your life. Especially the sharing. Thank you. K