Canadian Wilderness Trip Lesson #6: Necessities

S1140035Ever since seeing my dad’s as a kid I had wanted one.

A Stanley 1.1 quart Classic Thermos.

They’re not cheap as thermoses go, so I have often passed them up. But while I was in Walmart shopping for our trip, there it was. Spotlight from heaven shining down upon it. A vision of baby angels in diapers sitting on clouds was seen, and the sound of them singing and playing harps was heard. I knew this was God’s appointed time for me to finally spring for one. And so I did. As I drove home all I could think about was how great it would be drinking Starbucks Via from my thermos in the Canadian wilderness.

I packed my supplies for the trip and was excited about all of my gear, my new Stanley 1.1 quart Classic Thermos chief amongst it all. I took an earth science class in high school, and one of the things I took away from Mr. Moore’s class, when talking about survival in the outdoors, was to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. As I looked through my gear I was sure I had everything I needed.

But then something happened. I picked up my luggage. It was heavy.

No problem. My suitcase had wheels. But my suitcase wasn’t going into the outdoors with me. All of this stuff was going to go into a pack along with my share of team supplies, including food and a tent, all of which was to be carried on my back. And so, I took the painful measure of going through my gear and lightening my load. Some things that I really liked and wanted to take didn’t make the cut because I realized they were not essential.

I went through the process several more times, and each time I made the hard choice to leave things behind. One thing that kept making the cut, however, was my Stanley 1.1 quart Classic Thermos. As we were making final preparations before getting into our canoes and setting out for the week, Greg, one of our experienced team leaders saw me struggling to fit everything into my pack. I had crammed as much in as I could fit. I sat on my pack and squeezed out as much air as I could, but my thermos was not in the pack. Greg asked, “Do you have a cup?” I assured him I did. “If I was you,” he said, “I would leave the thermos. You’re not going to need it.”

What?! O no he didn’t! No way! This thermos was coming with me! I found a couple of carabiners and hooked the thermos onto my pack. Heavy? Yes. Necessary? Do you really have to ask?

By day 3 … I had not used the thermos … not once. I forgot I was going to be up so early each day and would have my 2 cups of coffee in me before 8am. I also apparently neglected to consider that I would be busy paddling all day and wouldn’t have time to sip coffee anyways, even if I wanted to. Plus, one of the carabiners broke and I had to deal with the thermos clunking around while I was struggling to carry my pack along the trails.

Sometimes we need to leave behind things in order to get where we want to go. Sometimes it’s obvious and easy. They may be things that we know are not good for us. They might be sinful things. But then, there are other things that are not as easy to identify and let go of because they are not bad. They are not sinful. But the issue isn’t whether or not they are bad, it’s a question of whether they are essential and helpful in getting us where God wants to take us. The hard thing is letting go of the good things that God tells us we must leave behind in order to reach the great places He wants to take us.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is helpful. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be brought under the control of anything” (HCSB).

The writer of Hebrews said it like this: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2, HCSB). Notice the two different things: 1) every incumbrance, and 2) the sin which so easily entangles us. Not just the things that will entangle our feet and trip us up (sin), but also the things that will encumber us and weigh us down, making if difficult to move forward.

What are the sin issues that God is calling you to lay aside in order to fulfill His plans for your life? What are other things – maybe even good things – that you know are not helping you in your journey – that God is calling you to let go of?

Mahaffy Family Reunion

10562713_763753103668009_397188754745270104_oTwo weeks ago we traveled down to Yorktown, Virginia for the Mahaffy Family Reunion. The last time all of our families were all together was 21 years ago (we’ve come close at a couple of weddings) , and that was before any of my generation were married. Each family was assigned a different color t-shirt, and the numbers on our t-shirts represented the order in which we joined the family (really cool idea!). There were 55 of us in total from 83 years old to less than 2 months. In addition to the obvious joy of being with everyone and catching up, few highlights for me personally:

It was the first time my parents and all of my siblings were together in 5 years.

2014 Reunion 8-9-14 041

It was the first time I’ve seen my only brother in 3 years. IMG_5246

Seeing my parents with all of their 11 grandchildren at once for the first time ever.IMG_5165One night all of us “older cousins” and our spouses went out together (There is a 14 year gap between my grandparents’ oldest 3 children and their youngest 2, so those of us born to the older 3 all grew up together, and the children of the younger 2 are in the age range of my daughters.)


Seeing my daughter walking with her great-grandmother.IMG_5220

Seeing my grandparents with all of their 5 children and spouses, 17 grandchildren and spouses, 18 great-grandchildren. What a legacy!

2014 Reunion 8-9-14 057

2014 Reunion 8-9-14 0712014 Reunion 8-9-14 009 2014 Reunion 8-9-14 010 2014 Reunion 8-9-14 012 2014 Reunion 8-9-14 014

Say “Hi” to Rachel!

Last month we asked you all to pray for Rachel Caldwell, one of our former students who was experiencing serious brain shunt failure while on a missions trip. She made it back to the United States and underwent surgery to repair the shunt. Last week, while we were in Virginia for a family reunion, we were able to see Rachel for a while. She is doing great, and we really enjoyed our time with her, albeit brief. Thanks for praying for this awesome woman of God!


Wisdom from Robert Frost for the Young and Old

I read this great poem by Richard Frost called “What Fifty Said” yesterday. Both young and old can learn from each other.

When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.


Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can’t be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.


99 Questions to Spark Conversations

I recently read the book God Space by Doug Pollock. It was a wonderful book about engaging in spiritual conversations in a natural way. I recommend you pick up a copy of the book and give it a read. Here are Wonder Questions from the book to help you take your conversations to a more meaningful place.I-Wonder-TS-109183146-224x300

Disappointment with God: Habakkuk

Canadian Wilderness Trip Lesson #5: Mystery

I do it all of the time to my daughters. It’s something I incorporate into a lot of our youth ministry events and activities.

Luke 6:31 says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

How would I handle having it done to me?

That was the question I was confronted with when Heath and Greg told us: “We will not be telling you where we are going, how far we are going, what we will be doing, or letting you see the map ahead of time. Each day will be a mystery.”

And each day was a mystery. We didn’t know if around the next bend we were going to have to get out and climb over a series of beaver dams, see a 1,400 lb. moose, find a dead end and have to turn around, find a 2,300 meter portage, or if we were going to hear those beautiful words, “that is our campsite for the night.”

I think mystery and adventure are what makes life, well, life. Of course I wish I knew more about God’s future plans for our lives, but I also know that that would negate the need for faith, and God calls us to a journey of faith. And so, many times I withhold information to cause my daughters and students to wrestle with the tension. Sometimes I don’t tell them things because I know that if I tell them ahead of time they’ll never go because it will be a tough challenge and I don’t want them to miss out on the growth they will experience from doing something difficult. Sometimes I don’t tell them because I want them to have the thrill of surprise as they get to do something really fun and amazing. Sometimes I don’t tell them because I don’t want them to get their expectations up only to be disappointed when things don’t go according to plan.

I think creating experiences in which my daughters and students have to live with mystery is really important because they are microcosms of life. In spite of our best planning, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes we encounter things that are difficult that we need to wrestle through to strengthen us and give us the experience necessary for something down the road, and if we knew about the challenge ahead of time we would chicken out. And sometimes we encounter things that pleasantly surprise us, blow our socks off, and leave us in awe – things we might not have experienced if we didn’t round the bend because we didn’t know what was there. Mystery is what makes life life, and what makes life worth living.

I love the tag line on one of my new favorite shows “Mountain Men”: “Live for a living.” And if you watch the show, you know that every day is a mysterious adventure.

One of my favorite quotes from The Fellowship of the Rings: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo.

I was really curious how I would respond to not knowing the specifics of the plan for our trip, but I was pleasantly surprised that I handled it well and simply resigned myself to living fully in each moment and not getting consumed with timelines and directions. It was a real heart-check for me as someone who finds myself, more often than not, in the position of leadership on many of the trips and experiences I participate in.

Embracing mystery is a tough thing for us because we like to feel like we are in control, but that is the essence of surrendering one’s life to the Lordship of Christ. You are essentially saying, “God, You are the Leader of my life. I surrender myself to your will, your plans, for my life. I will embrace my position as a follower, choosing to trust that You know what you are doing and where we are going.”

Some days you will find yourself in canals getting out and carrying your canoe over beaver dams every 100 yards. Some days you will be huffing and puffing and sweating and wanting to quit as you carry your 50 lb. backpack and your 50 lb. canoe on your back. Somedays you will be paddling on a calm glassy lake. Somedays you will be paddling against huge waves. Somedays you will find yourself filled with wonder as you are sitting staring at a 1,400 lb. moose just a few meters from you. Not every day will be easy. Not every day will be exciting. Not every day will be hard. But every day will be a mystery. Every day will be an adventure. Embrace each one as a gift from God.

Proverbs 19:22 – “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

James 4:13-15 – “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”