“Loving God and Loving Neighbor” in “Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine”

Recently I was blessed to have an article I wrote published in the November/December issue of ‘Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.’

They have a great publication covering all sorts of fun outdoor activities and how they fit in with Christianity. I would encourage everyone to check out the magazine and the wide range of well-written articles.

Here’s the link for my article on kayaking and Christianity. Feel free to explore the rest of the magazine as well!

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“The Spotted Sea Trout”

This is a small glimpse of a 160 mile kayaking trip from Carlisle, Pennsylvania to halfway down the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s eastern shore. My friend Alex and I made this journey in May 2009 after my graduation from Dickinson College; Alex graduated from Dickinson College in May 2008.

I looked down into the blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Salt was in the air as the sub-aquatic vegetation pressed against the ceiling of the tide, almost yearning to escape the two feet of water still remaining in the bay. There was a bubble at the surface. As I turned my gaze from the horizon to the water, my mind soon processed the Spotted Sea Trout that had come so close to my kayak.

I took a few more seconds to contemplate my encounter with the fish. A few miles behind me was the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Beyond that was the Mason-Dixon line and Pennsylvania. Even further upstream was Harrisburg. And if you headed west somewhere around there, you would find the Conodoguinet Creek, the town of Carlisle, and Dickinson College. It was there that Alex and I began this tour just a few days before and maybe a hundred miles earlier.

The fish had disappeared; the ripples had dissipated. Any remnants of its presence were long gone. I once again returned my eyes to the land ahead. The fish was already at home safely in the undergrowth, yet we were still paddling our kayaks toward a place to make our home. Humidity masked the eastern shore as Alex and I were miles away from land in every direction. Only a faint breeze brought relief to the late afternoon heat as the sun continued it blazing journey to the west.

Rocks sat on a barge to my left; a small yacht was only a little farther. Two or three sailboats dotted the water ahead of us. It passed through my mind once or twice that they were probably wondering what two small human-powered vessels were doing out in the middle of the bay at that time. Our yellow and orange boats floated in contrast to the blue salt-water.

Picking up my paddle, I powered through my sore shoulders and the pain of the blisters forming on my hand. My sunburnt neck and face weren’t bothering me yet. I looked over at Alex and pulled my paddle through the water, propelling my kayak a few feet toward the land that never seemed to get any closer. Our short pause had come to an end. Although we joined the Spotted Sea Trout in his home for a couple minutes, we were still making the trip toward ours.

Maybe the Spotted Sea Trout would join us.

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the degradation of the term “adventure”

These days people are labeling anything and everything as an “adventure.” I know some people who would term a trip to the local grocery store, coffee shop, or city park as an “adventure.” Quite honestly, it’s pathetic. One might be able to get away with calling trips like these adventures only after the fact, and only if something unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring occurred somewhere in the timeline of the trip.

In a fast-paced and over-stimulated world, where nearly every minute of our days are planned and there is not much room for error, we have lost much of any sense of adventure. Moreover, we make contingency plans for every possibility. Finally, with the rapid advancement and proliferation of technology, there seems to be less that can go wrong each day. Perhaps this is the reason we have an over-zealous thirst for labeling mundane everyday activities as adventurous.

I recently watched Stephen Auerbach’s documentary “Bicycle Dreams” about the 2005 Race Across America, one of the most difficult races in the world. One of the cyclists, Chris MacDonald, discusses how people describe a sense of something missing in their lives, yet they do not know what it is that is missing. An element of the unknown is a critical component of adventure. This may be one reason why people enter events like the Race Across America. Whether I realize it or not, it is probably one of the reasons I enter endurance paddling races such as the Missouri River 340. We are searching for the opportunity and courage to face an unknown that has been replaced by the comfort, stability, and safety of a posh American lifestyle.

As a result of our safe and stable lives, it is increasingly hard to find an endeavor that is definitively an adventure. As Scott and Shackleton planned their Antarctic expeditions over a century ago, there was certainly a greater possibility and fear of the unknown than there might be on similar expeditions today. While anyone going on any type of trip has an obligation to do their best to mitigate the risks, there are some endeavors where a great unknown is an unavoidable fact hovering above them, as in the case of a soldier deploying to a foreign country. When we have the courage to leave the safety and comfort of our personal worlds behind, it is at that point when we can truly begin to call something an adventure.

Perhaps the greatest adventure any of us can go on, in the truest sense of the word, is to completely devote our lives to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old and New Testaments are filled with people who have ventured out from the safety of their personal worlds out of obedience to God. Through courage and faith in God, David not only conquered the fear of physical danger but also the fear of the unknown. In the New Testament, in addition to being shipwrecked and being bitten by a venomous snake, Paul faced persecution continuously for his belief in Christ. When we make a commitment to following God, the unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring are guaranteed to happen.

There is certainly an element of the unknown when we devote our lives to Christ. We may not exactly know the direction of our lives all of the time. We may be sent as missionaries to foreign lands. We may even face the physical peril of persecution and poverty. But despite everything that may challenge our commitment to Christ, God does give at least one comfort in the adventure of a true Christian life: we can take refuge in the faith and knowledge of God. We have the knowledge that in the end, the unknown of this adventure will not be for nothing, but rather it will be for the hope, love, and salvation of Christ. Until then, it is our responsibility to live as an example of Christ to a world that is searching and struggling through their own elements of the unknown.