Bible Reading: Mark 4:21-41
Sometimes life can be difficult…even for kids. At those times…they need to know that Jesus is aware of what is happening, that He is concerned, and that He has the answer and the power to take care of it. They need to know that they can turn to Him…that they can trust Him.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
When I was in the 8th Grade we lived in Dade City, Florida. My father and I did a lot of cool stuff in the out-of-doors, together…like fishing, and canoeing, and camping, and hunting. On one outdoor expedition we took another father and son along with us. Richard was one of my best friends and his father was a banker in town. They were great folks…but, they did not have the experience being in the woods and on the water, like Dad and I did.
We were going to take a canoe trip up the Withlacoochee River. I say “up”, because it began in the northern part of Pasco County in the Green Swamp and gently flowed south about 70 miles where it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico at a small community named Yankeetown. Withlacoochee is a Seminole Indian word that means “crooked river”…and that is a good description because it is constantly turning and twisting.
We planned to paddle northwest for three days…camping along the way. That would be adequate time for us to reach a place along the River that Dad had identified where there was a campground that had a little store with a pay phone (this was long before the day of cell phones). From there, we would call my Mom and she would come get us and take us back to where we had started. We would get the truck…go back to the campground where we had left our canoe…load it up…and go home. Easy, right? Yeah, that’s what we thought, too.
Dad and I had a canoe. That made for easy paddling. But Richard and his Dad had a john boat…with oars. They had brought along a small outboard engine (for some reason). Despite the added weight of the engine, the john boat was pretty easy to paddle, as well. But before long…it became a real problem.
The first morning was great. Dad and I were doing the kind of thing that we loved to do together. In the woods. On the water. It doesn’t get much better, than that. Not long after lunch it started to rain. At first, just a drizzle. But after a short time…it started raining harder and harder. And it didn’t stop…for 3 days. Now, it isn’t unusual for it to rain a lot in the summertime in Florida. Just about every afternoon we have a thunderstorm, often accompanied by some pretty significant lightning. But this time it just wouldn’t stop.
Now remember, we are paddling upstream. As the rain continued, and continued, and continued…the calm, gently flowing River…began to flow at a significant faster rate…making paddling significantly more difficult. If that was the only problem that the rising water caused, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But there was a second problem that happened because of the unusual amount of water. Did I tell you that the River flowed through the Green Swamp? The Green Swamp is a cypress swamp. It has hundreds, thousands, millions of cypress trees. Cypress trees have huge root systems that spread out from the trunk of the tree. In places, these roots grow up above the ground and form what are called “knees”…it looks like someone is buried under the ground and their knee is sticking up. There can sometimes be so many knees…that it makes walking difficult…especially if you are up to your waist in water. Why does that make any difference? Well, it’s the second problem that the rising water caused. There was so much rain that the water level of the River rose over the banks…and we could no longer tell where the River stopped and where the Swamp started. It didn’t make any difference which direction you looked…it all looked the same…it all looked like Swamp…a Swamp filled with millions, and millions of cypress tree knees. That made paddling difficult. No, that made paddling impossible. Especially for Richard and his Dad. Those oars just stuck too far outside of the john boat. So, what do you do? You get out of your canoe and boat…you tie a rope around your waist…and you pull…and you pull…and you pull. Did I tell you that we were in a Swamp? Do you know what lives in Swamps? Swamp critters…huge spiders, cottonmouth moccasins, and gators. Did I tell you that we were in the water pulling the canoe…with huge spiders, cottonmouth moccasins, and gators? For 3 days?
Now, if you are in the 8th Grade and you are stomping through a Swamp…pulling a canoe with a rope…with huge spiders, cotton mouth moccasins, and gators…you might begin to get a little worried, maybe even scared. Unless of course…you were me and you were with my Dad. As they say, this wasn’t our first rodeo. My whole life I had been out in the woods with Dad. And one thing I had learned about him was that you could trust him. He knew the woods. He knew how to survive in the woods. And something like this…he loved it. This was good stuff for my Dad.
It was about mid-afternoon that the riverbanks disappeared and not long after that we realized that we didn’t know where we were. Notice I didn’t say that we were “lost”. Not with my Dad. He may have no idea where he was…but he wasn’t lost. Nope. Not Dad. As he would say we were just temporarily mislocated. Dad reached into the canoe and opened up his tackle box. He took something out…opened it up…looked at it carefully…and said, “That way. That’s the direction we need to go.” I said, “How do you know?” Dad said, “Son” (I loved it when he called me “son”…for some reason when he did everything seemed okay). “Son, this is a Lensatic Compass. I learned how to read it in the Marine Corps. Directly to our west is Highway 301. Directly to our north is Highway 50. I’m not sure which one we are closer to at this point. So, if we head due northwest…we will eventually run into one of those highways. That way (he pointed). That’s the direction we need to go.” I turned around and looked at Richard and said, “That way. That’s the direction we need to go. The Compass says so. My Dad says so.” I was so proud of my Dad that I wanted to shout. He knew just what to do and I trusted him, completely.
For 3 days we pulled that canoe and boat through the Swamp, through the cypress knees. On the third day, Dad told me that he wanted me to scout ahead. He told me to move through the Swamp in as straight a line as possible for 30 minutes. Then, come back and tell him what I had found. At that moment, maybe for the first time in my young life, I felt like a man. Dad had given me an important job. He trusted me. I took off running, or rather sloshing, through the Swamp…for 30 minutes. Then I came back and told Dad what I had seen. I rested for a while and took off again. It was on my third trip that I came across something unusual. It looked like a dirt mound…except that it was long and disappeared into the swamp to the north. I went back and told Dad. He said, “Good, I was hoping you would find one.” “Find one what?” “That is an old logging road. Years ago, they cut down the cypress trees for lumber. They built roads out into the Swamp for trucks to drive on to where they were cutting the trees down. They’re all overgrown now…but I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts, that’s what you found. Good job, son.” There it was again…”son”.
We pulled the canoe and boat for about another hour-and-a-half and finally made it to the logging road. Dad told Richard’s Dad that we would leave our equipment there. We could come back later and find it by following the logging road. But now, we were going to walk out.
We followed that logging road for several miles. Eventually, we came across some ruts made by a truck, or jeep. We followed the ruts and came to a rough road running through the trees. It wasn’t as swampy, now. We followed the rough road and came to a dirt road…a road that looked like vehicles traveled it pretty frequently. Finally, we came to a road that was well maintained. We took a left (remember…Dad said to go northwest) and started walking. A couple of miles down the road we saw a house. We’d made it. We had no idea who lived in the house…but we were about to meet them. We walked up to the front porch and…. Let me stop and tell you something. We had been walking in a Swamp, in the water, in the rain, pulling a canoe and a boat, for 3 days…and we smelled and looked like the famous Florida Swamp Man (he’s the Bigfoot of Florida). Okay, with that picture in mind…we are at the front door. We knock…and the door opens. A lady is standing there. She looks us over. She looks closely at my Dad and said, “Mr. Pennington?” Can you believe it…she was one of the secretaries where my Dad worked. Not only had he saved us…he had led us to the home of someone who knew him. What a guy! That lady invited us into her house and gave us food from Heaven…hot coffee and pound cake…food from Heaven.
Jesus and His disciples had a long day ministering to the multitudes of people along the shore of the Sea of Galilee (also called a lake). They were all tired. Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “Let’s get in a boat and go to the other side of the Lake.” They were way out in the middle of the lake when a terrible storm hit. The disciples were terrified. Now, that is saying something because several of them were professional fisherman and had certainly been out on the lake in storms, before. So, this must have been a real gully-washer of a storm. They were bailing water as fast as they could. Then, they looked at Jesus…and He was sound asleep in the front of the boat. They woke Him up and said, “Master, don’t you care that we are about to drown!” I think that really what they were saying was, “Get a bucket and start bailing!” Jesus stood up…looked at the storm…and said, “Stop!” All of a sudden…the wind stopped, and the waves stopped…and all you heard was the “drip, drip, drip” of water from the sails. The disciples looked around…they looked at each other…they looked at Jesus…and said, “Who are You…that even the wind and the waves obey You?”
There is a lesson, here, for us. What had Jesus told them? “Let’s get in a boat and go to the other side of the Lake.” Did He say anything about drowning before they got there? No. He knew that they were going to make it. Nothing was going to stop them. Nothing. The disciples were amazed…amazed at Him. They learned a valuable lesson that day. Here it is: when Jesus says we’re going to the “other side of the lake”…you’re going to make it to the “other side of the lake”…no matter what. This isn’t His first rodeo. He’s been through many difficulties, and trials, before. He knows what is coming and He knows how to get through it.
I can still hear my Dad’s voice saying, “That way. That’s the direction we need to go.” I trusted him. He knew what he was doing. He would get us home, safely.
The same thing is true of Jesus. When He says, “That way. We’re going to the other side”…you can take it to the bank…you’re going to make it to the other side. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing. He will get you home, safely.
Are you going through a storm? Having some problems? Things tough? Turn to Jesus and ask Him which way to go. He knows. He’ll tell you. Trust Him.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,