Commercial flying tends to be stressful for me. It’s not so much the flying, as all of the routines that have to be followed in order to board the plane. There are parts of this routine that I’ve noticed are largely ignored by most people. What comes to my mind first is when the flight attendants go through their safety drill that includes seat belts, oxygen masks (put it on yourself first, before putting one on a child), life vests, and exits. How many people focus on these instructions? How would this scenario change if in mid-flight the captain announced that we are going to crash land? Then the captain says: “Please listen to the flight attendants as they review our safety procedures.”
How does our prayer life change when we are in the midst of a crisis, or stressful times? I remember a boat trip on a couple rivers in Fairbanks, Alaska, that became one of my most stressful days. The plan was that my friend Steve, an Army Chaplain, and I would take a load of wood to his remote land. He needed to repair the steep stairs that went from the river up to the platform for their wall tent. Steve and I were going to take the wood out early in the morning, then come back to pick up our families to go to the land. Nothing that we did that day went according to our plans.
The day started with finding out that the boat had a dead battery, and we couldn’t start the engine. After some lost time, we were able to get another battery. The boat that we were using had a jet engine, and to navigate the river it was essential to get the boat “on step” (hydroplane). The boat was too heavy with our load of wood, and would not get “on step”. We ended up hiding some of the wood on an island to lighten our load. Later we found out that someone had “found” the wood, and removed it. Our hope was that the boat would easily get “on step” with the lighter load, though that just didn’t happen.
What was suppose to take just a few hours turned out to be a full-day expedition. Over and over the boat would get stuck in shallow water. In waders, we would get out of the boat to push/pull it to deeper water. When we hit deeper water we would jump into the boat, and fire the engine up to get “on step”. When I say “jump” into the boat, I really mean being half-in and half-out, holding on for dear life! This move was complicated because my waders would fill up with water when I got too low pushing, and then would try to pull me back into the river. Eventually I was soaked, and gave up on the waders.
Three moments especially stand out in my memory. Steve yelling at me to push harder, while I yelled at Steve to pull harder. Going the wrong way around an island, and jumping the boat into the air. When we landed with a big splash, a startled young moose was staring at us with disbelief. Then Steve got the boat “on-step” while I fell back into the river. I heard him yell “We are not far from the land!” as he disappeared around a curve. As the motor faded away, I walked in the wilderness towards a place that I had never been before.
It’s amazing how intense prayers can get while standing in the river! I feel like our Called General Conference, in the sense of being stressful, is like this day multiplied by one hundred. This is the time for us to completely focus on God as we pray our way forward into the unknown. Together we need to listen for God’s answers, and to ask God to rain the Holy Spirit upon our Called General Conference! This is not the time for us to trust only in our strength and wisdom. Are we ready to listen to the voice of God?
Even in the wilderness, I knew that God had not left me alone. We returned to our home-base in Fairbanks after midnight, wet and hungry. No one else was awake. Rarely has a hot shower felt so good! As I finally crawled into bed to rest, I looked forward to a new day. This might sound strange, but the hardest days with God are way better than the easiest days by ourselves. So, in faith let’s continue the journey forward towards the Called General Conference and beyond!
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: Sometimes I struggle to find the words to write in my articles. As I wrestled with the ending, I looked out my bedroom window to see a rainbow. God finds a lot of different ways to reassure us!