Category Archives: outdoors

The Choices We Make

I saw something great today… though it definitely didn’t start out so well. A teenager, not realizing that the T intersection in front of our house was still icy, tried to make the turn too quickly, lost control, and smashed his truck into the water runoff drain. He wasn’t going that fast…just too fast to turn on ice.

The boys and I were outside playing in the snow with my neighbor, Chris, and his two kids. I don’t know about the other kids, but this was the first time my boys have actually seen a wreck as it was happening.

As auto accidents go, this wasn’t a bad one (thankfully). My 10 year old, however, was nearly in tears – “Dad, that was a car wreck, aren’t you going to call 911?”

He was fine once I explained that no one was hurt, but the 5 year-old was unconvinced. There was no “nearly,” for this one. With full-on tears, he said, “But that truck is hurt. Don’t we have to call 911 for the truck?” He was very upset about the truck…

Though the front wheel was down the sloped entrance to the drainage, I initially hoped we could pull him out with my own vehicle. But he was right in the middle of the ice – I didn’t have any ropes or chains long enough to reach the dry pavement. As Chris and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get the truck out of the street, a Ford F-250 passed us and then stopped on the dry section of the street. Without any hesitation, a young man (maybe mid-twenties) got out, pulled two, long towropes from his toolbox, and asked where the truck needed to go.

The front-end of the kid’s truck was totally jacked – he couldn’t even turn the wheels. Thankfully, the ice helped us “steer,” but it still took all of us working together to get it moved somewhere safe. (Which we were eventually able to do…it’s parked out there right now.)

After the initial fear of having seen “a truck get hurt” wore off, the kids had all gone back to laughing and throwing “snowballs” at each other. (Translation: nearly murdering each other with chunks of ice and sleet…) Meanwhile, in the backseat of the Ford, the young man’s two daughters had opened the back window and were pelting their dad with snowballs of their own, gleaned from the top of his toolbox. All of this definitely helped lighten the mood as I talked to the teenager about getting his truck fixed – or the more likely scenario that the repair estimates would be more than the truck is worth.

Before our Good Samaritan drove away he gave the kid his phone number and said that his company has a wrecker they’d be happy to bring by and get his truck to a repair shop – just call when he’s ready. It turns out that this guy’s parents live just down the street from us. His company works on oil rigs – and apparently they’re limited in what they can do until the ice melts. So for the past couple days, he and several of his coworkers have been driving around town doing exactly what he stopped and did today.

As I sat down at my computer later in the evening I saw a video posted on Facebook where University of Oregon students stopped a car driving through campus, pelted it with snowballs, and then stood in front of it while others covered the entire car with tubs of snow. Several of the comments were lamenting (or venting) about “young people these days.”

Yeah, the kids in the video were acting like jerks…and I’d bet that the driver of the car was pretty angry. I know I would be. But I hope that he (and the rest of us by extension) won’t let that event define our view of “young people.”

Today, in front of my house, we had many of the same ingredients present in the Oregon video:

  • Young people spending their day out in the snow
  • A motorist whose drive in inclement weather took a sudden turn for the worse
  • …We even had snowballs (well, sorta…work with me, this is Texas).

However, in our case it was the weather, not the young people or snowballs that caused the motorist’s distress. If anything, the snowballs thrown by the youngest people were a distraction from the distress. And this other “young person,” close to the same age as those in the video, chose to spend his day in the snow helping people he encountered along the way.

The choices we make impact those around us. And all of us, regardless of age, socio-economics, education, location, etc., etc., are going to make some bad choices as well as some good ones. Sometimes we (including “young people these days”) will even make great choices.

So don’t believe the hype – just because videos of the bad choices are more likely to go viral, or get reported on the news, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing things happening right now in the street outside your house.

And to further illustrate my point: I didn’t get a video of this young man’s choice… but my wife did happen to have her video going in time to record this not so good choice of mine.

… wait for it…

Boom goes the dynamite.



On Bayou Cane

Jimmy Moragne has been telling me about this great place to launch my kayak for months now. This past weekend Jimmy, his cousin Leland and I took our boats (a small aluminum boat w/ a 25 hp outboard, a pirogue and a kayak, respectively) out to Bayou Cane. There are lots of great little bayous around here. The cool thing about this one is that on one side you have Fontainebleau State Park and on the other Big Branch Marsh Natl Wildlife Refuge…very scenic, plenty of wildlife and once you get away from the highway you can’t hear anything but nature. I lost track of how many alligators we saw (most were pretty small but there was one…wow).

We paddled and trolled down the bayou to the lake (Pontchartrain) and fished for a while. We caught several croakers (which I took home and had for lunch!) and some other little stuff. It was a great day – I wish I had been more intentional about taking Jimmy up on his offer to go out a long time ago!

This morning was a really good one for me. I got up early…okay, not really that early, but this is my story, leave me alone. I took my kayak back out to Bayou Cane (that’s when I took the picture at the top of this post…floating in the middle of a particularly wide stretch of water). Jimmy and I had talked about how perfect a place this would be to get out early and spend some time in silence and prayer. It was great. (An added benefit, I found out that 1 hour of kayaking will burn about 520 calories…bonus!)

I love the outdoors. I love camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and most recently kayaking. I love to simply sit or walk out in the woods with no real goal or agenda. I used to make fun of bird watchers but I’ve grown to enjoy looking for new birds. I saw an osprey flying by with a fish the other day – that was cool. Not long after that I paddled my kayak right over an alligator that was about 6 inches below the surface, eating a fish (not a good day to be a fish…).

If you’ve spent much time out you know, everything tastes better in the woods (or on the lake, river, whatever). Coffee tastes better. Jambalaya tastes better (living here has affected me in several ways). Fresh fish always tastes good, but cooked outdoors 15 minutes after being caught…

And there is nothing BUT outdoors around here! True we’re just outside New Orleans…but it’s 24 miles across that lake, and up here alligators outnumber people. Within 10 minutes driving distance from my house there’s Riverbend State Park, Fontainebleau State Park, Big Branch Refuge, the Tchefuncte River, countless bayous and of course Lake Pontchartrain. But do I get out and enjoy it very often? No.

Starbucks is a great place for me to study because there are plenty of people there and I get to interact with them. But when I need time for solitude and silence do I head out to the lake front or float the river? Nope…I usually waste time and then as I’m laying down at night I think, “I wish I’d used my time better today.”

Isn’t that interesting? It’s not that I wasted my time doing unimportant things – contrary to popular belief, as a preacher I work a lot. I spend a good deal of time studying, preparing lessons, talking and praying with people, counseling and listening to folks in the midst of crisis…

And I’m usually exhausted; often I’m giving out of my emptiness rather than abundance. Our first year in LA was extremely rough for a lot of reasons. The past year has been much less drama-filled but I’ve struggled with a deep sense of loneliness – its not that we haven’t made friends; we’ve actually made some very good ones. But it’s been hard to be alone in ministry.

Truth be told, much of this is really my own fault. Not that I could’ve done a much about the lack of coworkers, but I haven’t been intentional enough about handling the small things I can do something about. Eating right, exercise, getting outdoors to read and pray (early in the morning when it isn’t a million degrees and the mosquitoes haven’t begun hunting…); all of these things could have really helped. An hour in the kayak once or twice a week could have been doing wonders…if I would just get up early enough to do it!

Okay, what’s the point here? This isn’t just meant to be a rant or self-disclosure. I think that for many of us – especially those in ministry who spend lots of time reading and teaching about spiritual formation – there is a need to remember that God created a beautiful earth (in part) for our sanity and health. We can and should spend a great deal of time and energy serving and investing in others. We can and should be concerned about being a voice of hope to the poor and oppressed. We can and should have disciplined times of study. But perhaps we should also hike or kayak or sit on the porch…or whatever it is that you enjoy. Floating down the bayou didn’t seem like work; didn’t feel like practicing a spiritual discipline, but it was an important opportunity for God to work through his creation to begin refilling my ridiculously empty tank.

Some recent events around here have raised my anxiety and frustration level. I’ve been trying to shake ’em but it has been very difficult. This morning I didn’t think about those things…and when I began to I’d just paddle harder and my less-than-skinny self didn’t have enough energy to stress out.

It doesn’t make sense that God would create a place as beautiful as this and not desire for us to stop and enjoy it from time to time. I’m going to start doing that more. What about you?

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