IN THIS POST YOU CAN LOOK FORWARD TO:
- An introduction to my men’s group
- A few lessons learned about leadership
- A LOT of beautiful pictures of our recent white water river expedition
- A bunch of surprising connections between river rafting and life with God
OUR MEN’S GROUP
I’ve co-led a men’s discipleship group for the last few years.
I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH about how great it is to be a part of a community of people who really know and care for you AS YOU REALLY ARE deep down. With no need to sugar coat yourself. I didn’t always have this, but I witnessed that my Dad did when I was growing up through his men’s discipleship group and I began to ask God for this myself. I never imagined God would use me to form it, but He did!
This came out of realizing I needed help myself, and a wise mentor of mine said he’d be happy to help me, but only if I grabbed a few guys to walk out healing and growth with me.
Learning to lead this group has led to some of the hardest challenges and biggest growth in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING,
If you don’t have people like this in your life may I encourage you to simply ask God to bring the right people in? Like right now! Stop and ask Him. He will do it. I know from experience.
One thing I’ve learned is how vital it is to “get away” as a group periodically. God does amazing things in our hearts when we cease from the “usual activities,” get into nature and share life together.
We’ve had some amazing trips over the years but nothing for the last year and a half. Until recently!
We decided to go white water river rafting on the American River near Sacramento, This trip almost didn’t happen. My co-leader and I weren’t on the same page about the details and timing. This leads to another thing I’m learning – how important it is to be in unity as leaders.
UNITY IS THE KEY 🔑 🔑 🔑
I’m learning leading a group is like parenting a family. When the parents are fighting the kids feel it, and it hurts everyone. They feel not protected and in response begin to disconnect trying to “take care of themselves.” This can easily spiral out of control until the parents manage to humble themselves, put aside their differences and act in the best interest of the family. When the parents are actively working on finding ways to stay on the same page and bring a consistent message, everyone thrives. Im not saying we are all that good at this for our group yet, but we are learning. We have seen that when we focus on remaining constant and connected as leaders and with our group, our guys have less resistance and breakthroughs seem to flow so much easier!
“How truly wonderful and delightful to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity!…This heavenly harmony can be compared to the dew dripping down from the skies upon Mount Hermon, refreshing the mountain slopes of Israel. For from this realm of sweet harmony God will release his eternal blessing, the promise of life forever!”
Psalms 133:1, 3 Passion Translation
I will talk about this and some wild experiences God used to teach me about the spiritual assignment against unity in another post.
For now, back to the rafting trip!
I had gone rafting once before. When I was a kid my parents threw me an AWESOME birthday party where they took me and a bunch of my friends river rafting! (Shout out to my Mom and Dad for an amazing parenting moment 🤣🤣🤣 )
One of the guys in our group has cerebral palsy. He deserves a whole post just for himself, he’s so amazing. He was born premature and part of his head was compressed on the way into this world causing issues with his ability to move his body. Though he uses a wheelchair we have learned he is scrappy, and up for pretty much anything 😉
We had approached the river rafting company and they said they could accommodate our brother.
When we arrived at the check in we were informed that our guide in preparation for our trip had a brain wave just that morning! He decided to try removing the legs from a plastic chair and attaching the chair to the raft. This way our brother wouldn’t have to sit down in the middle where he couldn’t really see anything and thus not really enjoy the full experience of the journey.
It turned out our guide’s name was Christian and he was one of the most senior guides on the river. He had been doing this for 17 years!
It’s beautiful when you begin to see how God was preparing things for you long before you were aware of it. (This is always how it is, it’s just a joy when He lets us see it!) As we went down the category 1, 2 and 3 rapids it became clear there’s a nice correlation here to the “Christian life” as well.
OUR “CHRISTIAN” RAFTING EXPERIENCE
As an excuse to show you tons and tons of our photos I’ll elaborate 😂
Christian, our guide, told us rapids go from a category 1 to 6. He said “Niagara falls is a 6. You would die if you tried to take a 6 in a raft.”
As we went along the river we began to get accustomed to the different levels. I had the right clothing on for the day. I had put on one of their splash jackets, I had sunglasses on with a strap, a visor, a helmet and a well secured life vest.
We were seated in the designated spot for each of us. Our brother with cerebral palsy was in his special chair, my co-leader and I were asked to sit in front where we would take the most hits and do the most work as we were the two with the most rafting experience but we’d also have the clearest view ahead (I laughed as it seemed to fit with what God had been showing us about leadership).
Just like in our walk through life –
- We have to have the right gear. Life vest, helmet. Our Guide, Jesus, will even tell us at times how to be more comfortable with optional extras – we can choose to put on the splash jacket or wetsuit.
- We needed to stay in the proper position, following instructions from our Guide. He will instruct us of when and how hard to paddle and which direction. Those less experienced or less capable COULD ask to sit in front, but it would actually make things worse for the whole group, as the ones in front had more sway over the direction of the raft. Be aware if you want to be a leader that it will mean you will be the ones who “take more hits” from the rapids directly. You are literally covering your team. And your actions (paddling) directly effect the direction of the whole boat, which means it effects the well being of those behind you. But you also get the joy of having the best view. You get to see farther than those you lead. God wants to give you divine revelation and insight into where He wishes to take your group.
Then as the rapids come sometimes it will be like this…
All together with other teams enjoying calm waters. In these places you practice and learn the techniques. Our guide had us practicing paddling together in unison and taught us the phrases he’d be calling out while we went along.
Then there are times when it’s flowing a bit quicker but still pretty easy. This is category 1 stuff…
Then there are times when the river flows quicker, the ride gets bumpier and the boat begins to be tossed up and down…
Notice me and my co-leaders paddles are all synced up. (That’s nice that the camera guy actually caught a pic of us doing it right 😂😂😂)
Then there are times when you hit some big bumps, but as you can see, our “Christian” guide always was in control, even if we lost our footing or paddles for a bit…
Then there are times when water is going to come into the boat. That’s ok because the raft is designed with many holes on the bottom to let it run right back out again. Believe it or not our lives with Christ are designed the same way. A life absent of trials into the goal.
According to our guide this is all still category 2 stuff. Up to this point I was still breathing relaxed and whenever the water hit my face it wouldn’t get in my eyes because of my visor and glasses.
Then there are the category 3 rapids. These ones the water isn’t hitting you in the face, you are going UNDER the water for a second or two. This one surprised me. I had kept my eyes open like all the rest expecting my glasses to shield me. But glasses can’t shield you when you’re under water! The paddle was knocked out of my hand onto my chest. It was a bit jarring, water went up my nose and we all came up coughing. But because our guide had warned us – for this rapid “don’t try to paddle, rather LEAN IN to the boat and hold on tight to the safety rope” no one was flung out and we all were able to more or less go back to paddling as normal after a few moments of all shouting WOAH with some surprised laughter!
What do the category 4s and 5s look like? I DONT KNOW! Our trip didn’t have them. But from what our guide shared it involves free fall drops and sometimes longer submersion under the water.
Though it didn’t happen to us on this trip, our guide also informed us that sometimes people get thrown from the boat as we go over the rapids. It’s normal, and he wanted us to be aware of this ahead of time. This is why we wear the safety gear. If it happens, he said, the key is to not panic, point your feet downstream and flow with the current until he gets to us and can pull us back in the raft.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
How does this all relate to us on our Christian walk?
There are all different category rapids at different times in our life. Some we will see coming, some will be a surprise. Some even knock us out of the boat. But we have a good and faithful Guide. And even then the key is to NOT PANIC, point our feet downstream, flow with the current and try to grab hold of the boat and let our Guide pull us back in.
GETTING OUT OF THE BOAT
When I was a kid on my first river rafting trip I learned that you can ask your guide for a good place to jump in voluntarily and ride a bit of the river outside the boat. I was so scared the first time, but I knew I wanted to do it. I did it!!! And it became one of the lasting memories of that whole trip. The feeling of flowing with the current was so exhilarating. You may think this sounds crazy, but when done in the right place it can be a lot of fun!
Near the end of this trip I asked our guide where a good spot would be, and once he showed me I jumped in. The water was freezing! But I’m so glad I did it! I would have missed out on part of the experience if I hadn’t! I’m well aware the Holy Spirit helped me do it again on this day, just like the first time when I was a kid.
Soon after I received a devotional from a friend of mine. It said this,
*Jesus Does Not Force Us Out Of Our Boat*
“Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Amen
Most people like to “play it safe.” They don’t even want their boat to rock, let alone consider getting out and “walking on water.”
God allows us to make choices. God’s plan is that we would walk with Him in His realm of miracles, but He allows us to grow and develop until we are ready. He does not force us.
Notice that Peter was the one who chose to walk on water. And Peter did walk on water, if only for a short time. As long as Peter kept His focus on Jesus he stayed in faith, but when he focused on the circumstances, he became afraid and sunk back into the natural realm.
Jesus told us that all things are possible if we believe (Mark 9:23). Therefore, our limits are self-imposed, not imposed by God. If we change our beliefs to line up with God’s Word, we can see amazing results.
The key is to realize that the power is of God and not of us. God has done great things through others, and He can do them through you, also! But you are the one who must choose to believe that God’s Word is true. If you never “step out of your boat” and act on God’s Word, you will not see miracles happen.
Since God made Himself real to me I’ve done a lot of “stepping out” over these past years. Some of it has felt really scary at the time, really really scary. Looking back I realize how far He has taken me. How each time He had me step out, He caught me, and did things I never imagined possible before. Thank You so very much, Jesus, I love You so much!
It’s a lifestyle now, expect to step out. He gave me such a strong realization that it’s the only way to move forward. And that’s what we are here on earth to do, to take territory. To set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1), to bring “Thy Kingdom…on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We have to be willing to partner with Him. He doesn’t like to drag us. Now for me it’s such a war if I try to pull back and not step out, and sometimes I still do try to pull back. But as time has gone on, He has helped my muscles grow for stepping out. I want the “more,” I want to understand what “even greater things” look like (John 14:12). It doesn’t mean it’s easy, it means you know Jesus is waiting for you outside the boat. If you feel like your skin is burning reading this maybe you too want the “more”? If so, I want to pray for you in a minute.
What do we have to look forward to when we voluntarily step out, yes even in the storm, even when the fear is huge? We have the exhilarating joy of experiencing flowing in and with the Holy Spirit in a very special way. Whether it is seeing someone healed, delivered, or brought into the Kingdom. Or maybe it’s giving someone a prophetic word that then changes their whole direction in life! We often won’t know until we step out of the boat.
Mindset is SO important! If we imagine stepping out is going to be hard, or that the person we are going to speak to will reject us, we will be fighting this terrible negativity battle all the way up to and through the experience. The only one who wants that is Satan, who wants to stop you from persevering. I am constantly working on this these days, if I image how much fun I am going to have watching this person’s life change, or how good I’ll feel for having simply stepped out, right or wrong, then I actually face a fraction of the stress I would have if I allowed myself to dwell on the rush of negative, fearful, intimidating thoughts! We are to “take every thought captive to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is part of doing that for me.
This applied to our rafting experience as well! I think all in all we did a pretty great job enjoying the whole experience!
It’s so important to focus on remembering to HAVE FUN through the ups and downs of life as much as you possibly can. After all our future is secure!
This time I enjoyed the rapids, and even the bigger hits became a fun adventure, because I knew we were in competent hands and well looked after. We were able to have great conversations all along the way with simple interruptions as we hit the big ones. We even had a lovely lunch on the side of the river, during which God opened the door for me to have a powerful heart to heart with one of our guys!
A MASSIVE THANK YOU to American White Water Expeditions!
They are SUCH a professional and organized outfit that were able to accommodate all our needs. I think we’d all recommend them to anyone wanting to have a first ever white water experience or for seasoned rafters looking for a well organized trip.
Here’s there website – https://www.americanwhitewater.com
AND THANK YOU SO MUCH TO CHRISTIAN, OUR GUIDE! We really saw he could handle anything. Request him for your next trip!
Here he is in all his glory 😁
MY PRAYER FOR YOU
So, I said I’d pray for you, my prayer is that everyone who reads this will experience the Father’s love in a deeply profound and new way. And that love that never gives up on you would fill your heart with such a desire to step out and share that love with others. That you would remember no matter what, your Guide is right there with you ready to handle anything that comes your way.
My prayer is that you would simply ask God, “how can I step out of the boat today to get closer to You?”
In Jesus’ Name, Amen!