By Joel Bates
Every three years, I re-certify my medical training as a Wilderness-First-Responder (WFR), but my first “woofer,” as we call it, was quite comical. Our instructor carried around a small video recorder to capture the magic on film. As he filmed one session, I was trying to learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a simulated choking victim. Our instructor said, “Get behind the victim, wrap your arms around him, and start pumping.” This effort would force the blockage out. So I was doing just that, furiously pumping, when the victim decided my time was up and proceeded to “pass out” onto the ground. With my victim slumping down, I thought it best to continue the pumping gyrations, now from under his 200-pound frame. Soon, I was the one needing the resuscitation! (Luckily for me, the instructor was laughing so hard that the video turned out too shaky to identify clearly that I was the one buried under the massive choking man.) Then, to my humiliation, the instructor said, “Let me show you an easier way,” and he proceeded simply to apply the simulated chest compressions from above the prone victim. In the moment, I felt pretty sheepish, but I did learn how not to do the Heimlich maneuver if the victim faints. I was able to impart this new knowledge to whole class later, too, as we watched the video together. There was no shortage of critique. I learned my lesson well. Now when I see a choking victim, I just go find the nearest WFR instructor!
During these WFR courses, we students have to pass a closely scrutinized, major trauma simulation, involving numerous simulated victims with a myriad of possible life-threatening problems. What makes an already intense evaluation worse is that the victims are other classmates—usually ornery Discovery Ministries staff who delight in making things difficult. We, the rescuers, wait anxiously in the classroom while the instructor sets up the simulation. Then he or she will direct us to the accident scene to make sense of the simulated chaos awaiting. (I make it a point to avoid the choking victims!)
Years ago during my first WFR course, a fellow student saw my hands shaking from nervousness just before the “sim” began and spoke words of wisdom I’ve not forgotten—wisdom that has made a huge difference. “Remember, man,” the long-haired, outdoorsy hippie said, “Don’t just do something….Stand there for a second.” I blinked in confusion, as his surprising counsel sank in. I had presumed that the most effective way to help people would be to rush into the mayhem and stop the bleeding or fix the broken leg or attend to the pain of a screaming patient. Usually when I stormed in like this, I’d end up making costly mistakes and, sometimes, even create more confusion. It was only when I disciplined myself to stop, survey the scene, and look beyond the glaring crisis to assess the deeper problems that I could prescribe the best course of action.
This past year has been like that for the DM staff and me. We were in a meeting last winter trying to figure out how to address some obvious, potential problems looming in the future when all of a sudden, I remembered the sage advice, “Don’t just do something….Stand there a second.” In that meeting, I proposed a course of action that quite honestly shocked everyone. Uncharacteristic of my driven nature, I suggested, “What if we just try to do less? What if we don’t focus on doing something, but just take a while to stand here?”
I clearly see now how I’ve been digging spiritual wells for others and myself for years, but rarely taking time just to sit beside those dug wells and drink deeply. I think most of us like to do things that feel productive. We like to make stuff and see progress. Doing can mean achieving, and achieving is often the trophy by which we define our success and worth.
But, even Jesus needed to rest. Constantly surrounded by multitudes of needy people, Jesus found it hard even to get a lunch break. Perhaps one reason He often told people to keep secret the miracle He’d just performed in their lives was that His fame was spreading so fast He couldn’t apply a value that He’d had since creation—the value of rest. On the seventh day of creation He rested. During His ministry, Jesus often withdrew to solitary places. He invited His disciples to cross to the other side of the lake, thus escaping the demanding crowds. He even rested in the grave three days between his death and resurrection. Jesus calls us, weary and heavy-laden, to come take His yoke upon ourselves because it is light, and we will find rest for our souls. What a great Leader we have! What a compassionate Master He is.
So at DM, we have been practicing the discipline of doing less. We believe that in doing less, we will be able to do a few things better, like becoming better people who listen, so we can hear the Shepherd’s voice; better people of purpose, so we can minister with greater intentionality; better people who rest, so our work is fueled with more energy. From this decision to do less—to stand and look, listen and learn—we have seen a tremendous yield already. In the next few blogs, we’ll give some reports of what we’ve discovered and how we are applying it.
By Joel Bates
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I took Abigail on a date. Abigail, my youngest daughter, is known for her enthusiastic joy, her explosive emotion, and her unabashed affection for her daddy. She is also one of the millions of little girls across the country who have been counting down the hours until the release of one of the most infamous horror movies of them all, “Frozen II.”
I decided to surprise her by simply saying, “We’re going on a date.” After a quick pizza supper, I said I thought a movie sounded good. She nodded while stuffing another piece of pizza into her mouth. “It’s opening night for “Frozen II”…if you are interested in seeing it, that is.” Her eyes got wide, and she almost choked on a pepperoni. Her squeal of delight told me I had just achieved fatherhood legend status.
We stood in line with all the other dads and their little girls, many of whom were dressed in various “Frozen” attire—the lacy Elsa dresses and Olaf the snowman costumes. Abigail just grinned as she sidled up to me. I did have a fleeting moment of hesitation as we passed another screen room showing the war movie “Midway.” I felt lured by the sounds of guns and planes and people dying, but Abigail had a tight hold of my hand as we marched onward to “Frozen II.”
We found some good seats near the center of the theater and sat down. Abigail, still grinning said, “I just love ‘Frozen’!” After a few moments she asked, “Do you love ‘Frozen,’ daddy?” I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to lie. So I dodged the question, “I just love being here with you, sweetie.” I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with my answer, but just then the movie trailers started, so I was spared.
I’ll not give too much away for the few of you who don’t want me to spoil the movie. (I submit that Disney beat me to it). But, I was wooed right along with all the little Elsa-dress-wearing-lasses when the 3-D snowflakes filled the room kicking off the cinematic magic. Part way through the shameless montages, complete with everything little girls love—princesses, cute Bulgarian hunks, and a sea-galloping aqua horse (Yes, Disney you’ve outdone yourself!), I suddenly felt my daughter’s hand on mine. Then kneeling in her seat, she leaned over, laid her head on my shoulder, and just stayed nestled up next to me.
On the drive home, Abigail chattered away about how much she loved Olaf’s and Elsa’s songs and Kristoff’s hair. She put me on the spot when she asked if I liked “Frozen II” better than “Frozen I,” but again I was able to conceal my disdain by simply saying, “I liked them both about the same,” which is to say I like them both not much. I changed the subject saying, “My favorite part was just being with you.” She pondered that a moment and said, “Yeah…me, too.” Eat your heart out H2O princess stallion!
I was reading from the gospel of Matthew the other day with my kids. It was the passage in which Jesus tells people about the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. One of my children spoke up, “What exactly is the Good News?” The first thing that came to my mind was the cross of Christ, that single sacrifice done once for all people. The next thing that came to my mind was the resurrection of Christ, that moment when He walked out of the grave completely conquering death. As we read the parable of the merchant looking for a pearl of great value, I realized that God is the merchant in the story, and we are the pearls. He was willing to purchase us at a great price, giving that of greatest value to Him.
The Good News is about a heavenly Father reunited with His children. As hard as it is to imagine, God the Father actually wanted to be with us. He wanted an intimate relationship with us. He wanted us so badly that He was willing to send His Son Jesus to die for us. It was through Jesus’ coming to earth as both God and man, dying, and then rising again--bridging the gap of separation—that declared just how far God was willing to go for us. The Good News is all of this interaction and sacrifice, which can be truly captured in a common word heard at Christmas: “Emmanuel.” It means, “God….With….Us.”
I experienced a little bit of “Emmanuel” truth while taking my daughter to a movie I had no personal interest in seeing. I did it because I love her and desire a wonderful relationship with her. That moment of closeness between this father and his child, having her rest against my shoulder, was priceless and made all the effort worthwhile.
I hope you will experience some “Emmanuel” truth this season. The truth that God wants to be with you. He proved it by sending His most cherished gift in the form of a baby. So, clear out the distractions and turn off the noise of the season to spend some time just nestled up with the Father of all creation. Celebrate Christmas—God with us…the Good News.
By Leah Fuller
I was all alone. Well, alone with my paddle, my boat, and my life jacket. A few weeks ago, some friends and I journeyed east to go whitewater canoeing on a few rivers there. The trip was partially for training purposes and partially just for the excitement and challenge of paddling an unknown river and some bigger rapids.
Before we launched, we tried to gather as much information as possible. Where were the big holes or trouble spots? What were the best lines to take? Consistently the response was “Well…you don’t want to swim Grumpy’s,” the entrance rapid. With scouting reports complete, we donned our life jackets and helmets, prepared our canoes and paddles, and headed to the river as our anticipation and tension mounted. I can’t speak for the other members of the group, but I know my heart was pounding loud enough I could hear it over the roar of the water. We quickly planned who would lead out, and I was to bring up the rear, the assumption being that I would surely survive the first onslaught of rapids. My friends departed one by one, carefully making their way to various eddies downriver. Giving myself a pep talk, I took a deep breath and headed into the current.
Almost immediately, I felt a sniper rock jump up and grab the bottom of my boat, and just like that, I was in the water. Self-rescue is a requirement for paddling on any kind of whitewater, so I knew that I needed to grab my canoe, my paddle, and swim for shore. As I began my self-rescue, I faced the daunting reality that I was now swimming Grumpy’s! Surely, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
My canoe hit a rock, and I found myself spinning in a wave. My ankle made contact with another rock, then my hip and chest. I had become a pinball, careening back and forth, forwards and backwards, under the water and above the water for what seemed like an eternity. It was painful, to say the least. My body recoiled as it was battered on the many rocks in the shallow descent; my vision blurred from water and submersion as I tried desperately to swim to the shore. I was alone! There was no one to help me this time…I thought.
For a brief moment, I became aware of my friend David paddling up next to me, telling me to grab the stern of his boat, but I refused for fear I would capsize him. And I remember my friend Joel encouraging me to keep swimming. Finally, I made it to the shore and collapsed in a heap, shaken and breathless. Tears welled in my eyes as fear, disappointment, frustration, and pain washed over me. It had been brutal, and I wondered if the adventure of continuing down this river would be worth it.
Life feels this way sometimes. Most of us have felt beaten up, disoriented, and pummeled by the pain of life’s circumstances. We feel we can barely catch our breath before the next round of adversity overwhelms us. Oh, Satan is very cunning—capitalizing on our wounds, helping us fixate on the pain, telling us that we’re alone and that nobody cares. It can be difficult during those times to lift our eyes above the waves to find God’s care and plan for us. In fact, we wonder if He is present at all!
Later that evening, our paddling cohort gathered around a campfire to relive our harrowing and heroic tales from the day. As I re-counted my swim through Grumpy’s, I shared my pain and fear, the hurt that it had caused, and how utterly alone I felt in the midst of it. Joel looked at me with deep compassion in his eyes and said, “Leah, didn’t you know that David and I were paddling right next to you the entire time?” Tears filled my eyes as I realized that while I could not see these friends in the midst of the struggle, they stayed beside me, escorting me, making sure that I made it safely to shore, encouraging me to keep swimming the entire time. It was true that there wasn’t much they could do to physically save me from the swim, but they were with me.
Don’t we often struggle to see where God is in the midst of adverse circumstances? He promised He would be with us always, but we can’t always see Him. We can only see and feel the pain and forget Him. Feeling alone in the struggle, we take matters into our own hands to get ourselves to safety. In reality, God is like my paddling friends David and Joel; He is with us, no matter what. We may perceive Him to be afar or even absent, but even when we can’t feel Him or see Him in the midst of the painful trial, He is there. He has not and will not abandon us.
So, when you find yourself struggling to see God in the midst of life’s whitewater rapids, may you experience the reality and comfort of His promise: “I will never forsake you!”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8).
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.