Reckless Adventure

canoe

Reckless is acting without care of the Consequence.

This is opposed to Foolish, which acts without thought of the Consequence.

You can probably think of a time when you were Reckless, when you pressed into something even though you knew that it might be hard, or painful, or difficult. You can probably also think of a time when you were Foolish, when you realized too late what the consequences of your actions were going to be but by then it was too late and you were committed.

Last Friday I was glad that I was more Reckless than Foolish.

A friend and I set out on a grand adventure 6 years ago. OK, we are no Lewis and Clark, but we decided that we wanted to canoe the length of the Grand River. For those of you unfamiliar with West Michigan geography, the Grand River begins South of Jackson (where we live), meanders north through Lansing, and then heads northwest, running through small towns such as Portland and Ionia, and bigger cities such as Grand Rapids. Eventually it spills into Lake Michigan at the town of Grand Haven.

The river is 250 miles long, and we have been taking it section by section. We are both busy and coordinating schedules has been tough. Some summers we make a lot of progress, others not so much. Last year we didn’t make any.

That’s why we were excited last Friday when all of the stars aligned and we found ourselves on the highway before the sun was up with a canoe strapped to the roof of my minivan.

We had a choice to make before we dipped a paddle in the water. We had to determine where we were going to get out of the river. Canoeing a river is a one way trip, so you leave a car at the point you plan on getting out. But once that choice is made you are committed. There is no going back, and the only way to the car is through the river. On this particular trip there we places where we could exit the river after 16 miles of paddling, or 23 miles of paddling.

The last time we were in the river we did 25 miles. There was a strong current and we made great time. We decided that 23 miles was the way to go. We left the car and returned to downtown Portland where we set out on our adventure.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were in trouble. Continue reading →

Blessings,

Do It Anyway!

car

It was ten years ago, and my wife and I in concert with others who cared for him were trying to help a young man come out of drug addiction. We let him stay with us for a short while and helped him find a job. We thought things were looking up. My wife and I had an old car that we were planning on selling and while we knew we could make more money selling it to someone else, we offered it to him and at large discount. He gave us a downpayment and we agreed to a payment plan.

That was on a Wednesday. Two nights later we were awoken in the middle of the night by our buzzer. (We lived in an apartment building.) The stern voice on the other end of the line identified himself as a police officer and demanded to come up. When he got up the stairs he asked me if I still owned that car. In my sleep deprived state I said yes, and then remembered that no, we had sold the car two days before.

It turned out that the young man we had sold the car to had used it to steal gas. I had trusted him to transfer the title, something he had not done and so the car was traced back to me.

After explaining to the officer what had happened, and showing him the bill of sale we had drawn up he left.

And we were left feeling used.
Continue reading →

Blessings,

Reckless Ace

Boelckeo2

The airplane would have bumped and jerked as it was hit with anti-aircraft fire. Enemy planes had been scrambled and were forming up to try to shoot him down. In spite of this, Oswald Boelke (pictured above) kept flying towards the enemy lines.

It was WWI, and Oswald Boelke was one of German’s top aces. However this particular mission wasn’t one of war, but one of honor. He was not there that day to deliver bombs or bullets, but rather a letter.

Oswald Boelke was being Reckless.

Days before he had been in a dogfight with two British airmen: Lt William E Somervill and Lt Geoffrey C Formilli. They were trying desperately not to be shot down by one Boelke, who by the time of his own death would have shot down 25 planes. His name was spoken in hushed tones on British airbases. He even mentored Manfred von Richthofen, the famous “Red Baron”.  To get in a dogfight with the man was usually a one way ticket to the ground the hard way.

Somervill and Formilli’s plane after it crashed.

On this day Boelke won again, damaging the British plane to the point it had to crash land in a field. The German landed nearby and found that the two British airmen were wounded, but very much alive. He walked up to his adversaries and exclaimed that he was glad to have brought them down alive. He then made sure that they were taken off to a nearby hospital to have their wounds cared for.

As if that wasn’t enough, Boelke did something crazy. He took letters from the downed airmen, and was so intent on making sure their families knew they were OK, he flew over enemy lines to deliver the messages. His plane took heavy gunfire and other planes chased him, but he managed to drop the message and get home alive.

A soldier who witnessed the act later wrote:

 The German machine very sportingly held on through heavy shell fire from us and the French and was chased by several of our machines and had to run a hot gauntlet on its errand but it escaped alright.

How often are we hesitant to help someone if to go out of our way means an inconvenience to us? Here is a man who faced death, to let the parents and friends of his enemies know that they were alright.

That’s Reckless.

 

Blessings,

The Man Who Gave

cooper

Ann Arbor is about a half hour from my driveway. It is most well known as the home of the University of Michigan and, this time of year especially, as the home of the Michigan Wolverines football team.

It was also recently the location of an incredibly Reckless act.

Howard Cooper Import Center was long known as a reputable and fair car dealership. The founder, Howard Cooper, started the business 47 years ago. This month the business is changing hands as he has decided at the age of 83 that it was finally time to retire. The dealership has been sold and Howard is — rightfully so — ready to take a break.

But he had one piece of business to take care of before he left. Last week he walked into the office with a stack of envelopes and gave one to each employee. In that envelope was a check worth $1,000 for every year they had worked for the company.

One man who had been driving the parts van for the company for nearly 28 years received a check for nearly $28,000.

Another received a check for $26,000. Everyone got something – 89 employees in all.

In a day where the news stories that make the headlines are those of corporate corruption and downsizing, this is a story that needs to be told and retold.

Read the whole story on Annarbor.com.

Blessings,

Inciting Incidents

incitingincidents

I never had my 16th birthday.

Seriously. The day simply didn’t exist for me.

On the day before my birthday I boarded a 747 in Los Angeles that would eventually take me to Melbourne, Australia. Somewhere in the midnight darkness of the Pacific Ocean we crossed the International Date Line. June 23rd became June 25th and my special day of the 24th simply vanished into some space-time continuum that I still don’t fully understand.

I was on my way to Boronia, Victoria, a suburb outside of Melbounre. (Picture the southernmost part of Australia’s east coast) It was a Sort Term Mission trip, and it was a trip of firsts for me.

It was the first time I had flown. I guess go big or go home would be the appropriate thought there. My first flight ever was an Indianapolis to Chicago leg of what would be 40 hours in the air, round trip. I wasn’t sure if flying would terrify me, or excite me, or whether I would need to make use of the special baggie I found the airline had graciously left in the seat pocket in front of me.

It was my first extended time away from home. I had been to summer camps a few hours from my house, but never spent two weeks on the other side of the world. I think my mom had more trouble with this than I did. At the end of one phone conversation in which I described having flipped a go cart and catching it’s engine on fire (true story), my worried mother told me from half a world away that I should probably go to bed now.

(Confession time, I didn’t listen. I spent the evening watching Mr. Bean.) 

It was also my first mission trip. It was the beginning of what has become an 18-year odyssey of travel, ministry and stretching that I could never have imagined. One of my passions has been to encourage others to take part in at least one short-term mission trip in their lifetimes. I have taken part in over 20 teams to countries across both oceans. I have led trips and participated in trips. I have encouraged, cajoled, and pushed to get others to join me.

Why?

Continue reading →

Blessings,

Death of a Star Sailor

armstrong

Some steps are bigger than others.

In 1927, French science fiction writer Joseph Henri Honoré Boex was looking for a word to describe explorers who left the bounds of earth to explore space. He hit on a combination of two Greek words: Astron (star) and nautes (sailor).* Twenty years later when the scientific community was looking for a word to describe the new breed of explorers they were developing they chose this word: astronaut.

There is a piece of me that wishes we could just call astronauts “star sailors.”

This past Saturday, August 25, 2012, one of those Star Sailors took his last voyage. Neil Armstrong, the first, and one of only 12 men to ever walk on the moon, died. As the world has reflected on his life, I have been struck by the Reckless nature of those individuals who willingly put their lives on the line, fully understanding what the consequences may be, in the name of exploration.

Astronauts are an amazing example of Reckless people.

Though the course of this discussion of Recklessness we have defined it as “acting without care of the consequences.” It is a person who understands that the path that they are on may be dangerous, or potentially harmful, and they go in that direction anyway.

Some go because of the adventure, some go because of a sense of duty, others push forward because they simply believe the job must be done.

Every astronaut, from the beginning of the space program has understood the hazards of what they have undertaken. The members of the early Gemini and Apollo missions all had friends who had died. We all know the tragic story Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chafee, the Apollo 1 astronauts who died during training when a fire broke out in the cabin. In addition to these deaths, five other Astronauts died as a result of training jet crashes, including Robert Lawrence who was supposed to have been the first African-American in space.

It is easy for us, looking in the rearview mirror that is history, to write off the danger those early astronauts faced. They risked everything, knowing what it could mean, but they went forward anyway. There is a chilling speech that was prepared for Nixon to read in the event that Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the moon. (You can read the speech here) There would have been no possibility of a rescue mission. Reading this speech brings the Reckless nature of what they were doing into a whole new light.

These men went to the moon, not without thought to the consequences, but in spite of the potential consequences.

Neil Armstrong himself said it best: “There can be no great accomplishment without risk.”

Too often we live lives designed to avoid risk. But risk is required if we are to accomplish great things. As followers of Christ, called to be redemptive agents in our world, risk is part of the job description.

Godspeed Mr. Armstrong. Thank you for your example.

* If you want to get technical, Boex used the French word “astronautique.” American writer Neil Jones was the first to use the Americanized version “Astronaut” in his book The Death’s Head Meteor.

Blessings,

I Ate A Termite

costa-rica-fruit

“I ate a termite.”

Those were one of the first sentences that I said to my wife after returning from Costa Rica.

While I was away, my wife had been attending a conference related to her job. The experiences that we each had during the same period of time could not have been more dichotomous.

She had been staying at a hotel.

I had been sleeping on a camping mat in a church pew.

She had waiters delivering meals.

I washed my own dishes.

She sat in air-conditioned rooms talking about serious things.

I mixed concrete in temperatures so high that I drank five Nalgene’s of water in one morning alone.

As we were sharing experiences, she was telling me about a meal that they ate, and the scrumptious hors d’oeuvres that were served. I blurted out “I ate a termite.”

We had really different experiences.

But neither of us would have changed a thing.

Continue reading →

Blessings,

The Woman in Purple

palms

Every time I think of quitting I will see her face.

Mamones

We were in the hills of Costa Rica, about five miles north of the border with Panama in a little village called Shiroles.  It’s a place where plantain trees with huge droopy leaves line bumpy roads and where horses are as common as bicycles. A walk in the woods can fill your arms with fresh coconut, cocoa, guava, papaya, and a local treat called mamones that look like sea urchins but taste like awesome.

Pastor Indalecio, earlier in the week tending to some plantain trees.

Our team spent the week doing construction, working with kids, and supporting two local churches in their ministries. On the next to last day it was announced that we would spend the afternoon on a prayer walk. Pastor Indalecio, one of the pastors we were working with, gathered us in a circle and through a translator said these words: “We are about to go into the battlefield.” He then shared four stops we would make and the needs we would be praying for.

It was the second of those four stops that has stuck with me. We had been told the story before we arrived: A couple had been pastoring a church when the husband had decided to leave his wife for two other women.  She was left to provide and care for her family and try to shepherd the people at the same time.
Continue reading →

Blessings,

Reckless Parenting

There are few things that we do in life that are more Reckless than parenting. We have defined Reckless as “acting without care of the consequences.” The decision to have a child means that our lives will be forever altered. The words “sleep” and “personal space” take on totally different meanings.

You will find yourself saying things you never thought you would say like ”Fill your cup out of the faucet, not the dogs dish,” and “your brothers head is not a trampoline.”

I recently watched the documentary, Being Elmo. It is the story of Kevin Clash, the man who literally is Elmo. He has played Elmo on Sesame Street almost from the moment Elmo debuted.

On the film (which I highly recommend!), Kevin tells the story of making his first puppet:

I love his dad’s response: “What’s his name?”

No yelling, no sending him to his room. Just encouraging him to pursue his passions. (with a request to ask next time.)

How can we encourage Recklessness in our children? The willingness of Kevin’s parents to allow him to peruse his passions resulted in him going places they never dreamed of. How are we doing the same for our children?

Blessings,

Where Is The Wind Taking You?

jackson

Trust is hard.

We all like to be in control.

This past weekend was an event called the Hot Air Jubilee here in Jackson. Hot Air Balloonists from around the US converge on Jackson for a weekend of flying and competition. Tens of thousands of people flock to a local park to see the balloons, have a corn dog, and get spun around on carnival rides.

Several years ago our church, Rivertree, got involved as a way to serve our community. One thing led to another and now I sit on the Board of the event. It is one of the largest annual events in our county, and does a great deal for bringing our community together.

Our balloon, Syncronicity, piloted by Jeff Halitzer on a different flight

This year my wife and I had the opportunity to fly in one of the balloons. We lifted off from behind a local Middle School and floated over downtown Jackson. Dogs barked wildly as the sometimes noisy bags of color floated above their domains. People stood on back decks and waved. And I tried very hard not to pee my pants. As the town of Jackson fell behind us, we floated out over land that is nothing more than forest and farm land. We startled deer, and flew near a group of sand hill cranes. It was a beautiful flight.

There was one problem: finding a place to land. Most of what we could see by this time were trees. The few open areas that we saw were farmer’s fields, something that balloonists try to avoid landing in because they don’t want to damage a farmers crops.

We had one other problem: You can’t steer a balloon.
Continue reading →

Blessings,