The Sad Truth…and Seeing the Big Picture

In my last entry, I asked people to consider various scenarios wherein a guy like me could end up with a black eye while spending 18 days in the peace and serenity of Raystown Lake in central PA.  Thanks to all who took the time to comment and offer feedback – you added a great deal of levity and joy to our conversations in recent days.

Congratulations to Gramps McCoy, Gabe Kish,  Carol Giffi, Dan Durkin, Dani Anderson, and Marge Freeman who all selected the correct answer…#6, the tale of woe involving my stumbling through the cabin of the Blue Gill in a desperate effort to get the big fish that I know is waiting for me here at Raystown.  Here’s the story…

The Blue Gill is 44 feet long.  You can see a floor plan by clicking here.  My faithful and loving wife had arrived with a couple of beautiful steaks to put on the grill.  We had a nice little spot picked out in a cove near James Creek.  For a map of the lake, click here.  The water at the stern of the boat was about 18 feet deep, with a sandy bottom.  I put a few chicken livers on the rods and set them at the stern.  The grill and table are at the bow, where the water was only six inches deep.  No problem – I could see the rods perfectly when I sat at the table – a scant 38 feet away with a straight shot down the cabin of the Blue Gill.  No sooner had I sat down to this delicious, rare, piece of beef than the rod started to dance – I mean to tell you, I thought it was going over the side.  Something BIG had a hold of the chicken liver.

My nephew Ryan, a world-class skier and the author of the story involving my Brad Pitt-like alter ego

Without a thought to the dinner before me, I leapt to my feet and scrambled to save my catch.  Unfortunately, the welcome mat just inside the cabin slid on the floor.  To steady myself, I reached to grab the dining room chair…only to discover that the chair had casters.  Who puts wheels on a chair on a boat??? The chair gave way, and my face crashed into the metal armrest.  Meanwhile, my foot scraped across the threshold, my knee caught the table leg, and I went down, cursing myself and the rod that kept leaping as if to taunt me.  As my glasses went flying and the blood started to flow, I crawled to the back door, only to discover…that a snapping turtle had taken the chicken liver, the hook, the sinker…and my pride.

Among the things that my niece, Amy, is learning from her Uncle Dave are 1) the importance of knowing how to bait your own hook and 2) that there's a reason we call it "fishing" and not "catching". Ah, the disappointment....

Most of the staff at the marina know me and my story.  Do you know how embarrassing it is to walk into the bait shop every day and have a bunch of people asking you, “Hey, Dave, how’d you get that shiner?” and have to tell them that I slipped on the carpet chasing a turtle?  How glad I am that my family gave me some other stories to spice things up.  It would have been so much more interesting to have been in a fight or developed an alter ego.  But I am who I am…an incurable fisherman who just keeps hoping and dreaming.

That reminded me of some conversations I had a with a very wise man once.  My friend Art Parris – by that time, well into his 80’s –  greeted me after church. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Dave, I think I’m in a real groove.  Of course, at this point, it’s hard to tell whether I’m in a groove or in a rut.  I mean, I might think I’m just cruising along, while you might think I’m hopelessly stuck…”

One of the gifts of Sabbatical is the ability to spend time in new ways.  I may always be in the “rut” of needing to fish whenever I can, but I hope that I am able to invest these days in getting a new perspective of what it means to be a faithful friend, partner, pastor, and person.

Sunrise at Raystown Lake

This morning I got up at dawn and spent some time on the back deck of the Blue Gill (yes, there were chicken livers involved) reading Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ.  In the chapters I read this morning, he was talking about the fact that so often we fail to notice the reality that surrounds us because we are simply too close to it.  He quotes a poem by Robert Siegel called “Looking for Mt. Monadnock” (The Waters Under the Earth, Moscow, ID: Canon Press 2003).  Listen:

We see the sign “Monadnock State Park”

As it flashes by, after a mile or two

decide to go back.  “We can’t pass by Monadnock

without seeing it,” I say, turning around.

We head down the side road – “Monadnock Reality,”

“Monadnock Pottery,” “Monadnock Designs,”

but no Monadnock.  Then the signs fall away –

nothing but trees and the darkening afternoon.

We don’t speak, pass a clearing, and you say,

“I think I saw it, or part of it – a bald rock?”

Miles and miles more.  Finally I pull over

and we consult a map.  “Monadnock’s right there.”

“Or just back a bit there.” But we should see it –

we’re practically on top of it.”  And driving back

we look – trees, a flash of clearing, purple rock –

but we are, it seems, too close to see it:

It is here.  We are on it.  It is under us.

I hope that I never lose the ability or desire to drop a line in.  And, frankly, I hope I never lose the intensity that makes me want to chase a jumping pole halfway across a houseboat.  But I also hope that I never forget that God has placed me where I am, and that it is a good, good place.  I hope that as I drive through the trees, I remember the forest.

So thanks for giving me a laugh with your stories about the black eye.  And thanks for helping me to remember what is really important as we share the gifts of God.

Yes, of course, THE HAT has made it onto the Blue Gill. Seriously - where would we travel without it?