My family and I just returned from a weeklong trip to Denver – a mix of church business and family time. The highlight of the trip was our family’s descent of Pike’s Peak. To say it was a difficult challenge would be an understatement. Thirteen miles of trail that began with a steep rocky descent, morphed to a more gentle trail at the tree line only to evolve once again to a steep, switch-back filled downward slope. Amidst the amazing vistas and panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, we encountered others along the journey. Some, like us, were hiking the trails. Others were training for the Pike’s Peak Marathon held last Saturday. Still others were mountain biking the trail – some ascending the trail, others on a descent.

Having some mountain biking experience of my own, I marveled at the courage displayed particularly by those descending the mountain. In a very real sense, it’s peddle or die. An aggressive line and constant peddling are absolute necessities in order to maintain control of a descending bike in 70 mph wind gusts!

A similar thing is true when negotiating whitewater rapids. I spent two years working as a photographer on the Ocoee River, site of the whitewater events of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The motto of the outfitter for whom I worked was “Paddle or Die.” One of the first things taught to those preparing for the three hour journey down the river is the importance of paddling. At a critical juncture in the river, the guide might bark, “Hard right!” or “Back left hard!” It’s essential that those in the boat respond immediately to his command. Even in the slow-moving section known as “The Doldrums,” rafters are often asked to paddle. Why? Because it is essential to control the path of the raft and one can only do that if the raft is moving just a little faster than the current below it. Paddling keeps the raft from getting off its intended line and pushed along out of control.

I don’t know about you but I live in a whitewater world. Things in my suburbia change rapidly. I live a fast-forward life as do most of those who call the faith community I pastor home. Life is constantly pushing us along and at times I wonder if there is anything we can do about it. At that moment we have a choice to make: play the victim or sink in your paddle. As author Robert Schnase says, “It’s by thinking and rethinking things, praying anew each day, by committing and recommitting to the right things, and by reimagining God’s will for us that we are able to navigate through the white-water world.”

Peddle or die. Paddle or die. Good advice for navigating life? What do you think?

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