Friday, January 23, 2009


My young hands gripped the sides of the aluminum fishing boat as we hugged the shoreline to escape the horrific winds. I had never ridden a bucking bronc before, but I was sure that this was pretty darn close.

I was scared. Normally I loved a good thunderstorm as much as the next kid, preferring to watch them from inside a safe and dry building. Being on a lake during a Tennessee mountain squall wasn't really in my plans for the day. But I had been pressed into duty due to my unique skill set.

You see, mom doesn't swim. Never has, unless you count the baptistery incident that we still are not allowed to speak of. Ever. My brother was a toddler, and my sister...well you know how dads are about daughters and protecting them.

So that left me. I could kinda swim. And if I were lost to Davy Jones' locker, little brother could carry on the family name. A very logical choice. Oh, and I had one other qualification. I was "husky".

When I was boy, "husky" was the term used by mothers to refer to the jean size needed for their un-slim sons . Political correctness before the term was coined.

All of this to say I could be counted on in this tempest to provide ballast.

This was the final day of a family vacation to Center Hill Lake in Tennessee. We stayed that week in the lakeside cabin, and for a boy who loved to fish it had been heaven. We caught lots of fish, had been in boats from see to can't see, and had a fantastic time.

We didn't have a boat of our own, so we rented one down the lake at the marina. We dropped dad off there the first day and he brought the boat by water up to the cabin, a trip the little six horsepower motor made in about half an hour.

Now with our vacation on it's last day, the time had come to return the faithful little boat to it's owners. Unfortunately as we packed the car and made ready, a strong storm gathered over the lake. Winds began to blow with an intensity that would not allow dad to keep the boat safely on track, as he had to head directly into the wind. The wind would lift the bow of the boat and threaten to flip it over.

Enter "the ballast". I found myself perched in the bow of the boat to weigh it down against the gale. Dad was in the stern manning the small outboard motor. We began the painfully slow push against the storm.

The small boat was pitched at what felt like a forty-five degree angle to the water. I was sure I would soon be tumbled back into the stern or into the lake. Dad hugged the shoreline for as much protection from the wind as possible, but at one point we had to cross over to the opposite shore, completely exposed to the storm's fury.

It was then that I noticed my father's face. I was facing the stern, but until that moment I had been focusing on the wind, waves, rain and clouds. But right in front of me in the middle of the storm was my faithful dad...face calm, jaw resolute. At that moment I knew we would be fine, though the storm continued its assault.

Sometimes when I go through storms of life, I do the same thing. I focus on the turmoil, the noise, and the fear. But sometimes, when my grip begins to fail, and I am unable to help myself, I see the face of my Father...calm and resolute at the helm. Though the storm may continue its assault, and I may not be able to see where I am heading, I know I can trust the Father to faithfully pilot me through.

Tight Lines....


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blogs for, i'd say, the past month or more, and I must say, I have found quite a bit of encouragement from you. I just wanted to thank you. keep it up!

Mark said...

Thank you for the kind words Anon.. I am honored that you would spend the time to read and also comment on the blog. Please visit often.

tdillow said...

Amen....what an awesome story to continue to remember in these tough times and ones on the horizon of life. Continue to seek His face and you will then be able to steer strong, with the help of your Father, the rest of your family as they look to you. ;) I love you my dear! And I love how you draw the reader in with your eloquent stories.

Jocelyn said...

I agree with all the above comments. You are quite the story teller. I can see whatever story I happen to be reading play out in my head and can almost taste, feel, what the you, the narrator are going through. I think the best part is the depth in your stories, how God is always a part and there is always a moral or lesson. This one spoke to me in particular reading it today. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Mark said...

Hon, thanks...your encouragement is such good medicine for me...

Joce...thank you my little sister!

Drew said...

And now you know what fishing with Ronnie and Mike is like. I can identify with you on both the "ballast" front as well as the near-death-experience-in-a-tiny-boat front.

Lumberjack said...

Great story Mark! Can I post it on the FCS site?