Sunday, January 22, 2012


            The sky is blue. The water is inviting. The drinks are cold. The people are as warm as you remember.
            The television ads are Jamaican me crazy.
            A year ago I was preparing for my third trip to the island. Each time I traveled with high school students and their other chaperones, and we offered our muscle to help churches improve their facilities. We also worshiped in those churches (which included dancing in the aisles), visited orphanages, and most fun of all, took the puppets (including my own Joey Manzoni) to schools and churches.
            We saw a side of Jamaica that most tourists don’t. However, we also saw the side advertised on television. Except our cold drinks were some Ting different.
            On my first visit in 2003, I even climbed Dunn’s River Falls in Ochos Rios. To get an idea of how unlikely this is, Google it and see tourists climbing through the rushing water. Try to picture me there. It’s true. I have photographs and video to prove it, and this written account, adapted for my blog:
            I looked up warily at the 600 foot waterfall. Though our Jamaican guide jumped nimbly over the wet rocks, I doubted I would do as well. Following our guide’s directions, our group of 14 American teenagers and their chaperones each grasped the hand of the person before and behind and began to climb through the chilly rushing water.
            The guides had combined our group with a few others. This was especially troubling for one of our girls, who found herself following a portly stranger in a Speedo.
After a few minutes in the waterfall, our boys pranced as sure-footedly as the leader, but I continued to struggle. As I ascended, I grew wetter and colder, while the rocks seemed steeper and more slippery. Our human chain had long ago disintegrated, but my friend Vicky gripped my left hand, and my student Becky clutched my right. In some places they almost carried me up the cascade. With their strong support, the situation became less frightening, and I experienced the thrill of reaching the top.
Pondering this milestone, I’ve concluded that what I face daily feels more threatening than slippery rocks in a waterfall. So I’m thankful for five different Psalms—37, 66, 73, 94, and 121—which tell how God keeps his child’s feet from slipping while climbing through the difficulties and dangers of life. My favorite includes this verse:
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. Psalm 94:18, NIV
If I had been on the NIV translation committee, I would have used "screamed" instead of "said," and added multiple exclamation points after "slipping." Maybe we need a Bible paraphrase for overly emotional people who experience life more intensely. But I digress.
Thanks to Vicky and Becky, I cherish a tangible memory of what God’s supporting love feels like. I thank God for his love that keeps me from crashing on the rocks and for the friends he’s given to share the climb.

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