MY COMPASS, MY ANCHOR
Two stories make up this devotion. Both stories are from my assignment as an Army chaplain in the Panama Canal Zone. This devotion was given at a training event for Army Guard and Reserve Chaplains in Orlando, Florida
It was one of the scariest experiences of my life.
I was at sea, captaining a 65-foot schooner, the Chief Aptakisik.
We were in the Pacific Ocean, sailing back to Panama, on a Sunday Morning.
We had sailed out to Contadora Island the previous Friday night and our chapel group had enjoyed a great weekend retreat.
I was at the ship’s helm.
Sailing back should have been simple.
We knew the correct azimuths because we had sailed them often.
There was a standing brass compass, about 3’ high, right in front of the wheel, easy to read, reliable.
Just keep my eyes on the compass.
Stay locked onto the azimuth, and follow it home. It was a straight sail back into anchorage in the Panama Canal.
Nothing in between.
Just open seas.
Then why was that island coming up on my port side?
I saw it, clearly; an inverted “V” rising out of the Pacific: its rocky crags, patches of vegetation, and its streaks of clouds were….there!
I checked the compass reading.
We were sailing on the correct azimuth.
I kicked the compass. It vibrated a few seconds then settled back on the same azimuth.
There were 28 souls aboard, my responsibility!
What should I do?
I called for my mate, a high school senior, and one of the best sailors in the Canal Zone. In fact I had insisted that I wouldn’t take the ship out if he weren’t free to be my mate.
“Tell me, Mate, what do you see on the port side?” I asked.
“I see an island, Captain.” He also saw the problem, immediately.
“What do you make of it?” I asked.
“It’s not supposed to be there, Captain,” he answered.
“That’s what I thought.”
“What are your instructions, Captain?”
I was faced with a terrible dilemma.
If the island was real the compass was wrong.
Should I change course? Risk sailing out to sea, into the great Pacific Ocean?
(The ship’s radio was inoperative.)
I saw no alternative to trusting the compass.
So I answered, “We’ll maintain course, steady as we go.”
We could believe our eyes or believe the compass.
Then I stood at the helm and watched the “island” disintegrate into mere clouds.
It had been a perfect optical illusion, so real that it was uncanny.
Trusting the compass saved us from possible disaster.
Our human senses had deceived us, but the compass proved reliable.
In the immortal words of Edward Harper:
“Jesus Savior, pilot me, Over life’s tempestuous seas; Chart and compass come from Thee, Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”
The other story takes place on water also, but on Gatun Lake.
When they built the Panama Canal they dammed the Chagres River to create the huge fresh-water lake that powers the locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Canal.
I love to fish and did it often while in Panama.
I had a 15 ½ run-a-bout, “V” hull, and an 80 hp Johnson motor with a long leg.
We had to watch out for the huge ocean liners transiting the Canal, because their wake could sink a small boat.
So we learned to move behind one of the many islands, dotting the lake, for protection
One day I saw a mean looking storm moving rapidly toward me.
In just moments the winds were fierce.
To run for it wasn’t an option, because, except in the main channel, the lake is filled with stumps!
So I moved quickly to the leeward side of the nearest island, ran my boat up as close as possible, threw my anchor onto the island, powered backwards a little bit, to set the anchor.
And waited for the storm.
It came with a vengeance.
The winds and waves bounced the boat around, but the anchor held.
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll?
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
When I compare your chaplaincies, your future, with those of my generation, I am afraid that it is going to be harder for you than it was for us.
We dealt with the pill and condoms, capital punishment, racism, and the morality of war. (Those aren’t small issues, and, unfortunately we didn’t resolve them for you.)
But in your lives and ministries, you will deal with staggering problems, like gender selection, euthanasia, and income redistribution. Those words sound so unremarkable here this morning, so devoid of emotion, but the debate will be loud, pervasive, disruptive, and mean and ugly. And it will divide the country into hostile groups:
The young against the old,
The have-nots against the haves,
The sick against the well;
divided in a way unprecedented since the Civil War.
Anchor, An instrument for determining direction.
What is yours? I’ll tell you mine.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Mark 13:31
I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:5
Dictionary: A source of security and stability.
What is yours? I’ll tell you mine.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.
(1 Timothy 1:1)
God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Hebrews 6:19
To conclude then, my brothers and sisters, here’s today’s sermon in a sentence: Jesus Christ, is the compass by whom we direct our lives, and the anchor in whom our souls find peace and security.
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Candler, FL 32111