The J-Stroke for Course Correction

By Nancy Patten

canoe & paddle
Early morning paddle on Bow Lake (photo courtesy of Sharon Brodin)

Mark had such a gift to use visible things to help illustrate the ways of God.

I remember a message he shared at the chapel one summer that was refreshed to me yesterday. 

He had a paddle in his hands and was sharing about how the “j-stroke” in paddling a canoe was a stroke you used to make a course adjustment as your canoe was moving forward.  A j-stroke, from the stern, on either side, moved the front of the canoe right or left just a bit. 

He was encouraging all of us to heed the course corrections of the Lord in our lives.

The Lord gave me a course correction the other day when He helped me see that I was focusing too much on the things I “couldn’t do” during this pandemic…especially not being able to hug those around me. 

He helped me see I needed to focus on the things I “can do,” and when the “can’t do” things presented themselves in my life, I needed to focus on His face.  A j-stroke for me.

The Streams in the Desert reading from a few days ago also added to this perspective, and gave me a new way to appreciate what God might be saying to all of us in this season:

“God may send you, dear friends, some costly packages. Don’t worry if they are done up in rough wrappings.  You may be sure there are treasures of love, and kindness, and wisdom hidden within.  If we take what He sends, and trust Him for the goodness in it, even in the dark, we shall learn the meaning of the secrets of Providence.

“Not until each loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the pattern and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful in the weaver’s skillful hands,
As the threads of gold and silver for the pattern which He planned.

“He that is mastered by Christ is the master of every circumstance. Does the circumstance press hard against you? Do not push it away. It is the Potter’s hand. Your mastery will come, not by arresting its progress, but by enduring its discipline, for it is not only shaping you into a vessel of beauty and honor, but it is making your resources available.”

O Father, please keep on with each of us as we surrender to Your ways in our lives in this season of trusting You, though we don’t see down the road. Help us to surrender to the j-strokes You show us in our lives, that You might receive glory through us, Your earthen vessels.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so everyone can see….this power is from God and is not our own.” (2 Cor. 4:7)