Let’s Ride the Bull

By: William D. Shiell

Last summer, our family spent a week without technology in Estes Park, Colorado. We unplugged from screens so we could reconnect with each other. We stayed at a YMCA family camp at the base of the Rocky Mountains National Park. Kelly scheduled excursions for the day, one of which was a river rafting trip down the Colorado River.

Since none of us had rafted before, we didn’t know what to expect or pack. We had to ride a 15-passenger van 3 hours to the entry point and then paddle down the river for a few hours. We packed one bag full of enough stuff for a dry trip and a wet boat. We couldn’t take any of the things we brought with us for the van ride on the boat, and most of our rafting gear got soaked on the very fun ride.

We were guided by Scott, a veteran boat captain who had taken many groups down the rapids. In the summer, he works the river; in winter, he taxis skiers. Scott reminded me of “Mater,” from the Disney animated movie “Cars.” He was full of wit, wisdom, and warnings. He told us stories about those who drowned in the river and warned us to follow directions. He also showed us how to have a lot of fun by teaching us to “ride the bull.” He dared anyone to try to hang onto the front of the boat as the boat was spinning in circles.

I’ve thought about that trip a lot on the journey to Northern. The supplies I packed on the way to Northern are not the tools I’m using right now. No amount of books, research, and interviews can compare with the excitement of starting a new adventure. Karen Walker Freeburg has guided us steadily through the interim. The faculty, staff, students, and trustees have all been so supportive on my arrival.

Now, I’m repacking my bags full of supplies for the first few months here. I’ve literally found a grocery store and filled a small apartment with supplies. I’m meeting people, connecting with churches, recruiting staff, learning Northern’s DNA, planning for the days to come, and having a lot of fun in the process.

Whether we’re just beginning the journey, or repacking every day for new challenges, here at Northern we are guided by someone who has taken people down the river of life many times—Jesus Christ. He knows the dangers along the way and shares instructions for us to follow. Jesus told the crowds, “He who believes in me out of him will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38). When we come to Jesus, our lives become the source of living water for others. Together, we’ll ride the bull and make new memories.

March 14, 2016

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William



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