You Lost Me At “Oaring”

Mar 14, 2011 by

Technically, the word I used was “orienteering.” But somehow that came out as “oaring” to the Little Black Dress.

So I tried again, and pretty much got a blank look. The conversation was not going the way I anticipated. Something along the lines of she thought I was taking some Boy Scouts hiking, (I was) and why in the world did I need to take a class on canoeing (I was – taking a class that is, but not on canoeing).

So then I did that whole phonetic, sound it out, deal.  That just brought out more questions, questions along the lines of “why in the world are you taking a course on the Orient and just where in the heck do you think you’re taking the eldest Son of Thunder anyway.”

Time to just flip the dog – take a completely different approach.

“I’m taking a course on how to use a map and compass in the woods.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”  

I should have known better. Years ago as a brash new journalist, I proudly turned in one of my first assignments – one with lots of big words. A kindly editor took me aside and pointed out in a not so kindly way that no one was impressed or cared about my very expensive college vocabulary. My job, he said, was to explain what was going on so everyone could understand it and I could take my big words and …

Or as he put it, never use a 50-cent word when a nickel one would do.

Back to orienteering. I tried to explain that said word came about because the Chinese invented the compass and centuries ago maps used by traders in the West had the Orient at the top of the map and they – the traders – would use said map and compass to find their way to the spice world and thus the word “orienteering” came about and …

“You’re going to learn how to get lost in the woods.”

Well, technically, I was going to learn how to NOT get lost in the woods; or at least if I did get lost, how to get unlost. Or something like that.

Moving along. I take the course and actually figure it out. Or, to put it in map words, I’m not lost. Time to take my vast storehouse of knowledge and teach the Scouts how to get lost in the woods. I mean how to find their way in the woods.

And it’s a success. We teach them how to use a compass, and then go and complete an orienteering course. Or, in nickel terms, we use a compass to get from point A to point B in the woods.

A compass is an interesting device. On its own, it only does one thing – but you have to understand what that one thing is. A compass points north. In reality however, it points to magnetic north, not true north. The difference between true north and magnetic north is, to use a 50-cent word, known as declination.

To put it in nickel words, you have to adjust your compass for those differences, or else you’ll never get to where you really want to go. Where I live, the declination is about four degrees. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but if you travel miles and miles those four degrees soon add up and you will end up being miles away from your goal.

A compass is a tool. Yet for it to be useful, you have to understand what it is and how it works; and then use it properly. Used improperly, a compass can actually send you in the completely opposite direction.

We are given a compass in life. It’s known as the Bible. God’s word, His instruction manual or directional compass if you like. It points us, if used properly, in the right direction.

You can be lost in the woods with nothing but a compass. You can trust that compass and use it to get back on track. Or not.

You can trust God’s word to point you in the right direction and use it to stay on track.

Or not.







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