River ride enhances God’s great design

Boats fascinate my husband.

Early in our relationship, he invited me to go sailing with him.  An evening on the lake with my new boyfriend letting the wind blow through my hair sounded romantic, so I said yes. What he didn’t tell me was that he had learned to sail reading a book about the subject, and the boat he owned was a ten-foot, single-sail vessel he fondly called the “peanut.”

He doesn’t remember now whether that title represented a class of sailboat or if it was just a nickname he invented.  His nauticalese impressed me until I realized his use of sailing terms like “come about” only meant “duck” before the boom holding the sail swung back around and cracked me in the head. I could envision the local search and rescue team dredging my waterlogged, headless form from the bottom of the reservoir. Headlines would read, Woman drowns as male friend sails into the sunset.

Obviously our relationship survived that early round of water experience and we married. Smooth sailing (no pun intended) occupied a dozen years until we found ourselves with a small son and an even smaller daughter.

 My husband discovered an eighteen-foot sloop he wanted to buy, which meant this sailboat had two sails.  I wondered how one ducked two booms as he talked me into the purchase. To my delight I learned that one sail was a “jib” and remained secure at the bow of the boat.  The main sail was the only one to move. But with two small children to worry about, I wondered how soon we’d scoop one of them out of the water. I spent many nervous afternoons sitting like a cat ready to spring, hoping to stop either child from falling off. 

That never happened.

The sailboat was constructed of wood which  made it  heavy. “Coming about” proved tedious. The sloop lumbered around like a beached whale on an ice floe, not quite “tacking” the wind  in time to complete the turn. Both my son and daughter grew weary of long afternoons sitting on the boat in the middle of the lake while Dad and the two sails tried to catch the wind. When the van that pulled the sailboat died, our time on the water was buried with it.

Nevertheless the love of boats continued, so when my husband asked me what I’d like to do to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary recently, I suggested a cruise on an Oregon waterway.  An acquaintance of mine had taken her husband on a dinner cruise for his birthday and the experience sounded like fun.

My husband wasted no time surfing the internet to find the cruises, their destinations and their dates. He chose a ride on a sternwheeler—no sails and no booms, hallelujah, just a paddlewheel at the back —out of Cascade Locks, Oregon. The trip included a three-course meal and a journey down the Columbia, through the Bonneville Dam, under the Bridge of the Gods, all the way to Multnomah Falls.

Though our day was spent under Oregon’s rainy skies, the sternwheeler was dry, the crowd was quiet, the ride relaxing.  We were riding a river, but the Columbia is so wide, we felt like we traveled on the ocean.

 I marveled at the glorious scenery on either side of the boat. Protected wilderness rose out of the sides of the Gorge, sporting glorious stands of timber and God-hewn rock. While we gloried in the beauty, the captain regaled us with tales of the adventures of Lewis and Clark, early settlers, and the plight of the natives who had fished there for centuries.  He also showed us how the eddies on the river could navigate the boat back and forth from the Oregon border to the Washington shoreline.

I couldn’t help but think of how God had designed the waterway for navigation.  How He’d put the salmon in place to spawn, grow, travel to the Pacific, and then return home to begin the process all over again. I marveled at the rock walls His river had carved out of the earth over the centuries, creating wilderness sanctuaries for dozens of species of animals. The river carried water from mountains many miles away, allowing the heavy rains of the Northwest an escape to the ocean. The whole majestic wonder of it gave me the chills. Though man had conquered the power of the Columbia, generating enough electricity to send power all the way to southern California, God was the One who put that power in place.

Is it any wonder that the songwriter wrote in verse two of My Country ‘Tis of Thee:      

               My native country, thee,

               land of the noble free, thy name I love;

               I love thy rocks and rills,

               thy woods and templed hills;

               my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.

 

What a great land God has entrusted to us.

 

 

Traffic Stops Yield Prayer Power

 Have you ever noticed how much time you spend stopped at traffic lights?

The other day I was en route to an appointment that should have taken twelve minutes. I had allowed eleven so I was already behind when I started.  But then—screech, thud, boom—I drove up to a red light. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel.  Counted the cars passing in front of me which were going a different direction.  Read the cardboard sign held by the transient on the corner. Checked my watch. I was now behind another two minutes.

To the average person that may not sound like much time, but think how many traffic lights you find yourself waiting for during the course of a day, a week, a month.  We are talking hours of time that is wasted, lost, discarded. And in the eternal scheme of things, it’s tragic.

God’s word says He numbers our days, counts the hair on our heads (for some of us that is painful) and knows when our time is up here on earth.  The older I get the more time becomes precious to  me, since I know the hourglass of my life is trickling away. So sitting at a traffic light needs to be productive, these minutes are precious.

I began using the time in a practical manner. I put an extra large emery board in the coin box on the front dash. I often don’t find time to smooth out my nails after a day of cleaning, or working in the garden, so having an emery board in the car is a welcome addition. I’m amazed how many fingernails you can file while waiting for a green light.  Since I added the emery board I rarely have a ragged nail.

The next thing I did was post a 3 x 5 card on the visor above me. On it I wrote a Bible memory verse that I was trying to conquer that week. You can read a fairly long passage at least twice during a traffic  light.  Hiding God’s Word in your heart takes time and repetition, so for me keeping my current verse on the visor allows  me to review every time I drive.

Finally I posted a prayer list. In Thessalonians Paul tells us to pray without ceasing and in Philippians admonishes us to give thanks in everything. With a readymade reminder above me I can keep my friends before the throne of grace every time my foot rests on the brake pedal. Prayer changes things (John 15:7). God tells us to ask what we will and it shall be done. I don’t know about you but I find  those to be mighty powerful promises.

The next time you are stopped at a red light, or caught in construction, or pulled over for an ambulance to pass, try turning your frustration toward heaven. You will be amazed, as I have been, how verbalizing a prayer or repeating a promise from God soothes your soul, frees  your mind and warms your heart.  If we all put this to practice, imagine how we could change the world.

If I remember correctly Jesus tells us in the last chapter of Matthew that we are to be His witnesses to the world. “Go ye”, Jesus says, “into all the world and preach the Gospel.” By praying His scripture over a fast-paced population we are fulfilling part of that great commission.

Giving God room to bless us

Sometime during the past month or so a tiny snail has managed to ride into our house on my husband’s work boots. The evidence of our tiny visitor surprised me since my husband is meticulous about cleaning his shoes after a hard day working in the elements. He has a special boot brush, a plastic foot mat and a hose with a jet sprayer all set up to clean his cleats before entering the house and tracking on our hardwood maple floors.

Nevertheless, the snail is here.  It leaves an almost imperceptible ribbon of silver across my area rug in front of the entertainment center. The track is so thin you can’t see the line unless the light from the windows captures the reflection.  Every morning I drag out the vacuum cleaner and run the brushes over the rug to remove the snail’s trail.

I’ve searched for the tiny creature, but without success. I even enlisted the aid of my kitten who regularly brings me prizes of the furry and feathered variety from the backyard. He sits at my feet and stares wide-eyed, his golden orbs the picture of innocence. “You want me to look for what?”  Then as if he’d never heard me he thumps his tail and rolls over for a belly rub.

 Sigh. The silver thread returns the next day.

God appears in our lives in similar fashion. He stays in the shadows, leaving an almost imperceptible trail of evidence behind as he influences the details of our lives.  We scurry about  our busy schedules, often unaware of the circumstances He has created in order to answer our prayers.  We don’t notice His presence until an epiphany of conscious thought flies across our radar and we say, “Oh!  An answer to prayer. That must have been God.”

The moment passes, our brain vacuums over the trail and we send God back to the recesses of our minds, unable to be detected.  Tomorrow we’ll awake and find some new miracle has occurred in our lives and that imperceptible trail of silver will once more thread itself through our conscious thoughts.

The snail has finally disappeared, for lack of food or for finding another way out of the house, I don’t know.  But God’s presence is still alive and well in my life, and I welcome Him to stay as long as I have breath to Praise Him.

 Think how much more power God would have in our daily doings if we gave Him the place He deserves. That tiny thread of silver would expand to a mantle over our lives. 

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God knows the plans He has for us, not to do harm, but to give us a future and a hope. Let us cling to that promise and trust God for His blessings. Instead  of vacuuming away the trail every morning, and returning to our routine with a grateful nod, let us stand back and invite Him to occupy the entire room.

 

Friendships require forgiveness

A person I considered a friend betrayed me this week.  At first I thought I had misunderstood her intent, that somehow I’d gotten our wires crossed. But as I sifted through recent conversations, e-mails and other encounters I realized that she’d been slowly moving this direction for a while.  As reality raised its ugly head, I knew I’d been had.

We were, in a way, opposites. Perhaps that is where the problem lay. She’s all glitz and glamour. I’m down to earth. But we had shared some good times together and I’d worked diligently to uphold my half of the relationship. Now, though, we were clearly on separate paths. She’d sidestepped my inquiries and taken her own route, leaving me out of the loop.

It stung.  I wish I could tell you I immediately went to my knees and asked God to bless her in coming days.  But I didn’t.  My first thoughts were how I could retaliate.  I was hurt and so should she. I thought of all the things I could do to punish her.  I wasn’t nice.

When I came up for air from my ranting, I realized this had happened on a Monday, a day I routinely reserve for fasting and prayer.  And behind me, gently whispering over my shoulder, came the distinct voice of God, “Ahem!” I sighed. I’d been caught and I knew I would have to seek forgiveness.

I don’t know how God operates in your life, but when I tell him my inner hurts and misfortunes He always brings me to His word. As I poured out my broken feelings He guided me to the temple where Peter betrayed Him three times before the rooster crowed. Ouch! I knew how much that must have grieved the Lord. He showed me again the actions of Judas who turned Him over to the Pharisees. I then went to my study of Jeremiah and read about the denials of His chosen people, people who repeatedly ignored Him.

 

I knew what I had to do. I went to my knees and thanked Him for His control of my life.  I asked Him to bless this woman in her endeavors.   I also forgave her. Though our relationship will never be the same, I hold no ill will toward her. 

I thank God for this experience. I’m certain this woman and I will continue to relate to each other occasionally.  But because I have forgiven her, I will not behave in a way that will offend her. Christ loved Judas, even though He knew what the man would do.  Christ looked lovingly upon Peter and the compassion Peter saw in the Lord’s eyes sent the man from the temple in tears.  The betrayal of the Israelite people didn’t stop God from continuing to love them.

His example will guide me in my relationships not only with her, but with others.  The experience also made me weigh the friendships I have in a new light, observing them through a filter I’d not had before. With God’s love to guide me, I grew through the experience.  No cat fights, no falling out, just a gentle moving on to new relationships God will guide me through. Walking with Him smoothes what might otherwise be a rocky path, to loving people through Him.