The Willamette–River that Lewis and Clark Missed


In Psalm 107:23-24 King David writes: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep.”

Recently my husband and I decided to take the final ride of the season aboard the Willamette Star, a cruise boat that navigates the Willamette River all the way from Portland, Oregon to Oregon City. There the river reaches  Willamette Falls and turns around. Since we’d already taken a dinner cruise on the Columbia  this summer, we opted for the trip offered earlier in the day. About thirty passengers rode with us, enjoying lunch, the view, and the history.

 As we traversed the river, a woman hired to be our cruise narrator stepped to the microphone and regaled us with the history of the waterway, pointing out various sites as we passed them. Fabulous estate homes are built along both banks—one home once belonged to an actress. A Portland Trailblazer is reported to live somewhere along the shore, though the narrator would not point out the home. An old water-pumping station stands in its turn-of –the-century finery, an elegant structure no longer of use except to display its beautiful architecture. The Old Spaghetti Factory needed a headquarters so the banks of the Willamette were chosen as the site. The distinctive blue-tiled roof, we were told, sparkles when the sun is out.

Houseboats line both sides of the river, but they aren’t your everyday houses on a raft that have fueled the storylines of old movies. These buildings feature modern structural designs built on bases that rise when the river does. All are connected by pipeline to the city of Portland sewage and water systems. Along one stretch of homes, the houseboat owners sign a contract that they will decorate their dwelling for Christmas, adding festive lighting to the edge of the river during the holiday season.

Our cruise narrator told us that when Lewis and Clark first navigated the Columbia seeking passage to the Pacific Ocean, they missed the Willamette River.  Upon further investigation and discussions with the natives, the explorers learned that a second river existed that the Indians used for transportation north and south.  Stretching more than a hundred miles from Eugene to Portland, the Willamette ends as a tributary into the Columbia.

When we reached Willamette Falls we were surprised at the size and drop of the water.  Apparently Lewis and Clark, once they learned of the river’s existence, navigated the  waters as far south as its falls before turning back. How, I wondered, could they have missed a waterway of this size that fed into the Columbia?

As I stood on the bow of the boat, watching the water pass beneath me, I was humbled knowing that this same river had flowed for hundreds of years.  Men like Lewis and Clark had navigated its waters, pioneers had traveled its banks, and natives had used it for transportation years before that. Yet here it was, still flowing as it always had.

In Ecclesiastes 1:7 King Solomon writes: “All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again.” The Willamette is certainly testimony of that.

Ilumination Uncovers All Sorts of Darkness

My happy cookie jar


When my husband and I bought my  mother-in-law’s home twenty years ago, I felt sorry for the woman. She’d spent thirty years in a dreary kitchen that depressed me.  Shaped like a U, the kitchen’s counter ended at the stove on one side and the refrigerator finished the counter on the other. Workspace was at a premium.

The space where the dishwasher should have been had been converted to a cabinet with an ill-fitting door. Not only were the all-wood cupboards stained a dark brown in keeping with their era, but the countertops and sink were brown.  Need I tell you the color of the stove? Thoughts of spending every day within the gloomy interior sent me searching for a therapist.

 Since I consider part of my ministry to family and friends to be from my kitchen, I knew I couldn’t work in this one.  My husband agreed. We custom-ordered a stack of cupboards, a drawer, and a broom closet from a builder and installed the units on the other side of the stove. The existing cupboards were in good shape so we resurfaced the dark brown exterior with white Impervo, which was then a new-on-the-market paint that dries to a plastic finish. My clever husband experimented with different paint rollers and achieved the no-fingerprint finish we’d seen on new cabinets at the home supply store.

We added a hardwood maple floor and a contractor laid blue-marble countertops with new counter space on each side of the stove. Remarkably both sides of the kitchen’s U now ended at the same place. For the final touch, I attached bright-flowered ceramic pulls to all the doors.  We replaced the appliances with stainless steel. The effect was magical, like going from a cave into the sunlight.

What I didn’t anticipate was the downside of having an all-white kitchen. Every dollop of ketchup, dribble of steak sauce, or splash of coffee showed. Spots I never would have seen on wood-colored cabinets now displayed themselves in blazing color. The stainless steel surfaces showed fingerprints. Going from darkness to light had its price. I would need to clean often.

We also move from a place of darkness to one of light when we accept God’s invitation to eternal life by giving our hearts to Christ. This transformation, though, comes without a price, it is a free gift given to us. Jesus’ blood sacrifice for us at Calvary paid it all. Where once our sins were hidden away from the scrutiny of God’s Word, when we say yes to the Savior, our deeds are brought into the light and our slate is wiped as clean as my white cupboards.  

Now when we sin, the infraction glares at us like a smudge on a white surface or a fingerprint on stainless steel.  But the good news is that He has forgiven us—past, present and future. We don’t have to worry about new stains. Christ carries the cleanser; He does the scrubbing.

It is human nature to stray from God’s Word, act against His wishes and fall into sin.  It is God’s nature to forgive. We are adopted into God’s family when we say yes to the cross.  All we have to do is ask.

 That’s a whole lot easier than washing cupboards.

Where were you on 9/11?

Like most of you, this weekend I am remembering where I was and what I was doing the day terrorists flew American airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

With my two teenagers in the car, I had backed out of the driveway to deliver them to school when I spotted my husband’s work truck barreling down the street toward me. I slowed, waiting for him, knowing this errand must be urgent since he rarely comes home during the day. When he told me what had happened that morning, I had trouble believing him. I drove on to school, thinking more information would surface, but as it turned out everyone I encountered either wasn’t talking or was too numb to discuss the morning’s events.

Three hours later I returned home and broke my rule about not turning on the television before five o’clock. What I saw on the screen dissolved me into a puddle of tears. I watched, over and over and over again, footage of the airplanes carrying innocent civilians as they crashed into the sides of New York’s two highest buildings. The horror of it was so unfathomable, I couldn’t do anything else that day.  I just sat and cried.

I wasn’t born when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but as I watched the 9/11 attack on America, all I could think of was how horrible it must have been for my parents to listen to the 1941 account on their radios. They could only imagine the indescribable carnage of a raid that sank the American fleet.

My father was drafted immediately and my mother, not wanting to be left behind, married him at the courthouse, then followed him to basic training where she worked in the offices of the Army.  As a child I had always thought their story romantic, but as I watched the destruction of the terrorists before me, I suddenly realized my parents had acted out of duty—a war was on, they needed to defend their country. They didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.

God’s Word, in both the Old and New Testaments, contains many references to evil, to the men who commit evil acts and to the need to resist it.

 In Amos 5:14 we are told to “seek good and not evil.”

  King David, in the 23rd Psalm, says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

In Romans 12:9  Paul writes, “Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.”

I remember thinking after 9/11 about what  I could have done to prevent the evil deed. How did such calamity creep upon us without warning?

 My doctor, who is a Christian, told me that he knew of people forewarned to pray that week. He described several incidents that kept people at home that morning, strange events that prevented them from going to work. Those stories never made the media and though He never got credit, I’m certain that God was at work, knowing the disaster was coming.

This weekend, in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I intend to pray.  Rumor has it there is another terrorist threat on the horizon because of the day.  But this time, I will not be caught unaware.  I will join my petitions with those around me, asking God to protect the innocents who do not yet know they are in danger.  I will pray against the evil that drives men to do such heinous acts.  If enough of us pray, evil cannot get a grip.  Will you join me?

Where two or more are gathered together, God’s Word says, there He will be among them. (Matthew 18:20). Our collective prayers serve as a mighty defense against those who would do harm. We all need to fall on our knees.

Jury Summons–A Call to Duty

I returned from a writing conference a couple of weeks ago, refreshed, energized, and ready to come home and apply all that I had learned.  I also planned to unload my bag, do the laundry within it, then repack the suitcase for another writing conference across the country the middle of September.

Waiting for me on the table when I returned, however, was a summons to jury duty for a trial September 21. On my e-mail account was a notice from the director of the conference I wished to attend, reminding me that the deadline to  complete my registration without a penalty was the next day.

Talk about letting the air out of my balloon.  For those readers out there who are also writers, September 21 will be a significant date.  For the rest of you, let’s just say  my plans needed changing. What was I to do?  I couldn’t finish registering for the conference unless I had confirmation that my jury responsibilities had been deferred. And if they were deferred, who was to say that the next time I was called wouldn’t be more inconvenient? I was stuck.

I served as a juror for two trials in the mid-1980’s. The first jury convicted a man of manslaughter and sent him to prison for thirty years.  The second jury absolved a doctor of any responsibility in a malpractice case.  Sitting on a jury was interesting, but the experience also enlightened me. I learned  how differently people live their lives from the way I live mine. I think every writer needs to serve as a juror.  All kinds of plots, motives and story lines can evolve from what one hears during a trial.

But if you are not a writer, jury duty is also a civic responsibility.  Every voter is eligible, every citizen can be called. As Christians, actively participating in our government gives us the ability to influence its operation, bring to the table our worldview, and act upon it. We are called to be the watchmen, the salt of the earth, the light to the darkness.

 But we can only do that if we participate. Who among us would trade what we have here in America for the kind of justice we read about in other countries? In one they use a firing squad.  In another they behead their victims. By serving on the courts here in the United States, we participate in a different kind of justice, one where peers decide the fate of the one accused. With ten people in the jury room, each of you brings to the table your perception of what really happened. I found it amazing how alike jurors think when confronted with the conviction or acquittal of a fellow citizen.

When shown a Roman coin and asked whose allegiance the coin demanded, Jesus said, “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s.” Matthew 22:21  Clearly He understood the kind of choices His people would face in a world of which they are only a part.

So, for now, I will put the conference on hold. More will come, each season brings its own.  I have much to do in the meanwhile. An editor invited me to submit both of my manuscripts for the possibility of publication and a multi-published author with whom I have become friends gave me her endorsement.  Writers can’t write unless they commit themselves to the keyboard, so perhaps God, in His wisdom, was saying, “Time to stay home.”

There’s always next year.