The Call of the River

Flowing majestically through the countryside was a beautiful, life-giving river. The course of this vein wound throughout all levels of society. This river was actually a source river, from which flowed numerous tributaries that watered many lands. Even its unseen waters moistening the ground near its banks, trickled throughout the surrounding soil to add to below-ground water tables or to flow from small springs. Everywhere one looked, creatures great and small found nutrients for life from some portion of the River. They found nourishing water, and it strengthened them, that is, if they partook of it.

Once there was a man from a large family who lived somewhat near the River. His family saw the majesty and awe of the River, and in some ways feared it. Out of respect for the River, the family had a strict routine that it carried out in order to respect the River and only take from it what it absolutely needed. In this manner, the man didn’t learn to enjoy the River, but just that it was there.

Since the River was not as important to him as it was to his parents, he moved away from it for a time. He carried on his life, not even missing the nearness of the River, even if it was only something to revere in this way or that way, as he’d been taught growing up.

As he was out and about, he met a woman who caught his interest. They spent more and more time together, getting to know each other. After some time they decided to spend their lives together and chose to marry.

Having grown up near the River–at a different bend than the man–the woman desired to build their home near the River. Her husband consented, though not perceiving the River in the way his wife did.

They found a beautiful clearing that was seated in a place where the River made a fork and flowed in two slightly different directions for a long distance. One side of the River was wide, with lush foliage and wild flowers decorating its banks. The other fork wound through a rocky area and became quite narrow. At one point, a person could leap across that portion of the River. Eventually, the forks came together and the River continued on in its journey abroad.

The man and woman built their home near the fork in the River. The woman enjoyed the location. She knew the River was there, calling her to come play and frolic in its waters; but her life had become so busy.

The man tried to forget the River was there. In fact, in trying to forget it, he came up with an idea. He thought that he would place a dam on the narrow side of the River, since it could still flow in the other direction. In this way, he could avoid the River on one side; yet his wife could enjoy it on the other side whenever she wanted.

As their life continued together, the woman became ill with an extremely painful disease. The doctors tried so many ways to rid her of the pain. Her husband took such good care of her, hating to see her hurt.

Throughout her pain, she could hear the River calling to her. What a silly, yet familiar thing! The River wanted her to come visit, to sit and watch its calm, to come in for a refreshing swim. The woman chose to go for a visit, though her husband seldom would go along. When he did go, he stayed several yards away from the banks.

One evening when her pain was so intense, she went to the River. The doctors had tried a major surgical technique which had left her in extreme pain . . . “The River,” she thought, “I must visit the River.”

During their visit the evening sky lost the glimmer of its stars. A dark, ominous storm-front had moved in quickly. Torrents of rain, hail, and lightning were crashing all around before the woman could head home.

While trying to get away from the bank, a large tree fell. Frightened by the falling trunk and limbs, the woman slipped on the increasingly muddy bank. She slid into the River as it churned from the gusts of the storm.

Up and down, up and down . . . thunder clapping loudly overhead . . . her body fiercely in pain . . . the storm raging . . . the woman fought to keep her head above the water.

Through the splashing of the water and the thrashing of her arms, a voice was trying to penetrate the din of noise. Having become nearly exhausted from her struggle, and becoming plagued by a hopelessness, the woman paused in her wrestling with the waves being made by the wind. The sound of the waters and rains were still loud; yet without her own splashing, she could now hear the voice just over the other noise.

Listening closely, she heard surprising words, yet words that brought a sweetness and a refreshing calm to her spirit. “Cease striving, My child. Be still . . . and trust Me.” An overwhelming peace came upon the woman. She found herself relaxing into the surging of the waters. Concentrating on the voice, believing in the words, she relaxed her body. The River carried her along safely until the storm had subsided.

The River’s current was a tender means of transport for the woman. Carefully, she was guided to the shallow waters near the shore. The storm was diminishing as she exited the water and began the walk home.

As she traversed the distance to the house, the sun came up to awaken creation to a new day. Yet already, in one heart, a newness and rejuvenation had sweetly begun. The light of the dawn served as an amplifier for the enlightenment of the soul embodied in the woman, who had listened to the call of the River and had entrusted herself to its care.

By the time she arrived home, her clothes and hair were mostly dry. One could hardly tell she’d been drenched only hours earlier.

Just before entering her house, she greeted a neighbor. “Some storm last night, wasn’t it?” the woman said. To her surprise, the neighbor replied, “Storm? No storm in these parts for a week or more. Nothing was even forecasted.” Shrugging a non-verbal “oh well,” the woman waved and entered her house . . . a bit puzzled and quite a lot in awe.

Reflecting on her experience that night and savoring the peace she now felt deep within, the woman was beginning to see the River in a new light. Her heart desired to be near the River more often, so she could learn about it and know it well.

Several times a week the woman would visit the River. She would take photos of is, write about it in her journal, think about it while at home. She would read about this particular River in an old, old history book she’d had in her library for many years. On her visits to the River, she’d even talk to the River, sharing her inner thoughts and feelings. Then, she’d listen to its ripple, or gurgle, or small splashing and watch its calm and serene flow. How she had grown to love the River!

As her husband observed his wife’s increased attention to the River, he became bothered. He saw her love for the River and felt a jealousy growing within him, even though she continued to also affirm her love for him.

To deal with his jealousy, the man would go to the dam he’d built on the other fork of the River and fortify the dam even more. He didn’t understand what she saw in the River. He expressed no interest in finding out what was so special either. . . . What he didn’t know, however, was that his wife was persistently praying for a desire to grow in him, a small seed of curiosity that would sprout into interest, then desire, then to a yearning or hunger (like her own) for the River’s riches to be a part of his life.

And so, the woman continued her visits with the River. Occasionally, very seldom that is, her husband would go with her part of the way. There was alwayssomething, however, that distracted him or called him back to the house. Sometimes he would even return to his dam to check on its stability.

Oh, there have been seasons when the woman has allowed the worries of the world to keep her from the River; but she’s never forgotten or forsaken her watery Friend. She knows He will always be there, waiting, calling and watching for her return. And she does go back finally, feeling somewhat ashamed for staying away for so long.

Seeing her guilt and shame, the River gently suggests she kick off her shoes, come sit on its shore and dangle her feet in its cool, cleansing waters. The woman follows the calling. Removing her shoes, as though on holy ground, she finds a rock or log to sit upon. Her Friend expresses His genuine love for her by washing her feet. Her heart becomes humble and broken, while the soul-healing waters bring times of refreshing and renewed joy to her heart. Her mind remembers the night the River saved her . . . and she determines again not to forsake the One which sustains her life and spirit, giving her hope for each new day . . . her majestic Friend . . . the River.

“There is a river
whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her. . .”

Psalm 46:4-5 (NIV)

Leading toward Easter: The Determination of Jesus

Based on Luke 1-19

While looking through the first nineteen chapters of the gospel of Luke, I recorded that which stood out . . . .

We see Jesus announced (Lk 1:26-56); born (2:1-20); dedicated, and blessed (2:21-39); growing up (2:40-52); heralded (3:1-20); baptized (3:21-22); tempted yet victorious (4:1-13); ministering (3:23; 4:14ff);  teaching, rejected, driving out evil spirits, healing, calling followers, praying (with others and alone), blessing and cursing (6:17-26); exhorting, encouraging, loving, anointed, supported by some, sleeping during a storm, silencing a storm, deploying apostles, meeting physical needs, and then . . .

The Twelve returned from their trip of preaching and healing–expecting to rest, recuperate and fill Jesus in on the experience.  This seemed like Jesus’ intentions too; however, the crowds found Him and them.  Jesus welcomed them, spoke to them, healed them and then miraculously fed them. Then, they all finally got their leisure time.

Once, Jesus asked the disciples who they believed He was.  When Peter proclaimed, “The Christ of God,” Jesus dropped “the bomb” that He must suffer much and be killed.  Then He pointed out the cost of choosing to follow Him: The degree of difficulty of following Christ depends on how closely one wants to follow.

Eight days later, Jesus headed up a mountain to pray.  He took Peter, James, and John.  Something spectacular happened up there which conveyed the glory of Jesus ever so brightly.  His Father, himself spoke, identifying Jesus as His Son, who was to be listened to.

The next day it was business-as-usual:  crowds coming up; people being healed and freed from demons; Jesus teaching; people being amazed–and then Jesus states that someone’s going to betray Him. But His followers didn’t understand. Instead, “the boys” argued about who’s the greatest and who can and can’t drive out demons.

Meanwhile, Jesus knew the time was drawing close.  He knew the day was coming when He’d be taken up to heaven, yet He also knew that He must suffer tremendously before that day arrived.  So, He mustered up the “guts” of His humanity and His intense, undying love as deity, and it is stated, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51).

For Him, there was no turning back.  He made up His mind and set His life’s direction toward Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a popular destination for His followers and He knew what awaited Him if He went.  But greater than that expectation, He knew what awaited all of God’s children if He did not go.  His love for us was the deciding factor and the determining glue which fixed His mind on reaching Jerusalem.

Jesus set His course and continued His ministry “as He made His way to Jerusalem” (13:22).  He held much compassion and sorrow for that city.  He knew of the treatment given prophets and others sent to her.  He had longed to draw her near to His heart, but she was unwilling.

Some Pharisees (not the typical self-righteous, plotting ones of that time it seems) came to warn Jesus that King Herod wanted Him dead.  They strongly suggested He leave and go somewhere else.  But Jesus had a plan and a goal to reach, and He was intent on reaching it.  He kept on going.  He told them that the next time they saw Him they’d be saying blessings to Him (13:35).

Jesus continued on with His traveling as well as teaching, healing, and encouraging. He taught and taught, just like a man who knows He’s going to die and still has much to say. All the while, the self-righteous Pharisees were muttering about Him and sneering at Him.

“On His way to Jerusalem” (17:11), He continued His ministry.  Over and over He did what He came to do among people, as He kept His focus on what He primarily came to do for people.  He mentioned the rewards and celebration for those who follow in His footsteps:  “many times as much” as what one surrenders “in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (18:29-30).

He pulled the Twelve aside to restate the plan, “We are going up to Jerusalem” (18:31).  He told of the fulfillment of prophecy that would take place there.  He told of His betrayal, the mocking, insulting, spitting and flogging He must face.  He told them of His death and He gave a burst of hope in saying He would not remain dead, but would rise from the dead on the third day after they kill Him!  All this news and the disciples still didn’t understand.  At least they’d heard it all.

While in Jericho, He healed a blind man’s eyes.  He changed a tax collector’s heart.  He cleared up some misconceptions about the kingdom of God.  (“He was near Jerusalem” at this point –19:11.)

Moving closer, “going up to Jerusalem” (19:28), He paused at the Mount of Olives to have the disciples go acquire some transportation.  They brought a colt to Jesus.  He mounted it and rode into Jerusalem with “the whole crowd of disciples joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  `Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord'” (19:37-38).

As Jesus “approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it” (19:41).  If only she’d known what would bring the time of God’s coming to her. And so, Jesus began the last week of His life, having met His goal of going to Jerusalem.

He arrived seated on a colt;

He’d depart nailed to a cross —

all because of His deep and undying love

for you and me!

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®.  Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.