Monday, June 17, 2013

Church in the River

We missed church this morning.  Ted needed to get some bush hogging done before the storm came in and I had goats to milk and extra chores to do before out of town guests come to stay for a week.   After a quick breakfast of nothing but string cheese, we both headed out the door to our respective assignments.  A couple three hours, two quarts of milk, and lots of filled and dumped wheel barrows later, I was ready to call it quits so I took the 4-Wheeler out to see what Ted was up to.

He was still on his tractor, bumping along in one of the cow pastures.  I checked in with him and then sped off to the “bootleg”; a narrow section of land we own along the river, to see how it looked after Ted mowed it.  I always get excited when he mows the bootleg, since it is one of my favorite places to ride.  There’s nothing better than riding my horse along the cliff and looking down at the rapids and swirling pools of the Illinois Bayou, flowing right through our farm. 

After my inspection, I could not help but head over to the path Ted cut the other day through the woods to the river’s edge.  For the first time ever, the path is wide enough and clear enough to ride our 4-wheeler right up to the rocky area we call our “beach.”  Once I was at the “beach” of course, I was simply compelled into the water, clothes and all.  How could I resist the gentle sound of flowing water calling out my name? 

I waded for a few feet till it was deep enough and then just dove right in.  Ahhhh…..What a cool, fresh and wonderful feeling.  I looked about me and marveled at how I was completely and totally alone in the middle of nowhere, deep in the woods, in a river.  “There’s no one here but me,” I thought.  And then a smile crossed my face as I finished the sentence, “And You.”  So there, in the river, I spent some time with my Lord.  And there, in the river, every single part of me was ministered to. 

The moment I dove in, my skin was cooled and refreshed by the rain-swollen river’s flowing water. I swam for a while, the breast stroke and the elementary back stroke.  My relaxed pace was barely enough to give me an edge over the current.   My muscles were stretched, invigorated and strengthened.   My own, God-made endless pool!

Then I let the river carry me downstream as I floated on my back and closed my eyes.  I prayed for my youngest daughter who is away at Church Camp.  I thought about some friends who are struggling and asked the Lord to show me ways I could bless and encourage them.   I floated silently in the dark, in total relaxation and praised God for the pleasant feeling of physical weightlessness the river was giving me. .  In those still, quite moments, the words, “Peace like a river,” flowed through my mind and flooded my entire being.

When I opened my eyes, I marveled at the pure loveliness of the woods and the river.  I looked at all the details of the stream, from pebbles and rocks to boulders and limestone slabs, a bank of clay, and another bank of sand, the reeds and grasses, so many kinds of trees, their tangled roots, the cliffs and ledges, the sky filled with white clouds.  Then I thought about all the wildlife I knew was surrounding me.  Hundreds of birds, fish, deer, squirrels and rabbits, turtles, fox, raccoons, muskrats, beaver, otter, coyotes, snakes!!  They are all there, most hidden from me, just feet away.  “This is amazing!” I tell Him.    I can barely believe how perfect it all is.  My mind is filled with awe and wonder. 

How do I deserve to be here and receive the blessing of this river?  As a matter of fact, how do I deserve anything that I have?  How do I deserve my very life?  I surely know that I don’t.  And my heart is filled with thanksgiving so much that I think it may burst.  I am thankful for this river.  I am thankful for the man on the tractor two hay fields away.  I am thankful for all the people I love and who love me.  I am thankful for all my animals and my home and food to eat.  I am thankful for fresh air to breath and all of nature to marvel at. I am thankful for a life that brings me joy… and so many other things.  So many things.  But more than anything, more then everything combined, I am thankful for His love for me.  The love that overflows into Mercy.  The love that gives me hope of a future in His presence.   The love that promises me that future. 

My soul was quenched in God’s river today.  For God made the river and God made me and He was there with me in the river.   He used the river to tell me who he is.  He used the river to encourage me to talk to him.  He used the river to refresh my body and stimulate my mind.  He used the river to fill my heart with gratitude and drown my soul in His peace and serenity.   The river was my church today, and even now, many hours later, it is still washing over me.  Reminding me.  I close my eyes and can't help but smile.    Peace like a river is mine.