Transforming Thoughts on the River

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalm 42:7)

They flow, curving through Northwest Montana.

The North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork.  Swan. Whitefish. I most appreciate these rivers in late July. August, if the smoke hasn’t settled in like a thick, wool blanket.

The hot sun bakes my shoulders. Sweat trickles down my back. My eyes blink, squinting in the sudden brightness as I step out from the dappled darkness of the trees to the rocky “beach.” Thorns and bushes scratch my legs and my feet twist, walking over flat, large stones. This place was riverbed not two months ago.

An old favorite chorus at church growing up proclaimed, “I’ve got a river of life, flowing out of me. It makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors sets the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up a well!”

How freely does that river flow through me now? Have I somehow dammed it, leaving only a trickle?

I tuck the thought away. 

Deep, slow breath.  It smells cooler here, immediately next to the river. I smile, it always does.  My baseball hat feels like a winter stocking cap. Now sweat drips between my brows, furrowed as I squint. It is sweltering.

Still, I hesitate at the edge of the water. The rushing, constant roar of the water muffles the little voices behind me.

A step.  The initial shock of icy cold is unpleasant, 90 degree heat and all. I always have to pluck up my nerve.

Another thought surfaces:  The kids were babies.  Yesterday, wasn’t it?  We were bleary-eyed.  Arms locked in a clutching position.  Our voices gentle, babbling noises and delighted smiles.  Shhh and da-da-da-da.  Repeating words with delight – “leaf” “rock” “river!”

It carries us. 

I have been trying to grasp and hold.  Slow it.  Stop it.   Sometimes I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day.  Waking every morning to the same everything…mind-numbing, monotony.  But then it rushes by, dizzying.  When did my oldest spring up, nearly as tall as me? There are no toddlers or babies in the house anymore.

I cannot control how it flows.  We are out here in the middle, being carried forward.  We can’t go back upstream.  We can only position ourselves to navigate what’s ahead.

I realize that my feet and shins are now comfortable.  I am exactly the right temperature.  Red, brown and grey rocks are clearly visible beneath the clear water.  It’s low today.  Shallow. 

A yellow leaf floats past.

The red raft drops next to me.  Half ashore, half bobbing in the current.  Sides streaked with grey mud.  The kids shriek as they splash into the water, too.  The littlest slips on a rock, barely keeping his balance.

Jesus’ words to the woman at the well now rise to the surface of my mind, “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.   Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

We climb aboard.  One paddle per person.  He shoves the raft out from shore, holding it momentarily from drifting downstream as he swings his legs over the side.  We’re off!  Slowly following the leaf downstream.

Ahead, the water spits and churns.  “Everybody paddle!”  Our paddling is uneven, adults on one side, kids on  the other.  The raft responds, turning to the left.  For several moments we head toward the spitting, churning section sideways.  From the back, Kagan dips his oar a few times and we right.   Nose forward we now squarely face the “rapids”.

The boat jerks violently several times.  The youngest begins to cry.  He huddles in the bottom of the raft, chewing on his life vest. 

Minutes pass.  We now face only a long stretch.  We are moving swiftly, but there are no more bumps to face.  I attempt comfort.  The illusion of safety has been lost.  He is impervious to my assurances.

I think of the disciples, long ago on the sea of Galilee.  Grizzled fishermen terrified by a powerful storm. Jesus, sleeping in the boat. 

Half an hour later, our youngest child’s continued crying is now under my skin.  It feels like a splinter, uncomfortable and annoying.  It’s self-indulgent.  Sharp words rise to my tongue.  As they begin for form, I feel a nudge in my spirit. 

“You can be very like him, Becky.” 

The sharp words evaporate before I release them.

In life, I am swept in the current.  I am tossed and jostled and dropped in the rapids.   I have fastened my life preserver.  I clutch my oar. But, just like this little one, like those disciples, at times I find myself huddling in the bottom of the boat.  Eyes screwed shut against the sun and scenery, ignoring the Parent who rides with me.

At those times, terrified questions leak from me:  “what’s next?”  “Remember that trouble!?!” 

Our raft floats to the edge of the river, now caught in an eddy, gently turning.  The crying continues.  So do my thoughts.  We paddle, just one side, and the raft turns another circle.

I find my thought swirling, too.  “I’ll always be like this” “Who do I think I am?” “It’s already too late…”  Vivid embarrassment, guilt and shame from past failures color the thoughts and the circles are no longer lazy, but frenetic.  All that remains now is those feelings.

A new thought pierces the barrage.  The oar of Scripture gently slows the swirling:

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  (Philippians 1:6).  My ineptitude will not defeat God’s good work.

“The Counselor, the Holy spirit, whom  the Father [has] sent will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  (John 14:26).  I will not forget.  I will hear.  I will see.  I will proclaim.

The Spirit carries us along. Jesus knows what rapids lay ahead.  Those rapids I did not anticipate yesterday?  They were no surprise to Him. He positions me to navigate.  He gives me the oar and guides my strokes. 

We paddle on one side, then the other.  Our arms burn slightly with the effort.  It’s work.  Forward  motion now. 

The boat noses back into the current, and begins again downstream.

It’s slow now, barely moving.  The littlest one’s tears have slowed, but he is still huddled there in the bottom of the raft, clenching his life vest for security.  His big brother jumps off the side of the boat with a shriek of delight.  Cool water splashes us. I laugh at his joy. 

I remember Paul’s words, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

The youngest looks up.  His sister offers him cherry, her own teeth stained with the juice.  Conflicted for a moment, his desire for one of his favorite fruits wins out and he lets go of his vest to take it.  Soon, he is reaching for more with both hands.

He might have fun yet. I think I will, too.


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The Weapon To Use Against Fear of Scarcity

They feast on the abundance of your house, you give them drink in your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life. In your life we see light. Psalm 36:8-9.

Each of my three kids get the same allowance every week. For some reason, this trip to Target, only two of the three kids chose to purchase gum for themselves. Twenty minutes later during our visit to Gramma Jean, the kid who brought newly purchased gum into the apartment offered a piece to one of the other two. The third child, asked for gum as well.

“What do you have to trade?”


“Then, no.”

“What!?! That’s no fair! Mooooooom….”

“It’s MY gum. I bought it with MY money. I only have EIGHT pieces left.”


There were so many things about this situation that were driving me crazy. We got through it, but I was tempted to wish the kids back to school. Tomorrow, please and thank you.

Rather than let me marinade in annoyance, though the Spirit nudged me. Granted, it was later that day. Maybe that’s how long it took Him to get through. Anyway, the nudge asked, “just how well do you share when you feel there is a limit to how much there is to go around?”

See, there are some challenges at work and changes to our schedule coming this fall. Challenges and change kick up my fear response. And when I am afraid, I tend to hunker down and hoard. Hoard my money, energy, time…Withdraw. Take no chances.

In short, after the Spirit nudged, I had to admit that my kids aren’t the only ones who don’t want to share when it may be costly. To look at another child who has trouble sharing, I just need to pull out my mirror.

Anybody else? Anybody else look at life as though there’s not enough to go around when they feel scared? Not enough time, not enough resources, not enough energy? Anyone else’s bodies seem to freeze up in the face of change and cry out — too little! We must conserve!

Things are running out!

Friend, I don’t share this to shame us. Heaven’s knows, the last thing we need is guilt and shame sprinkled over fear. Instead, let’s recognize this undercurrent in our self-protective tendencies. Let’s see our hoarding for what it is. Let’s tune our ears to truly hear God’s voice. Listen to His heart, friend.

His heart richly overflows with grace and mercy. He desires us to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19).

His heart yearns to heap provision on us when we turn to Him. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:21).

In His kingdom, there is already more than enough, and when we step out in faith, the more multiplies. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed own, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:37-38).

May we allow the Spirit to helped us identify the subtle lies. Especially those lies that sounds so much like our own voices speaking that it’s hard to call them into the light. May we draw near to the Source of all good things. May our hearts receive, eyes see and ears hear the abundant, delightful life that is showered on us.

I created this graphic to cue us to fix our gaze on God’s abundant, generous nature when we find ourselves pulling back and hording. Click here to sign up to receive the graphic as a free download.

Work in Progress

Quiet morning, busy week.

Feeling the pressure mounting and experiencing every of minor thing gone wrong as particularly annoying.

Dishwasher? Still broken. Printer? Offline. Kids? Bickering.

Anybody else facing challenges these next few days?

The mix of challenges is as different as we are. Personally, I found myself rushing home hungry to a house of tired kids, thinking of the work I didn’t *quite* get to finish, vaguely anxious about the logistics of traveling by plane Wednesday (should I try to carry on all my luggage? will all those 3 ring binders fit? do I have travel-size shampoo?).

I caught myself yelling, “STOP YELLING!” at the kids the other night. Shockingly, it did not stop the yelling and about the second time, I yelled my directive, I realized that my modeling on the issue was leaving something to be desired.

We all desperately need a reset at times, don’t we?

When we find ourselves yelling or avoiding or ignoring or whatever our particular “tell” is, let’s take a deep breath. Right when we realize it.

Then, let’s remind ourselves: when our time, energy, patience and smarts just aren’t enough, it is there Jesus shines through all the more. Friend, we still have to show up, we still might have to bite our tongue, or talk when we would rather pretend we weren’t actually present…Yes, yes. But the first step of faith, friend, is stopping in our tracks right then to listen to Him speak over us, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Cor. 12:8).

The power of the “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Who] is before all things and in [Whom] all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15, 17) gives us His power in our weakness so His glory is shown.

That’s the next step of faith: showing up, with this belief in hand, giving it our best, and surrendering to Him the results.

Easier said than done, I know. So let’s breath Him in deep and encourage each other — His power is perfected in our weaknesses and He is more than enough.

His Grace

But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness.  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Corinthians 12:9-10.
 ‘Not by might nor by powerbut by my Spirit,‘ Zechariah 4:6

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  Ephesians 6:10

I was not, nor will I ever be, ready to be a parent.  Whenever I feel as though I am starting to get the hang of it, my heart and mouth spew out impatient anger or ignore that little foolishness and defiance one time too many and I fail myself, my kids — and the Lord.  

I’ve been particularly concerned about my oldest these days.  She’s shifted out of her preschool years and into her young childhood imperceptibly this last year or so.  I am so proud of her, but I see within her a reflection of myself sometimes … My self-righteousness.  Inclination to judge others while completely ignoring my own wrongdoing.  Vanity.  Exclusion of others.  The world is this child’s to conquer and she has all the right stuff to do it — but I desperately don’t want her to conquer and achieve in the world’s economy while utterly failing to understand, appreciate and welcome her place in God’s economy.

So, as we approached registration for kindergarten, I panicked.  What had I been doing this entire 5 years she has been with me nearly every minute of her life?  Had I trained her to make wise decisions choosing her friends?  Had I impressed upon her that the heart of her actions is what really counts, not merely the level of outward obedience?  Is she kind and loving?  

I thought that, perhaps, the best thing to do would be to keep her home for another year.  Or, at least only send her to half-day kindergarten — so that I could have more control over her circumstances than full-day kindergarten.  Particularly in light of the fact that our smallest baby boy is due in August.  How could I possibly keep track of what was going on with Jubilee in school in a sleep-deprived zombie state?

I still haven’t — Kagan and I still haven’t — decided which schooling option is the best for her.  But I see now, how some of my concerns were utterly foolish.  I cannot know everything that is going on in my child’s heart.  I cannot shield her from making wrong decisions — I cannot even shield myself from that!  God can use my weakness.  Me being weak is what He needs to do His best work in me, because then I am out of the way and He can truly be my power and strength.  That I am so arrogant to feel that my best mothering is done in times I feel good and am making wise decisions shows how little I tend to trust Him day to day.

What if my best mothering occurs by God’s grace?  Sampson was the strongest man on earth — but it wasn’t ever because of anything He did — it was because God caused his strength to grow as his hair grew!  What if my best moments as a mom are those which occur by ‘dumb luck’ (aka, God’s engineering and nothing of my own).  

I think this might just be so; so, give me Jesus.