I am not sure if an imagination is supposed to come into play when reading the Bible. After all, have you ever been in the middle of communicating a thought when the person to whom you were speaking began to inject his or her views and conclusions into your tale? Invariably, when the listener becomes the speaker, the story can have a dramatically different outcome. I absolutely don’t want to do that to God’s narrative.
The scriptures are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. They serve as the rule of faith and practice. They were fully authoritative as they were given by God through verbal inspiration and have been kept pure by His providential care. I believe that. I hold to that basic tenet of Christianity.
Yet, on the heels of that catechism’s declaration, I must confess that I cannot shut down my imagination when reading Bible stories. Suffice it to say that I endeavor only to supply fictional background to the adventures of the biblical characters rather than to change the heart of intent of our Father’s immutable truth. (How’s that for a disclaimer to what I am about to do?)
Have you ever tried to visualize the tale of Jonah and the fish? What a whale of a story we could build! Securing his freedom from the will of God (or so he thought), Jonah set sail on a ship heading in direct opposition from where God told him to go. A storm ensued and Jonah ended up overboard. Surely somewhere in those less than ideal circumstances our traveler must have begun to question if his choice to go AWOL on God had been correct.
Perhaps Jonah’s arms were flailing wildly as he searched for a piece of wood or some debris to help him stay afloat. Under a dark sky and in the black sea, the pounding rain and rough waves would have assailed him. Surely, he squinted his eyes as he attempted to survey his plight and find his salvation. What happened next? Did something brush his leg? With a pounding heart, did he frantically pivot back and forth to discover what creature of the sea might be lurking? Did Stephen Spielberg’s soundtrack from Jaws begin to echo in his ears?
There it was – his passage back to the will of God. Oh, I doubt if Jonah actually thought that to himself when the huge fish finally came into focus. I doubt if worship and faith were his initial responses. He probably wasn’t even delighting in the fact that some day he would have the biggest fish story of them all!
In one gulp, the sea monster swallowed up the preacher. The dimly lighted sky disappeared and all that remained was utter darkness. The smell of sea air changed to the pungent odor of dead fish. The sound of the storm was muffled while his screams of terror amplified in the echo chamber of the creature’s belly.
Three days of hopelessness. Three days of prayer. Three days of self-reflection. Three days of repentance. And all the while, the fish was traveling in the direction that God had told Jonah to go. Amazingly enough, just about the time that Jonah got his heart straight, the fish arrived at Jonah’s port of call. The fish must have decided that this one was too small to keep because he threw him back into the water.
Emerging onto the shores of Nineveh, gastric-juice-bleached skin and all, Jonah preached with such personal conviction that the town was converted. He must have told one fish story that everyone believed.
Throughout this past weekend, the citizens of this great United States of America have celebrated the Fourth of July. The birthday of our nation commenced with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; and again this year, that history-making and world-shaping event has been commemorated. Parades and picnics have been enjoyed by people of every age. Fireworks have filled the sky; and flags have been unfurled on city streets, over municipal buildings, and on polls in front of the average man’s house.
I love the sight and sound of the fireworks. I like to be close enough to the display that the boom of the explosion reverberates in my chest. Bottle rockets glaring, bombs bursting in the air, and sparkling lights gallantly streaming through the night sky. What a spectacular sight! But the sight that unfailingly stirs my heart and captures my awe is that of the flag waving in this land of the free and the brave.
Our national anthem was written in honor of the flag. The third and less-familiar verse to the “Star Spangled Banner” contains the following lyrics:
"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto IN GOD IS OUR TRUST!
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
This fourth verse of the National Anthem inspired Congress on March 3, 1865, to place our nation’s motto on our nation's coins. History records that the last act of Congress, which President Lincoln signed, was one requiring that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST should be inscribed upon all our national coins.
On October 30, 1949, President Truman stated, "When the U.S. was established...the motto was IN GOD WE TRUST. That is still our motto and we still place our firm trust in God." Those same sentiments were reiterated by President John F. Kennedy on February 9, 1961, when he declared, "The guiding principle of this nation has been, is now, and ever shall be IN GOD WE TRUST." On March 19, 1981, President Ronald Reagan resounded the same sentiments when he said, "Our Nation's motto...reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage."
From our flag, to our currency, to our celebration of the 4th, we are a nation that has historically acknowledged our faith and trust in God. John Adams, upon the vote of the Continental Congress to accept the resolution for independence, wrote to his wife the following words about our Independence Day:
“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to
God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever…”
Our Fourth of July celebrations have fulfilled the pageantry and party described by Adams. However, to fully commemorate, we must remain devoted to God. In keeping with the words of our nation’s greatest leaders, IN GOD WE TRUST must continue to be the motto of our nation’s independence.
“Who will bring the hot dogs?” That question often sets the tone of our annual Fourth of July celebration. As Americans, we arrange our holiday to include friends, food, and fun for the day. The heat of summer usually affords us the opportunity to incorporate water activities and out door frivolities no matter what area of the country we live in. Most of the nation plays. Too much to eat, too much sun, or too much energy expended in recreation does not daunt our commitment to celebrate the day. When the sun goes down, the fireworks go up.
American tradition links the Fourth with fireworks. Some of us choose to purchase do-it-yourself, stay-at-home explosive devises like firecrackers or sparklers. Others of us select a favorite spot from which to observe as the technically trained set off aerial exhibitions. If we like sound with our sight, we fight the crowds for a front row seat at some local display. If we want a soft chair and air-conditioning, a televised broadcast provides an alternative. Whatever genre, American citizens conclude the day of leisure by lighting our skies with a declaration of independence.
The first declaration was far from amusement and fireworks. Struggling to define a nation’s fundamental philosophy required more thought than “who will bring the hot dogs?” The heat of political pressure from England, the stress from the threat of war, and the tension of economic consequences were certainly not fun and frivolities. Life and death hung in the balance for a nation and for the framers of our constitution.
Two signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were at one time political enemies who later became close friends. Both men served in the Continental Congress. One was elected the second President and the other elected the third. These forefathers of American freedom undoubtedly annually commemorated the day in which they and others signed the document that exploded the United States into independence.
In an act of heavenly providence, both men died on the Fourth of July. On our nation’s holiday in 1826, exactly 50 years from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson expired. Addressing the congress, President John Quincy Adams stated: "Since your last meeting at this place, the fiftieth anniversary of the day when our independence was declared...two of the principal actors in that solemn scene - the hand that penned the ever-memorable Declaration and the voice that sustained it in debate - were by one summons, at the distance of 700 miles from each other, called before the Judge of All to account for their deeds done upon earth."
These two men were guiding lights over the nation’s path to freedom. On July 4, 1826, they concluded their lives by lighting the heavenly sky with another kind of declaration of independence. I am sure that the fireworks we display on the Fourth cannot compare with the heavenly spectacular they experience each day. I am likewise sure that they would be pleased to know that Americans still commemorate the price that was paid and the importance of the day as we light up our fireworks on The Fourth of July.
Several weeks ago, I left home for a brief business trip to Macon, Georgia. I boarded a plane west bound to Wichita, Kansas where I would change planes to return east and south to Atlanta. (This was one of those fare-saver flights where you go twice as far for half the cost – you know – one of the great mysteries of the modern world!) Anyway, as I took my window seat on the Wichita to Atlanta leg, a middle-aged woman sat down next to me. We struck up a conversation. She and her husband were on their way to Boston to vacation. (They didn’t have to go west before going east, but they were routed southeast before catching their second plane going northeast.)
Our conversation was surface stuff. She worked in the aviation industry in Wichita as a design assistant. We talked about her career, job security, and such in the wake of an ever-changing industry. Next, we discussed vacation spots. We had both been to Los Angeles, Orlando, and Hawaii. I had spent two weeks in Boston; this trip would be her first in the New England region. We talked about sites they planned to visit.
After a little over ½ hour, our conversation turned to family. She began to tell me about her 21 year old son whose life had started to take a down hill spiral in his senior year of high school when he began having panic attacks. As she rehearsed the grief that the whole family had experienced in the last 3 to 4 years, the warm, gentle countenance on her face disappeared and was replaced by a weightiness that furrowed her brow, turned down the corners of her mouth, and took the sparkle out of her eyes.
I listened much more than I responded. I never appreciated someone offering three, easy steps to victory as a solution to a situation that has consumed most of my waking hours for month after month? Therefore, I was slow to become the ‘answer man.’ The family had enlisted the aid of medical doctors, psychiatrists, and support groups – all to no avail. The young man had progressively withdrawn from life. He barely completed high school; college was too great a challenge; even a steady job had become an impossibility. In the most recent years, he had chosen to identify with peers that were not the quality of friends his parents would have selected for him.
This precious mother described dashed hopes and dreams. We talked for the whole plane ride. Mostly, she talked and I listened. I realized that she just needed someone to share her load, even if only for an ever-so-brief period of time. At one point in the conversation, I reached out and touched her hand. She didn’t recoil and pull away as though a total stranger had just invaded her space. The warmth of my hand touching hers caused tears to instantly swell in her eyes. Someone connected with her burden. Someone cared about the pain and disappointment in her world.
The plane landed; we said our good-byes; and I told her that I would pray for them. We smiled and parted. I will not see her again. I offered no long-term solution. Her world will not be forever altered because we shared this momentary span of time. The Bible tells us that we are to bear one another’s burdens. Perhaps, just perhaps, that small window of time that she was able to download her burden to me will enable her to endure a little longer, hope another day, find the strength to go a little further. And maybe, that little extra distance will be just enough for her to arrive at an answer to her dilemma.
My husband and I are about half-way through our two-week vacation in Orlando, Florida. Each year we make our temporary residence at a lovely, three-bedroom condominium on the property of the Marriott World Center. Then – the family comes. Children and grandchild join us to play, swim, and exhaust ourselves at many of Orlando’s famous theme parks and attractions. Ordinary and fantasy merge together; household tasks and castles in the sky amalgamate; family unit and fictional characters unite. Orlando – the place where dreams come true!
I have been reflecting on the vast difference between the fantasyland and the harsher realities of everyday life. We all must deal with living in the real world, walking with our feet on the ground, and facing life as it really is. However, long experiences with tough issues and the hard grind can leave marks upon us. We can find ourselves with a negative perspective, a skeptical outlook, if not even a hardened heart. When these scenarios try to set in upon us, they diminish our vitality and productivity. The challenge before us is to learn to endure the rough battles of life without losing the romantic hope of victory and the innocent wonder that makes the battle worthwhile.
An occasional trip to a fantasyland is just what the doctor ordered. That land may be the world of the grandchild, a favorite TV show, a walk through the woods, or a bicycle ride in the park. The place of our renewal is not as important as the renewal itself. No one would advocate a continuous lifestyle of play, adventures, dreams, or escape; but a ‘now and then’ visit into this realm is the counter weight that gives our lives a balanced point of view. Pulling away from the demands, the problems, and the pressures in order to renew the imagination, restore the strength, and revitalize the stamina sends us back to our daily activities with a brightness of mind and a freshness of energy.
The Bible teaches us about this needed balance in the principle known as Sabbath rest. The pattern is found in the creation account where God is seen to work six days and to rest on the seventh. Throughout the pages of scripture, God admonishes man to follow His example and to rest one day out of the week. Apparently, seven hard work days makes one weak.
What is a weak man? Weakness is found in the realist who is without imagination, in the person whose firm resolve lacks tender compassion, the hard worker who has forgotten how to smile at life’s little ironies, or the entrepreneur whose bank account is full while his home is bankrupt. Weakness is manifest in the inability to enjoy a sunset, reflect upon the events of the day, pause to hear the laugh of the child, or remember to thank God for His tender mercies. Weakness is self-importance overload.
In our busy, hurry-up world where achievements are publicized, opportunities are limitless and boundaries appear to be non-existent, we can find it hard to resist the temptation to ignore the weekly Sabbath rest and to replace it with months of ceaseless activity. And often, the price we pay in our minds, bodies, and relationships is much greater than we estimate.
Perhaps this week would be the right time to begin striking the balance between work and play, between realities and wishes, between worry and faith. Perhaps your trip to fantasyland is closer than you dreamed.
The months of May and June bring us to graduation time. Last year, I was invited to four kindergarten promotion ceremonies, ten high school graduations, and one college commencement. This year those numbers are a little less intense. I only received invitations for two kindergarten, one high school, and two college graduations. I was able to be present at all the ceremonies but one. All these friends and loved ones, having achieved their designated goals, were anxious to share their triumphs with those of us who have made investments into their lives.
Graduation is the seal of accomplishment, the crowning touch of promotion, the finish line at the end of the marathon. Who of us, having crossed that line ourselves, does not turn around to cheer the runners who are also pressing toward the end and straining for the prize? To the graduates of 2019, may I extend heart-felt and sincere congratulations!
Promises that lie before us motivate our behavior. For example, the benefits available to the graduate with the diploma in his hand outweigh the cost of hard work to gain the certificate. The vision or the goal that we are seeking to achieve motivates many of our deeds. The more precious the reward, the higher will be the price that we are willing to pay.
Easily earned, shallow gains are insufficient incentives to produce the tenacity necessary to overcome great obstacles. Hence, we have the saying: ‘easy come, easy go.’ Conversely, great promises can extract a great cost. Long hours, hard toil, mental strain, personal discomfort, forfeited pleasures, and financial investment may all constitute that cost. But, once the goal is attained, once the individual has persevered and the success is immanent, the price disappears from view in light of the earned reward. Such is the stuff of which champions are made. Graduates are champions. They have conquered. They are victorious. They are the objects of our applause and of our admiration.
This year as I sat in the graduation ceremonies, my heart swelled in pride for both the valedictorians and the students who were awarded scholarships for further study. Tears filled my eyes as I beheld the diplomas and degrees being presented. As I listened to the challenges proclaimed in the commencement addresses, I was assured that those who have attained their goals are poised to meet their destinies; because every goal accomplished validates a person’s abilities. Graduates have applied their abilities, expanded their surroundings, and released their potential. Graduates are testifying to us that their courses were not made of aimless drifting, unintentional luck, or any unplanned venture. They have not walked through a succession of events absent of purpose. Rather, their aspirations and hard work have converged; their dreams have become realities.
Congratulations to all graduates of 2019.
Scripture informs us that we can learn life-lessons from observing God’s creation. Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” The proverb is admonishing the lazy man to go to work if he wants a good future. The ant serves as the metaphor in God’s lesson. I suppose that the sluggard – and all of us for that matter – consider ourselves higher on the pyramid of creatures than the ant. Who wants to be coached for success from an ant? Belonging to the class ‘insecta’ and the family ‘formicidae’ may sound like these are creatures of influence; but let’s be honest, they are ants. Nonetheless, God placed a wisdom inside of these annoying creatures that can communicate His providential plan to mankind who belong to the class ‘mammal’ and the family ‘hominidae’ (in case you were wondering).
Ants aren’t the only lower life forms that can communicate wisdom. I suppose that all of creation can be a living book of instruction if we are willing to be taught. After all, the God who wrote the Bible is the same God who created the whole world. We ought not to be surprised that His message is consistent whether in written form or in living technicolor.
I am currently learning from ducks. Yes – I said ducks. I purchased four cute little creatures almost eight weeks ago. I had a dual purpose. First, I wanted to thrill and delight my grandchildren with the fuzzy ducklings. Second, I planned to release the grown-up ducks onto the lake that is behind my home. I envisioned having permanent resident ducks that would bring me and my husband hours of enjoyment as we observed them in a natural habitat.
What I failed to comprehend was the unnatural environment that I would need to supply between the store and that natural habitat. These babies began life in a very small tub but quickly required a bigger pen. The past weeks have necessitated three upgrades to their living space. I have not only provided the house, I have provided the food, the water, the swimming tub, the heat lamp, the sanitation – and basically everything needed to sustain these ducks, who – by the way – belong to the class ‘bird’ and the family ‘anatidae.’ Don’t let that name impress you – these are not the wisest of creatures.
Every day for the past eight weeks, I have been faithful. They have wanted for nothing. Food? I fill the feeder before they even peep their need. Water? I bring the fresh, cool, refreshing liquid. They ‘fowl’ up their pen (pun intended) and I clean it up. Yet – with all the evidence that I mean them well, these guys run from me. They squawk and run from this mercy-giver. Huddled together at the edge of their habitant, they look at me as though I had ‘fowl’ intentions. They could draw near to me in confident expectation. How much less stressful their existence would be if only they could comprehend the benevolent hand of their care-taker.
Although our time together has not produced wisdom in them, I am nonetheless a little wiser. Of course, I know more about ducks. For one thing, the next time I have an idea to buy ducklings, I will let that thought ‘fly’ right out of my mind. Also, I have been regularly considering the heart of my own Heavenly Care-Taker. How many times have I misconstrued His intentions for me? How often have I run from Him rather than running toward him? How frequently do I take His abundant grace for granted? My ducks have stirred a heart of wisdom in me to acknowledge God’s compassionate care with trust and thanksgiving. Life lesson learned!
Have you ever noticed that wisdom often becomes apparent on the back side of your choice; because having lived out your decision, you discover that your proclivity was not truly wise at all? Thus, we are inclined to say: “If only I had known then what I know now.” I am in the midst of one of those moments. Before I confess my error, let me tell you the hopes, dreams, and visions that put me on my present course.
It started just about five weeks ago at Easter time. As a mother of 5, mother-in-law of 5, and grandmother of 17, I love to celebrate holidays and make memories. Like most families, our family has traditions. Church tops our list as we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. The day includes new Easter garments and photos, lunch and the traditional Easter ham, colored eggs and various types of candy. The older and wiser my children become, the less candy they allow their children to eat. The older and wiser my grandchildren become, the less candy they allow themselves to eat. The older and wiser I become, the less money I wish to invest in candy that nobody will eat. It would appear that all of us grow a little wiser with each passing Easter.
This past holiday, however, I decided to change up the normal and add a little Nana-flare to our event. I bought cute, little, fuzzy, furry ducks for each family unit. I envisioned Easter ducks would evoke joyous “oohs and ahhs” from my family as my children were delighted with a non-chocolate treat and my grands were thrilled to have their very own living, darling, snuggly pet. Yes, that is indeed how I saw it in my mind’s eye!
On Easter afternoon, I made an announcement that the whole gang should assemble in my living room for the big surprise. I could feel the anticipation mounting. Into the room of smiling faces and twinkling eyes, I carried the ducks. Squeals filled the air. The little guys squealed in anxiety and ran behind their parents. The grade-schoolers began to man-handle the ducks causing the ducklings to squeal in fear. And my children – the parents – likewise squealed out the words, “You’re not giving us those ducks for us to raise!” Almost instantly a level of wisdom began to dawn upon me. Easter ducks may, in the light of reality, have been a poor substitute for a chocolate bunny!
From that day until this, my wisdom is growing exponentially. I have been raising ducks. I had to buy a pen, wood chips for the pen, a lamp and light for warmth, a feeder, feed, and a water dispenser. My foyer is now home to the duck pen. My traditionally-decorated, beautifully-adorned entry way has a hint of a barn yard. At least, it did for the first few weeks. Ducks grow quickly. Ducks eat a good amount of grain and discard at least three times the volume they eat. They drink and splash, eat and mess, drink and splash, eat and mess, and then repeat the whole process over and over. I’m pretty sure they lack wisdom, which is probably why we call someone a “quack” when they do something stupid. And when a friend acts too silly, we call them “daffy” – which name originated with a duck by the way!
In so many ways, reality and fantasy have collided in the foyer of my home. Choices and wisdom have crashed head on. For example, in an effort to eliminate duck aroma, I placed the fowl creatures in a big tub of water. “Ducks swim. Ducklings have to start swimming sometime,” I told myself. So, we all took the plunge. The first water bath lasted almost an hour. When I pulled them out, they seemed to be unable to stand firmly on their webbed feet. They fell forward; I braced upward; they squealed weakly; I cried frantically. “I killed the Easter ducks,” was my foremost thought. They finally did regain their balance, and I later discovered that feather-less baby ducks absorb water through the down. More wisdom!
So – here I am – a wiser Nana and shrewder duck-raiser. I only have two to three more months until my wisdom and their growth is fully mature. My sons are saying “I told you so!” I am able to say, “I do know now what I need to know tomorrow.” Easter and baby ducks are not in my family’s future and wisdom for next-season’s Easter surprise will definitely be founded upon the backward look at my duck tale.
I love to quote the Bible. Although to be honest: most of the time, I ‘closely’ quote it rather than ‘exactly’ quote it; but you get my point. Quoting the words of someone more informed and more qualified than I am is a technique that I learned in my early years. My first recitation was a single word: “no.” I learned that word from my mother, who told me she used it frequently when imparting wisdom and discernment.
I’m pretty sure that almost everything I said throughout my first five or six years was a quote from my mom. Well . . . there was that one word I learned from the neighbor boy. When Mom heard me repeat him, she promptly imparted her “no” word of wisdom; and that quote was permanently removed from my repertoire. Before I went off to school, Mom knew everything.
Primary school broadened my horizons. I discovered that Mom knew a lot but not quite everything. Teachers and textbooks, companions and clubs, movies and music: my quote quotient was quickly quantifying. Mom’s advice to me while I practiced my new found information was, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Her advice generally meant that I was not getting smarter if I didn’t treat my friends with love.
Secondary school exposed me to a plethora of new ideas. I was becoming convinced that Mom did not know it all. My quote quota was taking quantum leaps. I cited Shakespeare for my teachers and The Beatles for my friends. I mimicked popular comedians’ comedy skits when seeking to evoke laughter and repeated poetry from Byron or Keats when attempting to appear intellectual. Mom’s quote for me: “This above all, to thine own self be true.” She warned me not to compromise who I was or ignore my conscience just to get ahead.
College days unveiled a universe of discoveries. My opinions about Mom’s advice went through several stages, but mostly I wondered if the things Mom knew had just become outdated. New peer groups and new ideologies challenged my traditional upbringing. New quirky quotes tempted me to quit on the old sayings. Yet, her values lingered as I thought of her words, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
I married in my early 20’s and became the mother of five by the time I reached 35. Assuming the role of mother brought about a renewed appreciation for my mom’s words. I became increasingly convinced that Mom might just know a lot, after all. I no longer wanted to quibble over the quotes in my quiver. I even moved to the point of asking Mom before making decisions. After all, “Time has a way of telling the truth.”
Now I am both a mom and a grandmother. Whereas my quest for good quotes continues and I have found an endless supply in the scriptures, I have replaced my mother in the role of purveyor of the proverbial and supplier of the sayings. I wish Mom was still here to rehearse one more time the old wisdom that formed the core of who I am. Although the sound of her voice may be silenced, the echo of her words continues to replay. I still hear her quotes and my children and their children are still instructed by them, too.
Quoting the words of someone more informed and more qualified than I am is a technique that I learned in my early years. Mom taught me to respect wisdom. Mom taught me to honor those who share their wisdom. Mom taught me to remember, rehearse, and retell wisdom. Maybe she knew that this life skill would eventually lead me to honor God, learn His word, and quote His wisdom. Thanks to Mom and the Bible, my quote for this day is “Children, honor your father and your mother.”
Wishing all Moms a Happy Mother’s Day!
Growing up in the greater St. Louis area, I have always been very familiar with the Mississippi River. In my early childhood, my grandmother would take me for a streetcar ride across the McKinley Bridge to get from Illinois to downtown St. Louis. Time has passed; streetcars have become outmoded; cars fill the family garage; but the Eads and McKinley Bridges still span the Mighty Mississippi along with newer and broader expansions.
The river also holds ‘Huck Finn’ type memories for me. My parents regularly took me to a friend’s riverside cabin where we would fish, hunt mushrooms, and build bonfires. As I grew and my interests changed, the river remained important. Motor boats and water skiing near Alton or the Admiral Boat anchored at Laclede’s Landing offered fun weekend activities.
More time passed. Today, I still regularly drive to St. Louis but now on one of several multi-lane interstates with the multiple bridge options that connect Illinois and Missouri. The Admiral has long been retired from the riverfront landscape and has been replaced by expansive casinos and a few sightseeing boats. The magnificent Arch frames the city and casts its image onto the river. However, in spite of the passage of time, culture or landscape, the Mississippi seems timeless, ever flowing southward toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The river springs from a secluded northern Minnesota lake named Lake Itasca, which was first called Antler Lake by the Chippewa Indians. In fact, it was a Chippewa Chief who ended the centuries-long search for the river's source by guiding Henry Schoolcraft to it in 1832. Schoolcraft strung together parts of two Latin words, veritas caput, meaning "true head," to create the name Itasca. From this hidden forested place, the Mississippi flows approximately twenty-five hundred miles to the Gulf of Mexico, bordering ten states and expanding to more than a mile in width. A drop of water takes sixty days to reach the balmy Gulf.
Continuously – and seemingly timelessly – the Mississippi travels from the head waters toward its destination. Life around the river may transform and change, but the river remains unaltered. Decade after decade, the waters released at Itasca will touch the banks of cities, support commerce and entertainment for the citizenry, and eventually spill out into the oceans that touch the world.
Jesus told His disciples that out of them would flow a river (Jn. 7:38). In part, He was stating that they would provide the fountain head for the water of His life to flow. Things that have small beginnings can have mighty cultural influences. Jesus’ original small band of followers has grown into a worldwide movement. Time passes and culture changes, but His water moves continuously – and seemingly timelessly – from His people throughout the generations and into the nations.
Those who live near that River of God have memories of good days that have ‘floated’ their way and promises of blessings that shall yet ‘drift’ downstream. No matter how culture may ebb or flow or how the undercurrent of humanity may pull, God’s Word and Spirit always provide that timeless, steady stream of life.