Where are Your Oars?

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We all travel the River of Life.

God controls the flow, the bends, the swirls and eddies, the calm and the rushing waters. He guides each boat with wisdom and love. Some boats must endure the whitewaters for a time: baggage may be lost overboard; passengers may look up, seeking faith; lives may be lost. Some boats float along in the still waters, enjoying the view, hanging out, or stuck, as it were, for a time before being carried away or steering away. God also provides assorted kinds of boats and oars, depending on the needs of its passenger.

We all bring into our boats varying kinds and amounts of packages. Some have disorganized baggage with odds and ends leaking out; some have neatly stacked and packed boxes.

Some who go through life with messy packages strewn about may never find their oars. They travel downstream uncontrolled, hanging onto their baggage tightly, or sometimes flinging it at others. They continue adrift, hanging onto the gunnels, crying out “Oh, this is happening to me!”

Others with messy boats begin the process of tidying up. They throw overboard those items that weigh them down; they organize their things as best they know how. They may eventually find their oars.

Those with neatly stacked boxes can come into their boats with knowledge of their oars and how to use them. Some of these will use that knowledge and steer their boats accordingly. Some, even with good teaching, will make a mess of their boats and misuse their oars.

What to do with those oars?

Some who find their oars never figure out how to use them. They whack other passersby with them, or splash about aimlessly. They may think oars are for holding out to others, and that others must provide for them.

God may open the eyes of some and bring wisdom and knowledge of the various uses of oars. J-strokes, back sweep, right draw, and using the oar as a rudder all provide methods of proper steering through the disparate waters. Oars may also be used to reach out to others in their boats, to draw alongside or hold onto.

We don’t travel alone down this River of Life. We bump into others, cross paths, join together, jostle, or commune with all those God sets in our ways. Sometimes we don’t get to go where we want to go. Sometimes we are brought into new and exciting channels. Sometimes we are called to come alongside others. We must remember to be gentle and kind, to use our oars to help, guide, and steer clear.

Give some thought to your oars, and what your path will be until you cascade into the great ocean of eternity.

One of My Neighbors

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One of my neighbors is a red-breasted robin.

He visits me in the spring.

In return for worms in my yard,

I get to hear him sing.

 

One of my neighbors is a mourning dove:

Actually, there are two.

They perch atop our rail.

I enjoy hearing their coo.

 

One of my neighbors is a squirrel.

Of kin he must have dozens.

I see them dashing from tree to tree,

Bringing food from uncles to cousins.

 

One of my neighbors is a sparrow.

Her nest is in the crook of a tree.

It’s the best little spot that I’ve ever seen;

In that little hole she maybe feeds three.

 

We sit on our front swing, my husband and I,

Watching these neighbors of ours.

It brings us great pleasure as we wind down

In the early evening hours.

Chicago!

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My husband and I just returned from a five-day trip to Chicago. Travel took up two of the days, so we hustled through three jam-packed, fun-filled days in the Windy City.

First some background: This was, essentially, my first trip (previous forays through the city were unavoidable, grit-your-teeth-because-this-is-the-shortest-route dashes). I have not always lived in small towns, but I am a small-town girl at heart. I enjoy the wide-open spaces, meeting people you know at the store, and the relative safety of small numbers.

I arrived in Chicago with skewed assumptions. It’s a Big City – you know, like New York, and Los Angeles. I expected angry, bustling people elbowing their ways to jobs they hated, down crowded concrete tunnels, with exhaust spewing forth into their nostrils and traffic noise funneling into their ears. I figured we’d hear of or witness violence in one form or another, even if it was one of our group who was pushed aside or pick-pocketed. I mean, after all, you hear about murders in Chicago all the time.

My husband’s sister lives in Illinois, and she visits Chicago often. She loves it there. She especially enjoys visiting her son and his wife; still, she relishes the city itself. But, we figured she’s a big-city kinda girl.

Now I get it. I thoroughly enjoyed our Chicago trip. I never felt unsafe or dirty. There were no places that smelled of stale urine. Quite the contrary, Chicago was fresh and clean, with lush displays of trees, flowers, and greenery everywhere. The people were friendly and inviting. Any time we asked for help from any kind of worker or passer-by (ball games, Navy Pier, museums, hotel, river cruise, restaurants), they always jumped in with smiles and courteous guidance.

We attended three ball games. I should note, because it was a huge factor, that the weather was horrendously hot and muggy for all three, and all were inordinately long (4+ hours each). The stadium had ramps and areas we found with lovely breezes, but our seats were, as stadium seats are, tight and close. No one (staff or crowd) was cross or belligerent; everyone was just as friendly as everywhere else we went.

The highlight of our trip was visiting with our nephew and his wife. They took us out for dinner to an exquisite restaurant. The food was amazing, the conversation warm and cozy. We basked in the glow of their grace and charm as we chatted and caught up.

Truly, I wish our trip had lasted a few more days. I hope to return.