Runoff

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It’s runoff season in the mountains. This time of year pretty little streams can turn into aggressive torrents churning up mud and rock as they rush down to the valley on their way to the sea. If heavy rains coincide with melting snow this season can be messy, and even destructive and dangerous. I am tempted to complain. Loudly.

I went for a walk along the creek that flows near our house. I could actually hear rocks tumbling in two giant culverts that directed rushing water under the bicycle path. The banks of the creek are unstable and some trees no longer grip enough soil with their tangled roots to stay upright. Even in places that looked dry, my feet sank ankle deep in the soft saturated lawn in the park.

We are reading reports of massive flooding all over the southern portion of the province of British Columbia well as many other places in Canada. In some areas, homes, and shops are inundated. Hillsides slip slide away and roads and bridges are washed out. Traffic is chaotic. Our own home is still drying out from the last messy melt and repairs may take months.

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Yesterday, as I walked beside the muddy pounding waters flowing from the high mountains, I heard the word “abundance.” I saw the creek overflowing its banks and spill out into the playing field where kids’ soccer lessons should be starting soon. They will be disappointed. How can this be abundance when it feels like loss?

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ft steele winter eve chI remembered that the first European settlers who came to this area followed the stories of the discovery of gold in Wildhorse Creek. It was the violent spring run-off currents that washed the precious metal down from the treacherous terrain above. After prospectors and entrepreneurs filled their pockets with gold dust and nuggets they sent for their wives and children. Along with families came the merchants and services that families need. Roads and train rails reached the area. Towns sprang up – then churches and schools and eventually arenas and shopping malls and an airport with a runway big enough to accommodate international flights.

 

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I thought about some of the large successful ranches in the interior of B.C. Arable land is a valuable and relatively sparse in this province of massive rocks reaching to the sky. Many rich valleys which produce abundant harvests and feed sheep and cattle were, at one time, flood plains. Like the people who live along the lower Nile River, we have come to depend on soil nutrients carried by occasional flood water and the rain and melted snow that refills lakes, aquifers, and reservoirs.

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The bigger picture I think the Lord is showing me is that we may pray for prosperity, but we don’t always recognize it when it comes because our concept of prosperity is all about current comfort. It seldom includes the well-being of generations we probably won’t meet let alone planning for decades ahead. Perhaps abundance includes more people than we think.

kin park flood IMG_7624I wonder if the same thing happens when we are tempted to complain loud and long about uncomfortable circumstances in our lives. We don’t always see them as gifts that can benefit our great- great- grandchildren. We tend to be short-sighted and don’t enjoy setting aside our convenience for a greater purpose – especially one that is not obvious. We don’t realize that traits like steadfast courage, resilience, diligence, unashamed hope and trust in God’s goodness developed in times of “just too much” can be the greatest inheritance we can pass on to future generations.

Yes, there are disasters orchestrated by the evil one who intends to harm us, but God can still turn plans meant for our harm into better plans meant for our benefit. It’s his specialty. He’s done it many times. He will do it again. Just watch.

Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
I know that God is good!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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Decisions. We face them constantly. Shall I get out of bed now, or can I try to stretch the night to last another ten minutes? Should I open that unwelcome letter or have a coffee first? Should I say something, or bite my tongue once again? Since I no longer have a micro-manager hovering over my desk, shall I dedicate my morning to writing, or cleaning, or playing, or resting?

Decisions, large and small, reflect what we truly believe and reveal our values and the state of our developing character. Decisions, large and small, can also precipitate major changes in our lives – not all of them anticipated. Decisions to turn right or left, to take the stairs or the elevator, or to accept an invitation can all have life-altering consequences.

Sometimes the options spread before us entice with the frustrating pleasure of a candy shop full of delights and the limits of just enough coins in a child’s pudgy hand for one treat.

Sometimes the options range from really bad to frankly terrible. It feels like sitting in a sterile examining room, listening to a doctor ask us to choose between amputation and unrelenting pain.

Some days we face looming deadlines and the need to make a major decision without all the information we want, without any clear, well-advised course of action, or a sense of where this could lead.

We can ask God for guidance and wisdom. In fact he invites us to ask, but then we have to wait and pay attention under pressure. Sometimes we want a particular problem to go away while He, in His wisdom and from His perspective, sees how the problem can become a means to a greater end. The answer may not be as straight forward as we want. Here’s the thing: if we are going to ask the Creator of the Universe for His wisdom it’s not wise to turn it down to look for something we like better.

Ask, but ask in faith, believing in a way that transforms God’s advice into acts of faith.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

(James 1:5-8 MSG)

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Overwhelmed

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Have you ever noticed that crises don’t have the decency to line up and come single file, waiting patiently until the previous demand has been met?

It’s snowing – again. During the unusually big dump, three weeks ago, I met this guy digging out not only the access to his carport, but a neighbour’s place as well. Then he went on to help clear the way for a midwife who lives down the lane before she returned from night shift at the hospital.

“The important thing,” he told me between shovelfuls of snow, “is to not let it pile up on you.”

“But it’s still snowing!” I said, as my blue toque turned white with accumulated fluffy stuff.

“I know. But if I waited until it stopped the task would seem overwhelming. So I work, take a break, and work some more.”

He tossed another shovelful on a snow bank taller than he was.

“Just keep at it,” he grunted.

I admit he demonstrated a better work ethic than I often do. Sometimes I look at the task ahead of me and feel so overwhelmed I quit, hoping a miraculous event will clear the path like a sudden thawing chinook wind (which we don’t get on this side of the Rockies.) At the moment I feel buried under inertia.

But the man with the shovel reminds me to persevere.

So first I respond to obligations and crises, then clear my desk, file my notes, answer my emails, take a break, clear my emails, edit my photos, take break, and write my stories – one sentence a time. I toss words on the page like tossing shovels full of snow on the spot I hope will transform into a garden someday.

It feels overwhelming but maybe, someday, there will be a book where once nothing existed but blank whiteness.

Just keep at it.