Friday, May 29, 2020

I Hope You Dance

Are you suffering today with pain, loss or illness? I Hope You Dance, which is the title of a Country Western ballad by Lee Ann Womack that is in may son and daughter-in-law’s wedding video.   We all will have troubles at sometime if not today.  Psalm 30:11 says, I will turn your mourning into dancing,” which does not make sense in a worldly way. It is a spiritual promise of God. Psalm 30 tells us that we should praise, extol the Lord for He will lift us up.  This means that the Lord brings us out of the pit or the grave as we cry out to Him (v.3). It says, “Lord, I cried out to you and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2). Psalm 103 tells us of the One “Who heals all our diseases, who lifts our life from the pit, who fills us with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:2-4). Psalm 40, also of David says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He put a new song in my mouth-Praise to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3).  It goes on to say to rejoice and be glad for the Lord is our deliverer. Now as we head back to Psalm 118, we read in verse 14, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation…and He has given us light…O, give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:14,27,29). I see a thread of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, followed by healing and deliverance. I see praise breaking into song and even dancing like David did before the Lord when the Arc of the Covenant was rescued from the enemy (2 Samuel 6:14).

There are indeed times for dancing, even in trials and troubles. In the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:25, the older son hears music and saw dancing, and was angry. But his father and God in heaven were rejoicing for his brother who was lost was found.

The Prophet Zephaniah speaks of rejoicing in the faithfulness of God. Adonai your God is in your midst—
    a mighty Savior!
He will delight over you with joy.
He will quiet you with His love.
He will dance for joy over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 TLV).
That is the kind of God we serve, so we should do the same.

The woman of noble character in Proverbs is so strong and trusting in God in all circumstances that,
“She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom” (Proverbs 31 Epilogue).
I find laughter closely related to singing and dancing. All of these are a natural outgrowth of complete trust in God’s goodness and mercy. It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 admonishing us that, “His power is made perfect in our weakness and that when we are weak, He is strong.”

The Wisdom literature is full of help in tough times. In fact Solomon, the probable writer of Ecclesiastes said, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). The wise go there because God is there with them. He draws near in our sorrow and pain. C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed said, “God whispers in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain” He is the One we seek in hardship and joy. He is the only One who comes near and lifts us up. He is the One who turns our mourning into dancing.

I know that the world is harsh and dark, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. Even though they may stumble. Isaiah 40 tells us that they will not fall; their strength will be renewed and they shall mount up with wings like the eagles. It is a vision of the power of God in our trusting and hoping in Him. Soaring and singing, laughing and dancing are a natural outpouring of our praise and thanks. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever” (Psalm 136). And I hope you dance.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but they're worth takin'

I hope you dance.

Friday, May 22, 2020

ALL

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

God is the One from whom every blessing flows, there is not another source. That is hard for me at times to get my mind and heart around. Sometimes I think very humanly, which means worldly. Then I think that I find good people, but “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12). Yet in the beginning it was different.

“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21).  Yes, after God created He called it all, including humans in His image, and called it “very good.”  And then came “the fall,” into disobedience and sin, where we have been since the Garden of Eden.  Today in ever increasing volume there is a denial of all things God. There is the expression of good in man and the world. This contradicts what God has said in the Bible, which is no longer taught or accepted in public. We do not even swear upon Bibles anymore, lest we would be intolerant.

But God created all and it was good, yet we chose our own way. God is still in charge and “slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 86:15; John 4:2). God is patient and kind. He wants us to live quiet and peaceful lives, which we don’t do, but “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:4).  Peter described God saying, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”  (2 Peter 3:9). That’s the kind of good God we serve. And for His people, He wants us to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits”  (1 Peter 2:12). It is the love of a good God that constrains us to do “good works” through Christ Jesus our Lord. Now is the time to shine the light about the “Perfect Gift” in Jesus Christ who came down from heaven to show us the way, the truth and the Life in Him.



Friday, May 15, 2020

Rivers of Life

This morning I was very contemplative on my predawn bike tour along the Milwaukee River. The moonlight cast a silver sheen across the dark and rippled current. Shadows of trees on the far bank left dark fingers in the on the broad stillness. I was singing the song printed below as tears began to moisten my eyes with sweet memories or times gone by and the many rivers I had canoed, fished and swam across.
When I was a youngster I was sent to a most wonderful summer camp, Teton Valley Ranch in Kelly Wyoming. This ranch was settled on the edge of the Gros Ventre River Valley with the Teton Mountain range in majestic view across the vast Jackson Hole Valley filled with elk, bison, antelope and more water. Lake Jackson and the Snake River meander through it too. There were incredible cutthroat and golden trout teaming in the waters for even a novice fly fisherman like myself to catch. I recall singing the camp song Peace I Ask of Thee O River in the mountain chapel and as we hiked the trails through the valley to the mountains. As a somewhat emotionally troubled youth I found the words almost mystical in beauty and peace. I would come to learn of the power and grace of the rivers and the One who made them. I did not yet know that Scripture is replete with river metaphors or theophanies or images of God in them.

Peace I ask of thee, oh river
Peace, peace, peace
When I learn to live serenely
Cares will cease

From the hills I gather courage
Visions of the days to be
Strength to lead and faith to follow
All are given unto me.

As I grew up I had the great privilege to canoe and fish many rivers across our great nation and beyond.

British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska

The Peace River flows from the Great Slave Lake of British Columbia to the Artic Sea. When the explorer Alexander Mackenzie found it in 1793 he described the “vastness and wildness of the country, which, when one is on the river, is palpable.” I was 18, just graduated from High School as I stood on its banks with my best friend. We were on our way to Alaska for adventure. The fish hit my tiny spinner hard. As my first Artic Grayling lay in my hand, I marveled at the metallic grey-blue scales spotted with bright blue, green, and red spots. But most incredible was the large dorsal fin fanning out for several inches down its spine. This sail-like fin allows the fish to navigate the strong currents of the icy glacial flow rivers like the Peace. I gently removed the hook and returned her to the dark blue flow. The Peace flows into the Slave, which is a tributary of the Mackenzie, which flows in the Artic Sea. The Rocky Mountains rise with their dark Fir forested sides to the skies above the river.

We knew we were on our way into the wilderness now as the blacktop became gravel and the remains of blown tires and exhaust systems began to litter the side of the road, casualties of a harsh trail. The Liard River’s grey-blue rapids yielded more and brighter Grayling as we paused along the way. The St. Elias Mountains now rose above us with many snow-capped peaks above 12,000 feet. The awe, majesty and raw power of creation now were very present to us. We were alone in God’s presence to see seemingly endless forests and rocky slopes reaching to the sky. The azure blue glaciers were now flowing from the mountain valleys. The roar of the rapids and screaming of the soaring Bald Eagles above overwhelmed us. This is what we had come to find, as if we were the first to stand there with the “First Peoples.” We continued up the gravel, rock-strewn road.

The Yukon River itself, running 3,700km to the Artic flowed with angry rapids, reminded me of the Yellowstone in Montana. Here; however the flow was dark not yellow as it carved the canyons between the high peaks. Along the rocky road we changed blown out tires several times as we gazed at the Porcupine, White and Indian Rivers. We took fish at every stop while we were amazed that we could even find such grandeur. The weather changed as we headed north. The skies grew cobalt blue and then dark grey. The temperatures began to slowly fall. The early June mornings brought frost.

We stopped beside the mountain wayside. Dead Man’s Creek roared under and over the road in spring runoff. We decided to follow it, trying to find the mountain lake the trail sign told us lay above. It was now blowing and snowing, but we were on pilgrimage in the wild. We needed to cross this rocky creek. Owen, my friend, who was one of the strongest men I knew, was able to ford it with a large beam from a tree. I was not as fortunate as I slipped on a mid-stream rock. As I was tumbled down-creek, a waterfall roared in front of us, and I caught a stretched out branch Owen reached. We didn’t make it to the lake, and were glad for the heater in our 12-foot Mallard trailer, now battered by the rocks flying off the road. Now we knew that humans must be cautious in the wilderness, as there is no help. God’s creation is wonderful, but a little like the Lion Aslan in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. He described this theophany of God saying, “He’s good, but He is not safe.”

Now, onward up through the Trutch Mountains and along the Klondike River, past the Continental Divide at mile 721 on the Alaska Highway. We stopped in Dawson Creek, the original headquarters for the pioneer Gold Prospectors of the late 1800’s. Land speculation grew as the first railroad was built taking its toll of many lives. This still small town marks the official beginning of the Alaska Highway.

By the time we reached Alaska through the Yukon wilderness, we had blown many tires and torn the main suspension trailer springs out. Our trailer was protected by ½ inch plywood tied to the front. Our windshield needed replacing, as we no longer could see through the spider webs of rock-strewn cracks. We stopped and fished along the way in many unnamed creeks, all yielding rainbows and grayling. Finally we reached Anchorage, the capitol city of Alaska. Here we headed south toward Homer along the ruins of the recent 1966 major earthquake. The roads were destroyed and our rig struggled to follow earthmoving equipment forging a new trail through the wilderness along the Cook Inlet of the Bering Sea and Alaska Bay towards Homer, “The end of the road.” We were in the Kenai Peninsula with Mount Alyeska and the Chugach Mountains rising high above the fjords of Glacier Bay and the Bering Sea. We stopped to fish at the mouth of the Chitna River using spinning rods and silver spoons. Within minutes we were battling Silver or Coho Salmon on light tackle. The grey granite silt would suck in our boots like quick sand as we carefully moved along the sand spits. Soon we had landed a dozen silvery sea run salmon 8-15 pounds. Even flounders took our lures off the bottom. Seals followed us up the river looking for an easy catch and release prize. Shore birds also followed us up the river as eagles soared above waiting for us to leave a salmon unattended. Dozens of Bald Eagles sat in the trees along the banks. We had learned to only travel by day as at night the 15-foot high Kenai moose often are on the roads. Because of our canoe on top we couldn’t drive under them.

We picked up and headed toward the Kenai River mouth a few miles south. We were no longer alone as the Red Salmon run was on. Fishermen packed the banks and boats moved up and down the current. Clearly this was a classic annual event as campfires and campers lined the gravel road. Soon we were into the fish as these mighty saltwater salmon took 100 yards of line out at a time. What a carnival atmosphere with whooping and hollering attending the hooking and landing of fish. Our first were in the 15-pound range. The silver scales and hooked jaws on the males were classic. The flesh on the fish being filleted nearby was a bright orange not available at the store. Many females had roe of the same color. The river teemed with fish tailing. Some fishermen even snagged them, which was legal with single hooks for a short season.

This was the season of the midnight sun that did not set. We fished all night enmeshed in the excitement of this cultural ritual. We had filled our large cooler with 20 fish before we took a breather. We shared local beers and stories with neighboring fishermen, all forming a community that seemed like that the Book of Acts described of the early church saying, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone in need” (Acts 2:44-45). We shared with many and found some great traveling friends among the pilgrims. We also found a local canner who took our filleted and steaked fish that we later picked up in a couple of boxes of fresh smoked and canned salmon.

We would return to the Copper River many years later with my two sons to fish for the bright red-fleshed Chinook and Silvers. We would share the river with bears that clearly had a prehistoric claim on the fishing spots we wanted. We just enjoyed watching them. We did catch fish but it took finding a Native American guide willing to show us the choice stretches of river. This wilderness was ensconced with dense forests and low mountains luring my sons to stay out most of the night, even tough we could hear the wolves howling nearby.  We took 100 pounds of red fillets home from the trip to charcoal grill with family and friends as we shared adventures of the wild rivers of Alaska.


Montana Rivers
Upon graduation from dental school my sons moved to Montana to set up a practice but more so for fishing and hunting. Running through Great Falls they found the second longest river in North America, the Missouri or “Mighty Mo.”  As well many other rivers and creeks flow down from the Rocky Mountains and other ranges like the Belts and the Highwood’s. It is formed by the confluence of the Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson rivers. The Missouri is famous, particularly because the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled it to get to the Northwest Passage. We have floated it numerous times but usually wade in to fly fish for rainbows and browns. This clear fishery flows through the Dakotas west with many tributaries like the Musselshell, Cheyenne and Mackenzie. Mackenzie River boats float the “Big Muddy” for rainbows. The fish are wily and require tiny flies #19-21.

The Missouri has become an indelible part of our family lore as it was at Pelican Point, south of Great Falls that Lewis and Clark camped and I also presided at the Christian marriage ceremony of my son Chad to his bride Lisa. My now aging Mother-in-law described it just like a Hollywood wedding because of the deafening presence of Forest Service helicopters strafing the river in front of the wedding party with huge containers to scoop water to fight nearby forest fires on that mid-May day in 2004. Their hunting dog, Hank the Ring-bearer, ran away with the ring and the Bride to be had to scale a nearby hill in her long white lace gown to wave off the Forest Service with her bridal bouquet. Excitement abounded on the banks of the Missouri that day. The nuptials were recited and the blessed couple relaxed, yet would return again and again to Pelican Point. It is there that the strong currents move around sand bars and curves, producing pods of rainbow trout feeding on the fresh hatches. The bright scarlet striped sides surrounded by black spots on silver dramatically present why this wily trout is such a prize.

Our favorite fishing is in the Missouri River Canyon near Craig and Wolf Creek. The Rockies come down to the waters edge although in places there is enough land to fit in a small farm or grazing land for cattle. Antelope roam along the river, accompanied often by Mule and Whitetail Deer. Golden and Bald Eagles soar above and occasionally we have seen brown bear, lynx and mountain lions coming to drink.  Driving down the canyon brings a truck out over the bluffs edge, perilously overlooking the river and its deep green and frothy white rapids. We have canoed the river catching many rainbows over six pounds. In my home office are brightly colored Japanese fish prints I have painted of “Bows and Browns” from the river.  In late summer we dive from the rocks above the river and swim in the strong currents. Also then come the Caddis Fly hatches bringing literally millions of the white damsel-like flies that dance above and on the waters. They are the delicacy of the trout that rise voraciously for them. As we watch the thousands of concentric circles from the rises, we throw our Caddis fly patterns over the rings. Like feeding sharks, the strikes are explosive and wild battles ensue. A fisherman may need to row after a big fish like Hemingway’s Old Man and The Sea. This is world-renowned fishing water where fisherman from all continents wade the shallows fly-casting for fish in every language.

Last summer we headed down toward Helena and the “Gateway to the Mountains” where the sheer rock faces rise from the river, towering over 1,000 feet. Here we caught dozens of yellow perch and walleye pike with jigs. Even our grandsons, 7, 9, and 11 partook and then plunged into the river from the 20-foot rock jumps. There is no better eating than these cold-water fish.  Suffice it to say, it is a river wonderland.

Perhaps you have seen the movie And a River Runs Through it, starring Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt. This story based on the book of the same name tells the story of the family of a Presbyterian Pastor near Missoula, Montana, that also rings true in my life, having been one myself. The most amazing fishing scenes take place on the Blackfoot River above Missoula. This mountain stream runs through the forested Rockies and is home for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. I have written on fishing this river in my book, This is The Way, Walk in It, in the first story called A Theology of Trout Fishing. It tells of hiking through the fire ravaged pine forest up to the craggy Blackfoot. My now Montana son, who is a much better fisherman than I, can throw a fly nearly 100 feet to within a dime’s target. Here he waited for rises and brought in cutthroats to 20 inches in a 10-foot wide stream. I could sit on the rocks above him for hours watching his rhythmic casts. The only sounds are the Mountain Jays, Eagles and fast moving water. Indian Paintbrush, mountain sunflowers and columbine wave in the breeze with the sage above the stream.  The sun sparkles diamonds on the riffles and a marmot watches from his craggy lair. As I listen to the fly reel drag screams out I know he has hooked another big one. These are the many reasons we covet going there.

“And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him”  (Revelation 22:1-3 NKJV).

There is a “River of Life” in heaven that flows from the throne of God and He is within it. There is healing in the river and its leaves and fruit for His servants and the nations. This is the promise of God as He has revealed to John the Apostle. This powerful image draws me to the waters of life and the river of bounty that flows from it. It causes me to seek out the meandering streams of life all the more.

In Montana there are brooks that bubble up as spring creeks. One particularly seems to be heaven-sent. Otter Creek is in Central Montana and meanders through the grazing land of bison and cattle ranchers. There are red sandstone bluffs rising high above the creek valley. This stream runs through high prairie grass and pasture land where in the hot summer rattle snakes slither down to find water. But the fishing seems to transcend the risk. A fisherman can stand on the bank or in the shallow waters. From there nymphs or hoppers produce native browns from the undercut banks and deep pools.  These trout we have named “canaries” because of their bright yellow underbellies. We use barbless hooks to preserve the fish, adding to the technical difficulty of the fishing experience. It is not unusual to be concentrating on casting and being aware of a 1000-pound bison watching he stream next to you. They are only dangerous if they have a calf.

There are many other Montana River stories to tell of the Stillwater, Bighorn, Smith, Judith and Ruby, perhaps for another time. But I can’t help wanting to tell of our exciting canoe float trip down the renowned icy cold Ruby River near Bozeman. Now this river is difficult to access because it flows through the nearly 1,000,000-acre ranch of Ted Turner, of CNN and Jane Fonda fame. This is a bison and cattle ranch like most, but off limits to the public.

We lowered the canoe over the stone bridge into the fast moving Ruby waters and jumped in the canoe. My sons and an old friend who actually introduced us to Montana trout fishing stuffed into the aluminum 17-footer. We knew that federal laws allowed us to fish and even stand inside the high water line. Fordable waterways are public land in the United States, and may it ever be so.

We immediately began to catch browns and rainbows on dry flies as it was summer and the hatches of midges and caddis were on. We floated down river finding excitement as the current frequently sped up into class 2-3 rapids. The river was stone and sand bottom and easy to stand in. We meandered through acres of land until we heard the roar of several ATVs heading to the river. Several men stood on the bank pointing M-15 assault rifles at us and threatening to shoot if we didn’t immediately get off. We stood or ground under the law of the land, even though we knew that Western justice was still present out there.  They warned us and followed for a while until I guess they got bored.

Well, the Cowboys took-off and we continued to catch fish. As we rounded a fast moving turn in a tough rapids our bowman forgot to steer and we crashed into the thick and thorny brush on the bank. Only one rod broke, but the enduring term “cheese grater” was coined, describing such crashes as we repaired our wounds.

The next turn in the river would bring another unexpected scene for our memory books. A farmhouse with a big veranda stood a few yards off the bank. And there sitting in a rocking chair on the porch was Jane Fonda herself. She is pretty, but she was a traitor to our country by visiting North Viet Nam and praising our enemy during the war that left over 50,000 American dead.  As a Christian, I must forgive her, even though she has not confessed her mammoth sin to our country. She will need to deal with God about this, not me.

Well, anyway, not wanting to leave this wonderful Ruby River story on a dark note let me return to the float. We ended the tour having landed dozens of trout from 12-24 inches in one of the most beautiful rivers we fished. I still don’t carry a gun with me when fishing except when near the Rocky Mountain Front, where Grizzlies roam. And so for now I turn from Montana to Wisconsin rivers.

Wisconsin Spring Creeks

For many years I have traveled with friends to the “Driftless Area” of Wisconsin for trout fishing. Here are wide green river valleys with spring creeks bursting from the limestone beneath. These river valleys were gauged out by glaciers in the last Ice Age.  Artesian waters are clear and pure producing watercress and vibrant wild flowers as well as bounteous brown and brook trout fishing. In fact there are artesian wells that pump icy water from the limestone cliffs near the streams where locals fill their water jugs for drinking.  We have found several favorite streams that I have written about in my book This is The Way, Walk in It. The West Branch of the Kickapoo, Spring Creek, Timber Coulee, and The Elk are a few of our favorites. But perhaps my special pick is the Bohemian. Here the stream flows through a wide river valley with 200-300 foot wooded glacial eskers and moraines rising above the valley floor. Cattle and sheep graze the grasses, protected by giant and sometimes alert bulls, adding to the adventure. Native Browns and Brookies are plentiful along the streams’ undercut banks and deep pools. I can wade the creeks easily with hip boots.  In spring midges and nymphs are the only effective flies. In late summer the hoppers and other surface dry flies, such as Adams and Wolves work too. 

I am mesmerized watching and listening to the horse drawn Amish carts traversing the valleys between their smaller 40-acre homesteads. The Scandinavians settled the region in the 19th century, bringing colorful architecture and craftsmen. My Gazetteer map is loaded with notes on the fishing to remind me of yesteryear and hope for tomorrow.  Trout Unlimited and DNR have rejuvenated the banks with structure to enhance the fishing.

We have found a wonderful place to swim on hot summer days as a respite from fishing. The sheltered waters of the Kickapoo flow fast down a slide into a hard curve forming a deep blue pool. Refreshment has never felt better. God has certainly brought beauty and rest at once. I can imagine the Kickapoo Indians enjoying the same in another century.

Here, like Montana is private land with landowners having proprietary interest in protecting their investments and peace. Threats from locals are rare as most farmers are more than happy to let a fisherman walk their lands to the creeks as long as we leave nothing but footprints and memories.

Michigan Upper Peninsula

The Menomonee River runs along the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan border. It runs fast and tumbles over rocks into falls. Paper mills have used the river for transporting lumber and sadly for excreting chemical runoff that has destroyed the ecology. Hopefully new manufacturing practices and reasonable regulations will return the river to its greatness.  The river now is brown and smells of sulfur unfortunately. For many years we owned a family cottage on a lake chain not far from the river into Upper Michigan.  We fished for smallmouth bass and an amazing assortment of fish in this once scenic and beautiful river. The fish is not safe for eating sadly, but the fishing is great. Through the years my now grown sons and I have caught and released hundreds of smallmouth and a few walleye, northern pike, and yes, Muskies. I have written of the wild two-hour battle my older son had with a record musky on a fly rod.

The fish took a good-sized walleye as he brought it in from a deep pool beside the rapids. We could see it swallow the fish whole. After waiting for a few minutes he struck the hook and the fight was on. The huge fish could not feel much pressure from the fine line and so we were able to see its huge length and girth, measuring over 60 inches. Unable to land it and fearful of diving into the rapids to grab the tiring fish, we waited. The monster musky decided to head down stream with my son sprinting after it. The bank was steep granite with brush, birch and pines. He balanced along the bank until he was forced to dive into the roaring river. He surfaced throwing his feet up to float down stream feet first. He held his rod high as the 300 yards of backing ran out until a final snap and the fish was gone. By then we were a least ½ mile down river. Exhausted physically and emotionally, we knew we would be back to challenge the river again.

Throughout the region were small creeks, like the Hamilton, producing native “brookies,” including my sons’ first trout back in the early 80s. As well, the backwaters of the Sturgeon River produced incredible northern and bass fishing. Wild forestland surrounds the brackish waters filled with Lilly pads and musky weeds. The granite-bouldered shores have blueberries and blackberries for snacks and frequent black bear sightings. Here we have seen wolves, martins, foxes, cranes and loons. But perhaps the most fun were the frolicking otters that fish in the waters.  This seeming wilderness was virtually people-free beautiful. Often we attracted eagles to watch us fish. We never returned without many fish for dinner. In fact, one early morning produced a five-pound walleye, a prized restaurant special in the North Woods.

Another famous Upper Michigan boundary river is the Brule. It runs through thick state forests and the banks are lined by ancient family cottages like the Weyerhaeuser’s, one of the nation’s largest forest land owners. Although the river has produced massive brown trout and steelhead, they are hard to catch. It is a wild river that runs the border from Lake Superior and into the Paint river, another great smallmouth fishery. I have joined an avid trout fishing group at the Noyes Family cabin that sleeps about 25 on this river. More wine, whiskey and cigars are quaffed than fish, but the legend and lore is palpable and true. Just don’t get in over your head.

I have only fished in Lower Michigan once. This was a special Orvis trout fishing camp where my brother and I took my father some 25 years ago. We learned etymology and casting techniques along with a host of important skills to fly fish the rivers of Michigan and beyond. At midnight during a Hex or Mayfly fly hatch we headed out onto the Pere Marquette with our waders, fly rods and flashlights. It was dark and the river ran rapidly and deep through the marsh. The moon was dodging the clouds above and the mayflies were all over. We could see fish rising to take the big bugs as we threw large Hex patterns onto the surface. My brother cast his fly toward a riser many times with no results. Then as his fly alighted again, an explosion brought a large brown trout out of the water. The fish jumped several times and we finally were able to pull it to the bank and release this 18 inch brightly speckled beauty. Even the rivers at night can produce adventure and excitement, even if you can’t see out of the windshield due to the hatch.

Oregon Rivers
My son and I have fished the Deschutes, Klamath and Rogue reporting incredible rainbow fishing and swimming in deep pools over slippery rapids. The fast running waters have formed amazing creations called “River Tears,” which are hard knots from ancient trees that have been hardened and smoothed in the tumbling rivers. Named by Native Americans, they are shaped like elongated tears as if they have been formed through the pain of the years of hard rubbing.  They represent life to me. If you age well and persevere through the trials you will come out beautiful and smooth like a river tear. If not, you will be broken and jagged like much of the beach driftwood at the mouths of the ocean run rivers.

One of the most beautiful rivers is the Salmon, which runs to the sea. Here we went crabbing for Dungeness with my cousins using special nets. We canoed out into the current below the steep green headlands off the coast near Neskoin, letting them to the bottom with chicken necks for bait. A crab must be at least five inches between the horn to keep and we did many.  We later enjoyed these fresh caught crab steamed with butter and crusty bread and local chardonnay while sitting on a deck high above beach and the dark and roaring Pacific Ocean.

The Loire River (France)
I once had the privilege of working in France as a bank cashier. The connections of a former German Foreign Exchange Student (AFS) arranged this wonderful opportunity. I had taken six years of French in school along with Berlitz for conversational help before I boarded the Icelandic turboprop for Iceland and eventually Brussels, Belgium. I drove with a high school and college friend toward France and along with Seine that runs through Paris toward Orleans, where I would live and work. We saw les bouquinistes selling art and produce along the riverbanks as we drove toward Orleans, my eventual French home.

Orleans is an ancient city famous for Jeanne D’Arc, “The heroine of France.”  She was canonized for her bravery in battle against England. The Loire River runs through the middle of town with many ancient bridges crossing over. The river is a wonderful fishery supplying catfish and Bream to markets. I recall eating tiny salted river minnows caught in seines in the river. They were crunchy and delicious.

So much for Orleans and the Loire. I particularly recall the visiting the chateaux country in the Loire and Cher Valley region not far from Orleans.  I traveled with new French friends from the bank to visit chateaux and vineyards of the region. I particularly recall a wonderful warm day in August as we bounced along the country roads in a 18 hp, Deux Chevaux  car. We rolled the canvass top back for sun and air as we toured. For lunch we stopped in Vouvray, a famous vineyard to eat our fresh baguettes and cheese, washed down with the wonderful full bodied and tangy white still and sparkling wines. The vineyard was more than generous providing the five of us each whole bottle of our choice for lunch. Needless to say, we were in no shape to drive home after, so we headed down the nearby riverbank to the Loire. The water was warm and there were sandbars in the middle for our quest. We did not have bathing suits, so when in France, do as the Frenchmen do, so off with the clothes. All the excitement made us much closer friends by the end of the afternoon and our drive back to Orleans. Ancient Chateaux Chambord, Cheverny and Chenonceau, crossing the Cher River took on a whole new visage in my memory of France. 

As I follow my river journey I think of the Psalmist’s song of strength saying, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day” (Psalm 46:4-5). Jerusalem had no river but the outpouring of the sustaining and refreshing nourishment and blessings of God. This is the flow that God’s creation in the rivers of life represent. God is within her and if you trust Him, He lives and flows within you.


Red River, Dakotas
The plane was at 20,000 feet above the Great Plains flying west in 1997. Below, stretching for 10,000 square miles was the flooded prairie. The farm fields, cities, forests and fields were all inundated by the waters of the Red River overflowing its banks. Many other rivers had done the same as spring rains and winter runoff were covering the lands. It was the worst flood since 1826, bringing disaster to the grain belt of the United States. I am reminded of Genesis 5-9 in the times of Noah when God flooded the lands for 150 days. Only Noah and his family survived, along with God’s other creatures, because he alone “found favor in the eyes of God”  (Genesis 6:8). But God made a covenant with Noah, symbolized with a rainbow, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy life” (Noah 9:12-13). In our country today I worry that we are fast approaching such a God-forsaken time.

The Prophet Ezekiel told of God’s wrath and goodness. In Ezekiel 47 he describes the river that God creates. He portrays a river flowing from the temple growing from ankle deep to over his head. The river ran all the way to the Sea. “When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live” (Ezekiel 47:8-9).  The water represents the Garden of Eden or Paradise. The symbolism of the ‘river of God’ is speaking of God’s fertility and blessings in an inexhaustible supply. This apocalyptic vision of Ezekiel brings ever-flowing fresh water and life to the Dead Sea. The temple is to be the source of miraculous healing and fruitfulness. The Prophet is describing the everlasting and new covenant with God, pointing to the promises of Revelation 21:3 saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be His people.’ The glory of heaven shall be the ultimate fulfillment of it all in Jesus Christ’s soon return to rule and reign.  

Often I speak of the Christian faith of many to be a mile wide and an inch deep. God wants our faith to be deep and anchored in His promises and strength. I am reminded of Cliff Richard’s song Shine Jesus Shine.
Shine, Jesus shine,
Fill this land with the Father's glory.
Blaze, Spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river flow,
Flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth Your word,
Lord and let there be light.

This is a song of revival. This is also a song hoping for the Spirit of God to fill our hearts and lands, flowing like a mighty river. This is the River of God and Life spoken of in Revelation 22 at the throne of God in heaven. This is the everlasting rule of God in Christ Jesus over all the New Heaven and New Earth. We are now in a time as Psalm 23:4 speaks of, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” I often say that it is in the valleys that the rivers flow and the flowers grow. I pray that the River of God will flow through our nation bringing life and love. I am praying for a revival of Holy Spirit power inundating our land, anointing our heads with oil bringing cups overflowing.  May His goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives and may we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 


I end this essay with the prophetic words of Amos 5:24, “but let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”  These words about the coming King and His reign of justice and righteousness are beautiful and yet scary. God’s justice says, “That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear” (Amos 5:18). This “Day of The Lord” spoken of tells of the end times and the second coming of Christ to rule and reign. For the believer it is good news, as we will already have been taken up into heaven with Christ in what is known as “the rapture,” foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Those “left behind” are the non-believers who have not put their faith in Christ as their Savior and Lord. For them the justice will be horrible and swift as a Conqueror’s swift sword. For believers with Christ in heaven it will be as Revelation 22 tells of the “pure river of life.” May each of you stand by this river and pick from the “tree of life” and its many crops of fruit. This is life eternal life in heaven. AMEN