Life’s Flowing Stream

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by Peter van Gorder

Word pictures are a handy way to grasp abstract concepts – the obscure made plain. I picked up one the other day that personified my faith journey, my work, or even the cycles of a movement. I’m talking about deltas and the river’s flow that created them.

Beginning high in the mountains, natural forces and pressures cause the stream to bubble up out of the ground fresh like a babbling baby, full of energy, and unspoiled by pollution in an unending flow. If you have ever tasted cool spring water straight from the source, you know what a tasty treat it is. People eagerly line up to get their containers filled. Cool, pure, spring water is so much more refreshing than city tap water.

It then flows downhill, looking for an empty space, avoiding the rocks and obstacles, until it joins up with other rivulets, streams, and becomes a mighty river.  The river is mostly a blessing – bearing large ships on its back and bringing life wherever it flows, but sometimes in excess, its floods can destroy and waste as well.

On it tumbles until it reaches the sea, but before it does, it spreads out and slows down depositing the soil’s nutrients that it has carried such long distances. Deltas are much treasured as they make fertile farmland that becomes the breadbasket of that land, as in Egypt.

You may have guessed the spiritual application of this parable, but if not, let me help you out.

The spring is the fresh inspiration that comes from the source. It is the origins of our ideas and work. From that humble beginning the stream flows out to bless the land.  It joins forces with others of like mind and going the same direction. It becomes a force to reckon with. Extremes and excesses in this energy can hurt and destroy. If the energy can be channeled its power can be a force for good.

Finally, the river spreads out into each branch – flowing slower now. It is then that each inspired idea or project leaves it legacy. As its true value and benefits are used and nurtured, it gives life and nourishment.

We may find ourselves in any one of these different stages, but we know that if our inspiration has come from a true and inspired source, our life-giving flow will reach its determined destination. Let it flow!

 

River Flow

The river flows quiet and swift
It twists and turns as the waters drift
It branches and breaks—its fingers entwine
It grows and grows—snakes like a vine.

The river with the soft scent of a calm day
With the smell of clean—hanging—still—in the grey
And sweetness carried on the breath of morning
It caresses the river—the waters flowing.

The river—crystalline from winter melt
And sweet with the summer soon felt
It tastes of springtime—the season between
And flows the river—so blue and clean.

The river—its lazy trickle of water
The musical rhythm—the ocean’s daughter
It whispers and murmurs—a song of its own
Playing over and over—in continuous drone.

The river—so clear and cool
The water flows—the color like a jewel
Its soft arms embrace the shore
The river surging from the days before.

The river flows quiet and swift
It twists and turns as the waters drift
It branches and breaks—its fingers in twine
It grows and grows—snakes like a vine.

Kailey Jennings

 

 

 

The Seasons of Life

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by Peter van Gorder

 

 

Ecc 3:1  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 

Our theatre group regularly performs a dynamic skit based on a monologue from the Shakespeare play “As You Like It” where he summarizes the seasons of our lives in 7 stages: the crying baby, the reluctant school boy, the pining lover, the fierce soldier, the wise judge, the old man, and finally death. Shakespeare  ends it there, but we know from our faith and the testimonials of those who have been there and have come back that there is one more season of life – the everlasting afterlife.

The bard got me to thinking of the seasons of life I find myself going through. We live through so many cycles and seasons both big and small:  the day, the month, our lives, and our work. In working on our various projects, it helps to step back and see how the process of seasons works.  In that way, we can know where we are in the change and growth cycle and what to expect next. For example if you are going through a tough time, it gives us hope if we know that though we are in a ‘winter stage’ the spring will come with new life.

In my travels I have noticed that those countries that have more subtle variations in the tropics, have a completely different flora and feeling from the countries that have 4 distinct seasons. When summer arrives in the temperate climes, life busts out all over, like the song:

June is bustin’ out all over

All over the meadow and the hill

Flowers bustin’ out on bushes

And the rushing river pushes

Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill

June is bustin’ out all over

But the summer’s by God,

We can feel it come,

You can feel it in your heart

You can see it in the ground

You can see it in the trees

You can smell it in the breeze

Look around! Look around! Look around!

(from the musical Carousel)

I took a walk in the mountains of Romania recently and I was amazed at how vibrant life was there. Bright wild flowers popped out every which way – each with their bevy of bees and other prolific pollinators ensuring the next generation of flowers to come. Greenery competed for the sunlight in every available patch of land; even the puddles were full of tadpoles, water striders, and myriad tiny water oddities.

It seems they know that their time is short and that soon Cold will dominate the land once again to bring deep sleep upon the land until once again, the axis of the earth shifts towards the sun. The people of these various climates are also affected. It seems that those living in tropical countries tend to be a bit more relaxed and less work oriented; nature seems to be the same way. Life seems to meander along not sleep then explode.

Applying an understanding of the seasonal changes in our work can help us to know what to expect next. An ancient Chinese text from the military tactician Sun Tzu called The Art of War gives us an overview of how change and innovation occur in societies, businesses, nations, and individually.

Simply put, the phases in the growth of an idea, project, innovation, organization, or nation, can be symbolized by 5 seasons or stages in this order: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth.

In the beginning metal phase, there is discontent. The need for change is apparent. Who will get the ball rolling and defy the status quo? Like the story of the big rock in the road that was blocking the traffic, everyone was shouting, “Somebody should move that rock!” – but no one did. The ‘who’, is probably you! The ‘he’ is me. The ‘they’ is I. This is where we get the ‘calling’. Ask: In line with our mission, what needs to be changed for the better?

In the next phase of water – our imagination comes into action. We play with possibilities and try to picture what the ideal future for us would look like. We flow and splash around with ideas until we find the best one/s. Ask: What challenges do we face and how could we overcome them to get where we want to be? What does a better future look like?

In the wood stage, we have chosen our idea to implement and begin to assemble our resources. We build a team and make a plan. At this stage effort often seems to overshadow results.

When we enter the fire phase, our innovation or project breaks out and we begin to burn. We have to keep the heat and get others interested – to catch others on fire as well. Now the idea is working and giving light to all and it is being a blessing to many.

Earth is the last phase before the cycle repeats itself. Once our project is running, we have to make it sustainable and keep long term growth without it running out of steam. We must fight deterioration with more new innovation and keep fresh and alive or we will begin to lose what we have gained.

In our projects, different people we work with may be at different seasons or stages. That is healthy. It is the leader’s job to keep them all working together in harmony and fulfilling their purpose. Discontent can be helpful to find new directions of growth. Water and new ideas are always needed to keep improving. Wood is needed for structure and putting landing gear on our ideas. Fire is a sign that people are getting something done and giving heat and light. Earth is needed for stability and to build walls of defense against possible attacks. When all of these are working together in unity, we can go somewhere wonderful and be very fruitful.

We can be sure that we will continue to grow and prosper if we keep following His lead. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and knows where the mountain streams are and how to avoid the wolves. If we follow, He will lead us through the valley of death into green pastures regardless of the time or the season we find ourselves in.