When the River Floods

I couldn’t get to the dock today because the river was overflowing. Flooded. As I looked around, I noticed yellow caution tape preventing access to the flooded parking lot and stairs. The bridge accessing the dock could barely be seen underneath many feet of water. As I walked along the boathouse balcony, tree-sized logs and all sorts of debris swiftly made their way down the river.

Though I experienced some torrential downpours on July 4, lately we have had only scattered showers with a fair amount of sunshine. Nothing that would account for the swelled, flooded banks of my river. Though I saw the effect, the cause didn’t happen here.

It seems that recently, a few hours north in Vermont and New Hampshire, some areas received seven inches of rain in six hours. Sadly, streets, homes, and businesses flooded. Sometimes natural disasters can feel far away from those not affected by them, but the river reminds me that we are all connected and what happens “far away” always affects others downstream. The river has absorbed the exorbitant rainfall from hours away and carried it along, sweeping over the banks and carrying the debris it gathers. The overflowing river made me think about things I say or do that impact others, even when I can’t see them.

One angry scowl or careless word toward someone can affect that person’s entire day and add pages to their stories of feeling unloved. We can probably think of specific situations that happened to us, and if we are willing, can remember times when we caused hurt. In contrast, our kindness, compassion, and encouragement can have an impact far beyond what we might see.

As I stood and watched the river while the sun reached the horizon, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Jesus’ teaching here, often used out of context to talk about money, instead instructs about mercy and forgiveness. Jesus speaks of loving our enemies, being kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and being merciful…because He is merciful (v. 36). He speaks of expecting nothing in return. Yikes. Not even appreciation? His context stems from the shortened rendition of the “Sermon on the Mount” a few verses prior, where Jesus’ teaching gives great attention to the marginalized and poor.

As “my” river extends well beyond its normal confines…running over, I contemplate whether my mercy and forgiveness can be described as overflowing, carrying logs and debris far, far away.

Jesus keeps on teaching…next telling that the mouth speaks from what is in the heart. One of my favorite sayings is “Happy cows give lots of milk.” (It’s actually a proven fact.) Milking a cow harder doesn’t produces more milk, just as refraining from certain actions doesn’t produce love and mercy. Jesus said that the hungry and poor would be blessed, for He can fill them. The Spirit must bring change from within.

 Thankfully, I can count on a source beyond me. Jesus promises that He pours His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). So, as I picture in my mind’s eye this riverwalk today, I hear Jesus’ call to let His Spirit fill me to show mercy, because He is merciful. And I remember the words of the prophet Amos, who in Amos 5:8 gives the challenge, “But let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” I am certainly dependent on His Spirit to let the waters within me overflow.

May the river of delight (Ps. 36:8) flood your souls and life, resulting in mercy, forgiveness, and justice delivered downstream.

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  1. Carolyn J Stanfield

    Love that you feel free to call this “your river”! Also, happy cows produce more milk. Milking cows harder doesn’t produce more milk. How we could have used that understanding in the early days. I hope we understand it now. So true. An angry scowl or careless word can affect someone’s entire day. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Jeanie Shaw

      Hi Carolyn,
      I always appreciate your focus and calls back to God. And yes, it’s “my river.” 🙂 Oh, we did some hard, desperate milking that produced some sore, tired, dry cows. I certainly do hope we understand better now. Thanks so much for the encouragement!


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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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