As a child, did you have a place you could go whenever you wanted to get away from people, or things, or troubles, a place that was your very own? A place you never told anyone about because, if you did, the magic of it would disappear and it would just become ordinary? I had such a place that I visited only once in my life, but I think about it from time to time. It's a place as timeless as those hot, endless, days of summer when there was nothing to do but ride bikes and play baseball and go fishing.
I discovered my magical place when I was very young and spending part of the summer with my grandparents. I always seemed to find more ways to have fun at their house than I did at home. Everything I did was an adventure because I was a long way from the watchful eyes of my parents and I felt less restricted there. For instance, I remember Grandpa letting me walk by myself all the way to town to buy a Payday and Coke. Mom and Dad wouldn't let me do that. They'd say, "You're too young", or "Somebody might steal you", or "You might get run over." Yeah, right!
It seems funny to me how I survived all those solo journeys to the Piggly Wiggly without ever once getting run over or stolen. Do you suppose it had anything to do with the fact that Grandpa would discreetly follow me as far as the mail box on the corner and then keep an eye on me all the way down to the store and back? Nah, that was just a coincidence.
On this special morning, Grandpa shook me awake as he usually did. Only, this morning it was still dark outside, and foggy, too. I struggled to get out of bed and Grandpa coaxed me a little by saying, "Come on, we gotta get to the swingin' bridge while it's early." I had been asking Grandpa to take me fishing, because he was the best fisherman I ever saw. He could catch fish just about anywhere he wet a line. And now he was talking about a swingin' bridge. Well, he had me hooked for fair. I just had to see what a swingin' bridge was, and I wasn't disappointed.
After breakfast, we gathered up the tackle and loaded it into the trunk of the car. The four of us, Grandpa and Grandma, me and Patti, my little sister, all piled into the old Pontiac, and off we went. It seems we drove for hours, but it was probably just my impatience that made it seem long. We crossed lots of creeks and rivers on many old bridges, but obviously none of them were the swingin' bridge Grandpa had spoken of, because we kept going.
At last, on the side of a rugged, heavily wooded hill, we stopped on a small pullout at the side of the old gravel road. I didn't see a lake or anything, or even a bridge for that matter. All I could see was a thick stand of trees and a rock-covered slope leading down to who-knows-what? We made our way down through the trees, stumbling over the gray rocks the size of cantaloupes, and at last made our way into a small level clearing. At the far side of the clearing was a sharp drop to a pool of clear blue water about the size of a backyard swimming pool. Directly across, on the other side of the pool, was a sheer, mossy, cliff that rose straight up, towering above our heads.
It was so straight and smooth that it appeared man-made, not a product of nature. And then I realized that it was a wall, and not just a wall, but actually a small dam. As we watched, water spilled over the top of the dam, running down the outside face. The spillover had created the beautiful clear pool at the bottom. I watched the water for a while, as it sloshed over the dam, flowing down the outside, and splashing noisily into the basin below.
And then, looking up again, I saw it. Above our heads, stretched from the top of the slope behind us, across the chasm to the top of the dam, was the swingin' bridge. It was just a simple rope bridge that looked fragile and flimsy, unable to hold any weight, but there it was just the same. Its walking surface was of wooden planks tied between the ropes that made up its sides and handholds. In the morning breeze the bridge swayed gently from side to side, with a creak and a groan barely audible above the whisper of the willows.
Grandpa hardly gave it any notice, I guess because he'd seen it before. But I was fascinated by it. It looked like a relic from ages past, but it couldn't have been very old. It was obviously built after the dam had been put in place. Some industrious fellows had probably constructed it to make it easier to fish the waters beyond that moss-covered wall. (I found out later there was a large lake on the other side of that wall, and this was just one of several that had been built to dam up the creeks and help create the lake.) After my initial curiosity waned, we started fishing. I found out quickly why Grandpa brought us here. It was a fisherman's paradise. We baited our cane poles and had no sooner dropped our hooks into the water than we got a bite. Up came a shiny crappie. I repeated the process of baiting the hook and dropping it in the pool when - Wham! Another strike and another crappie found its way onto the stringer. This went on all morning. About midday, we paused to eat the lunch Grandma had prepared, and then we went back to fishing. I caught one every time I dropped a hook into that pool. This lasted until early afternoon when the fish stopped biting and Grandpa said it was time for their siesta. And so we reluctantly loaded the car and went home, satisfied with a very successful day of catching fish.
I never saw the swingin' bridge again. Patti and I had to return home, either because Grandpa and Grandma were worn out from chasing after us, or Mom and Dad missed us, I'm not sure which. We never had an opportunity to go fishing in that particular place again, but it will always be in my memory as a magical, wonderful place where great memories were born, and the joy of childhood can be relived with very little prompting. I think of the swingin' bridge when I get a little wistful and long for a simpler time. I hope you have a swingin' bridge where you can go any time at a moment's notice. If you don't, then come along with me. Just be still and close your eyes. Grandpa's gently shaking your shoulder, it's dark and foggy outside, and adventure is calling us away. Let's go fishing. The swingin' bridge awaits.
Michael Harper copyright 2002
Note: Michael's story "Gone A-Preachin'" was featured in Whispers from Heaven magazine. He has also had stories featured in the 2theHeart ezine and on the 2theHeart web site.
The Last Rose
by Linda Harper Tinker
One morning in late November, I cut what would probably be the last rose from a bush that produces especially beautiful, fragrant blooms. Each one grows through many stages. In the bud phase, it looks dark, almost purple. Then, as it begins to unfold its many petals, it becomes a deep, rich, vibrant scarlet. Once fully open, its color softens to a sort of muted magenta, until at the appointed time it fades and drops its petals. When cut, it lasts for many days in a vase of water, and through all its phases exudes a heavenly aroma.
There are a number of lessons that can be taken from such a marvelous creation of God, but the one that struck me today was the miracle of engineering that holds the many petals of this lovely, delicate, fragile-looking rose together even through strong winds. Sometimes I feel like that rose looks: very fragile, and completely unable to stand up to the storms that come against me. But I know that God did not create me to fall apart at the first gust of wind. He is my Keeper and Sustainer, and He holds me together. He has proven time and time again that if I trust in Him, I can not only endure but gloriously conquer my circumstances through the power of His Spirit within me. And if those circumstances are of my own making, He gently and mercifully corrects me, still holding me together, still proving Himself sovereign and faithful.
"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17)
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39)
~ copyright by Linda Tinker 2001
HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT
by Karen Harper DeLoach
One morning not long ago, as I struggled to get out of the bath tub -- PAIN!Searing pain jolted me as the rusty hydraulics of my arthritic knees scritched and clicked, bone against bone, in an effort to raise my body out of the water.Pain in my finger bones and elbow joints as my hands gripped the side of the tub and my arms pushed up, trying to take some of the strain off the knees.Pain in the calves of my legs and my lower back, as those muscles struggled to take up the slack and help my body keep its balance.Let's face it -- pain all over my body!
I used to take showers most of the time, reserving tub baths for those rare moments of bubbles and relaxation.My pre-arthritis days.These days, a shower has become a poor alternative.Like a giant toddler, I have tried to dig my toes in and keep my balance, but my crooked legs can never quite straighten up enough, and I don't want to risk falling.So there I was that morning, crawling out of the bathtub.
A single tear trickled out of my right eye and down my nose.I sighed and breathed a prayer, "Lord, would You please heal my body?"Immediately the scripture came to mind, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Frankly, I would rather have heard, "Thy faith has made thee whole" (Matthew ), as did the woman with the issue of blood.After all, I'd searched but had never found one place in the Gospels where someone had asked Jesus for healing, and He had said, "No."
Still, "My grace is sufficient for thee," whispered to my heart that day, brought tears to my eyes and sweet comfort to my soul.
I have always depended on God's grace to accomplish ministry He's laid on my heart, whether it was singing a solo, teaching a Bible study, directing a play, even cavorting as KD Klown while teaching Biblical truths to fun-loving youngsters.I learned early in my walk with God that I could do nothing without His equipping and His grace.
But I'd never thought in terms of needing His strength to clean my house, cook supper, buy groceries, run errands, stand in line --- take a bath.Those were things I'd just done all my life without a second thought.
That particular morning as I creaked out of the tub and was reminded that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, it seemed that the Lord was saying, "It is not just for the big projects, Karen.You don't have to be involved in a Kidz Krusade or directing an Easter play or heading a fundraiser before I will strengthen your weakness by My grace.I will give you strength to get out of this bathtub.I will give you grace to vacuum your living room or stand in line at the store or whatever you need to do - in spite of your pain."
A light went on!For years, God had given me capability beyond my own meager abilities to accomplish things for Him in ministry.I had always depended on that!Now I realized that in my weakened physical state, in the midst of my pain, I could ask Him for grace to accomplish simple daily tasks and I could depend on Him for that, too!
I still can't do everything I used to do or everything I want to do.But I'm learning that when there is an essential task at hand, I can rely on God to enable me or to send help my way.How encouraging to know that He makes His magnificent strength perfect in my insignificant weakness. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians ).
Lord, thank You for making the exchange -
Your strength for my weakness,
Your courage for my fear,
Your sufficiency for my lack,
Your ability for my inability,
Your grace for my every need.
"My grace is sufficient for thee..."
~ copyright 2001 by Karen Harper DeLoach
Copyright 2002 by Karen Harper DeLoach
"Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" (Revelation 7:12)