A gentle reminder:
In Greek mythology the River Styx formed the boundary between the world of the living and the dead. The ferryman, Charon, would transport the deceased across the river, but only if they had a coin for the fare.
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When we planned the schedule for our church’s women’s retreat, we set apart the hour before lunch on Sunday as time to spend alone. Some found a quiet place outside to pray, read, or reflect on the morning’s message.
Some women left the green lawn surrounding the lodge, chapel, and cabins to hike the walking trails. I slung my camera around my neck and followed a path that cut down the western face of a ravine, leading to the Iowa River.
The trail is too narrow for a vehicle, but wide enough for two to walk side by side. Fallen leaves carpeted the path, hiding stones. I stumbled on rocks occasionally, but if I had left the trail, I would surely have tripped on gnarled tree roots.
The path snaked farther downhill, in and out of shadow, in and out of light.
The breeze that had rattled dried foliage at the beginning of the trail was gone. I heard only the crunch of fallen leaves under my boots.
Large red “X”s plainly marked trees that were a danger and would need to be removed.
I stopped for a moment on the trail and remembered to look above me at the clear, azure sky and the brilliant, leafy canopy overhead.
I realized this path is like my life:
- wide enough to walk with the Lord, if I choose
Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11 MSG
- there are obstacles I need to watch for
Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Psalm 86:11 MSG
- some days, some seasons will be dark, some filled with light
- there are dangers to be identified and removed
So—join the company of good men and women, keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths. Proverbs 2:20 MSG
- the deeper into the valley I go, the less I hear and see of outside distractions
- others have walked this way before me
- when I take time to stop and look up, I am refreshed by the beauty overhead and moved to worship
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As I continued down the trail, I began to glimpse streaks of blue river between gray tree trunks. Golden leaves on lower canopy trees pointed the way. I felt compelled to hurry downhill to the river at the trail’s end, felt drawn to explore the “undiscovered country” on the other side.
I ached for that land for which I was made, for the final Home. I sympathize with Paul’s dilemma.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me . . . I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1:21-24
I heard the distant peal of bells, perhaps from a nearby church. It was noon, time to return to the lodge for our final meal of the retreat, time to turn from the “desire to depart and be with Christ,” time to return to the “fruitful labor” of our ordinary, everyday, beautiful lives.
I turned around and trudged up the hill to be welcomed by the warmth of the lodge and into the chatter in the dining room.
Someday I will return to the end of the trail, to the river Jordan that borders the eternal Promised Land. The bells will ring again, and the ferryman will come to port me to the other side.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24 NIV
I won’t need to take a coin to pay Charon to ferry me to the other side of the Styx. My way is already paid.
I will cross the river–from life, through death, and to life everlasting.
Paying in blood, you bought men and women,
Bought them back from all over the earth,
Bought them back for God. Rev. 5:9 MSG
They are artists with a shutter for a brush and use lenses as extensions of their own eyes. These three women from my church frame hearts and souls and bits of creation and then snap them into sermons of pixels. I’ve been privileged to see the photos that Barb, Rachel, and Shannon birth, pictures that make me say “Ah, yes, that’s the essence of that child” or “Lord, what a world you’ve made!” I confess that I’m envious of their talent. I wish for their “eye” that sees the end product before the lens cap is removed.
I’ve recently upgraded my camera, so I am learning. I still leave the lens cap on, take pictures of my fingers, use inappropriate settings, or focus on the wrong place. My instruction book is getting dog-eared. Technical details about the self timer can be ironed out with a quick turn to page 67, but figuring out the correct “point of view” is proving more difficult. What place should I shoot from, at what angle, and where should the focus be? To get the photos my photographer friends take, I need to walk where they walk and see the world from their perspective.
In the same way that I’ve been learning from these three, I learn from those who are ahead of me on the path we walk as Christians. What do they stop and gaze at? What is their focus and point of view? How much of the “instruction book” is embedded in their minds? I had the opportunity last weekend to learn from others at a women’s retreat our church held, using Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts DVD Study.
We immersed ourselves in a new/old point of view–we ate and slept and prayed gratitude. We were reminded that God’s grace shines on us, and we learned to see through the lens of gratitude, and to witness the final photos of joy in our lives. We were prompted to change our perspective, to stand where God stands.
The joy is there, even when showers come, as it did one afternoon of the retreat.
Remember what happens when the light shines from behind you through the raindrops? Look up, and you might see
You need the right point of view.