Inspiration

By Charles Towne 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers; they will not sweep over you.”

-Isaiah 43:2

I was born on an island located on the beautiful Fox River that flows near the small town of Oswego, Illinois. The Fox River is mysterious and somewhat unpredictable; very much like a beautiful woman. She, the river, could go for years without showing her ugly side by overflowing her banks, but when she did, surprise!  Thank the good lord if you have never been flooded out.

A serious flood will invariably wreak havoc as nothing else can.  Property is often swept away, homes and vehicles ruined, and sometimes people are drowned.  But then, gradually, the river would return to the confines of her banks, and the cleanup began.

And there is the mud!

There is nothing like the stinking, slimy, sticks to everything mud left after a flood.  Everything that has been under water is coated with a thick layer of mud.  Floors will have as much as two inches of the gumbo like corruption.  Walls will be black with the stuff.

Are you beginning to get the picture?

During a flood, a boat is essential, for attempting to swim those rampaging waters just might end up as your final act, your last hurrah.

I swam the flood one time and soon discovered that fools especially need God’s care.

The floodwaters forced high above the confines of the river’s banks had carried our boat away the previous night, thus leaving us marooned and at the mercy of the river. During that same night as we lay in our beds, there were strange sounds, whispers of movement that was hard to decipher. Soon we realized that the grinding, scraping and, rumbling noise that could be more felt than heard, where the rocks and boulders being tumbled along the river’s bed by the inimitable force of the rushing, dark waters.

The river was swollen with spring snowmelt, and on its crest rode all sorts of detritus.  A dog house, half submerged with a floating something that no longer tried to swim on the end of its tether.   A rubber hip boot, a child’s doll, the entire front of a house with its door hanging open in welcome; a rocking chair, an old tire, all drifted past on their journey from somewhere up there, to…where?

I don’t remember why it was so important for me to reach the mainland that day. Perhaps it was a hot date, but fools don’t usually need a cause for the things they do. Wrapping my clothes in a piece of oiled canvas, I donned an old pair of cut-offs and launched myself into the flood, swimming toward the opposite shore.

“Swim little fishy, fast as you can, and he swam and he swam…” That was me.  I swam, and I swam, and I swam…

The swimming was futile.  I was trapped.  I had spent my life on the river and thought that I knew her.  She had been my friend, an intimate, and here she was, trying to kill me.

I knew that the river was constantly changing.  I learned very early in life that every time I stepped into it, though it appeared to be the same, it was a different river. I discovered that the river wore a mask with two faces and the face that I saw that day was not smiling benevolently, and it wasn’t the clown face of comedy, no, in fact, it was scowling at me, dark, ugly, threatening, and full of malicious intent.

I was at the quarter waypoint.  Branches and small trees swept past me on the crest of the flood.   I knew that if I were to become entangled in the branches of one of those tumbling trees that would be my demise.  Frightened, I was tempted to turn back.  To heck with whatever so urgently had been calling my name!

But I kept swimming.

As I struggled in the river’s embrace, I glanced upstream and there, bearing down on me was…?

A dead cow, spinning lazily in the current, one unseeing eye staring at me in morbid curiosity as it swept past almost close enough to touch.  The cow grinned at me; its teeth bared in a terrible rictus of agony, fear, and death.

I swam and finally, what seemed like hours later, almost at the limit of my extremity, my feet finally touched bottom, and I staggered from the river’s deadly embrace.

Exhausted, fearful of what might have been, I looked across the river to my starting point and was grateful that I was alive.  I had been swept at least a quarter of a mile downstream from where I had started my fool’s errand.

And yet the river was still trying to beguile me with her beauty for when I gazed upon her surface there was nothing that warned of any danger, in fact, the surface was deceptively calm, almost serene.

It is not what is on the surface that kills; it’s what is hidden beneath, those deadly undercurrents; why else do they call them “undercurrents” if not to pull you under?

But that, or so it seems is life, yes, life and caregiving; is like a river.

A CAREGIVER’S PRAYER

Dear Father God, you are my keeper and protector; you have always been there for me, even when I thought I was alone.  As the waters of life at times seem about to overwhelm me, you have always carried me to safety.  I praise you and thank you for watching over me when I was foolish enough to think I could do it on my own.  Walk with me now oh Lord, and buoy me up.  Hold me today that I may be what you desire me to be.  I praise you; I exalt you, I glorify you oh mighty God.  In Jesus’ holy and beautiful name I ask this, Amen.


Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Another wonderful column Chuck! You are so right with the idea that life is very much like a river. It can be incredibly beautiful or it can overwhelm you and drown you when you least expect it if you underestimate it.

    Great thing about it though, is that Jesus is a awesome life saver and it certainly sounds like He was with you as you wrestled with the raging waters. Thanks for another great one Chuck, and God bless.

  2. Don, every move we make, every step we take, He is there. “I am with you!” Is His litany as well as His promise. Without Him we perish, with Him we thrive. Thanks Don, Chaz

  3. With Him, it doesn’t matter what comes our way! He has promised, I will never leave you nor forsake you. And whatever comes to us is Father filtered! He will not give us more than we can handle as long as we stay in His will. Even in our foolishness, He is there, maybe even smiling at our antics! I appreciate your vulnerability, Unka Chuck! I am learning so much about you I never knew. Thanks for showing us your heart! It makes me appreciate you even more! I pray for God’s richest blessings to be showered upon you and Nancy and family!

  4. EJ, AINT IT THE TRUTH! I can’t help but think of the old saying which fits very well with what you are saying, “The good Lord takes care of old men, children and fools!” And that makes me wonder how any of us would have survived without him. Blessings on you and yours, Chaz

  5. Linda, for most of my life I have tackled each day as an adventure, sort of like roping deer, wrestling alligators, catching diamondback rattlesnakes, getting into cages with lions, leopards and tigers, getting married, raising kids, or getting out of bed each morning, there is always a risk involved along with the reward. Thanks for the comment Sissy, Unka Chuck

  6. Hi Charles, I’m so glad you lived to tell this tale. You may have gone into the river foolishly but it seems you emerged having learned some important lessons. You gained some wisdom! Thankfully, God takes us through our folly while we are in this process of living and learning. Appreciate you!

  7. Kristin, Usually, in retrospect, all of my hairy adventures seemed like good ideas at the time, but then reality set in and I realized just how fortunate I was to come out on top. Life is an adventure that Papa God would like for us to learn from and the fact that I have survived this long attests to the fact that just maybe I have learned something, and it also proves that my mama’s prayers really were effective. Thanks so much, Chaz

  8. What a powerful metaphor for life! Living next to a river was both blessing and curse. Sounds like a great teacher for “life-lessons”. Hmmmm….maybe God uses nature to teach those that are stubborn? What do you think Charles?

  9. Stubborn! Stubborn? Did you say stubborn? Never stubborn, bull-headed perhaps but never stubborn! Dear NH, during my childhood on the river I only saw one flood but it was so devastating I hope I never experience another. Yes, the river was a good teacher, never the same, always changing. What an incredible childhood. You know, I still don’t remember what was so important that drove me to swim the river that time. I like to think it was something important. I do know that when I returned I borrowed the neighbor’s boat to get back home and we used that boat until the river returned to normal. Memories? Yeah, pretty neat those memories. Blessings on you and yours, Chaz

  10. Hey Chuck….wow, what a story! I think
    back on many times in my life that
    I didn’t even realize how turbulent the
    waters were. What seemed like dog paddling at the time, was actually a
    struggle to keep my head above water, a
    fight for survival. God protects us from so much, from things we are totally unaware of,
    like ourselves. I am so grateful He does!
    Yes, this story really hit home with me, especially the last line. Life, and caregiving, are like a river. Oh how true that is! Thank you, Lord, for keeping me in all my ways. Thank you for keeping me from drowning in the river.

  11. Dear GYMRAT, Yes, good thought. It seems that we usually are struggling, constantly swimming against the current! Could the currents that sweep us downstream against our will be the status quo, the “ordinary” of life? If I had not fought the current and just gone with it I would have been swept down the river to only God knows where? That oblique angle wasn’t “upstream” but it did allow me to reach a point within sight of my objective. Surrendering to the status quo is not an option for the Christian, or the winner in any situation. Chaz

  12. Dear CSG, if our spiritual eyes were opened so we could actually see the number pf times He has delivered us from situations that could have turned out disastrously? Wow! What a wonderful God we serve! Thank you Lord for keeping me in YOUR ways! Chaz

  13. Chuck – This piece brought back memories of the Wyoming Valley Pa flood of 1972 – better known to those of us that lived through it as “The Wrath of Agnes”. The Susquehanna river crested at 43.6 feet (flood stage was ~ 21 feet) and gave true meaning to the word havoc. The river’s torrent breached the dikes that protected the valley and all we could do was watch and pray. As soon as the waters receded the people came together and worked to restore their homes and communities. Hurricane Agnes was an unwelcome guest in our community but she introduced the valley residents to very many fine folks that came to their aid. It was a true lesson in the meaning of the word “compassion” as the residents and volunteers came together as the core of what was to become known as “The Valley With a Heart”.

  14. Mike, yeah, I have read about it. People coming together as you describe is really christianity in action, its what turns a city into a community. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone but this sort of disaster often brings out the very best in people. One of the horrors of the flood was the washing away of the historic Forty Fort cemetery. It was said, and I have to agree, the flood didn’t respect the living or the dead. The wonder is that there were no more deaths. Thanks so much Mike, Chaz

  15. Wow, revitting and so true with life. We so often take the cares if life too casual instead of asking God for guidance thru the day. Always seek you first the Kingdom of God. The bible and our Hooky Spirit is there for guidance. We can read and we can hear, but we have to be doers of HIS written Word and by the leading of theHoly Ghost.
    Amen. Powerful.

  16. Dear Tahara, God bless you my friend. What you say is so very true. He is our God, our protector, and our friend! What could possibly be better than that? Chaz

  17. I believe a loving God allows us to test the rivers of life! Sometimes we venture into areas that will have the ability to change or take our life. We struggle and fight to win, even when it may look like we are losing. Then we feel the support we need to regain a firm footing, and the temptation is to think “We Did It!” I have been guilty of that feeling all my life! Jump in and test the waters, without thinking what my actions might have. As I have gotten older I’ve come to realize that I have never been alone, but have had a loving God watching over me! What a blessing that is!

  18. Don, pal, you are soooo right! And with some few of us age does have a tempering influence, at least we can hope. I look back, and it is only in retrospect that I am able to see the merciful hand of God lifting me up and preserving my life. God bless you Don, Chuck

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