Healing Memories of the Russian River
At church today, the sermon was about Genesis chapter one. The pastor did a great job breaking down the first six days of creation. His premise had to do with the “formless and void” description of pre-created life. Along these lines, he traced how God took that which was formless and void, and then he broke down the work of creation into two categories: form and filling, and showed how the creation days related to one another. It was great.
He showed how Day 1’s creation was form building not unlike concrete form making, however, on a mega-macro level, and Day 4 was its “filling” mate, like pouring in the concrete. Same with Day 2 and Day 5, and Day 3 and Day 6. I have never seen that before. It was so exciting. However, his comments about creation are what prompted this blog post, and how it relates to the River for me.
At the end of the sermon, he wrapped up his message with these points, that creation was like a temple where heaven and earth come together, that creation is a gift, a gift to see and receive from God, and finally that creation longs for Emmanuel. Now, I guess for a long time I discounted physical creation as something of this world, temporal, if you will, and that it might be a little anti-spiritual. I did appreciate creation, and knew it was God’s handiwork, but I didn’t realize there was something more to it than physical beauty. I didn’t look close enough nor long enough at the mountains and hills, I didn’t listen long enough to the soothing cadence of the ocean’s tide. I enjoyed the river growing up, but it wasn’t until life got pretty hard did I benefit from the divine ministry of creation, particularly, the Russian River. These are a few of my memories of healing by God’s creation.
Back in 2006, I was at the river attending a summer party memorial for my life long river friend’s dad, a sweet and kind man. It was during one of the lowest times of my life. I was emotionally and physically spent. After the party, my little ones and I went for a swim, it was really hot that day. As I lay in the river, looking up at the redwoods, redwoods that have probably seen much worse than what I was going through, I allowed the river just to hold me, and soothe me. I felt like I was melting into its cool caress. I didn’t understand it then, but this was the healing ministry of nature.
Another time, about ten years later, I came to the river. At this visit I declared to my niece, I am here for the ministry of nature. I knew I needed a rest and I knew how powerful time spent at the river was. I know it was before my dad passed away because my niece and I were exhausted and saddened with his deteriorating condition. The last year of his life was difficult, had he been able to come up to the river, perhaps his anxiety may have lessened. Perhaps. My dad loved the river. He first started coming up here when he was a little boy. I have yet to find out how my grandfather discovered the river. And how he met my life long river friend’s grandfather. The same redwoods I looked to for comfort and peace watched my dad with my friend’s mom and uncle scooting up and down the river in his boat. Those trees sure have seen some things.
Finally, the summer after my father died, I came up. Again, my niece and I sat at the pier watching the kids swim…like what her parents did, like what my parents did, and like what my grandparents did. But one of the river’s faithful friends was no longer with us. It was a somber visit, yet still beautiful because of what the river is.
As we sat there, my niece suddenly jumped out of her chair, “Oh my gosh…!” I jumped up as well thinking maybe there was a drowning down towards Roland’s. “What…what?” I asked.
“It’s a bald eagle!” she said stunned, pointing down river.
I have been going to the river for most of my 59 years, I have NEVER seen a bald eagle this far up river. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bald eagle. After we scurried around with cameras and phones, and took as many pictures as we could, we looked at each other and knew. This eagle was a divine visit, a divine gift that perhaps my father, her beloved papa, wasn’t so far away. And that perhaps he was keeping an eagle eye on his family and the river he loved. Another little gift, a blessed gift that comforted those who were mourning.
I don’t know what seismic convulsions or riparian residue caused the Russian River to wend and wind its way down from Willits to Jenner in the manner it presently does. I don’t know how my grandfather stumbled upon this place nearly ninety years ago. I don’t know how he met my life long river friend’s grandfather. But I do know I belong here, albeit a newer arrival compared to this slender body of water and her tall, beautiful, evergreen guards. This is my inheritance, this is my children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance not just as a Moore, but as Christians. My father may have given us this place and these memories, but I must thank my Heavenly Father, the Creator, the One Who actually designed all this beauty, the One Who formed and filled this void that we enjoy visually and physically. He also empowered His creation, this creation, with healing, joy and peace. Thank you, Lord.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”