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"I write what I see, and it comes from the heart." .....Jon C. Randall
The morning was crispy cold outside; the leaves had long been stripped from the trees and covered the land. I thought it would be a good time to take Josh with me to check out the stream that ran through the bottoms on my property. I wanted to find its source, and not have to worry about finding snakes as we walked through the woods. Standing before the warmth of our wood-burning heater, I explained to Josh what we would do, and asked if he wanted to go. His eyes lit up as only a four-year-old could do, full of excitement, full of life. This was a new adventure for him, another time of discovery and learning.
As my wife Debbie bundled him up, I told Josh he needed to wear his rubber boots, just as I would do. I got my staff from my study, explaining to Josh it was useful for hiking, and that I would find him one as well. We stepped out into the crisp cold air and were greeted by Pooch, my bouncing, exuberant, Australian Shepherd. We three then started this new journey in life.
We walked and talked, and stopped every so often as his little legs would get tired from the journey. I showed him once how to take a deep breath to smell the crisp, pure air, that only winter could bring. I told him to listen to the quiet, and enjoy it, in the uncomplicated and peaceful surroundings we were in. The stillness at times marked by the rustling of the leaves as Pooch rushed ahead to scout the trail before us, then circling back to see where we were. Josh asked who made all of this, and I explained to him about the Creator of the heavens and earth. It was time for us to descend, and I told Josh to remember that the road would be to his back, and up the hill if he ever got lost. Calling Pooch, we started down the wooded slopes to the stream.
I showed Josh how to use the staff to feel the ground ahead, looking for leaf covered holes where once the stumps of trees had been, long since decayed and gone. It is much like this in life, searching carefully for, and being aware of the pitfalls we often encounter. My memory flashed back decades ago, when I had a vision of being trapped and alone in such a pit. It was dark, and I felt abandoned, then I saw Him standing there on the ground above me. He reached down and pulled me out, then turned to walk away. He looked back once to me to see if I would follow Him, and I knew then that I must take the first step, in my journey in life with Him. Then Josh and I found an abandoned section line, the strands of barb wire hidden in the leaves, attached to decaying posts that had fallen long ago.
"Josh, what do you hear now?"
"I don't know Papaw, what is it?"
"It's the stream Josh, the gurgling sound you hear is coming from it. That means we are not too far from it. Which way is it to the road we left, Josh?"
After looking around, "There Papaw," Josh pointed back up the slope, "It's way up there."
"You did well Josh, you remembered," I told him, showing deep satisfaction with my eyes of what I felt in my heart. We continued towards the sound.
It was a joyous time with him, in the depth of the woods that had its own unique quality in the stillness and the cold. Its blandness and the sights have their own personality that reflected well the season we were in. I tried to imagine what it would be like if it were all snow covered, such as I remembered from Wisconsin in my youth, but this was Arkansas, a totally different world and environment. But I was grateful for the cold. It has a cleansing power in its own right to the senses. How often, in our journey called life, do we take the time to listen to the silence around us, or see beauty in stripped barrenness? Do we take the time to share the wonders of the Creator with a loved one, or stand alone in the majesty of His power? I thought of my wife, who I knew was secure in the warmth in our humble home, and wondered what she was doing at that moment in time. I saw her cooking, or doing dishes and questioned if she could load the cast iron heater with wood to keep the fire going for her own comfort, and keep the house warm.
Soon, Josh and I reached the source of the gurgling. He asked how the sound was made, and I explained how the water going over little waterfalls, and through the tree roots, would make that
noise. I then explained to him how water flows downhill, that it was another way of keeping
track of where we were, and how to use it as a guide if he were lost. I advised Josh on how to use the road and the stream as markers, so he would know where he was at all times. Josh wanted to step in the stream right then as a little boy would want to do, but I told him we needed to stay on the bank at this time. I further expained that we are going upstream to find its source, that we would wade in it on the way back.
Still prodding and probing with our staffs, we followed the twisting course before us. The bottoms turned into a valley, the stream now running between two massive slopes, coursing swiftly through its marked and guided journey. I pointed out signs to Josh of where the deer had crossed, seeing their hoof print in the mud and on the slopes, looking at the well worn trail they left there in the loneliness of the woods. Pooch sniffed and bounded, then marked some trees, and bounded some more. One happy dog who ranged far and wide, without a care in the world.
Looking ahead, we saw the huge, manmade, earthen wall of a dam that rose mightily from the ground before us, ensconced between the two hills and covering the stream. Reaching its base, we saw where a wide, yet shallow pool had formed, the water bubbling and welling up from
beneath that dam. Josh wanted to step in right then, but I told him to wait until I checked it out. Looking up, I saw Pooch standing at the top of the dam, intently looking towards the distant sounds of dogs barking. I waded in, then told Josh he could come in as well. We sloshed and stirred the mud, and watched as the discolored water swiftly made its way downstream. In that canyon like effect, our voices and his laughter was amplified clearly as he played and sloshed in his joy. The smiles on his face and the happiness in his eyes were priceless. We had found its source, and I reasoned within to myself that the head of the stream would be located in some underground springs, hidden deep within that large pond the dam had contained; because I knew there was nothing beyond that pond but a county road, that ran by my neighbors land. Now it was time for Josh and I to head back to the warmth of my home.
I told Josh that I would be wading back because I wanted to clear some fallen branches, acting like dams to hold leaves and debris, to clog and slow that stream in spots.
"Can I wade with you too Papaw," Josh asked?
"Only if you get out when I tell you to if I see the stream would be too deep for you, and you'll have to walk on the bank."
"I will Papaw," Josh promised.
"Just follow right behind me, and be careful how you step. Just use your staff to probe ahead of you to see if there are any holes ahead."
Keeping a close eye on Josh, I proceeded to clear the many branches that had fallen over the years. The several times when I knew the water would be deeper then his little boots he had on, Josh would walk the bank until I found another shallow run. To the amazement of Josh, Pooch would wade along with us, or perform his graceful flying leaps from bank to bank at times. Pooch was constantly on the go, roaming, sniffing, and marking. He would stop at times to be petted, or to make sure that we were alright.
I looked back once, and saw fear in Josh's eyes, and in the expression on his face.
"What is the matter Josh?"
"I'm afraid Papaw."
"What are you afraid of Josh," I asked? No answer came from him.
"There is nothing to be afraid of Josh. I am going before you to make sure everything is all right for you. Just use your staff to probe the waters before you. Just stay close to me Josh and follow me, and you'll be okay." It hit me then that our Lord had done and said the same things to us, telling us to "be not afraid," for "I go before you," and "come, follow Me." No matter where we go in our journey called life, He has lead the way for us as an example to us; no matter what the circumstances or of the unknown that lies before us, He has been there. We need to trust Him, with our lives, no matter what the outcome is, or of the cost. He had paid the price, and He had paved the way. "Come, follow Me."
After that, Josh was all right, until I heard the splash. I turned around, and Josh was sitting in the water, with a chagrined and surprised look on his face. I lifted him up, and found the tree root he had slipped on, telling him to walk the bank for a while after we emptied his boots of water. We were near the house, and I knew that I soon needed to take him there so he wouldn't get too cold or sick. Leaving my staff on the bank, I wanted to wade some more. I took one more step, and down into a hole my left foot went, filling my boot with water. I got on the bank as well, and drained the water from my boot.
In our warm home we took off our wet clothes, and changed into dry ones. Then Debbie* treated us to some hot chocolate with marshmallows as we sat at the kitchen table. Josh did a lot of talking then, telling Debbie of our journey and experience with great enthusiasm in youthful joy. As we sipped the chocolate, Josh asked me if we could go again.
"Sometime soon, Josh, we'll go again," I answered.
Then my thoughts drifted back to our special walk together, with Josh, the Lord, and myself.
© Copyright 1995 Jon C. Randall
-All Rights Reserved-
* Was my wife at that time.
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