A day on the Ohio River and higher thoughts than mine…

We took the boat on the Ohio River for our most recent outing. No big deal, right? Can’t be much different than the Allegheny or Monongahela, which are the usual paths.
For those unfamiliar with Western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet in Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The confluence of these three rivers – The Point- is both an important site for barge traffic and a lovely attraction for water lovers.
Having chosen a launch point directly across from where the Beaver River joins the Ohio, approximately 25 miles from the Point, we packed a great lunch and set off. The weather was lovely, the river looked calm, and there was little traffic. It seemed like a great day for the novice boater – me – to get some driving and docking experience.

We headed toward the city, knowing the pool would end in ten miles at the Sewickley lock, but eager for sights we had not seen from the water. Immediately, I was surprised by the width and depth of the Ohio River. I have driven along and across the Ohio, so it seemed silly to be startled by what is, after all, two rivers combined. But looking atthe river and being on the river are very different experiences.
While the weather conditions were ideal, the water was choppy…no, CHOPPY!  I quickly learned two lessons: the bumpiness of going upstream is directly proportional to the breadth and depth and being at the helm makes turbulence more evident.
The journey was fine. We had no trouble, just a bit of discomfort at times, but were happy to reach the lock and turn around. Heading the other way, the river was the same, but seemed much calmer. The scenery was the same, but the driver had much more opportunity to enjoy it.
So a leisurely boat ride becomes a story of life.
At least my life…maybe yours too?
I have been thinking about rounding that bend on the Allegheny when the Ohio comes into view…about how much fun it is to have a passenger for whom this view is new.
I have been thinking about how the perspective changes when traveling a distance on this bigger, swifter river, rather than passing briefly through it on the way to the Monongahela.
I have been thinking about how life expands in the same way – sometimes unexpectedly. A gentle ride becomes deeper, faster, potentially choppier in a flash.
The boat tosses…and sometimes I toss with it.
Maybe that has never happened to you?
I have been thinking about the incredible difference between upstream and downstream.
There are necessary journeys in this life, pools of water we must travel. Sometimes, it seems the path is absolutely upstream with no way around that.
It’s certainly true that if your boat launch is in Cincinnati and you want to go to Pittsburgh, upstream is the only way.
I have been thinking about my proclivity to make journeys upstream when they don’t need to be.
Maybe you don’t do that?
I have been about the nature and character of God, and about my faith. Do I believe that all things work together for good[1]? Do I believe suffering produces patience which produces character which produces hope that never fails[2]? Do I believe it is even possible to count all my troubles as joy[3]?
Do I?
Do you?
It has taken many years and many heartaches and much surrender to learn this: Everything I want, everything good is downstream. By design.
I don’t believe God is a cruel captain who forces us to travel upstream. I believe He is more of a white water guide. The way is not smooth. There are lots of rocks. Big ones. Dangerous ones. And whirlpools and fast currents.  The vessel is a two-person kayak. Me and God. It works best if he leads and I listen for direction. Our path is downstream.
You might argue and say I don’t know your journey. You’re right. But I know mine.
You might say you have made many journeys fighting the current. I know. I have too.
You might not like it when I say it was my choice, and probably yours as well.
You might scream, “How HOW HOW was it my choice??”
Hear these words from Isaiah 55:
The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways.
 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Rain and snow fall from the sky and don’t return without watering the ground.
They cause the plants to sprout and grow, making seeds for the farmer and bread for the people.
The same thing is true of the words I speak. They will not return to me empty.
They make the things happen that I want to happen, and they succeed in doing what I send them to do.

Is there anything about those words that sounds “upstream”?
Everything I want, everything good is downstream. Everything.
But God will let me go upstream. He will let me turn the boat around and paddle in futility. He allow me to furiously paddle in one direction until I am spinning in place.
His ways are downstream. Not always smooth. But always downstream.
His thoughts point downstream. Not without storms and tears. But always downstream.
I can choose for my ways and thoughts to be aligned with His or to be upstream. My choice.
I have been making a new habit of thinking about what I am thinking about and asking myself, “Upstream or downstream?”
It might sound odd, but let it roll round in your head for a bit. 
Picture a river with rapids. Then examine your thoughts. Upstream or downstream?
And know this – everything you want is downstream.
We will talk more about this soon.
In the meantime, I would be honored to hear your thoughts.

[1] Romans 8:28
[2]Romans 5:3-5
[3] James 1:2
Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!