Up A Creek

 By Marcy Barthelette

I recall a day many years ago when a friend and I decided to go on a peaceful little float trip. Neither of us had ever been in a canoe but we were young and adventurous, and we had heard about a beautiful stream in south-central Missouri that was a favorite with canoeists, especially in spring and early summer. It’s called Jack’s Fork and it flows into the Current River. Both rivers are known today as the primary streams that comprise the Ozarks National Scenic Riverway.

Most novices would choose the broader, calmer Current River for a first outing, but we were not among the smart ones. When the rivers are running a little high, they can both be a bit challenging, but Jack’s Fork is steeper and more rugged. To our inflated youthful egos, it seemed like a walk in the park. The sun was shining brightly and we had all our supplies well secured. The water was at a nicely elevated early summer level and crystal clear. We bravely pushed off and began our trek.

He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Mark 4:35b

What a gorgeous day it was to be on the river. There was a new adventure around every bend, and we met every challenge, if not with finesse, at least we made it through without mishap, meaning we stayed upright. We enjoyed our lunch lounging on a gravel bar listening to the gurgling of the water and absorbing the warmth of the sunlight. Could anything be better?

Of course, in those “ancient” days, we had no weather app at our fingertips and, and in that remote river valley, there would probably not have been a signal even if there had been an app. So, as the day progressed and the sun disappeared behind mountains of angry gray clouds, we became a little concerned. When lightning crackled through the valley, our concern became fear and then the sky opened its flood gates. I’ve seen some very heavy rains in my time on this earth, but the rain that afternoon was epic and there we were in the middle of a river in an aluminum canoe. We could choose to press onward though we couldn’t see much beyond the bow of our canoe. We could wait it out on an open gravel bar and present ourselves as open targets for those powerful lightning bolts. Or we could hide under the trees where there was limited protection from the driving rain but a serious chance of being hit by trees splintered apart by that same lightning. None of those choices held much appeal.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

Mark 35:37

I’m sure we must have felt much as the disciples did when they encountered a “furious squall” while sailing across a lake. And can you believe, Jesus was actually sleeping through it all? When, in terror, they woke Him and questioned his concern for their welfare, He simply stilled the waters and asked them why they feared.

He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 35:39-40


Don’t we face a multitude of storms in our short lifetimes? And how do we handle those storms? Do we try to push forward on our own strength, or do we turn to the true source of all strength?

Just like the disciples sailing across their lake, we survived our storm on the Jack’s Fork. Obviously, God had plans for us. He has a master plan for each of our lives, we just have to let go of our independent nature and let Him have control.

I’m surprised I ever ventured out in a canoe again, but it became one of my favorite recreational activities. I even spent eight years of my life working and living at a camping resort that specialized in all kinds of river activity. It was the best job I ever had. Oh, yes, there were risks to living near an Ozarks stream, but the benefits greatly outweighed those risks. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

And let’s not forget the point of this little tale. The storms of life can creep up on us unaware just as that approaching storm was hidden from view by the steep bluffs of the river valley. My friend and I were loudly reminded of one very important lesson that day on the Jack’s Fork. When the storms of life find you up a creek, with or without a paddle, invite Jesus into the boat with you. He’ll get you safely to the other side.

Leave a Reply