I got to the river today. 
I didn’t, as I often enjoy doing, head to Madison County
and hike the mountain trails which ring the French Broad near Hot Springs.  Instead, I parked my Subaru at the old “transfer
station” and ambled along the path to the “Race Track” park and then made my
way back.  It wasn’t a long walk, and,
because my energy was ebbing a bit, I didn’t make great time.  What mattered, though, was that I was at the
Ever since I was a boy, walking the flood wall next to
the Ohio River with my grandfather, there has been something restoring to my
body and soul about seeing and hearing the water flow.  
After my walk, I sat for a while and listened and, not
unexpectedly, given where I was, I heard William Stafford’s poem “Ask Me”
echoing in my mind and heart.
“Ask Me” is one of the poems Stafford wrote
about the Methow River in Washington State. 
He imagines standing riverside on a bitingly cold day with a friend and
inviting that friend to ask him some hard questions:
time when the river is ice ask me
I have made. Ask me whether
I have done is my life. . . .
Think about how real, trusting, and
honest a friendship has to be for it to sustain such a searching and vulnerable
conversation.  To give voice to our fears,
to admit that we have failed, and to acknowledge that we aren’t living the
lives we were meant to live require much more courage than we can often
muster.  And, we have to trust that the
person who hears us loves us so fiercely and so tenderly that he or she will
not reject, judge, or condemn us for how we feel.
time when the river is ice ask me
I have made. Ask me whether
I have done is my life. . . .
The poet promises to hear the heart
of the other: “I will listen to what you say.”
Next to that frozen river, these
two friends meet in ways we all too rarely meet each other: in honest,
respectful and mutual love.  When words
are spent, the poet says: 
and I can turn and look
the silent river and wait. We know
current is there, hidden; and there
comings and goings from miles away
hold the stillness exactly before us.
the river says, that is what I say.
On the surface, the river is ice, frozen and immobile.  On the surface, a human life is stuck in
mistakes and failures to be and become. 
Far beneath the surface, hidden from the eye, even a frozen river flows:
there are comings and goings from miles away. 
And here’s what I believe: deep down in the heart of the person most
stuck, most paralyzed, and most lost in the chill of lovelessnes, the Spirit of
Jesus flows.  Here’s what the river says,
what the Spirit of Jesus says:  
You are alive in the world.  My life, my energy, my vitality surge and
move in you.  So, live your life and live
it now, fully, and freely.  Live it
passionately, compassionately and adventurously
You are forgiven: don’t let regret
freeze you into place or guilt paralyze you. 
You are loved—I love you—so don’t let
fear hold you down and hold you back.  
Love the world, love your neighbors, love the strangers as I have loved

That’s what the river—what the
Spirit of Jesus—says: you are alive, so live. 
You are forgiven, so celebrate. 
You are loved, so love.