By Karen Swank
I got out my walking shoes yesterday…the ones I wore for pretty much every step of the year we spent prayer walking Mercer County. They’ve been in semi-retirement since I broke a lace, waiting under my bed for the next assignment. I stopped on the way home from church to get new laces.
This assignment was no less strange than so many of the other pieces. We had four stones to drop at four bridges that span the Mississippi – another act of prophetic obedience as we pray, believing things big enough to add to people’s certainty that we are crazy.
I was with the redheads again, and the last leg of this assignment involved reaching the foot of the broken railroad bridge in Keithsburg, Illinois. The bridge’s usefulness ended in the 1970’s when some kids saw what dynamite could do, but it has been a focal point for many long hours of prayer as we’ve seen it as a symbol of the broken connection between God and man.
It’s hard to reach now. The rails have been removed and the land leading to it seems to be an intentional obstruction…a small patch of woods, unpopulated and overgrown. The last time I was there it was late at night. I was following a guide who was native to the area, who loved me enough to keep me safe, and whom I was certain could get us there and back, no matter what we encountered. I remember how carefully I chose our flashlights–mine, tiny to fit in my hand and make just enough light for my next step and his, long and heavy–the sort of thing cops use as a billy club when it’s necessary. I wasn’t at all certain he wouldn’t need to use it as such. I remember how I walked behind him in the pitch black, my tiny light trained on his feet. I struggled to adjust to my new bifocals and stepped only where he stepped. When we got there I sat at the base while he climbed the steep, broken concrete, balanced on what remained of the bridge, anointing it and pouring precious oil into the river. We prayed in the moonlight afterward and I read from Isaiah with him at my side. What an awesome adventure.
This time we didn’t need a guide since we were going in broad daylight. What an unlikely trio we were for this assignment–the troublemaker three. We were a 40-something, a 50-something, and a 60-something. Both redheads have had multiple back surgeries and I carry enough extra weight to make many physical challenges beyond my reach. We trekked over branches and downed trees, around water and swampland and treacherous holes, up and down hills steep enough to require us to go on all fours or slide on our butts. No path. Just a general idea of the direction we were going, and a determination to get there.
We were carrying several items. The first three went together as part of the prayer assignment: precious oil, hand-mixed by Holy Spirit inspiration and a recipe for this assignment only; a small stone, just the size to fit in the palm of a hand, broken like the bridge and with multiple textures; and a penny, set in a little cardboard frame that said, “I am not an orphan/Do not pass me by.” Each had its own significance. These items were going into the river, along with our prayers.
The fourth item was separate and precious: the ashes of Ruth, Donna’s mom. Ruth was one of my best friends and it was she who connected us before she went on to be with Jesus about six years ago. Donna had decided it was the time and the place, and both Deb and I were honored beyond words that we could be part of it.
The ground beside the river at the bridge was deeply cracked mud, and I thought of how so many desperately need the water of God as we tossed in our items and prayed. The Scripture had come up earlier in the day about those that sow in tears shall reap in joy. I thought of the tears sown into Keithsburg and I rejoiced.
We stood beside the river in tears as Donna released her mommy, and we weren’t our usual silly selves as we made our way back out. I had led us in, but I was at the rear coming out. I followed their footsteps as the tears of wonder came and my heart cried “holy” over and again. Some places of the heart are too deep, too beautiful to stay very long. We would be overcome by them and they would fade away, I think. But the moments…oh the moments. Yesterday added another little gem to my treasure chest of Holy Moments. Once more, I can scarcely begin to imagine the love of Him who arranges such things so lovingly for us.
May you hold your Holy Moments with hearts overfilled with gratitude. May His love wreck you as those gems sparkle in your spirit. May you not miss the adventure He creates just for you.
Karen is from Aledo, IL. She went to Monmouth College and studied Latin and English. She is a biological mom of two children and surrogate mom/friend/advocate for a whole host of children. She would like to meet every wounded soul that I’ve she’s ever known… as a child, before the “damage was done” so she could tell them how much they are loved.