by Pastor Tim Burt
This story is just a tad longer than normal. It's powerful story of God's saving power and I believe you'll love it! Please read and enjoy!
THE KEEPING POWER OF GODA true story by Jill M. Shepard
God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear….though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46
On June 23, 1998, the last day of my summer vacation, I heard the sound and felt the force of roaring water. This memory continues to swirl in my heart. I had spent a week camping with eight friends in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota. When seven members of our group headed for home, I decided to take my out of state friend, Derek, sight-seeing to the North Shore of Lake Superior. The North Shore is truly a captivating area, full of nature’s beauty. We really enjoyed ourselves, stopping at many sites along the way.
One of the attractions is a beautiful cascading waterfall on the Cross River. It has three distinct tiers, the first is a drop of about eight feet, the second about eighty-five feet, and the third roughly forty feet. There is a small plateau between each tier. I had been there the previous September, and had a wonderful time climbing around on the rocks above the falls.
Derek and I tried to cross the river where I had entered on my last visit, but we were unsuccessful. The water was higher than it had been before. We decided to walk down to the road, over the bridge, and hike up the other side. It was then that we saw a very large sign, that read: “WARNING: SLIPPERY ROCKS, DANGEROUS FALLS, LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST HERE” The sign did not frighten me; in fact, I stopped to take Derek’s picture while he casually stood next to it. Then we proceeded up the rocks beside the Fall.
I was climbing on a rock right above the eight-foot drop when my left foot slipped. Knocked off balance, my bare knee scrapped down the rough boulder, causing a large laceration on my left knee. My feet went first into the water. Then whoosh! The rest of my body followed downstream quickly. I reached for Derek and tried to crawl out of the rushing water. For a split second I thought this might save me, but he couldn’t hold on against the relentless force of the water. He lost his footing and fell in behind me. Derek miraculously managed to scramble out of the river, getting wet to his thighs. I cried out his name and tumbled over the eight-foot drop.
I was plunged into a swirling whirlpool of angry water. My thoughts raced back to the sign “Lives Have Been Lost Here” and I knew I was going to die. For a moment, all I could see was foaming, swirling, tea-colored water. The thought of dying was so shocking, so startling, that every part of me screamed “NO! I don’t want to die today!” I reached for the water’s surface and managed to break through. I desperately fought to stay away from the next fall, which was the eighty-five foot jagged, rocky drop and now only about four feet away. I looked to the left, then the right, and could see no way of escape, because the water was crashing with intense power over the black basalt along the edges. My eyes caught Derek’s as he watched in horror from the side. His expression mirrored my gut feeling, and his face reflected knowledge that he would watch me die. I was not afraid of death or after death itself. I had already made my eternity secure three years earlier by making Jesus the Lord and Savior of my life. Yet, imagine my dismay that this would be my demise. I felt I had so much still to do in this life, and the thought of death in a waterfall was just so chilling. I cried out to the Lord, “Help me! I’m in Your waterfall, I know I shouldn’t be here, I have no resources of my own to save myself. If it is Your will that I live, You will have to intervene quickly.” Many thoughts flooded my mind , I thought about my Mom and Grandpa, I thought about how awful it was for Derek to have to witness my death like this. While these thoughts raced through my head, the Spirit of God began to physically push me, and I yelled at Derek to pray for me. I was pushed up against the tier I had just tumbled over. I put my arms on the wall, frantically feeling for a handhold. There was nothing. This rock wall did not come with handles. I pressed myself against the rock to be as flat as possible against it. Water was crashing down on my head, making it very difficult to breathe, so I put my head down to make a pocket of air and began to sing. I sang the song “Shout to the Lord,”
“My Jesus, my Savior, Lord there is none like You, all of my days, I want to praise the wonders of your mighty love, My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength, let every breath, all that I am, let it never cease to worship You…”
I remembered the words of Psalm 145
Yes, Lord I will exalt you my God and King, I will praise your name forever and
ever…..The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down…The Lord is near to all who call on Him to all who call on Him in truth… He hears their cry and saves them.
I was about to be face to face with my creator, and I was going to go into His presence praising Him. Very suddenly, a peace came over me. It was a peace like none other I had experienced, and my fear was gone. I still believed death was near, yet I had a supernatural peace that can only come from the Lord, The Rock of my salvation. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was my refuge, my strong fortress in this very desperate time. Just then my right foot found a little something to brace against. Many thoughts ran wild through my mind. I thought again about my Mom and Grandpa who, mourning the recent loss of my Grandmother, might soon have to deal with mine. I wondered who would come to my funeral? What would be said of me? Did I impact the lives of those around me? Even more important, had I allowed God to touch them through me?
My clothes were filling up with air, making me very buoyant. My place against the rock was quite vulnerable. Even though I had incredible peace, I did not feel comfortable or physically secure. The strong currents were ripping around behind me. I told the Lord, “You need to deflate me, I’m not going to be able to stay here with all this air in my shirt.” I felt certain that if I would have put my arms down at my sides for just a moment to pat the air out of my shirt, I would have been swept away. The tiny place of support that my foot had found was slipping out of reach, and the toe of my hiking boot could barely touch it. With the air in my shirt tugging at me, I knew I would soon be pulled loose from that place of vulnerable support. But I chose not panic because I knew my Lord was with me, and as sure as He is faithful, all at once He deflated my clothes and I was able to push my foot forward.
By this time, Derek had returned from calling 911. He acknowledged later that leaving me was the worst part of this experience because he didn’t know if I would still be there when he came back. He was calm, though he, too, might have died. I was thankful he had witnessed my fall because I could no longer see or hear what was going on. I would not have been able to signal for help. I was almost invisible in the waterfall; a casual visitor would not have noticed me. I had a sense that Derek had left and returned. My thoughts were focused on the Lord and the awesome reality that his hand was holding me. This thought comforted me, and I repeated it over and over again.
After several minutes of reflection, two things dawned on me. First, I realized that I was cold—freezing is a better word. The water was about 60 degrees. I opened my eyes and saw my hands were very white, and I was starting to shiver. Second, I realized that no one would come up to me, tap me on the shoulder, and say, “I’ll get you out of here.” Still, as time went by, hope grew that I might live to see the end of this day. I recall saying, “Okay Lord, I am going to have to move, so you tell me when.”
A few moments later, I felt an assurance, which allowed me to leave the place where God had hidden me. I put my right hand over my eyes and pushed my head through the water, I could see a rope strung over the next big fall. It appeared a bit too high to reach, and I wasn’t excited about going through the angry swirling whirlpool again. However, I thought perhaps the rescue workers wanted me to try to reach the lifeline. When they saw me move, they shouted, “Don’t move, we’re not ready for you yet!” I had caught them off guard. I shouted back, “I already moved, I’m coming now!” They picked up a rope and threw it out to me, but it raced past me toward the fall, and so did a second rope. My feet never touched the bottom and it is clear to me now that the Lord was holding me steady in this pool of excited water. The third rope came right to me. I grabbed it, wrapped it around my wrist a few times, and they pulled me out of the frigid jaws of death.
I have never known such awe, in the presence of my Lord. I sat down on the rocks, put my hypothermic hands up, and said, “Thank You Lord, I know you saved me.” I must have said a hundred times “I can’t believe I lived.” By the time I was pulled from the water, I had been submerged for 20 minutes. Other than hypothermia and a skinned knee, I was unscathed. I lost my wallet and a beautiful gold bracelet I had purchased in Turkey, and I ruined my camera. What I gained, however, far outweighed what was lost. I have come to know the merciful keeping power of God. As it is written in Psalm 18:16-19 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me.”
I know firsthand that the God I serve is a way making, miracle providing God. Miracles aren’t just for the written page of the Bible, they are for today, for me, and for you. Don’t wait until life is sweeping you away to put your trust in Jesus.
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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