Water Ways: Ten Simple Assignments to Change the World

Phyllis Nissila


Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV).

creekWe used to live on the edge of a town bordering the McKenzie River, a ninety mile tributary of the Pacific Northwest’s Willamette River that drains the Cascadia Range. The turn-around point in my walk was a bridge atop a narrow segment of that rumble-tumble waterway where I usually paused briefly for both refreshment and inspiration.

I enjoyed the breather, but more, I enjoyed what I came to call the “Lessons of Spring Creek,” the spiritual metaphors gleaned there. I came to look forward to the truths I might find bubbling up beneath the walkover that paralleled insights surfacing within me; life- and wisdom-giving psalms, proverbs, and poems from The Book I had been meditating on for years. Here are a few samples from my journals:

We see the surface movement, but the power is in the current beneath (John 4:14).

We can’t see around the bend, but we can have confidence and take rest in the continuous flow (Psalm 23:2).

There is more “color” and “life” near the water (Psalm 1, above).

After some years away from living in that area and taking that “inspirational walk” I realized:

Without having to actually go to the physical water’s edge anymore, the creek still “talks” to me. All I have to do is meditate on the waters and some scriptural truth springs up. Perhaps it was a kind of training to expect a lesson at the mossy banks where I used to pause in my morning walk for any time I pause to reflect no matter where I am.

Today’s lesson is that water’s gift is its power to renew and sustain everything it touches, like the “washing of the water” of the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26). This reminds me of the greatest gifts given. As the water continually offers its own kind of life, people nurture other people through support, encouragement, comfort, and instruction, sourced by the One who set both waterway and “heart way” in motion: Jesus Christ, “through Whom all things were made” (John 1:3), the Divine Metaphor, if you will, the Word Made Flesh, Love and Truth Walking, and He Who paused at the apex of time midway in His own creation to illustrate the greatest lesson of all via the greatest story of all…

water ripplesRIPPLES

On another walk just this morning, this one in my neighborhood, I paused not to meditate but to listen to a story my neighbor told. She was waiting near her RV for her husband to ready the rig for a trip to Montana. They are going to Missoula to attend the high school graduation of the son of close friends. The young man’s father died a few months ago of a heart attack.

“That community suffered a great loss when he died,” said my neighbor. “He was an OB/GYN who specialized in difficult pregnancies. He was also a Christian, and he and his wife built a clinic/home for unwed mothers. The room, board, and medical attention the young women received was without cost to them. He told me he simply believed this is what the Lord wanted him to do.”

My neighbor worked for him for a while when she lived there. As to the depth of his generosity and “heart” for those whose lives he touched, she shared just this one example.

“One night Dr.__ called me and said he had an emergency, could I come over. When I got there he explained that the baby he had just delivered would not live through the night. He asked if I would help out elsewhere while he rocked the baby. He said he didn’t want the infant to die without the loving touch of another human being, though its life would be very brief.”

Then, said my neighbor, the doctor gently picked up that tiny one, sat down in a rocking chair, and rocked the dying infant for four hours in the middle of the night until the baby breathed its last…

Today, though far from Spring Creek, but still listening, I understand this:

Just as ripples on water extend outward and beyond view into dips and curves of the landscape that we cannot even imagine, so our actions touch lives in the “peoplescape” of today and beyond that we cannot even imagine.

Like the late doctor’s efforts.

Although the local hospitals are now fighting to close the home he and his wife founded, family, friends, and others in the community are working to keep it open. But whether or not they win the struggle, the life-giving (literally and figuratively) work of the doctor will continue to ripple outward through the lives of the mothers he helped, the children he cared for, and people who had the honor and privilege of knowing him and contributing to his work—even into the lives of those just now hearing about and being inspired by his ministry. Perfect strangers. Even all the way out here in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps where you live, too…


Scribbled in the middle of the pages of one of my old journals is another truth that surfaced on that bridge over the creek, one that encourages me still to pause, reflect, then in whatever way assigned me, enter the flow of what I believe God might be doing in His world–even right here in River City. I put it like this:

Ten Simple Assignments to Change the World






Understand God.





Change the World

(Romans 1:18-20)


Join me?



Creek: http://www.freepik.com/index.php?goto=2&searchform=1&k=creek

Water ripples: http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/water-ripple

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