Sunday, 01 August 2021

M Michele's Musings

The River Accident


Every other year my mom’s family gets together for vacations. It is a week filled with fun, catching up with each other and letting the cousins get to know one another. My Uncle Ed heads it all up. He finds a state park with cabins and then plans excursions like hiking, river rafting, tubing, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, caving and other activities for us to enjoy together. We have been to many states over the years including Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Wisconsin. In July of this year we are going to Norris Dam State Park in Tennessee. Going back to Tennessee reminds me of our second year to do this way back in 1994. We stayed at a State Park in Georgia but drove up to Tennessee to go on a river rafting adventure on the Ocoee River. This is the same river where the 1996 Olympics for canoeing and kayaking was held. I had an experience on that river that I will never forget as long as I live and it has given me some thoughts I would like to share with you. 

Our river rafting adventure began with the rafting company giving us what I have always called “the death talk.” An employee told us that the river we were about to go on was dangerous, that we must wear helmets and life vests. If we were thrown from the boat they gave us instructions on what to do and what not to do. Then they made us each sign a waiver stating that if we were injured or died the rafting company would not be responsible. During and after the talk I was having doubts about going on the rafting trip but everyone else was so excited that I stood against the fears that the talk had evoked inside of my heart and decided to meet the challenge. I signed the waiver and outfitted myself to go rafting on the great and beautiful but dangerous Ocoee River with my little trusty water camera.

Our family divided up into several boats. I was with my Uncle Dick, Aunt Sarah and my cousin’s Eric and Phil and two guides. Normally there is one guide but as “luck” would have it that day we had one experienced guide and a trainee. The river though sometimes rushing over rocks, frothing and churning, was absolutely beautiful beyond expression and at first the ride was exciting and exhilarating. Water splashed up and showered us as we dipped into empty pockets formed from the way the water flowed over the rocks. There were even quiet spots where we could snap pictures, get out of our rafts and take a dip. During the more peaceful moments of the ride you could not miss the calming peace and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Our experienced guide let the trainee take over and not long after is when my dip into some unfriendly waters took place. We were coming into the more dangerous parts of the ride, where they have professional photographers taking pictures of the boats as they pass through the roughest parts. Our raft was being thrown over rocks like a piece of drift wood, all the calm was gone, there was no admiring the landscape surrounding us and there was certainly no snapping of photographs. No, it was just the loud shouting of the water cascading over the rocks and the shouts of our guide giving us instructions on what to do with our oars. Our guide told us to tuck our feet under the edge of the raft where the sides meet the floor. I had my feet tucked firmly, my heart was beating very fast and I was trying to control my oar as instructed by our guide. Our trainee had not been able to keep the boat in the middle of the rapids with the others, our boat was propelled into a particularly bad area of the rapids with huge rocks. The water would fall from huge rocks into deep frothing pools to flow over more rocks. We came along a particularly large rock with a deep fall and my tucked feet came lose from their secure place and suddenly I was catapulted from the boat. It was as if I was in slow motion, I can remember being high in the air above the boat seeing my family struggling against the mad waters as it fell over the fall and slipped away from me. The next thing I remember was being in the water fighting to come back to the surface all the while trying to remember the instructions from “the death talk.” When I broke the surface I was being pushed fast, there was no fighting the water. If I hadn’t realized the power of the river when I was in the boat, I knew its power now. My boat was lost from sight downstream. I came into calmer waters yet the water was still powerful and I was being propelled toward an area of huge rocks projecting out of the water. I came to one and somehow managed to come around the backside and get to the front of the rock where there was a perfect “rock chair.” I managed to get in the “chair” and rest from my experience. Other boats began to pass me with passengers holding their oars out to me and shouting “come with us” but all I could do was stay perched in my “rock of safety.” I did not want to leave that place of safety and get back into the rushing waters again. Oh, how I didn’t want to leave that rock but I knew eventually I would have to. I wasn’t really contemplating how I would get off that rock, I was just thankful I had found safety, I was content and safe and so I stayed put.

My boat had pulled to the side downstream and the two guides walked upstream with ropes to rescue me. One of the guides got further upstream and one guide was further below me downstream. The guide upstream had a rope tied to his waist. He threw the rope to me. I was to throw the rope to the guide further downstream. The guide upstream instructed me to step off the rock into shallower waters that were flowing to the right of me. I stepped off the rock as instructed and though the water was not as deep, I was completely swept off my feet and would have been swept away yet again but for the rope I was holding onto for dear life. The guide upstream planted his feet and almost laid down to hold me as I was thrown down flat on my stomach on top of rocks that the water was flowing over. Both guides had to pull me in, almost like a fish, until I could reach the shore and finally get some good footing. When I got to the shore I could barely get up and walk I was shaking so badly. Oh, how I did not want to get back in that boat but I knew we were only halfway through our trip which was no longer fun. I remember just wishing the trip would be over and we would get to our destination. On top of everything, I had lost my camera full of pictures from the calmer parts of the trip. When we got back to the cabin I assessed the extent of my injuries. I had a bruise on my backside the size of a grapefruit already forming. The next day I woke up in terrible pain as if I had been in a car wreck. Though I did not remember, I apparently hit rocks with full force when I was catapulted from the boat. To this day I haven’t forgotten my experience on the Ocoee River.

There are some thoughts about this whole experience that I would like to share with you. First is about the “death talk” or perhaps better said, the “life talk.” The talk really was about all the things we should do and not do for our adventure on the Ocoee River to be fun and uneventful. The talk was about doing all the correct things to keep us safe while on that raft and what to do if things went wrong. It really was a “life talk” and not a “death talk.” The Bible is God’s word to us laying before us the rules for life. It is His “life talk” to you and I; giving us instructions and showing us those things we should and should not do to have a safe, happy and fulfilled life. His word is life to us if we follow and obey. Luke 4:4 “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”

Just like that river was sometimes calm and quiet and at other times frothing and churning; life is much like that river. Life often flows easily, calmly and without much excitement and then there are those times where life gets rough and hard, frothing with turmoil, pain and heartache. And just like that frothing river catapulted me from the boat, life will sometimes do the exact same thing to us. We find ourselves being tossed into the river of life struggling to come up for air, being pushed forward into circumstances that are hard and painful. Isn’t it wonderful to know that just like I found that “rock chair” as a place of safety and security; Jesus is our “Rock of Safety.” He is always there to support us as the scripture in Psalms 94:22 tells us “But the LORD is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge.” Once we find our “Rock of Safety” we should stay right there in relationship with Him. We can stay cloaked in His love, security and protection for the rest of our days as we walk in Him. And just like those two guides came to rescue me, Jesus will come to our aid when we need him. Many scriptures tell us this and I list just a few here: Daniel 6:27a says “He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth...;” Psalms 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” and Psalms 34:17 “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” The rescuing may not be always easy but He will pull us to safety so that we can walk again and get back to our journey of life toward the destination that He has set for our lives. Sometimes our experiences leave us bruised and hurting but God tells us in scripture of His compassion, mercy, comfort, faithfulness and restoration. Psalms 103:4 “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;” Psalms 119:156 “Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD;” Psalms 36:5 “Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds;” and 2 Corinthians 1:4 “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Psalms 23:3 “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”

Yes, the Bible tells us in Isaiah 43:2 “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” reminding us that our God is forever faithful. No matter what life throws at us God is always there, always faithful, always our “rock chair” in the midst of the churning waters of life. He is always there to rescue us and bring us to a place of safety so that we can walk with Him in this life. Stay within His arms of love, security and protection. Let them envelope you and give you peace. He loves you and you are special to Him... May God Bless you and Keep you...

Love in Christ, Michele
June 2009

Columnist: Michele Abshire


Michele Abshire is a housewife, mother, grandmother, and full time legal assistant. She has been published in Lake Charles, Louisiana publications, Christian Star Newspaper and Gumbeaux Magazine.  

Michele began writing notes of encouragement to people God put on her heart which led her in the direction of writing short encouraging stories, letters, essays and analogies.  This quickly became a ministry for her.  

Michele's vision is to reach people with encouraging messages that will lift their heart and bring joy for sorrow and hope for discouragement. Michele enjoys your feedback so leave a comment in the form at the bottom of the page or email her at



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