Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Peace Like a River

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.*

A river runs through my town.  I didn't think much of it growing up in a small town just a stone's throw away from the water.  Not next to it but if a crow were to fly from a tree in my backyard it would take only a couple minutes to land on a branch near the river.

The river was once home to native Americans.  A lot of them.  They built their dwellings close to the water's edge where the river provided water, food, and transportation.  Later the French built a fort near the river where they traded with the natives as well as Voyagers who came down that river from as far away as Canada.

It has always been here.  Well, since the ice age retreated.  The river makes my part of the world quite green and the trees grow tall in the valley.  Most of the time the flow of the water is quiet and deep as it makes its' way south to the Ohio and the Mississippi and eventually to the Gulf.  In drought it retreats and in the years there is too much rain it overflows its' banks.  But it is always there.

Which is why, I suppose, the above hymn is one of my favorites.  I can relate.  The man who wrote it lived not too far away in the city of Chicago and... a river runs through my town.  The story behind the hymn is one of great tragedy and sorrow.*  If he could write such words... I can live them.

It has been a difficult week in a summer of weeks I would just as soon have avoided.  Nothing absolutely terrible.  No tragedies, thank God.  Just enough to make one very uncomfortable.  At times it is simply the need to stay on the sofa and watch the world through my window.  Perhaps it is tweaking the budget and stretching the pantry.  It can often be when items on my To Do list must remain undone.  Just the little irritants of a limited life.

However, just when I think I can't take any more... when the frustration level has reached high... when I want to stomp my feet and pout something about life not being fair whatsoever... He is there.

Sometimes He shows up with provision in a letter from a friend.  At other times it is an invitation to lunch when I am feeling well.  Just recently Mr. and Mrs. Christopher ordered a very nice dinner for us on the day the pipe coming in from the well broke.  I often am surprised by an iMessage popping up from my daughter just as I'm thinking of her.

Is it God?  Of course.  I am convinced the reason many people say God does not hear their prayers is that they do not see His answers.  Because they come in packages not expected.  We pray and we tell God what His answer is to look like you know. 

He tells us we have peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7)... in the midst of the trial.  Before we see an answer.  And when the answer is not now or later or perhaps no.  We may even feel the peace but we do not see that as part of the answer.

True peace from God comes like the river in the photo above, it is deep and it is wide and it flows through our very existence.  It actually never leaves us, He answers our prayer by bringing it to the surface.  We can feel that deep peace as surely as we can sit at the banks of the river and find peace just gazing at it on its' long journey to the Southern States.

For peace is not a set of circumstances.  They can change in an instant with a medical test or a pink slip or a phone call or a knock at the door in the middle of the night... or when one is sitting in their Study and hears water gushing below the floor. 

No, for that kind of peace is fleeting.  True peace has nothing to do with our circumstances.  True peace is a Person.  Real peace comes only when we accept Jesus as the One who came to this fallen of planets from Heaven to become the sacrificial Lamb. 

Who took the sins of all Mankind from the moment Adam and Eve turned over the keys to the Planet to the Evil One who deceived Eve into thinking God was holding out on her.  In Eden.  In Perfection.  If he can deceive her there... he can deceive us anywhere.

But when we accept the free gift of salvation from Christ, the third Person of the Trinity comes to live within.  We simply tell Jesus that we truly believe He came to redeem us and that we indeed have sinned against God (no matter how good we think we are).  We ask Him to be Savior.  We are then on our way to Heaven to someday meet the Father in person.  What a day that will be!

But what about Peace?  Peace as a Person?  That, my friends, only comes as He becomes Lord of our life.  Walking up to an altar to say an honest prayer of salvation does not bring that peace we so desire.  Jesus has to be the Lord of our days to feel that peace. 

He is like that river that flows through my town.  I can forget it is even there if I'm not paying attention.  I have crossed bridges over that river a thousand times and not thought of the deep, flowing water underneath the bridge.

How does He become Lord of our life?  How is He Peace like a river?  When he becomes the most important person in our life.  When we read His Word and believe it is True.  I admit, I'm not the best about Bible reading each day but I've been through the Word many times and tend to park myself in the Psalms in the difficult days. 

I adore the real people (often so dysfunctional) of the Old Testament and the Gospels that tell me about Jesus and the Letters to the Church and the Revelation of Jesus to John the Beloved.  It is all one Story.

Sometimes I find the Peace in just reading the Word.  This past weekend I put a couple favorite peace giving songs of Faith on repeat and listened over and over through earphones.  There are days when I find peace in a good book as well as the Good Book.  There are even days when I find peace when popping a favorite British movie or comedy or mystery in the DVD player as I forget what is troubling me at the time.

Some have mentioned finding peace in their garden.  I find peace in the kitchen, working on a recipe I could almost make in my sleep.  I once found peace while walking on favorite trails through woods or sitting on a quilt beside the Lake.  

We need to have havens of peace we have created within our homes, our yards, or even places we can easily go to such as the woods or the ocean or the corner booth at our favorite coffee shop.

But mostly we need the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I love the old Puritan prayers from Valley of Vision because they had a true understanding of the Trinity.  I need all three.  I need the Peace of the Holy Spirit, the Salvation and Lordship of Jesus, and my Heavenly Father told me long ago that He is the Father to the Fatherless (my dad died when I was a child). 

Peace is like a river but Peace is a Person.  A real Person.  Not made up.  

I heard the writer of Mary Did You Know say something recently in an interview that stunned me as I thought of that Truth.  He said that Mary was the only person on the planet that knew for certain if Jesus was born of a virgin... and don't you think she would have told everyone at the Cross that He was not really the Son of God if He wasn't?  She would never have let her son die if it was all a lie.

Maranatha, Lord.

*The lyrics and story behind It is Well With My Soul can be found... here.


Rebecca said...

Interesting! Sitting by my mother's bedside yesterday, I sang through a whole "string" of old gospel songs with the the word/theme of "peace". (Several other themes, too, as I knew nothing else to do to pass the hours...) "Sweet peace, the gift of God's love."

Rain said...

This hymn means a great deal to my family as Horatio is my husband's great-great grandfather.
I always appreciate your Sunday reflections.

Linda said...


Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

What an amazing post. I read it several times.

I needed this today, and your faith is inspirational and heart-felt.

God bless you always. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful mesaage in church this morning--and then this! My cup runneth over. God is good all the time even when we can't see it Blessings Sharon D.

Vee said...

Oh I like that. "Peace is a person." It reminds me that Perfect Love casts out all fear. Perfect Love is a person, too.

Praying that things settle down to a fine howdy do very soon. Praying for abundance and joy and health and for every need of your body, mind, and spirit to be met.

Terra said...

He is our Rock. I like the story about Mary.

Sandi said...

Much appreciated.

Deanna Rabe said...

Really good encouragement here! What a gift Peace is, in a turbulent world! I'm thankful I know the source of lasting peace, and that you do too!


Rachel Hughes said...

Things here have been rough as well. A troubled child and husband, my health not improving, surgery in my future. I desire peace! I know He is our peace! Those very words are hanging on our fridge. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

In times of trouble, I try to read the Psalms. Focusing on other passages is difficult then and the psalms are clear and comforting.

David had his troubles, too. It's easy to forget that so many of the people in the Bible had serious problems. Too many of today's Christian celebrities keep telling us that if something is going wrong, then it's our own fault. Not even as helpful as Job's friends.

So we go back to God's word and see what he has to say about the vicissitudes of life. Much more comforting!

Good post.