Monday, March 23, 2015


I guess this is going to be a nostalgia piece. I'm dipping way back in my memory almost three-quarters of a century to my teenage years. I grew  up in the Heartland of Iowa in a town named after a river with Cedar trees lining its banks.

Those were pre-television years and kids led a simpler life. With my Christian teen friends our faith life and social life converged in activities in our Presbyterian church. We found our friendships in Sunday School, Sunday services, Wednesday night prayer meetings, even Sunday night services where as young people we experienced our first opportunities for leadership. We were active in the youth group which was called Christian Endeavor, and we met before Sunday night service. These were golden years of our faith formation.

Once a month after the evening service dozens of girls and guys would pile into cars and head for our young, handsome pastor's home for a “Singspiration.” No one wanted to miss that. We all sat on the floor in their living room while the pastor's wife, a classically trained pianist, would play whatever hymns or choruses we called out as our favorites from a youth chorus book. It was a lively, simple, fun time. Eventually we'd be served some goodies and continued to socialize noisily--until we heard the piano playing a concluding chorus signaling time for us to head for the door.

I searched my memory for that particular chorus. Thanks for the memory, Lord! I couldn't even find the words on Google but the human brain has an incredible recall system. I think I nailed it, melody included. (There may still be a half dozen friends from those days who are living and can check whether I got it right. I'm willing to stand corrected).

PEACE like a river
flowing so free
from heavenly mountains
sweeps over me;
JOY like a fountain
sparkling within
fills all my being
with praise to Him.

We were innocent teens full of the optimism of youth and the anticipation of life stretching ahead of us open end. Most of us had experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ under the biblical teaching and guidance of our church leadership. JOY—lots of it, fun without serious worries. PEACE—in spite of rumbles of a war that seemed far away. Hitler was marching across Europe devouring countries and bringing death and destruction to people whom we didn't know. But in a few short years the war came to us and peace became illusive. At graduation from high school scores of our classmates donned uniforms and marched off to that very war and came face to face with death. Many never returned. Even our young pastor left our church to join the chaplaincy.

In the ensuing years all of us who sat around on the floor at those Singspirations were scattered across the world. There were still more wars in the generations to come and some of our own children fought in them; there were other events in our lives to disturb our PEACE and JOY. Some lived short lives; a few of us are survivors. 

Is the peace of God which we experienced in the fledgling days of our faith still fresh and effectual to us in our late calendar years? The Scriptures declare that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is sufficient, come what may in our lives. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. But we, of course, can separate ourselves from Him through the cares of life and its burdens and pressures and eventually the weariness of aging.

PEACE like a river.  Another hymn echoes that theme: 
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

      And still another hymn carries forward that analogy:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul!

Our lives are also like a river. Come what may, whatever turbulence on the surface, whatever whitewater churns, whatever boulders it holds, beneath, in the depths of our being, we can keep experiencing God's peace. Seasons of nature may come and go and accumulate; seasons of our lives may be many; our trials and sorrows may seem huge to us. But “perfect peace and rest” is ours if “it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Although my mortal body ages, my soul doesn't become ancient. It is as fresh as the soul of a newborn babe and will remain so throughout Eternity. My faith can continue as pristine and robust as it was in the early teen years of my relationship with the Lord seventy-five years ago. That is, if I am “stayed upon Jehovah” and maintain my “first love” relationship to which Jesus invited us in Revelation 2:4. “But I have this against you, you have left your first love.” During His lifetime Jesus warned about the situation in the last days, “...the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). He promised never to leave us, but we can grow cold and leave Him. I can't be neutral in my faith or my love for God. Lukewarm is especially unacceptable. (Rev. 3:16)

Lord, may my love for You be such that it “floweth fuller and groweth deeper” with the years so that my peace can flow like a river.

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