Sunday, May 24, 2009

Peace Like a River

I spent a couple of hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon meandering downstream on foot along the Grand River. Many communities in our region are built along this river. Native people fished and hunted along its banks for many generations before settlers arrived from Europe.

Dense bush was cleared and swamps were drained but the river continued to provide transportation, water, food and life for all. We are still drawn to the river even though most use it for recreation, not their livelihood. Rivers are symbolic of many natural and spiritual truths. We used to sing the song in Sunday School, "I've got peace like a my soul", and its simple tune and lyrics stick in my mind to this day. I don't imagine I ever thought about the meaning of the words as a child.

Horatio Spafford, writer of the great hymn It is Well with my Soul, compared peaceful rivers and sea billows with the various events he had experienced in life. His only son died in 1871 and his four daughters perished at sea on their way to Europe with their mother. She alone survived. He later wrote,
"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."

The river was peaceful today. I sat on a bench and watch the robin bathe in the shallow water. The bench was under several feet of water when the river raged in the December thaw a few months ago.

Rivers speak to us of life's journey. We all travel down a river, perhaps not one of our choosing. We do not know the twists and turns, rushing water and floods that may be ahead. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:7
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

I have travelled this river from its headwaters to the place where it empties into Lake Erie and then continues its journey to the sea. There are rapids, deep gorges, flood plains as well as many, many peaceful and beautiful stops along the way.

And so is life...
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you...
Isaiah 43:2


  1. Mexico Mom10:43 pm GMT-4

    A beautiful blog. The spring colours and vivid greens that we miss in the tropics add to the beauty of the river and your choice of words. We remember the Grand River in many of its moods but mostly it was peaceful and gracious.

  2. Even before I read your whole post, I was humming--peace like a river.
    I did not know the history of the hymn--It is Well with my Soul. What tragedy.
    That is a favorite hymn of mine--I love the harmony.
    Have you ever read the novel Peace Like a River (can't think of author just now). It is a wonderful book. Draws on some of the themes you articulate here.

  3. Beautiful Ruth... just beautiful. Water does play such a role in our lives in so many ways, literally and metaphorically. Wonderful writing.

  4. Very beautiful Ruth. Water, as the essence of life, moves in as many moods as we do. Wonderful quotes and images, especially like the robin bathing. How fortunate that you've followed its course. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Beautiful song, and river! It also reminds me of that old campfire song from my scout days - do you know "Peace of the River"? That one also has a lovely melody and lyrics - if you want links, email me at

  6. Beautiful post! You have included two of my very favorite hymns...Peace Like a River, and It is Well with my Soul. Both of these were sung at my father's funeral, and then at my mother's.

    So fitting for our Memorial Day.

  7. That simply Grand River goes through a lot of seasonal change! Your bathing beauty birdie friend looks a mite affronted by your presence at his bath.

  8. How can I express my gratitude for this post?The pictures are beautiful,but it was the last Bible verse which I sooo much needed today.Thank-you for reminding me that Yes,it is well with my soul and the waters will not overwhelm me.

  9. I love the rivers and lakes. I spend as much time on them as I can. Very peaceful.

  10. I thought you were going to post about some trip to BC, but The Grand is grand.

  11. Rivers are symbolic, aren't they? Whether rushing, rippling, swirling, or calm they are alive. And so life goes on.....

  12. Beautiful photos and song. There is nothing like flowing water to make one feel at peace.

  13. What a lovely meditation. I love those hymns. I listen to them almost every day when driving to school. They're on my absolute favorite Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD: Peace Like a River. I think you would enjoy it (if you like that kind of music) as it has quite a few beautiful hymns about Peace and Grace and Nature.

  14. Mom- May is a beautiful month here, even when it is a cold month.

    KGmom- I have noticed that book and will get it from the library. Looks like it was a big bestseller that is now being made into a movie.

    Jayne- Thanks. Water and necessary to life.

    Gaelyn- You are living in a much drier area and water is precious. This river is fairly short and can be followed by car in one day.

    Deborah- No I haven't heard that song and will email you.

    NCMW- I have been humming them for the last 24 hours...

    FMDoc- Yes that robin did seem put out by my presence. He looked rather bedraggled when wet.

    Ruth- I always hope that I write for some purpose. Glad that the scripture spoke to you.

    Carol- I love water too, not so much when I am in it, but when I am near it.

    AC- Hopefully I can write about the Peace River in BC next year! :-)

    Wendy- You know well of the rough waters life can bring, but it does go on.

    Janie- I should have added the sound of the river to the post. It is very soothing.

    Rondi- Thanks for the music suggestions. The arrangements on the CD are lovely. I added them to my playlist.

  15. Yes there is always something so peaceful and calming about a river. Beautiful pictures. Love the "bathing" robin.
    It is Well with my Soul is one of my favorite hymns. This song is usually sung at funerals, a sad time. But the strong words and meaning behind it can be so comforting to one. I think that is why I find it so beautiful.

  16. Hi Cheryl, Hope things are going well with you. The hymn is a favourite at the retirement home where I play the piano for their service.

  17. A lot of time I feel like I've found a spiritual connection while I'm in a peaceful mood in natural surrounding so I can see how so many make that connection in their writings.


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