Peace Like a River

My father walks along the Cocheco river. My sons and I go with him today. The river is in his back yard, literally. Open the gate, walk down the slope, and there it is: the leafy green edge of New Hampshire, with Maine on the opposite bank. It’s cool and shady here, with fish in the water and a frog on a rock. The busy street that edges the front yard is worlds away, as are the tasks and cares of the day.

My father works hard to keep the river’s edge a peaceful retreat. He mows and trims. He plants trees to replace those lost in floods and storms. He keeps the upstream neighbor’s riverbank clear, too – a gift of his time and effort to someone I’ve never met. Only the downstream neighbor’s tangled, overgrown, impassable yard indicates the care necessary to keep this an open, restful place.

Like river, like life. Maintaining peace in our own backyards requires work and time away from the front yard that the world sees. It doesn’t increase the size of the house, the worth of the car, or the status of the neighborhood, all this work – it just opens us up to the life flowing behind it all, invisible to many and underrated by most. This kind of work is done for love. Love of God, love of neighbor, love for children and grandchildren. Love for the natural world. And love of self, too, in the best of all possible worlds. A place of peace created in love, a gift my father shares with me and my sons.

Paul knew all about the noise and busy streets, the front yards and the tangled mess that makes it impossible to see the river flowing around and behind it all. It’s why he wrote about love (I Corinthians 13), and it’s why his words are worth sharing. They are a glimpse of the work it takes to create a peaceful place – and an invitation to enter that green, leafy space. Blessed are the peaceful place makers.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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