Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Salute to MOTHERS - Keepers of the Springs

I've long been a fan of Catherine Marshall's writings, and have most of her books, found either at yard sales or thrift stores.  A love for her writings began when I first read her novel "Christie" and since then, I've managed to read (I think) almost every book she has written.  One of the very first books she wrote was a compilation of sermons her husband, Peter Marshall had preached after he had passed suddenly, in the book Mr. Jones, Meet the Master

Today, I want to highlight one of the sermons Peter Marshall preached  regarding mothers, in honor of the upcoming Mother's Day.  

For a full transcript of Peter Marshall's sermon "Keeper of the Springs", you can find it in the book Mr. Jones, Meet the Master here or you can go to this website where they have permission to print the entire sermon.  

I will just quote some short tidbits of Peter Marshall's sermon: 

Once upon a time, a certain town grew up at the foot of a mountain range.  It was sheltered in the lee of the protecting heights, so that the wind that shuddered at the doors and flung handfuls of sleet against the window panes was a wind whose fury was spent.  High up in the hills, a strange and quiet forest dweller took it upon himself to be the Keeper of the Springs.  He patrolled the hills and wherever he found a spring, he cleaned its brown pool of silt and fallen leaves, of mud and mold and took away from the spring all foreign matter, so that the water which bubbled up through the sand ran down clean and cold and pure.  It leaped sparkling over rocks and dropped joyously in crystal cascades until, swollen by other streams, it became a river of life to the busy town.  Millwheels were whirled by its rush.  Gardens were refreshed by its waters.  Fountains threw it like diamonds into the air.  Swans sailed on its limpid surface, and children laughed as they played on its banks in the sunshine. 
But the City Council was a group of hard-headed, hard-boiled businessmen.  They scanned the civic budget and found in it the salary of a Keeper of the Springs.  Said the Keeper of the Purse: "Why should we pay this romance ranger? We never see him; he is not necessary to our town's work life. If we build a reservoir just above the town, we can dispense with his services and save his salary." Therefore, the City Council voted to dispense with the unnecessary cost of a Keeper of the Springs, and to build a cement reservoir.
So the Keeper of the Springs no longer visited the brown pools but watched from the heights while they built the reservoir. When it was finished, it soon filled up with water, to be sure, but the water did not seem to be the same. It did not seem to be as clean, and a green scum soon befouled its stagnant surface. There were constant troubles with the delicate machinery of the mills, for it was often clogged with slime, and the swans found another home above the town. At last, an epidemic raged, and the clammy, yellow fingers of sickness reached into every home in every street and lane. 
The City Council met again. Sorrowfully, it faced the city's plight, and frankly it acknowledged the mistake of the dismissal of the Keeper of the Springs. They sought him out of his hermit hut high in the hills, and begged him to return to his former joyous labor. Gladly he agreed, and began once more to make his rounds. It was not long until pure water came lilting down under tunnels of ferns and mosses and to sparkle in the cleansed reservoir. Millwheels turned again as of old. Stenches disappeared. Sickness waned and convalescent children playing in the sun laughed again because the swans had come back. 

Peter Marshall used this story to weave a comparison between the Keeper of the Springs, and mothers. He said: 

Do not think me fanciful, too imaginative or too extravagant in my language when I say that I think of women, and particularly of our mothers, as Keepers of the Springs. The phrase, while poetic, is true and descriptive. We feel its warmth...its softening influence...and however forgetful we have been...however much we have taken for granted life's precious gifts, we are conscious of wistful memories that surge out of the past--the sweet, tender, poignant fragrances of love. Nothing that has been said, nothing that could be said, or that ever will be said, would be eloquent enough, expressive enough, or adequate to make articulate that peculiar emotion we feel to our mothers. So I shall make my tribute a plea for Keepers of the Springs, who will be faithful to their tasks. 

The amazing thing to me as I read this sermon, was that it was written back in the 1940s, and yet... it sounds like he was speaking even in today's generation. I guess, in my mind, it seems that back in the 40s things were so much better than today, and it is incredible to realize that in the generation Peter Marshall was speaking to, they were facing many of the same things as we face today, although, it seems much, much worse today. 

We need Keepers of the Springs who will realize that what is socially correct may not be morally right. Our country needs today women who will lead us back to an old-fashioned morality, to an old fashioned decency, to an old fashioned purity and sweetness for the sake of the next generation, if for no other reason.

It amazes me as I read this, knowing this sermon was preached over 70 years ago, and still - today - it applies! 

As you think of your own mother, remembering her with love and gratitude--in wishful yearning, or lonely longing, I am quite sure that the memories that warm and soften your heart are not at all like the memories the children of today will have... For you are, no doubt, remembering the smell of fresh starch in your mother's apron or the smell of a newly ironed blouse, the smell of newly baked bread, the fragrance of the violets she had pinned on her breast. It would be such a pity if all that one could remember would be the aroma of toasted tobacco or nicotine and the odor of beer on the breath!
The challenge of the twentieth-century motherhood is as old as motherhood itself. Although the average American mother has advantages that pioneer women never knew--material advantages: education, culture, advances made by science and medicine; although the modern mother knows a great deal more about sterilization, diets, health, calories, germs, drugs, medicines and vitamins, than her mother did, there is one subject about which she does not know as much--and that is God.
The modern challenge to motherhood is the eternal challenge--that of being a godly woman. The very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other kind of women--beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career woman, talented women, divorced women, but so seldom do we hear of a godly woman--or of a godly man either, for that matter.

Are you amazed yet, and wondering how it could be that someone 70 years ago could be speaking so clearly today into the world we live in? 

The twentieth-century challenge to motherhood--when it is all boiled down--is that mothers will have an experience of God...a reality which they can pass on to their children. For the newest of the sciences is beginning to realize, after a study of the teachings of Christ from the standpoint of psychology, that only as human beings discover and follow these inexorable spiritual laws will they find the happiness and contentment which we all seek.

This sermon by Peter Marshall so clearly demonstrates the need for women to be the mothers of their children, and to be the ones to care for and to work to keep the muddy waters clear from the springs of their children's lives. When I first read this sermon several years ago, I wanted to someday use it as a tribute to my mother, and other women in my life who have played similar roles to that of a Keeper of the Springs, with encouragement, and love, and special memories along the way.

My mother was a Keeper of the Springs, and for all eternity, I will thankful for my dearest MOTHER and for her devotion to her home and family. It is hard to know where to start with the memories of such a wonderful woman, but one of the memories I want to share is this one. I was blessed to grow up thinking that store bought white bread was a great treat, but that was because my mother would bake 6-8 loaves of homemade bread a week for our family. We thought eating out at McDonald's only a few times a year, and at KFC on Mother's Day was surely because we were "poor,” but really - we were blessed! My mother cooked meals from produce we raised each year in our garden, and although she put up a lot of it, much of it was also given away. My mother still has endless energy and enjoys nothing more than a houseful of people to cook for and entertain. Truly I was blessed to have such a special mother, and I wanted to honor her today, and thank her for all the wonderful memories through the years that we have had together.  She was the Keeper of the Springs in our home growing up, and I appreciate every sacrifice that she made on our behalf, every prayer that was prayed, and every wise piece of advice that was given through the years. Only eternity will ever know the scope of what it means to have a loving and prayerful mother, for which I am eternally grateful!

I am also blessed to have a mother-in-love whom I love dearly, and she is right up there with my mother on the scale of awesomeness! She has been so kind and loving to me, and early on when I met my husband-to-be, I began calling her "Mom" as well. She loves her family fiercely and would go to the ends of the earth to take care of those she loves. She is one to sleep little, and works much, busy making sure that everyone's needs are met, while she often sacrifices her own needs in the process. She is a wonderful Southern cook who taught me how to make southern "grease gravy" and mustard potato salad, southern chicken-n-dumplings, and creamy mashed potatoes. I knew how to make those things the "northern" way, (being that I am a Canadian), but I had to learn how to make them the "southern" way after marrying my Texan husband.  I've been blessed to have this wonderful praying, loving woman in my life!

My two grandmothers also played such important roles in my life as they loved their families, loved the Lord, and shared that love with me. My father's mother passed when I was just 16, but she and I were so very close. We spent so many hours together reading the Bible, and she lived a life of faith before me, as we would visit many nursing homes, and visit the homes of the elderly. I got to see faith and love in action. So many wonderful memories spent laughing, sharing, and loving. Many times we would go for a drive, and end up stopping at someone's house where she would deliver some goodies and we would spend an afternoon visiting and cheering up that lonely soul. I'll never forget the night she had her heart attack. I woke up when the phone rang, and I just KNEW something had happened to her. I ran down the hall and heard my dad's voice in shock as he heard that she had been taken to the hospital, where she died a few days later. It seemed I couldn't cry for days, because my heart was so broken that she had passed. My dad brought home her Bible and gave it to me. I began to read her Bible, and as I began to read, tears flowed down my face, and I wept for hours for her passing. Yet, it was while reading her Bible that peace came into my heart, and I knew she wanted me to know that all was well. I treasure those precious memories!

My mother's mother lived some distance away from us, and we only got to see her on a few special occasions through the year. But those occasions were so very special, and we looked forward with great anticipation to her visits, or our visits with her and my grandfather. She always would bring something special for each of us, and made sure we always did something fun whenever she visited. When we visited her, because they lived on a farm, as kids we got to roam, and play with the other cousins, while a big meal was being prepared by her for all of us. It seemed the more people that showed up, the happier she was. She just loved a big crowd of people, and every year would get excited at how many came for lunch or supper. Our times together were full of fun, love and laughter, and her love for the Lord was always interspersed into everything that happened. My grandmother is still living today, although suffering from acute macular degeneration, which has rendered her legally blind, yet every year at Christmas, every one of her 65+ grandkids and great-grandkids gets a package from her which includes things that she has made herself like dishtowels and dishcloths, along with a few other things. My mother is spending Mother's Day with her this year, and they are having a wonderful time together. My Grammie S has slowed down a lot because of her eyes, but a good joke or prank is never far from her thoughts. Last year when she flew to Texas and we were all together, she played a joke on my son. She hid a small baby doll in my son's bed underneath the sheets so when he crawled in, he would feel the lump. We all had a good laugh at his reaction and her joy at playing a prank at 85 years old! So many precious memories, I could never share them all!

I've also had other "mothers" throughout my life, who while they were not my physical, biological, or married mother, they played important roles in my life. My Aunt J. was a very special aunt who I have been very close to through the years, and while she has never had any children of her own, she has poured out her heart to all of her nieces and nephews, and I am certainly blessed to have had her loving guidance, prayer, and wisdom so many times. Many of my other aunts have been there with encouraging words and love throughout the years. We lived far away from each other, but still, their love was always there for me. My mom came from a family of 10 children, with 8 of the children being girls, so there were always lots of aunts, and lots of love to go around!

Many other older ladies in my life have blessed me as well, oftentimes with just the right word of encouragement or advice in a difficult situation. Yes! I have been blessed with wonderful women who are Keepers of the Springs.

As a mother myself, I endeavor to continue to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable and wonderful women in my life who have marked the path before me. I have large steps to follow in, but so thankful for those steps!

On this Mother's Day, I just feel very, very blessed beyond measure for my Mom, my Mom-in-love, my grandmothers, and all the women throughout the years who have been "mother" to me. I feel so blessed, and just wanted to share this with you today, and I hope you have enjoyed my little trip down "memory lane,” and the thankful heart I have that such wonderful women have shared their legacy and love with me.  I am blessed!

Today I want to wish Happy Mother's Day to all mothers and to all women who have "mothered" other women with encouraging words, advice, love, and support.   I pray that your day will be blessed as you enjoy the day with your family and friends!


  1. My mom was born in the 30's and I used to think that was so long ago and old fashioned, so different than the life I knew. However, she would tell me stories of her own childhood and young adult life, as a woman, and I was always surprised at how things were really very much the same. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post and I wish you a most wonderful Mother's Day!

    1. Yes, I think as times change, the "packaging" may change.. but underlying human nature is still the same. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope your Mother's Day was simply wonderful!

  2. What a lovely post! I enjoyed the sermon, the tribute to your mother, the wonderful illustration, really, a lovely post.

    1. Thank you Amalia for your sweet words! I feel very blessed to have the influence of wonderful godly women in my life! Have a blessed day!

  3. I so enjoyed reading this sermon again. I have it on my blog somewhere and was thinking about the truths in it recently. Thank you for taking the time to share it and your encouraging insights.
    Have a wonderful beautiful today in Virginia!!

    1. Yes, I was really intrigued after reading that particular sermon for the first time, and was struck by the fact that it applied today, even 70 years later, and found that somewhat remarkable. Thank you for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts! Enjoy the beautiful day!

  4. What a lovely post...What a sweet tribute to your mom and the other women that were and still are in your life. Happy new week.


    1. Thanks Ana, I am truly blessed! Appreciate your visit :)

  5. What a beautiful post and I so appreciate you sharing it with us at Good Morning Mondays. Thank you for honouring the mothers in your life. Blessings

    1. You are so welcome Terri! (I apologize for the lateness of responding to this comment, time has gotten away from me!) Have a wonderful day!

  6. What a beautiful post! I love the quotes from Peter Marshall. I just recently saw "A Man Called Peter" and really enjoyed the film. Have you seen it? And thank you for the inspiring words on motherhood and the lovely memories! This was very encouraging :) I also like how you mentioned the women who had mothered you via mentoring in the past. There are many without children who have been like mothers too!

    1. Yes! We have watched A Man Called Peter, and what a wonderful film it is. Our entire family enjoyed it. He certainly had a beautiful spirit of the Lord with him whenever he spoke. I am glad you enjoyed my Mother's Day thoughts... and of course I always want to remember those who were like mothers to me, what blessings they have been along life's journey. ... Sorry for the lateness of my responding to your comment, life has been busy this past week :) Have a wonderful day and may the joy of the Lord refresh you today :)


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