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September 20, 2020
Walking in the park with Jesus
Memories of walking with our children in Centennial Park in Nashville are most precious to me. We lived in Nashville twice and loved Music City. There were no sidewalks on the streets where we lived so on weekends and holidays we often found our way to Centennial Park.
There we fed the ducks in a large pond, rambled through and around the Parthenon and let the boys crawl up into the cab of the large train engine. We marveled at the beautiful flowers everywhere. The boys romped on open fields. Sometimes we found a table and enjoyed a picnic lunch.
One of our fondest hours was the day Dean and I spent a few hours in the park with our dear friend, Sister Maria, a Roman Catholic nun. After walking a while, we sat and talked, mostly about our grief over the death of our son. Maria’s gentle questions soon led me to tears, and to my surprise I began sobbing. The catharsis of that hour was transforming for me, an unexpected gift of God while strolling in a park. I know now that, spiritually, Jesus was in Maria, ministering to me through her.
I have often wondered what it would have been like to walk in a park with Jesus. He would have been gentle and caring, like Sister Maria. He loved flowers and birds and it was mostly outdoors, and on hillsides, where Jesus taught the crowds who came eagerly to hear him. I can imagine sitting across from Jesus under a shade tree, and hearing him say:
“Walter, don’t worry about things – food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body – and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat – they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food – for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you, Walter, are far more valuable to him than they are.”
When he paused, I might have said to him, “Well, Lord, I realize that I should not worry but I don’t know how to stop worrying. Isn’t it just human to worry? Doesn’t everybody worry?”
I can hear Jesus replying, “Walter, will all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, a man of little faith?”
I might have replied, “I see your point, Lord. I must confess that I stay too busy to pay much attention to birds and flowers. I guess I need to stop and smell the roses and let them teach me to trust God more and put an end to my useless worrying.”
Smiling, Jesus may have replied, “You’ve got it Walter! So don’t worry at all about having food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you too So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time, Walter.”
Such a walk in the park with Jesus would put a new spring in my step, a new joy in my heart. I would look for someone to whom I could say, “You know, Jesus was ‘a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,’ but he was also a man filled with joy and a contagious peace. He could relax in a lovely meadow and trust his Father to meet his needs.”
I would remember that time in the park for the rest of my life and I would be forever telling people what I learned from Jesus. I would sum up what he told me in these simple words:
1. Don’t worry about things.
2. Relax and enjoy the quiet beauty outdoors.
3. Trust your heavenly Father to meet your needs.
4. Put God first.
5. Live one day at a time.
And I would remember all this by quietly singing the simple song that goes like this: “One day at a time, sweet Jesus. That’s all I’m asking from you. Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus. And tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today, show me the way, one day at a time.”
Nashville is far away now and I don’t travel much anymore. I don’t reckon I will ever walk in Centennial Park again. But sometimes I sit on the porch, and start singing that song, and imagine that Jesus is talking to me. The more he says, the more I want to listen, and, as the sun is setting, I let him bless me like he used to in Nashville.
It seems like, as the years roll on, I need that more and more. + + +