My youngest son, Daniel, and I recently spent a long weekend with loved ones. The town they live in is a pocket of paradise, a place where you’ll still find a soda fountain in the drug store. It’s a town where the Friday night lights of high school football dominate the barber shop banter on Monday morning.
It’s a community of two lane roads tucked between fields of coastal farmland. You can drive for miles and never experience the rear view jitters of someone bearing down on you like that Great White from “Jaws.”
Here, people know the Civil War history surrounding them, just as they know the history of most families in the community. Law enforcement consists of a sheriff and one Barney Fife. Faith matters and nobody complains when one of the churches announces the noon hour with bell renditions of favorite hymns--played over a loud speaker.
I won’t reveal the name of this town because, selfishly, I’m afraid people will want to move there--and I don’t want my possible retirement paradise disturbed by growth.
My sister, who spent many years in metropolitan areas, moved to this town a year ago. With a contented sigh, she often says, “It’s a different life here.”
It’s one Daniel and I sure enjoyed experiencing. During our seven hour drive home, he kept asking, “Will we visit again?”
“You bet,” I promised. “And next time, we’ll stay longer than a few days.”
Hopefully, our relatives are as excited as we are about us crashing on them for more than a few days. And when I say we’re returning, I mean SOON. To me, just the thought is soothing, like a cascading waterfall on a blazing day.
I live in the Atlanta, Georgia suburbs, and though I feel blessed to be in the community that I am, I’ve got many irons in the fire. Life is crazy-busy. When I escape to my sister’s slower-paced town of home-churned ice cream and long chats on the front porch, I feel unburdened and refreshed, able to approach life with a calmer spirit and clearer mind.
Getting away is a good thing; however, it occurred to me that I don’t need to leave home to find spiritual paradise. I only need to seek refuge in the Lord and I can crash there forever.
The Psalms is the greatest collection of prayers and praises ever written, penned mostly by David through a myriad of emotions and experiences. It serves as example that we can take anything to the Lord. No matter what the issue, just the thought of seeking refuge in God makes many hearts swell with hope--and if the thought is soothing, imagine what the act can do!
Philippians 4:6 encourages us to pray about everything and 1 Thessalonians 5: 17 says to give thanks in all circumstances. We know then that prayers are never trivial or too much and praises aren’t lost in the wind. God wants to hear from us, and what an awesome privilege to go before the throne of our Creator, the One to Whom mountains bow!
Prayer and praises draw us closer to God--and God IS paradise for our spirits. He offers peace in chaos, light in darkness, guidance in confusion and comfort in grief. He inspires and exhilarates. He refreshes and revives. He both leads us and backs us up.
The paradise of God is always available. We can find it in the midst of fiery trials, while facing everyday stuff and during triumph and joy. Remaining in His love, trusting His promises and accepting His invitation to communicate keeps us in is this paradise, best described by David in the treasured 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (KJV)
Too often, our tickets to the paradise of God are round trip. We experience it for awhile, then return to a life that isn’t focused on Him. Let’s opt for the one-way ticket…and stay put in paradise.
I truly enjoyed this article. Part of my growing up was in a place as you described. Less the 1,000 population. Everyone knew everyone else. Children were allowed to walk anywhere without supervision and was safe. Everyone went to town on Saturday and stocked up groceries, kids went to the movie theatre to watch the westerns. Sunday's everything closed down, even the gas stations were not open until after 2:00 pm. Week days, all the stores closed and the owners/workers went home for lunch and a nap, back to open the stores at 2 p.m. MY, how things have changed. I have some fond memories of those times as do you. Thanks again for sharing.