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Friday, January 20, 2023

Picnic in the Park — Paradise Preview?

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.
— John 14:3 NIV

Through His death and resurrection, Jesus showed all who believe in Him that, when we leave this earth, we will not die. We will go right on living – in complete fullness – with Him for eternity. What a comfort to know that death is not a closed-door ending of existence but rather a wide-open entry into a glorious new life. Equally comforting is the assurance that all those we love will join us in that joy-filled forever place.

Our finite, mortal minds could never comprehend what immortal life will really be like. Still, it’s fun to imagine the possibilities.

Whenever I try to envision what Heaven will be like, I think of “Picnic in the Park.” Many years ago, my good friend Jon and I co-chaired that fun summer picnic, which was held at a nearby park for our church congregation.

I can still see it all so clearly in my mind’s eye. A picture-perfect day, with celestial-blue sky, ethereal white clouds, golden-glow sunlight, pleasantly-warm temperatures, and soothing-soft breezes. Whistling strains from a circus calliope tooting tunes in showboat fashion could be heard all across the park. Little children were enjoying a jumping Bounce House, face painting, and pony rides; while, in an adjacent grassy field, teenagers competed in three-legged and relay races, frisbee toss, and tug-of-war. The delicious aroma of freshly-popped popcorn, courtesy of a familiar, bright-red, vintage Popcorn Machine, wafted over the air.

Under the picnic pavilion, a local catering service had arranged a divine buffet of old-fashioned fried chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, cabbage slaw, and fresh-from-the-oven, hot country biscuits. People were eagerly queuing up to the tables to partake of this fabulous fare. At the other end of the pavilion, a group of talented, octogenarian musicians and soloists performed “oldies-but-goodies” songs and classic Big Band sounds, to which some attendees had paired off and were dancing.

All ages from the youngest set through seniors represented in that happy gathering — each one seemingly carefree, delighted to be there with family and friends, and grateful for the blessings of the day.

I remember the moment when Lewis, our newly-installed pastor, arrived at the park. Standing there beside me, surveying the scene, he remarked, “You know, Mary, I bet this is what Heaven’s going to be like.” I couldn’t have agreed more. A sublime sea of smiles in a land of light, laughter, and love.

Picnic in the Park. A coming attraction of the Paradise that God has prepared for us? I have confidence in the possibility. After all, the word “paradise” comes from the Latin paradisus and the Greek paradeisos, both meaning “a park.”

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