A River Runs Through Our Town

March 21, 2021

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:8-9

Friday, we had our inaugural prayer walk. I did not know what to expect or if anyone would show up. A car pulled up, a few kids walked in from the alley, and friends strolled in from all directions. Octogenarians, a young child, teenagers and sexagenarians, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren, and friends gathered in a circle around Jack’s maple tree to pray in stillness for the saints, mentors, and elders who have enriched and blessed our lives. We silently gave thanks for the Native people who once lived on the land we would walk on.

Old friends waved at each other. The kids had to tell us about their adventures in school. Some old acquaintances “broke the rules” and gave each other long sought-after hugs. (Note: If you are going to err, err on the side of grace.)

We walked single file single file down to Cottonwood Park and made a stop along the way to pray for our neighbors’ well-being. “Love your neighbors.” The Spirit filled my heart with peace as I looked over my shoulder at the procession of pilgrims.

At the Mancos River we stood before the “baptismal pool” where many received the gift of living water. We listened to the gentle current washing over rocks and moving towards the sea. In prayer, the water moved through us and settled our thoughts. “Don’t push the river. Go with the flow. Be at peace and simply be.” Even the kids who just had to talk during our walk were silent before the river of life. The natural sound of the river restored our souls.

We meandered down the path into the heart of the forest. We prayed or mediated again. “Do not worry. Look (and listen) to the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Can any of us by worrying add a single hour to our life?” (see Matthew 6:25-27). We prayed, listened to the birds, and we heard the river cooing. As we listened, a deeper peace seemed to saturate our little group of pilgrims. Maybe it was my imagination or maybe we were letting go of our fears and worries and letting shalom in.

We ended the walk where we began, at Jack’s maple tree in front of the Fellowship Hall. We read the words to the “Hymn of Promise,” “In our end is our beginning; in our time infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

I cannot say for sure what people experienced during our prayer walk, but I can express my hope. Paul tells us to set our minds on all things in life that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious (Philippians 4:8). Richard Foster writes, “God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that as we give our attention to those things, we will be happy.” We will have more love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness if we fill our lives with simple good things and give thanks to God, our Creator for them.

We can listen and learn from the river that runs through our town. We can heed the birds and the music they sing. We can stand in awe of the first flower to bloom in the spring. We can give and receive grace from our friends, our neighbors, and the old and the young. We can be still and absorb God’s wisdom.

And what about our problems? Our struggles? Foster says, “When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems.”

So, what do we set our minds on? What do we dwell on? What is our focus?

Through prayer and meditation, we can set our minds on the “higher things of life.” We can consciously choose a way of thinking and living. If we choose the way of grace, healing, and redemption, “peace will break into the recesses of our lives and relationships, and the inevitable result will be joy” writes Foster.

May we set our minds on all things in life that are true, just, pure, lovely, and gracious.
May we see and hear the river that runs through our town.
May we live in God’s Grace.

Blessings and peace,