April 22, 2009

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…
1 Peter 1:3, 4

This is National Park Week, and the Park Service has scheduled lots of special activities for adults and especially for kids. This Saturday, April 25, is Junior Ranger Day, when over 225 National Park sites in nearly every state will sponsor youth-oriented programs. Scavenger hunts, craft demonstrations, puppet shows, artillery displays and nature hikes are just some of the things planned—and most are free! There’s even an essay contest with a chance to win a $1,000 gift card! Junior Rangers can earn badges, pins and certificates after completing age-appropriate park-related projects at their own pace, not only on this special day but all year round.

The reason so many National Park Week events are geared toward children can be summed up in one word: legacy. If kids are exposed to the great treasure of our national parks, historic sites, battlefields, military and historic parks, monuments, scenic rivers and trails, lakeshores, seashores and recreation areas, chances are they’ll learn to appreciate their great value and will work to preserve them when they inherit their care.

When I think of the word legacy in my own life, I think of a highly valued letter I have tucked away in my scrapbook, from a woman I never met. The correspondence wasn’t addressed to me, but it concerns me nevertheless:

To my Dear Sons – Stanley, Eugene, Ralph, Jim and Al: Please grant me
[this] last request: To raise all my grandchildren Christians and early lead
to the Saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ – as Daddy and I tried
valiantly to do with you…

Dear Alice, Fern, Marjorie, Miriam (and whomever Al chooses for his future
wife): Guide my grandchildren to Christ Jesus for Salvation, redemption and
release. God has entrusted you with a sacred charge…

I can’t begin to tell you how special it is to me that on that long ago day in July, 1943, as she lay dying in a hospital bed in Madison, Wisconsin, my Grandma Enelia’s thoughts centered not only on the loved ones she was leaving behind, but on those yet to come, me included. Al was my father; his future wife, my mother Amy. I have very little besides this letter to remind me of my paternal grandmother—a few columns she wrote for a local paper and some photos—but it’s more than enough. What she left to me, my brothers and my cousins wasn’t about her, it was about her Lord.

Saving and caring for our national parks is important. We have a responsibility to pass on that respect and appreciation of and responsibility for God’s creation. But I never want to lose sight of the fact that there’s something way more valuable to leave with the people I know now and ones in the future whom I may never meet. If I fail to encourage them to seek the new birth, the living hope, the eternal inheritance that can’t perish, spoil or fade, then everything else I bequeath is worthless. When I’m standing by the most beautiful park this world has ever known, beside the tree of life and the crystal clear river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1, 2), I want my friends and family at my side.

Take your kids or grandkids to a park this week if you can. But first, get down on your knees and take them to the Lord.

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