Picnics on the Hill

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 
There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you….When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. —John 14:2 NLT

 “It doesn’t get any better than this. This is what heaven’s going to be like.”

I’ve never forgotten those words uttered by our friend Sam while we were sitting around a campfire on Benson Hill. That was back in our camping days, when the kids were still with us and family vacations were spent at campgrounds and holiday weekends with the crew on the hilltop outside Punxsutawney. With three kids, we couldn’t afford anything else.

Not that camping on the hill translated “poor.” It was a rich experience in every way. 

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 

The kids played night games—“Capture the Flag” in the dark. And there was always a pot of coffee on the fire and food on the table, a weekend-long covered dish picnic. 

We looked forward to the legendary cowboy breakfast, compliments of the many hands that prepared it—scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with onions and peppers, bacon, ham, and toast, all cooked over an open fire. Auntie Kay was famous for her sticky buns—cinnamon rolls slathered with a thick ooze of sweet, sticky icing. Back then we didn’t worry about fat grams and cholesterol and anything else that would eventually kill you. We just enjoyed eating and being together.

Occasionally the Backwoods, a local men’s quartet, would fill the air and our souls with Southern Gospel music. 

One year, in response to the growing number of folks who showed up for picnics on the hill, Sam and Steve, another friend from church, built a three-bay outhouse Sam named “The Steven F. White Memorial Toilets” (after Steve), which he painted across the top.

I never had to worry about my kids. There were plenty of moms who patched up skinned knees, put ice on sprained joints, and kissed boos-boos.

Grandma and Grandpa are gone now, and the kids are raising kids of their own. Echoes of laughter and singing no longer ring across the hilltop outside Punxsy. The creaks and groans of aging have caught up with just about all of us.

If I could relive any time of my life, it would be picnics on the hill. We were surrounded by family and friends who loved Jesus and us. Like-minded folks who knew, believed, and lived the Bible, who practiced that old-time religion the world might label “politically incorrect” but never really goes out of vogue. 

Ask a hundred people what heaven will be like, and you’ll get a hundred different answers. No dust. No cleaning. All the chocolate I can eat and no worries about gaining weight (I’ll have a new body!) No aches. No pain. No tears. No sadness. No conflict. Only love, joy, peace and rest forever. Whatever we enjoy most in life is what we associate with heaven, whether golf, fishing, family, friends—or picnics on the hill.

What does the Bible say about Heaven? After all, that’s what really matters—what God says about it.

That it’s His home, unimaginably beautiful, and open to all whose names are inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). I know my name is there. And I’m looking forward to an eternal picnic on the hill of all hills.

You were right, Sam. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Dear God, thank You for blessing us with picnics on the hill and people who fill our lives with their love—in this world and the next. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Revelation 21 and 22.
 
From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. 

A Faithful Friend

Sharon and me, enjoying a Christmas lunch together

            Carry each other’s burdens. – Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

            I don’t know what I’d do without my friend Sharon. We met at a Bible study nearly 45 years ago and discovered we had much in common. We were both stay-at-home mothers struggling with more month than money, hard-working husbands, and unfulfilled dreams.

            As our friendship grew, I’d find myself dialing her number whenever I needed someone to talk to, cheer me up or give me advice. We spent hours analyzing life, the world, our children and our men. I could tell her things I couldn’t even tell my husband and know she’d understand.

            No matter how busy she was, no matter what time of the day I called, she took the time to listen, talk and, most important, pray with me. Even when I didn’t ask, I knew I could count on her prayers.

            As our children grew, our lives became more complicated and the calls less frequent. But even though we’re both busy, I know I can call her when I or one of my family is experiencing a crisis.

            On the night before He died, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

            “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He told them. “Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

            But the busy day, big meal and evening of fellowship tool their toll. They fell asleep, waking only when Judas returned with a club-carrying, sword-wielding crowd. And then they fled. When Jesus needed them most, they let Him down. Perhaps if they had prayed instead of slept, they would not have deserted Him, leaving Him to suffer and die alone.

            There are times when people ask us to pray for them. Are we like the sleepy trio whose spirit was willing and flesh was weak? Or are we like my friend Sharon, whose faithfulness and prayers make all the difference?

Thank You, Lord, for a friend who prays with and for me when I face my own Gethsemanes. May I be as faithful a friend to others as she is to me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 26:36–46.

© 2022 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.