This particular spot along the Bishop Park riverfront was a special place. A simple chain-link fence separated the park boundary from residential property. Lilacs bloomed along the fence-line every year, displaying a brilliant array of purple underneath the shade of a lone maple tree.
For the past eleven years, Dad gravitated to this one spot; the southern end. He came to take in the sounds of the river, lean against the concrete walkway’s old, weathered guardrail, watch the gulls float carelessly on updrafts, and relax in the peace of the Lord. This was his personal sanctuary; his prayer closet. Here, God spoke to him with a clarity he couldn’t find anywhere else. It was here that he discovered an astonishing and unbelievable fact: In this place, whenever he asked a question, God responded in a most unique way.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters; He restores my soul,” Dad said, gazing out beyond the clear water. “Do you know those verses, son?”
“I think I’ve heard of them before. Oh wait, isn’t that from the plaque on the kitchen wall?” Nate asked. “I think its Psalm 32? Or is it 23?”
Dad smiled and winked at Nate. All at once, he knew God had called him to do this; to bring his son out to the river front. It was time to share his beliefs with his boy.
“Psalm 23. You got it, kid. Every time I come out here, I stop at this spot, along the railing. Then I recite the whole Psalm. By the time I finish, I usually have a good idea of what kind of conversation I’m going to have with the Lord. Look out there.” Dad swept his right arm out over the river. “What do you see the water doing?”
Nate skeptically studied the glimmering water, searching for some hidden secret. After a few moments, his shoulders hunched, the tell-tale ‘I don’t know’ display.
“It’s no test, son. Just relax and tell me what you see.”
Nate resumed his intense search. His eyebrows furrowed. His hazel eyes darted back and forth over the river, but to no avail. “Nothin’. I don’t really see anything. The water’s calm.”
Dad’s face exploded in an ear-to-ear grin. His vibrant smile confused Nate. “Exactly, son! Nothing. Still waters. Today’s a good day to do some fishing with the Lord. In all the years I’ve come out here, these waters serve as a reflection of my life, at the time of my visit. Whenever I’m in turmoil, the waters seem to be choppy. If I’m confused about something, I show up just as huge waves are breaking against the sheet piling of the pier.”
Nate squinted at Dad. He’d never heard his father speak such gibberish before. But he knew his father’s faith in God was strong. He’d seen too many occurrences happen where Dad had prayed, and something miraculous had resulted. Despite his logic instructing him to do otherwise, he decided to try entertaining his father’s whimsical banter.
Dad must have caught sight of the doubt in his son’s eyes. “I know how this all sounds, son. Believe me, I had a hard enough time trying to comprehend it before I gave myself to the Lord. But once I accepted it as faith in action, I was amazed when God opened my understanding to a few other things. For instance, Mom and I were both baptized just two years ago, right?”
Nate nodded in agreement, still struggling to understand his Dad’s claims. He did remember the day Mom and Dad were both dunked in the church baptism pool. They both had come up shouting praises to the Lord. He remembered thinking the whole process was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo.
“Well, God’s had me visiting Him out here for over ten years, son. I’ve been coming out here and experiencing His presence since you were five. He’s been guiding me, and has been in control of my life for at least that long!”
Dad was abuzz. It was as though some mysterious electrical current were coursing through his veins. Watching how excitedly he spoke of God made Nate realize that this was one of those rare moments he’d seen before. God was here alright. He was with Dad for sure, and something extraordinary was about to happen.
“So…okay…if the river reacts to your life, then what happens on a day like today? And what do you mean by fishing with God?”
Nate couldn’t believe the questions spilling from his own mouth. He sort of believed in God. He believed in what something or some force had done to save his parents’ marriage and bring them closer together. That something had to be God, right? But was he really ready to buy into what his father was telling him? Fishing with God? This stuff made absolutely no sense.
Dad smacked the rough guardrail and snapped his fingers. “I’m glad you asked, kid! On days like this, when the Lord calls me to the calm water, He’s got something special to reveal to me. Days like this reassure me that, at this particular point in my life, things are calm and I’m following His instruction.”
Nate gazed out over the peaceful flow of the river, taking in the gentle sway of the water. He did feel at ease, at the moment. Even with his Dad ranting this lunacy, there was a strange warmth in his belly as he stood next to the railing. God was definitely here. But Nate’s logical mind wasn’t exactly ready to relinquish the steering wheel of control just yet.
“Son, I don’t know if this means anything to you, but the Lord just placed it on my heart to tell you this: ‘You will. You will believe.’ I don’t think me bringing you out here today is about a message for me at all. I think God is trying to get your attention. Far be it from me to hold up the Lord’s plans.”
A cold shiver ran down Nate’s spine, as he stared into his father’s stern brown eyes. He didn’t know what to say, to break the awkward silence, following Dad’s message. How did Dad even know? His heart pumped hard against his chest. Dad’s eyes, though calm and loving, were blazing fire into Nate’s heart. Something was happening right now.
“Wha…what are we supposed to do, while we’re here, Dad?” His hands, shoved deep into his short’s pockets, were cold and clammy despite the heat of the day.
“Hands on the railing, son. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Feel the breeze against your skin. Listen to the birds in the air. Clear your mind of doubts, problems, or fears. Close your eyes for a moment. And when you open them, focus on the water. It doesn’t matter where you look. Just gaze on its serenity. I’m right here with you, son; right by your side.”
Dad wrapped his left arm around Nate, resting his hand on his son’s left shoulder. Together, they stood facing the river. Nate breathed in the smell of the river and the scent of his Dad’s cologne. As he took in deep breaths, his finger tips began to tingle, followed by his toes.
“Now here’s the trick, son. You have to have faith that God is listening. Remember, this defies all logic. There is no explanation for how this works. You simply have to believe God wants to talk to you, okay?”
Nate responded hesitantly. He was feeling a bit tingly all over. “Okay, Dad. I’ll give it a try.”
“Think of a question you really want an answer to. Nothing like, ‘Hey God, can I get a new game system?’ or something as equally mundane. No, this has to be something that really matters to you, something deep down.”
“And then what? What’s gonna happen?”
“We’ll just see, then, won’t we?”
Nate turned from Dad and focused on the distant rock line of Hennepin Point, across the river. He breathed deep and slow.
“One more thing, son: You don’t need to ask your question out loud. God knows your needs.”
Dad closed his eyes and breathed, taking in the spiritual energy of this place. His arm rested gently against his son’s shoulder. Lilac in the air, breeze through the maple leaves, gentle waves slapping against the pier, Nate’s scent. The Lord had called Dad out here to do a little fishing, but this time, he had been instructed to bring Nathaniel. This was God at work, and Dad was simply obeying. Seconds became minutes of meditation. Dad heard God whispering on the wind.
Well done, son. Well done. Thank you for your obedience.
As a smile worked into his closed lips, he heard the familiar splash he’d come to know so well. He opened his eyes, and looked to his son standing beside him, yelling in surprise.
Once his father had told him not to ask for anything out loud, Nate actually gave into the challenge. As he looked out over the soothing waters, and breathed deeply, he dug into the recesses of his mind, searching for a question that screamed to be answered. He thought about the days when his parents used to argue and fight. He thought of how his parents behaved lately. They were so loving not only toward him, his brothers, and sisters, but toward each other as well. And everything was attributed to God.
He thought of his younger brother, always spouting praises to Jesus, mimicking Dad. He thought of his older brother spending more time with the family, and coming to church, on his own accord, these days. Deep down, Nate had a longing. He wanted to know, personally, what it was that made his parents and his brothers behave the way they did today. Faced with the truth of his desires, Nate asked the only question that really mattered to him.
God, will you give me whatever you gave my family? I want to believe, but I’m having trouble. Can you help me believe in You? Can you show me You really do exist?
Nate was so engrossed in the question, at first he didn’t recognize what was going on before his eyes. The river was huge. The odds of this happening precisely where he was looking were remote. And yet, here it was. For a split second, Nate was staring into the calm of the blue-green. In a blink, the water separated before him, replaced by the golden brown, shiny scales of the biggest fish he’d ever seen outside of an aquarium! The fish leaped three feet straight into the air, the second Nate completed his question. The splashdown sent water spurting over the guard railing.
Nate jumped back instinctively, startle by the jumping fish.
“Holy cow! Dad! Dad, did you see what just happened! Did you see the size of that fish! What just happened?”
“Congratulations son. You’re fishing with God. Whatever your question was, it must have been open and honest.”
Dad gently rubbed Nate’s back. His son was trembling with excitement.
“Dad…how…what just happened? How is that even possible?”
“Easy kiddo, take a breath and get your bearings back. You haven’t seen anything yet. You want to test the faith now, don’t you?”
“Dad, how can this be possible!”
Nate was hyperventilating. His mind was at war. What he’d just seen was completely impossible.
“God makes everything possible, son. And the greatest power we can obtain is faith in Him. Belief in the unbelievable is what God is all about. We just have to make sure we don’t mock the Lord. The first time I went fishing with God, I attributed what I saw to complete coincidence. And I believed in that logic too, until I asked Him another heartfelt question and He answered me from a distance.”
“What do you mean ‘from a distance’?”
Dad pointed north, toward the old wooden fishing pier.
“The first day God took me fishing, I doubted His presence. I sat out here for an hour, asking cynical questions to disprove the truth in what I’d seen. I didn’t receive a single answer for any of those questions. But, as I got ready to leave this very spot, I started walking toward the pier. As I walked, I absently stared at my feet, while asking God if I were good enough to become a professional writer someday.
I glanced up and caught the sun shining through the clouds, hitting the water on a terrific angle, way over there next to the pier. Just as I looked into the circle of sunshine on the water, I saw a fish hop out of the water. Its scales caught the sunlight, and winked at me, some 500 feet away from where we are now, son. Now that, by itself is amazing. But, you wanna know the best part? That miracle answer happened just as I was finishing my thought.”
Nate was flabbergasted. God had answered his prayer.
“Dad, can I try it one more time? Then we can go.”
“Sure, son. How about if I wait there, under the tree? You and God have a quiet moment without me.”
As Dad walked away, Nate turned toward the sparkling calm water and began to breath deep. “Dad?” he called out.
“What’s up, son?” Dad called back.
“Thanks for bring me out here today.”
Dad glanced at his watch then lay down in the grass underneath the maple tree. “He makes me to lie in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.”
Six minutes later, Dad heard a gentle splash and looked up to see his son praising the Lord with raised hands and shouts of joy. It was, indeed, a good day to go fishin’ with the Lord.
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