“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV)
Today was cloudy and rainy so we drove the truck to Chattanooga. I heard much about downtown Chattanooga in the last few years as I serve with a group working to revitalize our city’s downtown. Chattanooga, Asheville, North Carolina, Paducah, Kentucky and Providence, Rhode Island are impressive examples of communities using arts and culture to revitalize a city. Despite the gloomy skies, Chattanooga did not disappoint in showing what a city can do when it capitalizes on its culture to create a place that is great to live and visit. Planners claim that for a city or town to be people friendly it needs a balance of the following things, a walkable downtown, public art, cultural institutions, public transportation, family/kid friendly activities, restaurants, shops, hotels and events that draw people downtown. A beautiful riverfront full of public art including sculptures, murals, mosaics, fountains and sidewalk inscriptions as well as signage to tell about the city’s history, kept us walking for many blocks even with the gloomy skies. There were lots of fountains designed for people to play in, one that simulated the river’s path, another that shot streams of water out at various intervals and a third that flowed alongside steps leading to the river where a large amphitheater provided a stage visible from land or from the water. There are many trails for people to jog, bike or walk on. One, an old railroad bridge provided a way for people to cross the river on foot or on bicycle. Because it is so wide, it can also used for festivals with tents set up down the middle of the bridge. While Chattanooga is known for its outdoor activities, for a city to be successful, it must also offer things for people to do when the weather is bad and that is why cultural institutions are so important. The city has two large museums, one art and one children’s, and a third, a history center, under construction as well as an aquarium, an IMEX theater, a movie theater and a performing arts complex. Despite the rain or perhaps because of it, the museums and the aquarium were packed with people. The weather also makes it important to have some method of transportation other than walking and Chattanooga has that as well. Two electric trolleys shuttle passengers around the downtown for free and offer a chance to learn all that the city had to offer as an orientation to the downtown. I was most impressed with two very different hotels, one called the Chattanooga ChooChoo in an old railroad depot that has rooms in restored railroad sleeping cars and another that was a steamboat docked alongside the riverfront. Chattanooga boasts a variety of shops and restaurants including art galleries and a “Moon Pie” store where they had a variety of flavors including lemon and chocolate peanut butter. While Chattanooga has the formula down pat for a thriving downtown, God gave us the key for a prosperous life. No formulas needed. We are simply to trust in Him and we will have no reason to fear in good times or in bad.