Moving is INTENSE! (get it?! – In tents)
Warning: I am just going to ramble awhile to diffuse my frustration and to vent and sort out my thoughts about the weekend I moved Jim’s brother.
Last weekend I was reminded of several biblical truths as I spent the weekend hauling up stuff from the bottom of the LA River bed, where Jim’s brother has been living the past 6 months.
For one thing, when I said something about being homeless, most of the people there (who I would consider homeless) said, like my brother in law, I am not homeless. “I live here!” “My tent is my home and these are my neighbors”….”You don’t have to have a postman come to have a home”….
The Bible says that our bodies are like tents and when they wear out we will go to our permanent dwelling that God has prepared for us! In fact the Jews celebrated and remembered the days of living in tents during the feast of booths (tents). – They did so by “going on a camping trip” and for seven days they were to live in these booths/tents as a vivid reminder of the days in the wilderness living in tents. Reminder! : It is not permanent! And yet because of his future with Jesus, Paul knows this: that life is like camping – and death is like going home. Paul knows that Christians live with a tension between the temporary and the permanent.
Next, Corinthians talks about our bodies being like tents. As a tent is to camping, so a body is to living. Tents are not meant to be lived in indefinitely! Unless you are a nomadic bedouin it is temporary housing! Our physical bodies are like a tent. When you go camping you treat the tent with care, but you don’t line it with bells and whistles, but only the essentials. All the extra stuff just weighs you down. This weekend, I found that to be the case. Slowly – not all at once – Ron accumulated more and more stuff and by the time we moved out it had taken 2 full days of packing and tossing and carrying stuff up and out of there to take it with us.
For another thing, in theory, camping helps you pare down and learn to appreciate having less. (Moving should too!)Yes food, clothing and shelter are all we really need, but we live in a culture saturated with choice and excess. There is just so much stuff in our daily lives that interferes with experiencing the freedom and simplicity of living lightly. And that is true even for many who are camping and moving! Ron had more stuff than I could ever imagine! The problem is that we all do the same thing! We don’t pare down – we build bigger homes, pay for storage units, or in Ron’s case, buy another tent! Camping life becomes home life! Rather than longing for the comforts of home we decide “why rough it when you can camp in luxury!?”No more dehydrated food, no more living in one set of clothes. No more camp fire cooking. Bigger bags, camping stoves, airbeds, gas bottles, camping sites with electricity. I am not sure what I think about the idea of “only having the necessities” versus the idea of “luxury camping.”
Paul reminds us that life on earth for the Christian is temporary – like camping. And at the end, in death, you exchange camping life for home life. Where we are now is only temporary. That’s why we should always feel unsettled, because our real home is in heaven. The interest rate rises don’t matter. They’re temporary. The hail damage on your car, getting married, moving house, changing careers are all seasonal. I know that they’re all things that are important to us and worth thinking about seriously. We need to deal with daily life here on earth while not forgetting that they are temporary things that belong to this world. They are part of camping life. And when it comes to camping life, we don’t just treat these things with apathy, but we must learn the right attitude, which Paul shows us in Philippians 4:11,12 “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Another lesson I have learned about camping is that it is dirty! Yet, dealing with discomfort is a great lesson that camping in tents teaches. Camping and getting outdoors pushes many of us outside our comfort zones. You might be sharing a small tent space (little kids usually love this part), the weather may be crummy, or the physical activity of it all may tire you out. Life is best when there is some discomfort as well. It keeps us from becoming complacent. One of the things we learn about being is uncomfortable is to learn to be grateful. The Israelites were not. They complained about their campsite and all that whining only made their journey longer – by 40 years! The goal of family camping is not to push people beyond what they are capable of. The goal is to have fun, make memories and be together. But often it is dealing with the discomfort of the outdoors that builds both great memories and character
The corollary to discomfort is that camping is buggy and germy! And yet, there is nothing like actually being in the outdoors to develop an environmental mindset. Even though it may have felt like a trash heap to me, Ron was intent on picking up after himself and follows a strict leave no trace philosophy. Now perhaps the folks who “live” along the river have other motives in trying to erase their footprints, but however one enjoys camping we should always aim to leave the outdoors a better place than when we found it. Imagine the environmental impact if we lived by this principle in our everyday lives, not just when camping. The carbon footprint reduction as we leave the beach, ballpark or field, and movie theatre alone would be huge! And riding a bike or walking means there is no need to care for all of the costs of a motor vehicle, and you can get excersise. Cars may be efficient but efficiency is not always the goal. Living in a tent reminds us of that!
Being in nature together – hiking through the woods, swimming in streams and sitting around the campfire at night helps children and adults alike want to preserve outdoor spaces. And “living” in the outdoors for extended periods of time really helps us remember that every day is about survival! Being surrounded by nature, by trees, by natural waterways and by all the creatures that live there reminds us most vividly that God is the amazing Creator and that we share the planet with others that we are to care for.
Further, it reminds us that simple pleasures are best! When there are no creature comforts or even power, learning how to be creative and entertain yourself becomes more important. Even with less to do, people are less bored; the environment offers endless opportunities for play, fun and discovery. Forget Gameboys, Wiis, PlayStations and their ilk. Sticks are way better. And there are sticks for poking, for writing, for toasting marshmallows for reaching and fishing and leaning… you get the idea. My nephew Jeremy chiseled and whittled away at things using the rocks and sticks around him.
The other thing about camping is that is tends to slow us down. We cannot be in such a hurry and when the sun goes down it is time to call it a day and rest! Jesus was busy but he was never in a hurry. I think hurry is really a legacy of the industrial era. Commitment to an unrelenting schedule prevents us from doing what the old song advises: “Take time to be holy”. Life isn’t about achieving, reaching newer heights, earning more or being respected for what you do. It’s about being at one with the God who made you, being able to do nothing, and being happy doing nothing. Camping is good at slowing life down, learning to spend 30 minutes sitting on a log just watching flowers blowing in the breeze, wondering what’s playing in the tree tops and trying to get a glimpse of the bird that is calling, listening to that still small voice calling us to a deeper relationship than we ever considered.
I suppose another biblical concept about camping is others-centered living! You have to be more conscious of your neighbors and follow the common courtesy rules that include quiet after 10pm and cleaning up after yourselves regularly so the bears and bees stay away. Come to think of it, all living is to be others oriented, it is just that camping reminds us in America who live such selfish and me centered cultural lives with more immediacy. Also, it takes planning to think about others who are camping with you, working to make sure that others are warm and dry at night, keeping them free of poison oak, sunburns, and mosquito bites. While it is true that we are to be responsible for the same things in a home, we often take for granted how much easier it is to provide those things in that setting than out in the elements without power and a permanent roof! And it’s not where you are but who you’re with that counts. The people you spend your time with are all important so choose them wisely. The most abject surroundings are irrelevant if you’re with people who are positive, smart and fun to be with. That is why the Bible says “Do not be fooled. Bad company corrupts good morals”. As I was taking a break and visiting with “Michelle”, she pointed out a convicted rapist who she wished did not “live” there because all the women in the area had to live in worry. I prayed with her and wondered what else I could do about it. At the same time, I was reminded we all need to live with avid alertness.
Have you learned any lessons in unexpected places lately?
Here are some things about camping that I have learned and would also consider to be transferable concepts (just think about it):
- How to roast the perfect hotdog.
- How to survive on my own with almost nothing.
- How to build a fire.
- To be a conservationist.
- To accept and relish solitude.
- How to toast a marshmallow so it is perfectly brown (Not Black!) and crisp on the outside and completely soft on the inside. (Mmmm!) And I have been able to create several variations of the traditional S’more!
- How to make do with what you have like always wearing a long-sleeved shirt (It gives you something to wipe your nose on), or socks( It gives you something to wipe your hands on
- To truly appreciate the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.
- Be creative. For example, When using a public campground, a tuba placed on your picnic table will keep the campsites on either side vacant.
- The best backpacks are named for national parks or mountain ranges. Steer clear of those named for landfills. A two-man pup tent does not include two men or a pup.
- Your 5 senses are accentuated by your sense of humor, so never leave home without it!
Example: Man goes to psychologist. Says he’s having a reoccurring dream where he turns into a teepee, then a wigwam, then a teepee, then a wigwam. What does it mean, doc? Doc says: “I think you are too tense” (er, two tents!)
2nd example: Did you hear about the fire at the campsite? It was intense (in tents!!!!)
3rd example: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. Holmes said: “Watson, look up and tell me what you see”.
Watson said: “I see a fantastic panorama of countless stars”.
Holmes: “And what does that tell you?”
Watson pondered for a moment: “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.”
“Why? – What does it tell you, Holmes?”
Holmes was silent for a moment then spoke: “Someone has stolen our tent.”