Dodging Forest Fires

When not devoting myself to life’s duties, I have spent my waking moments these past few months crafting a novel. Writing a novel is like remodeling a home: You have to keep at it, even when you are working through the tedious, difficult parts like sanding the cabinets you wish to repaint or figuring out why there is a quarter-inch crack in your foundation while installing flooring and what to do about it. Writing a novel takes persistence: You got to keep at it. It must become the priority.

Despite this, I have made exceptions. Like last weekend, I joined my son and daughter on a camping trip that nearly ended in disaster. While we were away from our campsite for the day, a forest fire erupted out of nowhere. And by the time we returned, the only road back to our campsite was blocked. We started to think of what we left behind: Camping gear, of course. Oh but wait: My business laptop. Oh that’s not good. And wait: My son’s car! It has been a full seven days now, and the fire is still burning, holding our precious belongings hostage.

The ironic thing is the trip was still really good. We just switched gears, got a hotel room, awoke the next day and continued our itinerary, which was to visit Sequoia National Park with my oldest daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. We were a bit tired and inconvenienced but overall, we had a fantastic time.

After the trip, the question came to mind why the forest fire did not kill our joy. I honestly was scratching my head about that because it definitely put a dent in our plans and, let’s be honest, our overall sense of peace and well-being — or at least it should have. After all: We had worked really hard to put this trip together; how dare Nature ruin our trip! How dare it be anything less than perfect!

But as I thought about it, I realized we had been given a gift. I mean, I would like to take credit for our response, but I think I have to give credit where credit is due here: It was a gift from God. And that gift might be called the gift of peace in the storm which looks something like this:

  • Be Willing to Adapt: Sometimes we have a perfect idea of what our vacation should look like, but some of the best vacations are those that do not go perfectly as planned.
  • Stay Focused: When our campsite was held hostage, we simply got a hotel room and continued on with our plans. How we achieved the objective was not as important as that we achieved it.
  • Embrace the Adventure: Speaking of perfection, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it is the Kingdom of God to which we belong, not the Kingdom of Earth from which we are being saved, that cannot be shaken. If we confuse the two then our vacation is always in for a shaking. But if we don’t, the the shaking is merely the adventure we are a part of.
  • Be Willing to Leave Your Precious Possessions Behind: Our camping gear (and yes, even the laptop and car) can be replaced. We can value our possessions as a gift but we need not depend on them for ultimate happiness or security.
  • It is not the Vacation You Are On: It is the People You are With: Looking back on our trip, I realize our vacation was a success because we made people the priority. We gave grace to those who needed it when they needed it; we were open and honest with what we needed. We were slow to anger and quick to understand. In short, we loved one another. That was probably the greatest gift of all.

If you read between the lines here, you will notice these are not just good vacation lessons: They are good life lessons. In a way, we are all this year in the midst of the worst vacation ever. A global pandemic is holding our precious campsite hostage. Or is it? Be willing to adapt, stay focused, embrace the adventure, be willing to leave your precious belongings behind, and above all: It is not the vacation you are on but the people you are with. For the Kingdom that matters cannot be shaken. The apostles would agree.

Now back to that novel . . .

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