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 . . .

I am a Warrior and a Son

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

Hebrews 2:10

I am a warrior, but God has called me first to be a son. The difference is when God calls a warrior to do a thing, a warrior says “yes” without hesitation but also without counting the cost. When things get difficult, the warrior finds himself on his own. He does not mean to be, but his “yes” binds him to continue at all cost, with only the recourse to endure. A son, on the other hand, though still saying yes, talks to his Father about what is difficult for him and what he is uncomfortable with. He recognizes that on his own he is nothing and that the battle cannot be won without God’s help. A son maintains intimacy throughout his yes.

I can be both a son and a warrior, but I cannot be a good warrior without being a son. I have permission to say, “this is difficult for me” or “I do not feel comfortable with this: Help me, because I cannot proceed here without your help.” This often marks the difference between success and failure in the Kingdom, because the currency of the Kingdom is intimacy. If we forget we are sons and daughters, we can often find ourselves suffering needlessly instead of benefiting from the one who suffered on our behalf. God has called us into battle, but the secret of the Kingdom is that it is always His victory.

Pour out before the Lord your heart: Tell him all you are going through. Here is where you will not only find comfort but also find His power.


Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Eternal Rewards

My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.

— Revelation 22: 12

Most, I would hazard to say, are comfortable with the idea that we are rewarded for what we do. It seems to be a basic fact of life that we get out of life what we put into it. If I sit idly, I may starve. If I go out and get a job, I won’t. If I apply myself and work hard, chances are I will make a comfortable life for myself. Continue reading “Eternal Rewards”

Echoes in Eternity

Every Thursday, my son holds a meeting (now virtual) called Eclectic Christian Conversations (ECC for short) for people interested in discussing any aspect of the Christian faith. It is a great time to discuss the hard questions not typically addressed at church, such as, “How does evolution fit into our understanding of creation?” or “Is there such a thing as objective morality?”, or — like last week — “How do we come to terms with an extravagantly good God in the midst of a global pandemic?” Continue reading “Echoes in Eternity”

Hope

Years ago, I found myself in a tight spot. I was in the seventh year of a failing business. Making matters worse, it was a business I felt God had led me to begin. But I now found myself struggling to pay my bills. Which, full disclosure, is an understatement. Truth was, I was up to my eyeballs in debt, about to lose my home, and already beginning proceedings to file for bankruptcy. I was receiving calls daily from my creditors who, like prophets predicting my doom, said that unless I paid up, bad things were going to happen to me. If there was ever an indicator that my world was about to come to an end, it was right there, in plain sight. Continue reading “Hope”