It was Labor Day weekend and we had packed into our campers and set out for Spotted Bear, a remote campground in northwest Montana about 50 miles up a gravelly mountain road. Mom diligently checked and rechecked our supplies, making sure we had everything we needed for four days of outdoor living.
We arrived, claimed our sites and set up camp. It wasn’t long after we were there, the inevitable happened. Mom discovered no one had brought maple syrup for the pancakes we would have in the morning. It seemed unfortunate, until Mom had the brillant idea to make her own syrup. We gathered berries of various kinds in the forest surrounding the campground, threw them in a pot with some apple and Mom cooked it for hours. The natural pectin in the apple thickened the berries, leaving us with the best syrup a person could want. It wasn’t maple, but it was GOOD!!
There are times in life when the “normal” provision is absent. Look around and see what God has provided for you in a supernatural way. Maybe it requires a little gathering and simmering, but you may just have the best rather than the usual.
Camping is foreign to some people. Maybe it is to you. I grew up camping. My childhood family of nine always had some sort of recreational vehicle – travel trailer, truck camper, renovated school bus, mini motorhome – we had it all at one time or another.
Camping is a lot of work, especially with a large family. My mom worked overtime to get everything ready for our family to be sustained on weekend outings. I remember Dad pulling the camper to the front door and my siblings and I making run after run from the kitchen to the camper, filling it with food and supplies.
One summer, we (all nine of us) piled into a pickup and camper for a month of travel. We drove through Canada into Connecticut, stopping in New York City and Niagra Falls and back to Montana through the States. We cooked all our meals (bless my dear Mother) in the camper or on a campfire, only stopping once to buy ice cream about 2 hours from home. Three people rode in the cab of the truck while the rest of us played and rode in the back. At night we set up a tent for my brothers while the rest of us slept in the camper. I have only fond memories of that trip. Mom might remember something else.
Two things occur to me as I write this. First, traditions are important. When I was a child, we had specific weekends we always camped or had family outings. Labor Day weekend we camped at Spotted Bear, a remote, primitive campground, with cousins on my Dad’s side. We absolutely loved it. At the time, school didn’t begin until after Labor Day, so it was a great end to the summer.
Secondly, remembering is as important as the tradition. In remembering, we relive the good and rewrite the bad. An adult perspective helps temper childhood memories. I recall a camping trip to Yellow Bay, a campground along the shore of Flathead Lake. (Flathead Lake is the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi and a wonderful place to recreate!) On this particular weekend, we were camping with our cousins from town. We lived on a farm in the country; the cousins lived on a hobby farm on the outskirts of town. I thought they were fancy – kind of like the country mouse and the city mouse.
Anyway, my aunt always brought Spam. My mom didn’t buy it because it was expensive to feed seven children with canned meat. Some might say we were fortunate; I thought it was a travesty. So, when evening rolled around, the moms would get out all manner of snacking food, including the Spam. I could hardly wait for the can to be twisted open and splayed out to eat. I loved it! At least I thought I did.
From an adult perspective, the Spam was as much about what I thought we were missing living in the country rather than the city, as it was about the product. Having eaten it recently, it isn’t all that great. I consider it a blessing that we were not sustained on a canned ham product. But as a child, it represented everything I perceived city life offered.
For sure, some memories are traumatic and need to be rewritten with adult perspective and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But there are many memories that can be revisited and reimagined from the safety of our adult minds.
As I write today, I am at Triponds Family Camping Resort sitting in the open air, listening to chimes gently swayed by the afternoon breeze, with my youngest granddaughter at my side. She rests quietly in the stroller, cooled by the small desk top fan in front of me. So, I continue to share camping traditions not only with my children, but my grandchildren.
The book of Deuteronomy is organized around three speeches Moses gave to the children of Israel just before they entered the Promised Land. Up to this point, the Israelites were campers. They lived in tents for forty years! I camped in a tent for one weekend and decided that was not my jam!
In Moses’ speeches, he reminds the Israelites of key events from the last forty years. Throughout the writing Moses said, “Remember…” It is important to remember.
You know those times around the family table when someone says, “Remember when…” and then a tale of family fun follows? Remembering can be fun. It builds comradery, it evokes emotion, it renews connection with others.
Remembering can also be difficult. Not all memories are pleasant. There are some things we just want to forget. Another day we will talk about what to do with those memories.
This week I want to focus on what I learned from camping. It will be more light-hearted than heavy, focusing on the foibles of outdoor living and what we learn from it. So grab some mosquito spray and let’s head outdoors!
Today begins a week of vacation with my sister at a nearby campground. I hope to do some reading, relaxing and renewing with great books, food and friends.
I thought a lot on Thursday, the 4th, about holidays. Some 200+ years ago our nation declared independence and then declared that we should continue to remember that day by setting aside the 4th as a holiday. Businesses close, parties are planned, work ceases.
I think it’s a wonderful thing to break from our normal harried pace to rest and be renewed, to reconnect with ourselves and those close to us, to enjoy time in play.
I couldn’t help be a little sad that we don’t often choose that for ourselves. We don’t stop until a national holiday arrives, forcing us to stay home from work. We hesitate to plan breaks into our lives that allow for refreshment.
Today is an opportunity to step out of the busy-ness of life and rest. If it isn’t your habit to join a community to worship, I encourage you to make today a restful practice in some other way. Slow down and enjoy the morning. Drink coffee on the deck. Listen to the birds. Watch the morning break through. Plan leisure moments and be good to yourself. Because you are enough and you deserve to take a break!
And that’s why we have the Holy Spirit. He is faithful to guide us. Paul says, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.” Permission needs to be granted in order for anyone to guide our lives, including the Holy Spirit. He is always willing to lead, we just have to allow.
Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your life? Does living without stated guidelines feel risky to you? I agree, freedom feels – well, free. But there is nothing better!
Today I will also celebrate that God has called me to live in freedom. For many years I lived under the weight of rules and regulations that sapped my strength and stole my joy. I became a judgmental, sad woman who lived in a very narrow world. Today I celebrate that I am not there anymore.
I was struck by the last phrase of our reading for today. Paul said, “Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” I can’t even begin to count the times I gave God credit for the sad state I lived in. Looking back, I was Eeyore at his finest!
Now I know it isn’t! God’s grace and love for his creation is amazing and beyond my wildest dreams. And I celebrate that today!
Does the story of Jesus seem too good to be true? Does living in freedom seem out of reach? What would it take for you to give it another try?
I will summarize the background of this writing for you. Paul traveled to the area of Galatia which is roughly modern day Turkey. Paul preached the gospel: Jesus came and died on the cross, on the third day was raised to life and ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us. When the people believed the Good News, they received the Holy Spirit as promised.
Later, well meaning Judaizers came and told the believers that they also needed to be circumcised in order for their faith to be valid. Paul said “Jesus only.” The Judaizers came and said, “Jesus plus.”
Jesus came to set us free from sin and death and it is by believing in Jesus that we are set free. Adding anything to Jesus is a step backwards into bondage again. No longer are we walking in spiritual freedom.
How about you? Is your faith based on Jesus plus something else? It might be good works, right behavior, church attendance, the sacraments, and on and on. The Good News is really just that – really Good News! And sometimes news that is so good seems just too good. But it really is that simple – Jesus and just Jesus.
What does freedom mean to me? It means walking down a street unafraid that I will be stopped, questioned or imprisoned.
It means choosing the car I drive, the house I buy, the clothes I wear, the food I eat and the water I drink.
It means the opportunity to choose education, job training, working from home, starting a business.
It means choosing an 8 hour work day or a 12 hour work day; taking vacation in the summer or the winter; traveling within the USA or venturing across the border or across the oceans.
But genuine freedom is more than all of that combined. It is knowing that in my soul I am right with God, my Creator. It means I am free to choose good rather than evil; to bless rather than curse.
It means I freely love because I am freely loved by Him. There is nothing I have to withhold because nothing is withheld from me. I have access to all the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control a woman could want so I can freely extend those graces to others.
In Christ, I can do anything I want and know that I am fully accepted. But as Paul says, even though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. (1 Corinthians 6:12) And in another place he says we shouldn’t use our freedom as an excuse to do whatever we want and thereby destroy our freedom. (See Galatians 5:13-16)
Genuine freedom is serving others from a heart of love. It is putting others first without fear of being overlooked or forgotten.
Unrestrained freedom results in oppression. Oppression for both the one practicing freedom without boundaries who longer lives in freedom but subservience to selfishness and oppression for anyone who happens to get in the way of the unrestrained, selfish choices.
My heart’s desire is to live in a place of freedom – freedom that allows me to love generously and live selflessly. This week as we enjoy BBQs, fireworks, camping, boating, air shows, freedom fests, and other celebrations of our nation’s declaration of independence, remember to celebrate the freedom of your soul. Declare your independence from your oppressor, offering a prayer of gratitude for freedom that is truly freedom!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
Freedom. What does that mean to you? It seems simple – freedom is to be free. But free from what? Oppression is the simple answer, but as I pondered freedom my mind raced in many directions.
This week in the United States we celebrate freedom from the domination of Great Britian. Our forefathers gathered together, put their grievances on paper and declared the 13 colonies independent states. They put their signatures to the declaration, pledging to one another their lives, their fortunes and their honor in support of independence from England.
I invite you to ponder freedom with me. What does it mean to you to be free? What oppresses you? What grievances do you need to declare? Today is a great day to declare freedom!