Saturday, October 29, 2016

Camping Community

“What do you do all day?,” I asked my friend seated at the edge of the camp fire.  “This.,” he answered.  I was beginning to understand.  We walked from his campsite to the next campsite I wanted to visit and I asked my camping friends, sitting around the fire with a cold beverage in hand how their day was and then inquired, “So, what did you do today?,”. They looked at me with this smile that says, “You don’t know what you are missing”, and replied, “This.”  I understood a little better. All of these people came here to do nothing more than “This.”

My friends took me on a walk through the state park where I was visiting members of our church who were camped out for the weekend to celebrate Halloween. I wanted to see for myself what the attraction was that drew them, along with hundreds of other people, to this heavily wooded location right along the shores of Lake Michigan. We were on our way to see an amazing display of tricks and treats that one family had set up to entertain the crowds on Saturday night.  Creatures popping out of garbage cans, an old-fashioned popcorn stand with the “bearded lady” as the hostess, and so much more.  Even their kids get in the act of entertainment by and for the whole family.  The site I viewed was the best, but there were dozens of others which were similarly decorated by people with creative imaginations, people who spent hours erecting sights like Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin amid the chorus of gravesite markers, ghosts and goblins.

On the walk back I asked my tour guides, this wonderful young couple with their young children scampering on ahead of us, “So what’s the attraction? What is it that draws so many people here on a late fall weekend in quite cool weather?”  It’s a hard kind of question to answer, the kind which asks you to put into words why you love doing something you love. But answer they did.  The answer was, as the song says, “blowin’ in the wind.”  “The smell is amazing,  isn’t it, Pastor Bill?” So, I focused on the smell, and it was like being transported to another era.  Try to smell in your mind a hundred campfires burning, the smoke and the smell wafting through the trees and over the marsh.  Listen for the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore, the rhythm of the water retreating and returning.  And, they said, “We never know what time it is.”  The dad clarified, “Except when we are hungry, we know it’s time to eat.”  “We fish for hours and maybe catch nothing but we are having a blast, together. We go on long hikes. The kids ride their bikes and we sit by the fire.” Quiet. Together.

Do you know what the “this” is that my friends did all day? Sabbath. Do you know what my friends were describing in their experience of the smells and sounds of smoke and waves and quiet? Shalom.  This is why God invited, no commanded, us to rest every seventh day.  Not because God knew we would be tired and needed to sleep in, but because God knew the Creation was so beautiful that, by just experiencing it in silence and in community, it could draw us closer to God, to our families, to our friends, to a whole new community.  Taking the time to be intentional in forming and keeping a camping community could create memories that will last a lifetime.  The laughs lifted up, the food and drink shared from camper to camper, this is how you make community. This is how you learn what it means to rest in the peace of God. It is not the experience of doing nothing. It is the experience of doing something together with no goal in mind other than “This.”

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