So Simple…a Knock

Wood crackled and hissed as the fireplace radiated its soothing warmth throughout the living room inviting toes, once frozen, to bath in the toasty warmth only a hearth fire can bring. Earl Grey set steeping on the side table as I sat mesmerized, gazing into the fire lazily relaxing from a morning jaunt outside, ignoring the book that lay on the sofa next to me waiting for its opening letting me dive into today’s reading. Sleepily I opened the pages and began to read…when suddenly I was interrupted by a knock at the door. Curious, I made my way to the front hall wondering who might be standing at the door of my warm sanctuary.

Our lives can get hectic, moving this way or that, never really stopping or slowing down. Phone calls, text messages and social media have taken the place of interpersonal one on one conversations, so that when we finally do come face to face with someone we fidget with our cell phones dying to crawl back into our digital world. Friendly visits, Potlucks and Game Night have given way to the glow of our devices displaying Facebook, Instagram and online gaming acting as the means that we communicate with our friends and family. All the while we disconnect and throw away lost the art of fellowship.

Take for example the door knock, itself giving way to push buttoned intercoms, security guards and video monitoring. Long before the advent of any of this the proper way to announce yourself at someone’s dwelling was to walk up to the door and knock. It took commitment. It took planning and… it took…. but a second. One second to let the party behind the door know that you were waiting for them to acknowledge your presence and open their lives to yours and you too theirs. It all began with one simple gesture…a knock on a piece of wood.

Conversely, for the person inside all they had to do was open the door and receive whatever awaited them. Be it good news or bad they also had a choice to make, either open the door or ignore its beckoned call. Sometimes theirs was the harder choice, as with our sleepy friend in the opening paragraph, we also must stop what we are doing and receive those waiting for the door to be answered and this is the part of fellowship that our phones, computers and video screens can’t provide. In our quest to be immersed in the world and striving to not miss anything, we lose the possible surprises or disappointments that may be on the other side of the door depriving ourselves of what we really need…interpersonal relationship one with another.

I remember a game that several of my friends had put together one summer evening, where we would divide into teams and starting at one person’s home eat finger foods and share a few stories from our day. At the appointed time, we would all pile into a couple of vehicles and make our way to another friend’s home for a sit-down meal, all the while competing in teams to answer questions about some random subject all culminating at a dessert filled living room of yet another compatriot that relished in our company. Throughout the entire evening everyone got to share in the lives of folks that otherwise might not have been shared without that game. It took planning, commitment and a willingness to be vulnerable. It was the best!

As I write this, Christmas Season is upon us. Our days are filled with anticipation for Christmas Day festivities that will hopefully include spending quality time with long forgotten family and friends, attending Worship Services and spend some time disconnected from the electronic tether that controls our lives. The Bible’s Book of Revelation, Chapter 3, verse 20 states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with Me.” Now is the time to not only open our lives to our friends but also to the God that created us all. For He is the One knocking at the door of our hearts beckoning us to Him and drawing us to understand His Son Jesus’ sacrifice so that we can once again have fellowship with Him.

Decompress….

Today I started vacation and trust me it is very much needed! But the question I have to answer myself is what to do with myself for the next 10 days? Sure I plan on making photographs and spending time with the family but what am I gonna do to decompress?

Too often in this Helter Skelter world we forget that we need down time and we need it more than we think. Our daily lives are bombarded with so many different tasks and requests that we do not allow ourselves time to remember that we are only as good as our ability to process. If we get so bogged down we will shut down and we will be no good to anyone including ourselves.

In the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-33 He tells us, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I know this, when i take my eyes off of Him I generally fall flat on my face. So the bottom line is this….relax and spend time with God. That is my plan for this week.Sandhill Colt copy

Let’s Go Camping!

     As a kid I relished in the idea of camping trips, usually with my Boy Scout Troop or Explorer Post. Memories of sleeping under the stars and campfire smoke permeate my psyche even to this day. So for me to suggest a family camping trip seemed like a great idea. After all Peggy and I have been camping before with the Church so this trip should be nothing different. Right?!
     It started off like any other family outing, we hustled around the house grabbing gear and checking Peggy’s list as we loaded the new popup camper that we had just purchased earlier in the week. Everyone was excited including Aaron our youngest who only vaguely remembered the last campout we had so many years ago. We thought of everything, books to read, board games to play, movies to watch after long lazy days outside with the hope of reconnecting because of my busy schedule. We brought plenty of food (albeit diet food as Peggy’s and my South Beach diet is still in force), and of course the essentials like a coffee maker and porta-potty just in case. I also packed my camera gear hoping to score some great nature shots for my portfolio and hone my shooting skills. Probably the only family member that really didn’t have a clue was the family dog, Jack, who by default had to stay at the house due to the Park restrictions. Being satisfied that everything was accounted for we went into the glorious unknown, breaching never before trails as a family unit.
     I had decided to take surface roads rather than the toll roads only because I was still getting used to pulling a trailer. So I expected the trip would take a bit longer to get to our destination verses the toll roads; besides we had to make one final stop at a Publix Supermarket to pick up some final odds and ends anyway. Halfway to our camping location I started to see small intermittent raindrops appear on the windshield. I expected some rain as the weather gurus predicted a 40% chance of rain in the afternoon; otherwise the forecast called for sunny skies and warm temperatures.  I quickly dismissed these raindrops as a minor inconvenience and pressed on. I saw the shopping center in the distance and pulled into the parking area and expertly slipped our truck and trailer into a few open parking spaces and went inside. Immediately I went into focus mode knowing what I needed to get I got in, got out and headed back to the truck. Alright then here we go nothing to stop us now…next stop the campsite, or so I thought.
     As I nosed the truck out of the parking area, making sure that I had enough clearence to make the turn, Peggy screamed at the top of her lungs…Holy Crap! Now this statement alone brings fear and trembling to most people signifying that something has gone terribly wrong, not to mention that “crap” is never holy, not in the least. I quickly freaked out systematically checking mirrors and hoping that I didn’t crash this 2000lb rectangular box into someone’s BMW or something! Peggy stammered “We forgot something!” “What”? How could that be after all our checklists were checked, ‘T’s crossed and ‘I’s dotted. There was no way we could have missed something!? Could we? What did we forget I quizzically asked? “Pillows…we forgot Pillows”! My mind started racing going through options so I didn’t have to drive all the way back to the house to collect our much need bags of wonderful softness of which Peggy need two. Needing this trip to go perfectly, my only option was to drive several miles back to the nearest shopping center to buy new “camping” pillows. Reluctantly I reversed direction and made our way to the community Wal-Mart although ‘community’ seems to be an improbable odd word to describe a Wal-Mart; after all they seem to popup everywhere these days…any way I digress. We arrived and made our way into the store and snatched up our pillows and made haste to pay for them. It’s funny… have you ever noticed that once inside a Wal-Mart your mind gets lost in a shopping haze, constantly being bombarded with things you never think you need until your there. Fighting the urge to look for the preverbal sale we got out of there as fast as we could hiding away the internal shopping list to fill another day. Ok, with no more deviations to hinder us, off we went back on our merry way…Wow, would you look at that I exclaimed! First thinking it was rain we experienced earlier I was relieved that it was only dust stirred up from a cement mixing facility around the corner by a burst of wind. Little did I know of the storm that was brewing to the west of us.
     Moss Park had been the logical choice by many of Orange Countyresidents for years. It offered lake swimming (if you can get past the color of the water), hiking trails and back woods seclusion. I had been there many times before including taking my older son, Brandon, on Cub Scout camping trips some 20 years ago. Those campouts created many dear memories for me and I hoped for more of the same on this trip. Entrance into the park was quick as we checked in with the park ranger. I stopped to ask if we could add an extra day onto our reservation. Sure, came the anticipated reply but our decision didn’t have to be made at that very moment. We could simply come to the ranger station and pay for the extra time on the day needed. So, with campsite ticket in hand and the obligatory “do you know where to go” question, we made our way toward the site to finally begin our much anticipated time off in the woods. We selected our spot and began to open up the popup camper recording a personal best for setup time in the process, although the refrigerator was not working. It was then that the rains came…and came it did!
     Peggy blew past me, as I frantically tried to fix the campers refrigerator, screaming to me to get the water out of the truck and bring it inside the camper. At once I caught, out of the corner of my eye, little Aaron frantically chasing down the lid to the Styrofoam ice chest that the wind had scooped up and was holding hostage. I started to head toward Aaron to lend a hand, after all a dollar’s worth of Styrofoam had to be saved…didn’t it? Aaron rescued the lid from its tormentor and dashed for the camper. Rain and wind whipped at me from all directions sufficiently soaking me head to toe as I managed to grab only a few bottles and sprinted for the camper door right behind Aaron only to find out later that I left the truck’s door open to the torrent of rain and wind that furiously danced around our little campsite. Once inside I surveyed the drowned specters of my family as the rain had taken its toll. Wet clothes, soaked socks and frizzed hair best described us all as the storm raged outside. I opened up my ipad that I promised my boss I would bring to check important emails, and navigated to the weather app I had purchased during hurricane season. What I read brought chills to my body as I read the alert…Tornado warning!!! Thunder clapped and wind pelted our little camper as the sound of the rain became louder and louder…just then the lights flickered…and went out.Weather
     What I had dreaded had come true. My plan for a much needed get away was ruined, trashed like the tree limbs that fought against the unmerciful wind outside. There was no way that Peggy or Aaron would want to try this again. But, that would not be the case. Instead of complaining laughter and jokes started to flow from all of us. Smiles abounded! Aaron and Peggy giggled uncontrollably as I quipped sarcastically, “Let’s go camping!” and “Are we having fun yet!” Mar242013_6365 It was then that I knew that this situation would be the catalyst for fond memories in the future. Our storm pasted after about an hour and a half and we spilled out of the camper and out into the wind strewn campsite. Wind debris was strewn all over the campsite as we made our way around surveying the damage. We had faired well not taking on any major damage to us or our trailer. Other campers were making their way out of their shelters and life continued on. A new arrival, who had pulled in across from us during the storm, began their set up and we made preparations for dinner. For now the happenings of our first day were tucked away in our minds to be relived at some time in the distant future and we made plans for the next days events knowing that this be a  trip worth remembering. Mar242013_6383Mar242013_6370