i’ve been fortunate enough to marry into a pretty great family. picking a spouse is easy. picking a spouse without a crazy family, well, that’s a bit more difficult.
i’ve really enjoyed spending time with several of her cousins and getting to know them over the many years we’ve been together. it’s a pretty cool feeling being able to use the little you know about life, lessons you’ve learned from being a few steps further down the road of life, to pour into the life of a younger guy. and, if you’re lucky enough, sometimes they even take what you have to say to heart, which is pretty incredible. to think you can play even a small part in shaping who a person is. that’s the good stuff. and it’s a privilege.
one of my wife’s cousins, in particular, has really been great to get to know over the years. smart guy. very sociable and outgoing. the kind of guy the girls flock to, and the guys would like to be. we’ve had some great trips over the years. snowboarding, talking c.s. lewis. the good stuff.
after his high school graduation, we decided to do something as a way of celebrating his recent graduation and the next steps ahead of him, as he moved on to college. after some deliberation, we determined a camping trip would be just the trick. so we prepared. and by prepared, i mean i found people who knew how to camp and i listened. then i made a list. then i bought lots of cool camping things that made me feel a bit like someone else. then i packed.
thoughts over boiling water
i borrowed a campfire stove from a co-worker. the kind of co-worker who loves to get outdoors. the kind of co-worker who climbs mount kilamanjaro in her spare time. and no, that’s not an exaggeration.i always forget how embarrassing it is when we compare our weekend activities when monday morning rolls around. and, before i can cut myself off from asking what she did over the weekend, i’m left feeling like a nine-year old girl all over again.
since i have had very little experience with the whole camping experience, i figured i’d better make sure i was able to get the stove working before i got my wife’s cousin to the top of a mountain and wasn’t able to prepare any food.
so there i was, leaning back on my elbows under the blue and white fragmented sky in my backyard, the stove firing on all cylinders, waiting for the water to boil. it was a rare, quiet moment. a rare moment of not doing the next thing. it’s tough for me, but it’s the way i am. always filling my time with something. stopping is one of the most difficult things for me to do, and i know it’s unhealthy.
and it was then, as i lay there, watching the blue sky play peak-a-boo behind the white clouds in the quietness of a summer evening, that i heard the still small voice in my head say,
“seek Me, and you will find Me. and when you find Me, you will be filled with my presence.”
[on a side note, it wasn’t until i began putting my thoughts down here that i realized how often this happens. not that it happens all the time, but it certainly must seem that way to someone reading this. (if you’re still here, thanks. i promise most people don’t think i’m crazy.)]
and this thought was met with a feeling of rest. of peace. of comfort. as if i had, for the first time in a very long time, reclined into an old, favorite chair.
this thought was followed by a familiar passage in scripture. one found in the book of John. it was about a stream of Living water being found in me, if i were to seek Him. and that this Living water would pour out from my life and into the lives of others. and It would fill them up, as It filled me up, and It would give them life.
here is the verse that had come to mind:
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (john 7: 37-39)
the unfolding conversation
and it was there, waiting on my water to boil, that i let this thought stir in my mind. finding rare solitude in His presence. allowing Him to indwell in my thoughts.
and as i lay there in my backyard, a question came to me. here’s how the conversation unfolded from there…
mental voice: what are you doing?
me: boiling water in my backyard.
mental voice: why?
me: well, i’m preparing for this weekend…
and i immediately felt myself pause. i had been caught completely off guard. caught by the fact that i had spent a significant amount of mental energy and time (neither of which are plentiful at this point in my life) in preparation for the coming weekend’s camping trip. and i was struck to the core by this thought because of the fact that i have spent so very little time as of late preparing for my life beyond this life. preparing for my trip to God’s Kindom, if you will. and that’s a trip i have even less experience with than camping.
time in His presence
i’ve been thinking quite a bit about my schedule lately. about how full my schedule is, to be specific.
were you to ask those who know me, they’d tell you i’m a pretty busy guy. and i hate that. i hate being known for having little time. i hate feeling like i have little time to do the things i want to do, to see the people i want to see, to spend time with those who i’ve neglected for so long. it’s tough telling family and friends that you just don’t have time to spend with them. and i don’t want to be that guy. i don’t want to look back on my life and regret where i spent my time (or where i didn’t spend it, for that matter).
and yet, one of my biggest struggles is that, as a believer in God, and a follower of His Son Jesus Christ, i devote very, very little of my time to being with Him. in prayer. in His Word. where i should be. and i hate that thought. i know such time is healthy. i know it’s what i need. and yet, i still make very little time for it. and that is exactly why i was convicted in my backyard, waiting for my water to boil. i’ve been spending very little time in preparation lately.
and, as my water began to boil, pouring steam from underneath the pan’s lid, i was excited to see the results of preparation. i was excited because i knew at that moment that, as i prepare for Him, by being with Him, that He will richly bless me with more and more of His presence. and He will bless me in a way that will allow His presence to pour out from me and bless others.
as i poured out my boiling water in the backyard and packed away my things for camping, i was content. content knowing that He was there, gently guiding me back into His presence. guiding me back to the place where i belong.