I take turns with other clergy in town writing a column for the local paper. This was to appear yesterday. I didn't get around to buying a paper to see it in print. Sometimes if they don't have space it has to wait a week so I don't know if it was in there or not.
I usually approach my turn in the rotation to write this column with the intention of sharing something deeply spiritual or a word that might stir someone’s faith or at least get them thinking about God. As I sit to write this column, I’ve just come home a couple of days ago from two weeks vacation. It’s the middle of summer, generally a slow time in the life of most churches. There just aren’t many deep thoughts rattling around in my head at this time. Some people who know me better might think there’s never much going on up there and maybe they’re right. But this column is called "I’ve been thinking" and someone once told me just to write about what I have been thinking.
As I said, I’ve just come home from a couple of weeks vacation with my family. We drove about three hours into the finger lakes region of New York to a campground we found a few years ago, set up on our campsite and just relaxed. When the two weeks were up none of us were eager to come home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home, I love Port Colborne, I love First Evangelical Lutheran Church and the people there, but man oh man I really liked the life we were living at that campground.
On our trip there was no schedule we had to keep, no office hours, no lawn to mow, no phone to answer. For two whole weeks I didn’t check emails, I didn’t even look at a computer. We made a few day trips in the area but most of our days were spent sitting by the pool, taking a dip when it got a little hot, reading books or working on crossword puzzles. Evenings were spent sitting around a fire singing songs, playing 20 questions, making s’mores, roasting hot dogs. On our first night home our 8 year old son said he misses sleeping in the trailer with everyone in the family so close to each other.
Life was really simple for those two weeks. We were practically cut off from news sources by our own choosing. I bought one newspaper in two weeks, didn’t listen to the radio or watch a TV. I hadn’t heard of the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Lebanon although I’d been praying for the violence to end. I hadn’t heard about the foiled attempt to smuggle liquid explosives onto airplanes.
Now I’m not saying that news coverage is a bad thing, especially since you’re reading this in a newspaper. But I didn’t suffer a whole lot (at all?) by not watching the news at 10 or 11 o’clock every evening. It didn’t matter that I missed the latest episode of whatever reality shows are on TV. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t keeping up with some of my favourite websites or blogs. In fact, in a lot of ways I preferred that kind of lifestyle.
Now don’t get the mistaken impression that we were roughing it. We had many modern conveniences. We were plugged in to electricity and hooked up to clean water. We were a short stroll away from the flush toilets and hot showers when we needed them. Nevertheless we were living a simpler life. I wonder how much of that simplicity I’m willing to carry over into the other 50 weeks of the year. I know of people who don’t have a TV. I’m not willing to go without that. I know people who do without a car, opting for bicycles and public transportation instead. We’ve got two cars and I don’t see us giving them up anytime soon.
I’ve got a lot of stuff, and I like my stuff. I know I’ve got it better than most people in this world. I realize that and I’m thankful, grateful, and sometimes I even feel guilty about it. So am I going to stop watching TV and give up my computer and internet connection? No. Am I going to watch less TV, spend more time reading, talk to my wife more, play with my kids more? Maybe. My intentions are good. We’ll see if I can follow through.