It was my birthday weekend in 1959. Since my birthday is July 2, I grew up thinking everybody had fireworks on their birthday. I was to become seven years old, and we had gone to Grandpa’s camp for the long weekend. When I say the word camp, I mean a house in the woods fully supplied with a bathroom, kitchen with running water, stove and refrigerator, bedrooms, a furnace, and a TV with rabbit ears.
The camp was on 11 acres of waterfront property along the Allegheny River in Western Pennsylvania, close to East Brady. “When is everybody coming, Mom?” Family, cousins, and friends were coming on Sunday for a birthday party and celebrating the 4th of July. I’m sure we’ll be playing badminton, boat riding, the big kids and grown-up will go water skiing. Dad and Grandpa had the horseshoe steaks in the ground. My Dad already set up a 4-foot plastic pool filling with cold water with the hose. The sun will warm up the water. The cool thing about the swimming pool is that he had set the sliding board to go straight into the pool. There were some fireworks that Grandpa got that we would be so much fun!
There would be all kinds of sumptuous summer food for grilling and potato salad, and everybody was bringing something. It would be an all-day event that would last into the evening after Grandpa’s friends put the fireworks off. I think my cousins would be sleeping over, but the friends would be leaving that night to drive about an hour back home. It was going to be a grand day!
Everyone worked all day on Saturday, and I helped make the potato salad and macaroni salad. My Dad cut the grass with the gravely tractor, and everybody had a job to do to make sure that everything was ready for people to come for the party. I can’t wait.
I got up early on Sunday morning, as Grandpa made pancakes and sausage, his signature dish at camp. The sun was already shining, and the dew was on the grass as we looked out into the yard. The river looked like a mirror, with no movement at all. The boat was covered with the canvas cover and sitting attached to the dock. Just in a few hours, our friends and family would descend upon us, and there would be lots of activity, food, and excitement.
Everybody started to arrive at about 11:00 am. There were squeals of excitement from the kids, and dogs sniffed one another and played; the grown-ups started talking the minute the car doors opened. Mom and Grandma were putting food into the refrigerators, and the charcoal bags were sitting by the brick grill that Grandpa had built. The pop cases were stacked on the back porch of the camp, as were some adult beverages. The fun was starting. Activities began. The energy of friends and family being together on a hot summer day was palpable. Everybody scattered; some went out in the boat, some were swimming in the river, the smaller kids played in the yard, while others went for a hike in the woods. After a while, Grandpa started the grill, and Grandma started to bring the food out to the picnic tables, and everybody assembled in the big yard to eat.
I found myself in a very odd place in my head, all of a sudden. There was way too much going on at one time, so I decided to go inside, make two scrambled eggs and climb on the top bunk bed to be by myself. I ate my eggs (with a side of ketchup), got under the quilts, and soon fell asleep. I don’t know how long I was there, but there was a big commotion going on when I finally woke up! Grandma was crying, Mom was on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and the happy mood of the day had turned to one of extreme panic. ‘What’s going on” I said, munching on a chip as I came out of the camp. Everybody came running when they saw me. They were all looking for ME like I was lost or something! I assured everybody that I was okay and couldn’t understand why Grandma said something about dragging the river. Didn’t they know that I was okay?
I’ve always remembered that day and am still mindful of telling others where I’m going after Mom explained that everybody was just worried about me.
As the years have gone by, we laughed about that day at camp when I just retreated with the scrambled eggs during my birthday party. However, I can also relate to the Bible stories where Jesus arose early and went off by himself to pray. It seems as though whenever He was with people, He would then go off by himself. He was getting His direction from His Father and filling himself with strength, compassion, peace, and love. Jesus would need to be filled with all of these characteristics to be effective in His ministry. We need to be filled with these traits if we’re effective in our relationships with others, too. After all, isn’t ministry an extension of our relationships with others?
I think it’s essential and healthy for us to ‘go off by ourselves’ often. We live in busy times. The television is talking to us, Alexa is answering questions, our phones are beeping at us that someone sent us a note, the computer dings when an email comes in, another noise blasts with reminders on our calendars. The pharmacy calls telling us that a refill is ready. The town calls us to say that garbage pickup with be on Thursday due to a snow storm. The timer on the microwave dings when supper is ready in the oven. How can we possibly keep things straight in our minds whenever there is so much stimulation vying for our attention?
If we took five, ten, or twenty minutes during the day to willingly come before God, quiet ourselves, give Him our worries and concerns, and listen to how He is directing each one of us, our days would go much smoother. He doesn’t want us to live in chaos; He says, ‘my peace I give to you.’
God tells us in Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Look at some of the other translations of that verse:
“Stop striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth.” NASB
“Be quiet and know that I am God. I will be honored among the nations. I will be honored in the earth.” NLB
“Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” MSG
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!” ” CEB
Look at the directions in those sentences – ‘stop’, ‘be still’, ‘enough’, ‘stop striving’. Do you think God is trying to tell us something? I believe that He’s saying to us that war, chaos, trouble, and storms are inevitable in our lives, but so is God and His faithfulness to us and His final victory. The footnote in the NLT for that verse says, “At that time, we will stand silent before Almighty God. How proper, then, for us to stand silent now in reverent quiet to honor him and his power and majesty. Take time each day to be silent and exalt God.”
Psalm 23 instructs us:
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
God tells us in this familiar verse that He is our Shepherd. Typically, sheep are not smart animals; they run, get caught in briars, get lost. They are entirely dependent upon their Shepherd for provision, protection, and direction. Our Shepherd describes that the green pastures of the meadow grass and quiet streams running through them will restore us. Instead of fighting the Shepherd’s orders by insisting on running things ourselves, let us take his instruction to slip away with Him regularly to bask in the presence of the One who created us.
Could it be that God is calling you to ‘Turn off the phone, Joan’, Step away from the stress, Bess’, ‘Ease up on the news, Lou’, ‘Turn off the jam, Pam’, and let yourself rest! A refreshing fifteen or twenty minutes beside the still waters will do wonderful things for your soul and refresh your mind for the rest of the day.
Yesterday, as it was snowing, I received two video calls from our eight-year-old Granddaughter, Ava. On the first call, she was on lunch break from virtual school and had picked up her crocheting project she was working on and forgot how to start a new row. As I could see what she was doing, I instructed her how to chain one and go back through the row the other way. She also wanted to know how long to cook a hot dog in the microwave (others were in different parts of her house), but she chose me to walk her through that somewhat simple step to become nourished to go on through the rest of the day. After that, she just wanted to talk with me. That filled my heart with love that she chose me to call for instructions on a project, get some nourishment, and be with me.
I remembered by this simple call that God also loves when we, as His children, choose to be with him and ask for instructions and to spend time with him.
Let’s try to spend some quiet time alone with Him today – we both will be blessed. How did that make you feel?
Be Blessed to be a blessing to others,