I have a small cabin in the woods in Dickson County, TN. It is not much, a two room shack with battery powered lights and running water borrowed by hoses (1000 feet of them) from my neighbors well. But it is a wonderful place to escape, to get away, to be quiet and let God speak.
A while ago I took my oldest grandson, Jon-Mical, out for the afternoon and to spend the night. We hiked through the woods, climbed trees, threw rocks in the river, and played match-box cars in the dirt. Then, as it was starting to get dark, we built a fire in the fire pit in front of the cabin and roasted hot dogs, then marshmallows. Jon-Mical, who was about 4 at the time, sat in my lap and watched his marshmallows catch fire on the end of the long stick I had whittled to a sharp point. He would let it burn to a crispy black, blow it out, and then pull the juicy middle out of the ashen mess. With sticky fingers he would shove most of it into his own mouth then, without even looking around, reach back over his shoulder and stick the rest of the gooey glob in mine.
We sat for quite a while, eating way more marshmallows than his mother would approve of and more than my old digestive system needed but relishing every minute. The sky was crimson from the setting sun, hidden now behind the huge sycamores across the field. The crickets were just beginning their nightly cacophony, waiting for the tree frogs and barn owls to join in. Jon-Mical was the perfect picture of innocence and oblivion, totally immersed in the campfire, the marshmallows and the moment. And I, I was a privileged spectator to it all. Watching with an almost ethereal detachment, present enough to take the next bite offered by my precious grandson, but separate enough to stand back and drink it all in. It was one of those moments that I somehow immediately knew would be imprinted in my mind forever; a sentimental, sacred second that would go into the all too small collection of indescribable memories and delights.
They are precious. And they are rare. But perhaps the rare is what makes them precious. One of my favorite quotes is from Leonard Sweet. He says, “Life is full of an awful lot of moments and a lot of awful moments.” It’s true. Scott Peck says, “Life is pain and the sooner we accept that the better off we will be.” Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but don’t lose heart.” It seems the painful memories often outnumber the precious ones and the sacred seconds are lost in the hard hours, and days, and years of life. The storms are far more prevalent and powerful than the gorgeous sunsets. The moans of the wounded are louder than the giggles of the children or the whispers of lovers. And yet all of that is what makes the precious moments precious.
So, as I finish this year I get to pick. I can dwell on the failures, the hurts, the disappointments and frustrations of the past 12 months or I can hold on to those pictures, those moments when life was good, everything felt right, and my heart was at peace. I can choose to acknowledge those sacred seconds as wonderful gifts from God, expressions of His grace in a fallen world. I can make those memories the focal point of my thinking and reflecting, embracing the joys instead of focusing on the sorrows. I encourage you to end the year that way. And I encourage you to anticipate more blessing than bad in the year to come. Do that and you will be amazed at how your outlook, your attitude, will be elevated for 2014. And by the way, if you don’t have enough of those precious moments in your memory bank let me give you some advice. Go out in the back yard. Build yourself a small fire. Now get a bag of marshmallows….