Feast Blog 2009
As we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles let’s remember the lessons of previous festival seasons, and prepare for our best Feast yet.
Sometimes keeping the spirit of joy during the feast can be a hard thing. As a young person with few responsibilities, the only real damper on the feast was perhaps a head cold, stomach upset, or loss (theft?) of the gifts I’d taken such care in buying. However, as an adult, wife, and mother of 4 sons, there were a few feasts that I struggled through feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under appreciated. And I wasn’t even having to do it all while tenting.
Along with the excitement sometimes the Feast was just plain hard work with little thanks. Can’t you just picture our ancestors as they prepared to leave Egypt and packed for that big “feast” experience in the wilderness. It all had to fit on the donkey cart and a lot of things just would not fit. Decisions had to be made; there was packing and repacking to make the best use of space. You can imagine that in the week after the initial excitement had waned, perhaps there were some grumblings along the line of, “I don’t see why on earth you packed this pot and forgot my shears,” or perhaps, “Mommy, that was my favourite toy, how could you forget it?”
Though being a slave wasn’t easy, now they were leaving their real, permanent, mud-brick homes with all the conveniences and the stability that everyday life brought, and they were heading out for a great camping adventure. When I have camped, what I loved most was the quiet and calm of the woods, the beauty of the beach, and serenity of the mountains. It was also cheaper and more restful than the alternative, a cheap hotel next to the truck stop on the skuzzy end of town, where your sleep was to the hum of the air conditioner in order to block the incessant noise of the traffic. However, my experience with camping is mixed. And though I’ve idealized the joys and camaraderie one might enjoy while camping at the Feast I’ve never done it. I think the reality might leave little time for anything but church services, food prep, and cleanup, if there wasn’t a concerted effort by everyone in the household to share the workload. Now camping with thousands of others in the desert, how would that be? Well, we know it wasn’t long before Moses was taxed beyond measure with non-stop lines of people coming to him to solve their “camping issues”.
Tenting in the wilderness, for the Israelites, was not for the sake of comfort, but for the lack of a permanent home, and the ease of mobility. And there were no doubt many things to make them uncomfortable in the wilderness: no indoor plumbing, no easy access to water, no efficient garbage or sewage disposal. Manna gathering probably required several hours of labour daily. Then if you were sick, you were quarantined outside the camp. This was not an easy ride. But I suppose that is part of the spiritual message. Human life is to get us to our destination, not to establish permanent life in the flesh.
God wants us to rejoice not because he removes all of our challenges, he wants us to rejoice in the journey because we have our destination in mind. We will enjoy the scenery and our fellow travelers, but realistically we must expect a lot of hard work, minor irritations, and sometimes, major roadblocks and detours.
One of my favourite Feasts was also the most rustic in terms of accommodations. Jeff and I were in that idyllic island paradise of Guadeloupe, testing ourselves once again on our ability to converse in French, that wonderful romance language or is it language of romance. We were certainly in a romantic setting at the VVF Les Raisins Clairs with palm-lined white sandy beaches, dazzling azure water, and sunshine that was unstoppable. The brethren were incredibly warm and hospitable, inviting us into their homes, touring us around the island, sharing their stories and their laughter.
We stayed in the vacation village with everyone else and had to adapt to conditions reminiscent of camping in the muggy heat of our most sultry summers. Our tiny whitewashed cabin had an air conditioner that sounded like a rocket during lift-off, so it was useless; I could bear the heat, but not the noise. Of course opening a window was taking your life into your hands as there were no screens and the mosquitos had apparently been without a fresh blood supply for some time.
We had enjoyed the beach after services, barefoot of course, until the locals told us of the problem that comes with allowing dogs on the beaches – chiggers. Jeff was quick to learn of these little things as the tiny black specks embedded in his feet and began to shred his skin. We finally held them at bay with liberal daily ministrations of rubbing alcohol and surgical removal with the needle from the emergency sewing kit.
We had evicted the mice from the fridge upon our arrival, but were not convinced of the reliability of this or other appliances, so often the evening meal was a catch as you can affair. Several evenings found us stumbling in the dark along the road to town as power outages at that time of day were a common occurrence. But sometimes the challenges bring unexpected adventures and I had always been game for a magical mystery tour. One evening we discovered a home where a few tables had been set with candlelight for customers. We spent an enchanted evening there absorbing a taste of Creole culture with our hosts, along with a delicious meal of curried goat. We need to have our hearts open to those special memories, and be able to laugh about the discomforts.
I’m still learning that life is not always comfortable, others are not always wonderful, we may feel burdened, but if we can see it as the adventure that God has planned for us, maybe we can be more gracious to others and more appreciative of the moment. This attitude will make the journey more pleasant for everyone.
Thinking of you, Carolanne, Jeff and crew
God’s truth stands firm like a great rock, and nothing can shake it. Paul
PS. Join us for the Feast of Tabernacles in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
For further information on this year’s Feast of Tabernacles go to cogwebcast.com or Follow on Twitter @COGWebcast