May I recommend to pastors and parishioners alike the activity of camping. It is such a joy. All you need to take with you is one T-shirt and a pair of shorts. (Of course, keep in mind your clothes will get grotty and smoky and possibly threadbare.) Go to a deserted place where you will be privileged to sleep on the ground, eat food rolled in ashes, get bitten by everything that bites, and all the while, loving every minute of it—with exceeding joy!
I went on such an adventure last weekend with a similarly minded group of masochists called Pathfinders! And you know we not only enjoyed the whole camping bit (the grease in our hair, the toast dropped in ashes, the huge angry sandflies and yes, in Northern Australia, even the threat of crocodiles), we also grew to enjoy each other and our God.
Our small group, the kids, the leaders, my pastor husband, and I spent precious time together. We ran on the sandy beach as the brilliant blue of the water lapped our feet. We spent time in the hot harsh bush, walking and singing and we spent time resting in the shade. We drew a large circle on the sand and had "Sumo Wrestling" matches and we laughed and wrestled, ducked, and laughed some more. We played hockey in the dark with sticks and a tennis ball and we cackled as the stick swung aimlessly and we chuckled when we lost the ball to the blackness. We tried not to laugh at the impromptu concert that followed, but of course, sick jokes or not, our hearts were basking in contentedness and yes, laughter!
We spent time laughing and we also spent time with God. And I'm sure God laughed with us. For Sabbath School, we formed a chuckle chain. Each person had to lie on his back. Every second person had to lie at a right angle with his head to the first person's stomach. The first person chuckled, then the second, and pretty soon, the entire line of kids was laughing so hard their heads were bobbing up and down as their stomachs heaved with laughter.
The leaders joined in laughter and our faces were alight with happiness and pride in our young people. And then I understood. It hit me as we dosed off our Sabbath School with the following words, "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." As I listened I could picture the scene. When my Savior walks into God's presence in Heaven He is going to have the same smile of pride that I had had on my face all weekend. He will have the same chuckle that is so contagious on a Pathfinder camp well up inside Him. He will have the same twinkle in His eye and the same jubilant laughter in His throat that we have shared all weekend. My God will hold my hand and, bursting with exceeding joy, will say, "Father, this is my best friend. She has followed me and she's the coolest!"
A God who feels "exceeding joy"
I could go camping with a God like that, couldn't you?