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Gratefulness in Simplicity

"After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. " Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, MSG 

I used to work as a wilderness guide for teenagers who struggled with addiction and substance abuse.  During their intake everything they owned would be taken away.  They were given new clothes and equipment and then sent out to me in the woods.  We would hike around 15-20 miles each day.  Since I carried the communication gear, my pack was the heaviest at around 130 pounds, but their packs were no joke.  Most of them weighed in around 90 pounds.  Some of our smallest teens weighed about us much as their packs.  In addition to the therapeutic services we offered, the intensity of the activities ensured that they didn't store any substances in their fat cells.  As a side effect they were big eaters, and talk around the campfire often moved towards a discussion about food.  

They were in this program for a little over three months.  During this time they had a limited selection for food.  Breakfast was always oats or grits.  Lunch was peanut butter and jelly or cheese a pepperoni on tortillas.  Dinner was either rice and beans or rice and lentils.  Spices were treasured, but given the options, they could only go so far.  They talked about the foods they missed like long lost lovers.  

I found this dynamic interesting, and since I ate what they ate, I related to their focus and desire for the foods they missed.  I enjoyed watching them take their first bite of food after returning from the woods.  The absolute bliss that was on their face was unforgettable.  We often don't know what we have until we don't have it anymore.  So, when they had that first burger, or slice of pizza, or whatever it was they missed, they really paid attention.  They really enjoyed it.  

Even today, when I talk some of these teens now that they have grown up...they are some of the most grateful people I know.  They learned something in those woods.  They learned to really see the simple pleasures.  They learned to pay attention.  They learned to enjoy what life has to offer.  

How often do you slow down and really think about the simple pleasures in this life?  Do you slow down and enjoy your food?  Do you stop to smell the flowers?  Do you watch the sunlight as it casts beautiful colors across the clouds?  The fact of the matter is that we all move too fast.  For many people, wilderness is most effective because it forces us to slow down and count our blessings. 

In Exodus the people of Israel were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  They ate nothing but a mushroom like substance that was found on the ground early in the morning.  Eventually they developed grateful hearts and entered the promised land.  What wilderness will you need to go through before you will slow down?

God, help us to pay attention.  Help us to enjoy what is right in front of us.  Help us to not have to wander in the wilderness for too long.  Amen.  


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