When we camp we eat more convenience food than any other time of the year. When you are trying to pack a week’s worth into one cooler and two 2 x 1 x 1 ½ foot plastic containers, and when there is no place to put leftovers, a packaged pasta or rice mix and a small can of vegetables is the perfect-sized accompaniment for whatever meat Keith is grilling that night. Let’s face it, an inch thick rib chop, seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked over a wood fire is the star of the show anyway.
As for dessert, store-bought cookies are a staple. However, my family is spoiled by homemade cookies so just any old Chips Ahoy won’t do, not even Oreos. So we splurge a bit on the cookies.
A box of Walker’s Pure Butter Shortbread Bars, imported from Scotland, are a favorite. Melt-in-your-mouth-rich with the flavor and mouth-feel of real butter, and barely sweetened, they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of instant hot chocolate—another camping necessity.
Another standby is any Pepperidge Farm cookie, depending upon what’s available when I hit the stores the week before a campout. Walker’s Shortbread makes them look like a bargain, so I buy two kinds rather than just one. If you have ever had any, you know they come in fluted paper cups, like big, white, muffin pan liners, either nestled in a variety box or stacked in a tall foil-lined paper bag.
To minimize the amount of trash we need to stow away from the coons, possums, and bears, we usually toss anything that will burn into the campfire as we finish its contents. On our last trip we tossed the cup from the first layer of Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola Cookies into the fire. Somehow in the draft of the fire it landed right side up in the middle of a scrap board Keith had just thrown in as well. Both sat right in front of an oak log that had coaled up on the bottom, but not yet begun to burn.
Temperatures were in the forties that night, so we had a good hot fire going with backlogs to reflect the heat our way and glowing embers several inches deep. Ordinarily a thin piece of paper in a fire like that won’t last five seconds, including burn time. Because of how it landed, that little cup sat there five full minutes. Once, a gust of wind tried to blow it into the fire, but the fire’s updraft on either side of it pushed it right back to the middle of the board. Only a small dark singe mark on its pleated edge showed how close a call it had been.
Finally, though, the board itself began to burn from either end and the flames crept inexorably toward the paper cup. Suddenly, in one rapid whoosh, the cup caught fire and was gone in less than a second, its final glowing ash floating into the air before finally winking out in the cold black above.
Too many times we are like that little fluted paper liner. We get ourselves into a place we have no business being, into circumstances that should have ended badly. Yet because God is good, we are saved from the world of hurt we deserved. Then, instead of appreciating the second chance and removing ourselves from that dangerous place, we stay there and gloat. “See? Nothing happened. I’m just fine. I told you I could handle it.”
We sit there smug and confident, certain that everyone who cautioned us was wrong, while disaster sneaks up closer and closer. In fact, we reach a point where the danger around us seems normal. We no longer even notice. We may have a close call or two, but for so many it just adds to the feeling of superiority instead of waking us up.
And so suddenly, one day, we are gone in a flash—without warning it seems. But no, we had just become blind to the warnings all around us, fooling ourselves into believing we were safe, while everyone else saw the fire creeping in from all sides.
Pay attention to where you are today. Take a mental step back and see the whole picture, not just the safe little ledge you think you have built. Listen to those around you who can often see much more clearly than you can in the midst of all that smoke and glare. They wouldn’t say anything and endure your scorn if they didn’t care.
But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, Jude 20-23.