Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Simple Things

Many years ago, I shared with someone that if God came down from the Heavens & preached a fifteen minute sermon that I felt reasonably sure He would encourage us to simplify our lives. The person I shared this with took it personally, though I did not mean it that way, & I surely included myself among those needing to remove the clutter from our lives. She wanted to know how she could do that with all that was on her plate. She had a good point. Still, I am pretty certain most of us could purge some of the weight from our lives. We could choose to live a more simple lifestyle. We could enjoy hobbies without being consumed by them. We could venture outside, walk a trail, and appreciate all the things God has granted us for free. I  have to confess that is a big deal for Julie and I right now as my leg is in a cast and walking from one end of our modest home to the other, aided by crutches is about the extent of my journey. A walk in the woods right now would probably reduce me to tears of gratefulness.

We all reminisce about special times and moments in our life. I would wager that these treasured memories are for the most part about simple times in our lives.

Recently, I sat on the porch during a driving rainstorm, reading a fictional novel. One of my simple areas of enjoyment. We have a new family that has moved in across the street and I got the biggest kick out of their kids. They were riding their bicycles in the cul-de-sac. It was raining so hard that it was probably four to six inches deep at one time. They were having a blast. Their parents stood on the top deck watching and allowing their kids this freedom.  The rain passed & the kids began shouting, "It's a double rainbow."

The kids took me back to some of the good places of my childhood. Playing stick-ball in the street with Rick Phipps for hours at a time. Retrieving soft drink bottles for that whopping two cent deposit. Taking them to the store and on a good day maybe receiving over two dollars from the store owner. Spending some of that money on baseball card packs and hoping that Willie Mays was in one of my treasured packs. The basketball court at the Phipps home, courtesy of his wonderful dad, Richard. Many grown ups today will tell you that they never played the wonderful game of basketball in another place that they enjoyed as much as those games we participated in as kids. Mr. Phipps has kept that court up, long after his sons, Rick & Al were adults living in other cities. Why would he choose to keep that court in working order when there are no games to be played? Because it has proven a long time treasured memory for him as well.

We had two channels on television during this time. No video games. No cell phones. Fast food was a rare treat. I still recall Mom allowing me to have three hamburgers at Hardee's occasionally. They were fifteen cents each. How tragic a life we kids lived, right? It was anything but that. We did not feel deprived. We had a baseball field near the Phipps and Strickland's homes that was built for semi pro baseball games on Sunday. Yet, another treat in a simpler time. You know who enjoyed that field the most? The adults only used it on Sunday afternoon for a few hours. The rest of the week it was ours. We played whatever sport was in season all day long and we had no kids that I can recall in our neighborhood struggling with weight issues. Regardless of our high calorie and sugar intake we burned it all off. The only thing that got in our way was the occasional yard work mandated by our parents. Okay, that is not a treasured memory.

I don't mean to sound like an old guy living in the past. Like most of you I have way too much technology in my life these day. Worries that can consume me when I allow them too.

And just as when we were kids aren't our treasured adult times built around simple things? Two and a half years ago, Julie and I chose for a honeymoon site a small one bedroom cabin with a beautiful mountain view, on the outskirts of Stone Mountain State Park. It was inexpensive and very simple. There were no fancy restaurants nearby and I doubt we would have chosen to go if there were. There was a charcoal grill and a hot tub right outside the front door. We spent the days exploring the Park. The only requirement was to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we walked to the top. Walking back down we took the leisurely longer trail that included waterfalls. My favorite aspect of the mountains.

On our last night I planned a fancy dinner. My surprise to her. I prepared our food to take with us, along with a bottle of wine. There was a waterfall in the Park that was just off the road, requiring little but a simple walk to reach. We sat by the waterfall and enjoyed dinner, and each other. I don't mean this disparagingly to anyone. We all have different things we enjoy, but for this simple boy you can keep your five star restaurants and their presentations. Who in the world can eat presentations? That evening by the waterfall was our kind of dinner and we won't forget it. It will always be a treasure.

So if we, and please note I say, we, including myself in this life that we allow to become so confusing with our wants & expectations. If our treasured memories are around simple things why do we chase things in life that are anything but? Why are we not building more memories of cherished less complex times? It is not too late.

Watching those kids yesterday also reminded me of when my son, Micah was little. Micah always loved movies & often our simple enjoyment was movie night. Pizza, popcorn, and a movie or two in the comforts of whatever home we were living in at the time. Even going to the small video store to pick up the movies is a treasured memory. There was a wonderful man, Ben, who worked there & he had a voice so low, so powerful, that it brings James Earl Jones to mind. If I ran into him outside of the store in a crowded area it seemed he only had to whisper across people, "Hey, big guy. How are you doing?" I would smile and say, "Ben."

One day as I was picking out our movie, Micah was playing the pin ball machine at the front of the store. I had given him money on the way in as he asked if he could play it. Sometimes, it took awhile to find a movie as we were frequent customers & we watched movies as fast or faster as the new ones that were suitable for viewing arrived. I finally found a movie, paid Ben, & we left the store. On the drive home I said, "Micah, you played a long time on the money I gave you for the pin ball machine."

His response was, "I ran out of money & Ben walked around from behind the counter & put more money in the machine." Ben never said a word as he performed this task. A simple gesture for a small child that spoke to his gentle nature. It was my small child & Ben probably thought nothing of it but I have never forgotten that. It is a cherished simple memory that is stored away in my heart.

I will wager that as Micah ages he will hold dear to movie nights & other simple times that we shared together just as Rick & I still talk about stick-ball games that lasted for hours decades ago. I sure hope he does.

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Let's go build some simple treasures. Maybe I can find a way to do it even while hobbled by these dang crutches & a surgically repaired ankle. Have a great day.