“Pack Lightly”

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, Luke 21:34 NLT

I recently embarked on a cross-country road trip with my daughter, son-in-law and three-year-old granddaughter to their next military destination. If you’ve never done this, warning: it is definitely not for the faint at heart (nor weak bladder).

The trip was planned as a six-day trek through seven states (actually eight, if you count the final state which took two days), driving at the rate of no less than eight hours each day. Now, you may be thinking, that’s far too many days — it shouldn’t have lasted that long. Between the potty trips and the varying speed limits within each state, I beg to differ. My daughter and son-in-law had carefully mapped out our journey through what were the safest areas given the circumstances of COVID-19 and the civil unrest throughout the United States (racial tensions are running mighty high right now) as a result of several incidences of human cruelty and injustice.

So we set out with two fully loaded vehicles (and that’s an understatement) plus two kitties. Determined to arrive at each planned destination to stay overnight only to pack back up and hit the road again in the morning. The packing and unpacking at each overnight stop was nothing shy of moving into an apartment. Remember, the toddler must have her favorite sleep toys and the kitties have litter boxes and food. Let’s not forget the dietary protocols for two of our travelers (they’re vegan) and enough food for the dinners we were to leisurely enjoy (hear the sarcasm?) in each hotel room and change of clothing for the next day. Oh, by the way, did I mention that we each traveled with some measure of electronic devices — each of which has its own unique charging paraphernalia? It’s a small miracle we managed to remember to pack the toothpaste!

I’m not one who travels on a regular basis. In other words, it’s usually a span of at least six months in between my long distance trips. So when we discussed the logistics of this adventure, I had not given full consideration of how to pack lightly and more efficiently. Of course, hindsight is wisdom, and all the should haves will be knocking me in the head in time for the next opportunity.

The discomfort in the car (bags beneath my feet, between my legs and on my lap) will no doubt remind me. But the most impressive memory will be my backpack — oh, how a trip to my massage therapist and chiropractor just sound so yummy right about now.

If you’re anything like me, you pack heavily into the largest wearable item — laptop (fully equipped with mouse and charging cord), journal (to capture those things for which you don’t have the option to bust out the laptop), tablet (of course to do your daily Bible devotions and free reading), emergency underwear (in case you can’t retrieve your suitcase), water flask (the one that fits just right into that side holder), eyeglasses and readers (because you know you’ll need them right at your fingertips), few accessible snacks (trail mix pouches, fruit snacks, energy and protein bars), spare contact lenses and solution, disposable toilet seat covers for those public restroom stops … oh my gosh! No wonder my back needs an adjustment! And of course, my TENS unit — for application and use each night at the hotel to address my weary back.

Remember, I mentioned earlier that this backpack was the largest among other wearable bags — the crossbody sling bag (doubled as my purse) and my lunch bag (containing the rest of the valuable snacks and vitamins) were all in tote and exited with me to each stop. My free hand held my granddaughter’s hand as she guided me into the various hotels. *smile*

Whew! Beneath my mutterings of, “I feel like a pack mule,” is the embarrassment of how crazy this all seemed (thank heaven we didn’t unload our suitcases in the hotels every night — just the clothes for the next day). Every time I experience this (as you can tell it’s happened before), I vow that the next time will be different. But there is little that changes that next time.

Here’s a different translation of our verse above:

“But be on your guard. Don’t let the start edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36 MSG

Now, why would the word shopping appear in this translation? Not being a Bible scholar it causes my mind to wander … it’s become a form of self-medicating as is the partying and excessive drinking … a distraction would you say? An innocent self-imposed vice that we choose to pick up and allow to dominate our reasoning … hmmm.

With so much stuff in my backpack, I lost track to where things were shifting. With every stop was the required pulling out of just what I needed for that night, replacing what was to be returned back into my suitcase (soiled) and stored in the trunk. It was a method and protocol established by my daughter (after all, it is her house) in an attempt to maintain organization and less clutter for a night’s stay at each hotel. Have you any idea what it’s like to not find your toothpaste for the first five days of a road trip? Thank heavens we’re all family and it’s not a big deal to share someone else’s tube.

But hear me on this note, Sister …

I quickly realized that I had packed so much stuff into my backpack, that it became such a physical (and mental) burden — and that was a realization that hit by the second day. The rest stops were few along each leg of the journey (between one and three) depending upon the length of each child-sized nap, so the ‘crammed sardine’ was my yoga pose for the trip.

Let’s look closer at this parallel to our lifestyles, shall we?

How much stuff do we attempt to take with us as we journey, this side of Paradise? Are we still toting the security of former habits, thinking that since we are now GOD Girls that they’re now okay, blessed and approved? Do those worldly philosophies and prescribed human doctrines that we promoted and rallied so heavily for during our B.C. (before Christ) lifetime still come alongside of us and add to our Christian beliefs? Are we so persuaded on being well accepted and approved by those in our community and workplace, that we will compromise our relationship with The Lord? Have we truly purged our lives of the toxicity that beckons us to look back longingly (consider Lot’s wife) — and that includes the people that contribute to it?

When the Israelites were suddenly set free from Egypt and led out of captivity by Moses, I have a feeling that they, too, tried to pack their caravans with their entire household and then some. Trekking through the desert until Ramses’ armies were hell bent on their heels to take revenge, when suddenly they are now running for their lives while crossing the dryness of the Red Sea. Part of me thinks that maybe all that stuff was instantly considered unnecessary and needed to be abandoned. What are your thoughts on this? Anyone with me here?

So let’s translate some of this to our current status. Could you possibly be carrying some unnecessary stuff in that traveling bag of yours as you journey with Jehovah- Jireh (GOD Provides)?

List the things in your bag that could be a burden to you at this moment: (This is what you write in column A.)

Column A: The Burden

  1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________________________________________

Column B: The Blessing

  1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________________________________________

Take a closer look at each one, Sister, and then ask yourself this question: What do I need from GOD to replace this? (This is what you write in column B.)

Each one of us travels through life gathering things along the road. My granddaughter is fascinated by nature and insists on admiring rocks of all kinds. She tugs on me to help her gather flowers (except for the ones with icky bugs on them). As adults I believe that we are captivated by nuances and activities that tend to overburden our lives and crowd out the breathing room that we were intended to have while trusting in the GOD who generously provides for our every need. We literally suffocate from the overwhelming extracurricular activity — and sometimes in the name of ‘Christianity’ (if I may step on a few toes) — justify our behavior.

Did not GOD provide manna in the desert when His Children were hungry? This very miracle from Heaven always leaves me breathless. They didn’t even have to worry about meals (and here I am counting the single trail mix pouches).

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will cause bread to rain from heaven for you; the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, so that I may test them [to determine] whether or not they will walk [obediently] in My instruction (law). Exodus 16:4 AMP

Girlfriend, let’s just park here for a moment. I don’t expect you nor I to completely unload the clutter within our bags all in one swoop — that’s where The Holy Spirit inspires us, in the manner we will hear and listen to His Voice. But if we are truly honest with ourselves (and that means we are speaking to our Father aloud), there are things that need to be removed and replaced. Our reasons for gathering and packing such unnecessary stuff are as infinite as we can count. All too often, I think that we dwell in a land of societal acceptance and live from one accolade to the next.

Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My instruction: do not fear disgrace by men, and do not be shattered by their taunts. Isaiah 51:7 HCSB

Our GOD calls us to a much higher calling — but we cannot experience that purposed blessing unless we unload the burden of the world’s temptations and the grip they have on us.

Is fear packed into your bag? Worry is her companion, and she keeps us stuck in the mindset that GOD may forget, neglect, not care (however you wish to perceive it) about your daily needs or the needs of your family and loved ones. Then ask your Heavenly Father to increase your faith. Be ready — He will show you what you must do to receive this, and it might require that you act on it by studying His Promises on a more regular basis.

Is bitterness taking up a part of your bag? Anger and unforgiveness are her cousins, and tend to cause her to dig her heels of defiance into the soil of your soul. Ask your Father to heal your hurts (from as far back as you can remember) and increase your love and compassion towards others. You may be given practical assignments to exercise your tiny ounce of godly strength, so be alert and ready to workout.

I’m in this with you, Sweet Sister of mine — I, too, wrestle with my own loaded bag. That’s how I know it’s a tremendous burden and a hindrance to experiencing victory and joy in this lifetime.

Is not your fear of God your confidence, And [is not] the integrity and uprightness of your ways your hope? Job 4:6 AMP

My bag is undeniably packed to bursting because of a lack of full trust. And I have come to understand its roots originate from my childhood days of intimidation and fear of speaking up. For decades I silenced my voice, thinking it was the humble and Christian thing to do. Taking humility to the wrong end of the spectrum, I suffered at my own demise. But I’ve come to (slowly) embrace what GOD has called good, and make the effort to speak (in love). For whatever warped reasons I clung to, I felt that my Heavenly Father had far more important matters to attend to (world peace, international terrorism, poverty and homelessness, etc.), and didn’t need to be burdened by my puny requests. Wrong.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right — the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. “So don’t worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34. AMP

At the end of the day, Girlfriend, you and I both know we are tired and need to rest these legs and backs. I have every intention of living life to the fullest and to the glory of GOD while I am on this side of Paradise. And it is my heartfelt goal to touch as many lives with the the love of Christ through the power of The Holy Spirit. But you and I also know that it’s not easy to move with swiftness if we’re carrying stuff that needn’t be part of our journey and are holding us back by weighing us down.

But the worries of this life, the false appeal of wealth, and the desire for more things break in and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. Mark 4:19 CEB

Are you willing to take up the challenge to lighten your load and repack your bag? What things do you consider to be essential necessities to your walk with the Lord? I encourage you to sincerely pray about this. Maybe your list and mine include things like honesty and transparency, authentic worship, compassion for the hurting ones in our path … the list can continue to grow as we invite the Lord to replace our burdens with His blessings. (Don’t worry — I’m sure there’s provisional room for mascara and lipgloss.)

I’d love to hear from you if this has begun a good work towards building you up in the faith and helping you to bloom and grow.

I love you to Heaven and Back, Girlfriend ~~

LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary

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