You can always tell a beginner camper or hiker. One thing always gives them away. Beginner nature lovers always carry too much stuff. They want to be sure they’re prepared for every emergency that has ever happened to any camper, so they over pack. They carry five pairs of socks when 2 pairs will do. They carry a lighter, matches and a fire-starting flint. They carry three blankets, their favorite pillow and enough water to hydrate the Hebrew children as they crossed the wilderness.

Rookie campers are worse, especially if they have an RV. Inside of the RV, the newly committed naturalists will have all of the comforts of home – satellite TV, microwave ovens, air conditioning and refrigerators – and more. Actually, they will have so much stuff they will forget they’re even outdoors. All of these supplies defeat the purpose of being outside to begin with.

Hikers and campers, however, are fast learners. It doesn’t take long for things to have justify their weight and trouble, or they don’t get carried on the trip. Before long, every beginner is a seasoned pro. Everything in their bag has a purpose and most things have more than one use. On every trip, our seasoned pros learn to need less and less.

Next time you’re hiking, pay attention. The most experienced hikers will have some of the smallest backpacks.

Like most of you, I’ve been self-quarantined at home. I’ve been working online and holding more video meetings than the law should allow. People have rediscovered email – and that’s not a good thing – so, I’m answering emails from that start with, “Hey, Mike, I was just thinking…,” or, “Mike, I have a question”. The answer to their question would require me to reference fifteen different theologians and break down three Greek verbs.

Go to seminary and take Systematic Theology is what I really want to tell them, but I don’t…

We’ve all had those moments in our lives when we would pay serious money to have a time when we didn’t have to do anything, and we could just sit down and figure our lives out. Well, thanks to the pandemic, we’ve had the time we wanted.

And then some…

But we have had time to think about our lives. What have we learned? More than we wanted to know.

For instance, all of us have discovered how much of our time is spent on things that aren’t necessary.

We’re over committed, over planned, over thought and over promised in our lives to the point that many of us don’t live our lives at all. We just keep appointments.

Now, like rookie campers, we’re finding out we’re carrying too much stuff. We don’t need most of it. No, really, don’t need most of it as in, we only need a little bit of it.

When the NCAA cancelled March Madness, I was devastated. I love the annual college basketball championship tournament. I watch every game and argue every ref’s call. Now, I had three weeks of nothing to do. Baseball season has been postponed. Golf tournaments have been cancelled.

What am I going to do with all of this time?

Well, I’ve read a lot of great books from cover to cover – without interruption. I’ve had quiet, intimate dinners with my wife. In fact, we’ve had quiet intimate breakfasts and lunches.

I’ve learned I spend way too much time watching sports – and shows about the sports I just watched. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to using my time like that.

Do I need 500 cable stations on my television? Probably not.

Do I need all of the meetings on my calendar? Obviously not, the church is doing fine without them.

In fact, the church is doing very well without a lot of things. We’ve found out we can even survive as a church without Sunday morning services. We can do a lot online. We can do almost everything online.

Sure, there are some things that are done better in person, but those moments aren’t as numerous as we once thought. Groups are meeting online. Bible studies are happening on social platforms.

We’re learning that a lot of what we’ve been doing has been unnecessary – both in our lives and our churches.

Sadly, most of us live like rookie hikers.

I hope and pray we learn from all of this. I hope we learn from our rookie mistakes. A lot of what we were doing before the crisis we don’t know need to do on this side.

Like a learning camper, we need to take a good look at the stuff we’re carrying, figure out the few things that matter and leave everything else behind.