Tents and Tribes


I don’t know if you are like me, but thoughts race before the eyes of my mind like cars on a fast-moving train. I glimpse an idea for a split second before another one zips by without invitation and disappears before I can blink. Most of those train cars are vaguely familiar to me because the ideas they represent have come around before . . . they keep coming around until I finally reach out and grasp one and pin it down for closer examination—much like an artist might grab a fallen leaf and pin it on a board in order to examine it closely enough to paint it.

My Tent

One of those ideas concerns my circle of influence—my audience—those for whom I write and those for whom I pray. I refer to them as “those in my tent.” The biblical understanding of “tent” is that of a covering or dwelling place—like a tabernacle (Strong’s #168). My tent includes friends from long ago as well as yesterday’s acquaintances—if you have crossed my path and had interaction with me on any level, you are in my tent. As you can imagine, I have had to “stretch my tent curtains wide” (Isaiah 54:2) over the decades of my life to accommodate the ever-growing number within. For some within my tent, the influence flows both ways—giving and receiving encouragement, sharing information, offering comfort, and experiencing opportunities to stretch and grow during hard times. 

My Tribe

Another idea I have had to grab hold of and pin down for closer examination is the idea of “tribe.” The word tribe suggests branches with offshoots (Strong’s 4294 OT, and 5443 NT) or family. As adults, we find ourselves standing between two aspects of family: the ones who came before us (family of origin) and the ones we have brought into the world (family of procreation). I find myself looking back and looking ahead and seeing both aspects with new eyes. 

My family of origin is continuing to decrease. All of my grandparents are gone. Both of my parents are gone. I have two sisters, five cousins, and a lost half-brother remaining in it.  

But my family of procreation is continuing to increase, and I feel blessed beyond measure for that. In spite of some failures on my part, my four children have grown into wonderful spouses and parents with some pretty spectacular kids of their own now (thirteen “grands” in all). And now the grands are adding to our numbers (fourteen “greats” so far).  

I speak aloud to the Lord every day—for myself, my tent, and my tribe—choosing life and blessing (Deut. 30:19); dressing us in the armor (Eph. 6:17); remembering His benefits (Psalm 103:1–5); and asking for the opening of our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to turn to Him (Acts 28:27). 

I have made it a life-goal that “what I do must reach further than the thing just done.” This is my way of living that out.