Recently, I went on a retreat with my daughter’s
church. The theme of the retreat was
“Breathe.” The idea was that what we
take in—inhaling God’s forgiveness and grace--will provide the strength we need. We are then to exhale—serving Him and others.
speaker, Desiree Wiles, first spent time on discussing the absolute necessity
of having the Bible as a foundation. She
called the Bible our Compass, our Map, our Light, our Mirror. She undergirded all of her references with
sat there listening, I realized how devalued the Bible is today.
joked (only half-heartedly, really) that today’s modern Bible would be a
brochure. My daughter piped in and said
it would say, “Jesus loves you” and “Don’t judge others.” One page would say, “God loves you and has a
wonderful plan for your life.” The
final page would say, “God wants you to be happy.” So true.
easy with no demands…that’s how moderns want the Bible to be. If they even want it at all. Desiree emphasized the Bible’s role in
showing us who we are and where we need to be.
It equally informs us of God’s power available to us, enabling us to
live life in the power of Christ.
after the morning session, and Desiree’s message of how precious and necessary
the Bible truly is, I decided to go for a hike.
The retreat center was in the mountains of Idaho, about two hours from
in the mountains. I live about one half
hour up in the mountains above Boise. I
walk the gravel roads all the time. I
love to go out for an hour or so on what I call my “prayer walks.”
and talk to the Lord about everything, out loud and free as a bird. Occasionally, I have an audience. I have looked up and on a hillside, stood a
deer, staring at me with ears cocked. I
have quickly passed a skunk, waved to a porcupine, and sang loudly at some cows
who decided their grazing was more important than moving out of the way so I
praying in the mountains and I am so blessed that I am able to do so.
taking a walk up a mountain trail seemed natural for me. I had a map that came with the registration
package. I even asked the manager
earlier that morning how long the trail was.
He said it was probably about three-quarters of a mile, but because he
always traveled it by ATV, he wasn’t really sure. No problem.
I walk that and even more all the time.
I was excited and away I went.
join me on my walk.
I feel prepared. A little ways up, I realize I should have
some water. Nah…I’ll be fine. I will probably be only a half hour or
so. The trail’s name is the “Boundary
Trail,” which, according to the map, goes in a horseshoe shape up into the
mountains, and will bring me back to the retreat center.
away I go. It is early afternoon, about
1:30 as I set out.
recognize the ropes course area, for I had come to this center seven years ago
with another group. I pass the wall
climbing area. I take in the beauty of
the fall leaves and the quiet. I notice
that the poison oak has turned bright red (“If leaves are three, let it be”)
and the quaking aspens and birches are a lovely golden yellow. The mulleins still have a few flowers on
them. A lot of shattered white granite
litters the trail, and flecks of mica shine like glass nestled in the
trail turns up. I notice a fence is down,
and its wires are across the trail. I think nothing of it. I step over it and go up.
ascend the trail, I hear one of my favorite sounds: high winds though pine trees. I hear the
creaking of branches. Needles float down
on the breeze, adding to the ones that have already fallen. Scattered pinecones speak of trees yet unborn
and a few small pine trees are making that promise visible.
going higher, following the trail. I come
to a flat area and I assume this is the top where the trail will curve around, taking
me back down. No. I walk on the flats for a while and then I
come to a logging road.
logging road, rather recently created, has obliterated the trail. I think about walking the road for a while,
but I don’t feel at ease doing that—logging roads take you up, deeper into a
forest. I am seeking to go down.
the rest of the trail on the other side of the road. Easy-peasy.
tracks are everywhere. Obviously, this
is where the manager goes in his ATV. I
must be doing this right.
leads me up. I am praying the whole
time—intercession, adoration, praise.
But I have this little niggling feeling I am lost, but I ignore it and
some huge boulders coming up. Beautiful,
rounded and old, I think about how the ribs of this mountain are showing. I compose a poem in my head about the ribs of
the mountain, how it lives and tells its history in its rocks. The trail is well worn. I picture people coming up here, sitting on
the rocks and praising the Lord.
to head down…finally!
is steep, so I grab a branch and turn it into a walking stick. The wind blows through the trees, and the
boulders fade into the distance. I come
to another logging road, but I find the other half of the trail easily. I am on my way down. So I think.
trail seems to follow a rivulet, long since dried out. I wonder, is this really the trail? It’s headed in the right direction, so I keep
going. The quaking aspens are
everywhere, and their yellow leaves litter the trail. I love that shade of yellow. I think how soon all of the leaves will be on
the ground, and how they provide a covering on the seedlings that have to
endure the snow before spring.
the trail (if this really is one) stops at a meadow. The dried grass goes back into the quaking
aspens, and behind them are more pines.
I am—dare I say it—lost. But, I
have the Spirit with me, and so I pray what to do. I decide to go back the way I came. A solid hour has gone by and I sense that
whatever trail was here has been marred by the making of logging roads. I make my way back up, using my stick to
no water. It is hot. The way is steep and I am in a higher
elevation. So despite my opinion that I
am fit for such walks, I am breathing hard and my heart is loudly thumping in
my chest. OK, Lord, where do we go? I see the boulders up ahead and makes my way
back to them.
minutes later, I am sitting on a boulder, breathing even harder, and feeling my
heart pounding in both my chest and in my head.
The Lord counsels me to sit down.
Desiree’s words about deep breathing come into my head, and in order to
calm my respiration rate down, I do some deep inhaling and exhaling. It helps but only a little bit.
boulders seem further away, but only because I am getting tired. I ask the Lord for strength to continue. We go up and finally I hit the level area
where the rocks reside. I want to lie
down, but I figure I am on my way back, so I press on.
what appears to be the trail and it leads down.
I decide to take it, because even though it’s not the part I came up on,
it goes down quickly, and that’s how I would like to go! The trail leads down to another logging
road. OK, I use the road this time. I drag my stick as I walk, leaving a drawn
line as I go. I figure if anyone looks
for me, they will see this line and follow it.
I hear an ATV in the distance and wonder if the manager is looking for
No. Wishful thinking.
continue on and decide as I approach yet another bend in the road, leading to
who knows where, I need to go back. I am
adequately keeping the fear down, and I keep praying for guidance from the
Lord. I come back to the trail that
leads back up to the boulders, and up I go.
thinking that I cannot take too many more climbs upwards. I am growing tired, thirsty and hot. The trees continue their song. Earlier I thought of a worship song about
trees singing praises to the Lord, and now I hope the Spirit using them to urge
me on. I think about how Jesus compared
the Spirit to wind, and pray I am hearing Him and not me.
is lower in the sky, but it is still hot.
I am once again on the flats, and I come to a place I remember where
there are three possibilities to go. One
path has grass on it—implying it’s not used very often. I remember having noticed that before, but am
I sure I didn’t use it before? I decide
to try it, feeling a peace that it is where I need to go. I huck my walking stick away into the
grasses, grateful that I no longer need it.
come across houses. Houses?
I am as
surprised at them as I was with the logging roads. They were none too inviting—a rope stretched
across the trail with a “No Trespassing” sign didn’t feel like a handshake and
a “Come on, you can use our phone” kind of place. The cabins were nice, but I am from
California and my deep fear of strangers come to the fore. I battle with the “Why would God lead me into
danger” versus “I need to be responsible and not put myself in danger” and
decide to be cautious.
go back to that junction and take the other path.
OK, Lord, got it.
I walk back. I see the path that took me to the boulders
and the meadow. I look behind me and see the trail I just came
from. There is only one choice and away
for my shoes’ distinctive footprint, and I don’t see it. Suddenly those aspen leaves and needles seem
a little hostile to reading a trail. The
trail looks vaguely familiar, with the trees close by with bright green moss
growing on their old decrepit branches.
I remember seeing the blue spray paint on some of the trees—marked for
felling I suppose.
going down. I see more fallen fences and
a shotgun shell. I see a sign naming a
trail deep within a gathering of trees.
It is another trail. I am
desperately trying to remember if this is the trail I went up earlier. Much earlier.
come across the first logging road that I encountered. Whew. Thank you, Lord.
I am on
the right path. Until I come to some
look nothing like the retreat center. They
are summer cabins. No one is around and
although they are beautiful residences, I feel rather lonely.
OK, Lord, what next?
He causes me to look at one cabin that
looks well-tended. I will knock on the
door and ask to use their phone. My fear
lessens as I believe Jesus is guiding me to this house.
up and knock on the screen door. No
answer. I open the screen, think I hear
a voice, and then knock on the door. No answer. Why did
You bring me here, Lord? I am
feeling rather confused and just a tad angry.
Then I look down and spy a water hose.
A water hose!
follow the hose and it goes down a hill, over to a shed, about fifty feet
away. I tug on it and lament I will have
to drag it up the hill to use it.
Spirit to Rhonda: Unscrew the house and drink from the
water is cool and refreshing, but it tastes funny. Uh-oh.
Satan, who hasn’t really had a chance to weigh in, drops the “Oh, you’re
gonna get sick from drinking bad water” into my head. I wrestle with “Why would the Holy Spirit
take me here to drink bad water?” and Satan retorts with “Better than no water
at all. Just wait till you get sick, and
have to look for a bathroom!”
to silence this, for my fear is impeding me from hearing from the Lord. I walk up a paved street and look at the
names: Meadow View Drive and Ridge
Drive. Ridge Drive seems more
promising. I figure it will connect with
the main road that will take me back to the retreat center. I am thankful to be out of the forest but I
keep asking, where am I?
I look up and see a street sign with a name
that I vaguely remember connects with the main road that goes to the retreat
center. I walk up and no, it is not that
Lord is urging me to keep walking. I had
to grab another walking stick earlier and now I pitch my stick into some
brushes and walk down this paved road. A
sign in the other direction says, “Dead End,” so the choice was easy.
I now see a lake. A lake?
What? Where did that come
no lake near the center; again, I ask, where am I? The Lord’s response? Keep
walking. But Lord…Keep walking.
The houses I pass are clearly empty, and I
grow sadder with every step. Then I see
a lovely house that faces the unknown lake.
A white pick-up sits in the drive way, and the garage door is open, with
another car parked in it.
Go knock on the door.
are you kidding? I am such an
idiot! I don’t want to embarrass
You can knock on that door or you can keep
walking for who knows how long. Your
and look around. It does seem to be the
only house with anyone in it. Two hours
have almost gone by. Is my daughter sick
with worry? Are people wondering where I
am? Why am I so stupid? Where am I?
aside, I walk down the driveway, hoping that a guard dog doesn’t come bounding
up to either play with me or kill me.
Whew. The front door is
open. I knock on the screen and a wee
dog comes yipping up. An elderly man
comes to the door. I apologize to the
man, and ask him where Trinity Pines is.
looks flummoxed. (Where have I walked? Montana?
Utah?) As he is trying to figure
out where that is, a sweet lady comes around the corner and says, “Oh, I know
where that is. You come back, dear (to
him). I will take her.”
so blessed. I introduce myself, and tell
her about my adventure. As we climb into
the white pickup, we are chattering like old friends. She tells me of their needing to move because
they are getting too old to take care of the place; her husband’s diabetes;
their summer place in Parker, Arizona, where General Patton’s tank school is
located and how every year, they go down to watch the tanks. Some are even driven by vets who trained at
that school and fought in World War II.
her of my husband’s stroke, and how our lives changed within a few moments,
with both of us taking retirement. She
is sympathetic and so kind, and all I could think was, oh, how good sitting
drive a good twenty-five minutes. I
notice that the road we turn on is the retreat center’s road, but we still
drive quite a while. I picture myself
having tried to walk this. Would I have
gone the right way when I finally come to this road? If I had let my pride lead and not the Lord,
how many more hours in the hot late afternoon sun would I have walked?
I see a
sheriff’s car and wonder if he’s looking for me.
Finally, I see the center. I am
exhausted but keep chatting to my new friend.
I direct here to the parking lot and tell her several times what a
blessing she is. As I get out of the
truck, she lovingly says, “Next time, dear, take a sandwich and some water.”
back to the cottage where my daughter is still napping. The ladies are all out and about. No one knew of my adventure or noticed how
long I was gone.
knew, and I realized a deep truth:
Sometimes you hear the message and sometimes you live the message.
Next time: What did I learn from this?