“A Time of Rest”
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In green pasture he gives me rest,
Beside peaceful waters he leads me,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for His Name's Sake.”
After my conversion experience while hitching a ride through Helena, Montana, the days that followed were like a whirlwind of teaching from above. It seemed to be happening at such a fast pace that I asked the Lord if it were alright if I headed back down to Carbondale, Illinois where I planned to take some time to myself out in the woods, where I could rest and meditate on what was happening in my life. I learned to sense God's resistance if he wanted me to be somewhere else but I felt none.
They had just built Cedar Lake down there by damming a few spots in an area of cliffs and valleys. Rocky cliff's we use to scale were now under water. It was a whole new place to explore.
The place I chose to camp was on the eastern shore of Cedar Lake. It was about 12 miles from where I lived down a country blacktop road, another 2-3 miles down a gravel road to where it ended, a climb down a steep cliff trail and about another mile through thick woods past a large cave, a small waterfall, more trail and finally out onto a peninsula jutting out into the lake where there was some beautiful open grassy areas to camp in. There was a small creek to ford to get onto the peninsula so it made you feel like you were out on an island.
I asked my good friend, landlady, and Mom-away-from-home, Mrs. Carr, if she would drive me out to the trailhead. She had grown up in the area and knew exactly where it was. Every time I thought I was going to some remote place of my own it was always an enlightening experience riding out there with “Mom Carr”. She would tell me about all the people, houses and points of interest along the way that had personally touched her life over the years and her stories would continue down the gravel roads all the way to the trail head. It was never too far from 'home' for Mom Carr.
It was the middle of June when I camped out on Cedar Lake. It was warm and sunny. I packed enough bread and food to last about 2 weeks, planning on doing some cleansing fasting and supplementing my meals with local blackberries that were starting to ripen. I took my guitar and planned on living with it in my hands from morning until night. I figured it would be a good way to get familiar with the instrument and the basics of playing it.
My time there was all that I had hoped for, sunny, warm and relaxing. But on the evening of the third day I felt that inner prompting telling me it was time to leave. It was unexpected and I was having such a good time that my resistance was strong, but the prompting was insistent. I had learned on the road that when the Lord said it was time to leave, if you didn't go, you were alone. I guess he was telling me that if I wanted to serve Him, I had to be where He was. I resisted late into the evening as I lay in my small pup tent trying to get to sleep. I had decided not to go when the chorus of frogs on the shore 20 or 30 feet from my tent changed their pitch. They were croaking louder and louder until it was almost ear piercing. I felt I was in some sci-fi flick called “The Night of the Frogs.”
Looking back at the incident it must have been a pretty funny sight. I imagine looking down at the scene from an aerial view. A small pup tent near the shore of this grassy peninsula, a chorus of various sizes of frogs stationed in a semi-circle around the tent chanting ever louder and louder until you hear this voice yelling at the top of its lungs emanating from this small temporary dwelling.
“Alright already! I'll leave tomorrow. But I can't go tonight.”
I guess the Lord was okay with that answer, for the frogs returned to their normal pitch and I soon fell asleep.
As I slept I had a dream where I was around twelve years old. I was in a bedroom at my grandparent's house. I was lying on the bed along with the coats we threw there whenever we came over. I was crying when my dad came in. He comforted me and said,
“Your mom and I watched you while you were growing up playing with the other kids and knew that when you got older you would follow a path in life different than there's.”
When he left the room I buried my face in a pillow and cried, “Oh God, what do you want me to do? Just tell me what you want me to do.” At that moment I awoke.
It was morning and the sun was shining. I felt I was still coming out of the dream when a peace came over me and I felt God saying, “you are where I want you to be,” and I also knew He wanted me to leave that morning.
So I made some breakfast, packed my things and headed back up the trail. I made my way across my grassy island, across the creek and started down the trail. On my right was a thickly wooded area; the ground formed a downward slope leading down to a creek. On my left was a sheer wall of rock. At one point in the trail there was a large boulder leaning up against this rocky wall. I decided to take a break, for the day was hot and humid, and I had a long way to go before I reached home. I pushed my guitar up on top of the boulder and climbed up from the wall side. As I sat there with this wall of rock behind me and the creek and woods in front, I picked up my guitar and started to play some of the chords I had been practicing. I was playing a D-Chord varying my picking pattern and picking up various other notes with my free fingers. The sound seemed to echo off the rock behind me. Suddenly, I heard the sound of other instruments accompanying me, the sound of strings, violins, an orchestra echoing off the rocks behind me. The sound seemed to get louder as I played. I looked down at my fingers picking these simple chord patterns thinking: 'If I stop picking the violins too will stop' and then I thought 'If I stop picking the violins will not stop'; but I kept picking just in case.
At that moment, I looked up to see a bird fly by. As it flew it made a dipping motion with a rhythm that went to my music. 'Wow!' I thought, 'that bird even flew by to my music.' Next I saw a leaf fall from a tree near by. As it glided down it made a back and forth motion with a rhythm that also matched that of my music. Then I looked at the creek. I saw there, too, a rhythm in the movement of the water and even the sparkle of the sun on it's surface. 'Wow!' I thought, 'even the water in the creek is moving to my music.'
I continued to pick my guitar, wanting this moment to last forever, but eventually the violins too died away and I stopped picking. At that moment, I realized that it wasn't my rhythm the forest was beating to, but rather it was their rhythm that I, as a pure gift, was allowed to experience and be part of.
As I continued down the trail, I contemplated these things. I passed the waterfall area, always a point of beauty. Finally, I made it as far as the big cave. The cave was in the shape of a large band shell; maybe 30 feet wide, 15-20 feet high, and 20-25 feet deep. As I passed I glanced at a small cubicle rock about a foot square that someone had placed in the epicenter. Due for another rest before heading up the cliff trail to the gravel road above, I decided to sit on that rock and try once again to tune into the rhythm of the forest. As I sat there going over those same picking patterns the sound seemed much drier, dead even, and there were definitely no violins accompanying me this time. In a way, it was a relief knowing that I couldn't create a moment like that and made me realize that the first experience was truly a gift from the Creator, letting me know that I was on the right path and it was okay to take a break.
It took me a while to get back to Carr Dorm that day. The walk up the gravel road was long and hot. But when I arrived back home there was a note on the bulletin board: “Tom, Emergency, Call Home.” My sister was in the hospital with an emergency gall bladder operation. In those days I felt the Spirit of God with me and learned that when I was told to go somewhere there was a good reason and if I moved forward in faith I would find out why when I arrived.
I took only a short while to repack my backpack and I was on the road again; on my way up north to see my sister. The blessings continued and the rides came swiftly: and by 8:30PM I was beside my sister’s hospital bed where we prayed.