Camping with Jesus

Next spring will mark the twentieth anniversary of my graduation from Homedale High School, located in Homedale, Idaho, a small farming community located 45 minutes west of Boise on the banks of the Snake River.  After graduation I left town, first to college, and then to life.  The first couple of summers I came home to work during the summers, but after my junior year of college Heidi, my lovely bride, and I were married, and then only made my presence in Homedale to visit my parents.  A few years ago my parents moved to Caldwell, a city twenty minutes away, and my reasons for visiting Homedale were few.

I loved growing up in Homedale, and have very fond memories of doing so.  I also remember some times in junior high and high school that weren’t the best.  Regardless, when I graduated from high I couldn’t wait to leave and spent the next sixteen years away from Homedale and the state of Idaho.  Three years ago, this October, I moved back to Homedale with my family (Heidi and our three boys), feeling called by God to do so.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most about being back in Homedale and the state of Idaho is taking my family to explore places I visited as a child and a youth.  A few weeks ago, for vacation, we spent the better part of five days in the Boise National Forest camping on the Middle Fork of the Payette River north of Crouch, Idaho–one of the many places I remembered camping with my family as a child.  We stayed in a rustic camp ground, were away from cell phone towers, and relaxing was our only agenda. (By the way if you are ever in Crouch, Idaho try the coffee shop in the antique store.  Best coffee in Crouch!)

My boys loved every minute of our camping trip; eating s’mores by the camp fire at night, wading and swimming in the river, catching rainbow trout from deep cool river pools, soaking in pools of hot water fed by an underground spring that came out of the side of a mountain and cascaded down into the pools of rock and sand, riding bikes, reading books by the fire, eating camping food, and just simply being together as a family.  

We all needed the vacation, because it had been a year since we had taken any significant time off together as a family, but I may have needed it most of all.  Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life I forget to relax, have fun, and take a break from the normalcy of everyday.  I came back from the trip restored and renewed and rested, with a lesson re-learned of needing to make sure we take breaks and enjoy life together as a family.

Of the many things we did two things stood out to me as extra restorative, fishing and reading by the fire.  While I loved being there with my boys to bait hooks and remove fish after they were caught and enjoy our time and conversation together, one afternoon I went by myself for a couple of hours to fly fish by myself.  I’m new to fly fishing so I enjoyed the practice as I continue to learn the technique, but what I enjoyed most of all was the solitude, silence, and scenery.  I felt myself being renewed as I fished as the Holy Spirit ministered to me as I waded in the middle of the river without a care in the world.  

I enjoy reading, and try to make reading a regular part of my routine, but there was something about reading by the fire that really recharged and relaxed.  The book I took along on the trip was adequate enough for my liking, and the author made some good points that I continue to chew on, but what was good for my soul was the reading while relaxing by the fire.  Everything about those times I was able to quiet down and read, mostly uninterrupted, was exactly what I needed.

In reflecting on our camping trip I have been drawn to the life of Christ and His time spent in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, and the times during His ministry that He would get up early and go up on the mountain to pray.  Not to mention, of course, that so much of Jesus’ time was spent out of doors and so many of His miracles pulled in the nature around Him.  

Mostly I’m drawn to Jesus’ times of prayer on a mountain or in a garden and His time spent on mountains and walking through fields because I can connect with Jesus in those places.  I wonder if being outside in His Father’s creation was as good for Jesus’ soul as being in nature is for mine.  I don’t think that Jesus needed the surroundings to help Him connect with God but I want to believe that Jesus wanted to connect with God in nature because being there with Him just felt right.   

I know being in nature helps me connect with God and helps to restore my soul, and I know nature does the same for Heidi and the boys.  Thankfully, this is true because we have many more places to explore!