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Rocky Mountain Men's Retreat

You are my strength when I am weak, you are the treasure that I seek, you are my all in all. Some of the men around the campfire sang off key and our timing was bad, but that didn’t stop us from raising our voices in praise to the Creator of the beauty around us. We were at our base camp in Northern Idaho, 20 miles south of Canada and 10 miles west of Montana. The majestic Rocky Mountains rose towards the heavens to our east, 20 trail horses grazed peacefully in a meadow 30 yards away, resting their tired legs after the grueling 15-mile ride to a mountain top earlier that day. The warmth from the fire felt good as the evenings cooled off significantly. We all made sure that our ice-cold bath in the creek happened before the sun went down behind the mountains, but even so, it was impossible to breathe and “dip” at the same time.

We had just finished a time of blessing where words of life and truth were shared from one heart to another, most of these blessings came from having heard the life stories of each other. A few days earlier, Sam had coached us on how to fill in our personal time lines. The times of pain and rejection in our lives dipped way below the equator while the moments of redemption and blessings that always seemed to follow, rose high above it. As our timelines took shape, we began to see subtle truths emerge as we saw the hand of our Father gently nudging us towards a more intimate relationship with him.

There is something about a rugged, unplugged setting that enhances our ability to hear the voice of the master and see and understand how our interactions with others has affected our journey. We also do well to think seriously about how our lives impact those within our sphere of influence. Do we honor others only when they have earned it or are we able to make honoring others a way of life? The true definition of honor is “A decision I make to place high value, worth, and importance on another person by viewing him or her as a priceless gift and granting him or her a position in my life worthy of great respect”. I would urge you to reflect on your journey, where have you known honor or felt deeply honored as a person. Take a moment to make a note of this, maybe acknowledge it to that person, or at the very least thank God for bringing that person into your life and then pass on the honor to someone else.

The last day of my time in Idaho, I was privileged to meet and interact with Edwin Byler. Due to an unfortunate accident a few years ago, he was forced to make some significant life changes. After a time of searching for God’s will, he began building violins. He spends days making sure every detail is just right before his violin is finished. He explained to us how every violin that he makes is unique and showed us how he adds distress marks, scuffs, and imperfections to add value to the instrument. In Ephesians 2:10 we read that we are God’s workmanship. We are God’s masterpiece and he has taken great care to create us just the way he wants us. Life events and our imperfections take a toll on us and we feel like all the scuffs and dents have turned us into a defective and insignificant instrument. But when we allow the musician to pick us up, tune us carefully and begin playing, we can bring joy to those around us the way we were designed to do.

I was truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to enter the lives of these men that I had never met before, and yet were quick to encourage me in my pain and celebrate with me in my victories. My life is richer for the experience and I returned home with new energy to fulfil my calling in life.

Phil Mast

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