Sunday, September 14, 2014

A place of refuge

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “R”

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress.” – Psalm 91:2 NIV
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”– Jesus, as quoted in Mark 6:31 NIV

When my parents bought a rustic one-room cabin in the western Pennsylvania mountains, my mother dubbed it “Camp St. Jude” – “after the saint of impossible cases,” she said.
I don’t think she was as fired up about buying the property as my father was. Dad wanted a guy place where he could hunt and enjoy the peace only a place like this could offer. It was the polar opposite of the life we lived in Donora, one of the steel mill towns along the Monongahela River.
Camp St. Jude had no water or electric, only gas-fueled sconces on the wall, a kerosene lantern on the table, a wood-burning stove (which we named “Hot Stuff”) in the middle of the yellowed linoleum floor, and an outhouse, which we called “the poogie house” (rhymes with “cookie”), out back.
To convince Mom to buy the place, Dad treated us to a week in a log cabin in Cook Forest – the first family vacation I remember – and promised Mom electricity, running water, an addition so the five of us wouldn’t be crawling on top of each other, and a foundation of concrete block instead of the piers it stood on.
The next several summers were spent fulfilling that promise, although the only running water we obtained was from the neighbor’s well, which we pumped by hand and carted back along a swampy path in five-gallon galvanized milk cans.
But we had fun. Fun yanking nails out of old siding, ripping off the roof, holding lumber in place while Dad sawed. Fun imagining branches were horses, pretending we were space travelers and the wooden swing hanging between two big pine trees was a space ship from Mars. I spent hours in the boughs of a big pine on the corner of the property where I dreamed of what my life would be like when I grew up.
And then I grew up. We sold Camp St. Jude when I was pregnant with our third child. Close friends bought it and, over the years, remodeled it. This summer they invited Dean and me to spend a weekend there with them.
Camp St. Jude hasn’t lost its magic. I awoke Saturday morning refreshed and relaxed. I hadn’t slept that well in I don’t know how long.
It is still a place of refuge – a place to go when the world is just too much to bear, when the stress stretches me to a breaking point, when I feel overwhelmed and in too deep. Perhaps that’s what Dad saw when he first set eyes on the place.
I can’t always go to Camp St. Jude when life gets a little too much, but I can go to God. He is more than “the saint of impossible cases.” He can make the impossible possible.

Thank you, Father God, that I can run to You for refuge any time. Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Psalm 91

Camp St. Jude as it is today.



  1. What a special post. Camp St. Jude reminds me of a little cabin at Lake Wauconda in Illinois where I enjoyed many childhood summers with my family. The entire community burned down many years ago but the memories linger. Now my only real refuge year around is The Lord!

  2. Your comment, Karen, reminds me of the old Gospel song, "Where could I go, oh, where could I go, seeking a refuge for my soul? Needing a friend to help me in the end. Where could I go but to the Lord." Thank you for sharing your memories of your special place. These places remain in our hearts and minds and spirits forever.

  3. Love places like that. Camps always seem to linger in our memories. I think it's because the Lord is there. :)

    1. You are so right, Ane. Away from the noise and busyness . . .

  4. Looks like the perfect place to hide away and write a book. What a nice post, Michele. Good take away too. Kudos.

    1. Wait until you get my manuscript, "Getaway Mountain" ;-) LOL!