Let’s face it. Much of our life is spent wishing we were someplace else. Especially when stress and disagreeable circumstances press in on us. When this happens, most of us have places we can escape to, even if it’s only in our memory: Better days, better places, anywhere but here.
Grandpa Erickson was a hard working Swede. Displaced from his thousand-acre farm in Montana because of hard times and crop failure, he ended up on about an acre of ground in Southern California. The unrelenting farmer and mechanic that he was, the small plot of ground was soon filled with a mixture of growing things and machinery. For me as a kid, one of the greatest places on earth” was grandpa’s place.
However, given time, even “grandpa’s place” could get to a guy. You know, too many sisters around, too many orders from grandma, or a half dozen other things might send me to my secret spot. As far back as Grandpa could get them, up next to the back fence and beside the irrigation ditch, he had built several small sheds.
Those old sheds were filled with marvelous things such as broken lawnmowers, tractors, and other odd things that grandpa had tried to invent. The sides of the shed were covered with lath, (small boards with cracks in between each one). This was the perfect hiding place. I could see and hear them, but they couldn’t see me.
Do you know that I can still remember the smell in those old sheds? That cool musty aroma of damp California dirt, sun bleached wood, blended together with that unmistakable smell of old greasy machinery. On occasion, that unique combination may catch my attention again, and when it does, I am transported back through time and space to the days when pressures and problems weren’t so great (or so it seems.)
Each of these special places that we hold reserved in our memories have something in common. They can be retrieved with a sight or a sound — the smell of roses, the sight of a red Chevy, or the aroma of fresh bread. All of these tie us to our own special memories.
Mention Disneyland in our family and smiles come to all our faces. It’s vacation time — Mickey Mouse hats, my red and white oversized vacation pants, and fanny packs. It’s more than a theme park to us; it’s a special place, a wonderful spot on earth where we have invested memories. It’s something that ties our spirits together and bonds us to the same history.
Tony’s favorite spot is the New Orleans Restaurant at the entrance of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He would like to own one just like that someday. Tiffany’s spot, when she was younger, was “It’s A Small World.” But I think she’s now moved up to “Splash Mountain.” Corey likes them all. However, we did spend a lot of time on “Thunder Mountain” the last time we were there together. It’s a toss up with Arlis and I between the “Golden Horse Shoe Review” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” and if I have any time alone, I find myself drifting towards “Tom Sawyer Island.” Memories, what wonderful memories!
However, these types of family memories don’t come without cost and effort. It’s expensive to go on vacation. Something has to be sacrificed. A trip with the family to Disneyland can cost you the price of a new front room set, or the fishing boat you have been looking at. What are you willing to pay to build your bank of treasured memories?
The cost in effort is equally as difficult. Time taken from the job and regular routines, hard beds, noisy motel rooms, bad food and cramped travelling conditions, capped off with the Los Angeles freeway in rush traffic and no air conditioning. These are some of the barriers or excuses that keep us from wonderful memories that fill us with so much joy, lasting a lifetime.
Do you suppose this has something to do with what Paul and Solomon had in mind? A get-a-way place, a personal encounter with God, a place of safety and rest. This is why my all-time favorite spot to retreat and find peace is in His presence. That place of prayer and worship where I have my face to face encounters with my Heavenly Father.
Just as Jesus said He would be with us always (Matt 28:20) never leaving, never forsaking, always ready to strengthen us and rescue us from the pressures of the world around us, so the memories of these planned encounters with God are eternal, always there for me to run to.
That Holy Place for me has a sound and an aroma of it’s own. Often, I can hear the sounds of His presence. Sometimes it’s my natural ear but most often its my spiritual ear, that inward man, that has been to the secret chamber so often that he can find his way in the dark.
Paul reflected this place in his memories of being caught up in the third heaven. He referred to it as a paradise, things beyond the power to put into words. This memory was part of the anchor that kept his soul secure.
This is what W. W. Walford was experiencing when he penned that wonderful hymn:
Sweet hour of prayer
Sweet hour of prayer
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Makes all my wants and wishes known,
In seasons of distress and grief
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempest snare,
By thy return;
Sweet hour of prayer
… a spot on earth, a place in my soul, a treasure of memories that I hold dear.
It’s my escape from trouble, my shelter in the storm. It’s my high tower, my wall of defense. It’s that place where God is calling me to habitually meet Him. “Come away with my love” is the cry out of the Song of Solomon (SOS 2:10). It’s that plea Jesus made to his sleepy disciples if they could not watch and pray with him just one hour (Mark 14:37).
It was out of that “special spot” where Jesus prayed all night, that he chose his disciples. They in turn changed the course of history. It was from that “special spot” that He went out and impacted the cities around Him with healing and deliverance. It was there he met His Father – and got his marching orders.
Out of the upper room, their “special spot”, the disciples poured out on the streets of Jerusalem like molten steel blazing the fire of God into the generations to come. They continued to return to the special place of power until the entire known world was shaken by the power of their message.
My call to you today, my dear fellow travelers, is to pay the price for the trip to Disneyland where memories are made to draw from for a lifetime. Build your bank account of memories that will sustain you in the tough times, establishing that spot you can escape to.
Pay the price and build that place in God, the special spot in the Spirit where you can find His peace and strength. Run into it often. Prepare it ahead of the storm. Let it be your high tower and safety. When you do, you’ll never be without His wonderful presence again.
In charge of “special spot” tours