I’m currently looking at options for a couple of backpacking trips this summer. Not sure what I’ll do for one of them, but the other will take me back to the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin—particularly the Kettle Moraine South section. Actually, Chris is planning to join me for this one, so it promises to be particularly adventurous! Anyway, looking forward to that trip reminded me of last year’s, as well as a very encouraging verse from the Psalms.

Last year I hiked about 30 miles of the Ice Age Trail in June. The plan was to hike several miles a day until I reached one of the shelters along the trail. They’re spaced close enough to make for a reasonably comfortable day’s hike, but far enough to be a challenge for an old guy. Of course, the most challenging part was the side trail off the main trail to the shelter itself—all uphill. Nice way to end the day: winded! After the first day of nice, comfortable hiking weather, the second day began a bit ominous. Low hanging clouds and a forecast of rain promised cool temps, but the likelihood of getting wet. Part of it. There were periods of light rain that day, but overall wasn’t bad—until that night. The forecast called for severe storms and the potential for tornadoes to crop up.

I arrived at the shelter late afternoon, set up my tent inside the shelter (yes, a shelter in a shelter!), fixed dinner, and enjoyed a cup of coffee waiting for the sun to set. I wasn’t really expecting much of a sunset, but it turned out to be quite spectacular, primarily because of the storm clouds brewing off to the west. The sun bid adieu, which is the backpacker’s cue to call it a day, too. After texting a bit with Chris and turning out the headlamp, I was ready for a good night’s sleep. Alas, it was not to be. Within minutes of enveloping myself in darkness, the distant rumbling began. I lay there listening as the rumbles grew louder and longer. Before long, flashes lit the clouds afar off. The open tent screen and the wide shelter entryway afforded a front row seat to the approaching storm. In moments, the light was more intense; the wind picked up. I’ve been through enough Midwest summer storms to know this was going to be a doozy! It struck me that, even though my tent was inside the shelter, it might not hurt to put the rainfly over the tent. Proved to be a good move. Within minutes of tying it down, the storm hit with all its fury. What could I do but simply lie there in my tent as it was being whipped by the wind and pelted by the rain blasting sideways in through the shelter doorway? Yet I was dry, warm enough, and comfortable—relatively speaking, of course.

I was really grateful for the shelters!

Coincidentally(?) with this memory, I was preparing to preach from Psalm 46. The psalm begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear….” In reading through the psalm in the King James Version, I noticed that three times the Lord is referred to as our “refuge.” But in studying the text, I discovered that the Hebrew writer used two different terms. The latter term, used in vv. 7 and 11 is helpfully translated “fortress” in the ESV. I’ll say more about that next week. But the word in the opening verse is less “militaristic,” if you will, and more personal. It’s sometimes translated “shelter,” as in the gospel song, “The Lord’s our rock in him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm.” Reflecting on this insight took me back to the Ice Age Trail on a stormy Tuesday evening last summer. I was surrounded by the storm. Felt the rumbling of the thunder in my bones. Momentarily blinded by the light. Lightly touched by the howling wind. But my shelters(!) protected me from experiencing the full force and potential harm of the storm. Could they do so perfectly? Nope. Neither was perfect, and a falling tree or full on tornado would’ve done a number on my shelters—and me, probably. But the imperfect image does illustrate the perfection of the Lord God who is a shelter for His people. So perfect is His sheltering that His people can be surrounded by the storm and declare, “we will not fear.”

I trust you’re one of His, that you know by experience the sheltering protection of the Lord our God.