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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Retreat (as in quiet time away) (08/01/05)

TITLE: Beyond the Back of Beyond
By Marjorie Arrowood


When Jesus needed a break, he retreated to a mountain. When Horace Kephart needed a break, he retreated to a mountain. Unfortunately, the similarities end there, and contrasting their retreats underscores the chasm between worldviews in the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.

After a successful but tiring day of teaching a crowd of 5000, Jesus performed one of his most famous miracles by feeding them all. Exhausted, he needed time alone. The twelve disciples needed him desperately. They had just returned from their first attempts at anointed teaching and needed time for debriefing. Jesus knew spending time alone with his father would benefit them as well, so he sent them on their way and retreated alone to a mountainside.

After a successful but tiring career, Horace Kephart needed time alone. Kephart was born in Pennsylvania in 1862 and received a marvelous education, attending both Yale and Cornell Universities. He became a renowned librarian of his day, eventually settling in St. Louis as director of its Mercantile Library. He and his wife Laura had six young children. But this shy, mild-mannered, likable man was also an alcoholic with a secret. The load of responsibility was becoming too great for him, and for years he had researched remote areas of the country in a quest for a “back of beyond” place to disappear into wilderness living. In 1904, following a breakdown of sorts, he deserted his job, family and friends forever. He retreated alone deep in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.

Ultimately, Jesus’ concern was for his followers who had become his family. Eventually they would have to carry on without him, but they weren’t yet equipped to do so. Sailing across the Sea of Galilee they were caught in a terrible storm. Then Jesus, freshly empowered from his retreat, walked across the raging waves to rejoin and protect his dependent disciples. Later he taught his followers that if they would remain in him, he would remain in them, and that with faith the size of a mustard seed they could tell a mountain to move and it would do so.

Ultimately, Horace Kephart’s concern was for himself. Six young children were not yet equipped to carry on without their father. But Kephart was equipped to carry on without them. Free to enjoy the beauty of nature, he supported himself by writing. Some of his books, including Our Southern Highlanders, are still in print. Through his writing he was also instrumental in convincing congress to set aside land to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was loved and admired by so many that one peak in the park was named for him just months before he was killed in an automobile accident. Today Mt. Kephart symbolizes the world’s idea of retreating to escape life’s battles and live free.

If only Kephart had taken a retreat with Jesus. Instead of having his name on a mountain, it could have been in the Book of Life. Then with mustard seed faith he could have moved mountains and walked through life’s storms to rejoin and protect his children.

The battle between the kingdoms of light and darkness continues.

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Member Comments
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Amy Michelle Wiley 08/08/05
Very interesting paralle. Good job.
Sally Hanan08/08/05
Very good underlining point, that retreats are not really about us, they are about being refreshed and reminded of his power and purpose through us.
Tesiri Moweta08/09/05
Great! You definitely got my vote on this one...the underlying message in the comparison is too powerful!Thanks for sharing!
Beth Muehlhausen08/09/05
Enjoyed this comparison, and the contrasting focus of these two examples of retreat. I liked your final thought: "The battle between the kingdoms of light and darkness continues."
Debra Brand08/10/05
How sad when we forget the reason for families! Good work.
Sandra Petersen 08/12/05
Fascinating! I didn't know about Kephart, but I suppose he was a little like Thoreau ('Walden') or Aldo Leopold ('A Sand County Almanac'). A really good contrast piece on the differences in world views. Thank you for sharing!
Maxx .08/13/05
Great comparisons. Nice lesson. We can only hope that Kephart made the right decision before his time on earth ended. Only God knows for certain.
Suzanne R08/14/05
I was drawn in by your title and not disappointed. Thanks. Great piece!
Shari Armstrong 08/14/05
A very well presented comparision!