Finding “Papa”

Driving is my favorite. I am captivated by ‘exploring’. The next bend in the road… the rise of the horizon, what it might reveal. Glorious.

I feel like I’m not just a driver… but I’m driven. 

Driven to do better, to achieve. I feel the need to work harder, longer…to gain just one more yard, one more mile. It’s a deep and insistent restlessness. I wish I could make it turn ‘off’ when I’m trying to rest or slow down. I’ve never really been able to make it go away,… until this trip.

Day Two dawned grey and cold.

Leaving Montrose heading south on Hwy 550

Montrose sits on a high (Elevation 5807)  flat desert region, edging some of the highest peaks in the Western Rockies of Colorado. It gets warm in the daytime like the desert… and very cold overnight. I woke to 20F after a balmy 67F the afternoon before. The sun wasn’t going to come up for another hour, but I started off to the south, looking to catch the sunrise glowing off the breathtaking beauty of the snow capped peaks near Ouray, CO.

I was disappointed. Grey clouds obscured most of the sunrise that morning. Never breaking long enough to shine its pink hues on the grey granite angles below. Highway 550 is a ‘must’ see for any roadtrippers out there. Take it from Montrose to Durango and bring a camera. Unlike any other road in the lower 48 that I’ve travelled, this is a winding two lane strip of heaven. Three passes pushing 10,000 feet each are the reward of the three hours of second gear driving necessary to get there. Snow is almost always present – year around. You will need to stop and take pictures or you might make a one way descent over one of the hundreds of 15 mph cliff side turns.

I love mountain country. I don’t care what season or condition you find it in, you’ll suck in your breath… over and over… as you glimpse the grandeur of the alpine vistas.

Today was cold and cloudy, so I saw and admired the hard rawness of these granite monsters, marvelling at their strength and unpredictable nature. A snowstorm or a sleet squall was almost guaranteed, followed by five minutes of golden sunshine and glorious white curtains of snow. It’s more than I can describe here.

But, even in the midst of all this glory and magnificent creation, I was feeling my restless nature lurking still.  Somewhere below the adrenaline and excitement of seeing my old friends the Rocky mountains I was unsettled. 

I drove the curves, caught the fresh – cold – near zero chill of air and the scent of pines as we descended into Durango… broad wooded valleys with winding creeks and rivers stretching out below. It was so calming and pure. I can still see it in my mind’s eye…

Hwy 550 Colorado Peaks - March '18

Hwy 550 between Ouray and Silverton Colorado

I wanted to capture these moments and hold them forever… to wrap them up and tenderly hide them deep inside me. I could go back anytime I wanted and unwrap the beauty and let it warm me when I felt cold or stressed and tired. This was my unspoken desire. I dreamed of breaking the restlessness once and for all with the beauty surrounding me, to tap the peace and power of creations majesty when life started stressing me out. 

God answered my prayer. But like always… He has a sense of humor. 🙂

In my hotel room I drowsily flipped the channel to find a weather report. “The Shack” was playing… a book I had read and enjoyed years before, certainly not on my ‘must watch’ list, yet something compelled me.  I lingered for a minute, then ten… an hour. God works in mysterious ways.

That night I dreamed. I dreamed of ‘Papa’

God was speaking to me in new ways. He was sharing something vital to my scarred heart and soul. Something intensive and personal, an intimate salve for my deepest shame and sorrow. He wants me to call Him… “Papa”. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever done that… but I hadn’t. I know lots of people who feel like God is their ‘papa’ – artsy and emotional people talk like that. Not me. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my earthly father, so being so familiar and vulnerable with my heavenly father was foreign. Uncomfortable.

But when I opened up inside, to let Him see how uncomfortable I was…it made me cry. Deep rivers of pain and sorrow tumbling out… prayers half formed bubbling up with my snot and shame. I cried. A lot.

I could feel God holding me. Like a dad holding his frightened and worn out boy. That moment of warmth and intimacy breaking through the cold and hidden parts of me in a heartbeat.

I felt Him. He ‘was‘ my “Papa”.

The sadness and the restless sickness fled. I only had comfort and peace. No great prayer or spiritual discipline unlocked this for me, no awesome sermon or quote… just some time and my silence and a willingness to let Him touch my heart where it hurt.

Tomorrow: Day 3… Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.


Going High enough to “Hear” God’s voice

It seems that when I need to hear from God, really need to get some clarity…direction, peace for my path, I have to go up. Not just as a metaphor, but literally. I hop in my SUV and I head for the hills…or the mountains if at all possible. My favorite haunts are the mountains that surround Bow Lake in the Canadian Rockies, northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado’s Sangre De Cristo mountain range and the foggy peak of Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina.

Bow Lake – Alberta, Canada


Not entirely sure. My best guess, would be because I have Swiss heritage and genuinely love mountains. Combine that with intentional process of leaving my routine and day-to-day behind for the isolation and extreme beauty of a mountainside, and suddenly it seems I have room in my heart and mind to hear the voice of God much easier.

The bible talks a lot about going up to a mountain top to visit with God. From Abraham to Moses to David, the mountains were where men went to talk with God, to confirm a covenant or to simply listen. In the New Testament we see the example of Jesus who often went quietly alone to pray, usually on a mountain top or hill.

It seems the concept of going UP to God is a biblical one. It symbolically provides us with the reminder that we must go up to get a better perspective, a clearer view of the world we live in.  As we get higher, the details of our lives get smaller and the vastness of God’s creation and beauty get larger and larger until they block out all the rest.

If your finding it hard to “hear” God these days, if you exhausted in Spirit and wornout from the battle of raising a family and maintaining a marriage. It may be time to get a little elevation in your life.

Pack some warm clothes, grab a map or GPS and hop in a car over a long 3 day weekend and make the drive to a peak or mountainside near you. Grab a southwest flight on super saver or Priceline your way to the nearest range, do what you have to do. But go! Get UP, get reoriented and refreshed in the presence of your Creator and his magnificent creation!I promise if you make the effort to unplug and re-gaze on the pure glory of nature and invite God to speak…you will be changed.

It might be your time to go and refresh yourself… the mountains are calling, God is asking…will you come up and spend some one-on-one time with me?

Something to seriously consider.

Peace out,


Winter RoadTrip 2012 – Day six and Sunshine!

Sandpoint Idaho is a really cool town. Lots of people agree, so much so that it’s commonly ranked in the top ten national categories for small towns to live in. Beautiful, clean, quiet…it’s nestled in a northern Idaho valley with a large beautiful fresh water lake and mountain peaks on three sides, it offers all kinds of activities, skiing, shopping, great food, hunting, hiking etc… a genuine four season outdoor paradise. We didnt’ see much of that, but we did see a glimmer of the sun the next morning and it was a welcome sight…

Sandpoint ID, Jan 2012 - Lakeside Sunrise

Focused on exploring Idaho, we had been so distracted by the snowstorm the night before we hadn’t given much thought to today’s travel plans… after a moment of map reading it was clear that Idaho was not a state with an abundance of roads. The center of the state was mountain and wilderness with very little in the way of pavement, and what was there seemed closed in the winter. That left us with only a few options… since Brian was sticking with his decision to have me call the ball on this roadtrip, I decided to “feel my way” again and head east into Montana before circling south and west again when we could.

So we hopped in our snow, dirt and ice encrusted Ford Edge and headed east on US Hwy 200, en route to Missoula MT and Hwy 93… a road that would turn out to be worth all of the delays and bad weather and disappointing efforts to discover sunshine and beauty. But first… we had some driving to do. It took most of the day and a lot of gray but dry weather before we finally were able to navigate back west. Four hundred miles and nine hours later we were pulling into Salmon, ID and found a hidden valley at the end of our afternoon full of sunshine and endless snow-capped peaks.

Hwy 93 - outside of Salmon,

 Sunlight was gloriously streaming across the valley floor and crystal blue sky was everywhere above… we had found it! For the first time on our trip we had found some unrestrained and colorful mountain beauty breaking across the grey barriers for us to enjoy! It was spectacular, and refreshing and so nice after so many days of driving in the grey… and as it turned out, sort of short-lived.

Within two hours of entering Salmon, ID… we lost the mountain vista’s as a familiar dark strangling line of low hanging snow clouds moved in front of us out of the west directly in our path. We were approaching Sun Valley (ironically) and had only a hundred miles to go when the snow storm hit. Within forty-five minutes we were once again driving in unplowed mountain roads, twisty across ice and snow and sleet and it was dark. Deja Vu from the night before.

I uttered the simple request out loud of how nice it would be to just find a hotel out here so we could crash and avoid the long drawn out drive to Sun Valley in another pitch black snowstorm. (sure to take 3 more hours) Almost immediately out of the snow wall we were driving into… a few slight lights glowed and winked off and on as the waves of snow waxed and waned. I was scared to get my hopes up, but what if it was a hotel? Five minutes later were checking into a newly refurbished isolated hotel with a small restaurant and grocery gas store out in the middle of NOWHERE, Idaho. (actual town name is Stanley, ID) Thank You God!

Brian and I were hopeful after the storm passed, that we would have a chance at some clear skies and starlight as only can be seen way out in the wilderness, the desert or at sea. After a meal of sandwiches and fries we drove five minutes out-of-town on a back road to see the sky as the storm was slowing in intensity. Alas, it was still overcast and occasionaly spitting out some heavy bouts of snow flurries…So we crashed in our miracle hotel room after noting our good fortune at finding the only motel for a hundred miles and at just the right time. Huge coincidence? Nah… it was favor from God. As if He knew that were tired and worn out from the drive and needed to just rest.

Our "miracle" hotel in Stanley, ID

Lesson learned in part from Day six… God always shows up for us, when we need it the most. It may feel like He’s absent or unaware of our urgent and ongoing crisis’ of faith, family and hope… but He is not. I promise that when you’re at the very end of your own strength and courage and determination to go any further on your current course… He will send sunshine and blue sky or arrange for a perfect night of rest and recuperation, at your most desperate hour.

Day six was physically exhausting, over twelve hours on the road, major changes in terrain and weather, but we were reminded… to get to your destination as a parent, sometimes You just have to push on and press forward until that break in the clouds is visible, regardless of what it “looks like” or “feels like” in-between.

Tomorrow morning would be a thursday and the beginning of our seventh and last day, and as it turned out… was by far and away our very best day on this roadtrip. As usual…God was speaking to us and we were getting some valuable insights for what lay ahead in 2012 and we were grateful for the time to reflect and project what God was up to in our lives and in the lives of those we loved. 

Peace out, RTP readers.



RoadTrip Winter 2012

Just returned from my eighth winter roadtrip to the mountains… crazy I know. Everyone looks at me a bit odd when I try to explain that I like to drive in the mountains in the middle of the winter, especially in places I’ve never been to before. It’s a tradition that I have been fortunate to share with my dearest friend Brian Hardin over the past decade. We’ve been to almost every state in the lower 48 in search of the next un-discovered road with beauty.

Brad & Brian - RoadTrip Winter 2012

It’s more than just an exercise in male machismo or an addiction to adrenaline, it’s rooted in our deep awareness that each January we need to slow down to sense and hear God’s voice  for the year ahead. For our families, our ministries and our work it’s become clear that each new season of life has its own unique circumstances and challenges as well as rewards. To enter the new year without taking a few days to clear our heads and re-set, recenter ourselves with God is no longer an option for us. We’ve learned painfully of the risk we take when we just venture into the next year without a sense of direction or purpose. Brian and his wife are expecting their fifth child this summer and my oldest goes off to college in the fall… we knew that 2012 would be a  pivotal year for us and our families and we were determined to not proceed very far without taking some “time-out” with God.

So, we packed our gear and loaded up for a 4:30am drive to the Nashville airport to catch our flight to Spokane WA. (Thank you Cristian) Landed in Denver and then caught an immediate connection to our destination (thank you Southwest) where we landed to an unusual snowstorm in progress. After picking up a rental AWD Ford Edge, we took off for the Northland of Canada. We had decided to explore the Canadian Rockies in the winter, our favorite summer destination for several years now…but new to us to explore in the winter season.

Our first day was spent navigating a two lane highway north to the Canadian border in a blowing snowstorm with five or six inches of fresh snow already on the ground. It was beautiful, but it was grey. Shades of grey in fact, lighter grey for the sky and darker grey for the landscape and the mountains remained hidden behind a veil of cotton and cold. But we pushed on, believing that the skies would clear and make their appearance to us in time. So with digital cameras ready and our cornuts and licorice nearby, we drove into the darkening horizon, full of expectation and hope and excitement.

First night - Radium Springs BC

Expectation for a great time together and in discovering the winter beauty of some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, hope for a brand new experience to discover roads yet to be driven and excitement to learn what 2012 might be all about. We were not to be disappointed. Brian soon made it clear that since last year (2011) he had to make all the decisions for our roads, course and specific destinations…that it was my turn to be the pilot for 2012. He said somewhat jokingly… you’re going to have to “feel your way along”.  Neither of us had any idea how prophetic that statement would turn out to be…

O.K… need to review a couple of rules for RoadTripping before we go any further…

1- No four lane or interstate roads can be used, if a two lane highway or back road is available

2- No previously driven road is acceptable unless no other reasonable travel options exist

3- Schedules are loose, no previous reservations at hotels for arrivals at specific times or places. We want to keep the freedom of making decisions as we go.

4- Pictures are necessary, stopping at random times and places are allowed and encouraged, for prime pics and fresh air.

5- Meals out are optional, we eat when we want to… snack constantly and drink copious amounts of caffeine.

For specific details on travel – check out the bottom of this blog. For more information on the next six days and 3500 miles of travel adventure, humor, inspiration and excitement we shared in the mountains and lakes of Canada and the Pacific Northwest, (British Columbia and Alberta, Washington, Idaho and Montana) stay tuned to our next blog tomorrow…

Peace out,


Day One: Nashville to Spokane – Southwest Airlines (much cheaper to fly into Washington than Calgary Alberta) Drove from Spokane International via Hwy 95 North via the Eastport border crossing to Radium Springs in British Columbia… approx 300 miles and eight hours to drive in the winter with US/Canada crossing delays, picture stops and potty breaks. (Mapquest) Don’t miss Sandpoint Idaho on the way north, great town to visit, shop or sightsee, ski etc… very friendly and fun place to hangout.