by Reverend Pete Hyde
It was the summer of 1968. The base model 1963 Chrysler Newport (the only options were automatic transmission and power steering) was loaded to overflowing; a 14 foot jon boat strapped to the roof rack; a nine horse Sears outboard loaded into the trunk. Camping, fishing gear and supplies for a week filled every inch of the car including the middle of the front bench seat. Father and son rose early in the morning to start the trip. We needed to be on the road by 5:30am for some reason (because Dad said so). By 5:25 we were on the road from Topeka, Kansas to LaRue, Arkansas on Beaver Lake.
We arrived late in the late afternoon. The boat and motor were unloaded at the water’s edge. A suitable campsite was found and set up. Dinner was prepared on a Coleman stove. We wandered down to the lake to see if the fish were biting. There was a spring about ten yards out from the shore that had been covered when the lake filled. A worm on a hook cast in the general area would bring a catch of a hand-sized perch on every try.
As the sun set we had caught enough perch. With no breeze, the lake mirrored the colors of a beautiful Northwest Arkansas dusk. From somewhere across the glassy lake came the lonely call of the whip-poor-will. I had not ever heard that lonesome song in the night. A moment or two later the call was returned from just behind us. Back and forth the lonely lament filled the cool evening with a calming song of God’s creation. It was a moment I will never forget. Each evening I would listen to the song of the whip-poor-will until my eyes closed for the night.
The last night I stepped out onto the back porch. The air was sauna-thick with humidity. Warm lights came from the homes around the neighborhood. A dog down the street yapped at something. It was nighttime, quiet except for the sound of an occasional car running down 30A, speeding of course. The moon, showing only half its face, looked down from a hazy, sometimes cloudy gray night sky.
I stood there in the silence. Maybe I was waiting for God to speak as he spoke to Elijah in the silence. Then from back in the dark woods across the road in Topsail State Park the lonely call of a whip-poor-will shot through the stillness of the night. “Whip-o-will. . .whip-o-will. . .whip-o-will.” The solitary call in the night reminded me of that first time I heard a whip-o-will call in the night. My dad has been gone thirty years now, but whenever I hear the call of the whip-o-will I have a feeling he is still with me.
As I stood quietly on the porch last night reflecting on the struggles of my life, I believe the whip-o-will call was also a reminder that God is with me in the struggle and in the victory. In the darkest night of the soul, in the stillness of the lonely feelings of despondency . . .whip-poor-will. . . whip-poor-will. . . I am with you. . . I am with you. . . I am with you.
When Elijah finally quit running from the struggles of life and sat in desperation under the broom tree in the desert calling out to God to take his life, God sent angels with food and drink and rest to renew his body and spirit for the task ahead. Whip-poor-will.
. . whip-poor-will. . .whip-poor-will. I am with you. . .I am with you. . .I am with you.
He is with you and me every day. Stop, look, listen. He is here.
Rev. Pete Hyde is the Senior Pastor of Santa Rosa Beach Community Church,
3524 US-98, Santa Rosa Beach – 850-267-2599 – srbcc.com