The Desert Route

Sometimes it takes a desert to help us see what a real treasure is. Things you've always valued become worthless in the desert, and the simplest, most mundane things suddenly become a priceless treasure. 

That's one lesson I learned from a little book that I just love, called Death Valley in '49Written by a man named William Lewis Manley, it's definitely one of the great classics of the American West: I highly recommend it. 

Manley was there, in 1849, when the Bennett-Arcan party tried to cross Death Valley, hoping to get to the treasures of the California Gold Rush. Manley was one of the scouts for the journey, an ex-soldier who knew his way around pretty well. His book is a wonderful first-hand account of everything that happened. 

They had decided against the northern route; the horrible stories of the Donner Party were already taking their toll. They plunged their way into the desert instead, and they did so without the slightest inkling of what they were doing. At that time, it was just called "the desert"—the name "Death Valley" actually came in the wake of the Bennett-Arcan ordeal. 

Once they got out into the middle of the Mojave, that's when they started thinking of real treasure! California's gold was the last thing on their minds! 

At one point, after days of walking across some of the hottest sands on earth, with not a trace of water to be found anywhere, Manley began reflecting upon the things that really mattered: 

"The good homes we had left behind had become a favorite theme around the campfire and many of us told of the dreams we had been having of happy homes in the East, with comfort and water, even if wealth was lacking there. 

   "The home of the poorest man on earth was preferable to this place. Wealth was of no value here. A pile of twenty-dollar gold pieces could be placed before us all day long with no temptation to touch a single one of them. Its weight would merely drag us nearer death; we could purchase nothing with it; we would have cared no more for it than we cared for the desert sands. In fact, we would have given much more gold for just a handful of the snow we had seen on the great mountain peaks we had passed just a week before." 1

Wow! It's amazing how a perspective can change! 

Manley goes on to record how he and another scout finally left the party behind at Furnace Creek, to cross the deadly expanse alone, in search of help and rescue. They made it across; they survived—get this!—by sucking on single blades of grass that they found along the way. 

I doubt if anyone reading this article has ever appreciated a single blade of grass, let alone considered it "treasure". But that's what it was all right! That's what a desert can do! 

Right now as I write this, Franklin Graham is making his way through the various stops of his Decision California tour, right here in Southern California. He comes with the wonderful message of our Savior and—make no mistake about it—that is the only message that can help a "desert" like California.  And no, I'm not overstating things: throughout this wonderful nation of ours there is no "desert" greater than California right now. We are indeed becoming a spiritually parched and barren wilderness! 

California's State Assembly is the worst I've ever seen: pumping out one sick, perverted bill after another, with the goal of politicizing our schools, eviscerating our families and corrupting our children. Please see the article on page 3 of this publication about just one of these many evil enterprises ("Community Involvement in OUSD"). Every parent who cherishes the duty of raising and mentoring their children in the Lord should rise up in righteous rage at what comes out of Sacramento these days.

In many other aspects as well, this beautiful state is becoming a desert of lawlessness, homelessness, vice, and despair. It is not hard for those who grew up here to see how fatally "arid" the terrain is becoming. 

But...all the more reason for you, dear faithful OT. God Bless you! As our generation continues to insist on the "desert route"count on it dear family!—you will meet more and more people who are "thirsty"! It is a law of the desert; plain and simple! 

So stay faithful, dear ones! Be bold with the message! Hold forth the Water of Life as our Savior did: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, and out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  Jn 7: 38  

There's one more marvelous episode in Manley's book; something that happened to the Brier Party before they eventually linked up with the Bennetts and the Arcans. About five days into the Panamint Valley, the whole group just collapsed on the desert floor. They were done! It was over! The horrible desert was already winning!

But as they lay there waiting to die, a group of Shoshones came up over the dunes. They took one of the men—Luther Richards—who was still able to stand. Everyone assumed they were taking him captive; going to mistreat him. 

But in fact, the Shoshones led Richards some four miles away, up into the hills where—lo and behold!—a tiny spring was bubbling up from under a clump of bushes: wonderful, cool, life-giving water! The Shoshones pointed it out and let Richards go. He drank his fill and then raced back to camp with the good news of the "treasure" he'd found. 

Aren't Shoshones awesome? They knew where to find life in the desert! 

And so do you, dear faithful Christian. 

So...point the way! See you Sunday!    RAS

1. William Lewis Manley, Death Valley in '49  p. 147-148

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