You've likely heard the origin story of Mushroom Food Plots™ by now, at least the official version. There is another version, one that's spiritually driven that I am in awe of. Maybe this is me romanticizing the struggle, but I feel compelled to deliver my testimony here.
The outdoors saved my life, there's absolutely no doubt about that. Leaving home to become an adventure sports guide at 20 years old is the physical portion of my tale. My journeys across America in my youth took me around this great country to meet folks from every walk of life and I took untold thousands of people into the wilds as my job for a decade plus. Guides, especially river guides, are a mixed bag of the finest motley crews. Combat Veterans, Doctors, Attorneys, Ski Patrollers, College Students, Delinquents, Pro Guides or "Lifers" and so many other amazing humans coalesce to form a community united in the love of the river and representing the Salt of the Earth. The love of the River and the peace that accompanies that is why we were all there, sharing that was our daily duty and privilege. Indeed life was good.
I could go on and on about places of great repute and the majesty i've been blessed to experience, but this isn't about the places. This is about the journey itself and my travelling companion who saved my neck repeatedly. Often I would barely have enough money for gas to get to my next gig, let alone food or lodging etc. Travelling across the country on a no frills budget with no one to call for help in an old Jeep Wagoneer is a whole other version of glamping that I don't recommend.
I officially did all of this alone, at least on paper. Truth be told, I never felt alone. I felt worried, concerned, anxious, lonely, afraid and all the other human emotions you'd expect. But I wasn't alone by any means and looking back now it's more apparent than ever. I can remember some pretty bad stuff from my childhood, growing up outside of Evansville IN at the height of the Meth war in the hottest hot spot in the Meth belt wasnt exactly a storybook experience. Even in those worst moments, as I hid or was isolated in the woods or at home I never felt alone. My salvation was in books, isolation and escaping to nearby wild places to seek refuge. When I left home to go on this great american journey I only carried one book and the entire time I was a guide it rode in my Jeep with me everywhere I went. I ignored it too much then, but it was still with me. A black, King James edition with red lettering for Jesus's words that my Pastor gave me as a young teen because I didn't have a bible of my own. Growing up I didnt attend church with my family at all, I rode the bus/van or the pastor/deacons gave me a ride to the small congregation in our lttle town. My old man used to mock me, telling me to go tell the preacher man what bad things I did and that hunting was for rednecks. I remember him yelling at me, declaring that I need to get my head on straight and do more productive things with my time and leave that Jesus and outdoor crap alone.
I wish I could say that all that time I carried my bible to those far flung places that I read it like I should have; often and openly shared with those around me. I can't though, not in honesty. I wish I could say I'm a perfect Christ-like representative of my faith. I'm not, probably won't ever be. I wish I could tell you that I discovered all this mushroom and deer stuff and I have it all figured out. I can't say that honestly though. I was lead to it, the truth is God spoke to me and that's how it all came to be. No, a thundering voice and burning bush didn't speak to me. But that little voice of inner knowing and internal zen communicated via feeling of spirit to say, look harder Matt, you're not seeing what I want you to.
I was so hell bent on keeping the damn deer out of the mushrooms at the old farm that I failed to see the trees for the preverbial forest. I was focused on what I wanted to happen, not the journey god had planned for me. The more I struggled to live the life I had planned the more things didn't go that way. To me this felt like a complete failure, little did I know that the creator of all things had a plan for me that is better than anything I ever imagined for myself and feels completely natural. That voice said, "why are the deer eating these mushrooms? I want you to explore this". I did, and I didn't know what to do about it, but I did. I didn't understand fully why and felt like I was wasting time, but I did it nonetheless.
Now here I stand, having walked a road that I never saw coming. This path was laid out before me by the Lord of all creations intent in my opinion, my trail was made by the One who knew me before I was even born, stayed with me in my worst moments and had a plan for me all along. It was He who faithfully delivered me from the circumstances I escaped. It was Him who protected me while I travelled and He performed miracles in front of my eyes. It was He who blessed me with a family more precious than any earthly treasure of gold. It was He who blessed us with the ability to farm for a living and discover that deer and fungi are a thing that is much bigger than was previously held to be true. Not me, but Him who said look at the beauty and majesty of my Father's creation and help others see it too.
I went full time with this endeavor last year about this time and it's not been an easy road. But, it has been a journey filled with constant affirmations.
One of the finest moments in my opinion was when my best friend gave me a slingshot last spring while visiting him, not the wrist rocket type but an ancient style with strings and a leather pouch. I was messing with it a day or 2 later during down time at a field day in Terre Haute, IN when the fella who gave me my first consultation opportunity walked up. Turns out he had one as a kid and was smitten with it and if anyone other than Mikey had gifted it to me, I'd have given it to him right then and there. But Mike's been my homie since 6th grade and we are inseparable, I prize every little thing or moment he and I share together which isn't much at 40 and some change years old, so I kept it. The next day I returned home from that trip, my kids had brought me a worry stone from the church they had visited for their first time ever attending Sunday School. The worry stone had a gold cross on it, was a perfect fit to the slingshots pouch and was an affirmation that sent chills up my spine. The whole car ride home I had I felt like David in an industry full of Goliaths and was wrestling with the impossible uphill battle in front of me. There it was to see plainly though an undeniable confirmation. Saying, you may feel like David, but remember, I delivered him in his time of need and I shall be here for you too. Them handing me that simple smooth stone was a powerful sensation that still gives me chills, it woke me up to be a better father, husband, steward and man in general.
I'm no longer embarassed to say it publicly, Jesus saved my life, not the outdoors. He used the outdoors to mold me into what I am supposed to be and in him I believe.
For us Christians, the Apostles Creed is our affirmation to him.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
You may not see it or acknowledge it yet, but I assure you God and Jesus are not giving up on you. Things may be the best they've ever been or worst for you at this moment, but his grace is at work nonetheless.
I'm by no means a pastor, I don't even consider myself a good bible study mate. But if you're reading this and I can help you find your truth through Christ. Im available day or night, call, text, email anytime.
I want to leave you with a verse, if you happen to find a moment, please look in your bible and find it. Psalm 51:15
I want to especially thank my youngest daughter Ophelia, who opened my bible and handed it to me yesterday evening, wouldnt ya guess it, it was open to Psalms 51. Thank you to Jim for the backbone that sparked my internal fire again and Don for the example. Thank you to my wife and her persistence that we sit in a pew together. Thank you Lord for everything.