God is my Trail-manager – Part 10 ‘Keep Walking’

The Appalachian Trail is 2185 miles long and it is a footpath.  The only way to cover the distance is by walking.  One foot in front of the other one step at a time.  If you are going to cover the entire distance you must keep walking.

Is it raining? You have to keep walking.  Cold today? The best way to warm up is to keep walking.  Trail too muddy?  Still have to walk.  Knee hurt?  Walk through the pain.  Bored? That’s a shame but you have to keep walking.  If you stop everyone else will keep passing you by.  They do not deliver pizza out there.  The warmth of a hotel or a soft bed in town is only possible if you keep walking.

The Christian life is not easy – it is not supposed to be easy.  God promised us that He would direct out paths if we acknowledge Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:6)   God directs the paths of the person who is moving – not the one who is standing still.  Psalm 23 reminds us that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  When we walk – because we will walk through that valley at times.  God will guide us.  God will lead us. God will walk with us.  However, we must keep walking.  Never give up.  Keep walking!

God is my Trail-Manager – Part 9 ‘Zero Days’

Most hikers will take a day off from time to time along their hike in order to rest or avoid some bad weather.  Hikers refer to these days off as ‘Zero Days’ – a day when they register zero miles.  Zero Days are important because they give the through hiker a much needed day off the trail.  Zero Days help blisters to heal and joints to find relief.  Zero Days also allow the hiker a day to do laundry, eat food they don’t have to cook, and catch up on news from the outside world.  Zero days are almost always done in town.

God implores the Christian to Be still and I know that I am God.  Jesus would often spend time up in the mountain or out on the lake.  Matthew 11:28  tells us Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

While there is much work to be done in the Christian life – it is also very important that we take ‘zero days’.  Time for vacation, rest and special time with the family.  Rest allows us time to recharge for the work ahead.  Rest also allows us quiet time with our Lord.


God is my Trail-manager – Part 8 ‘Just Finish’

The Appalachian Trail is 2185.4 miles officially as of this writing (it changes from time to time as portions are re-routed).  The goal of a Through-Hiker is, of course, to finish.  To hike all 2185 miles from one end to the other.  Most through-hikers attempt to accomplish the entire trail in one year.  The average hiker needs between five and six months to walk it entirely.  Some through-hikers don’t have the time necessary to hike the entire trail at one time – so they hike it in sections – thus completing their through-hike over a number of years.  Either way – the end result is the same – the goal is just to complete the entire trail.

Most through hikers begin in the south at Springer Mountain in Georgia and head northward to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  This direction works best with the weather. Therefore, for most hikers, the goal is the summit on MT. Katahdin

God does not give us points for artistic style in our spiritual walk.  There is no medal for speed, no trophy for performance, no competition and no competitors.  Like the trail – the goal is just to finish.  Paul declared “I have finished my course; I have kept the faith”.  Our goal is just to stand before God and here Him say “Well done thou good and faithful Servant”.  Just finish!

God is my Trail-manager – Part 7 ‘Slack-packing’

This week my son, Philip, passed the 1000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.  I have been able to walk with him on two occasions now and have walked about 50 miles with him over four days.  Three of those days I hiked consecutively with a 30 pound pack on my back.  One day I was able to walk with him in southern Virginia without a pack.  Needless to say – I would much rather walk 15 miles without a pack than with it.

Hikers call this ‘slack-packing’.  There are ample opportunities for them to call for a shuttle to pick them up and allow them to walk certain areas without taking their pack with them. For example: they will come to a road and call a hostel/shuttle service that is about 15 or 20 miles ahead.  That shuttle will pick them up and bring them to their hostel to sleep for the night.  The next morning the hikers will leave their pack at the hostel and the driver will shuttle them back to the pickup area where they will be able to hike back to the hostel without the extra weight.  Then, the next day, they will again hike 15 or 20 miles away from the hostel without their pack and call the shuttle to once again drive them back to the hostel and their gear.  The third morning, they will have themselves and their gear shuttled back to the previous pickup area where they will begin to hike as normal – but having been able to cover an easier 30 to 40 miles without the extra weight.

As a Christian, we often carry too much “weight” with us in the form of stress, burdens, sin, anxiety, fear, etc.  Our Christian journey is much more difficult that it is supposed to be because we are not leaving our burdens at the foot of the cross but are carrying our burdens with us. The journey is not any easier – just like the trail is no easier without the hikers packs – but walking it is easier without carrying the weight that God wants us to leave with Him.  After all – He is our Trail-manager and He wants to walk with us and help us along. This very thought is captured in the great hymn God Leads Us Along:

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along.




God is my Trail-manager – Part 6 ‘Trail Magic’

All along the Appalachian Trail people from the local communities will reach out to the traveling hikers and help them in a variety of ways.  They’ll leave food along the trail, they’ll offer rides for hikers, they’ll pay for their meals at a restaurant or offer them some other assistance as needed.  The hikers refer to these unexpected moments of help as “Trail Magic”.

Isn’t is amazing when God allows unexpected help to come our way.  The card of encouragement, the word of wisdom, the Bible verse just when we need it.  It’s not magic of course – it’s the help we need, just when we need it.

This walk of life would be all the more difficult if it were not for the people that God sends our way just as we need it.  Scripture reminds us that we are “one body, fitly joined together”.  We need each other.  The importance of church fellowship cannot be overstated.

God is my Trail-manger – Part 5 ‘Walking Wisely’

I have enjoyed being the trail manager for my son as he has experienced the Appalachian Trail this year.  I have sent him care packages at designated post offices.  I have kept him advised of weather conditions.  I have met him a few times along the way to encourage him, clean his clothes and restock his supplies.  I keep him abreast of current events and sports scores.

The one thing I cannot do for him is actually walk for him.  He, obviously, has to do that himself.  I help and assist from afar, but he’s the one actually putting one foot in front of the other each day covering hundreds and hundreds of miles.  Here are a few thoughts on his walking:

1) It is his responsibility to head the right direction.  That may sound obvious, but no matter how many guide books I get him, compasses he looks at, or advice he secures – he is the one that will get up in the morning, pack his belongings and head off in the right direction. That is often a problem for some people.  The shelter’s along the way may be off a side trail and the trail itself is not always straight.  Even if you are heading ‘northbound’ the trail may be circling a mountain and may be headed east or west at that moment. There are some instances where the northbound direction actually heads south momentarily.  You must get your bearings and head the right way.

God is my Trail-manger.  He has given me His book, His precious Word.  He has given me the Holy Spirit for direction.  He has given me good counsel to surround myself with.  But, God will still require me to stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ because he expects me to walk  wisely.

2) He needs to be mindful of where he is stepping.  There are many pitfalls along the trail. Rocks get slippery, sticks may roll and snakes may slither underfoot.  He who hikes must be mindful of where he is putting his foot.

The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.  We must be mindful of where we are walking.

3)  He must take care of himself physically.  The hikers along the trail quickly discover the wear and tear upon their physical well-being.  They must be mindful of their knees, ankles, and especially their feet.  It is easy to slip and break an arm or wrist.  It is easy to forget how much you are exerting yourself and not properly hydrate yourself.  Hikers must make sure they are eating enough protein and nutrition to keep up their muscle strength.

The Christian in his daily walk must be feasting upon the Word.  He must be mindful of the wear and tear that sin and this world can have upon their character and upon their spiritual walk with God.

4) The Hiker must get his rest.  Too many hikers over exert themselves.  They walk too far or push themselves too hard.  They must “walk their own walk” as they say.

The Word of God reminds us to Be still, and know that I am God!


God is my Trail-manager – Part 4 ‘No Rain-No Maine’

One of the most common sayings on the Appalachian Trail is the phrase ‘No Rain; No Maine’.  The Appalachian Trail is over 2100 miles long.  It stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in the Baxter State Part of Maine.  Most hikers that want to ‘thru-hike’ (meaning – hike the entire trail in one year) will begin in Georgia due to the milder Spring weather in the South and hike north.  They call themselves ‘Northbounders’.  It will usually take about 5 or 6 months to hike the entire trail.  However, the trail up to the last mountain in Maine will close on October 15 (earlier if the weather is too bad).

On those days that the weather is miserable along the trail, it is not uncommon to take a break, a ‘zero-day’ as they call it.  Taking zero days now and then is recommended because your body needs the rest.  However – taking too many zero days will get you behind and may make it very difficult to reach Mount Katahdin before it closes.  So – some days you must walk in the rain.  Walking in the rain stinks!  You get wet.  Your pack gets wet.  Your shoes get muddy.  You will slip and slide down the trails.  The uphills are harder.  The downhills are harder.  The views disappear.  There is nothing fun about hiking in the rain.  So, they keep telling themselves: “No Rain; No Maine”.  They must walk in the rain at some point if they are ever going to make it.

The Christian life is not easy.  There will be valleys and difficult times.  These are not the times to quit. These are not the times to get off of the “trail” or turn around in frustration. We are going to have to walk through the “rain”, the valleys of life, the obstacles that come our way and trials that plague our path if we are ever going to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.

God is my Trail-manager – Part 3 ‘Trail Name’

One of the unique attributes of trail life is that everyone on the Appalachian Trail has their own unique Trail Name.  It is usually given to you by others along the way.  You may show up with a name you like – but it may not be the one you end up with.  You can usually veto a name that you can’t tolerate.  The bottom line though – you end up with a name that you earn or that best describes you.

Names people have ended up with include ‘Compass’ – a guy who just had a difficult time heading the right way each day.  He would routinely begin his day packing up and heading off the wrong direction. So his name was clearly tongue-in-check.  Other obvious names include ‘Slow-walker’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘Young Beard’, ‘Stinky’, ‘Tiny’, etc.

What would it be like if we were given Spiritual names as we lived our Christian life?  What if the people around us named us?  What kind of name would we have?  Hopefully we would have names like ‘Faithful’, ‘Joyful’, ‘Prayer-Warrior’, ‘Gracious’, ‘Kind-hearted’, etc. We might be shocked to find that those that know us best would name us things like ‘Angry’, ‘Bitter’, ‘Ship-wreck’, ‘Selfish’, etc.

Thankfully we don’t get ‘Trail Names’ in our spiritual life.  We will however stand before Jesus at the Judgement Seat of Christ and we will be given rewards for what we did or did not do for Him.  Now is the time to determine which rewards we will be given and whether or not we will hear from Him those most cherished words: “Well done, though good and faithful Servant”.

God is my Trail-manager – Part 2 ‘His Help’

1. God made this trail called Life.  God made us.  God has ordered our steps (Psalm 37:23).  God directs our paths (Proverbs 3:6).  God knows who we are and where He wants us to be.  God created everything and by Him all things exist.  Elementary Theology – God made everything!  Isn’t it great having a ‘Trail Manager’ that actually made the trail!

2. God not only made this trail called life – but He came and walked it.  God Himself became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God felt what we feel.  God experienced all that we experience.  God felt hunger, sadness, disappointment, pain, rejection, etc.  In and through the person of Jesus Christ – God walked through this life.

3. God not only made the trail called life and not only walked the trail called life but God sees ahead and knows what we are going to face before we face it.  Just as I was able to watch the weather forecast and relay that information to my son; just as I was able to check on the National Parks ahead of him and get him the necessary permits before he needed them, just as I was able to locate Post Offices along his path and send him the supplies he needed – God also knows what lies ahead and promises to “Supply All of our Need”.

4. God knows what we need for our journey.  The trail manager looks ahead and makes sure that the hiker has the necessary gear for the obstacles that lie ahead.  Is it going to be getting colder?   The hiker will need warmer clothes.  Are they headed for a stretch with very few restocking points?  The hiker will need to take extra food for that section. God knows what we are going to need BEFORE we get there.

5. God knows what we DON’T need.  Too often Appalachian Trail hikers take things that seem important, but are just unnecessary.  Stories are told of hikers beginning the trail with a dozen rolls of toilet tissue.  You may need a dozen rolls or more of toilet tissue for the whole journey but you do not need a dozen rolls the first week.  God often removes things from our lives that we think are important, but that He knows are just too much for us to carry.

6. Now – here’s the best part!  Not only did God make the trail, walk the trail already, look ahead to see what’s coming, give us what we need and remove what we don’t need – BUT – He then walks the trail with us!  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for THOU ART WITH ME! (Psalm 23)