Tramily

One of the many things that’s really cool about hiking the AT is the “tramily.” This is a shortened form for “trail family.” Generally referred to as the group of people in which you spend a significant amount of time hiking a trail with, typically also lodging in town with whether at a hostel, hotel room, or otherwise (The Trek).

Back in May while hiking north to south near Pearisburg, VA, Rick and I passed many thru-hikers, some of which I follow on Instagram. Most of the hikers were friendly, some even stopping to chat. I’m certain that these conversations were aided much by my trail companion’s antique backpack. (I’ve almost decided to change his trail name from Good News to Antique Pack!)

Folks from all over the country. People you have never met before in your life. They speak, share stories, camp out, eat together, ride in the back of a pickup truck into town, etc. What brings them all together? Well, it’s obvious! The trail, and in this instance, the Appalachian Trail, the AT!

This one trail, whether being hiked south to north, north to south, flip-flopped or sectioned hiked, brings together the tramily. The trail is the point of connection.

There is another family that is, without reservation, the greatest family on the planet, and that is the redeemed, adopted, justified family of God (Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-5; Ephesians 2:1-22). We come from all walks of life, backgrounds, cultures, circumstances, nationalities, ethnicities, etc., yet we are bound eternally by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and only He, is the point of connection.

Here’s what the Word of God, absolute truth, has to say about his eternal family:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:1-22)

Are you a member of God’s family? If not, please read and meditate on the passage above. Surrender to Christ. Call out to Him to save you, and He will (Romans 10:9-13).

For further understanding, please take time to view the following video:

Oh, that all the Tramily would become one in God’s family through Jesus Christ alone for all eternity, and . . . you, too, my friend. Just as the trail is the point of connection, Christ is the only eternal point of connection.

The White Blazes

We made it!!

If you have ever wondered what it is like to hike the Appalachian Trail, it is apply defined by the words extreme adventure!

As you trod over the well-worn path, one step after another leads to decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc.

As I recently hiked a section in Virginia with a friend, the AT reminded me of participating with Christ in living His life, the Christian life! Indeed, when Jesus invites us to follow him (Matthew 16:24), a good synonym would be extreme adventure!

As you hike the AT, there are many items needed such as hiking shoes, back pack, trekking poles, tent, food, much planning, and major will power to make this trek successful. But above all, there is something you must have to make it from Springer Mt. in Georgia to Mt. Katadhin in Maine. What is it? The infamous white blazes. There are approximately 165,000 of these rectangular 2 x 6 inch white markings that are found on trees, posts, and rocks. The distance between each blaze varies but they are the “law” on the trail; they are the surety markers if you are to stay on trail.

In this extreme adventure of following Christ, we have an eternal white blaze that guides us every step in this journey of life, the Word of God (Psalms 23:1-3; 32:8-9; 119:105; John 14:6; Colossians 2:6). Just as I cannot stay on trail without the white blazes, neither can I participate in Christ’s life without His Word (Galatians 2:20).

This life will offer many different side paths to take (e.g. blue blazes) that may or may not be beneficial. There will be rocks, creeks, roots, decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc. along the trail of life, but you must daily follow the white blaze of God’s Word. These white markers are surety on the AT; the Word of God is the same in this trek of life.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Establish my footsteps in Your word… (Psalm 119:133).

Going to the Mountain

Living in the mountains is in my limited estimation a little glimpse of Heaven! One of my greatest joys in life is hiking, especially the AT, and immersing myself step-by-step in the sustaining handiwork of God as I journey to waterfalls, vista points, cliffs, or just singing along the trail.

Two weeks ago, I had the immense privilege of hiking with a dear friend on the AT in Spivey Gap, near Erwin, TN. What made this hike so special was the week of snowfall prior to our hike. Trudging upward to High Rocks was difficult in the measurable snow of six inches to two feet. Arriving early in the morning, the cloud cover gave way to a beautiful sunny sky which caused the snow to sparkle like a jewelry store. Animal tracks were in abundance as was the partially covered footprints of a hiker from the previous day.

Of all the glorious things I experienced on this hike, what touched me the most was the serene stillness all around us. My friend and I were the only ones on the trail. Several times I would stop to just listen to the quiet and commune with my Lord in silent prayer.

Speaking of prayer, do you do all the talking? Is your prayer life consumed with petitions only. When’s the last time you just knelt or sat in the presence of your Heavenly Father listening to Him commune with your heart in the stillness?

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. While reading this passage this morning from Luke 9:28-29, I came across a rich commentary by Alexander MacLaren that speaks of prayer in a way that I am afraid is foreign to so many, of which I long for as well.

Prayer is more than petitions. It is not necessarily cast into words at all. In its widest, which is its truest sense, it is the attitude and exercise of devout contemplation of God and intercourse in heart, mind, and will with Him, a communion which unites aspiration and attainment, longing and fruition, asking and receiving, seeking and finding, a communion which often finds itself beggared for words, and sometimes even seems to transcend thought. How different is such an hour of rapt communion with the living God from the miserable notions which so many professing Christians have of prayer, as if it were but spoken requests, more or less fervent and sincere, for things that they want! The noblest communion of a soul with God can never be free from the consciousness of need and dependence. Petition must ever be an element in it, but supplication is only a corner of prayer. Such conscious converse with God is the very atmosphere in which the Christian soul should always live, and if it be an experience altogether strange to us we had better ask ourselves whether we yet know the realities of the Christian life, or have any claim to the name. ‘Truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,’ and if we have no share in that fellowship we do not belong to the class of whom it is the mark and possession. (MacLaren’s Expositions)

Just as the freshly fallen snow had blanketed the mountains with a calming stillness, may you be transfigured by simply moving from the “corner of prayer” petitions to the quiet contemplations of the vast vistas of our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, loving, merciful, gracious Heavenly Father!

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

The Views Are Magnificent!

COVID, masks, social distancing, 6 feet, signs to tell me where to stand, restrictions, regulations, no football, protests, riots, fake news, lies, cynicism, murders, hatred, fear, loneliness, seclusion, death, etc. That’s the world we are living in right now. We read about it everyday, see it in town, hear about it from others, and are constantly notified via social media.

In the midst of it all, my greatest need each day is time in the presence of my Lord reading His Word, sharing my heart in prayer and listening to His response. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Recently, my heart needed one of my favorite spots to meet with the Lord. It is aptly named, Beauty Spot. Located in Unicoi County, TN, on the AT, the views are 360 degrees, the quiet is so calming, and the distractions of life below are removed.

As I opened my camping chair and my Bible, Psalm 121 became food for my weary soul.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help.
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

My journal is a dear companion to me, and I began to write as the Word spoke to my heart.

I will – An action from the heart based upon who Jehovah is and my need.

Lift up my eyes – I must look above my troubles and see the Lord, high and lifted up and not on earthly things, people, etc.

To the hills from which comes my help. My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth – The hills have no power to help me, but they resoundingly speak of the character and greatness of their Creator, Jehovah Elohim!

Sitting there enjoying the breeze and the stillness, I pondered the beauty and majesty of Unaka Mt., Rich Mt., Buffalo Mt. and others and the following thought came to my mind. When I lift my eyes to the hills for help, I can gaze at Mt. Mercy, Mt. Love, Mt. Power, Mt. Joy, Mt. Presence, Mt. Omnipotence, Mt. Omniscience, Mt. Faithfulness, Mt. Refuge, Mt. Grace, Mt. Righteousness and these transcendent peaks go on-and-on!!! Also, in Christ, I am always at the summit!! Positionally, I am at God the Father’s right hand!!

My friend, today, will you lift up eyes to the hills? Will you fix your gaze on the One Who made heaven and earth? The view is always thrilling, always praise-worthy, always magnificent!!!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons

The complete life of a believer in Christ is all about grace.  We deserve an eternity in hell because we are sinners under the wrath of God (Romans 3:9-30; Ephesians 2:1-3).  We are totally unrighteous (Romans 3:10).  But when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Romans 10:9-13), God accepts us in Christ by His grace (Ephesians 1:6; 2:8-9).  From that point on, we live by God’s grace, we are sustained by God’s grace, and we are empowered to live for Him by grace as His disciple (Matthew 4:19; Luke 14:26-27, 33).

So, whenever I write this post about clippin’ grace coupons, it is my way of recognizing the truth of Ephesians 2:7, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  God is so very good to us, and sometimes like Andy Griffith would say, “Extreee good!”

Here’s a few grace  coupons God has allowed me to clip in the past two weeks.

Grace Coupon #1:  Running toward the sunrise at the beach

Denise and I love to get up early on vacation and watch the awesome display of God’s handiwork!  She walks, and I run.  What a time we have together!

Grace Coupon #2:  Seeing the elk at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountain Park

What a special treat to hike this area as well as Big Creek with a dear friend and fellow hiker, Rick Stoner!

Grace Coupon #3:  The Beauty of Cataloochee

Grace Coupon #4:  Singing in the Sun 2017

What a special treat to attend two nights and hear such groups as Mark Trammell Quartet, Brian Free & Assurance, The Talleys, Gold City, and Triumphant Quartet.  Better than the singing was the preaching of Evangelist C.T. Townsend and Dr. Herb Reavis and seeing many souls come to Christ!!  A special thank you to the Life FM for the great seats.

An unexpected blessing on the second night was to sit right behind a young girl from back home, her husband and their daughter.  Then, to find out that a dear friend of mine and his wife were a section over from us!  He and I have shouted, praised the Lord, wept, and rejoiced at many Southern Gospel concerts.

 

Grace Coupon #5:  Worshiping With Our Daughter & Son-in-Law, Whitney & Paul

I Met Jordan

Jordan

Living in the mountains of East Tennessee gives many reasons for rejoicing and thanksgiving! The scenery changes every day and every season through the myriad acts of God’s creative, sustaining, sovereign hands.  How often I find myself singing “How Great Thou Art,” and “How Great Is Our God!”

Yesterday while driving back from Asheville, NC, I had in my mind to stop along the creek near Rocky Fork State Park near Flag Pond, TN.  Major rains had descended upon us through the night so I knew the waterfalls would be awesome, and it would provide a peaceful place to sit and commune with my God in prayer.

The Lord had other plans for which I am oh so grateful.  When I turned onto the Old Asheville Highway, there was a bearded man with a full pack and hiking poles which immediately signified an AT thru-hiker.  Since I love to hike, especially on the Appalachian Trail, this was a great opportunity in many ways!  Upon offering him a ride, he threw his gear in the back of my car, and we headed for Erwin and Uncle Johnny’s.  What a special treat to listen to his recent weather-related stories as well as the back-story of his life.

The very best part was the joy of talking about eternal life, listening to his answers, caring for his needs and ministering to him Christ Who has finished the work of salvation for all sinners including Jordan and myself.  What a special privilege!!

Please pray for my new friend, Jordan, as he hikes the trail.

Meeting Jordan was the highlight of my day!!

 

Here are two links to his story and the reason for his AT journey:

Jordan’s Story

Jordan’s AT Thru-Hike

 

Here is a video link for you to learn how you can have a personal relationship with God and know for certain your sins are forgiven and that you have a home in Heaven forever.

The Gospel Message

How’s the View?

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Hiking has always been in my blood!  I remember as a six-grader hiking up East River Mountain, Bluefield, WV, on Christmas Day with a foot or more of snow on the ground!  Wow!  I have never forgotten the views, the beauty of the sparkling snow, and the fun of just hiking with family.

Something that beckons me to climb a mountain is to reach the summit.  Why?  Because I am so intrigued by the view, and I want to know what it looks like on the other side.

 

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One of the many blessings of traveling to Israel was mounting the summit of the Arbel Cliffs.  What an awesome view overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  During the early ministry of Jesus, which took place on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, Scripture mentions that He departed into the mountain to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12).  We cannot be certain that the Arbel Cliffs was that mountain, but it sure could have been since it is situated between Tiberius and Capernaum.

Praying takes me to the summit.  There is no higher throne of authority than the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

From that summit, I see all things around me through the eyes and wisdom of God.  There, I am taken above my worries, fears, anxieties, questions, doubts, temptations, Satan, old sin nature, and needs.

At the summit of prayer is that quiet place above the noise and distractions below.  There I feel like I could soar like the eagles.

There at the summit, I can see the attributes and character of God, the person of Christ, and the enabling help of the Spirit who draws me to prayer.

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The Psalmist David knew about that summit when he said, From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2).

And when he (Jesus) had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

How’s your view this morning, this afternoon, and this evening?

Sabbatical Journey #3 – Time

Beauty Spot, Unaka Mts, TN

We have had several folks ask us what we did on our sabbatical.  Well, here’s a brief look into this blessed 31-day journey.

Going into the month, our goals were, as mentioned in Sabbatical Journey #1, to rest, refine, replenish, recharge and refocus.  My wife and I greatly anticipated TIME . . . TIME to pray, read, seek the Lord, think, prepare, pray, seek the Lord, study, read, pray, think, seek the Lord, etc.  The Lord graciously gave us our hearts desire.  James 4:8 says, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

How wonderful it was to begin the morning meeting with my Lord in such places as our back porch, by a creek near a waterfalls, up high on Beauty Spot, in the sunroom at my in-laws or on the back deck of a lake cottage.  During these days, I read portions of or completed the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. My, how the Lord did speak to my heart!  One of best parts was reading the Truth and then watching the Lord make connections that day either through a book I was reading, situations I found myself in or conversations I had with others. My journal is a treasure to me of what God clearly spoke to my heart!

On August 25th as I sat all alone on the Appalachian Trail with Bible, journal and pen in hand, having just read Colossians 1:24-29, I wrote the following:  As I look down the AT, I see a marker pole with a white blaze, and I am reminded of Jim Eliot’s quote, “Lord, make me a crisis man.  Bring those I contact to decision.  Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”  The more TIME you spend with the Lord, the more you want to be that kind of man.

Thank You, Lord, for TIME to meet with you, uninterrupted and with no time limit.  Eternity will be awesome!!

Attitudes and Altitudes

I love hiking! Since the days of living in Bluefield, West Virginia, which included hiking to the top of East River Mountain and traipsing through the woods hunting, the outdoors are continually calling me.  Last Saturday, I had the joy of hiking Black Balsam near Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This area is known for its balds which reminded me of Roan Mountain.  We stopped for breakfast in Brevard and were greeted with the warm, encouraging sun as we exited the restaurant.  I’m thinking, this is going to be a beautiful hike!  Halfway up the mountain to the parkway, the sky started to grow darker.  When we arrived at the trail head, we were met with ice pellets, blustery winds, and COLD!  Standing at the back of the car, putting on our layers, packing some protein, and watching the clouds hover ever so close, I knew this would be an exhilarating hike!

As we fought the wind up the mountain, I realized I had left my gloves back home.  My hands were freezing!  Rick suggested I use a pair of sox.  Am I ever glad I packed an extra pair in my pack!  The winds howled and the clouds hid the sun and the views.  I remember one major turn in the trail that put us trudging dead center into the wind.  Eventually, we reached an area over 6,000 feet and tucked ourselves down below some rocks to break the wind and to have a snack.  It was still cold, but we were having an awesome time!

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After an hour or more, the clouds started to dissipate a bit and move on.  The sun warmed us and the views were spectacular.  We could see Looking Glass Rock in the distance and Graveyard Fields below.  Looking another direction was Shining Rock.  The hike back to the car involved walking an old railroad bed.  You could see the old bed across the valley on the opposite hill and hear in your mind that steam locomotive climbing the steep grade.

 

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The best part of the hike was the fellowship Rick, Andrew, and I enjoyed.  One very special moment was stopping along the trail to pray for lost family members and friends who need to come to Christ for salvation.  What a blessing to have eyes to see God’s creation, words to speak, a heart to rejoice, and a voice to sing along the trail and to speak to other hikers as they pass.

Hiking is 70 – 80% attitude as you hike changing altitudes, weather and trail conditions.  To keep going through all the challenges on a trail, you must have the right attitude for it will be tested. That is much like life.  Every day our journey Home to Glory is affected by our outlook on life.  For followers of Christ, what attitude should we have on the trail of life?  Let this mind be in your which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).  In other words, your attitude should be the same as Jesus’ attitude.  Furthermore, Hebrews 12:2-3, tells us how to have that Christlike attitude, Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Meditate on this today, keep your hiking poles in your hand, and enjoy the view, the journey.

We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice. ~ John C. Maxwell

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