The Blazes

This Monday School post is inspired by my backpacking trip over the weekend. According to the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club there are 165,000 or so white blazes on the Appalachian Trail. A blaze is a 2 inch by 6 inch vertical rectangle painted in white on trees, rocks, posts….even bridges to mark the AT. Some hikers forgo a map and only follow the white blazes to guide them on the trail. blaze

I never knew what a blaze was until I had to know what it was. It’s a good thing our guide shared about them because they helped as I trekked the trail alone in the snow on my first AT hike. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Follow the white blazes.

It makes me think of the exchange between Jesus and Philip in John chapter one.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  John 1:43

What Jesus didn’t say is just as important. He didn’t tell Philip to get his act together. He didn’t give him a checklist or any instructions. He didn’t require him to quote a large section of the Old Testament or ask him about his past.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Philip followed. Then he told his friend Nathanael and he followed Jesus.

Is it that simple? Follow Jesus and tell our friends about it?

Or are we like the teachers of the law and the Pharisees called out by Jesus in Matthew 23, adding heavy burdens and strict rules? Have we made it something it’s not supposed to be?

The white blazes are easy to follow usually, but hikers miss a blaze and get off course. This past weekend a young hiker asked us if he was on the AT. When we told him we were, he asked us to tell the young lady following him at a distance that she was on the right course. She smiled with a sigh of relief when we assured her she was where she was supposed to be.

That’s what friends are for.

 

Forest

Making Headway

I’ve been running for over three years now. I went from believing I could never run to…….well……running. I’m not sure I’m any good at it. I’ve never experienced the “runner’s high” I hear about unless you count how I feel when I’m finished with a run. I’m elated after a run. Because it’s over.

And on my last runs, I felt as if I’ve never ran in my life. It was awful the entire time. Maybe it was because I woke up late and skipped parts of my routine. I rushed out the door before I finished my first cup of coffee because I was determined to get the run in before I had to be in the office. Within the first quarter mile I knew. My legs ached and my lungs burned more than usual, so I slowed my pace. The slower pace only prolonged the misery. The run never got better. I almost quit halfway through my goal, then I thought about quitting the rest of the time. But I finished.

When I read what Jesus thought when he saw his disciples in a boat on the sea it reminded me of my run and our lives.

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”  Mark 6:48

I can think of no better words to describe the hard parts of my journey. My running journey, the married one, the parenting one, my working and writing ones and the most important journey – the following Jesus one.

Making headway painfully.

Of course, it’s not always like that. There are days when it’s easy. Or easier. Good run days happen. I don’t let the bad run days stop me from working to get better at it.

It’s the same way on the other journeys. I can’t let the hard days of my marriage make me forget the good days. I don’t let the days when I feel uninspired to write any words prevent me from continuing my blog or steal my dream of publishing a book. On the days my parental decision making is less than wise I try to remember all the times it wasn’t.

And on the journey that matters the most…the one that affects all my other ones, I’m learning as I go. There are days I’ve let pride rule my heart, or acted selfishly. I’ve ignored what Jesus said about loving my neighbor or failed to do something good I know I should have done. But it happens less than it used to. I’m learning. Slowly at times. Painfully sometimes. But I’m moving forward and I’m never alone.

Jesus said, “Take heart, it is I”.  Mark 6:50

He sees. He knows when it’s painful and slow. And He’s there giving me the courage to keep at it.

I stumble…..but I’m making headway.

 

 

Take Heart

My Lenten journey coincides with another journey…..one I knew would be complicated and take me to hard and lonely places. But it’s a good journey. I don’t know of any worthy journey without challenges.

It’s the hard parts that make us stronger. We’re more courageous when we get to the other side of a trial. Our hearts are strengthened by God’s faithfulness and His promises become the anchors to our souls. And our trials are nothing compared with the glory to come.

“Jesus came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower,” writes Soren Kierkegaard in the reading from Day 11 of Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. He continues, “Christ’s life is a demand.”

God, give me courage to follow. Not to admire, but to follow.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”    John 16:33

 

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photo by dietmaha @ pixabay

 

 

 

 

path photo by danielam @ pixabay