The Appalachian Trail, or just the A.T., is a marked hiking trail extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles long. It is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. More than 2 million people take a hike on part of the trail at least once each year.
I’ve hiked over the last forty years with different members of my family at times and alone (Don’t do it alone!). My hikes have included parts or all of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont which adds up to somewhere between 600 and 700 miles.
Most hikers have a trail name. Mine is One Step. One Step at a time and you make it up to the mountain top where the view goes on forever. Every so often you sign a trail register to record your hike and to leave helpful notes or words of wisdom to those who follow you on the A.T. It is an amazing experience. The beauty of our land is inspiring, uplifting and healing as you live in and with nature, even if only briefly. The people you meet on the trail are equally inspiring and memorable like Crazy Tree and Santa Claus and Wolf Man. There is much to learn on a hiking trail that is considered by many to be the toughest hike in the world. It reminds me of our life’s paths.
Paul in Ephesians 5:15-20 writes; Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Appalachian Trail is relatively safe. However, just like everything else in life, there are hazards. Most hazards are related to weather conditions, human error, plants, animals, diseases, and hostile humans. These hazards can result in injury or death. Most casualties are a result of human error. Losing the trail. The lack of having provisions or making necessary preparations can be devastating. Making the wrong choices puts us in harm’s way.
In the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia I was lone hiking (Don’t do it!). A black bear took a liking to me. He shimmied down a tree as I passed by and followed me trying to get the pack off my back for over a mile. It was the fastest I ever hiked over a rocky, mountainous, leaf covered slippery path in the woods. When he got too close, I would turn and throw a stick and growl at him to get some distance between me and him. Good grief! I would not give him my pack. That would encourage his aggressive behavior and result potentially in his death.
At one point, a trail branched off up a steep bank to my left. I passed by it without thought because I was focused on getting away from the bear.
That trail was my escape. It was only 100 yards away from where my family and car was waiting to pick me up. Instead, I dealt with the bear for another half mile until I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway and help from passerbys to escape the pesky beast.
Paul says in Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” The Greek literally says, “Watch closely how you walk about.” Because if you don’t watch closely the path of life that God has set before you, you might get off onto a trail that is full of booby traps and pit falls. Choose the right path. Stay alert and focused.
Today, as in Paul’s day, there is so much drawing us away from where God wants us. We make many choices on which path to take. Occupation, spouse, where we live, children, friends, how we spend our time, hobbies, sports, interests. The list is lengthy. Each choice takes us on a different path. Paul says, don’t be unthinking when you make those choices. Think! Be wise! Look out for detours that take you away from God! 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
It is easy to get lost with a detour. If you lose your focus on the white blaze trail markers keeping you on the safe path, you may suffer from a nasty dangerous detour. Hikers have lost their way with fatal consequences. I have had some experiences that have taught me to stay focused. In July 2013, 66-year-old lone hiker (Don’t do it!) lost her way. Geraldine Largay disappeared on the trail in Maine. Largay became lost and survived 26 days before dying. Her remains were found two years later in October 2015. In October 2015, a hiker visiting from England was killed on the trail by falling while taking photos at the Annapolis Rocks overlook in Maryland.
God gives us trail markers to follow. Stay on the trail.
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Paul gives us an example of what happens when we lose the trail. The man who stops for three or four drinks or uses recreational drugs after work before he comes home tells his children, “I don’t have time to play” or “I’m too tired.” He has little energy to help with the housework and little patience to listen and be a good father and husband. When you drink too much or use other substances, even just one time, how good are you at keeping an eye on your path? The devil knows all too well that it’s harder to say “No” to temptation when a substance has deadened our good sense and reason. Paul says, “Don’t get drunk on wine!” because it is hard to then stay focused on the correct path. It is easy to watch the distractions in this world instead of keeping our eyes on the trail markers and our feet on the path.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
You can be the most intelligent person on planet earth, but if you do not know what God’s will is, you are a fool.
The Holy Spirit enters your heart as a believer in Jesus. Everyone who is a believer in Jesus is filled with the Spirit of God. He directs our path.
19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says, talk to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. One day, my husband Dave and I had hiked in Pennsylvania to the top of a mountain. It was amazing. The top of the mountain was an open ridge and the valleys below were clearly seen for miles and miles. We could see entire villages with people walking along the sidewalks and occasionally the sound of voices drifted up to us from the valley floor below. It felt like we were on the top of the world watching people move through their daily lives. Awesome!
Dave and I prayed for a long time on that mountain top. We lifted to the Lord the names of those we knew in need of prayer and those situations on our hearts. We could feel God’s presence with us as we spoke to Him. The A.T. that day was a walk in the Spirit of God.
Don’t get lost on your walk through life! Choose your paths carefully! Stay away from the devil’s detours! Watch for the trail markers blazed before you! Walk with the Spirit and in the Word. Amen.
When we walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
Trust and obey,
Not a shadow can rise,