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The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

“I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

– John 14:6

ACCEPTING THE COMPELLING FORCE OF GOD

C.S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. He stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period of time, he continually wrestled with God. He found the church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.”

Lewis was a member of the Oxford University community, surrounded by people like Yeats and Tolkien. He was part of the intellectual elite of England during the early part of the 20th century. He couldn’t buy into the winds of God. His wrestling with God eventually ended because God became the only answer to a life-long yearning.

He wrote his own conversion story, where it states: “You must picture me alone in Magdelen , night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” The searching had ended. Encouraged by his friends, like Tolkien, he was changed and reborn.

“Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down.”

C.S. Lewis went on to become strong a Christian. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and was instrumental in helping the English people’s morale during the bombing of London in World War II. Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down. Nicodemus, another reluctant follower from the first century came out of the closet and acknowledged Jesus publicly. He was at the Crucifixion and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to provide the burial tomb and spices.

“God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never ending.”

Life gets in the way of God, as it did with Lewis.  God pursues us. We fall and don’t accept the winds of God, but God’s chase is never ending. Once we give in to our gift, we are quickly whisked to life as another being. We are still “frail and faulty,” but our lives have changed.

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

This is my Father’s World, to Share

We have crossed over into the northern part of the trail.  We are excited to be in more familiar lands. Looking forward to the many places we have visited in the past. We have now been in nine states and walked well over the eleven hundred mile mark. We have also found a new sense of joy and an added purpose to this walk, to share this world with others.

Friends and family who have expressed a desire to see and experience what we have seen. To try out the climbs and cross milestones with us. To see the changing states and walk by the mile markers of each one hundred mile marker.

Into this world, we invite them to hear the birds singing praise, dine with other hikers and experience God’s creation in person. While this sharing will slow our progress, it also provides us with a new and added reason to walk. To share “Our Father’s World.” It is the joy in their eyes we will see. For them a new sense of nature. It reminds me of a song I often played on my piano, “This is my Father’s World.” Whose lyrics are:

This is my Father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres

This is my Father’s world
The birds their carols praise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their maker’s praise

This is what we see and feel every day. It is now our turn to share. From old friends to daughters and grandchildren to brothers and sisters. A special joy will be felt when we see my parents and walk a few steps with them. Sure we will have to adjust our schedule, but it also provides us with a chance to share. Other hikers we have gotten to know will march forward on their glorious journey of discovery, while we share.

We will share and be glad we did.

When Myron Avery helped create the Appalachian Trail, he wanted to create an accessible place for people to visit, even if it is only a few miles. A place that is pure in its expression of the beauty that is nature. A place that all, young and old can see. We now have this chance to share in this dream. A journey not measured by marching many miles, but a journey of experience. Exposure to a place that changes our perspective of what is important.

We look forward to being with, Bern, Taylor, Kenny, Doug, Chrissi, Luke, Ashley, Roger, Ann, Bob, Dot, Jimmy, Penny, Greg, Betsy, Spencer, Nevin, Anna, and Eva. These are the people we hope to see. They won’t slow us down, but give us a chance to share.

Our first companions were Chrissi and Kenny.

Connie’s twin sister and her husband. It was a treat to have Kenny, a professional pastor, say our morning prayer. We taught them how to climb a mountain without stopping for a rest. With a steady pace that was within their ability, by using short steady steps. In this day they covered a variety of terrain that is similar to our typical day. They got to experience the wonder of majestic views. They were with us when we crossed the 900-mile mark. We had lunch on a rocky outcrop that provided views of the Shenandoah’s. At the end of the day, we were proud of what they had accomplished and glad to have shared.

The picture today is one of Kenny and Chrissi, at the outcrop where we had lunch.

Below is a picture of Luke walking with Papa Bruce.

Luke, my grandson, and Ashley my daughter have also come to visit as well. In this visit, we were able to walk a few miles on the trail to a rock outcrop with views of the Shenandoah valley. A visit where Luke reached beyond his fear of heights to see this glorious view and show his dad by FaceTime his achievement. Moments which we get to share that reshape our journey.

 

 

 

 

Below is a picture of Bern and Connie.

Our most recent visitor was Bern, a long and dear friend. Bern walked with us in Maryland and West Virginia, near Harpers Ferry.  Bern was with us for the start of the rocks that are strewn across the paths on the northern part of the trail. In two days Bern covered 18 miles of tough terrain, climbed a 1300 peak and was there for the walk into Harpers Ferry while crossing the Shenandoah River footbridge. An amazing feat on Bern’s part.

This is not a typical event on the trail.

It is hard for visitors to maintain the same pace of hikers who have walked many days. But sharing is now part of our journey. One we will enjoy, helping others share in what we have seen. Our hiked morphed long ago into one of experiencing the trail and not just walking the miles. We met people much earlier in the hike who told us they wished they had experienced more in their thru-hikes. They wished they had stopped a few more times to see more than just the miles. Some have returned, like Magellan, who hiked the trail in 2016. He told me this second journey was not about time tables or the miles. Later this summer he will join his son in Maine to climb Mount Katahdin.

We welcome our visitors and thank them for helping create a wonderful experience. This trail is for all to hike and experience. These are visits to “Our Father’s World.” Moments that immerse people into the glory of creation.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

-John 3:7-8

SEEING SPIRITUAL WINDS

On this dark night near Jerusalem, Nicodemus is struggling to understand the message of God.  Nicodemus was from the ruling class of the 1st century Judean society. He had nearly everything, wealth, a member of the Sanhedrin and status. Yet here he was, trying to learn what Jesus had to offer. He came to Jesus in the darkness part of the day, at night, so that he wouldn’t be seen. He had a yearning for God and deep in his soul he knew Jesus was the answer. Torn between the trappings of his material life and the desire to know God, he visits Jesus.

Struggling he tries but he doesn’t get what Jesus is saying. All that he had and knew was at risk, preventing his full comprehension of what Jesus had to say. Knowing this Jesus was frank and to the point, he tells Nicodemus, “You must be born from above. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” -John 3:7-8

Jesus’s point compares the spirit to the wind. God directs the spirit and the wind. He is simply telling Nicodemus, that if he is with God and born from above, then he would know that the wind or life isn’t for him to control. Those in commune with God or born from above understand the wind and the spirit. They know God is sovereign. He is also telling Nicodemus that he is trapped in the world. Matthew Henry , the famous 17th century theologian, explains it in this way, Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe.”  Nicodemus is at a crossroad in his life. Does he accept Jesus’s answer, which threatens his wealth, power and status, or does he return to his old life and still have a thirst for God that can’t be satisfied by the natural life.

For those us peering into this story, we know the choice Nicodemus should make. A test that he has to take in the school of life, that has only one question. Perhaps we feel like screaming out, “choose the wind!” Almost as if we are watching a science fiction movie and we are encouraging the main character to not go into the dark room. We all know the answer and what we would do.

This is the same question we are asked every day, sometimes every hour. Do we choose the comfort of our life or choose the wind. Nicodemus has a lot to give up. Many from the ruling elite  in the first century wanted Jesus taken care of or at least silenced. He posed a threat to all they had. To embrace the message of Jesus threatened all that Nicodemus had achieved through the world.

For those of us in the twenty first century, the question on our own life’s test is the same. Which path do we choose?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

– Genesis 13:17

WALKING THE LENGTH AND BREADTH OF OUR FAITH

The great father of our religious heritage, Abraham, was from the tenth generation since Noah. His father, Terah, had taken Abraham from his home in Ur,  to journey through the land of the Canaanites. His father never made it into Canaan. Distracted from his mission, stopping instead in Haran, where Teran died.

After his father’s death, Abraham was spoken to by God, who said; “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1 Abraham began a long journey throughout the region, taking with him, his immediate family and nephew Lot. Along the way, they were beset by many struggles, including a famine. Desperate to avoid the loss of his health and wealth, forgetting God’s command, Abraham led them into Egypt. Abraham like his father became distracted and lacking in faith moved away from God’s plan.

While in Egypt, Abraham told his wife, Sarah,  to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister. An act of concealment to avoid having Abraham being murdered. For his wife, Sarah was beautiful and Abraham was sure that Pharaoh would murder him to possess his wife.

The plan worked for a while, Sarah was fully accepted in Pharaoh’s house. Abraham was treated well by the Egyptians. Pharaoh takes Sarah as his wife, but soon develops sore and other plagues caused by God. Pharaoh confronts Abraham and asks him why did he lie? Why did he not tell Pharaoh that Sarah was his wife? Fearing more retribution from God, Pharaoh him banished from Egypt.

Along the way, both Abraham’s and Lot’s herds grew. Causing animosity between Abraham and Lot. Abraham tells Lot to choose a place where he would go and Abraham would take what was left. Lot chose a large parcel of land that would be best for his herds but also contained the city of Sodom. A place that was notorious for its wickedness and sinful behavior.

Lot moved his herds and settled in the city of Sodom. Abraham took over what was left. A final settlement and finally Abraham was in the land that God wanted him to be. After years of traveling to Canaan and being distracted by his own fears and hearing the sirens of other lands. Abraham was where God wanted him.

God then issued a request to Abraham to, “ “Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” – Genesis 13:17 Abraham was now finally where he should be and God had told him to inspect all that he owned. Not just to see, but walk its length and breadth. To immerse himself in all that God was giving him. Not just see the trees and water, but to be with the land. To explore every facet of this land that he had inherited from God.

Metaphorically, we can see this same thing in our lives. Our faith is the land that God wants us to explore and become immersed. Not just stand by and watch the unfurling of our faith, but to experience and invest our energy into our faith. To move beyond just saying our prayers and reading the Bible. But to explore our prayers and the Bible. To become deeply immersed. To learn the ways of the world and what to avoid. To wonder at the majesty of all creation. To wonder about the stars, to observe the spiritual winds of our lives. To not become attached to the shiny and temporary glimmers that the ways of the world. To not live our lives in fear and desperately try on our own to solve our problems through worldly ways.

God has a great bounty of spiritual wealth awaiting us. God will protect us and guide us on this journey. In times of trial he will hear. We will never be alone.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

The Geology of the Appalachian Trail

We decided to take a one week vacation from walking the trail. After arriving in Pennsylvania, our seventh state, we found our knees worn out and suffering from our third sickness. We will be skipping the rocky terrain of Pennsylvania and moving up to New Jersey to stay on schedule. We will come back to PA in the fall.

In just a few days of resting, we found ourselves missing our trail life and having a defined daily purpose. We missed the other hikers we have grown to know and the simple daily existence. But we found our ankles and knees were sore from the daily grind. Before we took our mini hiatus we had walked almost 14 days in a row. Mostly finding rocks that litter the trail.

We had been told that when we hit Virginia that the trail got easier. Certainly, the climbs were lower and our legs were much stronger. But we kept asking ourselves, “when does Virginia get easier?” The further north we walked, the greater the number of rocks and large boulders. Slowing our pace and creating unwanted falls. One day, in particular, we had to descend a half mile rock fall. A steep drop where each step had to be strategically thought out. It made me wonder, why the difference in terrain conditions versus the southern part of the trail.

In my research, I discovered why.

It wasn’t that the trail was less maintained, but by the geology of the trail. The Appalachian mountains are close to five hundred millions years old. Some geologist claim they are the oldest mountains in the world. They are four times as old as the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada’s.

Erosion and glaciers have reduced the size of the Appalachian mountains over these many years and created the steeper up hills and down hills. The average grade on the trail is over two hundred feet per mile, while the Pacific Coast and Continental Divide trail are far less, at over one hundred feet per mile. While the Rockies are higher and its largest peaks are fourteen thousand feet high, the trails are graded to handle livestock movement. As such most climbs are no greater than 11%. Whereas on the Appalachian Trail, many climbs are 20% in total with some sections reaching 40%!

So while the highest point in the Appalachian Mountains is Mount Mitchell at 6,600 feet, the steepness of the grade is the difficulty. Added on to this is the many years of erosion and the effect of numerous glaciers.

The erosion in the southern part is not as severe as the northern part, as the glaciers only reached the Ohio Valley. Their effect was to remove the topsoil and leave the rocks. Many of the rocks were pushed forward during the many ice ages. When you look at the topography of the Appalachian Trail on a map, which we did in Harpers Ferry, you see the Appalachian mountains are wider in the south and generally much higher.

The northern two states, Maine and New Hampshire, have some high peaks but are generally a thousand feet smaller. What these two states do have are much steeper climbs. In many places the climbs are over a thousand feet per mile, making both the ascent and descent hard. Even experienced hikers slow to a pace of one mile per hour.

Virginia Discovery

What we discovered in Virginia was not an easier trail, but a different trail. Our new obstacles were granite rocks that were left behind from the erosion. We also discovered the ridges were narrower and the valleys more fertile. Farms dotted the landscape and on some days we even walked through farms.

As we entered the three states of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, the rocks became more frequent. The boulder fields were longer and bigger. In the southern part of Virginia and Tennessee, we could easily walk well over 2 miles an hour, or the average speed of the typical hiker on the Appalachian Trail. We actually slowed going north to just at 2 miles an hour. While not as exhausting as the steep climbs in the south, our hiking is more technical. Each step has to be carefully watched.

What we have learned is not to trust the small rocks, they will move and cause you to roll your ankles. Connie discovered that looking for the big boulders and charting a course among them was far easier. When the rocks are wet, they are greasy and rounded or sharp rocks need to be avoided or a slip and fall will occur.

So while we were told, when you hit Virginia the trail gets easier, we did not find this to be true. Sure the climbs weren’t as high, but the walking was harder because of the rocks. While our legs are much stronger, our walk is more measured.

We missed the trail and have returned this week. We needed the time off, to rest and let our knees recover. Our lesson we learned, is to be more careful with what we try to accomplish. To be more careful in planning out our days. To bring to the trail more from the outside, like friends and our other interests. A blending of the outside world with trail life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

— John 9:25

GAINING OUR SIGHT THROUGH JESUS

The backstory for John 9:25 reveals a person who was blind from birth, whom Jesus heals. The man is begging on the side of the road when Jesus sees him. The disciples ask Jesus if the beggar is blind because he was sinful, or were his parents sinful? Here Jesus begins his lesson.

They met the blind beggar on the Sabbath. To begin this lesson Jesus picks up mud and rubs it on the eyes of the blind man and tells him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  (John 9:7). The man goes to the Siloam pool, which was just outside the city of Jerusalem. (The pool was recently rediscovered in 2004 by workers working on the underground plumbing systems of the city.) After washing, the man can see, and he returns to his community, the members of which  see the change in him. They are extraordinarily doubtful, wondering among themselves if this could be real, or was it someone else they were meeting that looked like the blind man? Ironically, this same doubt occurs frequently even today with those who are spiritually reborn. Their neighbors and friends, stuck in the past, wonder how the person could have been saved. They are not willing to completely commit to the person’s transformation.

After a long period of questioning, the people of his community ask the formerly blind man where Jesus is now, and the man answers, “I do not know.” (John 9:12) The crowd brings the man to the Pharisees, who also doubt and ask numerous questions. The Pharisees strangely focus on the fact that the healing occurred on the Sabbath, a clear sign to them that Jesus was a sinner. In the minds of the Pharisees this was the path to follow in determining the authenticity of the healing.

The Pharisees then question the man’s parents, who confirm that he was blind at birth. Not wanting to risk their status within the community, they avoid expressing any opinion about their son’s healing and tell the Pharisees to talk to him directly. The Pharisees visit the formerly blind man a second time and question him more aggressively.  Trying to force the man to acknowledge that God healed him and not Jesus, they say to him, “Give glory to God! We know this man is a sinner.” (John 9:24). Still stuck on the fact that the healing was done on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are more interested in discrediting Jesus than in understanding the healing. The man replies, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)

Frustrated the blind man says, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30–33)

Unwilling to accept this rebuke from the saved blind man, the Pharisees drive him out of his community. Imagine how we would feel, if suddenly we were physically or spiritually healed and then we were subjected to this kind of doubt and questioning. The blind man, after a lifetime of being blind, no doubt imagined that those that surrounded him would be overjoyed at his sudden regaining of sight. We readers of this story can easily sympathize with the blind man and wonder why the Pharisees or his community could not come to terms with the fact that Jesus healed the man.

For those who were blind and now see, this is a common issue. Many will not believe that the supernatural change and healing in them came from an honorable cause. There must be some trick to it, more than just a change of heart or a healing. With Jesus that is all there is. As the blind beggar said so simply when asked how he was healed, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God.”

– Philippians 4:6

THE SIMPLE ELEMENTS OF PRAYER

Prayer is an essential part of developing a strong faith. Through prayer we converse with the sacred and begin a dialogue about our life. We either hear or see responses. At first there might not appear to be answers, but over time they begin to become revealed through the events of our lives as we move deeper in our relationship with God. Our prayer life expands and we stretch out the boundaries of prayer.

As we go deeper, prayer becomes a regular part of our day and our faith is strengthened. We also begin to expand the context of our prayers, leading to a richer prayer and faith life. We begin to see that there are four elements of prayer that can be said as individual prayers or in many cases included together in a single prayer. They are:

  • Prayer of Adoration to God. This element reflects our faith in God and the sovereign nature of God. It is also a praising of God. In the Lord’s Prayer, we see it expressed as “Hallowed be thy name.”
  • Prayer of Petition. This is where we request and ask for God’s help. Simple words expressing our needs. In the Lord’s Prayer, we see this expressed as “Give us our daily bread.”
  • Prayer of Intercession. It is here we are being a good neighbor. We are asking for life assistance for a friend. We are asking God to intercede on behalf of our neighbor. In the verse “Give us our daily bread,” by using the word “us” we are not only asking for ourselves, but also for our neighbor. Prayers of intercession that stand alone usually contain a more direct request.
  • Prayer of Thankfulness. This element of prayer is when we take the time to thank God for his involvement in our lives and reflects our gratitude for all that God has done for us.

God wants us to pray with our hearts. Accomplishing this requires an emptying of our thoughts or emerging somehow into a state where we are uniquely alone with God. A place that soothes us and frees our minds for this sacred conversation, centering ourselves to only be focused on God. It is our heart that God wants, free of daily tasks and our to-do list. Many people find a quiet, comfortable place to pray, a routine in the morning that moves them away from the world.

God wants us to be in prayer continuously, and he wants to hear our desires. Being overly prescriptive with our prayer life can make it rigid and meaningless. There are only a few guidelines that I can offer to people who ask me how to pray.

  • As it is in the Lord’s Prayer, I suggest always starting with a praising of God. In this statement we recognize the sovereignty of our relationship with God.
  • Always treat prayer as a sacred act.
  • Ensure that you are in a place and mindset that will be free of distractions.
  • Pray through Jesus and recognize the redeeming aspect of Jesus.
  • Pray truthfully—God knows the truth about you already!

Praying seems hard at first. We ask what we should pray for? How do we pray? By following these simple steps we can engage in a healthy prayer life. While we should pray in desperate situations, we should also remember to pray with thanksgiving. God wants a full relationship with us, not just in those times of stress, but in all our joys as well. When we pray as if we are an open book we allow a richer conversation with God. A powerful faith is developed through a rich prayer life that in turn honestly observes God’s response.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Weather on the Appalachian

No day starts without knowing the weather when you hike the Appalachian Trail. Recently, I was sitting on the side of the road at a trailhead waiting for a ride. The rain was hard and soaking everything, causing temporary streams to flow in front of me. My pack was covered with my rain cover and I had my rain jacket on. Those parts not covered got extraordinarily wet. My shoes filled up with water and my pants completely soaked. Trees couldn’t protect me, it rained hard. Still, as the water dropped off my cap, I was peaceful and admiring the gift of water. I was comfortable in an uncomfortable spot.

I had checked the weather before I set out and knew it would rain about the time I finished. Sure enough, it arrived as predicted. I was glad I had seen the weather report because the trail was very rocky that day and rain would turn the rocks into a slippery obstacle. A place no hiker would want to be.

It was good that I checked the weather. I knew what was ahead that day. For us, we have walked into and out of the seasons. Many times the weather is different below in the valleys, then at the top of the mountain ridges. So we use the Appalachian Trail weather report. As we walk and the seasons change, we also change our daily preparations.

In hiking the trail, you experience all four seasons; late winter, spring, summer, and fall. At the start, you walk through winter for a few weeks. It’s biggest weather threats are cold, ice and snow. There are days that are delightful in the late winter, any temperature above 50 with no wind or rain is ideal hiking conditions. But we had those nights of cold, where sleeping outdoors is hard. Any exposure of skin was uncomfortable. Early on in our hike, we walked in a gusty wind with temperatures just below freezing, that caused the ice on the trees to pelt us like an unseen machine gun. We had to flee the Smokies just before an unforeseen winter storm, where winter reminded us of the unpredictable nature of its season.

In the spring, we got to see the trail turn from a stark brown to a colorful green. At first, we saw it coming in the form of flowers emerging and in the valleys below that turned green. Slowly it came up to the mountains, day after day. Until one day all the flowers had bloomed and our world was green. Winter doesn’t give up easily and the spring weather will diminish for a few days until it finally takes hold. Hiking in the spring is wonderful, with its just right temperatures and its soft gentle breeze. We no longer had to wear three layers of clothes, on many days walk with only one shirt. The arrival of the newness spring brings excited us and became a tapestry that got more complete every day.

Summer brings warm weather, humidity, and late afternoon storms. The summer causes us to drink more and Gatorade becomes an elixir. The hiking pace slows and requires more stops. The heat and humidity drain our bodies of fluids, causing lethargy that is only solved through good hydration. Summer caught us by surprise. Late in the Shenandoah mountains summer arrived. Humidity and temperatures above 85 became the norm. Some days were above 90. Our only protection was our green tunnel and easier climbs.

Every day we discuss the weather and the forecast. We try to schedule rest days on rainy days. This is not always possible. On the days it rains the trail gets very greasy. Stepping on rocks is like stepping on ice. The ground itself causes us to slip. Cold rain is dangerous and if we aren’t protected, hypothermia can set in.

Every day we look at the weather on the Appalachian Trail site. We have found it to be more accurate than the local weather. The site focuses on the mountains and is arranged by state and shelter. For all of us, it has become the most valuable tool.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’”

— Matthew 8:27

WHAT SORT OF MAN IS THIS?

Jesus is sleeping in the cargo hold of a boat that also contains his disciples. From seemingly nowhere the wind picks up and the seas begin to roil. The waves begin to become so large that they threaten to swamp the boat. The disciples begin to panic. Trembling, they awake Jesus and with terror in their voices say, “Lord save us! We are perishing.” Jesus arises and rebukes the disciples by saying, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Immediately Jesus stops the wind and calms the sea. Upon seeing this,  the disciples say, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

What is amazing in this story is the lack of faith of the disciples. By now they had witnessed healing and other miracles by Jesus.  They had seen demons cast out, had heard the wonderful Sermon on the Mount, and seen destitute lives changed. We can well wonder, how could they still doubt that they would be saved from the sea? How had they let their human fears override their knowledge of who Jesus was? We in turn can wonder, would we be any different?

Jesus replies with, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” His reply contains a universal message about the difficulty of faith. In spite of all they had seen from Jesus, they still allowed their worldly fears to swamp their faith, just as with us, despite all we have seen we allow ours to do the same.

Each time Jesus visits any of us we are left with amazement, many times wondering why we doubted.

Also in this story is a universal question of “What sort of man is this?” Who is Jesus that he calms the wind and seas? Who is Jesus that we can have confidence in him as our savior? While the answer to this question exceeds all humankind’s understanding, we are shown on a regular basis Jesus’s value to humankind. We are told to have faith, because we should. This is easy to mouth, but a simple platitude isn’t enough. Faith, in part, is experiencing and knowing what sort of man this is.

Jesus never gives up on us and will always pursue us to have faith.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman