Tuesday, November 22, 2016


My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 23, 2016, issue of The Mena Star

My son-in-law is an avid backpacker. In 2001 he spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile trail that traverses fourteen states from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. Only about one in four who attempt to hike the entire trail are successful.

In 2007, My daughter and son-in-law vacationed in Olympic National Park in Washington state. They backpacked 27 miles of the most remote wilderness beach in America. My daughter was seven months pregnant at the time, and my two-year-old granddaughter rode on her Daddy’s shoulders. Talking about the trip, my son-in-law said, “I carried Autumn, and Cynda carried Rebekah, and the Lord carried all of us!”

As a family, they have continued backpacking. My six-year-old granddaughter has a couple of trail names. She is called Louisiana Lightning, because of her steady but slow pace, and Trail Tripper because she has a tendency to fall down on the trail. As they hike along, they sing, “She is a trail tripper, a Sunday hiker yeah, It took her so long to hike out, she hiked out.”

Recently my son-in-law organized a weekend backpacking trip for more than thirty people, including 15 kids ranging from six to fifteen years old. They backpacked  15 miles along the Eagle Rock Loop Trail, from Winding Stairs to Little Missouri Falls, spending two nights on the trail.

It is a lot of work organizing a backpacking trip with such a large group, especially with so many kids. My son-in-law spent many weeks preparing for the trip and demonstrated good backpacking practices to the kids and their families. He taught classes and presented a list of things to bring. At the top of the list of items to bring on the trip he wrote the following words, “If you think we have forgotten something, we haven't. You simply don't need anything more than this. If you only bring these items, we guarantee a fun trip. Anything extra will void our guarantee. More stuff equals more pain, NOT more comfort.”

The number one rule of backpacking is, “pack light.” Every ounce that you take has to be carried on your back. The lighter the load on your back, the fewer blisters, aches, and pains you will have. The key is to balance comfort in camp with comfort on the trail. A lighter backpack can help you hike better for a longer period and help you enjoy the hike more.

The Globotreks website offers the following advice, “pack everything you think you will need, then get rid of half of it.” The website goes on to say, “don’t carry things just because you think they can come in handy. From experience, most of the time those ‘handy’ items are never used; but you end up carrying them all the way.”

Backpacking can be an allegory for the trip that each one of us is making as we go through life. Many times the Bible uses the concept of a path to describe our lives. In Psalms 16:11 (NET) the Psalmist states, “You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” And in Psalms 18:36 (NOG) he says, “You make a wide path for me to walk on so that my feet do not slip.” Psalms 119:105 (NKJV) tells us that God has provided us with a way to light our path, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”

As we backpack through life, remember that many people have gone before you on the path. Listen to the wisdom of those who have walked through life before you, and think about the lessons they have learned that could help you in your walk. We don’t have to learn for ourselves things that others have already learned from experience.

Make sure to plan your route. Planning is an important step whether you're mapping out a hiking destination or seeking God's will about decisions in your life. Remember that God promises to be with you, guiding your steps. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

Check regularly to make sure you're on course. If you've left the right trail or made a wrong decision, you can always find your way back with God's help. If you're weighed down by carrying too heavy a load, lighten your burden. In Psalms 38:4 (NKJV) the Bible talks about a heavy burden; “For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.”

One of the most common mistakes that first-time backpackers make is trying to carry too much weight. They feel that they really must have that battery operated fan/light, those cans of beans and a frying pan. In this life, God knows that we are carrying a heavy burden and He wants to lighten the load for us.

Gentle Reader, you can hike more comfortably when you pack less, and you can walk more comfortably on the paths of life when you give your burdens to God. “Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.” 1 Peter 5:8 (VOICE) Jesus asks you to, “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

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