Thanks to you all for the kind words and encouragement in my efforts to stay in touch with my daughter Katie and my son-in-law Nick as they thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The following is the last three installments as Katie and Nick make their way to the Georgia-North Carolina border (see below).
Day Four: Belief
Katie, it was SO good to hear your voice today! I’m sorry it was so brief, but I was racing from the church lobby to meet with Michael Koehn (a meeting I couldn’t miss) when Mom stopped me outside my office door. Still, as quick as it was, I loved hearing from you. Mom will fill me in on what you told her when I get home tonight.
Here’s what I’ve been mulling over all day: belief.
About a week ago I started watching a movie about 70s track star Steve Prefontaine titled “Without Limits”. I ended up finishing the movie this morning. It was good. I was talking to Jim (Burgen) about it and he told me he read the book…which of course made me laugh because he doesn’t read and, in turn, made him mad for laughing at him. Anyway, there was this scene where Prefontaine notices that this girl he’s interested in is wearing a cross necklace. He asks if she’s Catholic and the girl thinks he’s making fun of her. Prefontaine assures her he’s not making fun and tells her he admires her belief. He tells her, “It's the hardest thing in the world to believe in something, if you do it's a miracle.”
That has stuck with me all day…and it’s stayed with me right up until now…as I try to sit down and write you two this note. It’s true. Believing in something really IS a miracle! It’s hard to believe in stuff today…in a day-and-age where cynicism is the rule…where (thanks to Photoshop) you can’t trust pictures…and it seems like everyone’s a liar…or (as Brian Williams calls it) a “mis-rememberer”.
But here’s another truth: I believe in you two. I truly believe you are going to finish this hike. I believe that whatever storms you face on this journey…the real ones…like the 2 hr. storm you endured last night…or the mental and physical ones you’ve had…and the ones that are still to come…I believe you’re going to overcome them. I believe that you will both grow stronger; physically, emotionally, and relationally throughout this trip. And (most of all) I believe you’ll both grow spiritually in this too.
I probably feel this especially strong this weekend because it’s Easter. I mean, some of us REALLY believe that Jesus—this itinerant Jewish rabbi from Judea really was (and is) who said He said He was: The Son of God…and believe that He was killed, buried, and came back from the dead over 2,000 years ago. And while erasing our sin is the biggest bonus, He made some really cool promises that He backed up by His resurrection. Like this one, today’s Bible verse:
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22
Now, I really don’t think that Jesus is condoning asking for anything—the “Name It, Claim It” message that has hijacked a lot of Christianity. I think it all comes back to belief. What do you REALLY believe God wants for you? Do you really believe that God only wants to give you expensive, shiny cars and wealth beyond measure? Maybe. Or do you REALLY believe God wants what’s best for you; your character growth, deeper relationships, and a closer bond to Him? I think that’s sounds more like something I can believe in…and ask for in prayer…and receive. Nothing against shiny cars and money, I just know that that stuff always gets in my way.
So, I will be praying for a miracle. I’ll pray that your belief in Jesus…and your belief in yourselves…will grow beyond measure over the next 130+ days. And I believe it will.
Day Five: Hope
Sorry. I know this is going to be a quick one. It was Easter weekend and I've been at church most of the time. It was great, but you both were missed. Especially when the Burgen-Foote Clan rallied up at Jim and Robin's. Katie, I hesitate to share this, but shortly after we arrived this afternoon, Mom picked up Emery and she looked at her and asked, "Kay-Kay?". I only pass that along to let you know you were missed by everyone. We got lots of questions from Jim and Robin and Leah. They are all excited and hopeful and encouraging of you. Just know that everyone back here is pulling for you!
Nick, thanks for sending the update--and the pictures. It really helps Amy and I when we get to see your faces in your absence. I will state that my stomach clenched a little when read…
"We have not been drinking enough water. I'm sure of it. As a result, both of us are experiencing some pain in our right knees."
I can't help it. I immediately went into "Dad Mode" when I read that and wanted to try and fix the situation--which is a little hard when we're almost 1,500 miles apart. I will trust that the two of you will slow down (when your body tells you) and pace yourselves for the long journey.
No matter what you do, I know you both going to experience aches and pains along the way. Which brings me to today's Bible verse from Romans 5:3-4:
"…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
Now, when the Apostle Paul wrote those words, he was most likely referring to early Christians who were already suffering persecution--which included beatings, slavery and death. Still, we can all agree what Paul writes in Romans can apply to us today…and to you two on the Appalachian Trail. You are going to suffer. You're going to deal with small stuff like lack of sleep and boredom and mosquitoes…and you could end up dealing with some more serious sufferings, like: inflamed tendons and pulled muscles and deep chest colds. But no matter what you struggle through, try and remember the formula Paul points out in Romans 5. Your suffering will produce perseverance.
So stay strong. Be smart, but fight through the pain. When you do that, it produces character. You both already have strong character, but this hike is going to stretch that to the limit…and try to remember that through your pain…in which you persevere…and will only strengthen your character…you will find hope. There is always hope because God is in the hope business.
We can't wait to hear from you again. Stay safe and be wise.
Day Six: Rest
You both already know this: Mom and I process things differently. She’s internal, I’m external. She gets quiet and I can’t shut my mouth off. I need to talk things out to get them straight in my head, right? Mom’s much better at compartmentalizing things than I am, so when we both hear that you’re dealing with dehydration and achy knee joints I want to talk about it. Mom doesn't. She wants to pretend you’re still in your apartment over in Broomfield instead of collapsing in your 2 ½ lb. tent somewhere in the woods of Georgia!
That being said, I want to echo what I wrote yesterday…and encourage you to slow down a bit. I don’t want you to stress your minds and bodies over some self-imposed deadline, possibly hurting yourselves and ruining your chances to go the distance of your hike. If I’ve learned anything over the last few years I’ve learned that rest is as important as exercise when it comes to staying healthy.
So I’m asking you to hold each other accountable to making sure you rest as much as you can—allowing your bodies to heal and regenerate from the physical stress you’re taking on. You are both carrying more than 20% of your body weight on your backs. That would take a physical toll on your body even if you walking on flat land, let alone carrying that up and down over countless hills and valleys. Rest needs to be as important as clocking in the miles you need to get in before fall comes and Mt. Katahdin freezes over.
Rest. That’s also what today’s Bible verse is about. And even though Jesus isn't namely talking about physical burdens and physical rest, I think you can still apply it to your grand adventure on the AT. It comes from Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When Jesus talks about His “burden” and/or “yoke” He’s referring to the truth of His teaching and what it means to embrace and be part of Him and “the kingdom of God”. I want to encourage you both (as you struggle with your physical burdens) to think, and meditate on, Jesus’ promise here in Matthew. Think about these words when you stop to rest throughout the day and when you quit for the night. Remember that Jesus promises to take all the struggles and worries of this world and make them easier—not take them away—but make them easier and more manageable.
Incorporate deliberate, intentional rest into your journey and wait and see the results to your physical bodies—and see what happens to your souls.
Mom and I are praying for you constantly.