Books That Bless: The Walk: Reflections on Life and Faith from the Appalachian Trail (Part Two)

Sunfish Pond on the Appalachian trail in New J...
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Mick Turner

continued from Part One….

In creating the content of The Walk, Motz and Harris have produced a work that is quickly engrossing, fluid in format, and wide-ranging in terms of content. In addition to coverage of standard spiritual themes such as prayer, faith, and worship, the authors offer up skillful treatment of subjects like perseverance, family, and community. Moreover, Motz and Harris present chapters in which they juxtapose themes such as pride and humility and, in one of my favorite chapters, materialism versus simplicity.

In this particular chapter, the authors point out how the daily realities of hiking the Appalachian Trail forces individuals to live simply. The lighter the pack on your back, the better and the application of these truths to the Christian walk of faith is obvious. It is also in the chapter where I found Motz and Harris frequently displayed their talent as vivid writers of description and further, were once again able to achieve seamless transitions as they managed to weave spiritual principles and lessons learned into their descriptive narrations. For example:

What was not provided by simply opening our packs and searching inside, was provided by the environment around us – the sunsets, the perfume of damp pines, or the delicate flight of a hawk. In those few instances where we did not have exactly what we needed, we learned to improvise solutions from what we did have or from what we found around us. There came an undeniable sense of satisfaction in solving a problem using our own wits, a sense of accomplishment we could never experience by simply running to the supermarket, Home Depot or the local outfitter to purchase the solution.

In the chapter in which the authors discuss the issues of pride and humility, Motz describes an accident on the trail, one in which he took a nasty fall and injured his leg. Applying this to the lessons of daily life in general and the Christian walk of faith in particular, he shares:

Life presents its own share of falls, especially when we pursue it with an egotistical heart. Our lives can become a competition, a self-centered race to “make it” and join the ranks of the adored and revered. Satisfaction in simply being who we are created to be just does not seem to suffice. Satisfaction in achieving God’s plan for us, the plan that He so lovingly and painstakingly put together, takes a backseat to our striving to meet society’s, and our own, definition of achievement and worth. . . . . . . . . .Interestingly enough, because we are unable to grasp the concept of how much more rewarding God’s plan is for our lives, He has ways of getting our attention simply by allowing us to experience the futility of our own plans.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to that last sentence in spades. I have often felt, due to my own stubborn nature and dense mind, that God has resorted to treating me somewhat like a snow globe. From time to time I have needed a strong shaking. After the section quoted just above, the authors provide the following scriptural passage from The Message:

I’ll break your strong pride: I’ll make the skies above you like a sheet of tin and the ground under you like cast iron. No matter how hard you work, nothing will come of it; No crops out of the ground, no fruit off the trees. (Leviticus 26:19)

I would also add that throughout the book the authors, in set off sidebars, include quotations entitled, “Native American Wisdom,” thus acknowledging the oneness with the natural world that was such a vital part of the Native American lifestyle. Each chapter also includes a devotional to ponder and a heartfelt prayer relating to the themes just discussed.

In the books closing chapter, the authors give moving examples of how various individuals have lived out Christ’s example of loving service by giving back to the Trail in one way or another.

As I stated in Part One, I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone interested in the Appalachian Trail and especially to those who are sincere about their daily walk with Jesus Christ. The authors have done a masterful job of interweaving experiences and lessons encountered along the trail with issues of practical spirituality. This is no easy task and Motz and Harris, known in the book as Windtalker and Mom, have accomplished this task with skill and subtlety.

© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved

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