“The Mountain Way”

The other day, as I was driving, I turned on my GPS and thought…this has to be one of the greatest inventions. EVER. I mean think about it…with a touch of a button you can go pretty much anywhere…and now with recent updates, you can even know where every traffic light is. Oh how I fondly think of the days of being a screaming kid in the back of the car with my dad trying to orient himself with a road map that is actually bigger than the car itself. A GPS is truly incredible…Sometimes it sends us off to the wrong place, or reroutes a confusing amount of times. But, for the most part we are able to completely and blindly follow it and always get to our intended destination. Until. Until you get in the woods. I am an avid hiker…like the kind that hikes for days, carries all necessities in my pack, and sleeps under the stars. I started section hiking the Appalachian Trail about four years ago and have nearly half of it done. From Virginia to New Hampshire, my boots have put on some miles. While the trail is marked fairly clearly, it is imperative to always have a compass in case a storm has damaged the trail. One tree down with a marking could completely disorient your travels. A compass, the “OG” GPS, uses the Earth’s gravitational pull to always point you toward true North. People often wonder how that is helpful….Let me just say, that going north is much better than walking in circles. Also knowing where true north is, is also knowing where true east, west, and south is as well. A compass doesn’t tell you exactly where to go, but it guides you. While we have become much more civilized with signs, cell phones, and GPS, I believe that a compass is an important guide for the future. Life is full of transitions and full of daily routines. We have habits and do things without even thinking about it—it’s our normal. It’s familiar. But. When the GPS of our daily habits gets interrupted, we need some type of compass to help us navigate through these new territories. Some may call that compass a set of personal values. Values are so important to have…to know what you want to stand strong and firm on is so important in this ever-changing world. Your trusty compass will always guide you through murky waters or uncharted territories. As a follower of Christ, my compass is Jesus Christ. In fact, I heard a cool acronym for GPS that replaces global with GOD-God’s Positioning System; if you are using a GPS let it be the one where God positions you! When we follow and are rooted in Christ, we aren’t promised that storms cease; we are promised that we will have direction and guidance to get us through the storm even if we can’t see where we are going. Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

When I hop on Facebook…I see a whole lot of wishy washy compasses that are not grounded. We are being tugged and pulled in a million different directions right now, from media, to political views, to friends, family, etc..But, the important thing to remember is your values. How will you respond, and navigate, through the uncertainties of this time? Take a minute to think about what is most important to you. When you begin to thoughtfully consider where your values are, you will begin to see things a little more clearly. You will think before you speak and process information to the way that you want to guide your life. Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Technology makes it easy to go to new places, and it matches the pace of our life—speed and convenience. The issue is, sometimes we are not quite emotionally mature or ethically mature enough to be at these new places so quickly. We need to have a set of values to fall back on and guide us. Right now, we are in uncharted territories. Our “normal” has been shaken up. How will you choose to respond? And based on what set of values? I’d like to share a little more about compasses….a very fascinating fact that I learned during my hike in New Hampshire. I think it is one of the most profound real life lessons that I learned while learning about a little compass.

Some of you may know that I am an avid hiker. I am an avid believer in the mountain way and tree therapy—nature truly grounds me. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adjust and absorb the beauty when you become mindful. God’s magnificence is everywhere! Nature screams of Gods mastermind and artistry. Genesis 1:31: And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. On a hike or in nature, that annoying morning bird outside your window now becomes part of a beautiful chorus of birds, crickets, and chipmunks singing praises when you walk through the forest. You can feel and hear the gentle breeze and see the flowers open their beautiful faces to the sun. Just writing that made me take a deep sigh! Long story short, I love hiking. When you are on serious hikes, it is important to be informed. There are a lot of little things you must know before you go off the beaten path! Recently, I hiked through the stunning White Mountains in New Hampshire. One thing about Mount Washington and the White Mountains, is that they are known for some of the worst weather in America. And trust me. They weren’t lying. Before you embark on your adventure in the White Mountains, trail gurus prep you with some advice and necessary life sustaining skills. One of which was how to escape a moose attack, along with how to avoid the crazy lightning storms and intense cloud coverage while hiking in the alpine zone that has absolutely no overhead coverage (essentially they are called “The White Mountains” because the terrain is just a massive rock pile for miles and miles). Part of the critical information that was given to me was how to stay safe and oriented if a severe storm came over—and that is with a compass. Believe me there is no service or GPS for this terrain. What was critical to me was the new concept of magnetic deviation, more commonly known as magnetic declination. I was to be aware that at the time, my compass had a declination of 15 degrees. Meaning it was 15 degrees off of true north. Without getting too scientific (I’ll stay in my lane), there are different areas all over the world that have magnetic declination where part of the earth’s composition distorts the compass from pointing true north. It was important to note that, if you wanted to go true north account for a 15 degree difference. PA actually has around a 9 degree difference. While this was important to my hike, it got me thinking how true this was to be about life.

Our moral compass and our values compass get tugged on throughout life. We are very aware and familiar with our enemy who lurks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But we know he is a crafty opponent. He creeps in…tugs on heart strings…earthly desires…lusts and slowly pervades in. His magnetic deviation is cunning and we do not often even feel his tug. But it is that 1 degree difference that can set you off your path significantly at the end of your journey. Over time that builds up. To put into perspective in a physical sense, in New Hampshire being off 15 degrees after walking ten miles can put you over two and a half miles off of your end target! Now think back to different decisions that you’ve made—good or bad--- and retrace the steps. I think about my career path all the time and something as little as where I decided to play volleyball in college has completely altered my entire career path. Decisions and choices are critically altered by your set of values. I always want my values to be rooted in and guided by Christ. Different situations that may be a result of our own choices or circumstances that may be out of our control can really challenge our moral compass. It is so important to be rooted strongly in what you believe, so that when a storm comes, you are able to find your way out of it with Christ guiding you through. As we scroll through social media, we see a lot of wishy-washy posts, comments, and belief systems that are, quite honestly, built on a foundation of sand. New information comes out daily and many people are making rash, irrational decisions and comments based on different sources. As we all know, there are not a lot of reliable sources out there. During these unknown times, it is important that we continue to ground ourselves in Christ. In life, spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally, we are tugged and pulled in many different directions and we will continually be challenged. Where are you rooted? If you haven’t ever seen the “lessons from a tree”, one of my most favorite pieces to that is—that their roots become stronger with the more that the tree has to weather. Develop strong roots in Christ through the Word! -Abby Gearhart

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story…” ~Mr. Rogers

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