This past weekend, my daughter and I participated in what is called the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim Run. The Rim2Rim is one of those crazy adventures where you run/walk down the South Rim, cross the Colorado River, climb up to the North Rim, and stay overnight. The next day you run/walk back down to the Colorado River and then crawl back up to the South Rim.
Depending on which trail you take to the bottom, the total distance from rim to rim is approximately 25 miles one way, including 22,000 feet of elevation change.
I became fascinated with the Grand Canyon the summer after 7th grade when my family took a trip “out west” from our home in eastern Pennsylvania. I kept a diary during that trip and wrote, “The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking! I could see the results of many millions of years of water erosion and the many different layers of colorful rock. It is hard to believe that the Grand Canyon is real because it is so majestic! We saw burros and people walking down the canyon. The trails down the canyon are very hard to climb.” We were duly warned!
Our departure was slightly delayed because of a trekking pole malfunction and also because I injured one of my toes when it ran into the hotel mini-refrigerator door. Despite the drama, we had a marvelous weekend, filled with amazing experiences, absolutely gorgeous scenery, and not a little soreness!
Having done a lot of hiking in other places over the past several months, I’ve developed my own Tips for the Trail. While they were originally conceived for hiking, they also apply to other journeys, such as the trail leading to the called Special General Conference in 2019, where major decisions will be made around human sexuality. Wherever you might be walking or running in this beautiful world that God has entrusted to us, these tips will help you to be a conscientious and considerate traveler.
- Do your research and be well prepared. Know what to expect.
Will you be attending one of the eight district gatherings in Iowa and other annual conferences around the Commission on a Way Forward? It’s important for every United Methodist to understand what might happen at the February 2019 General Conference.
- Bring more than enough food, water, and neutralizing tablets for when the water is not safe to drink.
Wherever the journey takes The United Methodist Church, we won’t get too far unless we place our trust in Jesus, who is the bread of life and living water.
- Swallow your pride and let faster hikers pass you.
We are all in different place on our spiritual journey, and that’s okay. We share the same destination.
- Keep a single-minded focus. Walk slow and steady, for it’s very easy to fall when the ground is uneven. Trust me. I know.
Local churches function best when they focus on their mission, vision, and strategic priorities and don’t get sidetracked by things that are not central to their core purpose.
- Don’t litter and pack out all your trash. Littering is evidence of carelessness and a disregard for Mother Earth and others.
Care for each other considerately, tenderly, and compassionately.
- Greet fellow travelers with a smile and a “Good morning!” or Hello!”
Who are the invisible people in your church and community? Will you take the initiative to reach out to them?
- Don’t give up too easily when the trail becomes difficult. Take your time and don’t forget to help others because everyone matters.
When I encouraged an 80-plus-year-old woman I met on a trail this summer, she said, “As you can see, I don’t know when to quit! I just keep going!”
- Don’t complain about the weather. Respect the power of nature, give thanks that you are able to walk and take nourishment, and don’t forget your rain gear!
When the going gets tough at General Conference 2019, stay steady, hang in there, and be a difference maker for Jesus no matter what.
- Be realistic about your abilities. I’ll never keep up with my daughter, but l know that she’ll always wait for me.
If we are committed to the unity of the church, we will need to be open to compromise, realizing the goal is not “winning” or “getting our way,” but being the body of Christ together.
- No going off the trail or short cutting in ways that damage the environment.
One of my prayers for General Conference 2019 is that delegates will not get bogged down by “the rules,” or take the conference down rabbit holes so that we lose our way.
- Wear the proper clothing. Dress in layers, and don’t forget your hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, and snacks.
How will we prepare ourselves spiritually for General Conference 2019? What might happen if we all clothed ourselves in love? “And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly.” Colossians 3:14-16a
- Always carry a compass, a whistle, and a flashlight/head lamp.
I naively thought that we would be done with our daily hikes before dark descended. I was wrong. It’s good I had my head lamp. Jesus is the light of the world, so follow the light and be light for others.
- Pay attention to everything around you. Don’t forget to stop and listen to the trees, the water, the wind, the rocks, and the still, small voice of God.
Listen carefully and prayerfully to the views of others and learn from them.
- Expect the unexpected and be quick to adapt to obstacles like mud, steep climbs, rocks, water, or a landslide that covers the trail.
My prayer for General Conference 2019 is that every delegate will be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, wherever it may take us. May God grant us stamina, perseverance, patience, discernment, and hope.
- Hiking transcends differences and brings people together because the trail is for all people. So many different languages, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. They are all on the Way, just like you and me.
One of my favorite African proverbs is, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” May our shared journey of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ and our commitment to bring in God’s reign of grace, justice, and mercy to our world lead us home. Let’s go together!