How Y’all Doing,
As I sit here tonight writing this evening’s post I looked back over the last few days and the thoughts that have been dominating my mind have been about two movies that arrived in theaters a little more than ten years ago about missionaries that traveled to the Ecuadorian rainforests back in the 1950’s. The movies are viewed as controversial as quite a few Christian films generally are. Those two movies had a huge impact on my life and the lessons that they teach I have tried to follow in my own life. I will be the first to admit I am not a perfect Christian, I will even agree that I am not a good Christian. I do say that I am a fair Christian. You may be wondering where I am going with this, just stick with me a little longer.
As the slain missionaries families reached out to the tribe that killed their husbands a point was repeatedly made (and I am paraphrasing here); “Will you walk His trail?”. That stuck with me all these years. And over the last few days I have been asking myself “What trail do I walk?” and “Am I following my own trail?”. Then it occured to me, that each and everyone of us have our own trail to walk. The trails that close friends walk are those of restaurateurs, police officers, trail angels, cashiers, and the list goes on and on. I know that for blog posts to be successful that the creator needs to be passionate about what they are writing. Since I am “Following My Own Trail” that trail involved walking, hiking, backpacking, and cycling, and much much more. It also involves doing research, cooking, blogging and continually learning about the effects on my body from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Peripheral Neuropathy, Non Epileptic Seizures, and Epilepsy. And as you know part of that “Trail I Follow” involves following where my faith leads.
Over the last decade I have learned that the “trail I follow” with the illnesses I am told I have, by doctors and other healthcare providers, will limit my life and may very well one day kill me. Evidently, each of them can at anytime make my heart stop beating. I believe it happens, to some people, though I am planning on living until I am at least two hundred years old. Most do not believe me that I will make it that long, but then again, they believe they will not make it past eighty years old.
When I was a child I was part of the Cub Scouts, and later the Boy Scouts. Along with coming from a family that were reliant on the outdoors to provide food for the table, I participated in school clubs such as the Future Farmers of America and the youth group of the church I grew up in. I joined the United States Marine Corps and for a short time I enjoyed the ice cold rain that came in off the Pacific during our morning runs. Yes, I like being outdoors, no I do NOT like Southern California heat. Every chance I had I spent outdoors. I myself developed a love and a respect for the outdoors. I have slept in tents, hammocks, pallet structures, wigwams, and cowboy camped. Since those early years I have lived in a variety of different places from Shiawassee County Michigan to San Diego California to New Eagle Pennsylvania. I have lived in or near four of the larger metropolitan areas of Michigan; a good portion of that time on the streets, yes, some of it (six months) in a shelter but the remainder in a tent, under a bush, against the wall of an underpass. I have spent countless hours walking barefoot in the sand and surf, down deer paths and into churches. I do not do things for their shock value, nor do I do them because I want to create strife, I do things that I have developed a love and a passion for. Yes, I am a Christian that has stumbled many many times and no I don’t believe I should be forgiven for all the evil that I have done. That is the unique thing about my faith I know I have been forgiven by the one that created me.
One of my most favorite memories is Sweets and I were visiting a local church that wanted to know how they could help the homeless that lived outdoors and we were asked to come and speak to their leadership. There was a dinner after service and as we are sitting there quietly waiting to speak with the group a member came out and announced that the church building was on fire. Now mind you, this event happened roundabout late February early March and that smell was Sweets and I. We had been living in a wigwam and well the wood smoke that could be smelled was us and our clothes was the cause of his distress. The deacon that was causing the ruckus would have nothing of it. He was insistent that it was the building on fire and not our clothes. Of course to convince someone that there are those that prefer to live outdoors compared to staying in a shelter or an abandoned building when the snow is two feet deep, and they will not accept it, is near impossible. The senior pastor came up to me and asked if we would mind stepping into the maintenance closet with our outer layer of clothes and hang them there. We had no objection. No sooner than had we returned to our tables to finish our meal and the deacon came back out and informed us that there was a fire in the maintenance closet. The moral to this story be open to the “trails that other people follow”.
I have met many people in my life and every single one of them were “following their own trail” (some of them were side by side with a loved one); we can learn to travel down the trail and be lonely or we can embrace our life, this life we were given, and in doing that we can seek peace. It is unusual to “Embrace Life and Seek Peace”. Many people that cross our own trail do not want to do one or the other or even both. I have been asked what “embrace life and seek peace” even means and if they do not have a happy life, it is very hard for them to accept such a basic concept. Yes, it is scripture, 1st Peter 3:8-12, but at its core it goes right along with what I have been saying. I have learned to embrace my life. I embrace the good, the bad, the ugly and everything else. I embrace every part of my life. And then I have also sought out the second part of the phrase which is “seek peace”. I not only seek peace between myself and my friends when there is tensions between us, I seek peace with my enemies, and yes I have many. Though the greater part of seeking peace is not with other people but it is with me, myself, that I seek peace with. I am physically, emotionally, and psychologically sick. It is not a matter of if I say it, it comes to be the truth in my life. I can not remember at any given point in my younger life when I decided I was going to speak disease into my life, and because I spoke it happened. That would be insane. I have slowly taken the time to learn what each of these diseases do to the average person and I have accepted that I have control over them. I have each of them, they do NOT have me. I will “follow my own trail”.
The knowledge I have, I choose to share with you because everyone knows someone that is affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis or, Peripheral Neuropathy or, Non Epileptic Seizures or, Epilepsy, whether they themselves have one of these diseases or they know someone with them. The basic knowledge I will be sharing with you over time basically comes to survival for someone. Knowledge is one trail I intend to learn from. I know I have been using the word “trail” in a general sense up until now, now it it time to change it to a more specific meaning. Each of us has a trail we follow. Each trail we follow is made up of other trails. These other trails consist of knowledge, will power, faith, survival instinct, and many many more.
Sweets and I followed similar trails that led us to become “homeless missionaries”. We set up a campsite in a community that was called Wild West due to its proximity to a country bar nearby. We ended up with people donating supplies of all sorts; clothing, tents, bedding, food, Bibles, and utensils. The local police would stop by every once in a while to chat about the local goings on in our community. It was during one such visit that the local township police captain renamed the community Sanctuary. You see the township police would bring us those that they found sleeping under bridges, sometimes those that were sleeping on park benches, at bus stops, wherever they found them, they brought them to us and we would make sure that they had warm clothing, a shelter, bedding, a warm meal and food to last them a little longer, and the utensils to make the food. We didn’t worry about serving a person that was intoxicated or high, we wanted to help, and one of the many ways we did that was to keep them out of lock-up. We handed out Bibles to those that wanted them, some didn’t want a Bible and that was fine. Some took them to use as rolling papers. Many nights we had a Bible study or took Communion, usually with previously frozen boxed wine.
I refused then to force feed someone Jesus before they get food in their belly, just as I refuse to participate in any program now that does that very thing. I don’t expect anyone to convert to Christianity to get a basic need. That is not following a trail, that is a death march.
I will continue to “follow my own trail”; just as you will continue to “Follow Your Own Trail”.