[#pictureLent] March 10: PROTECTOR

By Clarke Campbell-Evans
Director, Missional Engagement, Florida Conference
Tampa, Florida

First, read Psalm 121:1-4

 In the summer of 1976, I backpacked the southern half of the Appalachian Trail, from Springer Mountain in North Georgia to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  Day after day I walked through the woods of this Eastern Seaboard mountain range.  For 3 and a half months I was immersed in God’s Creation.  
One of the most memorable moments along that journey came as the trail passes through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  For the most part the trail rides the ridgeline which also separates the states of North Carolina and Tennessee.  

I had camped the night before on Clingman’s Dome and awoke early to begin my trek North for the day.  I knew there was a famed overlook I would pass by in a little more than an hour so I saved heating water for coffee until I could drink it while resting at this overlook.  But to my dismay, the smoke of the Smokies had descended that morning and the fog was thick as I hiked along.  

I began to worry that I would reach my breakfast destination but not get to experience the beauty I was longing for.  The four-mile climb up to this overlook was slow.  Finally I could see the outcropping of rocks known as Charlies Bunyon ahead which has been lauded by some as the most beautiful view on the entire 2000 trail.  However, when I got there I could only see maybe 40 feet ahead of me.  

I decided to stop anyway and heat up some water for coffee and eat some granola and dates for breakfast.  Before I fixed everything, I climbed out on the boulder that extended the furthest out and sat in the fog while preparing my meal.

There was something about being surrounded by the natural world day after day that was having a profound effect on me.  Deep within I was discovering a connection with the Creator that was nourishing my soul.  When I look back on my life journey, that trail hike played a primary roll in my spiritual development that in a very real sense re-oriented my life.

Just as I was finishing my coffee that morning on Charlies Bunyon, the fog began to slowly lift and over the next 30 minutes the mountains and hills emerged before me; the sea of bluish vistas slowly came into view.  On that morning I thought of this Psalm.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills…” 
In that moment I felt enclosed in the provision and protection of God’s good gift of Creation.  All those steps I took that summer along the way and there was God holding me fast, not letting “my foot be moved.”  Thanks be to God. 

Prayer:  O Holy One, thank you for your love and care, for your protection of me and my family and friends.  Give me eyes to see the beauty of what you have given and the ways you have looked out over my life.  Amen. 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1.  When have you felt God watching over you? 
2.  Is there something in your life or surroundings that symbolizes that sense of protection? Would you take a picture of it and post it with the hashtag #pictureLent as we celebrate the many ways our online community experiences this in different ways. 
3.  In what ways does this protection give you courage to be bold in speaking up or speaking out?