April 17th

I had some trouble sleeping last night so I got up to read for a while. I’ve discovered that I struggle with sleeping on my town stops, I think because I get access to the Internet and my brain kicks into an overdrive. I cannot express how much of a relief it is to me to be able to chat, even briefly, with people back home. I’m realizing more and more how much I miss especially certain individuals by how much I look forward to saying something to them as soon as I am able, even in cases setting up messages while I’m still out on the Trail so that I can send them as soon as signal does become available.

The book I’ve started reading is Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson. This is the second of Ken Wilson’s books that I’ve read (technically third, he also Co wrote Empowered Evangelicals along with Rich Nathan, another book that I dearly loved) and I’m realizing that I would very much like to meet him at some point. I’m actually growing concerned with this book because I so readily agree with everything he’s saying so far that I fear it’s simply a matter of stoking my own egotistical viewpoints. I’m trying to pray as I read that God gives me a critical heart, testing what he’s saying for Truth. However, much of what he’s saying so far in the book regarding frustration with the church structure and establishment becoming a roadblock for faith rather than a wheelhouse for it is striking a cord with me. I have long had on my heart a pressing desire to reach those of an atheistic or agnostic background, especially those who’ve reached that viewpoint primarily through being hurt by the church. I have one friend in particular who I carry in mind and heart every time I come to these topics, asking myself what she would say when presented with a given message or point of view. I understand, I think, and appreciate Mr Wilson’s heart to tear away the barriers that have been erected for these to help bridge a way for them to meet with the true, loving, and powerful God that I know stands behind the Church, and is all too often found being forced move around them. I’ll continue to pray and read through this book and hope some growth comes through it

 

In the morning, I woke up early to take a shuttle into town so that I could attend the local church. I was tempted once I was in the village to skip though, as I wanted to spend that time still catching up with friends via Facebook, but I knew that I had been sorely missing my home church and the fellowship there, and I was hoping that going here would help salve my heart in this way.

 

I have to say, I wasn’t sure what exactly I was expecting. The church in Fontana is a non denominational church, the pastor explained that it was founded by TVA workers building the nearby dam, who reasoned that there weren’t enough of them of any one denomination to support a church, so the one church would have to cover all. When I got there, it looked like I was going to be the only one in attendance, which I realized was stressing me out. I get extremely awkward and uncomfortable in new social situations, so the idea of being there with the pastor, her husband, and the worship leader, and I as the only attendee left me feeling on the spot. Fortunately another woman (who as it turns out lives not too far from where I did in Kentucky) showed up at the last minute, so I felt like some pressure was taken off of me

 

The church service was interesting, with several classic hymns including one, “This is the Day”, that I haven’t sung since I was a very small child at a country church. The message was on connecting the story of Jesus’s salvation with the blood of the passover story. It was interesting that I kept getting distracted, wanting to be snide and argumentative in my heart when I thought the pastor was playing it a little fast and loose with some interpretations or incorrect with some dates, but I reminded myself not to be a hypocritical ass hole and focused on the core message and the fellowship at hand. I have to say, the communion time, after having just discussed the death of Jesus in light of the passover story, was incredible, with personal as well as interpersonal, prayer time. Just what I always feel communion needs.

 

Afterwards, I went to the local grill restaurant for lunch. I’d noticed the previous day that they had a salad bar and had set my heart on getting an all you can eat salad lunch and destroying several plates of cucumbers and onions, my favorite vegetables. Unfortunately, they only allowed one trip to the salad bar per person (and there were no cucumbers!) , so I settled for a burger with a side salad. I then went to the general store to sit and read, chat online, and charge my phone.

 

Some other hikers were there, and at first I was glad for the company. I had met most of them at other shelters, and they seemed like some fun people to be around, but the longer the conversation was going, the more and more that they were grating on my nerves. I’ve gotten used to some pretty corse conversation over the years, especially after working in the restaurant industry for a long while, and I’m honestly a pretty foul mouthed person when left to my own means after a while, but as we were standing in front of the town general store, with a large number of people passing by, the loud and seemingly increasing crude conversation began to feel embarrassing. I felt completely separated from them and had no desire to partake in the socializing, but also didnt really have anywhere else to go. It’s interesting that there were several times that they brought up the fact that they were offensive to others, and each time the reasoning was that anyone who was offended by them should leave, and that it was always up to someone else to give in to what they wanted. They were scoffing at people who would complain when they’d smoke at a shelter or use sexual conversation in general company, because they felt entitled to behave as they would, and everyone else was owed nothing. Again, I wouldn’t have thought twice if we’d been out alone in the woods, but as they ran back and forth, often with tones reaching a near screaming pitch, all while non hikers went by trying to buy their own travel supplies or run errands, I wondered how it made us as through hikers appear to the larger community.
In the evening, there was a hiker gathering being hosted at the Village rec center and we were all invited. I hadn’t been able to get a clear description of what was going on from anyone ahead of time other than that free food was going to be available, but I didn’t really have anything else to do, so I went. Turns out, it was the opening night of a hiker camp being sponsored by the resort, and they were expecting the thru hikers to give a presentation on what our hike was like and our background. I figured this out when the meeting started and the host turned to me and said, “well, I’m going to be turn this over to the hikers, James why don’t you start us off?” My high school speech coach would likely have been proud as I went into a several long minute spiel explaining myself, my background, and my hiking experience, and only about halfway through did my brain catch up and realize what I was doing. It was pure reflex public speaking, and I forgot how good that felt. I miss those opportunities of addressing a group, be it teaching a training class, addressing a team meeting, or preaching in church

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