April 25th

I left Gatlinburg this morning and took a shuttle from the Nantahala Outdoor Center outpost to Newfound Gap. This was 7 miles further than I’d left the trail, but there was a charge to take the shuttle to Clingman’s Dome and I felt it was more sensible to simply take the free ride and not worry about the skipped 7 miles. This is the third time I’ve “leapfrogged” like this, but I don’t think I’ve missed more than a handful of miles. If it truly bothers me, I can always take these small sections as future weekend vacation destinations.

From newfound gap, I hiked to Icewater Spring Shelter, a distance of 3 miles. I would have gone further, but with the next shelter being 7 miles further and I didn’t get to the Trail until almost noon, I felt I couldn’t get the full ten miles in time. The terrain for this day was actually fairly gentle, so it was a good afternoon to get me back into the swing of things.

I had downloaded several sermon series from the Blue Ocean Faith Church of Ann Arbor, the messages I was listening to today were from a series entitled “Sola Jesus” (the incorrect Latin grammar is intentional to echo the protestant slogan “Sola scriptura”) I was fascinated to hear the different preaching style, which leaned far more to the academic (I’ve read elsewhere that the church congregation has a higher level of education than the average) than I’m used to. While I found the messages interesting, I noticed that they seemed far more directed to those already in the church rather than to new comers, which was also different than what I’m used to. It’s understandable however since the church is the result of a recent spilt, they left the Vineyard denomination (which is the tradition I personally belong to) and I’d be willing to guess that the church is still working to specify their identity as a church.

As to the core message itself, they were using the term “Sola Jesus” as a counterpoint to Sola scriptura, arguing that the protestant churches, while correctly using Sola scriptura to react against the abuses of the Catholic Church, had instead drifted into another series of abuses, using the club of orthodoxy to sideline grace. This is a theme of concern I’ve had personally for some time now. I am not sure theologically speaking how I feel about certain issues, but I do believe that many churches here in the US have been incredibly exclusionary to the LGBT community, and have failed spectacularly in the application not only of the idea of “adiaphora” (the Greek term for items that don’t matter, or points where disagreement are accepted) but also a sense of humility and grace when approaching topics where it’s entirely possible that the orthodox point of view has been incorrect.

However, I also still fervently believe in not only the authority, but also the living power of scripture itself. I know that Scripture has been demonstrated as a living document, one which engages and grows with understanding in time. I think this is also their understanding, as they passionately remind their listeners to continue to read an engage with scripture, both as listening to the Holy Spirit and growing in understanding in God. I felt convicted in this actually. I’ve been reading the Professor Horner plan on a daily basis while on the hike, which includes ten chapters a day, from across the very different genres of the Bible, including the Pentatuch, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels, and the Epistles. This has been some great reading, but I have failed to stop and actually partake in prayerful engagement of this reading.

When I got to the shelter this evening, I was pleased to see Placemat and Crow, two fellow hikers I’ve enjoyed conversation with at several points. I was particularly happy to see Placemat since the last I had seen him he had been struggling. The shelter also has one of the finest views I’ve seen at a shelter since entering the Smokies. I enjoyed a quiet evening(though I made sure to not engage in a debate some others had on gun control by mentally repeating the song “Let It Go” over and over in my head), and hope to go to sleep early, so that I can get up early to get some good miles in tomorrow
The downloaded sermons also mentioned two prayer exercises that I hope to use at least for the next few days. The first was a prayer of gratitude, going through your day examining all the things for which you are thankful for during the day. I have been thankful for getting checked out of the motel in a timely manner. I’m thankful that I got to the shuttle to get back to the Trail on time (I had been really worried I’d be late and miss it) I’m thankful for the individuals who signed up to sponsor days this week so that I could afford to resupply. I’m thankful for the church that was passing out free food at the trail head so that I could get one last can of coke before restarting my hike. I’m thankful for the clear weather we had today. I’m thankful for the thought provoking listening I had this afternoon. I’m thankful for the fact that I was able to get a spot in the shelter when I got here. Thankful that my fellow hiker Placemat is safe. And of course I’m thankful that I have the absolute privilege of being out here and taking this hike.

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