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  • By the Way Small Groups

    Photo by Tara Beth Leach

    When I wrote my discipleship book By the Way: Getting Serious About Following Jesus, I envisioned people reading and discussing it in small groups. I do hope people read the book, but more so, I hope people read this book together, hammering out the details in community. Jesus and the early church leaders designed disciple-making and disciple-practicing to be done in community.

    We were created in the image of God who is a holy community of persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We bear God’s image when we intentionally follow Jesus in community with other Jesus-followers. Through our mutual sharing and learning, we can encourage one another and learn from one another.

    While it would be best to read the book as a part of this small group discussion, it isn’t necessary. You can download a free study guide that has all the discussion questions for each chapter. These questions are also at the end of each chapter in the book. You don’t need to have read the book to participate in the discussion.

    Download the free By the Way Study Guide with discussion questions for each chapter

    Small Group Details

    By the Way Small Groups work best in a 10 to 12-week format. There are 10 chapters in the book, so at a minimum it would be good for the group to meet at least 10 weeks. If your group meets for 12 weeks you could begin with an introductory session where there group gets to know one another and gets oriented with the book. Then take a week per chapter, concluding with a group meal on the last week.

    Small group discussions can be powerfully transformative if the group can agree upon some basic ground rules.

    To get the most out of this study guide and small group experience, adhere to the following five ground rules:

    1. Speak only from your own experiences and feelings.
    2. Create space for everyone to share by keeping your comments brief.
    3. Preserve confidentiality: what is said in the group stays in the group.
    4. Find ways to encourage one another and avoid trying to fix one another.
    5. Press into moments of silence with personal reflection.

    At the beginning of each session, groups or leaders can:

    1. Select a leader to facilitate the discussion for the next session.
    2. If the people in the group do not know each other well, invite everyone to share their name and something interesting about themselves.
    3. Ask one person to offer an opening prayer.
    4. Ask one person to read the five ground rules.
    5. Ask one person to summarize the chapter.

    The questions associated with each chapter appear both in the book itself and in this free study guide. They serve as a guide to get your group talking and reflecting on the material in each chapter.

    Feel free to follow the conversation wherever it may lead. Some people may want to discuss parts of the book that are not represented in the questions. That’s okay.

    Follow the relational flow of the conversation. The best small groups prioritize “people study” over Bible study.

    Each chapter’s set of questions begin with icebreaker questions that get everyone talking. Then the bulk of the questions invite participants to reflect on key concepts in the book. The last question for each chapter invites people to consider how to put into practice what they are learning.

    My Prayers

    When I pray in the morning, I pray that God would take my book and multiple it that churches may be equipped to make disciples of the Jesus way.

    I pray your By the Way Small Group experiences the grace of God and that together we all grow in the ways of Jesus. I pray that you meet some new people and that existing friendship grow, because we all need friends in our journey of following Jesus.

    Download a free copy of the By the Way Study Guide with discussion questions for each chapter.

  • Come Learn with Me

    Hey friends! I have two unique opportunities coming up this year for those who want to continue to grow as followers of Jesus. Both of these opportunities are connected to my discipleship book, By the Way.

    Come learn with me!

    Creating Pathways for Discipleship
    (Webinar: August 15)

    Missio Alliance is hosting a webinar that Sean Palmer and I are leading. This is free one-time event. Sean and I will be discussing the shape of discipleship in the church today.

    In particular, I want to describe the three shifts that need to be made in the church in North America to increase our capacity to make disciples of the Jesus way.

    1. Shifting from thinking of discipleship as a ministry of the church to thinking of discipleship as the task of the church

    2. Shifting from treating evangelism and discipleship as separate activities to integrating evangelism and discipleship into a single action

    3. Shifting from viewing salvation and discipleship as separate categories to combining our experience of God’s salvation and our intentionality to follow Jesus

    The webinar is free. Register here:

    M3 Ministries School of Formation: The Jesus Cohort (Beginning September 2019)

    I’m excited to partner with veteran pastor and Bible college professor Doug Main in launching a new school of formation. Doug and I will be leading a cohort of 12-15 people through four courses during the first year focused on a Jesus-centered life and understanding of the story of God. I’m looking forward to teaching the course, “Jesus and the Christian Life.”

    Each of our courses will be shaped by:
    + Conversational Theology
    + Contemplative Spirituality
    + Communal Learning
    + Cultural Engagement

    This cohort is for leaders and learners who want to grow and expand their vision of the kingdom of God on earth through the church.

    For more information go to

  • Forward by Derwin Gray

    My discipleship book, By the Way: Getting Serious About Following Jesus releases in two weeks! I was honored to have my friend Derwin Gray write the forward.

    Derwin is the pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte, NC area. He was raised by a grandmother in San Antonio, Texas and was a compulsive stutterer. He played football at BYU and 6 years in the NFL. He travels and speaks all over the US, teaching often about multi-cultural church life. He has written a couple of books including The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World.

    He recently completed his Doctor of Ministry degree from Northern Seminary where he studied under Scot McKnight. He has a real kingdom vision and we have both been deeply influenced by some of the same theologians like N.T. Wright. I have been listening to his sermon podcast for about two years. He is a good dude and a great preacher!

    Here is what he wrote in his forward:

    “Jesus saves us so that through us he can save the world.” My friend Derek wrote these beautiful words in Chapter one. These words are beautiful because they are true. My heart was gripped when I first laid eyes on them, just as I know that this book will grip your heart too. You are going to fall deeper in love with Jesus, his Church, his mission for his church, and for people who have yet to taste and see that the Lord is so good.

    How amazing is it that Jesus shares his eternal-kind-of-life, ministry, and mission with his disciples? It’s mind blowing to contemplate that Jesus right now is seated at the right hand of his Father, in a realm that the New Testament calls heaven, yet Jesus expresses himself on earth through his disciples, called the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27). Jesus loves, forgives, and transforms, and brings glimpses of heaven to earth through his people. Through the pages of this book, Derek is going to help you reimagine what it means to follow Jesus.  

    Like a  skilled guide, he will reveal to you how consumerism and western individualism has negatively shaped your faith. Consumerism tells a story that Jesus and his church is a product that exist to meet your needs.  It’s like Jesus is a wonderfully trained Chick-fil-A employee whose pleasure it is to make sure your order is to your liking.  

    Western individualism, instead of placing Jesus and his church as the focus of your faith, you the individual becomes the focus.  Often, the Church in North America has transformed the gospel from a corporate, communal understanding to an individualistic, private faith. The gospel becomes a story of how Jesus came to save me from the wrath of God and to help me reach heaven when I die, instead of a story of God in Christ rescuing, reconciling, and redeeming a people who exist for the glory and mission of God, displaying a foretaste of God’s kingdom on earth as conduits of love (1 Peter 2:9).

    Marinate on this for a moment: The New Testament authors use the word disciple 269 times and the word Christian only 3 times to describe Jesus’ followers. Unfortunately, the term Christian has lost its meaning. The term Christian describes how Jews and Gentiles became a new, multi-ethnic family. In the early church, Jews began to worshiped Jesus of Nazareth as YHWH (or Yahweh) and Gentiles stopped worship idols and starting worshiping Jesus. It’s as though they became a new ethnicity on earth comprised of all ethnicities united in and by the blood of Jesus in fulfillment with God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; Eph 2:8-16). The scripture says, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Ac 11:26 CSB). Unfortunately, the term Christian has lost its meaning.

    A disciple is an apprentice of Jesus, in the community (church) of Jesus, who relies on the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, to reproduce Jesus’ life, ministry, and mission.  God is calling you to so much more. He’s calling you to a new way to be human, to be enlightened by his gospel-truth, and to live by the power of Jesus’ very life. 

    —Dr. Derwin L. Gray
    Lead Pastor Transformation Church

  • AT GA Section Hike Videos: Day 4-8

    Day 4

    Day 5

    Day 6

    Day 7

    Day 7 Bonus Video

    Day 8

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 7

    Saturday, June 14, 2014
    16.2 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter

    Fell asleep by about 10:45 PM last night and slept good until 1:30 AM. Laid awake listening to music till about 2:30 or so and then shut off the music and fell back to sleep listening to the sound of the creek behind me.

    Jeff woke us up at 6:45. It didn’t rain last night but my tarp was wet with due. We ate breakfast and hit the trail by 8:15 AM. We have found our rhythm hiking. We quickly climbed over 1000 feet in elevation in 2 miles to the top of Big Cedar Mountain which was an open rick face with great views. I laid my tarp out so it would dry and I talked to some weekend hikers who climbed up to photograph the full moon the night before.

    I posted a picture of the view and uploaded my blog from yesterday. We hiked on down to Woody Gap. There is a parking lot, trash cans, and great cell service at the gap. I called Jenni and talked to her a bit. It was tough not talking to her last night. It has been a great trip, but I miss her.

    We had a nice ridge walk with some nice views as we continued hiking south to Gooch Gap. We ran into a thru hiker on his way to Maine.he was staring late and was carrying an external frame pack. I am not sure he will make it or not but it was good to bear a hiker say “Maine,”when asked “Where are you going?”

    At Gooch Gap, I called Gabe and Dad, making plans for on the end if the trip. Gabe is going to hike up the Approach Trail and hike down with us on Monday. We are going to stay the night with my uncle and then Gabe and I are going to Americus for day. It will be good to see my friends there.

    While talking in the phone I let Jeff and John hike on ahead of me. I hiked a little over a mile by myself for a while which was a pleasant change. On the way I ran into Adam and Nikki, a couple fe Indiana whom I met on the AT Section Hiker’s group on Facebook. They are hiking the Georgia section Northbound getting off in Franklin, NC. They have been following my blog and we had corresponded on Facebook. We chatted for a bit and then took a group picture and they headed off.

    I made it to the Gooch Mountain Shelter by 12:10 and we filtered water and ate lunch. I jotted down some notes for the blog and laid my hiking shirt and gear in the sun to dry. We knocked out 8 miles by lunch. I still had plenty of energy, but my right hip flexor was burning. It had been sore all morning. I took some ibuprofen and headed out of our last eight miles.

    We hiked on to tackle Justus and Sassafras Mountains, with just a little break in between. These mountains where back to back and had steep climbs. We passed Justus Creek and continued up to the top of Justus mountain. I shot my Day 7 video hiking up Justus to give people a real taste of what hiking the AT is like.

    We tackled Sasafrass mountain And stopped at the top. It did rain today but I was drenched with sweat. We talked to a retired guy from Florida as we rested on a log. He was missing most of his bottom teeth, which I could see as he smiled a lot when talking about the AT. He was section hiking to Hot Springs, NC.

    We hiked down to Horse Gap and tried to shake off the fatigue. The final 2.5 miles were rough, lots of ups and down. On my way to Highetower Gap, I kicked a rock by a tree and set off what sounded like an alarm. I jumped a bit and realized that was the sound of a rattle snake! I turned to look and four feet off the trail was a pretty good size rattlesnake curled up with his four-inch rattle in the air just a buzzin’. Jeff was behind me maybe 20 yards. He could hear the rattle but did not see the snake. I told him to go the left off the trail and he would be fine. Jeff stayed there to warn John about the snake.

    I made a final push to the Hawk Mointain Shelter and arrived at 5:15, sweaty, and thirsty. I filtered water and talked to Hank, the first guy at the shelter. John and Jeff made it to the shelter and our 16-mile day was complete.

    We were all soaked with swear and tired. We filled up with water and I took a bandana bath in the creek behind the shelter. I rinsed out my shirt and washed the grim off my legs and arms. I had my camp soap with me so I washed my face and head with the cold creek water. I put on my camp shirt and rain jacket because I was freezing from the cold water.

    13 people at the shelter tonight. Including A couple on a three night trip. We talked about the AT and how to hike lightweight. I enjoyed talking to people at the shelter but I was tired. I got in my hammock about 9:30 and feel asleep trying to finish my blog. I woke up at 10:40 and stowed my phone and went back to sleep.

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 4

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014
    9.2 miles to Low Gap Shelter

    Today was, without a doubt, wildlife Wednesday. I saw a deer, an orange salamander, a black salamander, a snake, and bears! O yes…I saw a bear on the Appalachian Trail!

    Before I get to the bear encounter let me back up and review the day. We slept good last night at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee. We fell asleep watching Game three between the Heat and Spurs. I woke up at about 7:30 AM. I uploaded videos, ate cold pizza, and had gas station coffee for breakfast. We got picked up at 10:30 and hit the trail by 11.

    The hike up Blue Mountain was easier than the previous climbs. We started at Unicoi Gap at 2949 feet and hiked up 1.5 miles to the summit of Blue Mountain at 4025 feet. It had rained in the morning before we got on trail and parts of the trail were covered in a light mist. It was magical, made me think of the Dylan line: “I stumbled along side twelve misty mountains.” As I hiked up I heard a crash in the woods, up the mountain on my left. I turned and I saw my first deer, a doe who made her way quickly up the mountain before I could take a picture. A little bit later I saw an orange salamander standing on a leaf on the tree. I took a picture and picked it up to take a picture of it in my hand.

    A short while longer I made it up to the Blue Mountain shelter, a nice shelter with a covered porch. We ate lunch there, used the privy, and checked for a signal. I had three bars and 4G, so I sent some texts home and uploaded a picture of the misty trail. We packed up and headed down the mountain.

    Ten minutes down the trail we heard a crash up the mountain. We all instantly froze. We looked up the mountain and I yelled, “Bear!!!” My heart was racing as I watched the cub gallop up the mountain and stop to get a look at me. I was hiking behind John and Jeff and they saw another cub further up the mountain, but I only saw the one.

    I was breathing quickly in utter disbelief and I quickly scanned the mountain looking for the mama bear. I wasn’t afraid; I was too excited. When the bear stopped to look at me, I could see its brown snout and black nose. When I didn’t see the mama bear, I frantically searched for my phone. I took a couple pictures but they all looked like those pictures people take of Bigfoot! The bear looks like a blurry black splotch in the picture.

    We hiked on, talking about how lucky we are to have seen a bear on the trail in Georgia. We hadn’t seen anyone on the trail that morning, so I think the lack of people prevented the bears from scampering off into the woods.

    The rest of the day was easy hiking. I have enjoyed hiking on my own on some of the climbs but it was nice hiking as a group. We told stories and laughed and hiked the day away. It started raining on us at about 4:30, just before we arrived at Low Gap Shelter. We hiked down to the shelter on the blue-blazed trail that had turned into a river.

    The shelter was filled with Boy Scouts and two northbound section hikers, Jason and Colin, all hiding out in the shelter to avoid the rain. I shared my bear encounter with them only to find that Jason and Colin had seen both a bear cub and an adult size bear on two different occasions. I guess bear sightings are not so rare after all.

    The rain stopped and the Boy Scouts pumped water by the stream at camp and started cooking outside the shelter. Two more guys showed up. Thomas (aka Hobbit) and Bret (aka Samson) both are northbound hikers trying to see how far they can go up the trail. Thomas wants to get to Maine, but I am not sure that he will get there with a 55 lb. pack on his tiny frame. He looks to be 5’6″ and about 130 lbs.

    We cooked supper and I tried to hang my hammock in the shelter. We are expecting thunderstorms tonight and I would like to avoid another shivering cold night. I couldn’t get my hammock high enough in the shelter so I decided to join John, Jeff, Jason, Colin, and Bret in the shelter. Thomas was setting up his hammock and loaned me his yoga mat to sleep on.

    I turned on the movie Tombstone (that I had downloaded on my phone) at 9 PM as everybody was getting in their sleeping bags. Jason who was on my right and I continued to quote lines from the movie, which I found funny. At 10, I called Jenni and got caught up on her day. Again I had a good cell phone signal. I returned to my sleeping bag at 10:30 PM.

    I put in my earbuds and listened to Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs. I am hoping for a good night sleep in the shelter.

  • AT GA Section Hike Videos: Day 0 – 3

    Day 0: The night before the hike

    Day 1: Deep Gap NC to Plumborchard Gap Shelter

    Day 2: Plumborchard Gap to Deep Gap Shelter

    Day 3: Deep Gap Shelter to Unicoi Gap

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 3

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014
    13.1 miles to Unicoi Gap

    We survived the storm!

    I dosed off closer to midnight last night. I was sleeping good until I was awakened by the sound of rain on my tarp. I felt the foot end of my sleeping bag and it was still dry. The cool wind of the storm was blowing under my tarp and I started to shiver. I considered darting into the shelter but I was dry and it was raining hard. I turned on my side and curled up a bit and stopped shivering. The wind slowed down and I feel back asleep listening to the rain lightly hitting my tarp.

    I woke up at 6:45 AM and got up at 7. I stayed dry in my hammock all night. I ate breakfast and wiped down my tarp. We packed up and said good-bye to Kendall, Amanda, and Senator, who was kind enough to hike out our trash. He had 4 miles to go until he was catching a ride to Hiawassee. Senator has been a section hiker for a couple of years. He was hiking in Virginia in 2011 and ran into Jennifer Pharr Davis during her record-breaking hike. He was a cool guy.

    We made our way south up Kelly Knob, an easy 600 foot climb. While hiking up I began drawing arrows on the trail pointing south. After drawing the third arrow, the trail, or maybe the God of the trail, gave me a new trail name: Arrowmaker. At the top of Kelly Knob there was a campsite and small clearing in the trees with a small view. There on Kelly Knob I abandoned the name “Photo Preacher” and assumed the name “Arrowmaker.” Trail names are a AT tradition. I thought about a trail name before the hike, but I wanted to get my trail name while out hiking on the trail. I like the name. It sounds like a name given in the Native American tradition. It also has a deeper meaning. As I hiked on during the day I saw how the name really did describe my calling. I am, after all, pointing people in a certain direction. This is my calling as a father and as a pastor. So Arrowmaker it is.

    We hiked on passing a few northbound hikers. We stopped for lunch where some fallen trees formed a nice bench along side the trail. I added trail mix to my peanut butter and dried blueberry tortilla wrap and downed a liter of Gatorade before hitting the trail again. We had a 1,000-foot climb up Tray Mountain before us so I popped in my earbuds for the first time and listened to Of Monsters and Men while sweating and pounding out the steps to the Tray Mountain Shelter .2 miles off the trail and only .5 miles from the summit. I continue to hike a bit faster than John and Jeff so we picked the shelter as a place to meet and take a break before reaching the summit. I shot a video from the summit it had views looking both East and West.

    On the way down Tray Mountain, Jeff rolled his ankle. Not good. We kept walking down to the gap where he could check his ankle and it swelled to the size of a golf ball. He took some ibuprofen and we talked about where to stay for the night. It was about 3:45 PM and we were in the campsite we planned to stay at, but we talked about hiking another 4 miles to Unicoi Gap and catching a ride into Hiawassee. Staying the night in town would keep us out of the pending thunderstorm, plus we could get a shower, do laundry, and eat pizza, while Jeff rested his ankle. We were unanimous…town it was! The only thing standing in our way was Rocky Mountain, a 900-foot climb over 1.3 miles. I put my earbuds in and we were off.

    I was sweating and my heart was pounding, but I was excited to get to the top. I reached the summit in about 30 minutes. I felt like I had conquered something, summiting back-to-back mountains. It was an awesome feeling.

    On our way down we stopped to check for a signal. We called around and found a shuttle, Joyce of “Joyce and Sally.” We made it to Unicoi Gap with thunder in the distance. We hiked 13 miles, our biggest day yet. We waited in the parking lot and had to take shelter under a roof covering an information sign.

    Joyce picked us up about 15 minutes after the rain started. She took us to Hiawassee and gave us a quick tour of the town before dropping us off at the Budget Inn. We ordered pizza (Big Al’s) based on Joyce’s recommendation. We took showers and used the free Wifi to get online.

    I am going to upload this blog and try to upload videos and then watch Game 3 between the Spurs and Heat. It will be an easy day tomorrow, 8 miles to Low Gap Shelter. It will be good to do less miles to see how Jeff’s ankle is doing.

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 1

    Sunday, June 8, 2014
    11.3 miles to Plumorchard Gap Shelter

    Woke up about 6:45 AM at the cabin. I slept on the top bunk and hit my head on the (moving) ceiling fan on my way down the ladder. Ouch! Any remaining cobwebs in my head were blown out by the cold shower I took after bumping the ceiling fan. No need for coffee, I was awake! We ran into town to get a biscuit and coffee at Hardee’s.

    We drove to Amicalola State Park and registered. I was section hiker #1380. We walked around the visitor center looking at AT maps and souvenirs, when, through the back glass doors, I saw the start of the Approach Trail and the iconic archway. I stepped out and walked towards the archway. It didn’t seem real. I had seen dozens of pictures of thru hikers standing under the archway. I didn’t take any pictures because this is my finish line. I will be back there in 8-10 days.

    I did have two section hikers ask me to take their picture under the arch. They were headed up the Approach Trail.

    My friend Gabe drove us into North Carolina and then down the winding gravel road to Deep Gap. I got my picture taken by the first white blaze I saw and then we got a group picture…then we were off to hike the Appalachian Trail!

    We headed south on the AT and passes about a dozen or so hikers going northbound. The first guy we passed looked like a real hiker. He had a full beard and REI gaiters. He just had the look of a real hiker. We asked how he was doing and he answered with a smile, “Living the dream!” I smiled in return and thought yeah me too buddy, I am loving the dream. We ended up passing a dozen or so hiker who were heading North. I passed one guy and we both stopped and chatted for a moment. He was from “up North,” which turned out to be Tennessee. He asked me what brought me out to the trail and I said that I was hiking the Georgia section for my 40th birthday. As I walked away, it hit me, I was really doing this. I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I was nearly overcome with emotion.

    We stopped for lunch at the Muskrat Creek Shelter. We talked to Donna a seasoned section hiker, about gear and life in the trail. We also talked to two guys who were recovering alcoholics hiking the trail to stay sober.

    After lunch we headed out and soon made it to the North Carolina / Georgia border. We stopped and took pictures by the “NC/GA” sign and rested on some rocks. We hiked the final 4 miles to the Plumb Orchard Gap Shelter. The hiking had some nice heart-thumbing climbs, but nothing to difficult. We had our last climb up and over As Knob and I hiked ahead of John and Jeff. I made it to the shelter by about 6:15 PM.

    We gathered water, I set up my hammock and tarp, and we talked to Paul, a carpenter from Wisconsin, who was staying at the shelter. We ate and talked about the day as the sun was going down. We hung our bear bags before dark and John was snoring in the cabin before Jeff and I got in bed. I made my way into the hammock by 10 PM. It is much cooler than I expected, probably in the low 60s or upper 50s. I did get a cell signal and was able to call Jenni and pray for Dylan as he was going to sleep. We talked for a half an hour. Now I am typing out this blog and getting ready to dream about tomorrow.

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 0

    The day before the hike
    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Driving to the airport in the rain and I have a strange mix of emotions. I am excited, no doubt. This trip has been two years in the making. I think I have literally thought about the trail everyday over the last twelve months. So I am thrilled to be a day away from this adventure but I am also wrestling with a little guilt. I have never left my family for this long to do something I wanted to do. I have gone on mission trips, camps, conferences, speaking engagements, BUT I have never asked my wife to bear the full responsibility of the family so I could go on a little 10 day adventure. She is so gracious to let me go, but I here this nagging voice in my head saying, “This is wrong.” I know it is true but it has my heart tied up in knots.

    And I feel a bit sad. Dylan, my four-year-old and my youngest wants to go with me. How do I tell a four-year-old with his arms wrapped around me, “You can’t go with Daddy on this trip.”

    “When I get way big?” he asked.

    “Yes. When you get way big we will go hiking together.

    I will miss him. I will miss all the boys…and Jenni too.

    I read Becoming Odyssa by Jen Pharr Davis on the flight to Georgia. I started it this winter, but didn’t get very far. I restarted the book at the terminal waiting on my flight. I have listened to Jen (via podcast) talk about her adventures on the trail so I here her voice in my head. She is a good writer. Very descriptive. I hope to finish the book on the return flight. I liked what she said about hiking the trail as a bear (a Christian) among the squirrels (non-Christians). She writes, “They kept their distance and feared I would eat them, when really I just wanted to dine on berries and live peaceably in the woods.” (pg. 68). Ha! I agree.

    Jen struggled on what to write in the register at Springer Mountain. She ended up writing “I’ve always heard New England is nice; look forward to being there this summer.” It made me think about what I may write in the register when I make it to Springer towards the end of my journey. Maybe: “Best of all — the God of the trail is with is.” Or maybe: “You are a collection of the stories you tell. Make your story one to remember.”

    She wrote a particularly beautiful passage in Chapter 9 describing her experience on Little Hump Bald in Tennessee when she was overcome by God’s beauty and shouted “Praise God” and then felt like a “dork” (her words). Then she writes: “The mountains were singing the praises of God beautifully and without shame. I wished I could be more like a mountain” (pg 88).

    My friend, Gabe Theiss, picked me up at the airport and we headed to Ellijay, Georgia. He has a friend with a cabin just outside of Ellijay and offered to let us stay there for the night. We ate some good southern BBQ for supper and got caught up. I hadn’t seen Gabe for nearly two years. He was planning on hiking with us but has to back out due to a foot injury. We started watched Forrest Gump on VHS waiting in my brother Jeff and our mutual friend John who are hiking with me.

    They showed up to the cabin by 9 PM and brought donuts. Score! We ate donuts and watched the rest of Forrest Gump while going over our gear. Jeff brought some extra suppers from Pak-It-Gormet. I substituted stovetop stuffing for some gumbo mix and I added some bean burrito mix. I also added some instant pudding mix. Triple score!

    Looking forward to starting the hike.