After our three children, Paul, Karen, and Linda, entered college and secured summer jobs, Ruth and I had numerous opportunities to travel west to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Most of our vacation time was spent in full-day hiking trips. We carried no compass or maps, but depended upon stone cairns to guide along the less traveled trails in the higher altitudes. We spent two weeks in East Germany, hiking along the Rennsteig, one of the best known trails in Germany. There, too, were stone cairns marking the pathway. But those cairns served a double purpose—they marked ancient boundary lines with dates carved into the stones.
cairn: a pile of stones that marks a place (such as the place where someone is buried or a battle took place) or that shows the direction of a trail (Miriam Webster Dictionary)
Without those stone cairns we would have often become hopelessly lost. As is the custom of most hikers, we usually would add a rock or two to the cairn to better mark the site for those who hiked after us.
My life has been a journey. God made a promise to me that he would show me the paths that I should take which he prepared for me before the creation of the world.
“Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding; In all things, place him first, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Usually he has not led me into major confusing decisions concerning which path to take. It seems that he simply made the path so clear that I had no other options. He built cairns, so-to-speak, for me to follow. Probably my faith or my wisdom were not well-developed enough for God to show alternative trails from which to choose.
Following the cairns God placed along my life’s pathway led me to a specific college where I received acceptance via telephone before I submitted an application. There I met and married my wife, Ruth. A very specific cairn led us down an unanticipated path to New Guinea to serve as missionaries among a stone-age tribe. A cairn in New Guinea led me to seminary and graduate school. Another cairn led to an unexpected 32 years as a headmaster and minister. Another cairn led to 9 years of teaching after retirement.
Three years ago teaching ended when I reached the most recent cairn, ALS.
With every cairn God gave to me the grace of obedience and gave me all of the gear and strength I needed along the path until I reached the next cairn. And so it is with ALS.
ALS is another chapter in which I can trust God’s perfect wisdom and direction. The cairn that I came upon on my life’s trek was the diagnosis I received in January 2014. Immediately my sense of direction kicked in and God’s grace flooded my mind and my emotions. His grace sprang into action within 15 seconds after the doctor stopped talking. And as always the cairn had a note attached.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present to me your requests. And my peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
In each of the cairns that God set along my life’s trail I found notes left there for me by him. They contained messages which were applicable to every path he chose for me to follow.
- “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
- “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 27:11)
- “Come to me, when weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
- “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
- “Nothing can ever separate you from my love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither your fears for today nor your worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate you from my love.” (Romans 8:38)
- “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present to me your requests. And my peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
(Photo above used with permission via Shutterstock license.)