Dispatches from the Journey: Signs and Markers

“Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.  She has prepared her meat, mixed her wine, and set her table. She has sent out her servant girls to wave signs and call from the highest point of the city, ‘You who crave simplicity…Turn in here!’”  -- Proverbs 9

One of the things we did while we were in Arkansas was have a photographer come out to the farm and take some family pictures. The employees of Newton’s Pharmacy had generously gifted Marlene and Billy (Christy’s Parents) with a family photo session, and there was much discussion of how to deal with the winter weather, what to wear, and where the photo would be taken. There was also the matter of how to coordinate 12 people (4 of whom are between the ages of 2 months and 5 years). We decided to take pictures at four or five places on the farm on Crow Mountain, one of which (my favorite) was at the Native American Marker Tree.

Native American travelers required natural sources of food and water, good navigational skills, and a method of marking trails. They didn’t have neon signs or GPS.  So one of the ways they provided signposts and markers for their journeys was by wrapping a leather rope around a green sapling, so in time, it would grow in an obviously unnatural way to point the direction to a nearby village, water source, or natural shelter.

As we perched the kids on the bent over trunk of the old moss covered oak tree, and gathered around them for the photo, I couldn’t help but wonder as it witnessed this place in our family’s legacy, what the marker tree was marking.  Indeed, it does point toward a stream, and it also points in the direction of a hill where we have found flint and arrowheads—maybe the home of a village or hunting camp. My guess is that whatever it is marking, it would have been a welcome sign to weary Native American travelers—pointing in the general direction of something very important—something that was key to their journey and survival.

Similarly, God is perpetually dropping signs and markers in front of us trying to get our attention—signs that say, “I want to welcome you—to help you get stronger so you can welcome others. . . .  It can be simpler! Turn in here!” But we have to be willing to turn when the time comes, and tune our Spiritual GPS into “Still-Speaking God” mode to see the more subtle signs and markers in the din. The world will attempt to distract us with Vegas-style, darkness-shattering, flashing bright neon signs, bells, and whistles that scream “Stop here!” “Feel good here!” “Log in here!” “Get it here!” (And have your Cash, Visa, or MasterCard Ready!)  But if we look carefully, beyond the clamor, deeper in the woods, into the darker places, there are ancient, quiet, moss-covered signs—signs that mark a narrower but very rewarding path.  There are twisted, well-worn, God-rooted markers that whisper directive and transformative words that point us toward “Forgiveness,” “Repentance,” “Justice,” “Compassion,” and “Stillness.”

Our wise God’s markers are present in the wilderness we wander. It is our call to look for, identify the markers, and adjust course accordingly. I invite you to tune in and learn to interpret the signs and markers. And when we have the good fortune of finding one pointing in a new direction- let's cluster around it and celebrate the milestone. But let's not make the mistake of stopping there. Let's turn the corner and follow God's call to travel a different wisdom path. A path that is likely very ancient and also completely new.  

See you on the journey,

Rev. Jeanne