Cairns and Milestones

27 October 2019 - Carson City, Nevada

“Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.” (Genesis 35:14-15)

Going as least as far back as the patriarch Jacob, people have been piling up stones to mark places where special things have happened - like encounters with the living God, for example! Perhaps you return regularly to a particular church or a particular place in nature, precisely because you have encountered God there. In my home state of Colorado, one will often fine cairns - I believe we can thank the Scots for this lovely word! - marking a hiking trail or the summit of a mountain. (The attached picture is on the summit of Mt. LeConte in Tennessee, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.) These cairns not only mark the path, but they remind us that others have experienced this place as holy.

As I have walked across the country, there have usually been mile markers or mile posts on the edge of the highway. These have helped me mark my progress and sometimes set a goal for myself. (“I wonder if I can get to Mile Marker 15 by lunchtime!”)

In recent days, I have reached two major milestones on my walk. On October 16, I took my 6 millionth step in this project called 6 Million Steps for Kids. And on October 21, I walked my 3,000th mile! These milestones both felt quite significant to me, and I definitely paused at both spots with my walking companion on those days, Bonnie Spencer, and took pictures and whooped and hollered!

I think of other milestones in my life - the day I married Julia, the day Zach was born, the day Hannah was born, the day I was ordained to the priesthood, the day my father died, the day my mother died, the day I heard a message from God to do this walk (20 November 2008). There are other milestones in my life, but you get the idea.

These milestones… these cairns… these markers are a way of stopping and acknowledging meaningful events in our lives. Often, for me, these markers are a reminder to me to again give thanks for all that God had done in my life. I know that, in the case of this walk, I would never have taken 6 million steps or walked 3,000 miles without God’s gracious protection and guidance, and if not for the amazing gifts of time, prayers, hospitality, and money that I have received from so many people.

What are some of the prominent milestones in your life? How are you marking them? What wells up inside of you when you re-visit these markers? Is there someone or Someone that you are being led to acknowledge and appreciate? If so, take a few moments right now to give thanks to God or to call or write someone who has been especially important in your life.

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