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Posts Tagged ‘mountain top’

I expected colder temps as I set out for the mountains at 4 am.  What I failed to expect was that the calm where I lived would be replaced by 15 – 20 mph winds.  Fortunately I dressed warm and for the most part I was comfortable.  The hike from 5500 feet to 6000 feet also kept the blood pumping which meant for the first hour I was relatively comfortable.

Shining Rock in the Pisgah National Forest was created as one of the original federal Wilderness Areas when that designation was established in 1964.  The high mountain range consists of a concentrated number of mountain peaks in western North Carolina with several over 5000 feet and three, including Black Balsam Knob, over 6000 feet in elevation.  Surrounded by thickly forested mountains slopes the closest town, Brevard, NC is some 20+ miles south.

As I emerged from my car near the trailhead I was stunned by the vast number of stars visible this far from manmade lights other than those I had just turned off.  Since the moon had set, the stars had the stage all to themselves, and what a performance they gave.  For the second time in two weeks I caught the glimpse of a shooting star as it’s long and invisible existence came to a brief, yet fiery end colliding with the earth’s atmosphere.  The wind was howling as I entered the 200 meters of trail running through the strip of fir trees just off the service road.  I prayed a prayer of thanks for the folks who had laid white rock on the trail through the trees.  It would have been very easy to lose the trail without it.

Breaking through the trees, the expansive view opened to the first hints of light on the horizon.  An hour before the official sunrise, I had time to soak in the immensity and grandeur of the night.  Even without the moon, the stars were bright enough to give a sense of shape and flow to the land.  The dark shape of the mountain rising to my left and the swaying form of the trees I had emerged from falling off to my right were silhouetted against millions of stars.  Toward the eastern horizon the hint of color slowly grew with one bright star shining above the brightest point.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Psalm 19:1-4a

Creation speaks if we listen.  It is not loud or demanding, but more of a gentle whisper… most of the time.  The message is one of beauty, power, and majesty.  From the top of a cold, windy mountain bald far from civilization I knew the creator’s presence not as in an artist’s work created and left behind, but in a world that He Himself fills and sustains.  God – the Almighty, was there on the mountain and my spirit soared to embrace His loving presence.

Another thought came.  When I look at creation, I realize the utter emptiness of an atheistic point of view.  The belief that all of this – the sun, the moon, the stars, earth and the exact combination of so many variables necessary to sustain life, just happened in a cosmic accident, is far too hard to believe.  That all of this came from nothing is the definition of foolishness.  I don’t make light of the fact that there is much we do not know about life and the universe.  There are mysteries that we mere mortals do not and may not ever know.  But evidence and logic make an indisputable case of an intelligent designer and creator.

As the sun rose I realized that winter had come to the high places.  The trees were all bare and the grass-covered bald was colored in various browns and greys.  As a lover of light and color, the view through the photographer’s lens was much closer to bleak winter than the festive fall I had hoped to capture.

I hiked to the top of Black Balsam Knob.  By this time I had been out in the wind for a couple hours.  Being stationary while trying to snap long exposure shots, the chill had seeped through my gloves.  The fleece-lined jeans were doing their job and my son’s borrowed yarmulke had my head toasty, but I realized my fingers were numbingly cold.  The intensity of the wind made it a challenge to get my fingers warm.  Frost-bite was suddenly a concern.  I looked for shelter, but the trees were about a mile back down the trail over the open mountain ridge.  I had selected the rock out-cropping I was standing by to serve as a foreground element in a few shots.  I suddenly remembered David and Elijah taking refuge in the cleft of a rock.  Sliding down the lee side of the rock from the wind I found immediate relief.  As an added bonus the morning sun was now hitting me without the wind stealing it’s warmth.

Sitting beside the rock I was aware of warmth emanating from within as well as from outside.  The physical rock behind which I sheltered brought to mind the Rock Who is my forever shelter – Jesus Christ.  I had felt His presence the entire time on the mountain, but as the winds swept over and around the rock, I thought of the challenging times of my life when He walked me through.  Sometimes He had to carry me.  Always, His strength was able to supply what I lacked.  With a smile on my face I rested in the relative warmth of the sun and the eternal warmth of the Son.

I did manage to find some color at the lower elevations.  The following shots are some of my favorites of the day.

At mid-afternoon I found myself standing on Caesar’s Head overlooking the Blue Ridge escarpment falling off into the South Carolina piedmont.  A couple hawks and then buzzards flew by, but I did not see any of the Peregrine Falcons I had hoped for.  It was fine though because the view, like so many this day, inspired yet another thought, this time from Isaiah.

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

It’s fitting that the last act of this trip was to make two new friends with whom I shared not only the view off the mountain, but a faith in the Lord.  As we stood there and chatted, we realized that we had been inspired by the view in a very similar manner – with wonder and praise for the Creator of such beauty.  We were standing on a different rock outcropping than my Black Balsam Knob, but since rock was a common thread running through this day, I enjoyed the thought that my two new friends and I were knit together as family because of our common faith in the Rock.  And that Rock’s name is Jesus.

I hope you enjoy the pics.  But even more I hope you are encouraged by the truths the Lord has given to us… to you every bit as much as to me.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 62:8

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:37-39

Be blessed today and be a blessing!

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My plan to catch the sunrise from Pretty Place (Symmes Chapel, Camp Greenville, SC) went awry when I found the gate locked.  With the colors already rising in the eastern sky and a suitable viewing point many miles away, I knew pics at the break of dawn were not going happen… at least not for me.  I got a wild hair and decided to head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to see if I could capture some scenic shots higher up.  Looking Glass Falls warranted the first stop and then pics at the first overlook on the Parkway came up next.  A group from the Galloway School asked for me to take their pictures with their cell phones.  I obliged, but I also took a few with my camera.  (Hopefully they are checking these out!)

The next stop was the Graveyard Fields.  Still recovering from my shoulder surgery, I didn’t exactly intend to hike very far, but…  The weather and scenery drew me in and I couldn’t help but hike and shoot.  I met a family visiting from Florida at the Upper Falls on the Yellowstone Prong.  After about 5 miles of hiking, I made the turnoff into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area my final stop.  It was a great day in the outdoors and the pics are pretty good too.

I forgot until I was editing the pics, but Looking Glass Mountain is where our son-in-law Michael proposed to our daughter, Christin.  Somehow hiking to the top of a mountain to propose is an awesome metaphor for marriage.  There is a lot of work on the hike up.  You can’t see very far ahead most of the time.  But you keep working because you believe in the goal.  And the reward is very good… very good indeed!

Enjo

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Good Morning or Guten Morgen as we are docked in Kel, Germany this morning as we awake. I have had a challenging time keeping up with my pictures and posting to you due to the fullness of our schedule. (Also, the number of pics I am taking.) Hopefully now that we are onboard the Longboat Eir on the Rhine River, the pace will slow enough to edit and post a few pics. This morning being Sunday I’d like to post a few pics of our Mt Pilatus excursion and tell a story of affirmation that the Father gave me up on the mountain.

Several weeks ago, my friend Greg shared with me how God powerfully spoke to him one day when in a time of prayer and meditation he asked, “Lord, what would you have me know today?” I was thinking about that a few days later during my prayer time and so I asked the same thing. Upon asking that question I opened my bible and these verses literally jumped out at me.

Proverbs 3:5&6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. (or direct your steps as I’ve memorized it).

Proverbs 4:4 “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.”

Proverbs 2:7&8 He (the LORD) holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, He guards the course of the just and protects the of His faithful ones.

That has turned into a recurring theme for me in my prayer time since. And our Mt Pilatus adventure was one of three or four times on this trip where the Lord has again affirmed my role of trusting in Him fully and His faithfulness in guiding and leading.
MT PILATUS

The day broke cloudier than forecasted, but as morning warmed, the low clouds dispersed some and sunshine and beautiful blue sky became predominant. Our drive from Zurich to Lucerne revealed the charming Swiss countryside – crisp, clean, and green. While navigating into Lucerne I could see the much higher mountains across the lake were visible on the lower reaches, but shrouded in clouds at the top.

We met our guide, Annette, and boarded the bus to the cable car for the ascent up the mountain. Up to the first and second cable car connections we remained under the clouds and the view became increasingly expansive and majestic. We switched cable cars at around 4000 feet elevation where we were still under the cloud cover, but in deep shade because of them.

The final cable car was a 30- passenger car that swiftly whisked us up from 4000’ to the visitor center near the summit at 6700’. I fly frequently so the sensation of entering the clouds and “white out” is common. However, it was a little disheartening when you are anxiously anticipating the amazing 360-degree view which includes close-ups of the Alps and you exit the cable car to white-out outside and gift shops inside.

The girls headed to the gift shops and Jeff and I wandered outside into the fog. We walked around a bit managing to find a trail to a mini-summit with a cross on it. The picture in the fog was a little hard to see, but we snapped it to show we had “climbed higher”. To add insult onto injury, there were posted placards that showed the amazing view we could be seeing if we weren’t wrapped in the deep fog. I have to admit, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

I know what some of you may be thinking… “Dan, you are on this amazing trip… you had all the beautiful views on the way up… you are with your wonderful wife on an adventure of a lifetime and you are feeling sorry for yourself? What ingratitude!” Well, you happen to be right.

Fortunately, it was only a little later I realized that for myself. As Jeff and I worked our way down this little path I noticed another path diverting along the mountain top. I took that path off into the fog as Jeff headed to check on the girls.

I’ve learned that for me, as for many people I imagine, it is hard to really focus upon God, to seek His wisdom and guidance, and to clearly hear Him speak to my heart when: 1) I am ungrateful, 2) I am focused upon my own schedule / plan / or goals, or 3) when I am surrounded by to many distractions, like hundreds of other tourists. When I started down that foggy mountain trail, I had given up my goal of seeing the view from the mountain top because there was no view to view. I headed down a trail that the crowds either didn’t know of or care about.

As I trudged with my camera in hand I felt my heart softening as I realized what I have mentioned above. I was not where I wanted to be in my heart. The reality that the God of the Universe loves me and has provided bountifully for me began to fill my awareness. I repented of my self-centeredness. I moved into thanking the Father for the many wonderful blessings He has provided to me and the ones I love. Then I began praying for family, friends, my Radmen friends, and others whom I knew God was going to send across my path.

As I am sure many of you have experienced, I felt a weight lift. My soul was lifted as I turned my heart toward our good, good Father. And I hiked through the fog with an uplifted spirit. After a little while I noticed a couple young Swiss ladies hiking up from down below. I asked how far down until I could be below the clouds. Through their minimal English (and my non-existant German) I understood it was several hundred meters. I prayed asking the Lord to guide me whether to hike down or not. I sensed to stay the course, so instead of hiking down I exchanged pictures with them and continued along the path in the fog.

The next 10 – 15 minutes of hiking the rugged mountain trail in the fog was delightful. I had given myself over to accepting whatever opportunity I was provided to meet people and love them with Jesus’ love. I remember whispering one little prayer, “Lord, I’d love to see some of the view from up here.” But that prayer was uttered from a place of complete surrender. Whether the fog lifted or not, I was satisfied the Lord would do what was best.

I stepped into the gift shop to find girls and then a water closet and when I stepped out I was shocked – I could see all the way across the patio… and even the near-by summit that had been completely shrouded in fog the entire day. I quickly hustled out with camera in hand and snapped a few pictures. I saw the trail to the highest peak beside me and I quickly headed up the final 300 feet toward the now- visible summit. I had not gone far before the clouds began to close in again. I realized I had gotten exactly what I had asked for although now having a taste, desire for more sprang up tempting me back into the self-centered funk I had been in earlier.

“NO! God, you have been good to me. Lord, I thank you for the glimpse that you have given me. It was beautiful. And I loved the fact that across on the summit opposite me there was a cross.”

I remembered at that moment that our guide explained how the mountain got it’s name. Surprisingly it is named after Pontius Pilate. It seems that when he died, no one was willing to take his remains. So, they brought them to this mountain and threw them in a lake. The irony that on the mountain where Pontius Pilate’s remains may lie, there is a beautiful cross just resonated God’s greatness.

At that moment, I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord, I trust you”

At that moment, for about 3 seconds, a single ray of light broke through the cloud and illuminated me and the trail where I was standing. While that thrilled me, I sensed I was to hike on to the top. The clouds quickly swirled back around me, but I pressed on. In less than 5 minutes I was at the top. As I arrived the clouds opened again for about 3 minutes. I did something a little uncharacteristic for me. Instead of whipping up my camera and snapping dozens of shots, I moved from side to side soaking it in and praising God. I did get a few shots before the clouds completely settled back in, but I mainly just worshipped.

There was one other thought that I believe was a gift from the Lord. One of the shots that you will see is of the cross on the other summit. It was clearly seen when I first got to the top, but I didn’t take the picture until it was almost obscured again. I was a little sad when the fog closed back in and I couldn’t see the cross. That was when the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. “Do not worry. Like that cross which is still there even though you don’t see it, I am always with you.”

 

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The start of the first chair lift in Kriens.

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Two happy tourists – our daughter Rhiannon and my photography padewan, Jeff.  He’s also our son-in-law.

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Just getting started.  About 1500 – 2000 feet up I believe.

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Just about to enter the first cable house.  Still 15 minutes to go in this car.

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The distance from cable house one to cable house two where we exited to the final cable car.

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View back to cable car house one.  You can see the Swiss central highlands spread out past Lake Lucerne.

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Cable Car house two and our first exit.  Elevation about 4000 feet and just under the clouds.

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This high valley had a ropes course, a toboggan ride, and other extreme sports activities.  We had to wait about 10 minutes for the 30 person cable car to the top.

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Sign showing our trip.

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In the 30 passenger cable car heading out from the station.

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Last view before going into the clouds.

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This was one of the clearer shots when we first arrived.  These horns were so mournful when we hiked around and could hear the sound in the deep fog.  One other remembrance – when the fog lifted, the guy was playing Amazing Grace.  I don’t know if he started before or after the fog lifted, but it was so cool.

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Jeff as we head up to the mini-summit.

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Jeff at the foot of the cross.

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Me at the cross.  See how deep the fog is.  This was true for almost the entire first hour we were up here.

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Look how steep the “not steep” side of the trail was.  We were a good ways into the alpine region above the tree-line.

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I am on the steep side of the mountain.  The Swiss girls took my picture for me.

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This was what I saw when I came out of the water closet.  That is the mini-summit where Jeff and I had hiked about an hour earlier.

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Another shot during the first brief opening in the clouds.

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View over the gift shop during the first opening, but as the clouds were sweeping back in.

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View at the highest point I hiked to on Mt Pilatus – summit Esel at 2118 meters or 4000 feet.

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The entire moutaintop at the clouds begin to settle back in.

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Summit Tomlishorn, a little higher at 2138 meters.  This is where the cross I mention in the story is.  This is my wide angle lens so it is so far away it is hard to see.

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The cross on the summit of Tomlishorn, the highest peak of Mt Pilatus. 

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Heading back down the trail, confident that God is always with me.  Just like that cross that I could no longer see because of the fog, yet I know is still there, God is with me and with you even when the fog of trials, challenges, and difficulties arise.

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The cog-railway we rode down.  It has the steepest incline of any railway in the world with one section at a 48 degree descent.

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Final view of the mountain top from the cog railway on the ride down.

Friends, it was thrilling. In fact, I guess it qualifies as a mountain top experience – twice over!

 

 

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Certain lessons seem to be particularly important for me to “get” because they are being reinforced  almost weekly.  Last week an exclamation point was made on the lesson – “It may not be what you expect, but trust Me, My plan is better!”

We visited our two married daughters over the course of last week.  Rhiannon and Jeff in Chattanooga Thursday – Sunday morning and then Christin and Michael in Elizabethton Sunday – Tuesday.  Everything went pretty much like we planned with Rhiannon and Jeff, but it seemed like every plan we made with Christin had to be scrapped or modified heavily.  No worries, we were just happy to be spending time together.

Monday afternoon one modified plan had us drive to the top of Roan Mountain where we enjoyed some beautiful views from the bald mountain top.  The wonderful 360 degree view had us thinking about sunrise pics over the NC mountains.  Checking the weather in Elizabethton, 20 miles away we saw that the weather report was promising and the plan was hatched.

 

Tuesday morning we arose at 4:45 am and we were headed out of town 15 minutes later.  We were excited to see a star studded sky as we rolled out of Elizabethton heading toward Roan Mountain.  Two miles from the top of the mountain was when I first noticed the moisture on the road.  A mile from the top I noticed the stiff breeze that hadn’t been present on any of our drive thus far.  Shortly thereafter wisps of cloud started sweeping across in front of the car and for the last 200 yards I had to drive at a snail’s pace into the parking lot because of the thick fog.

We were still an hour before sunrise.  I am quite used to fog.  But fog is usually stationary settling into the low areas on windless mornings.  On the mountaintop it was foggy with a 15 – 20 mph breeze driving it.  Undeterred we gathered camera, tri-pod, flashlights and goody bag and headed up the 3/4 mile hike to the top of the mountain in a cold, drizzly, windy fog hoping for the best.

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This is about 15 minutes before sunrise and we were beginning to think the sun may not actually burn through the fog like we were hoping.

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This is when you kinda wished you hadn’t been told about the number of bear sightings up on the mountain.

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Inside the woods the wind was blocked and it was eerily peaceful.

That breeze that we experienced in the Parking Lot was a foretaste and not the real deal.  We broke out of the woods about half way to the top and realized that the exposed mountain bald seemed to increase the wind intensity by at least a factor of two.

We made it to the top of the mountain, thankful that we had also been there the day before so we recognized some rock outcroppings as landmarks.  We hunkered down behind a rock for a bit hoping the clouds would clear and we would get some sunrise shots.  But while the clouds around us brightened as sunrise arrived the wind didn’t let up and the fog never thinned.

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The view right at sunrise… at least according to our watch.

Since we had been to the mountain the day before, we knew that amazing panoramic views existed from right where we were huddled.  Yet the wind, fog, and rain made it difficult to remember just how beautiful it was.  I was struck with how graphic an illustration that is of the impact of trials in our life.  When life is good it’s easy to see God’s hand at work.  But when trials press upon us it often becomes much harder to discern God’s actions on our behalf.  It is in these times that our faith is stretched.  Holding onto the reality that we have previously experienced – God’s faithful provision, is just like remembering the mountain view we had seen the day before.  We may not see it at the moment, but we know it exists.  Our task is to remember and wait for the reality to be revealed again.

We slowly made our way back down to the car and then headed back down the mountain.  A deer  came up beside us on the road and we slowed to let it pass.  A mile down the road we were out of the fog.

As we progressed down the mountain we saw sunshine followed by a brief rain shower.  The thought passed through my mind, “Sun and rain, I wonder if there’s a rainbow somewhere?”  Through a break in the trees just prior to the final overlook I could see a shower in the valley beside the mountain and a slight brightening where the sun was trying to break through.  As we rounded the curve at the final overlook this is the view that we saw.

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We were shocked by how quickly this rainbow appeared.

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The colors were vibrant and yet it was continually shifting from a single to a double and from a full to a partial rainbow.

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For a few seconds it formed a full rainbow… and we just happened to be in the right spot to catch it in all it’s glory.

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We couldn’t quite tell if the pot of gold was in that little barn or the orchard beside it.  What we knew for a certainty was that our Heavenly Father was enjoying our laughter and celebration with us as we alternately uttered words of praise and gasps of wonder while we snapped pics.

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The double rainbow was fleeting, but we saw it come and go two or three times in then 3 – 5 minutes the rainbow was visible.

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Looking toward the sun… and giving praise to the Son.

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The final pic as the shower ceased and the rainbow quickly faded.

The entire rainbow celebration lasted less than 5 minutes, but a number of things stood out to me.

  • We had to make the journey to be able to see the rainbow.  We didn’t know the rainbow was the purpose and penultimate pic of the trip, but our Father did.
  • We tarried in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, in the fog, and ultimately made close to a 2 mile hike seemingly in a lost cause, but God had a better plan.
  • We had to be in exactly the right spot AND at exactly the right time to see and enjoy the rainbow like we did.  If we had rushed at any point in the morning’s journey we would have missed it.
  • Our response to seeing the rainbow was pure wonder, celebration, and thankfulness to our gracious heavenly Father for this simple, but beautiful blessing.  And I believe He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Finally I remember where God first introduced the rainbow to His creation.  It’s in Genesis chapter 9:12-17.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

We didn’t get what we expected, but what we got was so much better.

And that’s just the way God is with His children.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!  If you like this, please share it with a friend.

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I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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I rose early to catch the sunrise over the San Francisco Bay.  I had scouted out our route for the West Coast trip with a specific goal of catching sunrises and sunsets as often as possible.  Mornings are particularly meaningful to me as I like to rise early and spend the first of my day communing with our Father.

While I had identified Mount Tamalpais as an appropriate viewing location, I incorrectly assumed I could drive to the top on the service road.  I finally found a place to park and began my trek up the mountain with the pre-dawn light much further advanced than I had hoped.  Fortunately I broke into an open area where I could see the bay moments before the sun crested the horizon.  Since I had not made it to the top of the mountain, I was not able to capture the actual sunrise, but the view of the bay, the city, and the fog alternately edging in and then out of the Golden Gate narrows was beautiful to behold.

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As I prayed and snapped pictures, a series of images rolled through my spirit prompting progressive waves of prayer for the people in the Bay area.  The first was the fact that where I stood, and for that matter much of the California coast, sits on or adjacent to one of the most active fault lines on the planet.  The opposing forces of the two tectonic plates generates tremendous stress which is periodically relieved in earthquakes both small and great.  Usually these plates move 1 – 2 inches per year in opposite directions.  In the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 the pent up energy was released in a massive jolt that resulted in 20 feet of movement over a one minute time span.   It was interesting because the prayer that flowed forth was that the people would be prepared for the sudden disaster that was coming.

San Francisco just after sunrise viewed from the side of Mt Tamalpais

San Francisco just after sunrise viewed from the side of Mt Tamalpais

The fog rolling in from the Pacific into the Golden Gate Strait

The fog rolling in from the Pacific into the Golden Gate Strait

In short order the picture changed and I saw multitudes choosing any and every way to express themselves – to accommodate their passions, lusts, and appetite except in seeking intimacy with God the Father.  This broke my heart and I grieved for a time, praying in the Spirit for God to move to open eyes and hearts and minds to the reality of Who He is.

It was not long before this vision began to merge with the first of the devastation that a massive earthquake would bring.  I pondered this, again asking the Lord to pray through me.  I began to think about God’s justice, an aspect of His nature that when viewed apart from His love may seem harsh and demanding.  At different times throughout history God’s justice has resulted in judgement falling upon people, nations, and tribes.  Some versions of the bible refer to this as the wrath of God.  I must admit, at this point the vision was uncomfortable and the prayer was labored and not fun.  I have learned that not everything God calls me to do will be fun.  But if, in obedient submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I do what I sense the Lord wants me to do, it will turn out good.  It always has.  I believe it always will.

As this heavy prayer burden began to lift, I continued to periodically snap the shutter on my camera.  Suddenly I heard the familiar noise of hummingbird hums all around me.  Immediately in front of me a hummingbird landed and sat there as if to say, “take my picture”.  I hesitated momentarily since I almost never catch a hummingbird perched for more than a few seconds.  After 5 seconds I realized, he wasn’t flying off.  It took me several more seconds to get properly positioned while the little fella patiently waited for me to get set.  Finally I was set and I snapped about a dozen pictures before he decided he was famous enough.  As soon as I finished the shots the Lord brought to my mind Jesus’ words to his disciples about the Father’s care in feeding the birds.  In Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:24 Jesus tells us the Father’s compassion goes so far as to provide food for the little birds.  In Luke 12:24b Jesus climactic words are: “And how much more valuable you are than birds!” 

Hummingbird Posing for Pics

Hummingbird Posing for Pics

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Mr Hummingbird thinks his profile shows off his beautiful beak better.

H moves behind me thinking the lighting is a little more flattering.

He moves behind me thinking the lighting is a little more flattering.

At that moment I got just a glimpse of the marriage in God’s character of His absolute justice and His overwhelming love.  I can’t say I truly understand it, but He demonstrated it to me that morning on Mount Tamalpais in a way that I can say I know it is real.  Sin will be judged and punished completely.  All sin.  Love will conquer.  It will triumph completely and eternally.

At this my prayer turned into praise for the great love He has for us.  God’s love reaches to the people in the San Francisco Bay area.  He wants people to turn to Him, to reach for Him, to turn away from their sin and receive His gracious love in the form of His mercy.  Jesus truly paid the price in our place.

My final thought from the mountain was that God still loves the sinner who chooses not to turn to Him.  Judgement comes, but not because God didn’t extend mercy, but rather because the one never turned to God and let go of their life.

I have come to know God as intensely personal and relational in the most wonderful of ways.  He comforts me in my sorrow.  He joins me in my celebration.  He whispers guidance when I am confused and uncertain.  He envelopes me with His peace at just the right time.  I believe that His heart is grieved by each one who fades from this life without accepting the finished work wrought by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Those final moments on the mountain were bittersweet.  I know God’s love is real and it still extends to the people living under the shadow of death.  He is calling out.  He burdens His children who do know Him to intercede, to love, and to reach out to those who don’t know Him.  Some will experience His love in direct response to our obedience and participation with God in His redeeming love.  Others will not turn, will not accept, will not receive the love the Lord extends.

Love and Justice.  Our God is a consuming fire in the purest and fullest sense.  The fire of His love drove Him to send Jesus to take our place in judgement.  And for those who fail to heed, fail to turn, fail to receive, there is a consuming fire of His absolute justice to be faced.

An interesting footnote in history.  Most of the people killed in the 1906 earthquake were killed by the fires spawned by the earthquake rather than the earthquake itself.

Be blessed my friend and let the Holy Spirit intercede and move through you today.

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Sunrise on Mount Rainier viewed across Reflection Lake.

Sunrise on Mount Rainier viewed across Reflection Lake.

 

I will finish my reminisce of my Mount Rainier weekend with today’s post.

It was a glorious experience hiking around the mountain.  Any direction I looked there was stunning beauty.  Invariably though my eyes always were drawn to the mountain.  On both mornings I got into position before sunrise to capture the event in all it’s glory.  Saturday at Reflection Lake was a bit less than I had hoped for due to my inexperience shooting in this type of lighting.  The mist rising off the water was kinda cool, but it wasn’t until later in the morning that I got the Reflection Lake pic that had the light balance I wanted.

Mist rising off Reflection Lake about 5:30 am.  It was in the low 50's and not a cloud in the sky.

Mist rising off Reflection Lake about 5:30 am. It was in the low 50’s and not a cloud in the sky.

Waiting for sunrise at Reflection Lake.

Waiting for sunrise at Reflection Lake.

A split density filter will be a next purchase for me to get the bright sunrise on the mountain and the darker reflection in the lake.  I guess that means I have to come back.

A split density filter will be a next purchase for me to get the bright sunrise on the mountain and the darker reflection in the lake. I guess that means I have to come back.

The mountain's reflection in the flower-filled shoreline.

The mountain’s reflection in the flower-filled shoreline.

The first kiss of sun on Mount Rainier's peak.

The first kiss of sun on Mount Rainier’s peak viewed from Reflection Lake.

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Seeing as in a mirror darkly.

Seeing as in a mirror darkly.

After my hike up to the top of Plummer Peak I returned and got the Reflection shot I had hoped for earlier in the day.

Really cool pic of the peak in Reflection Lake.

Really cool pic of the peak in Reflection Lake.

Sunday at Sunrise delivered in excellent fashion.

Arriving at Sunrise Point about half an hour before sunrise, I found 20 or so people already awaiting with cameras and tripods ready.  The glow advancing up the horizon  was rich with color and promise.

Arriving at Sunrise Point about half an hour before sunrise, I found 20 or so people already awaiting with cameras and tripods ready. The glow advancing up the horizon was rich with color and promise.

Boosting my exposure brought distant peaks in the Cascade range into relief against the brightened sky.

Boosting my exposure brought distant peaks in the Cascade range into relief against the brightened sky.

I waited at Sunrise Point until almost sunrise, but the gathering crowd was not quite as interested in quiet and courteous reflection on the magnificent sunrise so I moved a little closer to the mountain and set up in a lonely pull-off on the final approach to Sunrise parking area.

Here I greeted the sun as it gently dawned on the peak and slid down the glacier-covered slope.

About two minutes before first sun on the crest.

About two minutes before first sun on the crest.

Sunrise has arrived to the peak.

Sunrise has arrived to the peak.

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Sunrise on the Mountain.

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The sunshine walks down the mountainside.

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A few folks I met later who were out on the trail through the night said they could see the lights of the mountain climbers in the darkness up at the peak.

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Dawn breaks in a wondrous display of color.

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Who needs words – the pictures speak for themselves.

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The last of the golden glow shots as the sun crests the horizon and the light brightens.

The last of the golden glow shots as the sun crests the horizon and the light brightens.

Morning has arrived and I head to the trails above Sunrise.

Morning has arrived and I head to the trails above Sunrise.

The next pics are of some of the wildflowers and fields aflame with living color.  I talked with a few people and they expressed disappointment that the flowers are so far ahead of their normal schedule and many have already peaked.  While I accept their local knowledge, I couldn’t let their disappointment cause me to miss the riot of color and life bursting from meadow and rocky ledge alike.

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View east over Burroughs #1 to the Cascades.

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Hardy ground cover leaps to life when the snows melt to take advantage of the 3 month or so growing season.

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Locals told me the flower display was less than normal, however to a first time visitor the many hues interspersed amongst the rocks, boulders, and occasional fir trees was both delicate and dramatic.

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The growing season is short and the soil was not much to look at, but the flowers they did sprout.

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I could count about a dozen or so different flowers.

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This little flower was like many I saw. Although it didn’t look like it should be here, it is and it flourishes.

After hiking around Paradise on Saturday, I stopped at the Grove of the Patriarchs near the Steven’s Canyon entrance into the Park.  The Grove is a stand of ancient Western Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock on an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.  Being isolated on the island has allowed these trees to avoid both the ravages of fire and the loggers saw.  Some of the trees are 1000 years old and 10 feet in diameter.  This is a very easy hike, flat and well-shaded.  No vistas, stunning views, or challenging climbs, but sometimes a few moments spent in quiet reflection amongst giants is a welcome diversion.

Rounding out my time on Rainier with pics from my morning at Sunrise and on Burroughs Mountain.  These are in reverse order of my hike.

My last view of Mount Rainier as I am almost back to the parking area at the Sunrise Visitor Center.

My last view of Mount Rainier as I am almost back to the parking area at the Sunrise Visitor Center.

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Shadow Lake

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This was a campground in the 1920's on Shadow Lake at Sunrise.

This was a campground in the 1920’s on Shadow Lake at Sunrise.

Shadow Lake in Sunrise.

Shadow Lake in Sunrise.

This waterfall is on the side of Goat Island Mountain and is one of the beginnings of the White River.

This waterfall is on the side of Goat Island Mountain and is one of the beginnings of the White River.

Close up of the bottom of Emmons Glacier.

Close up of the bottom of Emmons Glacier.

View toward Sourdough Ridge across the Sunrise meadows.

View toward Sourdough Ridge across the Sunrise meadows.

Every spring as the snow melts the creeks and rivers rise dramatically scouring the stream beds and carrying rocks, trees, and boulders further and further downstream.  The stream bed looks grey and fairly ugly now, but just a few months earlier it was a raging torrent of great power.  This is the White River.

Every spring as the snow melts the creeks and rivers rise dramatically scouring the stream beds and carrying rocks, trees, and boulders further and further downstream. The stream bed looks grey and fairly ugly now, but just a few months earlier it was a raging torrent of great power. This is the White River.

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View east along the Sunrise Rim Trail back to the road into Sunrise and Sunrise Point.

In the right side of the picture it appears that the stream emerges from a cave.  That's actually the bottom of the Emmons Glacier and the stream is the primary source of the White River.  The grey color is due to all the rocks lying on the glacier ice.

In the right side of the picture it appears that the stream emerges from a cave. That’s actually the bottom of the Emmons Glacier and the stream is the primary source of the White River. The grey color is due to all the rocks lying on the glacier ice.

As I walked on the Sunrise Rim Trail here I realized a slip could easily result in a 1000 foot or more tumble.

As I walked on the Sunrise Rim Trail here I realized a slip could easily result in a 1000 foot or more tumble.

Notice the glacier colored lake in the valley next to the White River.

Notice the glacier colored lake in the valley next to the White River.

The Sunrise Rim Trail was nice because it was primarily all downhill.  As the name implies you are on the edge of the high meadow where it falls off dramatically to the valley where the Inter Fork River, one of the main tributaries of the White River flows.

The Sunrise Rim Trail was nice because it was primarily all downhill. As the name implies you are on the edge of the high meadow where it falls off dramatically to the valley where the Inter Fork and the White Rivers flow.

While the terrain was very tundra like, it did not lack for brilliant patches of color like this one.

While the terrain was very tundra like, it did not lack for brilliant patches of color like this one.

A resting spot in the middle of the Sunrise Rim Trail on Burroughs #1.

A resting spot in the middle of the Sunrise Rim Trail on Burroughs #1.

Trail back down from Burroughs #2.

Trail back down from Burroughs #2.

The waters of Emmons Glacier form the White River which is the valley about a mile below where I was standing.  On my drive out I essentially followed this river all the way to where it entered Commencement Bay about a mile from my hotel in Tacoma.  I estimate the river length to be about 100 miles since it flows east off the mountain before turning north and then west to the sea.

The waters of Emmons Glacier form the White River which is the valley about a mile below where I was standing. On my drive back to Tacoma I essentially followed this river all the way to where it entered Commencement Bay about a mile from my hotel in Tacoma. I estimate the river length to be about 100 miles since it flows east off the mountain before turning north and then west to the sea.

At the top of Burroughs Mountain, Peak #2.  I turned around here and headed back down the Sunrise Rim Trail.

At the top of Burroughs Mountain, Peak #2. I turned around here and headed back down the Sunrise Rim Trail.

Phlox growing wild on the side of Burroughs Mountain.

Phlox growing wild on the side of Burroughs Mountain.

Even though the conditions are brutal for much of the year, chipmunks were in abundance wherever I hiked.

Even though the conditions are brutal for much of the year, chipmunks were in abundance wherever I hiked.

More evidence of the lava flow from eras gone by.

More evidence of the lava flow from eras gone by.

Interesting rock formations on the north side of Burroughs Mountain.

Interesting rock formations on the north side of Burroughs Mountain.

Burroughs Mountain Trail up to Burroughs #2 - the second peak of Burroughs Mountain.

Burroughs Mountain Trail up to Burroughs #2 – the second peak of Burroughs Mountain.

Signpost where the Sunrise Rim Trail meets the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

Signpost where the Sunrise Rim Trail meets the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

An unnamed lake beside the Wonderland Trail below the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

An unnamed lake beside the Wonderland Trail below the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

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Frozen Lake which is almost always still frozen at this time of year, but not in 2015.

Frozen Lake which is almost always still frozen at this time of year, but not in 2015.

View from near the top of Burroughs #1 toward Frozen Lake.

View from near the top of Burroughs #1 toward Frozen Lake. The peak in the top left is Mount Fremont.

Notice that the Burroughs Mountain terrain is much like the Tundra from areas much further north.

Notice that the Burroughs Mountain terrain is much like the Tundra from areas much further north.

View toward Emmons Glacier from the Sourdough Ridge Trail.

View toward Emmons Glacier from the Sourdough Ridge Trail.

I am so thankful for the time I got to spend in one of the world’s most beautiful places.  I am thankful the weather was excellent and that I was able to pack a lot of into the 2 days or so.  And when I say I am thankful, I address that partially to my wife who was okay with my staying over the weekend away from home, the folks I work with who gave me plenty of good advice and practical tips, and most of all the One Who made it all possible… from creating it in the first place to providing the wonderful weather to giving me a job that allowed me to do this.

View from my hotel while in Tacoma.

View from my hotel while in Tacoma.

One final thought.  As I got into my hotel room I looked out the window back to the mountain and I sensed the Lord whisper, “I’m bigger than the mountain.”

That phrase is richer with meaning for me now.  I have been to the mountain and stood in awe of it’s size, it’s beauty, it’s grandeur – but I know God is so much bigger.

I followed the trip to the mountain with a trip to Gauntlet X, our youth event at Daytona Beach which I wrote about in my last post.  Many of those in attendance had / have mountains in their life – but God is bigger than those mountains.  Many had the mountains in their life removed, while others were given God’s perspective that made their mountain shrink.

I have had mountains in my life, the latest one was an unexpected job loss that left me with some big questions.  This weekend was a resounding affirmation that my Heavenly Father not only knows where I am and what is going on in me, He is working it for my ultimate good.  (Romans 8:28)

I don’t know where you are now in your relationship with God, but I can say with absolute confidence, God is bigger than your mountain.  Ask Him to help you and He will.  Please don’t hesitate.  If you don’t know Him in a tangible and real way, then that is the first step.  Ask the Lord to make Himself known to you and then open your heart to Him.  Just speak to Him and God will hear and He will meet you at your point of need.

Also, I would consider it an honor to join you in prayer.  Just drop me a comment and I will respond.

 

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