Monday, December 26, 2011

Tomorrow Never Comes

If I were to pick a motto (and I would have several), one candidate would probably be "tomorrow never comes."

Why would I say that? Isn't that kind of depressing?

Well, the idea isn't exactly original to me. A sentence in J.C. Ryle's excellent little book, Thoughts for Young Men, keeps coming back to me over the years, where he expresses this idea very well:
Tomorrow is the devil's day, but today is God's. Satan does not care how spiritual your intentions are, or how holy your resolutions, if only they are determined to be done tomorrow... When death comes, it will be vain to talk of tomorrow, you must go at once. (J.C. Ryle,Thoughts for Young Men, chapter 1)
Tomorrow never comes. Live your life today as though it were your last, and if it isn't, thank God for another day and then live it the same. Love those around you as though it were your last few hours with them. Forgive — there's no longer time for bitterness. Rejoice — Christ has gained the victory and there is nothing left to fear. Share the love of Christ with those around you — they too are fragile.

This is not a spirit of fear, but of confidence and hope!
For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:19-26 ESV)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On the Incarnation

Jonathan posted this excerpt from Athanasius' On the Incarnation this morning, and I wanted to share it with you all.

"For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us... He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled...He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery...He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own...

He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished...This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire." (emphasis added)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I sometimes like to read over my previous posts to check for errors, and, in my recent perusal, I discovered some things that needed clarifying in the post I wrote a few days ago, entitled "Skipping Church to Celebrate... Jesus' Birth?"; please allow me to clarify.
When churches decide that their celebration of Christmas can, and even ought, to preclude normally scheduled Sunday worship, it's clear that they have their priorities skewed.
First, here's what I'm not saying. I don't mean to argue that churches ought to disregard Christmas in order to observe regular Sunday worship.

The way I see it, the conjunction of Christmas and Sunday worship is a wonderful thing! What better time and place to commemorate the birth of Christ? What I failed to say in my post was that, when I referred to peoples' celebration of Christmas, I was referring to the "traditional," "material" things. I was talking about people who would rather stay home and open gifts than allow their festivities to be interrupted by church.

If what we are really celebrating is Christ's incarnation, then why the reluctance (for some) to go to church? The two overlap (i.e. Christmas and worshipping God) – they're not mutually exclusive!

It Really Happened

Sometimes the reality of something takes time to “hit home” with me. The reality and significance of another sibling getting married, for instance… We live in such a fast-paced fleeting society that the significance of things often fails to “stick.”

That’s not necessarily a problem. But it certainly can be!

We tend to be shortsighted toward the future and toward the past, living in the moment, allowing our sense of identity and place to slip away unchecked. Let’s take some time to consider where we fall in God’s redemptive history. Consider the reality of what He did through Christ’s incarnation – what that event meant for the human race. I must admit that, oftentimes, I take Scripture as a strictly theological resource (it certainly is that!) and forget that it is also intensely historical.

These things actually happened in time and space. Christ was born of Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered, died, and rose again that I might be reconciled with God; what a glorious reality!

 Try not to get caught up in trite symbolism this Christmas. Celebrate Christ and what He did for us!
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 ESV)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipping Church to Celebrate... Jesus' Birth?

I don't know about you, but I enjoy Christmastime. The whole season. It's kind of hard not to, especially when your family has observed Christmas your entire life. This year, many churches and church-goers will be faced with a choice — something which, not too many years ago, would have been moot to most Christians. How will churches deal with the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year?

 I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

But some churches aren't treating this lightly. This is serious business for them. After all, they have to consider how best to use their staff and volunteer resources, as Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church, said back in 2005 when faced with this "dilemma."
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. (quoted from USA Today)
Huh? Come again? These types of arguments are sad, but also sadly predictable. When churches decide that their celebration of Christmas can, and even ought, to preclude normally scheduled Sunday worship, it's clear that they have their priorities skewed. Not to mention the insinuation (in the above) quote, that the church's "target and mission" is reach the unchurched... What about ministering to the believers who attend?

It's not just a problem with churches though. The blame rests equally on the churchgoers who decide to forego Sunday worship in order to celebrate... Jesus' birth? I sense a glaring disconnect here.

Thinking about this prompted me to ask myself some questions:

1) What exactly am I celebrating here? Am I truly celebrating Christ and what He has done? Or has "the season" become an idol?

2) Do my actions line up? Am I more eager to give or to receive? What did Christ model for me?

3) How can I spread the light of the Gospel this time of year? Is it not a golden opportunity for us to share what Christ has done?

4) How often will I think about or give thanks for Christ's incarnation throughout the rest of the year? Is it possible that I've allowed the Christmas season to become the only time I consider Christ's birth?

Monday, December 19, 2011

White River Canyon & the Beginning of "Adventure Season"

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I’d be excited with the onset of winter and the outdoor opportunities it brings. The weekend before last, we kicked off “Adventure Season” with a nice 5-mile snowshoe hike at the base of Mt. Hood (down in OR).

We decided to hit White River Canyon and make it a church-wide invitation, so folks who hadn’t been snowshoeing before could get the experience. We were blessed with fabulous weather, low-risk avalanche conditions and great group of 13 intrepid adventurers, young and old(er). I would describe this hike as leisurely. There was one significant climb near the end, but once we reached the top we were treated to an area that was chock-full of great sledding slopes and excellent views of Mt. Hood.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the hike (click through for captions and more details).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Will Prepare... Eventually

Guys, I know most — if not all — of you would like to be husbands and fathers some day. It’s a high calling for sure — something that you cannot afford to take lightly. Have you spent some time asking yourself, “what’s it going to take?” Have you considered what Scripture has to say about it?

The Bible is definitely not silent on this issue. There are a number of passages addressing what God requires of husbands (and potential husbands); if we would devote some quality time to studying these, we would find them immensely helpful as we prepare.

Sadly, too many otherwise promising young men decide to squander their time being goofy. “Eventually,” they reason, “I’ll shape up and develop the character I need to become a godly husband.” And they get noticed! Just not for the right reasons.

Guys, don’t kid yourselves. You won’t magically become a godly man when the time is right. Moreover, you can’t expect marriage to “solve your problems.” If you’re character is lacking, marriage will simplify amplify that fact! Think about it. Let’s say you enter marriage with a lack of self-sacrifice. You’re selfishly pursuing the things you like without regard for others. Do you honestly think that placing yourself in a position that demands a high level of self-sacrifice will automatically fix your problems in that area?

Don’t be naive here! Who you are today in relation to your family and friends is largely who you will be in relation to your wife and children. Am I saying that marriage won’t shape and change you? No — of course it will. But remember, the Bible has standards which, if you fail to meet them when entering into marriage, will be no less challenging to meet once you’re married. Either way, you have your orders. God has told you what He expects. Will you prepare now or will you push it off?

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:6-8 ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49)
Often we are told that the difference between the two men represented in this parable is that “one heard,” and the other “didn’t hear.” But no, they both heard the same thing! The difference is that the first man heard Christ’s words and did them whereas the second man heard His words and did not do them.

You see, the difference between life and death is often not what you know, but what you do with what you know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

He Turns the Hearts of Kings

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)


God is sovereign and does what He pleases. It’s abundantly clear throughout Scripture that no earthly power can thwart or withstand His will. Consider Ezra’s testimony concerning Artaxerxes, after the king made a decree strongly supporting the rebuilding of the temple and the establishment of God’s law (and the law of the king – see Ez. 7:26) in Israel:
Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem, and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. (Ezra 7:27-28 ESV)


Earlier in the book of Ezra (and in 2 Chronicles), we read a similar narrative about Cyrus, king of Persia:
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (Ezra 1:1-2 ESV)


Nebuchadnezzar made a similar declaration after his humiliation described in Daniel 4:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35 ESV)

God is Able

As the One who grants authority and power to men, God is fully capable of ‘turning the hearts of kings.’ This holds true even in the midst of political tumult and national apostasy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Little Encouragement this Monday

The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
(Psalm 28:8-9 ESV)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Cascade Challenge

Be First recipients Greg Stafford, Will Fain, Cole Iverson and Rex Shepard — the Cascade Challenge Team — undertook a 1,000-mile multi-sport expedition to bike, hike, climb and ski over 14 mountains in the Cascades...
This looks extreme. And awesome. Read the story »

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Prayer for a Hurting Land

"Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress." (Nehemiah 9:32-37 ESV, emphasis added)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Making Void the Word of God

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (Matt. 15:3-6)

Blind Guides

The Pharisees and scribes were influential men in Israel. People looked to them to interpret and explain the Law of God — to lead them in righteousness. And yet, throughout the Gospels we find example after example of them being unfaithful in that duty. “Blind guides,” Christ called them (Matt. 15:14). They were well-deserving of His rebuke: “why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (vs. 3)
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
(Matt. 15:6-9)

The Commandments of Men vs. the Commandments of God

No man has the right to declare something as truth which God has not already declared to be truth (or, which is out of accord with His nature, since He is Truth itself). Let our appeal be to Scripture and Scripture alone — this is our standard!

Now, God has appointed preaching as one of the means by which we may come to understand His Word (see Romans 10:14), and there are many preachers who faithfully proclaim the truth, strengthening the church, and are worthy of honor (1 Tim. 5:17). Our brothers in Christ may (and should!) also come alongside us to encourage us, but we can’t ride on their coat-tails either. (Remember, we are not called to ‘be holy as your brother is holy’)

As the Reformers maintained, no man or earthly institution may stand between men and God’s Word. When the day is over, it is our responsibility to seek God through prayer and His Word, and by His grace, to apply what we learn to our lives.

Taking Every Thought Captive

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)
Nothing falls outside the realm of Christ’s Lordship. No thought is too far-flung, no action too personal, no word too casual, no emotion too uncontrollable. “He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.” (Ps. 104:7)

How About Us?

Is God’s Word truly our standard for all of life? If we respond, “yes,” then are we truly willing to live our “yes”? Or did we say it because we know it’s the right thing to say?

Do we know what God hates, and do we, in turn, hate it? Or do we excuse it?

Do we truly love God, and, by consequence, love what He loves? Are we willing to unashamedly endorse what is true, right and beautiful, because God said it is? Or is that too embarrassing for us? 

When it comes to what we "like," are we willing to hold it up to the light of God’s Revelation and to reject it if it doesn’t stand? Or would we rather ‘break the commandment of God for the sake of our preferences?’ Some food for thought…
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Ps. 139:23-4)

Friday, September 16, 2011

What We Say and How We Live

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
Here, Jesus poses a sobering question to His disciples and the surrounding multitude. ‘Why do you profess one thing and live another?’ In the parallel passage in Matthew, we read:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
We must learn that our acceptance into heaven is not a matter of us knowing the Lord, but is solely dependent on Him knowing us (see Matt. 7: 23). Furthermore, we can’t simply profess our faith in Christ — we must “do what He tells us” and live out that faith, lest we deceive ourselves.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (James 1:22-26)
Guys, it might be easy enough to impress people with a superficial profession of faith in Christ, but remember, one day you will be called to give an account before God and He won’t be deceived! You may be able to convince your friends that you are living a life of devotion to Christ, but are you really? Be honest. Do you say “Lord, Lord” but completely ignore what He tells you? True faith is never exercised in a vacuum; It bears fruit in the lives of those who possess it, and is characterized by obedience to God’s commands.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
Lest we drift into legalism, remember that faith is impossible for those to whom it has not been given by God. This isn’t something we can conjure up ourselves. Only God can grant saving faith, and only He can draw us to Himself and preserve us from our own hypocrisy, giving us the grace to continue in obedience before Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Benefactor & Our Judge

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

~Psalm 123
As Calvinists we are known for our stance on God’s sovereignty, namely, that He sovereignly predestines the salvation of His elect, sovereignly allows the reprobate to remain in their sin, sovereignly exercises His irresistible grace to call His elect to Himself, and sovereignly governs and protects His saints (the church).

This doctrine, however, does not do away with our responsibility to obey. It’s all too easy to assent to the truth of God’s sovereignty and then live our lives in such a way that we deny it.

What many modern Christians need to understand (and some pastors need to start preaching) is that Jesus is not your “buddy.” He is your Lord and master! And as such, He is both our benefactor and our judge and is worthy of our love – and fear. Consider how the psalmist describes our position before the Lord: the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
May we look to Him as humble servants, with fear and love, and may He grant us mercy to walk rightly before Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Guys, if you're like me you have probably asked yourself questions like, "what should I be doing with my life?," "where should I go from here?," "what has God been teaching me these past few years and what direction does He want me to head?"

Though the practical "what, when," and "where" questions are important, I would suggest that we spend some time asking ourselves, "how," and "why." Scripture is often quite clear on what we should do to obey God - and we can grasp that - but when it comes down to actually doing it, we stare at our toes and scratch our heads.

Praise God that He has given us more than the "what," and has provided us with instruction on just "how" to obey Him!

But, as we all know, this will require work and study. The answers aren't always spelled out the way we wish they were. Sometimes we have to dig deep to understand how God wants us to live, and other times the practical applications are ripe for the picking.

Consider Psalm 119, specifically verses 9-16. This is a very well-known passage in which the author directs his comments primarily to young men (though everyone can find application here).
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Here are 6 principles (you might even call them "action steps") which I draw from this passage:

1. Guard (verse 9)

How can we keep our way pure? Verse 9 tells us that we must guard it "according to thy word." But it is impossible to set up boundaries on something — to guard it — without first establishing a standard and God tells us that our standard must be His Word. In order to adhere to a standard, you first must know it, so it is critical that we study the Word that we might not wander away from His commandments.

2. Seek (verse 10)

Verse 10 makes it clear that our pursuit of God must not be a half-hearted attempt, but instead must be with our "whole heart." As David says in Psalm 63:1, "earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you." This is no easy thing, but God will not be content with partial dedication or halfhearted obedience.

3. Store up (verse 11)

Hiding God's Word in our hearts is something we ought to do as a preventative measure against sin. The devil is rendered inept by God's truth so his best tactic is to make sure we are forgetful and weak in the Word when temptation comes.

4. Declare (verse 13)

The author not only affirms God's testimonies in his heart but openly speaks them with His lips. Let us be quick to proclaim the truth and, more importantly, the Source of that truth.

5. Delight (verse 14)

While some men try to find fulfillment and satisfaction in earthly riches, the author declares that he delights in "Your testimonies... as much as in all riches." Do we truly delight in God's testimonies? To the point where people see it clearly in our lives?

6. Meditate (verse 15)

The author not only hides the Word in his heart, but he meditates on it — he spends quality time considering what God would have him learn from His Word. This discipline is woefully lacking in the lived of many Christians today. We may read our Bibles but do we ever stop and think (hard!) about how it applies to us?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Of Trout and Bicycles - Diamond Lake 2011

Though I would love to be more thorough in writing about our recent family vacation to Diamond Lake, I'm really busy with work for the next few weeks. The following summary should suffice for now, and, as I have time, I'll continue to update the photo gallery with new images and captions. Enjoy!

Diamond Lake is a 3,000 acre alpine lake nestled in the mountains of Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon (elevation 5,100'). Over the years, it has become our traditional family camping destination, and for good reason! The campground provides ready access to the lake for trout fishing, a series of bike paths and adjoining roads for cycling, mountains for climbing, a little store stocked with candy, areas for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and more. I vaguely remember the last two times we've gone there but this trip is sure to stand out in my memory as one of the best yet. Here are some of the highlights.

We arrived on Monday afternoon in the middle of a brief thunderstorm, but the weather soon cleared up and for the rest of the week it was absolutely perfect. After nearly half a dozen tents were set up and other campsite prep work was done, we had dinner and went out on the lake to fish for a few hours. This was our first time fishing here since 2007 so we weren't sure what to expect. That evening we pulled in 7 nice fish and over the next few days came to realize that this would be one of the most productive fishing trips we've ever had.

Joshua looking quizzical. This little guy had a blast!

Zach in his element

Tuesday really stands out in my memory. I spent the morning on my road bike scouting for the Mt. Bailey trailhead; you'll remember from my last post that Mt. Bailey is one of two mountains standing on either side of Diamond Lake, the other being Mt. Thielsen. The signs indicated that it was just a short 1.5 mile hike/ride to the lower trailhead from the road so I returned the campground confident that it would take a mere 15-20 minutes to get there. When the fishermen returned with their catch (21 trout, I think), Daniel, Mike and I got ready to go climb Bailey that afternoon. I had all my typical climbing gear (minus the ice axe and crampons) in a fairly heavy daypack, along with my camera. It weighed about 25 pounds altogether. I was also wearing my climbing pants, which, incidentally, are not well-suited for cycling - but it was supposed to only take us 20 minutes to get there so I didn't care.

To make a long story short, we went 13.3 miles on gravel roads, halfway around the mountain (it seemed) and never encountered the expected trailhead. I don't know how we missed the lower trailhead, but after concluding that we must have missed it we continued on to look for the upper trailhead. The route involved a lot more climbing than I preferred and we were probably riding for 1.5 hours before we decided to call it a day and abandon the attempt. Since we weren't on a reality TV show and couldn't be airlifted off the premises we had to make the difficult climb back over the hills we had previously descended. Ironically, on the way down, we found the mangled remains of a sign pointing us toward a road that connected with the Mt. Bailey trail. It was too late in the afternoon to consider climbing.

It was disappointing to admit failure, but I later learned that the Mt. Bailey trail had not been maintained  this year and was in pretty rough shape. Regardless, I know that if we could have found the trailhead we could have made the climb. Bailey is a relatively mild mountain compared to many others in the Cascades. Oh well, we still pulled off almost 27 miles of mountain biking so that's got to count for something!

Mt. Thielsen, directly across the Lake from Mt. Bailey
On Wednesday I decided to get a one day fishing license and got out in the boat for both the morning and evening trips. I enjoyed a rousing fight with a nice big trout and managed to pull in 4 total between both trips. Mike and I also rented a canoe and attempted to fish two lines out of it that afternoon. If you've every tried this you'll understand just how difficult it is to manage an un-anchored craft in light waves and attempt to manage your line. In the event that we had gotten a bite I don't know if we would have managed to get the fish in the boat (though we had a net). We gave up on that idea and instead gave some of the kids boat rides for the rest of the hour.

Evening on the lake

Thursday was epic. Dad, Daniel and I rode from the campground out to Crater Lake and around the rim. I'll write more about it later when I pull my photos off my iPhone, but for now let me say it was the longest, hardest ride I've ever done - 65 miles with about 5,000 feet of climbing and some crazy descents.

Mt. Scott, the highest point on the rim of Crater Lake (we rode past it) viewed from Diamond Lake
Friday morning I had planned to climb Mt. Thielsen (on the east side of Diamond Lake), but was too exhausted from the ride around Crater to consider more climbing. It was a bummer because Thielsen has been on my hit list for a while now, but I'm 100% sure we'll be going back one of these years so there will be more opportunities to climb it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Diamond Lake 2011

This coming week our family is once again making the trek out to our traditional camping location in central Oregon - Diamond Lake. While we're there, I'll be enjoying some time out in the boat trout fishing, in the saddle cycling around Diamond and probably around the rim of Crater Lake, as well as climbing the two mountains pictured below. See you all next weekend!

Mt. Thielsen, elevation 9,184 ft (I won't be making the final 80' technical climb up to the summit)

Mt. Bailey, elevation 8,375 ft

Monday, August 01, 2011

Beware of Those Who Promise Freedom

For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:18-19)
2 Peter 2 is a chapter entirely dedicated to the discussion of false prophets and teachers. Among vivid descriptions like "waterless springs and mists driven by a storm (vs 17)," Peter emphasizes that these types of men "entice unsteady souls... (vs 14), those who are barely escaping from those who live in error." (vs 18). "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption." (vs 19)

Remember, true freedom - from temptation, addiction, bitterness, etc. - is only found in Christ.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Characteristics of Godly Living

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
The believer must add knowledge to his virtue, increasing acquaintance with the whole truth and will of God. We must add temperance to knowledge; moderation about worldly things; and add to temperance, patience, or cheerful submission to the will of God. Tribulation worketh patience, whereby we bear all calamities and crosses with silence and submission. To patience we must add godliness: this includes the holy affections and dispositions found in the true worshipper of God; with tender affection to all fellow Christians, who are children of the same Father, servants of the same Master, members of the same family, travelers to the same country, heirs of the same inheritance. - Matthew Henry's Commentary

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Climbing Mt. Adams - Day 2

We woke up bright and early the next morning at 4:00am. I can’t say that I was particularly glad to wake up that early, but that night’s sleep wasn’t what you might call restful; I’m still struggling to get used to this foam sleeping mat I bought. Pulling on some warmer layers, I crawled outside and was greeted by a beautiful starry sky and hints of the sunrise on the horizon. Jonathan took a little longer to stir himself, and I used that opportunity to capture a few photos of the tent with the lantern inside (the truth is, I’ve been wanting to get this shot for a long time!). We both kind of wished we had decided to use the rain-fly since it would have provided some extra insulation to compensate for our warm-weather sleeping bags.

The town of Hood River to the south, and Mt. Hood

I quickly fired up my little MSR Reactor stove and began boiling some water to make coffee and oatmeal (yes, the dreaded instant oatmeal was back). The coffee needed more sugar and quite a bit more cream, but I forgave it for its inadequacies because it was so stinkin’ good at that time in the morning! The oatmeal? Not so much... But you have to get your calories somehow.

Stitched Panorama

It was a gorgeous sunrise!

Neither of us wanted to haul any more gear than necessary up to the summit so we stowed what we weren’t going to need inside the tent, locked it, and by about 5:45am we had begun the final part of the climb. I think my pack weighed about 20lbs at this point — perhaps a bit less.

The snow was significantly more icy than it had been the previous evening, making it ideal for crampons. I felt really good at first and kept up a pretty good pace — which would have been better were it not for the rocky moraines which kept forcing us to remove our gear to cross them — but I could feel my energy flagging by the time the sun came out in force. We still had a long way to climb, so I attempted to fuel up on a Clif bar and some other snacks, but my appetite was largely gone due to the elevation. Candy still sounded good though!

The false summit from Lunch Counter.
The false summit (Piker's Peak) as viewed from Lunch Counter

Panoramic view of the false summit from Lunch Counter.

The sun began softening the snow, but it remained pretty firm until about 8:30am

The steep slope up to Piker's Peak.
The climb up to Piker's Peak - that was a steep slope!

The climb up to Piker’s Peak was brutal. From Lunch Counter (9,000’) it’s another 2,700 feet to reach the top of Piker’s Peak, and that’s the false summit! The altitude was causing shortness of breath and overall sluggishness, which became rather frustrating. It was a struggle to find a balance between breathing normally and going too slow, and pushing too hard for the oxygen I had available. It was a good feeling when the climbers at the top of Piker’s Peak began to look larger than those just starting the ascent down below.

Looking down from Piker's Peak at Lunch Counter.
Looking back down over Lunch Counter from the top of Piker's Peak

Standing on top of Piker's Peak.
"We got this thing!"

Finally I reached the top and was treated to a fine view of the real summit. We had to cross a saddle to reach the final 750 foot ascent to the summit, and that forced us to lose about 250 feet of hard-earned elevation gain. This didn’t thrill me but I wasn’t about to become another example of why the false summit is called Piker’s Peak — a “piker” is one who turns back. I don’t remember exactly when I began climbing the headwall up to the summit, but it must have taken me at least an hour. The slope was at least as steep as that up to the false summit and I was running out of energy. Attempts to refuel with a Snickers bar, Clif bar, Clif bloks and candy were helpful, but didn’t seem to give me enough momentum.

At long last I reached the summit, arriving at 11:20am after 5.5 hours of hard climbing. It felt good!

At the summit!
Climbing buddies

My pompous mountaineer pose

There was Rainier to the north, Baker barely visible on the northern horizon, Glacier Peak to the northeast, the North Cascades, St. Helens to the east, Goat Rocks, Hood to the South, then Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and finally, Broken Top. And we had just accomplished our highest climb yet!

Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Rainier to the north

It was an incredible day to be standing on top of Adams! I thumped down in the snow to snack on some jerky and another Snickers bar while waiting for Jonathan to finish the climb (he was dealing with some really painful blisters). We hung out for a while, shot some photos and portraits, then packed up and prepared for the descent.

View to the north.
If you click through on this image and view the largest size, you may be able to spot Mt. Baker to the right of Rainier.

Jonathan was on skis and I was planning on glissading on my little homemade roll-up sled. The idea was to capture some footage of each of us making our descent, both with our borrowed helmet-cam and DSLRs, so Jonathan began his ski run first while I captured some video, then I began my glissade while he filmed from below. You remember what I said about my glissades on Mt. Hood? Well, these slopes were a whole new adventure! I used my GPS app to clock my max speed on each run. The first time around, I reached 23.8mph — that was fast! However I was convinced that I could top 30mph on the way down from Piker’s Peak, and I actually managed to hit 32.9mph! It was crazy, and certainly one of the highlights of the trip!

We reached camp around 1:00pm and got everything packed up. I was not thrilled to hoist my loaded pack again! It was a beast, but we didn’t have that far to go and it was mostly downhill.

Once we reached the lower slopes of the mountain, Jonathan had a distinct advantage over me with his skis. I must admit that I was a bit envious of his ability to cruise around on the snow (though the sun-cups made it pretty difficult at points) while I just had to trudge along on foot. I caught up with him while he was taking a break and he said that his blisters were killing him and he wanted to get back on dry trail so he could switch his ski boots out for flip-flops (the only alternative footwear he had brought); we planned on meeting at the car. Off he went and I kept slogging.

Finally I found a guy who told me that the trailhead was only “10 minutes away.” 10 minutes, my foot! That gentleman owes a personal apology to my feet... I didn’t have any blisters but I was sure footsore, and didn’t care to be boots any longer than I had to.

At least 30 minutes later I finally reached the trailhead, having taken every little detour to stay on the snow as long as possible. The car was parked another 1/4 mile away, but when I reached it Jonathan was nowhere in sight. There weren’t any signs of him having been there at all — strange, because he was well ahead of me. I thought he must be waiting for me somewhere so I stashed my gear and ran (if you could call it that) back to the trailhead where I met some climbers who told me he was a good mile up the trail. I kept on running and had one guy ask, “you gonna run all the way to the summit?!” Yeah, right...

I met Jonathan a little while later. He was in a lot of pain from his blisters and had to take a very slow pace. It was weird that we had missed each other on the trail, but then I realized that, whereas I was trying to stay on the snow, he had been trying to get off of it onto dry trail. We must have taken slightly different routes.

All ended well and we were soon descending the crowded gravel road back to Trout Lake, where we picked up some PowerAde and a few legendary Jolly Rancher sticks. Highway 14 was a parking lot around Washougal so we re-routed through some backroads and made it to Jonathan’s place around 9:00pm. I hung out for a bit, had some supper, and made it home myself around 10:30pm.

In the aftermath of these climbs you usually experience some side-effects like sunburn and soreness, but those little inconveniences quickly fade away and all that remains is an incredible sense of accomplishment and gratitude. God didn’t have to give us mountains like Adams, or Hood, or St. Helens, but He chose to do so, partially because they magnify His name, and also so we can enjoy them. For some people, their main take-away from mountaineering is a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction, but for me it has more to do with an increased satisfaction in God and His Creation.

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? (Deuteronomy 3:24)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Climbing Mt. Adams - Day 1

I’m burnt. Climbing glaciated mountains on bluebird days without wearing adequate sunscreen will do that to you. But the experience of climbing Mt. Adams for the first time completely eclipsed the side effects. Jonathan and I have climbed St. Helens and Hood, but last Saturday morning, we had the privilege of standing on Adams’ summit at 12,281 feet — the highest we’ve ever climbed.

Living in the Cascades, we have Mt. St. Helens virtually in our backyard. Mt. Hood is visible from all over town, especially as you near the Columbia river, and Mt. Rainier may be seen almost any time you reach a few thousand feet in elevation with a view to the north. Mt. Adams, on the other hand, is comparatively shy and likes to hide behind Silver Star and the neighboring hills so we don’t see it very often. In fact, full views of the mountain were hard to come by even in Trout Lake, the “gateway” town right at the base of the mountain!

The climb was Jonathan's idea, and he managed most of the planning. Last weekend, as predicted, the weather was beautiful and by about 1:30pm on Friday we were cruising down Highway 14 toward the Hwy 141 cutoff which would lead us up north to the trailhead. We reached the town of Trout Lake by about 3:30pm, bought our permits and a few gallons of gas, then headed up Mt. Adams Rec. Rd. toward Cold Springs Campground — the starting point for the south climb route. Unfortunately, I missed a critical turn which set us back by about 20 minutes. The road up to the campground was pretty bumpy and required a great deal of care and not much speed, but we finally made it. We had to park about 1/4 of a mile from the trailhead since the campground had begun to fill up fast.

After changing into our climbing clothes and gulping down a few last blueberries (picked fresh that morning), we donned our 38lb+ packs and hit the trail around 6:00pm. The first half mile was virtually snow-free, but soon we began hitting light patches of snow, and it wasn’t long before the snowpack was sufficient to strap on skis and crampons.

Jonathan taking a quick breather

The climbing that evening was fairly uneventful. The snow was pretty soft but still decent for climbing. We could see both Piker’s Peak (the false summit) and the true summit for much of the climb, but eventually we were only able to see Piker’s Peak looming above us at 11,700 feet.

Destination in sight!

At about 8:30pm we decided to call it a day. I was wiped out and starving, and Jonathan was in similar shape. We found a sweet campsite on a moraine at about 8,100 feet, set up camp, cooked supper and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with great views of Mt. Hood to the south and St. Helens silhouetted to the east. For me, supper consisted of my very own "Bland Potato Casserole" with plenty of cayenne pepper and salt, and a mug of tea. You have no idea how good such a basic meal can taste when you've been climbing for a few hours!

I love Mt. Hood from this angle! That's Mt. Jefferson peaking out on the left.

Stitched Panorama

St. Helens to the west

This was our first time actually camping on a mountain and it went surprisingly well. We were bracing ourselves for the possibility of a lot of wind, but that evening was completely calm, and though I got a bit chilled in my 35 degree bag it wasn’t awfully cold and I was able to catch a few hours of sleep — at least, I think I slept. It’s hard to know for sure when you wake up the next morning at 4:00am!

Just for kicks, here’s my journal entry for that evening (yes, we were tired):

Forgot bone-saw [inside joke], but haven't needed it just yet so we're OK. Tired but satisfied; had a good supper. No big-foot sightings so we're kind of on edge. The fact that we don't see them doesn't rule out the possibility of them seeing us. They like coffee so we're keeping it in the tent tonight where they wouldn't dare take it.

To be continued...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

Does God want us to be happy?

It’s a common enough question, but one which has caused many to reach the wrong conclusions. Some teach that true happiness can be derived from things — possessions, money, etc. — and therefore our pursuit of happiness should really be a pursuit of more stuff. This is commonly known as the “prosperity gospel,” and is really no gospel at all. It is a delusional attempt to justify greed, and to excuse misplaced priorities. Some even go so far as to treat God as a kind of “cosmic investment”; the more I give to Him, the more He blesses me.

There are also those who argue that God does not want us to be wealthy, but Scripture offers no support for such a position.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between joy and happiness lately. Can someone be unhappy, yet joyful? Take me as an example. I’m not particularly happy working all by myself (don’t get me wrong — I like working for myself, but not by myself). It’s hard for me to be a graphic designer in a solitary, “non-collaborative” environment.

If I believe that God wants me to be happy, whatever the cost, what should I do? Should I go work for someone else? Should I abandon the challenges of pulling a one-man job and move into something I like better? Is my relative unhappiness really an issue at all?

What if, instead of believing in an artificial “happiness” construct, I embrace what Scripture teaches about joy?
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
(Psalm 97:11-12)
Only the upright can experience true, lasting joy; the wicked may find some semblance of “joy,” but it will only last a moment. If my walk with the Lord is lacking, I won't be joyful.
Do you not know this from of old,
since man was placed on earth,
that the exulting of the wicked is short,
and the joy of the godless but for a moment?
(Job 20:4-5)
It is God who puts joy in our hearts (Ps. 4:7), and we are told that, in His presence, there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11). I think Webster’s 1828 dictionary offers some helpful comments on the meaning of the word “joy” - “the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good.” (emphasis added) Notice how even the expectation of good may excite joy? Think of heaven.

For the Christian, true joy is found in God alone, not earthly possessions. It springs from hope in His promises, regardless of our immediate circumstances. We are told to “rejoice in all things,” or “in the midst of” all things. You won’t find me overjoyed when a loved one passes away, but Lord willing, you will still find me joyful. Our joy is founded in something far greater than our temporal lives and the troubles we encounter!

I think Scripture is clear - God wants us to be joyful, not just happy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zion National Park - Fond Memories

I've been reliving some of the awesome memories from our 2,800 mile road trip in February as I go back and edit / re-edit photos from the trip. I don't think I ever finished publishing my best photos so here are a few for your enjoyment, as well as an excerpt from my "adventure journal."

Our goal was to reach Zion National Park by noon, but we got a later start than we had hoped. We took AZ-64 east out to Hwy 89, where we headed north, then west after passing Page, AZ. Scenic Highway 9 led us into the park. We were immediately in awe - this place is spectacular! Both Jonathan and I were constantly snapping photos through our open windows, while winding down the twisty roads into the valley. I don’t think too many of mine turned out but you never know!

At the park fee station we asked the ranger about conditions on Angel’s Landing Trail and he said it would probably be fine since they haven’t had much precipitation lately. He was mostly right. 

After entering the park we went straight for the trailhead and headed out at about 3:30pm. Angel’s Landing is a 5 mile round-trip hike, so I figured we had enough time to make it there and back before sundown. The first 3/4 mile were fairly easy, then it got really steep for another 1/4-1/2 mile and then leveled out for a while. The last part of our hike was probably the most fun because it involved skirting sheer cliffs on both sides while gripping a chain anchored into the rock. Truly adventurous. We passed on the last 1/4 mile because the trail got too icy and would have been too risky.

Zion Canyon, viewed from near the top of Angel's Landing. Zion National Park, Utah.
Zion Canyon and the Virgin River, viewed from near the top of Angel's Landing

The Great White Throne, Zion National Park, Utah
The Great White Throne, viewed from near the top of Angel's Landing
Looking down Zion Canyon from near the top of Angel's Landing. Zion National Park, Utah.
Zion Canyon at sunset, viewed from near the top of Angel's Landing (the rock prominence to the left).

Zion Canyon and the Virgin River at dusk. Zion National Park, Utah.
Zion Canyon and the Virgin River at dusk

Starry night sky, Zion National Park, Utah.
Starry night sky in Zion National Park

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marketing Can Be Deceptive

One Standard

“For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” (Numbers 15:15-16)
In our egalitarian culture we are constantly hammered with the need for equality. Men and women must be equal in every sense possible, the distinctions between rich and poor must at all costs be erased, “equal opportunity” must be required of employers, and the list goes on.

But is this kind of “equality” desirable? More importantly, is it Biblical?

Here we must tread dangerous ground — dangerous because our culture is so blindly insistent on their version of “equality,” and we have been conditioned to think about these issues using their standard.

Right now I’m not going to address the specific implications of this subject — i.e. marriage, wealth, employment, etc. — but rather, will deal with the overarching Biblical principles, without which application is impossible.

Egalitarian Equality vs. Christian Equality
“You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” (Num. 15:15a-16)
The egalitarian idea of quality is “sameness” and equality of outcome. Under this model, if women are to achieve true equality with men, they must be allowed and encouraged to do all the things men do. They must go to war, be able to vote, run for office, and pursue an independent income or they can never be truly equal!*

The important thing here is to recognize that sameness of outcome requires differences in the standards. When women are unable to perform at the same level as men (in the military, for instance), the standard must be adapted. In many cases, legal intervention is the agent used to ensure “equality.”

The Biblical concept of equality, however, emphasizes justice and equity. “You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord.” (Num. 15:15a) In the Biblical system, there is only one standard, dictated by God. Since men and women are created differently, the standard will affect them differently, resulting in (*gasp*) different outcomes.

When Biblical justice and equity reign, this is true equality.

In Closing
A just balance and scales are the Lord's;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
(Prov. 16:11)
Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
(Prov. 20:23)
You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:2-3, emphasis added)
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. (Ex. 23:6)
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are joint heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
*Remember, I’m dealing with the principle, not the applications. It may be legitimate for a woman to hold a job outside the home, but it should not be a “given” like our culture believes.

I owe the majority of these thoughts to Doug Wilson’s excellent sermon series on marriage, available from CanonPress.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is the Lord's Hand Shortened?

But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” (Numbers 11:21-23)

May we never be guilty of doubting God’s absolute power. In our finitude, we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that God is like us — limited — when, in fact, “It is He who made us, and we are His...”

Moses knew this; earlier, in Deuteronomy 3:24, he says:

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? (Deut. 3:24)

Whatever our circumstance, however desperate our need, the Lord’s hand is not shortened and He is able to work mightily on our behalf!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Backpacking Eagle Creek: Day 3

On Saturday morning I woke up comparatively refreshed. Snoring tent-mates were still an issue, but since the disturbance could be adequately regulated by a nudge or a swift kick, I managed alright.

Once again I had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and this time was able to heat water using my little alcohol stove. It’s pretty cool to be able to boil water over a pop-can stove, even though it could be rather finicky. This morning was quite a bit warmer than the previous so I didn’t find myself wishing I had brought warmer clothes (for some reason I decided to just pack shorts instead of lightweight pants).

We had about 11 miles to hike before we reached our original starting point, the Eagle Creek trailhead. As we set out, I think most of us were experiencing aches and pains of some sort. My right boot was crimping a bit as I leaned forward, causing numbness on the top of my foot; thankfully that wore off as the day progressed! For me, the last day brings the most mental challenges. Knowing that our mission was nearly accomplished and that we were headed back to the land of ice-cream and french fries made me resent those mile marker signs. “What do you mean it’s still another mile and a half?!”

Wild Snapdragons
Wild Snapdragons

Jonathan's Gorillapod setup for taking vertical shots of a waterfall.
Jonathan's Gorillapod setup for photographing waterfalls vertically. These things are neat!

Tiger Lilies
Tiger Lilies, I believe

This was probably the least eventful day out of the three. We followed the Herman Creek Trail north, intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail which took us west toward the Bridge of the Gods, and eventually joined Gorge Trail 400 at Cascade Locks, which borders I-84. Along the way we got some great views of Table Mountain across the river - a hike I’ve been really wanting to try - and also found a Spotted Owl along the trail! My “birder’s eye” really paid off this time!

We had the privilege of seeing a Spotted Owl up close. Federally, they are on the Endangered Species list, and are listed as threatened in Oregon and California. Being nocturnal (like most owls) they aren't commonly seen in broad daylight, but this little guy was hanging out right next to the trail!
Spotted Owls are Federally endangered (and listed as "threatened" in OR and CA) and have caused a great deal of controversy over the past few years, especially concerning the logging industry up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Jonathan and Chelsea resting up at Herman Creek. We stopped here to fill up on water  since we didn't expect to encounter another creek between here and the trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses several thousand miles from Arizona to Canada. I'm told the section between Stevenson and Snoqualmie Pass is particularly beautiful - I'd love to hike it someday!

Jonathan putting away his water filter.
Jonathan putting away his water filter

Frog :)
I found a very cooperative frog. Now I'm in trouble because I didn't tell anyone I found a frog - as though it's a big deal? He was pretty cool though.

I can’t quite remember when we reached the cars. What stands out most in my mind was seeing a sign that read 1.5 miles when we thought we only had half a mile left, and traveling most of that distance on asphalt (painful when you’re footsore!). Oh, and Jonathan sprinting ahead at the last minute, yelling wildly. I didn’t chase him, since I know I could beat him any day - why prove what I already know? ;)

It was with great relief that we all hoisted our packs into the cars, got a group photo, and headed off to Cascade Locks for some ice-cream. Sometimes, when you’re out on the trail or pushing for the summit, you can get caught up in the exertion, the soreness, the shortness of breath, and forget what it feels like to reach the finish line. The sense of accomplishment is really something else! It amazes me how fast I can “flip the switch,” forget about the difficulties and immediately want to hoist a pack again and get out there in the wild again. It’s almost like McDonalds - you forget just how bad you felt after your last experience eating there, and it’s all you can do to resist the urge to walk through those doors again.

So why bother?

My two driving motivations are: 1) To experience a side of God’s creation that comparatively few people get to experience, and 2) To challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Scripture makes a connection between physical discipline and spiritual discipline, comparing our spiritual walk to “running a race,” and noting that we must run “with endurance.” We need to be careful not to equate the two in a literal sense (i.e. “John is overweight, so he must not be very spiritual”), but I think there is definitely a connection. Discipline and self control in one area of life usually flow over into other areas. Conversely, laziness and a lack of self-control cannot be easily confined to just one thing – they soon begin to define us.

I need to keep challenging myself, even when it hurts.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… ~Hebrews 12:1

Can you say "bad hair day"?

The Gang!
The Gang. Fun times guys!