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Blog

Climbing Sierra Point

Emily Pullen

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Climbing Sierra Point (an unmarked trail with a foretold “insane view”) began with loose directions from Christopher, our new friend at the mountaineering store. They included trees down, talus fields(?) & matted ground. He ended with, “I set up some cairns on my last trip – just look for those.”

We climbed over boulders & wandered through the woods for a half hour before discovering the first pile of promised rocks. “CAIRN!” we shouted. Our success in finding these consecutive stacks kept us going, but legitimate concern played a heavy hand as our accession into the heavens proved steep, treacherous & void of any other humans. Breaks were taken, pep talks were given & brave bones were called on. 

As we rounded the final corner, an involuntary cheer of delight could be heard high above the valley floor. Majestic mountains kissed a blue sky as wispy white clouds danced in harmony with the rustle & chirp of the trees & birds. A defining picture of congruency filled every frame.

Days after our descent, I realized an interesting thing happened when we set our intentions on things above. Every step, albeit strenuous & unsure, was preparing for us a joy that would have been incomplete had it been handed to us on low, solid, & safe ground. C.S. Lewis writes, "When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, "Look!" The whole party gathers round & stares. But when we have found the road & are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop & stare." These tiny piles of rocks didn't make the climb any easier, but the act of seeking to find kept our eyes wide for a signal that the way was right – it turned our gaze outward & removed us from being the answer. To be sure, the walk is not without hard & unknown, but the call to go & grow is not in vain. It is an invitation to stand amazed by the grace of our way-maker, who promises to meet us in weakness & remind us of the worthy destination that lies ahead. 

Last week, my brothers & their lovely ladies also headed to Yosemite & after sharing my experience with them, they decided to attempt the hike to Sierra Point as well. Despite it taking them twice as long (sorry, I’m still a little competitive😬), they made it & seeing their picture from the top of the very same point doubled my sister-sized heart. Nothing ushers in delight quite like a shared experience of joy.

practice resurrection.

Emily Pullen

A couple of weeks ago I was in an antique store and spent a long time reading correspondences on the back of vintage postcards. One began with, “Dear Doris, I am writing to inform you that I am still among the living.” I took this to mean she was an elderly woman nearing her time of passing, but I couldn't help but consider how, in light of Easter, her words are my words too.

Before Jesus died, he told his disciples, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” [John 16:22] We don’t have to look very far to identify with, “sorrow now.” Our world is full of brokenness, injustice and sadness that continues to dry even the deepest wells. But our God is one of compassion who never intended for us to make the quantum leap from sorrow to joy on our own. An eternal bridge was built when He made good on the promise that, “I will see you again.” If we claim this as divine truth, it not only changes everything, it invites us to be active ingredients in rejoicing over these post-Easter days. To enter the darkness with light, to meet people with kindness, to champion right over wrong, to fight for the good, to, as Wendell Berry says, “practice resurrection.” It’s true that our humanness makes this SO hard, but I suppose that might be the point — to recognize our tremendous need and run to the empty tomb that meets tragedy with triumph and brings us from death to life.

hope springs eternal

Emily Pullen

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” [1 Corinthians 15:19] A hard truth is that hope as the world offers it is ultimately futile. If you are anything like me and have assigned a significant amount of pride to maintaining a glass half-full disposition, you don't particularly enjoy when the glass is emptied. But so it is. I hope we win. [We lose.] I hope it’s not raining. [It’s pouring.] I hope they come around. [They don’t.] I hope the cancer doesn't come back. [It does.] So how/why does the Bible encourage us to, “rejoice in hope” assuring that it “does not put us to shame?”

Hope of this kind is different—it goes beyond positive thinking and replaces wishful expectations with the good news of the Gospel. Disappointment, [big, small and valid] will certainly still come, but we don't have to settle for a glass half-full—we can take ultimate heart. Jesus took on the cross and rose victorious over the grave so that our lasting joy would not have to be tethered to optimism, but to the fulfilled promise that hope really does spring eternal.

eat the manna.

Emily Pullen

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On three separate occasions this week I was reminded of when God provided the Israelites with daily manna from heaven after they ran out of food in the desert. With any sort of thematic repetition such as this, my tendency is to quickly chalk it up to coincidence and brush it off with a casual, "isn't that funny?" But when I stop long enough to attend to these points of connection, they often reveal truth, and more than likely one I'm not quite ready to sit with. Hence the need for repetition.

"Eat the manna. More will come." I read this week. This isn't just a platitude. It was and is promised truth. But not one I like. I don't want to trust that there will be enough manna for each day, I want to know that there will be enough for the next 5, 10, 15 years. But faith calls us to something higher, something beyond storing up our treasure where moth and rust destroy. This is not easy. Fear and worry over the unknown is palpable and real, but so is God and it has been my grace-filled experience that, as Sara Groves says, "He bends very low to care for us." So I will keep my gaze heavenward; praying, looking, and expecting the daily manna that knows nothing of indulging my excess but everything of supplying my need.

slow to speak

Emily Pullen

Social media has been a noisy, tiresome place lately. Setting up camp with our opinions and calling off-sides on anyone who doesn't agree with us doesn't seem to be creating a platform for helpful dialogue or lasting change. What if instead of loud opinions, we tried harder to be people who were slow to speak and quick to ask & listen (really listen) to the heart behind people's opinions/shares/posts? It seems like courage I don't often have, but I'm willing to bet it will feel less defeating and more hopeful than we ever thought.

fullness of joy

Emily Pullen

Learning to not be a total comfort junkie is so hard. We've been told that having things, relationships, status, etc. will fill the comfort shaped hole in our hearts & make us the happiest versions of ourselves. But will they? When more is never enough it's hard to be convinced. And that would be a total bummer if we weren't assured so much more. "In his presence there is fullness of joy." (Psalm 16:11) Full. Complete. Lacking nothing. Why oh why would we settle for merely what this world says will satisfy? Let's dare to dream bigger in what delights His heart & watch as it floods our worldly comfort zones.