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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Rising to the Heights... pt 5

I know that I have probably told you over a zillion times about one of my favorite places in the whole world located in the Plumas National Forest in northeastern California near the Nevada border.  Okay… Okay… before I go any further, I can hear Piper’s sweet little voice in my ear telling me: “Don’t exaggerate Jim!” like she used to do when I would get a little too enthusiastic in my narratives that I would  share with her and our family!  So, let me recant that extreme number and just say that I know that I have mentioned it many times through the years that I have been writing this blog.  (Would you believe 1385 posts!)

My favorite of the many hiking trails in and around our two favorite campsites at the Great Lakes Basin National Forest Campground and Plumas Eureka State Park is the arduous trail up to the top of Eureka Peak that rises some 1341 feet above the campground at Plumas Eureka.  This mountain is one of the tallest peaks in the area at 7447 feet above sea level.  From the top of the peak you can literally see for miles.  Toward the east you can view the town of Portola and the many trains that twist and turn through the mountains before they reach the town and beyond that, the desolate desert of Nevada comes into sight.

When you turn and look the opposite direction, my breath is always taken away as I see nothing but miles of tree studded mountains and valleys with numerous fire lookout towers doting the tops of the taller peaks as far as the eye can see.  The environment on the top of Eureka Peak is actually a little on the bleak side as it must exceed the tree line beyond which the trees have little protection against the elements.  On our many summer hikes up the mountain (starting in 1976) we have usually spotted a few areas where snow is still on the ground!

It is difficult for me to express the feelings of excitement, wonderment and the sense of accomplishment when I would sit on one of the many granite boulders on the peak and let my senses overload on the sights and sounds that seem to go on forever!  But there is another side to the hike that one tends to forget at the summit, but is real when coming up the mountain.

Every time we have hiked the trail, I am always surprised at how steep certain parts of the trail actually are!  There is a portion of the trail that you come upon soon after leaving the open area around Eureka Lake about a mile into the 3.5 mile hike that leads into thicker forested slopes that gain a fair amount of elevation in a short period of time!  After a half an hour of uphill climbing, I usually find myself examining my resolve and asking just how much I really want to get to the top!

But with knees burning and lots of sips on the water bottle (I usually hike with two!) I just keep thinking about how it is going to feel at the top and push on through the discomfort of the moment.  I have discovered on this hike in particular, that the perseverance, energy and self-control needed to reach the heights of this strenuous trail is definitely worth it!

All this came to mind this morning as I considered Paul’s words about walking in Christian love as stated in his prayer in Ephesians chapter three.  In talking about experiencing “the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love” he declares that we have to “Reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length!  Plumb the depths! (and) Rise to the heights! (Ephesians 3:18 The Message Bible)  In particular, it was the idea of rising to the heights of Christ’s love that caught my undivided attention.

On the journey that my wife and I have been on with her health needs, we have received lots of words of encouragement and some good advice and have also been amazed at the ways some of the most unlikely folks have reached out to us in order to assist us!  On the other hand, we have also been the recipient of some insensitive and thoughtless words and actions… or in some cases… a lack of expected words or actions. 

I have never mastered the art of having a quick and witty come back when people say things that are not the right thing to say.  Unlike my wife who always seems to smooth out any uncomfortable situation without barely having to think about it, I usually have to take a little bit of time to consider my thoughts and ask the Lord for assistance!  But in respect to the insensitive and thoughtless comments… this personal trait was probably a good thing as I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say something that I would regret… usually because I was so taken back by what was said!

Then after thought and prayer the Lord has always helped me to take the “High Road” and “rise to the heights” of Christ’s love in later response to those involved in the situation!  Like the hike up Eureka Peak though, those times in the middle of the situation come not without personal perseverance, energy and LOTS of self-control!  And while various situations are still playing out to this day, I am assured by God’s Word that the end result will be worth the effort!

And as if in confirmation, I was also reminded of Psalm 15:23-24 this morning where the Psalmist declares “What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion!” (Good News Bible) or as the King James states: “a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”  Then the truth is brought full circle in the next verse where it is written: “Life ascends to the heights for the thoughtful…” (The Message Bible)  I believe those “heights” are the “heights” of Christ’s love that Paul spoke of in Ephesians.

So, if you’re like me… I would think that as Christians we would all want to try and do whatever it takes to “rise to the heights” of Christ’s love.  Would you agree with that thought?  Let me know in the comments section!

So, enjoy the hike today, push on through the discomfort of the difficult sections of the trail of life that you are walking and then enjoy the view from the top!  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I really expecting to do whatever it takes to ‘rise to the heights’ of Christ’s love today?”

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