Lessons in Yosemite

I have been thinking a lot about Yosemite. Perhaps because it is now the time of year I would normally make a trip to the valley. It is a place that has come to hold many memories.

It was a place I took friends who came to visit.


It was the place where Bryan and I first talked about a future together.


It was the place where I pushed myself. I have been blessed to take many hikes in that valley.

More than all the time spent making memories with other people, however, what stands out most about Yosemite, is how much the Lord speaks to me there.

I have seen that beautiful place in every season. In every season, every visit, the Lord has shown me things.

I have stood in the silence of winter, the time when the Lord prepares for the show of spring.  A time of cold, where survival is hard. Many things in the forest sleep this time away, safe in dens under heavy blankets of snow. We are not so. We from time to time have winters of our own. Times when we feel spiritually cold and dark. Yet the Lord is never far from us. In His own time, He brings us change. We can take hope in the harshness of spiritual winter, because it is for the Lord’s good, just as real winter comes before He brings about spring:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”  — Romans 8:28

IMG_8962IMG_8335IMG_8326IMG_8973^El Capitan from the Valley Floor

I have seen towering waterfalls, overflowing in the spring. It is incredible to think that before the flood, there were no waterfalls. It tells us in Genesis 7:11-12:

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.”

Before the flood there had been no rain. There were no geysers. There was no water that came out from the Earth – no waterfalls! How often I have stood in wonder of waterfalls. Proclaimed their beauty. Enjoyed their mist and rainbows. Yet until I stood in the shadow of the magnificent falls in Yosemite, I never considered that they are a byproduct of the flood. The flood was an event terrible to behold. God’s wrath poured out on the Earth. An event so cataclysmic that nearly every ancient culture and religion has a great flood story. A flood so great that it changed the face of the earth. Yet just as God promises that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, He used a great flood to ultimately bring about things of beauty. It is perplexing to think that Gods wrath could result in such things. Yet there those beautiful waterfalls fall.

IMG_8708^Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls as seen from Glacier Point

IMG_0702^ Yosemite Falls, taken from the Valley Floor. *Photo Credit: Natalie Gates

I have stood and marvelled at the magnificent cliffs, peaks, and mountains in summer and fall. I read this week about how God does not change. The author compared this attribute of God to the mountains. My first thought was of the iconic skyline in Yosemite, of El Capitan and Half Dome. How true it seems. These mountains have stood for so long. The have seen so much! They will outlive the entire population of earth. We can stand next to or on the summit of the same peaks that many great men and women before us have stood on. Or do we? With each passing year, these mountains do change. The changes are subtle. Not so long ago, multiple large chunks of El Capitan (Pictured on the right in the photo below), came crashing to the valley floor. I am certain such a sight would be amazing to witness, if not terrifying to be in proximity too. Once the dust had settled, rock climbers, who have for decades prized the chance to climb its face, all turn their heads once again to El Capitan. Where the chunk of rock now on the floor once stood, is revealed an entirely new surface just waiting to be climbed. In the past few years the same event took place on the face of Half Dome. These mountains do not stay the same. Time changes them, just as it does us. The Lord alone is unchanging. James 1:17 tells us:

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow”

IMG_0689*Photo Credit: Natalie Gates


God does not change. We, however, change constantly. Unlike the mountains which seem to be frozen in time, we change on an almost daily basis. We, unlike God, are trapped within time. We change in fashion, taste, preference, appearance, welling place, occupation, and much, much more. Our lives are a constant revolving door of change. This change, however, is a blessing from God. We are able to change. Imagine for a moment if we were born unable to change. We would be forever stuck as infants and life would not have moved far beyond Adam and Eve. What is even more frightening is the idea that if we were not able to change, we would be forever spiritually dead. We all are dead spiritually until the Lord moves in our hearts. Colossians 2:13 says:

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions”

Furthermore, we are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, we are able to be new. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we change. The old is taken away and the new comes. Not only do we just change at salvation, but we change throughout our lives as we are shaped and moulded to be more like Christ as it says in Ephesians 4:20-24:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

We are able to be sanctified. We grow in Christ likeness. We put on the new self each day. How incredible that we are able to change.

Of all the things the Lord taught me in Yosemite, it was Half Dome which brought the biggest lesson.

IMG_7775^The face of Half Dome from the Valley Floor.

Standing on this mountain is something I will never forget. Largely because of all it took to make it there. We were a team of 6. We spent the entire summer preparing and training. We applied for permits. Planned a camping trip with a support team. Invested in hiking boots and trekking poles. We researched what we should be prepared for. Countless hours went into this hike before it even began.


Our hike officially began at 5 AM! We hiked over 16 miles that day. It was gruelling. We eventually spread out for most of the hike, each of us going at our own pace. There was much time that day to stop and talk with the Lord. Time to pause and stand in awe of the deer who didn’t seem to mind much that we were so close to him. Time to worship.

There was also time to be afraid. Legs burning, lungs gasping for air; Time to ask myself why on earth I was putting myself through something so challenging. In the whole hike, the part that I remember the most vividly was standing before the cables. Pictured below.


This last portion is what makes Half Dome one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. Standing at approx 400ft (100 m), the cables is what makes Half Dome summitable for hikers. This final stretch is at times, a sheer 80 degree angle, and the rock surface has been worn fairly smooth over time. This is where some of the most severe injuries have happened on Half Dome. As the 6 of us stood at the base, half the group took off. The other half stood shakily below, not ready at all for the final climb. We stood at the bottom, slowly pulling on harnesses, so we could tie ourselves to the cable, in case of a fall. As we helped one another with buckles and ties, the others turned around on the mountain, half way up and cried out “Come on! It’s easy!”

It was NOT easy.

We were terrified.

We slipped on our gloves and stood together ready to climb. I stopped. I turned around and grabbed the hands of my companions and prayed. I quite literally cried out to God. I was so afraid.

We prayed. I turned and took a deep breath and began the cable climb.

It was worth it.

I stood on what felt like the top of the world and could not believe what God had done. His creation was so incredible. Not only was creation incredible, but God Himself is truly awesome. I sad on the top and thought about what had just happened below. In  the face of my overwhelming fear, God gave me peace. He gave me calm. He gave me the strength to put one foot in front of the other. He helped me to turn to my companions and encourage them as we went. We not only have a God who has made and incredible world for us to explore, we have a God who we can trust wholeheartedly. I can trust Him to carry me up mountains, and how much more can I trust Him with my soul.

Psalm 62:1-2:

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.


IMG_7912^ The view from the top, although no photo can truly do it justice. We stood at 8,839 ft (2,694 m).


IMG_8707^ A view of Half Dome from nearby Glacier Point.

Just as wonderful as the quiet with the Lord at the top, was the victory at the bottom. We arrived 10.5 hours later back at the car. We sat that night and shared stories of our hike. As we had all spread out during long portions of the hike, we all had different stories to tell. We all had testimonies of how God had revealed Himself to us that day.

12418874_10206693307190222_4019181868232672025_o.jpg*Photo Credit: Carah Muetterties

Yosemite National Park is an incredible place. There is much to be gained by adventuring there. If you have not gone, I urge you too. I urge you to go, not just for its beauty. Go listen for the still small voice that is the Lord. For even more incredible than the place I have ventured in so often, is the Lord God who created it.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

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