Before living in Salt Lake City I could count on one hand the amount of hikes I had done. I love being outdoors but rather than camping and hiking, I grew up either on the beaches of North and South Carolina or fishing and hunting at my family’s farm. Being someone that loves being challenged by the unfamiliar, I couldn’t wait to move out west. Each of our excursions have been filled with exciting and growing experiences but one of our outings will always stick out in my mind when asked what God’s taught me through our adventures.
Earlier this semester we were lucky enough to have Gobbler’s Knob be the first Utah summit we hiked as a fellows group- a hike filled with stunning views and ending with a peak that’s 10,246 feet above sea level. The first mile started off steep but most of the trail was a gradual hike up until the last mile to the peak. While we typically like to find a pace that works for everyone in the group when we hike, Ben encouraged us to not be afraid to break off and go our own paces for the last part to the top. He suggested we take that time to reflect on our personal journeys with God.
As mentioned earlier, I enjoy a challenge so I started the last section of the hike optimistic and eager to prove myself. That attitude lasted about 1/4th of a mile and then I was reminded of my very obvious weaknesses and need for God’s strength to keep going. The countless times my limits had been tested in the past; memories of experiencing mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion, were all brought to the forefront of my mind.
The Lord then reminded me of His constant and restoring faithfulness in the midst of all of those memories. Time and time again, when I’m filled with doubt, He’s filled with hope. When I desperately seek an end to the pain that this world often provides, He provides infinity more reassurance that He’ll never leave nor forsake me no matter how grueling the trek.
As soon as I surrendered in that moment and allowed God to fill me with confidence in His strength, I immediately turned on some worship music for the rest of the hike. Cheesy as it sounds, those who know me know I love me some music and firmly believe the Lord can use it to provide healing in more ways than we’ll ever know. While pushing my body harder than ever felt before, I was given the opportunity to get lost in His goodness through worship and the presence of His breathtaking creation.
Reaching the top of Gobbler’s Knob, surrounded by indescribable panoramic views of Utah, was such a fun and incredible experience. However, looking back, I know the summit is not where I was refined and radically drawn closer to my Heavenly Father. Reaching beautiful destinations in life are such a gift that should always be treasured, but I don’t believe those gifts will be what truly fulfill us as people. Walking hand-in-hand with my Savior through life’s journeys, aware of my desperate need for Him and experiencing His constant and loving faithfulness, will forever be the only eternity-lasting source of fulfillment.
And for that I’ll never stop praising.
Salt Lake Fellow
Class of 2016-17
The first word I’d use to describe Salt Lake City is “divided.” Though 55% of Salt Lake County is Mormon (with much higher percentages in more suburban Utah), much of the rest of the city is unaffiliated with any religion. In actuality, much of the culture of SLC is what I’d considered ‘anti-Mormon.’ Even with the Mormon Salt Lake Temple in the dead center of the city, the coffee roasting industry is thriving, there’s a growing collection of local breweries, and SLC was named the most LGBT-friendly city in 2010. As you could probably guess, there’s an incredible tension felt here.
And as you could also probably guess, I love this city even more because of it.
It fills my heart with complete joy to stand in the gap between the LDS church and people who hate the church--being neither, but loving both. I love going to coffee shops and chatting with tatt’d baristas and then driving to Provo (where BYU, the Mormon university, is) to hang with my LDS friends. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to love two very different people groups that the Christian church has very much neglected and even outwardly hated.
I chose to move 2200 miles away from my home, community, and family because I’ve come to recognize a very valid need in this city. A need that can be summed up by one sentence that broke my heart.
My best friend of the past 15 years, one Julia Larsen, is LDS. Despite our religious differences, we’ve stuck through a move across the country, going to different colleges, many many boy issues, her mission to Melbourne, Australia, my completion of a college degree, and her wedding this past May (in which I had the honor of being a big part of!). We’ve fought and had long discussions about religion and came to the conclusion that we just love each other no matter what. But when recounting her tales of her mission, she said one thing that killed me inside. She said, “The cruelest people toward me on my mission were Christians.” And that, breaks my heart more than anything I perceive as false doctrine.
Additionally, my sister, Katie, has been ostracized from and neglected by the Christian church due to her LGBT background. If we as Christians cannot love the most marginalized, be it Mormons or lesbians, how are we to love anyone?
I love being where the tension lies. I love extending grace through the work of the Holy Spirit in me. I desire to see a city united under the reign of King Jesus, but in the meantime, I will stand in the gap.
Salt Lake Fellow
Class of 2016-17
Let me begin this post by saying that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Most days I think to myself “how did I even get to this place? What am I even doing with my life?”. I’ll admit that some days I don’t feel like I am following Jesus. I’ll admit that a lot of times I doubt myself, I question whether or not I am really the person that Jesus wants to serve Him. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, with feeling like I will never measure up, will never be good enough. I get stuck in this mindset a lot, I start to believe in the lies the enemy is shouting at me.
You see, it’s all too easy to listen to the shouts of the enemy instead of the gentle whisper of God. Something I’m beginning to realize is that the enemy takes God’s words and distorts and twists them until they are no longer the truth but rather poison that seeps into our minds.
Whenever I reflect on these feelings of inadequacy, these feelings of not measuring up, I ask myself the question “measure up to what?” Nowhere in the bible does Jesus have this list of things you have to do to “measure up”. Jesus doesn’t call those who measure up or who are qualified, He calls the broken, the weary, and the unqualified. When Jesus first calls His disciples, He doesn’t have them go through a try out or complete an interview. He didn’t have them list their qualifications. In fact, Jesus doesn’t speak with them at all beforehand, before calling them.
The first words Jesus speaks to Simon(Peter) and Andrew are “Come follow me” ( Matthew 4:19). Without hesitation or questioning, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. I can only imagine what power and authority Jesus had in His voice and in His presence that compelled Simon and Andrew to follow Him with reckless abandonment. That power and authority has not faded, Jesus possess that same power, same authority and same certainty when He calls us. He possesses that authority and confidence not just when He calls us as believers but when He calls us to something new, when He calls us moment by moment to follow Him. Whether that is following Him to a new city, a new job, or just following Him in the mundane daily tasks of life, He is calling us with confidence and certainty.
I’m learning that following Jesus isn’t just something you do when you chose to believe in Him and in the Gospel. It is not just something you do when you make a big decision in your life like a move or a job, but rather, following Jesus is woven into every fabric of my day to day life. Following Jesus is a moment to moment, step by step process. What is so beautiful to me about following Jesus is that we don’t have to be good enough to follow Him; there is no list of qualifications we must possess in order to follow Him. We don’t have to be qualified, we just have to trust Him enough to leave our nets behind and go where He goes.
Now I wish I could say that I have as much faith in Jesus as Simon and Andrew did. I wish I could say that I leave my nets behind and follow Jesus, no questions asked, but many times I don’t. I hear His call yet I make sure I fold my net and put it away, I make sure I have a backup plan in case where I follow Him doesn’t work out, I question and think and essentially challenge His callings in my life. Like Peter, I question Jesus, asking Him to show me that it is Him I am following, asking Him to give me some reassurance that I will be okay if I follow Him. I see Jesus and I call out to Him “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus beckons me out onto the water and I begin to walk on the water toward Him, my eyes fixated on my Savior. Some days though I take my eyes off Jesus and my gaze shifts away from Jesus and on to the churning waves and howling winds around and I begin to sink.
What happens next in this story is a beautiful glimpse of the character of Jesus. “Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed His hand.” (Matthew 14:31/ The Message). Jesus doesn’t reprimand us for sinking nor is He disappointed in us when our eyes drift away from Him. Instead, He reaches down, rescues us, and refocuses our gaze back on Him. What I love about this passage in Matthew is that Jesus chose to rescue and speaks with Peter while the storm was still happening. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have storms. Following Him means that He is present with us during the storm.
Throughout these past two months in Salt Lake, I have experienced wonderful, brilliant moments of clarity where I see Jesus and my eyes are fixed upon Him and I am walking toward Him on the water. I also have experienced moments where the wind is howling, the waves are knocking into me, and I feel like I am sinking. In both instances, Jesus is present with me. I’m not really sure what I am doing still but thankfully Jesus doesn’t care that I don’t have things figured out, He just wants me to step out of the boat and walk toward Him.
Salt Lake Fellow
Class of 2016-17
The last week of July, my friend Thomas and I decided to do an early morning hike on a day when we didn't need to get to work until mid-morning. We left my place at 6:30 AM and reached the Catherine's Pass trailhead up in Little Cottonwood Canyon at 7:00. In 45 minutes (after skirting past two very large moose in different parts of the trail) we had reached the summit of Sunset Peak, elevation 10,600 ft. We read a few Psalms, enjoyed a lovely panoramic view of the Wasatch Mtns and then headed back to the car. I was simply amazed at the breadth and the beauty of the wilderness we were able to access on a workday before 10:00 AM!
This is just one of the many reasons why I love Salt Lake City. It boggles my mind weekly that I live in an urban area with the amenities that SLC has, yet am never more than a 20 minute drive away from extreme mountains and wilderness. Having this kind of access to the outdoors provides us great opportunities to escape and retreat to the solitude of the tall forests, bubbling streams and rugged cliffs in the Wasatch. And this creates the backdrop to one of the core pieces of the Salt Lake Fellows program; outdoor adventure and exploration.
In the last few months the Fellows have peaked two summits in the Wasatch, rafted down a portion of the Colorado River, visited 2 National Parks, trekked to alpine lakes, repelled over 200 feet, and spent several nights under the stars. In December, we will begin winter excursions; snowshoeing, skiing and possibly some ice climbing.
This is part of the GREAT OPPORTUNITY we continue to allude to here in Salt Lake. While the economy provides great professional opportunity and the culture creates a huge spiritual opportunity as a Christian, the outdoors provides the opportunity for rest and recreation to find its way into the rhythms and patterns of our lives. We find that retreating to the wilderness quiets our hearts and minds and allows us to be still and wait upon the Lord. We appreciate the beauty of his creation and the wonder of his workmanship. And we are able to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to create space for life and growth.
If you or someone you know desires to be pushed in a place that is utterly unique and grow through exploration and outdoor adventure, please let us know. We would love to share life with you here in Utah! Check out this video below for a 360 tour of our mountains from the summit of Mount Baldy, 11,300'.
Salt Lake Fellows
Founder & CEO
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative