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Archive for June, 2012

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Actually, I do. Maybe I go to extremes to avoid going to extremes. Once upon a time, in a land not so far far away, I might have said that in reverse. Comprende?

So, as I thought on this earlier today, the words of a Billy Joel tune rattled in my head:

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
You can be sure when I’m gone
I won’t be out there too long
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I’m wrong or I’m perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I can relate, and not. I think I will keep going, especially for today. As the words to a Mandesa song related to me as I turned the key to the Jeep a few moments ago this morning Why am I waiting for tomorrow…?”“. I don’t think I am.

Darling, I think you know why.

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Adventure, we swear to you. Adventure: our story’s true. We had an adventure today. So goes a Sesame Street tune dating way back in the lives of my mountain compadres from last week. Some may have grown up singing this tune, but it’s unlikely they’d remember in this distraction filled world. Therein lies one of the reasons for taking a mountain escape. While you don’t have to watch the imbedded music video to follow our tale, it may help flavor the theme…

Luke 9:1-3: One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes.

OK, we took a bit more than that in the packs on our backs, and while not much, it still felt like a ton. But, who were these 12 disciples, you might ask?

W, of Moor, our Sherpa.
D, Reigning Queen of Belchlandia, our Sherpette.
James, the one they called “Steve”.
Bing, “no trail gluten” Bingie.
Katy, of Lobsterfest fame.
Robin, the gloved one.
Leslie, the Honduran refugee.
Kyle, aka “Wild Man”.
Jordan, the crew chief.
Dawson, the “bow-ser”.
Dan, Dan, the Gadget Man.
And, yours truly, Bing Sr. Just call me the Diesel…

So, we packed in a little gear. But, who were our outfitters for this journey into the woods?

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The inspiration? #1 son, and Little Frau, despite her late arriving, father-in-law inspired, fears.
The packs and bags, along with our Sherpas? The good folks at Wilderness Expeditions. Good catching up with you, Tommie. What is 36 years between friends?
The music? The Traveling Waughberry’s, of course.
And the boots? We can’t forget the boots. Columbia Sportswear: thanks, Ma.
Last, but not least, the strength. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

It was a 5 day window unlike many I’ve lived before. It was the hardest thing I have ever done physically (successfully). No coffee. No watches or clocks. No news. No Thunder scores (mercifully). No bathing. Did I mention, no stress, other than the physical test? Thanks to some planning and permits, we were the only human feet on this mountain this week. But don’t worry: we were not alone. The moose stood her ground before yielding. The morning howls told us the coyote pack was close. So did the large cat footprints we saw a time or two. We may not have seen the mountain lion, but he no doubt was watching us. Good thing we had Wild Man with us. No self respecting predator would take such a risk as attacking with Kyle on our side.

Revelation 21:10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain…

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Day 1: rappelling on Mt. Shavano, and the journey to low camp on Ptarmigan. Did I mention that rapel is the French word for stepping off a perfectly good cliff?

Mt. Ptarmigan: a Ute Indian word for a bird. We learned to fly, indeed. The mountain was an hour or so drive from base camp, and the summit was a short 12 mile hike from the car. A 25 mile round trip hike over 5 days, and I thought Tommie was kidding when he inferred such a trail. As we neared the jumping off point, a sudden wind and sandstorm kicked in. Have you ever tried to lug a pack uphill with a mouth, nose, and eyes filled with sand? It is almost as if someone or something was trying to discourage us before we even started.

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Mercifully, low camp was but a few laborious miles up a road laden with sand and loose gravel. That, and a momma moose and her calf stood between us and our first night’s camp site. Thankfully, she moved on, and papa bull did not show up to root us out. After a welcomed meal, some Sunday communion time, and a lovely sundown, we called it a night.

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Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. So goes the song.

Day 2: Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.. The real work began this morning. The grade was steep. The surface was rocky. Our packs grew heavy. But, maybe you should call me the Duramax Diesel. You see, the kids are the sleek, fast sportster models. Light, colorful, and nimble on their feet, but they have no torque. Diesels are large, loud, and clunky. They put off a lot of thick smoke. The better ones have a lot of miles on them. But, when the going got tough, the old diesel got going. By the time we reached the ridge on this day, guess who was first to the top? Along the way, some of the sportsters showed great leadership in lightening the load for their “more accomplished” or “gentler” counterparts.

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I believe it was the noted philosopher Julie Andrews who crooned “Climb every mountain, ford every stream”. We didn’t know the water could be that cold…

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Day 3: high camp, 11,000+, was ours, and we rested. Solo time took on a meaning all it’s own. The summit attempt would come soon enough. Study. Song. Prayer. Some sun, to dry the boots and warm the soul. And visiting. Lots of visiting. No watches. No smart phones. No video games. Such was this day, and little more.

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Day 4: the Summit attempt. Attempt? As I learned in a conversation with the Sherpa on Day 3, the success rate for Summit attempts is only about 50/50. The reasons for such odds? Weather (ours had been impeccable this week). Physically unable hikers (our crew had made great time each day). Injuries. Quoth the Sherpa: “it can get dangerous..a woman fell on a summit last year, hit her head, and died…but, don’t worry, she was not in one of our groups”. I felt so much better…

So, we hiked up and out of camp before the dawn, day packs laden with mountain stream fed water bottles, Vienna Sausages (a true oxymoron), and rain gear. And flags. We had our flags. One small step for man. Summit attempt began at 4:45 with the hike out (after a 4:15 wake up call from the Sherpa), and touching the pole at 9:20. The air was thin, our feet were heavy, but it was all worth it. As we neared the top, I really had not thought about the view “from the other side of the mountain”. Nearing the top of the ridge, I saw #1 Son’s red windbreaker. Then, I saw the snow capped peaks of the western range behind our Continental Divide peak. And I cried. Don’t worry, I was wearing sunglasses, so no man card points were deducted until you read this just now.

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After lunch and leading us to the top across a perilous and shaky boulder field, the Sherpa and Queen D formed a ceremonial arch through which each of us passed as we stepped onto the Summit. Wild Man began leading us in a spontaneous rendition of “How Great is Our God”, and I cried again. Deduct points to your liking, if you must.

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Hebrews 12: 1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

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Day 5, and we made record time breaking down camp, loading our gear, and hiking out to the cars. Maybe we were just motivated by the thought of those “ham and cheese sandwiches” awaiting us at the bottom. Seeing the cars waiting for us across the final half mile of prairie? You guessed it. Deduct man card points again here.

So, we made it back home, with the help of Someone Greater than super Grover. This was our adventure; too bad it’s over.

Or is it? It doesn’t have to be. As the Queen of Belchlandia likes to say, or more appropriately sing:

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning.
Keep me burning till the break of day…

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I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Till the landslide brought me down

As mentioned yesterday, we had an adventure, and a story yet to tell. That will come, in time, but as #1 son and I hoofed our way home yesterday, a flood of tunes library memories were conjured up as the music kept me alert and winging our way back home. Mark Shultz reminded me of the Sherpa. Fleetwood Mac, courtesy of Stevie Nicks’ songwriting, reminded me of our mountain trek team.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too

The Sherpa told us on the mountaintop Wednesday how nothing can live up that high. Jesus went to the mountaintop to be close to God, but came back down to minister and to serve.

As I have been home today and dealing with the return to daily life, a landslide of sorts is in motion. I suspect my younger trek companions are feeling the same as they awoke in their own beds earlier today. Laundry, cleaning out the car, or maybe mowing the lawn was in order? Or, was there even more? A loved one’s illness? News of a family in trouble? Knowing that you go into an office full of week old tasks come Monday?

As a child, camp was always an emotional time: good emotional. Coming down off that high was always tough. This week’s mountain experience has been much the same. As an adult, coming down from the Rocky Mountain high is bittersweet, but not all that hard. I’ve been down this road before, and there are potential rewards around every turn, even at 1,000 feet above sea level.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I, I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too
I’m getting older too

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring you down, down

And If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well maybe the landslide will bring it down
Oh oh, the landslide will bring it down

Landslides can be good. Emotional landslides can bring us back to a level where the air is richer and the living is fuller. Take heart. Mountaintops are going nowhere fast. You will ascend once again. God promises just that. John 14:1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around….

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We had an adventure. That much is true, and the full story will be shared as soon as the emotional packs are emptied and the thoughts are composed.

We made new friends, and but one of those stories is shared at this moment. The young friend pictured here who I will simply refer to as “The Sherpa” was one of our two guides on this mountain trek. His story inspired me, and his love for our Savior is evident.

As #1 son and I hoofed our way home yesterday, a flood of tunes library memories were conjured up as the music kept me alert and winging my way back home. As the Mark Schultz tune “When Mountains Fall” played on, my thoughts were on the Sherpa. It could almost be as if this song were written just for him.

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You stand on the edge
You followed the call
No turning back you are risking it all
He whispers your name
In a moment of truth
The rocks fall around you
The ground starts to move
You step out on faith
It’s all that you know
You jump into darkness and hold onto hope

When the mountains fall
When the rivers rise
Security crumbles before your eyes
The one thing you know
In faith you’ll find
Something to stand on or you will be taught to fly

So dream your dreams
And live your life
Knowing there’s more than to merely survive
Don’t give up, don’t give in
Fight through the rain and lean into the wind
‘Til you come to the edge of all that you know
Run right through the dark knowing you’re not alone

When you walk through the fire
It will not consume you
Though the water will rise
It won’t overtake you
Though the mountains will fall
Oh, still I am with you
I’ve called you by name
And I will not leave you
I’m learning to trust you
I’m learning to fly
I’m learning to trust you
I’m learning to fly

Thanks are in order, to both the Sherpa (and the Sherpette). They showed us Ptarmigan (a Ute Indian name for a bird), and we are learning to fly.

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