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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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I am preparing to participate in the upcoming OKC Memorial Half Marathon.  This will be a first for me.   I’ve gone from not exercising in years to participating in two 5k events during the past year, and my training has taken me up to about the 7 mile mark twice in the past two weeks. It feels good.   It has not only been life changing on the health front, but a has provided great time for reflection and clearing my mind.

Life is not a short sprint, it’s a marathon. I’m beginning to try out new ways to finish the race without getting injured or fatigued along the way.  But simply finishing the race is not a sufficient objective; “running (walking) with style and purpose” is.    

1 Corinthians 9:23-25 says: I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.   Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

In focusing on the long distance, I need to be aware of the landscape and the fellow runners inside each virtual mile.

So as I was training the other day, a few “walking moments” from my past came to mind, and I thought I’d briefly share what each has meant to me:

1) Plunking with Granddad – Howard Pope was legendary for his walks. My favorite ones were spent “plunking”: throwing rocks down into the deep creek across the street from his house and waiting to hear the splash (the “plunk”). It has been 35 years, but I can recall those moments like it was yesterday. Good memories.

2) Dove hunting with my Dad – in the “early years”, we lived out in the country and could simply walk across the street and go bird hunting. I’m not much of a hunter or fan of dealing with guns, but those were good times. Listening to my dad talk about things, watching our Fox Terrier plow thru the fields in search of game, and seeing the birds fall from the sky after my Dad spotted them and fired all replay in my mind’s eye. My son wants to learn to be a hunter. Gun lover, or not, it seems that these random walk moments may begin a new round of filming soon.

3) The stroll out to the fields with Coach Jackson – ever since I was about 12, I began walking fast everywhere I go. It’s called getting in a hurry, and it’s not always a good thing. Productivity of the mind and feet comes at the expense of seeing the sights going on around you. It was my 10th grade football coach, the man who got me started as a trainer or “athletic program assistant” (underpaid grunt who loves the game that he can’t play) who first pointed out that I walk “too fast”. “Slow down: you will get there. The game won’t start without us”. Good advice, and I still struggle with walking too fast today.

4) Trips across campus – not a lot to say on this one. As a college student, I fell in love with the OC campus on beautiful weather days, but I also recall enduring long distances in high winds and driving rain. Great metaphors for life. I still love the campus, and am blessed to walk it every day.

5) Singing in Europe – thank you, Ralph Burcham, for the draft notice.     The walks over several weeks in that summer of 1988, the time after college ended and before “life” began taught me several things:   a love of and fascination for Europe, the knowledge that there is life outside these United States, that we don’t have the monopoly on the world that I grew up believing, and that, quoting the later years words from “Finding Nemo”, we need to Just Keep Singing.   (OK, it was swimming, but it fit in nicely here)    The good Lord may not have given all of us a voice, but all of us have a song.     Whether you are tired, hungry, or “your feet are stained” (there’s a long story behind that phrase), you need to just keep singing.

6) Courting the girl – Ah, yes.  TCU.   Life on a real college campus.   That’s what she used to call it, anyway.     The academic bastion of the Southwest, I think it was?    Anyway, I digress.      Many a walk under the beautiful old oak trees, surviving a near skunk attack, and maybe even a kiss or two (shocking, I know) preceded the inevitable proposal to spend a lifetime together.     Fun times to remember.

7) Spatting with the girl – Yes, we have had a tiff, a time or two(shocking, I know) , but such is inevitable when spending a lifetime together.    Kind of like surviving a virtual skunk attack, not ever admitting who’s the skunk and who is the victim?    I’ll never tell.     Anyway, I digress.   The point is, when disagreeing, sometimes it is a good idea to step away from the “conversation” and go take a walk.    Clearing your head, understanding where you were wrong, and making a case for why she should let you back into the house are all good by-products of a nice walk on a cold winter’s night.

8) Strolling with baby(ies) – Yes, I have done this a time or two, as well.    I remember the first time like it was yesterday.     Baby H was screaming and hollering and would not settle down late at night, and after giving up on all other potential remedies, mom politely “suggested” that I take Baby out for a walk in the stroller, despite the fact that it was after 11:00 pm.     After about 20 minutes of strolling and her crying, the strangest thing happened.   She began to laugh.    I have a hard time remembering that babies do laugh, on occasion, but not this time.    I can still hear it, even now, 18+ years later.     I think she was laughing at me.     Years went by, and many a stroller walk, both the old “single” and the later “double” followed.     Maybe one day I’ll push a stroller again, this time with a GK instead of a simple K, and it will be OK if they laugh at me.

9) Working – I call 200+ of the best acres anywhere home between 8 am and sometime later than it should be every day, and I love it.   It comes with stress, but it also comes with joy in the challenge.   Academic bastion or not (and I would argue, it is, thank you very much) it’s my university, and I want it to succeed.     And yes, I do still tend to walk too fast in the course of a day.

10) Climbing Colorado – “Everybody needs a little time away…from each other”.     Those famous lines from a tune by Chicago, while taken out of context here, ring true in terms of the need for vacation and recharging.      And, I will argue, there are few places better to get away than the high altitudes of the mountains of Colorado.     “The girl” and I went there together after our wedding, and we are blessed to go back every couple of years with a group from church.     It’s an amazing part of God’s creation, and is often best enjoyed in the cool moments during sunrise.

So, back to the Memorial Marathon for a moment.   The theme for the marathon is “We Run to Remember” , and preparing for the event has helped me to do just that.     A few shout outs and thank you’s are in order here.    You see, I mentioned not having exercised in many years, and it was taking its toll on me, physically and mentally.    One day about this time last year, good friends and coworkers Neil, Sonya, and Darci showed up in my office on a Friday afternoon and said “we are not leaving until you sign up for TeamOC.   So I did.     When telling others of my commitment to the upcoming event, my friend  Ted said “don’t do it, you will only injure yourself”.     I owe those four a big thank you for getting me out of the chair and onto the treadmill, and subsequently on the streets walking and occasionally running.      I don’t know why I did not do it earlier, and it’s been a blessing.

As I was out doing a 6.55 mile outdoor prep one morning a couple of weeks ago, the path took me past the Baptist church whose longtime pastor had just been killed in a motorcycle accident.    It helped me to remember, mostly that life holds no guarantees, at least this mortally confined life, that is.

As I close up this marathon of memories today, the desire to just keep singing is there.    And an old song from the younger days is in my head.   Maybe it is the song I’ll be singing when it is too hard to do much walking.    If so, it should be a fund ride….Roll the Gospel Chariot along, and we won’t tag long behind…

 

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