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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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…cause I eats me spinach…

Whenever our friend Popeye got into trouble, sometimes seemingly at death’s door, he would always eat his spinach and live (and love) to fight another day. He almost always had it on him, ready for the moment, but in times of extreme duress, others answered the call, providing it just when he needed it the most.

What a great analogy for God’s Word. It is always with us, standing at the ready, poised to strengthen us for the fight. And, when we can’t muster enough within us to retrieve more sustenance, others stand ready to provide.

I confess that I don’t eat enough spinach. I don’t feast on the Word, enough, either. Here’s a commitment to do more of both. And, may I be at the ready to offer some to you, hopefully just when you need it the most, and you do the same for me. Sound like a deal?

Isaiah 40:7-9

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

Have a blessed Sunday, America, and friends around the globe. I know some of you already have, and I’ve been blessed to be in the room with a few of you. Auf weidersehen.

Yes, and in case you were wondering, these episodes of Popeye the Sailor Man were in fact pre-recorded, but not in front of a live studio audience. The audience was all safely asleep in their beds.

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“Wall Street has a credibility problem.”. So says CNBC.com. Thanks for that news flash, although it understates the obvious and what we all are likely thinking and feeling these days. “The Street” has no “Street Cred”, it seems.

Mean what you say; say what you mean. Why is that so hard in 21st century society? I will confess it is tough for me personally.

Why so? Great expectations? High demand? Limited resources? Unrealistic dreams? A twisted view of self worth, not to mention true value?

Is it Competition? Competing demands; competing loyalties; competing.

Consider the following excerpt from “WiseGeek.com” and then compare it in perspective:

In hip-hop and inner-city cultures, respect is something one earns through tangible accomplishments, not empty posturing or superficial bragging. The truest measure of a person’s trustworthiness and expertise is often expressed as his or her street cred, short for “street credibility.” Street cred can mark the difference between a talented rapper or break dancer and someone who’s only posing, or deliberately exaggerating their skills.

True street cred is not easy to achieve, since it is based on real skills or true experiences. A rap artist who gets signed to a known music label, for example, might earn his “props” (proper respect), but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has earned street cred yet….

The term street cred has actually worked its way into mainstream popular culture. A professional in the legal, financial or medical fields, for example, may have to earn a certain amount of “street cred” in order to attract the best potential clients. A cosmetic surgeon often builds up a significant level of street cred by performing high quality work on A-list clients. The same could be said for a stock broker who earned his street cred by selecting the best stocks, or a lawyer who earned street cred by successfully defending high-profile clients.

Street cred in the inner-city or hip-hop communities is not always a permanent arrangement, however. Someone who shows disrespect for those in his or her former community, for example, may suddenly discover his or her street cred is no longer assured. Exposure as a fraud or a cheat can also seriously affect a person’s street cred. It is important to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” when it comes to maintaining true street cred.

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I’m reminded of the scene from the classic movie “Napoleon Dynamite” where he asks Pedro “you got any skills? You know, bow staff skills, nun chuck skills…”

We feel compelled to make our case, but in so doing, do we ever weaken same said case?

I think Jesus earned plenty of “Street Cred” with those around him:

Matthew 5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

So, it’s time to go out and make it a day; to “earn my Props”, so to speak. If I slip up, maybe Pedro’s cousins will be there to back me up…?

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My son, ever one of increasing amounts of insight and wisdom, expressed a thought to me earlier today: “hey, Dad, did you know that Bingham without the N spells BIG HAM?”.

Touché.

What is someone supposed to say to that? Truth be told, I plead guilty as charged, and I am proud to say that the nut does not fall far from the tree…

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Stay tuned for another famed First Week Follies video, coming soon to a campus near you. We ham it up, big time, once again!

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A certain young man is currently attending basketball camp on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. He is staying in a dormitory named Warlick Hall. The young man’s given name is Alexander. There are six degrees of separation, at the most, and multiple degrees of “interconnectedness”, to say the least, between young Alexander and
Mr. Warlick.

The 1st degree: On November 2, 1992, Oklahoma Christian president Dr. Terry Johnson announced the dedication of the Henry E. Warlick dormitory. Warlick’s daugher, Mrs. Zada K. Tull of Norman, Oklahoma, gave a major gift award that was used as part of the three-year, $3 million student housing renovation project.

“My father was one of the founders of Oklahoma Christian when it was at Cordell. The school has been near and dear to my heart, and I felt that it was something that I needed to do,” Tull said in an endearing address to the student body at the dedication.

“Mrs. Tull’s gift is a tangible demonstration of her desire to perpetuate Henry Warlick’s zeal and commitment to Christian education,” Dr. Johnson said.

Source: (http://blogs.oc.edu/ochistory/index)

I should add here that Mr. Warlick was a traveling preacher, a minister of the Gospel. More on that in a moment.

The 2nd Degree: Kerry Newell Pope. Kerry is a niece of Zada Tull, who was the sister of Rowena Newell, Kerry’s mother. Kerry attended Oklahoma
Christian as a student in the 70’s.

The 3rd Degree: Max Pope. Max is married to Kerry, who he met as a student at Oklahoma Christian. Max came OC originally on a baseball scholarship to play for Coach Max Dobson. Max is the younger brother of Linda Pope Bingham.

The 4th Degree: Jeff Bingham. Jeff Bingham is the son of Linda. Jeff and his siblings, fellow OC alums Julie Bingham Titlow and Jennifer Bingham Connally, were introduced to OC by Max being a student there before them. Jeff is currently the CFO for OC.

The 5th Degree: Sherry Bingham. Jeff met Sherry after graduating from OC and moving to Texas. They met in the Church (West Berry Church of Christ) in Fort Worth where Jeff’s parents grew up. Sherry was introduced to a relationship with Jesus and is a faithful Christian today because of the influence of Billie Fry Alexander, her grandmother.

The 6th Degree: Billie Fry Alexander is the mother of Gary Alexander, who is the father of Sherry Alexander Bingham, who is the mother of our Alexander, the young man currently attending basketball camp on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University.

How does this all tie together, you may ask? Well, Billie Alexander was introduced to a relationship with Jesus at a gospel meeting preached by a young man named Henry Warlick.

Are you beginning to see the bigger picture? I stand amazed…

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There are great partnerships in the history of modern society, “Dynamic Duos”, nonetheless.

Let’s name but a few of these great pairings:

Batman and Robin, of course. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl: remember them, Sid and Mary Croft fans? Oops, there goes another duo, syndicated TV style.

Daryl Hall and John Oats. The Green Hornet and Cato. Bill and Hillary. Bert and Ernie. Barbie and Ken. Alec and Rebecca. Beauty and the Beast. Innocent heroes, one and all?

Sigfried and Roy? Let’s not go there.

And now, courtesy of the famed economist John Meynard Keynes, we have our friends and companions, Backwardation and Contango. Sounds more like a pair of freaky superheros than an opposing pair of trading patterns in commodity futures markets.

So what, if anything, you may ask, is the point in writing this post tonight? I don’t really know, to be honest. Maybe I want to prove to the world I was listening in class today? Maybe I am just really tired after several nights of investment markets themed homework and study groups, and a random post was in order on this, my first night off.

I’m a regular Jeff Dunham and Walter…goofy guy and grumpy old man all in one. Yet another great pairing, if I do say so myself!

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There is a story, three stories actually, about a man named Danny Ocean: charismatic leader, good friend, and crook. Danny had an entourage of compatriots, and that entourage grew as the storyline continued, first eleven, then twelve, and finally totaling out at thirteen.

Ocean is more than just a name. An ocean is a body of water: living, moving, active water. And the ocean picture that follows is the social media profile picture of a different young man, and this one’s name is James: charismatic character, good friend, but he’s no crook.

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James, a neighbor and classmate to two of my own personal entourage, recently went to church camp, and the story of this entourage, along with the group’s total headcount, continues to grow. First reported as eight, it quickly grew to ten, and totaled out this morning at sixteen. Maybe the growth is not done, yet? The spiritual growth, certainly not, even if the numerical growth has stopped for now.

Maybe we’ll call this group “God’s sixteen”. Sixteen baptisms, all a result of the time, care, and love recently encountered, together. This picture has a few of them, James included, as well as some of their friends who made a difference. And it excludes a few, like the twin sisters and the family of quadruplets, all who were added to God’s group today. One of the quads, I forget which one, even infamously stood at the top of the stairs in our house many years ago as a youngster and “relieved himself” in an arching stream to the first floor down below. But it is OK: I have forgiven him!

And God has forgiven them all, as they have all taken a dip into a body of water: living, moving, active water. It certainly was moving and active this morning and this past week.

But, I think we’ll go with “Jesus’ 16” as the unofficial name for the group. God won’t mind sharing the credit, and Jesus is the perfect charismatic friend to draw more numbers to the group.

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