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Archive for the ‘If a tree falls in the woods’ Category

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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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Writer’s block is an interesting thing. You like to write, you want to write, but the ideas and thoughts just don’t come. Then, something fires from within, usually (for me, always) sparked by a person’s words or actions, or some other event playing out before me.

Rush of Fools is the name of a group sometimes heard on Contemporary Christian music stations. One may suggest, today, that the rush of fools is the brain surge one gets when the writer’s block finally breaks. For me, that rush was yesterday morning at church. I went into the morning empty, and exited the morning with a list of 12 things: verses, statements from others, or semi original thoughts of my own that were begging me to sit down and hack out some thoughts to send into the blogosphere. And yet, time, responsibility, and fatigue tend to get in the way. So, here I sit this next morning with a crowded note card and a limited amount of minutes to spend.

So, here is a brief snippet of hopefully the things to come. And, may this be a reminder that the perceived rush of fools hopefully plays into a greater purpose, for me and hopefully someone who reads a thing or two that my brain wishes to say.

I Peter 4:7-11The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

One down, more to go….

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…marks in the sand. It is a quiet Sunday morning on the golden spread, as the man calls it. It’s just me, a few song birds, the sunrise, and “the Bear”. Bear is a dog.

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Adjacent to us is a highway, and a train line. As the moments have passed, traffic has picked up. There is an occasional car or 18 wheeler. Earlier, much earlier, there was a train.

People have been this land for centuries, long before these tracks were laid. My son and I found last night what could have been some ancient Native American tools of stone. Or not. On trips past, we have found arrowheads in the field behind the house.

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What will remain when we are gone from here, and our tracks no longer remain? Tracks in the sand won’t last the week. The land, and the grass, are battling the asphalt even now. And the train tracks will even fail, allowing enough time, and neglect.

God’s love will survive, I believe, and surrounds us like a good pastureland fence. It doesn’t hold out all predators, mind you, but is always there to remind us not to stray too far.

Have a blessed Sunday morning, whether your tracks today are here, or beyond.

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We call it “The Vault”. It is a small 8 foot by 12 foot room, is wrapped in foot thick concrete, and has a massive metal door with an antiquated combination lock. In this protected room, we place all things tangible that are deemed to be of great value to the university where I work. Emphasis should be placed on the words “all things”.

We are doing some minor cosmetic work to our building this summer, and several people are moving offices. We are in the middle of several “digitization projects” that will put more and more records, and possibly history, into an electronic format. Accordingly, it seemed like a good time to clean out the vault.

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Clean out, indeed. What began as a simple exercise was quickly recognized to be so much more. We brought in some additional hourly help to shred and move boxes. We made a huge mess of the office. And, we made some amazing discoveries. Minute books. Silver. Old jewelry. Personal notes. Handwritten general ledgers from 1949. Land deeds from 1914 for valuable property (an entire working ranch, no less, with cows and everything!) donated to the school many moons ago.

You see, our organization is 62 years young, and we have the records to prove it. All of the records, as the case may be. Perhaps the more operative word is “had”. Before you hoarders and “Nervous Nellie” types begin to hyperventilate, let me assure you that we threw nothing of relative importance away. In fact, with a deference to history and “old school” methodology for accounting in days gone by, we probably kept too much. But, the banks statements (all of the bank statements!) from that account closed in “nineteennoneofyourbusiness” are headed to the shredder. So sorry.

What we uncovered, however, seems to be so much more. In some sense, this vault is “the brain trust”‘ or at least the record thereof, for the past, present, and a potential repository for the future, especially now that we have made some room.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, “Brain trust began as a term for a group of close advisors to a political candidate or incumbent, prized for their expertise in particular fields. The term is most associated with the group of advisors to Franklin Roosevelt during his presidential administration. More recently the use of the term has expanded to encompass any group of advisers to a decision maker, whether or not in politics.”

And this record collection categorizes it all. But, it made us all feel a bit odd about our work. You see, I have worked at the school for the past 13 of the 63 years, and was a student for another 4 of those much farther back on the timeline, and I have been acquainted with this university for most of my life. I remember much of this and can relate to and recall decisions and events, even those for which I was not present.

As we worked through a growing pile of trashed records, many of our own creation over the past decade, I could not help but ask “is this all we have to show for all those years?”. And the answer would be a resounding “no”.

You see, we are not in the document business, thank goodness. We are even not in the information business. We are in the business of “transforming lives for faith, scholarship, and service”, and the contents of this vault chronicle much of the love, sleepless nights, difficult decisions, sweat, and tears that the servants of the school have contributed over low, the many few years. And a labor of love it is, indeed.

So, these records chronicle both the Brain, the thinking actions and history of the leadership, and the Trust, the sacrifice and love of founders, donors, alums, parents, and students have placed in those brains. And a sacred trust, it is, indeed.

Thank you’s are in order here, to those who have gone before, and prayers for those who will one day follow. The vault is cleaned and ready for chronicling another generation or two of labor.

Alma Mater, hail to Thee.

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Last July, I listened to Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” while on our road trip to the Grand Canyon and Colorado. Kudos and thanks go to Little Frau for buying me that membership to Audible a couple of years ago. It has been one of two or three major life habit changing events over that time frame.

I began to listen to Miller’s book for a second time as we hit the road on Saturday for another trip, this time southward to elevations much closer to sea level. Correction, make that, at sea level!

The book has prompted me to “tell a better story”, and is prompting me to work on “living better stories”. I’m bookmarking some of my favorite quotes, and home to take some beach balcony time later in the week to share them here. In the interim, here are just a couple to chew on:

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, it’s like that with life. People love to have a lived a great story, but few people like to work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

“And that’s the thing you realize when you organize your life into the structure of story. You get a taste for one story and then another, and then another, and the stories will build until your living a kind of epic of risk and reward, and the whole thing will be molding you into the actual character whose roles you’ve been playing. And when you live a good story, you get a taste for kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time. The more practice stories I lived, the more I wanted an epic to climb inside of and see through to its end.”

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March 15, 2010 to March 15, 2011: spring break to spring break – it’s been a good year. In many ways, it’s been a difficult year. And it’s been a growth year.

Here’s a twist on a proverbial question of old: If a tree falls in the woods, and I don’t post a link about it on Facebook, will anyone still read my blog? Hmmm.

About this time last year, I needed to change some things in life. I was letting stress and events drag me down. Admittedly, I was depressed, and it was not a healthy thing, for me, or for those around me. With advice from friends and Frau(who, I might add, is also a friend), I began to exercise regularly, and I began blogging. It felt good; it still does.

But there’s something about myself that I must admit: I don’t do well with moderation. No mater the subject, shopping for clothes on clearance sales, buying golf clubs on eBay (thankfully, I kicked that brief habit years ago, for I don’t really play golf), to eating the kids candy at Halloween, I am not good at practicing moderation. It’s a good thing that I don’t drink.

The same goes for blogging. In the past year, I have blogged over a hundred times. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but I am beginning to feel a little like Tim Hawkins as he describes a funny experience in this video:

You see, when I write a blog entry, I usually (almost always) put a link to it on Facebook, and it has drawn in over 2,340 reads so far.

“Go forth; preach the word; tell them about my…problems”. Maybe it’s all a little skewed for context, here. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud, again.

I wrote a lengthy entry about all of this, how my mind was racing, and the question of narcicism in an entry about a vacation drive thru Wolf Creek Pass last July. I had just read the Don Miller book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and I wanted to tell a better story, as well as live one. I still do. But, maybe, just maybe, I don’t want to keep being quite so vocal about it? Facebook link, vocal, that is. Just wondering.

I posted some song lyrics, as I often do, a few weeks ago from a Broadway musical tune from Wicked: Changed for Good. Here is an excerpt again:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

I’d like to agree with those lyrical sentiments. But I also want to be careful to avoid becoming “noise in the machine” of life, or ever move toward talking, just to hear myself thinking…

Paul had something to say about gongs and clanging cymbals in 1 Corinthians 13:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

I want to avoid such, at all costs, and be one who truly loves others.

So if, while digging away at the root of the problem, something I think and write is helpful to another, great, but the broadcast will likely be toned down, even if the frequency happens to go up.

With apologies (or not) to my current subscriber base of of Frau, Fabio, Mom, etal, “let the bad analogies continue”.

After all, it has been a Good Year, but instead of sharing it from an altitude of 30,000 feet, I might just be content to circle above the stadium full of closer friends, instead.

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