Archive for Reflections

Getting Stronger

// January 21st, 2014 // No Comments » // Climbing, Hiking, Leadership, Reflections

You have trained your whole life to be the best, the toughest, most loyal soldier you can be.  You are part of an elite special ops team fighting an enemy on their turf and on their terms.  Terms that do not meet the rules of engagement which you follow.  It is like fighting with one arm behind your back and now as you move in on your target (mission classified) a grenade goes off near your head: confusion, concussion, injury, blood and blindness follow.  The men you are with are still relying on you but you urgently need help.  The medic tries to pull you away but you insist on staying, running the communications back to the team to ensure your team makes it out safely.  Just another heroic day at the office.

Is this you?  It is hard to say how we ourselves would react in a situation like this, but I know for sure it is a rare few who would do what Marty Bailey did a few years ago when he lost his sight.  I can guarantee that his team was thankful to him and thankful for his courage.  I am too.  This is why we have formed www.BlindStrength.org so that we (this means anyone who wishes to support it) can help Marty and soldiers like him who have sacrificed so much for us.

Last week I met Marty for the first time on our team’s first training climb in Utah’s Wasatch mountains.  The team is preparing to climb 20,320′ Denali May of 2014.  Blind for only a few years Marty has come a long way, and is now again pushing his limits as part of a team that hopes to make the first blind ascent of the Upper West-Rib, a climb that offers plenty of challenge for seasoned sighted climbers – let alone a climber who is blind.  Once again he will be fighting with one arm behind his back and the rules of engagement once again, unfair.

In freezing temperatures, at altitude, with a heavy pack and hauling a loaded sled in one foot of fresh snow pushed by 30 mph winds, blinded Master Sergeant Marty Bailey pressed on in spite of his cramping legs and small, awkward, snowshoes.  Using new tools and climbing with a new team on only the few hours of sleep that travel delays and a sixteen month old baby girl would allow, I herd him stop and out of frustration say “I’ve just never been the weak link.”

This is what it is all about.

Most all of us will admit that at some point in our lives we may have felt as though we have let others down, or that we were the weak one, or the reason for failure.  I hope so.  This is the reason for team, for community, for trust and reliance and it makes us humble like it or not.  Peyton Manning quarterback of the Denver Broncos has just had the most successful season a QB has ever had and I know for a fact (I watched the bad games) on his journey there were days he was off and relied on the team more than others.

No matter who we are, we need the strength of each other to help us through the off days, to get back on our feet, to get to the top – help in getting stronger.

“No, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are actually very important.” 1 Corinthians 12:22

The Whiteout

// August 22nd, 2013 // Comments Off // Climbing, Getting biblical, Leadership, Reflections

White Out on Pisco

White Out on Pisco

Through the darkness of the early morning hours we began our climb.  Headlamps shining brightly to illuminate the rocky terminus of the glacier we navigated by instinct and small piles of rocks called cairns.  The small circles of light were just enough to illuminate each step and where it should be precariously placed before glancing upward to spot the next pile of rocks showing the way.  Hours would pass by as time and time again we would briefly lose our way.  Pausing, examining the surroundings, exploring possibilities, we would regain our course and press on.  A favorite scripture of mine speaks to this: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105.  The destination is unseen, the entire plan unknown, there is just enough light, just enough information to take the next step.  In faith – take it.  Navigation requires focus, experience, the ability to be alert to each step even while carrying on a conversation.

Have you ever  been at a place in life where you were wondering which way to go?  Have you been seemingly stuck, no map, no signs, no GPS coordinates, and no one to guide you and make tough decisions for you?  True in business, true as a parent, true for the student figuring out the future.  We have all been there.  So what does it take to carry on in such uncertainty?

Fortitude and faith.

We emerged from the darkness into the light of day long enough to get geared up and hit the glacier.  Only minutes after setting foot on the glacier we were again moving blindly, and this time a headlamp would be of no use.  The wind kicked up, the snow was moving sideways, the clouds came down and now there was no visual separation of earth and sky.  Hello vertigo.  Progress became slow, morale dropped, and what was supposed to be a “gimmee” of a climb became a real challenge indeed.  Winter in the Andes is predictable: the sun always shines – ha.  The drifting snow covered the tracks of yesterday and as the ridge narrowed, we began to wonder if we might walk right off the ridge stepping onto a cloud thought to be solid ground.

PiscoGlacier

More exhausting than the altitude and the climb itself was the amount of focus it took to discern and stay the course.  Probing with poles for each step, the mind playing tricks on the senses and the senses playing tricks right back on the mind, up seemed down and down seemed up and at times the team tied to my rope would disappear into the white.

Just when all hope seemed lost a break in the clouds would reveal some footsteps, or a feature up ahead, just enough to ensure the course was still true.

We walk by faith, not by sight.  Says 2 Corinthians 5:7.  It is that faith that assures me the course will be revealed at some point, so I ask myself do I have enough faith to take another step when all I see is my feet?  Well one more…then another…and so on.

We made the summit of Pisco in challenging conditions.  Experience, a positive well equipped team, moving forward in fortitude by faith.

So if you are facing difficulty, uncertainty and that next step seems impossible – try this:
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6.

PiscoSummit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Run on the Wild Side – Arctic Style

// November 29th, 2012 // 2 Comments » // Events, Reflections

Polar bear crossing

I am used to undertaking challenges in the vertical realm which require patience and endurance, but had not really ever embraced one on the horizontal plane.  Albert Martens presented me the opportunity to run a marathon in the land of the polar bear as the arctic freeze would hold our 26 mile route in it’s clutches.  The idea sounded just crazy enough to be fun and memorable for my first ever marathon run.  It certainly met my expectations as a difficult endeavor with sports drinks turning to slushies as I ran, my legs going numb not only from fatigue but from the cold.  While the run was exhilarating out in the cold, it couldn’t compare with the warmth that I received from the team of runners and that given by the town of Churchill and the volunteers who made it possible for us to complete the effort safely.  This run serves as an example of how we all must keep striving for goals, looking towards the finish line and beyond.  Just being part of a group running like this taught me lessons about community, leadership, patience and perseverance.  It could be looked at as a run through a national treasure, but the treasure was far greater and deeper than the completion of a tough run.

Polar Bear near the marathon route

I will have a memory to last the rest of my life, new friends, and a new respect for an organization – Athletes in Action – that is working with the First Nations peoples lending support, resources, love and kindness in the name of Jesus to help them with alcoholism, poverty, health and depression.  A new journey has begun in my heart and mind as I now look forward to one day going back.

P vs p a Strategy for Success

// November 2nd, 2012 // 3 Comments » // Advice, Leadership, Reflections

David Baker mile 70 of 100 on White Rim Trail Utah.

What makes a person successful?  What is success?  Is it achieving a goal which has been set? Perhaps this is a good place to start but it is not the end-all.  I think success and its definition run through deeper waters, but for today’s thought I will keep it parked here.  Pondering this perplexing question recently, looking at people whom I respect and whom I consider successful as measured by a variety of criteria, I came up with 6 powerful precepts for success:

1. Passion – a person must possess passion for what he or she is doing and plans to pursue.  My pastor is a great example of this as he is so passionate about serving the                      Lord and serving others that it just bubbles out in an uncontainable manner.  It is contagious and gets others motivated to live out their faith as well.  We’ve all seen burnouts who seem to suck the life out of others instead of giving it.  We must have and exude passion.

2. Purpose – If the question why poses a problem and you are perplexed, perhaps it is time to reexamine what it is you are doing.  The purpose for which one begins the journey can get lost and muddied along the way – don’t forget why you started.  A runner runs a race to win the prize.  If the race is long and difficult and the competition stiff, maintaining that starting attitude is a challenge, so we must run the race with endurance while seeing the purpose for which we started.

3. Practice – nobody is going to win the New York marathon or the Olympic 100M dash by just showing up with a positive attitude and a passion for winning.  It takes practice.  Even the most naturally gifted among us need to polish that gift and work hard to train the mind and body to be prepared for the rigors of one’s chosen race. Elite athletes train a minimum of 24 hours a week, not to mention nutrition, study, visualization and other techniques they employ to have a winning edge.

4. Prudence – This comes down to having a little wisdom and the ability to see yourself for who you are and the gifts that have been bestowed upon you.  I can’t sing.  No amount of passion, purpose, practice or perseverance is going to change that.  I won’t quit singing, especially in the shower, because it brings me joy, but I certainly am self-aware enough to know that this should not be something the public should need to endure as I pursue it as a profession.  If you can pass this test move on to the next bullet point.

5. Possibility – Believe in the possibilities that exist for you and seek them out: Join a band, enter a race, submit a resume, apply to that school, get creative and do that thing you have always dreamed of doing.  It won’t be easy so be ready for…

6. Perseverance – maintaining the mental stamina to persist in that which you have passion and in which you see purpose.  Don’t give up, don’t let obstacles turn you around, instead use them as steps to lift you higher (unless of course you can’t sing, run, dance, play music, read, write, think, move, breathe…).

What will bring you down in this pursuit? Aiming at the wrong target.  Looking for position, power, or mere possessions.  Essentially it is pride, or these symbols of pride and vain glory that will turn that original passion into merely a pursuit.

As the apostle Paul said “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1

we rejoice in our sufferings for we know that suffering leads to perseverance; perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3

 

The White Rim

// October 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Cycling, Reflections

Nearly twenty years ago I went on a three day off road/climbing adventure in Canyonlands Utah.  The trip was spectacular and all I could think about was coming back to do the trip on my mountain bike.  Well, last week I got the chance to make this 20 year old desire a reality when I finally biked the 100+ mile White Rim trail in a day.  One of the great joys of this day was to spend it with some good friends.  David Baker (of the Mountain Blind Man – he is not blind just in the business of blinds), Gil McCormick of Wheat Ridge Cyclery fame (largest bike dealer in Colorado) and Cole Bangert (National Downhill Mountain Bike Champ – who was there for a race so he drove support for us before his race – what a guy).

The fall weather was perfect and the recent rains had left the trail slightly more packed and a little less sandy than it would ordinarily be.  We began the day with a climb out of Mineral Bottom camp at 7:20 a.m. riding the loop in a clockwise direction.  There are arguments as to which way is the best way to do this ride and I can see the merits to both, my only suggestion would be to begin early, start with a climb, and bring tons o’ water.  One last word – Chamois Buttr.  While not super technically challenging I did find the grind of a long, rocky, sandy day of mountain biking to wear on my mind as well as my hind.

Why?

I think when we challenge ourselves with such endeavors and surround ourselves with good people that we can trust, we discover that we can go further, faster, and have more fun doing it than perhaps we thought possible.  At the end of the day we can feel good about ourselves for having invested in possibilities and having persevered to accomplish a life goal.

…as wild asses in the desert go they forth.

// May 4th, 2012 // 2 Comments » // Cycling, Leadership, Reflections

20120504-070518.jpgMountain bikes, road bikes, 4×4′s, Razrs, dune buggies, rock crawlers, street motorcycles, dirt bikes, climbing gear, golf clubs, airplanes, paragliders, rafts – what good is a men’s trip to Moab Utah other than an excuse for guys to pull out all the toys and go play? – we have seen it all. While the toys are great, the best part is honestly the time forging friendships both new and old in the inhospitable environment of the Utah desert. Job 24:5 says “like wild asses in the desert go they forth” which for the purposes of good humor has become the motto of the trip. Having a few pastors in attendance allows for some good teaching around the evening fire and tends to give us some credibility as well as some thoughts to reflect on as we then go forth into the desert the next day.

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I have said before the value of sports is in the values sports instills in us. This statement was never truer than while on an epic 30 mile mountain bike ride and linkup of multiple trails. With my friends Dave Baker (a former D-1 hockey standout) and Gil McCormick (GM of Wheat Ridge cycler, former racer, and alpine hard man) I headed out well prepared with lots of snacks and water for a ride that we knew, due to the terrain, would take possibly more than six hours.
Navigating the winding canyons, over the slickrock, through sand, perching on precipices we rode under the hot sun continually seeking the best route and trusting in our one-eyed leader Gil (Gil lost sight in one eye while climbing a new route on Pumori in the Himalayas years ago). In this landscape getting hurt, lost, having weak or unprepared partners can be unforgiving, even so I never felt that way due to the fact that I was riding with guys I knew and trusted. I was having the best ride of the year because I wasn’t worried, felt prepared and in control. How often in our daily lives do we get to experience this kind of trust – trust made up of reliance and confidence that releases us from fear and worry. Sports – wether they are extreme or mainstream provide a venue to develop this kind of trust.

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Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon said this about trust in _The Seeking Heart_ “here is a way to know if you’ve actually trusted God with something – you will not think about the matter any longer, nor will you feel a lack of peace.” how great it is to know this trust, as well as a deep trust in the people you have surrounded yourself with. After the ride Gil said this “Seems you can hang out in lost and stressful situations, tired and worn out, and still have a sense of humor. Testimony to your extreme endurance and patience with the blind and half blind.” I took it as mere flattery and could easily say the same of my friends, but because of who they are things never felt desperate or out of control, just some guys doing a long ride in the middle of nowhere. I’m thankful for sports for the friends that come with them and for the values they teach as they wear us out but not down.

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Lord of the Rings

// May 3rd, 2012 // 1 Comment » // Climbing, Getting biblical, Hiking, Reflections

Firehouse West 5-3-12

On a cold day in December, as the ice climbing season here in Vail was getting underway, I had gone up to “Firehouse West” for a day of guide training with Apex Mountain School. The approach to the climb is long but at least it’s steep.  The thick underbrush of summer is laid flat by all of the snow as well as the big boots of climbers that tromp up this slope with their heavy packs.
It is wise to dress light for the 35 minute slog up, and then as the sweat dries add layers at the base of the ice climb changing gloves as well before starting up the technical climb.
It was later on this day that I realized that somewhere along the way I had lost my wedding ring (my second and more expensive wedding ring made of white gold) inscribed with Romans 15:5-6. I was upset and I knew my wife Amy would be even more disappointed. So a couple of days later, armed with a metal detector from Radio Shack, I made the slog back up to find the ring. No such luck – the ice had formed 2 feet thicker over the place where I had changed my gloves and with all the action this place had seen, I knew there was no chance but to wait for the spring thaw.
I pray everyday, and this morning as I set off to Firehouse intent on finding my lost ring 6 months later, I said a prayer that I might find this ring. The grass was starting to grow, the thornbushes that normally lie covered under the snow were devouring my shins as the willow and aspen branches taunted me with every loose and or muddy step. Finally as I arrived at the climb’s base I saw what still looked to be a climbable pillar of ice touching down on a frozen platform that covered, even now, the place where my ring had likely slipped off of my finger. Completely crushed and in disbelief the thought of coming back to a raging waterfall in one more month flushed away any hope of finding the ring. I had come up full of hope and without a metal detector knowing what God can do, but now I thought He just chose not to do it. “Hopeless!” I exclaimed. I had given up.

The Trail - ring is between log & stick

Turning, taking two more steps, looking down the slope right in the middle of the wintertime trail, sitting above all the choss and debris, sat a round treasure. “My ring! Thank you God! Thank you God!” I literally shouted it out with joy.

There it lies - as if placed there

So on this national day of prayer I want you to be encouraged, just as I am, that God does hear us and is even interested in the seemingly small things. So wether obstacles seem insurmountable, or just too small to offer up to a big God, this event today reminds me that just as I share concerns big and small with my spouse, I too should be mindful to share every concern of my daily life with my God.  Jesus gives us these words to give us exactly this hope and understanding:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:29 NIV)

Romans 15:5,6

A Fear of Dying

// April 23rd, 2012 // 21 Comments » // Leadership, Reflections

Life is terminal.  In my daily routine, getting caught up in the busyness of things, I often forget this fact and think that life will just keep on going.  However, there will come a time when we will all have to face this reality, some sooner than later, sudden, and unexpected and for some after a very long life.  The question then is not if we will face it but rather how.  Will we face it gracefully knowing our lives had purpose and that our soul moves on?  Or will it be with pain, anger, bitterness and fear of the unknown and of a life not fully lived, not fully given?

Recently my family had the opportunity to spend some time with a man who is wrestling with terminal brain cancer named Tom Driscoll.  About a year ago Tom was diagnosed and given weeks to live.  After multiple surgeries and a new home called hospice, Tom continues on getting the most out of each day by giving to others each day with a positive attitude and a joy for living.  The hat on his head covers the evidence of cancer much of the time, but Tom is not afraid to go without and show his now misshapen head and the damage this disease has caused.

The damage is to his brain but has not affected his heart, his spirit, or his will and that is because he knows that the worst kind of cancer is the kind that devours the soul.  Tom doesn’t just attend church, sneak into the back row while bitterly praying to God “Why me?!”  He gets up front, stands tall, and sings praises to God as a member of the choir.  In spite of the fact that he may not see the transformation of another season, he is a man at peace because he knows the true transformation has already taken place inside of him.  He knows his savior, he knows Jesus, therefore he has peace even though his today will soon pass.

Tom gave my family a gift.  A reminder to live each day positively, with purpose, faith, hope and love.  To be strong and courageous, not given to fear.
Should you take the opportunity to go and meet someone like Tom, be ready to be infected, not by a disease, but by a power that can transform the fear of death and the unknown
into acceptance by faith of those things unseen.

Born to Die

// January 17th, 2012 // No Comments » // Reflections, Uncategorized

Today I got the news that two of my friends lost their new baby, just eleven minutes after he was born.   Joshua Isaac Benson was born into this world at 5:35pm. At 5:46pm he went home to be with Jesus.  Was his life no less special than any of ours?  The only difference is the amount of time we have had on this earth.  The end result for us all will be the same.  Life is terminal.  We are all born to die, but as the Bible says there is hope for a life after “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…a time is coming and now has come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” John 5:24-25.

The pregnancy was not easy and like all parents it was a time filled with hope and expectation of what the future would hold for this little baby.  The trials began early, but no one gave up hoping that Joshua would pull through.  Joshua did pull through just long enough to come into the world, take a breath, be held, hear his parent’s voices clearly, receive a kiss, but also to get poked and prodded, pulled on and hurried about.  In these few moments Joshua got to experience a lot of life but was most likely unaware of it all.

As my heart breaks for this family I am reminded that every day is a gift.  Life is a gift and we are often, like a newborn, unaware of much that goes on around us – love that is waiting to be extended and hope in hard times.  We get hurried about and caught in rushing streams that take us away from the realization that the beating of a heart itself is a gift.

When my next birthday comes I won’t complain that I am older.  We celebrate this day in our lives because we are fortunate to have them.  Fortunate that our hearts go on beating, that we can still give and receive love.  Our days, hours, and minutes on this planet are numbered and so we should celebrate each one but also know that there is something better still that awaits us.  Joshua was on the fast track to seeing this and is indeed in a better place than we are now.  A baby that would remain in the womb would miss out on all the glory of this world – it is not a place to remain forever.  We too can hold on to hope that this world is not a place for us to remain forever, that there exists a greater more glorious place one where Cory and Eric will see Joshua again finally understanding why.

Cory and Eric are continuing to trust and hope in God to get them through this difficult time.

Joshua

Veterans Day

// November 11th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Other, Reflections

I’d like to say “Happy Veterans Day” to all of our country’s finest, but somehow it doesn’t quite seem fitting to these men and women who have given their lives and their limbs for this land and the people who inhabit it.

So instead, to those who have served and are serving, who have given everything and are still giving.  I would like you to know you are in my prayers.  I would like you to know me and my family are thankful.  We are grateful.  You are not forgotten – not today, not any day that we remain free.

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

God bless you!