3 Summits, 1 Summer: Part 4 Whitney

Unlike our other summits, Whitney took a great deal more planning, time and forethought to execute. Instead of simply driving to the trailhead, loaded with water and some energy snacks we had to carve out a three day window for this event.

We loaded up our gear and headed up 395 to the sleepy little town of Lone Pine, which would act as our home base for the climb. We shared a large hostile style room loaded with bunk beds for the 7 of us who would ascend the mountain.

I arrived very late Monday night and everyone was already asleep in their bunks. I found an open one and quietly slipped into bed trying not to disturb anyone. The next morning we walked across the street to a great little diner and had breakfast. The diner was littered with pictures of Hollywood royalty from the golden age of Westerns.

After breakfast we shuttled up to a nearby trailhead in order to acclimate to the altitude. One of the biggest dangers for climbing mountains above 10,000 feet, is altitude sickness. Simply hiking above 10,000 feet the day before can go a long way toward insuring that there will be no  unnecessary ailments when we summit Whitney. We had an enjoyable five mile hike that almost no elevation gain. I was skeptical that it was doing anything at all, but was insured that it is only necessary to be above the 10,000 foot level to do the job.

We came back had dinner at little pizza joint and headed for bed. We wanted to get as much sleep as possible going into the next day.

About 3:45 AM my alarm woke me to let me know that it was go time! We quickly and methodically dressed, packed our food and gear and loaded into the vehicles. It was about a half hour drive to Whitney Portal where we would begin our adventure.

We arrived at Whitney Portal about 4:30 AM and immediately started up the trail. We weren’t the only ones there but it definitely had an ominous feeling to being out in the wilderness in total darkness. I was especially happy to have my headlamp lighting the path. . . especially early on as I was taking the lead for the first several miles. It was also much colder than I had expected. I had three layers on and needed every one of them.

It wasn’t too long into the hike when the first light peaked over the distant mountains and greeted us with wondrous illumination. I really don’t know what I had expected the hike to be, but it was so otherworldly that my expectations were nowhere near the reality of the situation. Hiking in the dark, you have no concept for how far you’ve gone or how much ground you’ve covered. My Strava app was counting steps and miles for me but I was sure we had gone further that it was saying. (Note: this is no doubt to the fact that I was aware that the Whitney Trail was 22 miles round trip and I was really wanting to get to that 11 mile mark;-)

During these first several miles I was struck by the number of people passing us on their way down the hill. I started to ask each one as they passed us if they had reached the Summit. None of them had. They were all turning around for various reasons. Some had been injured. Others were experiencing altitude sickness and some were just in way over their heads. It caused my mind to wonder what laid ahead that caused so many to turn around.

One of the things we had learned in preparing for climbing Whitney was that the success rate was only about 50%. Even Mount Everest has a higher success rate of summiting than Whitney does. Which part of the 50% would I end up in?

We had set up markers for ourselves along the route. We would meet up as a group at each marker to insure that everyone was with us and making the needed progress to the Summit. At our second stop we reached Trail Camp which is where the smart ones who climb Whitney camp before and after they reach the Summit. It’s about 6 miles into the hike and we regrouped and prepared for the Switchbacks, a series of 99 brutal switchbacks made in two mile stretch prior to reaching Trail Crest. If ever I simply wanted to get through something as quickly as possible, it was the Switchbacks. Thankfully, we all made it and celebrated at Trail Crest.

I was thrilled to see a sign at Trail Crest that announced that we were at 13,600 feet. This meant we had less than 1,000 feet to climb to the Summit. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that from Trail Crest, the trail descends another 500 feet or more on the back side of the mountain before the eventual ascent to the top.

By this time we were spread out over a mile or more between the first in our group to the last. It was as if the mountain was requiring each of us to dig down deep and muster enough strength and grit to make it to the top. So we did. Step by step. We climbed higher and higher until the house at the top came into view. That was the last needed motivation to get there.

I made it to the Summit about 12:30 PM. It was exhilerating to reach the Summit. . . to be able to say I made it. Especially with having the difficulties with Baldy and even San Gorgonio, Whitney seemed like such a dream. But here I was standing on top of the world! It was unbelievable.

We ate lunch, took pictures and drank in the success of our climb. There were about 50 people on top of the rock most of whom were on the same journey we were. While we were there, one guy came up over the side of the mountain. Apparently he found his own way up that included rock climbing the Eastern face. He was an older guy who admitted that he had done this many times before.

At last it was time to head back down the mountain. We decided that we didn’t need to stop at every place along the way as we had on our way up. We did say that we’d meet at Mirror Lake which was more than half way down the trail. The two teenagers were out in front and I was trekking along in the third position on our descent. We made it to Mirror Lake and waited what seemed like an eternity for the remaining members of our team. Several times we considered sending up someone to check on them, but the thought of climbing after all we had been through was too much to make happen. After about 45 minutes of resting at the lake, our team was reunited for the remainder of our descent.

We arrived back at Portal at 5:30 PM, which was very important, because the little diner closed at 6. We ate wonderfully greasy burgers and drank cold beer in the back of Sandy’s pickup. I’m not sure anything could have tasted better at that particular moment.

Sleeping was not a problem for anyone that night. Though our accommodations were not 5 Star we all enjoyed one last evening together. Early the next morning we drove home victorious. . . with a little wobble in the legs from work that was done on Whitney.IMG_0879 IMG_0881 IMG_0880 IMG_0888 IMG_0907 IMG_0903

 

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3 Summits, 1 Summer: Part 3 San Gorgonio

IMG_0813 IMG_0826 IMG_0820Well no one was more surprised to see me on yet another trek than me, but there I was none-the-less. After the difficulty with the Baldy hike, I truly did believe that my mountain climbing days were over. Somehow I must have forgotten the torture that I was putting myself through. It was helpful that my friend and running mate, John was willing to tackle the beast with me. Together we could do this!

The trailhead began in Forest Falls, which is home to Forest Home Christian Camps. I have spent many a week at Forest Home as a camper, counselor and youth pastor. I had no idea I would return as a mountain climber.

We set out on the trail only to find that the first two miles would be some of the steepest and most difficult of the entire climb. We realized right away that this was no easy climb.

The trail to the summit of San Gorgonio is 17.3 miles and the elevation gain is more than 5,800 vertical feet. San Gorgonio is the highest peak in Southern California at a whopping 11,503′ above sea level. That’s a monster by any definition. But we were determined and the weather was perfect. So off we went up into the great unknown.

I had learned a few things from Baldy that played into my routine this time around. First I made sure I was eating and drinking regularly. I wasn’t waiting to summit in order to start eating. My body needed fuel throughout the ascent and I obliged. I didn’t ever experience the sickness that I had on Baldy and I’m sure that was due to the fact that I was feeding my body along the way. This can be difficult too, because you don’t always feel hungry on the trail. But giving yourself enough food and water is essential to not dropping from exhaustion.

Another helpful aspect of this climb was having a buddy along. While I enjoyed the company of my other companions on Baldy, John and I are good friends. His partnership in this was a big factor in me being able to complete the climb. In fact, about 2/3 of the way up I was struggling. I was tired. I wasn’t giving up but I was falling further and further behind. John waited for me when he could have been up with the others. Once I reached him, we ate lunch and then got back on the trail. That was exactly what I needed to make the summit.

About an hour later, we reached the top and were able to celebrate with our friends. A funny thing we witnessed at the top was these three women who were up celebrating as well. They had climbed the summit with a bottle of wine and wine glasses. So they were enjoying the fruit of their labor.

Heading down was long but mostly easy. It always seems longer than you think it should be. We all made it down safely and though it was tougher for some than others, it was a milestone for each of us. We were that much closer to being ready to climb Whitney, which of course was our ultimate goal!

John and I ravenously devoured an In & Out burger on our way home to cap off this amazing adventure. We sat there in the restaurant looking up and saying: Did we really just climb to the top of that mountain? Yeah, it’s a little surreal.

Next stop: Whitney!

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3 Summits, 1 Summer: Part 2 Mt. Baldy

 

img_0695One of the primary reasons that I even considered hiking Mount Whitney this summer, was the fact that I have been running quite a lot and am in really good shape. I say this as someone who hasn’t really gone to the gym much in the last several years and am only in ‘good’ shape because I found something I could do regularly and which I enjoy. So in considering Whitney, I thought, I’m not getting any younger, so this will probably be my best opportunity to make it happen.

What I failed to understand is that summiting mountains is entirely different from running a few miles around Castaic or Santa Clarita. Somehow that fact escaped me. So with blind ambition I began the process of training for Whitney. . . without really thinking I needed any training.

One other caveat is noteworthy here. Because of my so-called Summer of Adventure I noted last time, I was only available to hike 2 of the possible 6 training hikes. Again, no problem! I’m in great shape. . . was my thought process.

The first hike I was able to make happened to be Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains. I grew up in the shadow of Mount Baldy in La Habra. We could always tell if there was snow in the mountains by looking up to see if Baldy had a white head or not. Well fortunately for us, Baldy was not white for our training hike. The 10,000′ peak was primed for our day hike and by the looks of things, there were hundreds of others who decided to climb that very same day.

With a great deal of enthusiasm I joined a group of 5 others on this hike. All of the others had made at least a few hikes prior to this and had a better idea what they were getting themselves into. I was about to find out.

For the first three miles up the trail, I felt great. This was a piece of cake. Eventually we reached the Top of the Notch restaurant where we took a much needed break. Unfortunately that is when things started to take a turn for me. The next mile or two was a steep ascent over mostly loose gravel and rocks. And in the first part of this ascent I snapped one of my hiking poles. While I was mostly near the front of the pack during the earlier part of the hike, I struggled to keep pace and remained at the very tail end of our group.

img_0694Eventually we moved beyond the loose rock and into the section known as the Devil’s Backbone. If the name doesn’t say it all, you should know that this section of the trail is a long, steep, completely exposed narrow section that goes on for a couple of miles. It was hot and dusty and the trail was crowded, so we were constantly moving over for people to pass on one side or the other. The hike began to not be as fun about now.

I don’t know if you ever talk to yourself. Well I was having a full on conversation with myself. I was wondering not if I could actually do Whitney, but whether or not I was going to be able to summit Baldy. I was battling between, this is the last hike I will ever go on. . . to what on earth was I thinking? Gone was any semblance of my earlier thoughts of being in good shape. I was huffing and puffing, simply hoping to survive this day.

I was grateful that a friend had loaned me his hydration pack and so I was drinking enough water, but I was not feeling great. As we continued up we began to see the first peeks of the peak. Every step was measured and heavy. Only Kerwin (one of my companions) and I were still making the ascent. Everyone else had already made it to the top. We were taking three steps and then a break. Taking three more steps and then taking a break. The last mile seemed to be going on for eternity. But with dogged determination, we eventually reached the top.

I had packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a protein bar for my lunch at the top. Unfortunately, I was so sick to my stomach I couldn’t even eat half of my sandwich. I am not sure whether it was the altitude or the heat or what, but I was suffering.

We spent another 30 minutes or so at the top prior to making our descent. I was hoping and praying that the trip down would be much quicker and easier. Fortunately it was and my self talk turned much more amenable. Suddenly I was downplaying how difficult the ascent had been and maybe just maybe I’d give it a try for at least one more training hike before deciding whether or not to attempt Whitney.

Before too long, we had arrived back at the parking lot. I was feeling much better, but was racing to get to home. Future summits would be decided on at a later date.

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3 Summits, 1 Summer: Part 1 The Summer of Adventure

img_0666For various reasons, my family has dubbed this the Summer of Adventure. Certainly our Anniversary trip to Alaska and the family vacation to Yellowstone contributed to this particular moniker, but my foray into hiking epitomizes the phrase.

Prior to this summer, I had hiked in Yosemite (the Mist Trail, the Panorama Trail, etc.) and Hawaii (Napali Coast), but had never even considered climbing to the peak of an actual mountain. Well that all changed in the most unusual of circumstances.

A friend of mine was invited to participate in a group hike of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Continental United States. He began getting into shape and hiking several nights per week to prepare for the climb. I mentioned to him that I’d love to climb Mount Whitney sometime, not thinking the opportunity was there. He offered to check with the person organizing the trip and to see if there were additional spots available on the permit. Sure enough there were and I was whisked onto the adventure quite unexpectedly.

There were six training hikes as part of the preparation for Whitney. In order to make the cut, two were required. Unfortunately, by the time I signed on, I had already missed the first climb and would be unable to make three of the others because of other vacations and time commitments. That left me with exactly two opportunities for training hikes: Mount Baldy and San Gorgonio.

On the positive side, I knew I was in pretty good physical shape. I had been running about 3 or 4 days per week and felt like if I was ever going to be able to do it, now was the time.

I began to collect hiking gear with a nervous excitement regarding what I may be doing. I say may, because I wasn’t completely confident that I was going to climb anything. I had a conversation with Mimi just days before the Baldy hike. She, in essence, told me to fish or cut bait. I made the decision to at least give it a shot. . . but even then I gave myself a way out if Baldy proved to be more than I could handle.

Committing was difficult for me, because I didn’t want to put it out there and then not be able to do it. If I tell people I’m going to hike Whitney or post on it on social media, then there is an expectation that I may or may not be able to fulfill. I really didn’t want to say anything to people until I was sure that I could actually do it. Unfortunately as with a lot of things in life, sometimes you have to just say you’re going to do it in order to have enough gumption to do it. Little by little, I told a few people here and there. People were excited for me and encouraged me along the way. That encouragement fueled my pursuit of the first peak. . . Mt. San Antonio at 10,069′ above sea level.

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Leadership Lessons Learned in 2015

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Just as any year has its share of good times and bad, 2015 was no different. While there were many difficult days this past year,  I want to give attention to the lessons I’ve learned specifically as a result of being involved in leadership. They aren’t easy lessons to learn but I’m grateful for how they’ve formed me as a leader and as a pastor. It is my hope and prayer that these lessons might be helpful to some of you as well.  Here’s what I’ve learned in 2015:

  1. Leadership is alway under fire! I guess I’ve always known this to be true, but this year it has become ever so much clearer to me. Whether you are making the best decisions or not, leaders inevitably are questioned. It seems as if no matter what is done or said there are people on various sides of an issue ready to pounce on you.
  2. Leaders are only as popular as their most recent decision or action. It has been fascinating to me to see how fickle people can be regarding the view of leadership and the decisions being made. This year alone,  I have taken hits for not sharing enough information, for sharing too much information, for acting too quickly and for not acting quickly enough.
  3. Leading a volunteer organization (church) is the most difficult leadership. I heard Bill Hybels say this almost 20 years ago. Today I believe it to be true more than ever before. People choose every Sunday whether or not to follow church leadership. Will people gather for worship? Will they serve? Will they give? Will they love their neighbors as they love themselves? All of these are decisions that are entrusted with church members each and every week. This often leaves leaders wondering what they can expect from those they are leading. . . and not without an undue amount of stress along the way!
  4. Leaders are forged in the fire. It’s easy to lead when budgets are big, when the church is growing and when everyone is happy. Unfortunately, this is rarely a reality in today’s church. Reading books on leadership and listening to TED talks can be helpful, but leaders primarily grow in the crucible of difficult times. I am honored to serve alongside a group of leaders who have been forged this past year.
  5. Leadership will cost you relationships. This is perhaps the saddest of all lessons I’ve learned this year. I’ve lost friends. Colleagues that I’ve served with have ended up on opposite sides of issues and as such relationships have been severed.

It is my prayer that the lessons learned and the experiences endured over the past twelve months will help me to continue to grow as a leader in the coming year. If they are helpful to anyone else, than that would be even better. Blessings and prayers for a healthy and prosperous 2016.

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You Will Go Free

church“A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non- members.” So said the great British writer and thinker of the 20th Century, C.S. Lewis. While I believe that is true, it is easy to get bogged down in matters pertaining to our own members and forget the bigger picture of why we exist. It takes a supreme concentration of intentionality to stay on task.

One of the ways, we are attempting to stay on task is by implementing a course for non-Christians called Exploring Christianity. It has been an incredibly life-giving experience for me and I believe for others as well. We have been challenged by some very bright individuals who have valid questions about the credibility and credulity of the Christian faith. We have tried to be honest about our own doubts and sincere about why we believe.  While it is our hope that these friends will find hope and faith in Jesus, there is nothing coercive about our approach.

One of the interesting aspects of the course is that it is almost entirely attended by couples with a believing and an unbelieving partner. For the believers, they have no greater desire and mission than to have the person they love most come to know Jesus. After we met last night, I was listening to a old song that shared this same sentiment.  The song is entitled: You Will Go Free and is by Tonio K (and it’s ok if you don’t know who that is)!

The lyrics tell the story of a believer longing for the time when his wife will be come to faith in Jesus.

You’ve been a prisoner
Been a prisoner all your life
Held captive in an alien world
Where they hold your need for love to your throat like a knife
And they make you jump
And they make you do tricks
They take what started off as such an innocent heart
And they break it and break it and break it
Until it almost can’t be found

Well I don’t know when
And it don’t know how
I don’t know how long it’s gonna take
I don’t know how hard it will be
But I know
You will go free

You can call it the devil
Call it the big lie
Call it a fallen world
Whatever it is, it ruins almost everything we try
It’s the sins of the fathers
It’s the choices we make
It’s people screaming without making a sound
From prison cells in paradise
Where we’re chained to our mistakes

Well I don’t know when
And it don’t know how
I don’t know how much it’s gonna cost you
Probably everything
But I know
You will go free

You can’t see your jailer
You can’t see the bars
You can’t turn your head round fast enough
But it’s everywhere you are
It’s all around you
And everywhere you walk this prison yard surrounds you

But in the midst of all this darkness
In the middle of this night
I see truth cut through this curtain like a laser
Like a pure and holy light
And I know I can’t touch you now
And I don’t want to speak too soon
But when we get sprung
From out of our cages baby
God knows what we might do

Well I don’t know when
And it don’t know how
I don’t know how much it’s gonna cost you
Probably everything
But I know
You will go free

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32 NIV.

 

“You Will Go Free” written by Tonio K; produced by T-Bone Burnett for the album: Romeo Unchained on A & M Records; 1984.

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Watering the Soul in a Season of Drought

“Danger Will Robinson!” California is in the midst of a serious drought. If you haven’t heard about it, you’ve been living under a rock somewhere. While on vacation on the East Coast this summer I had numerous people offer to give me water to take home with me, because we needed all the help we could get. While I think they might be taking it to the extreme, it adequately illustrates the exposure the drought has received nationwide as well as the severity of our problem.

We are all trying to do our parts and over the past two years, we’ve made some changes to our routines. First of all, we are trying to take shorter showers and use less when water washing dishes and carrying out other water-related chores. We bought new water-efficient toilets and installed them. We are installing a new Weather-based Irrigation system and limiting our watering to our assigned days. And last but not least, we are planting a drought-resistant landscape in both our front and backyards. We are maintaining about half of our grass, but with the changes we are making, we are hoping to sustain our yard through the tough reality of a changing environment.

As Christians, we can also experience our share of drought. We may have fallen into some sinful patterns or perhaps we simply lack the passion we once had in our faith. Whatever the circumstances may be, we aren’t feeling it. This can become a difficult season if we don’t pay attention to it. Here are a few tips I have learned to help me through my dry times.

  1. Acknowledge the drought. It does no good to act like everything is good.  Sometimes I can get really good at acting like life is good. Confession is good for us!  We need to learn to confess both to God and others the truth about the state of our souls.
  2. Take measures to feed your soul. We are all different and so formulas aren’t the point here. Whatever feeds you soul, make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of it.  Just like my grass (what’s left of it) needs water and sunshine, I need those connecting times that refresh me. For me that can be listening to music, reading a good Book, or going for a run.
  3. Find a partner to help water your soul. Without getting cheesy here, we need others alongside us. Christianity is meant to be done in community and we need others to participate in helping to nourish us. The beauty is that this nourishing goes both ways and in the end both souls are watered.
  4. Get rest. Whether that is Quiet Time with your Bible and a journal or simply having a day or two or three without activity, our bodies need to be shut down from time-to-time.
  5. Activate. This may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the ways in which God waters our souls is by being active in doing his work. I experience this most notably when I’m involved in mission work. . . but it can also be seen in talking with a friend who is struggling, helping out a neighbor with a project or by volunteering with the church, a school or non-profit. Wherever it is. . . get involved. As we serve and give ourselves away, God replenishes our souls.

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Of Rivalries and Friendships

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Being a life-long Dodger fan, I love the pennant race. . . especially when the Boys in Blue are in it!  Well this year they are in it and they are doing their best to stay one step ahead of their rivals from San Francisco.  Monday night, my brother and I experienced the rivalry up close and personal as the Dodgers took Game One of the series 4-3 in 14 innings!  It was a great game having all of the drama that you might expect from these two teams.

The Dodgers and Giants both moved West to California from New York in 1958 and continued the deep seated hatred for one another.  There have been many special moments throughout their history and a few that have been tragic.  The pinnacle of the rivalry, however, had to be confrontation between Juan Marichal of the Giants and John Roseboro of the Dodgers, which took place 50 years ago last week.

Just like today, the Dodgers and Giants were in a pennant race to see who would represent the National League in the World Series.   Both teams had thrown brushback pitches: Sandy Koufax throwing one to Wills Mays and Juan Marichal to Maury Wills.  Marichal took it a step further by knocking down Ron Fairly.  When that happened warnings were issued to both teams signifying that the next pitch thrown at a hitter would result in the pitcher being ejected from the game.  Roseboro said he would handle it for Koufax.

The next time Marichal came to plate, Roseboro threw the ball back to Koufax buzzing it right by Marichal’s ear.  This caused the benches to clear as Marichal clubbed Roseboro with his bat.  It was perhaps the ugliest event to ever happen on a baseball field and causing the bad blood between the two teams to sour even more.  But the good news was that while this event may have at times characterized the rivalry, it would not define the men.

Seventeen years later, Marichal was attempting to be elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  He was sure that this incident was the one thing that was keeping him from getting enough votes to be elected.  He decided to solicit help from an unlikely source.  Marichal called Roseboro and asked him for help.

Roseboro hopped on a plane and headed to the Dominican Republic to participate in Marichal’s golf tournament.  At the tournament, Roseboro announced to the world that he had forgiven Marichal and was endorsing his election to the Hall of Fame.  That endorsement turned the tide for Marichal who was elected at the induction ceremony.  It also began a friendship that would last for the rest of Roseboro’s life.

At Johnny’s funeral, the most moving part of service was when Juan Marichal got up to give the eulogy. You could have heard a pin drop as Marichal spoke of his friend, John Roseboro.  “Johnny’s forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life,” he said. “I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher.”

The events 50 years ago may have defined the pinnacle of this great rivalry. . . but it would not define the two men involved.  The friendship, forgiveness and redemption that followed showed us all a great lesson in what truly matters in this life.

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Running the Race

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IMG_5178“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.”                                        1 Corinthians 9:24-25

November 2, 2014 marked an important milestone in my life. . . I ran my first half marathon.  For some people that might not seem like much of an accomplishment—it was only half a marathon after all.  But for me, it was truly something to write home about, or at least to write here about.  As many of you who know me can attest, my body shape does not lend itself to long distance running.  When we think of distance runners we immediately imagine tall lanky individuals who are the last people on earth who need to exercise.  Well I am neither tall (5′ 4″) nor lanky (rather round and Hobbit-like) so I don’t fit the profile.  I very well could have been the brunt of Sheldon’s joke to Leonard on The Big Bang Theory when he quipped that Leonard was “short and oddly shaped”.  So 13.1 miles for this hobbit was indeed something to celebrate!  But what did I learn on this journey?

1.  The human body is capable of doing much more than I ever thought possible.

Prior to training for this race, I had never run more than three miles in my life.  I had run a lot of miles (mostly in junior high in the early 80s) and even more sprints (mostly high school in the mid 80s), but had never delved into the long-distance arena.  While I never imagined I could run even a half marathon, I now realize that with enough preparation and effort, the possibilities are endless.  I’m now wanting to look into other half marathons and perhaps even consider a tri-athalon.  It is all in the realm of possibility. . . and I even bought  a new pair of shoes to continue my training.

2.  Goals are more easily accomplished with friends.

It was a friend, Eric Johns, who suggested I run the race in the first place, though sadly he had to back out for health reasons.  Other friends, John Nelson, Rodge Cayette, Brant and Rachel Curtis, trained with me and encouraged me along the way.  Of course Mimi and the girls were also a source of constant support. . . and Mimi even ran many miles with me.  I’m not sure I would have stuck it out without this support over the three months I trained for the race.

3.  There are degrees to success with our goals.

During training my times were all over the map.  I ran everything from an 8 minute mile to over 11 minutes.  But somewhere along the way, I settled into a pace that was about 9 and 1/2 minutes per mile.  So my goal for myself was to complete the half in less than 10 minutes per mile or about 2 hours and 10 minutes.  I had thought that I could perhaps run with either John Nelson or Brant and Rachel Curtis.  John decided to run with an American Flag to bring awareness to Team RWB (Red, White & Blue) and the Curtis’ were also running a much slower pace than I wanted for myself.  In the end, I was thrilled with my time and thrilled for my friends who completed the race and met their goals as well.

4.  Training in one area can often cause problems in another.

My primary outlet, especially before I started running, was my Monday night softball games.  Weekly getting together with the guys and reliving our youth on the softball field is great fun and a limited amount of exercise.  The problem for me arose when I would show up to my games and my legs would still be in recovery or various stages of injury from that morning or even the long runs on Saturdays.  I’m sure I caused a good deal of laughter among my teammates for the funny ways I walked and ran and pursued the ball when my legs were like jello.  I would have thought that the running would only enhance my play, but at least in the short-term that wasn’t always the case.

5.  Running provides solitude that can be difficult to find elsewhere.

I chose to do most of my training as well as the race itself primarily by myself.  I don’t tend to be a person who cherishes alone time.  In fact as an ENFP, I long to with people. . . all the time.  But running gives me the opportunity to think, pray, listen to music and just be.  In many ways, this revelation was completely unexpected.  While it may have been the part of the journey that I was least looking forward to, in the end it became the part that I enjoyed most.  Running has become an integral part of my spiritual disciplines, so while this started as an item on a bucket list, I now envision it as a regular part of my life.

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What Now?

IMG_7076For the past four years, my life has been exceedingly busy as I’ve pursued my Masters of Divinity degree at George Fox. Between school, work, ministry, and family (not listed in order of priority, but often in order of being addressed) I have often not known which way was up. Well that season officially came to an end this weekend as I graduated with my wonderful cohort up in Portland.

Graduation was a wonderful and affirming time. I was even recognized by my professors with the Outstanding Ministry Student Award which went to the person who was able to juggle the most balls in the air while completing their degree program. While I’m of course joking with that last comment, it is none-the-less accurate, at least in my perception of how the past four years have gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have traded these years for anything, but they have certainly taken their toll on me. . . and on my family. For that reason, I’m excited to see that chapter close and a new one open.

So over the past several months I have been asked what I’m going to do once I finish school.  Some have wondered aloud whether I would be seeking a new Senior pastor position or continuing on with a doctorate or various other possibilities.  Well actually for the most part, my plan is to do nothing different.  Not really nothing, but nothing extraordinary.

I plan to continue serving as the Mission Pastor at NorthPark where I have the amazing job of mobilizing people into various mission and outreach opportunities.  I plan to expand what we as a church are doing both locally and globally.  There are a lot of things boiling beneath the surface that I will be bringing to the light in the coming months.  I am hoping to do more teaching and discipling people here and assist in any areas where I’m needed.

I am also looking forward to spending a good amount of time with my family as they have often got the leftovers of my time.  We do have a couple of trips planned this year that I will not be bringing homework along for!

Lastly, I have accepted a part-time position with Children of the Nations as the Area Community Representative for the Santa Clarita Valley.  For the past few years we have been involved with COTN on various levels from our annual Million Meals Marathon to taking a team to Uganda last summer.  As the ACR I will work with local churches to represent COTN and further God’s work through their ministries.

So for those of you expecting some big announcement about us moving overseas or me starting a PhD program, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  I am, however, very excited about this new season in my life and thrilled to be serving the Lord in the Santa Clarita Valley!

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