Thursday, July 31, 2014

Getting into the groove

I've been 'back to normal' now for about three weeks. My John Muir Trail hike is part of my past. I am back into the routine of my life with a huge difference - I haven't spent any time training, exercising or working out. For three weeks I've basically been a coach potato. I have successfully regained the weight I lost on my trip. I have found it hard to be motivated to get any exercise, especially since its been about a million degrees outside around here. The air temperature is just an excuse, part of my own rationalization and justification of my poor behavior.

I want to get my stuff organized and sorted out. I need to spend some time throwing away stuff that I don't need that has accumulated and is taking up space. There are things that need to be done to keep the various aspects of my life in balance. Some of these things I have put off doing and chaos and entropy have immediately begun having their effects. This is part of the same lack I mentioned above, it's not physical, it's a mental thing.

There are things in life that are best handled by routine. When I get into the routine of getting them done there is more time left over for the things that are really important, the things I enjoy. When I procrastinate, put them off, and lose the routine, I find myself stuck-in-the-weeds so to speak. Perseverance is a good word to apply here. Another one is steadfastness. When you lack perseverance or steadfastness you are living in a fool's paradise. To live life to the full takes effort, diligence, and focus, it doesn't just happen by sitting around waiting for it to happen.

As I read some of the blogs of PCT thru-hikers I notice that the same temptation to distraction that I am currently experiencing happens on the trail too. That isn't surprising as it is part and parcel of our being human. My hike wasn't long enough to experience experience this. With only two weeks of vacation, it was like, well, a vacation. When your human you often neglect the important and dwell on the insignificant. It's time to wake-up and smell the coffee, to get off your butt and get back into the groove. Life is too short to dilly-dally it away in the cauldron of procrastination. I found this scripture encouraging this morning: James 1:2-18Read it yourself

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Remembering the Truth

Luke 4:1-4 Read it yourself

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God..." A voice came from heaven about forty days prior saying, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." The voice was speaking to Jesus. Jesus heard the voice.

The devil's temptation is in the same spirit as the question first posited to Eve, "Did God say..." The devil's way is to cast doubt on God's words. It seems that temptation always comes after some period has past since your last moment of clarity. A component of the devil's question is attacking your memory, casting doubt on your previous experiences.

Since we only live in the present, most of what we know is from the past. What is clear and obvious in the present is a very very small subset of your understanding and knowledge. Your wisdom and discernment only exist in the presence of past experience.

Written and recorded words are reservoirs of knowledge that can supplement and enhance your own lack of experience. Wisdom, the application of knowledge to your present situation, is only effectual to the extent of your trust of the source of knowledge. Whether the source is your own memory or some written word.

Knowing the scriptures has value, but the application of it is only possible when you trust it. There are many adulterers who have heard the seventh commandment. There are many thieves who have heard the eighth. Just hearing or knowing the words doesn't in and of itself provide any value or wisdom.

Forty days is a long time to go without eating. At that point a person is close to starving to death. At that point a person's energy is at it lowest. It is at that point that your present reality trumps the knowledge of your past. Rationalization and justification spring to action in your mind to explain to yourself why it's okay to do thus and so even though you know that it is in violation to what you know to be right.

That is how we are wired and it is a flaw in our character. Jesus doesn't have that flaw. His focus is on what his Father said. Jesus words and actions spring from the foundation in his mind of the trustworthiness of God's words. He would rather trust in words from his past than to attempt to solve his present dilemma by distracting himself from them.

The devil's temptation to make bread out of rocks is answered by Jesus with a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone..." The remainder of that passage says, "but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Jesus is hanging on to the words that he heard. His logic seems to be, "Since I am his Son then He will preserve me, I can rest easy in his provision." There is no rationalization or justification needed if my source of life is God's words. As the author of life he can sustain my life even when 'nature' says life can't continue. Jesus took that core belief with him to an ugly death on an unjust and evil cross. Trusting in his Father's words to the end.

The Father kept his word and resurrected Jesus. demonstrating to the world that His word is faithful and true (Revelation 3:14). Your actions and reactions in your present day reality reveal the extent of your belief in God's words. It takes the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in your life to change the way you think about your circumstances. The Holy Spirit brings you to the place where you get to make the choice, "Will I trust what I know is true despite what my circumstances look like?"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hearing the voice of God

Luke 4:1 Read it yourself

Full of the Holy Spirit. In 3:22 Jesus was baptized and was praying. The Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice from heaven said, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased." When Jesus returned from the Jordan that same Spirit led him into the wilderness.

You want the same clarity from God that Jesus had in these short few statements. No voice comes from heaven to you. At least not literally. If you did hear a voice, how would you know it was from heaven? Yet you have thoughts everyday that come from somewhere. Many, perhaps most, of them are your own, but certainly some thoughts are inspiration.

Charlie Tremendous Jones — 'You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.'

Mr. Jones is tapping into this same idea. Inspiration is what you need in order to become something other than what you already are.

I imagine that Jesus grew up hearing about the circumstances of his conception and birth. I imagine that when he read the scriptures something within him resonated with the truth and he recognized words and thoughts that his human ears had never heard before. This phenomenon is not confined only to God's only begotten. This happens when you read a book or listen to other people speak.

God's voice is going to be clearest when the medium through which you hear him is closer to the truth. Reading the Bible or listening to a Godly person's words will provide better light than listening to an ass. However God is able to speak through an ass too - Numbers 22:30-31.

Why do you do what you do? Is there anything that you do in which it could be said, "led by the Holy Spirit you did such and such?"

You think you want to hear the voice from heaven but if you actually did you would respond like the children of Israel did at Mt Sinai, you would plug your ears and look around wildly for someone to listen for you and tell you what was said. Like that classic from uttered by Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men "You can't handle the truth!"

It is the grace of God that keeps you from being exposed to the direct and fearsome awesome presence of the Holy One. The scriptures speak of mountains melting and forests being consumed before his presence (Nahum 1:5-6). Like a tsunami or a forest fire, the full presence of God would completely overwhelm your mortality. Your sin and rebellious heart would be opened and revealed in all of it's dark and evil tendencies. You would cry out for the rocks to bury you and hide you from the painful, searing, brightness in which no shadow is possible (Isaiah 2:20-21; Revelation 6:15-16).

It is God's grace that his voice is toned down to a scale in which it is possible to hear it and at the same time your choices are still possible. It is His grace that you live in a world where acting on faith is still something that you can choose. You live in a universe where love and beauty and change is possible. A place where who you are right now does not dictate who you can become.

What is God saying to you today?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

JMT 2014 Epilogue

Marie Lake and Seldon Pass
It's been a week since I have left the trail, completing the John Muir Trail in fifteen days. The trail for me was a total two hundred forty three miles, my average miles per day works out to about sixteen miles. Suddenly, or at least it seems suddenly, I am back to my non-hiking life. Another week has zipped by. Unlike when I was hiking, I don't have things that I can enumerate as having accomplished. I suppose I could document how many miles I drove, or how many people I talked to, or how many Doritos I ate, but who really cares about that stuff? I know I don't, except maybe the Doritos.
Being gone for two weeks changes things. It's sorta like being in a movie like 'Its a Wonderful Life' where the protagonist gets to see what the world would be like without himself. In that movie George Bailey finds that the world without him is a living hell. In my case, I came home to find that my house had become a living hell. The air conditioning had gone out and the outside temperature was one hundred and five in the shade, the inside temperature was a much cooler ninety five. Except upstairs where the bedrooms are it was about a million degrees. The most uncomfortable night I spent for two weeks was the first night back, sweltering in an oven. The second most uncomfortable night was the night before that at Guitar Lake, with the wind pulling out my tent stakes one at a time and whipping dust all over me and my stuff. My first few days back were consumed in looking for a good night's sleep.

Our lives are a constant battle against chaos and entropy. Not just us, but all living things. One of the things I kept seeing was various trees that had experienced adverse conditions throughout their lives. They had been shaped by the environment in which they grew. The choice was simple 'deal-with-it' or die. I think that is also true for us human beings to. Like that misspelled bumper sticker says, 'Stuff Happens'. Deal with it. Get over it, and unless you are a tree that can't walk, move on.
I think perhaps the part I enjoyed most about the trip was the aspect of moving on. Whatever had happened on a given day, however great, or difficult, or whatever it was, the next day was a day of moving on. Like Scarlett's last lines in Gone with the Wind, "Tomorrow is another day". Duh, no kidding! How often, though, do you sit around living and dwelling in the past. When you are thru-hiking the past is always behind you, where it belongs. The future is always before you, where it belongs, and you live in the present, which is the only place you belong and the only place where the past and the future meet. The only place you have control. You get to choose in the present whether to take the next step, or to stop.
Quaint Mammoth Lakes Trolley
Non-hiking life is not quite so obvious. It's sometimes not clear if you are taking a step or dwelling in the past. Sometimes dwelling in the past looks like taking a step, but you are actually walking back down the trail you came up. One of the saddest events of my trip was when I met a guy who kept wandering over the same ground he had been to before. His summers consisted of planning trips to places he had already been where he would see things he had already seen. The places had significance to him because of what he had experienced before. Those same places were now empty of that significance. He was living in the past, the only voices he heard were ghosts in the wind, memories flitting through his mind of his better days gone by.
The things that you do with your life are in need of your constant attention. Whether relationships, your house, or your bicycle. Life often seems to be about maintenance, fixing the stuff that needs fixing. You are like a repairman in a little blue suit with a matching cap. You walk around with a couple of wrenches in one pocket and a couple of screwdrivers in the other. Fixing the stuff that keeps breaking. The sad thing is, it's going to break again, and someday you won't be there to fix it. I think God is better at fixing stuff than I am. If it's worth keeping, he is going to have to fix it. If it's broken, it's time to lay it down and leave it behind.

That sounds good except that when I broke the disposable razor that I planned on using to keep my face clean and baby-butt smooth, I ended up carrying the rest of the trip. God never fixed my razor and I finally threw it away when I got home. The air conditioning guy finally fixed my air conditioning. If he hadn't, I don't think that I could have continued to live in my own house. Yet I stayed there and did whatever it was that I needed to do to get it working again. The air conditioning guy knew I would do whatever it took too, I just got his bill. There is always a cost to keeping stuff working. When thru-hiking you have left so much stuff behind that you have very few things. There is much less cost to fix it and you can spend more time thinking about the important things, like "When am I going to be able to eat another Dorito tortilla chip?"

Sometimes it seems like 'What's for dinner?' is about the extent of the 'deep-thoughts' one has when you are on a thru-hike. In my opinion, that's still better than a mind so cluttered with the 'cares of this world' that you have no time for any of your own thoughts. It is horrible to live your life enslaved to the things you think you own, captured in a web of your own making. Thinking you are in control when in reality you are controlled by the things you 'own' and circumstances in which you have placed yourself.
All in all, I enjoyed my sojourn through God's creation. I found it an uplifting and spiritual time as much as it was a nitty-gritty, real-life, live-in-the-dirt time. I think its interesting that God originally made man as a gardener. Our blue suits and caps are just our own sophisticated way of living out the role that God instilled within us. Tend your own garden!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 15 : Whitney Portal

Sunday July 13, 2014
14 Miles Today
243 Total Miles

I never really went to sleep last night. Right after the sun set the wind picked up. Then it picked up some more, and it just kept picking up. Soon a gale was blowing my little tent this way and that. The women that were camped next to the site I setup on said the winds were strong the night before. I lazed around the entire afternoon. Like the grasshopper in Aesop's Fable. I wasted the day when I could have put boulders on each of my tent stakes. Since I didn't do that, the wind pulled them up one at a time. I would go out of my tent and find a huge rock and put it on the stake that came loose. Then I'd get back in the tent and another one would pull loose. Why didn't I put boulders on every stake the first time I got up? Oh, things are so much clearer in the light of day. I didn't think of that then.

The last straw came when the wind blew dust into my tent, gritty black dust all over everything, including me. I looked at my clock, one-thirty AM. It's time. I began packing my backpack inside my tent. I got everything packed, dusty grit and all except the tent. I was afraid that the tent would blow away when I got out of the tent and removed  my stuff. There I was by the light of the full moon. Pulling out the poles and laying on my gritty tent. I reached out and removed one stake at a time then I just rolled the tent into a big ball and stuffed it in its sack.

I went over and woke up Felix and Kevin. I doubt they were sleeping, they were cowboy camping and hiding inside their sleeping bags from the dusty wind and the full moon. I asked them if they wanted to summit with me. The three of us were on the trail to the summit of Mt. Whitney by two AM.

The higher we climbed the colder it got. I am sure that by the time we reached the summit I was hypothermic. I was so cold it seemed I couldn't get warm. It was hard to talk, I kept slurring my words. We entered the summit hut. It was already full of Russians. I squeezed in and put on my down coat and hood. And stood there waiting to warm up. It was five AM.

The sun was already turning the sky pink and orange to the east. I went out and took a few pictures and got even colder. Back in the hut for me. I ate a Clif bar and drank some water. I tried waving my arms and stamping my feet. What I really wanted to do was have a hot drink or better yet sit in a hot tub. No luck on either option. 

The wind died down and Felix came in and told me so. I went back out and took some more pictures. It was the most astounding sunrise that I had ever witnessed. The whole summit experience, cold and everything was the perfect capstone on a most incredible trip. 

The hike down the Whitney Portal from the summit is long and steep. I was really surprised to see how many people would make that ardous climb from Whitney Portal to the trail camp. It was really crowded. After all of the beautiful places I have seen on this hike I would rate Trail Camp at a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is Eeew and 10 is spectacular. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 14 : Guitar Lake

Saturday July 12, 2014
6 Miles Today
229 Total Miles

I arrived mid morning at Guitar Lake. None of the friends that I have met along the way were here. I assume that Jason, Jana, and Merrick made it here last night and left early this morning to go to the summit and head out to Whitney Portal. I have no wish to revel any further today. 

My plan is to be awake around nine-thirty or ten when the moon should rise over Mt Whitney. I hope to get some pictures of that. To facilitate that I have found a campsite where I can setup my tent facing east. I am trying to get some rest this afternoon as I will be up taking pictures and then a few hours later I will get up to begin my ascent of Mt Whitney. My goal is to arrive at the summit about one half hour before sunrise. 

There are no clouds at all and the sun and the radiation off of the rocks makes it extra warm. There are no trees so my only shelter from the sun is my tent. That works great if there is a breeze. Without the breeze it's like sitting in a solar oven. My second strategy is to sit out where there is a breeze in a soaking wet shirt. This strategy seems to be the most comfortable at this point.

One of the good things about all this radiation is that my solar charger is working great. I have it plugged directly into my phone and it is charging while I write.

Waiting for the sun to set is like watching grass grow. Nothing seems to be happening unless you doing something else for a while then come back and check again. There was finally enough shade behind a rock for me to rest comfortably in the shade. A guy named Phil showed up. He is cowboy camping out in the field. His base pack weight is around ten pounds, he travels without a stove or a tent. He said the last time he was here was last October in a snow storm... Without a tent or stove. Not my idea of a fun way to travel.

Felix and Kevin showed up later on the afternoon and they are camped in the site next to mine. They re supplied at Onion Valley and actually had some friends hiking in with them. The friends turned back because to altitude was too much too fast. We are all planning to wake up around twoish to hike to the top by moonlight and be there before the sunrise. 

Super Full Moonrise over Mt Whitney