31 January 2010

Night runs, deep snow, and good times

As we drove through San Isabel National Forest on our way to the BSU retreat, I thought there was a car behind us, because I could see lights flashing onto the dash in front. But I looked back, and it was only the moon, flashing between the trees on the ridge above.

Once we got to Horn Creek, Em said we should go for a night run. I think she was half-joking, but I took her seriously, so after our session that night, we went out with Gavin and Tyler and Lizzy, but Tyler and Lizzy were going to walk.

It was incredible. The snow-covered mountains glistened in the moonlight, and our shadows were clear as day on the packed snow on the road.

The next day, in the afternoon, we all went to the rec center, and I figured I'd rent some snowshoes and explore the trails. Snowshoes were fifteen bucks, though, so I decided to go without.


Those mountains are incredible: covered in pine and aspen up to the treeline, and covered with snow above that. The sun was shining, some birds were chirping, and the snow was falling off the branches as it melted. The trail was pretty well hardened by snowshoers, but sometimes my foot fell through up to my knee. Some snowshoers I met were surprised at my work boots, jeans, and cotton sweatshirt, until they found out I was from Michigan. Then they wondered why I wasn't wearing shorts.


When I came back down, I looked back up at the mountain, now with a deep blue sky behind it. I couldn't help but stop and pray and worship.

I definitely want to go back there and summit one or two of those fourteeners. Maybe in the fall.

That night was pretty stressful... I didn't have about half the songs we were doing, and I had to run the slides for worship. So afterward, I went for another night run, alone. It was pretty sketchy - not as bright as the night before, since the moon was behind a cloud. But it was bright enough to see. I ran down towards the valley, then turned around and headed back up. It was gorgeous both ways, surrounded by mountains and never seeing a soul. I'm beginning to like running, especially at night.

Dad always said I could be a runner, but I never really believed him until I started running in minimalist footwear. I like my FiveFingers the best, but ran in Nike Frees this weekend. They're flexible - you can bend the heel to touch the toe - and light, but they're still shoes. We really were born to run - just not with shoes.

24 January 2010

You shoulda seen her smile

I was getting into a rhythm, digging and twisting and dumping the rocks into the wheelbarrow. Then I looked up and saw her smile, and I paused and smiled myself. It wasn't a big smile, rather a shy one, but there was a lot of joy behind it.

She is a single mother whose husband committed suicide in November. She lives out on the plains east of the Front Range with her two kids in a mobile home on a farm. The yard is full of briars and thorns and short, prickly grass.

Dave set up a service project for BSU: we'd put in a play area for her two kids. The timbers and pea gravel were donated, and we showed up with rakes and shovels and a wheelbarrow.

In three hours, the weeds were raked, shoveled, and raked again, the timbers were lined up and set, the weedblock was down, and 14 tons of pea gravel covered it all. We moved the playhouses from the front yard to the back.

And Mama's smile made it all worth it.
From playground

22 January 2010

We don't know you, but we know best

According to a recent editorial from Slate, the U.S. is focusing too much on security in Haiti, and missing the important point: people are dying, not because they're insecure, but because they have no food. The 'facts' in the article are indubitably less factual than the author makes them out to be, but I think his thesis is at least partly correct: Haiti doesn't need 10,000 troops. It needs ten times 10,000 MREs, and maybe 2,000 troops with knowledge and supplies to rescue and treat the wounded.

I'm reminded of a Jars of Clay song: Light Gives Heat. It's a song about modern aid, how foreigners come in to "save the children from their lands, wash the darkness from their skin". The title here is also a lyric from that song.

I've been following the efforts of MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) and Compassion International. Both have been in Haiti for decades, and they understand and can communicate with Haitans. MAF specializes in flying supplies in and wounded out; Compassion works with the church and the children.

An MAF pilot secures a load of food for Haitians stranded on an island. See his comments here.

Tonight, I listened to a conference call between Wess Stafford, Compassion's president, and their Vice President for the Latin American Region, Edouard Lassegue. Stafford lived in Haiti for four years, and Lassegue grew up there. Hearing the pain and the hope in the voices of both men is incredible. And it's good to hear the facts, from people that know the people.

The Hatian earthquake is not, as some have concluded, an act of God's wrath. If that were so, we'd all be dead. There is not one time in the New Testament that God destroys a city or a people. Jesus reached out to the immoral.

Edouard Lassegue didn't ask for money for Haiti. He asked for prayers. So let's pray.

17 January 2010

Dog run

Up at David's house today, and couldn't turn down the sunshine and the mountains when they called for a run. David's brother took me four miles out on Shelf Road, and left Sadie, their dog, and I there.

Sadie is a one-year-old mutt, as curious as she is energetic. Most of the time, she'd run along behind me, checking out stuff beside the road, running along in the snowbanks, charging up the ridge. She'd always listen, though, and when I called she'd come quickly to my side.

The cattle guard threw her off a little: she ran up to it, stopped, leaped, and scrambled the rest of the way over. I guess cattle guards don't stop dogs. That's good, because I'm not sure she would have liked to be carried.

But the man sighting in his AR spooked her. At every shot, she'd run up the hill, away from the gun. I'd call her, she'd look at me like, "You sure?" and then come back down, only to run again at the next shot. Only once did I chase her up the hill, when she went out of sight.

Once she saw Cripple Creek, she started running in front of me, never gettting too far away but always wanting me to go faster. Good motivation. Once we got into town, I put her on the leash.

She knew the way home, so I kinda just let her lead. It worked out: we got there, tired but refreshed.

That dog is growing on me. And so are these mountains.

14 January 2010

Hooah

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to lead a training session for our four degrees (freshmen). Em had the idea to take them to the LZ - a fairly large hill near the Chapel - and have them do a sort of chutes-and-ladders on the way up, then form up at the top, facing the Springs, and leave them there to see how they reacted.

So we sent some upperclassmen out to the hill, made sure the four-degs had water and watchcaps, then I ran them over to the hill. I tried to march them, but I'm terrible at that, so I had one of them call a jody for cadence and told them to follow me as we ran over there. Once we got there, I had 'em stretch out and get ready.

We sent them up the hill in teams of four, but they got pretty blended together. At each tier, they had to answer a knowledge question. If they did anything wrong, they went down one tier and we did some push-ups or 8-count body builders or jumping jacks or flutter kicks or something with them. I put one of our firsties at the top, since I knew it'd take them a while to get past him, and we didn't want it to go too short.

Once everyone got to the top - for them, after about forty minutes or going up and down and lots of push-ups and flutter kicks, we had them run around doing fireman carries, then formed them up, at ease, towards the Springs. Most of the upperclassmen said some thing, positive or negative, about their performance, and I herded the upperclassmen who weren't talking to the back. I put them back at attention and reminded them why we're here: to fight for those people, out in those houses, who may or may not respect us.

My three best friends from high school don't believe in war. But I'm here, because God wants me to be here, and so that they can live in a country where they have a right to be anti-war. And I'm here to keep their country safe so they don't have to fight.

Then we snuck away, behind the four-degs' backs. Hiding in the bushes, we waited to see how they'd react. In a few minutes, they started running away, and we thought that was that. But then Em noticed them dropping - they were joining their classmates in squadron four, who also had a training session on the hill.

We couldn't have imagined a better option for them to take. We let squad four figure out what was going on, and then once they separated out our four-degs, we rounded 'em up and took them to Mitch's.

I'm glad that went so well, and I'm really impressed with our freshmen right now.

11 January 2010

Republica Dominicana

For four weeks this summer, I'll be living in a town in the center of the Dominican Republic, taking classes in the morning, running, napping, and playing checkers with old men in the afternoon. And on the weekends, we'll go to the beach or the jungle or the capitol, taking local transportation to get the 'full cultural experience'.

Which probably entails riding on buses with goats and chickens.

Our escort officers, both Majors, were in the Dominican for two years as missionaries - back in the first two years of my life. They're Mormon, but as missionaries, they have a great respect for the Dominican people and are looking into some service projects with us, at orphanages and such. They're trying to make the trip ours - there are about ten cadets going - and stay out of the way. We just need eighty hours of instruction for credit; but even the learning is our prerogative. If we have questions about what we heard the day before, we can ask our teacher, to learn what we need to, what we want to.

I'm excited.

08 January 2010

Peru - Spring Break 2010

This is crazy.

I'm gonna be leading a four-person team on a two-hour hike from a small Peruvian town to an even smaller Peruvian town - if it can be called a town - for three days of ministry. At the same time, another team will go to another small village, and one team will stay in Matacuma.

The town we're going to is called Callona. We have a Christian contact their who will provide a roof and food and help us set up Bible studies and storytelling sessions, but that's about all we know. During the day, we'll help the villagers in any way we can, and at night, we'll try to gather them for some storytelling - Bible stories that we've memorized, but won't read. We'll engage them with questions, encourage the Christians who are there - by my understanding, there's only one - and try to make new disciples.

"It is written:
'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'Every knee will bow before me,
Every tongue will confess to God.'"
Romans 14:11

May that not be the first time they bow their knees, nor the first time their tongues confess.

Please pray for the trip - pray that God will give us divine appointments, give us boldness, give us tireless bodies and faithful hearts.

And if you're willing and able to help financially, please let me know.

Amen.

05 January 2010

Night Run

Kyle had the great idea of going for a run tonight: it was above 40 still, and dark. So after roll call and a training staff meeting, Kyle, Gabe, and I suited up and headed out. I led us on a 2.5 mile loop around the athletic fields, where there are no cars and no people - not after dark, anyway. The lights of the Academy reflecting off the clouds provided enough light for us to run, butsometimes I flashed my Surefire ahead just to check things out.

Running in the FiveFingers is always great. Feels like I'm floating. I'm surprised how great my legs feel after last week - I was easily faster than my squadmates. I shouldn't have been noticeably faster, but I was feeling great.

And there's nothing like running under the silhouette of the mountains and a few twinkling stars to lift your spirit.

Training camp: days 6 and 7

Day 5: Mount Lemmon. It's 26 miles. Uphill.

Well, mostly. After 8,000 feet - and remember, it starts at 2500 - there's a little descent. Which makes it all the worse when you see the sign that says "Elevation: 8,000" the second time. "Didn't I already do this!?" But there's still a few miles to go.

The first three or four miles were brutal. Every time we rounded a bend, a gust of wind met us straight in the face. MSgt E was on my wheel for most of that. Then he passed me, but I knew he wouldn't stay away. It's 26 miles! At least, once we got back into the mountain, the wind died down.

From BO Training Camp 09/10

The fast group was long gone, and the girls were behind me, so I was climbing by myself for most of it. Stopped to pee at mile 13, starting catching glimpses of MSgt E around the bends soon after. Caught him at mile 16 and gave him an encouraging but-slap. "This sucks," he said. "Only ten miles to go," I replied. "Ten miles!?" Yeah.

Not long after that, I passed Capt B and ran out of water. I grabbed some clean snow from the side of the road, stuffed a little in my mouth and a lot in my bottle. But before it melted, Adam came down in the van and hooked me up with a fresh bottle.

At the top, I took a right turn to climb another mile or two to the ski resort. That was steep, and unlike the rest of the climb, unfamiliar - I didn't go up to the resort last year. But it was worth, and when I went back down to Summerhaven, I finished of my teammates'plate sized cookies and pizza. Wouldn't want that to go to waste.

There was snow at the top, so it was bound to be a chilly descent. But Cody put our bag in the wrong car, and I had to borrow stuff from three different people so I'd be warm enough. Made it down warm and safe about 45 minutes later.

On Saturday, only five of us got up for an easy ride to and through Saguaro National Park. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever ridden: three or four different types of cacti, mountains, and plains all together.

From BO Training Camp 09/10

I guess it takes a lot of riding in a week to make 35 miles at 18 mile an hour seem like an easy ride. Wound up with 405 for the week.

Worth it.