Over the last year I’ve had a few people question—if not my sanity—the motives behind some of the things I’ve done (shark diving in Honduras, traveling to Afghanistan, chasing after a black bear on vacation and climbing Long’s Peak). I’ve even had a person or two (Okay. One. My wife) question whether I have a “death wish” or not. To put this on record (Amy, my dear) No. I DO NOT have a death wish. Really. I don’t. But I don’t fear death either. Not anymore, at least.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and “wax all religious” and say that the reason I don’t fear death is because “I have such and deep and profound relationship with God that His perfect love has driven out all fear.” That would be dishonest (at the most) and disingenuous (at the least). True. There IS an element of this that is due to my relationship with God, but I also think it’s a stage-in-life thing too. Not to get maudlin, but I’m 52 years old and I have much more life in the rearview mirror behind me than I have in the windshield before me. My kids are all grown. Raised and out of the house. And three weeks ago I had the privilege of walking my daughter Katie down the aisle to marry the love of her life…which leaves only one true, family landmark ahead for me: grandkids! And I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the day when I have a little Ben/Ali or a little Nick/Katie around to love and spoil…and I really do look forward to growing old and feeble with Amy, but if life teaches us anything—and the Bible backs it up— there are no guarantees, right?
Okay. So I climbed Long’s Peak over the weekend. I’m sure that’s why death has been at the forefront of my brain pan—and I got to climb it with two of my favorite people in the world, my son Ben and my best friend and dive buddy, Jim Burgen (See pic).
I won’t lie; climbing Long’s Peak was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’m sure it’s because I’m such a wimp. Not only was the trek to the summit physically exhausting, the return trip...hobbling and bouncing off all those boulders...was excruciatingly brutal on almost every muscle and bone in my body. And IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET BACK! I will no longer refer to it as Long’s Peak anymore. From this day forward I will only refer to it as “Too Freakin’ Long’s Peak”! We started the climb at 2AM on Sunday morning and made it back to the truck after 7PM. For those of you who have tackled this behemoth, you know this to be true, there really are places where you can die along the way. Several, as a matter of fact!
Standing in line at the Kaiser clinic this morning really brought this all home to me though. I was in line because I need to get some vaccination shots for a trip I’m taking to the Sudan. I was in line, insurance card in hand, when I saw several cancer patients walking through the lobby. Mid-morning is obviously the time of day that chemotherapy patients have their treatments. I witnessed several people with their heads wrapped in that telltale cancer scarf with the baby-fine whisps of hair protruding underneath. My heart ached for them and I silently (and selfishly) thanked God for not allowing cancer into my world and (quite selfishly, again) asked Him to keep me from that fate. I may not be afraid to die, but I really don't want to go out that way. I would much rather fall off a cliff or get eaten by a bear.
I'm not saying anything new here. Death comes for us all. No one gets out of this alive. But there’s no doubt about it, there’s a thrill in doing things that are life-threatening. I mean, I loved swimming with the reef sharks in Honduras last November—probably because they had the potential of eating me. And I loved seeing that black bear while vacationing with Amy 2 weeks ago in Estes Park…and I loved running after him…and I loved standing less than 100 yards away from him—even though he could have mauled my dog Peanut and I in a heartbeat. As I said to my wife Amy on the way to get my travel vaccinations today, “I would much rather die living…doing something crazy-dangerous…than to die dying.” But the only real choice I have in the matter is my “dash”, right? That little dash on my tombstone that will represent all that I’ve done between my birth date (March 4, 1960) and my death date (TBD). And I want my dash to have a little flash! Don’t you?
This was one of the driving forces behind our new ministry FULL: Active Outdoor Community. The whole idea of FULL came about over a couple of beers after one of our dives in Honduras—this idea that Jesus promises to give us a full life—a life filled with faith and hope, freedom…and maybe a little adventure. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Part of that “full life” is sharing in it with others too. FULL: Active Outdoor Community is much more than just diving (DEEP), fly fishing (HOOKED), climbing 14ers (PEAK) and camping (GROUNDED). You can do all these by yourself, but doing these things with someone else—in community—is a much better way to do life. And we’re all about community here at Flatirons, right? As Creative Director Chris Coleman is fond of saying (tongue placed firmly in cheek), “Community is our middle name!”
So, are you looking for a little adventure? Looking to meet other folks at Flatirons? Looking to give your “dash a little flash”. Then, check out FULL: Active Outdoor Community at: www.flatironschurch.com/full. Heck! You can even join some other folks and climb Long's Peak too! And while you do that…I need to go ice down my ankles...again.