Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taking a name in Vain

The other night, I read a section out of the gospel of Mark. Mark 4 to be exact. There in the story we find Jesus calming the storm as if it were nothing. The storm was bad enough to have experienced fishermen fearing for their lives and Jesus, once woken up, says only a few words and it stops. Then the disciples marvel at His power.

After reading this I am snapped back to my life. I began thinking about how I claim to follow this man Jesus the Christ. I have even put the label of Christian upon myself to show others that I am a follower of Jesus. I then began to think of how undeserving of that name I am at times.

Taking the name or label of Christian is not something to be taken lightly. This actually reminds me of something I used to hear quite often…”Thou shall not take the LORD’s name in vain.” Preachers pulling out number three on the top ten list. Normally used in context of someone saying things like, “God damn it,” or “Jesus Christ!” as some sort of explicative. How these two different things go together may not seem evident at first. If it does you probably already know where I am going with this.

If you take a close look at Exodus 20 (that is where all ten commandments are listed); it doesn’t begin with “you shall have no other gods before Me.” That is verse three. The very beginning of the chapter says, “Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” This is what is called context. It is very important in interpreting surrounding verses, namely for our purposes verse seven.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in Vain.”

So here we are in Exodus 20. You have Moses on top of Mt.Sinai [like any good follower of God he is a climber]. He is chilling on the top of this mountain with God who is giving him the beginning of what will become the Law. Moses and the people of Israel have just been brought out of the slavery of Egypt. God, by doing some miraculous things, has delivered them. Even after crossing the sea of Reeds, the LORD did more amazing things to sustain them. God had made the waters of Marah (Marah comes from the word for bitter) sweet for the waters had been bitter. He had begun to provide manna for all the people. They didn’t know what it was [there is a pun there if you know Hebrew] but they knew it was good. Then God, through Moses’ staff, brought forth water from the rock at Horeb. The LORD had done some amazing things for the people of Israel. This in turn, is why they (read you) should not use His name in vain.

To use it in vain is more than just to turn it into some kind of “cuss” word or explicative when you are angry. To use it in vain is after seeing the power of and the power that is behind that name then using it in any selfish, malicious, foolish, or empty way. For the people of Israel to use His name, יהוה in any of these ways after witnessing what He had just done would take away from the power in that holy name. This is why you will not go unpunished. It is like a child receiving the best gift they ever had then saying it is worthless 5 minutes later. Throughout Exodus God is always doing things for his namesake. There is a power in that name and God does not want it to be desecrated.

This reminds me of a passage in the New Testament that I feel is along the same lines. Matthew 12:31b. “…but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” I have heard it said and would agree that this basically means witnessing an act of the Spirit of God then denying that it was the Spirit or God that did it. Saying that the Spirit has no power. This verse along with Exodus 20:7 seems to be going along the same lines. Anyways, before I get too off track, how does this fit with the name Christian?

Over the years, I have learned and seen that there is power in the name of Jesus the Christ. We as followers have taken on the title of little Christs or Christians. That in itself is a very honorable and powerful thing. WE have seen and have also been given power from God through Jesus. So the name is very fitting. Anytime that we misuse or misrepresent that name by using it selfishly, maliciously, foolishly, or in an empty way; we destroy the reputation of such an honorable title and we destroy the name of our God and of Jesus.

Granted, we are all not perfect, not yet at least. I thank God for the grace he has offered and continues to offer. If it were not for that grace we would never be able to honor that name given to us as followers. It is at this point that we take on a more honorable name than that of Christian. It is when we are following God closely that we are given the title of a child of God.

You are probably wondering now how this has anything to do with the opening in which I talk about Jesus calming the storm. When I originally wrote this I ended it at the previous paragraph then later realized that the first paragraph is still just hanging there. So I figured I would try and tie it all together. In the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the first miraculous things that the disciples witness after being called out to follow Jesus. They saw the power that Jesus possessed. This was only the beginning. Through the course of the years of His ministry they saw many more miracles and most of all they witnessed the power of life over death in the resurrection. After that, they didn’t look back. Their lives were changed to the point that they didn’t give God a reason to say they took His name in vain. I long to be just as they were.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ice Climbing in Southern IL

Living in Illinois and being a climber I am constantly being asked where I climb. If you were too look at a topographic map of the area in which I live you would probably wonder if the makers of the map forgot to put the elevation lines on it. Its just very flat here. But there is climbing not too terribly far from here in which to climb. Most winters though, we stop venturing those two hours and head to the climbing gym instead. Its normally cold and wet during the winter. There isn't much to do outside this time of year. It is rare that we get snow and if we do it is normally gone in a week. The temperatures fluctuate so much this time of year that it can be 10 degrees one day and the next 45. This poses another problem for climbers, finding good days to get out and climb. Well last year, I realized a way to get around this.

Late one day last winter I went to Jackson Falls to get a few pitches in. While walking to the climbs, I noticed that there was still a lot of ice on some of the walls that didn't get much sun. I started talking to a friend who is more of a local than I am and he informed me that there was quite a bit of ice that had formed up down there. So I started scheming of ways in which I could get some ice climbing gear in preparation for the next year. I already had a pair of boots. I had bought them used in Colorado two years earlier when I went out there with my friends Dave and Scott to go ice climbing. On that trip I learned how to ice climb and fell in love. We were able to spend three days in Ouray, CO climbing all day at the ice park there. For those of you who don't know, on the edge of Ouray there is a canyon in which they have set up a water system to make waterfalls. In the winter they spray that water over the canyon walls and form ice climbs. There are climbs every 10-15 feet for around 3/4 of a mile. This park is one of the premier places to ice climb because of the shear number of climbs. Since this trip, I have been wanting to get on some ice.

This past year, I was finally able to afford some gear. I bought a pair of Petzl M10 crampons late this summer. Then a few weeks ago I purchased a pair of Black Diamond Vipers. Now I was ready to climb some ice. While I was taking WFR course in Carbondale, I went to Jackson Falls on my day off to possibly climb some ice with Jacob if anything was in. A few days prior, Jacob hung a rope to get one water fall to form up quicker. This isn't common practice in most places but since the temperature varies so much in winter we may only have a few days window in which to climb a formation. Unfortunately that day it hadn't formed enough. We were afraid that if we climbed it that day that it would be destroyed. So we elected to wait until another day, if it stayed cold.

Finally, yesterday was my chance to use all this new gear and climb some ice. I went down to southern IL with Jon and Russ. Russ had been down to Jackson Falls the day before and said the formation was amazing. So I was stoked. But before we went to Jackson, we were gonna check out some water falls that Jon knew of on some private property and see if they were in. After hiking around for a while we didn't find anything that was formed up enough to climb, but did see some potential for some amazing routes. We then set our sights on the falls at Jackson Falls. For those who have been to Jackson Falls before you soon know why it has that name. There are multiple water falls in that canyon. Most people know of the waterfall that is closest to the main campground. It is probably the one that has the most water go over it. We did not climb that. It probably wasn't anywhere close to being climbable. Instead we set our sights on the route that had the rope hung on it to help it form up.
Russ on Puss Cat (you can see the slab I soloed in the background)

This formation was given the name Pussy Cat due to the large amount of bobcat tracks in the area. It was given the rating of WI5. It is maybe around 30 feet tall. It might be a bit taller. I am horrible at determining the height of things. Either way, it is sustained the entire way. So we hike to the route and quickly set up a top rope on it. None of us own and ice screws so leading is out the window. We each got about 3 laps in on it when we started want to do something else for a bit. In between burns, I ended up hiking up the hill to this short slab (maybe 15-20 feet tall) that had a thin layer of ice on it. I get up there look at it, clean my crampons off (they had collected a lot of snow and leaves), then starts climbing it without a rope. Starting this route was rather difficult. I had gotten one good stick with my right axe but was unable to get anything for my feet. Every time that I kicked, the ice just fell off the wall. I then decided to stick my left crampon on a slightly less vertical spot and pull myself up. After a few feet, I was able to get my right crampon on some ice that didn't fall apart. As I began climbing, I started to realize that some of the ice is good and some is completely horrible. At one point a section of ice that i lightly swung into came off. This scared the crap out of me. This was the first time I had ever gone up ice without a top rope. Crap, I didn't even have a rope for this climb. Eventually, I made it to the top, breathed a breathe of relief then went back to the base of Pussy Cat super excited about my first ice free solo. Russ just gave me a look like I am crazy when I came back. He watched as the ice fell apart while I climbed it.

After this, Jon decided he wanted to do some rock climbing. He had found a 5.12 sport route about 40 yards from the waterfall. So we head over there and he gives it a shot. On his first go he worked out a lot of the beta then made it to the top. After that I decided to try it on top rope. I didn't bring any rock shoes so I resorted to trying it in my boots. I made it to the first bolt but no further. I didn't care though. I came down to climb ice not rock. Russ then gave it a quick run, finding some beta for the crux section. Then Jon decided to try and red point it. The crux shut him down through and we decided to stick with ice for the rest of the day. We then went back to Pussy Cat, got one more lap in then packed our stuff up and moved to another waterfall.
Jon on the 5.12
Jon topping out Pussy Cat
We walked down to the dogwalk area where there is a short waterfall that cascades a bit at the bottom on some rocks. I had decided to free solo this because I didn't want to set up a rope for such a short climb. After getting my crampons back on I head straight for the climb and start up. Right below the vertical section where the water hits a rock there were huge air pockets in the ice from snow. This left me less than reassured. Luckily the water fall was slightly more than vertical so it did not have the snow pockets to worry about. I then started up the vertical section. It was great. It had some great pockets in the ice that I could hook and soon my axes were near the lip. There I had to start swinging. The ice was amazing at the lip which was good because after I kicked to get my right foot on something some ice on the back of the waterfall came crashing down on the backside. I continued on and made it to the top without any trouble. Russ then came up as well. This ended our day of climbing. I was able to get 6 pitches in. 4 or 5 of which were on WI 5 and one on what I would say was WI3. Now I am ready to get out to Colorado and climb more ice. The only sad thing is that once spring hits I will have to go back to climbing regular ole' rock.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cold Weather Camping

This past week I have been fairly inactive. I haven't had any work and haven't had anything to do most nights. Last night the boredom finally got to me. Knowing that it was going to be one of the coldest nights this year, I came up with a plan to sleep outside in my backyard. There are a few nice things about my back yard that make it nice for camping. First off, it is fairly sheltered from all but the north. Unfortunately that is also where the road is. Secondly, we have a fire ring. For me, having a fire just makes life about ten times better instantly. Also it allows for warmth and a source of heat for cooking things like marshmallows and snow.

So after 'The Office' finished, I gathered up the gear I had inside and set out for the long, arduous journey to my back yard. After hiking a grueling 30 feet of shoveled sidewalk with my arms full, I arrived at my campsite for the night. First off I shoveled some of the snow away from where I was planning on sleeping and got the snow off of the twigs in the fire ring. Then I trudged all the way back to the garage where I was able to gather many hot coals from the wood burning stove to get my own fire going. I then laid out where I was going to sleep. First the tarp, then the pads. I decided to not get the sleeping bag out yet. I just wanted a place to sit down. Once my fire was going I figured it was time to melt some snow to make some hot chocolate. Now I was set. I would soon be sitting by my fire sipping hot chocolate and enjoying the crisp and clear night.

After about 45 minutes, the snow had finally melted and had achieved the desired temperature. I never thought it would take so long to melt snow. But who cares it was time for hot chocolate. While waiting for the snow to melt, I decided to get the sleeping bag out for more insulation for my butt while waiting. By this point I was ready to go to sleep but still needed to drink the hot chocolate that I had waited so long for. Too be honest it wasn't that great. I should have thrown another packet of mix in the cup. Finally, after downing the drink I took a few layers off and crawled in the bag and pulled the rest of the tarp over top. I was now in my own little world. And with ear plugs in I couldn't even hear anything happening outside.

I slept great until about 0330 when my body decided to tell me to lose some fluids. Its one thing to have to walk across the hall to the bathroom in a heated house to go, but to get out of a warm sleeping bag in near zero degree temps is very undesirable. After 20 minutes of debating on whether or not I really had to go, I crawled out of the bag threw my boots on and found the nearest convenient place to relieve myself. I figured that this would allow me to get back to sleep and enjoy the rest of the night. I couldn't have been more wrong. Not long after getting back in my own little world, my mind starts going crazy. It started thinking about this and that. I can never sleep when it does this so I just sit back and "watch" it until it is finished. Finally it shuts off and i go back to sleep.

The rest of the morning I would occasionally wake up, notice it was still cold outside, turn over and go back to sleep. Then a bit after seven I think I hear someone calling my name. It sounds like my mom but she sounds far away. Then I start to wake up and realize my mom is outside and trying to wake me up. I can barely hear her because I am in a tarp, in a sleeping back with ear plugs in. She wanted to make sure I hadn't died during the night. She informs me that the temperature is 2 degrees Fahrenheit then goes back inside. I was kind of mad because I wanted to sleep more, but once I saw the colors of the sun hitting the clouds off to the north and the early morning light I had to sit there and admire it for a while. Then I realized, its freaking cold out here. So I quickly packed up my stuff and headed inside to enjoy the warmth of a house.

After writing this little story about last night, I realize it is pretty boring. I mostly just wrote it because I haven't posted anything on this blog in a long time. I figured this was the best thing that I have done in a long time. Hope you enjoyed reading about the crazy things I do. Also, here is a picture of my "campsite."