Archive for August 20th, 2007

Having trouble seeing the connection? I went climbing for three days at the Obed National Scenic River cliffs just northwest of Wartburg, TN. Below is a picture of me flashing a 5.11a on toprope.Pet Semetary 5.11a at the Stephen King Library of the Obed River

As I have improved as a climber my climbing mentors (Keith belaying me and Adrian  taking the picture) have emphasized key elements to climbing. I have also discovered some on my own.

So I was thinking about important considerations for improving climbing and life.

1) Balance is crucial. Whether leaning out for an awkward move or resting, being over one’s center of gravity or moving toward a new position of balance are the only way to stay on the rock for long. Ephesians 5:15-17 says “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is”. Making the most of my time? How do I do that Lord? I’m pulled in every direction not only by responsibilities but by desires and needs as well. Oh, but You are good and give us no more than what you are asking of us. The rest is superfluous and needs to be shed (climbing? Well that depends.)

2) Core body strength is necessary. Frequently climbing feels like all hands and forearms, but that is just as frequently because the core is not being used to make oppositional use of the hands and feet to spread the strain. Many hard moves are not possible without side pulling or pulling up (under-clinging). The thoracic core of the body is necessary to attempt and hold such moves and continue with endurance. Romans 12:2 “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Transformation in the inner man so that we are in tune to God’s direction results in a strength from Him at your core that can overcome temptation and reduce wasted motion.

3) Focus trumphs skill and strength. If you are not focused on how you are going to use your body parts and what the immediate and subsequent moves require you’re not likely to top out. You’ll either miss your move sequence or tear off of a handhold or get into a position from which you can’t recover. The ultimate in focus is called flow. You are so focused that you remain relaxed, move almost without conscious planning, and amaze yourself at how smoothly it went. Some want to consign a spiritual component to flow (and I do not deny that all things are spiritual) but this is just confidence and intensity balanced to make best use of machinery (body and mind). Joshua 1:7-8 says “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Succeeding at what ever your hand finds to do that God has set for you involves remembering constantly (focusing) on His way of doing it. Since we forget so quickly even “like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like,” we must be like “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25) The world, the flesh, and the devil want us to focus on anything but God and His will: entertainment, health, success, prestige, survival, responsibility. All of these are good and have a place but only under God’s direction and for us. He is the object of focus then results success.

4) Reach is nice, but technique is better. The two people that I climb the most with are vertically challenged. I’m not tall at 5’8″ but I have reach that frustrates both of them at times. They are better climbers and inevitably do some technically harder move to overcome their height deficiency, making me look silly in the process (Here they are moving through a segment of the climb that I can’t do even though I can reach easier holds.) Mark 12:41-44 says “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of penny. Calling the disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” But, Jesus, counldn’t their superior financial reach help Your kingdom more than her humble technique of giving from the heart and sacrificially? Jesus’ math doesn’t work like ours because He blesses what He sees is done from the heart. He can leverage the financial market to improve the liquidity of your mite.

5) Double Excessively check safety hardware and communication. Of the climbing deaths I have heard of in the five years that I’ve climbed the most frequent seems to be overconfidence in improperly use equipment. To state it more simply, most falls are rappelling falls where the knowledgeable person assumes the equipment will support them. I have seen my climbing partners and I have also frequently jerked on a line hooked in two feet in front of me numerous times checking 3 or 4 times that all connections are “bomb proof”, as we say. The consequences of not being sure can be death. We give permission to be irritated for not communicating: “On belay?”, “Belay on.”, “Climbing.”, “Climb on.”, etc. I Samuel 30:6 reports David’s reaction to a bad situation, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” I’m sure David was no less discourage than everyone else and more. The village he and his followers lived in had been burned. All of the women and children had been taken along with anything of value: sheep, donkeys, gold, tools, … And now the men were so frustrated that they were going to stone David. David in effect checked what his security before God was, what His options were. It is the reason we review the salvation story and process in so many of our songs and sermons. We forget; life drags us down; we must be reminded, constantly. This is our safety net not only for eternity but in how to proceed with confidence in this life: His mercy, His grace.

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