Archive for January, 2015

About a year and a half ago in late August just before school started a newly hired teacher at my school was helping his brother move a heavy chest of drawers down a set of steps. The soon to be Science Department colleague of mine was bravely leading down the stairs backwards while his brother held onto the bottom plate of the piece of furniture, bent over double struggling down. Part way down the bottom plate broke off and the weight of the chest of drawers came down on the lead brother’s leg just below the knee, snapping the bone. Major reconstructive surgery ensued followed by 3 months in a wheelchair and 3 months on crutches. For a 26 year old who was used to running and was passionate about rock climbing it was a significant blow. School started the next week and he toughed out the first year in public school lesson preps, navigating among students in a wheelchair, severe pain, discouragement about the possibility of not walking right and not climbing at all, the humility of having to be bathed, and more. Not at all a quitter he began to do physical therapy as soon as the doctor allowed it. I can only imagine what kind of pain and discouragement he underwent to try and get his active life back. After he began to walk again just before Christmas, he also began to hope that he might climb again. His friends began to banter that they were training and would take him on when he returned to the rock because he had always showed them how beforehand.

Still not released by the doctor for full activity he longed to begin getting back in shape. I suggested that since I did pull-ups and hangs on my hangboard while waiting for the fire in the stove to get hot, he could join me. In January we started getting together to exercise and get stronger for climbing. The pull-up bar I installed in my basement is nothing more than a sledgehammer handle that had broken off. I mounted it to the floor joists:

AHT5As we trained each week we would come up with new ways to strengthen our core or work muscles we knew to be used in some movement in rock climbing. I installed a clamp to the joists beyond the sledgehammer handle so that we could raise our legs up to it for core development and keep our feet on it for horizontal pull-ups. Gimpy had to stay off of his leg early on. He kept trash talking with his buddies and began to tell them that he was training so that he could climb in the Spring. They wanted to know what kind of training he could be doing in his condition. He retorted that he was doing axe handle training (sounded tougher than sledgehammer handle) in the basement of a colleague (Old Man) and would be ready to take them on. Frequently as they texted or talked he would tout the merits of Axe Handle Training. First thing in the late Spring when he was able to get out climbing he did better than all of them. How could it be, 6 months out of commission after major surgery? They couldn’t believe it! He would just say, “It’s that Axe Handle Training. You should try it!” So one evening this last Fall during a session he Tweeted some pics to his friends of the Old Man and Gimpy hard at the training.


Old Man preparing to do an offset pull-up

Old Man preparing to do an offset pull-up

Old Man executing an offset pull-up

Old Man executing an offset pull-up


Moral of this story: Use what’s available, don’t give up,

work with someone else, work hard,

don’t accept the expected outcomes






Gimpy works his core

Gimpy works his core


Read Full Post »

Creator and Judge

God’s Word is true, beginning to end. How do I know? It says so. History and nature point to its truth. Changed lives communicate it. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts are true. It is all true or it is none true. It outlasts every attempt to do away with it or explain it away or ignore it or water it down. Look around the evidence is everywhere:

Beautiful features around the world

Remnants of origin and change unfurled

Point to Creator and Judge of all

First it was good and then came Adam’s Fall


Exists by the Word of His Power

Sky, land, and sea, every bee and flower

Sculpted by the Flood, rearranged now

Destroyed, yet beautified, amazing how


Every force balanced perfectly well

In the life zone with tides and more we dwell

Self-adjusting ecosystems work

Provide food and recycle as a perk


Fine layered strata formed in a day

Coal seams the same age formed in the same way

Mountains folded, canyons scoured away

Forces of judgment, Flood remnants that stay


Does it matter how it came to be?

How it changed long past to what we now see?

Indeed it does, acknowledge God true

As Creator and Judge and Savior, too

Read Full Post »

It is poem writing season again. I had trouble starting. When I tried the only thing that came was the first line. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I was vaguely sad. As that settled on my soul I began to think why that would be so given the blessing and lack of obvious stress in my life just now. Rather than try to figure it out I set to pursuing the solution which is found in Scripture. I Peter 5:3-4 says, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Colossians 3:2-4 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Romans 6:11 says, “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Nehemiah 8:10, “this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Given the context, the last verse is not saying that we should never be grieved, but that there is a time not to be. A perpetual state of sadness means a consistent looking away from God toward the circumstances. May God rescue us from that.

Dear Lord help me when I’m sad

To learn Your joy by faith known

Dwell on Your grace and be glad

More my Savior’s beauty shown


In trials and temptations be

Focused on heaven’s riches

That in hardships we may see

Purpose and service niches


Find passion for mundane chores

In praise it brings to our Lord

Through crises open the doors

To know God and Him adored


When loved ones die or withdraw

Find solace in Father’s eyes

From His Word and prayer we draw

Comfort to resist lonely lies


As stress births desperation

Then retreat to His strong side

Flee your worry creation

Rest when in Him you confide


When overwhelmed totally

Seek out saints to hold you up

Build vulnerability

God will through them fill your cup


Not as though struggle will stop

Short of heaven it will not

World, flesh, devil will not drop

The constant barrage of rot


But Christ has overcome them

For those who trust God can know

Victory and joy in Him

And witness to others flow

Read Full Post »

I hope that doing hard things on New Year’s Day will not become a trend. There was a white ash tree in my side yard that leaned significantly toward my neighbor’s house and about 25 feet away from the corner of his house. The tree had split half of its main trunk into our yard about 5 years ago during a drought. There was very little wind when it happened, just hot dry air. That left the other half of the trunk leaning predominantly over his house. Recently I gave him permission to take down the largest limb that extended halfway across his roof. I did not want to risk removing it and perhaps felling it on his roof. With three friends pulling on a rope he climbed 10 feet up into the first fork and fell the limb, completely missing his house. The tallest part of the trunk, some 60 or 65 feet tall still leaned over his house. The day he removed the one limb I noticed the end approaching. On one side of the bottom most fork were large white patches that I determined must be fungus eating away at the moist rot in the fork. If I didn’t take it down it would come down on his house for sure and the other half could reach my house as well. Weather and health and sons to help did not come available until 1/1/15. The most time consuming part of the job all the way through was getting rope over the appropriate forks for me to prusik up or for the truck to pull the branches down. The first two pictures show me standing in a fork about 40 feet up just after felling the first high limb successfully.

Upthetree2 Upthetree3

I don’t know which makes me more nervous, getting involved with the chainsaw that is near or above my head or the limb that I’m removing with the saw. Two of my boys did an excellent job yanking the limbs away from me and my neighbor’s house and even the other trees in the yard. It took nearly 8 hours to climb, rope a limb, cut, move, and repeat, and finally descend. Proper tree climbing and removal equipment would, of course, make this all go more quickly with less risk. This is the third time that I have done this operation and almost certainly the most risky. I really think that should quit now. Coming down was fun though.


We took down the main trunk just above the bottom fork before quitting for the day. That left just the left most branches. We took down the left most branch one evening after work. There was only this large, hard leaning middle branch on the left fork. I knew it would be hard. We planned and deliberated and tried the next Saturday. Notch, pull, back cut, pull harder, and then it fell on my house. The tops of the branches were all that reached but they could have done damage had it not been for the large limb on the Catalpa tree that took the brunt of the blow and eased it down onto the gable end as it came to the ground. No harm was done to the house but it uglified the Catalpa real fine. With the huge success of the first two days of cutting and the moderate success (no hospital, no repairs needed, no equipment breakage, just a branch down we hadn’t wanted down) the last day we only had the last 15 feet of double trunk to raze. Given the risks and the fact I like trees in my yard I had second guessed myself several times during this project, but when I fell that last trunk section it split in half when it hit the ground. Out came water and it was coated with mud inside. There was a reason for the fungus patches on the bark. We had with the prayers of friends and help of God, the pickup truck and my two sons’ help, and various pieces of equipment gotten the tree safely on the ground. Considering how ash splits when stuck wrong, it makes me wonder why bats are made from it. I guess I’ll have to research that. Perhaps I should take a easy stroll in the woods next New Year’s Day.


Read Full Post »