Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Pikes Peak Challenge

On Saturday, September 12th, Elke and I hiked in the 2009 Pikes Peak Challenge, which is a fundraiser event in support of the Brain Injury Association of Colorado. I have been wanting to do this event for a few years in honor of my good friend Troy Bush, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) about 8 years ago. In fact, Troy and a bunch of his friends were supposed to join Elke and me this year, but things got in the way, and it ended up being only me and Elke. We had decided, when others were going to be hiking with us, to call ourselves "Team Murdy" (Troy's childhood nickname), but Team Murdy only ended up being a team of two.

The "Challenge" is impressive because it is a 13 mile hike from Manitou Springs, CO up to the top of Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail. This route is the longest and most elevation gaining ascent of any 14,000 foot peak in the USA. Thus to see a host of TBI survivors determined to accomplish this daunting course is very moving.

I have run this course many times in the past, either training for other runs or as a participant in the Pikes Peak Ascent, and this is no easy "hike". It is (again) 13 miles of hiking up 7,500 feet of elevation gain to the 14,115 foot summit. Along the way you pass various shelters and memorial plaques that are dedicated to people who have died on this peak...

...and yet, this does not deter the dedicated survivors of TBI, who in reality, have faced a far greater challenge in their own recoveries. The Challenge for them is simply one more thing that they are able to do again, or, for the first time. Indeed, a sort of theme slogan that many were hiking with was, "Because I Can".

Since this event is not a race, the times are much longer than the Ascent, and therefore, for safety sake, the start time must be much earlier. You have a choice of starting in the first wave, at 5:00am, or in the second wave, at 5:30am. Since Elke and I like to sleep as much as possible, we opted for the 5:30 start.

We actually finally started hiking at about 5:38am, and quickly realized that we would have to curb our desire to move faster in that the trail was simply packed with folks settling into a pace that they would be able to maintain for the next 6-9 hours. So, we walked and talked and just enjoyed what seemed like effortless movement in the dark for about the first 3 miles. Once we hit "No Name Creek" we were able to begin to pick up our pace a bit, and the crowd was clearly thinning out by then.By the time we reached Barr Camp at about 10,000 feet, the hikers had really thinned out and everyone we saw then was part of the first wave starters. During the whole hike we were also running in front of the weather system that was to hit the peak at about noon during the event. We both had dressed light, depending on a certain pace to keep us warm, so we really did need to move at a steady clip.

The week before the event I had talked to Troy, and he encouraged me to make sure I met people and talked with them on the way up, so I made it a habit, as we came up on someone, to ask them what their story was and why they were up here doing this. This was a great exercise and it was really nice to meet various people and hear about their experiences and hardships.

The hours flew by and so did the miles, and by and by, we made the summit. The volunteers were wonderful and thanked us profusely for participating in the event and helping raise awareness and money for TBI. We were struck with just the opposite sentiment, wanting to thank them profusely for all that they had done for the same cause.

At the summit we received our medals for finishing (15th & 16th overall...out of 450), and headed into the shelter building for warmth and to get a bite to eat. As we chatted with a new acquaintance (Tim Allison...who also runs with C.R.U.D.), I noticed that Elke's lips were a deep purply-blue. I asked her if she was cold or if she was feeling bad, to which she said "no". I finally walked her over to the first aid folks and the head doctor said, "Hypoxia". Elke got to be the first to suck on oxygen and since she looked so cute they dubbed her "the oxygen model"!We had a great time and will do our best to be back next year for this event and we hope that many others will join us as Team Murdy rides again...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It is actually the case that rock star Alice Cooper is a confessing Christian. Indeed, Elke and I ran into him at an R.C. Sproul conference in San Diego about 18 years ago. Here is an interesting article that I simply post with no comment:
Alice Cooper, of “School’s Out for Summer” and “I’m 18” fame, was told that his show can’t go on in Finland.

Cooper and his band were booked to perform at Tampere Areena Oy, an arena in Tampere, Finland Dec. 11.

However, the owners of the arena cancelled the event when the supposedly dark nature of Cooper’s “Theatre of Death” show came to light.

Harri Wiherkoski, managing director of the arena said that "artists who express suspicious values from Christianity's point of view cannot be allowed to perform at the venue."

He also told reporters that his venue doesn’t “arrange concerts where Satanism or non-god-worshipping occurs."

Concert promoter Kalle Keskinen, said “We never imagined that a rock veteran who has performed in Finland in four separate decades without any problems and who has spoken in public of his own religious convictions would not be allowed to perform at Tampere Areena in 2009."
Keskinen said the concert will probably be moved to nearby Espoo, however this is contingent on Alice Cooper’s approval, he said.

Cooper, who is a practicing Christian, told Cross Rhythms magazine last year that he reconciles his stage persona with his personal faith without problem.

“As a Christian, I don't declare myself as a 'Christian rock star.' I'm a rock performer who's a Christian. Alice Cooper is the guy who wants to entertain the audience - it happens that he's a Christian. Alice (the character I play on stage) began life as a villain and he remains one. There's a villain and a hero in every Shakespeare play," he said.
" Alice is no more dangerous than a villain in a cartoon or a Disney film. We have fun with him. He snarls and wears make up. He's punished for his crime and he comes back on the stage in white top and tails. We put on a good show. I've always put limits on Alice because I believe there's a certain amount of Alice that's a gentleman. He'd slit your throat, but he'd never swear at you. And there's always a punchline; he may kill you, but he'll slip on a banana peel. I get right-wing Christians down on me and I always ask them the question: 'If I was doing Macbeth, would it be OK?' And they always say that's Shakespeare so of course. I say that's about four times more violent than anything I do on stage."

The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality-By John Piper

This is from John Piper's blog today:

August 20, 2009

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.” It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected...a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.
The tornado happens on a Wednesday...during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry. The eyewitness of the damage continues:
This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown. The time: 2PM. The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two...and then lifts.
Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.
Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.
Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)
5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.
Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)
6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

...and, here is a news story on it

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where the Columbines Grow

Where the snowy peaks gleam in the moonlight,
above the dark forests of pine,
And the wind foaming waters dash onward,
toward lands where the tropic stars shine;
Where the scream of the bold mountain eagle,
responds to the notes of the dove
Is the purple robed West, the land that is best,
the pioneer land that we love.
That's the first verse of "Where the Columbines Grow", the song written by A.J. Flynn and adopted as the official state song of Colorado on May 8, 1915 by act of the Colorado General Assembly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Against Nature

Too often the Christian life is approached on the basis of the way things seem to work in the natural order. This is not entirely incorrect in that we do in fact live in this world and are subject the laws and maxims of the natural least as far as the perishable aspects of our lives are concerned.

Therefore, if you jump off a high enough building, you will die. No matter how much you believe that you will not get hurt-no matter how much 'faith' you muster up thinking that you will rise above it will die. Because, having faith, walking by faith, and believing, is not about overthrowing the physical order of things. It is not the primary faculty by which we interface with the natural order.

This is not to say that faith does not inform the way we interface with the natural order, nor that it will not actually affect our behavior in relation to the natural order. It is simply a statement that faith is about, and engages us in, the unseen, spiritual realities of life. It concerns our souls much more directly than it does our bodies (although our bodies will often manifest the results of our faith).

This is why "faith healings" and the whole "Faith Movement" is so wrong. It takes the instrument of faith-which God grants for believing upon Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls-and makes it primarily an instruments for gaining success or longevity for our bodies. This is not only a miss use of a precious gift, it is the denial and downplaying of a glorious future hope...that hope being the resurrection and transformation of our bodies.

Walking by faith is essentially living (in this life and in our bodies now) in light of the realities of our new identity in Jesus Christ and the blessing promised to us "in Him". That against what we might see around us-that the wicked prosper, people live and then die...never to live again, that to gain you must trample over others, etc.-there is another order, another "kingdom" that this present age will give way to. It is living like we are part of that order-because in Christ we are-and thus living "against nature" in the present evil age.

Faith then is our ability-God given-to reach up into the unseen realm and grasp hold of the realities of the coming age. It is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ-our Savior, Lord, and life. It is that grace which enables us to live "against nature", but while within it. Not "against" it in the sense of hovering instead of walking, claiming instead of working, believing instead of going to a doctor. But "against" it in the sense of-because of our union with Jesus Christ-we have died to sin and no longer can live in it, valuing now God's glory instead of our own well-being, and seeing death as the doorway into closer union with Jesus Christ because once we die, we will then receive the outcome of our faith...the redemption of our bodies.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pastors and Superheroes

I received this email from a family in our congregation that, because of military, has recently moved away to Missouri:
Just a quick little story. Isaiah has asked multiple times today, "Where's Pastor Reese??" (with a very concerned voice). I tried to explain that we had moved to Missouri and Pastor Reese was still in Colorado. After a bit, I discovered that when he was asking where Pastor Reese was, he was referring to an action figure that he kept misplacing!! So I thought you'd get a kick out of knowing that there's a two year old boy that names his action figures after his pastor. :) I guess that means that in his book you're as good as Superman. :)
That kind of made my year!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Horn Peak (13,450 Feet, 8 Miles, 4 Hours)

This past Tuesday morning, while away in the Sangre de Cristo mountains for our church family camp, Elke and I got up early with the aim of running up Horn Peak and back before the morning lecture. This is a peak that I have wanted to summit for many years, but the camp schedule usually doesn't comply with the time needed to get up and down one of the surrounding mountains in a reasonable time. The issue is, that while there is plenty of time in the afternoons, that is when the storms come through, and you don't want to be caught up high when the lightening starts striking.

Elke and I left at 5:30AM from Horn Creek Family Camp and made our way over to the trailhead. We walked up the 1/4 mile path up to the "Rainbow" trail, turned north, and after a nice 3/4 mile run, made it to the Horn Peak trailhead by about 6:00AM. We signed into the hikers log, and noticed that we were the first ones out for the day. Nature "called", and after we both had "answered", we finally started our ascent at about 6:15AM-ish.

The trail to the top is only 3 miles, but the elevation gain is 4,800 feet in those brief 3 miles, making this climb a grueling ordeal. This is a serious mountain and it is so steep that if you were to fall, you would do the "Princes Bride" fall for hundreds of feet. We fast-hiked the majority of the climb, running whenever there was something close to a flat section on the trail, and in about an hour, we broke tree-line.
The morning was cloudy, but as we came through the trees, the sun began to burn through the upper section of the clouds, and we soon were above them in our own, sun-baked mountain paradise. The climb above tree line was beautiful, with vibrant greens and tons of wildflowers. I wish I had a camera because I would look down at Elke coming up, and there was this vast, steep, mountain face behind her, that then dipped into a sea of clouds making the scene awe-striking.

There is a false summit on Horn Peak (Little Horn...I think) which I thought would be a waste to climb over and then down, so we decided to traverse the face for a bit until we got past it and then go straight up to the summit. This was a mistake and it cost us another half of an hour as we death-marched the ridiculously steep tundra and scree, until we finally were able to gain the ridge, which is the proper trail and the way to go.
Once on the ridge, not only did the views open up, but so did our pace. We continued climbing at a pretty good pace, and, in fact, I was able to run some of the ridge right up to the summit. Both Elke and I couldn't believe how strong we were and how good our breathing was during the whole ascent. We were working and breathing hard, but it-that is the breathing-was working too. Neither of us felt like we were at 13,000 feet, and this made the run even more enjoyable.

Looking around the Sangre de Cristos from this peak is a real treat-Crestone, Humbolt, etc, and numerous other mountains are all around you, and this morning, there was a this blanket of clouds that cut the rest of the world off from us and gave us something truly special there up high.

Right as I began to descend, a light rain began to fall. This was an interesting "sub-storm" on top of the other, lower cloud system. Footing at this point became interesting, but this quickly dissipated and we were then treated to the most amazing high altitude rainbow, above the clouds. Standing on the ridge, this multicolor "sign" vibrantly shot across our whole field of vision as we looked to the north and we could see it bend all the way down into the valley floor below, disappearing into the green tundra and trees.

We had donned light rain jackets and beanies, but within about 15 minutes, we shed them and kept our pace up, descending across the ridge and now off of Little Horn. About at this point, Elke said we should have stopped on top and prayed for our kids. Not that this makes us closer to God or anything like that, but it was just that they were in our minds as we were climbing. So, we stopped and I led us in prayer for God's grace upon each of our children (Tava, Elle, Izzy, and Seth).

Coming down Little Horn we could see another party coming up, but just breaking treeline. We quickly got down to them (they were a guided party from Horn Creek camp, being led by "Dave", who does this once a week...lucky!), and talked a moment with them but then kept descending.

When we reached the trees again, Elke just took off! I could not keep up with her and I did not see her again until a prominent creek crossing about a mile and a half down, where she was waiting for me. We kept our pace brisk for the rest of the run, trying to get back for the morning lecture.

We finally made it back down to the trailhead at 9:30AM, signed our of the log, and just needed to run the final mile along the "Rainbow" trail back to camp. We must have been so anxious to get back on time that we turned at the first trail going down, which we soon realized was wrong, causing us to climb the trail again back up to the "Rainbow" trail! This hurt after the pounding downhill.
We got back to the lecture arena at 9:50AM in time to hear the final half of the morning's talk, and then we caught showers during the break before the discussion time. We had got it done, with a couple of wrong turns, and only overestimating our speed by about a half hour (which we still think we could have easily done if we had not taken the two wrong on the way up choosing the face instead of the ridge, and the one on the way down, taking the wrong trail down, and needing to come back up).

We are both sore, and both in the same places, which is funny. We usually don't get to do things like this together, and so we are usually sore in different spots or at different times. But this time we keep saying, "Don't those stairs hurt to come down?!?"

This was a fun one, and one of the best times I have had with Elke in a while... We are very thankful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Orwellian Move by Amazon

Sunday, Jul 19, 2009, Page 11

In George Orwell’s 1984, government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was 1984 and another Orwell book, Animal Farm, that were dropped down the memory hole — by

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them. Digital books bought for the Kindle are sent to it over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices — and, apparently, to make them vanish. An authorized digital edition of 1984 from its US publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was still available on the Kindle store on Friday night, but there was no such version of Animal Farm.

People who bought the rescinded editions of the books reacted with indignation, while acknowledging the literary ironies involved. “Of all the books to recall,” said Charles Slater, an executive with a sheet-music retailer in Philadelphia, who bought the digital edition of 1984 for US$0.99 last month. “I never imagined that Amazon actually had the right, the authority or even the ability to delete something that I had already purchased.”

Antoine Bruguier, an engineer in Silicon Valley, said he had noticed that his digital copy of 1984 appeared to be a scan of a paper edition of the book. “If this Kindle breaks, I won’t buy a new one, that’s for sure,” he said. Amazon appears to have deleted other purchased e-books from Kindles recently. Customers commenting on Web forums reported the disappearance of digital editions of the Harry Potter books and the novels of Ayn Rand...

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.” Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer’s home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.

“As a Kindle owner, I’m frustrated. I can’t lend people books and I can’t sell books that I’ve already read, and now it turns out that I can’t even count on still having my books tomorrow,” Schneier said. Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading 1984 on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” Gawronski said.

Ephesians 2:1-10

I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, by way of a sermon by Dr. Martin Llyod-Jones on this glorious text, and each time I preach from it I get emotional. Those who know me know I am not an emotional person. I usually have cold hands, which I kiddingly say, comes from having a cold heart. But each time I think about the plight of man (and being a man myself), and then the power of God to save, I am brought back to that time of awe and wonder when my eyes were finally opened. Paul strips us of our individualism in this passage, first noting that this is a universal problem (not just Dave's problem), but also showing that we are condemned in Adam...not ultimately upon what we have or haven't done. It is in light of this wrath-deserving state, that we read in 2:4, "But God..." His rich mercy and great love sent His Son to secure redemption for sinners like me.

I preached this message to my congregation this morning, and I got choked-up, again...