What goes up must come down.
My son Scott and I decided to take a course to learn rock climbing and rappelling. So, we traveled to Arizona and early one Saturday morning met our instructor Josh. Less than five minutes after meeting us, two things became clear to Josh: 1) We had made one easy climb before, which meant we knew nothing, but 2) we were eager to learn, commitment proved by the fact that we had already purchased legitimate climbing shoes. (More about the shoes to come.)
Five hours later we felt tired, sore, bruised, bleeding, and just smart enough now to know we have a long way to climb before we truly know what we’re doing. That’s okay, because Josh taught us plenty that day.
We began the adventure with a hike around the back of the climbing course that took us to the top. Once there, Josh showed us a pair of 8-inch bolts driven into a rock as large as my garage. Our Yoda-like guide said, “Always know your anchor; you will need to rely on it, so always know what you’re putting your trust in.”
Several more explanations of the function and infallibility of our equipment familiarized us with all the stuff on our harnesses. Good info to know because a few moments later the time came to stand backwards on the edge of a cliff and begin the gravity-defying rappel to the bottom. “When you’re about to make a challenging move, pause for a moment and think about the systems that support you, especially the anchor.”
“Are we starting with a challenging section?” I asked.
“For you it is because it’s your first time.”
Fair enough. A quick scan of my gear and a mental image of those anchors provided enough reassurance to step backwards and begin the descent. While not quite a Tom Cruise maneuver from a Mission Impossible movie, the adrenaline rush hit me big! No wonder Tom makes so many of those films.
Next, we climbed. About half-way up a rock face, maybe 40 feet, another challenge arrived. I felt stuck. No clear next move appeared. For the moment, my feet solidly gripped the rock, thanks to those sweet new shoes. But I knew that moment could not last long. I heard Josh say from the floor that now seemed 400 feet below me, “It’s okay to make a big move because I’ve got you. Trust your equipment. Remember the anchor.”
Emboldened by the image of those 8-inch bolts, I released my right hand, lunged my body weight to the left, and reached high for a grab point that, unfortunately, did not exist. The move made so much sense in my mind. But with nothing to grip, the reality of my situation immediately set in; I will fall. Yep, that’s what happened.
But I only fell a foot or two. The anchors remained in place, the harness held me, and I remained suspended in mid-air. “A few big breaths and plan your next move. You’ve got this.” Josh had confidence in me – just enough for my own to return.
I eventually reached the top and then rappelled back to the ground. As Josh and I bumped fists, he shared wisdom that I needed to hear: “Unless you fall, you will never learn how to completely trust what’s holding you.”
Scott and I both fell that day, making us better climbers. In our own, challenging ways, we both experienced falls in life over the past year. Yet, neither of us plummeted to the floor. Others helped support us, and we held up one another. Still do. And will. Most important, we both have an unmovable, 100 percent reliable Anchor that we remind each other about often. (“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6)
What do you trust? Who or what is your anchor? When you know for certain, you’ll be able to continue going after a fall. You might even try bolder moves.
Everyone falls. Climb on.
© 2020 David Staal All rights reserved. davidstaal.net
Something sacred happens when the sun sets.
My family felt it often when we lived close to Lake Michigan. Several years ago, USA Today listed sunsets over Lake Michigan as some of the best found anywhere. Many evenings we finished dinner, left the dishes, and piled into a car for a couple mile drive to a remote park we dubbed “Sunset Beach.”
A short boardwalk stroll from the parking lot landed us on cool sand and dune grass. Most times, we stopped talking just as the sun hit the horizon and begin its unusually quick drop beneath the water line. We always stayed for the last ray, which would linger as if saying, “Goodbye for now; I’ll be back.”
That’s it; a sacred promise took place. Whatever happened today cannot be changed. But take heart because tomorrow will happen, and with it comes new possibilities, new opportunities, new everything. Watching the sunset fills a heart with such hope. A welcome relief when a day (week, month, year) has felt dark. Or cruel.
A year ago, my wife Becky received a 12:30 a.m. call to tell her that Teri, her lifelong friend (and my friend too) had taken her own life. They were as close as sisters and enjoyed a love that would make real sisters envious. Teri loved our kids as her own. Her smile shone as bright as the sun.
But that sun set all too quickly and we didn’t get to stand and watch it go. Loss works that way; sudden, without warning, and painfully permanent. How does a person recover from something as dark as a loved one’s suicide? I don’t know the entire journey one must travel, but I did write a book about the first steps to take. A short, companioned walk that will take you to a place as sacred as a sunset. One filled with promise. Where you honestly shed the tears that today deserves – yet feel subtle warmth from a ray of hope about tomorrow.
Three years ago, I listened as a high school student at an assembly told nearly 2,000 peers how much she appreciated their help following her best friend’s suicide. “Even when you just smiled and said hello you helped me make it through another day,” she said to a very quiet fieldhouse. “Wow, what grace!” I thought at the time, completely unaware of how life would unfold for my family and me.
Today her words make even more sense after experiencing the hard-to-breathe-without-it-hurting pain that happens when someone close takes his or her own life. Compelled to do something for others who face this horrible situation, and with a blessing from Teri’s family, I wrote Four Corners of Grace to help you or someone you know make it through another day. All the way to the sunset.
Every Monday I meet with an amazing fourth-grader. This week we began work on a model car; to see the tiny parts required me to don my reading glasses. “I know these make me look old,” I told him.
“That’s okay Mr. Dave,” he said. “You’re still cool. (pause) To me.”
So I celebrate that an old guy like me appears cool to at least one person.
As a country, America celebrates. Especially at the start of a new year, everyone can find reasons to feel positive — regardless of whether your favorite professional football team plays in big games or your political party parades into office. Consider the officially-declared possibilities for joy throughout January: National Hot Tea Month. National Soup Month. National Mentoring Month.
Everyone has a personal favorite tea flavor and can of soup, so let’s look closer at mentoring. Specifically, who needs a mentor and why should churches and attendees care?
Click here to read the full article.
To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word at the right time! — Proverbs 15:23
Estimates indicate the average adult vocabulary includes over 40,000 words. From this vast reservoir, we make thousands of combinations to articulate and share thoughts all day every day. Too frequently, though, I’m careless or random — messages flow from me like water spraying from a fractured pipe. Yet, with so many words at my disposal, surely I can do better. In fact, I am determined to do exactly that.
Why do I care so much?
Because even the simplest messages can make really big differences. And while some might seem unimportant and easy, others will remain with us for a very long time. Words can serve as wonderful gifts; they cost nothing but are potentially priceless. Especially for someone close.
Click here to read the full article.
(Note: This month, David Staal turns his column over to his 23-year-old son, Scott.)
Several years ago, our family tried something new for Thanksgiving that has evolved into an authentic tradition. As November rolled around each year, we constantly heard the importance of developing a spirit of gratitude and wanted that to be true for us. Yet, there was a definite disconnect between our good intentions and our implementation.
Said another way: we didn’t do anything. The result was an unsettled feeling, so the four of us decided to take action in order to truly live out our thankful spirits. To walk the walk. Practice what we preach.
Said another way: to finally do something.
Click here to read the full article.
David Staal serves as a consultant to the nonprofit sector following 11 years as President & CEO of a national organization (Kids Hope USA), 10 years in church staff leadership (Willow Creek Community Church), and a 13-year marketing career (Abbott Laboratories). A senior editor for Christianity Today International for 12 years, he also authored these books: