Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fresh Breath of Life

I haven't been skiing since I was a freshman in college at Northeast Missouri State University (Now Truman State). They used to have a ski resort there (which my feeble mind cannot remember the name at this point of my life) where they made artificial snow and had a small lodge and a few slopes. With the errant views of many of my more "liberal" friends, global warming has made this place obsolete today.

Colorado was absolutely beautiful. The mountains were beyond description. Our first day there was sunny, clear and about 40 degrees. A perfect day for skiing. Believe it or not, it was like riding a bike for me. I absolutely loved it!! For me it is a combination of water skiing and roller skating. If you have ever done either one of those before, you're a good candidate for skiing. The first day started slow at first, but soon after I was shooting down the slopes with incredible speed (and sometimes not by my own choice!).

The second day brought colder temps and harrowing winds. They actually closed one of the lifts because it was too windy. By mid-day it was snowing...the wind and snow stung your face like a thousand tiny wasps burying themselves in your cheeks. It almost became unbearable, but most of us were not deterred by the elements. The second day also brought some different and more challenging slopes - including a few marked in the "black" or very difficult. I have to admit that the first time we hit a black slope was by accident - but fortunately we made it through. For you non-skiers out there here were the colors associated with the slopes at our resort:

* Green - easy
* Blue - medium
* Black - difficult
* Double Diamond - you must be an idiot if you try this

While we spent most of the time on the greens, we did manage to tackle quite a few blues and as I mentioned before, an occasional black. There's something very challenging and daring about staring down the face of a mountain with no idea how you might get to the bottom. You try to go very slow - side to side - but at some point you have to make the decision to turn the skis downhill and go for it. WHAT A RUSH!! I don't know how fast one goes on the side of a mountain, but my guess was in the 30-40 mph range, and if you haven't experienced that before - PUT IT ON YOUR LIST OF THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU CHECK OUT OF LIFE.

John Eldridge wrote a book called "Wild at Heart" that challenges men to go through some experience that will exhilarate the soul. This was one of those experiences for me. To be a barbarian, if not for just the moment, was a refreshing and fulfilling moment in my life that will not soon be forgotten. Standing at the top of a mountain over 8000 feet up and peering off the edge into an expanse of nature so glorious...I definitely felt a connection with God at that moment. A reminder that life should be enjoyed and breathed in...not a shallow breath that is fleeting and then gone, but a deep breath that takes so long to exhale you're not sure if you'll make it to the next breath. That's what I felt at the top of that mountain. A fresh breath of life.

The challenge comes not from finding that moment on top of the mountain, but transferring that to the bottom of the mountain in every day life. How does one capture a "fresh breath" in a world consumed by the fast pace and shallow breaths of life? That's the challenge. Not just your challenge or mine, but our challenge. To face the world through new eyes, taking time to breathe slowly, to capture the essence of that breath, and then exhale only to be consumed by the next. Have you checked your breathing lately?

I heard recently that stress is not something that is detrimental; it actually builds you up. But only if you allow time for recovery. It's similar to exercising. Have you ever climbed up a set of stairs only to get to the top panting for the next breath? Through exercise you are able to build your capacity to process more oxygen and ultimately have more energy and recover from your exercise. The mountain was like that for me. I was trapped in a world where I could only run to the top of the stairs once, gasping for my next breath, my oxygen depleted. But I caught a glimpse of what life might be like if I "exercised" my mental being - full of energy - completely recovered. We forget that oftentimes our mind needs some exercise, some freedom, some recovery. Don't get trapped in a "mind game" that breeds routine, uncalculated decisions, or mindless thoughts. IT'S TIME TO EXERCISE YOUR SOUL!!

This might look like a lot of things for you. For me it means reading again. Expanding my mind, exercising it if you will. Reading leads to new ideas, discussions, dreams, and so forth. It may have even lead to these posts today. Everyone needs an outlet to exercise their soul. What does that look like for you?

So I close this post today ready to "breathe" again. Ready to capture what God has put into my mind for this day and maybe the next if I'm lucky. Ready to experience exercise for my soul and to share this journey with my wife, my family, and any others that would play fancy to my ramblings once again. If life is ready, I'm ready to breathe.

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