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Sunday, March 24, 2013

You would think that someone who grew up in the carribean would love hiking the tropics or hot climates. That is a resounding no! Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful and I loved it when I did live there. But, you see, because I grew up there I wanted to see something else. Not to mention the fact that I'm 6'5", and 300 lbs. I like cooler weather.

One mountain that I climbed in particular I'll never forget. It is one mountain I'm sure everyone has seen. It's called Mount Crag and it's in Malibu Canyon, Calabasas - Southern California. Still no clue. Think back to the opening sequence to the TV show MASH. Remember the scene of the helicopters flying by the mountain with the cross on top. That's the one.

The mountain is inside Camp Gilmore. A Salvation Army camp that I worked at in 1980. A group of 20 of us was organized to climb to the top, 3 guides and then the rest of us. We set out at 4 a.m., which I thought was too early but I wanted to tackle it. At first it was hard to keep track of the trail but the guides deliberatly walked slowly. Plus each of us had a little light cliped to our backs.
The first half hour was a simple, steady climb. But it suddenly shot up. We did progressivly harder switchbacks and crawls. At some point we all stoped on a ledge half way up. It was 5:45 a.m. From there we followed a thin 45 degree ledge straight up. It was only a foot wide. My left hand held onto a sheer cliff and on my right was - well - nothing but air. This went on for about a mile till a rock ledge rose up on my right over my head, putting us inside a crevase. When I got to the end of the crevase we were a few feet from the top. It was relatively level there with a small "bump" where the cross was anchored in. The cross was 8 feet tall. 

We all sat down. Some of the group were taking pictures. Me, I sat down facing east. Dawn was just breaking. Out in front of me the fog was hugging the ground in a blue gray blanket. Twenty miles away there was another mountain peeking through the fog. It was there that the sun popped out and bathed us in an intense orange light. As I watched the sun rise the fog changed into bright orange cotton candy. At this point I looked down into the camp and was surprised that the street lights were still on and it was pitch black down there. Of course that did not last long, but it still struck me.
My whole life, with pastors for parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, I grew up learning and living the Bible. Many passages from it were always there for me to recall. At that moment I recalled, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." It was drumed into me but it didn't mean much to me until I was on that mountain.
I was in a beautiful place, and it felt great up there. But when I looked down a shiver went down my spine. It seemed dark and gloomy down there. As I watched, though, the light filtered into the valley and one by one the street lights went out. Some just winked off but most flickered on and off - as if fighting to let go of the night. Having felt and seen the beauty and warmth of the sun I thought, "why would I ever walk through that gloom." But just as quickly as I thought that the sun flooded the valley. I realized the meaning behind that verse. That being, regardless of what I do, or where I go - God is right there beside me. That same dark and gloomy valley was a beautiful place with God in it. He can make everything not only bearable but also a joy.

It gave me a sense of confidence that I've carried to this day. Every time I have felt nervous or unsure that image has come back to me. It has made a difference on several occasions. 



  1. Great pictures and really good writing. I trust all is well with you.

    1. Alive and well - living in Rochester NY now. Slowly trying to get illustration business flowing - this post was actually printed in the Sal Army publication "Buenas Noticias" (Good News) here in the eastern territory.