GULP

Just got the logistics planner for my next adventure tonight. The GodZone Adventure Race releases this a week before the race so you know what you are in for. This is their biggest race ever… and mine, come to think of it. 10 days of the Fiordland New Zealand Wilderness.  Below is a pic of what we are in for. This doesn’t tell us where we will be going, but only the order and the distance. OUCH!!!! some of these sections are going to hurt and be really long.

Our team name is Checkpoint Zero. Team number 22. You can follow along online as one of my 3 team mates or me will be carrying a tracker that pings to a website where you can stay up to date. Its affectionally known as ‘dot watching’ and can be quite addictive.

Race starts next Thursday @ 8am NZ time.

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A flawed race

This might be a tough read. However having lived in the USA for over 13 years, and seen this occur many times while living there and even meet several survivors and even a surviving family member I believe I have a platform. However never can fully walk in another persons shoes.

So here goes…

America is a flawed race!

The unbelievable has happened again… another school shooting and this time with double-digit deaths.

Why…Why…Why

What’s the definition of flawed…

adjective

1.characterizedbyflaws; having imperfections:
flawed gem; seriously flawed piece of work.

Lets start with the response of “its a complex issue” (mostly cited by 2nd Amendment advocates, numerous gun owners… not all.) Well if its a complex issue that will take time to solve, when do we start to solve it.

If it will take time, when will be a good time to start solving it. How many more mass shootings will have to occur before the complex argument case is taken over by… yikes enough is enough.

Or heres a random idea… if its complex at least make a start on doing something. Putting a man on the moon was a complex challenge and guess what. We had to start somewhere and finally they got there. Americans none the less… well done. Moreover what does its a complex issue argument and inaction say about how much one wants it to end.

Complex is the solving of a math problem, complex is curing cancer, complex is the fall of the Iron Curtain. Yet those are all behind us or we are further along than we were even last week or last century in curing something.

While the “its complex” argument reigns supreme, kids DIE!

Lets go a little further. Several other countries have had mass shooting events over the years. And while one might argue that their response was a little knee jerk it has lead to a drastic reduction if not a total elimination of anymore mass shooting events. And y’all up the ante even more by having mass shootings occur in schools… That’s flawed.

A flawed race is when ….Whether you support your presidents policy or not. Whether you think people or nations meddled in the election or not. To have that represent you as a person who’s set of morals, ethics, bullying behavior, name calling and list of acceptable practices he chooses to get things done on behalf of  you. To allow that to represent you is flawed.

A flawed race is when… To be a country of people who stand by & continue to let it happen. That really it hasn’t got that bad yet to really motivate and call enough people to enough action to change and force change… That’s flawed

A flawed race is when… To hear the same response over & over & still no change. From politicians. And some of that response being only that all representatives standing on floors on Capitol Hill and taking a minute silence, perhaps reading some names out, lowering a flag. Heck take 5 minutes silence if it will make you feel better. I know why do we do a whole hour or even a day or week, maybe longer… wait you already do take longer to doing nothing. Then not demanding change and not demanding it loudly enough to see it actually happen… That’s flawed

A flawed race is when… Maybe you think it wont touch you, that this won’t happen in my town, my school, to my coworkers kid, to my neighbor, to my niece or nephew or cousin, to my sister, brother, son or daughter. But really who does think it will. Statistically theres probably still more chance of dying in a car wreck. It doesn’t bother you enough to do more.But it does happen… That’s flawed

A flawed race is when… Now living in NZ (home) Robin & I are bombarded by questions and statements every time this occurs. They come to us bewildered, puzzled and then move on because like y’all they privately know nothing will change and it will happen again and again and again. We have no answer, we don’t know what to tell them America. Please contact us and let us know so we can pass on why this continues and nothing happens… That’s flawed

A flawed race is when… You have given us so many wonderful things. Several years ago when Robin grandfather died in his mid 90’s I would sometimes think about all the things he has seen… the development of the car, space travel, computers, phone technology, medical breakthroughs, organ transplants, so many different genres of music. Many of which came from you America. You are supposed to be America the worlds leader, start acting like one and please don’t export this thing called school shootings anywhere else, we don’t want it, and anyway if it did happen here we would demand change and would demand it with such a swift loud clear voice that it would happen quickly… that’s flawed

One thing that not flawed… but even worse is how embarrassing this is. You have become a joke and yet still no change or action. You’re losing your mojo America. You might be the worlds #1 economy, you might win more gold medals collectively than anyone. Your biggest city (NYC) is still the crossroads of the world,. You might think you are #1 and you probably are, I mean its not Syria is it. However you also have the embarrassing title of being #1 in this claim to fame that no one wants… school shooting. Oh and thats because it doesn’t happen in other countries. And  guess what, ultimately you are flawed and children continue to die in schools.

A flawed race is when… your leader can slap a ban on travel of people from certain muslim majority countries not long after he becomes president and do so with such haste and swiftness. Again with a short term ban, till we get thing sorted out I do believe he said something along those lines. Yet that same person cannot slap a similar short term ban of the sale of assault weapons with such haste and swiftness, till we get things sorted out. Funny how one ban can happened (or attempt) so quickly, yet another one to stop the weapon the choice being used to kill kids takes so long…

A flawed race is when.. If its complex and not as you say about assault weapons. Then set a short term ban to set a goal deadline & prove your point! If you really can. At least then schools kids are safe. And if you are right then we will know once and for all. But quietly we all know the real truth. It’s about money & control. And all you do is roll out the 2nd amendment argument to sucker people in.

People who say Paul, your “preaching to the choir” well then get out of the choir loft & stop singing silly praise songs and do something MORE about it

 

I am certainly not advocating or trying to start something. However the term civil disobedience comes to mind and perhaps the next option (of potentially numerous) to get enough attention and stop this senselessness. I really don’t know what a flawed race is. But I do start to wonder how this can continue when the themes, methods and tools of death are the same bed fellows with inaction, dismissal and ‘its complex’.

U2 have a song on The Joshua Tree album called “Bullet the Blue Sky”. In the song Bono and the boys sing lyrics about  Central American conflicts that American is “behind-the-scenes” mixed up in. No this is not the first time. The lyrics are written to make one feel uncomfortable. With Bono then speaking towards the end of the song “Am I buggin’ you, I don’t mean to bug you”. All targeted and aimed at getting a response from us the listener into perhaps action against what went on in this conflict.

And so I end with these words from U2 “Bullet the Blue Sky” (1987)

“Am I Buggin’ You…”

12 Days-Part2

After a day of getting our expedition group together and packing we spent Sunday morning packing all the food for 6 days and final arrangements. Which included how much the youth had stuck to the equip/gear list. This list was the minimum however several students needed to borrow some items and were naively unaware of what lay ahead of us as far as preparing for any type of weather. While it is summer, snow down to low levels is not unusual.

We were shuttled to the top of the Haast Pass which annually receives 4meters of rain with its location sitting on the main divide and obviously gets slammed with lots of rain off the Tasman Sea.

We begin walking in light rain that did ease up as the day moved on. We crossed the main east/west road using a foot bridge to cross the Makarora River. Our packs were heavy and full. I couldn’t even close the lid of my pack correctly.

At this point our leadership model was for the 3 of us to share this role, however we quickly empowered the students with a long and lengthy debate unfolding over our first overnight location. There was lots of analysis paralysis which meant the students spent way too long debating on whether to stop at one place and have done a good first day (and get eaten by bugs) or push on with super heavy packs and have a short day tomorrow. After much debate it was “collectively” decided to push on. This exercise proved a helpful metaphor for many leadership conversations later on in the expedition.

Our eventual campsite was a good choice with great views and sightings of various native NZ birds, some of which are threatened or vulnerable.

Day 2 dawned clear and calm as we donned our STILL heavy packs on to some raw shoulders (we needed to eat more to lighten the load). A good opportunity to re-visit some of the facilitated teachable moments from yesterday. This was rounded out with the 1st of our 3 navigational map lessons.

We made our way up the Young Valley stopping for lunch and a lesson on macro invertebrates found in the streams. All while empowering a Leader of the Day to facilitate our movement up the young valley. As the week went on we had quite a few insights into how youth lead youth. But more on that later.

Our pace was quite slow, due in part to the big crisis section we had in students abilities. WE didn’t encounter too many other people which was nice. Our day ended at the confluence of the Young River South & North Branch camping out in the rain and singing surrounded by water falls. And brief and brisk swims in the river.

Day 3 was a beautiful day and wee quickly were out on the trail making our way up the North Branch of the Young River. The going was slow but inspired by still more bird life and even some BellBird chicks singing for their mother. Our slow but steady progress allowed us to have lots of great conversations with 1 or 2 students at any one time. Many of these centered around plans for next year after high school and how we see our experience our faith out in the wilderness. Often it was easy to let the experience speak for itself knowing we couldn’t do anything to improve the metaphors that existed all our us screaming glory to God.

We were always quick to remember that the NZ mountains and backcountry can be a dangerous place ensuring our Leader of the Day was making sound decisions with our presence very much in the background.

Our day ended in a stunning basin at the top of the Young River surrounded by sheer  cliffs, waterfalls and rainbows. This would set us up well to go over Gillespie Pass the next morning with a few showers forecast, but generally the best weather window for the next few days.

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12 days- Part 1

Its great to have family around and our 1st Christmas in NZ since 2013 is celebrated this year with Robins parents and brother visiting. It is good to show them a kiwi Christmas that promises to be a warm day.

However before that I have just completed a 11 day wilderness expedition with 2 colleagues and 11 high school students in the Mt. Aspiring National Park & surrounding area. This expedition is called E3, bringing together Yr. 12 & 13 students, 3 organizations Scripture Union Arocha & Adventure Specialities Trust who all combine to play to their strengths of providing faith-forming experiences framed around wilderness adventure activities and the environment. All seeking to use the best teacher of all… the outdoors to help frame leadership, faith formation and community.

This post is Part 1, and I will post pics as I write more.

Day 1 was a big pick up & logistics day, that was spent packing food and picking up the youth from Queenstown airport and bus stops. We spent the evening outlining the expedition and how our time would be spent hiking, kayaking and mountain biking. Furthermore we decided what words we were going to use to describe our community and what was going to be important to us.

After a long day we were happy to be sleeping inside that night. Sunday was more prep and making sure we had the right gear, clothing and equipment. This was an expedition not a camp and we needed to ensure we had the right stuff for what ever the back-country was going to give us.

We would spend the 1st 6 days hiking in Mt. Aspiring NP completing the Young Valley- Gillespie Pass- Siberia- Wilkin Valley Route. Then we would re-supply with food and paddle for 2.5 days in sea kayaks down the Makarora River into Lake Wanaka and onto Minaret High Country Farm station. Finally rounding out our journey with 2.5 days of mountain biking along the shores of Lake Wanaka through various high country stations to finish in the town of Wanaka 11days later.

This journey had an element of certainty and mystery about it. With the knowledge that the students would be challenged in every way. However with some mystery in what the weather would throw at us and the by-products of life together in such close quarters and the simple things in life (like food, water, shelter) really now becoming super important. Then framing all those good, challenging and surprising circumstances around leadership, faith, outdoors and God’s creation and what that means for me and us.

A really long way on a dirt road

This past weekend I completed in the “Molesworth Run” and 38miles/62km run through Molesworth Station, NZ’s biggest sheep & beef station (or farm) at almost 450,000 acres. This race has been happening for 22years.

Last year it was cancelled due to the nearby Kaikoura earthquakes. And this year proved to be no different. Molesworth is a wild, barren and raw part of NZ and this past winter a major storm took out a bridge over the Clarance River where runners would pass over. Rather than cancel again the organizers decided to re-route the course. Still in Molesworth but another part of this massive farm.

Most participants complete the race as part of a 4 person relay of the same distances but spilt 4 ways.

Then some of us elect to run the WHOLE thing solo…AKA me. An exercise in misery but with scenery like this why turn it down. The race is book ended with a mountain pass near the start and one at the end. Finishing with a quad burning run down a dirt road from the pass in the town of Hanmer Springs to a nice cold beer.

We (Robin, moana & my sister Louise) took the long 90min drive in on Friday evening from the mountain town of Hanmer Springs. We camped out at the start line to save the long drive in early Saturday morning. We woke to a dying chilly southerly wind which prevented the day from getting super hot which Molesworth is well know for. However had to grapple with a slight headwind all day.

Started running at 9am and quickly got into a rhythm. Was flicking back between 1st & 2nd however was eventually dropped into 2nd place. The 4 person relay runners started an hour later to give us a head start and to have people finishing closer together.

The 1st pass was steep and quite the climb. After ironing out a few of the kinks with my family support crew we were a well oiled machine. Support I could not have done without.

Molesworth is a very dry and arid place & inaccessible in the winter time. As the run unfolds the pain increases a lot in part due to the location and climate, but we don’t sign up to do these sorts of things on treadmills, so enough whinging.

This is a beautiful race set in a beautiful part of the country. The toughest part of the race came in 2 places for me. Around the later half of what would be leg #2 for relay runners. My right hip was giving me fits and honestly I had under-cooked my training a little with my longest run coming into the race only being around 21miles. I took about 800mg of ibuprofen and after about 30mins (of still running) it numbed up and made life a little easier. The second tough place was of course going up over Jacks Pass only about 45mins-1hr from the finish line. As I approached the climb I was mentally over the race, however it was nice to see Robin get out of the truck and run alongside me for a while… super helpful… super wife.

By this time there were a number of 4-person teams that were over-taking me and they along with their support vehicles were a great encouragement to me. Topping out at the saddle was filled with lots of support as I begun the steep decent down the other side of the pass into Hanmer Springs. After almost 6hrs of running on a dusty road with cars kicking up even more dust the view is quite cloudy and even tastes a little gritty. By now the quads were burning and my lower legs were cramping quite badly resulting in me having to adjust my running gait to cope.

A left hand turn onto a real road and a short run into town was a welcome relief. With the approach to the finish line and lots of cheering for a solo runner (me) who managed to pull out a 2nd place was quite fulfilling. Last time I did this race 4 years ago it was just Robin there, I was in a relay team and actually drove into town to greet our last runner. This time I was a solo runner, greeted by Robin & Moana (& my sister Louise) proved to be more exciting.

4 years later I was back, 4 years of moving to the USA, having a beautiful daughter and now moving back, full circle but a happy circle in all respects.

 

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Pre-race warm up
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“I love you Moana… I love you Dada”

What did you Gain from that?

In the October school holidays we (SU) started a brand new camp in Marlborough called Gain Camp. Its been a long time since SU had a presence there… and now we are back & here are some of the highlights.

“I-heard-from-God-on-this-one”… REALLY?

This thought dawned on me today as we watched yet another mass shooting in the US happen. So much has been written and reported about them. Lines drawn, sides picked and blame assigned. Most of the time it has fallen along political lines. But really who cares, that’s cold comfort to people for whom a loved one was shot dead.

However, there’s a demographic that’s missing here, a really really small one for whom nothing (or that I am aware of) is said about. Not even a demographic really (thank goodness) but I had to call it something. And it goes something like this.

In the past 15-20 years, there have been some quite big natural disasters in the USA. Mostly around hurricanes, wild fires, floods etc. Then at times occasionally (& I use the word occasionally intentionally) soon after the previously mentioned event some person (usually a middle/old aged white male) who is known as a Christian will roll out some “I-heard-from-God-On-This-One” statement that (Insert city/region here) is suffering or had this natural disaster occur because God was judging them. In most cases, they (well let’s face it…he) draws parallels to Sodom & Gomorrah from the Old Testament and makes a connection between the natural disaster and the “Sins of that city”. Usually pointing at the amount of gay people or to use an old word promiscuity in that city. 1000’s believe them and we assign that event to that city’s evilness and move on, putting all our stock in the “fact” that this guy heard from God on this one.

Here’s where the wheels fall off for me. If these men are soooooo in tune with God and heard from God on some connection to this horrific event or that horrific event, why don’t we seemingly EVER hear from them on mass shootings. I could be wrong and this is a total anecdotal observation. However, the pulpit is empty, the microphone silent, the podium vacant, the crickets are chirping when it comes to these so-called men of God who regularly hear from God on evil making a connection between “that town” and “their sins” lead to this happening. They remain silent when it comes to making a connection between a weapon that is designed only to kill humans being used. We don’t hear them saying such & such a town or city is bad and had this mass shooting coming to them when it comes in the form of a gun. We don’t appear to hear much from them tying the “sins of that city” lead to this mass shooting at the hands of an assault weapon.

Why can they tie natural disaster to a city and its so-called “sins” but not a mass shooting and a city’s so-called “sins”

Where are you Mr. Preacher-man? I didn’t hear you today making connection to that poor town of approximately 400 in Texas, guns and its “sins”.

Just sayin…