Last week I got to combine three of my favorite things: hanging with good men, skiing, and teaching.
I was part of my church’s men’s ski trip to Crested Butte, Colorado. It was great: the group of men was great, the structure and organization was great, the leadership was great, and the skiing was great.
Watching Out For Each Other
I was surprised how much of the time we all ten skied together. My experience with groups has been they quickly divide themselves by skill and speed, but this group stayed together, helped each other, and watched out for each other.
Paul gave me skiing lessons the first day, helping with traverse positioning and deliberate weight transfer, and Stacy drug me up and down the mountain the third day, testing my courage and stretching my skills. The second day, however, was when I lost my mind and reverted to old bad technique, which is one more argument why this introverted solitude-lover needs to be around other men.
Personally, skiing felt better than I remember from previous trips. I never got winded (only afterward, when climbing the stairs to our fourth-floor condo), and my legs and quads didn’t burn out on me like they used to do. My new knees (which are now 2-1/2 years old) performed perfectly, as they continue to do. I give credit to lots of cycling miles ridden and office stairs climbed for me not getting tired or sore.
Here’s the thing: I’m not an athlete. My only native athletic skill is perseverance, which might be better described as stubbornness. In all my physical pursuits – running, backpacking and hiking, cycling, skiing – I’m at the intermediate level at best. Through the years I’ve learned enough basic techniques so I can perform at a level that keeps me happy (and keep up (mostly) with Cyndi), but I have none of the natural athleticism needed to excel.
But having said that, I left with the first group up the mountain each morning, and skied until the lifts closed each afternoon. It’s our family tradition. The Simpsons start vibrating if the lifts are running and we are still goofing around at the base. Some of the guys in our group quit early so they could enjoy the hot tub, but not me. I don’t care that much about hot tubs unless I have a hot date.
I taught each evening on how we can become more resilient. I mentioned three deliberate things we should incorporate into our daily lives, things that will help us respond and persevere through the ups and downs: (1) daily spiritual practices that become lifelong habits, (2) living with gratitude and generosity, and (3) learning to forgive and redeem our past stories. I picked this topic the same way I always pick topics, I teach on whatever I myself need most to hear.
However, teaching is only a small part of a retreat. I’m confident that God will speak to us no matter what I teach, because he offers grace, insight, and wisdom when we do the things we love. According to Thomas Merton, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)
All My Best
Like I said, it was a great week of doing my favorite things. What more could I want?
Well, there is one thing …
As much fun as I had, it was a bit hollow and lonely skiing without Cyndi. We’ve been skiing together since 1978, and this is only the second trip where one of us went and the other didn’t. The other time, Cyndi skied and I stayed home with the kids, sometime in the 1980s, a long time ago.
All of my best ski memories have Cyndi in them. Last week I didn’t know who to share clever ideas or spry observations with. I didn’t know who to kiss while riding the lift. I didn’t know who to sing to while cruising the flats. (Our traditional song is an ancient one by Delaney and Bonnie: I’ve Got A Never-Ending Love For You). And no one wanted to share Snickers on the lift, which is something Cyndi and I’ve done for forty years.
Thank you, God, for blessing us with fun things. Thank you for keeping us safe and injury-free; thank you for giving us a heart to enjoy each other and to learn about you; and thank you, in the midst of this uncertain world, for giving us one more turn to do what we love.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32