Monday, July 11, 2016

Thoughts on the Word Stewardship

*This article was originally penned for the Pinnacle, a monthly publication of our church. The core idea comes from the final lesson in Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey entitled "The Great Misunderstanding."

Stewardship is a word that tends to pop up about this time of year. To some of us it can be negative, meaning only capital campaigns, expectations, guilt, and/or pressure toward opening our wallets. How can a word that has represented God's trust in us cause so much squirming in the pews?

Tell you what, in order to better understand Stewardship, how about taking a trip back to medieval times. Castles and lands were typically owned by Lords (and Kings in a larger region). Wealth of the Lord was largely based on the amount of land owned and the bounty of harvests. But, as you can imagine, sometimes Lords had to be away doing whatever Lords did: military service, managing another property, sailing off for adventure. So they left the responsibility of their wealth with a Steward, an administrative official who oversaw the affairs of the Lord while they were away. They didn’t own any of it, yet were in charge of seeing that everything was taken care of and managed well.

In modern terms, it would probably be best to describe the position of Steward as an Asset Manager. Picture someone owning “assets”, money is perhaps the easiest to picture, passing control of them to an Asset Manager trusting that they will manage it well. What would you look for in a good Asset Manager?

Jesus tells His followers the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30. The story unfolds with a man leaving some money in the hands of his servants or, by the definition we are examining, Asset Managers. One he gave 5 talents, another he gave 2, and still another a single talent. Now these were significant sums. Some commentaries say a talent was worth 20 years of a laborer’s pay! When the man returned he commended the first two for putting the money to good use saying, “Well done.” The third Asset Manager failed to make a return on any investment because of fear and his talent was given to the first.

It is an important shift to recognize that God owns everything and we are merely His Asset Managers. Our time is God’s. Our gifts or talents are God’s. Our “hard-earned” money or treasures are His. It is through what we do with these “assets” that shows God’s character in our lives and extends God’s hand to the world around us. For me, this adds purpose to things like balancing my checkbook or how I spend my free time. Let the fact that we are Stewards of the riches of the Creator of the Universe embolden and empower you to live for God as never before.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Rock Springs Buttress

Alli and I explored a new climbing area (for us) this past Saturday: Rock Springs Buttress. The crag is just out of of the south boundary of Jackson Hole Mountain resort and features very good multi-pitch, traditional or sport climbing. Approaching the climbs is a bit of a hump, but the pre-Cambrian rock classic to the Tetons is worth the effort.

We went into the day eying several 5.8 grade climbs with the first choice being the Guide's Route. However, it was occupied by the time we arrived and we settled on Chuck's Road to Thailand, which crosses the upper reaches of the Exum Arrete. The guide book lays out the climb in 6 pitches, the first of which is a 5.6 approach to a large belay bench. The second pitch (5.8) follows the left side of a chimney with some tricky sequences to a good belay ledge with a bolted anchor. Pitch three starts off with a airy step across the chimney to 5.7 face climbing.

A couple bolts and an old piton (yes I clipped it, why not?) took us around to a crack system, past a belay station (we climbed pitch 3 and 4 together) and up a chimney with comfortable stemming moves to the upper belay station. Our perch felt like an eagles nest! I watched a cow moose and a calf frolic through the valley bottom while Alli followed up the pitch easily.

Above, pitch 5 looked like great sport climbing but we were eyeing clouds building to the south and decided to cap our climbing adventure here for the day rather than risk the "epic" on the first multi-pitch outing of the year.

A few raps later, we were reunited with our gear and got ready for the hike out. We opted to go up rather than down and just over an hour later topped out at 10,450 feet at the top of the Tram. Before our free ride down, we took advantage of a delicious waffle in Corbet's cabin.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Commuting: May 2016

After best intentions of commuting on studded tires through the winter, we're back on the bike this spring commuting to work and running errands. Alli and I are very fortunate to live where a bike path connects us all the way into town. Jackson has one of the best pathway programs around, particularly for a small western-Wyoming town. But then again, we wind up having a lot of amenities that western towns of our size don't, so not all that surprising.

Anyway that brings me to the reason for this post: a monthly record of bike commuting miles! During the month of May I rode my bike 111.8 miles running errands in town, riding to work, to church, and else where. I haven't take the time to sit down to make a mileage goal for this year, but I do want to keep riding throughout the calendar year. I don't think 100 miles a month is reasonable, but ending the year with close to 600 miles total sounds pretty good. At the gas mileage of our van (about 16 mpg), that equates to roughly 38 gallons of fuel saved!

We'll see if we can keep this thing going for the rest of the year...and beyond. Half the fun will be kitting out the bike to make it more and more pleasurable. The other half of the adventure will be figuring out the best clothing system for all kinds of weather. We had some weeks of good rain in May and I was pleased with my clothing system staying relatively dry.

Stay tuned for more monthly updates!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend "Trail Mix"

The T-shirt that my sister recently gave me recently effectively sums up Memorial Day weekend for the Teton Lanes: "Trail Mix." Some friends' wedding and uncertain weather kept us close to Jackson, but we made the most of it! 

When summer comes along, life gets hard. For instance, what are you going to do after work? Go fishing or climbing? What are you going to do this weekend? Go running, backpacking, mountain biking, or camping? Tough decisions to be made, for sure.* 

So what do you do when the weather turns out nice and you have a 3 day weekend to get out and enjoy it all? You do it all of course! A proverbial Trail Mix, as I am going to call it from now on. Here's a rundown of the weekend along with pictures to prove it.

After work Friday we enjoyed a nice leisurely hike up Adam's Canyon, a very steep trail system that rises up the hills just to the east of our house. Takes us about 5 minutes to pile in the car with the dog and arrive at the trailhead. This hike's bonus: spotting a chocolate lily near the bottom!

Saturday morning we rode our bikes into town for the Memorial Day Parade. After enjoying the usual allotment of firetrucks, sled dogs, old-timey cars, and Shriners clowns we moseyed down the street for our "once in a blue moon" downtown Jackson shopping trip. We found ourselves in the Browse n'Buy Thrift store where we scored a gem: an unopened package containing a door-frame pull-bar for $5! With some modifications, it will find new life as an indoor hang-board (for climbing training). Trucking it home was an adventure! 

To keep the activity levels up, we got out for a run at a local trail system not far from our house.  Back in time to clean up for the wedding...

I love weddings and the one on Saturday night was a real treat. A great ceremony, great food, awesome friends, and exciting dancing all to celebrate a pretty awesome couple. Wait, I hope you knew I meant our friends who got married, not us…
The weather on Sunday was glorious and we took advantage of the sunshine to ride our bikes north of town into Grand Teton National Park. My watch said our out-and-back adventure was 31 miles: more than either of us have ridden in a really long time. Needless to say, we needed some DQ nourishment post-ride.**
We packed up the camper van (a work in progress that I shall write about in the future) and headed for the hills on Sunday night. We had mountain bikes, climbing gear, and guns. Yes, we might have gotten a little red-neck on Monday morning… 

Mountain biking at the Munger trail system was pristine and the trails are in really great shape now. Later in the year we've found the grasses get over grown enough that it is difficult to see the trail. We rode a quick loop up Poison Creek and down Squaw Creek (Alli thought the descent down Tusky Ridge was a great alternative, though there are plenty of roots to avoid). 

And we polished off the day with some climbs at the Rodeo: Rodeo Queen (5.8) and Louise (5.9+), both on Snake River Canyon limestone formations above Highway 89.

All in all an awesome weekend that brought rest and recharged us for the work week to come. And the best thing about 3 day weekends: 4 day work weeks to follow!

*I may enjoy winter more than summer if only for this reason: the question is not, "Do we go skiing today?" it's "Where are we going skiing today?" Life is much simpler in some respects when snow covers everything… :)
**Blizzards at DQ will forever hold a place in my heart. My best friend in college and I would stop and grab blizzards after rock climbing to bask in the glow of the day's earlier events. That's easy when you are climbing in west Texas and the definition of a town in Texas seems to be a Post Office, a Church of Christ, and a DQ! Thankfully they are prevalent enough that we get to enjoy them in Wyoming as well. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Garage Facelift

We like our house here in Jackson. Other than being able to afford it (our monthly rent is very reasonable by Jackson standards), it's all about location, location, location: quiet neighborhood, a walking path to spend time with our dog, removed from the hustle and bustle of town*, and a bike path from our house all the way into town (about 3-4 miles). It's the second house that we have lived in since moving from Montana and we plan to stay here a long time. We feel very blessed to be here.

Again, we like our house. But we LOVE our garage! This is the crown jewel our our little unit and it's where a lot of the "magic" of our lives happens. Our garage is part-work out facility, part-ski shop, part-bike shop, part-wood shop, part-… well, you get the picture. We love spending time in our garage tinkering and building and prepping for all our outdoor adventures.

Left side "before picture". 
Right side "before picture". Alli is just starting to demo the wall.
This spring we had a mission to make overhaul it to make it even better!** The goal was to take out a wall that created a sort of large storage closet, essentially opening up the whole area. We knew that we would lose some wall space to hang stuff, but would also get rid of some awkward areas. Overall an upgrade. We finally got it done a couple weeks ago and thought we would share some pictures of the process.
Final step after the overhaul: cleaning with our
new shop-vac. 
Two thumbs way, way up for being finished! 
This is where most of the "magic" happens: the Work Bench. 
Skis and bikes and fishing gear: Oh my!
We had a ton of fun building shelves and thinking through how best to store our gear/tools. The process sort of has to happen organically since we didn't really to have the ability to map it all out in advance. We just had to get done as quick as we could make it happen. It's stressful having all of you stuff in a pile in the middle of the garage floor!  But I think we found a really good balance between having things out of the way and yet still accessible and ready to grab for the next adventure.

So, go out there and do some of your own tinkering. Here's to many more hours spent in garages!

*I know, I know. "Hustle and bustle" in small-town Jackson is nothing compared to where most people in the US live but you get comfortable with a certain norm. NYC would probably give me an anxiety attack. This might be the genesis for a future blog post about people complaining about traffic in Jackson...

**This comment is for my mom who, when hearing that we were going to reorganize/rearrange our garage, said something like, "Why? Your garage is so nice already. How could you ever change it to make it better?"

Sunday, May 22, 2016

To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question…?

The blogging world and I have not gotten along so well in the recent past and it's now been a year since I posted anything. Blogging has been on my list of goals for 2016, but took a proverbial "back seat" while I focussed on other things, including passing the PE exam. BUT never fear, we're going to dust the cobwebs off the keyboard, roll up our sleeves, and dive back in. Why? Because I got a little kick in the pants by a recent podcast.

Michael Hyatt, the voice on platform building and intentional leadership, recently published a podcast episode entitled "10 Reasons Every Leader Needs a Blog". Although I'd encourage you to listen to the podcast or read the transcript because the list is very thorough, it doesn't directly apply to this blog as it's not really a platform that I wish to necessarily influence people or lead an industry. However, several of the list including "Improve Your Communication Skills" and "Create a Repository for your Best Ideas" do apply and got me thinking about why I blog.

The list below is a brief brainstorm on the reasons this blog exists in ascending order of importance:

  1. Provide a place to share photos and stories of our life in Jackson Hole with family and friends
  2. Synthesize my thoughts and reactions to the "inputs" of life (podcasts, books, movies, etc.) into coherent "output"
  3. Improve my communication skills (thanks Michael)
  4. Publish creative thoughts and ideas for building things or "life hacks"
  5. Discuss "life philosophy" on topics such as faith, money, politics, and science

Certainly not an exhaustive list, but enough to get this thing started. Perhaps the biggest reason for throwing this out on the web is for motivational purposes, to remind me why typing up trip reports and writing down ideas is worth the time and effort it takes to put them from my head down on "paper."