Mountain Climbing

I could never get into mountain climbing due to my aversion to cliff hangers. But seriously, the best mountain climbers are meticulous planners, who do spend time thinking about the end of their story on any particular climb. They’re among the last people to commit to something without knowing how they plan on it ending. Climbing the white cliffs of Dover, England, for example, has its own particular hazards, due to the material one is attempting to climb on. Apparently it’s much like climbing ice. In Dover, climbers use ice axes and crampons to climb crumbling white chalk, driving ice pitons to secure lines. As they swing their axes in as deep as possible to gain each new purchase, sometimes large pieces of chalk fall away. Besides carefully thinking through each route, a large dose of strength, patience, and nerve is also essential. Why climb it at all? The answer to that question surely must vary, depending on who you ask, but the sheer difficulty and challenge has to measure in. If everyone could, and everyone would, the “want to” would probably be lacking.

The Christian life has its parallels to mountain climbing. Although salvation is a free gift, I wonder if our walk should more accurately be called a climb. There are skills to be learned, a book of knowledge to be poured over. There is a secure rope which ties us to God and keeps that one misstep from being your last. We all are tempted to climb on our own at times without the aid God wants to give us to keep us safe. Often what appears to be a step toward freedom is in reality temptation by unfriendly forces in our life which could cause us to fall. The Christian discipline of assisted climbing will get you to the top, but holding on to God on your way requires a certain special kind of strength He gives you as you reach for it.

I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help. But then I realize that our true help and protection come only from the Lord, our Creator who made the heavens and the earth. He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall. God is my keeper; he will never forget nor ignore me.
Psalm 121:1-3 TPT

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV

I tried to climb
In my mind
I didn’t need it
I got this God I said
I’ve got my own control
But solo climbing

couldn’t hold
any traction
when storms and gravity
to take it all
So Jesus
throw me a line
when I’m about me
in my mind
To the top
I’m beseeching
where heaven’s greeting us all

©Joel Tipple 11/9/2019



I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV

When I was growing up there were essentially three places for us to get groceries: large, medium, and small. Large meant driving across the river and over to the next biggest town. Medium meant going up Main Street to our own town’s primary grocery store. Small meant going down our street and around the corner to what we referred to as “The Little Store.” The Little Store was the place my mom could send me to get that last minute item she needed to complete our dinner, like a half gallon of milk. One afternoon I was on such an errand. After making my purchase I got back on my bike for the short ride home and noticed the wind had picked up considerably. What you’d expect to be blowing across the street, like small leaves, had been joined by small limbs and roofing shingles. By the time I got home the wind was getting even stronger and over the course of that evening, the wind storm would continue to strengthen, taking out our electricity. The next day we learned many trees, telephone poles, and even several barns had succumbed to the wind. It would be a couple days before power was restored. Now, the reason I remember this particular storm so clearly is not just for the damage that it caused, but for how our household functioned while the power was out. The oven didn’t work, so we cooked on the Franklin Stove in our dining room. The TV didn’t work, so we played games and read by candlelight. We talked more. Even though technology hadn’t yet become the behemoth it is now that we all carry computers in our pockets, the lack of electricity meant living differently for a short period of time. And it wasn’t so bad. In some ways, it was better.

Storms of other kinds we encounter in our lives may be more or less disruptive than the one my family encountered that windy night. We can count on their arrival. We just can’t predict exactly when we’ll experience them or how challenging they’ll be. However, we have a guide. We have an advocate. We have someone to shoulder those burdens and disruptions in our lives that are too great for us to handle. Jesus, in fact, became human and sacrificed himself to bridge the gap between ourselves and God. In this way, we have both the means to bear this life and its storms and the promise of an eternity better than our ability to comprehend. This is the promise of Easter.

When our world
is breaking,
when what we thought was solid ground
gives way
and all we feel is the wind
rushing past
as we’re falling,
Jesus arrests our fall.
Jesus anchors our line,
He is our guarantor, protector
if we believe.
He came down to earth for us.
He lived,
and defeated the grave
for us.
Your first and greatest step
is to receive
a new life,
then live a changed life,
learning better ways to climb mountains
and trusting Him to carry you safely
through your storms,
if you believe.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 ESV

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night,
Psalm 92:1-3 ESV

© Joel Tipple 4/20/2019

that grain of sand


beginning as a mountain
big as half the world
broken down by lightning
while peals of thunder unfurled

fell into the sea
to stand in the way of ships
the north sea threw itself at me
till I went to smaller bits

the world heaved back
then it shuddered forth
I rolled into a river
felt the rage from its source

with my back to that river
and my face to the sea
here I am that grain of sand
as small as can be

from the good Lord’s earth beginning
until the scroll is read
I’m seen it all behind me
and I see it all ahead

© Joel Clayton Tipple