Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

I am part of the legacy of Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins "I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy, a legacy of real compassion"

I remember when I was given a copy of A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band for Christmas in 1993. I couldn’t wait to pop it into my cassette player. To be honest, I didn’t really know what a liturgy was. And I had no idea what a ragamuffin was. But I knew who Rich Mullins was. So I was pretty excited.

The album did not disappoint. The instruments were amazing. And the lyrics had a beauty and depth that was absent from so much music in the early 90s. I’ll readily admit that I didn’t exactly understand some of the songs like How to Grow Up Big and Strong at first. But entries like Hold Me Jesus, and Creed, and Land of My Sojourn – they spoke to me.

They still speak to me.

I mean, listen to these lyrics from Hold Me Jesus. Rich had a way of voicing what your heart was crying out.

I saw Rich Mullins in concert a few years later at the now-infamous “She’s not my girlfriend!” installment of the Ichthus Music Festival  of 1996. I don’t remember many details from the concert, other than a few “postcard memories”* He was barefoot. I remember being amazed at the sound that came out of his dulcimer as he played. He told engaging, sometimes funny, always poignant stories.** He sang Sing Your Praise to the Lord, which he wrote. It was originally made popular by Amy Grant, although Rich smirked and said that she had messed it up when she recorded it.

He sang the song because he had just made a new recording of the song for his greatest hits album called Songs. So, of course, he promoted this upcoming album while he was on stage at Ichthus. So this concert was a greatest hits concert. And that was pretty awesome.

Fast forward three months…

Continue reading I am part of the legacy of Rich Mullins

A high ropes course and ministry [aka Thanks, Todd Bussey]

I’ve shared this story on several occasions in several different ways. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. Todd Bussey might be tired of it. But I’m not. And I’ve decided that it is altogether fitting to share it today as we wish Todd countless blessings as he begins the next chapter of his ministry life.
Todd Bussey with me before my wedding, 1998

There I was –

some 40 feet in the air. A helmet was strapped to my head. A harness was firmly fastened around my body. I was safe. But I was stuck. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It was one of my first years as a Boy Scout and we were participating in the high ropes team building course the National Boy Scout Museum in Murray, Kentucky. The climax of the afternoon was climbing a giant tower and then walking across a high wire from one tower to another. I could choose to take one of thee routes to this second tower. I chose the path that was most difficult.
Of course I did. I had to look cool in front of my friends, didn’t I?

I chose the path called The Hourglass.

The Hourglass is made up of a single wire to walk on a wire to hold onto. As you’re walking across the wire that’s suspended among the treetops, the wire that you’re holding onto is gradually sloping downward. Once you’re in the middle of the path, the wire that you’re holding onto has descended enough that it is actually attached to the foot wire.
How high did I say this course was? Forty feet? Felt like 75.
So there I was, 125 feet in the air, squatting down on a wire, holding on to another wire for dear life. Behind me was another wire that was attached to the wire at my feet. That second wire slopes upward and leads to the second tower at the end of the course.
There was a trick. One I didn’t expect. There, in the middle of the course, 235 feet in the air, I had to let go of the wire in order to adequately turn my body and grab hold of the other wire and make my way toward safety.

 Let go.

My head knew what I needed to do. I think my heart even knew. But my body? Not so much.
Let go?
That was crazy talk. I was hanging 376 feet in the air. That cord at my feet was my only lifeline. And I was supposed to let go? There was no way I was letting go of that wire.
So I squeezed harder. My knees started to shake. The wire I was standing on started to sway. Sweat ran down my brow and started to sting my eyes. I was in bad shape. Things were looking bleak.
I was certain I was going to die up there. I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe I would shrivel up and die from dehydration. Or maybe I would just shake myself into oblivion. Or maybe my safety harness would wear out and I would tumble 563 feet to my doom.

So I stayed there and waited for my certain death. At least I had my safety helmet on, so when I finally fell to oblivion, the staff could sweep up all of the pieces into my helmet, wrap it up, slap a sticker on it and send me home on my way.

Friends down below were shouting encouragement. “Just let go with one hand! Everything will be OK!”

Of course, every time I tried that, the tightrope would shake. I’d panic. And then I’d find myself gripping the wire even tighter.

After an eternity, which was probably no more than five or six minutes in realtime, something unexpected happened. I heard a familiar voice from the tower.

“Matt,” the voice said. “I’m coming to you. We’re going to finish this together.”

It was Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He had come with our Troop on this camping trip, and had already taken his turn on the high ropes course. He had strapped on the safety equipment and was already making his way towards me on a nearby obstacle.

It only took a few seconds after he came out to me. He calmed me down. He coached me through the next steps and encouraged me as I let go of the wire and grabbed the other one. The rest was a piece of cake.

I survived the Hourglass. And I owe it all to Todd Bussey.

Todd is wrapping up a ministry at my home church that began back in the 1980s. He’s moving his family to Florida to write a new chapter of ministry with some new church work.

I know.

Florida.

Tough life, huh?

But he’s going to help turn the region upside down. Perhaps he’ll even shock the world. Because that’s what Todd does. It’s what he’s always done.

Todd Bussey at the Welcome Back sign at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990

Todd baptized me. He co-officiated my wedding. He ordained me. And if something unfortunate were to happen in the near future, I hope he’ll bury me, too.  We went on our first Philmont trek together. And he coached me through some important merit badges in Scouting, including Communication and Citizenship in the Nation. Of course, he was also a spiritual mentor of mine. We have some pretty great memories from five Summers in the Son together. Oh, and we were the Summer in the Son volleyball champions of 1990, even though we were the clear underdogs. And he even introduced me to A-180/Audio Adrenaline.

His story has been wrapped into my story for the past 30 years.

And I share this story about the high ropes course because it’s a nice little illustration of what he has done for me over and over and over again.

As a ministry coach, a spiritual advisor, a pastor, and a friend, Todd has always been there for me. He was there when my dad had a heart attack. He was there when I needed a listening ear after I left my first professional ministry. And he helped guide me through preparing for my first funeral as a preacher.

Just like when he was there for me 722 feet in the air, I have always been able to count on Todd Bussey to be there for me. And I know there are many other people who feel the same way.

This leaves a large hole in my home church’s leadership. Shoot, it leaves a large hole in the entire Tri-State area. But Evansville’s loss is going to be Jacksonville’s gain.

This most definitely is not goodbye, it’s “see you later.” In Florida. I can’t wait to see how God uses Him in this new chapter!

5 ways Crater Lake prepared me for life

5 Ways Crater Lake Camp Prepared Me for Life

This post may use affiliate links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Twenty years ago this month, I loaded my backpack, laced up my hiking boots, and boarded a bus that was bound for an Amtrak station. On that day, I said goodbye to what might have been the most memorable Summer I’ve ever had. After my seventh visit* to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico, I knew that a significant chapter of my life was coming to a close.

I was not going to return to Scouting Paradise in 1997. I was already committed to taking a Summer class at Milligan. 1998 was out, too. I was already on track for an internship that Summer. And who knew what was going to happen beyond college, but I was 99.99% sure that spending another summer on staff at Philmont was not going to be in the proverbial cards. I knew that my stint as a member of the 1996 Crater lake staff was going to be my last hurrah.

And I was going to make the most of it.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with during that final Summer. Andy, Ron, Karl, and Jon were some pretty great guys. They still are. Sometimes, I felt a bit out of my league as their teammate. They were hilarious. Creativity oozed out of their pores. You know how everyone talks about the Magnificent Seven from the Atlanta Games in 1996? I believe the 1996 Crater Lake crew was just as magnificent. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that I was in the presence of greatness the Summer of 1996.

There are a lot of great memories that I still carry with me from that Summer: getting pelted by golfball-sized hail, climbing on the roof of our cabin to gaze into the vast expanse of stars every night, throwing a loaf of bread across the dinner table any time someone asked for some bread, and the hundreds of Scouts we taught how to climb a spar pole, just to name a few.

Spar Pole Climbing at Crater Lake in 1996

The Summer of 96 was life-changing for me. I became friends with an amazing group of guys. I made some amazing memories. And it prepared me for the rest of my life.

5 ways serving on staff at Crater Lake at Philmont Scout Ranch prepared me for life:

Continue reading 5 ways Crater Lake prepared me for life

Go after your dreams

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

3 life lessons I learned on staff at Beaubien Camp at Philmont Scout Ranch

Beaubien Staff 1995

Some college students dream of working at Disney World during their Summer Break. Others work as camp counselors or lifeguards. Some spend the long, hot Summer days working at a part-time job.

Me?

I had the opportunity of a lifetime. During the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years at Milligan College, I had the opportunity to live out my own dream. It is also the dream of many others who have been involved in Boy Scouts over the years. I was a Backcountry staff member at the summit of Scouting: Philmont Scout Ranch.

I had already hiked five different Philmont treks during my Scouting experience: four as a Camper and one as an adult Advisor. My love for Philmont ran deep. It still does. During my first trek, I had decided that I wanted to work in the Backcountry at Philmont. That’s not unusual, though. I would imagine that at least half of the thousands of Scouts who stream through this high adventure base have this same thought.

There is one event that solidified this dream for me. Continue reading 3 life lessons I learned on staff at Beaubien Camp at Philmont Scout Ranch

7 Leadership Lessons from Climbing Mountains

7 Leadership Lessons from Climbing Mountains

The pictures have been flooding my facebook timeline and my instagram feed all week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just search for #Philmont in one of your favorite social media platforms.

The staff at Philmont Scout Ranch is ready. They are about to be invaded once again by Scouts from around the world. Lives will change as these young men and women ascend the Summit of Scouting. Philmont does that to people. It teaches you about life. It teaches you about friendship. It stretches you in ways you cannot possibly imagine. And it makes you a better leader.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of my final trek at Philmont Scout Ranch. Over the course of five different adventures as a Camper or an Adviser, I hiked well over 400 miles. Each year, I climbed at least two different mountains. I saw the sun rise from atop a 11,100 foot peak. I’ve eaten more Squeeze Cheese for lunch than most people could even imagine. I have looked down on the world from the top of places like Baldy Mountain, Comanche Mountain, Mount Phillips, Uracca Mesa, Wilson Mesa, Deer Lake Mesa, Schaefer’s Peak, Bear Mountain, Big Red, and the Tooth of Time. Later, I also added Trail Peak to my list of conquered mountains.

While I’ve never climbed Mt. Everest or Mt. McKinley, I’ve been around a mountain or two. Some of these journeys felt next to impossible. Others were relatively easy. Looking back on my mountain climbing experiences, there are some key leadership lessons that I learned while climbing these mountains.

1. No one gets left behind.

Hiking at Philmont is hard. It’s physically demanding. It wears some people out quicker than others. But the strain eventually catches up to everyone. This is even moreso when you’re hiking up a mountain together as a crew.

As a crew.

That’s key. You hike together. No one gets too far ahead and no one gets too far behind. I know. It’s tempting to just let the fastest and strongest just forge the path ahead, leaving everyone else in their dust. But that’s not teamwork. There is strength in numbers, so it is advantageous to keep your team close together.

Climbing Baldy Mountain at Philmont Scout Ranch

At Philmont, that meant there were times where the slower hikers would be put up front. They would set the pace. Not only did this keep everyone closer together, but it gave the stronger hikers a chance to encourage those who were struggling.

It just makes sense. If you’re going to be a team, you have to do things to encourage teamwork. Sometimes that means putting other people ahead of you. Some criticize this and call it leading from behind. I call it servant leadership. And since I witnessed first-hand how this helped keep a team together, I firmly believe it’s a key to building teamwork. Allow others to set the pace sometimes. And no one will be left behind.

#2. Listening to others can save your life.

In a great example of horrible decision-making, I made a choice that negatively impacted my health during my second trip to Philmont. I failed to pack a jacket of any kind. The only thing I had was a sweatshirt. I did have a poncho, but the warmest thing I brought for myself was a gray sweatshirt.

“It’ll be OK,” I thought. I didn’t really need my jacket last year.

And for most of the trek, I didn’t need it. I did just fine with the sweatshirt. I knew I should’ve brought a jacket. Friends had reminded me that I needed a jacket. I just didn’t listen to them.

Along one side of Baldy Mountain is an abandoned mine. It’s the Aztec Mine at French Henry Camp. The day before our journey up Baldy, we made a stop at the camp and toured the mine. It was a cool, misty day and touring the mine was a welcome reprieve from carrying our packs uphill all day. As we lined up our packs and prepared for the tour, I took off my sweatshirt and tied it to the back of my pack. My pack cover was on, so I figured my sweatshirt would remain dry.

I was wrong.

When we finished the mine tour, we refilled our water bottles and grabbed our packs in preparation for the final leg of our journey to our camp for the evening, I discovered that my sweatshirt was pretty wet. I don’t remember if it had rained while we were in the mine or if the mist was heavier than I’d thought, but the sweatshirt was not anywhere near dry. It might not have been soaked, but it was more than just a little damp.

I didn’t really think anything of it, really. Stuff dries pretty quickly when you’re in the mountains of New Mexico. Unless, of course, you’re walking through a cloud. Then? Not so much.

We made it to our destination and set up camp in relatively quick time. With the down-time that we had, we decided to play a quick game of Spades. Or maybe it was Hearts. I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was one of those two games because we always played one of those games during our down-time.

My sweatshirt was still damp. But it was getting a little bit chilly, so I put it on. The game continued and we worked hard at one-upping each other with our taunts as we played our cards. Ultimately, I said something pretty snarky and my friend, Jeff, shouted…
"Shut up Blue Lips!"

“Blue lips?” Really? What kind of insult is that, I thought. Then it hit me. Maybe my lips really were blue.

He was laughing, proud of the insult he’d just hurled at me. “OK. Seriously. Are my lips really blue?” I asked.

“Well, yeah. They’re turning a nice shade of blue.”

In preparation for the trek, we went through all kinds of First Aid training. And one of the things they stressed was the signs of hypothermia. You had to get hypothermia under control because if you didn’t, things could get really bad. Blue lips, of course, is a sign that I could’ve been battling a case of hypothermia. And there was no way they were taking me off the trail for that. So I did everything I could to get warm in my sleeping bag. I only came out that evening for a bowl of hot food. I think it was spaghetti. And then I went back to bed.

Jeff didn’t realize I was showing the signs of hypothermia with my blue lips, but there’s still a lesson here. You might not be able to see what’s wrong with you, but outsiders can. Especially your friends. Don’t be so arrogant to think that you have all the answers and that you have it all figured out.

Real leadership involves listening to others – even if they tell you something you don’t want to hear. Don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Make sure you have people in your life who will call you out for having blue lips. And listen to them. It just might save your life.

#3. Sometimes the view from the top ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Me and my Dad on top of Mt. Baldy.

The next day after being called Blue Lips, we hiked to the top of Mt. Baldy. We were still in the middle of the cloud. The view was…less than stunning. In fact, it was pretty horrible. The vision we had of climbing Baldy and seeing miles and miles in every direction? Yeah. That didn’t happen.

Sometimes reaching the goal we’ve set doesn’t really achieve the results we think it’s going to achieve. So we need to evaluate and re-evaluate and celebrate the wins and learn whatever lessons we can from the experience. The view from Baldy was awful. And climbing up the mountain in the middle of a cloud was awful. I was cold. And I think my thumb was frozen in a thumbs-up position.

But I climbed a 12,441 foot mountain. And I did it with my dad.

The view might not have been worth celebrating, but the experience surely was.

#4. Sometimes, however, the view is breathtaking.
The view from Mt. Baldy

A few years later, we were able to return to Mt. Baldy. It was breathtaking.

Need I say more?

#5. Morale matters.

I got called out while leading a crew once. And it was probably one of the pivotal moments in my life. All of us were pretty miserable at this point. Over the past two days, we had hiked something like 20 miles and were in desperate need of a break. The day’s hike was short, but we needed to get over a mountain ridge in the process. My friend, Jarod, and I were Crew Leaders that year. We were hanging out in the middle of the pack, singing songs and joking around, trying to make the best of the situation.

Suddenly, Jack, Jarod’s dad, pulled the two of us aside and encouraged the rest of the crew to go on. We’d catch up with them shortly. It was a bit of a break in protocol, but I’m glad he did this in private.

Because he ripped into us.

As leaders, we needed to know that everyone in our crew was miserable. They were exhausted. Some were struggling to make it up the ridge. Others were dealing with some serious injuries. Thinking back, we were a pretty miserable sight. But Jarod and I just kept on hiking and joking around and seemed pretty oblivious to everyone’s situation. And Jack let us know that how we were acting as leaders of this crew was completely unacceptable.

“Shut up and lead”

That’s how he finished the lecture. And I got it. That moment is burned into my memory like very few others. In fact, we hiked that same ridge a couple of years later and I stopped to reflect on that moment. Yeah, I felt pretty horrible that Jack had torn into us like that. But it permanently shifted my understanding of leadership.

If you’re a leader and things are going tough, you can’t remain aloof. You can’t just pretend that everything is OK. I think that’s what Jarod and I were trying to do. You have to get in the trenches and be part of the people you are leading. As a leader, they’re following your example. They need to know that you care. Because they’re looking to you for a morale boost. Morale definitely matters.

#6. Words have meaning.

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There was one time where we had to carry our own water up a mountain. I was given the task of strapping one of those 5 (or was it 10? It felt like 500) gallon water bladders to the back of my pack. It was one of the worst experiences I had while climbing a mountain. Yes. Even worse than my first Baldy experience (but not by much).

As we were hiking, people kept trying to encourage me. They kept telling me that it was only half-full.

I wanted to punch them in the throat.

In a nice little twist, half-full reminded me that there was a lot of water in that bag that was strapped to the back of my backpack. It was pretty easy for me to focus on the bag being “full,” even though it was only halfway full. In this case, it was much more optimistic to say that the bag was half-empty.

I know. It’s weird. But it worked. It definitely helped. Because what we say matters. Words have meaning. And leaders’ words are magnified tenfold.

So watch what you say. People are listening. Probably more than you realize.

#7. Climbing a mountain doesn’t happen in one step.

It’s true. Climbing a mountain is a journey. It helps when you break the journey up into smaller, more attainable steps.

Because Baldy is so steep and so rocky, we had a special system in place. Most of the time, it’s most beneficial to keep going when you feel like stopping. You don’t want to kill your momentum while climbing mountains. So you usually push on.

Not so with Baldy. We broke the climb up into smaller, more attainable climbs. And when we’d get to that smaller goal within the larger goal, we’d celebrate with a swig of water and a lemonhead or a cherry drop. We didn’t stop for very long before pressing on.

We had the larger goal, I guess you could call it our vision, in focus. And we broke it up into smaller, more attainable goals. Each goal was challenging, but they were still doable. And then we’d celebrate each little victory. On the outside, it might’ve looked silly. But we conquered that mountain because we worked at a team. And together, we were able to achieve far greater things than we could have if we were all working alone. Successful leaders showed us how to get to the mountaintop as a team.

One goal at a time.

One step at a time.

A Tale of Two Hats

This picture is from the summer of 1995. I was a Backcountry Program Counselor at Beaubien, one of (if not the) largest camps at Philmont Scout Ranch. I made some lifelong friends and had an amazing time while living the dream at the ultimate Scouting experience.

Part of the 1995 staff at at Beaubien Camp at Philmont Scout RanchI still have that hat. It cost me a significant chunk of my first paycheck. The real cowboys were shocked, dismayed, and disappointed in me because I bought a black hat. Apparently white’s the way to go. You don’t get as hot. I didn’t care. I still don’t, actually.  I might still have those boots.

In 1996, I had the honor of returning to Scouting Paradise for one last hurrah. This time, I was a logger from the early 20th century at Crater Lake. I bought myself a bowler this time. It didn’t cost nearly as much as the cowboy hat did in ’95. And there was no astonishment at my color choice. Black bowlers are always in style. I just need to convince some fashion blogger that I’m right.

Again, I made some lifelong friends there. We also recorded a live album that was phenomenal. Would’ve gone multi-platinum. If we’d sold it, that is. Man…I can’t believe we missed out on that world tour. I think we would’ve called the tour EuroPhilWorld because of the story we would tell at campfire of how we were part of a top-secret plan of the Boy Scouts of America to eventually take over the planet and we would wind up renaming the planet EuroPhilWorld.

But I digress…

Serving on the Crater Lake staff in 1996 was probably the most memorable summer of my life, even though I missed out on watching the Magnificent Seven gymnastics team. And I knew this summer was one for the record books.

Self-Portrait. Crater Lake Camp at Philmont, New Mexico. 1996I have some pretty amazing photos from my Philmont staff experience. Many of those photos include one of the two hats. Those hats are full of some pretty amazing memories. In fact, memories seem to ooze out of them (all over the place. And yes, it’s a slooooow ooooze).

Mihret discovered my hats last night. She insisted on wearing one.

My Bowler and my Cowboy Hat from Philmont
Sorry, Philmont.

This wins.

Why I missed the Magnificent Seven in 1996

In the Summer of 1984, I sat in the red-carpeted Living Room at Grandmama’s and Grandpa’s house. We had gathered around the television with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, watching the Summer Olympics out of Los Angeles. I don’t remember if it was the actual event happening live, or if it was a highlight from a previous broadcast, but I remember watching MaryLou Reton’s vaults and celebrating her Perfect Tens.

I can clearly see Aunt Patsy sitting on the couch, saying, “That’s going to be Amanda one day.” Well…I haven’t ever blogged anything about being related to an Olympic gymnast. So it’s pretty safe for you to assume that this never happened. But I think of that moment every time I hear about MaryLou Reton and her gold-medal performance.

During a women’s gymnastics event this week, NBC aired a segment about Keri Strug’s heroic performance in the 1996 Summer Olympics. As I was watching it, I was moved to tears. It’s a powerful story. My twitter stream blew up with tweets about memories of watching  Keri’s heroism. Some even talked about how they were there when it happened. Me? I was pretty much clueless about all the drama.

 

That’s right. I missed the whole thing. I did get to watch a little bit of the Olympics that Summer – primarily Track and Field events. But no gymnastics.

And I’m OK with that.

It’s not because I’m not patriotic. It isn’t because I have some secret hatred of gymnastics. Gabby Douglas is a hero in our home. And watching the Olympics is an Olympic event in the Todd House. We love them. We lose precious sleep watching them. It’s the only time we intentionally allow the kids to stay up until midnight for several nights in a row. But I’m still OK with missing the Magnificent Seven.

I’m OK with that because I have my own memories from that Summer.

I remember getting pelted by hailstones the size of golfballs as John and I ran for cover. I remember climbing on top of our cabin and watching the vast expanse of space unfold before me and scanning the sky for satellites and meteorites. I remember writing countless letters (yes – letters) to Christy and continually checking the gravel road that passed our camp for a yellow SUV to deliver her responses. I remember conquering my fear of heights. I kind of had to. It was a major part of my job.

I remember stories like the description of that night’s steak dinner, the haunting of Charlie Cypher’s Ghost, and the sinister plans to create EuroPhilWorld. I remember performing songs like Land of the Navajo, Fox on the Run, Ugly Girl, Tacos & Burritos, Fire on the Mountain, and Georgetown around a campfire-in-a-bucket, which was probably still illegal because of the drought, but  it was contained enough that we had complete control over the situation.

I remember hearing a Camper telling us he thought he saw a funnel cloud, which we quickly dismissed. After all, this was northern New Mexico. Who ever heard of a tornado in New Mexico? Then we started hearing reports come over the radio from Base Camp crew members. A tornado had, in fact, struck Cimarron, and Staff from Base Camp were responding in any way they could. It was amazing to listen to it unfold on the radio.

1996 Crater Lake staff at Philmont Scout Ranch

I remember leading some 70 kids and adults in singing Happy Birthday to my mom because she actually got to visit us on her birthday.

I remember Karl taking a shovel and somehow attaching it to the fence with a rope. It was used as a catapult to launch mini-bears into the meadow, away from our living quarters.

I remember coming back from a Campfire one evening, only to discover that our cabin had been “raided” by other Philmont staff. They had taken all of the labels off all of our canned goods and put them back in the cupboard for us. Meals over the next few days were quite…unique.

It’s funny. I recently wore my bowler to work in order to be eligible for some kind of drawing. As I put on that hat, the memories came rushing back. There’s a small part of me that’s sad because I don’t remember anything about the dramatic story of the Magnificent Seven. But I wouldn’t trade these memories for any amount of riches you could offer. It was a Summer I’ll never forget.

Thanks to the 1996 Crater Lake Staff: Andy, Karl, Ron, and John, for the memories!

Go Loggers!

Return of the Strange Dreams

The strange dreams are back. And they have a consistent theme this time.

This past Saturday, Steve, a colleague of mine, and I tag-teamed in officiating a funeral for a woman I’d only met twice. But from everything I heard, she was a wonderful woman. The two nights leading up to the service, I had very concerning dreams that I was stepping up to a podium at a funeral home. I realized as I was walking up the steps that I did not prepare a message. And I’d forgotten to bring the obituary to read. I’ve had dreams like this before, usually a night or two before a funeral. But never two nights in a row like this.

Then, last night, I had a dream that I was returning to Philmont Scout Ranch to hike with a crew as an Advisor again. It was a last-minute decision and I was completely unprepared. I didn’t even have a flashlight with me. We didn’t have an itinerary picked before we arrived and I found out that we were assigned the most difficult trek imaginable, which included hiking up Baldy Mountain two separate times.  And I hadn’t done any physical preparation so as I took my first step on the trek, I suddenly had this fear that I wasn’t in the shape I should be for such a journey. So I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it up Baldy. In fact, I thought I was going to die there.

I’m guessing I’m feeling unprepared for things? Maybe under-equipped? I’m not sure. What do you think?