Amazing Grace – 2012

Amazing Grace – 2012

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

6:00 am – La Plata Trailhead.

More than 170 men are pulling into the cramped parking lot, packing the trucks and cars in like sardines on that crisp, clear morning of Sunday, July 29, 2012. With military like precision, they move out of their vehicles, figit with their hiking equipment and get their hydration packs adjusted just right. A group prayer at the campground just 10 minutes earlier had challenged them to do “hard things” and to live a life of Great Adventure for Jesus. They were about to experience that on La Plata Peak.

La Plata – a 14,000 footer with more than 4,500 feet of elevation gain in a 9.5 mile  round trip experience. That certainly is in the category of doing “hard things”. Men moved up the trail in single file, full of confidence, optimism and energy. The first 1.5 miles was moderate at best and a few stair sections gave some burn to the legs but not enough to give pause for what was to come.

A wide valley opened up in less than an hour from the trailhead – one filled with amazing beauty of the Creator. It is one of the most stunning valleys that you can walk into on a 14,000 footer hike in Colorado. The strength of 170+ men, the cadence of breathing as thin air filled their lungs and the song of their brotherly conversations preceded them as they pressed on towards the first set of switchbacks.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

Their boots met reality. The switchbacks were the start of the real hike up over rocks, ridges and false peaks. Distances grew bigger between the men as they snaked up the seemingly endless tail of the switchbacks. Conversations grew quiet, as energy was needed to gasp for air…. to will the legs to keep going… to tell the mind that they could make it to the next turn or bend or rock.

The saddle came into view, as well as the warming presence of the sun. Compared to the optional hike the day before on Mt Belford and Mt Oxford, the weather conditions could not have been more perfect. Layers of clothes were peeled off and the crunching of hiking shoes and the clanking of trekking poles brought sweat to the brows of these men. In less than two hours, many had reached the saddle and could rest a bit for the next challenge that lay ahead. Photos were taken…. memories were stored and the bonding of friendships became even stronger amidst the shared struggle to reach the summit of La Plata.

A new ridge… another set of switchbacks and a glimpse at the goal was all that was needed for men to continue onward. For some, this was their first encounter with a mountain. For others, it was a renewed relationship that they had developed over the years in hiking Colorado 14ers. For all, the mountain does not discriminate – it humiliates even the most proud and well trained man to understand his physical limitations.

The last stretch was framed against a dark blue sky. Others were already on the summit and a sense of relief and joy could be seen in the eyes of the men all around us. We were almost there. Conversations increased and the dialogue of encouragement, gratitude and accomplishment flowed from our mouths. It was an euchristeo moment – a time of thankfulness for all that God has done for us.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

We stayed on the summit for at least 40 minutes, soaking in the sunlight, basking in the glory of the panorama in front of us – dozens and dozens of peaks standing tall in a 50 mile range around us. Men humbled by the mountain physically were also humbled by the immense nature of God’s power as seen from the summit. We read through the Peak Challenge Manifesto. We prayed. We cried a bit. We took time to hug each other, congratulate each other and to encourage each other. We did a hard thing.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

And then we heard it. A sound foreign to the natural rhythm of the mountain but one that was completely connected to the time and space and location.


He warmed up a bit and then it got quiet as a young man went out to the edge of the summit and began to play Amazing Grace.

In that short span of one minute, the sounds of a Scottish instrument dug deep into our souls. It was the connecting piece that we had been talking about all weekend. The Great Adventure is God’s redemptive mission to rescue the world. It is His Amazing Grace – through faith in Jesus – that has done it all for us. Not by what we can do so that no one can boast. He has created all of us – the bagpiper and all other men on the mountain that day, to be His masterpiece in Jesus to do those things that He has prepared for us to do in advance. The Great Adventure sits before us and God provides a way for us to live out that adventure for him.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

The trip down brought additional adventures. But thanks to His Amazing Grace, we trusted him in all of those moments and brought back every man that had made the hike that morning – safe and sound into the trailhead. A final eucheristeo moment of thankfulness for God – His grace and mercy given to us and His glory that we revel in.

Amazing Grace.

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