Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt7

The End: -Final Reflections and Thoughts

We all have mountains we must climb, obstacles we must overcome, summits we must conquer and peaks we must reach. Sometimes on this life’s journey there is no choice in the matter, sometimes there is little or no preparation time before embarking on this journey and sometimes the option of whom we go with and is on our ‘team’ or the tools we utilise or have available, may be limited. However, climb we must.

I hope that after reading my farcical experience, it serves as both a fable and an education, as I overcame adversity in the form of both a physical mountain and spiritual obstacles. As stated we all have, or will experience situations in our lives we need to address, confront and overcome. Whether it be a mountain of debt, obesity, depression, sickness, fear or something like procrastination etc– we all need to reach a blessed summit of some kind to progress.

A much needed life lesson I learned from my mountain experience is that if you have the opportunity to research and prepare for an event/situation/journey etc, I would recommend that you do not pass up the opportunity to do so. You will not be worse off for your efforts, even a little can go a long way and end up saving you a lot of stress and pain further down the line. Though with that said, even with planning and research, setbacks happen and life doesn’t always go according to plan.

One thing for sure is that on this journey of life, we encounter unexpected situations that we may not have been fully prepared for. Using my situation as an example, I actually managed to have a valley low on a mountain high! It’s our response to situations that ultimately determines our success, having a meltdown due to fear in the midst of a trial, doesn’t tend to make any situation better. After all 2 Tim 1:7, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. However heartfelt prayer no matter how basic, ineloquent or desperate will because trying to accomplish anything without God is at least twice as hard. Inviting the Lord through prayer, into a dire and hopeless situation will undoubtedly change any type of problem or circumstance for the better.

Another lesson learned is that ‘Good Samaritans’ may not appear to be obviously so, blessings can and do come in disguise and destiny helpers come in all shapes and sizes. No matter how self-sufficient and independent you are, there may come a time in your life when you need others, or be required to work with others in a team in order to accomplish a goal. For a team to be successful, it is necessary they pass through the forming, storming, norming and performing (FSNP) phases. How quickly this is achieved will depend on willing attitudes, egos and personality traits.

In my circumstance, a key turning point on the trek to the mountain top was when we began to praise and worship. This changed the atmosphere within the group, invited the presence of God and galvanised us in a way that not even food and drink could. It stopped my worry and fear as I took my eyes off my immediate situation and shifted focus onto the grace and goodness of God. Life is full of challenges that take us out of our comfort zone into the unfamiliar (especially true if you want to achieve something in life). The only thing constant we can control in continuously changing circumstances is our response to adversity or any type of unexpected issue.

I used the Word and my knowledge of God, reminding myself of scriptures like 2 Corinthians 10:5 – ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’. I eventually learned that doing this was a key to peace and an act of faith every time I fearfully thought I was going to die. So even though I was shocked and thrown by the circumstances that unfolded, God was not unaware, taken by surprise and was my ever present help in troubling times.

The option to give up/ turn back/ stop etc. was taken off the table very early on in my journey to the top of the mountain. Therefore I had no choice, I had to face my fears and deal with the situation in order to overcome the challenge. However in my past, when presented with the option to give up, step back when things got really hard etc, I had often taken it and regretted it. An old adage that still holds true is that winners never quit and quitters never win. Successful people persevere, stay the course, don’t give up and endure hardship if necessary in order to achieve their goals. Also another truism is that what you perceive to be impossible will remain so until you do it.

A bit like the instances of Elijah by the brook and John the Baptist questioning the deity of Jesus, even the strongest of us have moments of doubt. Confronted with the circumstance that I was going to be forced to climb a mountain in flip flops, with a small juice and four sweets for nourishment and with a group of strangers in torrential downpour – my faith was challenged. That morning I had prayed for protection, strength and that the Lord would lead and guide my steps, which really equalled in my mind praying for an easy, safe and trouble free day….ha, how wrong was I? Aside from learning to appreciate the value of research and planning, I also learned that adversity can be a great teacher.

I learned the answer to the question ‘I’m a Christian, why is this happening to me? As I discovered that being a Christian does not mean avoidance of any serious problems and to be fair, in the Bible there are many examples of this being the case (such as Daniel in the lion’s den, Paul in prison etc). Furthermore Jesus actually advises in John 16:33 that Christians should expect adversity. Irrespective of this though, I’d previously chosen not to take heed – I’d always preferred to skim past those scriptures and not dwell on them. So as a result a life lesson I learned was that, no one is exempt – people who are righteous and have a relationship with the Lord will still experience adversity.

In order to develop strength and character as a child of God, it’s likely we will experience some testing times and it’s through challenging experiences that we discover how anchored we are in Christ. Faith is essential for living a victorious life and God uses adversity to help us develop and grow in holiness, in order that we be more like Him. That said, never forget this fact, the Lord will always respond to the cry of His children. We can as I found, be assured that God will never leave us or forsake us when we call upon Him in times of trouble. So do not give up when going through any kind problem, persecution, trial or adversity. Do not stop trusting in God in the midst of trouble, reject any thought that would cause you doubt the power and truth of God’s ability.

Do not quit or give up hope, press on because there is nothing too hard for God and there is no circumstance that is impossible for God to help you through. I learned through my unplanned mountain trek experience that no matter how scary, dire and hopeless the circumstances are, to keep pressing ahead because when you are with God, you can make it through anything. When we persevere through hardship, the Holy Spirit will help, guide and shape us through our problems. As a result, you will as I did, come through trials and adversity with confidence, character and a great testimony of God’s goodness that will be worth sharing.

Final Thoughts

The biggest and best lesson to come from everything though, is the importance of having a relationship with God. If you don’t have one I implore you to develop one as facing this life’s unexpected challenges without Him is difficult. The Lord has given us many assurances and will deliver every time:-

The Lord promises to deliver us as His children out of and through our afflictions when we believe and trust in Him. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:19)

I end this series with prayer,

Dear Lord, for those who have never had a relationship with you, but desire one- I pray that from today through confession that they are sinners, belief in the redeeming power of You on the cross of Calvary and finally acceptance of You as their Lord and saviour, that you will reside within and transform them. Today truly is the day of their salvation, In Jesus mighty name,

Amen.

For those that once knew You, but are far from You now, I pray that they are restored to a right relationship with You and from this day forth will always walk closely with you, Amen.

Lastly,

Lord, in this life we, your children have goals we want to achieve, destinations to arrive at and summits to reach and in doing so, You know that there will be mountains to climb and challenges to face. Therefore, just as you were with me when I did so in adverse conditions, I pray Lord that you will protect, guide and direct every person who is reading this when they call on You. So that they too will have a testimony to share about how they made it through by the goodness and grace of God.

Amen

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Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt5

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FSNP: Analysis

Teamwork makes the dream work…..John C Maxwell

Understanding group dynamics is useful knowledge for anyone who has or will in future work with other people. Even more so for a manager or a person in a position of leadership  in any area or aspect of their lives. Bruce Tuckman’s group development theoretical model (1965), provides great context and understanding through it’s universally applicable stages of forming, storming, norming and then performing. As no matter the purpose, goal, location, age or socio-economic background of the group, members will need to navigate the aforementioned necessary stages in order to meet targets, objectives and deliver results.

Forming

My experience of climbing a mountain under unusual circumstances, serves as a useful application case study of Tuckman’s initial four stage theory. Typically in the forming introductory stage, there is caution, anxiety and excitement amongst the group. Members look for acceptance, seek to understand project goals, how the task will be accomplished as well as each other.

Storming

Some groups never progress past the storming phase due to conflict, competition and misunderstandings. Arguments, tension and challenges to management authority are commonplace at this stage and some members quit or become withdrawn. Managers/leaders may need to step in to quell dissension and disintegration of the team.

Norming

At the ‘norming’ stage the team may regress back to the storming phase from time to time, though on the whole, there are respected ground rules, boundaries and cohesion. Leadership is shared, feedback is constructive and individual contributions are recognised by the team as beneficial for all.

Performing

If a team manages to make it as far as the performance phase, members are highly motivated, use their initiative with very little supervision or no management required.  The high performance team are even willing to go the extra mile to accomplish goals and are successful in completing objectives. The team can adapt to change and respond well to unforeseen challenges. This is a productive and efficient team whom now have an affinity for one another.

 

Conclusion

I had little or no relationship with the majority of the group prior to that eventful day, as we were from different backgrounds, ages and I even had a bit of a language barrier with one of the team.  However, in order to successfully achieve our shared goal of getting off the mountain alive and unhurt, we all had to work as a team. This meant unequivocally working through Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ group development stages. As I had no option of quitting, changing teams or the luxury of bringing in preferred people.  Therefore being able to get through that experience was a great learning and development, character-building opportunity for me in respect of being adaptable, working with different types of personalities, working through different issues, improving communication skills, persevering under pressure and of course trusting in God.

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt4

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FSNP: The Case Study

Forming , Storming, Norming, Performing

 

Forming

The forming of the group was very simple as there were no restrictions or barriers to entry (basically just turn up at 8 am at the entrance). The group was very polite too, as although I stuck out like a sore thumb due to my impractical outfit, everyone was very nice and even complimentary of my stylish taste. The group had grown from five to seven people and so there were lots of introductory conversations taking place and overall there was a real upbeat atmosphere of anticipation. That said, there was little actual agreement on anything and there were lots of questions aimed at our walking guide, which delayed our departure a little.

Storming

So bearing in mind that the original agreed arrangement, was to take a brisk early morning scenic walk and then the cable car to the top of the mountain, being part of a group whilst carrying out this activity was just an innocuous, secondary incidental. Things were initially fine in the group, but that changed about 10 -15 minutes after we set off.

You might think that the objective of moving from point A to B was simple enough and therefore so would be the circumstances, but the reality was that three of the seven in the group wanted to stop and appreciate the atmosphere and scenery. Four of the group wanted to keep moving at a fast pace and two of the seven wanted us, when we did move, to walk at a much slower pace. One of the group, who had hiked the mountain before wanted us to take a different pathway to the one we were on, as it wasn’t that well known. It is fair to say that there were a few disagreements and as a result sub groups/cliques quickly emerged.

Norming

After about an hour on the mountain, in torrential downpour, the group dynamics changed. I think it happened after we saw from a distance that the cable cars had been shut down. It was at that point there was a realisation that we would all be together for some time – whether we liked it or not. Attempting to sing ‘I will survive’ by Gloria Gaynor proved to be a humorous icebreaker and improved team spirit, in part because no one really knew the words except the all-important and relevant chorus, that we would survive!

We willingly pooled our food and drink together and in my case I had four sweets and an apple juice to offer the group. Luckily this was not all there was though and a total of five bottles of water, four oranges, three sandwiches, two bars of chocolate and a packet of biscuits was shared between us all. It certainly wasn’t a kings feast, but thankfully it was enough to keep everyone somewhat hydrated and energised. When we came across the snakes, a couple of people quickly obtained, fashioned and distributed strong sticks to everyone with such speed, it was actually quite amazing.

Performing

By the time the mousiest, beanpole of a guy, began impromptu to sing Ron Kenoly’s ‘I have known the father cares for me (he’s been good)’ (blowing us all away with his voice in the process), I knew we had transformed into a strong team, where members felt comfortable with one another. As a result, we had an amazing time of prayer, praise and worship. All the former cliques had disbanded and there was a resulting sense of cohesion, despite the obvious challenges we were trekking our way through on the mountain.

After about 4 and 1/2 hours later, when we eventually reached the top of the mountain and from there accessed the road, there was a real sense of team accomplishment and camaraderie. Each member had contributed in some way to our success (no one died and bar a sprained ankle, no one was seriously injured), whether it be guidance, direction, leadership, encouragement, prayer ministry and/or praise and worship (I think I unintentionally contributed through the provision of light relief).

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt2

Lesson 2 – Plan and Research

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Following on from lesson 1, I’ve established and explained why it is generally easier to follow and much harder to lead. As well as why you have no one else to blame if you thoughtlessly follow someone down a dead end, follow bad advice etc.

I like to at times ‘live in the moment’, ‘wing it’, ‘take life as it comes’ – basically be open to new experiences. But having a laissez-faire attitude can leave you in situations that could be avoided. Take for example if you go on a journey to a place you don’t know, or decide to climb a mountain, doing some research should really be a consideration. I generally believe that we are obliged to use the brain that God has given us, but in this particular situation I found myself, disengaging my brain. So the second life lesson is about research and planning.

You see, when it was suggested at dinner the night before that we go and check out the majestic landscape views of Cape Town, from a great focal peak point, I simply said ‘great – I’m in, what time am I being picked up?’ I assumed we would be in the luxurious air conditioned van driving for most of the way to the top, but upon honest reflection, if I’d asked a question or two, done a little research, I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I wound up in.

If I’d googled, bing’d, yahoo’d – searched on the internet, I would of discovered that this South African landmark, was not the presumed hill top I thought we were going up, but an actual 3,563ft mountain. Seriously who decides to climb a mountain over dessert? Yes we were all joking about walking off the calories the day before, but as we approached the base of the mountain, my pupils began to dilate.

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As we get out of the van, and the driver leaves us at the entrance, I guess I’m in a state of shock as I look around me and I become acutely aware that looking ‘nice’ and well styled was not the priority of the rest of the group who were all wearing hiking gear! Though a little late, I find my voice and I decide to speak up and enquire what exactly we would be doing this morning.

The group’s majority decides that we should walk for a bit and then take the aerial cableway the rest of the way to the top. I’m reassured by a lady who’s at least twenty five years older than myself that the path we will take is scenic and that the 30 minute walk will be done at a slow pace. As it’s such a nice day (the sky is blue with a warm gentle breeze), I’m won over, it sounded like a good plan and besides I didn’t mind the early morning stroll.

However forty five minutes later, we are still walking, not near the cable car entrance and the weather has dramatically changed. The sky has darkened and it’s now raining. I’m near the back of the group of seven walkers and I can just about hear what the guy leading the group is saying. From what I have gathered thus far, when the weather is like this, the cable cars are stopped. Therefore by the time we’d reach them, the area would be locked up and we wouldn’t be able to ride them to the top of the mountain.

I turn around in order to begin to walk back down, but my walking ‘partner’ for want of a better word (we’re the last two at the rear of the group), grabs my arm and explains the bit I’ve obviously missed. The entrance of the mountain will also be locked up by now and there is no way we will be able to scale the wire and fencing, even if we wanted to (I asked). She then hugs me as my face must obviously show my bewilderment and trepidation as it dawns on me that I am going to have to climb this mountain with only a juice box, four sweets and in my flip flops. There’s a loud clap of thunder and I think to myself that this feels like the set-up of a horror movie….as it turns out, I wasn’t that wrong…..TBC

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Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops

Lesson 1 – Be careful who you follow.

It’s important that you don’t just follow anyone’s ideas, fashion sense, into battle – or in my case, up a mountain….

It’s easy to follow, much harder to lead and sometimes it actually makes sense to follow a more learned, experienced person. I could even cite the great biblical example of Elisha following Elijah here and in fact go as so far to say I believe we all could do with an Elijah type figure in our lives – a spiritual mentor, father and/or mother. But let’s be clear that’s not what I’m talking about so that said, you have no one else to blame if you follow someone into some kind of ridiculous dodgy situation.

In my case I’d paid hardly any attention to anything that had been said about the day’s itinerary the day before and simply settled in my mind to follow others as we would be doing everything as a group anyway. This was not the first time I’d used this strategy and it had always worked out fine to let others take the lead. No worry, no stress.

Therefore if I’m honest, upon reflection I hold my hands up and acknowledge I’m ultimately to blame and I can’t really say following the advice of a 10 year old boy about whether wearing my flip flops that day was okay. Especially when my inner voice said at least twice, change into trainers (sneakers) before I set off that day. Somehow following the advice of a kid overruled my gut feeling, the Holy Spirit and any kind of common sense. It of course set me up for big problems later on, but at the time, I thought ‘que sera sera, whatever will be, will be – basically what’s the worst that could happen?’

Anyway by now some of you may be wondering if I am being serious, perhaps exaggerating or confusing a very steep hill with an actual mountain. Well the mountain in question has the following Wiki Facts:

  • Table Mountain is a mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa
  • The highest point of Table Mountain is 3,563 feet above sea level
  • The mountain’s main feature is a level plateau at the peak approximately 3 kilometres from side to side, surrounded by steep cliffs.
  • Table Mountain has apparently for various reasons, seen more deaths in the last century than Mount Everest.
  • Climbing a mountain was never on my bucket list.

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Part 2 to follow shortly