Monday, September 29, 2008

Expedition Behavior

Expedition Behavior
• Serve the mission and goals of the group.
• Be as concerned for others as you are for yourself.
• Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
• Support leadership and growth in everyone.
• Respect the cultures you come into contact with.
• Be kind and open-hearted.
• Do your share and stay organized.
• Help others, but don’t routinely do their work.
• Model integrity by being honest and accountable.
• Admit and correct your mistakes.
• Be proud of your successes and build on these.
• Say yes and deliver, or say no clearly if you cannot do something.
• Find a healthy balance: work hard, play, reflect and rest.
• Resolve conflict in a productive manner (Leach).

In an expedition, it is important to consider safety, gear, clothing, camping technique, and outdoor living and survival skills. Equally important to these skills and equipment is our need to be able to relate well and get along with our fellow travelers. “There are lots of words and terms to describe the human interactions on an outdoor expedition: process skills, soft skills, people skills, etc. Paul Petzoldt coined the term “Expedition Behavior” to describe these skills (Harvey).” These terms describe rules for living and relating responsibly, and respectfully, with your teammates on an expedition. This is important because our lives can be a challenging expedition, much like a wilderness expedition.

Mark Harvey, in the Wilderness Guide from the National Outdoor Leadership School, says this about Expedition Behavior: “Human relations play an equally important role (in relation to all the important factors in safe expedition, such as equipment, skills, etc.). To be blunt, how well you get along with your travel mates can mean the difference between enjoying the wilds or detesting every second of it; between summiting a peak or getting hopelessly lost in the process. That you need to get along and communicate effectively with your travel companions probably seems obvious (Harvey).” This need to get along with our travel mates does seem obvious, does it not? Though it may seem obvious, our failures to love well only illustrate our need for constant reminders to have good Expedition Behavior in our daily lives and interactions.

Concerning following Christ, or discipleship, in our relationships with God and others, Paul hits on this concept of Expedition Behavior in his letter to the Colossians 3:18-4:1:

“Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master. Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them. Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end. Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits. Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work. And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven (Peterson). ”

Like an intense wilderness expedition, with survival needs, off-trail wilderness hikes, valleys, and mountain summits, our following Christ and obeying Him in our relationships with others can be challenging. Christ demands, as stated above in Colossians, great love from us toward others. In other words, God’s desire for His followers is solid expedition behavior that reflects His love for us.

Just as outdoor trips place us in close proximity to one another for long periods, so does Christian community and the Christian life with fellow believers and the church. We can never escape our call to follow and love Jesus and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The command to us is love in this wilderness life; we cannot escape it. “Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them (Peterson) (Matt. 22:37-40).”

Harvey emphasized a similar point about the importance of community and expedition behavior in “The Wilderness Guide”:

“On a backpacking or a mountaineering trip, you cannot just go home at the end of the day and relax in the confines of your own house. At the end of the a day on an outdoor expedition, you still have to work as a team setting up camp, making dinner, and keeping the tent in good shape. Nearly every aspect of camping is communal, from sharing food to the battle for room in a small tent. At its best, this shared living brings people together in a spirit of camaraderie seldom found in their normal lives [except for the Christian life, which is anything, but normal]. At its worst, the demands of outdoor living can bring people to blows (Harvey 166).”

Such is the church and Christian community. The Christian life is the same as an expedition. When we exhibit good expedition behavior, or when we live out our call to love God and others rightly, the Christian life brings us together and draws us closer to God Himself. When we live wrongly, when we are intent on living in our selfish sinfulness, we can be in serious conflict and separation in our relationships with God and others. We must live in obedience and we must live with good expedition behavior in this wilderness life.

For Harvey, expedition behavior is the key ingredient to a group’s accomplishments:

“After years of mountaineering experience, training soldiers and outdoor leaders, and completing major alpine expeditions, Paul Petzoldt concluded that good or bad expedition behavior often determined a group’s destiny even more than technical skills and physical strength. Expeditions with moderate talent but with good expedition behavior can achieve greater things than bilious (or difficult or disagreeable) expeditions with all the talent in the world (Harvey 166).”

This is very much like the church, Christian community, and the Kingdom of God. What could we accomplish?

Developing and growing in His expedition behavior, by His grace and power,


Harvey, Mark. Wilderness Guide, The National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, WY. 1999

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:18-4:1

Leach, John Gookin and Shari. The Nols Leadership Educator Notebook: A Toolbox for Leadership Educators. Lander, WY: The National Outdoor Leadership School, 2004.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Staying Found

When traveling in the wilderness it is important to stay together with your expedition team or hiking group. You are never supposed to go off alone in the wilderness. If someone is lost, or disoriented, their new job is to stay found. See, we need one another. When we are journeying together in a group, our loads are lighter. There is also safety in numbers. When backpacking, you share group gear: stoves, fuel, food, shelter, water treatment, trowels, aka bathroom, and other important gear like repair kits and first aid kits. If someone gets lost not only does this person put himself or herself at risk, but they also put the group at risk. We need one another and we need to stay together to survive.

Backpacking in the wilderness with a group of friends is like being a part of a well-oiled machine; every part serves its purpose to function and hum along toward its goal. There is a security in being in a group that does not exist when you are alone. An expedition group comes to know one another intimately and relies on one another to live from day to day. Everyone is indispensible. A community is formed when in the backcountry. Unspoken rules of conduct develop, and these rules are added to the list of technical skills and requirements that are already in place for the group to function safely. Everyone stays in step with these unspoken and spoken covenants to live and hike together safely and effectively.

The Christian life is no different. Paul says this about discipleship, or following and learning from Christ in Colossians 3:15-17:

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. ”

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:15-17

There was an unfortunate story that happened in Northern Virginia in 2008 about a young man who went off by himself to do some rock climbing and fell. No one knew where he was. Rumor has it that he was attempting a climb that he loved dearly and was breaking in some new climbing shoes. Unfortunately, this young man did not have a helmet on and was not on belay. He fell from his climb and injured himself badly. A best friend and another man who cared deeply for him found him dead on the trail the next day. He had placed himself there, probably because he knew that he would be found there.

I know that this young man was a Christ follower. His life spoke richly of the Gospel and so did his death. From His home in heaven, where rock climbing is beyond glorious, he would most likely speak these words of Paul to us from Colossians that illustrate his last lesson for those of us here that still miss him greatly, “None of this going off and doing your own thing.” This young man’s death is not in vain. It teaches a lesson for those of us on this side of heaven, that we need one another. We need one another to walk with Christ and to walk along side of each other through this life. We cannot go at it alone. We must stay together.

Staying together, not going at it alone,


Friday, September 12, 2008

Take It All Off, Honey Head

So, I wish that I were making this up, but I’m not. This is a true story. A young man was attacked by a grizzly bear while attending an outdoor leadership school’s expedition deep in bear country. Now these attacks are not that common, but they do happen on occasion. In this particular case, however, the young man wanted to make dreadlocks in his hair. He decided that it would be a good idea to rub honey in his hair instead of not brushing his hair for a really long time and committing to the long dreadlock making process. He took a short cut. I don’t think that I need to tell you this was a bad idea. I don’t even think that I need to explain any further, or even finish the story, because you are already smart enough to figure out the way that this account progresses. The bear attacked this guy's head in his sleep! He had honey on his head in bear country!

See, you are supposed to hang your food out of the reach of a bear as well as anything else that may attract a bear to your camp. You are also supposed to cook and eat far away from your campsite. In other words, you are not supposed to sleep with food, or rub it on your head, because you might endanger yourself or others with the increased probability of a bear attack! Now, I am trying not to dog this guy and I do not have anything against dreadlocks. There is, however, a right and a wrong way to go about attaining dreadlocks, just as there is a right and a wrong way to go about hanging your food, and eating and sleeping in the bear infested wilderness.

In an expedition in the backcountry there are many rules to follow to keep yourself and your group safe and sound from harm to get through to the end and to finish well. Another of these rules, besides not rubbing honey on your head, is dressing in layers. You have to change clothes a lot in the wilderness. It is icy cold at night and can be extremely hot during the day. Layers are the only way to go. In considering these layers, cotton is not an option; neither are a lot of other clothing choices that we may make in the front country. We must strip ourselves of these insufficient threads and trade them in for the right gear that we can put on to keep ourselves warm at night and cool and dry during the day. Proper clothing is essential for survival.

In the expedition of discipleship, following and learning from Christ, Paul gives this instruction to his readers in Colossians 3:3-14:

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ”

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:3-14

Two realities are clear in these passages. The first reality is sin, the old life or the old person we were before following Christ. Sin is stupid, much like putting honey on your head in bear country is stupid. The second reality that emerges from this passage is that we must take off our old layers, our old selves, our old ways of living, and our selfishness to make way for our proper “expedition clothing” when following Christ. We must put on the new self, the self that God intended us to be. We must put on love.

We should identify very easily with this young man who put honey on his head, I know that I do. Every time I go back to the old selfish way of living, doing everything that pleases me, and in my time, and whenever I feel like it, this begins stupid time for me and leads to destruction in my relationships, with myself, with others, and most importantly, it leads to destruction in my relationship with God. I know better than to go back to the way that I used to live, but I go back. I give the enemy a foothold. I put honey on my head in bear country. I am supposed to know better and you are supposed to know better.

We can change. We must change. We must change out of those filthy rags and slip into something more comfortable and fitting for our journey. We must strip away the old and put on the new. There is a new wardrobe for the expedition of following Christ, and we must put it on. We have to strip off the old insufficient layers of self and put on Christ. He has layers for us with His label on them to replace our old rags.

So, take it all off, honey head.

Shaving my head and changing my clothes,