Memories & Meetings.

A little while back an old climbing friend, Terry Ralphs suggested on Facebook, why not start a ‘good news’ Facebook page? With so much bad news in this world, I took his advice, but instead decided to go back and revisit this Blog I set up in 2015 or 16.

I  haven’t seen Terry for years. The first time we met was back in the early 90’s. I’d been visiting North Wales and while my partner, Cubby was out mountain guiding, I hung around an area of boulders. Soon a slightly shy, but friendly man arrived and started up a conversation. I think possibly we bouldered together a little that day in the Llanberis Pass and over the years to come we occasionally bumped into each other again.

boulders Llanberis

Bouldering at Llanberis Pass ( photo creditoutdoornorthwales.com)

In my twenties, I broke my back in a snowboarding accident. My partner, Cubby, was guiding in the Alps and unable to visit but he sent me some mumiyo (a resin from the rocks in Russia which was said to be good for broken bones). While I lay in bed unable to walk, Terry, who was guiding in Fort William at the time, came by with some slides. He projected them on the wall next to one of the other patients and we all had a lovely slideshow of some wonderful mountain regions across the world. Thank God, a few weeks later I was out and running in the hills again. Some years later, when we bought our own home, for a few months Terry became a lodger in our home in Ballachulish. It was always nice to have him around. The climbing lifestyle was like that, people dropping in and out and meeting up in different parts of the world. As climbers, we lived what probably looked like a free spirited life. Perhaps we were searching for something else? And maybe because so much time was spent outside in God’s wonderful creation we came to know something of God’s character and peace?

As I viewed Terry’s Facebook post, I saw his profile photo leaning against a large Cross in the Alps and I knew in my heart that his words to me actually had more meaning than he knew. I did want to write about good news, but not about the good news that was our good news (though that was always good to hear), but the ‘Good News’ that had the power to transform hearts, situations, lives and the very world we lived in. The Good News of Jesus Christ.

Before my repentance, Christ had appeared many times to me through a series of dreams, very often in rock climbing settings. I had seperated from my husband and a great void had opened up. In my first dream I was about to follow him up a huge slab of rock. It looked like Glen Etive. One of the last climbs we had made together was Cubby’s long climb called ‘Angel’ on the Etive slabs. Slab climbing had always brought fear into me. I didn’t enjoy friction climbing by any means and so my role on Angel was to follow and to make sure Cubby wouldn’t hit the slab of rock below on one of the crux overlap sections of the climb. He didn’t, and in his usual graceful style, he cruised quietly and gently up the rock place like a lizard, making little, if no, sound. Etive Slabs are a beautiful place and would, though little did I know at the time, it would be a place of significant memory for me in the future. On our return trip he tackled the last crux of the route. As we made our way towards this last pitch we witnessed as large dollop of fresh looking chalk on the blank slab next to us. It became clear with the amount of gear left in place that someone had taken a hard fall. Later we would find out that a father and son had been climbing together and during the walk off, his father had tripped over a clump of heather. Unroped, he hit the slab below, head first, and died. How tragic.

Etive Slabs

the impressive sweep of Etive Slabs

In my dream, I tried to follow the climb up the great area of slab. It looked like Etive Slabs or the slabs in Switzerland that I’d climbed on. As I tried to get a foothold onto the rock, the rock beneath my feet began to crumble away. A man with blonde hair on the beach looked up. I didn’t not recognise him but he had a peaceful way about him. I watched as Cubby climbed away into the distance. For many weeks I wondered who the man on the beach was?

Cubby loved bouldering at Etive. I sometimes joined him but the problems were so difficult and technical that I rather just enjoyed looking at the surrounding landscape and picking bilberries when they were in season.

picking berries. Author finding an easier problem on the boulders

Sadly the dream spoke of our marriage breakup. I guess in truth it had been on the rocks for many years. The Lighthouse that would have kept us off them we hadn’t seen, and time could not heal what had already been broken, our marriage vows to God.

In my anguish I began to solo climb in my own favourite climbing haunt in Glen Nevis. This was where I first met my future husband to be, and infact this is also where I did my first climb when I was seventeen with my first boyfriend. The Buttress was called Calvary Crack, aptly named because of the huge cross shape on it. On one of my days out I soloed ‘Calvary Crack’ itself, a classic and popular HVS. Where had life gone so wrong I wondered? As I continued to wander about the Glen, I found myself sitting up at High Crag. From the ground it could be recognised by its skull shaped rock. The crag overlooked the whole Glen and from there I found peace and quiet. Only years later did I find out that the place on which Christ was cruxified, Golgotha, was also skull-shaped. God was already drawing me back to Him but as yet I was unaware.

Golgotha with skull (Israel); High Crag with skull (Glen Nevis).

After our divorce I began to seek the truth of all things. Truth to the lies of this life I’d been living, truth to the reason for our existance and the truth of who I was.

I had grown up as a believer in Christ but that truth lay buried under a thick layer of debauched and sinful living, however in 2008, I sat down to paint what I felt and out of the canvas came a image. Enemies were attacking me but a shield of truth was deflecting the arrows. The truth was love, but whose love? Whose love could deflect the woundedness that these repeated attacks had caused and how could this love heal me?

I had another dream. This time I was climbing a sea stack. I froze with fear and could no longer move. My climbing friends were basking in sunshine atop the pillar of rock totally unaware of my struggle. I was alone, unable to move. After some time, I began to think my strength would wane, my fingers would uncurl and I would fall to my death.

I remembered back to a time in the 90’s when I had climbed in Glencoe with Andy Nelson. There had been a heatwave and I longed to be climbing in the mountains. Andy too was seeking someone to climb with and after a phone call we met in the car park. The beautiful wall of Freak Out was dry and Andy had his eye on an E5 there. I was unfit and hadn’t really climbed much in a while but reckoned I would be able to lead the easier pitches. I knew Andy a little but had never climbed with him. He had a warm nature and was a member of the local mountain rescue team in Glencoe. At least if things went wrong I would be in good hands! We set off and things seemed to go well. My pitch would be a long traverse pitch of 5c. Part way along the wall, I found I hadn’t warmed up enough and my muscles began to seize up. I kept my cool and thought it better to keep moving and get to the bigger holds before the pump kicked in. As I climbed across the wall on small edges, the pump came sooner than expected and as I was trying to get some marginal pieces of gear in, I found I could no longer use my fingers. Infact I knew at any moment they would unfurl and I would fall. I figured perhaps that would be okay, afterall, if I hurt myself Andy would be able to get me off safely. I had never thought like this before but now there seemed to be no choice. I was about to let go and fall when I noticed a small ledge beneath me and calculated that I would most probably hit it. I remembered a fall Cubby had had on that small wall when he was younger and how it had led to permanent hip damage in his later years. Suddenly out of no-where I summoned up some faith that the gear I had placed would hold a belay and asked Andy to join me part way along the pitch. It was a precarious situation but I knew that the pitch for Andy would be fine, and it was, and he took us both safely up the rest of the climb.

freak out wall

photo: climbers abbing off the wall of Freak Out, Glen Coe.

I felt silly and irresponsible. Everything in my life seemed to be falling apart and now my climbing too.

In 2008 I opted to go to Rome to help a friend move home. I had to clear my head. It was a crazy time and her life seemed to be in turmoil too. In between shifting her gear, I went for long walks through the centre of Rome. I slowed down and began to consider the Colosseum and the violence of the human mind in throwing humans to the lions at this time in history. How did man man get to this state?

Angel statute and The Colosseum in Rome

I wandered through small alleyways, stopping at fonts of water for a drink. Water was so refreshing, it flowed continously and looked so pure. And I looked up at the huge statues of naked Greeks gods and angels atop the impressive, historic buildings. One day we made our way to the Vatican but the queues were so long that we decided it was not worth the wait. The Greek gods and godesses didn’t appeal to me but the angel, somehow that struck a cord within and gave me a sign of hope of an unseen world, of man’s unseen divine nature.

In my dream I needed someone to help me now. I was filled with fear but no-one even knew I was there. Suddenly, a small, thin, red cord was dropped down to me. It looked like silk. It would not hold my weight but I had no choice, I reached up and grabbed it, and as I did I woke up.

The man on the beach, who was he? Who had dropped the red silk cord?

After my marriage break up I had met a man and we began dating. Cubby also met another partner and although there were no hard feelings between us, there was a great sadness in me. At first the relationship felt like a new start, full of adventure and vigour but after a couple of years it began to plummet. My mental health had plummetted too. I began to suffer from depression and knew something in my life had to change. I headed off on holiday to the lovely Greek island of Kalymnos to take more time out and met up with an old climbing friend from Quebec. It was a difficult time, memories flooded back of my time here with my husband and I could not deny my deterioating relationship with with my boyfriend.

kaly

the stunning island of Kalymnos

I made the journey alone, stopping over briefly in Greece. At Kos the flight to Kalymnos had been cancelled due to bad weather. A large group of foreign climbers gathered outside the airport. Some got buses to lodgings and others taxis to other places but many stood around waiting for that miracle of God. I waited too. Soon one had called a friend and a large open backed lorry arrived. We all piled in and were dropped off at a small pier. We had been told that if the weather permitted, we would get a boat ride for a fee to Kalynmos. It got dark and the waves were still large but soon a little light appeared and a small boat pulled up. He decided to take a chance and take us stranded climbers across. It was a hairy ride and by the time we got there, most of us were all soaked to the skin. Shaking the boat man’s hand we thanked him for his hospitality and grace.

By late evening I was reunited with my old friend Frederic again. We had met in Scotland in my 20’s and had shared a memorable climbing trip together to The Old Man of Hoy. Over the years we met on occasion in various locations. I respected Fred, for his morals were strong and now I needed a good friend to chat to, one with good morals. He was surprised to hear that Cubby and I had gone seperate ways and seemed to feel my distress. Both of us had now taking to smoking cigarettes, that was not a good sign for people who cared about their health. His path had taken him to becoming a doctor, and he seemed also to enjoy talking about politics with his other Canadian friends that had joined us. Times had moved on we were changed people, but perhaps not for the better. We talked of our stresses, our relationships, lives, hopes and dreams.

After the climb in Glencoe with Andy, I had no expectations of climbing well, infact I hadn’t climbed for over six weeks and I knew that meant feeling pumped and I would not be able to climb the long overhanging walls that Kalynmos was so famous for. My friends had come with goals in mind and I watched their joy or frustration as they suceeded or failed.

climbers at Kalymnos (no idea who!! ) and old monastic ruins

The days were warm and filled with new friendships with the multi national climbers who shared our accommodation and climbing arenas. My own climbing now surprised me, for despite the lack of training, I climbed better than I’d ever had on the steep overhanging walls. Perhaps with no expectations or goals, we just relax? It was wonderful to just enjoy the company and warm rock.

On our days off from climbing, Fred and I hired a moped and took a trip across the island where we set upon an old monastic community. I crawled into a small cell building and sat still. Remains of angelic beings, Saints and Christ could still be made out in the painting on the walls. It was a peaceful place and I we just sat with few words, taking in the vistas and atmosphere. In Kalymnos there were many little chapels were dotted across the island and on the coastline. On another day off I entered one and was struck by the beautiful decor of the walls. I sang a high note and listened as it reverberted around the high dome shaped ceiling. Suddenly I burst into song, remembering Christian tunes from my youth. The sound was amplified in the small space and seemed to circle above in the dome. Beautifully painted angels and cherubs floated amongst the clouds across the ceiling, while a Cross and Christ in a splendid gold colour dominated the far end of the chapel. All too soon, I was leaving the beautifully clear Mediterranean waters and friends that we had made.

A few nights later back home, as I sat up in bed in my attic bedroom, I felt a gentle breath next to my shoulder. How could that be I thought, there is only a brick wall behind me? I felt comforted and no longer alone in my struggle. Was it an angel I wondered, did they really exist?

One week after returning from Kalymnos my divorce papers came through after our seperation several years earlier. I stared at the decree and remembered God. I remembered my marriage oath, “until death do us part, to be faithful in sickness and in health” and I knew that I had sinned against God. I had to go now and get a new life. Later I prayed to God for the first time since I was a teenager. “God help me”, were my words. Now I was in God’s hands.

After my divorce I gave up climbing. The rock was something I had shared with my husband, it had been his life but now I was no longer part of his life. But as time passed, a new Rock came into my life. I remembered the words, ‘God’s Own Rock’ as a description of a crag in Yorkshire. I needed a rock in my life, a solid new foundation, something to build a new home on and God had shown me clearly that it was to be built on His foundation. At times it was a great struggle but soon I understood whom the man in the dream was. It was Christ, it was He who watched me from the beach and it was He who had dropped the thin red line. It was through His blood, His death, that my sins were washed away and I was made as a new creation. I had been given new life in Christ by the grace of God.

I learnt many truths over the years to come, that I had been as dead in sin; that I had been rescued by God; delivered in Christ and given new life in the Spirit; that the enemy who sought to destroy me (the painting) now had no power over me; that God’s angels truly did exist and help was there to ALL who believe in God. I also learnt that there is never a need to be frozen in fear, out of your depth, too tired to fight on, or to feel abandoned. All it takes is one small prayer, “God help me”.

Daniel lions

The prophet Daniel thrown into the pit lions and saved by God.

My life since 2008 truly has been a journey of faith, suffering, sorrow, adventure and joy. I miss my old climbing buddies but I am glad that my soul has now been saved. At some point in our lives we all have to make that choice, to be saved or unsaved.

Please check back for more about the GOOD NEWS of Christ’s saving grace.

God Bless : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories & Meetings.

Politicians, Super Heroes and God!

If you expect your taxi driver to pick you up in a Ferrari and then fly you to your destination, he’s going to think you’re nuts! If our taxi driver told us he’d pick us up in a Ferrari and fly us to our destination we’d think he was nuts! So why, when our politicians tell us they will take our country to a wonderful new place, where fairness and equality reign; and where financially, medically and educationally things will be rosey,  why then do we not  think they’re nuts!

flying

With all eyes focused on political campaigns again and new leaderships,  I listen to the party political broadcasts and wonder do the people really believe a handful of politicians can deliver a better Britain, a better Scotland, a better world? They give us great promises but how often have these promises become a reality, a truth? I question whether it is in fact even in a politician’s power, or directive, to make such grand promises on behalf of so many people? And what then, do we think when the promises are not fulfilled? Do the people then lose trust and faith in their leaders?

I wonder this, not from a stance of trying to pull down politicians, but we have all heard the promises which seemingly never make it to fruition, so why do we keep on believing their words, the propaganda? How can a handful of people possibly determine the outcome of the lives of the majority of the population? Can they in fact? Are these promises not, unintentionally perhaps, false? Have our leaders and those who voted them into leadership not somehow made demi gods of them/themselves, imagining that they have some hidden powers, which with a flick of a wand, will transform our streets, our lives? And if ‘they’ (the powers at be) do have hidden powers, why then are we not seeing miraculous changes occurring on a daily basis?

vote

I wonder if our spouses were making the same promises as our politicians, would we not have walked out long ago? So why then do we keep believing?

It seems human nature has an inbuilt need to look for a super hero in our society, someone to lead us out of the mess of our world and save us. As children we were awed by the powers of Wonder Woman, Batman, Spiderman, Lassie the dog and even Champion the Wonder Horse! The modern day equivalents may be along the lines of Arny in Terminator, The Highlander, Gandalf, Luke Skywalker or The Captain (star trek). (I apologise that I’m still showing my age as I can’t name a modern day equivalent for the younger generation). But what I am trying to get at is that we seem to be looking for some sort of super hero team to sort of our big worldly problems of debt, poverty, crime, addictions, but no matter what our leaders put in place, these things never go away.

superman

If we look at all our fantasy super heroes, (including Peter Pan), we see that our politicians just don’t match up – they can’t fly, they don’t have the supernatural powers of teleportation or extra sensory perception, in fact they can’t keep their promises, so why do they make them? Our superheroes never made promises, they just sort of went out and did it, but to be fair, they were figments of a creative person’s imagination, and we are real with real limitations. So why don’t we I wonder, get real and realise it is an impossible task for humans to achieve the many things we claim to be able to do.

Each person has his/her own mind and in that they set their own limitations. How many poor people go out each week and buy a lottery ticket believing they will hit the jackpot and all the problems in their lives will vanish overnight? How many people each week win?  How long will it be before they give up hope and faith in a big win? How long will it be before we give up hope and faith in our politicians?

Hope is keeping our faith in someone/something. Faith is hope or trust in someone or something. What are we hoping for? A miracle? Have our politicians ever produced miracles?  In this real world (not in the fantasy realm), have we ever witnessed miracles? If we need miracles to bring about the great changes  we hope to see, then is it not about time to ask God for some miracles?!

After all God parted the Red Sea, fed the 5000 on a few loaves of bread, healed the lepers and those who could not walk or see, raised the dead back to life and through Christ, walked on water (to name just a few of His miracles)

Moses

We are a strange species, who it seems, wish to believe in miracles, but don’t believe in God, the one true miracle maker.

Politicians, Super Heroes and God!

TRUE LOVE

TRUE LOVE

Its very joy blinds me

And pains me at the same time

I am drowning in sorrow

And becoming awake

Opening my eyes to the very essence of true love

A love so great

That nothing can take away its brightness

 

But it is not a love that I have known

Yet ….

 

God is Light

And in God there is no darkness at all

None.

 

I have sought my purpose

And now to begin the quest

To touch and feel and be in a love

So great, So powerful

That my heart would melt

 

God’s love for you and I.

 

I have glimpsed it for a split second

As if my eyes were Christ’s

And in the moment I truly loved the whole world

As His brilliance shone

 

Your sins as red as scarlet

 

Soon darkness poured in

And swallowed me once again

But I have seen into His eyes

 

And wait to be made white as wool

TRUE LOVE

The Good Shepherd

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls .…

Matthew 11:28-29

Sunday the 26th April and we’ve just had a fresh fall of snow here. I look at the window, delighted at the spectacle of whiteness and then I see the young lambs huddled up next to their mothers, some new-borns and others that are only a few weeks old. I pray to the Lord and ask that He keep them warm and give them shelter during this bad weather.

Then my mind drifts to those in other parts of the world who have been affected by snow, by other natural disasters – the earthquake in Nepal, the avalanche on Mount Everest, people – elderly, children, mothers and fathers who have struggled to survive the cold winter weather, others who have been made homeless by wars, who have lost loved ones. Those who are starving and seemingly have no-one to turn to for help, for comfort, for warmth and food.

I watch as one sheep with two young lambs stares into the field. She looks stressed and walks away from her lambs and the rest of the field. They follow her but she turns and butts one of her lambs. She has to eat and provide milk for two lambs. Shortly after, the shepherd comes in his pick-up truck to check on their well-being. I chop up a large turnip that my friend left here and put it out in the field and pray that the sun will come out soon and warm the lambs and reveal the grass again.

I look up at the cairn and Cross on top of the hill nearby and pray that those who struggle, the many across the world who are finding life too tough, have seen too much sorrow and war; those who don’t know where their next meal will come from and live in poverty; that they may know that if they turn to Christ, he will bring their weary hearts rest.

2011-07-31 07.02.18

He is our Shepherd, we are His lambs. He makes sure we are okay because He loves us and cares for us. He feeds us souls with manna from above, He lifts us high when we are low and gives us new hope. Christ is always there to watch over us, through bad weather, through storms and crisis. He lifts us out of the pits we may fall into, out of the darkness and into His Light.

He truly is The Great Shepherd of the people.

The Good Shepherd

Become the Change You Want to see in the world

Lifting The Veil (571x800) Lifting the Veil (painted in 2010)

I awoke this morning to read this news headline. It was about the Stephen Fry interview …… Asked what he would say to God if he found himself standing at the gates of Heaven, he said he would say: “How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.”

He added: “The God who created this universe, if he created this universe, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

And so, finally with highlighting in the media of all the awful murders around the world taking place, the mainstream media are finally taking an interest in religious belief and in God, and all hell is let loose! Who is right, who is wrong? Why is God punishing us?

It’s pretty simple really there were only 10 commandments God gave us and they are quite straight forward – to the point. Because humanity couldn’t keep these commandments, God took pity on us mere mortals and graciously and compassionately sent Jesus to take our sins from us (I don’t think that’s particularly evil). And God (again knowing our weaknesses) made it very easy for us, we only need to ask for *redempton of our sins, through Jesus, and we would come under Christ’s saving grace. (We cannot save ourselves but we can ask to be saved or *sanctified) Jesus taught us to love one another, love our enemies and above all love God.

Mostly we don’t understand this because we don’t understand sin and its effects. Once we understand sin and how it effects our own human body and mind and the entire interconnected world, then we can look at ourselves and say I can see how my words, thoughts or actions are affecting everyone around me (positively or negatively). Put just one million people together who do not love their neighbour, their boss, people around them, each other and we can begin to see the massive consequences of our thinking…… this is our world today which somewhat resembles hell.

From Duality to Oneness (800x798) Passing through The Zones of Duality (2) (797x800)

From Duality to Oneness / Passing Through the Zones of Duality (painted in 2010)

In our ‘blame’ culture, blaming God (or others) rather than ourselves is the easy way out. If we want to live in a better world, we have to change ourselves, not others. GOD IS LOVE and by loving one another we get closer to knowing God.

We are all affected by the awful, global atrocities, of man killing man. In God’s commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, I think it is clearly obvious that the atrocious work we see in this world today is not God’s handiwork.

*redemption – the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

*Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ in all that we do, think, and desire.

Images & text ©Joanna George 5th Feb 2015

Become the Change You Want to see in the world

Turning Points

Turning Points - Copy Turning points (painted in 2010)

At some point in our lives we all reach a point where we continue on the path that we are on, or we turn around and go into a new direction. For many, plodding on the same path is easier even though in our hearts we know it may not be the best path for us and others. Changing direction and moving into unfamiliar places can be frightening.

I thought I was the adventurous type, I climbed rocks and ice, I snowboarded, enjoyed exploring, travelling, would jump at the chance of trying new activities and trying new boulder problems. My career path was similar, I designed technical clothing, creel fished, did graphic design jobs, picked winkles and was involved in photo shoots. I was confident, happy, earned enough money to see me by and although I wasn’t a great communicator, I saw the best in people and had friends across the country.

Then one day something touched my heart so deeply that I could not ignore it. I had just read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. It seemed that people in a quest for success and personal ambition were willing to put their own lives at risk. This is nothing new in the world of high altitude mountaineering where many great mountaineers have lost their lives. But what touched me, what I found disturbing, was that in this self-driven quest of summiting Sagarmāthā (Mount Everest), climbers were walking past people who were dying in this hostile environment and this appeared to be deemed acceptable behaviour – after all they had paid good money to reach the summit, not to save dying fellow human beings.

I have used the word Sagarmāthā (a word derived from the Nepali and Sanskrit language) which is roughly translated as ‘sky and head’ or in a more poetic form, ‘the head of the earth touching the Heaven’. This beautiful description sits well in this sacred Himalayan landscape where man does not ‘conquer’ the mountains but lives in their shadow, enthralled by their beauty.

After reading the book, I lay there motionless and wished I hadn’t read it. I had been looking for another adventure story like Touching The Void, a gripping tale of faith, epic, survival, friendships and rescue, but Into Thin Air left me feeling none of that, just an awful realisation that something in our world was terribly wrong. As I contemplated this issue over the months, I realised that life on the ground level was like that too. In an individual’s quest for personal success and self-fulfilment, every day we are walking past our fellow men who are suffering, who are dying of illness, of broken hearts, of domestic abuse, of drug and alcohol addictions, of starvation and homelessness.

I was living in Ballachulish at this time of my life. One night the telephone rang. It was about 1am and I had been sleeping. It was our good friend Alan Mullin wanting to speak to my partner Cubby. Alan was soul searching and would often call Cubby for long discussions to find out answers to life’s big questions, to discuss climbing topics and find sense and meaning in both his climbing and life. Cubby was away and it was late. I was tired and not in the mood to listen. As he began to talk, I heard him tell me that I must repent of my sins. I thought he must be on the booze or drugs again and told him it was late and I had to go and said goodbye. I put the phone down, but there it was, a similar feeling in my heart that I had felt after I had read Into Thin Air. I called him back and listened to what he had to say about repentance.

It was true and deep down I knew it, I had wandered far from the path. My own ‘head on earth’ was not touching heaven. I was walking in darkness. My quest for pleasure and my own self-interest, had taken me far from what mattered.

It was 2006 and not long after this chat with Alan, I was asked to do a short slide show/talk on Scottish sports climbing at the launch of Pete Murray’s new film, ‘Chains’ in the new Cotswold shop in Glasgow. I was writing a guidebook for the SMC on Scottish sports climbing at the time and as such, thought it would be a simple task to chat about it. Arriving there on the evening however I was nervous as the people (many of them friends) took their seats. As I mentioned earlier, I was not a good verbal communicator but I had images and thought they would speak for themselves. My friend bought me a bottle of beer to calm my nerves and I began the introduction “Hello and welcome. I am not a good talker but I will try to do my best. If I start to talk about God, please put me back on track”. I turned and looked at the slides in front of me, my memory blanking out – what did I say about God? What had just happened? God? Why did the name suddenly appear? Sport climbing – yes. I enjoyed sport, I enjoyed climbing but mostly I enjoyed visiting beautiful areas with good friends – that was what mattered. Bolts in a piece of rock and climbers achieving grades were not of interest to me, glorification and praise – that was for God was it not? Somehow, about half way through the slide show (and bottle of beer), things started to pick up as I relaxed and began to enjoy showing pictures of beautiful places and good friends and later Pete showed his new film.

But inside things were not well. The troubles of my heart continued to bother me and with great pain, Cubby and I decided to depart ways. I now wished that like a snake that shed its skin, I would be able to just slip out of my old life and voilà, there would be a new one. Yes for sure I had reached a turning point, but which way now? Repent, what did that mean?

It wouldn’t be too long before I had an answer to that question. It came in a vision where I saw clearly that I was trying to follow Cubby up a huge, smooth rock face of granite. He gracefully climbed into the distance while I tried to gain a foothold on the rock. I had never enjoyed granite, friction climbing, it always frightened me. But here in the dream, the rock beneath my feet crumbled away and I could not step onto the rock face, never mind climb it. On the beach below, a man looked on. I could not go on, my foundation had fallen away and I needed to learn how to rebuild it. Who was the man in my dream, standing in the sunshine?

Alone for the first time in my life, without thinking too much I threw myself headlong into a new relationship, one which would prove to be turbulent, trying, destroying and wonderful, all in varying degrees. My personal climbing nose-dived as my emotional state became increasingly unstable as the words ‘marriage is for life’ would not go away. What had happened?

I had now heard from another climbing friend that Alan had recently become a born again Christian. Realising I needed some time alone so moved away up North. Paul Tattersall, a climbing acquaintance had found a lovely small home for me down a quiet single track road near Gairloch. I would move there and reflect on life, spend some time alone, be single again, find myself. I continued to try and write the guidebook and bouldered down on the beach and at local crags with fellow climbers, life would work out.

Then in March of 2007, the tragic news that Alan Mullin had taken his own life reached me. Through Cubby I knew a little of Alan’s psychological problems but I knew nothing of his desire to end his life. I was aware that on top of his existing problems the barrage of online assaults handed out by his own climbing community were highly distressing him. Climbing had been an escape for him, an outlet, perhaps for all his pent up anguish and confusion. I thought back to the phone call. Repent? Why, when he had reached up for Christ, had he killed himself, it hadn’t made sense.

After several months I moved back to Lochaber and tried to focus on my life again. What was it in the Krakauer book that had reached me so deeply? Many questions began to arise inside and my heart ached more and more. In turning up the ground, things were revealed. My Grandad, I discovered on the day of his funeral, had received a George’s Cross medal for bravery during World War II. He was a keen Lakes climber and when called up for service, joined the paratroopers. He was a quiet, modest man who did not proudly display his medal but hid it in a drawer. I believe his belief was one of ‘who in their right mind would not try to save a dying fellow man’? Grandad was captured on a spy mission and spent time in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Ironically perhaps, my father married a beautiful German lady, whose father also spent time in a POW camp (in Germany also, as a Jew). Luckily they both survived their ordeals.

Perhaps this is what struck me so deeply? People were dying in our world, from mental health problems, from drug and alcohol addictions, from poverty, homelessness, violence, war and broken hearts, and from trying to succeed in reaching the top of the ‘head of the earth reaching heaven’, without ever knowing God.

In January 2008, another good friend of mine took his own life. I had worked with him two weeks prior to his death and knew little of his pains. I had to change something in my own life, why was I not seeing the warning signs of people contemplating taking their own lives, why were they so pained?

In 2008 my boyfriend and I departed and I went to soul searching again. I began to pray and ask questions and had another vision. In this one, I was climbing a pillar of rock above the sea. Many of my climbing friends were sat atop it, basking in the sunshine. I was frozen by fear and could not speak nor move. The climbers were unaware of my difficulty but out of nowhere, a small, fine red line was dropped down to rescue me. It’s seemed too frail to take my weight but I had to trust it and reached out my hand to grab it. Suddenly I was awake.

LossA guiding hand – my rescue service (painted while in hospital in 2008)

In August 2008, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for three weeks. A rescue team from Stornoway and Glencoe had gone to search for me. True, I did need a rescue, an emergency service but not a 999 call, I needed a spiritual rescue. I was calling out to God for help in the midst of a spiritual crisis but there seemed to be no rescue service to cater for this type of emergency. While I was locked up in the secure ward, my family brought me some art equipment and I began to paint. Through the art, I witnessed an inner transformation taking place. A whole new world opening up, one of growth, blossoming love, joy and peace. I now had a God guiding me an again showed me the way through visual imagery which I could understand.

Celebration of Life!Celebration of Life! (painted while in hospital in 2008)

By 2010, helped by my family, I found myself out on the Isle of Lewis sitting in a church pew and listening to the gospel. I began to understand that asking for repentance was asking for saving grace. Once we receive this our heart begins to undergo a transformation. It was then I realised that my heart was already undergoing this. The man on the beach in the sunshine an earlier vision was the Lord Jesus. The fine red line that was lowered to me in the other vision was Jesus’ saving blood. I received many more visions including that I should be baptised in the river Ness. In December of 2013 I did so. I gave my life to Christ.

God continued to speak through my art and I found time to forget myself and help others who were suffering. After all these years, I had finally found the ‘real rock’, God, and my new foundation was being built upon that. Over the last six years I climbed my own Sagarmāthā to experience the sacredness of my ‘head of the earth touching heaven’. During this time I experienced some if the worst lows of my life and some of the highest, most joyful highs. I shared my daily life with others who struggled to make sense of it all and when they fell, I fell with them, and they with me. We picked each other up and supported each other and learnt from each other that the answer was always love. And God is Love.

Krakauer’s book was the turning point for me. I thank Alan Mullin for His words and I thank my family, true friends and Cubby for great understanding.

GOD IS LOVE

Turning Points