With the skilled hands of a carpenter my Grandfather fashioned a tree house in the tree in the front yard of the orchard.
It could honestly be described as a split level with a VERY small basement. It was just big enough for me to squeeze my childhood frame into. The main floor was simply a wooden deck that two of us could sit in at one time.
During the summer when My sister and I would play there my Grandmother would bring us fresh lemonade and Tuna sandwiches.
The tree house became everything from a home, to a rocket ship that would lift us to the moon and bring us back to earth. We could climb up the limbs of the tree to make the second and third levels.
I loved climbing up that tree and escaping from the world of Central Washington and becoming whatever I wanted to be. The only limitations we had were the imagination of the mind. We could be whomever we wanted to be. We could go wherever we wanted to go.
As such I learned to climb.
I would find a tree, ( when you grow up on a fruit orchard there are LOTS of them), and start reaching and climbing. Never a fear of falling, just the need...the desire to keep going. To reach that next limb, and climb higher.
I was fearless.
I climbed apple bins that were stacked up to 10 high and climbed all over them. I would get on ladders and climb on the roof, I was a daredevil who would try anything... ONCE.
Then something happened.
I grabbed a 5 foot ladder and put it up to my favorite tree house and I climbed to the top.
There is a warning on the very top step of the ladder...it basically says...
lets just say on this particular day I did NOT head the warning on the ladder and up I stepped.
I was fine, for awhile, and then it started. The slight wobble of the ladder.
The growing wobble in my legs and the realization that I was not diligent in making sure that all legs of the ladder were on solid, flat footing.
All at once I became a member of The Flying Wallendas The famed tight rope walkers of the 60's and 70's.
My arms were outstretched and I was attempting to catch my balance on the one foot that still remained on that precarious top step.
It was a dance of impossibility. I knew what was coming, it was inevitable.
The only thing I lacked that morning was a cool costume complete with cape (you gotta have the cape!)
and awesome theme music. Hmmmm sorting through the jukebox in my head I think the appropriate song would be Believe it or not (the theme from the Greatest American Hero)
Believe it or not, I'm walking on air,
I never thought I would feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be...
believe it or not.
It's just ME
I reached, I grasped, I tried anything to try to get a grip and hold on.
I could see the big red panic button flashing in my head...
I could hear the voice in my head calling out the warning
Danger Will Robinson, Danger!!!
But alas all the warning signs, all the safety precautions that might have helped me were of no use.
I was going to fall...
in a few moments derriere would hit terra firma.
And so it began.
My last vestige of solid footing was gone and for a moment I was suspended in mid air.
I was flying.
I was free of the bonds and restrictions of gravity and I was, for a second, a spaceman.
Not outer space mind you. Just a small amount of space outside of Selah, Washington.
There I was, and then there I went.
My body came crashing to the earth hard enough that my grandmother came running from the kitchen and out the front door. I always thought it was because she felt the tremor of the earth as I landed.
In truth it was because she saw from the window, too late, that her oldest grandson had not headed her warning and had climbed the ladder.
As the earth and I became one with each other once again I felt the sharp sting of pain in my... .
You thought I was going to say my backside didn't you...
nope, well that hurt too, but the pain I felt was that of my upper teeth plunging deep into my lip and coming out in that indented area just above my chin.
Try as I might I could NOT open my mouth. I could not scream, I could not utter a sound.
I could feel warm liquid that was NOT saliva filling my mouth.
Grandma scooped me into her arms and ran me to the back bathroom and pried my mouth open.
What happened next I will leave to your imagination.
I will just say that it was a crimson eruption worthy of the volcanoes of the northwest.
And there I was.
Through the tears, the bruising and the blood, cradled in the arms of someone who loved me INSPITE of the foolishness of my childish behavior.
Who comforted me, cleaned me up and washed away the traces of my mistake.
This is one of the many, many times that I have seen Christ come alive.
Grandma was there to do all those things for me, in addition to becoming a teacher, helping me see the lesson of my experience...
or in other words to say...
...I told you so.
O.K. Maybe that is not fair. It was not so much of I told you so as If only you would have listened to me.
I think that is what God must say about me more that I ever want to admit. In fact I am having a hard time admitting it now.
God tries to protect me from peril...
but peril still finds me.
God wants to protect you from peril also, but I am sure that without looking very hard it has touched your life or the life of someone you know.
We can not stop it. We can not hope to contain it.
We can learn from it and try to keep it from repeating, but life is a fickle thing and while we are here on this planet we will have trouble.
Life is not easy, but it is the only one we have.
I am, too this very day, afraid of hights... and ladders.
Thankfully I was not afraid of chutes and ladders or you might have seen me in the corner of a white padded room with a coat that ties in the back as my children played the game.
I don't have a good track record with ladders...
but there is one that I think about a lot.
Jacobs Ladder. A Stairway to Heaven if you will...
Ok... hum a few bars of the song...I will wait... ...
I like to think of the ladder to heaven being the journey of life. It is something we are climbing everyday as we leave the sins of the world...and the sins of ourselves behind.
It is a long slow climb that we might fall from on occasion, and He will be there to help us dust off and get right back on it.
And every time I think that I can not take one more step..I can almost hear his voice saying...
you can do it Dale...I am here holding the ladder for you and it will all be alright. Just keep climbing...
and so I do.
Someday when I get to the top of that ladder and God looks into my eyes I am sure he will say...
Where's your faith? Why were you so afraid?
and I will say, But Lord it was such a long and difficult climb, I just didn't think I would ever make it.
To which he will turn me around and have me look as He says, look at all these people with calluses on their hands. They are your family and friends, the ones that have helped pull you up, each one of them helping you get one step closer to me. and then as he moves aside he will add,
and look at these hands, hands that were pierced, hands that bled, hands that hung my son from the cross just so you could be here today.
So now dear friends I hold my incredibly smooth hands out to you. I am ready to build some calluses and I am ready to help you reach the top as well.
So, come on, you can do it... we will hold the ladder for you.