Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stuck on Devil’s Tower

. . . I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

On October 1, 1941 parachutist George Hopkins did something incredibly stupid. He parachuted onto the top of Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower.
Recently while visiting this impressive national monument, I read about Hopkin’s stunt. He did it to get attention and got much more than he had bargained for! His Plan A went fine. He guided his parachute down onto the semi-flat rocky top of the Tower, which is about the size of two football fields.
But Plan B went awry when the same plane that he jumped from failed to properly drop the long rope and climbing stakes he planned to use in descending down the 865 foot high volcanic plug.
Now, George Hopkins was stranded atop Devil’s Tower. For the next week, Americans followed this saga of the stranded parachutist. Finally, after six days a group of experienced climbers ascended the mountain and brought poor George down
This story from Devil’s Tower is a good example of starting good but not having a rehearsed plan to finish well. This is true in our lives as well. Steve Farrar’s excellent book, Finishing Strong addresses this subject. I would encourage every man to read it. (Wives, buy it for your husbands. They’ll tell you thank you later.)
The story of being stuck atop Devil’s Tower also has another spiritual application:
When we land atop sin in our lives, it is a lot easier and fun (even the Bible speaks of the temporary “pleasure of sin for a season” in Hebrews 11:25) landing on it than it is to get off. An old adage speaks of this:
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go.
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay,
and sin will cost you way more than you want to pay.”

Yes, on Devil’s Tower is not a good place to land. Although the journey there looks great, once you arrive it is barren, rock, waterless, and unmercifully hot.

And it’s a whole lot harder to get off Devil’s Tower than to get on it.
Be careful what you jump for. It’s not always easy to get off!

Don’t believe me? Just ask an old daredevil named George Hopkins.

P.S. If you are ever in the Black Hills of South Dakota or northeastern Wyoming, visit Devil’s Tower. It is very impressive and awe-inspiring. The fact that it sits majestically alone in a wide flat river valley makes it something to stand beside. There is a two mile trail that winds its way all around the base.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Today is Tuesday, August 22. I am working today on a re-write of my upcoming book, The Mockingbird's Song. Listed below is the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it. All comments are welcomed.

Which of the sub-titles do you like best?

P.S. If you know someone depressed or discouraged, share this with them. There is more at our website,

Working title: The Mockingbird's Song

Sub title:
1. Essays of Encouragement for Overcoming Depression
2. or: Essays of Encouragement on Overcoming Depression

By Curt Iles
Copyright 2006 Creekbank Stories

Preface: The Mockingbird's Midnight Song
It's the middle of another restless and sleepless night. Being exhausted both physically and mentally, yet unable to get the thing you need most- sleep, is so frustrating. So I finally wearily roll out of bed. That's what all of the sleep books tell you to do when you have insomnia. Get out of bed and do something. Read. Eat a snack. Watch TV. Pray. I've tried all of these night after night and very seldom do any of them work. My mind and heart seem to be racing along at one hundred miles per hour. Nothing can seem to slow down the sadness and anxiety inside me.
On this particular night, I decide to walk outside. It's about midnight, cloudy, and there is no moon. In the rural area I live in, outdoor light is not overwhelming so the yard is very dark, even as my eyes adjust to being outside. I've always loved being outside at night, looking at the stars, tracing the path of an overhead jet.
But in my depression and insomnia, my soul feels just as black as the darkness surrounding me. I'm completely enveloped in it. I stand there, trying to concentrate and pray in the quiet darkness. I think back to the books I've read by those who've been depressed. These books all have something in common- They always describe their depression in terms of darkness, night, or blackness. One writer called it, "The black night of the soul. Author
William Stryon described it as "The black dog of despair." Winston Churchill, also a depression sufferer, called it "my black dog."
Tonight the silence is deafening. It is as if even the night creatures, such as the crickets, owls, frogs, and barking dogs, have found a hiding place to escape the darkness.
Then suddenly from the river birch tree in our driveway comes clear beautiful singing. It is a mockingbird. If you aren't from the South and haven't heard this bird, it is hard to describe its song. It is loud and is made up of about seven sequences of sounds- some stolen from other birds or nearby common sounds. In the classic book, Louisiana Birds, orthrinologist George Lowery tells of a " A mockingbird that so successfully imitated a dinner bell that it frequently caused the farm hands to come out of the field expecting their noon meal.
This midnight bird in our tree is a real singer who sits up high in the tree as the guardian of our yard. And he sings, and sings loudly, and with passion. To him, it doesn't matter that it is a dark moonless night when any respectable bird should be silently sleeping.
This mockingbird is going to sing even if it midnight . . . Even if it is dark. . . Even if no one else hears his song. He is singing for the simple pure joy of singing. And the fact that he has the entire sound stage to himself makes his song seem louder and fuller. It is the end of the opera and the great soloist is singing the aria- he needs no accompaniment. Any other sounds would only diminish the incredible beauty of this virtuoso solo.
This bird unknowingly gives me a great gift. I'm reminded of how a follower of God can sing. Even in the darkness. Even in tough circumstances.
And I'm reminded by this bird, and really by the God who created both him and his song, that I will get through this time of darkness. There is still hope for the restoration of
Joy . . . and even though now it seems I've lost my song, it is still deep within me and one day will be sung loudly and joyfully once again.
. . . I'd like to say my depression ended on that night, but that would not be true. The mockingbird that sang at midnight was only one of a thousand steps on my road to restored health and joyful living. I firmly believe it was a gift from God just for me. It is a gift that I now pass on to you.
The gift of a mockingbird,
in the darkness,
singing at midnight.

Source: Louisiana Birds by George Lowery p. 394 LSU Press copyright 1960

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Good Time to “De-clutter”

With last week’s dramatic events unfolding with the plane bombing plots, the rules of travel have changed dramatically for air travelers. In Britain, no carry-on luggage was allowed and in American airports no liquids were permitted.
Americans were shown disposing of bottles of water, expensive vials of cologne, makeup, and toothpaste. I even read about one distraught lady pouring out a bottle of vodka she’d just purchased.

The word on the news was to “de-clutter” your carry-on luggage and travel light.

It made me think about traveling light as a hiker. As many of you know from my stories I love to hike in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and along the Appalachian Trail (or the “A.T.” as it is called.)
One thing backpacking quickly teaches you is the priority of traveling light. When you are carrying a 30-40 pound pack on your back for 10-15 miles per day, you quickly learn what not to carry.
Here are items a hiker quickly learns to leave behind:
-Blue jeans [when they get wet (and they will) they weigh a ton]
-Anything in cans. The metal containers and packing water weigh down your pack. Saws, axes, big tents, Bowie knives, too many clothes, bulky sleeping bags, skillets, lawn chairs (I’ve seen hikers toting each of these and more.).

Long distance hikers are famous for the lengths they will go to reduce their pack weight. I’ve met hikers along the northern stretches of A.T. who had pared their pack weight down to under twenty pounds. They didn’t even carry much water in their canteens (Their comment: “Man, I drink lots of water at every spring and carry my water ‘inside me.’ “ )

I had one proud lightweight hiker brag that he only rationed himself “four squares of toilet paper per day.” My dignity would not let me ask him to elaborate on his technique but I sure knew I didn’t want to sleep next to him in a shelter!

One of the prime examples of traveling light is the backpacker’s toothbrush. As you can see from the picture, it is simply a regular brush with the majority of the handle cut off. A true backpacker will say, “That long handle is just for city people. You don’t need all of that extra weight.”

I checked it on a postal scale. The toothbrush in the photo weighed 6 ounces (not quite half a pound) before I cut off the handle. After I had removed most of the handle, it now weighed half of what it had weighed- 3 oz.
But as any serious hiker will tell you, “Every ounce counts.” For those who walk the entire A.T. in one season (that’s 2160 miles from Georgia to Maine) it is estimated that it takes over 5 million steps. 5,000,000 x 3 oz. ounces can actually translate into lots of weight!
Most often you’ll not find really heavy items to remove from your pack. Lightening your pack requires twenty small decisions to remove/lighten items. All of a sudden, your pack is now 6 pounds lighter and that makes a real difference!

So it is important to “de-clutter” and travel light. Here are my 5 items to eliminate from “my backpack” this week as I travel on my life’s journey:

-Negative thinking- I will choose to think positively believing that “all things are possible through Christ” as Paul states in Philippians 4:13.
- Bitterness- This heavy weight loads down anyone who carries it. It is the one emotion that nothing good can come out of. I will forgive, forget, and reconcile to avoid this “cancer of the soul.”
- Being afraid of what others think or say. I will not “set my sails” due to the whims and criticisms of what others may expect of me. To have the approval of God and my self-respect is all I need. The only way to please everyone is “to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.”
- Living a life of regrets from the past. Carrying the heavy stones of regret from the past only robs today (and tomorrow) of joy. Because I have the forgiveness of God, I will not dig up my past sins, shortcomings, and failures.
-Jealousy I choose not to carry the extra weight of comparing everything I have to someone else. “If you look at what you do not have in life, you don’t have anything. If you look at what you do have in life, you have everything.”

Happy Hiking!
Travel light! Travel joyously!

A fellow traveler,
Curt Iles