Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Risk Taking and the Wonders of Angel Falls

Angel Falls...a wonder less travelled

see risk and am drawn as moth to flame. I choose often to live edge close! Not to risk offers temporary comfort but leads to stilted blandness, few if any memories, let alone any personal growth. 

While on vacation in Venezuela, I remembered that the world’s highest waterfall was located deep in its Amazonian wild. Immediately it seemed the logical move was putting another checkmark on my bucket list. I really don’t have a bucket list per se, but as I reflect over a lifetime of worldwide adventure in sixty-five plus countries, I have often leapt before logic had opportunity to lasso!
Logic had nothing to do with this decision!
Adventure put caution in a headlock as I began to pursue the idea of visiting this lost wonder of the world.
We left the hotel, grabbed a cab and found a pilot at a small local airport. With my limited modicum of Spanish I asked him if he could fly us there. 
The implications of the kind of aircraft he was willing to take us on in this illogical journey, were quickly dismissed as adventure’s adrenaline rush pushed all that to one side. A small single engine piper was to be our mode of transport. Not knowing the length of the trip, I passed over my five hundred bucks and we boarded.
Climbing high over the Orinoco River delta we followed that river toward the Amazon jungle and ultimately to where south east Venezuela, western British Guiana and north west Brazil intersect. I now know that our destination was eight hundred desolate miles away.
This shot I took on another Amazon adventure...a future blog...
gives the idea

The further we winged, the greater the risk as all we saw was yellow brown soup-like crocodile and piranha infested river waters snaking distant. Disconcerted anxiety rose when the ‘pilot’ hammered away with his fist in an attempt to maintain intermittent radio contact with his girlfriend. Sleet pelted us through a window lodged open, as we rocked and rolled through weather's thrashing.

Ninety minutes in...Amazonian quilt stitched unending green..two hours beyond, a dirt grey scar appeared on the back of the green giant...we began our descent.
Angel Falls, meaning waterfall of the deepest place is the world's highest. Sixteen times that of Niagara, it plunges into the mysterious ‘lost world’ of Canaima. Dominant tabletop mountains guard vast impenetrable jungle, lost Savannah’s and lagoons of incredible Eden-like beauty. The height of the Falls is so great that, before arriving anywhere in proximity to the jungle floor below, much of the water has already evaporated or has been carried away as fine mists. 
Historically, this remote area was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s search for the lost ‘El Dorado’ or ‘City of Gold’ in the late fifteen hundreds. Today we live in an incredible era where on a whim, for a few hundred bucks, we can embrace experience which cost many an explorer their entire lives...and easily could have ours!
At falls foundation water rushes to the Churun River which in turn streaks toward the glorious Yuri Falls. Half orb beach, pearl white, flour like sand encircles palm tree lined lagoon...then...never ending jungle.
Local tribes people took us across the lagoon in dugout canoes. Confronted with the power of magnificent horseshoe-like Yuri Falls, gleaming white with thunderous cataract spray reminded me of a mini version found on the Canadian side of Niagara. Smaller, but powerful enough that one misstep would instantly drag us over the precipice. 
Ignoring that possibility, we climbed behind the falls. 
Niagara provides a cement walkway to stroll behind the falls in perfect safety, experiencing the mists but without danger. Here, a rugged rocky uneven natural water soaked rocky ledge is the path. The falls edge, no more than two feet to our left, pulled with magnetic force attempting to draw us over. Our only support was a three-inch slimy wet rope, strung loosely on our right. Struggling against panic, faces blinded...water lashing...oxygen muzzled, we climbed. Arriving at the river above we emerged drenched but content in our survival...then...we had to traverse part of the river above the falls, plunging only a few yards to our left. Carefully extricating ourselves from those raging waters, we arrived back to the trail and terra-firma! 
Re-boarding our piper wings, we took off, wending up the valley toward Angel Falls. Skimming rainforest feather tops, banking hard right, enormity stepped up to face us down. Climbing rapidly almost vertical toward the magnificent tabletop, it’s sheer massive chest seemed to rise in tandem with our flight. Breathless we cleared the giants shoulder mere fifteen feet from granite skin. Climbing a touch more, circling hard left, our left wing tip skimming inches above the rushing torrent, we flew directly from the river center down and directly out over the falls. Chasm’s mist and green grandeur opened, extending endless, as arms before embrace.
There are many metaphorical tacks that I could follow regarding this adventure, but let me circle around a little, touching down to talk about life’s misty brevity and what are we going to make of it.
To be sure when taking off on life’s journey, options galore are presented. We are usually given advice about ‘playing it safe’ and ‘not rocking the boat.’ We are advised to get a ‘real job’ staying safe within boundaries to ensure bright futures. Depending on upbringing, there are abundant excuses why risk isn’t an option for us. We do this in our daily routines, so why would it be any different when it comes to our faith journey? We often curl up in our petrified gated communities of ‘faith,’ pacified by the notion that we’ve made it in. Through our lack of risk on behalf of kingdom purpose we say in essence, to hell with the rest of the world. 
Just as in my adventure into Amazonian wilds, where indelible marks of visual satisfaction still inhabit memory, so it is with risking in surrendered obedience to His service call. Whether risk large or small, rewards have eternal consequence bringing deep, often unseen, meaningful return on investment...and for the record, sometimes deep residual pain...but...
No pain...no gain...and it’s usually residual pain which is the impetus for true ongoing ministry.
When lifetimes final risk appraisal from our eternal master is presented, will I receive a ‘well done’ or will the dust of inaction swirl nearby? 
It’s never too late!
I have but the next twenty-four hours to fill the canvas of my life with either a legacy of a bright inviting composition of a portrait well lived jumping off the wall or the drab under-painting of what might have been a masterpiece. For those of you who know me well, you will likely concur that my natural bent seems to go toward the underpainting. For me it takes risk to step into sunny side up!
Sometimes paintings call to the artist saying, ‘I’m ready, use me, do whatever it takes.’ 
Am I ready to consider intentionally committing to readiness instead of sitting on the shelf?  Am I willing to be usable by the master artist himself? 

He wants to pick me up and use the unique gifts He first has given! He reminds with quiet, winsome pursuit, as the consummate gentleman, that He will wait indefinitely, saying...it takes two to tango!
For the love of God…take a risk today!
“When this is done, I will go to the King, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”  Esther 4:16 NIV

P.S. Speaking of risk...any movie making endeavor involves huge risk...check out my producer friend, Karen Pascal’s latest documentary...this time on Christmas. Check out the trailer at...
Soli Deo Gloria
J. Douglas Thompson...SDG
Copyright 2011

Yuri Falls...not your average run of the mill, tourist attraction!

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