Monthly Archives: September 2018

Does Perception Matter?

This morning I had an interesting encounter with two very large trucks while biking my normal route into Portage, Wisconsin on State Highway 51.

Usually, road noise does not bother me.  I’ve biked from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan across the middle of the state.  And I have traveled from Michigan to Minnesota across the top of the state.  Rarely have I ever felt intimidated or threatened.  But, this morning I felt both.

There actually was no real reason to feel that way as I was biking on a lane used only as a shoulder along a four lane section of 51 south of Portage that borders a 3 mile stretch of levee that protects the southern part of the city from flooding by the Wisconsin River.  Drivers use the four lanes, two north bound and two southbound, and leave the 10 foot paved shoulder on either side for temporary stops.  I was riding the furthest possible line from traffic lanes.

As I approached town, I could hear the familiar sound of large tires signaling that a big truck was lumbering toward me.  Semi-trucks normally move over to use the inmost lanes when passing me leaving me an entire lane empty between us for a traffic buffer.  I appreciate that.  And experience has taught me to distinguish the sounds so I often can tell how fast a truck is approaching, whether or not it is moving over and whether of not I need to turn and look.

This morning the ‘rumble’ of the tires was especially loud, alerting me that the truck was approaching very quickly and sounded as if the vehicle that they were attached to was in my lane.   I got an uneasy feeling, the hair on my neck stood up and the blur of a huge vehicle raced past me.  In an instant, thoughts began to race through my mind at warp speed:  was the driver sending me a message, a brush back, if you will, was the driver on a cell phone, where were the cops when you need one, can I get a plate number and other nice thoughts.  The confusion of my thoughts and the sound of the truck tires caused me to completely miss an identical second truck right on the bumper of the first.  Now, I was beginning to get a little steamed.  I was ready to stop, pull out my cell phone which my wife asks me to carry ‘just in case’ and call in the dangerous encounter.  Wouldn’t someone want to know what happened and be moved to action by my discomfort?

A few seconds elapsed and I had time to reflect on the incident a little more rationally.  And I began to objectively notice some details.  First, the tires of the vehicles were no closer that the white boundary line on the pavement.  I was at least 11 feet from them.  Second, although the trucks were large, they probably were not moving much over the speed limit if at all.  They were just big and somewhat scary.  Third, they were both painted in a desert ‘camo’ pattern.  Finally, I noticed that both trucks were pulling large open trailers filled with sand bags.   Ah.  Ok.

Now, I got it.   I knew what was going on.  The National Guard unit that these trucks were attached to were responsible for shoring up Interstate 39 to keep it from being washed out by flood waters caused by the recent record rains in the Madison area and up river.  I felt just a bit sheepish as I realized that something far bigger and more important than my comfort was occurring.  PROPER PERSPECTIVE CHANGED ME.   That’s not to say that I was ready for a prayer meeting, but my feelings changed.   And in a good way.

Proper perspective is not only essential in everyday life, it is especially necessary for our spiritual lives.  Perspective matters!  And how!  When God decides to ‘touch’ a troubled spot in our lives, we often feel that He is treating us unfairly or too harshly.  Our perspective is…God’s hand is against me.  But that is never true.  God is always for us, regardless of how the circumstances might cause us to believe.  And that perspective is very important.

Proper perspective helps us focus more on what God is doing IN us and focus less on what’s happening TO us.  And that perspective can make all the difference.  Let’s let it.

A New Recliner…’Preference or Conviction’?

Most men I know have, at one time or another, considered purchasing a recliner.  The thought of coming home after work to sit down and roll back the recliner to take a cat nap or just take it easy after a tough day is quite appealing.  And it seems to be more alluring as the years of work pile up.  Recently, during an 8 pm call to my accountability partner, he remarked that he frequently naps around 8:30 pm in order to get ready for bed.  Granted, he meant that ‘tongue in cheek’ (sort of).  But, as the years mosey on, I am resembling his sentiment more often.  Therefore, Shirley and I have talked about and looked at recliners.

Now anyone who knows me very well would acknowledge that I need very little help getting to sleep.  Wherever I’m at, if I have 30 minutes, I can sleep 29 of them.  Like my dad, I have been known to ‘nod off’ at a stop light.  For me, then, a recliner is just an ‘apparatus’ to use.  It neither helps nor hinders rest.  It just serves as a convenient reminder for me that it’s time to relax.

As Shirley and I began to explore possibilities, we found a significant range of options.  There were recliners for large men.  There were recliners for small men.  There were recliners to help you stay warm and ones to help vibrate tensions away.  There were recliners to roll away from the wall as well as ones to rock and swivel.  There were power activated ones as well as the old reliable lever activated ones (arm strong power ones).  Yet, whatever the variety, they all had one thing in common:  a price tag to match their specialty.  Sometimes those price tags made us go ‘hummm, that’s not too bad’.  Other ones made us say, ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.

Now that our search has begun to draw to a close, we’re learning something ‘new’ about ourselves…THE COST REQUIRES THAT WE DECIDE IF WE JUST PREFER A RECLINER or IF WE ARE CONVINCED THAT WE NEED ONE. For me, as the cost escalates, the level of preference also escalates.

This tendency is not only true when we are shopping for a rather costly household item.  It can be true when we consider our true spiritual condition.  Almost all of us are convinced that our fallen, sinful condition requires a ‘costly salvation’.  But, sometimes we prefer not to think about a corresponding ‘costly service’.

Reading about that service in Luke’s inspired description, Luke 14:26, 27, 33, I am struck by the stark reality of it.  His words make me blink and swallow hard.  And I’m tempted to drain some of the solemnity out of them.  But, when I compare Matthew’s inspired consensus of Jesus’ own words , Matthew 16:24-27, I am faced with a decision:  when looking at the cost of discipleship, do I just PREFER to be a disciple or am I CONVINCED that I must be one.

The cost of discipleship is one measurement of my decision.  But, the constraint of discipleship and call to real discipleship is another.  So…I want to be honest.


I must decide!