Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lessons from a bike ride.

When Rick and I began to make plans for our ride across Wisconsin, I stopped by a local bike shop to begin investigating optimum bike ‘set-ups’ (types of bikes, racks, bike bags, energy drink holders, etc.) and began assessing my physical/mental preparedness.  The shop owner was kind and interested in our goal.  During our conversation, he made one remark that stuck with me.  After asking about my bike, a Giant Hybrid, and tire type and size, 700 x 40, he said, ‘One thing you’ll need to take into consideration–with that set up you’ll be pedaling the whole time’.  This remark caught me somewhat off guard.

Shirley and I and some of our children and the church youth group had done portions of the Sparta/Elroy Bike Trail: a portion of the trail Rick and I would ride on our trip.  Like many trails in Wisconsin, this trail follows the path of an abandoned Rail Road track bed.  The inclines are usually little more than 3 % grade, but even at that I thought I’d find places to coast.  The shop owner disagreed though and reminded me that the larger tires on my bike which were perfect for the crushed limestone trails were somewhat less desirable because of their ‘drag’ on the road.  They would keep me safe from most trail debris, but they could not be inflated enough to reduce the effort it took to traverse the gravel trail bed.  It didn’t take long, once we began our ride at Onalaska, for me to notice that the shop owner was correct is his appraisal.  Others around me were coasting while I was pedaling.  Indeed, as the shop owner had warned, I PEDALED THE WHOLE WAY.

Two weeks after we finished our ride, I began to consider putting smaller tires on my bike in order to deal with the ‘drag factor’.   Just a week ago, I put on tires that were several sizes smaller around and which carried 40# per square inch more pressure in them than the ones that were originally on my bike.  The bike shop worker where I got the tires said that I would notice a big difference.  Wow, was he right.  The lowered resistance due to the smaller profile of the tire and higher pressure that increased their efficiency combined to give me significant improvement on my bike rides.  I still notice a daily improvement as I continue to bike.

The whole experience has taught me some valuable lessons that I’ll pass along to you in this article.

1.  Increased pressure can be of significant advantages at times.  Inflating my tires from the old 60 psi to the new 100 psi and stretching the tires/tubes to their limit means remarkable improvement in my bikes performance.  In a similar way, though we do not always welcome its presence, spiritual pressure can often be of benefit to us as well.  Our Gracious Father has factored pressure into our spiritual experience and has promised that that pressure can turn out to be of significant value to us.  He said in Matthew 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…’!  In this regard, pressure on earth brings priceless treasure in Heaven.

2.  Increased effort needed to propel the old tire setup, provided the resistance needed to strengthen my legs so that under the new setup, my leg strength enabled me to bike at greater speeds with less effort.  Becoming aware of this reality, I recalled the words of Luke 22:41-44, ‘And He (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.  And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’!  Jesus’ strengthening under pressure enabled Him to respond to the spiritual events around Him with even more vigor.  This will be true for us as well.

3.  The increased effort in earlier rides has strengthened me and enabled me to achieve goals that before I could not even imagine were possible.  The ‘old strength’ kept me from even being able to imagine what my biking experience might be, just like a weakened faith can keep us from even imagining what God can do.  Once strengthened, we can believe God for what He says He can do in and through us.  As emphasized in Ephesians 3:20-21, ‘Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen’.

Let’s resolve to be a people who after being strengthened by His power in times of strain, pursue Him more passionately during times of  service.


Erosion on the pathway!

By now you may have learned that Rick and I finished our ‘Bike Across Wisconsin’ trip.  We completed 199.1 miles in bits and pieces of 4 days.  The weather was great and we had encouraging help from John S., Ben R., Shirley and Lydia.  Without their help, the trip would have been much more difficult.  I especially thank Rick for helping me reach an ‘old man’s goal’.  I benefited much from his help on the trip.  Our longest day was our first day as we pedaled out of the Mississippi River bottom roads and finished at Reedsburg.  My bike computer had us covering 83 miles.  When we finished our last section of 29 miles, near Milwaukee, I took time to calculate the number of revolutions my bike crank turned during our ride.  Taking the average mph, with the average gear setting, multiplied by the average number of revolutions my crank makes per mile, I totaled an amazing 73,667 times my pedal crank turned during our trip.

You don’t really notice that you’re accumulating that many repetitions, but once or twice my old knees asked if we were going to be done soon.  🙂

We saw some beautiful scenery and not a few gophers digging at the edge of and sometimes IN the pathways.  For the most part, the trip was uneventful except for a couple of mishaps.  One came during our ride through one of the tunnels on the Sparta-Elroy Bike Trail.  It’s amazing how a completely dark tunnel, along with the presence of a few bikers can throw off your equilibrium.  The other came when I didn’t notice a ‘washout’ just as I exited one of the other tunnels.  Before I could stop or swerve away, my front wheel was already down in the crevice and the bike was giving me a feeling somewhat similar to the feeling I got the first time a horse bucked me off.  I held on, but my seat stung for a few hundred yards.  At first I wondered why that gulley hadn’t been fixed.  Then I began thinking of it as an illustration of how subtle ‘washouts’ can occur in our spiritual lives and quickly  develop into an empty, fractured, spirit-robbing and faith eroding collapse.

Recently, I sat down and considered at least six current trends that contribute much to what the Bible calls a ‘shipwrecked faith’.  Listed in random order, these tendencies include…

1.  FRAILTY OF LOVE:  Jesus said that because of the ‘increase of wickedness’ the love of most would grow cold.  True love is the ‘energetic and beneficial good will that stops at nothing for the good of the beloved object’.  This God calls agape love.  It’s the love of Calvary.  But our expression of it is so emaciated that even the slightest offense or smallest inconvenience sends us careening away from each other.  This erodes away many families and church fellowships.  We have replaced ‘OTHERS FIRST’ with ‘ME FIRST’.  We are making far too much of ourselves.

2.  FASCINATION WITH DESIGNER CHURCH:  It seems that increasingly we look at church as if it’s a place to pick and choose different program offerings in hope of crafting a church experience that suits our modern religious appetite and our own peculiar desires and habits.  We look at a church’s programs and select from those programs as if we were searching Trivago for a hotel room.  If the search does not turn up an acceptable fit for me, we’ll just search another church’s offerings.  Fleeting are the days when we viewed church as that place to which we go to sacrifice to our God in honor of Jesus in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  Has church become a place where we shop instead of a fellowship which we serve?

3.  FAWNING OVER CULTURE:  It is amazing how familiar church goers are with cultural icons like Beyonce, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Oprah or Dr. Oz and how unlikely it is to find anyone who knows or cares what John Huss, John Wycliffe, Abel and Jesus all had in common.  We seem to be more at ease talking about the fictitious characters on a reality TV show (which has little to do with reality) than we are considering how to build up the members of the Church we attend.

4.  FREQUENT DALLIANCES WITH SIN:  For believers, the frailty to succumb to a besetting sin should, with time, become further apart in occurrence, shorter in duration and more shallow in involvement.  It seems that we are becoming more tolerant of sin, more friendly toward its associates and more insensitive to its effects.

5.  FORSAKING TRUTH:  In our pursuit of knowledge, marked by our incessant use of digital devices, we seem to have concluded that Old Testament/New Testament truth is passe.  But shouldn’t the words that will dominate our future in heaven occupy of attention here on earth?

6.  FEAR OF FAITH:  Seemingly, we are becoming uneasy with walking in the objective reality of faith.  Biblical faith shows, whether it’s in the lives of Joshua and Caleb, Moses and Aaron, Boaz and Ruth, Aquila and Priscilla, Paul and Barnabas or you and me.  By definition, faith is the objective evidence that my trust has been unconditionally and completely given over to Jesus.  God said, ‘Do not love in WORD but in DEEDS’.  The faith reality is that God sometimes gives us what we do not want and sometimes He takes from us what we want to keep.  But faith says–If the Lord wills–.  Lead on O King Eternal because I am yours.  Have your way with me.  By YOUR GRACE I will follow.  I’ll be what you want me to be and do what you want me to do.  May you be praised.

These erosions, whether small or large, have an incapacitating effect on our faith and therefore our lives.  Sometimes, we don’t even notice their presence, let alone their destructive work.  Let us resolve to ask God for the grace to follow Him as He works to increase our faith and teach us how to pray through to victory over these influences.