8/31/06

bound to happen

I should've known this day would come. It was bound to. But let me back up.

Sunday morning I pedaled to the church property for our final August 8 a.m. outdoor service. After the third service that morning, we planned to meet extended fam for Sunday dinner, and since they'd already been waiting a good while on us, I decided to leave my bike in the office and ride with my wife in her car to the restaurant. Then of course it rained the rest of the day, plus we had stuff going on, so we never went back to get my bike.

All week my bike sat upside down in my office, waiting. Finally tonight it worked out for Tricia to drop me off so I could bring it home.

And it was a beautiful evening for a ride. There were a lot of people out on the bike trail, walking with a friend or a dog. I ran into (literally) a few bug swarms along the way. Couldn't see them, but I felt the tiny pelts against my face and was thankful to be wearing glasses.

Past the halfway point home, I encountered another swarm of bugs--not sure what kind they were, maybe gnats; they might've been mosquitoes, but they felt a little too hard for the frail frame of a skeeter.

Guess I wasn't paying attenion as well as I should have. I hadn't realized my mouth was open until I felt a tiny sting at the farthest back part of my throat. It was too far in to spit it out or cough up and before I knew it, it was gone. I had swallowed a bug.

And the funny thing is, I'm more eager to tell the story than I am bothered that I ate it.

Oh, well, everybody probably eats a few bugs in their lifetime without knowing it. But this time I knew it.

Many people have died from being bitten by a bug. To my knowledge no one has died from eating one. Guess it's all a matter of who bites first.

If you're waiting for a spiritual moral to this story, I haven't figured one out yet. Maybe you can come up with something.

8/28/06

Sharing the lane

Saturday I biked five-and-a-half miles downtown to a morning-afternoon conference at St. Paul United Methodist. Rode in on 14th Street and met up with the bike lane heading north, then turned left at N Street. If traffic had been heavy that morning I might've gotten off my bike and walked it down to 11th Street, but there wasn't much traffic, so I pedaled on one of the regular lanes on N Street.

A driver in front of me started to turn left on 12th Street and then realized he was going the wrong way on a one-way street. He swerved back and then turned left at 11th. I suspect he was from out of town, trying to get to the same meeting I was going to.

Then when he turned left onto 11th Street, he stayed to the left, not realizing he was straddling a bike lane.

After the meeting was over, I saw two vehicles pull out of St. Paul's small parking garage onto 11th Street, both of them straddling the bike lane, oblivious.

I don't fault them. They just weren't aware. Maybe they're so used to driving in that left lane, they didn't realize it has shifted because of the addition of the bike lane. Or maybe they are so unfamiliar with the downtown area, they're just trying to keep track of the one-way streets and don't have any attention left for these strange narrowly spaced white stripes.

So, all bike-lane-straddling motorists, I do not judge you. Be aware that an officer may not be so merciful, especially if that officer is riding a police-issue bicycle. No, I do not judge you. And I hope that you will be patient with me, if someday I'm a little slow on my bike and you can't easily get around me.

And next time I ride on a downtown bike lane, I'll be watching out for straddlers.

8/26/06

The "B" word

I meant to get a post up before today, but it just didn't happen. And it's because of the "b" word, a word I try to eliminate from my vocabulary. But I have to face the fact that this week, somewhat more than most, I've been too busy.

Normally, I never allow myself to say I've been busy, opting for a euphemism such as "life's been full lately." Somehow to talk about how busy one has been is a disguised way of promoting one's self-importance, like perennially showing up late to appointments. "Oh, I'm so busy" translates into "Oh, I'm so important."

But to say that this week I've been "too busy" is more like an admission of guilt. My 23-year-old son commented to me this week, "To work as hard as you do, I'd have to feel very passionate about my work." Sometimes the challenge is to keep up the passion.

The reason for the increased intensity this week is because the day I usually have to finish up my work (today) has been taken over by a day-long conference I have to go to and an evening company picnic from where my wife works. That meant I had to get everything done ahead of schedule this week.

Consequently I haven't biked since my day off on Monday, and I've only gotten one blog posting in since then. Too busy to bike or blog; that's too busy.

But fortunately I wasn't too busy for some other things.

I wasn't too busy to let my brother take me out for lunch this week (had a birthday).
I wasn't too busy to go out for barbecue with my wife and son (also on my birthday).
I wasn't too busy to call my brother and sister-in-law who are moving to Lincoln this weekened.
I wasn't too busy to go on my sacred Friday-night date with my wife.
I wasn't too busy to take time each day to pray.
I wasn't too busy to read several chapters from the Bible (into the prophet Jeremiah right now).
I wasn't too busy to at least scan the newspaper each day.
I wasn't too busy to talk on the phone with my daughter in California.
I wasn't too busy to have a conversation with my son about music theory and chord progressions.

I guess all of these things are more important than biking and blogging this week. Maybe I'll get a little biking in today. We'll see.

8/23/06

Under-inflated

Sunday morning when I left for the services I didn't realize the problem. All the way there it seemed like my legs just didn't have the same zip I was used to. Oh, well, because of the trip to LA, I hadn't ridden in more than a week, so maybe that was it.

On the way back home it still felt like more work that it should. Then it hit me. My tires. I checked, and they were getting squishy. Not so bad that I couldn't ride on them, but severely under-inflated. No, I hadn't checked themm in a while.

Monday morning before I rode downtown, it was time to get my tubes fully pumped. Yeah, this is better. I feel the bumps a little more, but at least I'm not squishy.

Made me think of being infilled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. It's easy to not pay attention and go around under-inflated.

8/21/06

A lane of our own

I biked on one of the new downtown bike lanes for the first time today; they've been up for what, nearly a month? I'd previously told myself I wasn't interested in pedaling downtown until they put in some east-west lanes to go along with the two north-south ones.

Late this morning I biked to the Haymarket (Monday's my day off) using the residential streets along the way. Nice ride. But before heading home I ended up needing to make a stop near 11th and O. There it was on 11th Street, bold, bright, and beckoning.

The traffic wasn't heavy, so I decided to give the bike lane a shot. Turned out to be a nicer experience than expected.

Maybe this was a small way of letting motorists know that cyclists do want to share the road with them, and hopefully they'll get used to watching for us downtown in the bike lanes.

Another advantage in cycling downtown is that you don't have to pay for parking!

However, I was disappointed to see a StarTran bus clearly run a red light on 11th Street.

8/20/06

In the fog

I biked to church about 7:15 this morning in the fog. By the time I got there, my arm hairs were full of dew drops. The air was cool and nice, and I didn't mind at all. The fog seemed to hush the world around me.

A family biked to the 8 a.m. service today: mom, dad and five-year-old son. It was beautiful to see them arrive together. A dad and high school daughter biked there as well; I had never met them before. Biking or walking with a friend or a family member has an unexpected bonding effect, even when not much is said along the way.

I've found that spending those fifteen minutes biking on Sunday mornings helps clear my mind and makes mre more ready to meet the God I've come to worship. We all live in a fog. That's why it takes faith to find our way.

8/17/06

Kids Sale

Thanks for being patient with me since my last entry. My plan is to resume with several posts a week.

The reason for the five-day haitus is that Saturday and Sunday we drove 1500 miles pulling an eight-foot trailer, taking our daughter Carrie to LA for an internship. Not a trip I'm eager to repeat in the near future. Tricia and I flew back last night and arrived home about 12:30 a.m. We started missing her before we left the airport in LA.

Last week I noticed two yard signs posted at 80th and Old Cheney Road. On one was written, "Kids Sale." The other beside it read, "For Sale by Owner" with a phone number. It made me laugh, wondering if the two signs were put up by desperate parents who'd finally had enough.

I remember moments like that. But the hugging and crying that happened as we said good-bye yesterday makes all of desperate moments seem like ancient history. I'm still missing her today.

Maybe God misses us sometimes.

8/11/06

If aliens are watching

Today I haven't biked, but I did walk a mile to Tierra Park and caught StarTran's 27th Street Shuttle bus. The goal was to get downtown to pick up my daughter's repaired car. The route was a straight shot, and the bus dropped me off two blocks from my destination. Loved it--my second excursion on StarTran and very efficient.

I see a lot of people walking, but it's starting to seem funny to me how we walk to get exercise (which is good) but we walk without a destination. We drive everywhere and walk nowhere. If aliens are watching us (wouldn't angels qualify as aliens?), then I imagine that they are chuckling at we suburbanites who drive to the gym so we can ride a stationary bike or run on a treadmill. (And with all the miles I've put on a treadmill at the gym, I'm not pointing fingers at anyone but myself.)

Maybe this is a metaphor for our lives. We go through life without purpose while rushing from place to place. The discovery of purpose is a great reason to pursue God--who is already pursuing us.

8/10/06

What you can expect

For those who are interested in Horizons' outdoor 8 a.m. Sunday service, I want to fill you in on what'll be happening this Sunday, August 13. Besides a little praise-ful singing, there'll be a few people sharing.

First, Chris Lawson will share about his personal faith journey to and with Christ. Chris happens to be a recreational cyclist. When he and Bec got married a little over a year ago, one of the things they did with the wedding gift money was buy a pair of mountain bikes.

Then, we'll hear from Tom and Rogene Siletto who took up road biking in their 60s. They're part of the leadership for NUMB (Nebraska United Methodist Bikeride for hunger), coordinating all the hunger projects supported by the ride. They'll be sharing about how they've experienced God from the seat of a Trek. Rogene has also done the BRAN five times and Tom has done it four. They're both in their 70s, which is inspiring in itself. Rogene told me she expects to be biking at least until she's 85.

Last Sunday we had about half a dozen pedal in; I think three walked, one ran, and four or five others drove. So whatever mode you use is fine. Sweat is encouraged but not required.

Horizons is at 3200 Grainger Parkway. You'll see the chairs set up to the east of the building. If the weather's bad we'll meet in the first classroom on the left as you enter the east side door. Don't forget the coffee, donuts and bagels inside after the service.

I know this post has sounded like a commercial, and I apologize, but I figured some of you really wanted to know.

8/9/06

Buckling up and bicycling

As today is the 9th of August, it's time to reflect again on what it's like now that I'm not under a no-car pledge. I'm driving some and biking some, but I'm torn between them. I prefer biking, but lately I feel a need to economize my time by driving more than expected.

Weren't there just as many demands on my time in July as there are now? Was it easier to say no to going some places when I was committed to not driving? Was I better about consolidating trips last month than I am now?

As my schedule looks today, I'll be making at least four in-town trips, which I wouldn't normally have scheduled in July. I did the first one on my bike already. The second one will have to be by car. Not sure about the last two.

Lately a few people have told me they're thinking about, even shopping for, a bicycle either for exercise or transportation. Don't know if my influence has had anything to do with it. Maybe $3 gas has done it, with the prospect of $4+ gas since things have been shut down in Alaska.

When I was a kid (back in the day), wearing seat belts in the car wasn't common. They had become standard equipment on cars, but it was just something that got lost in the crease between the seat and the back rest. But somehow in the last 40 years, the vast majority of us have adopted the behavior of buckling up. How did that change happen? It's quite a phenomenon when you think about it.

What if a similar shift could happen so that we as a society gradually became less dependent on our cars and gasoline? Even just a little. What if biking, walking and bussing became part of the lifestyle for many of us, along with the automobile? What if the design and infrastructure of our city made alternate modes of transportation a viable option for more people?

What if the appetite for oil didn't control the world so much?

Anyway, over the next week I'm not sure how many posts I'll be able to put up, but I should be back to a more regular schedule by the 17th.

8/7/06

30 Days

Last week my friend (whom I haven't seen for a long time) Cliff Carlson called and even though he rarely watches television, his brother Darren told him about this show on the Fx channel called "30 Days." I guess the second season opened recently. Have you seen it? Cliff said it reminded him of my month-long lifestyle shift to going without a car in town last month.

I haven't, but here's a description I found online.

"On this show people are asked to participate in a lifestyle that's totally different from his or her own upbringing, beliefs, religion or profession. Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame will follow their progress as they learn what it's like to be in their new setting or situation. "

Spurlock is the guy who ate nothing but McDonald's for 30 days and made a film about it. I guess it's shown in schools now. Saw it in the video store the other day.

The TV show is about living in someone else's shoes. Someone who opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants living with such a family for 30 days. A Christian living with a Muslim family for 30 days. A straight Army reservist living with a gay roommate for 30 days.

We don't get any channel higher than 23, so can somebody tape it for me?

8/6/06

Multi-modal

Well, my previous post has been on top for 64 hours, and no one has commented with a time when they've been inspired by someone else living out a chosen challenge. Maybe we're all in need of more real-life inspiring examples. I'll have to think about that.

If you're from Lincoln, you might've seen the guest column in yesterday's paper by Mark Weddleton, "We need an auto alternative." He says, "The problem is it's just not possible for most of us to reduce that reliance [on automobiles] without a move away from the overwhelming car-focused nature of government priorities. We need policies that make the alternatives viable." And he goes on to share about the Multi-Modal Transportation Study. Good stuff. And it's not unrealistically trying to get rid of all those evil cars.

For me the bigger question is could I be more multi-modal than I am; that's a big part of what last month's experiment was about.

Here's an update on my personal multi-modality as far as transportation goes.

Walk:
Last week my wife Tricia and I walked to the drug store. We've never done that before. It's less than a mile each way. We wanted to go for a walk anyway, but this time we had a destination, and it saved us a trip in the car. The week before we walked with our neighbors about a mile each way to get some ice cream. We've never done that with neighbors before.

Bike:
Lately Tricia and I have been riding together a few places. Friday night we took the Rock Island trail north and then a few blocks west to Piezano's for supper--just under seven miles round trip, nice and slow, a beautiful evening.

Bus:
Our house is less than three blocks from the bus stop. StarTran isn't efficient for every trip, but that doesn't mean it can't occasionally be an option when it does work out. And you can read or work while you're on the bus, something you can't do while driving. I've only done it once, but I want to make it one of my transportation options.

It was cool that this morning at our first of four outdoor services at Horizons, we had people bike there, walk there, run there and drive there. I guess that makes it a multi-modal event.

8/4/06

Daily challenges

This week at our church’s Vacation Bible School, the kids all had the opportunity to choose a daily challenge that they would try to fulfill before VBS the following night. Some kids chose to do their sibling’s chores, make and send a card to a neighbor, pray for their VBS crew leader, or bring a friend the following night; stuff like that.

I like the idea of a daily challenge, not the kind that gets thrust upon us—which is challenging enough—but the kind we deliberately choose. We choose it and do it, because of who we are, and yet in the process of doing it, it changes who we are in a positive way.

I saw a lot people fulfill some daily challenges this week. They inspired me. Names withheld, if you were inspired this week because you saw someone choosing to fulfill their “daily challenge” (even if they didn't know that's what they were doing), please hit the comment link and post it. I’d like to hear about them.

8/3/06

Which way the wind blows

After two days of driving and leaving the bike sit in the garage, I couldn't stand it any longer. This morning I rode my bike to the church campus and then later to a coffee shop to meet a couple college students.

If you're biking south today, the air will feel calm, and your ride will be peaceful. And for some reason you'll feel a little stronger, a little faster today. And you'll experience the gentle sensation of how good you feel and how beautiful the world is.

What you may not realize is that you've been riding with the wind at your back, giving you that extra little push.

Funny thing about the wind, you don't really notice it until you're riding against it. Runners experience the same thing. Only when you turn around and run into it do you realize there's been a breeze at all.

Maybe that's what racism and other -isms are like. Persons born with built-in advantages rarely perceive them; they don't feel the wind behind them. Everything seems perfectly normal and peaceful.

But persons born without those advantages feel the wind against them. They continually struggle against it, while the rest deny the wind blows at all.

Jesus stood up against those who claimed their advantage via spiritual elitism and looked down on everyone else. He stood with those against whom the wind blew. I want to stand with Jesus.

8/2/06

Embarrassed

The kids in my car last night were worried that we might run out of gas before we got to the mission, since I had less than 1/4 of a tank. I tried to reassure them, but they kept bringing it up.

So today I pulled up to the pump. I could only bear to put in $20 worth, which bought less than seven gallons. What a reason to bike.

I felt a little embarrassed to be seen at a gas station fueling my car, as if someone would recognize me and say, "Hey, I know you! Aren't you that bike-riding pastor whose picture and article were in the paper a while back? Why are you driving and buying gas?" And I'd have to explain that it was only for July. But still I'd feel like a hypocrite.

Did you see the article today "Our car love affair is beginning to skid" on p. 4A of the Journal Star? Couldn't find the LJS version on line, so here's a link to the AP story from another paper. While seven in ten enjoy getting behind the wheel, 15 years ago eight in ten enjoyed it. And the top reasons that people see driving as a chore is traffic and the behavior of other drivers.

One surprise from my July car-free experiment, now now that I've gotten behind the wheel again a little bit, is that I find driving less enjoyable.

Sounds like a segue to a spiritual lesson. But I'll let you make the connection.

Behind the wheel

I drove yesterday--something I hadn't done since our planned trip to Fremont on July 13. It felt a little weird, but it came back to me. Like riding a bicycle.

My legs needed a break.

Last night because I had my car, after Vacation Bible School was over I was recruited to drive five of the children back to the People's City Mission. All of the ones in my car are refugees from Sudan. Good use for a car.

Besides that I made a couple round trips to the church campus, but so far, I can't bring myself to turn on the radio. There's something about the silence of the bike ride that I'm not ready to give up even behind the wheel.

One thing that occurred to me on my way to work yesterday was this. Every bike ride is an experience. It might be beautiful and refreshing. It might be challenging and tiring. But it's always an experience. Driving in the car is just getting there.

Not sure what form this blog will take now that July is over, but it seems to have gotten in my blood. If you have any suggestions, please comment.

I learned yesterday that the article about my no-car month in the Journal Star has reappeared in abbreviated form in at least three other papers: Omaha, Hastings and Beatrice. I'm surprised it's considered that newsworthy.