Look up

A great video, shared by a friend.  Now friend, I share with you.

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Wondering while Wandering

I tried to find a short cut between some woods following some power lines.  Thank you Gandalf for reminding me that “short cuts make long delays.”  But as a cycling commuter, I’m not getting anywhere fast.

I made a turn off of a main road thinking it was just cutting off one corner, instead, it turned out to be a very muddy mosquito breeding ground.  (I was on a road bike) As a cyclist, you know the pull of adventure.  Searching out unknown paths, making unexpected turns, and that short cuts do make very long delays.  But the road less traveled is almost always the road worth taking.

Even taking your everyday cycling path can let the mind wonder and the body wander. Not only wonder in the curious and in your own mind, but really marvel at the wonder of creation!

Summer is almost here, the world is fully green again and teaming with life.  We have so much to wonder over!  Our kids, fresh vegetables, and salty air (and burgers)! The busyness and “connected-ness” of life have us more disconnected from our surroundings than ever before.  We fill this empty space with looking at our smartphone, ignoring what’s around us so that we can reach out and connect with someone electronically.

Bikes are a great solution for this problem.  Wandering allows the mind to also wander, to allow for internal and external exploration.  Internal dialogue no longer is downed out by Facebook updates. I encourage everyone to unplug.  We are too busy recording our lives and not living them!  I think, now more than ever, to be in the world is much much better than to be watching the world on our little screens.

Wander around on your bike in this great weather.  And wonder.

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5 Reasons to Start Cycling Today

I had a great commute this morning.”  When was the last time you heard someone say that?  Traffic is getting more and more dense everyday.  China alone adds 100,000 more cars on their roads everyday.  80% of all car trips are single occupant trips of less than 3 miles! I don’t know about you, but engine noise, fumes, and other impatient drivers certainly don’t turn me on while I’m going to work. I’m not tired and irritable when I get there.  Instead, my body and mind are warmed up and ready for the day.

Passive Exercise. I never understood driving to the gym to walk on the treadmill.   According to livestrong.com Cycling at a relatively leisurely commuter pace comes out to about 50 cal/mile.  What does that mean? It means as the miles go up, the pounds go down.  If you bike everywhere, you are guaranteed to get into better shape.  That is a one way street.  For example: If your commute is a 20 mile round trip, that comes out to 1000 calories burned just cycling! That’s 50% of your average daily consumption without thinking about it.  (There are many variables though:  wind, drag, tire pressure, hills, etc)

Forced Meditation: If you ask someone where God speaks to them the most, it’s usually they’re when in the shower.  I think this is caused by sensory deprivation.  There are no poopy messes to clean up, no one needs juice.  I can’t answer my phone or check email.  The same conditions happen while riding my bike.  Granted, I’ve never been hit by a car while showering.  For me, and I’m sure for you:  Work is hectic, and home is sometimes more-so (I have 2 kids under 4).  So the in-between time has become sacred.  Sometimes I intentionally pray, sometimes, like the exercise, I just passively open myself to let God’s voice be heard.

Environmentally Friendly: I’m not so sure that humans are causing irreversible destruction to the environment.  But I hope with all my being that my kids are on the Earth longer than I am.  Some American Indian saying goes like this:  We don’t inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our grandchildren.  That’s really all the reason I need to do whatever I can to minimize my impact on this planet.  The only trace I want to leave will reside in my children’s memories. On average, vehicles produce 5.1 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.  I would rather be part of a solution.  Climate change or not.  Be responsible.

5.  Challenge:  I’ve talked about this a little before.  But to start the day off with a small challenge gives you something to be proud of.  You feel tough.  You’ve endured the weather, the irritable drivers, and narrowly avoided getting hit at the crosswalk.  You’ve slayed a small dragon.

Now do it! Make the decision to do what others aren’t doing! Be the example for your kids, to be the change you wish to see in the world. Take it slow, smell the new air, be silent with yourself.  Change the culture.  Ride.

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I’m about to delete this whole post.

Why is it that every time I sit down to write, and I get about 3/4th of the way done, I want to delete everything I’ve written?

Everything.  I just want to delete everything.  The backspace button is my worst best friend.

I’m going to start calling it the BS button.

This chatterbox thing is killing me.  Now, thanks to you, I’m held socially accountable for writing something!  It’s all up here in my head, but the hard part is getting it onto this screen.  Why is it when we get closest to preforming the work that God really wants us to do, we chicken out?  It’s not like I’m fighting a giant, I’m typing.  Embarrassingly Pitiful.

I even wrote about this in my first post.  One of the things I’m most afraid of is not liking what I’m writing!  Yeah, I can stand naked in front of a mirror no problem, but to reveal all of my flaws on the infinite internet…that’s a bigger pill to swallow.  Good thing I have some coffee to get it down.

Courageous living is tough huh?  Why do I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I want to do? (Romans 7:19)

Ravi Zacharias encourages me when he reminds me that we are all fighting the same battles we’ve been fighting.  All too familiar is the sin of pride! It takes many forms but it always takes the same prisoner.

Guess what? If you’re a human, you’re going to face these same flesh tempting scenarios every single day of your life! I want everyone to read my blog the most and like me the best.

Pride: My greatest sin is that I place what other’s think of me above what God thinks of me.

Let’s  set a new pattern today.  Bury your ego and unearth God’s power within you.  Don’t exchange the greatness God has for you for the fleeting pleasures of your body.  Don’t let fear force you to use the backspace key.

Is pride the driving producer of fear in your life?  It sure is in mine.  Jesus said that those who wish to save their lives must lose them!

News flash: He wasn’t kidding.

2nd news flash:  It isn’t easy

Lets do this together this week.  Lets pray for each other.  When is our pride speaking fear, let’s identify it, and kick it to the curb.  Boast of only what God is doing and see what happens.

Good thing I have coffee to swallow that pill.

Please post your honesty in the comments: What does your pride make you afraid of?

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The Pleasure of Labor

I had an argument with my wife and we weren’t talking.  On top of that, my sister was going to stay with us for the weekend and her flight was landing soon, so I went to pick her up.  We got back home at midnight.  I opened the door of my apartment and stepped into a puddle of water.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The washer had been overflowing for probably 2 hours, and my wife was sleeping.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Hey!  Do you know the washer is overflowing?”  I accidentally shout.  But I’m so mad that I don’t care if I wake the kids up.  There is about half an inch of water covering the floor of about 75% of our apartment.  It looked as if the young Mickey Mouse wizard had fallen asleep after magically making  brooms to bring in water.  We had surge protectors floating.

Thank goodness we live on the ground floor.

There are two guarantees here.  Number one:  We have to clean this up.  Number two:  I’m not doing this alone.

We all grabbed buckets and rags and just started soaking and squeezing the rags.  I was mad at my wife earlier, and now I’m heaping the blame of a broken washer unfairly on her.  But we’re in this together.  It’s midnight and the house is flooded.  And we were laughing uncontrollably.

The house was filled with water and ridiculous jokes.  The kind you and your friend told late at night during sleepovers, the ones that exhaust all humor and cannot be retold the next day.  This common purpose was just what my wife and I needed to make amends.  For richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for wetter or dryer.

All of us were up for about 2 hours performing the unskilled labor of mopping up a swimming pool with a towel.  As a married couple, we have difficulty–as does every couple with young kids–finding time just to “talk things out.” But in this instance, we had no choice.  This labor allowed us to bond, smooth things out, and connect with each other.

In Eric Brende’s book Better Off, he describes communal work as “the very material with which the social fabric is woven.”  In other words, with out this shared purpose, people would be unable to connect with each other.  It literally allowed my wife and I to patch things up.

We do a lot of pulling weeds in the Army.  This task is humiliating, but it is invaluable to the cohesion of the group of  young soldiers.  It allows for so much talking, joking, connecting.  The shared (seemingly pointless) labor allows everyone to be on the same social plane and share what’s on their minds at that time.

There can be great pleasure found in labor, so I challenge you: next time you have to do the dishes (again!!) notice that space has now been created for connection.  The job must get done, you may as well do it together.

So raise a barn, weed a garden, dig a ditch, split some wood, or flood your house.  Do chores, but do them together!  See what happens.

 

Please post  to the comments the labor or chore that connects you with others.

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A Private Adventure

Monday started like any other day.  I snoozed until 5:15.  I always ride my bike to work at that time, darkness is no issue.  The rain was an issue that morning, however.  This was a deluge.  A dark dangerous deluge.

“I’m going to get wet anyway.” I thought

Other drivers were out of their minds that morning!  Skidding at stop lights, running off the road into the grass.  The cars seemed to be strangely hurrying to get out of the rain.  I luckily avoided a large pickup that went right off the shoulder.  A dangerous adventure.

Cycling sets the conditions to have a private adventure everyday.  This satisfies an innate desire for adventure within all of us.  Adventure however, always begins at the point of discomfort.

We read  in The Hobbit that Bilbo Baggins forgets his pocket handkerchief and is audibly upset!  “Stop Stop, we must go back.”  There is no going back.  And, of course, much later in the story, we see the transformation that discomfort has had on his identity.  He is ready for greater challenges.  The end of his comfort is the start of his transformation.

And we read a few chapters later:

“…he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago.  He had not had a pocket handkerchief for ages.  He loosened his dagger in its sheath, tightened his belt, and went on.” (The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien)

When was the last time we had a great change happen within us that was caused by comfort?  Probably never.

We all, men especially, want to be tested!  We mull over apocalyptic scenarios in our minds and invent situations where we can overcome adversity and display our strength. Furthermore, we seek out that which can help us discover and transform our own identity.

“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character…”(Romans 5, NIV)

I encourage everyone to bike because of it’s transformational power.  Pain and discomfort are a part of that.  Private adventure is a part of that.  Spending time in the saddle is sometimes an uncomfortable seat in the phase of transformation.

What is your pocket handkerchief?  I challenge you to identify it and leave it at home.  Have an adventure.  Who knows, you may end up discovering who you really want to become.

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In the Belly of Failure

I missed last weekend’s post.  Truth be told I was standing in waist-deep swamp water, staring into the open mouth of a Georgian Alligator, wondering (quite fearfully) what the heck I was doing.

“I should be in  a climate controlled writing studio.” 

But I wasn’t.  I wasn’t on my bike either.  I was doing land navigation.  (land being a loose term, considering there wasn’t much).  I was in an Army competition for the EIB:  Expert Infantryman Badge.

Physical Fitness Test, Day and Night Land Navigation, Weapons, Basic Tasks, 12 Mile Walk with a 35# pack.

I made it through the PT test, and made it to land navigation.  I had to find 3 marked points in 2 hours using my map and compass.  It’s difficult to not get lost in dense forest.  Add wild hogs, snakes, thorns, gators, and swamp and you have yourself a really nice afternoon.  But, I had to do it.  So I started.

30 Minutes goes by…BAM…first point found.  Another 30 mins…BAM second point found.  Another 45 minutes goes by and….

nothing…

I can’t find my 3rd point anywhere, I look all around and cannot find this. I walk in circles and squares muttering curses at myself.

God what are you trying to teach me right now ?  Do you want me to fail?  What do you want from me?  There’s no way I’ll finish this in time, I may as well turn around and surrender.

That’s what I did.  Turned around and started making my way back to the start area.  And there was my last point, 50 meters away. I made it.  God needed my surrender before he could allow me to be successful.

I had all the tools to do this: compass, protractor, map, point, experience, and determination.  But this was not enough.  I had no idea where I was.  This is typical in my life, I feel like I have what it takes to do anything on my own.

I know what I’m doing.  I know where I’m going.   Yeah right.

But God wants us to surrender, which we will only do when we’re lost. He uses our disappointments to call on us.  I passed day and night land navigation.

Then I failed the weapons tasks.  I was eliminated from the competition.  Embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

In his new book Crash the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick describes disappointment as “the gap between what we expect and what we experience.”

Read that again.

We all know the feeling.  It’s usually deep and wide.  We always fill the gap with something.  The gap doesn’t shape us, but what we fill this gap with does.

Do you fill your gap with anger? Alcohol? Money? Prayer? Adultery? Food? Smartphones? Biking?

I remember when my friend Jonah was eaten by the fish of disappointment.  (Remember, when he felt the gap he surrendered and asked to be thrown overboard.)  And there, in the slimy belly of disappointment, he filled his gap with prayer.

I’m sure there were plenty of  fish guts in there to accompany him, but he prayed so much that he filled this fish with a critical amount of CO2.  3,2,1 blastoff.  He shot right out onto the shore so he could get his 3rd land nav point and get his EIB.

Two questions that follow this failure:  What went totally right with my experience of failing?  Or better, was this experience more valuable  as a failure than it would have been as a success? I certainly learn more in the belly of disappointment, when I fill that fish with the right thing.

We’re all going to fail again.  Oh, and probably again.  Brothers, fill the belly with what is good!

You are what you eat. And what you get eaten by.

   

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Slay the Dragon

On Sunday afternoon, I had a difficult decision to make: I had to choose between a cup of coffee and a nap. I was looking at the words of my book and realized that I was doing more yawning than reading.

Coffee was made…and consumed.

I had been reading a book about choosing and focusing on a single word for one year and actualizing that word into your life. I thought my word may be courageous, but I was sleepy.

Coffee seeped into the adventurous creases of my brain.

I decided, without checking the weather forecast first, that the time had come for me to bike to River Street – Savannah. That’s about 45 miles of sharing the State Highways with trucks of the Southern persuasion: Pickup and Semi.

If there was a time to be courageous, for me, it was that day. Although all the physical obstacles were rain, wind, cold, traffic, and distance; I was not afraid of them. But I was afraid…of the great “what if” dragon within me. This beast resides in all of us, and it takes many forms.

For me it was the self doubt and fear of failure. (shocker I know)
People at work are expecting me to follow through with what I told them.
what if I don’t do this? What will they think of me?
I could lie I guess…It looks like it may rain anyway.
Or I could just shut up and do it.

I read a quote recently by Abraham Lincoln:
“If I were given 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 of them sharpening my ax.”

This is atypical for me. If I have a large task set before me, I spend 6 hours worrying about it, an hour talking myself in and out of it, and the final hour chopping with a dull ax. The task at hand is not the obstacle that’s the hardest to overcome. The greatest challenge is not getting stuck in the whirlpool of three destructive fears.

Drive out the fear of peer judgement–which is really what you think they think of you.

Drive out the fear of self doubt

Drive out the fear of measurement. There is no metric used to measure the bravery required to slay the dragon. It’s large, it breathes fire, but is most easily killed by movement in its direction.

The time for fear driven thinking is over.

(I know I used the word drive, but you can substitute the verb pedal if you want. )

When I get on my bike, I become a man of action and contemplation. Cycling meditative action creates space for contemplation, which in turn, contemplation plans the next action. Cycling provides me the means to be brave, it prepares my body, mind, and soul for the daily dragons that roar at me every day.

I’m not suggesting that everyone go out today and buy a bicycle (actually I am) but I am stating that we could all use a little help moving forward in the face of fear. Because, when you finally look at the dragon in the eye, you’ll just see your own reflection.

We were made to be courageous. Knights in shining armor.

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Start Pedaling

I remember when my Dad first took off my training wheels.  Our driveway seemed like Everest and danger was just waiting for me on the asphalt.  Like most Dads do, he encouraged me, pushed me until I had my confidence up, and then… I fell… multiple times. I was a walking skinned-knee.

I don’t remember the repeated falls but I do remember finding my balance through pedaling.  “Keep pedaling” my Dad would say, but as a 5 yr old knows, it’s hard to concentrate on pedaling when you’re trying to balance.

Twenty One years later, I’m not sure I’ve learned a whole lot.  I had an idea to start a blog, but I’m so focused on my fear of failure that I cant seem to get momentum.

What if people don’t like my blog?   What if don’t like it?
I don’t have much good content anyway. Do people even want to read what I have to write?

Now, I know that I’m not going to end up a walking band-aid, what’s the worst that can happen?  I fail?  That’s going to happen anyway.  It’s time to move past that.  I hope content will flow as easily for me as riding a bike does now.  Left, right, left, right,  This blog is going to be pedaled into existence and balance. A continuation of movement in a forward direction.  The central theme will revolve around mostly my own reflections, reflections of others, the joys of life, life’s questions, and our own questions,  with a cycling spinal cord.

Ok.  I’m obsessed with cycling.

Phew, I said it.  Since returning from Afghanistan in July 2013, cycling has become an absolute integral part of who I am.  I never thought of myself as a cyclist before.  I had a bike as a kid, so did you.  But things have changed.  I have become obsessed.  My bike is not only where I think and how I get around, it is both the cause and effect of my identity.

More on all of that later, that was just an introductory note on myself.

Start Pedaling.

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