Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ride Forrest Ride

At about mile 64 of yesterday's century, I went over 4000 miles in 2012. (That would be like riding from Minneapolis to London--but drier.) I did not begin the year with a goal of 4000+ miles and it was never a "bucket list" item for me. In many ways, it has just happened. I do not have a lot of long rides (only three of 100 miles or more), but there were not many weeks where I missed more than a day or two. Quite a few rides between 15 and 25 miles and now 4000+. I have worn out a few tires, but have only had 3 flats this whole year--and two of them were yesterday! Most of my rides have been alone, but some of my best times this year have been riding with Carmen, Abby, and my friend Jeff.

Riding has given me time to think and pray. It has allowed me to meet some strangers along the way--from Broadway Cycle shop rides to Brett from Round Rock, Texas whom I talked with yesterday for the first 22 miles or so. It has been a point of personal discipline of getting on the bike whether I feel like it or not. And of the accomplishment of tackling a tough ride into the wind (and uphill both outbound and inbound). I have seen some beautiful countryside, like the top of the hill overlooking Pelican Lake, and some things that I have never seen before, like the cotton fields and big bales outside of Austin yesterday.

This milestone is not a destination, but is a point of note on a continuing journey.

This reminds me a lot of how a journey with God ought to develop. A beginning point and then more or less steady growth over time. This may not be everyone's experience, but I think that it is the most long-lasting. I know that when I have set out to take a "big" growth step it is usually short-lived at best. My grand intentions are smashed on the granite of inconsistency. But when I resolve to simply do the next right thing, or take the next step, and then do it over and over, before long I find that real, sustainable progress is being made.

This may seem ironic to those who know me, but one of the keys for me is to not think too much about the end result, but instead to give greater attention to what I must do today. This has not always been how I have felt, but it seems to be an approach that is working better. Yesterday's ride was very difficult--20 mph wind after mile 22 that was either a headwind or a strong crosswind). Later in the ride, if my only thought would have been the 30 or 40 miles remaining the feeling could have become paralyzing pretty quickly. But by bringing my focus to enduring through the next 5 miles, the overall task felt more doable. At any given point in time I might not have been able to envision slogging through another 30 to 40 miles, but I could see the next 5 miles as being halfway to Jeff and Jeanne's house.

Thinking of praying for God's work in each country of the world may be daunting, but deciding to pray for one country each day is something that I can do. I cannot reasonably sit down and read through the entire Bible in a week or so, but I can decide each day to read a few pages that day. And after taking these steps day by day, little by little I will be able to look back and see progress.

Every ride during the months leading up to yesterday's milestone was not better than the ride before. Each new ride was not a new personal best. But looking back today over 9 1/2 months of concerted activity, I am a much stronger rider than I was in January. May that also become more true about my faith.

Pressing on,

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ahhhhh--now that felt good

Friday after work I managed to squeeze in a quick 26 miler before the rain started (and continued all day Saturday). The move to Houston, starting a new job, and living out of a hotel (flashbacks to senior year of high school) have meant that my time for riding is tighter. Getting out for a longer ride on Friday felt so good. Not the good of hurting from a hard workout, but the good of spending a good chunk of time with an old friend. Make no mistake, the ride took a fair bit of exertion, but it was well worth the tiredness later in the evening for the joy of the ride itself. Not to mention that I need some significant saddle time in advance of next Saturday's century (Pineywoods Purgatory).

I have felt a similar freshness with church for a couple of weeks. Coming to a new city where I do not know anyone and I do not know of any churches poses a bit of a daunting task--find a new church community where we will probably have some of our closest relationships for the next several years. Where to begin the search? The names over the door frames are familiar, but what does "Baptist"or "Methodist" of "Community" mean in Texas? I had a pretty good idea of what was what in Minnesota, but here--where there are more eastern religion places of worship than Lutheran churches--where does one look to find a new family?

At the same time, there is a freshness to walking through the front door of a church and being there for the primary purpose of meeting with God. I don't have any church meetings or serve on any committees. I don't have people I need to see if I can catch them between services. I am just looking to see where God is in that place. It is a bit refreshing.

Of course, through all of the uncertainty of church-hunting, one thing remains the same. The Bible that I read for the past 20+ years in Minnesota has the same words here in Texas. And more than that, the same Author behind the words.

Today I am going over to Grace Fellowship United Methodist in Katy, Texas. I found out that they are in a sermon series looking at the book of Isaiah. So this week I spent some time in the text for the day so that I can be ready to listen, learn, and be inspired. It has felt good to sit back and just read what God said, and says, through His prophet. To be reminded that this world has a destination and that the destination is in God's hand--despite how things may appear in the meantime.

There is a hope. There is a future. And it is good!

Pressing on,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Too many inputs

The purpose of this blog was initially to be a place where I could reflect, in writing, on the things that I pondered while I ran. I felt like it served that purpose well. Then I was told that I really needed not to run any longer in order to preserve what little cartilage was left in my knees. Biking and/or swimming were to be my new athletic outlets. I feel fortunate that I enjoy--and have grown to love--biking. (Swimming not so much.) I feel certain that if I were told to be sedentary, then the decline would be swift and unattractive.

What has perplexed me over the past several months is that I do not feel like I think and reflect when I am biking as I did when I was running. It is not that I have figured everything out and no longer need to mull things over. Is it that I simply do not have any more meaningful thoughts? I hope not. So what happened to the steady flow of things to reflect on? I think that there is too much else going on with biking.

Running is pretty easy in the sense that one foot goes down after the other and, once you have a route planned, there is not too much to think about. Breathing pretty much takes care of itself, as does balance. Biking is a different story. I must be attentive to traffic, staying on the road and upright, alert to hazards on or beside the road. Not to mention my computer inputs--elapsed time and distance, heart rate, cadence, speed--and other mechanical decisions to make--large chainring or small? What gear works best up or down this hill? On the bike I never have the feeling of time simply passing while my body goes on autopilot. And perhaps with all of the "noise" connected with biking, I simply do not have the brain capacity to also think deep (for me) thoughts.

I wonder whether this translates to relationships? Do I allow my days to get so packed with things to do or think about that I do not make time for friends? Or for time with God? Not because I actively devalue others, but just because I have used up all of my available attentiveness on the "cycling computer" inputs of daily living. I don't think that I like this very much. I want to make time and energy for people who matter to me.

But I am beginning to think that the answer may not be found in trying harder to pay attention. Perhaps it starts in making space that is not filled with other things that will allow time and energy that are not distracted, but that I can invest where those things can matter most--meaningful relationships with people who matter.

Pressing on,

Monday, June 4, 2012


If a person lives to age 75, they will be entrusted with approximately 27,375 days. There are a variety of ways that people look at their 27,375. Some look at that number and think, "That is a lot of days." Not giving much thought at all to the reality that every day one more day is subtracted from the "yet to be lived" column. Others think that 27,375 is such a large number that they really have no need to be thoughtful about how those days are used. Some people only give consideration to their 27,375 once the remaining number gets very small. Oddly enough, I do not know of anyone who has consistently been mindful of using each of the 27,375 to the fullest and best.

Perhaps it is a bit Pollyanna-ish to think that anyone would devote the time and energy to monitoring the use of their time to that level of detail. It might seem absurd to live a life that is so structured that every day is fully deployed for the greatest good. After all, we still have to do chores and go to work and change diapers and clean up after supper. Then there is the newest episode of the XYZ Show and who could stand to miss this game or that.

Every Sunday I read the obituaries in the Star Tribune. Not because of some morbid curiosity, but to remind myself that life is fleeting and many times the end of earthly life comes without much warning. Death is a certainty. A couple of weeks ago I was struck by this reality again as it seemed that many of the obituaries were for people around my age. I am not surprised to read of people in their 80's who have passed on, but there seemed to be a disproportionate number of people in their mid-50's and it caught my eye. It brought me back to this issue of how I am using/investing the days that I have been entrusted with. And not even on some grand "save the world" kind of level, but even more on the mundane and daily level. Do the things that I am doing for work produce value and good for those whom I am serving? Am I treating my co-workers and clients in redemptive and encouraging ways? Am I taking the time for that quick conversation out in the yard that is what neighbors do? Are the things that I am doing for recreation truly restorative and refreshing? Are the things that I am reading sharpening my mind and making me think deeper thoughts? Am I investing my 27,375 (or the 8,000 or so remaining) or just using them?

This has not been an easy exercise because it requires a mental diligence and tenacity that I find tiring these days. Then again, floating downstream is always the easy way to go. All too often I find myself having "wasted" a day or a week without realizing what has happened. I have been busy working, doing tasks, and passing the time, but for what value? During June, I am trying an experiment. At the end of each day I am pausing to assess whether the day was used well or wasted. Not a detailed analysis, but a basic thumbs-up or thumbs-down. My hope is that this discipline will help me to make those assessments more in real time--do I spend the next hour doing X or doing Y? My expectation is that I will find the first part of the month to be disappointing. I will be confronted with my shallowness and self-absorption. With my lack of considered and thoughtful investment of a non-renewable resource. With a sense of spinning my wheels.

At the same time, it is my hope that by the end of June I will begin to offload that which is not helping me to manage what remains of my 27,375 in godly and others-serving ways. It may be possessions, or interests, or patterns of thinking and living. I just don't yet know. But I am rather excited about the journey of discovery. If a different way of using the next 26 makes the remainder of my 27,375 better, then it will be 26 that are invested well.

Pressing on,

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Power of Habit

That which we grow accustomed to is easier to do the next time. Whether or not it really is easier, it sure feels that way. When I ran I noticed that each season I would struggle to get over the 10 mile hump. But after the first couple of runs in excess of 10 miles, the rest of the season it was much easier to go beyond 10. Up until the past week, 25 to 30 miles on the bike felt like a very long time. Friday afternoon we had a nice day and my office was closed, so I knocked off a 50+ mile ride. Now today, between my morning and evening sessions, I rode a bit more than 36--and it didn't feel very long at all. Maybe I have crossed an invisible line such that 30 mile days will feel normal for the rest of the season.

Funny thing, but I have also found that when I build a track record of several days of consistent Bible reading or praying, it is easier to stick with it. Habits are tough to develop (and easy to lose), but if maintained, can make keeping up feel like a bit of a downhill ride.

Spent Good Friday night with 50,000 of my closest friends at an event called Secret Church. With 50,000 can it really be so secret? We just had eight of us at the house for a simulcast from the Church at Brook Hills. We spent six hours of worship, prayer, and a whole-Bible teaching survey of a Biblical theology of suffering--Genesis to Revelation. The friends at our simulcast wondered how David Platt was going to get through a 210 page study guide--until he started talking. Whew!

The six-hour Secret Church was a good jump start (sort of like a 50-mile ride), but the key will be to keep the momentum going. We flew through the study guide so quickly that I have a plan to read through each of the 75 sections one each day. At the end of 75 days of studying what the Bible has to say about suffering and God's providence and sovereignty, I am trusting that I will have a solid foundation to keep moving along the journey.

Piqued your interest? Check out to see video or audio of each of the prior Secret Church events. This past event will be up on the web site in the next couple of weeks.

Downhill and with the wind!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Out of Bounds Congress

The other day I was riding on a side street through town and a truck pulled up beside me and the older gentleman inside asked, very politely, "Why don't you ride on the bike path? Seems like it would be a lot safer." At the moment I did not have a great response, but at the bottom line, I was riding on the street because I can. You see, in my town many of the bike paths are wide, straight, and smooth. In fact, there really is not a good reason not to use them in some places. Of course, when there are no paths, or if there are other people on them that are not going as fast as me, then it doesn't make sense. But generally speaking, "just because I can" is not a good reason for doing something.

I am deeply troubled by some of the voices that I hear coming from the halls of Congress. An untimely death, for whatever reason, is a tragedy. But the floor of the House is no place for the hateful rhetoric surrounding the recent untimely death in Florida. I actually heard our elected Representatives naming the act a murder and an execution. Were they there? Did they see? Have they determined that they will be both jury and judge in this matter?

Certainly it may turn out that this young man's death was a murder and that someone will be charged, tried, and convicted. But law enforcement (of this kind) is generally a state and local matter--not a federal matter. And law enforcement is an Executive branch function, not a legislative branch responsibility. It is tragic enough that this boy died an early death, why do some in Congress see the need to add insult to the tragedy by twisting a terrible loss into a political sound bite--just because they can.

Maybe the interests of justice would be better served if those who are responsible for law enforcement were allowed to do their job in an environment that has not been tainted by Washington's inflammatory rhetoric. Justice may move more slowly than some politicians would like, but trial and conviction in the courtroom of the sound bite is a perversion of justice that the blindfolded Lady would not recognize--and would never condone. At worst it is a lynching of sorts, and at best it is treading the downward edge of a slippery slope.

If a grand jury sees fit to indict, and a jury finds evidence to convict, then a court should sentence. But the House floor is neither the grand jury room, the courtroom, nor the judge's bench. I can only hope that when the TV cameras get pointed at the next tragedy and the microphones turn to new sound bites, that Lady Justice can resume her quiet, steady quest for a right and just outcome.

Pressing on,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Headwinds and Tailwinds

The weather has been tremendous for this time of year--allowing an earlier start to the outdoor riding season. The warm weather also brings with it rather strong winds. The other day I knew that the winds were out of the SSW at about 25 miles per hour--stiff by most measures. So I decided to head into the wind for the outbound portion of the ride and to get the wind at my back for the final leg.

It was tough. I am always surprised at how the effect of wind on a cyclist seems so much stronger than I recall as a runner. I found myself battling the headwind over the course of the first 13 miles or so, with only an occasional turn of the road that created a crosswind. Much of that time I was consoled only by the thought that when I headed for home on the final leg of the ride, the tailwind would be sweet. My attitude would probably have been much different if I could not have been confident that there would be a strong tailwind section of the ride. If I was uncertain about whether I could trade my extra effort now for a push from behind later, it would have been much harder to continue to push on through the route that I had chosen.

We all know that sometimes life is difficult--and far more challenging than a stiff headwind. Economic uncertainty, relational collapse, environmental catastrophe--not to mention the daily struggles to hold it all together--are daunting life experiences. How can we stay strong and press through? By knowing that there will be a tailwind. We may not know exactly when. But there will be one.

It was the Creator of all that is who said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." And who also assures us, "All things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose."

After making the turn, the tailwind-assisted ride was thrilling (including a half mile stretch at the fastest speed that I have ever ridden). But as I made my way to the end of the ride, I realized that while the tailwind section was fun, the headwind section was somehow more satisfying. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the relief that the tailwind afforded. But the effort into the headwind made the tailwind so much sweeter. And being confident that the tailwind was coming made it much easier to be OK with battling the headwind.

Pressing on,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lemons and Lemonade

We are all familiar with the truism--when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But should we? At what point is it wise to take stock of reality and determine that either I will change my reality or I will live as best I can within it? I believe that the lemonade truism is trying to encourage people to make the best of difficult circumstances, but sometimes I don't want to just make the best out of a bad situation. I want a new situation--or a different view of the current situation that is not merely putting lipstick on a pig.

I am all for being a realist. But not completely at the expense of dreams and aspirations. The two do not need to be mutually exclusive. One of my favorite books is Jude the Obscure. In Hardy's classic, Jude Fawley has dreams and aspirations of becoming an artistic stone mason who builds glorious cathedrals. Instead, he allows his perception of duty and obligation to lower his sights and extinguish his dreams. It feels to me like he stops trying and dies a slow and ignoble death. And since the first time I read the book (summer of 1981), I have labored to NOT be Jude Fawley. I certainly haven't always succeeded. But a part of being a realist is that dreams die, or morph into something different. I fear that if we as humans stop dreaming altogether, then we start dying.

It may seem odd, but the winter is when I miss running the most. There was a certain feeling of vitality and conquest to head out on those cold and dark mornings when prudent people stayed snuggled under warm blankets. I have been working very hard cycling indoors this winter (in excess of 500 miles since January 1), but it is not the same. The dreamer in me wants to head out into the dark, fearsome cold, but the realist understands that the orthopedic surgeon knows what he is talking about--and I really don't want knee replacements if I can help it.

So I look for ways to give extra energy and passion to my riding. One thing in particular is working. During some of my indoor workouts I have been watching DVDs of the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. It really makes the time pass quickly. At almost every stage of each race there is a mad dash for the finish. As the leading riders get to within 5km of the finish, the cameras generally stay with them to the end. I have been working hard to match the cadence of the racers over the last 5km (not the speed of course--or otherwise I would have a different job). This way I feel like I am doing something beyond just lazily pedaling along to the end of the ride. I understand that it is different than actually riding the race, but it is the closest I can get from my basement.

It might be easy to lament my inability to run any more. To try to make lemonade. But instead I am going to write a different story. A cycling story. And from lemons I plan to make hot chocolate.

Pressing On,

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Refreshing Change of Pace

Last Friday I was able to ride outdoors! (In Phoenix, but it still counts.) I had been in Phoenix for our annual firm meeting and decided that I wanted to take a break from riding in the basement to actually get out on the real roads. It was fantastic!! The day started off somewhat cool, but when the sun came up it warmed up nicely. The local bike shop, The Bike Barn ( outfitted me with a slick Trek 2.3 that had the same Shimano 105 component group that I just added to my road bike at home. The helpful Bike Barn staff also set me up with a sweet route that made the most of the time that I had and that included a nice climb in the middle of the ride. What surprised me most was that it felt much easier to ride outdoors than it does on the trainer in the basement. Not just because the scenery was more interesting--it actually felt like I could go farther and faster with less effort.

Maybe it really was easier. Or maybe because it felt different, it felt easier. Maybe because it was something fresh and new it was more interesting. I am not sure. What I do know is that the principle seems to apply to a number of aspects of life. Whether it is eating something different for breakfast or taking a new route to work, a new way of doing something seems to make it easier and more interesting--at least for a while.

I wonder whether the same would hold true for spiritual practices. If you usually pray sitting down, what about trying to pray while taking a walk through the neighborhood? If you have read the Bible in one translation for years, what about using a different translation for a while (trading in that NIV for the King James perhaps?). If you always go to the early service at church, how about giving the late service a try? The contemporary or the traditional? What about giving some attention a new spiritual discipline each month on a rotating basis? The month of solitude; the month of service; the month of fasting ... (well, maybe not for the whole month).

If I could feel the freshness in my spiritual life that the ride in Phoenix was for my winter biking, I would welcome that injection of newness and hope. I'll let you know how it goes.

Pressing on,