Tag Archives: bicycling

The Shirt Off My Back

Four bikes were outside when I arrived for our Saturday morning run.

“No one told me that they were riding this morning?” I thought as I walked inside.

I noted the four who wore cycling gear as they greeted me, though several others were dressed to run.

“Hey, no one told me about a ride this morning.” I said, a bit miffed at being left out of the loop.  As I said this, I felt this surge of anger bubble up inside me, not sure where it was coming from.  My voice and actions became more dramatic, nearly shouting, half in jest, half in anger, “Why didn’t you include me in the text message.  Don’t I count!”

The others laughed at my outburst (as I had wanted), but I also realized that I had overstated my case and began to apologize.  Tim, one of the cyclists, said, “You need to take some time to center yourself.”  He was right.

Preparing to race, Shannon is in pink vest

Preparing to race, Shannon is in pink vest

Shannon, also a cyclist, apologized that she had sent out the text invite and used an old thread that did not include me and several others.  I calmed down and said it was okay, especially since I knew Shannon would not do it intentionally.  Shannon is a gracious and generous child of God who gives of her time and energy to help others.  She is a physical therapist who opens her workplace early on Sunday mornings so that our group of runners can do strength training as way to avoid injuries. She regularly travels to Haiti on mission trips and feels comfortable praying for our group.  I consider her a friend.

l525182534As the runners and cyclist prepared to leave, Shannon approached me to see if I had a spare shirt.  It was cooler than expected outside and she needed another layer.  I looked in my running bag and pulled out the only long sleeve shirt I had: my finisher’s shirt from my last marathon.  I teased Shannon that she needed to return it freshly laundered.

After a short prayer, the group headed out the door, cyclists and runners.  I had a great run that morning and headed home prior to the cyclists’ return.  It had been a gorgeous Saturday morning and, after my initial outburst, I was grateful for having a great group of runners to challenge and encourage me.

Later that afternoon, Tim called me to tell me some bad news. During the ride, Shannon had taken a fall.  Fortunately she had a good bike helmet that had protected her head.  Still she had to go the ER where she discovered that she had broken her collarbone.

I texted Shannon that I would be praying for her quick and full recovery.  She texted back that she appreciated the prayers, she was doing all right but that she owed me a shirt, since they had to cut off her jersey and my shirt in the ER.

When I read the text, two thoughts in quick succession flashed into my mind.

The first thought was: “That was the finisher’s shirt from my last marathon.   That can’t be replaced!”

The second deeper thought was, “John, which is more important, a shirt or a friendship?”

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.  Matthew 25:40

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Hope Springs Eternal

For many people in the Upper Midwest, it has been a long, cold and difficult winter. Polar Vortex sub-zero cold snaps. Snow drifts higher than our cars. Streets that seem to be perpetually rutted with snow, ice and potholes. And all the outside conditions play havoc on our interior outlook. With few exceptions, we – are – all – sick – of – winter.

So no wonder as the temperature rises, we want out. This week is spring break for many of the local schools and several families in the congregation have “escaped” to points south. But some of us who remain behind will not give way to winter.

Early Spring Ride

Early Spring Ride

Take my friend, Tim Torgerson for example. Yesterday when the temperature climbed towards 40 degrees, he pulled down his bicycle from the garage rack and went for a 23 mile ride. Most of the county roads that he rides have wide shoulders and these are cleared of snow (but not sand and gravel). He even stopped to take a picture of the snow banks along the way.

This morning he and I went for a run together, outside. Yes, there is still plenty of ice and snow on the running trails. Yes, with daylight saving times it was still dark at 6:45 am when we started out. But we were determined to avoid the dreaded treadmill and so we pulled on our spiked shoes, reflective vests and hit the road. Neither of us slipped or fell and we did enjoy a spectacular sunrise.

Life Wins!

Life Wins!

Spring is coming to Minnesota, slow, but relentless. We take great hope in the promise of green grass, budding trees and fragrant flowers. Heck, I would relish some good old-fashion mud right now.

The hope of spring reminds of a deeper, stronger hope. The promise of Christ’s resurrection. No matter how dark our lives may seem at times, Christ promises us new life. “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25.

What do you yearn for?

Lord Jesus, my hope rests in you.

Riding My Emotions

I have been writing recently about spiritual emotions. Today I rode my bike to church and with the ride came a variety of feelings.

First came the excitement of doing something new. I had talked about making the 28 mile trek from home to Resurrection all last summer, but never did it. This year I felt this internal drive to make it happen. So as I prepared my water bottles and look over the route, I had a mixture of joy, anticipation and excitement.

The joy and excitement stayed with me during the first twelve miles of the ride. It was a beautiful morning, cool with a slight overcast. Part of my journey was along a paved state trail, a converted railroad bed, that was sheltered and tree-lined. I felt like a kid set free.

Then at twelve miles, a new feeling rose up within me. I could feel my back tire going soft and disappointment crept into my heart. “No, Not a flat tire.  Not today! Not on the way to work,” I thought. And I simply panicked. Even though I had changed my bike tire, it had always been with more experienced riders who could assist me. Thinking I could not do it on my own, I phoned my wife and asked her to rescue me.

While I waited, I decided to work on changing the tire. And within fifteen minutes, I had the flat fixed. Now my emotions shifted again, from disappointment to that of satisfaction. “I can fix a flat!” But my wife was still on her way and she was not answering her cell phone. So I waited, impatient and also apologetic. When she arrived, I was feeling a bit embarrassed that I had called for her assistance. When she arrived she responded graciously and I felt some relief and peace that I could complete my ride.

The rest of the ride went smoothly except for one instance. As I entered Woodbury proper, the traffic increased and I had to be quite mindful of various cars and trucks at intersections. Approaching one traffic light, a male passenger yelled something at me through an open car window. I felt this immediate irritation at being accosted. I believed that I had every right to be there. The car had stopped at the intersection and I bicycled by it. As I passed, with irritation I said to the passenger, “I have every right to bike here.” He just gave me a strange, disgruntled look and I rode on.

I then reflected on my feelings of irritation. Was I going to let this one momentary event color the rest of my ride? Would I allow this irritation to grow to full anger? Emotions can be ridden just like a bike. We can brood on some feeling, deepening its intensity, or we can let it go, seeking new emotions to ride.

Fortunately, I caught sight of a unique vehicle, a recumbent bike with a full bright-yellow wind frame around it. With that flash of novelty, I happily finished my ride to church, feeling a new sense of accomplishment.

Now I am wondering, “What emotions and feeling will I have on the ride home this evening?”

Lord Jesus, take the rough edges of my heart and mold them to your desires.

Running Club Passion and Pain

One of my passions is consistent aerobic exercise. However my passion has been inconsistent, waxing and waning through the years. Through most of my adult life, I have had spurts of consistent running, only to be sidelined by the “urgency” of my daily life. This was especially true when my children were little.

The Running Club in a non-running moment

Then in the winter of 1999 Tim Torgerson approached me about starting a church-based marathon training group. He was looking towards October’s Twin City Marathon. I was gullible and naïve and so said yes. The training group started in March, running together on Saturday mornings. Each week we were accountable to each other. I had a training schedule to keep and people checking on me.

However a dreaded “running injury” struck and I had to take a month out in June for physical therapy. Still I felt this need/desire to be back with the group as quickly as possible. Finally on October 3, 1999, I finished TCM with seven others from the group. After our suceess “the training group” became a year-round running club.

Over the next ten years the St. Andrew’s Running Club gave me the support and encouragement to finish ten marathons. Last summer when I finished Grandma’s, I knew I needed a break to recover from some nagging injuries. Later I said good-bye to St. Andrew’s Running Club as I followed God’s call to Resurrection Lutheran. After a long winter of physical therapy, I am now finally ready to start running. Last week I was able to do three runs of 2-3 miles.

I have also discovered a new joy with cycling. Last Wednesday Dave Johnson from Resurrection showed me some of the great bike routes nearby. Yesterday I biked with Tim and Dan and needed their support as I experienced my first three flats.

Through these experiences, I have discovered that I benefit from a group to help me stay consistent in running or cycling. Which leads me to a question: Is anyone interested in a running or cycling club based here at Resurrection? Let me know.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17

Lord Jesus, lead us into the fellowship groups you want us to have so that we might live the vibrant life.

Bicycling Together

At times I look as stiff as this sculpture

This week it seems as if someone has hit a button and Minnesota has shifted from winter to summer.  Thunderstorms, hail and tornado warnings have replace snow and windchill as topics of conversation.   With this shift in weather, I have been able to use my new bicycle, but I still need to check the radar before changing to bike shorts.

Bicycling is a new sport for me.  I still do not know all the nuts and bolts of my bike.  Someone recently asked what shoes and clipless pedals I had.  I had no idea.  I still awkward each time I start out for a ride.  I am thankful for my friend, Tim Torgerson,  who mentors me in the fine art of a group ride.

It reminds me when I first started serious running twelve years ago, training for my first marathon.  Being a newbie is awkward.   I remember the first time I went on a ten-mile run with the group in the spring.  I wore a cotton t-shirt and paid the price when the sweat-soaked shirt chaffed my skin.   By the end of that run I had blood streaks on the shirt from chaffed nipples.  Not a pretty sight.

Yet even after that embarrassment, I came back to run with the group, because they gave me so many rewarding training runs.  I remember especially some of the long training runs around White Bear Lake or out through Stillwater and back along the Gateway Trail.   The camaraderie of a good training group gave me confidence to set high goals and to work hard to achieve them. 

The spiritual life of a Christian can have similar moments of awkward beginnings.  We may not know where to find a book in the Bible or how to pray out loud with others.  We’re not sure what words are correct or how to express our feelings.  Yet to maximize the vibrant life with Christ, we need to be in fellowship/training with other Christians.  We need other followers of Christ to help us grow in the study of God’s Word, in the art of caring for one another, and in the discipline of prayer.   Hopefully we will remember our own awkward beginnings and with patience mentor each other to grow more Christ-like.

Who has been a mentor to you in your Christian life? How have you mentored others?

Lord Jesus, show me the path to true Christian community.

Bike and Life Lessons

New Bike Joy

As I posted last Thursday, I finally got to ride my new bicycle.   My first attempt only went two blocks, when I realized I did not know how to shift from the big front gear/ring to the smaller one.   After calling my running friend, Tim Torgerson, in a panic, I went to the NOW sports store where they showed me in 2.3 seconds.  

Returning home I tried again to see if I could bike beyond my neighborhood.  I did finish nine miles but I was not very comfortable on the bike.  Shifting, clipless shoes, cateye speedometer, all felt awkward and new.    Fortunately I kept my favorite quote by Ken Blanchard in mind: Unless you feel awkward doing something new, you are not doing something new.

So this morning Tim offered to ride with me and help me become more familiar with my bike.  First off, he reminded me to shift back gears often, but mainly stay in the smaller gear ring in front.  We then biked about 17 miles together.   At one point, he had to make some clothing adjustments and stopped, but I pedaled on, thinking he would catch me soon enough.  After being chased for two miles, I slowed and stopped.  When he caught me he shared a bike etiquette rule: if someone in a group stops, you stop as well.  You don’t know how long the person will need to stop and catching someone on a bike is a big challenge.  “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I thought.

Tim also wants me to practice is riding in a straight line, not wandering all around the highway.  It is more energy-efficient and less stressful for the other riders with you.  To do this I needed to keep my visual focus further down the road, not so short-range.   I still had to glance short-range for rocks, bumps or pits, but I needed to look further out to guide the bike in a steady way.

Here lies a spiritual lesson.  Too often I am looking at short-range problems or issues, not seeing the larger picture of following Jesus.  He not only rides beside me, but he is the long-range direction on whom I need to stay focused.   He will keep me on the “straight and narrow.”  “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.” Matthew 7:14

What is God teaching you lately?