Getting Up Early?!

Saturdays I like to sleep in, wait till the sun comes up blazing through the window and Janey has the coffee going. But not today, nope; I had an early morning meeting at the church. Well, it wasn’t that early, it was at 8 AM, but that’s 8 AM on a Saturday. Did you know that ‘Saturday’ is Latin for ‘sleep in?’ Okay, it’s not, I’m just kidding; but that’s usually what I do on Saturdays, I sleep in.

Now I am aware that both medical and fitness experts encourage keeping the same go-to-bed and get-out-of-bed times throughout the week; whether it’s a weekend or not. I’m sure that’s good advice, even though I don’t follow it. Today I did, and I actually notice a difference.

 

5:30 AM on a Saturday????

I got up at the same time today as I do on Monday. I had my typical morning routine—sunrisequite time, coffee and bathing—completed by 7 and was on my bike by 7:10. Heading out of my driveway and turning west I was met by a low-slung sun, slowly rising over the Cascade Mountains. The air was cool but not cold, and there wasn’t a lot of traffic.

As the day progressed, we had the meeting, I hung out with some friends, I had my workout, lunch and a bit of family time all completed by just shortly after noon. Then…I can’t believe this….Janey talked me into going to—I hate to say it—CostCo (mind you, I’m not a cheap CostCo date)! Afterward (and after a little sticker shock) we went on and bought some grass-fed beef to throw onto the barbee this evening after sitting in my own recipe of fresh oregano, garlic, olive oil and Tabasco marinade. And then I dove into some hammock time with the newest Sunset magazine, reading about Joseph, Oregon (a place I have a hankering to return to).

 

What’s the Big Deal?

Because I usually get up later on Saturday, I feel rushed throughout the day. Gotta rush the workout; gotta rush the chores; gotta rush dinner prep, and then force myself to relax. Nothing’s at a manageable pace and soon I become frustrated because I feel like I’m running out time. But not today. Today I’m actually functioning in a more human pace; I’m even naturally relaxing and not even feeling guilty about it; which, as you may know, is somewhat of a foreign concept to me.

 

To Continue or Not to Continue…

Now I’ve gotten a little peek into why maintaining the same to-bed/get-up routine is beneficial. I’m sure there are some well researched and documented reasons around circadian rhythm and emotional stability; but it’s more than that. It’s a victory; minor perhaps, but still a victory. Stephen Covey once wrote that “if we put mind over mattress and arise early in the morning, we will earn our first victory of the day” (Principle-Centered Leadership, 1991, p. 49). I like the phrase mind over mattress and express that to myself on many a work-week morning; and sometimes it actually works.

Maybe this also an aspect of what Scripture is referring to about redeeming the time:

See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time.

—Ephesians 5:15-16a

Who knows, maybe I’ll do this again on another Saturday in the future.

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Autumn Reset

Why is it I feel the need to do a bit of reset? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because there is a slight chill to the early morning air or that the leaves are starting to turn into glorious displays of color. Or that eating dinner outside now requires us to get bundled up. It could also be because it’s a new school year and also, for the most part, new ministry years for churches.

All of this inspires Janey and me to change how we maintain fun and sustainable approaches to healthy living. Yes, we strive to eat as much fresh organic food as possible. We look for cruelty free meat and eggs and grass-fed, hormone-free beef. We are also thankful that such food is available and that we are able to purchase it.

 

What’s Missing?

But still, there’s need to change a bit. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve greatly changed the way I approach cycling. Now my cycling is more Urban Adventure Riding rather than going for long rides out into the country. Part of the change is to accommodate the fact that the roads are just dangerous out here. Another reason is that typical road bikes don’t really fit my spine very well, but the hybrid bikes do.

One way to compensate for the dangerous roads is to ride into the danger; so rather than the long rides into rolling hills and farms, I now commute to and from work and sometimes church. I take the bike grocery shopping and to doctor’s appointments. And my leisure rides are usually all under 20 miles but include a couple of massive hills. All these rides provide for more interval-type riding (riding hard for bout 30-ish seconds, followed by coasting or light pedaling); which is supposedly a healthier approach to working out, especially as we age (see Drs. Josh Axe, Joseph Mercola and Michael VanDershcelden). But the rains are coming; and no matter how hearty I like to think I’ll be, the reality is that riding in the rain isn’t just miserable, it’s even more dangerous. So, what to do?

 

So, How’s it Done?

Well, what we’re doing is adding more interval-based workouts into our routines. This requires us to change how we use weights and how we approach our aerobic workouts. It also helps to stave off boredom, continues fueling our desire for healthier eating, and it is opening opportunities for us to work out together!

So over the last several months we have acquired an elliptical trainer and a high-tech exercise equipstationary bike (check out Nordic Track to view the products). We have various barbells, kettlebells, and tension bands.  We also have a few workout DVDs. And we’ve arranged space in our home so we don’t have to rely on going to the gym. So getting to our workout is no more than few steps away or just out of our front door.

 

But Why?

You might be asking yourself why? Well, we have some good reasons; at least to us they’re good reasons. First, there’s health reasons. Heart disease is on both sides of our family. Most of my relatives died from some sort of heart disease; and I was born with a defective heart valve. Plus, my spine is compromised and one of the best things to do for it is to remain active; not letting the chronic pain stop me but to instead confront the pain with natural remedies found in food and exercise.

Second, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

­-­1 Corinthians 5:19

I know that my time is in God’s hands, but that’s no excuse for not taking as good of care of myself as I can. Dr. Gary Smalley states that “many people react strongly (at first) against the idea that in order to enjoy healthy relationships, they first have to keep themselves healthy” (The DNA of Relationships, 2004, p. 114). So taking care of ourselves is not selfish, but is instead assisting the indwelling empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be a vital and positive life-source for those around us. And frankly, my base workout now-a-days, alongside cycling, is walking—simple, everyday walking. This is doable, it’s sustainable, and, thankfully, it’s enjoyable!

Mourning, Anger and Compression Socks

 

This has been a weird week, both personally and nationally.

All of the killings that have happened in our nation are numbing and tragic. Regardless of my political leanings, or thoughts on the 2nd Amendment or attitudes on activism; American families are in mourning and in need of my prayers. This is part of how I love my neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). Our nation is in need of my prayers. God help us!

 

The Anger Part

SocksI was on my bike ride yesterday when I was pondering all the mourning. As I entered onto a very busy street with a debris-strewn bike path, some dude swerved into the bike lane so his buddy could stick his upper body out of the window to scream at me. It of course startled me, and thankfully they didn’t hit or grab me, but as they sped away, I started fuming. I even yelled at them, and no, I didn’t say “thank you!” I am glad I kept both hands on the handlebars so I didn’t flail around any hand gestures that could’ve caused me even more trouble.

But as their car faded from view and I started climbing one of West Salem’s many hills, I marveled how quickly I went from mourning to anger. Yes, what those people did to me was dangerous and stupid, but I allowed them to disturb my soul. Then I started realizing how I allow a lot of other things to disturb my soul as well.

Sure, most of what is in the news is bad, but typically, we only see what the news wants us to see. We actually have to work to see the positives in life. But even amongst all the sadness and tragedy, there is still beauty. Just look around and marvel at the joy that surrounds us. Even as we pray for more of God’s presence and peace in our own souls and throughout our nation, we can at the same time be thankful for our families, flowers, birds, bikes, and so on.

 

Now the Socks

I was reminded of a simple example of joy when I started speeding down the hill just described, my feet were more comfortable in my new compression socks! Silly, I know, but also simple and joyful. The socks help message the calves, wick sweat away better and just add more overall comfort. And they were on sale to boot!

Like I said, it’s been a weird week, and I didn’t mention my CT scan (but that’s another story).

Bike Tipping and Humility

Bike cageOne of humanity’s most noble character traits is humility. This same character trait is sorely missing from much of our culture. Even Jesus “humbled Himself” (see Philippians 2:8). But somehow humility seems elusive. I was bluntly reminded of this just yesterday at a stop light.

I commuted to work yesterday on my bike, my brand new shiny hybrid Trek Allant 7.4. Yep, look at me commuting, reducing my carbon footprint and improving my fitness. Ha, I’m not in a metal box spewing emissions; nope, I’m using pedal power. (Forget the fact that I drive 99% of the time!)

 

Timmmmmbeeeerrrrr!

It all started at the last intersection before my building. I’m rolling up to a stale red light at Summer and Union streets. I’m looking at the light hoping it’ll turn green in the next nanosecond. Keep in mind that both of my feet are securely clipped tightly into the cleats on my pedals, and since they are still new, getting my feet out of the cleats quickly is difficult because they’re not broken in yet.

So my forward momentum is all but stopped. Suddenly I find myself desperately trying to uncleat. I’m jerking my right leg in vain efforts to get the cleat to, well, uncleat. Now my bike starts wobbling. But with no forward momentum along with the jerking of my right leg, my brand new shiny bike begins lurching sideways.

Oh yes, that old familiar feeling of losing balance came rushing back as the ground came rushing up. That nanosecond mentioned above was my inglorious tumble onto the curb (ouch!) and grass. And of course it was next to two buildings with a thousand occupants each along with a busy intersection. I’m sure those that saw it all happen thought the same thing as I did, “What an idiot!”

And I’m sure it was humorous. Funny how in mid-tip both of my feet just uncleated and Bike fall.jpgflayed out in different directions; looking somewhat like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away from him: limbs flailing followed by a big thud. The big thud was my right shoulder on the grass and my right knee on the concrete curb.

 

Okay, just get up and act like nothing happened

On top of all of these clumsy theatrics, I had to be at a meeting in less than ten minutes. And it was a meeting I was facilitating. So I couldn’t just lie there, I had to get up, get back on my bike, get to work and get the meeting started. So that’s what I did. As an old song lyric states, I got back up and brushed myself off and hopped back up on the saddle.

Well, the meeting was a great success and thankfully I didn’t show up bleeding. My bike received no dings and my knee is only slightly swollen today (I did eventually have to ice it.) And, most of all, my fused neck is still fused!

 

Holier than Thou…Not!

Honestly, I don’t perceive myself to be a creature of self-absorption. But I do have periodic run-ins what that little monster known as ego (aka pride). Even as I was supremely embarrassed by my little mishap yesterday, I find it quite humorous. But it also reminds me not to entertain attitudes of grandeur; what is often referred to as being haughty or conceited.

I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), that makes me cool in God’s eyes. But this “coolness” is purely because of God’s grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:1-10). Commuting on my bike doesn’t make me cool, neither does my attire or my paycheck. Christ makes me cool. At least to God I’m cool due to faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10).

So the next time I start thinking I’m all that because I’m commuting, or have a cool bike or trendy new clothes, I’ll remember this bike tipping incident along with the embarrassment and my swollen knee. Hopefully this will help me thwart that little ego monster. But I do hope to remain upright!

God at 1,000 Feet

God at 1000'

Not even half a mile away from our new home and I’m already climbing a gigantic hill. It goes from 249 feet to 1,000 feet in less than five miles; five very slow miles I might add. Because of other chores that were a higher priority I’m starting my ride in mid-afternoon where the temperature has topped 85 degrees and is expected to reach close to 100.

What am I thinking? I’m thinking about celebrating life, feeling the strain of muscle against pedal, sweat trickling down my neck and back, and catching vistas of vineyards and lavender fields. My lungs ache, my heart pounds, and my legs protest, but my spirit is running free from the shackles of stress, chores and long to-do lists.

Cresting the hill I stop to drink in the view of the lush Willamette Valley: green and brown pastures, towering evergreens and sprawling deciduous trees, manicured orchards, vineyards, and purple patches of lavender wafting a calming fragrance through the breeze. The river winds in long, silver meanders with hawks and a few eagles soaring on thermals high above my head. I take just a minute of pause to snap a picture and thank God that I even get such an experience; yes, world, I am alive and glad for it!

I often recall the short conversation I had with my surgeon on Saturday, January 7, 2012 where she said, just barely 24 hours after operating on my spine for a second time that I may not do the things I used to do. While that statement is true in some respects, especially in running, chronic pain and other things, I still get to ride my bike up big hills that reveal the splendor of a creative and loving God.

So before I begin the terrifying descent I whisper (basically gasp) “thank You, Jesus!” Then I turn my attention to the looming downhill portion of the big climb. I’m not used to such big climbs, which, of course means I’m not used to bombing down such big hills—this brings a totally different type of prayer (but that’s another blog)!  For the moment, though, I celebrate life and praise the God that gave it to me.

Trees, Forest and Eternity

Tree_forestI am fascinated by the both/and nature of Jesus. So often we are tempted to put Him into a box; even pastors from the pulpit put Him into a box of theologically constructed rules and regulations. But Jesus has none of that.

 For instance, in John 14:2-3 Jesus is teaching to both the disciples present and to you and I today. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Trees

In the foreground in the picture above is a single tree. It is an alpine tree so it is not as full as trees at lower elevations. This tree represents the person to whom Jesus is teaching. That person is the disciple in the upper room sitting at His feet in rapt attention and it is also the reader of Scripture in 2014 riding the subway to work. It is a timeless message to each individual that has accepted Jesus into their lives. It is a promise that has not yet run its course. It is an equal promise to all that have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is a promise of an eternal destiny with Jesus for evermore.

Forest

In the background is the forest—a whole bunch of individual trees gathered together in an evergreen community, withstanding all that the elements of climate can throw at them. The trees are the community of Christ-followers. This community is both local and global. It is both then and now. It is past, present and future. This is the Kingdom of Christ being built throughout the centuries one tree at a time.

The Mountain and Eternity

The mountain sits in the very back of the picture. The mountain is immoveable, ever-present, majestic and beautiful. That is our destiny, the mountaintop of forever existence with Jesus.

Yes, it is true, that we can’t really see the final destiny with our eyeballs; we can, however, sense it in our inner being by way of the Holy Spirit. And yes, many of us, myself included, suffer pain of some sort every day this side of our Eternal Destiny. Yet we know that one day when we do finally arrive at that Eternal Destiny that all pain will cease, we will be completely redeemed, restored and made new (see Rev. 21 & 22 and 1 Cor. 15).

 Endurance

But like the bike ride it took to get to place to take this picture or to climb the mountain in the background we need endurance. Marathoners need endurance as do backpackers and parents. Those that suffer chronic pain or unspeakable persecution need endurance. Jesus needed endurance. We get our endurance with proper care of our bodies through nutrition, training and rest; but we also need to prepare for spiritual endurance by absorbing Scripture, spending time in prayer—which is really communion with the Father, and by being connected to our local forest whether it be a church, home group or a huddle of refugees.

 But to all of us, both then and now, the promise still holds true, that Jesus is preparing a place for us and one day we will all be with Him for ever more, amen.

Cycling to Sisters and: The Why

Miller_tour_1

Climbing up Tombstone pass, portions of which pitch to a ten percent grade, causes one to ask the question: why am I doing this? My lungs weren’t exploding but my quads were. Even though I had already put in nearly 1,000 base miles, I had not trained for hills this big, especially in the altitude we were moving into. Again, the question, why?

 I don’t know.

 The day before Tombstone, we had ridden from Keizer to Sweet Home, about 58 miles and change. And of course, there were hills, big hills; but nothing like Tombstone. In fact, it was uphill for 40 miles from Sweet Home to the top of Tombstone, 11 miles of it between six and 10 percent in grade. What am I trying to prove?

I don’t know.

Maybe it was the thrill of the adventure, the challenge of pushing my body beyond anything I’ve done in 25 years, or maybe it was the fellowship with friends or the scenery, or wanting to see how far I could push my triple-fusion neck. Maybe it was a combination of all the above. Maybe I need to see a doctor.

 Before the trip even began I thought maybe I’d get some nice quality prayer time while spending hours in the saddle. But that didn’t happen. I was suffering too much to truly pray other than pleading for help up this massive mountain that seemed to head straight up into space. I prayed I wouldn’t get hit by the many cars speeding by. I prayed my dizziness wouldn’t all of the sudden cause me to veer into the speeding traffic or off the side of the gravelly canyon. Oh yes, I prayed, it just wasn’t the prayer of solitude, but more the prayer of panic. Why?

 I don’t know.

 But I made it. Granted, I didn’t turn a pedal on every mile but I rose to the primary challenges while also being humbled—humbled by the hills, humbled by my slowness, and humbled by the loss of former physical abilities. I am not 28 anymore and I do have a compromised spine. I also have a loving God that allows me to participate in such endeavors.

And perhaps this is the answer to the why, deepening humility while also, as ironic as it sounds, deepening my gratefulness to God. I did draw closer to Jesus if only in recognizing that, yes, He was with my in the terrifying descent down the Santiam Pass and into Sisters. He was with me on the last arduous climb the day after Sisters where I swore I’d quite riding (although I was riding less than 24 hours later after we got home). He was with me as I was so dizzy I could hardly keep my bike in a straight line. And He is still with me now, even after such a quest; a quest I didn’t need to do other than verifying to my own soul that, yes, even now, I am alive, I am well, but even more, I am alive and I am living life, not letting life live me.

 That I do know.