Jun 25, 2011

Reflections from the Bike Ride


So good to be home.


  • 2,537 miles in five days of riding
  • riding through seven straight hours of rain
  • getting soaked through "waterproof" gear
  • experiencing the onset of hypothermia 
  • riding through 100 degree desert conditions
  • fighting through crazy LA traffic
  • splitting lanes in CA - LOVED IT!!!
  • being delayed leaving Washington and being delayed leaving California

Along the way, I saw some incredible sights. God is an amazing God. The created world is soooo beautiful. 

In Mount Shasta National Forest and met some friendly hippie people living on a bus. They are traveling up and down the coast on their hippie bus. 

Was too absorbed in conversation, I failed to take a picture with them and the bus. Was thinking about it, but got lost in conversation.

The whole trip was kind of like that.

I was supposed to leave on Friday morning when the weather in the Pacific Northwest was stunningly beautiful. But I had friends who came into town so I didn't leave until Saturday. 

Saturday was absolutely terrible! It rained all of Washington and most of Oregon. The first time it stopped raining was in Roseburg! Seven hours later!!! After freezing in the rain the first day, the second day was riding in torturous desert heat.

I stopped every hour to pound water and Gatorade into my body. You never realize how dehydrate you can get riding on a bike. Although I was drinking water or Gatorade every hour, I still felt thirsty.

Finally made it to LA.

I had a chance to hang out with my dad, as my mom was in Texas tending to my sister who just had my third niece. It was awesome to hang out with dad.

One day, I took the bike to Santa Monica Beach. Although it wasn't sunny, it was still beautiful.

Because I didn't get to ride down the coast as planned, I decided to leave on Thursday so that I can ride up the coast. 

That was the plan anyways. But, the conference planners kept moving my presentation time. First it was 10am, then 2pm. And then 3:30pm. I didn't leave LA until 4:30pm!

I was so mad.

Again, I would not have time to ride up the coast. I would have to ride on the freeway all the way back home. Again.

But you know what? The weather was flat out gorgeous. I was on the open road. I am on my bike.

Life is good.

Helen, Kaitlin, Kailey, and Kaleb drove down to Portland where we all spent the night together. It was so good to see the family again. Missed Karis, but she is having a good time with her friends in Texas.

So there we go. 

That was my trip.

2,537 miles in five days of riding.

My butt is sore, my back hurts, things didn't go the way I planned. But I would do it all over again in a heart beat!

  • Life is a journey. Don't sweat the small stuff. And make sure you enjoy the ride.

Jun 19, 2011

Day 2 of the Ride

What a contrast from yesterday.

I was battling the rain, wet clothes, wet gloves, hypothermia.

Today, I rode 600 miles in the California desert where the temperatures were regularly in the high 90's and low 100's.

What a difference.

I left Reeding, CA at 9 this morning. The two hours of the ride was very comfortable. After I passed Sacramento, it started getting really hot and remained that way until I hit Tejon Pass.

I never realized how dehydrated you can get when riding in desert conditions. I've ridden plenty of times in Texas. But riding in the desert is different. I was chugging 16 oz. of water every hour and even though I was drinking all that water, I never had to pee! The first time I had to go to the bathroom all day was when I was in Tejon Pass 100 miles outside of LA. I drank six bottles of water and was still thirsty.


Made it to dad's place in Seal Beach this evening. Dad cooked me up some Korean food for dinner. And after a cold shower, feeling a whole lot better.

I covered 1200 miles in two days.

My butt is sore, my back is aching, but I can't get this stupid grin off my face.

Love to ride!

Jun 18, 2011

Day 1 of the Ride

Rode over 600 miles today. Most of it in the pouring rain. It rained the entire way from Federal Way, WA to Roseburg, OR. To make matters worse, there was an accident and major construction in downtown Portland. They took four lanes of I-5 down to one lane!!!

It was pouring rain. It was cold. And I was stuck in traffic for over an hour in downtown Portland.

Was not a happy camper.

Normally, I am pretty well geared up for the rides. But, I had no idea it was going to be so dang cold and rainy the entire way. I was battling hypothermia cuz all I had was my leather jacket and a t-shirt. After riding in the rain for four straight hours, the rain soaked through the jacket and got my t-shirt all wet. My waterproof gloves were not so waterproof after about four hours of constant soaking on the highway.

I was freezing cold.

South of Portland, I stopped at a shopping mall to get some clothes.

First went to Target and all they had were summer clothing. Not one sweatshirt.

Then went to Ross. The same story.

Finally went to Marshalls. The same story. But just before I left, I saw that they had some sleeping wear - pj's and stuff on clearance. I checked, and I was very fortunate to find a long-sleeve pj top. That thing saved my life! Seriously.

I was so dang cold.

After Roseberg, it stopped raining.

Riding is so much more pleasant when it's not raining.

Well, because I lost so much time in Portland and trying to find some clothes, I will not be able to go down the coast as I planned.

I will have to make do and just take I-5 all the way to LA.

It will be interesting. I was freezing cold today, but tomorrow I am going to be baking in the California desert. The temperatures are supposed to be in the high 90's.

After 600 miles, my butt is sore, my back aches, and my ears are ringing. But I've still got a smile on my face.

I'm going to go to bed now.

Sweet dreams everyone.

The joys of riding!!!

Jun 16, 2011

The Plan for the Road Trip

After speaking with several bikers who've made the trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, I have decided to adjust the route.

Instead of going most of the way to Anaheim on the 101 and 1, I will be taking the I-5 down to the Bay Area, and then switching over to the 1. The weather is nicer down there, and the views ought to be spectacular.

This works out because it will save me some time, and I can use the extra time to hang out with friends who are in town from Dallas visiting Helen and me.

As I was riding into the office this morning, I was tempted to keep going on the highway, but the dedicated pastor guy I am, I made the turn and am currently working hard in the office. :)

I am soooooooo looking forward to the ride.

I will be posting pretty regularly from the road on Facebook and Twitter for any of you interested on my trip.

See you soon!

James <><

Jun 7, 2011

What I Am For...

Jesus is the greatest example of a God who is "for" people.

There is something terribly wrong when the God of Scripture is the greatest example of a God who is for people and the church that bears His name and self-professed Christ-followers are better known for what we are against – against gays, against sex, against change, against freedom, against abortion than what we are for.

Moral purity, sound theology, Biblical sexuality are all good things. But they are not the goal of being Christ-followers. They are the result of people becoming more like Christ. But when we make the by-product the goal while excluding radical heart and life transformation by Jesus Christ, the very things we stand for become repugnant.

Christ must change how we look at people. People are no longer just poor or rich, educated or uneducated, pretty or ugly, they are no longer just the drunks or addicts, they are no longer just divorcees, people living out of wedlock, the girl who got pregnant in school, white or black.

We can’t help but see people for who they are – children of God who need grace, love and acceptance just like we needed grace so that Christ can transform all of us.

If Jesus were walking the earth in 2011, I am certain that Jesus would see beyond the tattoos, the piercings, the long hair, the clothes, sexual deviancies, the loud music, the colors, and sins of the people to see a child of God who desperately need to find themselves in the grace of God.

And in the presence of Jesus, regardless of who you are, you are welcomed, received, and made to know that you matter to God. So much so that God would send His only begotten Son to die for them so that whoever would believe in such a God would be made a child of God and would never die but have eternal life. 

Judgment doesn’t change people. It’s love. It’s grace. It’s wide open acceptance. 

Only when people know that God cares, are they ready to hear God’s truths.  

Grace comes first.  

Acceptance comes first. 

And when they are accepted and know that God cares for them, they are ready for God to transform them.

I am convinced that it’s only when the church that bears the name Jesus Christ gets this right that we’re going to make a difference in this community.

Jun 4, 2011

Longing for the Ride

The first time I took the Meyers Briggs personality test in seminary, I was an extreme extrovert.

As the years and...yikes...decades have gone by, I am still an extrovert but not nearly as extreme as I used to be. In fact I have mellowed out quite a bit.

Whereas I used to think solitude was for sleeping, now I actually look forward to it.

I think that's why I love riding so much.

It gives me the opportunity to get away and be in solitude. It gives me the opportunity to be in conversation with God. You'd be amazed how many good ideas and how much clarity can be gained while riding.

In a few weeks I will be taking a road trip down to Anaheim on my bike. I will be taking a week's vacation to just ride.

I know my final destination, but I have no idea how I will actually get to Anaheim. I'm sure it will include some interstate highways, some country roads, perhaps some ocean drives, maybe even some mountain roads. Who knows?

All I know is that I will be spending some good times with God in conversation.

Can't wait!

Jun 3, 2011

When Leaders Don't Confront Difficult People

On Fridays I typically work out of a Starbucks.

I get more reading, reflecting, sermonizing done at a Starbucks than I do at the office or at home. I am not sure why that is. All I know is that's the way it is.

This morning I got to my favorite Starbucks and got settled in to work. Normally, I don't have to put my earplugs in at this particular Starbucks because it tends to be quieter. 

However, this morning there was a family in here with two little girls probably 3 and 5 years old. There are always families at these Starbucks - no big deal. 

But, this one was different. This was a big deal. These girls were a nightmare!!!

It's not their fault. It's their parents and their lack of parenting. 

There were times when the girls were literally screaming at the top of their lungs at each other and the parents. And when they weren't screaming, they were not even close to using their inside voices. 

You could tell that everyone at Starbucks was uncomfortable and annoyed with the situation. But the parents did nothing. They just let their girls behave that way with no consequences.

Excuse me!!! Both the parents and the kids need a time out and some firm loving discipline.

But I am not writing this morning to gripe about the parents. I learned a huge leadership principle this morning.

As soon as the family left, all of us breathed a sight of relief at the Starbucks. 

All of a sudden, I found myself so much happier. I could think. I could read. I could relax. 

When those girls were here, I was all grumpy and ticked off.

Here's the leadership principle: Leaders, it is our responsibility to create an environment where our folks can be at their best. 

When there is a problem individual and they are not dealt with, it brings the whole team down. When unacceptable behavior is not challenged, confronted, and dealt with the entire team loses.

As difficult as it is in dealing with difficult people, not dealing with them will have such a negative impact on the work setting that the entire team and institution will suffer for it. 

Jun 1, 2011

Just Because You Think You Know the Truth, You Don't Have to Be a Jerk About It

I felt so isolated, discouraged, embarrassed, dismayed, frustrated, alienated.

These aren't strange emotions for any evangelical that's been around the PC(USA) world. I've almost gotten used to feeling like that at General Assemblies or at certain presbytery meetings.

This is nothing new.

But what was new about these emotions on this particular night was that I was in a gathering of other evangelicals in the PC(USA).

It wasn't that I disagreed with the gist of what was being said.
  • I too think the 10-A (10-A was the amendment designation that was recently ratified by the General Assembly and the majority of the presbyteries that now allows gay ordination in the PC(USA)) decision was tragic. 
  • I too grieve over where we find ourselves as a denomination due to the passage of 10-A. 
  • I too agree that what we're really talking about is not just sexuality but Christology, authority of scripture, ecclesiology, soteriology, and a host of other primary issues. 
But the reason why I was so disheartened and discouraged was not the gist of what was being said, but the way it was being said.

Some of the comments that were made about people who disagreed - not just liberals and progressives, but other evangelicals who do not see things the way they do - were so disrespectful, vitriolic, and patronizing. If people didn't agree that the only God-honoring option to 10-A is leaving the denomination, it was pretty much stated that they were not being faithful to Jesus Christ.

Friends, leaving may not be the only faithful option. Leaving may be one of many faithful options for Christ-loving, Bible believing presbyterians.
  • Not everyone must leave the PC(USA) to be faithful Jesus Christ. There are many people who love Jesus, who obey scripture, and yet will choose to remain because they are called by God to do so. It is because they love Jesus and obey scripture that they will remain and be prophetic voices in the denomination.
  • Calling for a time of reflection and discernment to figure out how we can be the church God is calling us to be is a legitimate expression of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. 
I am an evangelical and I was embarrassed and ashamed at how things were being said.

There has to be other options for guys like me than to be in a denomination where either I am the minority voice, or to be in a denomination where others believe the same things as I do but where it's okay to be disrespectful and patronizing of others.

Perhaps it's not only about the gist and the content of what we believe to be true, but the way we go about presenting and discussing that truth particularly with those whom we disagree, that we fully become the body of Christ.

The problem is not in the content of the message but in how that message is being conveyed.

As someone once said, "Just because you think you know the truth, you don't have to be a jerk about it."