Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
We made great time. By 2:30pm we had arrived at the Sinclair gas station a couple miles north of our host's farmhouse. Justine was the first person to reply to our communication about a place to stay and food to eat. I called up to Sylvan Grove by the Friday of Chapter Camp (two Fridays prior) and she emailed my by that Sunday night saying we'd have a place to stay. She and her husband Art drove up separately to pick up me and Tom (and our bikes, which rode in Art's truck). Justine was a beautifully kind woman (and not elderly, if she's reading this ;) ). I found out right away that she had taken in a bicyclist before. We arrived on the farm, unloaded our things, showered, and went downstairs to visit in the kitchen.
Their house was so beautiful. I have never seen a farmhouse like this before! There was history all over the walls, character in the halls, and something just felt magical... like something out of a movie. Justine and Art gave us a tour of the city of 350 (we got to see some historic sites and go inside their Lutheran schoolhouse which was probably a century old) and told us about the history of the town - the farm rivalries, the wealthy banking/politician families, and where the name of their town comes from (all the groves within the trees where they would meet together). They shared about their family including their childrens' professions (Justine's only disappointment is that there was not an engineer in the family :P ), some family history (like the Portuguese sailor on Justine's side), and what they do on the farm. I soaked it all in.
Justine and Art have a fairly simple life on the farm. However, Justine is pretty interested in political topics and Art has an incredible knack for math and science. He got his degree in English, but was only six credit hours from having a Bachelors in math. There are some non-trivial issues in the small town life. Justine is trying to bring a convenience store back to the town and started making a business plan for review by the city's committee. Art has to deal with the inconsistency of moisture for his crops and the fluctuations of prices on hogs, cattle, and crops. Some years are good and some years are bad. Nonetheless, they shared with me and Tom all they had without reservation. Justine was one of the most naturally hospitable people I have met thus far. She would take anyone in. No questions.
One thing that sticks out about my interactions with Justine is that she seemed a little beside herself that God has not given her a mission like mine. She seemed eager to do something for God, but couldn't because He hasn't told her to take a trip like this one. I wanted to reassure her that it is clear God is using her in her little town of Sylvan Grove and that His calling is different for everyone.
For breakfast the next morning we had scrambled eggs and pancakes. They made enough for an army. I guess the last cyclist they hosted ate a ton. I warned them that our appetites were not too big, but they didn't feel put out by us not eating everything.
I cannot share enough about these two amazing hosts. They have a different lifestyle than anyone we've met, with different concerns, and different connections to God. They did not seem as active in their pursuit of God through scripture or prayer (as some other hosts), but their love and hospitality showed they still follow Him. My prayer for them is that they encounter God no matter what activity or project they are working on and know that He is with them desiring constant companionship.
We rode to Sylvan Grove, Kansas on Monday, May 25, 2009 (Memorial Day).
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Daryl and his wife (Shona) have three girls, two of which are twins. He happened to go to school at Colorado Christian University. They had been in Plainville for five years and the gymnasium in which we stayed was fairly new (and built by the hands of members of their congregation). Daryl said he likes the small town atmosphere and that he thinks it is a great place for his family. It was really neat to have a connection to Daryl via the Westminster Church of the Nazarene (where I attend bilingual church on Sundays). He knows of the pastor there (Stan, who is now moving to larger responsibilities in the Pacific region) and the youth pastor.
Tom told me before bed that he thinks Buffalo, New York would be a good stopping place for him. I'm not upset. My plans were never set in stone except to go on this trip. However, I would like to go to Michigan to see my family. I know I have a lot of support there and I'd love to show them what I've done.
We didn't have much time with Daryl because it was getting late. Nonetheless, he is clearly a family man who greatly loves his congregation. I am grateful for his acceptance of Tom and me, providing a place to stay. He took us out for breakfast the following morning (at the same little food shop/gas station) and Tom and I left around 8am or so for Sylvan Grove.
We drove to Plainville, Kansas on Sunday, May 24, 2009.
Our day went pretty fast. I remember we stopped by Don and Vera's farm and took some pictures (of a farm that was most likely the one next to theirs) and pushed on fairly easily to Hoxie. We grabbed lunch at a gas station and rested. We found out from a local (and from Wynn's husband Ray) that the biggest drop in elevation in Kansas is to be found between Colby and Hill City (maybe it was between Hoxie and Hill City in particular). That meant we'd end up going down in elevation about 300 feet or so, but there were still a fair share of inclines on the way to Hill City.
The scenery started to change. We started seeing less crops and more pasture. Cows are apparently very inquisitive creatures. They all stop what they are doing and intently watch Tom and me ride by. I also saw more trees, which may in turn have a correlation with the number of carcasses we saw (if you see those in advance you hold your breath, trust me). We also started seeing some neat rock formations (limestone).
We had a southern wind that day and we were riding east. That said, not having a headwind was just about as good as having a tailwind. It was just after 5pm when we arrived. We weren't expecting a place to stay for the night (I hadn't been able to connect with anyone), but I did not give up on hope that God would do something to take care of our need for shelter (besides us setting up our tent). So, Tom and I stopped at the first church we saw (the Catholic church) and I went inside to talk with whoever I could find. The father I had talked to the day before came out and asserted once again that he didn't think he could help us. He said we could come back during mass at 6pm and ask some ushers for help. Tom and I decided not to wait and headed to a gas station to buy some food for supper.
I was still not resigned to sleeping in the tent and waited almost expectantly for God to perform a miracle. And He did. While Tom was in the store, a man walking to his car asked me where I was going and how I could afford it. I explained our situation and... nope, no miracle there. Tom returned and as we were getting our bags ready to go a boy on a bicycle rode up to us. His name is Gage and he asked us where we were heading. Sometime during our conversation we learned that he attends the First Assembly of God Church. That was interesting. I had tried to contact that church the week before with no luck. Dean (our host in Cope) also gave us the phone number of the pastor there, which also yielded no results. I asked the boy the name of the pastor wondering if Dean's information was somehow incorrect but the boy said it was Stephen just as Dean told us. And some way or another, Gage offered to lead us to his pastor's house.
As it turns out, Stephen and his wife Julie had been in Kansas City all week and therefore couldn't answer their phone or check messages. They had only returned home two hours before Tom and I arrived. Gage and I explained the situation and soon enough Steve and Julie welcomed us into their home. All five of us had pizza for dinner (food never tasted as good as after any of our rides ;) ) and Steve and Julie slowly adjusted to having two strangers at their table. I personally have felt pretty at ease with being in a stranger's home each day. I'm not entirely sure why, but I feel like nothing is entirely out of the norm... it's just people.
I was impressed that Steve and Julie welcomed us despite only arriving home two hours before us. It reminded me of when John the Baptist died and Jesus went away on a boat, but a huge crowd was gathered when he reached shore. Despite being in mourning, he took compassion on them. The situation I found myself in is clearly different, but I'm glad that Julie and Steve took compassion on us strangers. By the end of the night they had extended an invitation to their church in the morning (a guest speaker from Delta, CO was in town for his 50th reunion) and they even arranged for Julie's sister-in-law to give us a ride to Plainville after church to save us the trip and give us a day of rest.
After dinner we all visited in the living room. Steve is very fascinated and interested in technology... particularly in regards to his cell phone. He was trying to work on his twitter and facebook all night. Tom and I added him as a friend and did what we could to help him address all his tasks (like getting a photo on his twitter). Everyone went to be before 11pm, but I stayed up to work on my blog. It has been a time consuming task, but a worthwhile one I hope.
When I awoke in the morning I washed my face and brushed my teeth as per ritual. I saw that Julie was reading out of her Bible aloud for herself and Steve. They read the daily segment of a one-year Bible each morning. Julie said that "scripture renews your mind" and emphasized the importance of being in the Word. As part of my mission statement and my desire to learn more about God, I should be reading scripture each day, but have not been making it a priority amidst all the other things I could be doing (namely visiting our hosts, riding my bicycle, eating, and sleeping). I could read during some of our breaks (our 10-15 minute breaks every hour or so of riding) and perhaps I should encourage Tom to join me. Now that we have decided to shorten our average daily ride, Tom and I should have some more time to pursue God in scripture after arriving in our destinations as well.
We left for Sunday school around 9am. The message of the guest speaker (Ted) was prayer warfare and spiritual warfare. One of Don and Vera's children (Carl) mentioned spiritual warfare two nights before. This is a topic I do not have much exposure to and I was curious to see what I'd learn. I'm still processing. Prayer is an important part of this journey for me because I want to learn how to pray. That is, I want my heart to match God's heart and I believe praying often is a useful, peaceful, and beautiful act.
Ted spoke with great conviction. He told us about the armor of God and protecting ourselves from the evil one. I've read about the armor of God before and I still need to digest what the Bible says in those regards. I wasn't particularly moved by this portion of the sermon. However, I noticed that Ted had a definite fire in his words to whatever end. I become wary of what is being said when I hear someone speak in this tone. During church service Ted continued by speaking about prayer. I feel as though sometimes when people talk solely about one aspect of something I lose sight of the whole. Ted started by saying "all prayer is warfare." He had the congregation repeat after him. "All prayer is warfare." I wasn't sure I agreed, so I stayed silent.
Well, that statement actually upset me a little. I was not sure how to reconcile that with Jesus's love for everyone. If I am to do everything out of love then I would have a hard time declaring war. Right? War seemed so aggressive a term to use. That's what I meant by fire earlier... strong, burning words said in a tone that you couldn't ignore.
Eventually, I decided a couple things. First, that Satan is against us, whether we realize it or not. There are temptations lurking in all our lives. And we can fight those temptations and conquer them with the help of God. Second, when we seek God in prayer, reading scripture, and fellowshipping, we are opposing Satan. That said, if you like to see it as war, I suppose you can. Maybe that gives you motivation to fight. For me, God's love is my motivation and if this is an inescapable battle I will trudge forth with love (and gratitude) in my heart for my Creator and for my neighbor, perhaps for now oblivious to the trenches and foxholes all around me. God will give me strength, prepare, and protect me when danger comes my way.
We ate dinner (that is, lunch) after church with the family and the guest pastor. I knew that Tom and I were getting a ride to Plainville, but I was expecting it during the early afternoon. We all sat in the living room for several hours and I was waiting for the word from Julie's brother, Jeff. Jeff had to leave for work and he didn't have room in his truck, so it turned out that we were going to be taken by Jeff's wife, Nancy, after the evening church service. Julie may have noticed that I was a little unhappy by the circumstances and I briefly shared my feelings of unease at having to wait. I was not so used to idle time and if I had known we were going to wait a couple extra hours I would have napped or blogged or read. Alas. Sometimes we do not have control and at the least I was happy and grateful to be with caring people, under a roof, and well-provided for.
Church service in the evening was about praying before witnessing to people in order to release Satan's hold on them. That was interesting. I think it is good to pray, but I don't believe there is a formula. There were a lot of strong opinions and beliefs preached that I haven't had exposure to and I just haven't done enough study or had enough experience to refute or accept some of what was said.
After the service, Tom and I were in a truck, speeding to Plainville at our fastest pace yet!
We rode to Hill City, Kansas on Saturday, May 23, 2009.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
We ate breakfast and visited. Becca gave me pain killers for my throat and wrapped my knee with some bandages (surprisingly, they held up the whole day despite the tape coming undone). We left their house sometime after 7am and conditions were wonderful for riding.
Our first big stop was Bird City about 15 miles away. We ate outside a diner and interacted with the congenial locals. Next we took a break at McDonald, Kansas 9.2 miles from Bird City. There was a nice rest stop and we took out the radio to listen to the Weather Band station. We checked the forecast the night before and we were expecting winds in the afternoon (hence trying to leave early each day).
Eventually we arrived in Atwood and ate our lunch outside the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. I started to make phone calls trying to prepare for th days ahead. I was particularly concerned about Hill City. We had not been able to speak with anyone there up to that point (and it was just a day's ride away!). I finally did connect with the Catholic Church there, but the father informed me he didn't think he could help (especially since it was Memorial Day and alumni weekend).
After I finished making calls, Tom and I were on our way. The hills started immediately. The first climb took forever and the sun was hot. We had 30 miles to Colby and we traversed hills, a several-mile long construction zone (which the workers kindly helped us navigate and travel safely through), and lots more farmland. At one of our breaks a man (working for the city or county, I believe) stopped in front of us and warned us there were two more big hills with bridges at the bottoms. It was good to have a heads up and a friend along the way. The hills might not have been a problem except that we were fighting winds all 30 miles from Atwood. At least the wind kept us cool.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
We left Cope just after 6am and the wind made our trip more difficult from the get go. It was cold and my knees hurt. We made it the 11 miles to Joes pretty fast and I put on my wool leggings and underarmor (funny that the first time I didn't start off with them on I ended up needing them the whole day!) by the Joes volunteer fire station. It got colder just before we left. About a mile outside of the town the first raindrops hit. We stopped, Tom put on a jacket, and I brought out the trash bag to cover my sleeping bag. We rode a couple hundred feet and I stopped to put on my rain jacket too. After putting on the jacket, I was so warm that the raindrops felt like nothing on my face and my legs. The presence of the warmth actually staying inside my chest was just about all that mattered then.
About 8 miles outside of Joes we stopped for a break and I saw that the wind was blowing a sprinkler completely sideways. Tom and I teamed up against the wind by switching who was in the lead every mile or so. That way, one of us was somewhat more protected from the wind. I decided that morning that fighting wind felt different than fighting a hill. With wind you can come to a near stop when a big gust hits you. With a hill (assuming there is no wind) you struggle upwards, but you know what to expect.
About 12 miles outside of Joes the rain picked up. It was like God had turned on a sprinkler system over Tom and me. We rode through that for eight miles. I learned to love and hate "wind-carrying monsters." It all depended on which direction they were heading. If they were traveling the same direction as us, the monsters (semis or pickup trucks) left in their wake a vaccuum of air that would fill my jacket like a sail and carry me ten feet further with no effort on my part. If they were coming from the opposite direction, the monsters left in their wake a hurricane of mist and wind that made me thankful to be wearing my sunglasses... I just had to keep my mouth closed too. Every time one of those monsters came, I gripped my handlebars and bent my chest low to brace myself for the visibly impending wall of water.
We just chugged on. I don't know how, but we made it through the rain. The wind didn't stop. We stopped in Idalia, the last place with a diner before St. Francis. We ate the special, a bacon cheeseburger and fries, with chocolate milk. The folks there were very friendly and we got to share about our trip. Then we were off again. The ride was long coming into Kansas. It was a 79-mile day. Once again, I don't know how we did it. I remember seeing a lot of farmland and taking more frequent breaks.
The wind did finally let up by the time we reached St. Francis. We arrived in town and I hurriedly made phone calls to try to prepare for the coming days (calling Wynn in Colby, KS and trying to make a contact in Hill City) because it was already 4:50pm in Kansas (I was unaware of the time change before seeing the signs as we crossed into Kansas) and people would be heading home from work already. I didn't get ahold of anyone, but left messages trusting everything would be all right.
My next call was to Jeff, our host in St. Francis. Jeff contacted me when we were on our way to Byers. The strange thing about when Jeff first contacted me and left a message is that I could not recollect ever trying to call him. He said he was the pastor at the First Christian Church and I had never called there. I wasn't about to question however he had come to know about my trip, though. It turns out that the Methodist church in town relayed our information to him because he is the treasurer of a program to take care of visitors (usually vagrants, I suppose) to St. Francis. I told him my story via telephone on Tuesday after arriving in Byers and he said he'd see what he could do (and sometime before arriving in St. Francis he told us we'd be staying with his family).
So, he told us to meet him at his church and he'd escort us to his house. We missed a turn going there (I think the stop sign had no street name on it) and had to stop a police officer to get directions. Coincidently (or not), the policeman was an attendee of Jeff's church! He took us straight there. Jeff welcomed us warmly and we left for his house a few blocks away.
Outside of Jeff's house, his wife Becca and children (and neighbor's children) were waiting. Becca was wearing a Michigan (University of Michigan) t-shirt and I knew already we'd have something in common. We met the kids (and found out they had colds!) and brought our things inside. I got a tour of the house from Jeff and his son (a 4-year old boy) and I learned that they are trying to complete paperwork and prepare for becoming foster parents. We talked and caught up and I told him about the cities Tom and I had been in so far.
For dinner we had burgers and baked potatos (Becca was thinking "complex carbs and protein," she was nursing student in college) and baked beans (I couldn't have those 'cause I'm allergic :( ). She and Jeff have been married nearly six years (I believe) and got engaged about five weeks after meeting each other! They were our youngest hosts yet. They were fantastic. Becca didn't find out until 2pm that day that we were staying at thier house and understandably had some concern about two males staying in her house with her children, but Jeff reassured her that he had checked us out. I felt at home there and we were well-provided for.
Jeff was hoping to be in an assistant pastorial position in Dallas, where he's from, but ended up in St. Francis after widening his job search (and looking for full-time pastorial positions) and listening to God's plans for him (and that meant that he had to leave his and Becca's family in Dallas). It is a great story of how listening to God can be rewarding, but challenging. In St. Francis, they noted that the farmers in the area are social Christians. They are Christians because things have always been that way with their families. There is a lack of a personal relationship with Christ (and that is what I experienced before January of this year before God gave me this mission). So, Jeff and Becca regularly pray for a revival in St. Francis. I can sympathize with that.
The other thing that stands out in my memory from conversation is that people there are just so busy with all their activities that they have no time to spend quality time with one another in community (outside of family); just being with one another. Jeff believes that people are too busy to be very intentional to spend time with people outside of structured, regular (e.g. weekly) activities, and Becca said that people will continue to fill up their schedules with those activities because you are judged in St. Francis according to those activities you participate in. I think it's worthwhile to slow down and be intentional about spending time with others :).
We had a time of prayer before bed. I was thoroughly exhausted, but remained conscious in light of the importance of this time with them. I will continue to pray for their family (in general and for their foster care process) and their town. I appreciate the love they showed us and their concern for our well-being. Though we were strangers, we knew one another via our relationship with Christ.
Jeff and Becca took great care of me and Tom. They woke up early to cook breakfast (eggs, biscuits, bananas) and Becca gave me medicine for my sore throat (which I think just came because of all my exertion and lack of sleep). They have a beautiful family and beautiful hearts.
We rode to St. Francis on Thursday, May 21, 2009.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We ate lunch at the Lois and Ray McBeth Memorial in Lindon, where there was shade and a picnic table. Tom took a nap and I was busy texting...
The hills ended after Anton and the wind started. We made sure to stock up on plenty of drinks and take lots of breaks (I learned I needed to take it easier after the sickness the heat caused me the day before). All in all, we rode 79 miles and I had energy until just a couple miles outside of Cope. We slowed down at the end, but still arrived by about 3:20pm.
We bought some ice cream and other snacks after we settled down in the park. We waited there until we noticed the pastor of the Assembly of God church had returned from his trip to Denver (the church was right across from the park). I called him with the intent of asking him if we could set up our tent in the church's yard. We hadn't expected a place to stay that night based on our phone conversations with him. However, after I got off the phone with him and met him in his yard, he offered us a place to sleep. He cleaned off one bed and showed us to another and let us bring in all our gear.
His name is Dean and he was a gracious host. He's had some health issues over the years (cancer, then negative effects from the radiation) and he lost his wife about 6 years ago. She had been the first diabetic heart transplant in the nation. He shared about his wife and gave us a brochure of her story (which she had written). I still need to finish reading, but it is a great testimony so far.
Dean recognizes the blessings in his life and still glorifies God despite pain (both physical and emotional). Dean called himself a student of the word. He loves God and loves people. Yesterday would have been his wife's birthday and he was glad we could be there with him. I'm also glad we could be there with him. He was caring, loving, and all around wonderful. He talked with us about Cope (with population 40 and where the round trip to buy gas is 40 miles), the farmers around (how they are so busy, that they harvest corn in November), how he got into ministry (he has been a pastor nearly 50 years!), his daily life (having a task list and checking things off, planting all kinds of plants and trees in his yard) and more. He was a complete blessing to us. He fed us what he had available without any reservations and he spoke with a passion for the Lord and a love for his neighbors. He even referred us to pastors that he knew along our route!
A couple things that he said that struck me were (paraphrased): "witnessing is tricky business: you can do it silently through your lifestyle, verbally by speaking the word of God, and the most powerful is by your actions. People will judge you by how your deeds match up with your words." He also said that "you just gotta keep trying everyday. You get up and you do everything to glorify God, you read the Word, and you pray and if you can't do that you gotta commit and follow Jesus the best you can." Lastly, he said "Denominations don't matter. In heaven, God removes all those tags."
Cope was a nice town. We had friendly interactions with everyone we met. God is good. Thank God for Dean and may God bless him, his family, and Cope.
We rode to Cope, Colorado on Wednesday, May 20, 2009.
Monday, May 18, 2009
My first journal entry ever is below. Upon re-reading it, I've found that I was a lot more confused than I remember. God made my mission more clear every day and what you will read is a mixture of confusion and clarity. My walk with God started again in January after a long hiatus and He guided me from that confused state to where I am now: at a greater peace in understanding, but aware that I have so much further to go.
PS - I apologize for spelling and grammatical errors, there's no time for proofreading and I hastily typed this.
Where to begin?
Have you ever heard God before? At this moment, I feel more secure and sure that I have than before (in the last few days). I’m still afraid, but much less so. I feared that if I told people they would condemn me as crazy or criticize what I believe God has told me to do. At first I thought I was crazy and tried to dismiss the ideas as off-the-wall and impossible. God spoke to me twice since last Thursday and today (a week later) I’m so close to committing to the faith I have longed to prove for some time now.
I don’t know where it is best to start. Maybe last semester. I had not been more stagnant in my faith for a long time. Something was not right. Things were changing around me and inside me and I know now I didn’t handle that very well. I was desensitized. Feeling nothing. No closeness to God, no fulfillment in what I was doing. It was my first semester as a graduate (Masters) student at Colorado School of Mines. I completed my undergrad in math there in May and felt obligated to continue studying. I had not applied for jobs or other school programs, my current program paid for three semesters of tuition already, and I was content to be comfortable at Mines. Things were not the same as they used to be, I found out. Something felt wrong. Friends had moved on, I was still lost and confused about my future.
I was committed most to school, then ballroom dance, then to Blue Key National Honor Society, then InterVarsity (and thus correspondingly to God – for me anyways). Ballroom dance was no longer gratifying. I was not happy to be there in part because I always had school in the back of (sometimes even the front of) my mind. I also had no partner, which never bothered me before, but I felt profoundly that dancing didn’t matter without a more permanent partner. My involvement in the other organizations was limited because of lack of interest, time, and most importantly a despair. I think now that I was sad (or perhaps depressed) about my spot in life (nothing I was doing seemed to make a difference). This is probably because I felt no clear sense of purpose and I was not relying on God to calm my fears about my future.
I was searching, but not finding or maybe I was hiding (I was just so oblivious to the truth). I occupied my time with volleyball (playing and watching), which I love, but left me empty. School did not fulfill me. No new ideas about my passion or future. Ballroom (dance) left me no happier. The best thing about last semester was spending time with my roommates. They were and are a blessing to be around. They brightened my day and my life.
In any case, my last semester culminated in quite a crazy experience in Downtown Denver, which ended up with huge fees and a night in the hospital. I’ll tell you about that later. It was an experience to learn from and one that I wish I never had (that is, never had to have… I don’t regret everything. I learned from it). It’s somewhat funny in hindsight, though. My lack of caution that night was no doubt partially due to my desensitized state. Down deep I was still mature and responsible, but I was so unaware of where I was in life. It was a rude awakening of sorts, but aside from learning to be more careful while drinking and discovering that I had become desensitized, no fundamental changes occurred in me.
Christmas break was a break from school, but not from the uncertainty I had about life. I buried myself in reading and in time spent with friends so I wouldn’t have to face reality. I’m not sure there was much I could have done anyway to determine my future. I could research jobs, etc. all I wanted, but I have doubts at this moment that I would have found something with meaning. Something from God.
So, it is with great relief that God did speak to me. And it becomes more perfect and real to me the more I think and share about it.
The first time He spoke I heard, but didn’t either know it was Him or, well I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was some random idea I guess. After the second time I knew it was God instantly (despite trying to deny it later). And it wasn’t until a day or so later (after Sunday, the second time He spoke to me) that I realized God spoke to me at Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) as well. So, at the Cru meeting last Thursday God told (or maybe just suggested ;) ) that I do something.
I wasn’t particularly engaged in the evening (that is, the speakers, the message, and later the music). However, the speaker, a former Mines student (Tim Gabrielson) caught my attention when he mentioned C.S. Lewis, someone I have looked up to and been amazed by for some time now. His ability to influence others and the impact he had on Christians, Christianity, people, Britain, and the world is positively inspiring (from what I know about him). If I want to be anything when I grow up it is C.S. Lewis (or maybe a bit of Will Rogers too). It was around this time that God told me to reapply for the Rhodes Scholarship. Actually, just saying that does the experience no justice. It was like “bam!” apply for the Rhodes Scholarship to study literature or theology. I had given up on that though because I knew not what to apply for, nor had I done anything they may have deemed “special.”
He told me to reapply for the scholarship to study something that would move me in a path (or to situate me in a position, e.g. training, qualifications, experiences) to influence people in a similar manner as C.S. Lewis. That is, maybe literature or theology. I don’t know what Oxford offers in those areas. Now, recall that my studies are in mathematics! My Masters is for International Political Economy, but that doesn’t qualify me to apply for study in literature or theology much more than math! I thought, “that would be fantastic, but I’m hardly qualified.” (by hardly qualified, I mean not at all! I have no experience! Hence, I rejected the “thought” as preposterous and crazy. It somehow did bring some degree of a happy attitude for me for the rest of the meeting, though.
I watched Phantom of the Opera, spent time with friends, and went home to bed (I can tell you about the Phantom later). The next morning I had to go to the airport (DIA) by 10:00 am to welcome and instruct Blue Key National Honor Society members to Colorado for a national conference we were hosting at school in Golden, Colorado. I went with Josh, a good friend of mine. He made me carry the four blue balloons because he was embarrassed. Fortunately for me, I lost those inhibitions a while ago.
What I mostly want to tell you about this conference is that I was in awe of the people. Here they were, coming to my home state and I was the one feeling welcomed! That is, they were welcoming me into their lives and into relationships with them! I was inspired by their immediate friendliness and happiness. I love meeting new people, but especially ones like these! The whole weekend I grew closer to them, and shucks, I really like them. God made loving people all over – all across the US!
Anyway, the people part of the conference by far outweighed the lectures on leadership. Well, there is one thing I feel I should share in those regards. The first speaker of the day (VP of Western region for an oil and gas company) asked us to write our passions on a sheet of paper. This was supposed to coincide with our skills and talents too. What I wrote was a truth that I’m not sure I’ve ever let myself really believe. It was no part math, no part IPE. I wrote that I’m passionate about loving and relating to others. Well, that is dandy since I have all this education and continue to pursue them and related fields of work. I’ve been telling people for a while that I want to make a difference, change the world, be a philanthropist, or do something to help people (humanitarian). I looked at Peace Corps, thought about possible causes for NGOs and non-profits and foundations. Nothing struck me as “right.” God wasn’t speaking to me in this realm until He told me the seemingly unrelated random instruction to pursue a study more like literature or theology.
The conference blew by. On Sunday morning I bid my new friends “good-bye” from their hotel. I was happy. I would miss them. I drove home, packed up, and then headed to my parents’ house (also home). On the way, I listened to K-Love, worshipped, the sun was shining in beautiful Colorado, and Sherri Rivers said “good morning, ya’ll.” My heart burst with happiness. I thought I love you Sherri Rivers and your beautiful voice. I was so happy God created her to welcome strangers across the US and give her capacity to love thousands of people she does not know. She’s my beautiful sister in Christ. I wonder how she loves so many. Anyways… I felt a happiness I had not felt for some time. A happiness and contentedness I was familiar with and had been missing. I wanted it to stay forever. It was like some kind of drug (but so much more powerful) soothing me. The happiness was not as strong by the time I got home, but it was not gone.
My family and I went to church, where, once again I was not particularly engaged in the talk. Worship was pretty great. I don’t recall exactly where God spoke to me, but I think I left briefly to use the restroom (TMI, sorry!), the talk ended, and worship began. Suddenly, out of thin air God told me to ride a bicycle (I would say bike, but not to be confused with motorcycle) across the U.S. What!? Where did tha idea come from? Why? I started to think that would be cool. What would I do? Well, visit some specific communities on a "charted" path meanwhile spending time with God, exploring myself, my feelings and emotions, my faith, delving into scripture, being with God as I ride (not to mention with the people in the communities), learning, and experiencing (culture, different lives, the US). Maybe, no, definitely I would be documenting this "spirit journey" (my dad's words) along the way. Maybe with poetry, song, journal film? Or perhaps with more than any one expression of thoughts, feelings, learnings, experiences.
I would be able to meet, love, build relationships with people, while traveling, learning (I should have included that as a passion), not to mention biking would be great exercise. And yet, this was a little crazy and no one would believe it was from God so I needed to add something else to make other people believe it was a good idea. I know! I can serve these communities. Surely each community has a church that would need some help in some way. Not to mention that logistically I know that churches would have members that could help with the trip by putting me up for a night and feeding me. But, I could not go alone. I realized that suddenly and said (as if to God) "I cannot do this alone." Immediately, Nathan H. the name and face popped into my head. He was my roommate Freshman and Sophmore years and a best friend. I was so excited that for moments straight I could think of nothing but logistics, others who may have done this (e.g. Mark Shultz), and that I would call Nathan right after church to ask him "Nathan, what are you doing this summer?" But my excitement failed me.... or waned or wore out or whatever you want to say. This was an impossible idea that I could convince no one of, that would not serve me in my future, and was simply crazy. I'm not sure I believed it was God. But it was too random to be my own. I couldn't get it off my mind. Was it a crazy thought or God? What if it was me? God? No, I never believed it was me, so it had to be... not me. I was too afraid to think it was God and thus too afraid to share. I continued to think logistics, getting excited about the plausibility.
That night I had to share with someone. Camo (a roommate) was at home. I tried him. But not in a straightforward manner at all. I took some curves instead in the form of hypothetical, rhetorical questions. Maybe I wanted to be sure it was God before sharing or I was afraid of criticism and rejection. Why should I have been? Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. This is the clearest and most radical way (or maybe it just sticks out because it is the most radical thought I've ever had) God has spoken to me and instructed me to do something.
I got no clear reaction from Camo. Probably because he had no idea what I was talking about. Shucks. The excitement mixed with skepticism boiled up in me, but I felt no reinforcement after talking with Camo. I tried awfully hard to legitimze a trip by emphasizing services for churches. I may have sounded like a businessman pitching some crazy product desparately to someone who by a poor chance of fate was cornered to have to listen. My own thoughts and feelings were disjoined, unsure, confused. I had enough faith to bring it up, but enough foolishnes to try and add my own plan to God's instructions. In the end, I gave up because I had no idea what I was talking about and I had added too many of my thoughts of how to make it worthwhile and noble. I thought exploring myself was not enough. That growing in relationship with Christ was not enough. I've realized by now that it is enough. Service and giving something back to the communities will happen. God told me this and I payed much less attention a nd placed much less importance on this "unplanned" service than something more intentional. Not all the good we do is purposeful. God has gifted us all to be blessings in the lives of others unbeknownst to ourselves.
My excitement about this insane idea was like a rollercoaster. Around noon on Monday I spoke with a fellow graduate student in my program. Still skeptical, I thought Elizabeth would be a more welcoming audience, but still look at the situation objectively. I started by saying "Elizabeth, it looks like I may travel the US before the world" because she was encouraging a "world ticket" kind of trip for me. As I started to describe it all to her, I added an argument about American Exceptionalism. The night before, as I was exploring my thoughts about why God would have presented this to me now, I told Camo about the "good" American people I met that weekend from across the country. How fascinating would it be to see if this goodness is everywhere in the US? Is it just in Christians or in all Americans? Is the same Exceptionalism from de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" as true today as it was in the 1830's? Maybe I could research this on the way. Elizabeth like the sound of the whole idea. I was still cautious presenting my idea to her trying to remember God's reasons for me going while adding my personal touch - the pieces like service and now American Exceptionalism - to hopefully legitimize this. She was supportive, strengthening my resolve and belief that maybe this wasn't all crazy. Maybe this was possible - a bike trip ordained by God.
So after our meeting I decided to add American Exceptionalism to future chats about this experience. After every conversation, I was becoming more certain that this was from God. Unfortunately, I was still adding my tidbits to try to strengthen my argument - the goodness this would bring to the communities I would visit; this wasn't all about me, I'd be helping them. In reality, God knows me, knows my heart and has a purpose for me. I should not have been afraid to tell people exactly what he told me instead of adding pieces to try to gain approval.
Next, I talked with Kory (another roommate). It was Tuesday evening (after the inauguration of Obama) and I wasn't being very productive. I asked him if he'd still go bike shopping with me. We were supposed to go shopping so t hat my Dad could buy me one for my birthday in September... and then combine it with a Christmas present. Well, needless to say, I still have no bike. I informed Kory that the bike had to be able to traverse the country after he told me he'd definitely go shopping with me. He assumed I'd meant like "back country" so I ellaborated. "What?! How much money can you put down, what's your budget?" I told him I would "put down" whatever was necessary to get me an appropriate bike. "Like $2,000," I said to make a guesstimate. Then we got into the "why."
I tried recounting everything for Kory, but I didn't get through explaining everything before he asked "would you do this alone?" Well, no. But... was he excited about it too? Maybe God had someone right in my house who should go with me. I tried to think about whether I would allow or disallow someone from coming and for what reasons. I haven't asked him yet and I don't know how he'll respond.
By the time we were finishing our conversation, Camo and Nathan T. walked in and heard the gist of it all. Camo got a better, clearer version this time. After Nathan and Kory left, I chatted with Camo (more like challenged him to tell me what he thought) to get his opinion now that he knew the whole shebang. Camo asked me some heavy questions, mostly in regard to my part of the plan with service. He didn't believe that I could make an impact in a community to validate a cross-country trip to serve them. You see, I was emphasizing service and exceptionalism again. Those, well service was not a given instruction for this trip. Exceptionalism in some way was given by God, but probably not how I first envisioned it. That is to be determined and cannot necessarily be planned for. When I got to what God told me, what He really told me, Camo believed the trip would be worth it for that. Camo said the funny thing was that he'd had the same thought. Well, he was hitch-hiking, but more or less the same. He "likes bikes, travel and believe it or not... meeting people too." He said he was sort of sorry he didn't think of biking. The truth was, he was getting excited listening to me talk about it.
In Camo's eyes, if the trip was about growing close to God then it was legitimized in his book.
I am somewhat ashamed now that I sought the approval of so many people before I really, truly believe this was God. I suppose it is a good idea to talk with those wiser than you when you are confused. Before Tuesday evening I thought it was Him, but was afraid and skeptical. Afraid because I wanted people tobelieve me and I was fearful they wouldn't. I was skeptical because it has always been my nature to question encounters with God (and the correspondingly amazing stories). Though I have always believed in Him, upon meeting His first challenge (... well this isn't His first challenge) I was afraid and slightly disbelieving. Now I can say unwaveringly that it was God who told me t o ride a bike across the US, visiting communities, being with Him, learning from friends I'll make, growing in relationship with God with whoever joins me. I will document my experience and I hope I will have something worthwhile to share at the end.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
1) to intensively pursue God through prayer, delving into scripture, and living, breathing, and pedaling all for Him,
2) to experience and share God's love by serving, learning, and fellowshipping from community-to-community as we bicycle from Denver to the East Coast and back,
3) to share our experiences of how God entered into and is impacting our lives.
1) Intensively seeking God in prayer:
-Being aware of God’s presence and how He works each day. That He gave us life and made the beauty surrounding us. By having a spirit of gratefulness, embracing His comfort during our challenges and relying on God to provide for our needs. That this mission is an act of faith. By petitioning Him to be present and moving in the lives of family, friends, and the communities we visit
Delving into scripture:
-To read passages from the Bible each day in community, exploring the depths of God’s wisdom, seeking His truth, and challenging one another to reflect what we learn in our lives.
Living, breathing, and pedaling all for Him:
-Purposefully acknowledging that all we do is for His glory. Trying to go forth with an awareness of our mission. That we do not seek glory or praise for this mission because everything is for Him and because of Him.
We are leaving our routine lives (the comfort of our homes, the daily grind of school and work, well-established lifestyles) and putting ourselves in a position to rely on God.
2) Serving, learning, and fellowshipping from community-to-community
-We do not want to be a burden on the communities we stay in, but want to return the love we receive by assisting our host in any way we can
-Ask our hosts about their lives, including what God has done and is doing for them and their community
-Being with our hosts and community at meals and inviting them to join us in prayer and studying God’s word
3) to share our experience of how God entered into and is impacting our lives
-To tell our stories and testimonies to our host and their community. We will share with those who want to hear, which may include the youth group or church congregation
Monday, May 11, 2009
Now that school is over (until August), perhaps it will be easier to do everything for Him. In fact, the purpose of my trip is solely to be with Him. It may have been difficult to do schoolwork for God's glory because I did not start my classes with the intent of glorifying and honoring Him. That said, I pray my motivation for every action is to glorify Him and my journey with Him will continue unabated even when I am faced with challenges. God melted my heart in January and started to form it to His will. May I pursue God with all my heart, my soul, and my mind this summer and be molded by His wisdom, peace, and love all life long.
My primary motivations for attending are to build new relationships (and reconnect with old friends), learn what I can from those God will place before me, spend time in prayer and reading scripture, and continue preparation for my trip this summer (spiritually and otherwise). I believe we can find God anywhere (because He is everywhere!) if we seek Him.