Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Washington, Missouri (part 2)

I don't like it. Not one bit. Something about what I wrote at the end of my last post does not feel right. I think I was trying to be insightful, but I am not sure I have ever succeeded in doing that on purpose. When it's me that's writing, I can see the flaws and I am disappointed with the outcome. And when I am writing not from my own thoughts, but from something that I feel... it makes a lot more sense. I know the difference.

Let me correct myself. I was not enjoying the ride for a brief stint that morning. Ultimately, I knew that something needed to change. When I returned to my deepest desires (to connect with God and be with Him), I knew I had to stop and adjust or my day would be miserable.

God has taught me something about my motivations and my foundations lately. In the end, if my purpose for doing something is apart from Him I don't feel right. As for foundations, if I am distracted by some new experience or idea (e.g. learning about a different faith practice) I must return to what holds me fast. Sometimes (or often it seems), my foundation is shaken at the places I never built. Here, I must evaluate an experience or idea from a position that is sturdy. What I am doing a lot on this journey is buttressing and fortifying my foundation.

Okay, back to my story. I met a lovely woman named Celia from Estes Park, Colorado while Tom and I took our lunch break (well, it was more like another snack, which turned out to do me more harm than good later as I was struggling to find energy to push on). I think we were at the Portage checkpoint (but, I'd have to verify with photos and a map). The trees opened up to the Missouri river there for one of the first full views I had of the water. Celia was following ("chasing" or "supporting") three bikers (one is a friend of hers) from coast-to-coast as they bicycled all the way across the country. She had a white truck with supplies and she met them at various points along the way. She parked and set up her chair under some cottonwoods and read a book and journaled. She had an aura of beauty surrounding her. She seemed at peace. I don't remember how I met her, but we exchanged stories before she took some pictures of Tom and me. I was back at the small shelter at the trail marker checkpoint about to get my bike set to leave again, when I heard a crack and quickly looked back to where Celia was sitting.

It all happened very quickly. I only saw the final four feet of the tree branch's fall. From my vantage point, it had either just hit the truck or the chair. My mind had little time to register what was going on before I realized Celia was now standing a couple feet away. "Did you see that?" I saw it, but I was still worried maybe she'd been hurt (despite the fact she was still standing). The branch fell right between her truck and her chair, not three feet apart. She got up when she heard a sound. All was fine, but I'd've had a heart attack if it was me.

We continued riding. We intersected paths with Celia one other time and also with Jack (from before in the morning). This time with Jack he had some questions about my spiritual journey and how we were getting along (e.g. how do we find a place to stay at night). I was surprised by his sudden interest and I addressed his questions as best I could before Tom and I passed him and his friend on the trail. I could sense he had more to ask, but we did not get the chance to speak more. A lost opportunity? I don't think so.

We reached Dutzow, MO at about 6:30pm. This is the latest we've ever arrived at our evening destination. I called Paul K. and he told me his friend Joe was going to meet us. I was expecting a bicycle escort to the city, but I was very grateful that Joe showed up during my call to Paul saying that he brought his car with his bike rack. I was exhausted, but still all too ready to ride the three miles to Washington if necessary (I occaisionally have the mentality that allows me to ignore the discomfort and push on in spite of them).

Joe had a lot of questions to ask me about my faith and my spirit journey. I'm not entirely sure what he wanted to know. I know that I couldn't have given him very good answers because I tend to be a slow thinker when asked deep questions and I didn't want to take too long to respond. I remember learning a great word from him: ecumenical. He told me he was an ecumenical type of guy. He was raised Catholic and currently attends St. Peter's United Church of Christ. He was pretty interesting and I didn't get nearly enough time to soak in our conversation. He rides bicycles on a track and used to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Also, his first question to Tom and me was "do you like beer?"

We drove over the river and he pointed out the complete lack of shoulders that once caused him to have to be scraped off the road by an ambulence. I'm glad we avoided that after 77 miles of riding earlier in the day. Soon enough we were in Washington, unloading our things from his jeep outside the church. Paul K. joined us and helped carry things inside.

We all had supper together (some delish burgers with barbeque sauce, some mixed veggies, and some sweet pink whippy stuff I don't remember the name of). Paul told me he had the chance to read all of my blog and that he found that some of the material pertained to his message two weeks later on 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. He asked if he could use some of my words and experiences in his sermon (which he has sent to me by the time I am writing this). I obliged. Whatever does come of this journey, I am glad if good comes to more than just me.

What can I say about Paul? He was quick to accept me and Tom into his church (a relief considering earlier difficulties in Missouri). He was very thoughtful all the time. He weighed each statement of mine, which made me feel a little sheepish, as I certainly didn't think I had much of importance to share. That reminds me, before we went to bed, he asked us what the greatest lesson we've learned is. I really didn't have much of a good response. Once again. Trust me, I've been asked that question quite a lot and nothing popped into mind that I should share as my most important lesson while biking. And as of our last conversation (via telephone), I told Paul that because my journey started in January many of the biggest life changing lessons had been taught before my biking ever began. Indeed, what I might deem to be the greatest revelation is simply seeing there is more. And that lesson happened early on when God opened my eyes. Suddenly, everything I was missing became more clear. I couldn't grasp the "more" yet, but I saw it there for the taking.

Where was I? We went to Paul's son Aaron's baseball game and before leaving there, I met his wife Marcia and his daughter Gracie and finalized arrangements with our host in St. Louis (another Paul!). We also got the tour of Washington (which apparently has quite the nightlife) after leaving the game.

We rose fairly early to sunshine. Paul was out of his sleeping bag way before either of me or Tom. By the way, if it isn't clear by now, Paul spent the night with us in the youth room. That was definitely a first and I appreciate him doing that. I had my sleeping bag on some cushions borrowed from a nearby couch. I believe I woke before my alarm (as I had been most days of the journey thus far) and started preparing for the day. We all had breakfast together. Then Paul gave us a tour of the church. A beautiful building. On the tour, the organist was practicing as we walked in the sanctuary, we saw pictures of the development of the church, we saw urns containing ashes of deceased members, and then we walked to the chapel. In the chapel we had a short Bible study (on 2 Corinthians 5:6-17) and we partook of Holy Communion.

Though our time together was short, I sensed Paul's wisdom and his yearning for "more."

We rode to Washington, Missouri on Thursday, June 4, 2009.

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