Thursday, April 26, 2018

sure...but will she stop?

Quite honestly, we take brakes for granted.  We just assume we will stop when removing our foot from the go pedal and pushing on the stop pedal.  But sometimes it takes a wall, a curb, another car, or the supernatural to bring us to a halt.  Over the many years of riding, I have grown from pushing down on the pedal that motivated my Schwinns, to experiencing double leading shoe front brakes on my ?5 BMW’s, to graduating to disc brakes, and now having fun with radial brakes.  I still cannot explain how they all work double leading shoes still throw me, why will they stop you going forward, but you roll back when applied on a hill?  When Honda came out with the disc brake on the CB750, they stopped better, but still it was all about go fast 1/4 mile times, no one bragged about how quickly their bike stopped.  Or car.  Riding different bikes, in the past two weeks six different ones, they all stop differently, and it takes a few miles of getting used too.   The worn out discs on my 109,000 Tiger take some time to call ahead when planning to stop, yet the big Brembos on the Street Triple RS are a one finger assignment.  Same style radial brakes on my Tiger 1050, but yet they don’t have the same feel.  The same confidence.  And in between, my Tiger 800 and Bonneville both use the same brakes.    Please note we are talking front brakes here, an area most Harley riders never engage, fear of going over the bars, or stopping too quick.  I have seen too many Harley near misses and hits due to using only the rear brake.  I hardly use the rear brake on any bike, the front stops just fine, the other 30% of braking the rear adds is there if needed. And I do very few if any stoppies....
But with the abundance of power available in cars today, and that has been in motorcycles for years, brakes are forgotten until they squeak, pull to one side, refuse to stop, or only slow you down, or the smell is so bad you have to deal with them.  Friction applied via a shoe or a pad to a drum or rotor makes you stop when pressure is applied.  But what really goes on when you need to stop?  It takes a system working together, many parts, some now controlled electronically, to make you stop.  So simple even the dim bulb soccer mom under the influence of children while on her cell phone can use them.  But the word stop will always mean just that, not slowing down, but coming to a complete stop.  No longer moving forward.  Double leading shoes need not apply if stopped on a hill, if you ever rode a bike with them you know what I mean.
Sin is like that in our lives, we are told to stop, but no one really explains why.  Just stop.  But until you realize what you are doing is wrong, you won’t consider it.  Or do it.  Just like changing the way you drive will effect how you stop, how you live will effect how you stop, or should.  Some just indulge in a little sin, they know when they have had too much to drink, they claim, making excuses for their sin.  But you only know when you have had too much to drink after you have, for like sleeping, you don’t know you were asleep until you wake up.  And then the excuses fly....God tells us that a little leaven will go through the whole loaf, leaven meaning sin, as leaven puffs up bread, and sin puffs us up.  We can do it our way, by ourselves, we don’t need rules or the spirit to guide. It speaks of pride, of not needing God, of being self sufficient, until you find you aren’t.  Jesus referred to leaven many times, warning to beware of the Pharisees, the sin of hypocrisy or pretending.  Christians never do that, do they?
Perhaps the place where the biggest lies are told is when greeting someone at church.  “How are you?” And everyone is fine.  Can’t deny Jesus in my life by complaining, so I lie to cover up my problems.  When we know you lost your job, your kids or you are on drugs, you have money problems or are getting divorced.  Your words carry no power, and you wonder why.  If we don’t tell the truth among believers, why do you stop there, losing your credibility when sharing.  And the leaven spreads...yet God has made a way to stop.  It is called repentance, admit your sin, turn to him for forgiveness, and ask for help.  You cannot do it yourself!  Just as you cannot save yourself.  Paul once admonished the Corinthian church who were knee deep in sin, just stop!  No magic formula, just turn to Jesus and stop!  Just like slamming on the brakes may upset the others in the car, it also may save their lives.  We all want to grow in Christ, but do we want to stop what we used to do to do it?
Spiritually asleep and don’t know it?  I hope it doesn’t take a sudden stop, a panic stop to wake you up to Jesus.  Applying the brakes in each situation will get different results, we don’t need to slow from sinning, we need to stop.  Pedal to the floor!  Squeeze the lever until it hits your hand!  Don’t be afraid to use all the brakes, there is more than just the rear, and to many old wives tales.  You need all the Jesus you can get, and he is all available when you need him.  Living life in the fast lane may be fun, but living life to the fullest is knowing when to stop, and knowing how to apply the brakes.  Sure things may be going good, but will you stop when you see the signs?  Many will tell you that speed kills, but it is really what you may or may not hit that causes you to stop.  What you hit.  The big Brembos on new bikes may stop you quick, but a brick wall or tree will stop you quicker. 
God sent Jesus so we can be free from the sin in our lives, to rid us of leaven.  New rules or regulations may affect the way you live, only Jesus forgives.  Don’t let sin be like your new fast ride.  Man she’s fast, but will she stop?  The question now is, will you?  Jesus is the only power beyond what we can feel, taste, see, and smell.  Burning shoes are only a you don’t have to.
love with compassion,

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Old Home Fill-er -up and "Keep on Truckin'" Cafe

Trying to avoid the freeways of Iowa at all costs, we wandered off into the Loess Hills Scenic Byway looking for breakfast.  Never heard of the Loess Hills, pronounced Luss?  They are one of only three places in the world where the hills are made of blowing dust, and are beautiful to look at and ride in.  Think of terraced farmland over a 150 mile ride of winding two lane roads, little if any traffic except locals, small towns that are even small by small town standards, and you get the idea, and a must ride road.  But akin to trying to find a place to eat off a freeway exit, the small downtowns that service the farmers beckon you with signs about home cooking, and friendly service.  It was one of these non-descript places we wandered into on Father’s Day a few years back.  While all the bigger places were filled up, we rather be riding than standing in line, so we kept going, until needing gas and nourishment forced us to stop and refuel.  Still not sure of the town, they speak of counties in these parts, but we wandered into the Old Home Fill-er Up and “Keep on Truckin’ Café.  Getting there just in time to miss breakfast, so settled for their lunch special on this Father’s Day.  If breaded pork loin sounds good, this was excellent, and for $4.95 with fries, it was 1980 prices in 2016.  In between bites we watched as the locals came in, and were given their regular drinks, people greeted by name, I was glad we didn’t happen to be setting at anyone’s regular table.  We sat out in the diner part, but found a dance hall with a bar and booths on our way to the rest rooms in back.  Lots of lively conversation, generations of families coming in for their Dad’s Day feast, and we felt right at home.  Even a chat or two while leaving, with two older men sitting on the bench, commenting about when they used to ride, didn’t everyone, and about the things they had heard about Cal-EE-fornia.  Some pictures taken, and back on the bike, full and happy, with more Loess Hills to ride.
With the perfect afternoon dessert awaiting us in Le Mars, at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Factory and Museum.  Small town US of A at its best, good food, good roads, and good people.  And like the old James Taylor song said, “with ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go..” on a trip of 7300 miles in 23 days.  With my apologies to James.  But back roads that go nowhere always seem to take us somewhere, to places we may have missed, and faces we would never have been acquainted with.  Maybe I should not have told about the Loess Hills, but now that the secret is out, the OHFEUAKOTC may have to run a second shift, or make more room at the all you can eat salad bar.  I just hope it doesn’t happen in my life time.
It has been said many ways that man plans and God laughs, I can relate to that, but he may be laughing with you in good fun and in joy.  So many are all about the road they are on, they miss the stops along the way.  Only eat at franchised restaurants, only at name brand motels, and never try anything to eat you cannot pronounce or never heard of.  They lead good lives, but boring and unexciting lives, just the opposite of what God promises, but what their religion demands.  Fit in with the crowd, don’t stick out, don’t make waves, follow the catechism, follow our study notes, and we will be the path to God you need.  Don’t even think of looking elsewhere....forgetting many in the Bible who did.  For instance....
Abraham,when given a choice of which road to take, took the one less traveled, and a whole race of people were born.  How many out of the way places did he eat and sleep?  Paul on the road to Damascus, and then roads to Malta, Corinth, the Collosian area, maybe time spent on the Roman Road, where he knew all the good spots, but allowing God to take him down roads he never dreamt of.  How abut the many roads travelled by the apostles, never mentioned by name, but familiar to them.  Imagine a group of fisherman going inland for the first time and the sights they saw.  Two men who encounter Jesus on the road after his crucifixion, now there is a road I would like to travel.  And of course Moses, who for 40 years wandered and never left the area, home cooking everyday, great weather to ride in and shoes that never wear out.  Yet they complained, which says more about us than we wish to admit.  But what about the road you are on, where have you been and where is it leading?  Maybe it is like my friend insists, as long as you are not out of gas you are not lost.  And running on and with the spirit is the only way to ride.
Leading a homogenized Christian lifestyle?  Know all the Christian artists, have the latest book cover, have a collection of different crosses for each outfit?  Can’t wait to see what your friends are wearing for Easter Sunday?  Sitting in the same pew, singing the same songs, and telling yourself “this is all there is to Jesus...” you may be under the influence of Moses, and the law.  For where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, but the law convicts.  Do you desire to go deeper in Christ, or just learn more?  Is he just a part of religion, or do you call him friend?  If he sat next to you in church, would you recognize him, and offer him a seat?  Would it matter if you did?  Yet so much of the gospel is yet to be revealed, as Jesus told us that if all the things he did were written, no library could hold them.  Is that old time religion still good enough for you?
Can it be that in our so called Christian walk we have become snobs?  Our church, our pastor, our way of fellowship is better?  Maybe a meal or two at some out of town café is in order.  Stop in a small church and see how welcomed you are.  See how Jesus is not only not restricted by religion, but by our selfish ways.  The best is yet to come, and along the way we can enjoy it all in Christ.  You can either super size your meal, or have a super meal, God sized.  The Bible tells of feeding the 5000, it is the small meals along the way with the disciples that they would remember best.  Maybe that is why when we have communion Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me,” of the good times around the table, of the conversations one on one, and of the strangers we meet along the way, but leave as friends.  There is a Loess Hills for each one of us, ours that day was in Iowa.  A Sabbath all its own, a day to rest on Father’s Day.  Get off the freeway and find a way that will set you free.  Now who among wouldn’t want to take a ride like that?
love with compassion,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

will the last biker out of Yuma please close the gate

I stopped in last weekend to get my local fix on what’s going on in the motorcycle community with my friend Mike, the sales manager of a multiline shop and who has been active for over 30 years in it.  We talked of how many of the shops in the county now have new owners, and the older guys have moved on, the new owners only being concerned about the bottom line, a far cry from when we both started to ride, when the owner and usually his wife were the staff, and maybe a son a mechanic.  He has trouble keeping sales help, they are young and love bikes, but not at a level we used to.  Today lines form at the Apple Store the way they used to when the new models arrived at our local shops.  How we used to offer to help uncrate the bikes, watch as they were set up, and dream and scheme of how to talk our wives or bankers into letting us have one.  The bike, the ride, and who we rode with told a lot about us, sadly I think it still does today.
We happened to be in Yuma last weekend, using our free points to sit at a motel pool and take in the desert sun.  What we didn’t know was that it was the weekend of the Yuma Prison Run, which has been going on since 1962.  We saw some bikes, but not the streets full of them like we used to, going by the fairgrounds the lots were empty, we saw some small groups of three or four, maybe the best evidence was not being woken up by the sound of Harleys revving their motors on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I counted less than six bikes at our motel, I have seen more on an average weekend.  While driving home on the I-8 corridor, we passed a few riders, usually older with the long beards associated with the older riders, a few side cars, and no big groups of riders like we are used to.  Even a newspaper article quoted an attendee as noticing the crowds were way down, maybe it is time for the rally to quit.  Are we witnessing the slow death of motorcycling, sales are still way down, even at Harley, can we get them in with free burgers and a live band, but how do we get them out of the parking lot and onto the road?  I have asked too many guys lately “did you buy it to ride or look at?”  Some stumble before they answer, some have to think about it.  Has a lifestyle taken over the life we once knew and lived for?  Is it really now all about fresh leathers and denim?  Has look out for motorcycles taken on a new meaning?  Will the last rider out of Yuma please close the gate....
As in all other walks of life, now we feel the need to be entertained.  And somehow riding a 1000 pound motorcycle, with viewing screens, reverse, a multi function sound system, and heated sets and grips just isn’t the same.  Manufacturers are even reinventing and bringing back retro bikes, the Triumph Bonneville the exception for success, as models from Honda and lately Kawasaki aren’t selling, Harley never left so cannot come back.  But again Mike tells me that after the Kawasaki training, he preferred the new Z-1 clone, it felt like a motorcycle, as opposed to the 200hp Ninja H2 for $20,000.  We asked for them, now they sit.  Could it be we are in a Golden Age of motorcycling, and when we look back wish we had bought them while they were available?  At 63 I hope to ride another 20 years, will anyone want a new 2018 model then?  Or a 1978?  How about an old 1954 model like me?  And as Harley announces new models consisting of new colors and names.....
I deal with many who have been raised in church, whether they chose to or not.  My age group consists of those of us whose parents saw the value in a religious education, but when we could, we abandoned it for other things.  Now many are looking to come back, victims of drugs or other bad choices, and find churches not feeling comfortable letting them in.  They feel out of place, I do many times, and they are looking for a way back to God, but find religion instead.  Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart for it.  But what about those of us who did and do?  Too many times I meet older guys wanting to get back into motorcycling, only to find it has changed, but so have they.  They are looking for what and how they used to ride, and cannot find it.  Same with many I deal with, they want that old time religion, but get a new i-pod version instead.  They want a version of Jesus they can relate to, and when they cannot, look elsewhere.  Which probably made them stray in the first place.  How many old saints do you know still in love with Jesus as the day they were saved, decades ago?  How many are looking for a church to attend, a service to make it to, but don’t feel comfortable?  Sure the programs look good, the activities promise a good time, but where do we find the Jesus we need?  Maybe like I was told by a 7000 member church pastor, “maybe it’s our fault...”
Like motorcycling always comes down to the bike and rider, it always comes down to us and Jesus.  We need to ask ourselves “where is he?”  and maybe “where are we?”  For over 35 years I faithfully filled a pew, but now go when I want, not when I feel like I have to.  Enjoying a newfound freedom.  Just like love, it is a choice, and true love demands a choice.  So small groups are popping up in homes of older saints, looking for what is missing, looking for Jesus instead of numbers, without a budget, just a heart for him.  No prepared service, just what God brings that night.  Some nights sharing, some teaching, some praying, but always new and exciting because the spirit leads us.  Maybe that is what is missing in motorcycling too...we need to get back to our first love.  To that first day you felt the wind in your face and you knew your life would never be the same.   Works for riding too...
Don’t give up on Jesus, he never gives up on you.  Don’t quit riding either.  My biker friends in prison dream of riding again, and fondly look back at the freedom they used to have when riding.  Do we seek Jesus the same way?  Hearts are yearning the song says, but for Jesus or the experience?  Maybe we all need to just go for a ride and seek God, to get away and get back to where we left off.  We’ve changed, so has the market.  Some seek entertainment, some want to go deeper.  I rather be riding my motorcycle and thinking about Jesus than sitting in church thinking about riding.  No one ever complains when the service is over too soon, but what about when the ride ends too soon?  Maybe we are on to something here, and on behalf of Jesus Christ, I say “welcome, welcome back.  We missed you.” If only the church could understand the brotherhood of us who ride, imagine how the world would change.  In the old days when you needed a part on a day off, the owner would come down and open up for you.    Would your pastor?  Would you?  Maybe we have seen the problem and it is us.  Thankfully the answer is still Jesus.  No need to lock the gate, he’ll leave a light on for you...even in Yuma.  Jesus, did you sign up to live or just to look at him in church?  No bike or Bible should ever be gathering dust....
love with compassion,

Monday, April 23, 2018

it's only a game until the parents get involved

I was a pretty good Little League player back in the days of Mantle and Maris.  We were part of what was called Midget League, a step below Little League, due to social and talent pressures.  My Dad was our coach, we were the Giants, and did pretty good, the only team we couldn’t beat was the Senators, they were stacked as the president of the League coached them.  But what we lacked in raw talent, we made up for in fun, and after surviving two years as one of the younger ones, in my last year eligible I broke out and was a star, at least in my own mind.  Truth was I was pretty good, and was good enough to be voted to the All Star team, who them would play the All Stars from Little League.  A chance to play against the best, on a real field with fences, stands, and to see how good we really were, or weren’t.  But after attending two All Star practices, my Dad broke the bad news to me, I couldn’t go this year.  It had nothing to do with my abilities, but the man who was coaching our All Stars had put his son on the team on the field, he was playing “homer,” letting all his son play no matter how good he was or wasn’t and he stunk.  Other coaches complained after the first practice how his son did everything, while guys who were good just sat.  So the League came down hard, no sons of coaches could play.  So I was booted, and my shot at being an All Star was stolen. With the irony of one father who complained the most about his son not being chosen over me, when he was chosen to take my place, suddenly had plans for that weekend, and was a no show.  All us kids wanted to do was to play ball, and then the parents got involved.  I was to learn along the way that this wasn’t just in sports, but in school, jobs, careers,and sadly in serving in church.  No matter what excuse you make, it was wrong then, it is wrong now, and will always be wrong.  And they tell us it’s just a game....
I have been part of churches over the years where children of pastors rose up through the ranks, based on heritage rather than ability or God’s choosing.  At first I got mad and bitter, then I found myself feeling sorry for them, as they knew when we met one on one why they got the job, and really wanted to do something else.  The pressure that was put on them did more harm than good, and I think often of my Little League experience.  Keep the parents out of it, let us prove ourselves despite our heritage, and let us choose like they did.  Let us build our own relationship with God without their interference, thinly disguised as help.  Maybe a lesson from Leviticus is in order for them, and for all parents.  Church type or not.
God set Aaron’s family aside to be priests, born into the family, you automatically qualified, and your fate was chosen.  No other family was chosen for such a responsibility.  But they could only serve if they met certain requirements, birthright had its privileges, but there is a difference between being a priest and serving as a priest.  Membership is by birth, service by qualification.  Which works within the church, the body of believers, not just the corporate church we attend on Sundays.  I have had to kindly tell some not to return when they feel they are gifted in our ministry.  Or if because of a good resume, feel they should be allowed to run the show.  God demanded that these priests be holy, and today holy doesn’t mean wholly as God intended it.  Wholly means fully forgiven, truly repentant, and being spirit led.  The whole of Jesus Christ in your life, not just a religious experience or a diploma from a seminary.  How can you teach someone to hit a fastball if you cannot hit it yourself, or never have?  Yet we allow such men and women to run our ministries who have never had the full experience of salvation, of repentance, or of the spirit.  First you must be set free!  And that takes Jesus, all of him, all the time. When walking down the hall after my open heart surgery, the nurse kept prodding me to go faster.  I was doing all I could, and then finally turned to her.  “What was the date of your open heart surgery?  I know mine, and I am trying...” And she got the point, gave me a regimen and I surpassed it.  She was going based on training and on how far I should be on a certain day after surgery, later the head nurse told me the couldn’t give me a regimen, “we were just trying to keep you alive.” 
So the ministry God has given me has me fully prepared to minister, but not without him.  We may share certain histories, but we don’t all share Jesus.  Without the spirit to guide, we fall short.  So when I deal with those with bad health, I can relate truthfully.  Same with losing my job, being broke, being rejected.  I had a son in jail.  So I know, and so they listen, because my words carry some weight.  Not so much because I too have been there,  but because Jesus was there with me.  It is real.  Some teach from a book, I teach from experience.  Often Jesus in real life is much different than the one taught in church from just an education.  We need to experience Jesus.  We all qualify by being a sinner, but yet we each have a different relationship with him.  Little League was only a game, life isn’t.  Only in Christ will you find the freedom I speak of, and only in Jesus will you have all you need to succeed.  He has given us his spirit, how different all things become when we are led by his spirit as opposed to our own desires.  Or an overbearing parent, teacher, or pastor....
You don’t have to know it all, just what you need for that situation.  Which will only be found in the spirit.  Who comforts, instructs, teaches, and heals.  Some act holy, some are wholly prepared in Christ.  What a difference he makes.  And you will find one situation at a time, you truly can do all things in Christ who gives you the strength.  If only Little League coaches knew that, but what a lesson I learned by not being able to play.  You see , some father and son relationships are worth emulating, some aren’t.  Only God lets us choose.  Now you know the difference. If it works in baseball, imagine how it can work in soccer. Play ball!
love with compassion,