To my readers, with many thanks. I’ve just published a paperback and e-version of many of my blog posts as a devotional prayer journal, available from Xulon Press, on Xulon, Amazon, Barnes and Noble,and iBooks.
My posts may be sparse for some time, as the wonderful man I wrote about in my Tandem post was killed while waiting at a light, in a bike lane,with 9 other cyclists on March 3 when a DUI driver plowed into the group. A bright hope and joy in my life was extinguished, but he will live always in my heart. Ken Vieira, you were and will be ever a gift from God!
One Christian to another, one writer to another, one human being to another who’s come face to face with the reality of the brokenness in people, may I sit down with you this morning and just reflect?
For a girl who grew up in a loving, Christ-centered home where we loved each other, treated each other with kindness and respect, got along, gave with hearts that knew it was just the right thing to do, and lived honest lives, the last seven years of my life have been a journey through the twisted maze of discovering first that the person I trusted with my life was not, or had somehow fallen from, who he appeared to be, and had morphed through un-dealt-with pain into a man without empathy and no relational conscience, completely consumed with self, then to go on meeting so many others with gaping wounds in their souls covered by a veneer of “I’m okay,”(which is at best a partial truth for every one of us) and now face to face with the horror that one person self-medicating wounds and fears and needs deep within can destroy the life and hope and future of another and those who love him, literally.
The world is so much more fallen than I ever realized, Dorothy carried up into a reality so twisted and unlike the world I grew up in and thought would continue to be real. I see how shallow the appearance of ”normal” is, selfishness so pervasive and destructive in our culture. I’m not in “Kansas” anymore, and this “Oz” isn’t beautifully filled with dancing Munchkins and the Emerald City. Yet I hope to find that brief, human joy of dancing down the yellow brick road with a scarecrow or tin man or cowardly lion, empty headed or empty hearted or fearful. We can matter to another person; our life can and was meant to mean something priceless.
Because this horror I’ve been plunged into is going to be a criminal case, I may end up with a financial settlement, but I’ve never been about money, possessions, house, or a life where I could sit back and smell the roses and never invest my life in anything or anyone but myself and my pleasure. All I am wired and delighted to be about is people, relationships, loving, giving and caring, encouraging, building others up and becoming more of myself when I do. When the divorce I didn’t want was final, my sister said, ”Oh, now you can go where you want to go, do whatever you want do, decorate your house any way you like, eat what you want ….,” and my immediate inner thought was, “Why in heck would I want to do that? What is appealing in being all about myself?”
Barring a miracle, here I am alone again for a different, even crueler reason, thinking the same thing, and crying out to God to show me even the next six inches of light in this overwhelming darkness.
This may be a blog post I’m composing here, but my posts have always been conversations with others, whoever is out there reading and searching and praying. No man was meant to be an island,no person was meant or created to stand alone. All the psychobabble about being whole within yourself, self-actualizing, is as big a pile of recycled hay as the “you complete me” sigh in romantic movies. None of us is truly whole; that’s why we need Jesus.And none of us can complete another human being; only God can as we cling ferociously to his true unconditional love. But here we are, floating in the cold Atlantic after the sinking of the Titanic, and yes, we are meant to find each other, hold hands and recognize the humanity in each other, and if we are so blessed, to swim, or bob beside one someone else steadfastly in commitment that says no matter what, no matter how you fail me or what your quirks are or when I see your brokenness, and you will see the same in me, but because God does love us, we can be broken together and find beauty and some pure joy even in that truth in these cold waters. Like the old song from the 60’s goes, ”No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.” That is who I am, all I am.
If you have someone to love, if someone loves you, you are wealthy, rich, blessed beyond words.
I’d found that freedom very briefly and beautifully in and with one other survivor of the sinking, laughing, praying, entering into each other’s world and beginning to carve out an Us, starting from a spirit to spirit connection and then having to figure out what most people, most couples do first, and it was precious. Now I’m back to ground zero, in my life jacket bobbing in the waves, fighting of hypothermia of the heart, and who knows if I will ever find any man brave enough to hold hands and swim with me toward the lifeboats again?
This did become a post, but it started as an email from me, a friend to trusted friend, one human being looking another – and a good one – in the eye in complete transparency, daring to be real and trusting him – and all of you now who read this – to look inside at the swirling emotions within me and not run for Pike’s Peak.
No Bible verses to boldly share in this post. All I know is, God is Love and God is good, and he promised through Isaiah that he would bring me beauty for ashes, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness, their of gladness for mourning.I do mourn, deeply, more painfully than I knew I could survive, because heard I found something priceless together, ever so briefly. Ken, yes, I loved you,and I was amazed that you loved the me inside the wrapper. Here I am, and as you always said, “Adapt, improvise, overcome.”
Truly, truly I pray goodness into your day, and some true freedom to be all of who you are, and my only “…BUT….” to pray today is: My life is a total tragedy today, my world ripped apart, no sense to this loss, no meaning to this death, BUT God …. help me show the world the deeper meaning of Ken’s life, and what your love meant to him. Holy Spirit, help me to hear you. The whole world needs to hear you today. Help us know how much we need you, give us the willingness and courage to be real in our need, fill us with all YOU are, and give us the grace to reach out a hand to another needy person today. Father God, You might just be handing me a priceless treasure to cherish in the heart behind those eyes.
“Gosh, I can hear the Bible as I’m riding,” I thought as I pushed a little faster than I wanted to and shot down the hill on two thin tires at 38 miles per hour, keenly aware there was nothing between my skin and the asphalt but a thin jersey and bike shorts. Others must surely have seen the same parallels riding on the back of a tandem road bike; now I entered their cadre, not entirely willingly. I ride with a man who loves cycling. Before I met him I enjoyed riding my bike to the grocery store and back, and noodling around the neighborhood on evening pleasure rides. He, however, is of the “conquer the hills, the faster, the better” squadron, and he knows I’ll love riding once I get more miles under me and build up my endurance. Humph.
I look at the hill he’d love to climb, at least an 8% grade all the 20-mile way to the top of the mountain, and I shudder. I never want to be THAT fit! When we ride independently, I usually “flake off” at the eight-mile mark, cut across a road lined seasonally with wildflowers and with a walking/biking path where I’ll generally find someone to stop, say hello to, and pray with. The surprise of a perfect stranger offering to pray for them delights me. I am God’s carrier pigeon on two wheels, bringing a word of His love to someone in their day, and I have fun being part of the “air drops” He allows me to make.
I remember riding on the handlebars or on the back book rack od my brother’s bike. That was fun, and I didn’t have to do any of the work
But when I’m on the back of the tandem …. new rules apply.
- Where he’s going, I have to go. (And last week wearing his jersey and staring at his dorsal side, I wryly thought of how Peter must have felt when Jesus told him, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 and Amen!)
- I can’t see or control where we are going.
- As far as he goes, I have to go. (And I thought of the woman in the cycling club who replied to her husband’s comment that she wasn’t giving him enough on the back of the bike, “If I give it all to you know, you aren’t getting any of it when we get home!”)
- I have to match his pedaling speed because I’m “clipped in.” (Because against my protests, he did put clip pedals on and even bought me cycling shoes to lock into the clips so I can “give it more power” and use my hamstrings too. My hamstrings were quite happy letting my quads do the work, thank you very much, quit when they got tired, and I liked being able to freely leap off my bike if I started to fall.)
- Which brings me to this point: if he falls, I fall.
- When he stops, I stop. (Generally gratefully. At intersections I counterbalance his foot on the ground.)
- I’m dependent upon his judgment and character.
These may sound like negatives, and in some ways they are, but I choose to rename them “sobering realities.” He has a few “sobering realities” to face as well:
- He has to put his muscle to the pedals, but if I so choose, I can pretty much rest in his strength when I’m tired.
- I can take my hands off the handlebars and sit upright because he’s steering.
- I can communicate my needs/limitations, and he will out of consideration choose an easier or shorter route. (or face my stiff neck, sore wrists and sat-out seat)
- When my energy is used up, it’s up to him to get us home.
- If I shift my weight, he has to compensate to keep us upright. (Whew, I have to learn to reach for my water bottle without leaning to either side)
- He is responsible for my safety.
I have heard the test of a relationship is if you can ride a tandem without killing each other. The rule is: what happens on the bike, stays on the bike. But every time I click my feet into those pedals, the word “captivity” springs to mind: the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined. BUT that is one perspective, half of the truth. The other truth is that riding on the tandem makes a way for me to be with my friend and do what i couldn’t do, without great exertion, on my own.
I also know this is true about lasting relationship: “Perfect romantic love never does last, of course. Under the best conditions, it evolves into something more realistic and lasting, where two imperfect people discover one another’s virtues and faults, grow to appreciate the goodness in each other but also to accept the disappointments.” I have to add, though I’d rather not, learn to accept challenges to grow, stretch, get stronger.
As I crank my heart out grinding up the second or third of the of the “only one more hill” hills, I sometimes ruefully sing the old song to myself:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.
The tandem truth is that, in sending Jesus, God made a way for us to receive what we can’t do out of our own strength or “righteousness”: ride with him, depending on his strength, endurance, blood, love.
A rabbi’s disciples always walked in the dust of their teacher, following in his footsteps wherever he lead them. Jesus’ disciples did the same, and if I want to be His disciple today, I’m going to have to put in some miles. I can’t keep up with him our my own limited resources and “goodness,” but i can clip into the pedals behind him and ride where he’s going.The disciples were on two feet; I’m on two feet with you, Jesus, and sometimes literally on two wheels in the company of some of your competitive “conquer the mountain, harder, faster, longer, first” children who don’t know you yet, but need to. All I want to conquer is the enemy of my soul, not the pavement! Stop and smell the Texas sage, people! There are lonely folks to be prayed for out there…. but they ride on. Sigh.
Okay. Once a week, at least, I saddle up as sidekick. Hop on the back of the bike and lock in with Jesus, who genuinely is crazy about you and me, as you read these verses. Ask the Holy Spirit if and how they might apply to your life today:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:23-24 NIV
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 4-8 NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[Proverbs 3:5-6a]
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
Oh, God, that’s what you want for me, isn’t it? Rats! I’d much rather noodle around the neighborhood and never get serious about going somewhere with the faith and gifts and strengths you’ve given to, and invested in, me. I’d rather quit when I feel tired, hop off when I want, go where I want at the speed I want and not be obligated to anyone for how long it takes me to get nowhere in particular. But I have a sneaking suspicion – and last week at a conference I heard a “name of God” for the first time: “Jehovah Sneaky” – that you want me to do something with the talents and desires and gifts you put in me, you want me to follow the road you planned for me, to go as far as You want to go, willingly stop when you stop, and trust your love for me whether I can see where we’re going or not. I recall speaking on this subject ten years ago, but then I hadn’t been required to walk down a road I never wanted to travel, for longer than I wanted to be in battle and in limbo. Now I’ve had to live it, and it hasn’t been rainbows, bunnies and flowers. It’s been hard, uphill, in the dark, in the rain, against the wind, and a challenge to keep my heart free from bitterness, anger, pulling away from you and fear every turn of the wheel.
God, you told me two things over two years ago: “You’re worth fighting for” and “You are my chosen child. Don’t be afraid of what man tries to do to you.” You didn’t tell me where we were going, how long the road would be, or how steep the climb. I suspect my fear and inability to hang on made this trip take longer and be harder than it needed to be. Did I switch places and try to be the one in front? Did I let go of “manna” you gave me because I was grieving too hard? Well, I know you forgive me and your mercy is new every morning. I want to take the back seat now and let you pull me up the hill, pump hard when I can’t, stop when i/we need to, and yes, I desperately need to trust your character to take responsibility for my safety.
A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know you want my life to count and have meaning. I do, too, but honestly, “clipping in” with you makes me feel _____________________________________________________. I know you understand, because you know I’m human, and not seeing where we’re going , I feel ____________________________________________. But I know you love me and your plans for me are for good, not for evil, so as I ride with you, Jesus, I’ll give my best to _______________________________________________________________________________________ and I’m leaning on you, holding on to your character and love, and asking you to ______________________________________________________________________________________. When I start to lean, slip, get tired or want to quit and go home, please _______________________________________________________________. Thank you that you “know my frame” and you love me even in my weakness, as well as in my strength. I need your renewing strength to _______________________________________________________________________________. Thank you that you wont quit on me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!