My Sabbath Journey

May 25, 2014

I don’t guess journeying was an acceptable thing for good Jews to do on the Sabbath, but I’m not a good Jew. I wouldn’t call myself a good Christian either, but I think I am a good Methodist — which includes a wide circle of practices, disciplines (or lack of), and observations. My good Methodist friend, Bill W., labeled this trip as an extended Sabbath experience the other day, and I think that is exactly what this has been.

In my opinion, to observe the Sabbath is to simply step out of your work routine on a regular basis. It’s a way of building in some humanity and divinity in to your lifestyle. I don’t generally neglect the observation of the Sabbath in my normal routine, but for whatever reason I was compelled to engage in an extended Sabbath.

I departed my life as I know it to be for the last two weeks, and it has been an incredibly moving experience. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I embarked on this adventure, but I now see that I had such daunting challenges each day I couldn’t think about what I was not getting done at home or at work. My Sabbath was very active, but it was a radical departure from my daily routine for an extended period of time, and it has been both humanizing and holy for me.

I’ve loved every day of this journey. My mind,body, and spirit have been taken to some extreme places, and I have found nourishment there. I’m privileged to have been fed by both the silent prayers and the encouraging words of so many people. I have been richly blessed by this experience, and in a significant way I don’t feel that this journey is over. This trip has helped me see what a rich journey the endeavor of life really is.

I had an eclectic musical playlist that I allowed myself to indulge in a couple of times each day. It included the Jim Croce song, “I’ve Got A Name”. The refrain speaks of moving down the highway so that life won’t pass him by. I have been reminded that this is my goal as well. I want to live in a manner that I don’t let true life pass me by. Jesus had a lot to say about the business of true life. This Sabbath journey has renewed my hope to find it, and I pray that God will help you find that narrow path as well!




Our Sweet Home

May 24, 2014

I’m sitting on the Atlantic beach. It’s 10:30ish. I don’t have my tent set up, but I can’t pull myself away from the sound of the ocean. I feel so grateful to be here. I’m not sure how many miles I’ve travelled over the last 12 days, but it’s been a long journey. Bad things could have happened, but they didn’t. I honestly didn’t know if I would make it until I arrived. It’s been a fragile journey, and it’s been a wonderful experience.

I’m not sure how this will translate back in to my normal routine, but I have this renewed sense of the benevolence of God. I know that horrible things transpire on our planet, and I’m not particularly fond of the way things generally operate, but I have a renewed sense that mmost people want to do the right things.

I guess all I really know is that I have been dealt a fair hand. No, I have been dealt a better hand than most of the people who share our planet. I don’t understand much about the big picture, but I am grateful for the role I get to play. I haven’t operated in my normal role of minister, but riding a bicycle from one spot to another hasn’t been a radical departure from what I normally do — which is to interact with people about whatever it is that seems to matter.

I was touched by the woman who checked me in to the campground tonight. She was amazed that I had come on a bicycle from Little Rock — as I was! I got her to sign my ticket. I love interacting with people. That’s what I get to do as a pastor. That’s what I’ve gotten to do as a bicycle traveller.

I’m tired. I’m grateful. And I’m going to go to sleep on the Atlantic beach — a pretty far bicycle ride from Little Rock.

Blessings to you wherever it is that you may be going to sleep!

The Elements of Life

May 23, 2014

I started out today thinking I would be in for a manageable ride. I needed to go 76 miles, but that seemed reasonable. I felt like the largest hills were behind me, and for twenty miles I had some of the easiest traveling I’ve had since I was in the Arkansas delta — only this time the wind was at my back not my side. I came to feel that I would be coasting for my final two days of riding.

But the highway I was on got in to the Savannah River Site which is some kind of a government nuclear thing, but what that meant for me is that there were no stores where I could buy Gatorade or water, and I ran out of what I had. And hills appeared. And it was hot.

I got through the SRS, but still there were no stores, and there were more hills. I actually became pretty distressed about the situation. It’s not easy to ask for help, but I saw a man out in his yard and I asked if I could have some water. He wasn’t a particularly friendly man and his dog was even less enthusiastic about my presence, so I just filled up my bottle and left. I thought I had it made, but soon my bottle was empty again and no town had appeared. But more hills did. And more heat.

I actually began to develop some fear that my trip was going to come to an end with me having heat exhaustion within a day of the beach. What a humiliating end that would have been!

It’s funny how quickly my inhibition about asking for help evaporated when I became seriously thirsty. There weren’t many houses through this part of the country that is primarily used for logging, but I was thrilled when I saw a mailbox in the distance, and after making sure there weren’t any dogs protecting the property I made my way to the door to ask for water.

Turns out nobody was home, but I was revived by their water hose! I lounged in their shade for a while and made my way forward with an ample supply of that most essential element of life!

I guess I can say that this is one thing this trip has done for me. It has reminded me of what is essential for life. I don’t often remember how precious water is. I take shelter for granted. I always have clean clothes to choose from. I don’t generally get wet when it rains or that hot when the sun is out. I have been well blessed with some elemental conditions to deal with, and I think I have new appreciation for what is truly important. I will probably remain particular about the quality of coffee I prefer, but I have been reminded that when it comes down to it I don’t need coffee — I need water.

And so does everyone else in the world!


So I set out for a long journey today. I intended to go 88 miles. Being very methodical, I intended to take a break every 15 miles and spend no more than 20 minutes at each break. Well that came to an end during my second break when I stepped out in the street to take a picture of the beautiful United Methodist Church in Greensboro, GA. A car stopped and the people inside were curious about my picture-taking.They were members of that church and when they heard I was a UM minister riding a bicycle from Arkansas they suggested we go talk to the editor of the newspaper, The Herald Journal. They interviewed me and took my picture and we had a lovely time! Of course then I had to go have a piece of pie.

All that took a little more than 20 minutes, but worth every minute!

All of this happened because of The United Methodist Church. It has always been a place of hospitality for me, and I’m grateful to be a part of that world-wide community. We have our problems, but we are largely made up good hearted people. I felt totally embraced by Wayne and Carol, and they sent me off with a prayer.

Later, feeling the wind at my back and the terrain getting gentler I discovered an opportunity to get to the Atlantic a day sooner, I changed my route. Instead of going to the state park that was a bit out of my way I decided to head for Augusta, GA., but it was too much. I had gone 97 miles (my longest day yet), but I was 15 miles short of where I needed to be and It was about to get dark. I was considering putting my thumb out at a convenience store, but it was about that time that I saw a sign advertising the local United Methodist church. I decided to make that the destination of my first effort to solicit help. And it worked! I’m too tired to explain the details, but it was certainly serendipitous. Rev. Mike Shearon gave me a ride in his truck to my hotel room. I told him he had certainly saved a soul that day! He also sent me off with a prayer.

The United Methodist Church doesn’t have all the good people in it — but it has it’s share! It’s a family I’m happy to belong to. We are currently tangled up over the issue of human sexuality in an unfortunate manner. I hope we will lay that to rest before too long (by dropping the hurtful language toward non-straight people) so we can get on with what we do best — which is to share the love of Christ so kindly. I’ve had a good helping of that today and it’s beautiful stuff!

I’ve been mindful today of the number of times we are told of things that happened to Jesus while he was on one road or another. I don’t really know what to make of that, but I have come to experience the unique way in which people deal with a person on the road. I wish I more fully understood what stood out about Jesus as he was traveling along. I know a guy with an orange shirt and yellow bags on his bicycle is an obvious traveller, but there was something outstanding about Jesus even though he was wearing the same clothes and walking like everyone else.

But interesting things have happened to me as I’ve been traveling along. When you are wearing the label of a person who is traveling on a bicycle you get noticed and approached by some people. I had a really sad encounter with a young woman who needed money for food while I had stopped for a moment in a poor outskirt of Atlanta. I was able to help her with one meal, but I was reminded of how deeply needy so many people are.

But most of the encounters I have are so very positive. People like to ask me where I’m from and where I’m going. People in cars and trucks aren’t always so happy to see me, but I get nice looks and comments from people on sidewalks. As my new friend, Jim, from Conyers, GA pointed out to me, a guy on a bicycle is a benign presence. You aren’t going to be able to get away very quickly if you do something bad, so people are inclined to trust you when you are traveling on a bicycle. My meeting with Jim felt like a harmonic convergence. I was looking for some advice but he was the one who initiated our conversation. Jim is a bicycle builder, and he has done a good amount of touring. He loves the way it puts you in touch with the land and the people. It was a joy to visit with him and I trust we will be in further contact.

I am feeling so blessed by this journey. My heart is bursting with gratitude for all of the serendipitous encounters I’ve had on the road, and for the overwhelming support and encouragement I’m getting from those of you who know me already and are rooting me on. I share the prayer of Anne Lamott: Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Greetings from Atlanta

May 20, 2014

I’ve ridden a bicycle eastward for 8 days now. What do I know? Atlanta is an eight day bicycle ride from Little Rock– for me. I’m beginning to think that I may actually make it to the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly my attitude can change, but I think the terrain is going to become more hospitable to an untrained rider, and the mileage will become more bearable (except Wednesday). I can get excited about my accomishment, but then I start thinking about why I’m doing this.

The “why” questions are always hard to answer, but as near as I can figure it I just wanted to see if I could. I don’t think anyone other than my wife would provide me with a grant for this enterprise, but I can testify that it’s a powerful experience to get to put yourself in unusual, unfamiliar, and extreme circumstances. It’s been nothing short of a spiritual journey. I’m sure I would be hard pressed the articulate the measurable outcomes of this experience, but to use the the language we preachers often turn to — I would call this a revival experience. My soul feels nourished, my spirit feels uplifted, and my sense of wonder about this whole enterprise of life has been expanded. This is a big beautiful ball that we live on. It’s been fun to cruise around on it for a little while. It’s been more than fun — it’s been a great journey!

Blessings to you in your journey !


Finding Sanctuary

May 19, 2014

So my ride began in the rain this morning, and it rained steadily for the first 15 miles which probably took close to 2 hours. I had three different layers of gloves, but none of them were much help with cold or rain. Consequently my fingers were freezing and the rest of me was ready for a break from the rain. I was on a series of nice country roads, and that was pleasant enough, but there weren’t any public establishments. I remembered that I had the capacity to make coffee, so I began looking for a potential shelter. It wasn’t long before I came across an abandoned house with a highly overgrown carport full of junk, but there was some open space, a place to set up my stove, and something to sit on. It made me so happy. I wouldn’t have wanted to hang out any longer than necessary, but it provided me with a much needed refuge.

I guess I was sitting in there during the time I’m usually in worship, but I was worshipping God in my own way this morning. I know people often say they can best worship God out in nature, and I don’t fully disagree, but I think that’s generally used as an excuse for simply doing something they would rather do than attend worship. That’s ok, but honesty is always good. I believe there are many sacred spaces for us to find outside of the church building, but I also love the way we gather on Sundays.

What occurs to me is that finding a sense of sanctuary has less to do with where you are, but who you are with. The greatest sense of being in a safe and secure place has more to do with who you are with, and what those people are like., than with where you are. In theory, you shouldn’t be able to find a greater sense of sanctuary than with people who try to follow Jesus. It isn’t always the case in reality, but it’s a worthy effort even though none of us live like disciples all of the time.

Part of the security I have felt on this trip is the wonderful community of people who are paying attention to what I’m doing. I don’t think I would have enjoyed my coffee so much this morning if I hadn’t thought that I could share the story with someone. I feel very blessed in that regard.

My rainy morning turned in to a beautiful afternoon and I rode thirty miles on the most wonderful path. It’s called the Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama and the Silver Comet Trail as it crosses in to Georgia. It was built on an old railroad bed. I’ll be riding on it almost all the way in to Atlanta tomorrow. I put in 60 miles today, which was a bit of a break, and I’m enjoying the fine accommodations of a Holiday Inn Express in Cedarville, GA. I’m sure I’m going to sleep so well tonight I may not be able to stop riding tomorrow!


The Ups and Downs

May 18, 2014

In the bicycling world the ups are far harder to deal with than the downs. I had way more ups than I anticipated today. Clearly I should have done a bit more research of Alabama topography. These aren’t the foothills of the Appalachians — this area can best be described as the toes of the Appalachians. And theses toes are spread apart just wide enough so you go all the way up and down between each one. I don’t know how many toes I rode up and down, but it seemed endless. I’m pretty proud of having ridden about 92 miles, but the truth is I probably walked a mile and a half of that. There were some slopes that I couldn’t climb in my lowest gear. And why ultimately I paid a kind soul with a truck to carry me the final 20 miles of the day’s journey to my hotel in Atalla.

I wanted an adventure and I’m getting one! I began the day in the rain, and with cold hands, but I had a hot sun by late afternoon. I also had a flat tire which was reasonably easy to fix, and good people offering to help. It was a hard day, but it was a good day.

I’ve experienced the graciousness of strangers, and the way in which adversity can be an enriching experience. It’s nice to have some balance between the ups and downs, but too much of both can wear you out!

God help us find some balance and some moderation with our various ups and downs in life!

Finding Sustainability

May 17, 2014

I’m in a Best Western Inn in Russellville, AL tonight, and I’m glad to be here. I rode 73 miles today on some really nice roads, but I had some serious fatigue happening in my legs early on. I mentioned that in a tweet (I don’t get it but I do it) , and I was happy to get some good advice from my new twitter friend Jeremy (@PedalJRayPedal for those of you who understand twitterspeak) about keeping my legs operational. He said high cadence plus low load equals happy legs. What that means is that you go in to a lower gear so you move your legs faster but with less effort. It’s the way to keep going.

I’m ready for sleep, so I can keep going, but finding the path of sustainability is always a wise move. I have my longest day before me tomorrow. I may not make my intended destination, but if I do it will be because someone helped me understand how I can best proceed.

I’m thinking that’s what most of us do most days — we figure out how to to best proceed in the most sustainable manner. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow. I’m guessing you will too. God bless us all in our various pursuits!

Living Large!

May 16, 2014

I was happy to have a lighter day today — it was only 58 miles to Tupelo, and that gave me a chance to have a nice breakfast with Rev. Warren Black of University UMC in Oxford. I made that connection through his daughter, Elizabeth, who often attends QQUMC.

It was a pleasure to meet and visit with him, and he helped me see what a valuable journey this is for me. This isn’t something I haven’t thought about, but it was nice to hear it articulated by him. It was easy for him to see the value of this trip for my work in ministry, and it was nice to get this message from someone who understands this work so well.

What has become so clear to me is how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. There are a lot of costs to this journey that are falling to other people, and I’m incredibly grateful to those of you who are keeping the machines running at home and at work while I’m out riding a bicycle. I’ve also been so well treated by friends and family who have fed and housed me along the way. I am surrounded by saints!

I don’t know if I am up for 8 more days of riding, but I know I’m ready for another one tomorrow! I have such a nice community of people pulling for me and praying for me. I love getting to meet new people. It’s wonderful to reconnect with friends and family from the past. But I’m overwhelmed by the love and grace I am being given by my home family, my church family, and my family of friends. It’s incredible to me that I’m able to take this time to do this thing.

Thank you God! Thank you people! I am one grateful bicycle-riding man!