Sunday, July 26, 2009

Today was Stage 8 and the final stage of the Sadler's Alaska Challenge. It was easily the most demanding of all the stages this week. We had an early start time and fortunately it was not raining (it threatened but no go) during the race. I'd like to say I blazed through today's course, but truthfully, by the time we started climbing I just wanted to finish!

There was about 15 miles into the course before your turned to the road leading up to Hatcher Pass. Then the next 9 miles were gradual climbs (5-7% gradient). At about the the 24 mile mark we turned and started to climb which turned out to the be hardest climb I've ever done. The average grade had to have been around 9% with places all the way up to 15%. To put that into perspective: riding up Mt. Lemmon was easy compared to this. The last six miles was just a grueling, steady effort up and up with no relief. You're putting out a strong effort but still only moving at 3mph. What was strange is even in places that visually looked flat or even downhill I wasn't going that fast at all and when I looked at my computer on the bike it said you were still at a 7% grade. Nobody, except the real beasts, was moving at a blistering pace here.

The great part as always is when you finish! "How did you do, Pastor?" I finished! What was great was even if they were world class racers or plodders like me, everyone was cheering as you hit the 100 meter sign to the finish. Everyone was truly glad for the fact that people made it to the top. At this time it wasn't about setting a world record (although the leader and winner probably did), but it was about making it to the end! My overall standing in the men's longseat division was 16th out of 23 racers. It was basically the position I found myself in from Day 1. In the 55yrs and above group, I finished 3rd. The "labor pains" are now offically over...the child has been delivered....and now we get ready to come home tomorrow. There are a lot of thoughts in my mind right now. I'm very grateful for Mona and Leonard who were volunteers who helped not only me but many, many other racers as well. We've got an awards banquet tonight and then back to the "real world" tomorrow. I'm praying that the Revival Meeting with Stacy Dillard is going well, and I should see most of you on Tuesday night!

God has many blessing both big and small! The mood of everyone was much higher today for the first time all week there was no rain! In fact, there was sunshine and it lasted during the whole 3-5 hours of the race. Plus, on top of this, we had a tailwind for most of the 56 mile course. Even though you have to race in any condition and you have no control over the elements....a tailwind is always a blessing!

Today's course was a very challenging one where we climbed for about 3/4 of the race. The reward today for all of tht was the last 10-12 miles were downhill, so you really picked up the pace a whole lot. Even though I rode again mostly by myself I felt pretty good throughout. Thoughts of finishing tomorrow are definitely predominat in my mind right now!

Afterwards, we had a long, 2 1/2 hour ride into Palmer, AK. The final stage is a wicked climb up Hatcher Pass with grades between 8-15% for the last half of the 30 mile event. We have about 20 miles to race to reach that point, and then it is just a long, hard, steady grind to the top. I don't think I'll be challenging Lance Armstrong (although maybe he should try riding a handcycle) but hopefully I can maintain that sustained pace all the way to the top. There are some really phenomenal climbers among the riders who will definitely distance themselves from the rest. That leaves most of the riders pretty much on their own to the top. The good news and the gaol is once you reach the top ---- you've won, because you finished!

Today was a long, hard day, beginning with an early wake up call so we could be at the ferry terminal by 7:00am, in line for the 8:30am departure to Valdez. How, and did I mention that it was raining again! Even with lightweight rain gear, when you're riding a handcycle that low and close to the road and its raining, you're going to get wet! Plus, it was a very cold and a long and demanding course today. What made it interesting is there were no facilities where the race started after the ferry ride to change your clothes, get ready, use the facilities etc. Everything had to be done on the ferry so that when you disembarked you were pretty well race ready.

The scheduled event today was 55 miles long, taking us up the extremely steep Thompson Pass, followed by a very rapid descent. The race officials collaborated and made a ruling that today's stage would be shortened to just 26 miles. This was due to the fact we had a very late start and the weather condidtions were really pretty bad. By the time I made it to the top I was pretty well drenched again. If we would have continued it would be a very long downhill section which presented problems such as hypothermia (not good). As it was, after I made it to the top I had do wait for my wheelchair in those very wet and cold conditions. I had to be covered with blankets in order to stay warm until the pilot car arrived with all of our things. Once we cleaned up, we had about an hour and half drive to Glenallen near where Saturday's stage began.

I've been able to maintain some of my early overall position, but I've slipped due mostly to some great performances by some other riders. I'm currently sitting pretty solid at 15th overall in my division, and 3rd in the 55 year old and above category. Two more climbing stages to go. Right now sleep and recovery is crucial.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe the adverse weather conditions that we've faced every day: wet rat, soaked dish towel, drenched etc. Today was cold (at times my fingers hardly worked to shift) and raining so that at times I could barely see.

So, what's the "lone ranger" reference? An optimal stage race depends on your ability to stay with a group of riders and draft off of each other. Even two working together will increase your overall speed rather than being left out there by yourself. It improves your time significantly, conserves energy, and gives you perspective. The toughest time of any race then is riding alone, hence, the lone ranger. This was not by design but I was unable to keep up with the lead pack who were much faster in front, and I can't really wait for the slower riders behind me. So, I'm left out there by myself. It's a good time to sing and praise God but it doesn't help me go faster! But, I was still able to gain about 5 minutes today on my closest competitor. Some of the racers have definitely improved as the week has progressed.

Now the real challenge begins: the three longest, hardest stages of the race with some major hills and sustained climbing. Our itinerary tomorrow begins with an 8:30am ferry rid3e to Valdez, AK which takes approximately 3 hours. We basically have to get off the ferry, drive to the start line and get ready to ride. It is one of the hardest stages of the week with almost 3000 feet of climbing over Thompson Pass. After that, we'll see how everyone feels and how things sort out for Saturday and Sunday's races. Thanks for your prayers!
Friday, July 24, 2009
Today was a 11.8 mile TT with some decent climbing on and out and back course. Again, the weather was wet and cold so there was really no time to do any kind of warm up, which is not good for any kind of peak performance in a Time Trial. Plus, I've found out that the older you get, the more warm up you need. My overall performance was fair. I didn't lose any of my standing in the "GC" (general classification) but I tried to ride the first half of the course's climb in my big chain ring which was probably a mistake.

As soon as the race was over we had just under one hour to get back to the hotel, change out of wet clothes, check out and get in the car to be able to make it through a huge tunnel by 1:30pm so we could arrive at the Ferry Terminal in Whittier, AK. Once we went through security, got the tickets for both the cars and all the passengers taken care of, then we waited to board the ferry at 4:00pm. The ferry ride from Whittier to Cordova was about four hours long. Prince William Sound has truly breath-taking scenery, but with the rain and the clouds a lot of it was obscured. Because of a late arrival, we just had time to unpack, have a light meal and then to bed for Thursday's ride which was dubbed the "Tour de Cordova." The locals treated us with wonderful hospitality.

Oh, by the wqay, as we were waiting to get in our bikes and trying to stay out of the rain, we heard over the race walkie-talkies that there was a bear sighting on the course! One of the female riders actually saw it about 50 yards away from her, but fortunately he wasn't all that interested in her. We've actually had bear sightings each of the last three days. As I was leaving, after finishing the race, I saw the bear going down an embankment just as we turned on the highway. I've done lots of training rides in Tucson but none where we've had to be on the lookout for bears!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Today was a 36 mile road race in Hope, AK. We got up early, and after breakfast we loaded everything up for a one hour trip to the staging area where today's race began. There are 4 racers in our car and Mona is driving an doing a superb job at helping with anyone and anything.
The weather today was cold, raining and windy, a perfect combination (not!). Right from the start I encountered some minor equipment malfunction. My Camelbak tube that is pinned to my
jersey and/or jacket popped off the moment the race began. It was dragging on the ground for the first eight miles or so. I kept trying to reach it but couldn't reach that far behind me. It was very distracting and as a result my early chances of staying with a pack of racers diminished. After two quick stops I finally just shoved it inside my rain jacket and zipped it up tight. The course was fast going out the first 17 miles and then climbing on the return portion. To make things even more interesting there was about a 25-30mph headwind and crosswind; strong enough to bump you around as you are riding. When I finally finished I was drenched and very cold. The weather report doesn't show a whole lot of change over the next few days either.

I am currently second in the "old man division" - those who are 55yrs old and above. I am 10 minutes behind a racer from Austria, named Christian Peter. We'll see if I can make up some of that time over the next five stages of the race. Tomorrow is another time trial of 11 miles and then we take a three hour ferry ride over to Cordova. Then on Thursday they'll have the "Tour de Cordova" which is another 36 miles race which is relatively flat, so it should be fast. There are a lot of logistics getting to and from places, hotels, race starts and finishes. Because this is the 25th Anniversary of the Sadler's Ultra Challenge they are doing things a lot different. It is a more "Tour de France" type format as you will be racing in different locations. When we hit Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it will separate the men from the boys! Each of these days will be long, hard races with lots and lots of climbing up some of the most well-known mountain passes in South Central Alaska. Everyone is a bit apprehensive about these days because they will determine the outcome of the whole event.

God is good and we are pushing on! I will try to make sure to send a daily posting of the progress of things. Also we should have some pictures. Thanks for your interest but "ESPECIALLY YOUR PRAYERS!"
Sorry that I couldn't post anything sooner, but we were in Seward, AK and the reception there was not great, and I was unable to go on-line. Anyhow, we are off and riding! Monday included 2 stage races: a time trail in the morning and a criterium in the afternoon. It was a pretty full day of racing. I am not a great time trialist (you're not racing against people but against the clock and the key is to go all out throughout the event) but I was able to post a good time! I believe I finished overall 15th out of 23 racers in my longseat division. Felt pretty strong in the process, but still need to be able to push it to the brink better. The criterium course was in downtown Seward. The course was a pretty challenging one. It was .65 miles with five turns, some of them very tight. It started raining so on top of everything the roads were getting slick. How you handle your turns is especially critical to finishing well. I've only done two of these previously in all of my racing, so I wouldn't consider myself very adept.

Overall things went pretty well and I find myself in the overall standings where I guessed I would be: some very, very fast racers in front of me, and some others behind me. I am hoping to continue to improve and with proper recovery every day, bank of my overall fitness level to see me through all of the stages!
Sunday, July 19, 2009

We have just arrived in Seward, AK where Stage 1 and 2 take place tomorrow. "Team Warner" is doing well: Harold Warner, Mona Warner, and Leonard Gastelum! Pictures to follow. Mona and Leonard are both race volunteers which means they are driving cars with 3-4 racers in them from place to place. Tonight is a dinner and a news conference! Then early to bed to be rested up.

Am I nervous? Just a bit. First, some of the best wheelchair & handcycling racers in the world are here. I still don't know how they can be so fast. We begin with a Time Trial which is 12 miles, full-on racing against the clock. I am not a great time traialist but will be doing my best. I am hoping that not everyone is "world
class" speed capabilities. Then in the afternoon we have a Criterium in downtown Seward. This is a course that is .65 miles downtown, and you go around and around as fast as you can, and hope that you hit your corners right and the climb that is in the middle of the course.

Everyone is talking about how challenging the last three days are. How intense the climbing is on each of the routes. Since I haven't been there and a race profile doesn't really tell the whole story, we'll just have to see. I just know that it's no joke! So, hopefully, I can get over the jitters and get started and just do my best. Tomorrow night I'll give you and update along with pictures. If it's raining like predicted we'll be wet, muddy and tired....but glad we're off and running!
Friday, July 17, 2009
David Aikman, a former senior correspondent for TIME Magazine, authored a book called "Great Souls" - Six Who Changed The Century. In this series of biographical profiles, which later went on to be a PBS documentary, he chronicles six "great souls" of the 20th century and the virtues each represented: Billy Graham (salvation), Nelson Mandela (forgiveness), Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (truth), Mother Teresa (compassion), John Paul II (human dignity), and Elie Wiesel (remembrance). Mr. Aikman explores their historical background, family experiences, and the cultural settings that surrounded each of them. What I found compelling was that he lifted up virtue as the chief qualifier and contributor to becoming a great soul. The only thing that I would add is that a great soul is not just the result of someone’s accomplishments or noteriety. "Great souls" are who a person is, the type of person they become, the character of Christ embodied in them.

Over the years I’ve been privileged to know and pastor people I would classify as "great souls." Last week I preached the funeral service for Soffia Elias who had been a member of our church congregation since 1982, and passed away at the age of 97. She was not rich or famous, but she was a woman who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and delighted in His word. She had been married to her husband, who preceded her in death, for 61 years. She selflessly cared for her special needs daughter, Mandita, for 67 years. As people spoke at her funeral and told part of her story I couldn’t help but think, "Lord, she was a truly great soul!" What a blessing I had to be her Pastor, to teach her to love the Lord Jesus and His precious word. This made me think of so many others in that "great cloud of witnesses" that have gone before us to be with the Lord. Sister Sally Salas, who my wife would always refer to as "Sal, my pal" as she helped faithfully in the kitchen during our many fellowships and special occasions. Mercy Quihuis who was such a fragrant witness for Christ to her family and in the workplace as well. Ernie Martinez who had a huge heart to serve people both in and out of the church. There are so many others that I can’t mention in this article, but what stands out in my mind, no exaggeration, is they were "great souls" in their commitment, their devotion to Christ, and their witness and service to others.

I have to contrast these with the recent spectacle of Michael Jackson’s life, death and funeral. We were inundated with news reports, stories and biographies of this pop singer as if it was the most important thing in the world. I feel he was eulogized inaccurately, and the State of California spent anywhere between $1.4 million - $4 million dollars to bury him, money they don’t have. This was the same State that prosecuted him as a child molester, but, hey, the ratings were huge! I believe that what we saw was a potent commentary on our culture and the "cult of celebrity" that reigns supreme. I read that more than 1.5 million people tried to get tickets to his funeral service, and it was a world-wide event. You’ve got to be kidding, right? We saw a revealing lesson on how people try to process the great and inevitable mysteries of life and death. It was like people tried to re-write the script of his life, working hard at making him out to be some kind of hero. If we can just say enough good things, if we can market it just right, then we can eulogize someone into heaven after they’re dead. It brought home to me so powerfully that many that are called "great" in this life, will be utter failures in the next when they stand before God. True greatness is distorted by the confused and misplaced priorities of this age. Needless to say, though, death is the great leveler of all mankind! The scripture says, "So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, he will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord's work. At that time God will give to each one whatever praise is coming to him." (1Cor.4:5)

I just peached a sermon in the Prescott Bible Conference I called, "How Do You Spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S?" Americans worship at the altar of success, but the problem is that we’re using the wrong blueprint! Prosperity, power and prestige are viewed as markers of success; but in God’s eyes you can have all of these only to hear one day, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you." If a set of blueprints are written using metric measurements, and you are not using metric tools or measurements, then whatever you’re working on will one day end up being perfectly wrong! This, beloved, will have eternal consequences for all of us.

So what is the purpose of this life? How does someone become a great soul, or better yet, how does someone "grow" a great soul? Jesus simplified it for us by telling us that the first commandment is "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." The companion to this is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." That’s definitely a good place to start to cultivate a great soul. Let me leave you with one final thought. I love the Bible’s testimony of Barnabas, "Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:24) Those are some of the makings of a "great soul"! Lord, give us more of these, and help me to be numbered among them!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I know the Scriptural admonition, "A warrior still dressing for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won." (1Kgs 20:11) I have a fairly good idea of what lies before me, but as we prepare to leave today for Alaska I thought I would set the stage a bit. The reason for the title, "Labor Pains", came from Ernie Rubi who was looking at the race profiles for the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge and said it reminded him of a woman in labor, hence....."labor pains"!

The truth is you can’t escape this imagery in life or in the Bible. It’s been there since the beginning and the curse because of Adam and Eve’s sin. I have to admit to my sisters who are mothers, I know nothing about what you went through to give birth. I am simply using this as an analogy or metaphor since the image of a woman in labor or travail is a very familiar Biblical picture. Whether it is fear and pain taking hold of people "as of a woman in travail" or the prophecy of Jesus, the Messiah, who shall "see the travail of his soul" it is used often. Paul talked about the process of Christ being formed in people and likened it to "I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives." (Gal.4:19) Plus, we know that the signs of the last days take on this exact role because Jesus said "all these are the beginning of sorrows". They would be like a woman going into labor, the pains increasing in frequency and intensity until the actual birth comes. Birth, life, the Second Coming of Christ, or any accomplishment is preceded by "labor pains."

Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes really had a handle on this truth. "What do people really get for all their hard work? I have thought about this in connection with the various kinds of work God has given people to do. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God." (Eccl.3:9-12) Labor, travail and hard work are woven into the fabric of life. There is no escaping this fact. But he says that there is a "connection" between these things and the overall work or plan of God. There is a "timeliness" to God-given labor, it is beautiful not only for what it accomplishes but because it fits into God’s time or plan for each of our lives. Also, it is connected with that sublime reality that God has put "eternity" into people’s hearts: a deep sense of knowing that there’s got to be more to this life than what we’re experiencing. Our work and labor is intended to point us to God! So, what is the conclusion he comes to? He says that people should be happy, enjoy themselves and the fruit of their labors, because ultimately these are all "gifts from God."

This brings me to the race before me, the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge. I am going to try to have fun, enjoy myself (as much as possible when your heart rate is 140+ and you’re climbing a big hill), and be a witness to others of the goodness and glory of our God! If you happen to look at the race course and categories you will see that there are two basic categories for men: Men’s Kneeseat and Men’s Longseat. What we call "kneelers" are those who have full trunk capabilities or who are amputees. They are able to ride in a kneeling position using not only their arms but their entire trunk for power and speed. They are obviously the fastest hand cycling racers. The Longseat division refers to anyone who rides a hand cycle with their legs out of in front of them and usually in a more aerodynamic and reclined position (like me). In this year’s event the Longseat division is the biggest (23 racers) and includes some of the best racers in the world. Like I said in an earlier posting, I am really outclassed but I am shooting for the "old man’s division" which is those who are 55 years old and above (in the longseat division I counted five of us). So, there are definitely some "labor pains" ahead next week. The weather report for Seward, AK where the race begins calls for a high of 56 degrees and a low of 50. And it also calls for rain. So, I doubt if I will be singing in the rain, but I’ll try to be racing in the rain!
There’s a promise I will lay hold of right here. Jesus talked about it relating to His presence in our lives. (Jn.16:21,22) "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." You’ve got to go through some "labor pains" with the goal of finishing and "giving birth"! But, that won’t come until July 26th.
I will keep you posted.
Saturday, July 11, 2009

We are very excited to announce a very special race course for the 25th Anniversary event in 2009. The course was selected after extensive planning and research by event staff, and for the first time, will be visiting a different part of the state, focusing on the South Central coast including Prince William Sound. The new route includes a whole new set of challenges for racers, and builds from short flat stages in the beginning of the week, to a thrilling — and grueling — finale at the top of Hatcher Pass on the final day. The course covers some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, passing five glaciers, climbing over three mountain passes, and visiting a new slate of towns and villages along the way.
There is no doubt, that the course is the toughest in the modern era of the event, and will require every entrant to train specifically for the more than 16,000Â feet of climbing. For the first time, transport between stages will include ferries, making the logistics more challenging than ever while simultaneously showcasing the majestic beauty of the state to racers, friends, family, volunteers and staff.
Also for the first time, all racers will be required to participate in a qualifying event. Event qualifiers are intended to provide an indication of athlete preparedness only. Details about the qualifying process will be announced no later than November 1st. Racers should NOT let this hold up the process for registering, and should be aware that there will be numerous qualifying events throughout the US as well as some in Europe.

Stage 1 Exit Glacier Time Trial, Seward (14 miles)
The opening stage begins on the north end of Seward, at the Exit Glacier. Not only does it promise to set the stage for the week of racing, the out and back time trial takes place on a pristine stretch of road in the shadow of the glacier.

Stage 2 Seward Circuit Race, Seward (10 miles)
The Seward Circuit race showcases the athletes to the people of Seward, and to tourists visiting this beautiful, coastal fishing town. The course is rolling, with a small challenging hill on the back stretch.

Stage 3 Hope to Portage Road Race, Hope (46 miles)
Day two begins with a tough road race that starts in the small town of Hope on the Turnagin arm. This is the first challenge for all racers, and should provide an indicator of who’s fit (and who’s not) as racers climb over Turnagin pass on the way to the portage glacier (on the west side of the tunnel to Whittier).

Stage 4 Girdwood Time Trial, Girdwood (21 miles)The Girdwood Time Trial will be the longest individual time trial in the history of the event. The race takes place on the bike path that connects Girdwood to the town of Bird to the North. Beautiful views and the occasional black bear highlight the path, which is an opportunity for strong riders or TT specialists to grab some time on their rivals.

Stage 5 Tour of Cordova, Cordova (37 miles)Although Cordova is not technically an island, it is only accessible by ferry, and the people who live in this quaint fishing village (where cruise ships do not dock) are thrilled to host a stage of the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge. The stage is a relatively flat one, and takes place on roads that normally have minimal traffic…and expect a great reception from the great people of Cordova.

Stage 6 Thompson Pass Road Race, Valdez (55 miles)As racers arrive on the Ferry from Cordova, they must prepare themselves for the longest (and potentially toughest) stae of the race. Beginning at the terminus of the Alaskan Pipeline just outside of Valdez, the course takes a sharp turn upwards and over the notorious Thompson pass. During the race recon trip in mid-July of 2008, event organizers encountered snow at the summit.

Stage 7 Lake Louise Road Race, Wrangell St Elias Park (54 miles)Beginning at the Wrangell St Elias National Park Visitor Center, this stage covers beautiful terrain as racers make the turn on the Glenn Highway back towards Anchorage. Both a recovery stage and a transitional one, there will be a lot on the line…watch for some surprise attacks before the final Stage 8 where all bets are off.

Stage 8 Hatcher Pass Road Race, Palmer (30 miles)The first-ever mountaintop finish for the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge! This stage is one of the most majestic and absolutely brutal races ever designed for wheelchair and handcycle racers. With an “Alpe D’ Huez” style mystique, racers will climb in the fog towards the old Independence Mine State Park which sits firmly at the Summit. As the finish of the entire event, racers will have to overcome the elements, the steep grade, and 6 days of fatigue to finish this stage…a finish that promises to leave them physically and emotionally spent…and simultaneously satisfied that is is finally…all over.

Friday, July 10, 2009
It started out as a simple desire and commitment to stay healthy; plus it was fun to be able to move faster! Since I've been in a wheelchair from 1973 some kind of physical exercise probably took on a note of necessity. So, I started riding a hand cycle. All was OK while Garett King and I would ride a 9-mile loop on the bike path by the Windmill Inn. Nine miles seemed like a long way at the time and we were pretty proud of ourselves! However, one night Mona and I were having dinner with Rob Scribner, Mike Hagoski and their wives at Macaroni Grill. They had just competed in the El Tour de Tucson bike race and they both had their medals for finishing. I thought, "Hey, I'd like to win a medal myself!" So, this led to a greater commitment, which in turn involved a number of races over the years (although with me the word "race" can be a bit of a stretch at times...riding might be more accurate). Most of the time I was competing against myself, but each time trying to improve.

This has led to the
Sadler's Alaska Challenge: the longest (hardest) wheelchair and hand cycling race in the world, 267 miles over six days. This year is their 25th Anniversary Edition and it begins on July 20, 2009. It is an entirely new course and they've made things much more difficult. This is rapidly approaching. The question I ask myself, and my mind asks me when I am training is "Why are you doing this?" Just look at the race profile and you'll know what I mean. At times, I am not exactly sure, but maybe because I can (at least I hope). The list of racers in this year's event includes real world class athletes, some of the very best wheelchair hand cyclists in the world. I realize I am seriously outclassed in this department. I am under no delusions. However, what gives me motivation is that there is a 55 year old and above sub-category (I call it "the old man division"). That really is my goal.

conflict in all of this is that I do have a real job, more than that, a calling as a pastor and preacher of the Gospel. That's where I find my true and greatest joy: in studying the Scriptures, in preaching God's Word, and pastoring God's precious people. But to compete in a 267-mile, six-day stage race does require that I ramp up my commitment to train and prepare and increase my fitness level. My conflict is that I don't want to neglect what really matters in the process. So I've tried my best to juggle all of these things and still "keep my head in the game". So, I ask for a little grace here!

Can I find some Biblical parallels and applications? Uhhhm, a preacher can find Biblical parallels in just about anything! In this case, though, it is not a stretch since the Bible frequently uses athletic metaphors for the Christian life. Paul exhorted Timothy,
"train yourself to godliness." The accomplishing of any goal requires training, and living a godly life is certainly no exception. Paul's charge to others and his own personal commitment was "run that you might obtain" (finish the race and winning the prize). He could also triumphantly say at the end of his life "I have finished the race" highlighting for us the need to learn the importance of finishing.
None of these guarantees how I will do in this event but they are valid reference points for my life.

So, for those who are interested (and I definitely understand there are bigger things) I will try to give you a "daily dose" of what went on and how things are going during the race. One other important reason for this is that a number of my health care providers (who have a vested interest in keeping me healthy!) have graciously donated resources in order to purchase a new bike and compete at this level. So, you can check our church website for daily postings at Or, you can go directly to

I am definitely looking beyond this week of competition to something more exciting:
revival with evangelist Stacy Dillard, July 26th-29th. Then, our Marriage Retreat at the Westin La Paloma Resort on August 6th, 7th with Pastor Scott Lamb. And even better: preaching and serving in the greatest church in all the world, The Door - Christian Fellowship Church in our beloved city of Tucson!
Friday, July 3, 2009

Some of my most vivid memories growing up were the celebrations surrounding the 4th of July, Independence Day! In Massachusetts, where I grew up, this was a big event: large parades, BBQ's, fireworks etc. I am conscious that living in the Southwest people don't celebrate the 4th with quite the same vigor. Maybe it's the heat, but there's more of an overall laid back approach to the 4th. That shouldn't keep us from a little bit of "flag waving" though! This is especially true since it seems that from our President down, including lots of Hollywood types, there is a perverse way and delight in putting American down.

Is America perfect? No, of course not, but the
"American Experiment" certainly has a unique place and heritage in the history of the world. It is firmly rooted on the solid rock of freedom and liberty. Pastor Rob Scribner said, "The leaders of that revolution were much more concerned about the tyranny of the English than the other social issues that are brought up today to discredit their character. What they did do is STILL their greatest achievement: giving freedom from the tyrannical rule of England and giving their posterity the ability to chart their own course which was distinctly Christian." We are indeed a nation conceived in liberty! Acquaint yourself again with some of the words from the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Freedom is written into the DNA of our nation's history, heritage and identity. From our beginnings, people came to our shores for the promise of freedom, opportunity, and a better life for themselves, their children and their grand-children. That's why the words of the Pledge of Allegiance say,
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Why talk about America and freedom so proudly and passionately? One reason is that freedom is under attack today from both outside forces and influences within. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, some of our most cherished freedoms are being taken away from us. Some of this is being done in the name of
"re-inventing America"? I didn't know that it needed to be re-invented! It is so easy for people to take freedom for granted and lose sight of its importance and the huge cost to purchase and maintain it.

For you and I as Christians, the connection between spiritual and theological freedom and political liberty is unmistakable. The true roots of freedom are always spiritual and moral. To read the Gospels is to understand the innate role freedom plays in God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. There are so many verses but the one that stands out in my mind is (Gal.5:13,14) that says,
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

What do we need to take from this passage in order to
"think Biblically" about freedom?

  1. We have a glorious heritage: "for you, brethren, have been called to liberty." True freedom is freedom from the greatest slavery of all: sin. (Jn.8:34;36) exults in this, "Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin....Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

  2. Beware of a dangerous distortion: "only use not your liberty as an opportunity for the flesh." Freedom is easily misunderstood and misused as a license to indulge our sin nature. This is not freedom. When I was in San Jose, CA last week, there was a banner for a 4th of July parade called, "The Rose, White & Blue Parade" celebrating gay pride. There was something disturbing about people's attempts to tie their cause to our nation's founding and purpose, thinking there was some kind of moral equivalency involved.

  3. Answer freedom's call: "but through love serve one another." This reminds us that true freedom doesn't just emphasize our "rights" but calls us to responsibility. This is a lesson that is being lost on our "entitlement culture." Love and obedience to God and one another is the true guardian of our precious liberty.

In closing, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's historic, "I Have A Dream" speech kept echoing the refrain,
"Let freedom ring!" That is the precious gift and responsibility given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Happy 4th of July!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
OK, I'm going to jump in. After all, it is the new millennium. We're living in the information age, and technology has made available numerous communication tools that can be especially useful to us who are "truth bringers". Along with my main forum of preaching in the public assembly I thought I would make use of the pastor's blogspot on our church's website. I am wanting to call this, "THINKING BIBLICALLY" not because I am an expert on every subject, but I am called to preach the truth of the Gospel with the goal of helping people "think Biblically" or have a "Christian mind." So, I thought this first post would help set the stage for this...for keeping your head in the game!
What exactly is a "Christian" mind and what is its importance? It is not being religious, and it is not just going to church services. A Christian mind is to have God's mind ("let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus") and to think God's thoughts about things. In the final
analysis the important thing is always "What does God think or say? What is the will of God in this situation or concerning this matter?" This is what should shape our thinking, our world view, our attitudes and our decisions. The will of God is the wisdom of God; and the wisdom of God is the key to skillful living!
The Beatles sang a song
called "Act Naturally." Besides my age, I guess I remember this because it was on of the few songs that Ringo Starr, the drummer, sang. the lyrics talked about "They're going to put me in the movies. They're going to make a big star out of me....and all I gotta do is act naturally." The Christian life is not a call to "act naturally" but it is a call to live supernaturally! Scripture is pretty clear about what happens when we act naturally: Gal 5:19-21 "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Instead, we are called to "walk in the Spirit" that produces its own supernatural fruit in our lives. Here's where the Christian mind plays such an important role. Rom 8:6-9 "If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you
." That's what we think Biblically!
The Apostle Paul was unequaled in his ability to diagnose the human condition so precisely (our personal B.C. and A.D.). In (
Eph.4:17-24) he tells that as Christians we should no longer walk like the rest of the Gentiles do. So much of what he deals with highlights people's thinking: "in the futility of their minds"..."closed minds full of darkness"..."they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts"..."they don't care anymore abut right and wrong." Then he contrasts this with the difference that Jesus makes in our lives: "but that isn't what you were taught when you learned about Christ." We are new creatures. Our obligation as Christians is to be constantly changing for the better by putting off the "old man" and putting on the "new man". There's a tiny verse inserted in the middle that gives us the key to this dynamic process. He says, "and be renewed in the spirit of your minds". Think Biblically! It mirrors a similar exhortation he gave to the Romans, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Rom.12:2a) The outcome of "thinking Biblically" is that we will come to know what God wants us to do (the will of God) and that there's no better way to live!
Before I finish, let me remind you that a truly Christian mind is a powerful thing. It's also the thing that the world
relentlessly and viciously attacks. It will not tolerate you being out-of-step and it relishes calling good, evil and evil, good. "Transformers" may be successful as a movie or entertainment but the truth is the world really doesn't like those transformed to think, live and love like Jesus Christ! To BE a "transformer" is a different matter and it is a matter of "thinking Biblically."
"Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle. Sow a lifestyle, reap a destiny. Sow a destiny, reap an eternity." It all begins with you and I keeping our heads in the game!

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