Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I want to ride my bicycle

I am a bit bike obsessed.

All winter long I've been thinking about bicycling.

A couple months back I bought a new bike that has the curled handle bars. When I ride it, I'm bent so far over that with each pedal, my leg shoves up against my ribs. I've wondered if its bike seat was designed by the same engineers that were used for the Spanish Inquisition.

I still have my old bike. I got on it yesterday. I could hardly believe how comfortable it was. But it is not as fast or efficient as my new bike.

It's not like I need an efficient bike for I think the reason I ride my bike is for the exercise. But when I picked the bike I was going to pedal to church on this morning, I couldn't get myself to choose the old bike.

(A large dog chased me on the trail. The owner of the dog pleaded with him to come back, but this bent over object was too tantalizing. With the adrenaline boost the dog gave me, I was zipping along at almost 30 miles an hour while the dog kept his nose (and teeth) inches from my hand for over a mile.)

As I mentioned, with my new bike, everything hurts. When I pay attention, I can feel pain in my legs from every push down on the pedal. I dread each hill for I know my lungs will be demanding more oxygen then I can put into them.

I don't have a thing for pain. When I was a teenager and most of my male peers were demonstrating to each other how much pain they could handle, I stayed out of their way.

But I wonder if bicycling did not include pain if I would be so drawn to it, as I have no interest in riding a motorized bike.

I do know that I can't bike unless I have some place to go.

Roxanne needed something from the store in Biwabik yesterday. It's only four miles down the road. It would only take her a few minutes. I begged her, “Let me pick it up on my bike

“It's a lot of stuff,” she told me.

“I've got a big back-pack,” I told her.

When she opened up the back pack, she saw I had forgotten an item. I was going to tell her I'd go back, I didn't mind at all. But I knew she had already shown me enough kindness in letting me pedal in the first place.

One day Roxanne was in our living room talking to one of her friends about who was doing what and when and why. I could have just gone to the bedroom and read, but I didn't want to be antisocial so I said I had to go and ride my bike. People can accept that. I'm bike obsessed. But as I had no place to go, I could hardly bear it. My brain kept asking me if I was having fun yet and I knew I wasn't because all I felt was the pain from biking.

Like biking, life involves a lot of pain. Life has plenty of pleasures too, of course, but pain is always there, and more pain is always just around the corner.

I connected with an old college friend on facebook. We both shared a bit of where life had taken us over the past 40 years. He summed up the information I had given him and wrote, “You've had good life.” Which is true. But every day, every month, every year, every decade, some really difficult things have happened to me. As Job's buddy Eliphaz told him, “A man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward.”

So what's the deal?

I think life, like biking, has to be about the destination. Our life is a journey, and it's a journey to some place.

When I see an adult slowly and cheefully riding his bicycle, I am so disdainful. “Do they think they are kids? What are they accomplishing? And why do they have to be in my way?”

Unless I'm riding with someone, I always ride hard. Which is the reason I experience continual pain while riding. I'm going some place. I need to get there. Which, curiously, lessens the pain because I'm not thinking about the pain but about the destination.

I think our Lord has saturated our lives with pain because He wants us to understand every day that we are on journey that has a destination. At any given moment, if our brain asks us if we are having fun yet, most of us can't say 'yes,' nor should we say 'yes.' Our Lord needs us to understand there is more to life than mere mortality. He emphasizes that with a big exclamation point at the end of our lives. Suffering intensifies with age. The bones ache, the heart breaks, the soul falters and fails. But our Lord has a destination for us and it's a really good destination.

At the end of my bicycle journeys; after work, after church, after going to the store, I arrive at the place where there is someone I love.

As a Believer, my present has pain. The pain keeps me focused on my future. Each year as I get older, it more becomes my dominant reality. That's because it's a really good future, for I'll be with the One who loves me and desires me even more than my wife, and my kids, and my grandkids. 

I do wonder though, will there be bicycles in heaven?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Therefore there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on the Day. And not only for me but also to all who have loved His appearing. II Tim 4:7 & 8

Sunday, April 13, 2014

not chosen

A very good thing about marriage is in-laws. You choose your spouse. And with your spouse comes a whole bunch of people who you don’t choose, nor did they choose you.

When I was in college we could choose our room-mates. But our dormitories were four rooms to a living room. In the room next to ours was this huge and really happy kid named Terry. He was happy about everything, especially when he came back from a band trip, which usually seemed to be at two in the morning. He would come in to our room and since I was the smallest person in the room, he would pick me up out of bed, carry me outside and hang me up-side down over the dormitory railings three stories above the ground. This infuriated my room-mate. He found it dangerous, unnecessary, and an unfortunate interruption of everyone’s sleep. I think I might have been angry too, if my room-mate had not been so angry for me.

But we also had a basketball player in one of the other rooms. He was a quiet guy until some of his friends from the basketball team came over. Then he was loud, and so were his friends, till late at night, until I came out in my whitey-tighties (that had turned pink because I had accidently washed them with my maroon sweatshirt). “Everyone leave,” I would say. And they would leave.
My room-mate would say to me, “Larry, you can’t just tell people to leave. You need to be tactful. This is their living space too.”
 He was right. I did need to be more tactful.

My wife’s family are better than good people. Without exception, they would give the shirt off their back to anyone in need. They also have a huge heart for the gospel and a passion for the Scriptures.
When my future wife first brought me home to meet her family, they were surprised. My wife was the youngest of six children, and her siblings all loved their little sister. She was a typical youngest, full of pranks, always interested in getting a laugh. But none of them laughed when they first saw me. They did wonder if, perhaps, there was a mistake.

This morning, thirty five years later, my brother-in-law and I had another of our discussions. After it had gone on for about two hours, my wife texted to me, “please.” She had heard the same discussion before. She said she had heard it hundreds of times before, which I think is an exaggeration.

I told my brother-in-law I really thought when we came right down to it, we were on the same page.
My wife told me later we were not on the same page, in fact we weren’t even in the same book.

I respect my brother-in-law. As I mentioned earlier, my wife comes from an exceptional family. But we do approach certain things from a different perspective. Which is a good thing.  If we only associated with those who were just like ourselves, that would be unfortunate. We all know of insular groups, like the Amish, pre WWII Japan, tribal groups that live in the jungle or on the tundra. I don’t perceive these groups as vibrant, and growing, or joyful.

As Believers we have a common bond in the Lord Jesus. We are even called a family. Paul writes to the Ephesians,  “But you who were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.”

Since I turned 60 I’ve been thinking a lot about my past. Just last week I reconnected with several college friends through facebook. It gave me a great deal of joy to again reestablish a relationship with friends whom I had not heard from in almost 40 years. My old college friends were friends that I do not presently have as part of my long established social/spiritual circle. In college I had a diverse group of friends, who, I’ve learned, have become even more diverse.

Clearly our Lord loves variety. Look at His creation. During His earthly ministry, His delight was in all those who others thought He had best not associate.

I am so very thankful my in-laws actually do like having me around. They didn’t choose me. They never would have chosen me. But for some odd reason, their sister chose me, and the Lord chose me. And that means we’re part of the same family, odd as I might still be to them.

Which is a good thing.

For all of us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


My wife is such a nice person. She talks to everybody. This morning she saw a lady by herself in the resort where we are staying. “I wonder what her story is?” Roxanne said.

We traveled about 40 miles north to hike the trail at Temperance River State Park. Before we arrived, we stopped at the Koho Cafe for lunch. Just as we pulled in to the Cafe parking lot, that same lady pulled in. Immediately Roxanne and this lady began to talk and to ask about each other. “You've been married 33 years?” said the lady. “Well, congratulations.”

“Why congratulations?” I thought to myself.

Of course I didn't say it. I don't talk to strangers, if I can help it. And obviously, that's where Roxanne and I are very different. In fact there are a number of ways in which we are different. She is hopeful, and optimistic. I'm a realist. She's a planner. I tend to be impulsive, especially if it's a good deal. She's so observant. As we were walking back from our hike today she pointed to an animal track, “That track wasn't there when we walked in.” Amazingly, I hadn't noticed.

We do have similarities. We both like to hike, and ski and bicycle. We both are easily amused. We like to work on projects together. We both love the Lord and are very grateful to Him. The favorite time of day for both of us is early in the morning with a cup of strong coffee. She prays and reads the Scriptures, I read the Scriptures and my commentaries.

So, you ask (or maybe you don't) what is our secret for this long marriage of ours?

Are you ready?


Love is patient, and kind...it does not seek it's own way.

More than anything, I do love my wife. I'm not a fool. I know I've got a good deal. Any time I get a little cranky or feel a bit lazy, I think, “You toad, Rodgers. This girl likes you. Who else is going to like you? Settle down and just do it.” Then always Roxanne says to me, “Thank you.”

Our kids all came home last week to celebrate my 60th birthday. After Roxanne and I had gone to bed, they stayed up and played charades. Their topic was Dad. They had a long list of Dad things. After the game was over, my daughter-in-law said to my son, “Your dad is sort of quirky, isn't he?” Roxanne's not quirky. Though sometimes our children wonder about her sense of humor in the way she relates to her grandchildren.

After we finished our lunch, Roxanne suggested we get dessert. Now this is something we totally have in common. We never do dessert, especially at a restaurant. “Not interested,” I said.

“This place is known for it's desserts,” she said. “Would you at least eat a bite?”

“No,” I said. “But get what you want.”

To my surprise, she did. She went up to the cafe counter to ask for dessert and there was that lady again. The lady said to her, “For your anniversary, I wanted to buy you both dessert. The waitress and I were just discussing what type of dessert you and your husband would like. We both agreed on carrot cake, but we couldn't figure out the other dessert.”

“That is so nice,” said my wife. “We had carrot cake for our wedding cake.”

The cake was brought to our table. We each ate about two bites of it. We don't do desserts, but it was a nice little coincidence, a nice little encouragement from our Lord.

So, what's really our marriage secret? The Lord. He's been awfully good to us for about 33 years now.

Monday, April 7, 2014

appreciating what's good

My wife and I are celebrating our 33 wedding anniversary up on the North Shore. We went on a hike this morning up the river at Gooseberry Falls State Park. It drizzled and rained most of the time we were out but the temperature was a pleasant 35 degrees. We hiked on top of snow that was mostly two feet deep. Along some of the wooden walkways, the snow had melted on either side where people had not walked this winter. So the wooden boards on the right and the left were free of snow while the middle was an elevated path of snow. Occasionally one of our feet would break through and we would sink in the snow to beyond our knees. Gooseberry has five waterfalls.  I tried and tried to take pictures, for it is an interesting sight to see the rushing water through large gaps in the snow that earlier had been totally encapsulated with snow. How does snow cover a rushing waterfall? Someday I hope to be on the North Shore during a heavy snow fall so I can see. This past winter was particularly cold. Maybe the waterfalls all froze. Maybe they always freeze.

I wish I could more fully appreciate the beauty of nature. My mother and my grandfather were great nature appreciators. My grandfather was a preacher, the type of preacher that novelists always write about. Though he was true to his wife, his life did not match up with what he preached. He was not a kind man. He held grudges and held many in contempt. But he was a great appreciator. He loved good music. Long before rock-n-roll, he had some impressive speakers on his hi-fi.  From them, Mozart, and Chopin, and Vivaldi could be heard as they ought to be heard, at full volume. He also loved good food and good wine and good brandy. And nature. 

He was not impressed with the woman my father chose to marry. She was a farm girl, the daughter of a ne’re-do-well farmer, a farmer who would help every other farmer in the area, but never got around to taking care of his own farm. My father met my mother after he returned from the War. He was a student at Wheaton College, as was my mother. They married right after my father graduated. My mother took a break from college. She only had a semester to go. She always meant to go back. But money was always tight and so was time. My grandfather had great respect for education. He would not allow himself not to buy any book that he thought an educated religious person should have. Though he read whatever book he purchased, I don’t believe he was an appreciator of good books for he had some books in his library that I think, if there was a purgatory, they would be obligatory reading there. 

But I remember visiting my grandparents as a kid where they had a cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. My mom and dad and myself were all in the back of his Mercedes Benz while my grandfather was loudly exclaiming the beauties of the setting sun. My grandmother was in the front seat doing her best not to be annoyed, so she and my father were deep in conversation about somebody somewhere who did something, or other. But my mother quietly expressed her agreement. I thought my grandfather was hard of hearing but he heard my mom. He stopped the car and ordered her into the front seat. My grandmother happily came back with my father and myself. And Grandpa and Mom spent the rest of the trip exuding over whatever they saw around the next bend of the road.

 I think I learned from my grandfather to be an appreciator. Like him, I can’t tolerate music at a low volume. I do enjoy Vivaldi, but the Chicago Symphony has nothing on Linda Ronstadt. Among my great composers are Cat Stevens and Keith Green.

My grandfather bought me my first Chronicle of Narnia. I’m still a great appreciator of C.S. Lewis. I used to read his book, “Till We Have Faces” every year.  The last time I read it, I was in a bit of a melancholy time in my life. “What’s wrong?” people would ask me. “I don’t know,” I’d say. I think it’s the book I’m reading.”

But as I’ve gotten older, I can’t read like I used to. Either I get fidgety, or I start falling asleep. So I hike, or bike, or cross country ski. When my body moves, my brain moves.

Which is what happened today. While hiking I was working on a unified theory of the Bible. What does  the Israelite annihilation of the Canaanites, the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, the trials of Job, and “His merciful kindness endureth forever,” have in common? What do Judas and the Mary who Jesus met outside the tomb have in common? What does the prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk have in common with, “And every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head?” I think I’m on track to figuring out the first question. I think I know the answer to the second. But  I need more information about kid boiling to figure out the answer to the third question.

I do wish I could be like my mother and grandfather and appreciate nature as it ought to be appreciated. But I very much appreciate being out of doors. It helps me think. It helps me with questions. And sometimes with answers. Which I appreciate.

 I appreciate good questions.

Even more, I appreciate good answers.