Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lose Weight the Easy Way

Most people want to lose weight and get in shape. People may be content with their fitness level, but they would prefer to be in better shape. The problem isn’t a lack of desire. The problem isn’t that people don’t know what they need to do. Eat less. Exercise more. This isn’t rocket science. So, why don’t people do it?

I spent several years knowing what I needed to do but not doing it. Concerns about my health convinced me to rearrange some priorities. There are things I don’t do anymore because riding a bicycle is high on my priority list. But the reality is that we can’t always do that. Work, church, family, life. These things constantly pull us away from our fitness goals.

There is an article in Bicycling titled America’s Most Bike-Crazy Mayor and it highlights Betsy Price’s efforts here in Fort Worth to get people riding bicycles. They quote Betsy Price as saying, “I realized if I was going to maintain an active lifestyle as mayor, it would be vital to find ways to incorporate it into my city activities.” I love that quote because that is the thing that people either don’t get or they do it poorly. For Betsy Price, the concept translates into doing rolling and walking town hall meetings. She gives city residents the opportunity to communicate with her, which is a job requirement, but rather than this taking away from her ability to exercise, it enhances it.

We may find ourselves saying, “I don’t have time to exercise.” We may feel guilty about it, but the reality is that it is true. But what if we incorporate exercise into our high priority things? What does that look like?

Bicycle commuting is one of the first things that comes to mind. If I were to bicycle commute rather than drive and then ride afterward, I would get more exercise, but it would take me less time to do it. I don’t do that because my day would have to start even earlier and some of the streets I would have to travel make me a little nervous, especially in the dark. But if I lived within three miles of work, it would take me less time to ride my bicycle than to drive, and I would get exercise “for free.”

There must be other ways we can incorporate activity into the things we’re doing anyway. I’ve heard of people gaining weight because the office copy machine was moved closer to their desk. I’ve also heard of managers turning their staff meetings into walking meetings, in which they walked the halls instead of meeting in a conference room.

Church stuff bothers me. Have you ever noticed how much church stuff involves sitting or eating and sometimes sitting and eating? At our church, we have tons of pillows that people leave at church because people sit so much that they feel uncomfortable. Instead of sitting on those pillows, we would be better off if we would have a pillow fight once in a while.

With as many things as we have going on in our lives, there will always be things that take higher priority than exercise. And sometimes that may even be something like sitting around watching television or reading a book. There are times that we need the down time. These days, it is rare that it takes less time to exercise than what it does not to exercise, but if we find ways to combine that exercise with things we are already doing it will reduce the time required. And if we set things up so that doing the high priority things forces us to exercise, we won’t even consider the excuses we have for not exercising.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why Don't You Ride a Bicycle

Why don’t you ride a bicycle? Because I ride a bicycle, I have many people telling me why they don’t. I kind of think that these people feel guilty about riding. While I would like to see more people riding bicycles, if you don’t ride a bicycle, that’s your loss. You don’t have to explain it to me. But here are a few reasons why people don’t ride bicycles.

My balance isn’t very good.

I suppose this is a ligament reason. I don’t give balance much thought. A bicycle that’s going above 4 mph or so will balance on its own. The faster you go the easier it is to balance. I realize some people have health problems that mess with their balance, but I wonder if the real problem is that people are just afraid to go fast enough to keep the bicycle upright. Besides which, research shows that riding a bicycle can help people develop balance skills.

I don’t know how.

While I’ve never had someone tell me this, CBS News reports that 8% of American adults never learned to ride a bicycle. That means that for every 100 people you know, about 8 of them never learned to ride a bicycle. You don’t hear much about these people because it is embarrassing. Who wants to tell their friends that they’ve never learned to ride a bike? Even kids reach an age where the embarrassment of admitting they don’t know how to ride may prevent them from learning. As an adult, you not only don’t know how to ride but you may not know who can help you learn.

I’m uncomfortable riding in city traffic.

For people who know how to ride and are physically able, this seems like it is the most common reason. It fascinates people when I tell them that I hop on my bicycle at home and ride across town to places like the Fort Worth Stockyards, which is 15 miles from my house by car. There are aspects of it that make me nervous as well, but after a few times of loading my bicycle in my truck to drive 10 miles to get to a trail I began to question whether I could get there without the extra time spend driving and loading. I turned to Google Maps for help. They have a feature that will help you select a bicycle route. Rather than choosing the shortest distance, it chooses streets with less traffic. It doesn’t always get it right, but I’ve used it to find routes with very little traffic. Were it not for being forced to ride on either Hemphill Street or Sycamore School Road, I could find a route to most places I want to go without encountering much traffic. But even that’s not bad, if I choose the right time to ride.

I don’t have a bicycle.

Obviously, if you don’t have a bicycle you can’t ride one, but this is like saying that you don’t eat cake because you don’t have cake. If you want cake, you can either make one or buy one. If you want to ride a bicycle, you can buy one or borrow one. With bike share programs becoming more popular, there are a lot of people riding bicycles who don’t own a bicycle.

I don’t have a place to ride.

This is related to the concern over riding in city traffic, but it’s more common among people in a rural area. Unlike in the city, in the country, you have just a few narrow roads that cut through the area. Traffic isn’t heavy, but the traffic that is there is moving very quickly. The drivers aren’t expecting to come over a hill or around a bend and see a bicycle. The only solution I know of is to ride with a group. Drivers will spot a group of cyclists more quickly and are more likely to be looking for bicycles if they’ve already seen one.

I don’t like getting sweaty.

There’s not much I can do about that. Get over it.

It hurts when I ride.

Serious cyclists tend to be masochists, but there’s no reason why pain must be associated with riding a bicycle. Some pain will make you stronger, but some pain is an indication of problems, so it depends on the nature of the pain to determine whether it is a good reason not to ride. If it comes from sore legs or a feeling of being saddle sore, the solution is to ride more and more often. For many years, I was riding only in warm weather. After weeks being off the bike, I found that it was difficult for me to ride fifteen miles. I would have to work up to more every year. Some pain is an indication that your bicycle doesn’t fit. A bicycle that is too small or too large can cause back pain. The wrong saddle can cause pain there. Lack of lubrication can cause pain. You may be pushing on the pedals very hard to overcome friction or a heavy bike.

I don’t want to.

When you get down to it, this is the real reason people don’t ride bicycles. I’ve been there. I remember driving home from work and looking for flags to tell me how windy it was. If the flags were standing straight out, I would decide that it was too windy to ride. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. There’s a point at which the more you ride the more you want to ride. I think it is at that point where you ride forty miles and you know you could ride a lot more. Or maybe it is when you climb a couple of steep hills that happen to be on the route you are taking rather than looking for a way around. When you want to ride, all the excuses go away.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sheltered From Anger

The light was red as I rolled to the well-worn stop line on my two wheeled conveyance. It was the last major street I would have to cross before reaching home, the endpoint for a fifty mile ride. A small white car that had been sitting at the drive-thru window of a convenience store pulled across the street and came up behind me. It hadn’t been there for more than a couple of seconds when I heard a man’s voice, “Go!”

I looked up at the red light and then yelled over my shoulder, “It’s red.”

“Get out of the way! I’m going to bump your mother f_____g a__!”

“The light’s red,” I yelled again. I thought about what would happen if he carried out his threat. His front bumper would hit my rear wheel first. Aside from the damage it would do to my bicycle, it would knock me off my feet.

A few seconds passed. The light turned green and I crossed the road, hoping that he wouldn’t follow. He didn’t. He made his right turn and the situation was over.

Though situations like this one are rare, they do happen. I can only guess why this particular guy was impatient and why he wanted me to break the law so that he could make a right turn on red. It seems like some people get impatient around bicycles even when the bicycle isn’t really causing them an inconvenience. But another thought occurred to me.

If I had been driving my truck, he still would’ve been in just as much of a hurry. I would’ve still been blocking him from making a right turn on red. He might have even yelled at me. The difference is that I wouldn’t have heard him yelling. With layers of metal and glass between us and the air conditioner running, I would’ve be oblivious to anything he said and it is unlikely I would’ve seen him do anything.

When I tell people why I think they should ride a bicycle, one of the things I mention is that when you ride a bicycle you interact more with people in your community. The metal and glass shells on our cars insolate us from human interaction. But while on a bicycle, I’ve have spoken to neighbors I know only by sight. I’ve have strangers stop me to ask directions. I’ve had people stop to talk while I was locking up my bicycle at a restaurant. The angry guy in the white car is just another of my neighbors choosing to communicate with me.

We can chalk this situation up to an attitude of entitlement. The guy in the little white car felt that he was entitled to make a right turn on red, even though there was another vehicle in front of him. Perhaps he saw it as just a bicycle and since he was driving a car, he deserved to pull forward. In any case, he felt entitled and that is just another word for pride. Pride is sinful.

I don’t like getting into these situations, but when we remove the shell that prevents us from communicating with the world around us, not all communication will be the kind we like. We are going to encounter sinful people who become angry, call us names, and curse at us, even when we are doing nothing wrong. These are the people Jesus died for.

When you think about it, we ought to encounter people like this more frequently than we do. When you remove the mask of politeness that so many people put on, this is what the world is like. The question is, why don’t we see it? To that I say it is because we are a bunch of monks. We hide out in our homes until we choose to go somewhere, but the places we choose are those places where we expect to encounter people who will respect us. We go to church, where people are like minded. We go to stores and restaurants where people are paid to be nice to us. In between these places we ride around in privacy boxes, so that people who are just feet from us are prevented from communicating beyond a blow of the horn or a middle finger raised in anger. Whether it is out on the roadways or in other places, if we are so sheltered that we don’t encounter people who express anger toward us, we are too sheltered to have an impact on the world.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Why Would You Spend That Much for a Bicycle?

Walmart will sell you a bicycle for $80. But maybe you don’t like the cheap model. If so, they have bicycles priced as high as $300. Since so many people shop at Walmart, that’s about would people expect to pay for a bicycle, but some bicycles are priced in excess of $10,000. Your average cycling enthusiast doesn’t pay nearly that much. Most of the bikes you’ll find in a bicycle shop are priced between $300 and $2,000. Even that is enough to shock people who are accustomed to Walmart prices.

Most bicycles look alike, so some people struggle with understanding why it costs more to buy a bicycle from a bike shop. It all comes down to components. Just like when you buy a computer you can buy one for a low price if you don’t need the latest and greatest components, you can buy a bicycle with lesser components for cheap, but the better components will cost you. The better components are lighter weight, less resistant, easier to use, and less likely to fail.

When considering how much you should spend, consider what you intend to use the bicycle for. Some people think they need only consider price and appearance, but this is a mistake. There is an implied use that they are considering without realizing it. Some people want a bicycle because they want to go for an evening ride around the neighborhood with the family. Maybe they load them up and carry them to a trail once in a while. For these people, a Walmart bike is probably adequate. If they can afford more, they would be better off with a bicycle store bike, but there’s no reason to spend a lot of money on a bike that is going to see little use.

Walmart bikes are good for about 2,000 miles. That’s about the time the bottom bracket fails. If you’re willing to do the work yourself, you can fix them, but they’re really designed to last about 2,000 miles and then you throw them away and buy a new one. If you take them to a bike shop for service, you can easily spend as much as you paid for the bike getting everything repaired.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re big into racing bicycles, you’re going to be looking for the lightest weight bikes that can handle a lot of stress. On a road bike, you don’t want to try to shift gears and not be able to because you are pushing so hard on the pedals. On a mountain bike, you don’t want to come over a jump and the handlebars break loose under the strain. On any bike, you don’t want the brakes to give out on you. You want the best bike you can afford.

But in between you have people who are out for their exercise. These people ride frequently and put in a significant number of miles. They are looking for comfort. They are looking for reliability. They are looking for maintainability. They are looking for ease of use.

There are also people who want to commute using a bicycle. Any bicycle can be used as a commuter bike, but when you’re on a bicycle every day, you become more selective. There are certain features that you want. You want it to be easy to ride.

It seems to me that the more time people spend on a bicycle the more they are willing to spend on a bicycle. And when people spend more on a bicycle they are more likely to spend more time on a bicycle.

Monday, August 29, 2016

BMA of Texas Non-meeting



Maybe I won’t go.
While trying to plan my vacation time for the rest of the year, I pulled up the schedule for the BMA of Texas annual meeting. Since the meeting is close this year, it occurred to me that I might be able to put in a few hours at work before heading to the meeting. My big question was, when do I need to be there? I looked at the first day and what do I see? 1:00 pm – message, 2:15 pm – message, 3:15 pm – message, 8:00 pm – message. In between we have worship, question & answer, and a concert. There’s some other stuff in there that I don’t know what it is, but it looks to me like there is absolutely no business on day one. Keep in mind that the whole purpose of this meeting is to hear reports from the departments of the association and to conduct business. It isn’t until 2:00 pm on day two that we see anything that looks like business. But it looks like the plan is to cram all of the departments into an hour and thirty minutes. After that, it is more break-out sessions, preaching, and a commissioning service. Then on Wednesday, they’re going to have an Open House at the BMA Building.
Don’t get me wrong. Preaching is good. This is why Baptist associations have always had an annual message. Recently, it has become customary to have an annual message and also to have a president’s message. Then people started wanting to combine symposiums with the annual meeting. But with this meeting, it appears that we have completely lost sight of the purpose of the meeting.
Why do we have annual meetings in the first place? To answer that, you first need to consider why Baptist churches are members of associations. Most churches have fewer than 100 members and yet Missionary Baptists believe that each church has a responsibility to preach the gospel throughout the world. That is our commission. But our church budgets don’t allow for that. But if a few churches pool their resources, they can put a missionary to work. If hundreds of churches pool their resources, they can accomplish a great deal. This pooling of resources occurs in associations. But who decides how the money is spent? Every church has as much right to say as any other church. So, we come together at an annual meeting. We wouldn’t have room to have all the members show up, so each church sends messengers, who have the responsibility of speaking and voting on behalf of the church. For these messengers to make decisions, it is necessary for them to hear reports from any departments that might exist. Then, based on those reports, they decide whether the association should continue funding those departments, whether the funding should be reduced or increased, as well as what direction those departments should be given to carry out the work of the association. These messengers decide who should lead these departments. Do we need to focus more on starting churches? Do we need to focus more on strengthening the churches that are members of the association? That is what these messengers are tasked with deciding. This is why we have annual meetings.
It is good to have an annual message at an associational meeting. As the messengers make decisions, it is necessary for them to seek the will of God. Preaching can help direct them toward the will of God. But there is also doing the will of God. Suppose you went to church on Sunday and heard a sermon and you were convicted to go on visitation. So, you show up for Tuesday night visitation and the visitation leader says, “We have a special guest tonight who is going to preach to us. If we have time, we’ll spend a few minutes doing visitation after that.” Of course, that would be silly. But that’s what I see happening with associational meetings. The business portion of the meeting is where the messengers do the work they were sent to do, but they are unable to do it because preaching is crowding it out.
Since I’m not a messenger, maybe I won’t go. Or I may just go for the business meeting, but if the reports are going to be limited to ten minutes, I’m not sure there’s anything to be gained by going. There’s not much they can tell us in ten minutes.
Maybe I won’t go.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Examples

During the summer before I graduated college, I worked in fire protection. One of my tasks was to college fire extinguishers from the various locations in the factory where I worked, empty them, replace any damaged parts, refill them, and place them back where they belonged. Occasionally, we would find one that was clogged up, so it wouldn’t discharge. That was the whole point of the exercise. We needed to find the ones that wouldn’t work, so that people would have access to a working extinguisher. Shortly after we began that task, we discovered one of these and one of the guys we were working for helped us with it. He removed the nozzle while it was still under pressure hurriedly positioned it so that it would dump into the container we were supposed to empty these things into. Sometime later, I was working alone and ran into the same situation. Rather than releasing the air pressure, like I should have, I tried doing what he had done. Instead of the result he had, I ended up with a more predictable result. I had dry chemical all over me, all over the room, and everywhere. And then I had to clean up the mess.

There were things to learn from that experience, but one of the things I find interesting is why I did what I did. Had I not been following the example of someone more experienced, I would’ve thought it through, released the pressure and then removed the nozzle, so I could work on it. We learn bad methods by watching bad examples. In that situation, I should’ve been able to recognize that it was a bad example, but I didn’t. We have many situations where we learn from bad examples.

When I was a kid, we would go to Fifth Sunday Meetings. The churches we would go to would put out a feast that would put what we have at church to shame. Rural churches put out better meals than city churches because there’s no restaurant or store to buy the food from. And some of it is fresh from the garden. In any case, I remember loading my plate with food and then going back for more. At one such meeting, I remember telling someone, “I had two dinners and three desserts.” And I remember people saying, “You’d better go back and get you some more.” Then there was the statement, “he needs to eat a lot; he’s a growing boy.” People were praised for their ability to eat a lot of food and people would brag about how much they ate. It never occurred to me that piling my plate with food and going back for seconds was a bad thing. Why would it? The adults were doing that can bragging about it.

I wonder if we wouldn’t have so many overweight people if there weren’t so many people bragging about going back for second. What if people bragged about taking only what they needed? But it’s not just eating. I’ve noticed that people brag about their ailments as well. “These old knees just can’t handle that anymore.” “My back can’t take sitting in those pews anymore. Would someone hand me one of those pillows?”

While it is true that some people have problems as they age, I wonder if some people don’t begin using age related excuses sooner than they should, because the culture encourages it. Many of the problems that people blame on age aren’t age related but are a result of eating too much and not exercising. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are older people who maintain a healthy weight and continue to exercise. They have problems, but you don’t hear them talking about their problems as much. Why don’t we celebrate them as our examples, instead of treating them like they are some kind of exception to the rule?

Every generation has people of which it says, “They worked hard all their lives.” These people reach their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond and they are still going strong. I think people forget that these people were also going strong in their 50’s, 40’s, and 30’s. These people didn’t plop themselves down in front of a television with a soda in one hand and a bag of chips in the other when they got out of college. Or if they did, they put those things aside. Perhaps they too had bad examples, but they realized it and changed the pattern.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Community

Thom Rainer posted an article on Four Types of Churches That Will Soon Die. He includes in that list the “ex-community church.” It reminded me of some of these farm churches that began within riding distance of four or five farms. Since families were large, it was easy for them to reach fifty in attendance from just those few families and then there may have been others who came from a little farther out. Now, communities are in towns that may be five to ten miles away from the church building and there may be ten people meeting in the building. It isn’t just that the church doesn’t look like the community, the church isn’t even in the community.


But I’m a member of a church in a large city. There is no shortage of people who are living around the church building. 50,000 people are within easy walking distance. The irony is that with that many people right around the church, there is no sense of community. In a small town, you go to the grocery store and you may know the teenager at the checkout counter by name. You may know who his parents are. You stop to buy gas and you see your neighbor, or your cousin, or someone you went to high school with, and you don’t think anything about it. But in Fort Worth, it is rare for me to see someone I know. It does happen, but it is rare. When you look at those people right around our church, there’s little to tie them together, other than the fact that they live near each other. They sleep there at night, but during the day, they drive off in different directions to go to work. The people they work with are more of a community than the people who live on their street.


We might need to say that this is the way it is and focus our attention on the world as it is. I know it sounds better for preachers to talk about people not being willing to walk across the street to share the gospel, but the people across the street aren’t our community. It is easier for us to share the gospel with people at our place of employment than it is with the people across the street, and that even if we stay within our employer’s limitations on such things.


On the other hand, maybe this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Having communities that have no sense of community isn’t a good thing. People need community. Instead of trying to figure out how to reach a community that isn’t a real community, maybe churches should be working to create these communities. When you think about it, there are only a couple of places in urban communities where people who live near each other spend time together, the local schools, and the local churches. Everything else takes place outside of the community.


Pie in the Sky


If I had unlimited resources, what I would want to do in a community is to build a church building right in the middle of it. Also in the center, I would stores and restaurants and green space. Moving out from there, I would want housing. Outside of that would be employers of some kind. But everything would be in walking distance. Parking on the street would require people to pay a fee, encouraging people to either walk or ride a bicycle to get where they are going. Because this community spends more time outside walking or cycling, rather than in cars and houses, people will have more opportunities to speak to each other and the sense of community develops.


Back to Reality


Even though some churches build buildings that look more like a shopping mall than a church building, no church has the ability to completely restructure a community. Even if we could, there’s no guarantee that people would choose to live there. But maybe we can take that concept and work within the situation we have. To begin with, the location of the building is important. If people don’t have easy access to the building, move. But it isn’t the location of the building that creates community.


Become the Community Center


Community is created when people spend time with the same people, frequently. It may seem like sacrilege to say this, but maybe churches need to hold some events that have nothing to do with sharing the gospel or inviting people to church. Easter Egg hunts and Trunk-a-Treat is a good place to start, but that’s only two things a year and they require people to have children. There’s no reason a church couldn’t offer more community events, with the main goal of building community. If someone happened to get saved, that would be great too.


Become the Well


There are churches that are named “The Well” but I wonder how many actually are. In the Bible, we have a story of Jesus stopping to rest at a well, while his disciples went to buy food. As you recall, this was where he encountered the Samaritan woman. One of the things about the Pie in the Sky community I described is that people walk and ride bicycles, giving them more opportunities to talk to their neighbors. You don’t give it much thought when you’re in a car, but when you’re walking or on a bicycle, there are some things you would like to find along your route. You want to find a water fountain, just in case your water bottle runs low, or you forgot to bring it. You want to find a restroom, even if it is nothing but a port-a-potty. Where you find one, you want to find a bike rack, because you don’t want someone messing with your bike while your pants are down. A little shade is nice. And if a bike pump is available and some tools you can use to work on your bike, you’ve found a place where you will stop. If a church would provide these things, even if all they provided is an outdoor water fountain, they would become a well to the people riding or walking past their building.


Encourage Cycling and Walking


When you think of people visiting a church, you normally think about them arriving by car. Visitor parking is allocated. Signs are placed to point from the visitor parking to the main entrance. But do we stop to think about the people who live near the building? If you live on the same block as a church, are you going to get in your car, drive a few yards, just so you can park near the building? But how easy is it to walk? Do you have to walk through the grass? Is there a way to take a shortcut through the building, rather than walking around to the front? If you ride a bicycle, is there a place to lock your bike? Is it covered, to protect it if it rains?


But don’t just make it easy to walk or cycle to church. Encourage your members to walk or cycle to church. When I ride my bicycle to church, I don’t ride the busy six-lane road our building is on. Instead, I cut through the neighborhood. Alone the way, I see kids playing in the street. I see people out walking the dog. I see people mowing their yards. Do you realize what we could do with that? “Come, go to church with me,” you say as you meet someone in the street. And even if we didn’t, people are going to take notice if they see someone dressed for church riding a bicycle.


It isn’t just that churches need to take part in the community. Churches need to develop the sense of community.