But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi 1:11
I grew up in Indiana thinking my state was not only the best in the U.S., it was the best place in the world. I would hear of fellow Hoosiers like the legendary John Wooden who coached the UCLA men’s basketball team for many years and wonder why he didn’t coach at Indiana University or Purdue. I mean, how could someone from Indiana live anywhere else on earth? But I didn’t just feel this way about my state, I also felt this way about my church. We had the “truth” in contrast to every other church or belief system that was somehow deluded into believing lies.
It is easy to think and behave as if the world revolves around me and the “us” I choose. It’s easy to look at anyone who is different from me as someone who does not have favor with God. And yet God loves all people. We read in Romans 2:11 that “God shows no partiality.” God told Malachi that the Israelites were defiling His altar by bringing offerings to God that were blind and lame. In other words, they gave God what they didn’t want themselves. They were hoarding their wealth and giving from their abundance rather than sacrificially from their heart. God looked around the earth and saw people from other nations other than Israel who were honoring His name far beyond what His “chosen” ones were doing. But they were smug in their assurance of being better than anyone else simply because they were from Israel.
It is my experience that the Christian Church is too often like Israel of old. When I rode my bicycle across the country to raise awareness and money for diapers in 2012, I often found the Church of Jesus uninterested in helping the disadvantaged while those outside the Church were donating their time, money, and talents to relieve suffering all around them. I was humbled to see people giving to others rather than taking a vacation or buying another car. In Malachi we read that God’s name is honored when we sacrificially give our best talents and our most treasured gifts for those we would otherwise judge and condemn. I often imagine how God must hang His head in distress when He sees those of us who profess His name refusing to honor His name. We have opportunities every day to honor Jesus. He told us in Matthew 25:41, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
What would it look like in your life to truly honor God? How are you treating Jesus?
Two days before I began my ride across America to raise awareness and money for diapers, I talked with my coach, Chris Bagg. He had only been coaching me for 3 weeks, but his training schedule had made it possible for me to at least begin the ride with a reasonable certainty that I could complete it. In this last conversation before the onset of the ride, he talked about the mind body connection. He warned me there would be times my body would hurt. When the pain becomes intense, the mind has the option of telling the body to continue or to quit. So Chris had me think about images I would visualize at such times that would divert my attention away from the pain and allow me to complete the ride. He also told me to focus on the process – the next 10 pedal strokes. This would give my mind something else to focus on while improving my form at the same time.
So this is what I did. When the pain in my legs or my back or my neck became the focus of my thoughts, I chose to visualize Mount Rainier or the beaches of Hawaii. I focused on the mechanics of my pedal strokes. I focused on the most vulnerable in our society and the increased abuse of the infants who are not appropriately diapered. It was an amazing experience. As I focused on the needs of others, the beauty of God’s creation, and the calling I had to take this message across the country, I always had the strength to complete any ride on any day. I completed 108 miles in oppressive heat in Washington state, stiff head winds going to Yellowstone, the monotony of Kansas, the 18% grades in the Appalachian mountains, and the horrific traffic in northern Virginia. Without the mind body connection, I would not have been able to complete this ride.
We read in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” What a picture of health! We were created to function holistically as a single unit with a perfect blend of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of life. And so when Jesus described His death to the Greeks who saw life as divided between an immortal soul that transmigrates from one being to another at death and a mortal body that simply houses that soul, He said the following in John 12:24… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, who is described in Luke 2:52 as a living Being who is an integrated whole of body, mind, soul, was to lay down His integrated life so that we could do the same and experience His transforming resurrection power to become a “new creation” as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17. We need every aspect of our being to overcome sin and bear the fruit of the Spirit that naturally develops in our new life with Him. This is the mind body connection at its best. When we understand the power of this connection as the integrated beings we are, we experience God’s power in our lives. And we can then “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Have you discovered the mind body connection? If not, I highly recommend you do!
The ride may be over, but the journey has just begun. Alison Weir, Program Director for the National Diaper Bank Network, took Pam and me on a fascinating and educational trip into the heart of government today. Because of my ride, Alison was able to make 6 appointments in Washington, DC to talk about the need for diapers in this country. Alison was excited about two of the visits because the only reason she could even make the appointments was because of my ride. And what an education for me. I simply shared the reason I embarked on this journey and some observations about the acute need for diapers that is present throughout this country. The need is much more than the private sector can handle though the diaper banks are crucial in helping many families who need assistance.
We began the day by going to the National Women’s Law Center whose mission is to protect the progress of women and girls in every aspect of their lives. We spent the most time at this appointment as they became more interested in helping solve the problem of getting diapers to families the more they learned about the issue. They gave Alison names of contacts who might help with one aspect or the other in solving the issue. Alison was grateful for the information as we headed to the next appointment at First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. They gave additional insights into possibilities of creating changes in policy to benefit the families I’ve been riding to help. We then traveled to Capitol Hill where we met with the staff of Senator Gillibrand of New York, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, and Congressman Rehberg of Montana. In some instances we were able to educate about this issue while others who already knew about it gave us updates on what was in the works for the future. We finished the day at Zero To Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. They were very interested in the ride and wanted more data about the need for diapers across the country.
As I reflect on the day, I am humbled by the people who have made it their life’s work to advocate for those who have no voice. In many ways I saw Matthew 25 in action today with more passion and persistence than I have ever previously seen. Alison is an amazing advocate for these infants and toddlers. She is an engineer with a PhD in early American literature who then received her law degree at Gerogetown University while working at the Pentagon as the speech writer for the Chief of Staff. After she retired from the US Air Force she worked for a law firm where she discovered the needs of those in poverty. She left the law firm to work for the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) to pursue her passion to help those in need. She asked me why I left medicine to become a pastor. I told her for similar reasons she had just given for leaving her law firm to work for the NDBN. God brought us together on this day to work on His mission in the world.
I am so glad I responded to His call into ministry and then His call to take this ride. And what a ride it has been. Now He’s calling me to chronicle this journey in a book with the proceeds to go for this diaper ministry. And so the journey begins!
My last ride of the trip may have only been 62 miles, but it felt more like 92. The traffic was extremely congested and the driving was very aggressive giving me little room for error. It took all the concentration and biking skills I could muster to ride in this traffic. After just 30 miles I was mentally and physically exhausted. So I was thankful when Pam stopped at a bike shop to get a more detailed map of the area and discovered the presence of a bike path not too far from where I was riding. What a relief to get such timely information. I navigated to the path that I then took all the way from Falls Church, VA into D.C. and up into MD. I then had to deal with the traffic for the last 7 miles of the trip before reaching my final, and I do mean my final destination.
Washington, D.C. is a tough place to ride. The drivers are aggressive and unforgiving as are the bikers on the bike path. Such behavior makes it more difficult to navigate through the city as it takes all your focus just to stay safe. Life can be that way, especially for those in material poverty. Just think of how exhausting it must be to have your baby cry because she is wet but you only have two diapers remaining that need to last for another week. And then to have others treat you as less of a person because of your lack of financial resources is like riding in heavy traffic with unforgiving drivers. Believe me, it doesn’t feel good. We all need a mentor, someone to help us along the way, if we’re going to find the best way to our destination in life.
I am so fortunate to have had a support team for this ride. The team on the ground with me included Pam, Bill and Dorothy Anderson, Lindahl Grant Sr, and Bob Howard. And then there is the support I received from the Richland Church, which has been humbling and inspiring. I also had the support of people from around the country who have written me emails, responded to my blog, and sent messages through the website. And then there were the people I met throughout the country who opened their homes and their lives to us. So it was a fitting conclusion to this to have the full support of the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring. It was a lovely reception that included interviews with a reporter from a FOX affiliate and the communications department of the NAD. I met Alison Weir from the National Diaper Bank Network who spoke at the reception and Sung Kwon who is the head of Adventist Community Services at the NAD. With people like this in my life, how could I not find my way? Now it’s time for all of us to be part of a support team for someone else!
This ride might be over, but the journey is just beginning. On September 22 I will be speaking at the Richland Adventist Church to discuss the lessons from the ride and where we go from here. Check out our church website at http://www.myrichlandchurch.org for more information on that event.
Trip Stats: Total Miles- 3,473.4 Hours on the Bike- 276 Contacts Made- Too numerous to count Lives Changed- Mine for sure.
Today I experienced the kingdom of God expressed through the generosity and love of others. I had a sheriff escort along with 8 other riders for the first 30 miles into Strassburg, VA. And when I say a sheriff escort I mean one sheriff riding his bike with us the entire way and one in a squad car behind us making sure motorists give us plenty of room. It was a delight to ride with people who love the sport and children.
Thanks to Ann McBroom from “A Small Hand” there were children from preschools cheering for us at several locations throughout those 30 miles. Once we made it to Edinburg we visited the site of “A Small Hand” which is in the lower level of a small church. Ann doesn’t let the size of her church or facility limit her ministry as she distributes an astounding 250,000 diapers every year. What an example of the impact one person can have when joining God where He is active. We ended this portion of the ride in Strassburg where there were several preschoolers there to greet us with smiles and lots of questions in addition to a reporter, a photographer, and another sheriff to take pictures for their archives.
We then had lunch together at an old historic hotel in Strassburg before I rode to Marshall. On this portion of the trip I rode alone, but I still had the children who were cheering, Ann who was organizing, and the other riders who were supporting me in my mind and heart. What a way to end the last day of this ride before the big day into Silver Spring.
This ride has afforded me the opportunity to meet committed, talented, and inspiring people across this country who have witnessed to me that God’s kingdom is alive and well in the hearts of many people. As I contemplate the end of this ride, I realize the journey is just beginning as I will seek to implement all I have learned into my own journey.
Ride Stats: Total Miles- 60 Preschools- 3 Sheriffs- 3 Cyclists- 9 Ann McBroom- 1
I have perhaps found more life lessons and harder rides in the Appalachian Mountains than anywhere so far. I have climbed more than 5,000 ft each of the last two days with climbs as steep as Missouri. Like most of us, I have my own preconceived ideas about Appalachia even though I have never been here. While taking lots of pictures of the area I realized today that pictures aren’t enough. A picture might be worth a 1000 words, but you’ve got to mingle with the people if you really want to know the true meaning of the picture.
Some observations from snapshots of Appalachia while on my bike include the following: 1) Lots of people go to church because there’s a church around every corner. 2) They’ve got guns here because many of the street signs are used for target practice. 3) They are wary of strangers because there are “No Trespassing” signs on literally every house. 4) The economy is supported by coal and all the other businesses have have “We Are Coal Friendly” signs.
But it wasn’t until I completed my ride today and arrived at the RV that I was able to mingle with people from Appalachia. Tonight our RV is parked next to a soccer field where a local high school team was running a scrimmage. The coach saw our RV and asked if I would talk with the girls about my ride and give a short devotional thought. So I walked over to the soccer field with Pam, Dorothy, and Bill to talk with the girls. After speaking with the girls we gave them each a Ride 4 Diapers business card. One girl, Frankie, came to talk with me after I had finished speaking. She wanted information on how she could do something for her community. We talked for a few minutes and she plans to have diaper drives at WalMart and her high school to distribute to the local pregnancy center.
We took a picture of Frankie with me, the only picture of real substance of Appalachia because it’s a picture of mingling. I now realize that though the people of Appalachia may have a different subculture than me, they respond to someone caring about their needs just like I do. The basic needs Jesus describes in Matthew 25 cuts across every culture. I have never seen Matthew 25 in that light before today. We all need food, water, clothing, and a friend to the stranger, the sick, and the imprisoned. This is the place to begin in any community anywhere in the world.
Ride Stats: Total Miles- 87.7 Elevation Gain- 5,164 ft Avg Speed- 11.1 mph Max Temp- 102.2 with 90% humidity
And here’s Frankie who is inspired to do diaper drives…
It has been great to have two consecutive days off the bike. It has done wonders for my sore legs, saddles sores, and spirits. I took my bike to a shop who has a master mechanic on Friday. He diagnosed the issue very quickly and I had all the parts he needed to make the bike as good as new. After having lunch at a nearby restaurant with Pam and her cousin, we picked up the bike from the shop and I literally rested the remainder of the day. This was all in preparation for the big day at the PeWee Valley Seventh-day Adventist church.
A young adult Bible study group adopted my ride as a mission project for their local community. They did some research and found the “Mission Crestwood” to be an organization serving over 1,500 people every month who are in need. They supply them with a week’s worth of food each month in addition to toiletry items and clothing. They have a “sharing” room where they invite people to meet with one of their staff members for prayer. So the Adventist Bible study group has been using my ride to gather diapers for the Mission Crestwood and I was invited to meet some of the staff at the Mission as the group delivered over 2,500 diapers to them. As I talked with the staff at the Mission, it became apparent that the ONE need they are NOT meeting is the need for DIAPERS. I could see the eyes opening of the Mission staff and the Adventist Bible study group as we talked about how a Diaper Bank could meet these needs. I left that place rejuvenated to continue this ride tomorrow realizing this is how Jesus spent most of His Sabbaths while on this earth – mingling with people and meeting their needs. Only God can bring both rest and rejuvenation on the same day in the same activity.
I am constantly amazed at the miracles I see happening because I joined God where He is working across America. What a privilege to have a front row seat to witness His power in action even if much of the time I’m in the saddle rather than on a seat. The best place to witness this “God Show” is where He’s calling you to join Him. Believe me, there’s no better place to be.
Here is the Church I had the privilege of speaking at today…
Here are some pictures of the Mission Crestwood…