Sunday
Aug022009

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Fixed gear first timer
As salaam alayka, friend
I'm headed to church!

The short form of my entry is in the haiku and its 17 syllables above. The longer form is as follows.

What a week it has been. I feel like new. I feel victorious. I put the dreaded wisdom tooth thing behind me after 13 years, and so far it hasn't really been an issue. I got a new bike which was meant to be a challenge to myself, improving upon the other new bike that itself was quite a challenge in its time. I love my new church and the life it is bringing to me, and also the life I am feeling I have to bring to it.

my new fixed gear torelli bike, a little laden with a rack and full size drop barsThe new bikeToday, less than a week after getting the fixed gear bike and still having a bit of anxiety about getting two flats in the first week, I decided to take it to church. Yeah, its gearing is rather harder to drive than the Specialized (70 versus 62 gear inches, respectively), but it just feels magnificent in its long circles. Graceful. Responsive. I've messed around on the local hills here both as sprint exercises and at whatever slow pace it takes, so I was emboldened a bit. But on this morning, I headed off to church at 8:30. It was cool outside. I wanted to get there before the sun broke through the marine moisture, and with time enough to mellow out before the book study group I participate in. I started at the bottom of the hill not knowing if I would end up walking half way from getting my heart pounding like a drum and knees bearing my 220 lbs.

As I started from the bottom I heard what sounded like a madman screaming nonsense from the hillside. Coming closer, away from traffic noise, I realized that it was actually a Muslim man at prayer, and he was giving it his all (and I felt a little embarrassed to have so misjudged his utterances). I barely saw him but his chants filled the air as I too got into a moment of Zen like concentration, focusing on my breath and the long cycle strokes that propelled me 70 inches each time around, up a hill that I had only done once before. However it worked out, I took just one breather break to listen to the man at prayer, then looked back and saw some mountain biker on the way up. So I started off again, slow at first, getting into the straps and clips a bit clumsily, but after a moment, I got a nice new bit of air and some scenery, and was able to actually gun it for a short way, even uphill. I passed a fellow on a ten speed and the mountain biker never caught up. Eventually the ten speed guy got past me, but we pedaled a few blocks at about the same pace. For a newbie on a fixed gear/road bike, I was feeling oddly empowered today, all the more when the dental surgery is taken into account. I really thought my weekend was going to be four days of vicodin and ice packs. What a pleasant surprise I had in my "disappointment."

I think I've written before that biking has added value to most of my trips now, particularly to church and things that branch off that. I just get to these things feeling alive now; empowered; vitalized. While it takes motion to accomplish, it is not just "going through the motions." People say they skip church because they don't get anything out of worship. Well, it isn't God worshiping us. It's for us to worship God. I guess if you don't feel that you have reason to do so, then there is little appeal. But right now, I feel empowered. I feel alive again. I feel like there is something to give back to God and my fellows. Like there is some energy to spare. I feel like the great narrative has had me spend various times in the desert (sorting out how to relate to church and finding myself in a new paradigm in 2006-2008), or in the tomb (the eviction), and now there is the part of me that needs to get back in the saddle (actually and figuratively) and give back. The dental thing was death to me, and taking that on like I have in the last two years has made way for resurrection as I understand it. Driving a car is death to me too, and the return to biking reminds me of a time when I actually enjoyed life more, sans automotive "help." Other aspects of my life, many well blogged about here, are also being met in similar fashion. I feel that somehow, grace has descended on me when I was certain I was not worthy of it. I feel that my present church is a gift, which is not how I felt about my old church. Christianity and its theme of renewal and transformation is not just stuff in a stodgy old book to me.

I've been oddly compelled to take the reins of a young adults group that was started last year but had flickering success. Trying a new approach, I think that it has been appealing to more people. I hope so. I have memories of disconnection so bad as to want to cut myself out of the fabric of life. So now I understand it is my role to play the counteractive role maybe to do someone else some good. So far it has been around a table for food or drinks, modeled on Jesus' table fellowship and its power to unite. However it works, I've somehow been animated to actually meet new people and make the invitation to join in on things. This is far from my old church experience where I was the dutiful technical assistant who had little community life because I did so much stuff. But that is not why I wanted to go to church (to recreate my work life in a new setting). Right now, things seem so much more on track as they are, where instead of doing technical and media tasks, I invite people to talk and to stay connected to each other and a better narrative than the working and consuming world offers. Instead of not being able to be taken seriously on topics dear to me (on account of being perceived as one of the kids still), I am invited to be on the Christian Education commission because I am understood to have these concerns. For myriad reasons, this is better.

I think it amazing that the Muslim man had conviction enough to go out and chant from a hillside in the misty morning air. That isn't quite my style. But, taking a cue from what I think I heard of Frederick Douglass to say: I used to pray to God [to be delivered from slavery], but none of the prayers worked until I prayed with my feet. I find my prayers sort of mesh with the biking experiences that challenge me (my knees bitch some but my heart is doing cartwheels). Somewhere I get the chutzpah to think I can do something I never did before, somewhere the means are found, and then somehow I have the sense to see what was done and be glad for it. And more so, to think that I could do it again next week—and better.

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