I went for a ride yesterday on my bicycle to meet a friend for coffee. All together, going and returning the ride was just shy of 9 1/2 miles. Perhaps you’re a seasoned cyclist like my pastor- Pastor E in which case you likely chuckle at distances that make me grimace. To heighten the hurt I ride a BMX bike. What does that mean? Well for some it means cool tricks, or dirt track racing, but for me it means no gears and plenty of manual labor. What was meant to be a casual ride soon became a bit of a life lesson. Don’t you love it when that happens? I sure do. Otherwise what would I write about? So here’s the three part lesson that I learned while riding my BMX bike in the Bronx.

Take Advantage (in a good way)
Appreciate (Really)
Accelerate and advance (Go!)

There are a lot of hills between my house and the Coffee shop. Some are really steep, others are less obvious but just as brutal. I couldn’t’ trust my eyes to determine if a street was level or not, so instead my thighs willingly volunteered to do the job. They were very helpful and timely at letting me know when the ground was actually on a steady yet deceptive incline. I discovered that hiding hills are harder to handle. It was also fascinating to discover just how little cars seem to care about bikes. It’s dangerous out there!

So… Challenges are rarely without cause, and can almost always become a class for those willing to accept the cost.

Lesson #1 Take Advantage:
When a lane opens up for you- take it! I know that Manhattan and Brooklyn have plenty of bike lanes but the Bronx (at least on my coffee trek) does not. Where’s the love? Fortunately I did find a bike lane on Allerton Avenue, and it made that portion of my ride smoother, safer, and swifter! In life, our lane isn’t always clear. We may have our desired destination in mind, but when the lane isn’t there our travels can become difficult, and even dangerous. Interestingly enough we don’t always take the lane when it does finally appear! Why? Perhaps we’ve become used to swerving in and out of traffic, relationships, circles, churches, careers, and therefore we’re either too pre-occupied to even notice the lane or, we choose to disregard it- and stick to our own chaotic commute. Another reason may be fear- ironically since a lane ought to be the safer option. In life, we have dreams and goals that often times we’re actually too afraid to even attempt let alone achieve. So long as there isn’t a clear lane we think that we have a sufficient excuse for not pursuing our passion and purpose. So when a lane does open up we disqualify ourselves and let another take it instead. Then sometimes we simply neglect our lane because of our own straight up stiff necked rebellion and disobedience. Don’t be Jonah! Family, take the lane! Get in and ride it till it’s gone- because like bike lanes in the Bronx, it won’t always be there. Some parts of your travel must be without the benefits of a clear lane and that’s okay, but be sure to take advantage of the lane when it is made available to you.

Lesson #2 Appreciate:
Worrying about the future robs us of the gift that is the present. When I arrived at the first downhill portion of my ride to the coffee place yesterday I was just simply too exhausted to appreciate it. The second downhill was nicer, but I dreaded the inevitable hills ahead too intensely to appreciate it. Finally I realized that there were several descents along the way and that they were refreshing and even reinvigorating if only I would allow myself to appreciate them. Too deep? Ehhh, so what. I found a lane and I’m taking it!
Do you appreciate the downhill portion(s) of your life journey when it feels like you’re riding on the wind- progressing with minimal effort? Or are you too weary for wonder, too afraid for awe, and too fatigued for fun? Listen, this life requires much perseverance, we must be intentional in preserving our strength and sanity. Being appreciative is one sure way to do that. When you hit that breezy downhill in life where everything seems to be flowing and going well- smile, breathe deeply, and enjoy every minute of it. It won’t last forever.

Lesson #3 Accelerate & advance:
Okay so I got the appreciation part apparently, because I enjoyed the descent too much to brace and prepare for the hill that followed! I thought “This entire street is downhill, why peddle?”
Why peddle!? Because you need to generate enough momentum to propel yourself into the next part of the journey! Plus going downhill means that you’re also benefiting from the laws of physics which are graciously adding to your traction apart from your efforts -free of charge! In any other case 100% of the momentum needed will depend totally upon your measly little legs! That’s’ why!-Said wisdom.
Wisdom was a little frustrated with my oblivion and kind of had to give it to me straight. “Got it!” I thought, and so toward the end of each descent I began to peddle, accelerate and advance into the next portion of the ride. In life, when things are going well it’s important that we prayerfully plan, prepare, and make provision for the coming season. I’m a stay at home dad. When all my beautiful little bundles of brilliance finally decide to nap I apply this 3 part lesson and take advantage by getting dressed, eating something, and then- well by then they’re up. But you get what I mean. When things are well and pleasant it’s a good time to work and push ahead while the sun still lights the path ahead- because it won’t always.

There it is family. Riding a bicycle will never be the same again. You’re welcome.

James 1:2-4 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Randy Mason