"Freedom isn't free. Freedom is bought by soldiers. The price they pay is blood."
-Colonel Michael D. Steele, United States Army
What an emotional morning. I have said before that I am as patriotic as a person can be and anything patriotic gets me teary-eyed. The music, media, and message this morning at Prince Avenue rang my bell. I was ready to re-enlist! Everything from the visit by Uncle Sam to the powerful message by Colonel Steele was spiritually incredible and challenging.
I have known Mike Steele since 1980 when he was an offensive guard on the 1980 National Championship Georgia football team. He, as a college football player, was one of my heroes. He was not a hero however because of his football abilities, he was a hero because I knew of his stand for Christ on the team and the campus of the University of Georgia. He is still one of my heroes today because of his commitment to Jesus and the United States of America.
I believe the service was extra meaningful to me this morning because of the ride I just finished. I saw America the way few people see America. Riding a bike slows everything down quite a bit and riders see things many people miss. They also smell America whether it's the smell of pines in the Washington mountains or the salt air of the Maine coastline. America is also heard in a different way by a cyclist: streams trickling down a mountain, trains rolling by on the plains of North Dakota, or tractors in the fields of Ohio . . . it's a different America by bike, that's for sure.
I am a changed person because of what I've just done. I'm different and I hope it's in a good way. For one thing, I've fallen in love with America all over again. I can't totally explain it but I know I have. I have always felt like America is the greatest country in the world but the feelings are much deeper, much stronger, now. I know America is not perfect but it is great and I don't care what the naysayers have to say, they will never convince me that there is another country on the face of this earth that even comes close.
I have experienced, first hand, the absolutely amazing creation wrought by the hands of Almighty God. "Only fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 53:1). A person would have to be a fool to ride through any part of America and deny the existence of a Divine Designer. "In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make" (John 1:1-3). America blew my mind over the last two months and my love for my country and the Designer will never be the same.
People! Let me tell you about people . . . the icing on the cake, that's what people were to the ride. I have always been a people lover but I guess God has sort of enlarged my heart. We have crossed paths with some wonderful folks who will never be forgotten. I could not even begin to list all the folks we have met who enhanced the pedaling from coast to coast. We've been encouraged by many people along the way. We met as strangers and departed as friends. From a Chevron station in Twisp, Washington, to "the good table restaurant" in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, God has blessed us over and over with new friends, laughter, encouragement, and memories that will last a lifetime. Every person we met is someone for whom Jesus died. Since he loves them and places extreme value on them, I feel like I should do that as well. And guess what . . . it is a fun thing to do!
I believe God has revived me spiritually too. Every day was interwoven with time alone with the Father. Pedaling across America has a way of providing time to do that. Riding through his creation is very helpful too. It seems like everywhere I looked I saw his signature. "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship" (Psalm 19:1). He's everywhere!
As I pedaled I often sang to myself, or prayed, or quoted scripture, or simply thought about God and all the beauty, variety, and mystery of the creation and the Creator. I was allowed to overdose on the things of God and it was good. Getting back home I was reminded of how quickly I could fall back into the routine of being busy. I thought about a quote I had taped over my computer for years: "Beware of the barrenness of a busy life." I don't want to go back there. I want to make sure I take or make time to hang out with God for days at a time. I am choosing to live the rest of my life out of the ruts of the routine.
Chuck Swindoll, in one of his books, wrote about the Trans-Canadian Highway. He told about how in the early years of its development it was a mud road. In the winter the road would freeze making it a road of frozen ruts. Someone, during those years, put up a sign at the Canadian border, "Choose your ruts wisely, you'll be in them for 200 miles!" I believe God wants us to be out of the ruts. A rut is, after all, a grave with both ends kicked out! But God is the God of coloring outside the lines, living outside the box, staying out of the ruts, and expecting the unexpected. I have been challenged to do things I cannot do, live beyond my possibilities, and blindly trust the God I cannot see.
It's been a ride! One I'll never forget. I rode across the greatest country in the world, hanging out every day with its Creator. That's a little bit like taking the trolley across Walt Disney World with Walt Disney. But this is bigger than that, much bigger! Universally bigger! The Creator of the universe taking time to hang out with a rider on a bicycle, somewhere in the mountains of Washington, the plains of North Dakota, or wherever. He had time for me. And . . . everyday he said, "Let's do this again tomorrow."
I don't want to lose that. Ever.
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam . . .
God bless America,
my home sweet home.