31 January 2011

Five Great Miles And the Early Signs of Addiction

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This bicycle thing is getting to be addictive.

On Saturday, Ryan Callahan and I rode from my house to a friends house to Chris Madrids and back to my house. It was a grand total of only 5 miles, but 5 great miles, all places we "needed" to go only we didn't go by car.

There is definitely something to the freedom of the bicycle, the feeling of propelling yourself, and the connectedness to what is around you. There is a beauty in the solitude of riding alone and there is a very cool camaraderie in riding with someone else...unless they spend the whole ride on your back wheel (Ryan).

Like I said, this bicycle thing is getting to be addictive.

27 January 2011

Of Kryptonite Bicycle Locks and Protectivism

When it came time to get a bicycle lock, I opted for the mother of all locks. The Kryptonite New York chain lock.

It is huge, weighing in at 9 lbs. It has giant hexagonal links and a mini u-bolt that opens with a super-key.

Basically, I decided that I would not get my bicycle stolen.

It makes me wonder how protective we are in other areas of life. What are we willing to put into place to prevent breakdowns in other areas? How much would you sacrifice (or lug around) to make sure your marriage or kids would be protected? What would you endure to ensure purity in areas that are difficult for you? What safeguards could be used to make sure your faith would not be compromised where it is most vulnerable?

I carry a 9 lb lock around 78201, assuming that there are plenty of dudes with bolt cutters and bad intentions. Nothing short of a Scud missile is getting my bike off the rail or light pole to which it's been chained to with my Kryptonite.

What if we assumed we lived in a world with bad intentions? What is your Kryptonite?

26 January 2011

Squatter Camp(out)

We're officially one month away from Amplify Squatter Camp(out) 2011. I almost forget what an incredible night it was, only to be brought back by the rush of a cold breeze or the sight of a homeless man shuffling under an overpass.

I cannot wait to do this again. I hope it is cold. And it hope the chill stays in my bones long enough to freshly imprint that memory again.

Join us. February 26-27 on the front lawn of Grace Point Church. Bring your own box.

The Brown Coffee Company (San Antonio)

Oh Brown Coffee Co...

If you ever need a place that is what it claims to be, is a safe place for solitude or a good conversation, and is run by people you actually enjoy giving your money to...

If you want great products, great service, and great home-how-tos...

If you are a purist, an idealist, a traditionalist, a fundamentalist, or just an addict needing the caffeine...

If you are in the area, leaving the area, far from the area, or not from the area at all...

Stop into Brown Coffee Co. You'll be glad you did.

And if you find my bicycle chained to the pole out front, say hello. I'd be happy to buy your first round.

25 January 2011

On the Alientaion of Labor

Yesterday's Kindle-ings post on "the alienation of labor" was interesting to me for a number of most reasons, with the most obvious being that I think all of us have experienced this alienation at some point.

I remember working at NuStar Energy, where my piece of the job of building a pipeline was almost all front-end legal work. It was entirely possible to do a ton of work, finish my piece, and never hear of a project again.

There was a specific project that I was able to go out and see the construction of and it absolutely changed my level of buy-in for the work I was doing.

In ministry, we face this every day. The sermon preached today may not be internalized for months or years. The counseling session or phone call rarely ends in clean resolution. We have our widget (in this case some sort of spiritual formation), attempt to add it faithfully to the production line of life, and then wonder where the results might end up.

Consider your life. Where are you alienated in your work and where would seeing more of the finished product change the way you feel about your labor?

24 January 2011

Kindle-ings: Alienation of Labor

"Kindle-ings" is a title given to posts that come from my reading. I will post excerpts here that provoke thought, require reflection, or simply amuse. From my Kindle to you, I hope they kindle something worthy of our time.

But we often don’t realize that the division of labor can also exact a human cost. As early as 1844, Karl Marx—the German philosopher, political economist, sociologist, revolutionary, and father of communism—pointed to the importance of what he called “the alienation of labor.” For Marx, an alienated laborer is separated from his own activities, from the goals of his labor, and from the process of production. This makes work an external activity that does not allow the laborer to find identity or meaning in his work.

From The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

21 January 2011

Latte Trinity

In teaching some doctrine to our College Ministry, we have established the Latte Trinity. All elements are fully latte and fully seperate. 3 and 1.

Ya, I know. The metaphor breaks down pretty quickly. Maybe before it even takes off. But it was fun. And it got us thinking.

20 January 2011

91: Considering Scale Over Self

How many bus trips do you think occur on the average weekday in San Antonio?

As recently as 2008, almost 150,000 daily trips were made on VIA buses in San Antonio.

Consider that. 150,000.

Sometimes we forget that the world does not revolve around us. Ride the bus for a week and you, too, can have that perspective readjusted.

My bus experience has often been less than stellar, with wait times that were longer than I thought they should be or when the service/routes seemed to really be irrationally odd. It helps to consider that the people running the organization have found a way to move a ton of people around a not-so-transit friendly city for about $1 a trip. And I am only one of those people.

San Antonio sprawls out in every direction, features almost no areas of any residential density of consequence, and still manages to get the job done. They have managed to acheive scale in a city that is one of the least mass-transit friendly in the country. Our city layout, demographics, land use, and historical stigmas all stand against effective mass transit. And still: 150,000 is a lot of people to move every day.

They don't cater to me, but I doubt they are the perfect service for any of the 150,000 trips that get taken every day. It is a matter of degrees for most of us.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between excellence and "good enough" which is usually followed up with the statement that "good enough rarely is (good enough)"...

Well, in VIA's case, I would argue that good enough actually is good enough. Making the most people (most = their core customer base) happy is the goal and happiness is found when a rider gets to a destination with limited cost and minimum time loss.

So for all of it's flaws (of which I will detail at some point in this space), I will give VIA it's due. They are moving San Antonio. Whether it is ideal for me or not.

19 January 2011

Lusting Over Steak and Feeling Guilty

Ever find yourself yearning for really good things? Or super-indulgent things?

I don't know about you, but it feels ugly to me, but I don't know if it is Godly guilt or just my own insecurity that surfaces these feelings. God is not defamed by a steak anymore than he is glorified by a bowl of cereal and yet there are costs involved and unspoken priorities pushed forward as we seek "the best" for ourselves while allowing others to suffer around the world.
Just a minute ago, I was on the website for Fogo de Chao. More specifically, I was on their meats page, which absolutely made my mouth water. I just finished my bowl of Frosted Flakes (they were grrrrrreat!) from lunch and the thought of a sizzling steak was almost overwhelming. I scrolled through the different meats, lusting after each cut and imagining the flavors.

Stupid, right?
I have the $39.95 it would cost to go and see that it can't possibly be worth all of the mental energy. I don't NEED to go into a meat-coma in order to satisfy my hunger.

So why do I yearn? Why do I want?

God created all of the good things on this earth, including fatty bovine creatures that we hack up, season with minerals from the ground (or ocean - sea salt?) and cook over open flames.

Maybe one day I'll eat at Fogo. Maybe on a gift card or by winning a contest. And maybe I can learn that living simply is great, making sacrifices is holy, and that enjoying good things and thanking the Father after every bite can be OK, too.
Can't it?

"Why Didn't Jesus Just Zap Herod?" and Other Things To Smile About

I rarely laugh at videos I run across on YouTube. I am a tough sell.

This video, however, had me quite tickled. I found it while searching for a clip to show our Amplify College folks to support our new series, "G?D". We're trying to answer a lot of the big questions we have about God. Answering these questions...not so much.


18 January 2011

Kindle-ings: Weighty Charity, Costly Love

"Kindle-ings" is a title given to posts that come from my reading. I will post excerpts here that provoke thought, require reflection, or simply amuse. From my Kindle to you, I hope they kindle something worthy of our time.

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. . . . This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
From Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

17 January 2011

Sideways Drizzle Reconsidered

I have never made any secret of my love for cold, wet, dreary days. When people speak of Seattle's depressing weather, I think of paradise.

Rain? Cool temperatures? Grey skies?

(Insert deep, contented sigh here...)

So as I marveled at the beauty of a frigid Saturday filled with non-stop sideways drizzle, I was forced to consider my new brethren. I had to think about all of the folks who were waiting on the bus to collect them and deliver them at their destination, soaking wet and only sort of satisfied.

The rain is not kind to them. The cold is not pleasant.

I still plan to enjoy the rain and the cold. I suppose I just have someone new to remember when my "paradise" rolls in again this winter.

14 January 2011

91: Lesson #4: Have a Nice Day

Do you know that feeling you get when someone else does something great and you are simultaneously happy that person exists and a little bit down that you aren't as nice (generous/gregarious/helpful/friendly/wonderful/giving/sympathetic/caring/hopeful/optimistic/fantastic) as that person...?

You know those people who make you question whether you're really doing all you can do with your life?

Well, maybe the cold has been messing with my mind. Maybe my helmet is on too tight.

But I had a bus driver one of these past few days who was unnecessarily nice. And he wasn't extravagantly nice. Just simply nice...and genuinely nice. (I think the genuine part is the most important.)

Anyway, at every stop, he would implore the person exiting the bus to "Have a Nice Day". His cadence was robotic and his delivery was all wrong (I kid, I kid), but he told every single person to have a nice day. And I must have watched 30 or 40 people exit the bus. A solid 80% had at least a mildly pleased reaction to his friendliness. The guy who smelled like weed and the girl whose earphones were audible 6 rows away didn't seem to react much, but they have valid excuses.

Eighty percent of people's days were changed, however slightly, by his doggedness to genuine kindness above and beyond his job description.

I can learn a lot from him. How can you help someone "have a nice day"?

13 January 2011

91: Lesson #3: Colder?!?! Sympathy vs Empathy

I've never liked the concept of Wind Chill. I don't like the idea of the Heat Index. What about that stat on the weather that says "feels like" and then lists some alternate temperature?

If it "feels like" 106, can we just call it that? If it "felt like" 26 on Tuesday and I had to get out and ride in that (and I did), then what good does it do for me to call it 36?


Can we be really honest here? Are you sure? Thanks.

Tuesday morning sucked.

"Feels like 26" is cold. My lung was burning, my muscles were all tied up in knots, and my eyes were watering ("hey look, that crying hipster cyclist!!").

Getting to the bus stop is only a temporary hope, since you know that once on the bus you eventually have to get off again and hop back on the bike. My best hope is that by the time I disembark the "feels like" temperature might be a sultry 31. Or maybe it'll be raining again.

So what could I take from a day of brutal cycling and painful (like legitimately can't feel my fingers or toes) waiting on the bus?

I have officially moved from sympathy for the poor who must commute daily on the bus to sure empathy. I can no longer pity them from afar. I can now say that through even our so-far brief shared suffering, I feel the pain with them.

What would it take for us to really know the pain of people for whom we don't love and empathize but rather only pity and feel sympathy towards them instead?

Ever lived in an old-folks home?

Ever spent a night homeless?

Ever been a recovering addict?

We can't find experiences that allow us to move to empathy in every situation. Where we can, though, I think it is upon us to take the leap...and freeze if we have to.

12 January 2011

91: The First Day and Shared Suffering

It is 38 degrees. It is misting. I am smiling.


Well, I am clearly out of my mind. So insanity is a nice excuse.

I am riding a bicycle in nasty weather so I can voluntarily ride a bus. This is stupid by most standards, especially as I consider the nice car in my driveway and it's highly effective heater.

I am insane. Might as well enjoy it.

So I arrive at the bus stop and dismount the bike. And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Thirty-one minutes later, the #91 bus approaches. I can't feel my fingers or toes and my smile is long gone. I am simply cold and wet and a bit confused why I am doing this.

I board the packed bus and stand between a homeless man and a medical worker, both obviously a little bit impinged by my hovering presence. Sorry.

After a few stops, a transfer station, a few more stops, and a few on-loadings and off-loadings of special needs folks who require assistance getting onto the bus (and getting strapped in), we arrive at my stop.

I jump out excitedly (finally!!) and grab my bicycle off the front of the bus. My cold, soaking wet, bicycle.


I plop onto the dripping seat, grab the frigid handlebars and head down the street to the church.

Arriving at my destination is interesting. I feel relief, victory, and defeat all at once. I am relieved to be where I need to be, victorious in my conquering the first day's outward commute, and defeated in recognizing just how poorly it had gone from an efficiency and effectiveness standpoint.

Still, I change clothes in my office and smile at the conversations I was able to have in my 31 rain-soaked minutes at the bus stop. Shared suffering is a great bonding agent. Thankful for those opportunities, I work until it is time to go home. And in an exact carbon copy of the cold, wet morning, I trudge home.

And that was the first day. I finished the day a little older and a little wiser. I finished with sore hamstrings, a hot shower, a few memories, and a new appreciation for shared suffering.

Those people do it every day. I should thank them for sharing sufferings with me.

11 January 2011

91: Lesson #2 - Beware the Headwind

As part of my goals for riding the VIA bus to work, I mentioned that I wanted to learn 91 lessons.

Before I even started the daily commute, I have learned two lessons. We'll tackle lesson #2 here.

I rounded the turn at Kampmann and West Magnolia gaining speed on my bicycle even as I raced up a slight incline. I felt light and nimble and ready to blast down the straightaway.

Then it hit me. A 15 mile-per-hour headwind, briskly punching me right in the face.


Not being an experienced cyclist, I was not ready for it at all. I had heard stories of devastating headwinds, but never had experienced the natural force for myself.

I doubled up my efforts and seemed to be moving in wet cement. I felt the energy draining from my legs as I pressed harder into the wind. Finally, I gave up and was content to slowly coast until I was able to better avoid the wind at the next turn.

Sounds like life. Everything is easy until it's not. And everything is simple when it's all under your control. When outside forces act against us, it is upon us to double our efforts or store up energy for lighter seasons. Only we know which decision makes sense in the moment, whether coasting for a time is good stewardship or laziness.

Beware the headwind. And be ready to respond.

10 January 2011

91: Lesson #1 - Exuberance and Endurance

As part of my goals for riding the VIA bus to work, I mentioned that I wanted to learn 91 lessons.

Before I even started the daily commute, I have learned two lessons. We'll tackle lesson #1 here.

Lesson #1: Exuberance and Endurance Are Very Different

On the first day after I had my bicycle all fixed up and ready, I took it out for a little spin. I rode a total of 2.9 miles and really enjoyed myself. It had, after all, been a long time since the last time I rode a bicycle and the experience was plainly awesome.

I zoomed around corners and pushed myself up hills. I felt the wind and the freedom and generally remembered deep joys.

On the second day after I had my bicycle all fixed up and ready, I took it out for a little spin. I rode a total of 2.1 miles. I felt burning in my lung and tightness in my hamstrings. I struggled up hills and cursed the wind that slowed down my progress.

It occurred to me that on day one I was simply exuberant. The newness of the experience overwhelmed my flesh and allowed me to coast effortlessly. It was the newness that made it easy, allowed my brain to bypass the normal hurdles and drip euphoric chemicals onto my brain.

Day two was different. No longer new, and facing the tightness that comes with a workout after a long period of inaction, the ride was a bit more painful. Becoming familiar on the bicycle, I began to notice all of the things that slowed me down, from urban intersections to bad roads and heavy north winds.

Life is like that, isn't it? Everything is new and exciting for a while. We call it the "honeymoon period", when newness blinds us to the complexity of what we've entered. As many will attest, a marriage (or any long-term endeavor) is not won or completed in the early days' exuberance, but in the endurance that comes with facing obstacles and persevering. The couple celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary does not point back to a successful honeymoon, but rather a long winding road of trial and error and grace and diligence.

Exuberance is nice. Endurance might just be far more valuable.

08 January 2011

91: An Experiment

Starting this coming Monday, I'll be changing the way I commute.

Rather than hopping in my car and zipping off to work, I'll be climbing on a single-speed road bicycle, riding to the bus stop, boarding a VIA bus, riding 8 miles, then climbing off and finishing the last mile and a half back on the bicycle.

I am doing this for a lot of reasons and I plan to chronicle them here over time. I'll let this be my journal in case someone else wants to vicariously experiment with me. Moreover, I just don't want to forget.

The bus I will be riding is the 91, the Fredericksburg Skip. As a nod to that route, any posts related to any of this biking/busing experiment will be titled with "91", sort of like this one.

Some aspirations (goals-in-formation):

- I hope to learn 91 lessons. Maybe more.
- I hope to become the Pastor of the 91 bus. I can only live among the poor for so long without actually knowing them and the struggles they face. I am praying that my life will be messier because of this change.
- I hope to gain perspective and patience by being forced to wait and giving up some control in my day.
- I hope to get into shape, whatever that means.
- I hope to know God better. Not sure how, but I think it's part of the equation.

Here goes something.

07 January 2011

MLS Soccer in San Antonio

There are rumblings that the parent company of the San Antonio Spurs is interested in bringing an MLS team to San Antonio.

I, of course, decided I needed to write a 1350 word article.

Click this link to enjoy: LINK

03 January 2011

Undercity: Exploring NYC Below the Surface

Sometimes you just have to post things that are really cool.

This is really cool.

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.