Boys, Bikes, and Bumper Cars

LeeAnne and I contributed a few pages to LIFE WITH CHRIST, a collection of teaching and testimonies by various authors. Our chapter is called Boys, Bikes, and Bumper Cars. Here is the first half of that chapter written by Gary. If you want to read LeeAnne’s half, you’ll have to buy the book.:

During the summer, when my boys were ten and twelve, I looked out the back window to see my youngest son on top of the shed roof. His bike was beside him. My oldest son was on the sidewalk, passing his bicycle up to his brother. I asked the air, “What on earth are they doing?” But I already had a pretty good idea as I ran to the back door. I stepped out onto the deck in time to see my boys, side by side on the shed roof, peddling like crazy towards the edge.

The drop was eight feet (2.4 m) and, as they fell, they were both peddling like the speed of their spinning feet had some way of reversing the pull of gravity. The tires hit the ground, squished almost flat, and then launched the bikes skyward. My oldest son managed to stay on his bike although it swerved violently and he almost went head on into the fence. My youngest son flew sideways off his bike and rolled, bum over tea kettle, across the lawn. They were both laughing hilariously.

“What on earth are you doing?” I demanded, even though I had guessed before I’d reached the door, and then just witnessed the daredevil stunt with my own eyes.

They had seen me step out on the deck and seemed proud to perform their stunt for me so, no doubt, my question confirmed my children’s belief that I was blind or, at the very least, mentally challenged.

“We are riding our bikes off the shed,” they answered as if this was a perfectly normal thing to do.

“What were you thinking?” I demanded. “You could get hurt. I don’t want you doing that ever again.”

“But Dad, we’ve been doing this for months,” my youngest son admitted.

Suddenly the lights went on in my head and I understood why I had repaired so many flat tires and twisted handle bars. “Well, don’t do it anymore.”

Even as I said those words, I remembered what it was like to be fearless. I used to be like my boys, unafraid of anyone or anything. Yes, I’ve done some stupid things. And I’ve done some very brave things. My children reminded me of something that had been eroding away out of my life.

I took my bike out of the shed and the boys and I rode to the ruins of an old coal mine. There, at the edge of the top of the river valley was a pit, thirty-feet (9 m) across, with sides so steep you cannot climb out without help. It was as deep as it was wide.

“Follow me,” I ordered. “And pedal like crazy when you reach the bottom. Don’t stop peddling.” Then I rode over the edge.

It felt like falling face first into blackness. The bottom rushed towards me and suddenly the bike was under me and I was zipping across the bottom. A second later, the bike was shooting up the other side like a rocket heading for the sun. I almost forgot my advice and had to start peddling. I heard my oldest son whooping with delight as he descended behind me as my bike went airborne at the top of the pit. I braked the second I landed and I rode my bike out of the way.

A few seconds later, my twelve-year old crested the pit even as my youngest nose-dived towards the bottom. The ten-year old made it almost to the top, ran out of steam, and dumped the bike. I caught him by the arm and pulled him up. His bike slid to the bottom and it took a bit of effort to bring it up. Then we took turns riding through the pit until we were almost too tired to pedal home.

The Internet is full of videos of people doing extreme sports and crazy, risk-filled things. We call them adrenaline junkies. If we are not joining them, we get a rush just watching them do their death-defying stunts. I’m not encouraging you to take up extreme skateboarding or hang gliding. I’m asking, “When was the last time you were fearless for God?”

Psalm 18:29 says with God’s help we can charge into an oncoming army and cut a swath right through them. Then we can scale the castle wall and take the enemy’s fortress too. This same verse is in 2 Samuel 22:30. The words are by King David, a person scripture calls a man after God’s heart, so it is safe to say it is our Heavenly Father’s wish for us to be fearless, courageous and unstoppable. The Bible is full of “fear not” verses and stories of God’s supernatural intervention into people’s lives.

Where do we find most Christians? In 1 Samuel 13:9 it tells us that when adversity came, people hid themselves in cellars, pits and caves. How many enemies does it take to keep you in a pit? Just one. In fact, just the fear that there might be an enemy waiting at the mouth of the cave would keep most people captive. We are often captives of fear even though no enemy is waiting.

I get it. I can’t tell you how many sermon’s I’ve heard where the preacher tells the congregation to try harder, do better, and quit sinning. And everyone hangs their heads in shame, knowing they deserve to stay hidden in the pit. I hate to say it, but many times churches become the caves where like-minded and fearful people gather to wait until Jesus comes back or death takes them. Now it looks like I am telling you, “Be brave. Quit being a coward.”

My beautiful wife told me, not so long ago, “If you had been born in King David’s time, you would have been one of his mighty men. I have no doubt you would have stood in a bean field with a sword in your hand and taken on the whole army of the Philistines single handed.”

Her kind words are extremely humbling. I have been terrified many times. When I forget I am a King’s kid, I want to run and hide. When I think everything depends on me, I want to play it safe and surround myself with the familiar. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t stir anything up. Don’t take chances. For heaven’s sake, don’t be brave in talking about Jesus. Don’t be radical. And, whatever you do, don’t challenge the enemy. Duck back down the pit.

However, when I remember my papa-God is standing at the top of the pit to pull me out if I dump my bike over, then I have confidence. I know He will even go down into the pit to pull out the things that are worth saving. When I am going through the valley, it isn’t about me. When everything is sunshine, it isn’t about me either. Being my Daddy’s son has nothing to do with my actions.

Multiplying Italian food

Tonight I was making some Italian food; pasta shells stuffed with ricotta cheese, a version of manicotti or cannelloni. I took out the glass dish I planned to bake them in counted out 19 pasta shells, enough to fill the container. I put on the pasta to boil, then mixed up the stuffing; ricotta cheese, eggs, spice, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

There seemed to be a lot of shells in the boiling water and, when I drained them out, I had 30 pasta shells. I made one large pan and one small miracle pan. And the ricotta cheese mixture, which was supposed to do for one pan, was enough to do the extra pan, and I didn’t skip on the filling. I covered the whole works with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and one pan is in the oven baking. The miracle pan is to give away.

I have more than enough, and enough to give away. That’s God. That’s what his children should expect. I used to make a bread recipe that said it would make four loaves, but I consistently got six huge loaves. The one to give away I called the blessing loaf. Today I have blessing Italian food. Multiplying food is ordinary. And fun.


I didn’t know I needed one

As I was walking to the bus stop from where I work in an industrial park, I found a sealed clear plastic bag with a coil of blue cable in it. The cable was on the path that I walk every day. I thought perhaps it was a phone cable, but there were only numbers on the bag, not anything identifying what the cable was or where it came from. I had no need of the cable, but carried the bag home with me because there were no trash cans between the spot where I found it and the bus stop.
A week later I bought a new laptop. The technician from the store came over to help get it set up and asked if I had an ethernet cable. He told me that registration and set up is way faster when the computer is hooked directly to the internet. At first I said no. Then I remembered the blue cable.
“Is this what you are looking for?” I asked as I held out the cable, still in the bag.
“That is exactly what I need,” he said. “You must have know you would need one.”
“I didn’t even know what this was,” I told him. “God gave it to me a week ago, before I decided to buy a laptop.”
You see, miracles happen all around us. You just have to recognize it is your loving heavenly Father taking care of you.

A Miraculous Stop

After writing Miracles: Your Impossible Is Possible, real stories of miracles today, I was driving home from a work meeting on the North side. Fortunately for me, the city was just finishing a ring road so, other than the spot where they were doing wrap up on construction, the road is wide, multi-laned and fast.  As my car rounded a curve, I realized that traffic was at a standstill a head of me. I put on the brakes, knowing I had left enough room between my car and the one I was following to be able to stop.

What concerned me was the half-ton truck behind me. It had been following a little close so, as I stepped on the brakes, I was looking into the review mirror. To my horror, the driver had his head down, obviously reading or sending a text. In seconds the distance closed and I knew he was going to hit me. I had time only to call out, “Jesus.”

The rearview mirror filled with truck grill and, at the very moment his truck bumper should have hit my car, the half-ton was suddenly parked beside me to my left. The half-ton was almost touching the bumper of the car ahead of it and the truck’s back bumper was almost touching the car behind it.

The driver looked up from his phone to find he was stopped and in the other lane. His mouth was hanging open and he was obviously in shock as he stared at me. Not only did Father God keep the truck from smashing into my car, He saved the lives of the people in the vehicles beside and in front of me. And he saved the life of the truck driver.

Miracles happen today.