CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Looking for Adventure…

…go, Steppenwolf, go!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

So my Suzuki GS1100L and I have seen a lot of adventures together.  I purchased a Rifle Fairing for it, had it installed, and had the bike and fairing painted to match.  It was beautiful!  Until one spring, maybe ten years ago or so.

I have an old High School buddy that works on motorcycles in Cochranton, PA  (Professional Cycle, http://www.procycle1.com/Procycle1/Home.html.  Ask for Dell).  For quite a while I took my bikes to him to service, inspect, fix, whatever.  So on this particular day, I had gotten up early and rode down to get the 1100 inspected.  We live outside of Erie, PA, so it was always kind of a commitment to get there.  After he was done I got going, and entered Interstate 79 at Meadville to get home.  Beth and I had friends that were getting married that day, so I really cranked the throttle.  The 1100 has always had a surplus of power, and within about a nanosecond I was travelling at 90 mph (yeah, I know.  First, stupid.  Second, way above the speed limit.  Third, I’m a cop and know better.  Response?  One, I think I’m smarter now than then.  Two, I don’t drive like that now.  Three, blah, blah, blah.  Fourth, the statute of limitations is way past, so nyah! And fifth, do not try this yourselves, it’s dumb beyond belief!).

About a mile or so north of Meadville on I-79 is a curve to the right, with a “mound” separating the northbound and southbound lanes.  Just north of that is an overhead bridge.  It was just before that spot that I decided that my left mirror really needed adjusted.  As I adjusted the mirror, I drifted left to the edge of the road.  I looked up, and I was in the loose part, just entering the curve (at 90 mph).I wasn’t experienced at that point to get myself out of it, and went off the road into the median, which at that location was kind of a grass ditch between the big mound and the northbound lane.  I did a fair job of holding on, and started slowing down.  Needless to say, the word “calm” was not part of my vocabulary at this point.  Panic, terror (literal terror), oh, yeah.  But not calm.

The rear tire kicked out on me, and I did a low side spill.  Motorcycle on its side, and I on my back did a 90 mph slide down the median.  I remember my head hitting a rock and I flipped over, hitting my face shield on the motorcycle and bouncing over again onto my back until we both stopped.  I got up and looked back, only to see pieces of fairing and motorcycle as far as I could see.  Not my happiest moment.  I called Dell to come and pick up my bike, and called Beth to come and get me.  Needless to say, we didn’t get to the wedding that day (sorry, Steve and Karey).

Dell fixed the bike, and I got it home.  However, it was a couple of years before I got the guts to get back on it, and then only after taking the PA motorcycle safety course (http://www.pamsp.com/).   This is actually a great course, and I would recommend it to every rider, no matter how experienced.

I never did get another Rifle Fairing.  My brother-in-law gave me his old windshield, and I have used it for several years.  It’s cheesy, but I appreciated it.  Like I said, I hate riding without a windshield.  Here’s the bike as it looks today:

LOVED this bike!

I continued to ride the 1100 for several years, but she just continued to deteriorate.  I continued to ride, last year I figured out that I was saving five dollars a day riding it to work versus driving my Chevy Silverado.   I was a bit embarrassed to ride her last year and this year; she just was not the beautiful lady she had been.  It culminated last year when I took it to Crolli, Inc. to get some work done (Crolli’s location: http://mapq.st/IFdPJr).  After the work was done, I’m standing beside the 1100, just looking at it, looking at the other bikes around it, and thinking about how it kind of looks a bit worn.  Some guy was also there to pick up his bike, I guess, and looking down at my bike, the love of my life, says, “Now that’s a beater!”  Well!  The nerve!  Except that he’s right.  I just said, “Yep, she get’s me where I’m going, and she’s paid for.”  He did a major back pedal, but it still kind of stung.  But what could I say?  The poor thing is really pounded.  *sigh*

This year, I was just “window shopping” online, and looking at bikes.  Not seriously shopping, just looking.  I got to the point that I figured that if I ever got another two-wheeler, it would likely be a Yamaha V-Star.  Understand, I have always hated Harleys mostly on principle.  So for a long time, V-stars were kind of out, as they had (I thought) a Harley look to them.  But this year I changed my mind.  I think that instead of a “Harley look-alike” they’re more of a “retro” look, back to the motorcycles of the ’30’s and ’40’s, and I kind of got to like the look.

But like I said, I was just window shopping.  Until Beth told me that she thought I should get a new bike.  What?  “Look, Beth, I appreciate that, but really, I don’t think we can afford it.”  “No, I’ve looked at the numbers, and I think we can.”  Wow!  Well so much for “just window shopping!”  At that point it became a serious hunt.

I narrowed it down to two.  Both were V-Stars, both 1300 cc’s, both local, both 2008 models.  One was privately owned and kind of stripped down with very low mileage and a bit cheaper.  The other was a bit pricier with slightly higher mileage, around 12,000 miles, but dressed out.  The second one was being sold by Precision Bike Works in Erie (http://www.precisionbike.com/), and was the Tourer model, dressed out with windshield, engine guard, and backrest.  I took a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon and looked at both of them.  Beth, to my surprise, also took time off work, and went with me.

We stopped at Precision Bike Works first and talked to Rich. The Tourer was beautiful and dressed up just as I would like.  I couldn’t ride it as it was buried in the back by several other bikes, but she was a beaut!

The privately owned ‘Star was just as beautiful, and I got to take her out for a short spin.  BOY was that a sweet ride!  A bit less expensive, only around 1,400 miles, it was pristine!

Since it was close to dinnertime, Beth and I went to the Tap House in Erie (http://www.upick6.com/).  We sat down, got an appetizer and I got a beer.  We talked over the two bikes, compared them, pluses and minuses.  I described the less expensive one, and how it had low miles, and I could build it up over time with a windshield, backrest, and so on.  Beth said, “You’re not getting that one.  You’re getting the Tourer.”  Now, I don’t normally take orders well, but when she said that, I immediately (after picking my jaw off the floor) called Precision Bike works and told Rich I was buying it, while simultaneously calling for the check and paying the bill.  I didn’t even finish my beer!  We paid up and were on the way back to put money down on the bike in record time.

The next day we went back and paid off the rest, did all the paperwork, and I got to ride it home.  I cannot tell you how jazzed I am with this machine!  Here she is:

Screaming Thunder

Nah, just kidding, here’s  the real deal!

And what a sweet machine to ride!  Comfortable, strong, classy, and beautiful!  Beth and I got a ride on it before the weather got freezing cold again, and she loves it as much as I do.  I think I can see a long future with this bike!  And for safety’s sake I took it to Crolli and had him install a headlight modulator, a brake light modulator, a 132 dB airhorn, and new rubber on the back.  I figured out that this year I’m saving a ten-dollar bill every day that I ride it to work.  So, look out highway, here I come!  Looking for adventure

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Cleaning out the Garage

Ahh, Spring!  For young men, that means love.  To Sun Worshippers it means warm air, hot sun.  To Seasonal Affect Disorder sufferers, it means happiness after a long, dreary winter.  Me?  It means I Gotta Clean Out the Garage.

Objectively, Beth and I have been crazy busy for about five years (or longer), and our “stuff” has piled up to dangerous proportions.  When the A&E television show “Hoarders” contacted us last month to do not just an episode but an entire season starring us, we figured it was time to change our lifestyle.

It has been some time since we have de-cluttered, and after my Mother died last fall, we had to store her stuff along with ours.  We no longer have a usable front porch, and our unattached garage was barely available for a car.  And that doesn’t count the stuff we have in a storage unit a mile or so away.

Although we are far from professionals, we have done yard sales in the past.  It’s been kind of fun, although we have discovered an entirely new category of disagreements.  And that is the “How Much Do We Ask For This” category.

We did a yard sale several years ago, and  we put out an old lawn mower.  I cleaned it up and made it look all pretty.  Beth wanted to put a price of twenty-five bucks on it.  I said forty.  What?  No.  Yes.  No.  Yes.  NO.  YES!!!  We finally put the $40.00 price tag on it, and Beth was convinced we would never sell it.  I told the first guy that looked at it that it was blowing oil, and he didn’t care.  Not only did we sell in the first hour, we could have sold it about a dozen times throughout the course of the day!

I think it was the same yard sale that we put out a record player/FM stereo combo unit that the record player was non-functional.  I put a price of $5.00 on it, and a sign that the record player didn’t work.  Sold!

So a few months ago, recognizing that we needed to, uh, downsize, we decided to do a yard sale.  And to start the process we settled on this past Saturday to start.  We developed a strategy:  Garage first.  Front porch second.  Storage unit last.  Store all the stuff in the garage if possible, but utilize the front porch if necessary.  Good plan, very workable.

So bright and early we got started (ok, actually we sat around and looked at the walls trying to wake up for a while).  The first step was to create space.  I had an old cabinet in the garage that I used to store all my cans of half-used oil, carb cleaner, Sta-bil, and so on.  I assembled a set of shelves that Beth had purchased, and we got it against the wall.  We then pulled the drawers out of the cabinet o move it out of the way.  I downloaded what remained in the cabinet, until there was only one item left way in the back.  As I reached for it, I thought something moved.  It was kind of dark clear in the back, so I looked closer.  And a mouse ran full-tilt toward me, jumped off the edge of the shelf, and took off for safer locales.  I won’t say I was startled, but I might have yelled a little.  Just to alert Beth, of course.  Ahem.

Anyhow, we were thereby alerted that we had mice.  As we sorted, we found a nest or two, and actually found a couple trying to hide.  They were kind of cute little critters, just a couple of inches long, gray and furry.  Beth actually just stood and watched them for a couple of minutes, doing the feminine “Awww” thing.  I suggested that she not try to pet them, and got a nasty look for the comment.  Here I am, trying to offer a helpful hint, and I am totally unappreciated for it.  I guess it’s my lot in life.

As we were sorting, Beth was holding a box of something, and she was sorting through it.  I never saw anything like this, I saw a mouse jump out of the box, run up the front of her sweatshirt, and launch off of her shoulder like it was aiming for outer space.  It was actually pretty cool, but when I told Beth, she shuddered.  Hmm.  Maybe after that episode I should have taken the hint that Beth was not excited at the prospect of physical contact with a mouse.  However, although I know how to spell “obtuse,”  I clearly have not embraced the idea that it’s a really, really bad thing.

Later on, she was concentrating on something, and I guess I had no idea she was as focused as she was.  When I did this, I swear I thought she would just turn around and say something kind of snide about my intelligence.  You know, the usual stuff.  But that’s not exactly what transpired.  I came up behind her, and “walked” my fingers up her arm, like you do with “Eensy Weensy Spider” with little kids.  And as I did this, I said, “Mouse!”  Honest, I thought she’d know I was there.  But no, she had no idea.  She shrieked and jumped about a foot in the air.  I couldn’t help laughing, although I sure tried.  And the look I got!  One would think that I would be used to the “wife look” by now, but my blood still froze.  It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t stop giggling.  I tried to give her a hug and apologize (while still giggling), but I was let to understand that if I touched her I would suffer physical injury of a nature that would severely affect my ability to walk normally.  This time I heeded the warning signs, and escaped with my body intact.  It was strangely chilly in the garage for a while, though.

Well, we got ‘er done.  Garage is cleaned out, old cabinet gone, and stuff stacked and sorted.  We have a “keep” section, and a “sell” section.  Today, I take a day off and we’ll get the front porch done, and hopefully the storage unit done, or at least started.  The attic and basement are last, and then we get to clean stuff.  And then put prices on everything.  Now that will be fun.

MOUSE!!!

A Successful Father?

For some time, I have been pondering the role of a parent, specifically that of a father.  What defines a “good” father?  What is a “successful” father? Can one be a “good” father but not a “successful” one, or are they synonymous?

Note:  I fully recognize the unbelievably difficult job of being a mother.  However, not ever having any experience in being a mother, I cannot comment on motherhood in an experiential way, except to say that my wife, Beth, is the absolute best mother I have ever seen, and I am grateful to have partnered with her in the raising of our children.  This post, therefore, is specifically about “fatherhood.”  Additionally, understand that this post is not about how my children turned out, good, bad, or anywhere in between.  This post is strictly about how a father measures success.

Previously, I have mentioned my buddy John who texts me with verses, thoughts, and so on.  He recently sent me this quote from John Fuller:

So, if parenting aims at helping our kids succeed in life, what’s success going to look like …

…True Success isn’t a list of accomplishments.

…There’s something deeper to true success, something more substantial.  Something harder to achieve, harder to measure, but long-lasting and deeply meaningful.  I’m talking about intangible but ultimately significant qualities.  Things like honesty, loyalty, integrity, compassion, and character.

So, what is success, as it relates to being a father?  Assume that a child turns out well, and the father has worked hard to be a good provider, father, dad.  Does that father take any credit for the way the child has turned out?  What if the child turns out poorly, or goes in a life’s direction that the father sees as less than optimal?  Is the father then a failure?  Is a father’s success tied to how the children turn out?  Or is his success independent of the “outcome” of his child?

I was blessed with a fantastic father.  Not perfect, but a good man.  He showed me discipline, love, and I learned a lot about how to be a man by watching him.  My Dad died in 2000 at age 80 (The jerk.  I miss him every day).  He loved to tease, laugh, and devoted his life to his family.  How his children turned out (pretty good in my opinion) is irrelevant, I would rate him as a “successful” father.  If I am a good man, if I am a success, I would think that my success is at least in part due to my father’s influence.

My Grandmother, his Mother once made a statement to me.  I have no idea what prompted this; I wasn’t in trouble for anything that I can remember, I hadn’t done anything wrong that I remember, and no one was angry with me that I remember.  Yep, I had to put in that “remember” qualifier.  Being in trouble was not unheard of for me.

Anyhow, my Grandmother said to me, “It would kill your parents if you ever wound up in jail.”  What?  Grandma, what in the world are you talking about?

My parents trusted me, and I grew up with incredible freedom.  I also grew up with a huge sense of responsibility.  Heck, I didn’t want to be responsible for my parents croaking, so even if I was inclined to not care about crime and punishment, I sure don’t want to end up in jail and watch my parents die from shame…

I think that at least partly, that sense of duty carried over into my job as a husband and father.  I worked hard to be a good father, and to raise my children as spiritual beings, responsible, mature.  Although far from perfect, I worked to be consistent, and  honorable.  I want my children to know that I was the same on Friday night as I was on Sunday morning.  I was no different at church than I was at home or at a party.

So, with that understanding, am I a successful father?  If I have a child that becomes a Nobel-winning scientist that discovers the cure for cancer, I would be widely hailed as a fantastic father.  But what if a child of mine becomes a notorious serial killer.  If my parenting were identical, would I still be considered a successful father?  I imagine not.  Does it not seem likely that under the serial killer scenario, I would be considered at best a “good” father, but not a “successful” one?  And what if they weren’t a serial killer?  What if Martha Stewart were my daughter?  A financial success, great business woman, intelligent.  And a convicted felon.  Successful father?  How about Julian Assange?  Founder of Wikileaks, publishing tons of classified material for whatever reason, and (in my estimation)  guilty of the potential death of a number of service men and women, and clearly someone who has severely weakened American security.  Successful father?  Who decides?  Is it the father, the child, society, family, who?  What about the child that makes poor decisions, puts themselves in a bad situation, and suffers because of those choices, even if taught to know better by their father.  Is that father a failure?

Is a father’s success based on their child’s choices and adulthood?

I have believed for a long time that if one’s children do not turn out well, that father is useless, and a failure.  But is that accurate?

The answer, I think at least in part, is that society decides the success and failure of a father, based on how a child turns out as an adult.  Further, except in extreme examples like the serial killer scenario, various sub-sets of society will measure a father’s success or failure on two things.  First, how did that child turn out, and what kind of choices did they make?  And two, does that child’s choices and outcome fit into what that particular sub-set sees as positives?

This is further complicated by the sub-set’s notions.  Assume I am I Assange’s father.  There are those that consider him a hero, so to that sub-set, he would be a success.  However, I would likely be viewed as a “bad” father, or a “failure,” if my conservative mindset were known.  If I were a liberal, that same sub-set would see me as a success, and a good father.

So.  Although this is somewhat in contradiction to my measurement earlier of my own father, I think that in the end, “successful” father and “good” father must be measured separately.  With this viewpoint, one can be a “good” father, but not a “success” if the child turns out poorly.  I think that, for me, a man should not measure his worth and value based on how the child turned out, but in how he did as a Dad.  I think a father can be, and should be proud of his kid(s) when they turn out well, but that doesn’t make him a success.  What if the child turns out poorly?  If the father did a good job, he should be content with that and love his child as best he is able.  What if the father did a poor job?  It’s never too late to mend broken fences; it’s never too late to become the man one should be.

Are my children “good” people?  Good for them, they made good choices, their life is theirs, not mine.  Are my children not “good” people?  I am so sorry, my children, you have made poor choices, and are paying the consequences.  Either way, it is not my burden and not my glory.  I love my children more than life itself, and I wish them happy, productive, spiritual lives.

Basing one’s success as a father on how the child turns out will, I think, lead to one of two mindsets.  If the child turns out well, pride would be difficult for a father to avoid.  But it’s not his triumph; it belongs to the child.  On the other hand, if the child turns out poorly, the father can become broken-hearted, and despair may result.  Either way, I would say, “Father, let it go!  It doesn’t belong to you!”

I reflect on my life as a Dad, and as I said, I was far from perfect.  However I am a good judge of character, effort, and ability.  And from an objective point of view, I have done a good job as a parent, as a Dad.  And with that, I should be content.

Head out on the Highway

…sing it, Steppenwolf!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

I know, I know.  It has been established that I am not a “biker.”  I just like the song, ok?

The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L.  Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still  the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.

I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty.  Great lines, classy, and strong!  Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive.  For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn.  The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away.  But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it.  Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.

That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”).  Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together.  Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing.  That continued with the Suzuki 750.  We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride.  The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit.  With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to.  But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.

I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield.  I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me.  I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something.  And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth.  Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.

Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet.  Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets.  For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.”  My reply?  If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road.  At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket.  A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me.  And I would rather look good than be chinless…

Anyhow, back to the bugs.  I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one.  In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet.  My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.

And it had to be a wasp.  I hate them all!  Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter.  I call them stingy-things, and I!  Hate!!  Them!!!  The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen.  My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.

That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not.  Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area.  Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher.  Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there;  no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid.  If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not.  My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.

So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had.  My job?  Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax.  It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind.  I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time.  Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax.  I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage.  I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying.  It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace.  It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me.  And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!!  I started howling, and holding my eye.  Man did that hurt!  Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid.  Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened.  I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind.  When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names.  Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!

So, back to the wasp in my helmet.  Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear.  Now imagine that it’s happening right now.  And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation.  Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did.  I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road.  When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike.  So far so good.  I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time.  It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this?  What the hey!).   I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on).  Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever).  The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around.  Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet.  I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up.  Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point?  I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away.  Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway.  I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros.  Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.

Man I hate stingy-things!!!

Cross Reflections

The last couple of weeks have been such that, pretty much every day, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hope the world just goes away.  I figuratively just curled up in a corner and waited for life to stop kicking me.  *Sigh*  The old saying goes, “Momma told me there’d be days like this, she just didn’t tell me there’d be this many in a row…”  I didn’t even really check in on the blog for a while. Woof, what a couple of weeks!

Bad couple of weeks not withstanding, Easter presents a good time of year for reflection.  And this is what I have done for about the past week.

It started with me reading Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” April 6th entry.  I quote it here:

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. — 1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross. Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin. The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened – but the crash is on the heart of God.

I had never before entertained the notion that Christ on the Cross was not just a dreadful experience that should horrify.  It is God’s “superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken.”  I have always looked at the cross in sorrow, which I think is appropriate, since I understand that it is my sin which necessitated Jesus’ sacrifice.  However, I never viewed it as the triumph that it is.  Sin and death crushed forever in one action!  I have for a long while prayed from time to time something like, “Father, I am so sorry that Jesus had to suffer for my actions, my sins, but thank you so much that He did.”  And again, I think that appropriate.  But I never before considered what a thunderous victory this was!  This was the cosmic equivalent of the climactic moments of the biggest event one can think of: one that I should be jumping in the air with my fists pumping screaming, “YEAH!!!!!” at the top of my lungs.  My team wins the Super Bowl (or the Steelers lose)?  That’s nothing.  You should see me hopping around the room, screaming with pure, unadulterated joy, whooping and dancing around with a savage ecstasy.  A Super Bowl?  That’s nothing compared to what Christ accomplished in one day on Calvary.  I should forever be celebrating at the top of my lungs at the victory accomplished by Jesus.  And that is an unbelievably cool thought to me.

At our church’s Good Friday service, our pastor, Bob Klecan, quoted Dwight L. Moody as saying, “Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now…”  Now that’s a very cool thought!  Again, I have for years believed in the afterlife, but I’m not sure I thought of it as it actually is.  At that final heartbeat when I leave this existence, at the split second that I “die,” at that exact moment I will be who I was meant to be from the beginning of time.  My entire life thus far has been in the shadow world.  It is only as I step into eternity that I will, for the first time, see reality.

We also at the same service reflected on the Cross of Christ, and what it meant to each of us; what did it mean to me on a  personal level, what did I see as the most significant gift that I received from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (at least that is my interpretation of Pastor Bob’s challenge).  We then had the opportunity to write down out thoughts and leave them at the foot of the cross.  I, however, wrote down my thoughts but did not leave them there.  I thought they would fit well into this post and brought them home.  Addressing my thoughts to God I wrote: “Thank you for giving me the ability, the possibility of living above my human-ness.  I can live outside of myself, through the grace of God.  I can be more than I could otherwise be.  I don’t have to live focused on my needs, but can live focused on God.”  And it is only through my dependence on God and his work in my life that I have any hope at all of living a life that is different from hedonism.  Apart from God’s love, I doubt that one person in a million (I’m being generous here)  can truly change their life to be a life that is sacrificial, others oriented, “good.”  I know that I have not come close to arriving at my goal, but I am so far from where I was.  My goal is to be like Christ.  And boy, does God have a lot of work to do…

I know that many would say to me that it’s good that I have this belief in God, since I need it.  However, they would likely say that they have no such need and/or doubt that God exists.  I would answer that by saying that this is not driven by a need of mine.  I could honestly live a self-focused life quite nicely, thank you very much.  I could live for pleasure now, and expect the oblivion of death when that time comes.  But I choose to not live that life.  I choose to believe the promises of God as presented in the Bible, giving myself freely to Him, and to seek to live a life based solely on the completed work of Jesus.  I live in gratitude to Him for accomplishing what I could not: my reconciliation to God, and a life that can change.  What a Gift!  What potential for my life here and now, and not just a potential for gain at the end of this life!  With all of this that God has done, how can I not be grateful?

So these have been the things upon which I have reflected the past week or so.  Huh!  I guess it wasn’t such a bad week after all…

Get Your Motor Runnin’…

…with a nod to Steppenwolf.   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

Ok, it’s more than a little laughable to try to shoehorn me and a “biker” song into the same thought.  I ride a motorcycle, but no self-respecting “biker” would even sit with me in the same bleacher section at a George Thorogood concert.  My idea of teenage rebellion was when I bought (geez, I didn’t even steal the stupid thing) a comic book and hid it in the Sunday paper my Dad had sent me to buy.  I hid it so Pop wouldn’t know I bought another comic book with my allowance money.  Yeah, I was a real wild child, alright.

When I was a teen, I had friends with motorcycles, but not me.  I didn’t work at jobs that paid enough for me to afford one, and my cruel parents refused to see the necessity of a teenager having a motorcycle.  Never mind that I was an irresponsible and reckless teenager.  That has nothing to do with it, and I clearly needed one.  Maybe I could have tried the holding-my-breath-until-I-turned-blue trick, but I’m kind of doubtful that would have helped my case much.

So I had to wait until adulthood to get a bike.

I was a young-ish cop in North East, PA, and I worked second and third shifts, almost exclusively.  One of my younger-than-I-was friends bought a motorcycle, and I was really envious.  I had wanted one for a long time, but still didn’t have one.  Rats!  JB’s “new” bike was an old (I don’t even remember the year) Honda CB 500.  It had been sitting behind some guy’s garage, and

Not my bike, but a nice shot of a Honda CB.

was just a mess.  JB paid only $300.00 for it, and then took it to a nearby motorcycle dealer for repair.  After several weeks, the shop told him that for them to fix it would cost him way more than the bike was worth.  Disgusted, he said he was just going to sell it.  I asked the price, and he told me that he was just looking to get his $300.00 back.  I yelled, “Sold!” and was completely jazzed about my new purchase.

Those that know me are probably wondering what Beth thought about this whole thing.  Well, I didn’t tell her.  I value my marriage, and I just didn’t think it was a healthy thing to explain this to Beth at this point.  Sometimes, no matter how rational I am, she takes a negative tack.  So I kind of, uh, waited for the proper moment.  Timing is everything.

We had been discussing the purchase of a motorcycle.  The conversations usually went something like this.

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “We can’t afford one.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “They’re too dangerous.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “No.

See?  Unreasonable.  So, being the thoughtful husband, I thought it best to tell Beth at a better time.

JB finally got the bike (MY bike!!!) back from the shop in the back of a friend’s pickup.  I was working 8PM to 4AM, so around 2-3 in the morning, he backed into my driveway, and we unloaded it, putting it in my garage.  At the end of the shift, I went home and went to bed, with visions of motorcycles dancing in my head.

When I woke up, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.  I couldn’t wait to tell Beth.  It just happened to be her birthday, and I just knew she would be as jazzed as me (like I said, I was young), so I took her out to the garage and stood her in front of the door.  I had her close her eyes, threw the door open, and had her open her eyes.  And it felt like I had stepped into a walk-in freezer.  We were standing outside, but the temperature dropped about thirty degrees in a heartbeat.  I swear!  She looked at this unbelievable symbol of masculine freedom, and in a voice that I would expect from Regan in The Exorcist as her head is spinning around, Beth said, “What.  Is that?”  Suffering from short-term male dementia, I failed to keep my mouth shut.  I said, “It’s a motorcycle!”  Head still spinning, and now spitting pea soup, she next asked, “Who’s is it?”  (Well, maybe more of a shrieking sound than an actual voice) My answer?  “It’s mine!  I just bought it last night!  Happy birthday!!”  I can safely say that I did not get the reaction that my deranged young mind thought I would get.  It probably didn’t help that we were renovating Beth’s kitchen, and she thought her new cabinets had come in.  Whatever the case, our house was chilly and quiet for a loooong time. (note: I am not as stupid now as then.  We have a fantastic relationship, probably mostly due to Beth’s stupid husband actually becoming an adult…)

Well, we kept the bike, and I spent a lot of time getting it into running shape.  I loved that bike.  I’m not a small guy, I stand about 6’3″, and back then probably weighed in at 180 lbs.  Riding it I probably looked like a monkey sitting on a softball, but I felt like a million bucks on that thing.  A couple of years later I traded up to a CB 750.

Also not mine, but beautiful!

I didn’t keep this one long.  It was from Utah, and when I emptied the carburetor bowls, there was about a half-inch of sand in them.  I could just imagine what the carbs, valves, and pistons looked like, so I sold it and bought a Suzuki GS 750.

Mine was a gorgeous red.

Now that was a beautiful bike!  I kept that Suzi for a couple of years, and then traded up to a Suzuki GS 1100L.  I have had that bike for twenty years.  But as time goes on, things like motorcycles tend to wear down, get tired, not look as good.  And I didn’t have the money or talent to keep ‘er looking and running like she should.  But I loved that bike!  Even when it was unsafe and looked a little (ok, a lot) run-down, I loved that bike.  I tend to get overly sentimental about things, and that motorcycle was no exception.

Next up: From GS1100 to the present!!

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