CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “North East Pennsylvania”

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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Looking for the next updraft.

The past couple of weeks have been interesting.  As part of my job at Edinboro University, I attended a three-day class on Wednesday, March 14 through Friday, March 16.  The class itself was fine, it was a FEMA sponsored certification for All-Hazards planning.  The stressful part of that was sitting at a table with the University President to my left, the Provost to my right, the VP for Student Affairs two people down from that, and the VP for Finance (my boss) across the table.  I felt like the proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  All of the mentioned individuals are great to work with and for, but even so, that situation is simply not the most relaxing of environments.  In addition, that left me with a two-day work week to get stuff done at my office.  Fortunately, I could keep relatively caught up on my email, even if I wasn’t in my office.

Friday evening, Beth and I looked at a couple of motorcycles to replace my 1982 Suzuki GS 1100L (more on that in a later post).

Saturday the 17th was interesting.  That morning, we picked up the new(er) motorcycle, and I rode it home.  It was a beautiful day, but I was more than a little tired from the previously mentioned class, so I took the rest of the day to relax and catch up on some rest.  That evening Beth and I went to our friends’ home (thanks, Matt and Teri) for some fantastic home-brew on St. Patrick’s Day.  I could do that again, let me tell you.  I wish we could have stayed longer, but had obligations at church the next morning.  We were the “party poopers” and left really early (I’m not entirely sure that was a completely bad thing, having been to M & Ts’ parties in the past. Kidding, Matt!!).

Sunday morning was church at First Baptist Church in North East, PA, and then we had to hustle over to the Polish Falcons Club in Erie for our monthly Blue Dolphins Skin Divers meeting.  This was our annual club “bowling challenge” (I’m a miserable bowler) meeting, but fortunately we had the business portion of the meeting first.  I’m the VP of the club, and I think it’s kind of important for me to be there as often as humanly possible.  I couldn’t stay for the fun part (although Beth did), because I had a six-hour drive to Lancaster, PA.

Pennsylvania’s state Universities are linked by an organization, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).  Each University has its own Police Department, with a Chief of Police leading each PD.  The PASSHE chiefs have periodic meetings, in which we discuss matters that may affect us all.  The meetings are always productive and necessary to explore issues deeper than is possible by phone or email.  This particular meeting was a two-day affair starting Monday, March 19 and concluding on Tuesday, March 20.  I then drove the six hours home after the Tuesday meeting.

Brief re-cap: FEMA class Thursday through Friday, Mar. 14-16.  Pick up motorcycle and St. Patty’s Day party Saturday, March 17.  Church, Blue Dolphin meeting, and six-hour drive Sunday, March 18.  Chiefs’ meeting Monday and Tuesday, March 19 and 20, and a six-hour drive home Tuesday afternoon/evening.

Wednesday the 21st through Friday the 23rd were fun, in that I got to ride my new bike to work and home, thanks to the beautiful weather and unseasonable temperatures we have experienced.  Friday evening I was beat, but jazzed about the new bike, so Beth and I took a one-hour ride.

This past weekend was great, very restful and relaxed.  Friday and Saturday nights were the first great nights sleep I have had in a couple of weeks.

So I have been tired for at least the past week and a half.  Each event was fine in and of itself.  I enjoyed each thing that came along, but added together, I just wore down.

I suppose being so worn down had a large part of the spiritual malaise I have felt for a while.  I have struggled for some time to feel like I was keeping my head above water spiritually.  The description that I have used in the past is that it feels like I am running in the surf.  I have to work twice as hard to get anywhere, but it’s a struggle to even stay upright.  Other than the lack of rest, I’m not sure of the dynamics of this difficulty, but it has been disheartening.

But I am grateful for God’s periodic boosts through this time.  There have been multiple moments where I have found a verse in the Bible that lifts me, perhaps a verse that I would skim right over at any other time.  Maybe a line in our pastor’s message on a given Sunday.  A line in a song on the radio (WCTL in the Erie area or on-line), or a comment from Beth or a friend.

These haven’t been “boosts” like one would see pushing the space shuttle into the stratosphere.  I actually had that kind of booster during our recent fast.

Have you ever watched a bird, maybe a hawk or an eagle soaring high in the sky on a summer day?  It seems so effortless, but the truth is that they need constant adjustments to stay “up.”  Glider pilots (and even captains of sailboats) must constantly monitor the winds.  Because winds shift.  If they have a breeze from the north-west, they cannot depend on that as a constant.  It might shift to a wind from the south-west, and they must adjust sail accordingly.  That bird or glider must constantly ride a new updraft, otherwise they will have a very short flight.

And this is what I have received over the past few weeks.  Not a massive booster that slams me back into my seat, breathless as I am thrust ever faster on my journey.  But instead, a gentle updraft, keeping me afloat as I pray to maintain my soaring above the earth.

God never promised that this life would be an easy one.  He only promises that He will be with us always, constantly, a “wind beneath my wings.”  And as I learn to continuously surrender myself, He helps me find the next updraft that He has provided, keeping me afloat, soaring.  Every day, every moment, Lord, Your will be done, not mine.  Kill my will, Father, it’s out to kill me.  Fill me, Lord with You.  All You.  Nothing but You.

Music plays a large part of my life, and I have loved music since I was a child.  I sing, listen to CD’s, radio, and I am constantly uplifted.  This song touches me every time I listen to it.  May God’s Blessings be upon us all.

Enjoy:  http://youtu.be/SGniRk_GcLs

It begins.

Day One of my Punishment Detail.

It’s been twelve hours, twenty-two minutes and seventeen seconds since I had a bite of food in my mouth.  Only two and a half days to go.  I can feel myself weakening.  Almost fell down the stairs.  No strength.  I think my ribs are sticking out.  How can I keep going?  Not even a cup of coffee to comfort me.  So…tired…camt fele teh kaybrod…goin daaarrrrkkkk…eajfaliiooooeeeeeeeeee jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj  jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj  jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

   …NOT!!!  I don’t quite have enough fat to live as long as a polar bear through the winter, but I bet I could go a couple of weeks minus calories.

It’s kind of interesting, last night I found myself kind of perversely looking forward to this week of fasting.  It’s a challenge, and I am all about that.  Nor really feeling the hunger yet, but I do miss my coffee.  However, Beth and I were talking, and you know what?  We both want to do this correctly.  I really want to focus on God during this time, so that when I feel the hunger I am pointed toward Him.  I want this to be a time of prayer and focus; spiritual awareness.  Hunger and I are not friends, so this is definitely out of my comfort zone.

In times past when we did the Daniel fast, I remember having a caffeine headache for two days, and my kidneys ached for four.  Interestingly, no headache today.  We have cut back on caffeine intake, so hopefully we’ll be relatively ok with that.  I am a bit hungry, but that’ll change; I expect that I’ll be real hungry later on.  I find myself tired, but that I expect will improve.  During our last Daniel fast I missed the coffee for a few days, but then not so badly.

And I tried to convince my wife last night that hops and malt should be allowed on this diet.  They’re grains, right?  She didn’t buy it.

I am just not used to this (part one).

When we returned from our short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we talked about sharing our experiences at church, First Baptist Church in North East, PA.  I know this is pretty standard fare for people serving in this capacity.  One goes on a mission trip, comes back, and talks about the trip at church.  What isn’t standard is that I was “volunteered” to speak.  I kind of thought we would all speak for a couple of minutes, but was unanimously (minus one) voted down.  It was decided that I would speak for the group.  Lovely.

Our pastor, Bob Klecan, agreed that a presentation would be appropriate, and he figured ten minutes would be a good time for the report.  He scheduled me to speak yesterday, February 19.  I wasn’t too worried about it, I write fairly well, and I belong to Noon-Time Toastmasters in Erie, PA.  So I was comfortably confident I could turn out something coherent and present it in an acceptable fashion.  This isn’t to brag, I’m just saying that the basic skills required were not a huge concern.  I just wanted to honor God with what I did.

Through the week I worked on it, and as of Saturday I had about four minutes, thirty-eight seconds.  Wow!  Expanding this would not be difficult, I was happy to add stuff that I had been afraid would not fit.  Beth made a couple of suggestions which I incorporated, and I got the talk ready to go.  I made a few fine-tuning changes later on Saturday, and even Sunday morning until just before service started.  I prayed about it, Beth prayed about it, and we prayed about it together.  I was confident that I would at least present it ok, and not embarrass myself.  Good enough for me.

I have been fighting a cold for a week or so, but getting better.  I did not think that would be a factor.  However, on Saturday I sneezed for about five minutes straight.  When I was done sneezing, my nose became a faucet and my sinuses were completely clogged.  Beth and I serve on the worship team at church, with Beth being one of the guitarists, and I am one of the singers.  With the unbelievably nasty cold hitting like a blizzard (uh, flood?), I was doubtful I could sing, and was concerned about my ability to talk on Sunday

The cold hit me mid-morning Saturday, just before I started working on the talk.  So, I did what I would expect anyone in that position to do.  I took my laptop, got a cup of coffee, and headed out to our unattached, unheated garage to work on the missions report.  One might ask why in the world I would do that?  Well, the answer is that I had determined to smoke one of the Dominican cigars I brought back while working on the report.  And I’m not permitted to smoke my cigars in the house.  So, I was left with no choice but to work in the cold, cruel wastes of northwestern Pennsylvania, sheltered only by an unheated garage, and with a nasty cold no less!  See how cruel my wife can be?  (Kidding, honey!!)

In any event, I was fairly calm about the whole thing, cold and all.  We went to bed Saturday night, and I prayed (and we prayed) that God would take away the cold for Sunday morning.  Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea tea, NyQuil, and lights out.  Interestingly, Saturday night I wound up doing an all-nighter; I’m at the age where that means I don’t have to get up even once to use the bathroom.

Unraveling.

There have been a few times this week that I have wept. Often when we were in a village working with the residents of this beautiful country.  But not exclusively. I have been puzzling over this, trying to figure out what has moved me here.  It’s not the poverty.  I can find similar poverty easily within an hour of our home in North East, Pennsylvania.  It’s not hopelessness, because the people here are not living as if they are hopeless.  It’s not even sadness, because I suspect if I could ask them if they are sad about their lives, they would be at worst indignant that I would presume to think thus, or at best they would say, “Life is life.  What can one do about the life one lives? One would as well be sad because the sky is blue.”

Did you ever get an impossible knot in your shoelace? When that happens to me it’s usually when I’m in a hurry, and definitely it’s usually inconvenient. The thing is, you can’t hurry a knot like that; tug on one loop here, or twist the knot there and have it simply and easily come unraveled. Like it or no, a knot such as that takes time and patience to undo. Rushing will not solve the problem, it will only make the knot worse.

For years my heart has been bound up like that, twisted, snarled in the worst rat’s nest of a knot that one could imagine. It’s not that I was running from God exactly, quite the contrary.

One of the things that Jim McDonald said during our morning devotional is , “If success is important to you, you may be tempted to choose accomplishment over your relationship with God.” I haven’t sought wealth or prestige, but I have sought success in other ways. I have tried to be a Godly man. I have tried to be a good son, a good husband, a good father. I have worked hard to be an excellent policeman, detective, and now a Chief of Police. None of these are bad things, but when things didn’t go as planned, when setbacks happened, I have seen myself as a failure, and that is, I think, a natural outcome of having a success mindset. I have worked so hard to “succeed” at the Christian life, and have “failed” so often that my heart had twisted into a knot that was impossible for me to unravel.

I have felt something this week I haven’t felt in quite a while, perhaps years. Compassion. God’s compassion for people. Not trying to do something, not trying to succeed, just being open to God using me as He would for people that He loves.

And that, I think, is why I have been weeping. God has used this week to slowly, patiently, unravel that knot in my chest that until yesterday I didn’t even know was there. I doubt it is completely undone, and it will be very interesting to see how this will translate when Beth and I return to the ‘States. But I don’t want success, even success in the Christian life, to be my motivation. I just want to be in relationship with God. Fully, absolutely, completely hand in hand with Him who wants my heart more than my accomplishments.

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