Sunday, April 24, 2011

Experiencing Freedom This Easter

I confess that the title of this blog is also the title of my pastor's sermon on this Easter Sunday, but it was so fitting that I had to use it. Often, I feel like I haven't been doing enough as a Christian, even though the Bible clearly says salvation cannot be earned ("For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9).

But, lately, I've come to realize more and more that Jesus loves me no matter what I do, or fail to do. Of course, I want to please Him, but He loves me (and all of us) unconditionally, which is why He chose to die on the cross for everyone.

This morning, my girlfriend Anna and I had hoped to attend a sunrise Easter service in another town, but it was cloudy and threatening to rain, so we decided to attend our regular church, which served a full breakfast before the service. The fellowship and worship were uplifting, but we were especially blessed by Pastor John Wheeler's sermon, What Can Jesus Set Me Free From? Well, four things: guilt over my past; worry about my future; purposeless living today; and, most importantly, having to earn my way to heaven.

By mid-morning, the skies cleared and it became very warm, in the 70s, so Anna and I chose to celebrate our freedom in Christ with a motorcyle ride. Annabelle, my Harley, started right up, and we headed south and then west to Connecticut, for one of our favorite roads, Route 49 through Sterling, Conn., a scenic farm road.

It was invigorating to see the trees beginning to bud and flower after a very long, snowy winter. I could smell fresh mulch. Bugs bounced off my face.

There was very little traffic around 2 p.m., since most people were probably sitting down for their Easter dinner (ours was not until 6:00). A good portion of the vehicles on the road were other motorcycles.

During, and after the ride, I reflected on the works God has done in my life since I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior in 2008. I had a peace deep down that could come from nothing else but knowing Christ. Anna also experienced an intense feeling of peace today.

"I noticed a lot of praise and worship on my Facebook today," she said, "and not just from the regular Christians. The body (the church) lifted up the head (Christ), and it was a peaceful day."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blowing the Dust Off

Man, it's been a looong wait for the kickoff to this year's riding season. Back in February, the last time I posted on this blog, we'd been hammered with one serious snowfall after another, and it seemed like the white stuff would be on the ground until June. Okay, that's an exaggeration ... actually, the snow had disappeared by March, but then, I was waiting for a day that was at least partly sunny, and 60 degrees or better, before I would venture out. Oh, and that day had to be on a weekend, since my girlfriend Anna and I both work full-time (I was blessed to find a full-time job, which I started on March 1). Our New England weather has been stuck in a holding pattern the last few weeks, with most days reaching only into the 50s, so, I decided that today's forecasted high temperature in the mid-50s was close enough. That's right, time to ride ....

My 2002 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide (nicknamed Annabelle), hadn't been started in four months. I never installed a Battery Tender trickle charger after I bought the bike, because it had started after the 2009/10 winter without one, so I figured it would be okay through another winter. Wrong. The starter cranked slowly, and then the starter solenoid just rattled. I took the seat off my bike, and asked my girlfriend to bring a set of jumper cables, but the owners of the house where I store the bike returned home a few minutes later and graciously produced a pair of jumper cables that got Annabelle's motor purring in a jiffy. After letting her idle for a few minutes, I shut the engine off to make sure it would restart, before I ventured out on the road. It restarted under its own power now. Lesson learned: a Battery Tender is a must-have.

I discovered a curious fact about my motorcycle. A factory quality control sticker on a wiring harness underneath my seat was dated 09/12/2001 - which is the day after the terrorist attack that downed the World Trade Center in New York City. Also, a mouse or mice apparently had taken shelter in my seat at some point in the past, as some shells of sunflower seeds fell out of the bottom of the seat as I lifted it off the bike. Fortunately, the wires seemed to be intact.

Anyhow, my girlfriend arrived at the garage shortly after I got the bike started. She couldn't wait to ride. My bike desperately needed a bath, but this "ice breaker" ride wasn't about showing off - it was about a revival of soul and machine.

Even the route or destination wasn't important. We headed south, riding through West Greenwich, Exeter, North Kingstown and South Kingstown, stopping for lunch in Wakefield. By then, my fingers had started to turn white and numb, even with insulated leather gloves (oddly enough, after I thawed them out under warm water, they didn't get numb for the ride home).

On the way home, we stopped at Summit General Store in Greene, R.I., which bills itself as "Rhode Island's Only Real General Store." Anna had wanted to take me there in the past, but had been unable to find it.

During our ride, we covered a little more than 80 miles and passed a fair number of motorcyclists, though nowhere near as many as we would have seen on a Sunday with temps in the 70s or 80s. Admittedly, 'ideal' riding weather hasn't arrived yet, and true fair-weather riders' bikes are still in hibernation, but I wasn't about to let another weekend go by without blowing the dust off my bike.