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I have always held in high regards the people I know who are willing to push their limits, take themselves to one level and continue on.  Over the years of cycling I have known a lot of riders who seem to have a genetic ability to focus in a way that sets them apart, with a superhuman constitution or at least a switch in their brain that says ‘no’ to the signals their body is sending them, a Lance Armstrong focus without the doping.  I admire the fearless way they approach the challenges any ride presents.  No obstacle stops them whether it is a steep climb, a scary descent, a jump on a trail, or simply fried legs.

No fear.  Total commitment.

flat

Scott is one of those fearless types.  I have been riding road with him for several years, enough to see him ride brakeless descents that I almost always white knuckle so much that I melt brake pads.  When we ride an event that requires a lot of climbing, I usually pass Scott on the climbs and flat sections, but Scott zooms by me on the screaming downhill sections.  I marvel not only at his skill as Scott zooms deftly by but at the lack of fear he has.  When I ask him about it, he says that his experience as a flat track motorcycle racer cured him of any fear he had of riding two wheels at speed.  Flat track racing meant laying a heavy machine practically flat into a curve, with the rider’s knee skimming or nearly skimming the ground, at speeds exceeding 150 mph.  His attitude when describing it was so matter of fact that I had no doubt that he barely thought about the danger of it all when descending a curvy road at speeds close to fifty mph.  I am so afraid for my life that I nearly wet myself if my fingers leave the brakes.  Scott craves the rush.

John and Jeff each like riding at the front of the pack, so much that they train for the endurance it takes to be there.  Each of them has a tolerance to pain that I find difficult to understand.  On a long group ride, I find myself wincing when one or both of them takes the front.  I know I am about to have my “legs torn off”.  The pace is going to raise to excrutiating, gut wrenching torture, such that requires one to reach down deep to keep from being dropped.  One let down and I am watching the back of the pack move quickly away.  I recognize the commitment, the total disregard for pain, the discipline required to be that type of rider.  To ride like that, you have to be willing to push yourself to a place you have never been, then build on that experience until you know the pain can be overcome.  You know longer fear the pain, you welcome it.

When I look at those three friends, I see three people who know what it means to be all in.  Committed.

They are familiar with their fears enough that fear has found a place in their success.

My friend Jim negotiates a tricky section of single track.

My friend Jim negotiates a tricky section of single track.

Overcoming fear involves taking a leap into what might cause pain.  The experience teaches.  Each victory builds until what once seemed impossible is behind, new challenges taking their place.  I discovered that when my interest in mountain biking was renewed last Fall and I found myself following my friends Jim and Jon over obstacles that years ago would have stopped me.  Fear on a mountain bike is a real enemy, one that can injure and make the obstacles more difficult.  If you don’t go all in on a steep descent, you likely are going to get hurt.

All I have said up to this point seems to point to a blog about commitment, about living without fear, taking the leap of faith.  You want to know what I really think?

Bull.

Hogwash.

A line of crap.

Vaginae(not really, but I just learned that term and wanted to use it in a blog)

I am hear to preach the benefits of living a lukewarm life.  “All in” middle class.  There is a lot to be said about knowing where you are and being happy about it, even accepting it.

* Look at that bit of belly and smile at the tasty burritos, beer, and chocolate that made it happen.

* Ride a dirt path through the woods and take the easy way around the tough stuff, happy in the peaceful exercise you are getting.

* Take the front on a group ride, ride full out as long as you can in the hopes that the guys behind you have had a chance to hurt, then drop back the rest of the ride, happy that the guys who have been busting their butt at four A.M. each day to be top dogs are now getting their due.

* Pick up Scott from the ditch at the bottom of the descent after his over confidence caused him to overshoot the curve.

I’m not saying that one should never put out the effort to be the best one can be.  Not at all.  Go for it if that is what you want to be about.

Never ever look down your nose at me if that is not what I am about.  I am not going to buy your performance enhancing product (thank you, Lance Armstrong, for adding the exclamation point to that one), not going to buy a fancy bicycle or accessories, not going to attend your boot camps, not going to work 60 hours every week and come in every Saturday.  My family is more important to me than that.  I have had my share of success, enough to bore my grandkids for hours when I have grandkids.  Success to me does not require bragging rights.  I’m not a park district give-them-a-trophy-for-blowing-their-nose type, but I am a guy who likes to have a life.  The type of commitment that involves

ALL IN

requires a focus that I am going to leave to the professionals who have just that one thing.

That is not bad.

Unless you tell someone that unless they go ALL IN, then they are lacking true faith.

Yep.

That is what the church I go to is doing right now.  The leaders of this church have launched a campaign they call “All In”.  It’s a campaign to raise twelve million dollars so that they can accomplish the task of bringing people back to God.  I call it

BULL

SHIT

Because that is what it is.  It is flat out propaganda designed to entice people to step out of their financial comfort zone, a fine idea of sorts if it is properly motivated, but telling people to test their faith by making insane pledges they should not be making is not the way to do it.  Why do I say that?

Because really this is a staff of ministers wanting to feel successful, to puff out their chests and be recognized for doing something big.  I know the guy behind this and I do not like it.  He recognizes and kisses up to the powerful, ignores the guys who can’t give him what he needs, which is their money.

How do I know that?  I needed help a year or so ago, needed to talk to our church pastor about the struggles I was having in my marriage.  Just an hour with someone to sort out my thoughts.  The pastor would not talk to me.  After several days of my asking to meet with him, he said really I would have to pay to go to a counselor instead.  He said he would pray for me, pushed me away, never checked on me again.  A few weeks later, he boasted in a sermon about how he is there for people who need him, especially when God tells him someone is in need.  Guess God told him I’m a paycheck to paycheck guy.

Honestly, I am all in.  Just not that kind of all in.

I was.  When the church started some 25 years ago, it grew from the sweat and tears of people like me who worked hard, gave up the majority of their free time, so that church could become the success it is today.  It’s a church of many thousands, spread over 15 different locations now, started from one tiny group of all in, committed Christians.  I was one of them.

Guess that’s not enough.

I wrote a letter to that pastor today, asked him to think about one question as this campaign for millions of dollars progresses, as he asks people to step out in faith to give money they have no idea where it is going to come from — does God say no to someone who wants to be blessed to give?  I say he does.  I say that is what God has done with me and my family.  And I am perfectly OK with that.

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