Maah Daah Hey 100
This will mark the 3rd time that I have tackled this monster of a trail. The first time, was a 'paltry' 28 miles as part of a 3-man team to ride the whole thing. Last year, I completed the 75 mile solo race and was one of only 3 riders that finished that length (albeit, I was the last of those three).
I wrote a blog post about my time on trail which you can see right here
This year, I've up'd the ante: I've decided to try my hand at the full 100 miles.
The Maah Daah Hey trail is not a trail to be taken lightly. It is right through the bad lands of Teddy Rosevelt National Park in North Dakota. It is an A - B race, which means that you never ride the same section of trail twice! Each pedal stroke is a venture into new territory!
Things that make the MDH100 ultra-challenging, apart from the sheer distance of the race, is the climate: 35-40oc with hardly any cover of shade. If you're not hydrating properly, eating enough and packing in the electrolytes, you will cramp easily and "bonk" (hit "the wall").
When looking at the elevation in the above picture, you can see a LOT of ups and downs. The great thing is that none of these climbs or descents are that long or technical, meaning you can pretty 'easily' climb any of the hills if you keep your legs moving... and THAT is the hard part.
Here is a video I recorded at the 75km mark last year (just over 1/2 way into the 75 mile race).
What you can't experience through the ramblings, is the toll that the heat has taken on my body. At this stage, I was beginning to say things like "I guess I'll call it a day at the next water station." The cramps were threatening, the heat hurt so much, simply walking my bike up those "climbable" hills was excruciating. I was simply getting worn down.
So, looking forward, I am reminded of the real hurt of that ride. Hurt, that disappears when you start reminiscing with friends, yet still creeps into your mind as you pack your bag and begin to plan your strategy. I'm keenly aware that I haven't really been training for this as hard as I should have been and to begin hard riding only 8 days out from the beginning of the race will only spell disaster on my body and any chance I have of finishing.
I am excited, oddly, for much of the same reasons. The challenge that lies ahead of me. Knowing that 75 miles was pretty much all I that I had in me last year, the 100 miles taunts me even more and I want to complete it. The scenery, while very much 100% badlands, is truly beautiful. There are vistas along the tops of the buttes that will take your breath away and I am really excited to see them again.
I'm also excited about the stories you get to tell as your body recovers from everything you put it through. Commiserating with the fellow riders builds friendships as you agonize over that one hill or descent, the heat, the cattle and how many near-death experiences you had.
For me, this is part of living. Riding my mountain bike through these crazy conditions is a place where I find refreshment and really feel God's presence. I don't end up praying much through the race, but I don't need to to feel close to God.
I'm finding that my relationship with God is becoming something where peddling in silence and enjoying his presence is a deeper connection. I am able to hear his will better - without having Him have to say anything. I've increasingly found that my prayers are filled less with words and more with silence.
I'm beginning to understand what Mother Teresa meant when she was asked about her prayer life by an interviewer:
“When you pray, what do you say to God?”
Mother Teresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”
Believing he understood what she had just said, the interviewer next asked, “Ah, then what is it that God says to you when you pray?”
Mother Teresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk. He also simply listens.”
There was a long silence, with the interviewer seeming a bit confused and not knowing what to ask next.
Finally Mother Teresa breaks the silence by saying, “If you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I’m sorry but there’s no way I can explain it any better.”
I've been raised in the church my whole life. I've attended large churches, small churches, city churches and rural churches. I'm now in the process of starting a new church in a rural Manitoba town, and I've been in the church long enough to see the flaw in the church.
This is not about a specific church, although I'm sure that there are plenty of specific flaws in specific local churches.
It isn't about a style, a method, a denomination or a theology. It is much deeper than that. The flaw is at the centre of the church's being.
The flaw is that the church is made up of flawed people.
People are very quick to proclaim (usually in self-defence of an imperfect action they've just done) that "no one is perfect!" This is, after all, true, no one IS perfect and it doesn't take much searching in your life to see your own personal flaws. But we forget that the person next to us at church is also, not a perfect person. Neither are the leaders, elders, musicians or kids ministry workers.
Trouble comes when we fool ourselves by judging other peoples' actions against our best intentions while forgetting the disconnect between our own intentions and what we actually end up doing.
We can create new rules about who gets to do what in the church based on scorecard that the people with the best intentions create. Growing up in a certain church, my dad was refused any church leadership or even adult Sunday School teaching position because he had at one time been divorced (the fact that he was divorced before he ever became a Christian didn't seem to matter).
To be clear, divorce is clearly taught as a sin in scripture. That particular church we attended, in an effort to keep itself 'holy,' set up certain rules about who could do what in the body. Being divorced was only one of the areas that could restrict you access to any church leadership.
While good hearted in its attempt, these rules ended up being short-sighted and forgetful of who Jesus had routinely selected to run the church. It also hand-selected certain sins and frowned-on behaviour - usually the ones that are the hardest to cover up like divorce, living common-law, drinking, smoking and cussing - while ignoring other sins that might restrict someone from leadership. Such as, anger, lust, coveting, power trips, unhealthy egos, the love of money and so on.
The result was that if you could hide your sin well enough, all of the positions in the church might be open to you. Clearly not the result that the church was looking for.
There is beauty in the fact that the church is made up of flawed people. It follows, after all, the same repetition we see all through Scripture, where God takes "nobodies" and turns them into great nations. Where barren women give birth to world-changers. Where prostitutes become disciples. Where the despised in society were welcomed. Where even hated tax collectors could find grace.
Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he picked the people to lead his bride, the church. He chose a motley crew of messy, flawed people. Not because they were the holiest, most educated or lived the cleanest lives, but because he knew that he would get the glory for any of the life-change that would happen through them.
The flaw in the church is the church's greatest asset - messy people following after Jesus.
These past 16 months have been a combination of life moving at a blistering pace and the slowest snails crawl. While we waited for our house to sell, we talked a lot about moving without ever doing it. Then it sold and we had to scramble to buy a new one.
We had many evenings at housechurch where there were just my wife and I plus one other couple and we wondered if we'd ever grow. And now we've seen our motley crew up around 13 people plus kids some nights.
We jumped through seemingly endless hoops while trying to secure a building to purchase and now that we have it, we're waiting again. We've had possession of the building for a month now but haven't been able to do anything with it as we wait for drawings, fire commissioner approval and permits.
It seems like so much of beginning this church has been about hurrying up and waiting.
But all of that changes on Monday June 15.
We've gotten the green light for renovations and we're about to hit a full-on sprint from now until we open the doors for our first service this September!
While, I'm not the most handiest of people, I have the feeling that I'll be spending a lot of time getting honing those skills this summer. There will be work nights, demo nights, building nights and painting nights. We'll be organizing teams to help us get the most traction in the least amount of time, and I'll be longing for the days where we were "just waiting."
God is going to do great things through our building and congregation in Neepawa, and I don't want to miss a thing!
Let's face it. Most people in the world really don't care about what is happening with churches. Most people don't wake up on a Sunday and ponder the decision on if they should go to church or not, let alone wonder what church they should attend. As a church leader, this is a hard reality to swallow - because I care a LOT about these things!
With starting a church in a rural community, we wanted people to begin to take notice of churches in our town. We want people to see our church as something that would cause them to begin to ponder the first question above and get to making a choice about the latter.
We decided to use positivity in our first 'official' message to our town: we are FOR you!
Many churches are known for being against things: against gay marriage, against drinking, against sex, against foul language, against crude t-shirts, the list goes on. We wanted, from the get-go, to be a church that was totally for this town.
Because we cling to an UP-SIDE-DOWN identity (find out more about what that is by watching this short video here), we want our town to be better because the church is here. We want businesses to succeed, we want families to succeed, we want to take pride in our community and we are willing to actually DO something about it.
So #forNEEPAWA was born.
I needed a simple website to refer people to. I took to my web-design of choice, Weebly, and created forneepawa.ca to tell our story and explain our vision to anyone curious enough to ask and search.
Next, we needed an event to get some attention and provide a service that people would appreciate. Lo-and-behold, this weekend was the 2nd annual Neepawa Fair. Because it was in it's infancy - being only the 2nd time the town held a fair - we found ourselves being in the right spot to get behind and support it!
I hastily put in an order for some tees that would be eye-catching and intriguing for people. We included the PAC Neepawa logo on the front and the words, "we are #forNEEPAWA" on the back. We were fortunate to have them arrive in time for the weekend!
I then purchased ~600 bottles of water and had custom labels with the forNEEPAWA.ca printed for them. I loaded my Toyota Camery to the max and drove home with my car's suspension nearly bottomed out from all the weight - clearly the multipurpose Camery wasn't built for this. That night, my wife and I plus two other households got to work peeling the labels off the water bottles and putting our new labels on.
I have no idea if that is illegal or not. So far, no water police at our door!
Then, we spent the whole day outside handing out water to anyone who wanted some! We ended up giving out about 350 bottles - you'll be surprised how long that takes! It was funny to watch people's reactions change. We would walk up to them and ask, "would you like a free bottle of water?" and their first response was "no thank you," as if they were being panhandled or sold something.
Once their brain could catch up with their mouth, they would quickly recant their refusal of water and gladly accept it. A few would send side-ways glances my way about what kind of strings were attached to a free bottle of water.
There was no "God loves you," or "come to our church," or "God bless," when we gave them out. We'd just say "you're welcome" when thanked for the generosity. People don't like gifts with strings attached, and to give a bottle of water for free and have the 'religious' string attached to it through a tract, saying, or anything else can easily be sniffed out as a string.
We did want to get our name noticed and our 'brand' recognized, but the gift of water required nothing from the recipient.
We have ~250 bottles left that I'm sure will find their way into the hands of thirsty people throughout the rest of the summer.
Our cost for this promotion:
Web Hosting & Domain: $70/year
T-Shirts: $300 (plan recoup this through sale of shirts)
Custom labels: $180
Pretty cheap promotion with high-visability in the end. You should give it a try for your next promotion!
What do you think about this promotion? Done something similar? Leave a comment below!
It has been a long time coming, but we finally have the keys to the building that PAC Neepawa will meet in!
Buying a building turned out to be a much longer process than we had initially planned for (at least it was emotionally for me). There were re-zoning applications, municipal meetings, applications, copies signed in triplicate, and the endless hoops to jump through held by banks, government, realtors, lawyers and the sellers.
Everyone worked super hard to make it happen, but boy, am I exhausted (and luckily I didn't have to fill out any of the paperwork!). I am truly grateful that I work with such a great team of people making it happen and am super looking forward to the process of swinging hammers, running cables and mudding drywall (just not the sanding part).
I can already see the impact that PAC Neepawa will have in this town.
While I may not really know what I'm doing with this church planting/launching thing, one of the areas that I feel I'm making good progress on is being involved in the community here. Community involvement can sometimes be an achilles heel of church leaders; we can spend all of our time doing church things with church people that our calendars have no room for community events or people. Suddenly, a year can go by and we realize that we don't really have ANY unchurched friends.
I don't want that to happen to me, so when I moved to Neepawa, I was very intentional with finding out where I could be involved in the community here. Now, I did have to battle the voices in my head about what a pastor "should" be doing. Who they "should" be visiting and the unspoken expectations that people have on a pastor.
A now retired pastor who attends our church told me that the best thing he did when we pastored a rural church was to go to the local greasy spoon coffee shop at 6am to hang out and chat with the farmers.
I love this idea but I can't do it. I know nothing about farming. Nor do I have much interest in it and I can only feign it for so long before I get caught. I also don't feel like my time should be spent with farmers at 6am in McDonalds.
I have to find my own "farmers."
Before our move to Neepawa, I spent time trying to figure out what kind of things were happening at in the town. I watched the local cable access TV channel, read the local news papers on the web and tried to find something that could be my "farmers."
It came in the form of a Filipino Basketball League. Neepawa has a boom of immigration from the Philippines and I learned that basketball is to Filipinos what hockey is to Canadians. So in this town of 3600 people, they had a 20 team basketball league!
I'm not great at basketball, but I did play it in high school (although that was more than half my life ago!) and I have officiated it for the past 4 years. So I began to scrape the rust off of my basketball skills in preparation of maybe having the chance to play in the Filipino league.
We put a team together from Portage la Prairie, made up of 5 people from our church, and entered it into the league. This weekend we conclude the season with the final championship game between our Portage team and a really good Filipino team.
It also happened that the local Junior "A" MJHL team, the Neepawa Natives were in need of a chaplain to start their chapel program. Through the hard work and connections with Hockey Ministries International, I was accepted to be the team Chaplain for the end of 2014-15 season. I look forward to the opportunity to be the chaplain for 2015-16 season and having a full year with these 16-20 year old guys!
My "farmers" look different than what can sometimes come to mind when we think of the people in small towns. I feel led to focus heavily on the basketball and hockey communities. Through these two groups, I can be sure to have a good idea of what is happening in my town and make genuine friends in the community.
This year, I unfortunately can't make it to the Orange Conference. I really do love the whole experience and the learning and... everything! However, I know that many of you are making your way to #OC15 this year, and I figured I'd repost this to help you make the most out of your trip!
Like I mentioned in a previous post, I really love conferences - and my favourite one is coming up in only a few short days: The Orange Conference! Here are 6 ways you can make the most out of your time in Atlanta! I wish I could join you down there!
I really like strategic thinking. I like systems. I like planning. But when it comes to starting our Neepawa church, I still don't know what I'm doing.
I mean, I have a general plan of attack. I have strategically thought out a lot of our plan for launching this church, but ultimately, all of my plans were made in a vacuum with no real world experience of doing something like this.
Most - if not all of our plans - were made before we even moved to Neepawa. We didn't know the people, the culture, the other churches, the history or stories of the town or its residents. Now that we've moved here, I'm realizing that the plans that we had drawn up needed to be more like guidelines instead of a firm plan.
I also underestimated the emotional energy output required in this move. I look back on some of my notes of the plans I "should" be doing by now, and I just don't even have any of the brain space to pull them off. The plans needed to rest for a while... just like me. I have a finite amount of time and energy and I need to focus them on relationships.
One of the downsides of any strategic planning is that it totally leaves out the relational dynamic of a new pastor coming into a small town. My default is to plan and execute, with little time for the relational components involved in the plans. I can be laser-focused at times (which can be good), but I am learning that my laser-focus on tasks needs to transition to be more of a flood-light focus to include an emphasis on relationships.
Some people reading this won't understand this realization I've come across. For them, a full day of coffee dates with new people, lunches out and spending time with others is just common sense. I do like doing those things, too, but on a much smaller scale. I'm learning to increase my capacity in this way.
Instead of a list of firm things that we will do by a certain date, I am shifting my focus to be more about a list of flexible goals and guiding principles as we move towards our launch date this fall.
For instance, a couple of these guiding principles are:
The last thing we want to do is act and believe that we are the saviours of the town. It sounds silly to say it, but I need to say it constantly to myself: "there have been faithful Christians in this town seeking to follow Jesus and see others transformed by the Gospel longer than I've been alive. I must honour them and not dismiss them with my attitude/actions."
We still have some plans for the summer and a rough timeline of what we're going to do, but it is much more flexible than it was before. If you're planning on launching a new church, in a new community, strategize and plan but hold those plans loosely.
While it has been a while since posting about our multisite journey, that is not to say that there hasn't been much happening during that time! This past year had led me into new territory with my faith, my prayer life and my character development as I waited - often very impatiently - for God to answer my prayers.
Basically, I was frustrated that God wasn't operating on my timeline to move us to Neepawa, MB to begin the church there. There will be future posts that cover this period of time but the short of it is that we are now living in Neepawa!
Since October of last year, I had been commuting 2-3 times a week to Neepawa (2 hr return trip from our home in Portage la Prairie), doing my best to be part of the community there. We had managed to start a housechurch that met weekly on Monday nights. I also was able to become the chaplain for the Junior "A" hockey team in town, the Neepawa Natives, and had a lot of interaction with other professionals in the town: realtors, business owners, and the like and join the thriving Filipino community by being a part of the Neepawa Filipino Basketball League (they've been gracious to us to have a Canadian team join them!)
But all that time commuting could never replace the benefit of actually LIVING in the town.
We've become 'one of them.' We're more than talk (for a long time it was always a conversation about how we will one day move to town). And now I get to be around the people that God is calling me to.
While the past 3 weeks have been a blur as we've arrived: unpacking, done some renovations and juggled the new reality of living in a new community.
This new phase still leaves us with a LOT of questions, but I couldn't be more excited about what God has brought us to!
One of the best things I learned last year while taking Michael Hyatt's Best Year Ever course was the ability to sort through and organize my life more. Like many people, I get lots of emails. There are inter-work emails, promotions, spam, notifications, forwards, and somewhere in there is hiding some important ones too!
I needed to get a hold of things and process my inbox.
What was surprising to me was learning that I had multiple "inboxes" that needed zeroing. I would get to those, but first off, I needed to tackle my email inbox.
My first step was to go back and select EVERYTHING older than 6 months and then archive it. For work, we use Google Apps - basically Gmail for our business - which means that I can very easily find anything that I needed too from the past.
Need to find that email from that one contact a long time ago? Search for it. What about that important email from a church member that I need to reference? Search for it. There were literally thousands of emails in my inbox, and I didn't need to spend the time to sort, file and delete anything older than 6 months.
Archive and search would clean up at least some of them.
The next step was to take the much more manageable size of emails from the most recent 6 months and start deleting, archiving or filing them into "actionable" to-dos. If anything needed me to DO something, I put that task on a list and then archived it.
If it was an email about cake in the coffee break room at 3pm from 3 weeks ago, I'd delete it.
Through this process, I was able to get my inbox to zero really effectively and relatively painlessly. You could probably speed up this process by archiving everything older than 2 weeks and be fine. Because, lets face it, if you needed to respond to an email and you haven't done it in two weeks, you've probably missed some sort of deadline already!
The hard part came with making sure that I kept my emails at zero. I didn't want to make it a daily task, because I knew that there would be emails to follow up with throughout the week. BUT I did want to make it a weekly one. So, on Thursday, one of the last things I would do before leaving work, would be to zero my inbox. Ruthlessly delete, archive and list my to-do actions.
Here's the process behind how I handled emails - It's from David Allen's book, Getting Things Done. And it really is simple
Note the really important piece of info - if you have to do a task and it takes less than 2 minutes - do it right now. Seriously. Why bother procrastinating any more? Get it over with right away.
If it isn't actionable, but you might need to reference it someday, archive it. You can always search for it later.
Can someone else do it? Delegate it.
Is the task big? Do you need to do it in the future? Will it take multiple steps? Calendar it and identify the next step to accomplish it.
The next step was to take a chunk of time and unsubscribe from 99% of promotional emails. Do I really need to know deals at Ikea? What about Starbucks? Updates from a band whose album I bought 2 years ago? NOPE! Unsubscribe from them all! I now get 5-7 promo emails a week and only from the companies that I want to hear from.
I've been able to keep my inbox super clean and organized. I haven't used any special apps or programs to get to a zero inbox - although, I know people who have. I just used my Gmail app on my phone and Mail for Mac on my Mac to do it. No gimmicks, just delete, actions and archive.
Despite what you might think, achieving inbox zero it totally doable. It might take you an afternoon sort through it all, but it will keep you from having a cluttered mind about "all the things you have to do" (because you probably only THINK you have to do them... that's what a full inbox tells you).
What do you think? Have you ever achieved Inbox Zero? Leave a comment below!
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.