A Lesson from Bike Riding

My husband and I love bike riding together. We aren’t experienced bicyclists, but it is fun to enjoy the great outdoors. On Memorial Day, we loaded up our bikes and rode on a path lined with orchards, blackberry vines, and wildflowers. The air was fresh with a hint of rain that waited until we were almost done.

About midway on our ride, a man came up from behind us on a scooter. His music grew louder as he approached. At the same time, I realized that we needed to stop at an intersection just ahead. I panicked and tried to simultaneously move out of the way and shift to a lower gear. It was too much for my brain to process and I crashed on the gravel.

I suffered a bloody knee and several bruises on my lower legs and on the wrist where I wear my watch. I cried, not so much because of the pain, but because my pride was wounded. My concerned husband asked if I wanted to return to the car. After examining the injuries more closely I decided to continue. I didn’t want a minor accident to cut our plans short.

As we pedaled down the path, I reminisced about learning to ride a bike. I was so afraid of falling that I didn’t attempt to ride a bicycle until I was eight years old. In the summer before I turned nine, I visited family. My cousins were around my age and none of their bikes had training wheels. If I wanted to hang out with them (and I did), I would have to muster some courage and ride a bike. I didn’t let fear hold me back.

It was delightful to balance on two wheels and keep up with my cousins. I got comfortable turning corners and going over bumps. And then, I fell. My fear had been realized. I sat in the dirt and thought of excuses for not continuing the ride. I would walk the bike back to the house and be done with it.

But my cousin cheered me on. “You’re okay. Get back up and try again.”

I stayed put. My fear of falling again kept me rooted to the ground.

My cousin persisted, reminding me of the scene in Bambi when he got injured in the forest fire. Bambi’s father, the majestic king buck commanded Bambi to get up. “Get up, Bambi. You must get up!” Bambi struggled and then complied, bounding to safety.

I finally responded to my cousin’s urging. I reluctantly got back on the bike. I fell again…a few times. Each time it became easier to get back up. I learned to ride a bike that summer. The greater lesson I learned, though, was to always get back up.

“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
    But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked” (Proverbs 24:16 NLT).

Life is painful sometimes. We might be challenged in our relationships, employment, finances, or health. We might feel discouraged and defeated by the outcome. But we must not stay down.

What about when we make bad decisions or go against God’s Word? What if we find ourselves caught in sin?

Again, we must not throw up our hands in despair. God’s Spirit of grace is available to help us. We have His promise.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).

When we confess our sins, the Lord forgives and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We learn from our mistakes and, by God’s power, change our ways.

When life gets hard, don’t give up. Trust the Lord and get back up.

The Beauty of Diversity

For the last few weeks, I have been listening to a fabulous sermon series on diversity. It has expressed what I have experienced throughout my lifetime. Yes, diversity is important, but it is deeper than making sure that we are politically and socially correct. This goes beyond hiring different ethnicities and genders to ensure there is equal representation in the workplace. It is much more than being satisfied that your church, small group, or service club has a few people who are different skin color than the majority. As God’s dearly loved children, we are to embrace diversity, realizing that true love of others can be messy, confusing, and sometimes just plain hard work. But it is God’s will for His Church, and unity among diversity greatly pleases Him.

Photo by fauxels on pexels.com

I was born in the 1960s to a Caucasian-American mother and a Chinese-Canadian father. Being half Caucasian and half Chinese set me in a rare category back then. I felt that there was no place I belonged. The Asians rejected me because I wasn’t “pure.” Caucasian people didn’t accept me either because I was obviously “something other than White.” When my family moved to a multi-cultural neighborhood, I developed friendships with a diverse group of students—Black, Indian (from India), Pakistani, Jewish, and Caucasian. For the first time I felt whole, and my heart was full. Sadly, we moved a couple years later to a predominantly Caucasian city where a person of color would turn heads.

Because of my childhood experiences, I am compelled to speak and act in such a way that demonstrates the beauty of diversity and that every single life matters. From the moment of conception until death, all life is sacred and worthy of respect. Nothing can diminish that. Not legal status, ethnicity, skin color, worldview, sexual attraction, gender identity, political affiliation, lack of education, poverty, addiction, physical and mental health problems, or homelessness. Nothing can take away a person’s intrinsic value.

Today people often inquire about my kids’ background. One son, in particular, is frequently asked if he is Mexican (which makes sense because we live in an area that is 50 percent Hispanic). When he mentions that he is actually part Chinese, the person laughs, thinking it is a joke. Why is that so funny? Then they find out it is not a joke and things feel awkward for a bit.

My kids are grown, and I have seven amazing grandkids. Some of them are half Mexican-American. All of them are one-eighth Chinese. Each of them is delightful and has captivated my heart! I am also blessed to be unofficially adopted as “Nana” to a sixth-month-old boy of a Congolese couple. His smile is my undoing. There is beauty in diversity that delights the Lord, the One who creates such variety in the first place.

Racism is the belief that one’s own ethnicity, heritage, culture, or group is superior to others. Racism is ever-present and affects the way we look at the world. Left unchecked it leads to prejudice and discrimination. We judge others based on our own culture as the ideal standard. “My way is the right way.” Subtler forms of racism show up as comments about “those people” that elevate us. It divides people into the categories of “us” and “them.” It interferes with experiencing the beauty of diversity. As servant leaders, we must avoid racism and love all the people following our lead.

In the Book of Revelation, John had a vision of a great crowd surrounding the Lord in worship. “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,

‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!’”
~Revelation 7:9-10

Every nation, tribe, people, and language worship the Lord! They all put their faith in their Savior. No believer was excluded, regardless of their background. Will we be people that love others and include them? Will we be leaders that speak in terms of “us” and “we”? People don’t have to look, believe, think, or live the same way as us to be included and genuinely cared about. When we appreciate the beauty of diversity, we no longer say with an air of superiority, “those people.” Instead, we humbly accept others as ones deeply loved and adored by Jesus. We take time to hear their life stories and experiences. We learn about other countries, cultures, and traditions. As we open our hearts, we will genuinely embrace them as “we.”

All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. ~Psalm 86:9

Mental Health & Jesus

The month of May has been designated for Mental Health Awareness since 1949. I am grateful that the subject of mental health is increasingly part of the public conversation. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults and one in six youth (ages six to seventeen) experience mental illness. These are pre-pandemic numbers, and experts assert that they have skyrocketed in the last two years.

My beautiful offspring, JoJo, modeling their newest statement shirt. I need to order one, too!

The topic of mental health in a generic sense is considered less hush-hush than in days gone by. But people who step forward and identify their struggle with mental illness are often met with an awkward silence or attempts to change the subject. Much more work needs to be done because only one-third of the people suffering from mental illness seek professional help.

I have been hesitant to talk about my own mental health journey. In my early days of ministry, I was well aware of the stigma for Christians (and even worse, ministers) who needed medication for depression. There were unspoken judgments of having a lack of faith, not trusting Jesus enough to live in the joy He provides. Who wants to be a target of criticism when already feeling incredibly vulnerable?

However, I feel challenged to break my own silence and contribute to finding solutions.

Today I approach you simply as one who has walked the road of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I was six years old when I had my first encounter with suicidal ideation. I suffered from serious post-partum depression following the birth of each of my five babies. After my fourth child was born, I cried every day for six months until a friend insisted that I make a doctor’s appointment. I encountered several traumatic events throughout my life that took a serious toll on my well-being. I also have had the privilege of ministering to wonderful people seeking answers for their mental health.

The field of mental health is vast. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes. One blog post can barely scratch the surface.

The one thing I do know is that Jesus loves you. In whatever mess you may find yourself, Jesus is there. Not with shame or condemnation, but with grace and wholeness.

The route to wholeness looks different for each one of us; yet wholeness is ours through Jesus.

For me, this has looked like…

  • Prayer and worship focused on Jesus as my Healer.
  • Taking different medications during different seasons of life.
  • Many hours of counseling sessions to unlock trauma from the past.
  • Memorizing God’s Word to counteract the negative messages in my mind with God’s truth.
  • Working with a psychiatrist to discover how to properly balance my brain chemistry.
  • Heartfelt conversations with loved ones about my mental health.
  • Dozens of once-full-now-empty tissue boxes.

As you can see, it has been a process involving faith and community. I continue to become who God has designed me to be.

In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul recounts his story about a thorn in the flesh. He asked the Lord three times to remove it. God’s answer to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 12a).

What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh? There are a variety of thoughts depending on the Biblical scholar you ask. Some say it was a physical condition, perhaps an eye disease. Others identify it as bouts of depression. Still, others claim it was a spiritual attack. Regardless of what the thorn was, we can be encouraged that Paul didn’t define it.

For whatever reason, Paul felt weak and God assured him that His grace was sufficient. Indeed, His grace was all, everything Paul needed. In the midst of weakness that threatened to hinder Paul’s ministry effectiveness, God’s power was at work.

We can take heart. The same God who was with Paul is with us. Jesus promised that He would always be with us. We are never alone.

Knowing this to be true, you can be honest with the Lord. (Um…He already knows anyway.)

You can be honest with others who have shown themselves trustworthy and supportive.

You can reach out to mental health professionals for help.

Mental illness does not disqualify you from God’s call. But, please, don’t leave it untreated.

You can thrive in life and leadership.

Because there is abundant grace and hope in Jesus!