Monday, May 20, 2013


When I was a kid, BMX or bicycle motocross was on the rise.  It was the eighties, and these stunt bikers, their helmets, and the crazy colors of their uniforms were calling to me.  I wanted a bike.  And I got it.  I still remember its sleek chrome lines, its rubber smell, its black and white checkered grips.  I remember imagining jumping it and all the tricks I was going to learn.  I learned how to stand on my seat.  

Sure I spent a ton of time thinking and lusting over my buddies super-awesome blue bike, but mine was pretty sweet too.  Oh and I learned to do a stoppie, which is where you slam the front brake and go into a sort of front-wheel wheelie.  Man I was so cool on that bike.  Or at least I was going to be cool when I grew up.

But we moved from that land of BMX to a new land, the land of suburbs and team sports, a land of conformity and video games.  Sure I still rode my bike and stuff, but it wasn’t the same and I felt a little saddened by the fact that I never learned to actually jump a bike, regardless hop off a curb.  As a boy turning into a man, I felt like something in me had chickened out.  I just had never jumped my bike.

Years go by.  I’m 25, and we’ve moved to a new land.  I’m walking with my wife, holding hands and I see a kid setting a board against a fence about 4 feet off the ground.  “Oh boy I think, he’s going to jump his bike off that.  Awesome!”  The little boy in me was about to jump out of my old boy skin.  “Me want to do!”  I thought. 

To make a long story short, “Me did” even getting to know that kid and hang with his bike gang.  And at 36 I still do.  I can really ride a bike now.  There’s super-sweet-awesome candy colors, wheelies, and jumping, lots of it.  Even as I write I’m about to go ride.  There will be colors, there will be tricks, there will be speed.  And even maybe a front wheel wheelie at the end. 

I don’t think we ever grow up.  Our bodies just slowly retire.  So here’s to that boy in me.  He likes the color of my sweet gloves, he likes my bike, he marvels at what a suspension fork is and most of all he thinks, I can see him walking around my bike and saying, “This is so totally rad.”  You got to love impressing kids, even if that kid is yourself.  


Echoes, footsteps, hushed voices.  Candles, choirs, eerie melody.  Dark and blackened wood and shadows.  Heavy stone carved and stacked past my minds comprehension.  So many shapes, curves and forms.  Too many to grasp.  So I gape. 

And light as I’ve never seen it.  A playful dance between sun and glass - red, blue, green and all the in-betweens, mixing, colliding and rolling in rays and patterns, lighting the dust.   Here is the real magic. 

This place, this sacred place, is made to hold the weight of time.  Filled with awe I stand, surrounded by history.  Noble bones lie beneath my feet.  I walk, gaze and wonder.  Who were these people?  How did they create all this?  Were they flesh and bone like me?  Surely not.

Look at the bigness and the robustness of it all!  And then the minuteness and the attention to detail.  Have we grown as people, with our cars, cameras, tv sets and computers, or have we shrunk?  I stare at statue after statue, saints with fingers poised in blessing and knights entombed in honor, hands crossed on swords with loyal and lean dogs at their feet.

I walk past legends, both the traitorous and the courageous, past all the laughter and tears.  Life of threshold, throng, market and all the busy life of the in-between were swallowed up in here.  They must have needed this place.  The sacred stillness and astonishing grandeur helped them make sense.  But even for them time moved forward, putting them in their place.  But they left this and it is spectacular.

What will they think?  Those who walk the halls of our times.  It’s depressing to wonder.   Our sophistication seems paltry in comparison to this.  How can an iphone compare to thousand-ton chiseled rock and carved oak that has withstood wars, famines, disease and all the mess of humanity? 

The wood is carved, stained, varnished, and aged with years of use, aged by oils from hands as frail as mine.  I suspect the wood is even more solid now, even more weighty. Then there is the fine smell of dust and incense, the robes and colors and stuff of the divine, and all my senses are coming undone. 

The answer to the mystery lies in these halls.  These halls that were crafted to take the breath and house those who no longer breathe.  These mortals may no longer speak but they echo louder than our generation ever will, regardless of all our noise and perhaps because of it.  Through history they speak to something larger, a time when God was bigger.   A life that was closer to real, and to a right sense that more in life was sacred. 

These halls were made to shrink us, to make us feel the weight of our insignificance but also to woo and woe us, to pull us out of ourselves and our trivialities.  They were made precisely to reflect the God who inspired them.  And as I realize they are a shadowy reflection, I run my hand along the smoothed stone and whisper  “Woe am I, for I live among a people of unclean lips and damned iphones.”