Monday, 17 June 2013

"Born to be... Wild?"

When I was younger, I saw a movie called Road to Redemption. It’s a Christian comedy that came out in 2001, and the basic plotline is this: Girl and her boyfriend have get-rich-quick scheme. Get-rich-quick scheme blows up in their faces. Girl and boyfriend find themselves owing a quarter of a million dollars to the “baddies.” Girl decides to reconnect with her estranged (and wealthy) grandfather and try to get a loan, but all he wants to do is go fishing… exactly the way they did it when she was a little girl, which means they’re headed cross-country to the town of Redemption, Montana, with both the boyfriend and the baddies on their trail!

Okay, so my summary’s not the best. Trust me, you just need to watch it yourself. Believe me when I say it will be worth it.

I’ve gotten sidetracked.

My point was this: during the movie, there is a scene where the two voyagers are left stranded on the side of the road. In the middle of the desert. They are picked up by an unlikely group of heroes… a gang of Christian bikers. Beards, boots, bandannas and all. With slogans such as “Jesus is #1” on their bikes and patches declaring “Satan is a punk” on their jackets. And they raced our main characters off to their next adventure with “Born to be Wild” playing in the background.

There are plenty more details besides that one, of course, but I won’t spoil the ending for you. Anyway, that movie was my first introduction to the world of Christian motorcyclists. I was enthralled. I wanted to buy a bike and hit the road!

Of course, motorcycles are for the young, the very brave, and the very wealthy. (Ah well, one out of three ain’t bad.) And life went on. But I’d always had this secret desire… to ride a motorcycle. To taste the freedom and understand a little of what all the hype was about.

That’s why there’s one day of the year that’s pretty special to me: Biker Sunday, also known as Father’s Day. At Open Door, Biker Sunday is when all the bikers come to church. The congregation (if you want to call it a congregation… around here we just call it the “Open Door crowd.”) dresses in their finest. You guessed it… Bandannas, boots, leather jackets, chaps, and all that goes with it. It’s a time of celebrating the good that our local biking groups do for the local charities, as well as just a rocking good time. There’s great music, a great message by our own Rev. Jesse (wearing his own leathers with “Rev. Jesse” emblazoned across the back) and some great barbecue! Everybody eats and talks motorcycles, along with admiring the line-up of “hogs” in the parking lot. It’s a biker’s paradise!

So as you can imagine, this past Biker Sunday was welcomed with great anticipation. I arrived at our venue fairly early, since we usually squeeze in a quick band practice beforehand.

Driftwood Cross.
L to R: Dave Hammond, Bob Tetford, myself, Jim Vaughan-Evans, and Larry Baldwin.

We were just finishing up our list of songs when we heard it… a deep, sustained rumble that grew louder by the second. I heard someone call, “Bikers are here!” and I immediately rushed out the front door (along with practically everyone else in the congregation) to catch a first glimpse of the bikes roaring into the parking lot. The noise was thrilling. It began to die down as the bikes were parked, but rapidly rose again as old friends greeted each other, exchanging hugs, back-slaps, and “biker handshakes.”

A few minutes later, I found myself chatting with a lady named Sue, whose husband happens to be our saxophone player, Dave Hammond (pictured above), and who also happens to be a member of the Tribe of Judah Motorcycle Ministry. During our conversation, I happened to mention that I’ve never been on a bike before. She was surprised to hear that, and promised me, “After the service, let me talk to Dave and we’ll see what we can do.”

You know that feeling when something is almost too good to be true, and you can hardly believe it, but yet you can’t stop hoping desperately? That was me. I wasn’t sure how I’d get through the rest of the morning, but I managed to compose myself.

It wasn’t too much later before we gathered together to begin our service. As a member of a worship team, I can tell you that there’s nothing that adds energy to a service quite like a roomful of Northern Stars, Relic Riders, and of course, Dave and Sue from the Tribe of Judah. Special guest Blair Lane also added a lot with his rousing rendition of “At Calvary.” And, of course, there was plenty of laughter as worship leader Larry (pictured above) sang a very special Happy Birthday, Elvis-style, to a very special someone; Nan, the eldest of our congregation at ninety-two, who arrives at every Biker Sunday dressed in her bandanna and leathers, and who is taken for a motorcycle ride around the block each year. I couldn’t help but envy her opportunity… at the age of ninety-two, she’d been on many rides, while I’d never even been on one! (Well, I sat on a motorcycle one time, but that hardly counts.)

After our worship service, Rev. Jesse preached… or should I say, he joked with the congregation about cats and crab plants (you had to be there) and then drove the point home in his inimitable style. Afterwards, we closed out the service with prayer and a rollicking version of, you guessed it… “Born to be Wild” by our own Bob Tetford, (also pictured above) who somehow managed to sound even better than the original. Then we headed outside to enjoy some of that great barbecue and admire a few more bikes. In the meantime, I was fervently chanting in my mind, “Please Lord, let me go for a ride… please Lord, let me go for a ride…”

I needn’t have worried. When God works something out, He’ll move mountains if he has to. And before I knew it, I was suitably attired and climbing on board a roaring, sputtering Harley-Davidson. Dave looked over his shoulder at me and called out a few last minute instructions. “Hang on to the side hand-holds (believe me, I was already holding on plenty tight!), but if you don’t feel safe, you can hold on to me. When you feel the bike lean one way or another, just gently lean with it. I’m going so start off fast when we get on the flat, so hang on!” And with a jerk and a roar, we soared into space… at least, that’s what it felt like. I have to admit, the first emotion on my mind was a split second of terror, followed by heart pumping adrenaline. Believe me, there’s nothing that compares to hurtling along the road at what feels like a million miles an hour with no seatbelt or airbags, just your own death-grip on the hand-holds to secure you. The first thought on my mind was I’m going to die… followed two seconds later by I never want this to stop.

There’s really nothing I can compare it to. Unless you’ve felt for yourself the wind screaming by, the vibration of the motor surging up through the soles of your feet, the easy swooping motion of the bike as it glides around a turn, the freedom of looking in every direction with a completely unhindered view (so unlike a car), the earth-shattering roar of the motor beneath you, there’s really no way I can describe it to you.

As we slowed down for a stop sign, Dave took the opportunity to call over his shoulder, “How do you like it so far?” I hollered back, “Ohhhhh… I’m addicted now!!”

After we returned to the church, I staggered off the bike and immediately blurted to all within hearing distance, “That was the most awesome thing that I ever did in my entire life!” I suppose my euphoric grin must have attracted attention, because it’s all people could comment on. I felt like my cowboy boots weren’t even touching the ground. I believe I actually flushed with pride when Larry came over and gave me a “real” biker’s handshake…

By that time, most of the crowd had dispersed, but I stuck around and chatted with the folks… and then got thrilled to death when Dave offered to sit me on the bike and snap a few pictures. I have to give a big shout-out to Dave and Sue, for doing everything they could to make sure I’d never forget this Biker Sunday. And who knows, as I follow the path of my Carpenter, maybe His path will lead to a bike someday. If that’s true, there’ll be nothing more to say than… “Thank You Lord, for Making Me a Biker!"
(Above video is some pictures of previous Biker Sundays, accompanied by the song, "Thank you Lord for making me a Biker" written by Larry Baldwin for the Northern Stars.)

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