Spiritual by Nature
Helping people to see life in a broader sense is something that’s important to both my wife Pat and me. Sometimes she’ll say, “You posted too many things on Facebook about being outside!” But I’ll say, “Well, I’m not going to post pictures of all my meetings in the boardroom!” I’ve always tried to stress to others the holistic nature of our being, and to take care of our spirit, our soul, our body, and our mind. When I’m not right in any of those categories, I’m not right.
Pat and I have done a lot of hiking and biking, but she’s the super kayaker in the family. She goes places where I’m afraid to go. But, as a cyclist, I’m just as bold. I put a lot of miles on my bike. Last year during COVID–19, I put more miles on it than ever before.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
—Philippians 4:13 (WEB)
I was traveling less and working from home. So, at 4 P.M., I’d go out on my bike. My COVID journey really became for me a physical, an emotional, and a spiritual thing. It kept me grounded. During COVID, I ratcheted my riding up anywhere from 10 to 50 miles a day, every week.
When I’m riding, I spend a lot of time in prayer. I’ll think about the day, what’s coming, my family, and for individuals who come to mind. I become multi–sensory; I see what’s going on around me, and I’ll just praise God out loud.
When I’m out there, I don’t like to stop. I want to ride hard, get a good workout, and get from Point A to Point B. But in more recent times, the Lord has been saying, “Hey. Stop and smell the roses. Enjoy what you’re seeing and what you’re experiencing.”
I usually see something that triggers those moments. For example, I like to ride back and forth on the Heritage Trail that runs through the Orange County towns of Monroe, Goshen, Chester, and Harriman. It’s a paved rail trail, so it’s safe; not to worry about too many cars. It’s out in the country and I go through a lot of farmland and forests.
Sometimes, a cardinal will fly by me, that red bird. When it does, I just say, “Thank you Lord!” It’s so beautiful. I’ll also see the male and the female together. It’s literally just a flyby, but it gives me pause every time.
A lot of nature crosses my path; all kind of animals including deer and even coyotes. Being out in God’s creation helps to reduce the stress and the demands of my life. As I ride, He brings things and people to my heart and mind, and I’ll pray for them right then and there.
During my rides, I’m not holding papers in my hand; I’m not leading a meeting or a group. I just have a sense of freedom and I feel good out there. The Lord speaks to me in different ways, and I try to be sensitive to that and be in the moment.
Equipped, on track, and safe
I have a little cycle meter app. I keep track of every ride. I can see how far I rode, how long it took me, and how many calories I burned. So far this year, I’ve ridden 1,720 miles. Last year I rode 4,961 miles on 275 bike rides, either outside or on my trainer. So, through those COVID days, the Lord used that to keep my physical and mental health in good balance.
I always wear my helmet, my cycling gloves, and brightly colored bike pants and top. I have lights on my bike, a cell phone, and shoes with pedal clips. An extra tube for my tires with air inflation cartridges, and energy bars are stashed away in a pack under my seat.
I actually have multiple bikes. I’ve got a basic, solid, heavy mountain bike made by Nashbar. I also have a very nice Cervelo street bicycle. It’s lightweight, carbon fiber, thin rims, nice gears, and time–trial handlebars. I have another older one that I just keep inside my house on a trainer. We also have a bicycle built for two. We’ve taken some trails together on it, which is a whole different experience! Pat and I get a kick out of seeing both adults and children smile as we pedal by on the tandem bike.
I take my bike on vacation with me. I’ve ridden all over the New England states of Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. Some of my favorite rides include the Cape Cod Canal and the 330–mile rail trail that goes from Pittsburgh all the way to Washington D.C. A few years back, I rented a bike in Athens, Greece during an Educational Tour of Greece & Turkey.
I always wear my bracelet. It’s called “The Bike I.D.” It has my name, year of birth, Pat’s name and phone number, and my two sons’ names and their phone numbers. On the bottom I have a Scripture reference that reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13). So, should anything happen to me, family can be quickly reached, and a witness given!
The painful side of cycling
“When I had that accident, I hurt my wrist and got pretty scraped up,” remembers Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere, College for Officer Training principal. While riding his bike in the town of Bloomingdale, N.J., a car hit him. “I went flying down the road. I ended up landing in the street on my back. My helmet was scraped up and I had what we call “Road Rash.” It was the only time I ever rode in an ambulance. I tried to talk the EMTs out of it, but they weren’t having that.”
The next morning, LaBossiere was scheduled to conduct devotions for the campers at the Salvation Army’s Star Lake Music Camp. “I come out with my arm in a sling, Band–Aids on my head, and I say to the campers, ‘Do you remember when Major Jackson told us on the first night that there are bears here?’ I paused, and then said, ‘It’s true.’ I couldn’t ask for a better introduction. I had their attention!”
by James LaBossiere
James LaBossiere is a Lt. Colonel in The Salvation Army and currently serves as principal of the USA Eastern Territory’s College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y.