Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

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Ottawa Citizen Interview

Aug 22, 2005

Interview with the Ottawa Citizen.
Sorry no text link to PDF only


Day 60 Later that terrific day

Aug 22, 2005

Later that morning… the letter went like this…

We’d like to thank the Ottawa Citizen for its excellent coverage of our Sea to Sea cross country cycling tour; your reporting was first rate! But there was one minor misquote in your article. In the piece you talk about me seeing evidence of my faith in everything, “from a difficult bike ride up a mountain pass in the pouring rain that was rewarded with the sight of a mosque glistening on a hillside…” A beautiful image indeed, and I’m sure God’s beauty and truth can be shiningly seen in mosques across Canada, but there was no mosque at Roger’s Pass that day. I was referring to seeing God’s face in the glistening moss; seeing the Divine in the colour green that so wonderfully enveloped the wet rock face that fresh, new and very alive day; seeing the Creator in creation. I’ll be smiling widely with each mosque passed en route to Halifax; especially the green ones.

John Van Sloten, New Hope Christian Reformed Church, Calgary

Later that day… Lot’s of good stuff to report on today. The Citizen called and said they plan on running the above letter to editor tomorrow. Cool. More press for the ride is good press for the ride.

We had an absolutely amazing morning touring the Parliament buildings. Didn’t end up leaving downtown Ottawa until around 11:00 am; which is pretty neat in my mind. Leaving town I wondered why we were so relaxed about leaving late on a 157k day. Part of the answer lies in the fact that we’ve got 8 weeks of conditioning under our belts and feel confident about doing the distance. Another factor was the sweet WNW tail wind that was being powerfully announced by a whole bunch of Canadian flags. Lastly there was the beauty of the ‘Hill’. It was just a great place to be. We’d biked here from Vancouver… this is where Canada is centered… the buildings are beautiful and quite impressive… and our Country is an amazing place to live; we’re so privileged. I love being a Canadian.

Also one very cool picture of the tower…

Authored by: barb on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 10:56 AM PDT
Great picture, I love the way you use your bike mirror for some of the shots you've done. Very creative use of what brought you there! Rob thinks some of your mental meanderings could be made into a book or devotional of some sort, the pictures would be great images with that...


Day 60 – Ottawa to LaChute (tres bon!) – 157k

Aug 22, 2005

La journie tres gros… ok, I don’t know much francais at all! But today we make a provincial, cultural, and all too Canadian segue into the province of Quebec. Exciting.

Feeling great this am and can hardly wait to hit the road. Already the people who’ve been here for 8 weeks are giving each other the look. You don’t notice it if you’re too busy, but if you stop and open your eyes for a moment you can see it. I’m talking the, ‘Can you believe we’ve only got two more weeks to cycle’ look. For most it’s communicated with a sad, rueful, we’re going to lose something important here, kind of tone. For a few it carries a matter of fact kind of resignation. I’m not sure I know of anyone who says it gleefully. Good sign of a great tour.

While eating breakfast this morning, someone stuck a copy of the Ottawa Citizen underneath my nose. Photo and story were great… well… except for one little misquote. As usual I went on about seeing God’s face all over the country; in the community, in nature, in our bodies, etc… and on the nature front I talked about seeing God on the day we ascended Roger’s Pass…. glorious rain, riding into a cloud, suffering, and yet seeing so much Divine beauty… especially in the ‘glistening moss’ that was wrapped itself around the rock face. Well, in the article the reporter quoted me as seeing God’s face in the ‘glistening mosque’ at Roger’s Pass! Yeah. Good for ecumenicism I guess… I’m sure I’ll hear more about this.

As a matter of fact I think I’ll write a clever letter to the editor and get some more creative press on the story.

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 22 2005 @ 09:57 AM PDT
thanks for your daily comments, enjoying them.
John Koning spoke in church last wk & expressed the beauty of Canada, the community, the unity of the CRC and also being proud of the CRC & what the future holds.
I would just add that my mother and her family(Brouwer)crossed Pier 21 in 1936 setting foot in Canada & then coming by CPR to Edmonton/Lacombe as did many more immigrants looking for a brighter future.
Blessings on your eastern leg! Kees & Ruth

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 01:44 PM PDT
Thank you so much for keeping up your website. I have loved reading about the things you have learned on the tour and I love your pictures. Thank you so much for your insight into your incredible journey. It means a lot to me to be able to see another perspective. My fav. pic was definitenly parliament hill, among others. Thanks again!


Day 59 – Ottawa rest day… 0 k.

Aug 21, 2005

Had a really fun time out on the town last night… got in past midnight and still woke up at 5:30 am… with a headache; must be a remnant of my being sick this week, couldn’t have been the Black Russians or the Creole pasta dish I had.

This morning I feel like I’ve got to get some kind of concept together for the sermon I need to preach in Halifax. The next two weeks are some of the longest on the tour and I don’t want to get caught short on prep time, nor do I want the pressure of not having any idea what to do; especially if the media side of things gets busy near the end. Actually I’m kind of dreading it all just a bit. I’m imagining a very busy last weekend… preaching… media grabbing onto the biggest part of the story; 140 riders dipping their tires in the Atlantic… getting ready to fly all my stuff home… and having the time to say goodbye to everyone, to end this well. Yikes.

So the sermon… what in the world would God want to say to a bunch of riders, to a church, at the end of an amazing adventure such as this? How can we take all the good that He’s given us, all the wisdom we’ve gained and go on with our lives? Where do we go from here?

Later that day… did get a few hours in on the message, but it’s still a ways off. Tonight’s celebration service helped stimulate some more ideas.

Spent most of the day doing fairly mundane stuff; cleaned the bike, walked to the foodstore to buy a Starbuck frappacino, then walked across the street and bought another hot coffee, ran some errands and headed back to camp.

One the way back the Ottawa Citizen called and did an interview. We talked for 30 minutes (which is long for an interview) and the reporter seemed quite intrigued by the story; especially the ‘spirituality of cycling’ angle. We’ll see how it turns out tomorrow.

The week ahead is going to be a biggie. 150k to start tomorrow. If I could order up the weather… “Yeah, I’ll have a moderately temperate day please, sunny side up, a 20kph north westerly tail wind, with two Starbucks locations on the side…”

It’s 9:00 and I’m ready for sleep.

Authored by: akuiper on Sunday, August 21 2005 @ 08:50 PM PDT
Hi John. I met you briefly in front of the equipment trailer Saturday afternoon (tall skinny guy, yellow jersey). I have every confidence you will be able to pull a very inspiring, relevant rabbit out of your blogs for your message in Halifax. Keep up the great witnessing and blessings to you and all the other cyclists.

P.S. Please keep posting interesting bike photos. They're inspiring.

Al Kuiper

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 21 2005 @ 07:02 PM PDT
Hi John, Ialways look forward to reading your blogs. Keep up the good work. I'm sure your sermon will work out great for Halifax. Safe riding. Say hello to a fellow biker for me ok. Andy Hiemstra I'm his wife Margaret


Day 58 - later that day...

Aug 20, 2005

Later that day… absolutely perfect biking day for me. Tail wind, effortless for 110k, lots of great conversation, and fun. Especially after wondering about fatigue, this ride is a big time encourager.

Took some cool pictures (I think). Had a nice coffee break in the am and some calamari in the afternoon. CTV did show up and do a short piece on the ride. Cool. And now the weekend. I need to work on my message for the Halifax celebration service, and I need to relax… hmmm… sermon; relax…. sermon; relax… I think I’ll start by heading downtown to the Byward Market and take in the folk festival.


Day 58 Brockville to our Country Capital Ottawa – 115k

Aug 20, 2005

There ain’t no better tonic for what ails ya… no better medicine for the wary cycling traveler… than the Thousand Island tailwind. Currently making its way up from the south east, its winds are warm, humid, and filled with vigour. The trees bow down in homage. Cyclists smile once they determine its direction. Once again the packing goes quickly; one cannot miss such an opportunity. We should be sailing today.
And then Ottawa. No telling if there will be any media work for me to do. CBC finally did a TV piece on the ride coming into Kingston two days ago. Local papers in small towns continue to pick up the story, but larger centres have still been sparse. I’m still convinced that there is a larger message, to get out to a larger audience via this tour. I’ll have to keep on praying for that I guess. It’s God’s gig.

Saw a guy standing with his bowl of cereal in hand out in the middle of a grassed field by himself, praying. He could have been facing the east, or some western wall, humble before his God.


Day 57 later that day...

Aug 19, 2005

Later that day… fairly average ride today, a bit of rain, headwinds most of the day, and too much food supplied by local churches (which is great).

Nothing too much to report on really. Did have one conversation with a new rider named Joyce. Asked her how she’s doing and she said. “Fine, but I think I’m feeling that day 4 or 5 fatigue they warned us about.” We talked about it a bit and then moved on. Walking away I had to wonder if there was a week 7 or 8 kind of fatigue that sets in on this kind of ride. Last few days I’m feeling just a little bit weaker, not to the point of being unable to complete the ride; I’m not even sure I’m slowing down all that much. It just feels like it’s a bit more work to get it done. Last three nights I’ve slept for nine hours each… more than usual this trip. This afternoon I felt a bit of nausea for an hour or so as well. We’ll see. For now I’m going to bed.

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 19 2005 @ 07:25 PM PDT
Hi John:
Ask around the camp if anyone know about the "maratime flu". it happens on cycling trips right about where you are. Symptoms are just as you discribe, flu like. Caused by too my pysical work and not enough protein. Your body is just getting weak. What to do??? Good question, maybe eat more meat such as burgers at the ends of rides. Just a suggestion.

your 43 year old asthma friend


Day 57 Kingston to Brockville – 90 mere kilometers

Aug 19, 2005

How do you take a lazy, relaxed, slow moving, short day ahead campsite and turn it into high gear? Just add a few drops of rain.

I’m sitting beside the gear truck now, and maybe getting hit by one drop a rain per 30 seconds; no animals passing two by two yet! And yet this site is now frenetic with activity. Late tent setter downers are dismantling quickly… Late eaters are snarfing their food down… Late risers… well it looks like the late risers are still horizontal. Scrambling for some rain gear, cyclists are doing all they can to stay as dry as possible. The human race, so dictated by life's circumstances.

I’m more philosophical about it all. First you need to write about the phenomenon of rain and a cycling tour, then you need to admit that the rain will fall in life and everyone is going to get wet… so why worry so much, why let it set you off… just enjoy it!

And oh… I’ve already got my tent down, first and second breakfasts down, and rain gear down.

Gonna take a boat tour in the rain later this morning… perhaps we’ll pretend it’s a flood.

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 19 2005 @ 02:18 PM PDT
Hi John! Steve De Visser here. Just read your commentary. Not at all surprised that I like it..... Curious though if you are able to provide us with a definition for frenetic?!:) HahAhA trying to catch you John.... Have great day and keep writng...
writng; from the Greek use of pencil



Day 56 - more on Elizabeth

Aug 18, 2005

Later that evening… and then Peter Slofstra (our chaplain) shares a few thoughts at a group meeting to Elizabeth. She just kept nodding as he expressed our hearts for her. Peter had us then stand… stand for an ovation. After prayer for the family we lined up on either side of the pathway to her waiting ambulance, and Elizabeth, pushed by her husband, worked her way down the centre of the crowd. Everyone cheered, applauded and gave her high fives. Her smile could not have gotten wider.

As the wheelchair ramp was lifted up into the vehicle, it paused for a moment and Elizableth lifted both of her hands, palms up, to heaven. She was accepting, fully accepting all that God had given her. She was giving glory to God!


Day 56 – Trenton to Kingston – 118 historical kilometers

Aug 18, 2005

It was actually cold when I woke up this morning. Clear, and even as I write these words a warming sun in breaching the low cloud in the eastern sky. Another perfect day for cycling.

This morning I woke up from a terrible dream where someone close to me was tragically hurt. The most numinous parts of the dream were the utterly helpless feelings I endured, not being able to do anything to stop it, I couldn’t even find any help. Tonight, I hear, Elizabeth Woudsma (the cyclist who became a paraplegic on a training run a few weeks back) will be coming out to join the tour for dinner. I can’t even begin to think about how I’ll handle being there, shaking her hand as she sits in her wheelchair, looking her in the eye, walking away. I’ve gone to her family’s blog once or twice, but find it a bit hard to dive into the details of her changed life right now. It seems too close to home while cycling.

Makes me wonder how her family has felt and now feels regarding this huge life change. To some degree, they are helpless; all they can do is watch. They can’t change what’s happened. The situation is in God’s hands. Tragedy often forces us there. Been there. Out of control things in life push us into the arms of the only Control there really is. Helplessness leads us to the only Helper. The mystery of it all pushes into an even greater Mystery.

And I go for a bike ride today…. Hmm…..

Later that day… just walked away from a 5 minute conversation with Elizabeth. She’s got a new set of wheels now, and here attitude was truly amazing. Bright, a sparkle in her eye, realistic, and still working it all out. No kidding. I asked her, “How are you coming to know God more through this experience?” She paused and smiled and then said, “I’ve always had God as a foundation in my life and that’s been unshakeable, but it seems that God now wants to re-form who I am… remold our relationship. I think this is about me learning how to re-experience God… yeah, that’s a good one… I’m going to re-experience God in a deeper, more dependent way. I’ll need him more for comfort, strength and hope.” Wow.

And the experience was nothing to be afraid of at all. Very natural, very relaxed, very real and alive. Only God could accomplish that in a situation like this. Glory.

Authored by: barb on Friday, August 19 2005 @ 12:34 PM PDT
John, thanks for telling us this story - it's moving to hear how Elizabeth is a model of the grace of God - very cool and makes me feel hopeful that in all situations in life I(we) can focus on going forward with God.


Day 55 - later that day...

Aug 17, 2005

Later that day… Great sea side rendezvous. There is something about riding near water that’s therapeutic; the breezes are always fresh, the waves calming and the sense of space seems to put things in perspective. Lake Ontario dwarfs me and puts me in my place.
Today was the first time this week I took the road less traveled and did some lollygagging. I slept in until 6:15 am… for 9 hours I was out like a light… snoring up a storm I’m told. We didn’t end up leaving until 8:30. The route was wonderful, hardly any cars, and full of beauty. By 11:00 am we’d found a great coffee shop in Port Hope. While there we talked about the whole problem of people racing to get places without enjoying the journey. It’s come up often on tour; in discussion and within me. I’ve always been such a driven, get there first kind of guy, living a driven get there first kind of life. This propensity still wells up in me even now. Why are we always in such a rush?

As I was yammering on about the topic with Rob (the new guy named Rob) I noticed Sherry’s eyes were welling up. I asked her what was going on and she talked about upsetting it was to think about all those people rushing around and never ever getting there. She mentioned all the huge new houses we passed yesterday north of TO, and how people are so desperately searching for the answers in stuff, and how upsetting it was to know that they’re missing out on the real Answer. Hmmm… missing out on life in two ways; by running so fast into the future that we lose the present, and by running to a future that will never give us what we’re so desperately looking for. That would make anyone cry. Watching Sherry’s eyes made me wonder if God was feeling exactly the same way. How could all these people he made miss out on so much… why in the world to they go so fast, race so hard, miss out on the richness of life?

Get this; over the past two days 3 new riders have come up to me and told me how they’re missing reading my blogs. My standard response is, ‘Well that’s ok, you’re living your own blog right now, right?” Two people walked away thinking about it, a third just said to me, ‘But it’s not the same.’

Today we rode on a narrow, inefficient road called Lakeshore Road… it was slow and pregnant with the now. A couple kilometers north of us was the 401… fast and fraught with future; with getting there. Which road do I want to ride my life on? Where will I truly find meaning? If I think about it. relationships take time… depth takes time… colour takes time… seeing takes time… hearing takes time… knowing… I must slow down. I’ve got one shot at the rest of this God given life… please God, give me the good sense to do it right.

Tonight I do coffee with an old friend, Rick Nanninga. Rick got me into this second career pastor gig years ago. Looking forward to re-connecting.

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 06:01 PM PDT
Your writings "blogs" are thought provoking - thank-you. Please thank Sherry for her honesty and challenging me to slow down and not be in such a rush. Too often I try to "get ahead" of God's agenda - or try to speed it up. Very counter productive



Authored by: jackjagt on Thursday, August 18 2005 @ 06:51 AM PDT
John, some, such as you are discovering, can act as tour guides or interpreters for others. Yes, it IS about slowing down and 'smelling the coffee'. Something I've (re)discovered since I retired. We have made bikes part of our lives, partially because they slow us down.. but Rick N on a bike? ;}


Day 55 (only 17 to go) - Bowmanville to Trenton – 108k

Aug 17, 2005

The air is so cool and fresh today; the sky a crisp blue. Not a cloud to be seen as we take our seaside tour. Think I’ll drive the old Model A, pack a picnic lunch, wear my cream coloured suit and Tilly hat. This is going to be one of those days… I can already feel it. They’re filled with expectation. You can feel it in your soul; your heart is beating just a little bit faster in anticipation; the edges of your mouth keep spontaneously curling up.
A new day… for me, for a bunch of riders on a tour, and maybe even for a 100 year old church. It seems this tour has stoked something in the hearts of a lot of CRC people. You can see it in their eyes, feel it in their hospitality. Who knows what the future holds. But for today we know… the menu; catered breakfast this morning (after free haircuts, massages, chiropractic work, movie, hot tubs last night… honest!), church catered lunch, catered snack stop, and catered dinner. I’m going to end up like one of those real fat guys in the cream coloured suits.

A friend from high school years walked up to me last night and announced that he was joining the tour for the next two days. Rob and Sherry were cool with including him in our team… I think it’s because Rob’s looking for some dirt on my partying days.

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 21 2005 @ 06:31 PM PDT
Some thoughts from the road from “the new guy Rob” (a.k.a. “Tag-a-long”, a.k.a. “C2C WANB”) after cycling from Bowmanville to Kingston along with the Sea to Sea tour: 20 August 2005.

Every day is a new day. When you have 100+ kms to cover, you have no choice but to focus on that task if you want to get it done. Whether your energy and enthusiasm are up or down, you feel the wind and rejoice if it is at your back: or hunker down and brace yourself for a tough day if it’s in your face. A christian’s journey is the same: whether easy or hard, God’s work is there before you every day, and you rejoice at the end of every day if you have worked hard and He has allowed you to accomplish even a little for His kingdom.

Little things matter, but you can’t let them matter too much. Worry just enough.

The biggest hazard on the road for the group the last couple of days has been insects: one bee in a helmet that resulted in a crash and a shiner that can’t be beat, and one bee sting in the face that caused the rider’s eyes to swell shut so that she could barely see the road. Gotta be careful out there.

Routine doesn’t change the fact that every day brings new sights and thoughts and God’s beauty all around us; in the natural scenes that pass before us, in the fellow riders that laugh and joke and hurt and cry, and in the people we meet along the road. We are all connected because we share the same maker.

Cycling is addictive. You want to go just one more day along the road to see what it will bring. God made us to work and live and be free, and cycling satisfies all of these needs to some extent. To be part of a team flying into the face of the wind along a smooth stretch of road through beautiful contryside is bliss. To see a hill approaching and then push over the top brings a thrill of victory every time. I never want to stop.

I can see what God shows me only if I choose to open my eyes


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