Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

John Van Sloten's Blog 2001 - 2007

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Day 8 – 60 measly k. - Kelowna to Vernon

July 03, 2005

Day 8 – 60 measly k. - Kelowna to Vernon

Ok, I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to lose the GPS unit. It’s still sending signals from Kelowna, on the site where we stayed, but we can’t seem to find it.
Some locals are going to try looking again this evening. Only I could lose a GPS unit.

The ride today was relatively uneventful. Beautiful Okanogan Valley, woke up at a friend of a friend’s place this am. Last night they invited us over for the night. I had to choose between my tent in the rain and a king size bed… hmmm. And then there was the hot tub with a view of the night lights of Kelowna, a 5 star breakfast, picking cherries from the tree in the front yard, and the two Black Russians.

Didn’t even notice how sore my feet were.

It’s now 4:30 and I’ve got to write a sermon for next Sunday in Calgary. Don’t much feel like it but alas…

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 03 2005 @ 06:47 PM PDT
Hey John!,

Just a couple words of encouragement,

Hang in there! The worst is how the seat feels and your body will catch up in another week. After that, you will be sailing! (Not responsible for any deviations in accuracy in the above statement!) At least, that's how it went with my trip. Can't wait to join up with you! Chao! Jason


Day 7 – 70k Penticton to Kelowna

July 02, 2005

Day 7 – 70k Penticton to Kelowna

Tough night… felt woosy til about 1:00 am… then woke up at 5:00 am, again. Got to try and get some more sleep.
Two days ago I was increasingly frustrated with how the church part of this bike ride was playing out. It seemed to me that we were trying to impose an ecclesiastical structure on the ride that didn’t fit; assigned small groups, large group meetings where everyone shared everything with everyone (reminded me of the ‘long prayer’ phenomenon of the church of my youth).

Seems to me that there must be a better way… a more natural way for this to happen. Community must grow naturally, on the road and in post ride conversation. Not everyone needs to hear all the stories… let them spread via good rumours instead. Stop leading it all from the top down and let the church grow up from the riders themselves… stuff like that.

We need to figure out what a cross Canada biking church would look like, and let things grow from there.

Later that same day…

Well, not the easy 70k run that I thought it would be. Dr. Schurman, our resident MD, checked me over a bit and felt that it would be prudent for me to go to the hospital and get that woosiness and chest pain checked out. So we did. They did a cardiogram; had to shave little parts of my chest. I asked the nurse if she would shave my legs as well.

Lying there I continued to feel woosy for a while. You wonder about things when you’re lying in a hospital bed with wires connected to you and all kinds of electronic equipment giving out readings. I wondered how low I could get my resting heart rate… 54 bpm!... Blood pressure… 122/66 Breathing… well, holding my breath did set off an alarm.

After 2 hours I was free to go. No problems. Or so I thought. Arriving back at camp I noticed that my shoes left with the equipment vehicle. I called someone and was told that they would come back with a car that would be making the return journey in about 45 minutes. I waited and had time for a nice phone call with my newly graduated daughter. The gift of extra time.

After about an hour I called to confirm the time of shoe delivery and found out that the guy forgot to send them. Yeah… Sarcastically I said, “Well then I’ll just bike all the way to Kelowna in my sandals (with clipless pedals!) It’s at times like this that I wish I were a little less prophetic.

I did leave the camp in my sandals, fully expecting to meet a SAG wagon, with my shoes within the first 20k. My feet were getting quite sore. Couldn’t stand up or bear down on the hills at all; too painful. I found myself having to stop every 5k. and walk a bit. After 30k and a couple of big hills I started to get a bit ticked. I tried to call but no answer… after 45 k I was ticked. Called Fran and asked her why in the world I was doing this ride. Not a great frame of mind.

I’m still in that place right now. Got to calm down before I talk to the “shoe delivery guy” (so to say).

Even later that day… calming down… will finish this ride. J


Day 6 – Princeton to Penticton

July 02, 2005

Day 6 – Princeton to Penticton

Ok… alright… I missed a day! Yesterday was a breeze. Only one 8k climb. I find it hard to believe that I would ever be in a place where I would say that. Life is all relative I guess.

Today, well that’s a different story. 120k was the distance from Princeton to Penticton. No major climbs we were told, so no major problems in my mind I thought. Wrong. Right now I am the deadest I’ve felt on this trip. Don’t know if it was the faster group I traveled with (I didn’t pace myself), or the burgundy cherry ice cream cone I ate at 30k (I didn’t pace myself), or the… well you get the point.

About 80k into the ride we got onto Green Mountain Road climbing for 15k or so. About 6k from the top I started to lose all energy. 28 degrees. Not good. There was nothing that more fluids or food was going to do to help. My legs were dead.

At a water stop 4k from the summit, one of the volunteers said that I needed to do 4k more, and then there would be a 24k decent into Penticton. I convinced myself that I would not give up. My legs however weren’t listening. One co-rider ended up being my only hope. He dropped his speed down to mine (a speed so slow that one has to be careful not to fall over sideways), and told me stories for the rest of the climb. What a life saver.

200m from the summit I began to feel strong again and my supporter then noticed another young woman riding alone behind us and in obvious trouble. This time I pulled back and started talking to her. There’s something about being saved that motivates one to save others. Once we cleared the top we began the decent; down the hill and into her life story. Depressed and previously suicidal she was still quite apathetic about life; couldn’t feel much. At 40kph she shared a lot about her life. It was so exhilarating biking down that mountain! Gently winding road, smooth pavement, gorgeous hills and sunshine; and a deeply troubled fellow traveler. I’ll have to reconnect with her after dinner. I’ll pray for her now.

The ride down was terrific. Can you imagine flying along at 40-65k for that kind of distance. Pure grace. Arriving at the site the grace continued. People could see that I was done. I actually felt like I was a bit drunk; wobbly and a bit disorientated. Two guys helped me set up my tent. Nice. I want to sleep for 8 hours tonight. For the last 5 nights it’s been 5-6 hours max. Not enough.


Day 3 - 70 km (1300m. climb) to Manning Park

July 02, 2005

Day 3 - 70 km (1300m. climb) to Manning Park

Things are not always as they appear to be.

This morning was a nightmare scenario in terms of how the planned ride to Manning Park fit with my cycling style. Over the past month of training I’ve noticed that I’m a much stronger rider during hours 3 and 4 of a ride than I am on hours 1 and 2. Over the past year I’ve also been continually reminded of the fact that I’m not a big man when it comes to climbing hills (actually I’m way too big!)
So this morning what do we do? Within 5 minutes of leaving camp we begin the climb of a lifetime. 1300 metres total vertical gain, but you can add a lot to that because of the ups and downs. I decided to take it very slow and not burn myself out. The first hill was 16 kilometres long. Sadly I must have averaged 9-12 kph… ok, ok…7-9 kph for almost two hours. To be honest I didn’t know if I’d have enough to finish.

I have to admit that I was a bit self conscious… definitely one of the slowest guys on the mountain. People had heard me use an illustration in my message on Sunday where I talked about my climbing prowess; I felt a knowingness in their passing smiles. Yeah.
But things aren’t always as they appear to be. After a bit of a lunch break I suddenly found a bit more gas in my tank. I sped up, took shorter breaks, and noticed people noticing my increase in energy. I cannot believe how happy, and powerful and engaged I felt. I just kept going and going. At one point a 19 year old guy I was riding with said, “Where did that come from man?” I felt like a boy again and no one was going to wipe the smils off of my face.

Nearing the end of the ride we faced another hill, only 15k this time. It was another one of those ‘things are not as they appear’ realities. For almost 7 kilometers we noticed that when we looked ahead, we thought we were seeing decline in the grade, only that wasn’t the case. It was a climb. When I told the two young folks I was with that we were climbing, they looked at me like I was some kind of idiot. “Stop pedaling,” I said, “Let gravity decide,” and sure enough they came to a stop.

None of us could believe what we were experiencing. Every time we thought that we were about to coast, we climbed. I half expected to see palm trees and a watering hole. Very cool optical illusion… well, as cool as at 15k climb can be, that is.

Anyway, I managed to push hard all the way up. I turned to one of my co-riders and said, “This optical illusion will make for a great sermon illustration.” “How so?” she replied. “The reality we all live in, thinking that things are a certain way and they’re not. Our illusion of being in control, the conceptions we carry about our invincibility, our ideas about life being only what we see in the material world; they’re all illusory, not as they appear. Life shocks us with these truths every time we encounter a tragedy; we’re undone and almost forced to look beyond ourselves. Perhaps even look to God. God’s control, plan, mysterious work is very much at work despite how things may often look or feel.”

I can hardly wait to continue the climbs tomorrow. Just before entering the camp site we had a 10k descent on a newly paved road. I pedaled like a mad man all the way down. 66 kph into a wind. I was hooting and howling like a child.


Pastor John at his finest

July 01, 2005

Pastor John at his finest - climbing up to Manning Park on Day 4. Still smiling for some reason....

Your resident action photographer,



Day 2 - Abbotsford

June 27, 2005

Day 2 – Abbotsford (for the day with no riding, but I’m not letting that get to me!)

Yesterday, a lone rider caught up to us from behind and joined our team. I should have seen the writing on the wall. He had two small signs attached to his panniers, sort of like placards, and they read, “Jesus is Lord,” along with some smaller print details on the ride.
At a stoplight I asked him if he knew that some people might be offended by his little billboard. He said he didn’t think so, and then went into a bit of a rant about how Christians don’t need to hide their faith. He was a bit angry and frustrated at the fact that, “You can’t say anything any more.” We debated the point a bit, and then I said, “Maybe it’s not so much that we talk about Jesus as it is about how we do it.” He responded by saying, “Well at least I’m not standing on some street corner!” I told him that I thought he was standing on a whole bunch of street corners, “You’re doing it right now.”

Why in the world do Christians think they have the right to impose their faith on others? For so many it conjures up a crusade like mentality. Is there not a more winsome way? Maybe not even a ‘way.’ Why not just live it and beg the question? Let me see, 120 riders all dressed the same, riding down Broadway in Vancouver… someone might just ask what we’re all about.


Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 06:34 AM PDT
Amen...thank you John.

Day 2 - Abbotsford
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 07:45 PM PDT

Sure. If your basic point is simply that Christians ought to act out their faith and in so doing invite the (spiritual or any type of) curiosity of people as opposed to cramming anything down someone's throat, I agree.

But, what you say, seems to me to belie a greater problem that you seem to make into a straw man argument.

You write: Why in the world do Christians think they have the right to impose their faith on others?

It is curious to me that you think that a smallish sign declaring Jesus is Lord is tantamount to a crusuade like mentality. While I am sure you would agree that hyperbole is at play, I might argue that in this case, it is unwarranted.

I wonder if your argument, that Christians ought not impose their faith on others is based on a faulty assumption. At certain points in history it is certainly the case that Christians have done imposed beliefs onothers, ie the Crusades. Even in Canadian history, it is true that Christians have done this, at least up until the multiculturalism introduced in the Trudeau era.

I will grant that the methodology of many Christians in making their faith known is often distasteful, however, it seems to me that if you undersood the plurality of Canadian culture a little more you would understand that any sign, from any special interest group of any kind, is not an imposition of beliefs as much as it is one voice among many. It seems to me that your assertion that a placard declaring Jesus is Lord being the equivalent to forcing Christian beleifs on someone is based on a faulty, modernistic assumption that Christianity has a claim on truth. If you were to read some more contemporary writing on the matter you would find that thoughtful Christians these days not only understand that they are a special interest group, and to that extent magainalized, - but, they even welcome it. In this setting, a placard of any type, declaring any groups beleifs is simply one voice of many. If pluralism allows for anything, it allows for each group to have a voice.

All of this is pretty academic at the end of the day. Like you, if I were to chose an approach, it would not be a placard. However, I can imagine a scenario wherein that makes as much sense as a Sihk being able to carry ceremonial swords to school, gays and lesbians being allowed to marry, and a whole host of other, wonderful expressions of the various fatih traditions that make our country the wonderful, spiritual and cultural mosiac that it is. Incidentally, I think that it is the very expressions of faith from the various fatih traditions that will allow Christians the opportunity to enter into meaningful dialogue with other faith traditions. in the same way that a thoughtful Christian ought to ask why a Sihk carries ceremonial swords, perhaps others will be thoughtful and inquire what a statement like "Jesus is Lord" actually means. The key to me is not then the sign for the Christian, but the response that they will give to the question. That worries me a whole lot more - and perhaps is fodder for more conversation.



June 27, 2005

Day one… and I’m put into a group a rider that includes a woman named Agatha. I noticed her on the day we arrived in Vancouver and wondered what in the world she was doing there. Pardon the ageism, but she was 74 years old! The worst parts of me questioned the wisdom of the tour planning team; “What were they thinking. There is no way this old lady can do this ride!”
Now I’m grouped with her. Shortly after we begin I notice that she’s right in there with the rest of us; a bit of a slow climber, but she just kept on going! I found out that she was the current seniors’ Canadian speed skating champion. She knew more about athleticism than I did.

Looking at her with different eyes, I noticed a strong leadership gift in her, surprisingly aggressive, and extremely focused and driven. She’d take an automobile lane as though she owned it. And she didn’t listen much to us younger folk.

By lunch my view of her had totally changed. I told her she was a ‘kick ass cyclist’. In her heavy dutch accent she commented that she didn’t quite understand what I meant by the comment, but would accept it as positive.

Near the end of our day’s run we came to a 12 percent climb and Agatha had to get off her bike to walk. I thought I’d be gracious and walk with her. Besides there was no one around to notice me walking a hill. No sooner had I dismounted and 20 riders from our group rounded the bend behind us and began the climb. Our tour organizer then come by in his van ringing a cowbell to inspire the climbers. All the while I humbly walk.

Man what a loser I can be sometimes. Prejudging others and then worrying about their perceptions of me; a wicked double edged sword.



Why ride across Canada?

June 07, 2005

Pastor John has drawn some of his motovation for this ride from Lance Armstrong. These are some links to messages he has spoken on about Lance.


Lance Armstrong - Pain & Performance

Authored by: johnvs on Tuesday, June 14 2005 @ 02:26 PM PDT
Good Question!!!

Why in the world am I doing this crazy cross country gig? At first all I wanted to do what help out a bit by preaching at some the special, cross country, services for the church/cyclists this summer. Then I got this idea that it might be kind of cool to be the media rep for the ride. My thinking was that we could preach this ride like a sermon; get into the theology of biking, spirituality on two wheels kind of thing.
Then I get this insane idea that I can preach this message most authentically by actually being a rider myself. What in the world was I thinking!!!

Anyway, I'm committed now, and trusting this will all work out. I figure I've ridden about 2500k in preparation over the past three months. I'm less worried about the hills now, more concerned about missing my family. Overall, I'm excited.

Authored by: rob_b on Wednesday, June 15 2005 @ 05:50 PM PDT
The craziest part is there are 100 people that are as nuts as you are. It's been fun to watch you get ready to ride, it will be even more fun to watch the trip. By the way I have a hymn you can sing:

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy power, and reign.

I think this deserves a new thread - hymns John can sing as he rides.


CJ92 FM - Green Day Interview

May 20, 2005

Green Day
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
John Van Sloten & CJ92 FM Calgary, May 20/05

Stream mp3 high speed

Stream mp3 dial up


Prayer for the Pope

Apr 18, 2005


John Van Sloten & CBC Radio, April 18/05

Stream High speed mp3 audio

Stream Dial up mp3 audio


Euthanasia Editorial - Terri Schiavo Story

Mar 29, 2005

(Big questions demanding a Big Answer)
by John Vansloten March 24, 2005

In the Academy Award winning film, Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood faces an excruciating decision. His prize fighter, Maggie Fitzgerald, has broken her neck; a breathing machine is now the only thing standing between life and death. And she’s asking him to pull the plug.

How could he possibly make that choice? He loves her as though she was his own daughter and can’t bear the thought of losing her. Yet, artificially prolonging her suffering and witnessing her slow and painful death would be unbearable; merciless.

It’s a conundrum none of us would ever want to face. And yet, watching this powerful film, we’re forced to. Forced to ask what we would do, forced to deal with what Eastwood finally did. Whether we agree with his choice or not, one thing we learn through the story is that this decision can’t be made by just anyone. It must be made by the one who loves the victim most; the person who has the greatest vested interest, the purest motives, the most to lose, and the most earnest desire for the victim’s well being.

But who is that person?

And now, as life imitates art and Terri Schiavo’s disabled life is hanging in the balance, we’re forced to ask if that person is her husband or her parents, a doctor or the State? Who loves Terri most?

Where should we be putting our faith?

Some would say, “We can’t play God and should never intervene,” all the while missing the irony of the fact that artificially prolonging life does exactly that. They fail to see that the ‘playing God sword’ cuts both ways. Are we prepared to live in a world where, once the technology will allow for it, we artificially keep people going for 150 years or longer?

So then how do we choose? Where do we draw the line? In the film, Maggie’s debilitated quality of life is juxtaposed with what she once was; a boxer, lithe, athletic, capable of great physical prowess. Is the distance between these two states the arbiter? Are the greatest among us, then, first in the euthanasia line should disaster strike?

Or do we try and set some kind of minimum standard of existence instead? Lose control of so many limbs, have your cognitive capacity diminish to this level, require this much artificial assistance and then you meet the requirement. When is too little life not enough?

Such a complicated debate.

It’s almost as though the complexity of the question demands an objectivity that is beyond our mere human perspective. The depth of the problem forces us to look for an answer outside of ourselves. Maybe God really is the only one who could decide.

Just as a doctor will most often defer to a family member or loved one in such cases, are we, collectively, now being asked to defer to God; the One who, by definition conceived of and birthed Terri, the One that surely knows and loves her best?

Even if the answer is yes, the complexities still remain. How in the world can we know where God would draw the line? God lets people die every day; naturally or otherwise.

At the end of ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ there’s a poignant scene where a distraught Clint Eastwood is sitting in an empty church talking with his priest. He’s desperately searching for some kind of answer.

The priest’s advice - “Leave it in God’s hands.” Eastwood’s response - “She’s not asking God she’s asking me.”

The scene is a microcosm of where we’re all at right now. Faced with a real decision regarding Terri’s very real life, we don’t know what to do. The questions are bigger than our ability to answer. Matters of life and death always are.

Perhaps we need to humbly admit this fact, recognize our own disabilities and earnestly look beyond ourselves.

Click link to view PDF of same Editorial


Mayerthorpe RCMP Tragedy

Mar 06, 2005

Global TV News Spot, in church


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