Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bike Camping, a first experience

Yesterday the Norvell men completed our first ever bike camping experience, a 62 mile round trip adventure. 

(the boys after pedailing 31 miles to the campsite) 

Ever since I started riding my bike full-time (for reader clarification: my family owns a van, but we try to bike as much as possible.  and we dont get paid to pedal) I have been thinking of ways to integrate bicycling more and more into the life of our family.  We bike to church, to school, to work, to the grocery store, to the park, to the lake, we bike with a canoe on a trailer, I've hauled supplies for my hammock post from Home Depot on my bike, & etc.  But we have yet to bike to camp. 

We love to camp (for reader clarification: I and my kids love to camp, my lovely and amazing and wonderful and highly perceptive bride is learning to love to camp) but to camp we load up the van and drive to a state park.  For the record Minnesota has some amazing state parks.  The state parks, for the most part are a good distance from Minneapolis.  So where to ride bikes for a camping experience?

Here comes the fantastic Three Rivers Parks District and the Carver Reserve Park with the Lake Auburn Campground.  Because our dog is experiencing separation anxiety only the boys and I went on this trip.  I wanted the boys to have a good experience so I loaded all the gear onto my bike trailer (the bike trailer is the former trailer that used to haul the kiddos in years ago.  I stripped it down and put a plywood base on it) so the boys would only have to pedal themselves to the destination. 
(Reader, you'll never regret purchasing a couple of those gigantic Ikea bags.  We use them for laundry, camping, hiding treats from people, storing old sermons, & etc.)

We loaded up the trailer with too much gear and began pedaling.  And here is the beauty of this trip: 98% of the trip was done on bike trails! Along Minnehaha Creek, onto the Cedar Lake Trail to Hopkins then the Minnetonka Regional Trail to the Campground. 

Now how did I get a 14 year old and 11 year old agree to pedal 31 miles to a campground?  I lied and I bribed them of course.  First, I told them it was only 20 miles.  When we passed the 20 mile mark I told them you can never trust google maps.  Second, I filled them with treats along the way.

The first stop was the Hopkins Depot.   This was our first time at the Depot; human do I feel like a sucker for not stopping there before - what a cool spot. 


What's not to love about coffee, donuts, youth run organization, bikes, solar panels, trains, a garden and grills?  What in the world are serious grills doing out there?  I dunno, but I can see a biking and grilling event in the near future. 

Then we just kept pedaling.  Reader, note that once you start pedaling on the MRT it turns into an aggregated path rather than a paved path; which means compacted dirt and gravel.  It will slow you down, but wont pop your tires. 

I was taken aback by how many churches lined the trail.  This one, St. David's especially caught my attention.  Come on, St. David's you should have a welcome bikers, hikers, walkers, explorers sign on the path with worship/prayer/meditation times.  I visited their website only to discover that the rector spent significant time in God's chosen state, West Virginia, therefore my critique of St. David's ends here. 

And we just kept pedaling.  Every time we came to one of those Three Rivers Parks kiosks with the poles pointing directions I would point something out so not to alert the boys of the mileage to the camp.  
This sign near Shoreview indicating there were 8 miles to go (when I told the boys it was just a little farther) could have ruined the trip but luckily the boys never saw it.   

We reached our site around 7pm after being chased and tormented by mosquitoes and horse flies and some kind of smallish horsefly.  The bugs...they were serious.  After claiming a site, setting up hammocks, securing firewood and checking out the surroundings we cooled off in Lake Auburn then it was the usual camping experience: brats, smores (with jumbo marshmallows, there is a Lunds & Byerlys right on the path in Hopkins) time by the fire and card games.  

Now is the time to ask why didn't we stay at the bicycle only camping spot?  The boys sure did want to know!  Well it was simple, there was a RV near the bike camping spot with a generator and I didn't want to listen to it run all night.  Next time, we probably will stay at the bike site.  Here is my only request for the bike camping site: how about some chairs. It is hard to pack camp chairs for a bike camping experience, some heavy duty outdoor chairs by the fire ring (and maybe a sheltered coin-operated massage chair).  Great idea, plus it is only $10/tent. 
The moon was only a quarter full, the sky was clear, & the stars were everywhere; so were the fireflies (a spectacle we rarely see in the city).  I awoke around 5am to the sun beginning to rise and the birds chirping.  It is amazing how only 30 miles west can transport you from the sounds of the city to the silence of the woods which creates habitat for all kinds of birds.  I loved listening to the waves of different birds until around 7am.  Around the 7 the boys awoke and were, of course, hungry.  But I had only planned on a one night trip.  So we took the camp down, loaded up the trailer and pedaled back to Minneapolis.  On the way we stopped at Cafe 318 for breakfast.  I apologize to the owner I am sure we stunk the place up with a toxic combination of body odor, campfire, bug repellent, and camp smell.  Then we kept pedaling with plenty of rest breaks and tom foolery.  
As we neared Minneapolis I pulled over to adjust the bags on the trailer at Lilac Park in St. Louis Park. 

 As you can tell the boys were starting to feel it. 

I had no idea the beehive was a grill.  Or that there were several roadside parks along Highway 100, "Lilac Way."  We had roadside parks in West Virginia, I kind of forgot about them.  Roadside parks, now turned into biketrailside parks.  I like this. But why dont they open up the beehive for grilling again?  It would be nice to pedal to the park, grill a couple of brats when the lilacs are in bloom, I'd do it. 

As we neared  home, the boys cooled off in a sprinkler at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. 
That was that. 

Next time: two days minimum, whole family, fishing gear, better bug plan, camp chairs (unless the park provides them), bike camping site, and telescope.  

I wouldn't trade living in the city for nothing, but I need frequent trips outside of the city in the midst of starry skies, with more bird songs, and less plane noise to restore my soul.  I'm thrilled to find just such a spot within biking distance of home.  Now to explore the other camping sites within biking distance...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

MSP vs. PDX (bicycling)

A couple weeks ago the family and I drove out to Portland, OR for the American Baptist Biennial (I know try to contain your excitement).  I was excited to visit the west coast, see the ocean again (still aint as cold at Lake Superior), see the Rockies and Cascades and Coastal mountains, sip some Pinot Noir, eat some Tillamook cheese, and etc.  But the real reason I was excited about going to Portland was to investigate the bicycling scene. 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet I have been able to learn some of Portland's bike scene via the Bike Portland page.  But I knew I would need to get on a bike and ride around the city to get a full sense of things.  Sad to say all of my time was accounted for and did not allow for a city investigation (however, I did get on a Biketown bike and set a record!).  Nevertheless, I did notice a few things that make me think, "Minneapolis/St. Paul we should be pedaling circles around Portland." 

1.  We're relatively flat.   Portland has all kinds of hills and stuff that make you sweat and wear your brakes our fast. 

2.  We have dedicate bike lanes and biking infrastructure.  Many lanes in Portland had a bike symbol on them but no space at all for a bicycle and a car.  Our bikes lanes, our bikes lanes, our bike lanes!

3.  Did I mention the MSP area is flat and easy to cycle?

4.  Minnesota Nice, use the passive aggressive culture to our advantage.  I watched bicyclists after bicyclists get cussed at, yelled at and swerved at in Portland.  Sure drivers are aggressive here in MSP, but mostly they internalize their anger and let it simmer for generations. 

It was great and inspiring to see so many people cycling in Portland, there is no reason MSP cant get to double digit riders.  We have the flat surfaces, the infrastructure, the niceness, and lots of biking institutional structure.  Come on Twin City-ans. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Father's Day Gift Suggestion

As a pastor no one every asks me for last minute Father's Day gift.  nevertheless, that has never stopped me from offering advice.

The most obvious gift idea: a nice pair nose hair trimming scissors.  No dad wants to admit they have out of control nose hair, but it's a truth.  Furthermore, even if your dad is losing his head of hair his nose hair will continue to grow with abandon.

Beyond the most obvious.  I want to implore you to purchase your father a Brian Doyle book.  The title does not matter, just get one.  Write on the inside cover how much you love your father, even if it is a troubled and broken relationship, even if you can only write "read this book please."

Brian Doyle was a gifted and talented writer but I think his deep treasure was his ability to make dads, especially, appreciate fatherhood in a deeper capacity.  I love my children and I love being their father, but Brian Doyle made me love my children and love being a father even more.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

Word of author's Brian Doyle's death circulated this weekend.  I and my family love Brian Doyle.  When I announced his death to my family all of us mourned.  His writing impacted every one of us from the way I include stories in my sermons, to great words he had for my lovely bride he signed in Grace Notes, to the stories I tell my kids at night (all rules are off), even to the way I talk to my dog (as a more cognizant animal). 

I saw him once a couple years back in Chicago; it was great.  He shared the most unusual writing prompts: describe the first time you kissed someone, when was the last time you hit someone, describe your favorite flower, tell me about the great sin you committed.  Oh those are some great prompts...

Doyle wrote this poem for the memory of Henri Nouwen, I offer it for Doyle as well. 

Poem for Henri Nouwen by Brian Doyle in Epiphanies & Elegies

The way he leaped up suddenly from the table
To make a point with the whole wild exclamation
Point of his body and the day his arm swirled
And swung and whirled and dance cheerfully
Around his cheerful face as he spoke and the way
As soon as he sat down he leapt up again to agree
Utterly and wholly from the bone of his being
With what you said rather than find the certain
Hole in what you said but then leaping off rom
What you said he would say something so new &
True and clear and refreshing and you wished you
Carried a notebook just for Henri but pausing to
Keep track of the swoop and zest of his thought
Would ruin the whole joy and verve of the thing
Which was a thing never before in the world and
Never again which was the sort of thing that gave
Henri a bubbling childish brilliant genius holy joy
Which was pretty much the point of Henri,
And what we miss most.

Brian Doyle, rest eternal.  thanks for catching (nutritious) stories and sharing them with us...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Let's Set a Record

So the last part of June and first part July the American Baptist Churches, USA will hold their biennial meeting.  This is a meeting of lots of American Baptists (clergy, missionaries, denomination staff, seminary staff, church delegates, institution folk, & etc.)  It is an enjoyable time. 

The last two were held in Overland Park, KS.  I understand why the venue was chosen but it felt like a fun desert to me.  You couldn't walk anywhere, poor bus service, and no bike share programs to be found.  This year, however, the meeting is in Portland!

Several months ago I began dreaming of a way to get clergy on bikes.  I thought what if we broke a record: most clergy on bikes.  I started researching and guess what: there are no clergy and bikes records!  So I filled out an application, paid my $5 Value Added Tax, and submitted my plans to the Guinness Book of World Records for a new record.  They said it would take several weeks, I haven't heard back yet; it has been several weeks.  But I am still hopeful.  Even if Guinness doesn't get back to me there are several other record books I have applied, they have accepted my record. 

Next came logistics: how am I going to get at least 250 bikes for clergy?  I asked some friends at NiceRide (Minneapolis/St. Paul's amazing bikeshare program) if they had any ideas.  Boy (and Girl) did they.  They put in contact with the person who is in charge of the bikeshare program in Portland: Biketown.  I got in touch with Biketown and sure enough they were game!

So the word started to spread and clergy began to get excited, but then a funny thing happened: non-clergy wanted to participate as well.  So the invitation was expanded to include both clergy and non-clergy.  So the record will be most clergy and most Baptists (religious group) riding bikes. 

It just so happens the stars were aligned for this event to take place: either other mainline denominations are not meeting this year or if they are they are meeting they are not meeting in a city that has a strong bike sharing program or if they are meeting in a city with a strong bike share program they do not have enough time to organize such an event (thus, why I have been so coy about this project).  But here is the fun part: I want this record to be broken.  I want the Lutherans or the Methodist to smash our record.  I want clergy and non-clergy riding bikes, getting healthy, exploring their communities, saving the planet, seeking economic and racial justice, gaining courage and putting a smile on their face.  Because the world needs courageous and joyous people right now.  But the Divine help us if the Southern Baptists find out about this record setting attempt; they have enough institutional might to overcome all of my obstacles...  They will crush the record, sanctify the bikes & then funk bike riding up for years to come. But who know maybe riding a bike will soften 'em up a bit. 

I hope you can join us for this record setting event, Friday June 30 8:30am - Portland, OR. 

here is the link to the actual press release, just in case you think I'm making all this up. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Need for a Clergy Union, part 73

many pastors may not know that our brothers and sisters to the north of us have a union for clergy, no foolin'.
but some of you will ask, but why would we ever need a union? personally, i do not. the good folk at Judson Memorial Baptist Church treat me great.  but one cannot define the world solely by their experience.  we are brothers and sisters of the spoken word. 

so have a look-see at what a church around the corner is doing to their pastor for easter: six back-to-back services, six back-to-back times he has to announce Christ is Risen (i cant help but think by the third time it seems a little melodramatic), not to mention when does the dude even get to go to the bathroom?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creative License

As a kid I was a sucker for any free toy in a box of cereal.  I especially loved the free bike license plates that came in a box of Honeycomb (you can buy them on ebay, of course).  Of course other classmates in elementary school were able to get license plates with their names on it at Kmart, but Travis was never to be found on the rack of license plate names (Tracy, but never Travis).  Nevertheless, I happily placed a state of Colorado license plate on my Schwinn and rode around town. Of course, no one ever asked me if I was from Colorado or anything about Colorado.  If someone had asked me anything about the state I would have looked at them like they had three ears or pedaled home as fast I could convinced they were trying to kidnap me.

Some of you may know that for the past couple of years I have had a CLERGY auto license plate on my bicycle.  For the record I totally swiped this idea off of Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.  I just had to have one of my own.  First I called Judson Press (publishing arm of the American Baptist Churches, USA) to see if they carried any CLERGY license plates, they did not.  Then I scoured the internet and found two places: the Methodist shop (aka Cokebury) and the UCC shop (aptly named UCC Resources).  Interestingly, Cokesbury no longer carries the license plate but they do carry a window decal, a "clergy" auto tag holder, and a "clergy" auto rearview hanger.  The UCC shop has them for $10.00.  I purchased one from the UCC shop, but seeing that the UCC one, rightly so, had the UCC logo I went over to the American Baptist Churches, USA resources page and downloaded an ABC,USA logo and taped it over the UCC logo.

Okay reader, go ahead and catch your breath and give your heart a chance to settle down, I know that was pretty damn exciting.

The auto license plate served me well.  But I really wanted a bike specific clergy license plate.  Sure enough thanks to the wonders of the information superhighway there is a company that manufactures personalized bicycle license plates.  And sure enough, I ordered one; for $10.

I like it.

you notice my bag to the left of the bike, I just got back from playing basketball; so consider this an action shot as well.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Winter Biking 2016-17 Year in Review

Now that the first pitch has been tossed, 30DaysofBiking is well under way, liberal solicitors are blanketing south Minneapolis neighborhoods, and pastry shops are jumping the gun by serving rhubarb treats it is time to do a review of the winter biking season.

1.  The Bike.  This year I dedicated the Breezer as a winter biking only bike.  This decision worked out well.  Last weekend I simply took the bike (studded tires and all) and placed it in the basement till it snows again.  However, due to climate change the snow is not like the snow of yore.  Several times I had a presbyterian of a time navigating the wet chunky snow.  Despite low pressure tires with studs I could barely remain upright.  So I may be in the fat tire bike market.

I am having a difficult time even thinking about purchasing a fat tire bike.  Why?  Shortly after moving to Minneapolis the kiddos and I were walking around the lake when some jackass on a fat tire bike came rumbling through.  The dude was drunk and zigzagging all over the path and cursing at everyone within 10 feet of him.  That was the first time I had ever seen a fat tire bike, never mind someone riding one.  So forever in my mind, even though since that experience I've met many kind hearted compassionate souls who ride fat tire bikes, every time I see someone on a fat tire bike I have a difficult time not saying, "shut up jack ass." 

2.  Gear.  Three big advances this year. 
1.  An Endura jacket (one with a built in light on the back).  This jacket was (and is) amazing.  One person told me that it was so bright I looked like I was on fire.  Yeah, it's bright.  And it is Scottish made so the zipper is on the opposite side. 
2.  A Buff.  I was skeptical of anything called a buff, but this sleeve shirt looking thing is quite amazing as well.  Thanks to the good folk over at The Road Less Pedaled for this recommendation.  Then finally 3. A fleece lined beanie.  Again I was skeptical of anything that resembles a condom but I was quite surprised.  A gentleman over at The Hub recommended a beanie + a ear band + the Buff as three layers for winter biking.  Yeah, it worked amazing.  Because I had three layers I could adjust due to the temperature/wind.

3.  The 46th St. Station.  I was surprised how much I used this station this winter.  Several times I biked over to the station then put my bike either on the bus or the light rail to get me to where I needed to go. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

30 Days of Biking Blessing

This year April 1st fell on a Saturday which meant I could participate in the kickoff ride for 30 Days of Biking.  What a day for it.  Sunshine, blue skies, temp in the 60s, and my lovely and talented bride by my side for the ride!

And since I was at the ride I delivered the bike blessing in person, no foolin'.  I modeled it after a Celtic ship blessing.
For thirty days you shall ride your bike
For thirty days you shall be made anew
For thirty days you shall find strength

What can befall you?
Check your brakes, oil your chain, pump up your tires.

What can cause you anxiety?
Watch our for cars, potholes, and thrill seeking squirrels!

The charm of the biking community be with you
The charm of a tail wind find you
The charm of bike riding joy never leave thee.

What can tempt thee?
It's not a contest, dress appropriately (or not), you can do this.

Beloved, enjoy your rides...

(rarely does a preacher get an action shot)

I thought long and hard about wearing a clerical collar for this blessing, but then I discovered the bike bow tie by BeauTiesltd.com, it was no contest.  bow tie it was.

Happy 30 Days of Biking Everyone...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Eternal Man in Black

Oh about 20 years ago I was driving a church bus full of youth from Toronto back to Rochester, NY. Somewhere around Batavia, NY on the thruway I told the kids to hush up and listen. I pulled out the mixed tape I made for the trip (church vans did not have cd players back then) and turned the volume up.

Playlist? I cant remember the contents, but I do remember one song that made an impact, What Is Truth by Johnny Cash.

At first the youth giggled at the selection but as the song played on the van went silent. At the end of the song they asked me to play it again and after that one more time. One bit of truth from my life touched one bit of truth in their life. It was a beautiful moment. For the record they did not have the same reaction to One Piece at a Time...can't have everything.

Probably once a week, if you would sneak or just get buzzed in, into the sanctuary at Judson Memorial Baptist Church you would hear me hum the tune of What Is Truth. So when I was asked to submit a piece to The Christian Citizen on truth in the age of fake news I jumped at the chance. Immediately I thought about re-writing What Is Truth. I thought Curtis Ramsey-Lucas would say, "that's is an idea for sure Travis. Maybe you ought to sit this one out." But no he said have at it. I thoughtI could rewrite the song with my eyes shut in 15 minutes... Friends, I have already asked a friend of mine to kick me in the shin if I ever volunteer for a like project in the future.

The lesson in all of this: don't ever let it be said the editors and publishers at American Baptist Home Mission Societies are not full of grace because they actually accepted my song.
have a looksee here:  it is embedded in a fantastic article by John Burns, pastor of University Baptist Church in College Park, MD

Monday, March 20, 2017

They Should Call It The Genius Pot

Like many of you I heard the story on NPR about The Instant Pot.  Like many of you I was intrigued by the idea of an electric pressure cooker.  Like many of you I started researching and contemplating purchasing an Instant Pot.  Unlike many of you I was paid for a funeral service which enabled me to purchase an Instant Pot.

I chose the Eight Quart model, we are a family of five. 

I confess I was really most excited about the porridge aspect.  I eat some form of cooked oats nearly everyday.  Currently, I am in love with cooking whole oat groats.  But to cook them on the stove top takes hours and sometimes I have to add more water.  Therefore, at first, the woman who chose to marry me, said over and over again, "You bought a $100 oat cooker."  "NO!" I replied, but it is an amazing oat cooker!  Especially with the timer ability.  Before I go to bed I place the makings of a wonderful breakfast: oat groats and water then set the timer for later that night.  When I wake up the groats are fully cooked and ready to eat.  The timer function is the beauty of this machine.  You see when I fill up the pot with groats and water the groats have a few hours to soak before cooking.  Genius I tell you, Genius. 

So far we have made the following meals with the Genius Pot: chicken noodle soup, black beans, oats, and...the feast of last night. 

Before I tell you about the feast last night I have to say the other genius feature of the pot is the saute feature.  With a regular slow cooker I would saute stuff on the stove top, then dump the contents into the slow cooker, then go back and deglaze the pan then pour that into the slow cooker.  Now I saute in the Genius Pot and deglaze then close the top and set it and forget it. 

Okay onto the feast last night.  Allow me to set the stage.  Dinner for Nine Adults and Five Kids; most are meat eaters, but not all.  Menu: I chose to make pulled pork sliders and beet sliders with cubed sweet potatoes and slaw and beans on the side.  Beans - out of the can.  Sweet potatoes and slaw - domain of ms. lovely.  And I would not get home to start cooking until after 1pm, folk would arrive at 5pm. Sounds like a train wreck doesn't it...and we still had to clean up the downstairs...train wreck indeed. 

Not with the Genius Pot.

The night before I put my dry rub on the pork shoulders.  My rub recipe: (amounts are all eyeballed) brown sugar, garlic powder, white pepper, black pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, chipotle powder, coffee grounds, kosher salt, and ground cumin.  I placed the pork shoulder onto a jelly roll pan and judiciously spread the rub over the meat, wrapped the pan and mean in plastic wrap and placed them in the frig. 

On Sunday I got home from church and started cooking.  I browned the pork shoulders in the Genius Pot, deglazed with some beer, then poured another beer into the pot with some water but did not cover the meat.  Closed it all up and set the timer for 90 minutes.  Then I started helping clean the downstairs.  All sounds good, train wreck avoided. 

Then I got a call from a dog rescue organization asking if our dog was with us.  I said sure.  Then I looked around the house, no dog.  Then I looked in the yard, no dog.  Then I noticed the gate on the fence was left open, definitely no dog.  After some back and forth phone calls we found our dog in a neighbor's back yard.  See why I call it the Genius Pot, no worries about cooking while I retrieved the dog. 

Now reader I gotta tell ya I was extremely skeptical of cooking pork shoulders in the Genius Pot rather than smoking them on the grill like I usually do.  But the pork was so tender, juicy and delicious.  I set the pork aside to cool, then pulled it apart, made my vinegar sauce (apple cider vinegar, tomato puree, and hot pepper flakes) poured over and tossed in the pulled pork then placed on a lined jelly roll pan (the one ms. lovely had baked her sweet potatoes on) and broiled the meat for a couple of minutes. 

Delicious.  Amazing.  Genius. 

Then I cooked the beets for the beet sliders.  Folk came over, wonderful time, wonderful meal. 

The Genius Pot.

Other features folk dont know about.  1.  Press Saute and Porridge at the same time for the shoe shine function.  2.  Knock three times on the side for clues to the New York Times crossword.  3.  when you manually release the steam you can both unwrinkle your shirts and get them to smell like pork shoulder.  4.  If you open the Genius Pot and look deep into the stainless steel pot after a few minutes  you can communicate directly with Kellyanne Conway. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Transfiguration Freebie

This Sunday is the day of the Transfiguration, or the last Sunday before Lent; take your pick one which title you like best.  I like Transfiguration.  On the one hand the story of Jesus being transfigured is a bit odd.  But on the other hand, I'm sure that if you were to sit down and ponder for a few minutes moments in your life you would recall or discover moments of transfiguration.  I've seen people with ashen faces transfigure to bright red when someone they love walks in the room.  I've seen transfiguration happen the moment someone forgives someone else and their countenance changed.

The more I think about the story of Jesus' transfiguration the more I am drawn to it..that God still wasn't finished with Jesus.  Just like God is not finished with you or me.  Regardless of our age or situation in life the possibility of transfiguration remains...

This week I read Man of Letters, a 3 1/2 page story by Guy Lebeda. It is the story of two friends, Guy and Dave, who communicated, primarily, through writing letters.  Before Dave died he went to visit Guy, as they were walking one night this scene of transfiguration occurred, 

"Shortly before the end of their visit, Doug and I went for a walk through my suburban neighborhood.  As we strolled through the fragrant darkness, he was suddenly swarmed by fireflies.  He was completely enveloped in a gentle cloud of flickering lights.  We stood looking at each other, while the insects hovered over him.  After what seemed like a long time, the swarm floated away, and I shivered strangely in the hot night air."  

May you be transfigured this week, in some form or fashion, by the mysterious working of God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why You Should Become a Winter Biker

An alternative response to the Trump presidency: become a winter biker.

Why you should become a winter biker.

1. It's fun. You get to ride your bike in the snow and on top of the ice. Everyday you go back to being a kid.

2. It's fast. Many days when the weather is ugly and the roads are a mess and cars are slipping, sliding, and clogging up the roads you can pass them with a smile as you pedal past them.

3. Parking is a breeze. Parking lots may be full, street parking may be dismal but parking a bike in the winter is no worry. But if all the bike spots are taken then just shove your bike in the snow and put a sign on it that says, "Please do not steal this bike because if you do I will be forced to pray that you have uncontrollable diarrhea and I dont want to do that." That should keep one refraining from taking your bike.

4. You do not have to warm up your bike. It can be 40 below no big deal your bike is ready to go as soon as you mount up and start pedaling. Added bonus you do not have to worry about polluting the environment by idling your automobile.

5. You do not have to scrape or deice your bike. Again, 40 below and everything else is covered in frost - big deal. Hop on your bike and start pedaling, no deicing, no scraping, no nothing, instant riding.

6. It's a workout. When the streets are a mess and the ice and the snow and the sand and the salt are as thick as oatmeal it is a workout to keep you and your bike vertical. The energy and muscles involved in this workout cannot be duplicated by any core plan or machine at the local fitness center.

7. Instant warm-up. I play basketball one day a week, when I pedal up I arrive at the gym warmed up and ready to go. No hamstring pulls and sometimes I even make my first shot!

8. You realize the cold aint really that cold. 10 below looks cold when you run from your house to the car but when you bike in 10 below you realize it really aint that cold. In fact, after biking on 10 below day you realize that 10 above is actually pretty warm balmy.

9. Sights. You will see things you cannot see while driving: owls swooping down in front of you, kids playing in the snow, 1000s of lost gloves and mittens. Sounds: the silence of snow, the singing bush (there is a bush on 40th st that sings b/c of the 100s of chickadees that hang out there), ice cracking.

10. Mental/Emotional Health: It is guaranteed that everyday the new president will do something to make you want to pull your hair out with frustration and make you want to scream and kick and cuss. While those are proper outlets for your emotions why not pedal the emotions out instead? I find that a nice bike ride when I am mad or anxious can assuage my troubled soul. I find that after a bike ride I am in a better place to talk and listen to those I disagree with. The last thing we need is more division. We need to love the fear out of each other and it is hard to love when your heart is clamored with frustration, anxiety, and hate. AND by riding your bike you will have more energy for the fight ahead! With a free and light heart you can keep marching, keep resisting, keep reaching out, keep challenging, keep dreaming, keep imagining, keep on keeping on...

Pedal on...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Three Short Winter Biking Stories

1.  Surprise.
While checking out at the local co-op, the Friendship Store - how can you not love that name? - the cashier asked me if I rode my bike.  I said I did, thinking for sure this would be lead to one of those you're nuts conversations.  But no.  Instead she asked, "Do you have one of our bicycle reward cards?"  I quickly responded in a dumbfounded manner, " I had no idea they existed."  To the 15 people who read my blog: Did you all know about this?  Each time you ride your bike to the Seward Co-op they punch a hole in your reward card, fill it up and then you're card is entered for a $50 drawing.  Just for riding your bike to the grocery store.

What if churches did this?  Ride your bike and receive a free blessing, extra communion, enjoy the worship service relaxing in the steaming hot baptismal water, 10% discount on your tithe...

2.  Excuse Me
Last week I parked my bike at the library and walked up to Kowalskis (another grocery store) to pick up a few things.  It was bitter cold day so I was dressed in my black pants (just a thin pair of wind blocking pants) and my black ALTA jacket (i've never been there but i have a friend who owns a ski shop there) and my black balaclava (a face covering mask).  As I walked away from the cashier a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Excuse me, are you the manager?"  I replied, "No, but thanks for the compliment.  I do not work here."

For the record Kowalski workers wear black pants and shirts, so I'm willing to give the woman some credit.  And yes, it is cold in Minnesota and different folk bundle up in different ways but when did grocery store managers start wearing face covering masks?

3.  The Existential Question
This morning in the muck of snow and grit and slush I pedaled north on 4th avenue.  On the corner a mom talked on her cell phone while her pre-K child waited for her bus.  As I approached I smiled at young girl and said good morning.  The young girl in her furry hooded jacket looked me in the eyes and with tears in her eyes and snot running down her nose and her hands in her pockets asked me the ancient unanswerable question that has puzzled theologians and philosophers and poets and physicians and teachers and writers since beginning of time: WHY?

Winter Biking, you gotta love it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: Year in Reading

Every year I say, "This is going to be the year I read 60 books".  I start off like gang busters then come summer my reading slows down to a crawl.  I try to make up for lost time in the Fall then Advent says, "No way brother".  Nevertheless this year I did get to 46, which was a good number for me.  I need to figure a way to count newspapers, journals and magazines too.  I take the Star Tribune, 7 days; New York Times M-F; The Christian Century; Sojourners; The Nation; Mother Jones; The New York Review of Books; The Atlantic; and Image.

Here is the list with intermittent commentary.

1.  The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal.  (Love her books)
2.  Steeped in the Holy: Preaching as Spiritual Practice by Raewynne J. Whitley
3.  The River Why by David James Duncan (top 10 book of 2016).
4.  Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben
5.  Something Is About to Happen: Sermons for Advent and Christmas by Tom Long
6.  Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben (love this book)
7.  Bin Laden's Bald Spot and Other Stories by Brian Doyle
8.  Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmer's Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm by Forrest Pritchard.  (Top 10 book of 2016)
9.  The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts of the Ministerial Life by Craig Barnes
10.  Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape: Vermont's Champlain Valley and New York's Adirondacks by Bill McKibben
11.  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer (top 10 book of 2016)
12.  The Passion of Revernad Nash by Rachel Basch (a pastor in New England who rides a bike, what's not to love)
13.  In the Company of Christ: A Pilgrimage through Holy Week by Benedicta Ward
14.  New Vision for the Long Pastorate by Roy Oswald
15.  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (got free at the Fosdick Preaching Lectures at Augsburg College)
16.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph (top 10 book of 2016)
17.  The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by Dr. William J. Barber and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove (top 10 book of 2016)
18.  Composting: How to Plan, Build, and Maintain Your Own Compost System for Healthy and Vibrant Gardens
19.  Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Garden Method by Joel Karsten I thought this book was goofy until I read it, great technique which I adopted this year.
20.  Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (I can see the scenes everytime I close my eyes)
21.  Just Ride: A Radical Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen great book.
22.  In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey by Samuel Fromartz (top 10 book of 2016)
23.  Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (top 10 book of 2016)
24.  The Second Journey by Charles Foster
25.  Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist
26.  My Bread by Jim LaHey
27.  Booth graphic novel
28.  Jewelweed by David Rhodes
29.  The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (scariest and most prescient book fo 2016)
30.  Appalachia: The Voice of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant
31.  The Book of Job by Stephen Mitchell. (Great translation)
32.  My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout - God I love this woman.
33.  The Pilgrimage by Paula Coello (weird by neat)
34.  The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation (last McKibben book of 2016)
35.  Book of Job Common English Bible translation
36.  The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks (top 10 book of 2016)
37.  Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance by Robin Meyers (another prescient book)
38.  America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis (like all Jim Wallis books there is a lot of Jim Wallis in it, but still worth the read)
39.  A Year on Henry's Farm by Terra Brickman (changed the way I grow garlic)
40.  The Making of a Sermon by Robert J. McCracken
41.The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Hear by Brian Doyle (top 10 book of 2016)
42.  The Write Stuff: Crafting Sermons that Capture and Convince (need to return that to the library) by Susan Willobee
43.  Chicago by Brian Doyle (top 10 book of 2016 simply because of Edward the Dog)
44.  Be My Witness: The Great Commission for PReachers by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle (top 10 book of 2016)
45.  The Alchemist by Paulo Coello (why all the fuss over this book?)
46.  Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax by Michael McGregor

Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year Be My Witness by McMickle
Best Fiction book of the Year:  Raymie Nightingale

The list shows me that i need to read more fiction, poetry, kid/teen books, mysteries and biographies. And more from women and people of color and foreign authors.  Lots to do, we'd better get reading.  Have at it.