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Child of God. Husband. Father of four. Pastor. Triathlete.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Park City Par-Tay

Why I like skiing:
1) It is difficult.
2) It is exhilarating.
3) It is outside.
4) It plays with chaos.
Why I like skiing in the mountains:
1) Altitude makes me happy.
2) Big mountains grant big perspective.
3) The air is clean, the snow is dry, and the runs are long.
4) The majesty of the mountains testify to God's majesty.

Why I like skiing in the mountains with friends:
1) Good friends are a gift.
2) It is better to have someone with whom to share the fun.
3) Friends get you to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do.
4) It's not much fun to go apr├Ęs-ski hot-tubbing alone.

My good friend Billy invited. I responded.
So, I'm skiing The Canyons at Park City with my dear amigo and it is a joy!
We just finished our first day and we hammered it: 18 runs, 20328 vertical feet, 24.6 miles. My legs are tired.

A brief recap of the trip so far:
Wednesday, January 31
Woke to a blue blood lunar eclipse. A nice way to come down from my State of the Union hangover. Actually, President Trump did quite well.
In to the office for a couple of hours.
Workout at Dordt.
Home, lunch (granola, yogurt, fruit smoothie), and ablutions.
Straight to the Old Market in Omaha. After a quick stop at Drastic Plastic, I settled in at La Buvette for a lovely Michel Picard Pinot Noir, olives, cheese, and bread. I was the only customer. Jazz on the hifi. Jordan B. Peterson (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos) was my companion. After my repast, I made quick stops at Jackson Street Books and Pretty in Patina (continuing the search for Sophie's Chanel pumps).
To Eppley Airport, I waited for my flight, and was rather ecstatic when I discover that Billy had splurged for First Class. Premium boarding. Wide comfy seat. A glass of Dewars on ice. Jordan B. Peterson.
The flight was rather long, but we landed. Not dying is always positive.
By the time I had walked to the baggage area, Billy texted me that he had arrived. Perfect timing. I walked outside, he pulled up, and we were off.
To In-N-Out Burger for a late dinner (single, fries, Coke), then on to The Summit Lodge at The Canyons. Absolutely lovely.
I unpacked and we hit the jacuzzi. Perfect.

Thursday, February 1
I slept surprisingly well. Up. Breakfast (a breakfast sandwich from First Tracks at the hotel...not good, orange juice, coffee). Devotions. New York Times. Then waiting for the ski rental company to meet me for our 8:30 a.m. appointment in the lobby. No show. I called. They got hung up. Bad news is that it delayed my time on the mountain by thirty minutes. Good news is that is gave Billy time to finish up his session AND I got one day taken off my bill. Good.
Geared up, headed out, and were on the lift by 9:30 a.m. We skied hard all morning. Hammered. I felt good: good form, confident, strong. We canvassed The Canyons, starting from the north and working our way south. We hit most of the skiable terrain on Murdoch Peak and Peak Ninety-Nine 90.
We were starting to fade around 12:30 p.m., so hit the Cloud Nine for a small ($17!!!) bowl of mediocre bean with bacon soup. Amply sated, we took off again, making our way back north.
Billy headed inside for a session a little before 3:00 p.m. I hammered on, plugging in my post-rock playlist--Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, 65daysofstatic, et al. I kept to the runs on the Orange Bubble Express, with my final foray off of the Super Condor Express, which brought me down via "Boa," and perhaps my favorite run of the day.
At the bottom, I was exhausted. The lifts were operating for another ten minutes--I could head up one more time. I assessed the situation and decided it was best to end on a great run.
Inside, I headed to the fitness center for a quick workout, then up to the room. We got (sort of) cleaned up, then headed to Deer Valley for bourbon and burgers at...Bourbon and Burgers. It was pretty spectacular. Located in the Montage Hotel at Deer Valley, it was clubby, and moneyed, and generally just pretty awesome. We had drinks (old fashions, to be precise, made with locally-made bourbon), wagyu nachos, hamburgers, and truffle parmesan fries. Very good.
Downtown Park City for Java Cow (ice cream for Billy, hot chocolate for me). Park City is pretty rad.
Home. Hot tub. Shower. Bedtime. I am exhausted.

Friday, February 2
Awake. Slept well. Breakfast (bagel, orange juice, coffee). Gear up.
I was on the lift (Orange Bubble Express) at 9:01 a.m., and on the way down (Doc's Run...a moderate blue) decided that I somehow forgot how to ski overnight. It was a disaster. My form was horrible. My legs were like jelly. I had no control. I actually went down--not hard, but enough to get my attention. Ticked, I parked it in an Adirondack chair at the base and waited for Billy.
Together, we set out to fulfill the plan--work Park City from south to north, from Payday at Park City Mountain Village to Boa at The Canyons.
We hammered. The stats:
24 runs.
29 miles total distance.
25,000 vertical feet.
Max speed: 38.7 mph
Max elevation: 9,285 feet
Longest run: 2.7 miles
The highlights were many. The lowlights weren't very low (my fatigue by the end of the day being the only thing that comes to mind).
I end on Boa at 4:01 p.m., quads burning, low light lending little visibility, cold, tired. It was awesome. Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and Slowdive provided the soundtrack for the last three runs.
Back at the hotel, I cleaned up, returned the skis, and headed to the hot tub for a very brief soak.
Then into Park City for dinner, and what ended up being a top-3 all-time dining experience. Fletcher's. Outstanding.
Short-rib grilled cheese. Buffalo & blue cheese fondue. 12 oz. tenderloin. Fries. Chocolate mud pie. Drinks. Truly extraordinary.
Back to hotel. Soak. Batman. Bed.
Great day!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Reading List


Moore, Roger. My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography. London: O'Mara Publishers, 2009.

Zscheile, Dwight. The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2014.

Warren, Tish Harrison. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Random House, 1965.

Madigan, Kevin J. and Jon D. Levenson. Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Houellebecq, Michel. The Possibility of an Island. New York: Vintage, 2007.

Marquet, David. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Peterson, Jordan B. Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Toronto: Random House, 2018.


Simenon, Georges. The Late Monsieur Gallet. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Billings, Todd J. Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord's Table. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018. (partial)

Harris, Robert. Munich: A Novel. New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2018.


Barker, Jeff. Sioux Center Sudan. Peabody, MA: Henricksen, 2018.

Simenon, Georges. Maigret Travels. New York: Penguin, 2017.

Lynch, Thomas. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. New York: Penguin, 1997.


Billings, J. Todd. The End of the Christian Life. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2018.

Doughty, Caitlin. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014.

Simenon, Georges. Maigret at Picratt's. New York: Penguin, 2017.

Pearcey, Nancy. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018.


Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Stott, John. The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Percy, Walker. Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1971.

Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. New York: Amereon Ltd., 1977.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Travel in 2017

2017 was a good year for travel. While I am grateful for the community in which I live, "getting out of Dodge" is a vital part of my mental health regimen. The breakdown by month:

January--Los Angeles, California for meetings with my "Resurrection Hope in the Medical Age" consortium and the faculty of Biola University.
Surfers as seen from the boardwalk at Huntington Beach.

February--Naples, Florida with my wife and friends Nick & Amy Van Es for a quick winter getaway.
Naples, Florida date night.

March--Ski Loveland (Colorado) with Channon for Rocky Mountain skiing.
Ski Loveland on a perfect March afternoon.

April--Holland, Michigan for more meetings with my consortium and the faculty of Western Theological Seminary.


June--Oxford, Mississippi and Anna Maria Island, Florida for a spectacular summer vacation.
Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
July--Estes Park, Colorado for a couple of days in the mountains with the FRC youth group.

August--Chicago, Illinois for a wedding.
Michigan Avenue in Chicago on a Saturday night. We love you, Hannah & Elliott! (I was there to officiate their wedding.)

September--Vail & Boulder, Colorado for my annual pilgrimage to the mountains for silence and solitude.
On Half Moon Trail in the Mount of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.

October--Tuscaloosa, Alabama with Ian, Isaiah, Dad, and Jim for the Else football trip.
Bryant-Denny Stadium on the campus of the University of Alabama. Roll Tide!

December--Philadelphia, Pennsylvania & New York, New York to visit Tuck.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

New York in December

Each year, my beautiful wife blesses me with a plane ticket to Philadelphia to visit my twin brother, Tucker. I love NYC...

Greeted by the lovely KeeKee.
I left Sioux Center at 8:00 a.m. for for the three hour (plus) drive to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The soundtrack for the spectacularly windy drive was Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. Arriving as MSP at 11:30, I parked and quickly made my way to the appropriate gate for a 1:08 Delta flight to PHL. Lunch at Starbucks. The flight was uneventful and the cabin rather empty. I was able to spread out and read my book, James K.A. Smith's Awaiting the King. The time passed rather quickly, and soon I was making my way through Philadelphia International Airport. Tuck picked me up outside of baggage, and after greetings we made our way to Cascia's Bakery on Philly's south side for strombolis and pizzas. To the house in Wynnewood, thankfully uninterrupted by gang-bangers this time, we had a happy reunion around food and Shaun of the Dead.

Bibimbap at U-Town
Up early, Tuck and I drove a colleague to the airport and then headed to the Christian Union office just north of Penn's campus. I settled in for a morning of work while he headed to campus for meetings with students. After a productive morning, I made my way towards campus, stopping for a delightful Korean lunch at U-Town on 40th St. & Sansom. Sated with bibimbap and kimchi, I went to the 1920's Commons on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania to meet with Tuck's colleagues and some students and finish my work in the comfort of the common's Starbucks. By late-afternoon, we were ready to head home, stopping en route for drinks at Distrito. The evening involved Jim Carrey and The Grinch, regrettably, and an early bedtime reading Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things.

Tuck and I left early Friday for NYC (soundtrack--early Suicide...quintessentially New York), stopping for breakfast at Delancey's on the way out of town for coffee and bagels. We arrived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at around 11:00, parking on Riverside and 106th. We walked to the subway, stopping for coffee at Plowshares on the way. We took the subway to Canal St. and set out walking. While cold, it was not uncomfortable, and the city was buzzing with Christmas consumerism. We made a long stop at Opening Ceremony, where I nearly (not really) dropped $2,800 on a beautiful Dries Van Noten wool coat for me and $75 Toxic Shock tee-shirt for Sophie. Reason prevailed, and we left empty-handed.
Suicide captures the creepy zeitgeist of NYC in the late-1970's.

Continuing on, we made several stops--Bloomingdale's, some thrift stores--before finding Katz's Deli on East Houston for pastrami with mustard on rye. We took it to go, as the deli was a madhouse. We walked north on Houston to a Pret a Manger, stopping for drinks at a newsstand en route, and enjoyed our sandwich along with a couple of PaM cookies. After lunch, we enjoyed Strands Bookstore, albeit briefly.
Back in the City.

Subway from 122nd to Canal.


The City is ready for us.
We continued north and east on Park Ave. to Madison Square Park as the weather deteriorated, and arrived at our destination--Todd Snyder. It was an epiphany. Beautiful clothes and a delightful host--Joe--made for a lovely visit, though as usual the prices were rather prohibitive. I would have a hard time justifying a $285 shirt to Juliana. Joe was gracious, however, and even blessed us with a lovely bottle of scotch. As we left, it was beginning to darken considerably. We hustled to Dover Street Market on Lexington & 30th. After an annoyingly rich cup of coffee (blech), we perused the goods--Commes Des Garcons, Gucci, Vetements, Junya Watanabe for CDG, etc.--and again marveled at the artistry while not succumbing to the irrationality of $350 tee-shirts.
Lunch at Katz's Deli on Houston.

Made famous, of course, by the movie Harry Met Sally.

Checking out the fine threads at Todd Snyder NYC on Madison. Snyder is an Ames native and ISU grad.
Varvotos in the old CBGB.

The NYC bastion of free speech and horrible reporting!
Opening Ceremony

We were greeted outside by snow. It was beautiful. We continued north, stopping in Bryant Park for the winter village, there procuring a pair of earrings for Julie. The lights were brilliant. Up 5th Avenue, we made a quick stop in All Saints (no great sales) and watched the lights at Bloomingdale's.  We finally arrived at the Gotham Lounge at the Peninsula Hotel in Midtown. We enjoyed the carolers, people-watching, talking, drinkies, and food. A wonderful, however expensive tradition. Sated, we pressed on to Davidoff for a quick smoke, and finally made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was glorious. Truly spectacular. World-class. Snow, lights, the Met, art, Central Park.

After the museum, we walked through a very quiet Central Park and found our way back to 120th on the Upper West Side for a party with a friend of Tuck's--a fellow with Columbia University's Christian Union. Tired, we finally found our way back to the car and returned to Philly no worse for the wear. It was a good day.
Not sure, but I think this was either Twombly or Pollack. 
My new favorite place in NYC.

Up early, I made my flight. The drive home was uneventful. It was a very good trip.

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Reading List

Bolsinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015.

Burrough, Bryan. Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Humans Origins Debate. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015.

Grillo, Ioan. Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Nieuwhof, Carey. Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow. Cumming: ReThink, 2015.

Mouw, Richard J. When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Wright, N.T. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: HarperCollins, 2012.

Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. New York: Viking, 2016.

Faulkner, John. My Brother Bill. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

McMurtry, Larry. Lonesome Dove: A Novel. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.

Faulkner, William. Selected Short Stories. New York: Random House, 1962.

De Kat, Otto. The Longest Night. New York: Quercus, 2017.

Roach, Gerry. Colorado's Fourteeners, 3rd Ed.: From Hikes to Climbs. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 2011.

Houelleboucq, Michel. Submission. New York: Picadour, 2015.

Simenon, Georges. The Glass Cage. London: Harcourt, 1973.

Simenon, Georges. Maigret and the Informer. London: Harcourt, 1973.

Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

Vance, J.D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. New York: Harper, 2016.

Shteyngart, Gary. Absurdistan: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2006.

Wright, N.T. John For Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Wallace, David Foster. The David Foster Wallace Reader. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2014.

Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Whittaker, Carlos. Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What's Really Holding You Back. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017.

Stanley, Andy. Deep & Wide. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Sprinkle, Preston. Grace/Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. Boise, ID: Center for Faith, 2017.

Barton, Ruth Haley. Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Smith, James K.A. Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, Cultural Liturgies, Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017.

Huttenbach, Laura Lee. Running With Raven: The Amazing Story of One Man, His Passion, and the Community He Inspired. New York: Citadel, 2017.

Grisham, John. The Rooster Bar. New York: Doubleday, 2017.

Faber, Michel. The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel. New York: Penguin Random House, 2015.

Houellebecq, Michel. The Map and the Territory: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 2010.

Auden, W.H. For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944.

Childs, Lee. Midnight Line. New York: Dalcourt, 2017.

Johnson, Craig. Spirit of Steamboat: A Longmire Story. New York: Penguin, 2013.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Being God's Friend. New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1997.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Music

Back by popular demand! My yearly listing of the best music. It was a rough year. Rap has evidently taken over. Identity politics are the prevailing theme whatever the genre. When Eminem is woke and Run the Jewels are important, you know things have gone horribly awry. Most all of music in now in a spectacularly embarrassing game of virtue signaling one-upmanship (e.g. party-pop maestro Jack Antonoff, gender-bending post-punk outfit PWR BTTM before their untimely demise, pretty much every boomer generation dinosaur act). Sometimes, I just want to people to sing about love, loss, and trees. Or to rock out. So, here it is...a few bright spots in an otherwise dismal year for music:

10. (tie) Songs of Experience by U2--This album is here for purely sentimental reasons. There is nothing compelling about this LP. It is like How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb without the good songs. However, as has been stated before, the worst that U2 produces is far better than most everything else.
U2 Songs of Experience
(tie) Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile--A great album from singer-songwriter-guitarists Vile and Barnett. Listen to "Over Everything."
Lotta Sea Lice
9. Capacity by Big Thief--I believe that lead singer Adrienne Lenker was born in Minnesota, so she gets points by proximity. This is altogether a rugged album of Midwestern pathos. Take a listen to the song "Shark Smile."
Big Thief-Capacity

8. The Greatest Gift by Sufjan Stevens--Mostly outtakes from 2015's wonderful Carrie & Lowell, but with several new entries, this is a delightful companion piece from the greatest singer-songwriter of our generation. "Wallowa Lake Monster," however a bit overwrought, is memorable.

7. Haiku from Zero by Cut Copy--Stylish psychedelic disco pop from Melbourne, Australia. Reminds me of early OMD.
Cut Copy

6. Planetarium by Dessner, McAlister, Muhly, and Stevens--What do you know...musicians still make concept albums. This one is inspired by the solar system, of course. Sufjan Stevens and Bryce Dessner (The National) feature. The song "Mercury" is one of my year's favorites.
Sufjan and friends

5. Drunk by Thundercat--Solid jazz, rhythm & blues fusion from Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, the preeminent bassist in the world. The song "A Fan's Mail (Tron Song Suite II)" will go down in my books as the 2017 Tanner Smith Song of the Year.

4. Slowdive by Slowdive--Glorious shoe-gaze from 1990's British pioneers. This is a spectacular and surprising album. Turn up "Star Roving" very loud and enjoy.

3. Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes--American indie folk from Robin Pecknold and team. This album in many ways defines my 2017. Take a listen to "Fool's Errand" and "Third of May."

Mogwai Every Country's Sun
2. Every Country's Son by Mogwai--Spectacular post-rock from the Scottish lads. "Coolverine" to "Party in the Dark" is as good an intro to a rock album I've heard in years. The rest just flows in all of its loud, post-rock glory.

1. A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs--While not as epically awesome as 2014's Lost in the Dream, this is a wonderful album. Adam Granduciel and his Philadelphia bandmates have become the premier rock band in the world; perhaps even the 21st century equivalent of Bob Dylan & The Band. "Thinking of a Place" is my 2017 Song of the Year. From top to bottom, there was no better album.

2017 Concerts

While it was a horrible year for rock and roll generally, it was a very good year for concerts. My top-5 for 2017:

1. Mogwai at The Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, NE
Good heavens it was loud.

Dominic (bass), Stuart (guitar), and a ridiculously gifted stand in on drums.

2. The War on Drugs at The Palace Theatre in St. Paul, MN
Date night with my baby.

3. Explosions in the Sky at The District in Sioux Falls, SD

4. Wax Tailor at Slowdown Omaha, NE
The French maestro. 
So glad Soph has great taste in music.

5. (tie) Johnny Swim at The Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, NE
           MisterWives at First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN