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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Long's Peak Summit 2018

Long’s Peak Ascent, July 24, 2018

            My alarm surprised me at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, July 23: why is thissong (The War on Drugs’ “Thinking of a Place,” my alarm ringtone) playing now? And where the hell am I, anyway? Disoriented and verysleepy, it slowly dawned on me that Mark would be arriving in thirty minutes to pick me up for our trip to Long’s Peak.
            Hustling to the bathroom, fragments of thought began to coagulate, producing shimmering pools of joy in my sleepy, scattered mind. I am going to the mountains.I showered, dressed (shorts, t-shirt, Chacos), poured a cup of a coffee, and brought my gear outside just as Mark pulled up in his truck. We were on the road by 4:55 a.m.
            The drive south on Iowa Highway 75 went quickly, and by the time we were heading to Omaha on Interstate 29, a beautiful sunrise was greeting us from the east. We passed the time talking and listening to music. At Julesburg, we grabbed lunch at Wendy’s and switched drivers.[1]I would take it the rest of the way into Estes Park. Aside from a little rain in central Nebraska, the weather was clear—a bit overcast and warm. We made good time, arriving in Estes Park at 2:30 p.m. MST. It was, perhaps, the most pleasant drive I’ve ever had to Colorado.
            In Estes, we were met by threatening clouds and, soon, pouring rain. We found the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, procured our backcountry camping permits, and assured the helpful RMNP worker that we would indeed get a bear canister (evidently required for backcountry camping in the park). We stopped at The Warming House to wait out the rain, rent a canister, and perhaps pick up some last-minute gear. The young and apparently quite stoned young worker asked what we were doing in Estes.
“We just drove in from Iowa and are heading up Long’s.” His reply was not encouraging: “Well, if you hear gurgling when you breathe, you’ll want to make sure you get down off the mountain.” Hater. I was not concerned with pulmonary embolism, but I was concerned with AMS or, perhaps more realistically, tired legs. Could two relatively fit 40-something males make this arduous climb? Would the weather even allow us an attempt? The forecast was not looking good.
The rain continued as we found a parking garage and devised our plan in the comfort of Starbucks: we would wait out the rain, make camp in any window that appeared, and then depending on how things progressed, attempt the summit on Tuesday. If we had to abort because of altitude or weather, we would try again on Wednesday. After that? Based on the weather service forecast, Tuesday was looking like our day.
With a quick stop at the Estes Park Visitor Center bathroom, we determined that the rain had relented enough to make our way to camp.[2]When Mark asked one of the volunteers at the center when the best time would be to hit Long’s, he very unhelpfully suggested, “Last week.” Asshole. More haters. The weather and Estes locals were conspiring against us, forgetting the eternal rule: never everunderestimate two over-achieving forty-something Iowans with a goal and limited time. We get shit done.
With bowels in revolt and stinging from the barbs of our detractors, we made our way under threatening skies to the Long’s Peak Trailhead. There, we changed clothes, packed up, and set out just as the rain began to fall again. I was loaded down with sixty pounds of gear. Mark carried four one-gallon jugs of water. The trail was wet and slippery and up. It was one of the most dispiriting hikes I’ve ever made, despite it being only 1.5 miles.
We finally arrived at Goblin’s Forest, our 10,000 foot campsite for the next three nights. I was overjoyed to have arrived. I was dismayed, however, that I lost my body weight in sweat making the long, wet slog up the trail to the campsite. If that short hike was such a chore, how in the world would I hold up over 12 miles, most of it above 12,000 feet? We set up camp and hunkered in as the deluge began again.

The rain soon turned to hail. A lot of hail.The sound was magnified in our bomb-proof Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 tent. I had little concerned we would get pelted to death; I had someconcern we might drown: a pool was quickly forming on the perimeter of the tent, which would ensure a miserably uncomfortable night. It finally ended, at which point Mark made the brilliant move of trenching out the pool, ensuring a dry floor. I made some oatmeal, and we ate our simple repast with solemnity, hopeful that the serious weather had passed. As we hunkered in for the night, we resolved to make our ascent in the morning if the weather allowed. We had packed up for the climb and had all of our gear ready for an alpine start.

In typical middle-aged guy fashion, I woke at 12:30 a.m. to pee. Groggy, cold, and slightly freaked out (as I usually am in the middle of the woods at night) I left the coziness of the tent for my ersatz bathroom. Returning my water to the earth, I looked upward to find…a brilliant night sky. The moon and stars were out in force. This was our chance!
Excited, I returned to the tent with the weather report. Mark stated, “Up at three.” We settled back in for a couple more hours of rest.[3]Both of us were up before the alarm went off. I heated up some water in the Jetboil for coffee as we wolfed down Clif Bars and did a final gear check. By 3:25 a.m. we were on the trail. Actually, that’s not quite true: I first led us on an unplanned tour of Goblin’s Forest. It was dark; I was tired…what else can I say? Finally on the right track, we hit the main trail and headed up.
Our route to the summit of Long’s is the ever-popular East Long’s Peak Route, utilized by upwards of 10,000 hikers and hopeful summit-seekers each summer. Exceptionally well-maintained, the trail winds through the trees along an alpine brook until reaching the alpine zone at 11,500 feet. As the trail continues upwards to Mills Moraine, it splits south and east to Chasm Lake. Staying to the west and north around Mount Lady Washington, we finally come to Granite Pass. The entire hike to this point has been by headlamp, and we are blessed with countless stars and the lights of front-range cities Boulder and Denver before these give way to a brilliant sunrise and clear skies. Surprisingly, both Mark and I are feeling stronger as we go. The trail is arduous, but the scenery and general excitement are overwhelming. Reaching Granite Pass, we are greeted with the expanse of the Boulder Field, the distant Keyhole, and Long’s awe-inspiring east face, charmingly called The Diamond, bathed in orange early-morning light. We are elated.[4]

A Brief Excursis on Mountain Fashion.It is appropriate to say that one’s enjoyment in the mountains is largely determined by three factors: a) weather; b) fitness; and c) gear. You can’t do anything about the first, other than being flexible and patient. As to fitness, you do have control over the shape you are in; you have little control over how your body responds to altitude. The third factor, gear, is perhaps the most significant and certainly the most controllable factor. Attempting to scale a mountain like Long’s (or even one of the “easier” fourteeners) in flip-flops, cotton shorts, and t-shirt will lead to major discomfort, at best, and death, at worst. What you wear and what you pack matters. I am wearing mid-weight REI hiking socks, Garmont boots with Vibram sole, Columbia pants, Nike long sleeve base-layer, Patagonia Nano Puff vest, Marmot fleece jacket, bandana, Oakley Flak 2.0 sunglasses, Buff neckwarmer, 180 gloves, Garmin watch, Black Diamond headlamp, and Black Diamond Axis 33L filled with Arc’teryx Gore-tex shell, food, 3L Camelback bladder, Klomperdell trekking poles, helmet, and survival gear (lighter, firestarter, emergency blanket, first aid kit, etc.). Mark is equally well-appointed.
We gingerly make our way through the Boulder Field, stopping to admire and utilize the solar-powered toilets which, despite the spectacular views, afford no greater success in alleviating general gastric distress. [5]
We dink around, take a few selfies, and agree to press on to the Keyhole for brunch. The peril in this stage of the hike is a) fatigue, and b) a snapped ankle amidst the giant and sometimes unstable boulders, which would of course not be good. We arrive at the Agnes Vaille shelter triumphantly and in good spirits. The weather is shaping up to be gorgeous. We are feeling strong. Confidence is high. Until we pop our heads through the Keyhole and witness the abyss. Before us is the awesome, terrifying, and altogether overwhelming Glacier Gorge. It is less before us than below us. Far, far below us and ringed by imposing thirteeners McHenry’s, Pagoda, and Chief’s Head. My knees buckle and bowels loosen just a bit.

As we sit perched quite vulnerably at the Keyhole considering our sins and future well-being, we strike up a conversation with a nice young man who we had leap-frogged earlier on the trail. A seasoned hiker, he was deferring on a summit bid, concerned as he was by the appearance of the trail. It did indeed look dark. We were joined in conversation by Ralph and his grandson, Nick, from Maryland. Ralph was a reasonable man, and not about to continue on with the very likely outcome of death appearing imminent. Finally, a very mountain-y looking guy was also in retreat. He claimed it was a “shoe issue” (he was wearing trail runners, not hiking boots), but I could see the fear in his eyes. The real issue was hail on the smooth granite ledges. In this space, a slip would be followed by an extended movement in a downward direction. AKA a free-fall hundreds of feet into the brutally beautiful gorge. The route was just hideously intimidating.
At this point, it was 3 parties against, 0 parties for forward movement. The hail from last night’s storm had simply left the trail too slippery and too dangerous. A final pair of climbers came back in retreat, having made it a mere fifty yards through the ledges. “Too dangerous. We can’t risk it.” 4-0. Mark and I have a decision to make. We say what 99% of mountain disaster victims are quoted as saying in such moments: “We made it this far. Might as well give it a shot!” We choke down our trail mix, tighten our packs, gird up our loins (the flatulence now beginning in earnest), and set out. Three steps in, the hail rock hard and slippery as…ice on smooth granite (which is precisely what it is), we look at each other with eyes that say, “I don’t think our wives would approve.”
A Brief Excursis on Climbing Partners. A climbing partner should be a) brave; b) reliable; c) and strong. Mark is afraid of heights, and yet he was willing to go on. That is bravery. Mark is reliable. I would trust the man with my life, and at no point did he prove anything less than completely dependable in the toughest of situations. Mark is strong. The dude kept going, gutting through fatigue, fear, and sincere oxygen deprivation to set the pace for us and lift us when I began to sincerely flag.[6]

Quite seriously, we were concerned. Are we being stupid? Should we keep going? I have long said that anything worth doing is probably going to be difficult. We can do hard things. Part of the joy in mountain climbing is battling through fear and adversity. This would surely provide ample experience in support (or not) of this credo.
We decided to proceed with the qualifier that, if it got too sketchy, we would retreat. The ledges were indeed slippery, and a nifty move around a boulder with little margin for error solidified both the reality of the situation—this was a serious mountain—and our resolve to forge ahead.
After the initial shock and awe wore off, we found that we were having…fun. It was a blast scrambling over rocks, choosing a line, struggling ahead, and being singularly focused on getting to the next bullseye (the markers directing our route). It demanded strenuous physical exertion and intense mental concentration. Each step and hand-hold mattered.
Pressing on, we made it to the Trough, a 500-foot vertical climb through boulders demanding the same physical and mental attention. The latter, especially, was tested in this area as the going was slow, tedious, and seemingly endless. Finally at the top of the Trough, we faced a final crux that would take us to the Narrows, a thin sidewalk with sheer cliffs on either side. Overcome with the beauty and awesomeness of our surrounding, I encouraged Mark to look up. Bad idea. Looking up or down was vertigo-inducing.
Only 150 yards in length, the Narrows was a bit of a reprieve, depositing us finally to the Homestretch. At this point, I was just about spent. We had been hiking/climbing for over five hours. What loomed ahead of us was 100 yards of granite slabs at a 75% pitch that would allegedly bring us to the summit. By sight, said summit appeared to be a longway away. The rock was cold, wet, slippery, and any loss of grip by hand or foot would result in an uncomfortable slide to a ledge far below that would then launch one into a breath-taking freefall hundreds of feet below thatand sure death.
A Brief Excursis on Marriage, Fatherhood, and Death.Neither Mark nor I have a death wish. We don’t wantto die. We are happily married men with children who love and depend on us. We are also middle-aged over-achievers for whom life worth living must include some degree of adventure and danger. I believe that is a part, however small, of why our wives love us. We both take marriage and fatherhood seriously, and don’t want to be flippant about the risks of mountain climbing. All of this crystallized in the moment: hugging a wet slab of granite at 14,000 feet with nowhere to go but up. That said, this was it. In the middle of God’s glorious creation; using the strength and resolve God has given us; sweating and bleeding for the sake of the goal; not worried about a mortgage or college tuition or stresses from work, but rather being in the moment. Being truly alive.
God, give us strong legs, strong lungs, strong hearts, and strong minds. That was my prayer throughout the morning. As we neared the top and my mental and physical energy waned, my prayer turned simply to a mantra: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Hand, hand; foot, foot. Three points of contact. Ever upward. Choose a line and go. We went. In a moment, I was within yards, surprised at how fast I got up. Two guys stood at the edge, encouraging people on. “Just a few more yards and you got this!” Hand, hand; foot, foot. I was at the top. I slowly stretched out my body, looked up, and let out a “Woo-hoo!” Exultation.

Mark was right on my heels. Thankfully, I was able to take a short video of him rising over the lip of the Homestretch. Victory. His first words: “That was the craziest fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Truth. To make it official, we walked another 100 feet to the official summit: 14,255 feet. We were on top of RMNP. Pictures, smiles, food, drink, and sun. It was gorgeous. In fact, it was my most wonderful fourteener summit experience: the sun was bright, the wind was a whisper, the mood was light, and the scenery was unparalleled. We took our time, called our wives, and talked with others. It was a joy. Perhaps my most vivid memory was simply sitting on our perch on the southeast edge of the summit eating lunch. We could make out the imposing Indian Peaks just south, and farther southwest the majestic Gray’s and Torreys, Evan’s and Bierstadt. Farther still we could make out the Sawatch and Elk ranges. Colorado was laid out before us.

After thirty minutes on the top, we decided it was time to head down. The sharp reality of mountain climbing is that the summit marks only the midway point. The idea is to get downthe mountain alive. We were both a little anxious: the slippery rock and irrefutable law of gravity would be a challenge in the opposite direction, as well. We set out. The Homestretch was a bobsled course. My pants were soaked with running water as I slid on my butt and did my best to arrest speed with hands and, mostly, feet. To the Narrows, we pressed on to the dangerous crux that would open to the Trough. I froze midway down: too far to fall; too steep to slide; too far to turn back. What now? I swallowed and let go. Thankfully, I hit solid ground and didn’t keep sliding. A guide from New Hampshire and his two British clients were right behind us, and they decided to rope up. Mark wisely accepted their invitation.
We blasted through the Trough—it was a grind now, pressed on by the desire to get down and get to the tree-line before afternoon storms rolled in. Anyplace beyond the Keyhole would be a horribleplace to get caught in a storm. Finally, the Keyhole came into view. We were close. The smooth granite ledges were by this time mercifully dry. Picking up our trekking poles that we had stashed in a crevice, we made our way up and over the nifty (and earlier terrifying) boulder without much of a thought. We were close to relative safety. With one last look into Glacier Gorge, we scrambled through the Keyhole, the Boulder Field bathed in sun stretching out before us with campers, hikers, and workers. Hallelujah. We were out of the danger zone.
We skipped through the Boulder Field and slowly made our way to Granite Pass. There, we got out our trekking poles and settled in to a steady march down. Our early departure, two nights of little sleep, too few calories, anxiety, exertion and sun were quickly catching up: it became a long slog through the alpine zone to the Chasm Lake junction, Mills Moraine, and finally the treeline. I was out of water by this time (lesson: bring fourliters of water next time), but Mark graciously shared his. The sun beat down; the march continued on tired legs and sore feet.
At 3:25 p.m. we finally reached the trail marker for Goblin’s Forest. We were home. We ditched our packs, filled our water bottles, and settled in for a short rest in hammocks. It was a gorgeous afternoon. We were tired, but we did it. Two forty-something Iowans bagged the notoriously difficult Long’s Peak within twenty-four hours of arriving at altitude. Badass.
We rested for all of 15 minutes. How can you sit still in such a beautiful area? We made some dinner—tuna teriyaki noodles, water, and a bar of dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt for dessert—and cleaned up a bit. Refreshed, Mark suggested we hit a waterfall farther up the trail. We marched up and spent the next hour resting in the beauty of truly glorious surroundings: an alpine brook, wild flowers, towering pine trees, and a brilliant blue sky. I dozed on a large boulder on the side of the stream. Few people were coming down, as it was already late in the day. Anyone up on the mountain at this point would likely be camping at the Boulder Field. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful day.

I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. Rest came pretty easy. Up at 4:00 a.m. Wednesday, we tore down camp, hiked 1.5 miles down the trail to the trailhead, ditched our gear in the truck, changed clothes, and returned to Estes. Fueled up and bear canister returned, we hit Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches before heading east. Just like the drive on Monday, our trek back home went surprisingly fast. (It would have been two hours faster if not for a flat tire outside of North Platte.) 60 hours after departing, we were back in my driveway. Planning for next year’s trip is already underway.

[1]Cheeseburgers, fries, and Cokes at Wendy’s was probably not the bestidea, as will become clear later on in this report.
[2]This was in fact my fourth bathroom visit of the morning, attributed to nerves and, alas, our lunch at Wendy’s.
[3]In the mountains, it would be inaccurate to call what I do at night “sleep.” Seldom do I enter deep REM sleep. Between an overactive bladder, concern over bears, falling trees, or UFO-landings, and the general discomfiture of living like a wealthy homeless person, sleep is an elusive commodity when camping. Let’s call it “rest.”
[4]The moment the Keyhole comes into view, I am immediately transported to July 1987 when, much to our climbing party’s disappointment, I am puking over a rock and unable to go any further, beset with a serious case of AMS just short of the Boulder Field. (This miserable experience, however, did seem to have inoculated me against any further altitude issues, so there’s that.) This specific high school-era failure was now being undone, a mere 31 years later.
[5]Thus begins what would appear to the casual observer as a competition between Mark and I to see who can pass the most noxious gas over the next six hours. In truth, it is by no means deliberate, and while attributed to the suspicious French fries from Wendy’s, is in all actuality the inadvertent bodily response to high physical, emotional, and spiritual terror. In other words, the poisonous odor we emit is the smell of fear.
[6]I would also add the following sub-attributes: humility; good humor; having a screw loose; and married to a generous spouse.

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.


Else, Dave. Beholding the Face of God: A Love Story. Iowa City: Pelican Press, 2018.

McCarthy, Cormac. No Country For Old Men. New York: Vintage, 2006.

Hrabal, Bohumil. Closely Watched Trains. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1965.

Houellebecq, Michel. The Elementary Particles. New York: Vintage, 2001.

Simenon, Georges. Maigret and the Wine Merchant. London: Harcourt, 1970.

Simenon, Georges. Maigret and the Killer. London: Harcourt, 1969.


Shteyngart, Gary. Little Failure: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 2014.


Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. New York: Random House, 2018.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage, 2006.

Chan, Francis. Letters to the Church. Nashville: David C. Cook, 2018.


Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. 9th ed. Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2016.

Shteyngart, Gary. Lake Success. New York: Random House, 2018.

Walton, John. The Lost World of Adam & Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

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.