24 February 2014

Clycling Clergyman The Sixth Installment: Faster than a Bus

This week I did my first expanded visitation on my bicycle.  I took some time as I planned my route via the bus system.  My initial plan was to put the bike on the bus part of the way, then ride the rest.  As I studied the bus route I noticed how easy it would be "cut the corner" on my bike and bypass the bus altogether. 

What happened?  An hour and twenty minute bus ride took only 30 minutes (I bet even less if the roads had been clear). 

I arrived at the assisted facility center and noticed one glaring missing item: a bike rack.  I suppose either the planners of the facility did not anticipate the residents to ride bikes or visitors.  I searched and found a light post and locked up the bike. 

I am curious now how many assisted living facilities for well-seasoned human beings contain bike racks?

17 February 2014

Clycling Clergyman Fifth Installment: Just How Nutty I've Become

On Tuesday the weather dipped again below zero.  For a moment I thought about taking the bus rather than riding my bike to work, only for a moment.  That bus-consideration-moment, that was the old Trav thinking, the new Trav realized Tuesday could very well be the last sub zero day for a good piece (according to the extended forecast) and if I didn't ride then I would lose my chance.  That is how far I've come in five simple weeks of riding my bicycle to work. 

Special Monday morning update
This morning the greater Minneapolis area was graced with about five inches of fresh wet snow.  The accumulation allowed me, for the first time, to deflate my bike tires from 60 to 40psi and try the setting out.  Verdict: I couldn't peddle my way down the alley.  I walked it to the main road and peddled away.  Because the side streets were not plowed yet I stuck to the main roads, which meant all kinds of stuff: my back tire kept sliding, cars either came extremely close to me or passed as if I had the plague, and plow trucks - I was more than happy to get as far away off the road as possible for them.

If you've never ridden in heavy snow all I can say is that it is a total body workout!  You constantly have to balance your body and bike (great core burn) and you peddle like you wouldn't believe (great leg burn).  And, as long as cars are at a minimum, it is fun! 

14 February 2014

why not cut up that old bible?

I believe it was in high school, yeah it was in high school, when someone, someone named Charlie Dodrill, if I remember correctly,  once told the story of a religious person cutting out every instance in the Bible where it talked about money.  And when he was done the Bible was nothing but shreds.  Later on I discovered that "the person" was Jim Wallis from Sojourners.  I never did investigate if Jim Wallis really cut up the Bible?  I dunno, but if you google Jim Wallis + Cutting Up Bible, lots of links appear.  If he did or didn't doesn't matter.  The story has bounced around my head for years, I've even used it as a sermon illustration.  But last Saturday I decided to see for myself.

Last Saturday evening while supper was finishing I took off the shelf an old battered copy of the RSV study bible (it is coffee stained and held together with duct tape), got a razor, and started cutting.

For the record I have studied the bible from an economic stand point for years.  I know the bible talks about money all over the place.  Something powerful, however, happened when I started cutting out the money portions and whole pages disappeared.  The more I read the harder it was not to see Jesus' (and Luke's) money metaphors, idioms, and usage.

At the end the gospel of Luke was not in shreds but it wasn't well.

I used the cut up example of Luke's gospel to talk about the Social Gospel and Wealth last Sunday.  For children's time I showed the kids at church what was left over from Luke, then I showered the floor with all of the cut portions.  The kids got it, and so did the adults...and so did yours truly!  After carrying the process with me all week, I think the exercise was more for me than anyone.  I needed to physically cut out the portions and see for myself just how much Jesus talked about economics.  I think I needed it as a justification for my ongoing commitment to the Social Gospel.  And I'm not stopping with Luke; I am going to keep cutting up the bible and then carry it with me as an example.

I think this would be a great way to start seminary, give every student an old bible and a small razor and tell them to get cutting.  I knew intellectually that Jesus talked about money, but to feel it in a tangible way was quite another matter.

10 February 2014

The Cycling Clergyman: Fourth Installment

This week was a tragic week, Marcus Nalls, a 26 year old chef was struck and killed by a drunk driver near the Franklin and Harriet Ave.  intersection.  Mr. Nalls was doing everything right, he was wearing a helmet, had front and back lights and was still struck and killed.  I volunteered my efforts as a clergy person for the memorial bike ride.  Before going I took one last look at my front wheel only to discover a front wheel axle nut missing and a front wheel about to come off.  I ran down to Bikes and Pieces, he gave me the proper nut, ran back home and fixed my wheel but it was too late by then to attend the service.  I want to thank the organizers for taking the time and energy to organize such an event.  I hope that I and others do everything we can to make sure Mr. Nalls' memory is kept alive. 

The week of biking went well.  The missing axle nut is a witness to the beating a bike takes riding in the winter over the ice and snow packed onto the streets.  I am thinking of installing front shocks on the bike I am preparing for this spring and summer.  Every morning when it is bitter cold I have to talk myself into riding and not taking the bus.  I like riding but what a hurdle it is to mentally prepare myself for the cold rides.  When it is below zero and I am riding and before my body has yet to warm up I say a simple mantra to get me through, "Mother Earth, I hope you appreciate this.  Mother Earth, I hope you appreciate this..." 

I did, however, take the bus one morning.  I had to be in the Longfellow neighborhood and it was below zero.  When I arrived on Lake Street I hopped on board the same bus as last week.  When my stop approached I walked up to the front and informed the driver that I quoted him in my sermon last Sunday.  "How so?" he asked.  I recounted his words during the midst of the snowstorm, he offered to a questioning soon to be rider, "just get in, we are all behind. I'll get you where you need to be." He smiled and asked, "is that what I said?" Then chuckled and said "alright". Alright indeed.

Finally, probably my biggest concern about my bike experiment centered on conducting pastoral visits.  Would I be able to do them in a timely manner?  So far, the answer is yes.  Three new insights have arisen.  One, I am working more efficiently.  Not having a car has forced me to plan my days better.  Thus, more is getting done (from my perspective only).  Two, not having a car always available has opened the doors to others asking if I would like to borrow their car.  I tell them thank you and then invite them to join me on a visit.  Riding together then turns out into a neat pastoral visit/conversation by itself.  Three, I plotted all of the home bound/elderly members on a Metro Transit map and guess what?  Nearly all are on or near a bus line or bike path!  

Furthermore (I just love that word) I have been in the process of rediscovering and re-loving my commitment to of the Social Gospel (look for more in forthcoming posts). 

02 February 2014

Boots Are Still in Style for Manly Footwear: The Cycling Clergyman Installment 3

CO2 savings for January: 52.8lbs.  I used the calculations available on the Metro Transit webpage.  Not bad considering I had to sell two automobiles, purchase a new van, get my bike ready for winter excursions, and had to figure out how the bus system in Mpls works.  February: who knows maybe a 100lbs saved!!!

This week, on Thursday, the metro area received 6 inches of snow during the morning rush hour.  I planned to ride my bike over to Peace Coffee on Minnehaha Ave but the roads were too bad and my biking skills aren't there, yet.  So I took the bus.  The schedule was all out of whack and nothing was near normal.  Rather than wait for my bus I took the first one I could, rode it to a known station on Lake St and then headed east to Minnehaha.  The experience provided the fodder for my latest insight: The Poor Are not Stupid!  I saw many people, on the fly, figure out the bus routes and get from point A to point B with speed and creativity.  I had a "smart phone", maps, and a college degree and couldn't figure it out.

When I finally saw a bus that looked liked it was going in the right direction I asked the driver if he was going where I was going, he said yes.  As the bus pulled up to a stop a would be passenger asked when the #X would be coming by?  The driver replied, "We're all behind, just hop on and you'll get where you need to get to."  I loved that.

Now onto the subject of my title.  I've been wearing a pair of LL Bean boots (blue rubber bottom, necessary boots for RI and New England).  I adapted them to MN by purchasing a pair of boot liners, they work great and are great biking boots.  But, I have to take a pair of dress shoes with me, or wear slippers at work, and they are a little bulky when pedaling.  So I wondered could I find a decent looking pair of hiking boots to wear while biking and not have carry an extra pair or wear my old ratty slippers at the office?  This week I noticed my favorite shoe store was having a sale, so I investigated hiking boots that could double as winter biking boots.  I found a pair of Merrell's that seemed to fit the bill.

Here was my criteria; they had to be warm (but not too warm, I want to wear them year-round), they had to look semi-nice (good enough to look semi-respectable with a pair of khakis), and comfortable.  So far, so good.

But wearing these boots has tweaked my fashion orientation.  I've given up on wearing suits, for the time being.  It is more simple to wear khakis, a clergy shirt, and my hiking boots.  Not exactly the look I developed over the past few years, but a look, however, I had in mind coming out of seminary.

And this reader has been the biggest surprise, the re-discovery of a past hope.  As I approached graduation from divinity school I had a vision of being a "green-justice-working-simple-living-contemplative-earthy-pastor" but something happened along the way that prevented me from fully living into this vision.  In many ways I placed that vision on the shelf, where it became dusty, another of my ideas never to find a proper home.  Instead, this idea was just lying dormant waiting for the right place and time to sprout.  That was nearly 14 years ago.  I've changed since then, as had my vision but I can now see the fruit of that vision becoming a reality.  And to think that I get paid, to some extend, to live out this vision too!