Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Spinning Wheels (Lessons from Two Years of Cycling): Competitiveness

Riding companions on the GAP
for a 44 mile ride in  2014
I have never played team sports or enjoyed competing in athletic competitions. When high school and college classmates were playing football or soccer I was backpacking, rock climbing, and spelunking. While I do not enjoy competing against others in athletics I do compete against myself. I have always striven to hike farther, climb higher, and cave deeper and longer. Now that I am cycling again I am striving this season to ride more often and farther than the previous two seasons.

I started cycling again in 2014. My first ride that season was May 8th. The last time I cycled that first year was September 13th. My longest ride during the season was a 44 mile ride on the Great Allegheny Passage from West Newton to Ohiopyle. While I rode with a group of three other riders that day I never felt like I was competing against them. I was just happy to keep up with them. I rode a total of 395 miles in a little over four months that first year, not a long season or significant mileage.

My first ride in 2015 was April 11th. October 23 was the last time I cycled last year. That means my riding season last year was more than two months longer than the previous year, making for a riding season of more than six months. While my longest ride last season was only 41 miles, 3 miles shorter than the previous season’s longest ride; I enjoyed more rides between 20 and 40 miles long than I did the previous season. On August 29th, 2015 I surpassed the miles I had cycled the season before and by the end of last year had biked 602 total miles.

Me at Milepost 0
of the C and O Canal
I was out on the trail much earlier this season than the previous two. My first ride was March 9th, a full month earlier than last year. On May 4th of 2016 I surpassed my 2014 total mileage and on June 9th 2016 I eclipsed my total mileage for 2015. My longest ride so far this season has been 50.4 miles. I have already cycled 654 miles this year, thanks in part to an eight day trip on most of the C & O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA., and expect that I might be able to ride over a thousand miles this season before the weather becomes too cold.

I usually ride alone (more about that in a future installment) but when I ride with others I ride for the company, not the competition. At times I have been content to just keep up with the pack. At other times I have found myself at or near the head of the pack, not because I want to be first but because I have tended to be in a little better shape than most of the other riders.

How competitive are you when it comes to cycling? What do you enjoy more, competing against others or competing against yourself? Or do you eschew all competition all together? 

Here are links to previous installments in the series:

Stats (Eighth Installment)
Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, 3, 2016, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

5:1. Where was Aram and who was its king? Why would the LORD give victory to the General of a foreign king?  What is the nature of this “leprosy”?
5:2 Apparently this young girl was war booty.
5:3 Does it make a difference that the prophet is in Samaria and not Israel?
5:4 Who was Naaman’s lord?
5:5 Is this an example of Old Testament international diplomacy? Are the silver, gold and garments gifts or a peace offering, a bribe, or what?  What would be its current economic value?
5:6 Since when do Kings cure leprosy?
5:7 At least this king, unlike previous kings, knows that he is neither God nor exercises divine like power. Why did he rend his clothes?
5:8  How did Elisha hear this? Who really needs to learn that there is a prophet in Israel?
5:9 Why did Naaman have such a large entourage? Why did Elisha not fear Naaman or Naaman’s king, as the king of Israel had?
5:10 Why did Elisha not even meet with the leper general? Why seven times? Why the Jordan? Are there any other examples in Scripture of the restorative powers of the Jordan, or of someone washing seven times?
5:11 Note “the LORD his God”! The LORD is not Naaman’s God.
5:12 Was this a rhetorical question? Why are some rivers, and some waters, more revered than others?
5:13 Naaman had some wise servants. As a pastor, I resonate with this story.  Sometimes it seems that people will take to heart major proposals but dismiss less significant ones. 
How might this verse inform our understanding of Christian Baptism?
5:14 What does this verse say about Elisha? What does it say about the LORD, Elisha’s God?

30:1 The Psalm Reading is usually chosen as a commentary on the First Reading.  How does this Psalm enlighten or expand upon the Reading from 2 Kings?  Whose voice might we be hearing in this Psalm, the voice of the leper general or the voice of Elisha, or perhaps both, or another voice altogether? “Extol” is not a word I hear a lot. What might be a more contemporary translation?
30:2 When did you last cry to God?
30:3 Is this a statement about physical resurrection?
30:4 How can we give thanks to the holy name of God when many believe God’s name is not to be pronounced?
30:5 Is it anthropomorphic to attribute human emotions to God? Regardless, this is one of my favorite verses.
30:6 Maybe this verse explains why Presbyterians are so often unmoved when change is needed. We are too prosperous.
30:7 What does it mean for God to hide the divine face?
30:8 What is the relation between crying and supplication?
30:9 Is the Psalmist attempting to blackmail God or reason with God?
30:10 Does the LORD ever not hear?
30:11 Again, on a personal note, this verse ranks right up there with 30:5. Unfortunately, we do not usually dance or show much joy in worship.
30:12 What does it mean when our soul is silent?

(6:1) By addressing his readers as “My friends” is Paul being honest or patronizing?  What transgressions might Paul have been thinking about? What is s spirit of gentleness?
(6:2 & 5) Compare and contrast “Bear one another’s burdens” with “For all must carry their own loads.”  What is the difference between a “burden” and a “load”? How does 6:2 follow from 6:1?
(6:3) Is anyone really “nothing”?
(6:4) What does it mean to test one’s own work?
(6:5) See (6:2)
(6:6) Is Paul arguing for just compensation, asking for a honorarium, gift or stipend, or something else here?
6:7 How were the Galatians, or at least some of the Galatians, “mocking” God?  How do we mock God today?
6:8.  How, or in what ways, do we “sow” to our own flesh and how, or in what ways, do we sew to the Spirit?
6:9 When did Paul expect the harvest-time to arrive?
6:10 Note that we (Christians) are to work for “the good of all” even though we may focus on the family of faith.  I am reminded of a phrase from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
6:11 An example of Paul taking over from his secretary? What a find it would be to discover or unearth the original manuscript of Paul’s letter to the Galatians!  Maybe the search for and discovery of the original document could be another Indiana Jones sequel or a Dan Brown novel.
6:12 What is the pun here?
6:13 How do the circumcised not obey the law?
6:14 What does Paul mean “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”?
6:15 So why so much verbiage about circumcision? Is “there is neither Jew nor Greek” a parallel?
6:16 “The Israel of God” sounds like an odd phrase that I have honestly never before noticed.  To whom does it refer?

10:1 Compare the parallels in the other Gospels.  Why send people out in pairs?  I think the argument can logically be made that Jesus intended to visit at least thirty five towns and places. What does this verse say about the need for planning and preparation?
10:2 Was Jesus wishing that he had more than seventy to send out?
10:3 This is not quit the pep talk I would have expected.
10:4 Why these instructions?
10:5 What is the meaning if this greeting/blessing?
10:6 How do you understand this “rest” and “return” of peace?
10:7 Is this just another economic imperative?  Compare this to Galatians 6:6.
10:8 How is this different from 10:7?
10:9 & 11 Regardless of the reception, the message is nearly the same:  “The kingdom of God has come near (you).”  How do we know when it is appropriate to wipe the dust off our feet in protest and to move on?
10:10 Is this a form of public of public humiliation?
10:11 See 10:9.
10:16 The logical argument is that whoever rejects you rejects the one who sent Jesus, which I presume is God.
10:17-19 How shall we interpret and apply these verses in the modern (or postmodern) world which often shuns “the spiritual” as make believe and unreal?  I mean, when was the last time a demon submitted to you or anyone else you know?
10:18 What was Satan doing in heaven in the first place?
10:19 How has this verse influenced those who appeal to the longer ending of Mark to defend their “snake Handling”?
10:20 Is there any difference between being joyful (10:17) and rejoicing?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Spinning Wheels (Lessons from Two Years of Cycling): Stats

I confess. I am not a STRAVA aficionado, at least not yet. In fact, I do not have any cycling apps on my droid, but I do keep statistics.

Cateye Velo 7
To begin with, I rely on a Cateye Velo 7 computer mainly to tell me how fast or slow I am riding and to keep track of my total miles. This entry level computer offered, at a minimum cost, seven functions, but I generally use only these two. It was easy to install and has served me well and malfunctioned only under extremely wet and muddy conditions on the C & O Canal.

Example of  Stats
On every ride, I carry in my riding jersey back pocket a small “Rite in the Rain” All-Weather Notebook with a nub pencil or pen to take notes about my ride. At the beginning of the ride I usually write down my starting time and perhaps the temperature. If I am riding with anyone else I write down their names. When I finish I jot down the total miles I rode and perhaps the ending time. I also note anything particularly special about the ride.  This notebook also contains important information about my bike, such as model number, serial number, and tire size as well as important phone numbers and some information about local trails.

Soon after I return home from a ride, or at least within the next couple of days, I enter my riding stats on my laptop using MS Word, which allows me to copy and paste information from past rides if I want to, search for keywords in entries, and maintain a running summation of total miles cycled. This riding log has been an invaluable resource as I have been writing this series of blog posts.

 I record how many miles I rode and where I cycled, noting the date I rode. I often record my starting and ending time and overall miles per hour. I might also record other particular details about the ride such as an above normal or below normal ambient temperature, if I encountered rain, something odd I saw such as a deer crossing the trail, and anything I wish I had done differently like wearing warmer socks or taking more energy snacks or water. I also keep a running total of how many miles I have cycled thus far during a season. Such records enable me to judge whether or not I am riding farther, or faster, or more or less often compared to the previous couple of years.

In addition to cycling statistics I also keep a record of the work I do or have done on my bike. For instance, I will note when I clean and lube the chain, adjust the brakes or derailleur, patch a tube, put on new tires, or make any modifications. I also keep track of what I buy for the bike or cycling, such as the brand of cycling shoes I bought, when and where I bought them, and how much they cost. This way I am more aware of how much I am spending on cycling, how long gear lasts, and whether or not it is time for a minor or major tune up.

Not every rider will be as much an OCD cyclist as me, but some may be even more so. What stats do you keep? What stats do you wish you had kept over the past few years? What statistical based apps have you found helpful?


Here are links to previous installments in the series:

Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, 26, 2016, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

2:1 The Elijah narrative continues. Is there any significance to a whirlwind? What do we know about Gilgal?
2:2 Why Bethel?
2:6 Note the repetitive nature of the dialogue. What is the meaning of the formulaic “As the LORD lives”?
2:7 What is the company of prophets? Who were these prophets and where did they come from?
2:8 Elijah parts the Jordan.  Is this the feat that earns him a place with that other water parter, Moses, on the Mount of Transfiguration? Compare and contrast Elijah’s mantle and what he does with his mantle with Moses’ rod and what Moses does with his rod.
2:9 What was the value of Elijah’s spirit and how could it be doubled?  I might be willing to settle settle for half. How can one person’s spirit be passed on to another person?
2:10 What is the nature of this seeing?
2:11 What is the connection between the chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire and the whirlwind?
2:12 Why did Elisha tare his clothes?
2:13 Why does Elijah leave his mantle behind?  What does it symbolize?
2:14 What an odd question! What is your mantle and who bequeathed it to you?  Where does your spirit symbolically reside?

77:1 What does crying aloud to God sound like?
77:2 Day and night means all the time. What does an outstretched hand represent?
77:11 What are the deeds and wonders of the LORD? Note the change from speaking of the LORD in the third person to the second person direct address.
77:12 What might the Psalmist mean by “meditate”? Are God’s mighty deeds ever your muse?  They certainly were for this psalmist.
77:13 Is this a rhetorical question?
77:14 Who are the peoples?
77:15 Does language like this lead toward anthropomorphizing of God?
77:16 Do we usually attribute feelings, even fear, to inanimate things like water?
77:17 Is this an illusion to the God of the storm or merely a reference to God’s power over nature?
77:18. It was likely the mention of the “whirlwind” that prompted the lectionary committee to pair this psalm with today’s first reading.  How does this psalm ”interpret” or expand upon today’s first reading?
77:19 Is this a reference to the Exodus?
77:20 Moses and Aaron were apparently shepherds standing in for God.

5:1 Who needs verses 13-25?  This first verse can serve as the text for several sermons, especially so close to the United States’ celebration of Independence Day. What does it mean to stand firm?
5:13-15, 16-25 As freedom is contrasted with slavery, so too is flesh contrasted with Spirit, and the works of the flesh are contrasted with the fruits of the Spirit.
5:13 Is slavery in freedom anything like responsibility?
5:14 I wonder where Paul got this idea.
5:15 This is good advice, especially in this presidential primary season.
5:16 How does one live by the Spirit?
5:17 Why might Paul have set up this dichotomy between Spirit and flesh?
5:18 What is the relation between the Spirit and the law?
5:19-21, 22-23 Does it mean anything that there are more “works of the flesh” listed than there are “fruits of the Spirit” listed?
5:19 Obvious to Paul, maybe.
5:20 In my mind there is a BIG difference between idolatry and something like jealousy or anger.
5:21 “Things like these” can be broadly interpreted.
5:22-23 Is this meant to be an exhaustive list? Why no “and things like these”?
5:23 How could there be a law against such things?
5:24 How have those who belong to Christ crucified the flesh?
5:25 How might living by the Spirit be different from being guided by the Spirit?

9: 51 Why “days” (plural) rather than “day” (singular)? What, exactly, does the author of Luke mean by “taken up”?
9:52 I wonder about the identity of these messengers. Why might Jesus have needed advance preparations?
9:53 What was it about Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem that caused the Samaritans not to receive him?
9:54 Where do such thoughts come from? Did James and John really have the power to do this?
9:55 Is this perhaps the only “rebuke” in the Gospels other than Jesus rebuking Peter?
9:56 Was the other village not in Samaria?
9:57 Could the disciples have said this?
9:58 What is the meaning of this enigmatic saying?
9:59 The first person (5:57) volunteered to follow. Now Jesus calls on someone else to follow. Does this second person not make a reasonable request?
9:60 Another puzzling saying?
9:61 This request does not seem as reasonable as the one before it.
9:62 Yet more perplexing saying. What happens when one plows ahead while looking behind?
9:57-62 Notice the progression:  A person says they will follow.  Jesus calls a second person to follow. A third person says they will follow.  Apparently none of the three do follow.  What about you?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Return to Raccoon Creek: Blood and Sweat but no Tears

Not wanting my hiking legs and skills to atrophy over the summer by cycling rail trails rather than hiking forest trails, I returned yesterday to Raccoon Creek State Park, my go to local hiking destination. I had not hiked in over three months, my last day hike being an 11.68 mile circuit at Raccoon Creek. I decided to hike the 9.78 mile Heritage – Forest loop because I thought the mileage would be manageable after three months off the trail and because the Heritage Trail between Rt. 18 and its southern terminus is one of my favorite trails in the park.

I had last hiked this mostly ridge top loop on February 5th. When I started that hike four months ago  the temperature was a cool 26° but warmed to a moderate 38° by the time I finished the hike. As I hiked that day I carried a small stove as well as a wind/rain jacket and pants. I also wore my full leather hiking books, a pair Merrell Wilderness Originals.

Bloody scratch from a pricker bush
After parking at the Mineral Wells parking area, I glanced at my phone as I hit the trail. The temperature was a warm78°, 52° warmer than the last time I had hiked this loop. My day pack was also lighter than last time because I was not carrying a stove or any extra clothes or rain gear as the weather forecast was calling for almost perfect conditions. I was carrying the ten essentials and four liters of water. I was also wearing a brand new pair of Solomon XA Pro 3Ds rather than my heavier hiking boots.

With less weight on my back and feet I felt like I was more agile and hiking at a faster pace. Gone were scenic views through barren trees I had seen in February as the canopy was thick and green this June 14th. The understory was also verdant, and so thick that in a few places I could not even see the trail I was hiking on and that was before me. In some places pricker bushes had overgrown the trail and I could not but being scratched so deeply it drew blood.

Sweat running down my face
A couple hours into my hike I found myself standing at the bottom of what some call “a very steep climb of a hogback.” (Walks, Hike and Overnights in Raccoon Creek State Park by Mark H. Christy, page 70). I call it “The Hill”, perhaps the steepest grade I have ever encountered in the park. The first time I faced The Hill was from the top and it was snow and iced covered. Even though I descended it with trekking polls in hand that first time, I slipped on a snow and ice covered exposed root, one of the many roots protruding from the earth on this almost sheer section of trail, and ended up sliding down several feet of its slope before stopping.

The Hill is so steep that yesterday I found myself employing the mountaineers rest step, using my trekking polls for balance and to insure I did not slip backward on the loose dirt, stones, and tinder as I climbed from its base to the open area in the forest at its top. At little winded and sweating as I reached the top, I decided I would rather climb this steep grade on a warm day like yesterday than descend it on a snowy, cold winter’s day, as I had done several months ago.

I saw less than a dozen hikers while I was out two couples and several singles. One in particular bothered me, a young man, wearing large headphones to assumingly listen privately to his favorite trail tunes. I consider that a safety issue and wonder why anyone would venture out for a day hike in the woods and not want to hear the chirps, calls, and songs of birds and small game rustling through the grass and dry leaves. To each his or her own however.

By the time I returned to the car four hours and forty-five minutes later, I had drunk more than two liters of water, so I was glad I had taken a couple of two liter bottles rather than just one. I had also developed a hot spot and a small blister on each instep, but considering I had just hiked 9.78 miles wearing a pair of Solomon’s I had not  broken in, with brand new Superfeet insoles I also had not broken in, I felt like I could not complain. I was also happy that my left knee was not aching as it has after other day hikes of a similar distance, thanks, perhaps, to the Aleeve I popped just before I left home to drive the 26 miles to return to Raccoon Creek State Park.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Poem of Protest

Twenty. Fifty. Forty-nine.
Does the number of dead really matter
Or help make sense
When we are numb from this nonsense?

Who will stop easy access to these killing machines
When the gun lobby financed members of congress
Would probably rather see their constituents,
Neighbors, friends and family members
Fall to such violence
Rather than risk their NRA Approval Ratings falling
Due to their passing an assault weapons ban?

Who will stop easy access to these killing machines?
Who will stand up to the Koch brothers, Rove, and the NRA?
The ACLU, NAACP, SPLC, or PTA?
When life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
Are being gunned down by AR-15 armed maniacs
It is not time for a moment of silence
But rather common sense gun safety legislation.

                                                                   John Edward Harris

Here is the link to my essay "End The Culture of Gun Vioence."

Spinning Wheels (Lessons from Two Years of Cycling): Accidents Happen

Helmet, First Aid Kit, Cell Phone, my three essentials
Soon after I started riding with riding shoes and cleats I was getting ready to ride with a young friend for the first time. After taking my bike off the car rack I clipped into the pedals without first checking the brakes and gears. Clipped in, I started to pedal away but my pedals went round and round and I went nowhere but down onto the paved parking lot, in full view of my young friend and a few other riders in the lot. Clipped in, I starting falling over before I had time to unclip and stop the fall.

My chain had obviously come off the chainring when I put the bike on the car rack, during transport, or when I removed the bike from the rack. When I tried to pedal away, all I had was a stationary bike. Had I checked all the bike’s components before clipping in I would have seen the problem and fixed it. Fortunately, the only thing damaged and injured was my pride.

A few weeks later I was nearing the completion of what would be my second longest ride of the season. I was riding on a semi-remote and unpaved section of The Panhandle Trail, Cruising downhill at perhaps 12-15 mph. I crashed into a bush.  Cycling can sometimes be very meditative for me and apparently I had zoned out. All at once I realized I was just a couple of feet from a low hanging thick branch sticking out from a bush and the branch was at about eye level. I closed my eyes, ducked, and the next thing I knew I was under my bike, on the ground, under the bush.

I continued to lie on the ground a few moments to assess my condition and the situation. When I got out from under my bike and stood up I realized that my sunglasses had been knocked off my head and that my rearview mirror had been dislodged from my sunglasses. I had a few scratches on my arms and legs and a scraped shoulder but was otherwise fine. My bike was also fine. A few days later, however, I noticed that my helmet was cracked! I can’t imagine what my condition might have been if I had not been wearing a helmet.

A few weeks after that, I was riding along a paved section of the Montour Trail when a rider having trouble controlling her bike and coming toward me from the opposite direction forced me off the trail in order to avoid colliding with her. I recovered without spilling but recognized the incident as a close call.

The lessons I have learned from these two accidents and one near miss is to always check the essential components of my bike before clipping in and attempting to ride away, always wear a helmet, and to be more aware of myself, others, and my surroundings when I ride. In addition, I also always ride with a small first aid kit that I know how to use and a cell phone to call for help if I need it, though I am not always guaranteed of having a good cell signal.

I now consider my helmet, first aid kit, and cell phone my three safety essentials. What do you, what should you have with you when you ride in case an accident happens? And accidents will and do happen that are sometimes beyond a cyclist's control.

I am posting this installment less than a week after five cyclists were killed and four more were injured after a group of riders was struck by a pickup truck in near Kalamazoo, Michigan. As many in the cycling community already have, I express my sympathy to the family and friends of those killed and hope for the speedy recovery of those injured. 

Here are links to previous installments in the series:

Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, June 19, 2016, the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are via the Presbyterian Mission Agency Revised Common Lectionary webpage.

19:1 Do you remember Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah from last week’s First Reading? The saga continues.
19:2 Why did Jezebel send a messenger to Elijah?  Why not just kill him?  She swears by her gods, but what gods would those be?
19:3 Having spoken truth to power, why is Elijah only now afraid? What do we know about Beer-sheba?
19:4 Is there any significance to the mention of a day’s journey and a broom tree?  How long was a day’s journey? While Jezebel swore by her gods, Elijah prays to the LORD. Why does Elijah want to die?
(19:5) The beginning of a Big Dream, but where does the narration of the dream end?
(19:6) Are you experiencing déjà vu? (See the First Reading from two weeks ago, 1 Kings 17:10-11)
(19:7) Who or what was this angel? Why did it take two touches?
19:8 What is the significance of forty days and forty nights? How might this account have influenced the Gospel traditions of Jesus’ wilderness wanderings? What is the significance of Horeb?
19:9 What is the religious and spiritual significance of caves? Is anyone else thinking about lascaux?
19:10 Is Elijah really the only remaining faithful Israelite?
19:11 What is the religious and spiritual significance of mountains? What is the religious and spiritual significance of thunderstorms and earthquakes?
19:12 What is the religious and spiritual significance of fire? What does sheer silence sound like? Have you ever experienced sheer silence?
19:13 What is the significance of Elijah’s mantle? Whose voice did Elijah hear?
19:14 See 19:10
19:15a Where is the wilderness of Damascus? Who is Hazael and where is Aram?

I can almost hear these words coming from the lips of Elijah.  These two psalms contain some of my favorite Biblical images and lines.
42:1 How much does a deer long for flowing streams? Does your soul long for God?
42:2 What is supposed to happen who look upon God’s face?
42:3 Why was the Psalmist crying?
42:4 What does it mean to pour out one’s soul? What is the psalmist remembering?
42:5 Is this a rhetorical question?
42:6 Does the Psalmist not remember God when their soul is not cast down? Where is Mount Mizar?
42:7 Is this pure ocean and water imagery?
42:8 God’s song is the Psalmist’s prayer?
42:9 Does God ever really forget anyone, or is this just the Psalmist’s expressing their feelings?
42:10 Taunting is deadly? What ever happened to the adage “sticks and stones may break my bines but names may never harm me.”?
42:11 See 43:5. Is the Psalmist not now praising God?
43:1 How can God vindicate?
43:2 How can God be a refuge if God has cast off the psalmist?
43:3 What is the relationship between light and truth? In this context, what is God’s light?
43:4 Note that the Psalmist shifts from speaking of God in the third person to the second person.
43:5 See Psalm 42:5. What sort of feeling or emotion does a cast down and disquieted soul suggest?

3:23 When did faith come? Was faith revealed by Christ? What about Abraham?
3:24 What is the function of a disciplinarian?
3:25 What happens when there is no disciplinarian?
3:26 Through faith rather than through how?
3:27 What does it mean to be clothed with Christ and how does baptism accomplish that?
3:28 Do you think Paul meant for this list to be complete, or just the beginning on an infinite list? Black/white, rich/poor, gay/straight, republican/democrat, etc?
3:29 Are we not also Sarah’s offspring? Where did Abraham’s faith come from if faith came in Christ Jesus?

8:26 Who arrived? What do we know about the country of the Gerasenes?
8:27 Who is he? Where was he before he stepped out on land? What is your demonology? Oh no, a naked homeless tomb dweller! How much worse could it get?
8:28 Why would a naked homeless tomb dweller know who Jesus was when even Jesus’s disciples didn’t seem to know who Jesus was?
8:29 Why the shift from plural (demons) to singular (unclean spirit)? Why the parenthetical comments. Was this naked homeless tomb dweller kept shackled out in the tombs?
8:30 Why did Jesus want to know his name? Note that in 8:29 Jesus refers to an unclean spirit while the man claims to have many demons. What is the difference between an unclean spirit and a demon?
8:31 What and where is the abyss?
8:32 Obviously Jesus has authority over the demons, but what about the swine?
8:33 Why did the swine, now apparently demon possessed, kill themselves? Is there some irony at work here?
8:34 What is a swineherd?
8:35 Why were the people afraid? Who else sat at the feet of Jesus?
8:36 Is demon possession a type of illness that can be healed? If demon possession is equated with illness, must all illness be equated with demon possession?
8:37 Why were the people afraid? What were they afraid of?
8:38 Why would Jesus send this man away?
8:39 Read this verse VERY carefully.  Read between the lines.  What is it saying?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Spinning Wheels (Lessons from Two Years of Cycling): Pedals for Cleats

Shimano M324 SPD Pedal clip side
 In the previous installment I wrote about cycling wearing riding shoes with cleats. Well, those cleats are no good if you do not have pedals to accept them. As I noted last time,  I purchased a pair  of Bontrager SSR Multisport riding shoes, but Since riding shoes do not come with cleats installed nor work without pedals designed for cleats, I also purchased and had installed Shimano SPD Pedals and cleats. The Trek dealer where I bought the shoes and cleats (and where the bike was purchased a year earlier) installed the cleats on the shoes and the pedals on the bike, returning to me the standard pedals that came with the bike.
Shimano M324 SPD Pedal platform side

I chose the Shimano M324 SPD Pedal and cleats because it is a multi-purpose pedal. In other words I can use it wearing riding shoes with cleats and clipping in, or I can wear my riding shoes with cleats and not clip in, or I can wear street shoes and ride using the platform side of the pedal. According to Shimano, this is a “versatile pedal for entry-level SPD users” that “combines the efficiency of the SPD system and the convenience of a platform pedal.” When I purchased them I was certainly an entry-level SPD user.

When riding on city streets where I may have to stop for stop signs and red lights I often unclip so than I can stand at intersections, waiting to cross. When I finally do cross I usually do not clip in because if I did I might have to unclip at the next intersection. The Shimano M324 SPD Pedal allows me to decide whether to clip in or not.

While I usually ride with riding shoes and clipped in to the pedals, I really like the versatility these pedals offer. For instance, I recently completed a multi-day ride of most of the C & O Canal Tow Path, riding from DC to Hancock, MD. During the first day I rode in constant rain and the resulting mud. The second day I rode through more mud and had to dismount from my bike three times and walk through flood waters from the Potomac about six to eight inches deep on the trail. Later that evening and the next morning, as my riding shoes dried, I took a couple short side trips and was able to ride while wearing Teva sandals.

During the first three days of that wet and muddy C & O ride the mechanical mechanisms of the Shimano M324 SPD Pedal became caked with mud, sand and small pieces of rock and gravel and I occasionally had difficulty clipping in, but never unclipping. After I was finally able to rinse the pedals with a garden hose, remove lodged pebbles and gravel, and lubricate the locking mechanisms, they again worked flawlessly.

Here are links to previous installments in the series:

Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, June 12, 2016, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

21:1 Later after what? What is a Jezreelite? What do we know about King Ahab?
21:2 Is this a form of Eminent domain?
21:3 What is so special about an ancestral inheritance?
21:4 Why was Ahab so affected?
21:5 What do we know about Jezebel?
21:6 Note that Ahab does not mention Naboth’s reason for refusal.
21:7 I am wondering who is REALLY governing Israel.
21:8 I wonder if Ahab was aware of his wife’s activity.
21:9 What does it mean to be seated at the head of an assembly?
21:10 Behind every evil ruler is an even more evil spouse?
(21:11) Did they know Jezebel was behind this or did they really think Ahab wanted this done?
(21:12) They followed instructions well.
(21:13) Justice can not only be blind but perverted. What is the significance of there being two scoundrels?
(21:14) Did they really send to Jezebel or did they think they were sending to King Ahab?
21:15 It does appear that up to this point Ahab has been innocent of any crime.
21:16 What gave Ahab the right to confiscate the land of a dead man?
21:17 How does the “word of the LORD” come to Elijah. What is a Tishbite?  This is perhaps an archetypal example of someone called to speak truth to power.  Elijah the Tishbite is about to take a bite out of the tush of King Ahab. (Yes, that is an original play on words.  If it works for you, use it.)
21:18 I wonder how Elijah felt about these instructions.
21:19 Why is the LORD judging Ahab when it seems that Jezebel is the guilty party.
21:21a Who is speaking here, Elijah, the LORD, or a mixture?  Why the shift from “you” to “Ahab”? 

5:1 Sometimes our sighs are too deep for words and better express our needs than words can. How shall we hear this plea?
5:2 How shall we read this psalm, as the plea of Naboth?  Elijah?  Anyone and everyone who is trodden under the boots of tyranny or find themselves buried by bureaucracy?
5:3 What is so special about the morning? The language suggests a supplicant appearing before a judge.
5:4 In my mind, wickedness and divinity are mutually exclusive.
5:5 Is the LORD really capable of hate?
5:6 If this is true, why is there so much deceit, violence, and falsehood in the world?
5:7 What does it mean to be “in awe” of the LORD?  How often do you find yourself in such a posture?
5:8 It is often hard enough to follow God’s ways.  The least the LORD can do is make those ways straight so there is no moral ambiguity.  But we live in a world that is rarely black and white and are often confused as to which way is God’s way.

2:15 Who are the “we” Paul is speaking for?  Does his statement suggest that Gentiles are “sinners” simply because they are Gentiles?
2:16 How does Paul know this? Is there any way to read this without thinking “justification by faith”?
2:17 What “effort” is Paul talking about?
2:18 What might be built up that were once torn down?
2:19 How did Paul die to the law through the law? How has Paul been crucified with Christ?
2:20 Is there any way to read “who loved me and gave himself for me” without automatically thinking of theories of the Atonement?
2:21 Impeccable logic.

7:36 I wonder which one of the Pharisees extended the invitation. (7:40 tells us it was Simon.)
7:37 What does it mean that the woman was a “sinner”?  Why is it mentioned?  What does it matter?  Is there anything special about alabaster jars? Why was she admitted into the house?
7:38 And Jesus just let her do this?
7:39 If the Pharisee said this to himself, how do we know what he said or was thinking?  Could this be a constructed story rather than the report of an actual historical event?
7:40 In spite of his doubts, Simon calls Jesus “teacher”.
7:41 What is a denarii? Does its value matter?
7:42 Can love be bought by forgiveness of debt?
7:43 This is just common cents, I mean sense.
7:44-46 This sounds like an indictment of Simon but it could also mean that Simon had sinned far less than the woman.
7:47 If you are going to sin anyway, you might as well sin boldly in order to be forging much and therefore to love God much.
7:48 But in 7:47 we were already told her sins had been forgiven. Does this statement reflect Jesus forgiving sin or recognizing her already forgiven state?
7:49 So the issue is that Jesus forgives sins, not how many he forgives, in spite of 7:47?
7:50 What was the woman’s faith that saved her? Saved her from what? Is there a difference between having one’s sins forgiven and being saved?
8:1 What is the difference between “proclaiming” and “bringing” the good news of the kingdom of God?
8:2 The woman introduced in 7:37 is not named, so why do we jump to conclusions and link her to “Mary, called Magdalene”?
8:3 So these woman have been paying the bills?  Times have not changed much. While these three women, and perhaps many other women, were not numbered among “the twelve” they very well could still have been considered disciples.

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.