Minnesota Christian Writers, Minnetonka, MN

What an honor and joy it was to be the guest of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild for their Spring Seminar on Saturday, March 11. I presented four sessions to an avid group of aspiring writers on "Writing Masterfully." 
I also enjoyed being the group's guest for their March meeting on Monday, March 13 (above), at which I spoke on "Write Like Will: 8 Ways the Bard of Avon Can Make You a Better Writer." 
I couldn't have been hosted any better by my friends Joyce and Steve Ellis, nor treated any better by the guild president, Bev, and all who attended. No one threw anything, no one chanted protests while I was speaking, and no one made fun of my Ohio accent. Well, not to me, anyway. 

Salvage Yard Church, Indianapolis IN

Just when I think I've heard and seen every imaginable name for a church, I come across Salvage Yard Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, near the airport (on Hwy 61, if I remember right). I didn't stop but I probably should have.

Bob's Red Mall Oatmeal

On the last morning of my recent sojourn in Minnesota, my hosts served me the most appropriate meal of the whole trip. It included Bob's Red Mall Gluten Free Blueberry and Hazelnut Oatmeal. Because it really is all about Bob.

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis MN

One of the many delights of my recent sojourn in the Minneapolis area was a visit to Minnehaha Falls and the park that surrounds it. We expected the falls to be frozen (the temperature since my arrival has been in the teens) but it wasn't.
A favorite subject of pioneer photographers (and the most photographed site in Minnesota), the falls are located on Minnehaha Creek near the creek's confluence with the Mississippi River. More than 850,000 people visit the falls each year.
The waterfall is of course famously associated with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Song of Hiawatha" (though the poet never set foot in Minnesota). That's a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha above, not Longfellow. But you probably knew that.


Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie MN

Last Sunday I had the blessing of visiting the venerable Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with friends.
Since my friend Joyce sings in the choir, we attended their usual service at 8:30. The service opened with a favorite congregational hymn of mine, "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise," stirringly sung by all to the accompaniment of the beautiful pipe organ. The organ offertory of Mendelssohn's Sonata 1 was a delight, and the choral selection, "What Wondrous Love Is This," was excellent. 
Senior pastor Dale Hummel delivered the morning sermon on forgiveness, from Luke 3, and the service concluded with the celebration of communion, a second offering (taken monthly for the church's compassion ministry), and a pastoral prayer. 
I joined my friends' Sunday school class but slipped out briefly just to sample the "contemporary" service, which began at 9:45 (the church offers a Saturday evening contemporary service, a single a Sunday morning traditional service, and then two more contemporary services at 9:45 and 11:00). As you can see, the two services offer distinctive experiences.
After our class, my hosts gave me a tour of the main level of the facilities. Above is Lydia's Cafe. 
I especially rejoiced to see the prayer wall, in a room of its own, with slips of paper stuck in the cracks of the wall. Unlike the Kotel in Jerusalem, these prayers are not only placed there by praying people but are also sometimes removed and read so others can pray too. Sweet idea. 

Wooddale Church began as The Wayside Chapel in Richfield, Minnesota, in 1943. Leith Anderson served the church for 35 years as senior pastor (1977-2011). It was a joy to worship, learn, and fellowship with the saints of this lovely church which has campuses in Eden Prairie, Edina, and Minneapolis (Loring Park). 

Big Bowl, Minnetonka MN

After a very successful Minnesota Christian Writers Spring Seminar in Minnetonka, MN, Saturday, the movers and shakers of the seminar and I enjoyed delightful fellowship and delicious food at the Big Bowl Chinese and Thai restaurant in Minnetonka.
The place was hopping even at 5:15 on a Saturday. We had reservations and still waited a few minutes for our party of seven to be seated. As I often do in a new restaurant, I conducted a quick reconnaissance tour, and everything looked enticing.
Though I usually order water (no lemon), I was intrigued by the offer of ginger-ale-and-pomegranate-juice, which I tried. It was okay but nothing I have to make a habit. I finally settled on a stir fry of "chef's choice" vegetables, shrimp, pad Thai noodles, and sweet and sour sauce, and it was fantastic.

Big Bowl restaurants are located in Chicago IL, Schaumburg IL, Lincolnshire IL, Reston VA, and Minnetonka, Edina, and Roseville MN.

Tucci Benucch

On my Friday visit to the Mall of America with wonderful friends and hosts, they took me to dinner at Tucci Benucch, an Italian restaurant that has been located at the Mall of America since the mall's inception.
I was tempted to order their famous baked spaghetti, but once our server described the garlic chicken, I had to have it. Thank God for chicken! It took extra time since they had run out of chicken but they graciously brought us some appetizers and we had no deadline to meet, so I stuck with my choice. It was delicious, perfectly prepared, and the service was likewise first-rate.

Tucci Benucch is located on the first floor of the mall on the west side.