More Than Sex (Had to Use the Word)

Mark 6:14-29 – The 7th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, July 12, 2015

“So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t.” (Mark 6:19)

sex.1I worked on my high school newspaper for several semesters. Though my teenaged journalistic memories have faded like newsprint left in the sun, I recall the faculty advisor’s name—Mrs. Pepper—and the only time she complimented me.

Mrs. Pepper was impressed with my, er, sexual inventiveness.

Yeah, baby, sex.

When you read that three-letter, monosyllabic word, did anything bob to the surface of your mature mind about your high school experiences with . . . sex? Or, since you’re reading my words, what did you imagine about me and . . . Mrs. Pepper?

Alas, tuck away your lustful fantasies. Nothing happened! Well, at least nothing in a—wink-wink—“Biblical way.” Continue reading →

A Thousand Thorns Piercing His Heart

2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – The 6th Sunday following Pentecost – for Sunday, July 5, 2015

“I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)

7780086970_ee1011064d_zFor the most part, I’m glad good ole boy Paul, the apostle once named Saul, was ambiguous about his “thorn in the side.”

Paul believed that thorn was a prickly gift from Satan, and prevented him from being conceited. It punctured the balloon of his vanity; it was the discarded banana skin threatening his next step; it was the “angel” on a shoulder reminding him of his foolishness even as the “devil” on the other side encouraged him to brag about his Christ-inspired revelations and Godly experiences.

Professional and amateur scholars* have wondered about Paul’s thorn for centuries. What was his “problem?” Continue reading →

God, Simplified & Amplified

Psalm 130 – The 5th Sunday After Pentecost – for Sunday, June 28, 2015

“But forgiveness is with you . . .” (Psalm 130:4)

forgive-21It is fundamental for every major religious tradition.

It’s essential when (trying) to follow a Christian path.

It was a guttural shout from Jesus on the cross.

It anchored the middle of the Lord’s Prayer.

It’s what I can gift to others.

(And also receive.)

It is what I need each day.

It is what I already have.

It is . . . Continue reading →

Five Smooth Stones

I Samuel 17 – The 4th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 21, 2015

“He then grabbed his staff and chose five smooth stones from the streambed.” (I Samuel 17:40)

 . . . and chose five smooth stones from the streambed . . .
. . . and chose five smooth stones from the streambed . . .

Remember mighty King David?

But first, he was merely David.

A good-looking kid, David was the eighth of eight brothers. Which meant he usually was left behind to guard the sheep. Which meant he likely scraped the bottom of the food bowls at mealtime and washed in cold and dirty water when—if—he bathed. Whatever praises his father Jesse muttered to encourage David had probably been used first for the older brothers. How often did Jesse call David by one of his brother’s names? Haven’t parents always done that? How many times had David been insulted by a sarcastic brother? With seven male siblings, one of them would always be in a foul mood. How many times had David been shoved to the ground for something he did, or . . . just because? With seven male siblings, one of them would always be angry enough to launch a punch or a kick.

The eighth son was easily forgotten. Easily ignored.

Then came the war. Continue reading →

Invisible to the Eye

I Samuel 15:34-16:13 – The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 14. 2015

“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as King of Israel.” (I Samuel 16:1)

Me, my younger sister, and Dad. Sometime in the 1960s.
Me, my younger sister, and Dad. Sometime in the 1960s.

I wonder, in what became her last days, how much Mom worried about my relationship with Dad.

Sometimes, I detected hints of hurt in her bright eyes.

Every once in a while, her voice seemed tinged with sadness.

On occasions, quietly, she’d add, “You know your father loved you.”

My father, during most of his life, seemed an effusive, outgoing man. Dad could just as easily start a conversation with a stranger in a parking lot as he could talk with friends during the after-church coffee hour. He sold life insurance. He was successful, winning awards and—by all accounts—his professional peers admired him. You don’t accomplish what he did in sales without being friendly, a good listener, and able to say the right thing at the right time. Really, who wants life insurance? Anyone with a growing family or thriving business “should” buy insurance, but who readily volunteers to part with hard-earned pennies for something he or she hopes is never needed!

But why did Dad so rarely say he loved me? Continue reading →