Good Shepherds and Bold Basketball Players

About a month ago, I attended the annual awards banquet for the Fresno State women’s basketball team. I mention this for two reasons.

First, I want to brag on these student-athletes. Of all the 350 or so Division 1 women’s teams in the 2017-18 season, Fresno had the youngest starting line-up: three freshmen and two juniors. We had no seniors on the roster. With a good enough record—16 wins—they were invited to a low-profile “March Madness”-type tournament. As someone who watched these women play, lose, bond, struggle, mature, and win, I have ample reasons for pride and looked forward to attending.

Of course, the festivities reminded me (again) that I’m a gray-bearded old coot. The women are young, vibrant, so-called “digital natives,” and born in the last gasps of the 20th century. At nineteen and twenty, they have only known the United States being at war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They had barely entered elementary school when the first iPhone was released. In 2006, the year before Apple sold the original iPhone, the final telegram was sent in the United States. (Hey, what’s a telegram?) Yeah, these women are young! Continue reading →

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Once Upon a Stormy Lent

Happy Birthday, Mr. President…

Like Donald Trump, I have wantonly, wickedly wasted time with Stormy Daniels.

My first “encounter” with her came a year before the blurred, amateurish—and now, thanks to the internet, ubiquitous—snapshot was taken of Ms. Daniels and Mr. Trump. They allegedly enjoyed each other’s company at a 2006 celebrity golf event in Lake Tahoe.

Director Judd Apatow’s raunchy and poignant The 40 Year-Old Virgin was released in 2005. Ms. Daniels appeared briefly (in more ways than one) as a fantasy for actor Steve Carroll’s befuddled, naïve Andy Stitzer.

Naked Stormy was.

I saw her first, Donald!

Well, probably not.

For Lent 2018, apparently no one was abstaining from sex. On the day before Ash Wednesday (aka, Valentine’s Day), one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers admitted to paying $130,000 for Stephanie Clifford’s (aka Stormy Daniels) silence. Though accusations about consensual intercourse, deceit, and 2016 campaign violations happened prior to that admission, the she-said/he-said sparring accelerated through Lent’s 40 days. Continue reading →

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My First Ordained Easter

My inaugural Easter as an ordained minister was one of my last first things.

Firsts matter. They are remembered, defining or confining us.

In the summer after a bishop laid his hands on me, with the title “Reverend” linked to my name and vocation, I served—for a first time—communion. I would marry teenaged sweethearts (they divorced a few years later), participate in baptisms, visit the dying, comfort the grieving, witness open graves and closed hearts, teach Sunday school, help celebrate Christmas, make a hundred (or more) mistakes, and once or twice I even preached.

Having wrangled a position as a student intern—taking a year off from seminary—I worked with several other pastors in a suburban congregation.

With a summer start, Easter was forever away. And then it came. Being ordained made it different. Though “only” an intern and newbie pastor, anticipating that first Easter loomed as a pivotal experience.

Church was part of my family’s life since before I could remember. And yet, truth be told, on several childhood Easters, my church-going-Bible-believing-Christ-centered-God-loving parents announced we were home-bound.

“It’s too crowded,” Mom explained. Continue reading →

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