Don’t Mess with Mr. In-Between

What is one of the ways to easily expose me as an old guy, an aging baby boomer?

We still get a daily newspaper tossed onto the driveway.

My wife likes Sudoku. Not me. I ignore those sneaky numbers.

My reading is often “professional:” I regularly browse the obituaries.

As someone who has written (unpublished) novels, the “obits” represent a treasure trove for names once popular. Even if the facts were spare, an obituary confirms that a name was used when a Roosevelt or Coolidge occupied the Oval Office. Names that I’ve included have also been purloined from people I’ve met. Add a friend’s first name to another’s last name! Some successful novelists provide contests for naming a character. Bid high, have your real name in a best-selling book, with all the money headed to charity.

Obituaries once represented a Plan B. I usually knew when a parishioner died, but not always! Regardless of how well I visited folks (known as Plan A), I couldn’t read minds or see the future. Visiting Jane Doe last month never guaranteed I’d hear about her heart attack two weeks later. Nor did it guarantee out-of-town family members would call the church to let anyone know. Continue reading →

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From Washington with Love: My Bond Women

No, really, that’s not me on the right . . .

Around ten years ago, I participated in a week-long writing workshop at Washington DC’s National Cathedral with three powerful authors. Each had influenced me.

Nora Gallagher, Lauren Winner, and Barbara Brown Taylor are insightful writers. Their essays, sermons, memoirs, and novels have dived deeply into the Christian faith. And yet, I also private dubbed them my . . .  “Bond women!” Am I suggesting they could star—scantily clad and cleverly devious—in a film where the iconic British spy might seduce them?

Nope.

As with every story, sermon, or parable, it’s the context that matters. But, before I contextualize, let me tease. Near the conclusion of this wild caper, one of my “Bond women” and I will eventually rendezvous with a Pakistani-American. In a taxi. On the way to an international airport. (Cue the menacing soundtrack.) Continue reading →

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The First Sermon I Remember

Mark’s fifth chapter includes a long stretch of verses, depicting* Jairus pleading for his daughter’s life and an unnamed woman boldly seeking Jesus’ help for her illness. Those ancient words invariably time-travel me to high school. I am suddenly in the balcony of the church I attended until leaving for college. There, alone with others on a long pew, I listened to a sermon.

I cannot tell you the first sermon I heard.

But I can tell you the first sermon I remember.

Treasured.

Wondered about.

It was the first sermon that shared words and images that felt like it was only for me. Did I lean forward in the pew? Maybe. Did my heart race or did I hold my breath? Maybe. Nonetheless, I can still sense the shift, the amazement within, as the preacher portrayed an ill woman’s faith. In his description (or his tone of voice, or how he paused, or other inexplicable actions the preacher conjured) I sensed her faith. Her hand reaching. Her desperation for healing. Her hopeful selfishness mingling with humility.

Who among us doesn’t need healing? Continue reading →

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