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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Just Another Morning?

It’s known as Palm Sunday now.

And yet on a particular Sunday two thousand years ago, wasn’t it just another mundane day?

The Jewish Sabbath had ended after Saturday’s light faded into darkness across first-century Palestine. Was that Sunday a morning where coolness lingered, providing a brief respite from the day’s inevitable heat? Or—as women hurried to make the first trip to lift cooking water from the wells or men trudged toward a field to capture wandering sheep—did sweat already slick cheeks before the new day’s mean-spirited sun cleared the horizon?

*          *          *

Just another morning?

A Roman Centurion gazed at the empty desert sky, wondering what Rome really looked like. He’d never been there.

The blacksmith stoked his fire. An order for nails today. Thick ones. Long ones. Damn Romans and their damn demands.

While his youngest daughter trimmed his beard, a Jerusalem shopkeeper debated about raising his prices. After all, the demands would increase as the crowds multiplied around Passover. Continue reading →

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