I’ve been pondering nicknames after reading a slice of John’s gospel where (in the Bible I most frequently use) the disciple Philip’s last black-printed words are spoken.

To immediately digress from Philip, one of the nicknames for my Bible is a red-letter edition. All of Jesus’ statements are printed in red, whereas everything else is black. In the fourth chapter of John’s gospel—a mightily red-lettered chapter, I might add—Philip’s black words sparingly interrupt the red ink beside comments from two other disciples: Thomas and Judas.

The 5th Sunday of Easter – for May 22, 2011

“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’”

Digression complete . . . either within the Bible or from Christian tradition, what’s Philip’s nickname? Or does he have one?

What is the disciple Thomas’ nickname? Or Judas? I’ll wager ten denarius and some leftover loaves & fishes you know Doubting Thomas and Judas the betrayer.

What’s your nickname? Is it cute, clever or a name that kindles childhood memories? I have an affectionate nickname for my wife that, as far as I know, no one else uses. No, I won’t tell you what it is! I attended high school with a guy who played professional baseball and then managed the San Francisco Giants (and currently the Cincinnati Reds) named Johnnie Baker Jr. But most call him Dusty. Is Lady Gaga a nickname? How about J-Lo or A-Rod? I’ve read Barack Obama was Barry until his college years.

I’m similar and different to President Obama, at least in the realm of nicknames. Barry is boring compared to Barack, but it’s a nickname people might better remember. I’m officially a Lawrence (and I can show you my long-form birth certificate for confirmation), but have usually gone with the mundane “Larry.” If I wanted people to respect me more, or contemplated running for President, should I urge folks to call me Lawrence?

I volunteer for a local hospice, visiting to support patients and families. When a person is under hospice care, she or he is suddenly meeting nurses, social workers, aides, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming, so all staff and volunteers wear nametags. Mine proclaims “Larry.” Accurate! But I often tell patients they can remember me as “Hairy Larry.” I’m a dude with a beard and though its thinning, I also sport unkempt hair atop my noggin. The line gets a chuckle, but it’s also a nickname people more easily recall in the supportive crowd of the hospice team. Continue reading →

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G is for . . .


Greed erects a wall—brick by brick, thing by thing—between us and God, us and the friend, us and the family, us and the earth. In the realm of greed, all we want is what we don’t have and—brick by brick, thing by thing—what we already have that most matters can no longer been seen, heard, or (after so many bricks are stacked) even remembered.

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Coyote Beckons

Image of coyote is courtesy of the fine folks at

Few Biblically inspired images are as enduring and essential to Judeo-Christian tradition as the one who cares for sheep.

The shepherd . . .

Moses tended his father-in-law’s flock of sheep when the burning bush interrupted his day and his life.

David the King was first the slingshot-wielding defender who protected sheep from wild animals and confronted Goliath.

Or, a shepherd/sheep image that you remember from the Bible is (fill in the blank) . . . ___________________________________.

The 4th Sunday of Easter – for May 15, 2011

“ . . . and the sheep hear his voice . . .” (John 10:3)

And so it was and so it is that all who follow Jesus, all who are part of the Christian heritage of servanthood and discipleship, can be known as . . . cloven-hoofed, two-stomached, dim-witted, herd-oriented, oft-fleeced, and frequently smelly.

I resist the sheep label. I’ve seen sheep sheered (say that fast, twice!) and all things considered I’d rather be the sheerer than the sheered. One of my heroes is naturalist John Muir. You can thank him for our National Parks. In the mid-1800s, Muir cursed destruction of the valleys and meadows of California’s Sierra Nevada by the wooly ruminant. Indeed, Muir referred to sheep as “hoofed locusts.” If sheep wander into a glorious alpine meadow or your weed-infested backyard, soon both places will look pretty much the same: picked clean, barren, and nary a wildflower or weed to be seen. Heck, after sheep do their thing, you’d need a microscope to find a blade of grass.

Sheep. I shudder.

And aren’t shepherds and sheep out-of-date anyway? Most of us have seen more pictures of sheep than spent time around them. Ask ten people where wool comes from and how many will say “sheep” and how many “Macys?” As an annual ritual, I’ve listened to Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor retell the Christmas story. His version transformed the lowly Bethlehem-based shepherds into parking lot attendants. After all, how many Booroola Merino or American Blackbelly sheep have you “tended” compared to Honda Accords or Ford F150 pick-ups? Would you rather imagine yourself as a Prius or a Priangan, a Mercedez Benz or a Medium-Wool Merino? Continue reading →

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