Advent Cougar

Luke 3:7-18The Third Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 13, 2015

“Then John said to the crowds, who came to be baptized by him, ‘You children of snakes! Who warned you to come to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon?’” (Luke 3:7)

cougarA handful of years ago I pedaled toward a sign stapled on a fence. I slowed, then stopped and chuckled.

According to local news reports, several people claimed they’d spotted a cougar around this area. Warnings were posted, like the sign on the fence.

The sign had a grainy photo of a “big cat.”

There was a smidgen of nervousness in my laughter because yours truly was the only obvious biking or walking warm body in that section of Fresno’s Woodward Park. The asphalt path continued east, paralleling open fields, copses of trees—excellent cover for large, sneaky felines—and the San Joaquin River.

I felt . . . alone, isolated. Continue reading →

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 →

Advent 2013: The Usual Suspects

oil_lampA few thoughts after posting 2013’s fourth and final Advent reflection . . .

This year, my reading of the familiar—oh so familiar—scriptures inspired me to imagine a few moments in the lives of Advent’s “usual suspects.” As always, I didn’t know exactly what I’d write until each essay was finished. But I was confident Isaiah would make an appearance, initially assumed Mary or Joseph (or both) would be ignored, and had no idea a Pharisee would encounter John the Baptizer. Ah well . . . humans plan, the Holy chuckles.

As the digital dust began to settle, these questions nudged me . . .

  • What caused Isaiah to claim the imagery of turning swords into plowshares?
  • What made John the Baptist’s message compelling, but inadequate, especially in the eyes of a “religious authority?”
  • Wouldn’t self-doubt and confidence accompany Mary’s anticipation of birth? And . . . could Mary have heard Hannah’s song/prayer for inspiration?
  • Why did Joseph, key to the nativity stories, vanish from the verses that followed?

Behind all the questions is a core belief: Christmas is a myth. The facts about Jesus’ birth are sparse and pedestrian. He was born. He had parents and siblings. And from birth to death, Jesus lived under Rome’s brutal, corrupt government. Continue reading →