Thirty-Eight Years

Pool with lilies and a dragon

Sixth Sunday of Easter | John 5:1-18

Thirty-Eight Years

“There was one man who had been ill for thirty-eight years,” John tells us. We do not hear how many of those years the man may have lain near this pool, hoping for a cure. Thirty-eight years. It is such an odd detail, but not the only one. This story, a gospel story no less, speaks of a pool stirred by an angel, and of people being healed when entering the water, a miraculous baptism.

The fourth verse, the one that tells of angels stirring the water, is almost certainly a later addition to the text, not written by the same hand that gave us the rest of the story. Still, the pool was real enough, matching a pool excavated on the site, with four surrounding colonnades and a dividing partition — the five porticoes of the Gospel description. Perhaps there were indeed stories of an angel who stirred the water, not unlike Muslim stories of a pool stirred by a jinn.¹ Whatever the reason, this crippled man waited beside the pool.

He isn’t the cleverest person there, our crippled man, that much is certain. He has figured no way to get into the water quickly, and he even seems to be whining about his chosen spot at some distance from the water and his lack of a helper. Later he does not have the good sense to avoid the questions of the religious leaders, who themselves ironically ignore his miraculous cure in their indignation that such a thing would be done on the Sabbath. Never mind the miracle: this man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath.Water dripping into a container

Imagine, God breaking the Sabbath rules these men had made, or encouraging someone else to break them.

Religion has never lacked for small minds.

Consider the person Jesus chose. The healed man demonstrates no faith in anything but in the properties of the pool, and he has never managed to act on that. He does not know who Jesus is. He offers no reason to be favored by God or by anyone else. He is dim witted, undeserving, a rat who goes out of his way to inform on the man who gave him everything he wanted.

Jesus picks him, out of however many others were lying there, and we see no good reason for his choice. It appears whimsical, but must be for a purpose — Jesus finds the man a second time and speaks to him again. Whatever the reason for his choice, this healing is an act of pure grace.

We might think on that act of grace, and on the man who received it. Looking at him, we can lay aside our notions of earning favor, or even of having sufficient faith, which comes to the same thing — we try to buy God’s favor with the fervent currency of belief, but this crippled man had nothing going for him.

He is stupid, ungrateful, a rat, and Jesus helps him anyway. Maybe by looking at him we can make a more honest assessment of ourselves, our supposed worthiness (for anything), and the depth of our belief.

After all, faith is not currency, that we should offer it in exchange for what we want from God and the universe. Neither is faith magic, that we should use it to influence God and the universe to do what we want.

Faith isn’t a price we pay, and it is not a crutch for a crippled mind. It is a response. Faith is the acceptance, and the acknowledgment, of grace, no matter how many years we spend waiting for the water to stir.

¹ Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII), AB 29 (New York:
Doubleday, 1966), 207.

Pool with Dragon

Here is an excerpt from my novel I,John — reimagining this story in the Gospel of John from the points of view of the disciple John and of an angel named Adriel. I hope you enjoy it.



The pool was crowded, but the light reflecting from the water brightened the pillars and the mosaics. So many sick people, waiting for this miraculous cure—jump in the pool when the water moves. It was ridiculous. They must have been idiots as well as invalids, because that water was never going to move on its own. Not that a bath wouldn’t do some of them good, but they’d likely drown as soon as they rolled themselves in the pool.

I’m sure that the Romans thought they were idiots. They thought we all were, anyone who wasn’t Roman. The sooner we passed through, the better.

Jesus stopped, though, and so did we. He was looking around at the invalids, and some of them were looking back at us. No doubt they were hoping for charity. I felt awkward just standing looking at them. Peter, his hair at all angles, stared at the people lying on their mats as though they were something odd washed up on the shore. I was trying to think of something to say quietly to Jesus to get us moving again. No good could come of a bunch of us standing here looking at these people.

Jesus stepped past a blind fellow, his head bobbing around like a bird as he slept sitting against a pillar, and stood at the feet of a paralyzed man. He was perfectly still, watching Jesus and only glancing at the rest of us. I could see daylight streaming through a portico. I was thinking that if we quietly walked through that opening, perhaps Jesus would follow us.

“Do you want to be made well?” Jesus asked the man. A stupid question, I thought. I was embarrassed.

The man explained that he did not have anyone to help him get to the water when it was stirred by angels. Angels, I thought. Really. I just wanted to walk quietly into the light of the portico, melt into the people going along into the city, but we couldn’t leave Jesus standing there.

“Stand up,” Jesus said to the invalid. “Take your mat and walk.”

The man’s legs were shriveled, a waste, and Jesus was telling him to stand up. Peter was over at the other side, jutting his great head forward and staring, first at Jesus then at the man’s legs. I felt like everything stopped, just for a moment, the particles of dust in the sunlight stopped without movement, and it seemed that I heard water gurgling, a fountain or splashing.

The man was looking into Jesus’ eyes, then the man put his arms out and started pushing himself upright. That’s when he moved his knee, drawing his leg up toward him, and he stopped again for a moment, alarmed. Around me, the other sick men were moving as well, dragging themselves toward the pool where the water was swirling.

“The angels stirred it,” I said, then I put my hand over my mouth, not believing I had said it. We began helping the men into the pool, all of them except the one in front of Jesus. That man stood up on his own, Peter reaching toward him to steady him in case he fell. Peter was staring at the man’s legs. They were as straight and as muscular as my own.

I felt someone take my arm, a blind man sitting near me, and I began helping him toward the pool. All of them, all the sick, we put into the pool, and I couldn’t tell if the water was moving because of them or on its own. As soon as the blind fellow I was helping stepped into the water he stopped and turned to me. He was looking at me, looking at my face as though I was the most beautiful thing in the world, and I realized he could see.

I looked back at Jesus, but he just walked through the portico into the sunlight, the dust in the air making him vanish as he went.


Jesus is talking to the crippled man near the wall, but I cannot focus on his words. The blind man near me is thinking too loudly, and he is difficult to understand. He is blind from birth, and all of his thoughts blend the abstract and the concrete, a place name with a sound, feelings of fear and the touch of leather, memories of home with the smell of bread, and I realize too late that he is dreaming the dreams of the blind. Dreams are dangerous at best, but with his odd sensory associations I am captivated, falling, not seeing the ground but knowing it is there.

I fall into a pool, and the water envelops me. It should not matter. I am not a physical being, but the blind man’s dreams make me reach out to touch this world, and suddenly the water knows I am there.

Miraculous. They lay here expecting the water to move, and it does.

I rise from the water to gauge whether anyone has seen, and the man Jesus is looking at me. He says nothing, just turns unsurprised and continues talking with the invalid.

There are more splashes, and some of the people are hurling themselves into the pool, water surging out onto the tile floor. The healthy men and women who had been following Jesus start helping the sick into the pool. It is madness, a bizarre game of Adriel Says, though I have said nothing, just fallen into the water.

I feel the power, though, power that is in the water with me, not from me. The sick ones are changing, leaving the pool with stronger bodies. The dust stirred by the crowd sparkles in the sunlight, and the water splashing from the pool and dripping from their bodies mirrors the light. Jesus is already walking away, and the blind man is staring at one of the followers, both of them wet and dripping.

His Right Mind

Mark 3:20-35

Lectionary Project—Part of an ongoing three year project of weekly posts related to the Sunday reading from the Revised Common Lectionary. A study in practical theology.

Jesus did not join a cult. It was much worse than that. He started one.

Christ Pantocrator - icon from St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai
Christ Pantocrator – icon from St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai

Jesus subverted the cult that had grown around John the Baptist, his rogue cousin with the weird hair and the wilderness lifestyle. Jesus also grew a new following while John was still out in the wild — the advantages of better social marketing skills. Whatever the origin of the groupies and critics surrounding Jesus, word spread of strange goings-on until Mary came with her other children to perform an intervention.

Was Jesus in his right mind? His family had heard that he was acting crazy. Hanging out with tax collectors. Sinners. Even fishermen. Healing people. (What was he thinking?) He was sending members of his new cult out to proclaim the message — though at this early stage it is unclear just what that message was — and to cast out demons.

Casting out demons. Now there’s an interesting skill for a resume.

Critics claimed that Jesus was possessed by a demon, even by Satan himself. In Mark’s Gospel they also name Beelzebub, perhaps a version of the old Canaanite god Baal that had become identified with Satan. The concept of Satan had come a long way over the preceding century or two, after the writings that would become what Christians call the Old Testament were generally formed. What started as a minor character, a member of the court of heaven, became the personification of evil. Here’s something useful to think about: there is far more written about demons outside of scripture than within it. There is more of horror movies than theology in our notions of evil.

It is interesting that Jesus does not dismiss the idea of demons. He does not say that such things don’t happen, that the diseases and mental instabilities people attributed to evil spirits had other, less supernatural, causes. Instead, Jesus makes an argument as to why his critics are wrong — he can’t be possessed by evil spirits, since that would represent a divided house, evil working against itself since he, Jesus, is performing good works.

It could be that Jesus merely uses his critics’ own accusations to demonstrate that they are not thinking very clearly. Which is more convincing, to tell them they are wrong, or to show them that their bucket doesn’t hold water?

After all, if I find myself on the ground, all thought lost in the twisting darkness of an epileptic seizure, it no longer matters whether I understand the cause, demon or disease. It matters that someone else helps me.

Eye of the Wolf by Lauren Bell
Detail of Eye of the Wolf, by Lauren Bell. Acrylic. 2015.

There is also the famous passage about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit being unforgivable. The Christian trinitarian view being that the Spirit is part of and one with that who is God, let’s paraphrase the verse—blasphemy against God is unforgivable. So what do we do with that?

Some scholars question whether Jesus even said it. The Holy Spirit is so much a part of the post-crucifixion/resurrection viewpoint of Christianity that these verses sound like a later addition. Such an approach — cutting out the parts that are problematic or that don’t appeal — is difficult for many reasons, one of the strongest being this is the scripture that we have in a form that the community of faith preserved over centuries. If, like Thomas Jefferson so famously did, we snip out all of the parts we find difficult or disagreeable, the gospel we end up with will not be the one we received from the community of faith.

We might consider context — what’s going on when Jesus supposedly makes this pronouncement? For example, many a person will point to this verse and  tell you that suicide is an unforgivable sin. Isn’t it wonderful when genuine but unthinking believers blunder so judgmentally into the misery of other people? Do we hear of anyone committing suicide in this story? No. Other people will say that to die “unsaved” is blasphemy against the Spirit. Again I ask, is anyone dying in this story?

One thing is certainly going on in Mark’s Gospel, and it is the thing that Jesus is stridently rejecting. Some religious folk are pointing to something good, something of God — Jesus and his ability to heal people, to make them better — and calling it evil because it does not match their expectations or understanding. They are trying to prevent other people from experiencing what does not fit the framework of their religion, and Jesus condemns them for it.

Now that is worth thinking about.

“Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside calling for you,” the crowd tells him.

Another problem. There are plenty of people who go to great lengths to argue that these brothers and sisters were actually cousins, the idea being that while God could have become human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, it is unthinkable that Mary (and Joseph) had other children. Let’s just go with what it says — Jesus is in his home, surrounded by an ambivalent crowd of followers and critics, when Mary and his siblings show up to intervene.

Jesus looks at the crowd and tells them that all who follow God are his brothers and sisters and mother. There’s no record of how that goes over with Mary.

Sometimes we accept the family we are given, and sometimes we choose our own. The two groups may turn out to include some of the same people, overlapping circles. Mary stood outside the home of Jesus, outside the circle of new believers and onlookers, just as she would later stand on that hill when her son was crucified. She was still in that small circle when most of the others had run away.

The Copernican Universe, via
The Copernican Universe, via

It is likely that our understanding of God, the universe, one another and life around us is terribly flawed and desperately limited. Perhaps one day science will find other life forms we had not previously understood, and we will have to shift our concepts of angels and demons, just as physicists changed our understanding of “let there be light” with a bang.

One day we may consider that being right was never so important as being kind, or true, or faithful. Doing good is better than being right. Love is more powerful than judgment.

Maybe that is the unforgivable blasphemy against God — clinging to our judgment in spite of our ignorance, choosing our notions of what is right over what is good. Our hamartia, our fatal flaw, is that we turn our gaze so far inward, we focus so closely upon ourselves, that we fail to recognize our greatest faults and our greatest needs. Perhaps Jesus does not mean that God does not forgive us. Perhaps he means that when we draw our circle so tightly that our world contains only ourselves, there is no room for our brothers and sisters. When we cut ourselves off, there is no one left to absolve us.

What Changes

Clouds - I, John cover

Transfiguration | Mark 9:2-29

Lectionary Project

What Changes

Maybe it never happened. According to Mark, at the top of a mountain three men saw Jesus changed, transfigured, wearing dazzling white clothes and talking to supernatural visitors.

We don’t know what they saw.

Maybe it never happened, and the entire passage is metaphorical. Maybe it happened just as the story says. Either way, it could be true.

At the mountaintop, everything is bright, breathtaking, amazing, and while Peter, James and John don’t understand what they are seeing, they have no trouble believing they are experiencing it. Afterward, at the bottom of the mountain, nothing is bright or clear. A boy is thrashing on the ground in some sort of fit, and faith is hard to come by.

Mountaintops and dust.Mountains with Grass

Our lives are like that, mountaintops and dust, and so of course the story is a metaphor. That has nothing to do with whether any of it really happened. Some of the truest stories never happened, and plenty of things that happen are pretty thin on truth.

What do we read the Bible for anyway, I ask you, we who claim or try to be people of faith? Is it to find out what happened? If so, we’re reading the wrong books. We’d do better to find some good histories or to read an archaeological journal.

I think we start reading the Bible because someone told us it was true. It’s just that most of the time they don’t go on to tell us what that means, to be ‘true’, and so we wander off or begin to argue about what it says.

I think that what we are really looking for is something to improve our lives. That’s the kind of truth we need. If we’re walking down in the low dark places, feet covered in dust, or if like the boy in the story we are lying on the ground like a corpse, we need to believe that something can happen, that our life can change, that somewhere there is an end to the valley and that somewhere the sun shines so brightly that we could not bear to look at it. Or, if we cannot manage to believe that we ourselves can make it to the mountaintop, we need to believe that someone will come down and take us by the hand, show some compassion, help us up from the dirt and the dust.

We have always been fascinated by the idea of change. Look at the stories that our ancestors cherished. The Greeks told stories of gods who changed into bulls, horses that spread their wings and flew. Metamorphosis. Butterflies amaze us when they emerge, and so do people. Good men who become taciturn, bitter, resentful old geezers. Self centered, manipulative youths who grow into responsible, caring people. Cells that metastasize. Stars that explode. Mr Hyde and Superman. Old grievances that do not matter any more.

That is what we want from this story. Change. We want it to change us, like every great and true story does. Why do we think telling such stories is the single most human thing we do? From firelight on cave walls to movies on widescreen televisions, we keep doing the same thing — listening to stories. And while we want to be entertained, we keep looking for the same thing — truth, the kind that matters, the kind that tells us that we are not alone, that others have been here before us, and that life can be better, or if it does get worse, that we can bear it.

Mountains with Blowing RockMaybe Jesus on that mountain was just a symbol, a metaphor. That is fine, we need our symbols, and we need our stories to help us understand our lives. Maybe it all really happened, and Moses and Elijah stepped through some wall that separates us from all that we cannot touch in this world. Maybe we are always surrounded by light and voices, angels and demons, and it is just that we do not have the eyes to see them.

None of that matters, not really. What matters is what truth we manage to take in, to carry away with us.

When we are up there in the light, it matters that we remember the folks who are lying in the dust. When we’re the ones who have been knocked in the dirt, it matters that there is light up on the mountain. And sometimes we just need to hear the stories, because stories hold more truth than rules ever could.

Below is an excerpt from my novel I,John. The story from Mark’s Gospel is retold from the points of view of two characters: Adriel, an angel, and John, one of the three disciples invited up onto the mountain. Sometimes just hearing a story told in a different way helps us to hear something new. I hope you enjoy it.


There are four of them and they are climbing a mountain. It has nothing at the top but a view of the bottom, so I think that what they are doing is odd. Perhaps they are more like us, doing unlikely things for the pleasure it brings.
The one named Peter is the strongest, but he gives little thought to his path. Along the way he has to stop, baffled by rock, and turn back to the path behind Jesus. I sit on an outcropping watching them pass. Jesus is the only one who seems to know I am there. When he glances over at me, the one named John follows his eyes and pauses, staring at my rock perch though I do not believe he can sense me. James only wipes at the sweat on his forehead. Peter mumbles curses.
A cloud is moving across the peaks, hiding the long fall to the valley. Their group has scuffled their way to the top. Peter collapses, his back on the mountain, and stretches out as to sleep. I move past them when I feel the change. It is like waking from a dream when you did not know you were sleeping. Sunlight strengthens, but the shadows are cast away from the figure of Jesus, light coming from him and now from the others who are with him. They are not the three who made the climb, now lying face down on the hard rock. These are two more, men I think, though even I am not sure.
Jesus turns and tells the three to rise.
“These you know,” he says. “Here are Elijah and Moses. Do you not recognize them?”
I do not understand how this has come to pass. Neither, it seems, do these three men. James and John are standing. Peter drops back to his knees.
“Good! It is good, Lord!” Peter’s eyes move from one to the other, his arms stretched out wide. The other men say nothing at all. “We shall make a camp for you!”
He is babbling.
Jesus continues talking with the other beings for a while, not remarking on Peter’s plan. The light begins to increase and the wind makes the men’s robes ripple and slap against them. There are voices and more beings, a wall sliding away. I hear a great voice speaking, and I know I hear it also long ago in my memory, but I do not know the words. I cannot tell whether the sound begins from above us or comes from inside us, and I am lost. The three men are flat on the rock of the mountain, none of them looking up. I see many figures streaming through the light, then one light as though somehow the sun is within the cloud, and the energy of it sounds like static, so loud, it hums every frequency at once, and then everything stops.
The clouds are gone, as is the light. Now there is ordinary sunlight, no longer appearing so bright on the top of the mountain. Jesus is gazing down into the valley, and it seems to me that he has been standing there the whole time, only looking, that nothing has happened.
Gravel shifts and I realize the three men are still there, Peter beginning to stand, John and James helping one another to move. They are looking around them as though just now waking.
None of us speak. None of us moves.
Jesus turns and looks at the three. Saying nothing, he starts back down the mountain just as they had come. They follow, as do I.
Part of the way down is a rock shelf, high and wide enough for all of them to stand together. Jesus is again watching the valley. When the others catch up to him and stand there waiting, he turns to them.
“Tell nobody what you have seen.” He watches them for a moment. “One day you may understand it, and then you may speak of it. Until then, keep it within you.”
He does not turn to leave but waits, looking at them. Peter is staring, mouth open. James is little better, looking from his brother and Peter back to Jesus. It is John who managed to speak.
“Lord.” A pause. “That was Moses? And Elijah?”
Jesus’s face softens.
“Yes, in a way.” He turns to look back down into the valley. “Such things are hard to explain to you now, but one day you will understand. Elijah was here. Moses was here.”
No one speaks. Jesus keeps watching the valley, the small figures gathering at the bottom of the mountain. There is a village in the valley, and the other followers of Jesus are there waiting.
Jesus turns, and they begin the slow climb down.


I barely saw the rocks. I only remember the feel of them under my feet and in my hands, hard and flinting away into flakes and sand as we made our way down that mountain. What had we seen?
Maybe there was no air, our minds taking leave of us at the top, but we had all seen it. Peter had talked about making a camp. The light had been so bright that everything else still seemed to be in shadow, even in the afternoon sunlight.
I did not know what voice I had heard, and the more that I thought about it, the more I think about it now, the more I seem to have heard. That voice was saying things that I would not hear until time had passed. I still hear them. The right time comes and the meaning becomes as clear as though Jesus had simply turned and spoken himself. There was nobody on that mountain but us, and there was a complete world without sky and without form. Perhaps it was God speaking, I do not know. It was not a voice like anything else that I have ever heard. It spoke that day, but it spoke outside of time, and the meaning cannot be heard until its purpose has come.
Perhaps God says everything at once, and it is the hearing of the words that require time. The meaning is already there, carried within us, and suddenly we understand it when the time comes. That it why we cannot make out what the voice is saying. It is all the words we will ever hear but spoken at once, and it is time that translates them to our being.
I stumbled on a stone at the bottom of the mountain. James caught my arm, and then when I had recovered he nodded for me to look ahead. Jesus was walking toward the other disciples, all of them standing together with a crowd circling, voices raised. Some of the crowd saw Jesus approaching and turned to run toward him. Their faces were a strange mix, some glad and some with the look of men watching the spectacle of a circus.
Jesus kept walking toward the center, the crowd falling back to let him pass. A boy was lying on the ground, his body stiff and thrashing on the ground. I had never seen such a thing, yet I was sure Jesus would touch him and stop whatever was wrong.
He did not touch the boy, though, but stood a few feet from him and watched. The boy’s father came and took hold of Jesus’s sleeve, then knelt in front of him.
“How long has he been like that?” asked Jesus. The boy was thrashing on the ground, clearly about to hurt himself, and Jesus was asking questions as though he were a tourist attraction.
“Since he was a child,” said the father. “We do not know what to do to help him, but we keep him from rolling into the fire or hurting himself.”
The father paused and looked back at his son. He was ignoring the crowd.
“Can you help him? Your followers have been able to do nothing. Are you able to help him?”
Jesus looked across at the other disciples. All of them looked down at the ground or away.
“All things are possible,” he said. “Do you believe this?”
I was not sure whether he was speaking to us or to the boy’s father. It was the father who answered.
“I believe, yet I do not believe. That is the truth of it, and I would not lie to you.” The man looked at his son, then back at Jesus once more. “Still, can you help him?”
Jesus reached out and put his hand on the father’s shoulder. More people were hurrying up the path from the village, all of them holding their heads up to see over the crowd already gathered there.
He spoke to the boy, or to something. I could not remember his words. The father turned to see, and the boy stopped moving and lay still. The father crawled across the dust to him and lifted him.
“He is dead.” It was someone in the crowd saying so. Peter looked across the faces, and I knew that it was good he could not tell which of them had said such a thing out loud.
“No,” the father said. “He is not dead.”
We heard the boy gasp for air, and his father turned to look up at Jesus.
“He is alive, my boy is alive.”
In his father’s arms the boy was limp, breathing as though he had run a race, but he was not thrashing anymore.
“You had faith enough,” Jesus said. “If you had told me you had no doubt, then you would have failed me.”
He turned and walked away from the boy and his father as though the crowd were not even there.

I, John cover image

Vision of Mary

Fourth Sunday of Advent  |  Luke 1:26-38

Gabriel didn’t tell her everything. Mary knew that.

“Greetings, you favored one!” Gabriel said. “The Lord is with you.”

Mary was no simpleton. She knew from stories that angels making announcements were just the start of the trouble, and so she stood there and tried to work out what kind of greeting this Gabriel creature was offering her.

The angel, perhaps seeing that it did not have her full trust, went on to say that she would have a child. This would be not just a child, the angel claimed, but a king, and not just any king, but king forever without end. It was quite a claim, backed up by nothing but words. Sure, these were the words of an angel, but words nonetheless.

Mary’s presence of mind was remarkable. Most of us would stare slack jawed at the spectacle of an angel, but Mary was thinking on MaryBabySnowCPher feet. She listened to the promise of a son, and she knew that the angel was skipping over an important step in the process.

“How can this be, since I do not know a man?” she asked. It might be the best question anyone ever asked, when you think about it. She could have asked for proof that Gabriel was, in fact, an angel. She might have asked for miracles, or gone into whys and wherefores. She might have lost her self control and fallen into a cowering heap at the sight of an angelic being. Instead, Mary (her actual name was Mariam) chose the path of empirical evidence. Mary was a woman with a scientific and logical mind.

With statues and paintings, rosaries and Hail Mary prayers all over the world, it may sound strange to say that we don’t give Mary enough credit. Maybe it is more precise to say that we do not give her credit for the right things. People speak of Mary’s purity, and her humility, and her faith, but this story reveals a woman with remarkable intelligence and courage.

Gabriel told her that a holy spirit would come upon her, that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, whatever that might mean, and that the holy one being born to her would be called the son of God. Then the angel changed the subject. It began to talk about Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, who was pregnant even though she was thought to be too old, like Abraham’s Sarah. To top the announcement off, it told her that nothing was impossible with God.

“Behold, the servant of the Lord,” Mary said. “May it be to me according to your word.” And Gabriel, satisfied with the response or having nothing else to say, left her.

We should admire her intelligence at least as much as her other attributes. She could have objected that the angel was a little vague on the biology question, and she could have asked what Elizabeth’s situation had to do with her own. Instead, she asserted her faith, and she added a sensible, “May it be so.”

A son who becomes king sounds like a good thing. This was an angelic being standing in front of her. Whether one believes in the angel or in what it says, there is little point arguing.

In so many words, she said, “We’ll see.”

The Gospels tell us that Mary faced a pregnancy that came too early to be respectable. She traveled. She raised a family. She did all of this with courage, intelligence, and more than a little grace.

Perhaps this Advent season, we might welcome a new vision of Mary. This one has nothing to do with robes and roses. This new vision of Mary is of a woman who thinks clearly and acts with courage. Our daughters, and our sons, would do well to look past the statues and to imagine the overwhelming difficulties she faced, to learn from her sensible and steadfast nature.

In this season, we might ponder—as did Mary—the journey of God toward humanity, on unexpected paths, announced by unlikely messengers. We may meet no angels. We do not know whether such visitations are rare or whether we simply do not recognize them when they happen to us. Perhaps that was one of Mary’s gifts, to know an angel when she met one.

Hail Mary, full of grace.


I, John is available now!

Jacket_PerfectBound_Rev1I, John is available now! You can order it clothbound or paperback, and you can have it today in eBook format to read on your iPad or Nook or other device. Here are links to booksellers already listing the title:


Barnes and Noble

Apple iBook Store (iTunes)

More links will be available soon, as additional stores offer it, and I will try to keep updating the links as the title makes it’s way into the system. The world of publishing and books is fascinating. It is like a house that has been built over many years, and some parts take a little longer to reach.

Hopefully, I, John will be listed in the next few days by more local independent booksellers on and other sites, and I would be delighted to add links to any independent booksellers listing the title as available, either on the shelf or to order. If your local bookstore does not have I, John on the shelf and you would like to order it from them, giving them the ISBNs would be the easiest way for them to find it:

ISBN 978-0-9906426-9-5 — Clothbound (6x9in)

ISBN 978-0-9906426-1-9 — Trade Paperback (5.25x8in)

ISBN 978-0-9906426-0-2 — e-Book (except the Kindle version only carries the Amazon ASIN of B00N43YCKO)

I, John has also just now been added to so if you like the novel (or if you hate it, though I really hope you like it,) please take a moment add a review—here’s a link to the Goodreads page.

Thanks to all of the people who have shown such interest in this novel! I hope that you enjoy it.