Celebrity Blogger Week: Amber Belldene

We’re excited that Amber Belldene will soon begin her third year as a Celebrity Blogger because, well, name another online Lenten devotion that can claim to have an Episcopal priest/romance writer on their team. Yeah, you can’t. Because we’re unique! Or at least Amber is. Read on!

The Rev. Amber Belldene

The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a vampire-loving Episcopal priest. She grew up on the Florida panhandle swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees, and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons — an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber believes stories are the best way to examine life’s truths, and she is passionate about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality — namely, that God made people with a desire for love, and that desire is the heart of every romance novel. Her paranormal romance series Blood Vine is now available from Omnific Publishing and her sexy contemporary novella One Sinful Night in São Paulo, about an Episcopal seminarian looking for love, is scheduled to release later this year. She loves wine, history, heirloom tomatoes and she lives with her husband and children in San Francisco. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmberBelldene or Facebook.

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Monday Madness — February 1, 2016

free stuffScandal has rocked Lent Madness! People have accused the Supreme Executive Committee of being nothing more than hucksters. To prove them wrong, Scott and Tim remind everyone that you can download a FREE full-color bracket any time. You can also add fancy Lent Madness widgets to your website for NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE. With NO PERFORMANCE LICENSING FEES you can gather the whole family around the computer and binge-watch Monday Madness. And of course, more important, participating and voting in Lent Madness can be done by anyone for FREE.*

Isn’t the SEC remarkably generous? We thought you’d agree. But generosity is not limited to free stuff. Those of you who procrastinated buying your giant poster-sized Lent Madness brackets are in luck! Forward Movement is running a Procrastinator’s Special. By using code PS16 during checkout, you can get as many bracket posters as you want (while supplies last) for just seven bucks.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Derek Olsen

“Is there a doctor in the house?” One of the reasons we invited Derek Olsen to join us on this Lenten journey as a Celebrity Blogger, was to be able to answer this question in the affirmative. If the excitement of the saintly smackdown causes you shortness of breath, be sure to call on Dr. Olsen. He’ll leap in to save the day by blogging about obscure liturgical minutia with reckless abandon. We’re glad to have this new life-saver on the Lent Madness team!

Dr. Derek Olsen

Dr. Derek Olsen is a layman within the Episcopal Church with a Ph.D. in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. He is the liturgical editor of the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, and the author of Reading Matthew with Monks, an investigation of early medieval reading and preaching. Forward Movement will be publishing his book on the spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer near the end of 2015. Derek currently serves on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Liturgy & Music. An IT professional by day, Derek is also the mastermind behind St Bede Productions which is responsible for the St Bede’s Breviary, Forward Movement’s Daily Prayer site, and the St Bede Blog (formerly haligweorc). He lives in Baltimore with his wife, an Episcopal priest, and their two daughters. He spends most of his spare time driving his daughters to and from ballet.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Neva Rae Fox

You think the Lent Madness publicity machine is impressive? I mean, what other online Lenten devotion has been on national TV, NPR, Sports Illustrated, and USAToday? Neva Rae Fox isn’t just a Celebrity Blogger but a public relations professional who has assisted the SEC in getting the penitential word out over the years.

We’re grateful for her expertise but we’re most impressed that she serves on the Altar Guild at her own parish. All clergy know the cardinal rule of parish ministry: Never. Cross. The. Altar. Guild.

unnamedNeva Rae Fox is honored, thrilled, and downright delighted to return for a second year as a Celebrity Blogger. Neva Rae is the Public Affairs Officer for The Episcopal Church and many many people at General Convention 2015 identified her as nrfox@episcopalchurch.org. However, to her surprise and delight, she has also been recognized as a Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger on assorted occasions. Still the Jersey Girl of the bunch (you got a problem with that?), Neva Rae remains active in her own Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Jersey, serving on the communications committee, Altar Guild, ECW and as a reader, preacher, and lay Eucharistic minister. She is a frequent presenter in dioceses and organizations throughout the Church and is dedicated to other volunteer and philanthropic causes. She remains a diehard Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles fan – thereby proving she knows how to suffer. During the 2015 baseball season, she and her husband Bob were able to check off Fenway Park from their “bucket list.” And the great things continue — while her cat Duke adorned the back cover of the 2015 EpiscoCats calendar, Neva Rae has been informed that her other cat Bugsy will grace the February pages of the 2016 EpiscoCats calendar.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Hansen

Another day, another Lutheran?! Yup. Two of our new Celebrity Bloggers this year are Lutherans. David Hansen joins Beth Lewis as part of the Lent Madness Lutheran contingent. Fortunately, they will be using their respective computers to advocate for their respective saints rather than nailing theses to church doors around the country (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

David has the distinction of being one of the few pastors around with an actual punctuation mark in his parish’s name. We may or may not be changing our official name to “Lent Madness!” Read on…

The Rev. David Hansen

The Rev. David Hansen, despite growing up as a pastor’s kid, turned out okay. An ELCA pastor, he serves at Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church in The Woodlands, Texas (outside of Houston), where he lives with his wife Megan, their daughter, and their menagerie of pets. When not preaching and teaching for the Lutheran diaspora in Texas, David is helping to drag the church into the digital age – teaching congregations and leaders to make use of online tools for ministry (You can catch David this year leading an Intensive as a part of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. He is a regular contributor and moderator in the Church Social Media (#chsocm) community, and wrote the forward to Celebrity Blogger alum Meredith Gould’s The Social Media Gospel. He is an occasional contributor to The Lutheran magazine and Living Lutheran, and blogs at Pastor David L. Hansen. Connect with him on Twitter @rev_david and Facebook.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Creech

One of three Celebrity Bloggers named David (shockingly we have none named Goliath), David Creech is entering his third year as a Lent Madness contributor. As a professor with a fancy PhD, he makes us all appear to be smarter than we actually are. We are grateful for that, even if we’ve never been able to figure out why his blog is named Dying Sparrows.

Dr. David Creech

Dr. David Creech is Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. A student of early Christianities, David knows a lot about saints—they anathematized many of his research subjects. He is a product of an Evangelical seminary and a Catholic PhD program and now teaches at a Lutheran college and worships with Episcopalians. For those looking for the ecumenical voice (read: objective and unbiased/quite confused) in this year’s competition, he’s your man. Although he does dress in robes from time to time, David brings the unique perspective of a layperson. His book title is long and boring (The Use of Scripture in the Apocryphon of John: A Diachronic Analysis of the Variant Versions) but nearly sold out of its initial print run of 200 copies. You can follow David on Twitter @dyingsparrows and read his oftentimes provocative posts at his blog by the same name. When not teaching and writing, David enjoys owning his three kids Ian, Ela, and Dylan at Sorry.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Megan Castellan

Don’t let looks deceive you. Megan Castellan is a battle-hardened veteran of Celebrity Bloggerdom. Last year she shepherded Brigid of Kildare to the first ever Silver Halo, thus inspiring the popular Lent Madness Brigid pint glass.

Along with her fellow long serving (suffering?) Celebrity Bloggers, David Sibley and Laurie Brock, Megan was recently awarded the title Distinguished Celebrity Blogger. This title, graciously bestowed by the Supreme Executive Committee after they drank way too much coffee, will allow these three dedicated Lenten heroes to write their own ecclesiastical tickets.

castellan.megan_webThe Rev. Megan Castellan, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger, is Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area. Previously, she has lived and worked in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, and that period of time in the West Bank that the government can’t know about. Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt and on Twitter @revlucymeg. (From time to time, you can also catch her writing in various other places, like House of Deputies News, Episcopal Café, or Fidelia’s Sisters, though the snark factor is significantly lower there). In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sports ball teams.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Maria Nolletti Ross

Although not technically a Celebrity Blogger, we are using the term “Celebrity Blogger Week” to highlight all the members of the Lent Madness Team. Maria is our Resident Foodie whose recipes, or Saintly Sprinkles, can be found in the Saintly Scorecard: The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2016.

What’s that you say? You haven’t yet ordered your copy? Act now — they’ve sold out the last couple of years. Don’t be the only Lent Madness fan on your block without one. It will make you feel marginalized. And hopeless.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Beth Lewis

On the second day of Celebrity Blogger Week Lent Madness gave to me…not two turtle doves but a single Lutheran! Beth Lewis is what you might call an overqualified Celebrity Blogger and we’re delighted she agreed to join us for the 2016 Lenten season. Read on!

But first, in case you missed yesterday’s edition of Monday Madness, be sure to tune in as Tim and Scott highlight the start of Celebrity Blogger Week and explain why Westminster Abbey is basically a monument to Lent Madness.

Beth Lewis

Beth Lewis has served as President & CEO of Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, since September 2002. During this time, the company has transitioned into a leader in delivery of digital content for congregations, higher education and families through their Augsburg Fortress, Fortress Press, sparkhouse, and Sparkhouse Family imprints. This call followed 20+ years of work for several Fortune 500 publishing companies and owner of a computer and technology career school. Beth is a popular speaker in ecumenical groups on a wide range of topics; some of the most popular are Gutenberg to Google: Effective Use of Technology for Congregations, Strategic Planning for Faith-Based Organizations, and Congregational Hospitality. Having been raised Lutheran in Lexington, Kentucky, Beth continues to be a dedicated fan of UK Wildcats basketball, so brackets are among her favorite things to follow! She writes the One Mission blog and you may connect with her on Twitter @bethalewis and on Facebook.

1. Since being named a Celebrity Blogger is obviously your greatest lifetime achievement, how will you handle the inevitable post-Lenten letdown?
I’m thinking a nice bottle of red wine will do the trick; perhaps one of my favorites, Druid’s Fluid from Troon Vineyard in Grant’s Pass, Oregon?

2. What is the single strangest thing you’ve learned about one of your assigned saints?
Dominic’s emblem in art is a dog with a torch in its mouth. It is reported that it is a pun on his name because the Dominicans are sometimes called the “Domini canes,” the hounds of the Lord.

3. What is your favorite saint-inspired food and why?unnamed-26
Chewy German pretzels. I assume that one of my favorite saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, having lived most of his life in Germany, must have enjoyed plenty of these! Besides, they are bread-like, so make me think of communion. The best ones have plenty of salt — “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

And, I find this bit of legend/history regarding their Trinitarian form interesting: “Though the exact origins of the pretzel remain mysterious, legend has it that the story began around A.D. 610, when Italian monks presented their young students with treats of baked dough twisted in the shape of crossed arms. At the time, crossing one’s arms was the traditional posture for prayer. As the custom spread through medieval Europe, the pretzel’s three holes came to represent the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and the twisty baked good became associated with good luck, long life and prosperity.”

4. Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to during the season of Lent?
This Lent, it will be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband! Yes, a Lutheran pastor and a Lutheran publisher were married in Lent! Probably slightly scandalous in some circles!

Ye Merry Olde Monday Madness

Purple Union JackThis week, the Supreme Executive Committee brings its missionary endeavours for the cause of Lent Madness to the shores of Merry Olde England. Watch Scott deftly dodge double-decker buses, whilst Tim works wonders under the withering gaze of oil paintings. Hear about the opening day of Celebrity Blogger Week. And learn why Westminster Abbey will be known to the ages for Lent Madness, not just as the wedding chapel for the royal family. Given more time, the SEC contemplates adding a good deal more purple to London.

Make sure you get your Saintly Scorecards and giant bracket posters before they’re out of stock. Supplies are limited for both items! You’re going to want them, because both the scorecards and bracket posters are printed in full colour.

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