Back to Lent Month!

backtolentAs school children throughout the land reluctantly turn their faces toward the classroom, we're celebrating Back to Lent Month here at Lent Madness headquarters. Specifically, now that the kids are back in school, we're offering opportunities for some Back to Lent reading.

You may not know this but a number of our Celebrity Bloggers are also famous authors in their own right. Granted, they owe it all to Lent Madness (even for the books they published before Lent Madness was a gleam in Jesus' eye). In fact, two of our current Celebrity Bloggers and one former CB, had new books published this very summer!

Throughout this month, we'll highlight the authors of these new books and encourage you to spend your hard-earned disposable income on them. After all, for what we pay these talented celebrities (global adulation?), they could use the added encouragement.

9781426741371Our Bracket Czar, the Rev. Adam Thomas, published his second book this summer. Letters From Ruby is a work of fiction described thusly:

When the newly ordained Episcopal priest Rev. Calvin Harper arrives in Victory, West Virginia, to be the pastor at an ailing parish, he has no idea how much he still has to learn about being a priest. Thankfully, Ruby Redding takes the young man under her wing and teaches him everything she has learned throughout her long, storied life. Seminary never taught Calvin that the only true way to be a witness to God’s presence in this world is to remain in relationships with people no matter what life throws at them. His studies never taught him that detachment is the bane of ministry. He never learned that deep grief comes only from deep love. But in his first year in Victory, Calvin learns all this and more from Ruby, a woman so full of God’s light that it can’t help but spill onto the people around her.

Adam's first book, Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World, was published in 2011 and remains a popular title for those seeking to connect faith and technology.

New Celebrity Blogger, the Rev. Amber Belldene, also released a book this summer. Blood Entangled is the second book in her imagesBlood Vine vampire romance series following the initial publication of Blood Vine. Intrigued? Here's what you'll find in Blood Entangled:

Kos Maras’s orderly life is in shambles—he must distribute Blood Vine to a population of ailing vampires, but Hunters block him at every turn. To make matters worse, each night he watches over a temptingly beautiful woman sleeping in his bed. He is convinced love cannot last a vampire-long lifetime and an entanglement will only cause them grief, but he doesn’t have the heart to send her away. From a long line of blood servants, Lena Isaakson is destined to serve a vampire, but a string of humiliating rejections thwarts her pleasure. When Kos shows her kindness, she hopes he will claim her. Instead he proves himself a coward in the face of love and sends her to serve another. Will the dark seduction of a rakish new vampire finally bring Lena the pleasure she desires or deliver her into the hands of Hunters who want to destroy everything the Maras family has worked for?

imagesAs long as we're on the topic of newly released books, former Celebrity Blogger and friend of Lent Madness, Meredith Gould, is enjoying the success of The Social Media Gospel. Here's a blurb from the Foreword:

In many ways, the church is blazing new paths with social media. Now is the time to do a new thing, to proclaim God's word in new and exciting ways. It is good to read about social media; it is good to think about how you re going to move forward. Sooner or later the time will come when you just have to take the plunge. The Social Media Gospel will help you!

Of course, Celebrity Bloggers have written books that never go out of style. Last year the Rev. Laurie Brock, released a book Where-God-Hides-Holinessco-authored with the Rev. Mary Koppel titled Where God Hides Holiness: Thoughts on Grief, Joy and the Search for Fabulous Heels. Here's the deal on this terrific read:

This new book shares the joy, humor, surprises, grief, and messiness when God invites us to strip away the personas of “perfect priest” or “perfect Christian” and rediscover what is sacred and genuine about ourselves and our faith. Priests and writers Brock and Koppel relate common and unique experiences here, as we join them on a sometimes startling journey of faith. Laced with wit, revelation, and self-discovery, the new book is organized in three parts:  Life—the dirtiness of failure, frustration, and struggle when what seemed fine falls apart; Death—the frailty behind our personas; and Resurrection—new life with lessons learned.

Hungry_and_you_fed_meThe Rev. Penny Nash has recently contributed to two compilations, Hungry, And You Fed Me (forward by Meredith Gould!) and  Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self. The first is a series of sermons by a group called Homilists for the homeless; the second shares reflections from a diverse group of folks looking back on a significant event in their lives and offering advice to their younger selves. Look for more information on both of these books later this month.

god_s_shoes_coverMembers of the Supreme Executive Committee also write books occasionally (not just pamphlets). The Rev. Tim Schenck wrote What Size Are God's Shoes: Kids, Chaos, and the Spiritual Life in 2008.

Do you believe God can be found in both the miraculous and the mundane? Through 40 insightful and engaging essays, Tim Schenck helps us encounter God through the chaos of everyday life. The divine presence weaves its way into a family room fish tank, a child's probing questions, the town pool, and the drive-thru window of the local fast food chain.

This fall, Forward Movement is publishing an Advent/Christmas mini-book by Tim titled Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos. Besides making a great gift (and being illustrated by popular priest/cartoonist Jay Sidebottham), it has reflection questions following each essay, making it perfect for your parish's Advent series.

We hope you'll enjoy the wonderful intellectual richness of Back to Lent Month. We'll be highlighting the newly released books in the days ahead. In the meantime, don't forget to get yourself a new Trapper Keeper -- while supplies last.

PS. Don't miss the Archbishops' take on what's coming up for Lent Madness 2014!

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Bracketology 101
The Rev. Licia Affer at All Saints' in Phoenix, AZ

The Rev. Licia Affer at All Saints' in Phoenix, AZ

As we discovered last year, many congregations successfully used Lent Madness as a parish-wide devotion. It's actually a terrific way to make for a livelier coffee hour as parishioners engage in heated debates and engage in fisticuffs over their saintly picks. Plus it gets people to focus on something other than the rector's not-so-hot sermon.

We get a lot of questions about the best way to turn up the competitive spirit by engaging in a little saintly combat. Unlike the ubiquitous March Madness office pool (evidently there's some other bracket-driven tournament out there), Lent Madness bracketology leaves people inspired and better prepared for Easter.

Here's a step-by-step guide to drawing your congregation into Lent Madness fever. But first, don't forget to order the poster-sized Lent Madness bracket to post in your parish hall and encourage people to download the Calendar of Saints e-book ("Ultra-Revised Edition!") that includes all of the 2013 Lent Madness saints along with many others. (NOTE: This book should be available by the end of January. Watch this website for details.)

1. Pick up a blank 2013 bracket from the parish office (or print it off the Lent Madness website).

2. Fill it out with your picks (be sure to put your name on top!) and submit it either to the parish office or the official parish Lent Madness Coordinator.

3. Encourage an optional donation per bracket filled out with the money going to a particular charity supported by the parish (Episcopal Relief & Development is always a terrific choice).

4. Use a simple point system to decide the winner. Last year the Rev. Chris Arnold has devised a scoring system that I'll have to put in his own words because I did C of S 2013 coverhorribly in high school algebra: "There are many different ways of scoring brackets. To strike a balance between correctly picking early rounds and correctly guessing the winner, we’ll award 2 points for first round picks, 3 for second round picks, then 5, 8, and 13. This gives a total of 105 possible points, and the possible points from each round are 32, 24, 20, 16, and 13." According to Chris, this worked beautifully.

5. Unless you have a CPA in your parish (or Jimmy Carter) to total things up, your Lent Madness Coordinator can do this and declare a winner after the Golden Halo is awarded.

6. To further entice participation, you may want to offer a prize to the winner. It could be a devotional book published by Forward Movement (to placate Scott) or the winner could determine which charity gets the bracket donations. Or he/she could be allowed to preach on Easter Sunday.

7. You might like to have a large bracket in your parish hall or narthex, or perhaps attached to the altar frontal. If you are blessed with graphic artists or stone masons, you could create/carve your own large bracket. Or you can order the official, poster-sized bracket from Forward Movement for just $10, two for $18.

It's that easy! And, as always, let us know if you have another system you'd like to share or give us feedback on how this has worked/is working at your congregation.

(Remember: order your own bracket poster! All the cool kids have them pinned up at home. And another at church. Maybe yet another for the office or the car.)

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Monday Madness -- Lent Madness Action Online and at Home

Tim and Scott talk about Lent Madness action in the week to come -- and the week that is past. What happens when Lent Madness comes home? And what are the consequences of cheating in Lent Madness? Find out in this week's fun-filled broadcast.

Enjoy more videos on the Lent Madness video channel.

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Look Who's Talking #2 (Blogs, etc)

The Rev. Anne Emry, Curate at St. John's in Hingham, MA

With just five days until the start of Lent Madness 2012, it's time to highlight some recent bloggers and parishes who have jumped on the Lent Madness band wagon. We did this a few days ago which you can read here but since this is all snowballing or hitting a crescendo (depending on which analogy you prefer), we thought it was time to acknowledge some others with Lent Madness fever.

This is by no means a complete list. Some of us have day jobs after all. But if you don't see your own group, by all means send me a link at and I'll see what I can do to place your lamp on the proverbial lampstand. As we move forward, pictures and anecdotes are encouraged. You send 'em, we'll post 'em. Unless we get really busy because, you know, it's Lent.

Here we go:


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A Better Bracket!

No, we haven't added your favorite saint that didn't make it into Lent Madness 2012. But thanks to "celebrity blogger" Adam Thomas we now have a much more attractive printable bracket. The youngest (hippest?) member of the Lent Madness team saw a need (my ugly, plain-looking  bracket) and upped the ante with some color and fancy graphics (you can obviously still print it in black and white).


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Look Who's Talking (blog edition)

Yes, friends, the Lent Madness Buzz is building all over the world. People everywhere are filling out their brackets and ironing their hair shirts as they breathlessly await the coming of "Ash Thursday" on February 23rd.

Today, we wanted to highlight a few blogs that have posted about Lent Madness. We commend them for their highly poignant commentary and brilliant selection of topic (or, as sometimes happens among bloggers, they couldn't think of anything else to write about). If you know of other blogs that have mentioned Lent Madness, let us know. And if you yourself are a blogger (and like to say really awesome things about Lent Madness) we encourage you to post and let us know about it in order to greatly increase your blog traffic, get picked up by a syndicate, make piles of cash, and retire early.

Here are some sample from the blogosphere:


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Has Forward Movement Gone Mad?

If you're not familiar with the The Episcopal Church Foundation's  Vital Practices site, you should be. Today they posted an article about Lent Madness written by our own Scott Gunn. Scott's feeling very proud of himself for writing about Lent Madness and not giving me (Tim) a single mention. Besides the fact that he's now dead to me, it was an excellent piece about Forward Movement's motivation for getting involved with Lent Madness.

Has Forward Movement Gone Mad for Lent Madness?

By the Rev. Scott Gunn

For decades, Forward Movement has been most widely known for its flagship publication, Forward Day by Day. Hundreds of thousands of readers around the world find inspiration in the quarterly printed booklet. In the US, many Episcopalians learned about Forward Movement in their narthex. Lots of pamphlets sit in racks, waiting to be read.


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Lent Madness Pyramid Scheme

Pyramids are an important part of the salvation story of Scripture. After all, if it wasn't for the cruel treatment at the hand of the Egyptian slave drivers forcing them to build pyramids for the pharaoh, the Israelites might never have risen up to cross the Red Sea. You could argue that Pharaoh's enslavement of Moses' people was the original "pyramid scheme."

As we await the start of Lent Madness with building anticipation, we're aware of at least one parish that is structuring their participation as a Bernie Madoff-like pyramid scheme. The Rev. Chris Arnold, Priest-in-Charge at St. Mary's in Middlesboro, Kentucky, is hoping the entire congregation plays along this Lent.


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Real Christians "Like" Lent Madness

We’re pleased to see that we’re on our way to 500 “likes” on the Lent Madness Facebook fan page. But we need your help to reach our goal of 1,000 likes before the madness begins on February 23rd (“Ash Thursday”).

Here are some helpful status updates for Facebook you can use to help spread the Lent Madness gospel. Simply cut and paste and be sure to include a link to the page:

If you “love” God, the least you can do is “like” Lent Madness.

Jesus loves me this I know. But he loves me more knowing that I “liked” Lent Madness.

“Like” Lent Madness and you will become richer than Joel Osteen.

All saints “like” Lent Madness and I mean to be one too.

And verily Jesus said unto them, I “like” Lent Madness. Go and do “likewise.”

If you enjoy fasting, self-flagellation, and hair shirts you’re really going to “like” Lent Madness.

What’s not to “like” about saints re-martyring one another in Lent Madness?

If you’re evangelizing your Twitter followers, be sure to include the hashtag #LentMadness. Here’s an example:

Me? Give up chocolate for Lent? That’s #LentMadness!

Thank you friends. We’re well on our way to making this year’s Lent Madness bigger than the Beatles.


Tim and Scott

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Building the buzz!

A photo of Lent Madness buzz

All of the internet is talking about Lent Madness. Or so it seems. Check out the Episcopal Cafe, The Infusion, Laughing Water, Way will come clear, and of course Seven whole days. We made the Episcopal News Service blog, and now we're helping the Anglican Communion lighten up! Even the ordinarily straight-laced Textweek is listing Lent Madness as a Lent resource! And don't forget our shiny new Facebook page. You should go like us right now!

Tell your neighbors and friends to catch the Lent Madness wave. If you have a blog or a website, why not add a widget to send people to Lent Madness? Show them orthodoxy can be fun! Or that fun can be orthodox.

Next week, look for more action-packed  pre-Lent pre-Madness fantasticness.

(Geeky stuff to make Technorati happy: MW827V6YXGK9. Never mind.)

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