Persevere!

Image by Edgar Chaparro (unsplash.com)Photo by Edgar Chaparro

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” ~Multiple sources

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston S. Churchill

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
~Nelson Mandela

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Just a quick post today. I’m at film festival, where my feature film Healing River has been nominated for Best Picture of the Year by ICVM (International Christian Visual Media). My wife Trudy and our terrifying six pound watch-cat are guarding the castle while I’m away. You can read a bit more about the nomination about it by clicking here.

Posted in Culture, Movies, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Are We Happy Yet?

“I can wait until I’m financially able to afford who I really am.” ~Unknown

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ~Frederick Keonig

'Happy woman in the flower field' by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova (unsplash.com)Photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova

Just a quick post today. I’m at film festival, where my feature film Healing River has been nominated for Best Picture of the Year by ICVM (International Christian Visual Media). My wife Trudy and our terrifying six pound watch-cat are guarding the castle while I’m away. You can read a bit more about the nomination about it by clicking here.

Posted in Culture, Humor, Movies, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Finish It!

Father Peter 1

Just a quick post. I’m at film festival this week, where my feature film Healing River has been nominated for Best Picture of the Year by ICVM (International Christian Visual Media). My wife Trudy and our terrifying six pound watch-cat are guarding the castle while I’m away. You can read a bit more about the nomination about it by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from the novel Healing River (due out next year), in which a young, formerly “religious” man, has a life-altering vision on the edge of a cliff.

He’d fallen asleep at the edge of the gorge. Or assumed he had. He found himself in a detached state, staring at a bent-over-head and outstretched hands from which blood was streaming profusely. Just a Sunday School picture, he told himself. And yet he wept, and while he wept, he suddenly realized, he’d been piling boulders onto the shoulders and arms of the figure before him, causing him to sink beneath the increasing weight, further splitting open the gashes in his hands.

Peter gasped and started to drop the heavy stone he was holding, when the figure on the cross looked up, and said, “No. Finish it.” And the look in his eyes wasn’t one of condemnation, but of love.

Then Peter realized that the boulders were made out of every selfish act he’d ever committed, every cutting word he’d ever spoken, every way in which he’d used another person. And not just during his year-and-a-half of unchecked ‘freedom,’ but before that, when he was religious and saw everyone as a feather in his colorful cap of righteousness, and had smiled at how pleased God must be with his presumption, his plans. He’d painted each of his goals with the face of Jesus, and then, when he failed to attain them, mourned God’s death.

Peter released the last boulder, and awakened. It was dusk. He looked into the darkling air where the image of the cross had been, and then leaped to a different kind of death than the one he’d planned. ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, Lord,’ he’d said, ‘I never did. But whatever it is, I’m in.’

When he told Fr. Burting what had happened, the man smiled wistfully and begun counseling Peter as a new believer. ‘Before,’ Burting explained, ‘you wanted to convert the world, but this time you began by converting yourself. That’s a much better place to begin.’

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Movies, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Welcome, Summer Solstice

'Road in Fields' by Maksym DiachenkoImage by Maksym Diachenko

Thought for the Week

Some love summer best of all

Some love it least, it seems

But like all creatures great and small*

God weaves each summer from His dreams

~Mitch Teemley

“Thy eternal summer shall not fade.” ~William Shakespeare

“The days were longer then (for time, like money, is measured by our needs), when summer afternoons were spacious, and the clock ticked slowly in the winter evenings.” ~George Eliot

“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies.” ~Toni Morrison

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” ~James Dent

“Summer has always been good to me, even the bittersweet end, with the slanted yellow light.” ~Paul Monette

 “The endurance of darkness is preparation for the Light.”

~St. John of the Cross

All things bright and beautiful,
*All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

~Cecil Francis Alexander

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On Being a Real-Life Dad

I confess, I’m cheating a little, since I’ve posted this short dad video before, along with some thoughts on my own dad. But, hey, I’m also a dad, and I’m busy being celebrated today. So just a brief meditation here, which (second confession) I actually wrote and scheduled yesterday.

Real-Life Dads are almost by definition imperfect. I know this because my dad was imperfect–and so am I (no, that’s not a third confession; it’s a well-known fact). But most of us Real-Life Dads are really trying (really). And as we we get older and think about how much we love our kids, we begin to realize our dads must have felt the same way about us. So once we forgive them for being imperfect, we start loving them a little more, and might even (whether or not they’re still with us) feel like shouting:

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Until We Are All Free

Quotefancy-4944964-3840x2160

“…until we are all free.” Those words are illustrated every year in the holiday Juneteenth. Which commemorates not the official 1865 proclamation that all American slaves were freed, but the real date two months later when the last slaves in the southwestern U.S. actually got the message. Even then, some slave owners had to be forced to relinquish their “property.”

And the struggle continued–because official and real are not the same thing. Many years later, in the mid-20th century, Langston Hughes wrote, “I swear to the Lord, I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.”

And now? Juneteenth is a holiday in the truest sense of the word, a “holy day,” a day set apart not just to celebrate, but to soberly reflect on our convoluted legacy. As a nation, we should be proud of advancing freedom with our proclamation that all people are created equal; and penitent about the fact that it took us nearly a century to apply it to all. And even now we continue to struggle to live out what it actually means that “No one is free…

“…until we are all free.”

“He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.” ~Harriet Tubman

“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” ~Malcolm X

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” ~Coretta Scott King

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” ~Frederick Douglass

“If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” ~James Baldwin

“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” ~Maya Angelou

“The goal of America is freedom—abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” ~Desmond Tutu

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To the Far Side and Beyond!

Back at the start of 1980, I stumbled across a new one-panel newspaper comic by a guy named Gary Larson, and immediately knew comics would never be the same. The Far Side’s irony and clever reversals redefined funny for generations to come. Without it there would likely be no Bizarro (Dan Piraro) or Speed Bump (Dave Coverly), or many of our favorite films and television shows. So, in honor of Mr. Larson and his progeny, enjoy these reflections on “the far side” of life.

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slide show.

Posted in Humor, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

My Life of Radical Idealism in Spain

Young Spanish Protestors (heraldsun.com.au)

When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.

I was young and in love–with whatever I could find to be in love with. I was lost on purpose, having chosen to run away from answers that were frighteningly large to look for ones that were just my size. True, my lives of happy materialism and decadent sensualism had failed, and yet…

I’d come to Barcelona because I’d met a carefree California beach girl who turned out to be a passionate Spanish revolutionary. And suddenly there I was–searching for the meaning of life again.

After settling into my tiny papier-mâché hotel room, I called Gabriella, and we had lunch at her home. I soon discovered she was an espresso-guzzling communist from a family of intellectuals who’d drunk champagne the night Franco died. They lived in a rambling city-view apartment with woody walls the color of walnuts and olives (you could see the Palau Nacional from there). By comparison, the room I was staying in was so flimsy I kept expecting a hand to reach in and fish around for a prize.

That evening, Gabriella took me down an alleyway past bustling mercados and crumbling cathedrals to a tiny cafetería de comunistas.

There was a sign there that said, “There is no future, there is no past—there is only the present.” And suddenly, I knew it was true…ish. I began to grow excited again. Had I finally found a my-sized passion? There was only the present! I wanted to open my present, to reach inside and fish around for the prize! I wrote in my journal:

“The walls were scaly with sickles and hammers,

and words to Catalan marching songs.

It was like church!

There were holey sweaters and cigarette censers,

and holy manifestos of liberación

that made everyone’s eyes

flash like shorts in a wall socket.

We laughed as we passed around the pourón,

a glass pitcher with a long, holey stem,

from which we extracted holy streams of wine

to pourón our palates.

It like was an anthill of anarchy,

a singing, jolly mess of Marxism!”

Did I have doubts? Of course. But I swept them under that raggedy rug, and sang! Why? Because, as full of holes as their ideals may have been, they fit like a warm, baggy sweater. And because…

Gabriella was just so damned pretty.

fools-odyssey-title-art-2

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God’s Faithfulness

christmas-96My Featured Blogger this week is a first: Mary Sweeney of Unshakeable Hope is the widow of the late Bill Sweeney, a quadriplegic blogger who I’ve featured and written about several times in the past. Bill’s wonderful posts are still there to inspire and encourage you. And if you’re already a follower of Unshakeable Hope, you’re also aware of Mary Sweeney’s constant presence and support. But now, like a spiritual Marie Curie, it seems, Mary is continuing the work she was already, in fact (albeit less visibly) doing with her husband. Like Bill, Mary embodies overcoming faith and compels us to join her on the greatest journey a human being can take!

Unshakable Hope

A month before Bill went to heaven, he sent me an email. The top line read:

“If I go home:

Don’t think for a minute that God failed us! You know how faithful God has been.”

He continued with a list of things that I needed to take care of (his book, his funeral, etc.), but all I could see and hear were his words above.   These words have replayed over and over in my mind since running across this email.  God knew I needed to read these words as I navigated through the grieving process.  He knew I would question His sovereignty and that I needed to remember His faithfulness throughout the past 24 years.  He made provision in all areas of our life as we walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Bill WAS a miracle! The doctors gave him a 3-5-year death sentence, but God added…

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Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

I Turned Out Like You After All, Dad

Suggestion: Read post below before watching video!

My Real Memoir

Even when he wasn’t there, Dad was there. He was an invisible presence, like gravity, that kept us from flying off into space. Mom celebrated me just as I was. But Dad was passionate about making me what I could be. Sometimes that passion made his love, unlike Mom’s, seem conditional. But wasn’t, it was just his dogged, if imperfect, commitment to seeing me succeed in life.

WWII was over before he got there, but Dad was proud of his Marine Corps training, nevertheless. And so, for while, he tried the boot camp approach: He insisted I make my bed so drumhead-smooth he could “bounce a quarter off it!” (Mom fixed it when he wasn’t looking.) He wanted me to wake up with the sun, so he sang reveille in my ear at 6 a.m., and when I didn’t respond he splashed a glass of water in my face, and shouted with a grin, “Up and at ‘em!” (Mom let me go back to sleep after he left for work.)

Dad was about commitment. To Mom. To me. To us.

Honestly? I was in awe of him, and occasionally a little afraid (he had a temper). But he also made me laugh. A lot. And he showed me how to do things. A lot. Sometimes perfectly and sometimes not so much, like when the boomerang he demonstrated “how to throw” never came back. But even that was a lesson, he said, in never giving up, in trying until you got things right!

Our first little home had a tiny “grove” of baby orange trees. It was doubtful they’d survive the winter, but Dad was committed! So he fertilized them, staked them to make them grow straight, and threw lots of water at them (“Up and at ‘em!”).

I decided to reward him for his efforts by gathering up all the “ripe” oranges that had fallen to the ground (they were rotting, but what did I know?), and proudly presenting them to Dad for Father’s Day!

Long after he’d passed away, I made a short Father’s Day video about the incident for my church, only I changed it from orange to apple trees (since oranges don’t grow in Cincinnati). I suppose it was my belated way of saying, “Guess what, Dad? I turned out like you after all…”

And I’m glad I did.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Videos | Tagged , , , , , | 43 Comments