A Life-Changer

Three years ago this month, we began production on Over-the-Rhine, my first feature film as a writer-director-producer. I’d made many short films over the years, but this was the first time anyone had ever put up the funding necessary for a feature.

Over-the-Rhine has since won over twenty film awards and nominations, and is slated for release later this year. I’m currently working on a novelization, to be published (I hope) at the same time.

Whatever the final outcome, telling a story I believe in so passionately has been a life-changer for me. What’s your life-changer?

Some stills from the making of Over-the-Rhine:

Posted in Memoir, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Happiness Report

Presentation1My Featured Blogger this week is David Redpath of Highway Bloggery. I can’t find an “About” page anywhere (I suspect he prefers to remain a bit mysterious). But what I can gather about him is this: David is an Australian (I think) stream-of-consciousness poet, photographer, artist, traveler, and seeker of truth. There’s a compelling spirit of longing and compassion beneath his acerbic words. “When will the world be set right?” is the question that always seems to loom beneath the surface, and sometimes emerges into full light:

‘God will restore the whole earth
and give it to his messy carbon
based children as an inheritance.’

…he concludes in a more hopeful moment.

Amen, David, amen!

David Redpath

The Happiness Report
from the pagan haven
of a guarded and gated
sunny seaside resort
Machine tooled
from a block of concrete
Then deposited
upon a mangrove swamp
along a once pristine coast
Now a checkpoint
and a guard tower
cast shadows
across the lungs of nature
dying of tourist cancer

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Boy, If I Had a Nickel…

Boy, if I had a nickel…

for every time I had a nickel.

~Me

nickel-1946-s-o

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’”
~Kurt Vonnegut

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
~Mercedes Lackey

“My dad used to say that living with regrets was like driving a car that only moved in reverse.”
~Jodi Picoult

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My Computer Crashed!

toon-1073Well, OK, it didn’t exactly “crash.” I mean, there was no hole in the wall. There were no other bleeding computer owners standing around threatening to sue my pants off. It was a few years back (I’m so much wiser now): I’d somehow managed to rather uncleverly (OK, stupidly) delete a massive number of important files in one swell foop!

I took it to an IT expert who was pretty sure he could recover the lost files. He couldn’t. Because they weren’t there anymore, not even in the dark abyss of hard drive Hades. Apparently, while I was googling to see what to do about the lost files my hard drive was happily writing over what was left of them!

I spent three days in cyber purgatory. Three days without a computer. Can you feel my pain? Yes, I have a phone, and, no, it’s not the same thing, you little millennial twits! For one thing, I could never use my phone to post a yummy rant like this one. What, you could have? Oh, shut up, Phone MacGyver!

My wife had no sympathy. While I might have been online networking with “all my little blogger pals” (no, she didn’t say that, but she thought it), I was forced to go for a walk with her. She always walks. She uses those analog things, those, you know, leg things. And breathes in the fresh spring air. And watches the sun turn rosy-gold against a deepening blue sky, as warm, inviting lights click on in houses…with working computers!

Seriously, I did miss my little blogger pals. But in another way I was sort of glad it happened. It was like when someone’s house burns down and they stand watching from their neighbor’s yard, shivering and full of irrational joy.

Why? Because what really matters is that the people they love made it out, even if the furniture and clothes–and computers–didn’t. All of a sudden, in the most visceral of ways, they’re reminded how much they treasure one another. It’s not like they didn’t already know that. It’s just that they’d started taking it for granted. Because they’re human, and that’s what humans do: take each other for granted. And forget what really matters.

In the end, what do I really need but love?

Well, a working computer would be nice.

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Eternity

Presentation1

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Abortion and Rape

I found this story in my newsfeed and was intrigued by the implications: What if pregnancy is not insult added to injury in the case of rape, but a “gift” (to be kept or lovingly given to someone else). The Bible doesn’t label all things good–far from it–but it does say that God can “work all things together for good” (Romans 8:28), even in the midst of evil. Can of worms? Needed discussion? Or both? Your thoughts? This story is condensed. (To read the full version, click here).

“This Baby Is Gift from God” Declares a 14-year-old Girl Raped in Her Parents’ Basement


P.J grew up in a military family and with very protective parents who weren’t typically the kind to let their kids hang out with just anybody. However, on one occasion the teen’s friends invited P.J to hang out with a boy from the military who was home for Christmas leave and her parents were comfortable with that.

P.J.’s friends got together in her parents’ basement, and P.J. was then raped right in front of several over people who all remained silent about what actually happened.

The truth about what had happened in the family’s basement came out five months later after P.J. found out that she was pregnant. P.J.s parents were horrified and felt a sense of guilt and shame about the whole situation, and P.J.s mom, Angela, admittedly considered taking their daughter to get an abortion:

“I really thought I would take her to terminate the pregnancy,” Angela explains. “I was pro-life but with exceptions. I didn’t want to do that, but I was always told it was the thing to do in the case of forcible rape. My husband, however, said he couldn’t have anything to do with the death of a child. That it was still a human life. Everywhere we went, friends and religious people were very adamant that we should terminate.”

Angela struggled continuously with what happened and was completely and utterly at a loss of how to best care for her daughter. Many close friends and family members were encouraging her to help P.J. terminate the pregnancy, but her husband, Doug, was encouraging the opposite. Angela was reminded of her own experience with abortion.

“In college, I got pregnant and I went to a health clinic. I was 24 weeks, and I had an abortion. My mother forced me to because she didn’t want to be embarrassed by my poor choices. We never spoke about it again. I have never gotten over it.”

Not wanting to repeat past mistakes and [force] P.J. to suffer with [the] regret that she was forced to experience every day of her life, Angela came to the realization that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. A friend called Angela and referred her to Trisha, who runs a Birthright [counseling center]. She begged her to take P.J. there before they made any decisions:

“Trisha was the first person to say it was going to be okay. She was the first person who actually encouraged us to keep [the baby]. As a woman, even if you’re pro-life, you’re told there’s nothing worse you can do to a rape victim [than tell her to keep her baby]. I’ve been told by everyone, especially the media, that abortion is what you do. Trish gave us Rebecca Kiessling’s pamphlet. We prayed about it and it was the best thing we had ever done. After we left Birthright, P.J. cried—not because she was upset—but she said she felt relieved and like we were in a safe place. She said she knew Miss Trisha had her best interest at heart. When we heard [the baby’s] heartbeat, it was over for me. This child will be a gift from God. P.J. spent a lot of quiet time reflecting. She had a wisdom I didn’t have. Her strength and wisdom is what got us through.”

It wasn’t P.J.’s choice to be attacked, but it was her choice to keep the baby. P.J.’s family decided to throw a baby shower and then she prepared for James to make his grand entrance into the world. While the circumstance was horrid, the life of this beautiful baby was well worth celebrating!

“The minute we laid eyes on this child, we didn’t once equate him to the rapist. He’s just as much a victim. He has healed our family in ways we can’t explain. He is the most amazing gift from God. I don’t even know how to put it in words.”

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Story Power | Tagged , , , , | 57 Comments

Profanity 101

verbal-abuse-final-1

No, I’m not going to teach you how to cuss. My guess is you already know how. When I was in my early 20s, I was proud of my liberal use of profanity. It was what set me apart from the uptight older generation (i.e. my parents). They needed to “get over it.” Words were just words.

Or were they?

For good or for bad, profanity has reached a new level of cultural acceptance. The movie Midnight Cowboy received an X-rating when it was released a few decades ago, not because of graphic sex or violence, but because it used the f-word–once. Today, it regularly airs on television—with no restrictions.

What is profanity. And why does it matter? Broadly, it can be broken into two categories:

  1. Cursing (cussing, swearing), in the traditional sense, is to invoke a curse on someone, usually in the name of a deity: “G-d damn you!” In its clearest form, it is judging another, putting oneself in God’s place. In its most casual form it is referencing God in order to spice up dialogue: “Jesus, that’s the coolest g-d damn car I ever saw!” Why should that be offensive? In a word: respect. Using God’s name “in vain” (casually or without respect) is forbidden in the Old Testament because it demeans the Author of life.
  2. Crude Language is not cursing, but rather the evocation of unpleasant or private images. We don’t relieve ourselves or have sex in public, so neither should we evoke verbal images of those things in public, because language is illustrative–we see the things people talk about. There are shades of grey here, of course. “Crap” is somehow less crude than its cousin “s—t.” We look to “spice up” our language with crudities, and sometimes it’s acceptable. Sometimes. But other times its overkill, like pouring so much Tabasco sauce on your food that it’s all you can taste.

The glue of civilization is civility, respect for others. But civility is quickly losing its value. And this is across the boards. Yes, liberal youth display increasing disrespect for others’ sensibilities, insisting that f–k is just a word, for example (disregarding the fact that for many it evokes the image of a loveless, self-gratifying sex act). Conservative elders, on the other hand, elected the most foul-mouthed president in American history in 2017. People from all ends of the social spectrum are participating in the growth of a profane culture, a culture pierced with the fault lines of disrespect.

It’s time for of us to rethink not just the words we use, but the attitudes that underpin them. If it’s only you who need to “get over it” when I offend you, not me, then we are one step closer to the devaluation of life, to kill or be killed.

There is a counterpoint, however: it’s called grace.

I was serving at a church in California some years back, when a huge construction worker came in, his hands shaking with emotion. “Do you have God here?” he asked.

“Um, yes.”

“Good. I gotta talk to Him. Right f-ing now!” He proceeded to tell me that he’d been running from God “for a long, long f-ing time,” until an hour ago when he’d fallen from the top of a five storey building–and sprained his finger. He held up the digit and said in a trembling rumble, “No more running, man.”

I told him how much “the God of second chances” loved him, and he nodded as tears streamed from his eyes. Then he prayed for the first time in his adult life, inviting God to come and live in his heart. It was the most profanity-laced, and also the most beautiful, prayer I’ve ever heard.

Respect and grace.

No other combination can heal our shattered world.

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments
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