How To Drive a Writer Crazy

9903ec74b4bfcd4abcc9d2f921741f38.jpegMy Featured Blogger this week is Ann Aschauer of Seeking Divine Perspective. With her writing, songwriting, and theatre background, I relate to Ann on many levels. But most of all I relate to her heart–one that can never get enough of God, or of making him known to others.

Ann’s current post speaks of the hunger every writer has to be truly heard. Insecure? Sure, we’re human beings. But driven, too, because we tell tales that need telling, and therefore need to be heard.

Listen!

Seeking Divine Perspective

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also                                     to the interests of others.                                                                                                                                                                                   Philippians 2:4

Recently Marty and I finally saw “Yesterday,” the movie about a singer/songwriter who is one of the only three people left on the…

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Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Is “Smart” Marketing So Dumb?

I’m not impressed with “smart” marketing. I’ve received smart (targeted) ads for:

  • Lacrosse equipment (a sport for I have no interest in)—because I bought Lacrosse gear for a nephew who was into it for three months when he was 14 (he’s now 22).
  • Girl Scout activities in Burlington, Vermont—because a person I don’t know, who leads a Vermont Girl Scout troupe, once connected with me on LinkedIn.
  • Invitations to friend Brazilian nuns (on Facebook) who speak only Portuguese—because I have English-only speaking church friends in the U.S.A.

I once read an article about doomsday preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the Apocalypse in 2011 (Update: it still didn’t happen), and for a year after that I received offers to buy camping gear.

Ah, but smart marketing is more sophisticated now. Right?

Here’s my latest:

I live in Cincinnati, a 45-minute drive from Dayton, Ohio, so when I’m planning to fly somewhere I often check to see if airfares are cheaper from there. Result? I now get updates…every…single…day…on “specials” from Cincinnati to Dayton. Flying from Cincinnati to Dayton (factoring in drive time to the Cincinnati airport, which is roughly the same distance away as Dayton, check-in, flight, deboarding, and car rental): 2 ½ hours.

Ah, but what about the cost? After all, that 45-minute drive to Dayton and back eats up $8.00 worth of gas money! Trip Advisor, on the other hand (the ones sending me the “smart” ads), can fly me there and back for as little as $500!

Wait a minute…

Are there really $500 (sale-priced) flights from Cincinnati to Dayton? Apparently there are. More to the point: Are there actually people stupid enough to purchase those flights?

Here’s what I’ve figured out: Computers aren’t dumb, people are. On the other hand, there’s a silver lining: As long as computers are programmed by people we’ll never have to worry about a Terminator-style apocalypse. Instead, the robots will show up in 2011 (finally proving Harold right!), buy camping gear, and book $500 flights to Dayton to watch Brazilian nuns play Lacrosse with Girl Scouts from Vermont!

P.S. If you’re seeing this post, it’s because you were strategically targeted due your interest in “fluff pieces” (down pillows on sale today only!) written “by Mitch Teemley.”

Posted in Humor, Mitchellaneous, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

My Scar Stories

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The Final Scar?

To read my previous scar stories, click here.

My two greatest hits are on my neck. Oddly, both remind me of God. I wrote previously about one. The other began with a woman doing her lipstick in her rear view mirror as her car sailed blithely into the back of my sardine tin Samurai.

Several bulging neck discs made their debut that day. The pain level was bearable. However, if more trauma were to occur, I was told, I could end up paralyzed. Not acceptable. So a discectomy was scheduled.

The day before surgery, I was laid on a tiltable table and my spine was injected with glow-in-the-dark goo in order to create a scenic map of My Spine, USA. I was fine with that. Of course, I was on Valium, so I’d have been fine with them cutting my toes off and selling them to gypsies. The technician warned, “Don’t bend over, if this stuff gets to your brain it’ll give you a horrible headache.” Then he proceeded to tilt me over for 20 minutes.

When the Valium wore off, my brain exploded. After eight hours of sleepless pain, I desperately longed for anesthesia. “How are we doing?” the Doctor asked. “I don’t know about you,” I replied, “but I need to be unconscious. Now!”

When I came to, I discovered a jagged set of railroad tracks below my Adam’s apple, covered over by a plastic replica of Hoover Dam. I had to wear the dam for two months. Every now and then—roughly every 5 minutes—I’d think, “If I don’t rip this thing off I’m going to go howling mad.”

The neck pain subsided, but my head continued to throb, despite the fact that I was on enough oxycodone to set up my own dealership.

It turned out my migraine had nothing to do with the surgery; it was from the accursed spinal scan, and no amount of drugs could fix it. It lived in my head 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I was conscious, which I generally was since I rarely slept, it was there. It made me so sensitive to light that when I went outside to get the mail I had to wear sunglasses and a hoodie draw-strung to a peephole.

The opiate-induced euphoria was like watching an android cheerleader shout, “Go, team!” while the team was being slaughtered on the field. I wanted to feel something not induced by chemicals. I loved my family, but they were outside. I was alone inside the dam with the non-stop pounding of my brain.

Then, one night, a month into my isolation, I watched the two-part miniseries Abraham with my family. In the movie, Abraham is approached by a mysterious king named Melchizedek. Seeing Abraham’s longing for God, Melchizedek observes, “Nothing else matters, does it?” Abraham bursts into tears, and replies, “No! Nothing!”

In that instant, I remembered that I was not alone, that God was with me–always. I kissed my wife and pulled my kids close, and suddenly they were there inside the barrier with me.

Month two was inexplicably tolerable. By month three, the dam and the headache from hell were gone. But the scar remains, like an Abrahamic altar made of stones. It’s my constant reminder that God is faithful,

And nothing else matters. 

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Make Me an Instrument

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” ~Matthew 5:9

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Joy and Nausea

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God works in mysterious—and sometimes icky—ways.

Some years back I was booked as a guest speaker for a “Halloween Alternative” celebration on San Juan island, the largest of Washington state’s 400 isle San Juan group. Co-sponsored by churches on several of the bigger islands, it promised to be the youth event of the week.

I flew into Seattle, picked up a rental car and headed north. A two-and-a-half hour drive and a one-hour ferry ride later, I arrived feeling as brisk as the October breeze!

As the opening band finished their sound check, youth pastor Dave arrive with our dinner: greasy fries and big, drippy cheeseburgers! Shortly thereafter, for some mysterious reason, I felt a mite queasy. So I lay down on a cot backstage.

By the time Dave roused me the auditorium was packed! And so was my abdominal tract. I was green in the face and roiling like a tsunami. Still, the show—and the message—must go on.

The band finished. The costumed crowd cheered. I’d been asked to “be funny” before segueing into the serious closing. So I told my Fat Cat and Toby the Turtle stories, while silently praying, Please, God, I don’t think You brought me here to hurl regurgitated French fries at teenage zombies and princesses!

They laughed, never dreaming I was fighting back a rising tide of grease and bile. As I moved into the message, and a heartfelt invitation to commit or recommit their lives to serving God and others, my nausea reached its peak. Lord, I don’t care what happens to me, just don’t let me spew while talking about You!

Suddenly, a wave of warmth came over me—the nausea was gone! I invited everyone to join me in a love song to our Savior. As I strummed the guitar Dave had loaned me, grateful for the relief and for the hundred or so teenagers who’d come forward with joyful faces, that warmth began to make its way down my legs.

It was one of the weirder things I’ve done, leading kids in singing while warm brown liquid oozed down the back of my pants and pooled in my shoes. As the song ended, I backed offstage, smiling innocently.

Fortunately, the backstage bathroom had a shower. Church leaders were still praying with kids when I returned and joined them—wearing a fresh set of clothes.

We sometimes learn later why things happened the way they did. Other times we don’t. This was one of those other times. Someday I’ll know. In the meantime, I smile, taking the bile with the sweet, and remember those teenagers’ faces.

“In this world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Quirky Critters

This is my atonement for last-week’s shiver-inducing montage of Monsters in Our Midst, real creatures that are particularly scary-looking, although many are, in fact, quite harmless (tadpole, anyone?). I now offer this companion gallery of real creatures that–while unabashedly quirky–are mostly harmless and sometimes beautiful, cute, or at least adorably ugly (the Proboscis Monkey has a face only Jimmy Durante could love).  Remember, beauty is only skin–or fur, or feathers, or slime–deep.

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

 

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Posted in Culture, Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Success!

thOUQHD74RI’d just graduated from college and, being pragmatic, understood that becoming a Nobel Prize-winning author, legendary rock star, and Oscar-winning actor might take a few years, so I acquired a day job installing electronic security devices in retail stores. But I had almost no idea what I was doing, so in a way I’d already accomplished one of my goals: I was making a living as an actor.

It was a slo-mo summer day at a women’s boutique in Santa Monica, California, and the 60-something manager had nothing better to do than chat me up while I stripped wires and prayed nothing would catch fire. Mid-chat, however, she spotted a man on the Promenade and said, “I know him!” She hurried out the door.

Half an hour later she rushed back in, bursting to tell me about her encounter. She did know him: “We went to high school together, but I haven’t seen him in almost 50 years! I teased him, ‘How can you just sit around? Are you independently wealthy or something?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And he wasn’t joking! So, I said, ‘Really? How?’ And he said, ‘I invented the parking meter.’”

Whoa! Now she had my attention. It turns out…

The summer after Smart Guy and his buddy graduated from high school, they were “looking around” when they noticed a parking cop ticketing a car. Minutes later they spotted a wind-up alarm clock in a five-and-dime window. “Hey!” they said in unison, “what if we put one of those in front of every parking space?” So they pooled their resources and bought the alarm clock, then took it home, tore it apart, and figured out how to set it off with a coin drop. By the time they were in their 20s, their patented meter had made them both independently wealthy.

It took me a long time to process the information, but I slowly began to understand that success is not a matter of “designing our fate,” as if we lived in a one-person vacuum. Nor is it a matter of passively “waiting for luck;” the only thing I ever caught while napping was flies. It’s a matter of “looking around,” of being ready to use what we’re given. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, some are intrepeneurs, making small but significant in-house improvements–like the matchbox factory worker who figured out how to save his company thousands of dollars a year, by putting the striker on only one side of the box instead of two (true story).

But the greatest successes are human ones. Mother Teresa saved thousands of lives by figuring out how to feed India’s untouchables. Ancient Israel’s King Hezekiah “accidentally” rediscovered the teachings of Moses, and by reinstating them saved his nation from political and moral collapse. His secret to success? “In everything he undertook,” 1 Chronicles 31:20-21 tells us, “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

Look around.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments