My Feature Film Has Been Nominated for a Major Award!

Healing River, a movie I wrote and directed, has been nominated for the ICVM Crown Award for Best Picture! Now in their 46th year, the ICVM presentation (International Christian Visual Media) is the world’s longest-running and most influential awards ceremony for faith-based films.

I was surprised (but delighted) when I heard the news. Healing River previously received over twenty film festival honors, and was the top-rated inspirational film on Amazon Prime in 2020 (and still is). But because of the pandemic the Crown Awards were postponed to this year.

Thanks again to all who’ve watched our film, written reviews, and told others about this heartfelt story of the healing power of forgiveness! Healing River can be watched at multiple sites online, and is also available from most video retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime, if you’re a member (or for a small fee if you’re not).

To watch Healing River or to read the reviews, click here!

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Religion/Faith, Videos | Tagged , , , , | 93 Comments

50 Wildly Imaginative Sculptures

It’s no secret that I like art. But what I particularly love are works of unexpected creativity and imagination, which, it must be admitted, are sometimes the creations of slightly crazy people, or at least those who are willing to break “the rules” (see quotes by Lady Gaga and others below). These sculptures, many made out of non-“art” materials, run the gamut from the sublimely subtle to the supremely absurd. Enjoy!

Click on any image to enlarge it, to read caption, or to start slide show.

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~Albert Einstein

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” ~Pablo Picasso

“The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” ~Gloria Steinem

                  “There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.”     ~G.K. Chesterton

“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.” ~Lady Gaga

“Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” ~Andy Warhol

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” ~Mary Shelly

“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” ~Lewis Carroll

                  “It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?”     ~L.M. Montgomery

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

Lost in Barcelona

Dolphins - Rosanna Piano (pinterest.ca)Image courtesy of Rosanna Piano

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 got off the bus in Barcelona and had a panic attack. The signs were in Spanish (!), which I suddenly realized I didn’t actually know. What was I doing here? Yes, sí, a beautiful girl had invited me. But really? Well, all right, that was true for the bottom half of me. But the top half was still “searching for something.” Was there any reason to think I’d find it in the vacuum left by Franco? No. Except that I hadn’t found it in London or Paris. So why not here? I went walking, journal in hand, and then stopped to write:

“Things were strange enough when I did understand the language. I’m pretty sure I just asked a woman at the Barcelona Zoo where I could buy a ‘bag of children.’ Sí, I try to hablar with native flair, but I suspect that when I do I must have the same dull, sweet expression as my friend’s Irish Setter when he says, ‘I love you’ in dog.

“Still, I do love the Barcelonians. Because they’re lost like me. Me, silly, brilliant, gifted idiot that I am, so rich in my poverty, so poor in my wealth. Barcelona is:

the sweetest raisins I’ve ever had

and men with streaky beards

and women as lovely as sand

and priests who stand in doorways

yelling at bums who dribble

and pee in dancing fountains

and down by the harbor

old ship’s cats

who’ve lost their sea-legs

boney things who stammer when they meow.

I saw a pirate in a doorway

but the best he could do was a canary.

I was lost, and the Voice hadn’t disturbed my sleep for three nights now. Which was good. Not really. I missed it terribly.

Like me, Spain was trying to find itself. Except that, unlike me, it couldn’t get on a bus; it pretty much had to find it in Spain. In my journal, I wrote, “What were you doing, Francisco Franco? Look what you did.” In Girona, where my bus had stopped on the way to Barcelona, I’d spotted a school of dolphins, and written:

With gentle, undulating,

pink and purple dispositions,

the dolphins sail the Costa Brava.

I think dolphins are

a lot more human than people.

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Posted in Fool's Odyssey, Humor, Memoir, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Prayer Life vs. A Life of Prayer

Alan-Mt.-Lassen-Copy-1My Featured Blogger this Week is Alan Searle of Alan Searle’s Pleasant Lines. Alan is an award-winning journalist and political essayist, but “at my core,” he says, “I am still a Minnesota farm boy with mud on his boots, happiest when out-of-doors.” Alan is currently “detoxing from writing memoirs in favor of something more benign, like novels.” And much more. His blog site is filled with insights like this one. The title, far from mere wordplay, demands a response that could just change a person’s life. 

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Do I have a prayer life, or do I lead a life of prayer? No simple question, and it immediately leads to more questions:

  • How would I tell the difference?
  • Is the former adequate?
  • Is the latter more desirable?
  • If I have the former, and want the latter, how do I get it?
  • What transforms me from a man who prays, to a praying man?

Inevitably, I have more than a mouthful; it’s now turned into a meal.

The apostle Paul told the Thessalonian church to ‘Pray without ceasing.’ 1 I get a vision of someone on his knees from morning to night, getting up only for food or relief.

There are stories told of great prayer warriors who spent so much time in prayer that there was a groove worn in the floor where they knelt, and a rubbed-raw forehead-sized spot on the wall. Or they would kneel in the snow long enough to come away with bloody knees.

Do I really need to do any of that to ‘pray without ceasing’? I could. But not necessarily. There may be a more subtle answer.

Some Useful Advice

Theologian N. T. Wright describes the verses in and around ‘Pray without ceasing’ as a type of memory device for the young Christians in Thessalonica:

‘Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies.
Examine all things.
Firmly hold onto what is good.
Abstain from all appearances of evil.’ 2

Wright says in his ‘Paul for Everyone’ series that these are aids such as we’d use for learning grammar rules, like ‘I before E except after C’. The reason we have them, he says, is so we learn them until they become second nature to us, and we no longer have to think about them.3

Back to my original question then. Do I have a prayer life? Or do I live a life of prayer?

A Life of Prayer

The term ‘prayer life’ describes something I take on and attach to my inner world through some motivation. Like my ‘sleep life’ or my ‘eating life’ or my ‘work life’ or my ‘sex life.’ I’m involved in these things, but they are, in a way, detached from my personhood.

So a ‘prayer life’ seems like the rest of them. It’s like a garment, something I can don or doff at will, as it seems convenient, when it suits me.

A ‘life of prayer’ – now that sounds different. Internal. Personal. All-consuming. Imagine it in relation to the idea of a ‘life of sleeping’, or a ‘life of eating’, or a ‘life of work’ or a ‘life of sex’. All of them sound pretty radical, and would eventually lead to various levels of dissolution!

A ‘life of prayer,’ though, would be in a class by itself. Because it’s not about being obsessed with prayer to the exclusion of all else. Rather it’s looking for God in all the places of my life, even the broken ones (especially the broken ones) so that the idea of prayer infiltrates all these other ‘lives’ that I live and builds them up.

In other words, I bring my prayer life (which is my conversation with God) into the parts of my life that seem on the surface to be ‘non-God’: work, eating, sleeping, marriage, exercise, tying my shoes, taking out the rubbish, complaining, fearing, lusting, apathy, judging, scorn.

Yeah, especially those last ones. Prayer is the only tool I have for making progress against them.

It’s not coincidental that ‘Pray without ceasing’ is sandwiched between ‘Rejoice always’ and ‘In everything give thanks.’ Being grateful and full of praise leads to a light heart. And that makes the conversation of prayer much easier.

Now, to work on ensuring it’s a two-way conversation.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
3. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, Tom Wright, pp 130-131

To read more of Alan’s posts, click here.

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

When Your World Changes

 My Real Memoir

“We’ve sold our home!” Mommandad announced after sitting me down and numbing me with a hamburger and a chocolate shake. We’d walked—for the last time—to our favorite cozy little bistro just blocks away called, let me think… Oh, yeah “McDonald’s.” Seriously, the McDonald’s in Downey, California was only the second one ever built, and is now the oldest surviving site; it even has a modest little McDonald’s Museum (if anything McDonald’s can be called “modest”).

Dad was finally moving up from the loading docks. The moment he’d gotten his driver’s license back, he’d put in his bid for a Herald-Express newspaper dealership. It was a semi-self-employed position, where he would not only start out with a big income bump, but would be encouraged to built-up his territory (enroll new subscribers) and reap the ever-increasing benefits. His eyes had a light in them I’d never seen before!

The location? A wet-paint-new outer-outer suburb of L.A. called La Mirada, which its developers thought meant “The View.” It actually translates to “The Look” (a pretty groovy name in the 60s, actually).

“This is big, honey!” Mommandad shouted. “Our lives are going to change forever!” How right they were. Few things change a kid as much as moving (I remember vividly how our kids changed when my wife and I moved them—twice).

Of course, I’d miss my friends. But we’d  just come back after the holiday break, so I was still getting a handle on 2nd grade. Stevie was the only kid my age I’d really bonded with. So my classroom send-off (cupcakes and a “Goodbye, Mitch!” sign) wasn’t exactly a tear-jerker. But, oh, how I would miss my wonderfully odd assortment of non-school friends: Weird Eddie, Crazy Old Alice, my babysitter Frieda and her magical garden filled with all of my non-human friends!

I didn’t know what to expect. I only knew that Mommandad were right. It was big.

Sometimes everyone’s world changes, like ours did in 2020. And other times only our personal world changes, or even our inner world. The latter is happening to me even as I type this (for good, not bad); I’ll tell you more about that later. But one thing is certain…

When our world changes, it changes us.

Posted in Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

When We Take Time, We Gain Time

Darren Tunnicliff (flickr.com)Artwork by Darren Tunnicliff

Thought for the Week

My friend Allen once wrote a script about a fast-food stand. In one scene, a smart, ambitious teenage girl slaps at coins, attempting to make “quick” change for her customers. The annoyed customers watch as she drops their change on the floor, hurls their burgers into a bag, and tears their receipts in half—all in roughly twice the time the chatty airhead at the next register takes. Yet the ambitious girl honestly believes she’s “saving time.”

It recently struck me that, even though I’m well beyond sixteen and very much of the male persuasion, I’m that teenage girl. My hyperactive metabolism, coupled with years of diligent practice, have programmed me to race about bumping into things, trying to do two or three things at once, sloppily and badly, rather than one thing smoothly and well.

And so, as an experiment, I began forcing myself to stop and take long, deep breaths every time I caught myself hurrying. Only then, after thinking “what’s next?” would I allow myself to thoughtfully and intentionally resume my activity.

At first, these pauses seemed wasteful, extravagant, even if they did hold a certain indefinable peace. But oddly enough, I discovered that, in those “spaces-between-the-spaces,” time seemed to pause with me, and then to resume when I resumed. I know this defies the laws of economics, but I’m finding that:

When I take time, rather than “save” time, I gain time.

Near the ending of The Time Machine, one of my favorite movies as a kid, the inventor of the titular device disappears into the future. His housekeeper asks where he’s gone, and his best friend replies, “I don’t know, but he has all the time in the world.”

Time doesn’t follow the laws of economics, it follows the same mysterious laws that made us, and occupies the same spaces we occupy. In fact, it’s a part of us—we are time machines. So when we take time, we gain time. And we find…

We have all the time in the world.

Posted in Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Give Gratefully

Presentation1Background image courtesy of WallPaperSafari.com

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” ~Colossians 3:17

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Love in the Post-COVID Era

LOVE in the COVID era. KissScissors - they cut both ways

A year ago, I wrote about Love in the Time of Coronavirus. This may seem like a bookend to that post, but it’s more like a midpoint reality check.

At first, we weren’t that frightened. But as infections and deaths continued to spiral upward, we became frightened indeed. Our digital devices were the only “persons” we felt safe being intimate with.

Then the vaccinations began.

The first time I walked into a supermarket without a mask, even though I was “fully-vaxxed,” I felt naked. But the second time I felt like I was in my underwear. And the third time, well, you get it. Our collective PTSD is beginning to fade. And well it should—we need human contact to be fully human.

However…

In these early days of the Post-COVID Era, i.e. the Not-Really-Over-Yet Era, we still need to practice a little practical fear, for the sake of others if not for ourselves. Un-vaccinated people infecting other un-vaccinated people could sustain this pandemic for years to come.

There’ve always been “kissing diseases.” When “mono” struck, we quarantined ourselves until the symptoms passed. When “herpes, the love bug” blistered our lips, we switched to deep talks and saved the lip-locking until we were safely kissable again. Then AIDS arrived, and we got a taste of something far more devastating. Suddenly, for many, true love meant not being intimate.

And now? Dating sites like OK Cupid are starting to offer a “fully vaccinated” filter, a way of saying, “I won’t infect you,” and by not checking the box, a way of responsibly admitting, “I could infect you.” Because real love has always been about putting others before ourselves, about delaying gratification. As much as the world has changed since the COVID Era began…

The nature of love has not.

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” ~William Shakespeare

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Unexpectedly Beautiful

We all appreciate classical beauty, perfection as it were. But there’s something about the unexpectedly beautiful, the asymmetrically symmetrical, the imperfectly perfect that resonates more deeply with us. Perhaps it is because we sense that, although very few of us are the former, all of us are capable of becoming the latter.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

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

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~Confucius

          “There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.”      ~Edgar Allan Poe

“Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.” ~Tupac Shakur

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ~Franz Kafka

“And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.” ~Matthew 6:28-29

      “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”      ~Amy Bloom

     “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

φ

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My Journey to Barcelona

Plaza Cataluña (xixerone.comPlaza Cataluña (xixerone.com)

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’d decided to go to Barcelona in search of the meaning of life. Who am I kidding? It was because I’d spotted this beautiful girl in London two weeks earlier: Sun-bleached hair, sky-blue eyes. I’d walked cockily up to her, and said, “California, right?”

“Perdona?” she’d replied.

Once I’d suavely removed my foot from my mouth, I discovered Gabriella was, 1) from Barcelona, and 2) delighted to meet an American (go figure). She invited me to visit her in sunny España (which, in fact, looks a lot like sunny SoCal). We were obviously soul mates. There might or might not be a God in heaven, but there definitely was a Gabriella in Barcelona.

It was impossible hitching a ride out of Lyons amid a thousand other outstretched thumbs. So I stopped trying, and gave all my raisins and Bonbel cheese to some skinny Krishna kids who were flat broke and chanted out. We talked about God, or, well, I did. They mostly just ate. Then I found a bus depot, and bought a ticket to Barcelona.

I sat next to a Spanish kid named Daniel, and his grandpa Tito across the aisle. Daniel and I talked a lot at first because it was exciting to be going somewhere, anywhere. But then after an hour, they cut the lights inside and it was dark outside, so we drifted off into, as I cleverly put it, an “eslumber.” To which Daniel replied, “That does not mean anything en español, señor Mitch.”

I doubt if I could ever have so thoroughly mastered Spanish if it hadn’t been for Daniel. The moment we awoke, we began to teach me Spanish. I wrote in my journal:

For ten hours we spoke!

We spoke till we were hoarse

nay, till we were furry

and feathers clung to our throats

and grandpa had to laugh.

And when we stopped we stole

big blue handfuls of grapes

in the south of France.

Then we ate some more Spanish

while the Pyrenees came up and washed over us

carrying us deep into the

castle-dotted seas of Cataluña.

And all the while the autobús

burped and hollered

and punched its way down

the skinny isles of Spanish villages,

through city lanes of verdant green

on walls of powdering stone,

where there were balconies and dresses

and wet undershirts strung overhead

like a festival in the sun.

We finally arrive in Barcelona, the land of la chica bonita

Gabriella!

To read the next episode, click here.

fools-odyssey-title-art-2

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments