Celebrating Our Autumns

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Russell (a.k.a. Rev Russ) of Russellings of the Spirit. “Retired pastor, father, grandfather, stumbler, seeker, and servant,” Russell might also add “treasured friend” to that list. We’ve never met in person, but I do indeed count Russell as a treasured friend. And I know many others feel the same. Read on and you’ll see why.

Russellings of the Spirit

Here where I live in northern Colorado USA, the seasons are beginning to change.

Summer is graciously bowing to receive her well-earned accolades while fall stands just off-stage awaiting her cue. Warm-ups and vocalization exercises done, she is poised, ready to burst from the wings, draped in oranges, reds, yellows and deep maroons.

I’m not gonna lie; of the four contenders, fall is my fave season of all. It is the time of cooler temps, of pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, of the start of American FOOTBALL, and of kids being back in school. It is the time when fresh peaches are canned, chili is cooked, long sleeves come out of hiding, and a brand-new season ofSaturday Night Liveblasts off.

But most of all, I think I love fall because it is that time when the end of yard work is visible, just beyond the horizon.

I am sure I’m…

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Fun House of Pain?

Long Beach Pike, circa 1960s

My Real Memoir

My fingers had every reason to think I hated them. I cut more chunks out of them than I did any actual wood when whittling surfer style “tiki god” pendants for my friends (“Dear Mitch, please carve away from us, not towards us!” ~Sincerely, Your Fingers). And then there was the night Dad accidentally slammed and locked the car door on my rude (a.k.a. middle) finger!

But the worst calamity that ever befell my phalanges was at a so-called Fun House. Dad had rewarded his top newspaper solicitors with an outing (I don’t mean to brag, but I was number one), and I’d brought along my cousin Frankie. The Pike was a grubby pre-World War I era amusement park known for two things: 1) The Cyclone Racer (one of America’s great roller coasters) and, 2) Ladies offering to go on “dates” with sailors.

Frankie and I had just left the sideshow, having viewed The Astonishing Woman-Who-Has-Nothing-but-a-Red-Light-Bulb-for-a-Head, and were ready to tackle the Fun House, with its jiggling floors and joggling doorways. I ran ahead, and was alone when I entered an empty hall with a rubber walkway. I stepped onto it. Nothing.

“Is something supposed to happen?” I asked an acne-festooned carny on a stool at the end of the hallway. Without looking up from his girly mag, he flicked a wall switch. The walkway jerked backward, causing me to tumble.

The carny sneered as I landed on my butt. I laughed self-consciously, as though I were in on the joke. I wasn’t. 12-year-olds are never in on the joke.

I also wasn’t in on the fact that the moving walkway was sliding under a metal lip. The rubber wanted to take my hand with it, but the metal lip kept it from doing so. Nevertheless, it refused to surrender my hand, instead slicing away layer after layer of skin from my fingers. I screamed.

The carny yelled, “Well, get up, baby!”

“I can’t!” I shrieked as I watched the metal plane away the final layers of epidermis and begin scraping the bones. The carny flicked the power off, sauntered over, and then, seeing my fresh-ground-beef hand for the first time, remarked, “Oh, crap.”

Oh, crap indeed. He took me to a living stereotype, a scruffy, pot-bellied, booze-soaked fellow called “Doc.” When I finally found my frantic father, Frankie and the other boys, it was with a freshly-aspirined stomach and an “all fixed up” Bactine-sprayed, gauze-bundled hand.

I underwent five months of skin grafts and hand movement therapy (yes, Momandad sued the Pike). I was even able to take guitar lessons the following year. Because if there’s anything cooler than scarred hands, it’s guitar playing hands. And by eighth grade I had both, so, um…

Lucky me?

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It’s Monday. Go for It!

Out-Smart

Thought for the Week

The two greatest causes of disappointment in life are:

1) Taking risks and

2) Not taking risks

“Sometimes it’s riskier not to take a risk. Sometimes all you’re guaranteeing is that things will stay the same.”
~Danny Wallace

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
~Sheryl Sandberg

“If you dare nothing,
then when the day is over,
nothing is all you will have gained.”
~Neil Gaiman

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Safety is indeed stability, but it is not progression.”
~Criss Jami

“Criticism is part of learning and growth. If you are not getting criticised, it means you are not taking enough risk to learn something new and to grow.”
~Sanjeev Himachali

“Shallow waters don’t lead to new continents.”
~Constance Friday

    “Security is mostly a superstition. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  ~Helen Keller

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Real Life

Freedom - while we sleep..

“Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

~Ephesians 5:14

“For if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

~John 8:36

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The Un-Kidnapping

Boy With Head in the Clouds

The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here.Wishing Title (logo only)

Feeling guilty about having kidnapped Zack, Liulah the cloud shepherd had dragged him before two living pillars of cumulus.

“Please! Make him human again before it’s too late!” she begged.

“Peace, child,” Mother Cloud spoke with fathomless calm. “Everything is as it should be.” “Everything is always as it should be.”

“Not it’s not! I watch people on the ground and sometimes I see bad things happening: children crying with no one to comfort them, people cheating each other. Once I saw a man stab another man with a knife and take all his money. I rained on him, but I couldn’t stop—”

“Hushhhhh,” said Father Cloud. “What happens on the ground does not concern us. We move with the wind, we make the rain, what happens on the ground is not real.”

“Yeah, it’s not real,” Zack echoed.

“Oh, shut up, Zagg! It’s real to them!” Liulah shouted. Father and Mother Cloud seemed strangely alarmed.

“But child, you are no longer a hu…” Mother Cloud began, but trailed off, resuming her look of expressionless bliss.

A wind of understanding suddenly whirled through Liulah’s eyes—they were instantly less skyfull, and more earthfull. “I…I came from there, didn’t I?” There was no reply. Or rather, the reply was in the silence. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We didn’t hide it from you, little one,” said Father Cloud. “You forgot. Forgetting is one’s act of kindness towards oneself.”

“I don’t understand…” Zack began.

“Why would I need to be ‘kind’ to myself?” asked Liulah.

An aching silence filled the chamber. Mother Cloud finally answered: “You had what humans call a brother. Human attachments cause them nothing but pain.”

“I don’t get it,” said Zack. “You’re Liulah’s parents, right? So her brother would also be your—”

“No.” For the first time Father Cloud’s peacefulness was marred by a note of sorrow: “We found her.”

“On a hilltop,” added Mother Cloud, a shadow of grief passing over her placid countenance.

“Her brother was her only family,” said Father Cloud, “and he abandoned her.” A flurry of anger filled his eyeholes. “But it doesn’t matter. We came to the ground, she stepped into our cloud, and now she is a sylph like us, and all is as it should be.”

“No, it isn’t!” Liulah screamed.

Her resolve shook something loose in Zack. Liulah was the childlike girl he’d met when he fell into her cloud, right? Wait, no, he’d always known her. But he’d been looking for his sister when… Was Liulah his sister? Mother and Father Cloud would know. “Mother, Father…”

“Yes, son?” they replied with knowing smiles.

In a microsecond, Liulah had grabbed him by the arm, nearly ripping it out of its socket, and jerked him through the wall and out of the great chamber.

Where was she taking him?

φ

Thoughts: How do you rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued?

Wishing - Ismara

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Time to Cocoon!

Autumn has just begun where I live, but temps are plummeting, rare for this early in the season, and all I can think of is getting cozy with a latte and a hoodie and, of course, a book! Which means finding that perfect spot. Here are a few suggestions.

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

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Welcome to Fall, er, Autumn, er, Falltumn

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Today is the first day of autumn (in my hemisphere), one of the most unpredictable days of the year.  True, this year it’s been almost sardonically on-the-nose (where I live): yesterday was a blazing final summer day in the 90s, today is a crisply cool first day of fall in the 60s. It’s as if Mother Nature were saying, “Oh, you want fall? Here, eat this!”

But then again, that’s autumn, the conflicted season. Sometimes is Summtum, unseasonably warm. Somtimes is Fallmer, unseasonably cool. And sometimes it’s Falltumn, the season we love so much we’ve given it two names!

Americans call it fall (an old Anglo-Saxon word) because, well, things fall. A very realistic term, considering that the celebrated symbols of the season—those exquisite leaves—last about ten minutes before they fall to the ground. It’s the season of the fleeting, the unattainable. What we want are trees that are red, what we get are leaves that are dead. Red leaves and dead leaves. There’s something very human about that.

On the other hand, the lovely French-Latinate word autumn, meaning “mature,” suggesting a magnificent French gentlemen strutting his stuff, only to be tripped by a cocky younger fellow (probably an American) and falling to the ground. What he wants is not what he gets because, after all, being mature means the end is near.

In fact…

In most of the world’s languages the name of the season means ending. In the ancient Hebrew calendar it’s the season of harvest or “ingathering,” but it’s also the start of a new year (it is for Muslims, as well).

Do you see the spiritual longing there?

We want it both ways. We’re as conflicted as the season is. We want to retain the old and lay hold of the new. But we can’t. We have to let go of what was in order to lay hold of what will be.

Ah, humans. They want it all. And who can fault ‘em? They’re made that way.

So welcome to falltumn.

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Ten Ways Small Groups Can Save You

Outreach Magazine (outreachmagazine.com)

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Colleen Scheid. Full disclosure: Colleen is a long-time personal friend; we live just minutes away from each other and have been members of the same writers group for years. But featuring her here is no favor (except, possibly, a favor to me). Colleen is one of the most gifted and godly people I know. As the saying goes, she walks the talk. Which is saying a lot, because she “talks” (writes) both wisely and beautifully. Read on and you’ll see!

Colleen Scheid

Churches are always trying to get people to join groups of eight to twelve people who meet regularly.

They call them ‘small groups’ or ‘growth groups’ or ‘house groups’. One church called them ‘lambs groups’, which I get the biblical symbolism of, but I can’t imagine guys who ride motorcycles or pump iron joining a ‘lambs group’. I would steer away from that one.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Church leaders know that if people just show up to services, or even volunteer, but don’t belong to a smaller friend group, they may not stick with their faith. These groups meet a number of needs – people get to know each other and develop friendships. They learn more about the Bible. They learn how to pray for each other, then seeing the prayers get answered draws them closer to God. They live out what they believe in good…

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The Prince of Drama

My Real Memoir

We had one elective. It might have been Creative Writing if I hadn’t had something to prove. I’d gotten sick right before the 6th Grade Talent Show. Everyone was sympathetic, even my parents, and the TV ad spoof I’d written was well-received. But I knew the real reason I’d baled-out last second: it was because I was a sniveling, craven, cowardy custard!

True, I’d told stories and done funny character voices in elementary school, even planned a professional stage production starring me and Debbie Reynolds (emphasis on “planned”). But I’d never actually been on stage! So I had to take Drama. And I knew I could do it because, after all, I was an Actor!

Mr. Baxter begged to differ. He was something almost unheard of in a junior high school drama teacher: a professional! True, he’d taken this demeaning suburban day job to pay the bills, but he had “a life in the theatre” and even ran a professional acting workshop in Hollywood! Whereas I, Mr. Baxter made clear from the start, was simply a class clown (observe the four cut-ups in the back of the Drama Class photo, with notes added by me at age 13).

All right, it was true, I loved making people laugh. But I’d done tragic characters too, ones that had actually made people cry—well, made me cry anyway when I watched myself performing them in the bathroom mirror.

I tried to prove myself by begging Mom to drive me to one of Mr. Baxter’s Hollywood acting workshops. It was in a converted store just off “the strip” (Sunset Blvd.). None of the other actors had their moms with them (possibly because they were in their 20s and 30s), so she hung out in the back. When Mr. Baxter finally called me up front to read a scene with a woman my mom’s age, I was spectacularly…not awful. Still, I didn’t, in Mr. Baxter’s words, “make it real.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Baxter threw me a bone. He’d chosen a one-act murder mystery for our school. The lead roles were played by serious actors—8th graders who’d learned their craft at the master’s hands. I was given a tiny role as the play’s comedy-relief character, an Inspector with just seven one-word lines, all either a “Yep” or a “Nope.”

Even during the actual performance (I was terrified, but, hey, I went on!), I couldn’t remember which was which. Another character would ask me, “Is that the murder weapon, Inspector?” And I would reply, “Yep.” And then the entire cast would whisper, “Nope” under their breath, and I’d say, “Nope.” And on it went. The audience roared, certain it was all intentional, et voilá,

I was a star.

But Mr. Baxter knew the truth. Shortly before he resigned at the end of my 7th grade year, he gave me a look, and I knew exactly what it meant:

“Make it real, Mitch.”

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

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Greedy Love

Yellow Flowers And View Of A Beach In Corona Del Mar, CaliforniaPirate’s Cove, Newport Beach, California

I normally do a Thought for the Week on Mondays, so this anniversary post is a bit off-point. Then again, maybe somewhere within these words you’ll find a relevant thought-for-the-week of your own.

My wife Trudy and I have been married for 37 years. In fact, on this date 37 years ago, the last day of our honeymoon, we were savoring eggs benedict and sipping Ramos fizzes on a Sausalito balcony overlooking San Francisco Bay. We know this because yesterday we reviewed our “Honeymoon Diary” and reminisced about how we’d gotten married, celebrated, and then driven home to begin our life together. That life is now in its 38th year. And I can hardly wait for more. Here’s why:

Five years ago, we were at the Burbank International Film Festival where our feature film Healing River was a Best Picture nominee. Since we’d formerly lived in the area, we revisited the places where we’d loved, played, fought, and made up: my wife’s childhood home, our first apartment as well as our last before moving to Ohio with our kids, our favorite date night restaurants and the AMC movie theater we’d so often attended on those date nights—where our own film went on to win a major award!

Most emblematic of our life journey together, however, was rocky Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach where we’d sipped dark coffee from a thermos during a time our premarital relationship had grown equally rocky (interestingly, I’d also been baptized there). We wanted to love each other, but didn’t know how.

Thirty-two years later, we soared past Pirate’s Cove on a whale-watching boat, heading out to open sea, no longer bound by a quaint but confining cove. We hugged the rail and each other as the wind intermingled our hair and the sun turned our faces the same coral red. “We’ve learned how to love each other,” I thought, “and we’re going to learn to love even better in the years to come.” And that was why I was greedy for more.

And now, five years further on? After reminiscing at our favorite cafe yesterday in Cincinnati, Ohio, all I want to add is this:

I’m still greedy for more.

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