Don’t Follow Your Dreams

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I’ve learned a few things in my [insert largish number] of years on this planet. Perhaps the most important is not to follow my dreams. Does that make me sound like a glass-is-half empty kinda guy? Actually, there’s a part two that makes me more of a glass-is-overflowing kinda guy: Instead, follow the One who made your dreams.

The problem isn’t pursuing our dreams, it’s doing so with no sense of how to attain them—or what they should really look like. A surprisingly high percentage of the world’s most “successful” people are profoundly dissatisfied. This, I believe, is because they’ve succeeded not in fulfilling their dreams, but in procuring a crude imitation of them.

God plants a dream inside each of us while we’re still in the womb. But it’s only a seedling. And it’s not until we look back that we fully grasp what it–and we ourselves–were truly meant to be. If we’ve followed the Dream Maker’s plan, it will be something beautiful and unique. If we’ve followed our imitation of that plan, it will be a deeply disappointing counterfeit.

I was 23 when my father died, and was busily trying to construct a makeshift version of my dreams. So when my mother asked if I wanted the franchise my father had invested in—for a patented security system that makes alarms go off when store tags are not removed—I said, “No! I’m not a businessman, I’m a moviemaker!” I was determined to follow not just my dream, but my idea of how it would be fulfilled.

But movies are expensive. I tried for thirty years to raise the money to make my movies, but never could. Along the way, some wonderful things happened—I met the Dream Maker, met my wife, and met the two little girls who had been waiting patiently for us to get together so they could be born. But I never managed to make those movies.

Then one day I found out the franchise I’d rejected was now worth $600 million dollars, and I thought, Whoa, I could have financed a lot of movies with that money. But the Dream Maker knows an infinite number of ways to accomplish his plans.

I gave up the movie dream in 2005, moved my family to Cincinnati, Ohio; served at a church until the recession decimated their budget; formed a production company funded by church members; became friends with a businessman who asked if I had any unfulfilled dreams, and replied, “Funny you should ask…”

I’ve since written, directed and produced two feature films, Over-the-Rhine and Notzilla (additional projects are in the works). “God [really does] work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

So my wish for you is that you would learn more and more every day not to follow your dreams, but instead to follow…

The One who made your dreams.

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

We are His Workmanship

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“For we are His workmanship. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we may accomplish the good things he planned long ago for us to do.”

~Ephesians 2:10

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

50 Years Ago Today (or was it?)

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This is one of the quirkier things I’ve posted. But then, that’s kind of the point. 

On this date fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind” by setting foot on the moon (they went at night because that made it easier to find). Of course, his memory is entirely different than mine. And so is yours. In fact, everyone who was around at the time has their own subjective version of the event. Here’s mine:

My band interrupted our rehearsal to watch the landing on a tiny black-and-white TV. And then we went outside to look up at the bright, beautiful moon. “Look, you can see it!” we told our drummer Joey’s mom. And after some insistence (“No, not the astronauts, the capsule—look!”), we actually had her convinced it could be seen with the naked eye!

The other thing I remember was that Joey’s cousin produced an amazing flame by lighting one of his farts. I’d heard people could do this, but figured it wasn’t really possible. And yet I’d just seen it with my naked eye! Two giant leaps for mankind!

Our experiences are uniquely, quirkily, ours. Nothing happens without interpretation, without the juxtaposition at least some random, unrelated (“Joey’s farting cousin”) elements.

Hence…

“Speak your truth” has become a popular buzz phrase. It can be useful: sharing our individual perspectives and experiences helps all of us “blind men” see the whole elephant better. However, for many the phrase has come to mean that there is no objective truth, that there is no single elephant, but that rather each of us has our own elephant (or non-elephant). Think of it as Shrodinger’s exploding elephant in a box. Or is that forest? (“If an elephant falls in the forest…”). Yeah, I know, I’m just jamming unrelated elements together. Or am I? I mean, hey, that’s my truth, man!

Wait.

What if there was someone who could see all events from all perspectives, no matter how quirky or subjective, even from inside the box with the cat or the elephant or the falling tree or whatever he/she/it is? Wouldn’t that change everything? But if course, there’s no one who can do that. Is there?

God clears his throat.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

How do You Forgive the Unforgivable?

I’ve just finished the first draft of the novelization of my feature film Over-the-Rhine (distribution plans in-the-works), a story about the hard work of forgiveness, and more.

OTR Poster2aHow do you forgive the unforgiveable? To begin with, you have to remember that, while there are unforgiveable acts, there are no unforgiveable people. Yes, tragically, a few souls have “seared consciences” (1 Timothy 4:2) and can no longer discern good from evil. But it is not possible—or necessary—for us to know for certain who those people are. It is possible—and necessary—for us to forgive. (Luke 6:37)

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

So, how do we forgive? To begin with, we stop trying to feel like we do, and do the hard work of raw forgiveness. “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor,” C.S. Lewis says, but rather “act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets: when you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” (Mere Christianity)

Well, sure, but that’s only our neighbors. Right? Wrong. Jesus offers no quarter for deserters here. First, he defines neighbor as anyone who needs what we have to give (Luke 10:29-37). And then, in case we find wiggle room still, he insists we apply it to our enemies, as well: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

But how?

The answer is there in his words. Did you see it? Pray. The more we pray for someone, the more real, the more human they become. And the more human they become, the harder it is to hate them.

So take the raw first steps. There’s a very good chance it will go badly. But press on anyway. As you do, your enemy will become more and more real. He will have a name. She will have a past. He or she will have made terrible choices…choices you yourself might have made if circumstances had been different. Keep praying for them. Every day.

Is forgiveness enough? Probably not. But it’s the foundation for all that follows: mercy, grace…

Maybe even love.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Movies, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

Amazing Street Art

It’s no news that I love public art. Many street art pieces (often not officially sanctioned and therefore temporary) take their cue from their settings, commenting whimsically or seriously upon the world we live in. Enjoy!

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

Posted in Culture, Humor, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments

Lights, Camera, Action

350be9002659af6b088c78ca213f8b88My Featured Blogger this week is Matthew Winters of Honest Thoughts from a Pastor. Matthew is a warts-and-all guy. He’s still young but, true to his blog’s title, he honestly addresses his own failings and spiritual restoration. Here and elsewhere he bluntly but compassionately talks about life-changing faith vs. playing church in the midst of personal disintegration.

But Matthew isn’t a one-theme guy. He speaks with humor and enthusiasm on a wide range of other topics, as well, music holding a particularly special place in his heart.  Bottom Line:

It’s always good to hear Honest Thoughts from a Pastor.

Matthew Winters (Honest Thoughts from a Pastor)

The countdown begins. The band begins to play. A worship team skillfully sings the latest and greatest worship songs while those in the back flash lights and cue the smoke at just the right time. A prayer is said. The pastor gets up to give a well-rehearsed message. A closing song is sung. The service concludes with the awesome band rocking out once again.

I have laid out a scenario of what many worship services look like. But what is really going on? Could it be that these polished performers may be falling apart behind the scenes? Could it be that the lead guitarist is struggling with an addiction to pornography and is afraid to share his struggle because he does not really feel like his church and those in his life form a safe community? Could it be that one of the worship team singers is giving herself away…

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Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Audience Roared!

G-Fest1A quick update and thank you to those who visited my pre-scheduled posts over the last five days. And thank you, each of you, for excusing me (notice how I assume you do?) for not visiting your blogs during that time. I promise to visit you soon and appreciate the heck out of you!

Why I was gone: I was in Chicago for the first public showing of my new feature film Notzilla (there was a previous Premiere for Cast and Crew).

The good news: The audiences for the two packed screenings at G-Fest roared (not in a monstery way, in a laughtery way) and cheered when the credits rolled!

Honestly? I was incredibly relieved. When you write and direct a comedy, you’re creating something you think is funny, but you don’t know until the audience shows up whether they will. So, yeah, relief! As evidenced by this lovey-dovey photo of me and the big guy. (Note: He looks much bigger projected onto a giant screen with skillfully terrified extras running and screaming in the foreground.)

Posted in Humor, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 66 Comments