The Queen of Soul

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Titles and accolades are often little more than hype. Not hers. I was honored to meet Aretha Franklin decades ago when my band did an ABC special with her.

Like many artists, she was an introvert, with a shy smile and a soft speaking voice. And then she sang. And you knew instantly that this was her true voice. Her tone, emotional range, and impossibly perfect runs engulfed you, drew you into her heart, and showed you things you’d never seen before in yourself. Aretha, along with Ray and Otis and a handful of others, yanked me out of my pre-fab suburban cereal box life of hamming it up in school plays and writing catchy ditties to impress cute girls. She showed me what happens when you pour your whole being, your soul, into a song.

She has inspired too many singers and instrumentalists to count, many of them gifted artists in their own right. But there has never been and will never be another Aretha.

RIP, Queen of Soul.

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Monogamy Is Not Natural!

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“Friends say to me a lot, ‘Monogamy is not natural.’  And I always, say, ‘Well, neither are toilets, but when you don’t use them, things get very messy.’” ~Andrew Gurland (creator of the TV series Married)

My wife and I are known for having a strong marriage. And it’s true, we do. But what’s not true is that things “just worked out” (our wedding counselor advised us not to marry because of our differences), or that we simply “got lucky” and found our soulmate and so don’t have to work at it. Hah!

There are three persons in this relationship. And our marriage works because we are both doggedly devoted to that third person: Us. 

So, yes, it’s true, monogamy is not natural.

It’s supernatural.

(Mark 10:8-9)

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The Wishing Map 128

Love may, as the expression goes, give us wings. But it also gives us fists.

Mitch Teemley


Wishing pix-Title-(framed)

Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.

The Wishing Map

Chapter Twenty-Four: The Long Night (continued)

Previously: The Questing Beast had taken the form of Gina herself, but with her brother’s help she’d been able to see past the delusion.

⇔ ⇔ ⇔

The Beast began to search her mind again. It had already tapped her dearest hopes, her deepest desires. Now it was looking for something she feared. Despite her efforts to close her mind, her thoughts vaulted back to the image of the Hadessian Dragon in B’frona’s book. “No!” she grunted, and in an act of extreme willpower, tore her eyes away.

She gripped the sword with both hands and prepared to swing, but was unsure where to strike…because the creature was changing again. Its spindly raptor legs were growing thicker, its tentacles disappearing, its face growing longer. It was returning to the form of Puff.

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Work

The work week has just begun (oy!).

A few thoughts on work:

563325_4294593483892_4195369_n“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” ~Thomas Sowell

committee-meetingIf you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.  ~Charles Kettering

bored-at-work1The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.  ~Robert Frost

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.  ~Tom Brokaw

Make a difference.

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Old Friends

Two-old-dogsI had dinner yesterday with an old high school friend, Jeff. We reminisced about our teenage years, and then went on to talk about the times we’ve gotten together since. I couldn’t help smiling because when I was 17, thinking about our “long” 2 1/2 year friendship, I’d written,

“Old friends sit and talk about the good times they used to have. But really old friends sit and talk about the good times they used to have sitting and talking about the good times they used to have.”

It took a few decades, but that youthful prophecy finally came true. ;>)

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Let Us Run…

Let Us Run

Paul, the traditional author of Hebrews (though some think it was his fellow apostle Barnabas), repeatedly used racing as a metaphor for faith.

In an endurance race the real competitor is ourselves (“the sin that so easily entangles”). The key to completing the race is to keep our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith.” He is the one who put our feet on this track and who will lead us to the finish line. “For the joy set before him,” the verse adds, “he endured the cross,” so that he might gleefully greet us as we tear through that ribbon, leaving behind the encumbrances of a corrupt and broken world. So keep your eyes on him, dear friends.

See you on the medal platform!

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Is Robin Williams in Hell?

Here’s a re-post of one of my earlist blogs, dedicated to actor-comedian Robin Williams, who died on this date four years ago.

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Robin Williams’ death brought on the expected flood of tributes, but also a smaller wave of hellfire pronouncements by judgmentalists—because Robin lived a sometimes sinful life and died at his own hands. These warnings were countered by gentler folk who chose to focus on Robin’s many acts of kindness. But who’s right? Neither.

Because eternity isn’t about goodness or badness.*

It’s about relationships, according to the Bible (although actions can reveal what’s in a person’s heart). King David was called “a man after God’s own heart” despite the fact that he was an adulterer and a murderer. The Apostle Peter disowned Jesus on the night of His arrest, but was later called to lead His church. According to Jesus, the unforgivable sin is not suicide, but “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” refusing God’s life-giving Presence. But if bad behavior is not a guaranteed ticket to hell, neither is good behavior a ticket to heaven: “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not [do good works] in your name?’ And I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’” (Matthew 7:22-23)  Reflecting on this, I recall an epiphany from my youth:

I was ten, and had reached the end of a gleefully misbehaving day. My cronies and I had been lobbing olives at cars (our neighborhood was built on the site of an old olive grove), which would erupt in purple explosions against windshields, causing reactionary curses and wild careens. It was all good—well, alright, evil—fun until Mom spotted us! She’d come to the door to proclaim the dinner banns. There must have been some guilt in my pre-manly breast, for when she called me home, whispering “Wait till your father finds out about this,” I thought, “Why didn’t she call Rory instead?” Rory was the only kid who’d refused to throw olives. And then, lo, a marvelous truth fell upon me, “She didn’t call him in because she’s not his mom, she’s my mom!” And nothing, even the fact that I did really bad stuff, could change that!

Interestingly, this realization didn’t result in a torrent of licentious behavior. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Sure, I did other bad stuff, but I never threw olives at cars again. Once I’d realized living with Mom and Dad was a gift, it made me want to do better. Of course, there would be hell to pay when Dad got home.

But not hell to go to. 

Because heaven and hell are about who we know, not what we do. (John 17:3)

Robin’s death hit me hard. He had an immeasurable impact on my career as a writer and a humorist. I also have a similar psychopathology and a kindred tendency toward ADDled monologuing. But what I always found most compelling about Robin was the humanity beneath his persona, the desire to make a connection with his audience, to be real and, yes, to be loved.

Did he long for that kind of connection with God? There are indications he did: he was a professing Episcopalian and a fan of C.S. Lewis, old+cottage+1-1whose books contain profound explorations of faith (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was reportedly Robin’s favorite book). I hope so. I’ll even settle for an 11th hour “Thief on the Cross” conversion–I so want to spend time with him when we’re all…

Finally called Home.

* This post avoids the questions of what, where, or even if, heaven and hell are. We’ll explore that another time.

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