Light and Shadows

As a filmmaker, I’m intrigued by the uses of light and shadow. Objects and faces appear flat when flooded with light. Adding shadows models them, bringing out depth and dimensionality. People and places, seem more real when they’re shown in both light and shadows–perhaps because we know that what’s inside of us is a mix of light and shadows. Still, they can distort, as well. A wash of light may hide hard-earned wrinkles, flattering the subject while rendering them unrecognizable. A shadow can make a smile seem sinister, or a child’s nursery frightening. Me must choose carefully how we use light and shadows. Just as we choose how we use our words.

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slideshow. 

“Light and shadow are opposite sides of the same coin. We can illuminate our paths or darken our way. It is a matter of choice.” ~Maya Angelou

“Sometimes the moon is light and sometimes it’s in shadow, but you should always remember it’s the same moon.” ~Terry Pratchett

“The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow.” ~George R.R. Martin

  “All of the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow. A happy life is not one  filled with only sunshine, but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.” ~Billy Graham

“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” ~Blaise Pascal

“Be transparent, so you no longer cast a shadow but instead let the light pass through you.” ~Kamand Kojouri

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Love in the Time of Coronavirus

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My wife and I are celebrating our 35th engagement anniversary tonight. Quietly and intimately, with a candle-lit dinner and a bottle of our favorite wine, at the most exclusive eatery in town: our house.

You may have caught the reference to Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Why? Well, for one thing: it was published in 1985, the year we became engaged (and got married). For another, it’s a story of love struggling against external and internal challenges. It’s about imperfect people learning to love better.

That’s us. Or should I say Us? Because a new person, Us, came into being the day we got engaged. We’ve fought to keep Us alive and in-love against all kinds of external and internal challenges since then. The latest being the pandemic that has produced isolation, bare store shelves, dwindling funds and, yes, closed restaurants.

So we’ll be dining in tonight. And chances are it will be one of our more memorable outings (innings?). Because facing challenges together, and coming out of them together, has always made Us stronger.

Now I understand why my parents reminisced more about the hard days of their marriage than the easy ones. Those were the days their love grew stronger.

It’s not just romantic love that can grow in times like this. We all belong to a huge Us that is struggling to love, rather than die and be replaced by a bunch of detached Me’s. Will we learn how to love each other better during this time? Will we come out stronger?

It’s up to Us.

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Parenting Techniques For 2020

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Paul Montgomery of Newspeak. As his site’s title implies, Paul writes about news, as well as sociology, pop culture and, well, whatever he can put his patently snarky spin on. Because, although I don’t know much about this clever, opinionated Brit, I do know he’s opinionated and funny. As are most idealists (including, ahem, yours truly).

If you read many of his posts, you’ll discover that Paul is passionate about covertly supporting what’s good and right, and not-so-covertly exposing what he thinks is wrong, or dumb, or just simply begging to be lampooned.

For instance…

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Parenting experts are beginning to wonder if the ‘wooden spoon’ method may have some limitations in it’s utilisation in child discipline. In controlled government funded testing, subjects have responded ‘inconsistently’ and numerous spoons have been broken in the process.

Here are 6 other examples of tried and tested parenting techniques which may yield better results for your family in 2020:

  1. ‘Relaxation Corner’ Rather than sending your child to the ‘naughty step’ or putting them on a ‘time out’, a more positive disciplinary technique is to arrange a corner in your family room with a pillow, stress ball, punch bag, some non-lethal weapons etc, so that the child can ‘express their feelings’.
  2. ‘Sleepy Bobo’ – This method is consistently effective regardless of the child’s age. Simply dissolve some sleeping tablets in their favourite drink*.

*If their favourite drink is Red Bull, results can vary.

  1. ‘5/50’ – Parent can only use 5

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Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hope is More Virulent than Fear

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It was our last “normal” day together. Sunday (after online church, hmm), we ate at a favorite local restaurant (remember those?), and watched a movie at a local theater (remember those?). It was The Invisible Man, an excellent film about an invisible enemy. Speaking about invisible enemies…

The empty shelves at the supermarket were a bit jarring. But it wasn’t until we heard online that all of the restaurants in our state were now closed that we realized it had been our last normal day.

The invisible enemy has attacked, and the only defense we have is isolation, becoming virtual shut-ins so the growing coronavirus curve can be “flattened.” A vaccine will not be available until next year. Unless we stop the spread now, this virulent virus will kill, even at a “mere” 1% death rate, millions of people. (The Spanish flu killed up to 200 million people in a world with less than 1/3rd our current population.)

There’s no question it will be harder than simply not finding everything on our grocery lists–much harder. People will suffer. Companies will fold. Jobs will be lost. Bills will go unpaid. The economy will lose trillions. And yet…

Humans are the best—and the worst—species on earth. We’re the only ones capable of destroying it, and the only ones capable of saving it. Whales and cockroaches might survive an asteroid, but only humans are working on out how to divert one away from our planet. 

St. Patrick, in whose honor parades are held on this date (although cancelled this year) was a purveyor of hope. We too can be purveyors of hope. If we chose to be.

How?

Ironically, the virtual community (smart devices, the internet), much maligned as a source of fake news and shallow friendships, is, for now, the only community we have.

How can we use it to be purveyors of hope? By breaking into each other’s isolation. In a world of virtual shut-ins, people will need to be remembered, sought out, listened to, encouraged, and helped when needed.

Let’s gather around the virtual fire and tell stories of survival, of overcoming. Information is important, yes, but it’s not enough. Let’s be helpers, healers. Let’s tell our stories of hope. Why? Because hope is more virulent than fear, and it can spread faster than any virus.

If we pass it on.

Posted in Culture, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Be the Tree!

The incident below occurred years ago when Cleveland’s rep was at an all-time low. More recently, my wife and I spent a wonderful weekend there, strolling the art deco boulevards, eating great meals, and exploring the inimitable Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

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I’d missed my connecting flight and gotten stuck in Cleveland.

Oh, the humanity!

Anyway, the result was an unplanned 4 hour layover. I could have bought a paperback, or sat watching the slo-mo ballet of jets on the tarmac. But for some reason, when I prayed about it, I sensed God telling me to take the shuttle into the city. “Are You sure, God?” I asked. “I mean, you know this is Cleveland, right?”

Crickets.

The moment I arrived, I spotted a depressed-looking guy in an “Information” booth. I walked over to him and said, “I’ve got four hours to kill. What’s there to do?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “You know this is Cleveland, right?” (I’m not making this up.)

I told you, God! I said in my head.

But then God replied, “Tell him about Me.”

So I told him about God, the omnipotent, omniscient—and decidedly pushy—Creator of the universe who I do, in fact, love with all my heart and, however grumpily, get all my best ideas from—including things like telling Information Guys about Him.

To my surprise, Information Guy seemed impressed, and even a little jealous. But then he said, “I’m not ready, man. First I have to get my life together. Then I’ll give it to God.”

He was eating an apple, so I pointed at it and said, “You don’t become a tree by producing apples. You produce apples because you’re a tree. First you have to be the tree. Let God make you a tree!”

He looked at me like I was crazy (I get that a lot). But then something seemed to click. Still, he smiled and said nothing more.

So I went off and bought a paperback.

When it was time to return to the airport, I headed for the shuttle, passing Information Guy on the way. Before I could say anything, he flashed me a grin and shouted, “Be the tree, man! Be the tree!”

Then he put his palms together, indicating he’d been praying, and pointed upward.

Have I mentioned that that was my favorite layover ever?

I love it when God springs divine appointments on me, even if I do grumble about them.

Especially when they’re in Cleveland.

“You did not choose Me, I chose you, and equipped you to bear good fruit!” ~John 15:16

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Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , | 28 Comments

Be the Good News

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One of the fundamental rules of storytelling is “Show, don’t tell.” The same rule works well for followers of Jesus. Unless we show people the good news, it won’t ring true. And the best way to show it is to live it.

“Some will say, ‘You have faith and I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

~James 2:18

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

My Epic Quest for Toilet Paper

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Due to the growing pandemic, most public gatherings in our area are cancelled. The public is making a run on local markets in preparation to stay at home. Toilet paper was the first thing to go! It all feels kind of primitive. Here’s my personal report:

Great sick-storm building. Tribe Healer say much cave and hut dweller maybe-sick. Big Spirit angry? (Probably Zug and his stupid boasting.) So we stay away from other maybe-sick tribe people. We stay in cave where nice and cozy. We make shadow pictures on wall, laugh much, pop roasted grubs on fire–my favorite!

But Neema complain she have no meadow grass for to wipe bottom-place-that-follow-her-wherever-she-go. She very clean. Much trouble. But look and smell better than me.

So I put on mammoth fur and go to Great Meadow where is much food and herb. It crazy there! I never see so many tribe people, not just man-warrior, but many feisty woman-warrior, too! All pushing woven basket, gathering small frozen animal to eat later. Meadow grass all gone!

I return to cave with no meadow grass. Neema not happy. So this morning when Big Light appear, I put on mammoth fur and climb to top of Tall Rock. From there I can see Great Meadow. I see more meadow grass–but not much! So I drink hot jitter-weed juice, grab spear and go!

I come to Big Meadow. So much crazy tribe people! All grabbing meadow grass for to wipe bottom-place-that-follow-them-wherever-they-go. Still, I find three bundle and put in my pushing-basket. Then I shake spear, and say, “These mine!” Others say, “Good. Those yours!” We smile. Tribe people not so bad.

I bring home meadow grass and drop on cave floor. Neema make cute face. I like that face. Maybe tonight I get lucky. 

Posted in Culture, Humor, Story Power | Tagged , , , , , , | 75 Comments