A Film That Inspired Me

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Dora A.K. of The Jolly Beggar and its sister site Dreams From a Pilgrim. I only recently began following Dora, but already both of her sites are among my favorites. In Beggar, Dora writes about current topics (but always with an eye to the eternal). In Pilgrim she writes a bit more about her own spiritual journey. Dora never fails to make me ruminate on things that matter, and never fails to hold my attention. The woman writes well!

In this case, I admit, she’s written on a subject close to my heart, my own recently-released feature film Healing River, so, I admit, this is a bit of twofer. But she was due to be Featured anyway. Visit both of her blog sites…

And you’ll see why!

The Jolly Beggar

In response to SandmanJazz’s 30 Day Film Challenge today, to wit, a film that inspired you, I like his repartee to the prompt: “Inspired me to what?🤣”

Exactly.

Inspired me to what?

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And that made me think of a movie I saw just in the last month on Amazon Prime: Healing River (2020), written & directed by Mitch Teemley. It’s a religious drama borne out of sudden tragedy. I hesitate to call it “religious” because that brings to mind the Hallmark pablum variety. This is more of a drama in the vein of Mike Nichols’s directorial debut, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966). Although it’s no black comedy, Healing River socks it to you with its fluid cinematography, character psychology, acerbic, no-holds barred dialogue and – here’s where the inspiration comes from – brutal honesty about what it means to be a Christian.

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

In Praise of the Almost-Ordinary

Last weekend my wife and I passed a milestone, one that wouldn’t have even been an inchstone until 2020. Is there such a thing as an “inchstone”? Well, no. And that’s my point. Because you don’t celebrate ordinary things until you’ve lost them and then gotten them back—even if just a little.

And what, you may ask (but hurry up, I have a sentence to finish), is this inchstone of almost-ordinariness? Going to “the movies.” Not streaming Netflix while cocooned in our den (although we’ve done plenty of that lately), but walking into a theater lobby, buying tickets, and settling in with buttered popcorn and overpriced sodas in-hand!

It’s something we’ve done countless times, and especially enjoyed on sweltery summer days like these. You know, days when a healthy walk in the park sounds oh-so un-inviting and consuming empty calories amid the HVAC-breeze of a darkened movie theater sounds oh-so alluring?

I admit, I loved it. But I didn’t blog about it, because it was ordinary.

But then the world changed. The last time we went to a movie theatre it was too cold for a walk in the park. It was also the last weekend before the lockdown began and theaters closed.

Of course, this weekend’s outing was only almost-ordinary.

  • The movie was a “small” one we’d normally have watched online
  • It was playing at one of the few theaters that are currently open 
  • The ticket-seller wore gloves behind a bullet virus-proof barrier 
  • Two out of three rows were roped-off
  • We wore masks when we weren’t in our seats
  • Only three other people were actually in the theater

Still, it was almost-ordinary, and I’ll take almost-ordinary over ab-ordinary, which is what this mad year has been.

So, am I against masks and social-distancing? Of course–and of course not. The facts are there, unless you subscribe to the “alternative facts” (I don’t). And, no, I don’t find acceptable the Darwinian-Spanish Flu “solution” of establishing herd-immunity by letting millions of weaker “cows” die.

So, what’s the alternative? To patiently appreciate each new stage of almost-ordinary, and to help each other along the way…

Until the blessed ordinary returns.

Posted in Humor, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Summer Camp Forever!

John Jacob Jingleheimer

Summer Memories

In my memory, the words summer and camp are inseparable. Our local YMCA had an extensive program for teenies through teenagers, and I was hooked!

Little Kids Camp was held in a pine-filled grove right there in suburban SoCal (we went home each night). It was “pretend-you’re-in-the-mountains,” with hikes, knot-tying (I remember nothing), and campfires (I remember it all). We sang silly songs (“John Jingleheimer Schmidt,” “Do Your Ears Hang Low”) and did even sillier skits.

One skit involved a man (boy) being dunked in the water over and over again, and each time being asked, “Do you believe?” The last time he’s asked, “What do you believe?” and he replies, “I believe you’re trying to drown me!” I laughed, but I didn’t get it. Being from a thoroughly worldly family, I’d never even heard of baptism.

Then on to Big Kids Camp! Camp Osceola was in the Southern California mountains. We got to sleep in pine cabins every night! And to ride horses and swim and eat in a bona fide pine-paneled mess hall!

One leader tried (and failed) to teach us etiquette. He explained that it was impolite to prop our silverware up against our plates. “Why?” I asked. “Well, um, because ants will walk right up it onto your plate!” he said. And I thought, “My mom would never allow ants in our house!”

But there were deeper truths. One overnight hike went all the way to the top of Old Greyback (Mt. San Gorgonio), SoCal’s highest peak. The rule was: We hike as a group–everyone gets to the top!

Not a bad rule for the year 2020. 

Truths were snuck in during campfires as well. After the requisite goofy songs, skits and announcements, a leader would tell a modern day parable. To me they were just stories. And yet they rumbled around in my head when I lay in my sleeping bag later. One particularly impacted me:

A struggling architect is hired by a rich man to build a lavish house, no expenses spared. Resentful of the man’s wealth, he uses the flimsiest of materials and cuts every possible corner, basically constructing a beautiful pile of junk. When he’s finished, the rich man praises his work, unhesitatingly pays him, and then says, “Because I appreciate your integrity, my friend, I’m giving you this house!”

As a result of the truths planted in my worldly little heart, I developed a hunger for something more, to wit, for the Source of the truths peppered amongst those hikes and silly camp songs.

I walked and prayed this morning in our local urban woods, and thought, as I often do of my summer camp days. And of how grateful I am for the truths imparted to me. But most of all I’m grateful that I finally learned to connect…

With the Source of those truths.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Warning: Prayer is Dangerous

Moses_Pluchart

I asked God for advice, and he said, “OK. Change.”

I replied, “No, no, there you go again misunderstanding my requests!”

Warning:

If you ask God for guidance, he’s going to tell you to change.

This is why prayer is so unpopular.

“I will not offer to the LORD my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing.”

~2 Samuel 24:24

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Our Audience is Growing

I’m grateful to announce that, despite minimal advertising (we’re not exactly the Walt Disney Company) my feature film Healing River is one of the top-rated films on Amazon Prime. Result? Its viewing numbers have increased every week since it premiered–and Amazon is recommending it to more and more people!  One reviewer wrote:

“The screenwriter/director is not shy about letting his characters address God directly in shock, in anger, in grief and even rage. It’s not only natural, it’s reality. Nothing in the situation seems fair. Justice seems yet another victim. But as the story unfolds, hearts…are laid bare…because God is at the very center of the movie. And it’s really all about his faithfulness in the midst of suffering we can neither understand nor overcome by our own efforts. Suffering is real. But so is hope.” ~Elizabeth Arundel

A brief clip from the film:

From the Healing River novelization:

Grasping both of the boy’s shoulders, Peter presses him back against the wall, and says, “You are not the center of the universe, Alec! Not everything happens because of you! Do you think God gets up every morning, and says, ‘Boy, I’d love to do some terrific stuff today, but I just can’t because Alec McCortland will screw it all up’?”

“How, how can you talk like that?” the teenager asks, offended at the priest’s irreverence.

“Like what, Alec? Like a ‘regular person’? Well, guess what? That’s what I am, a regular person. I eat, I sleep, I poop, and I have incredibly stupid ideas—some of which are sicker and more sinful than you would ever believe!”

The boy stares at him, wild eyed, uncomprehending, lost in a void where the only thing that exists are multiple iterations of himself.

“But then God invades me again,” the priest continues, unremitting in his effort to shatter the boy’s isolation, “because that’s what He does, Alec. He’s my medicine for stupid. He’s the pill that keeps me alive!”

You don’t have to be an Amazon Prime member to see Healing River. To watch or order it, just click here.

Healing River Poster

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Religion/Faith, Videos | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments

Dolls Re-imagined!

A post on dolls? Hey, there’s a pandemic out there, and dolls can’t catch it! No, I’m not playing with dolls—yet–but I became utterly fascinated when gathering these images. I discovered that dolls are sculptures-with-attitude, made by humans-with-attitude! Oh, sure, some are boringly pretty. And cute? Oh, yeah, but sometimes in the most unexpected ways (werewolf babies anyone?). There are funny, provocative and creepy dolls, and dolls you can’t believe someone actually made! In short, they are as varied as people. Maybe even more-so. Why? Because dolls are only limited to what we can imagine. And what we can imagine is limitless!

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

“I never shoot for perfection or symmetry in doll making. It is our lovely flaws that make us each special.” ~Gayle Wray (doll creator)

“Nothing real is pretty. Only a doll is pretty. And a pretty doll drinks out of a tiny cup forever. A woman wants a big cup.” ~Catherynne M. Valente

 “It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose. They can only be chosen; they cannot ‘do’; they can only be done by.” ~Rumer Godden

 “Mary was bigger than Laura, and she had a rag doll named Nettie. Laura had only a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief, but it was a good doll. It was named Susan. It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob. Sometimes Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but she did it only when Susan couldn’t see.” ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Growing up, my dolls were doctors and on secret missions. I had Barbie Goes Rambo.” ~Zoe Saldana

“Put…the troll…down…and slowly back away.” ~Neal Stephenson

“Since too few Americans go to the polls, I say what this country needs is a bobblehead election, where voters will get free bobblehead dolls of their choice when they show up and vote for president.” ~Frank Deford

“There are two kinds of people, those who love dolls and those who don’t yet know that they love dolls.” ~Gayle Wray

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

More Comedy Relief

Last March, I posted a blog entitled Comedy Relief, and felt the need to justify joking about this terrible outbreak. 4 months on I make no excuses. Humor helps us survive!

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

Stay safe, and keep finding reasons to smile!

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Summer Colors in the Forest

e85f1168aa7f5fcb91af5db01d8b4dec.jpegMy Featured Blogger this week is freelance writer-photographer Pitchurman of Day-to-Day Photography. I don’t know Pitchurman’s “real” name, but then this Alabama-based artist’s self-description concludes with the words “first and always a photographer.” And quite a picture-man he is. Although his seasoned eyes captures some lovely landscapes and longshots, my favorites are the close-ups like this one. There is something transcendent here: the eye of a human creator capturing the tenderness and beauty of the original Creator’s touch.

But don’t stop here–go to Pitchurman’s blog site and take in more of the “Day-to-Day” wonders his eye has captured!

Day-To-Day Photography

Close-up photograph of colorful Maple leaves revealed in light filtered through the forest canopy.

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Deep Stuff

It’s Topical Tuesday, according to my About page. But I can’t seem to focus on just one topic. So here’s a virtual gaggle of deep stuff to ponder:

  • On June 24, 1908, 24th President Grover Cleveland, of Ohio, died in Princeton, NJ. And at that very same moment, Grover Princeton was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Coincidence? I think not! c717b69e4c1ce902a6854d33e8ff0e13
  • Sane Sex Marriage will never be legalized, because no one who gets married is sane.
  • Oxymoron –  Why can’t my wife understand that “too much cheese” is an oxymoron?
  • Youth – If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have known what I knew.
  • Annoying Sayings – Just sayin’. If I never heard the term ‘just sayin’ again, I’d be totally OK with that. I mean, just sayin’.
  • Best Groaner Ever? (I didn’t make this one up–wish I had) – What do you call a chicken coop with 4 doors?  Answer: A chicken sedan.
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Before Our Tickers Quit

Bill Teemley-mid 50sMy father died on this date, at age 45. From a heart attack. It happened two weeks after his annual check-up, where he’d been told, “Your ticker is in great shape!” They said that back then, “ticker.” They also said a lot of other silly things. And they got a lot of things wrong.

47 years after my dad’s death–two years longer than he lived–I look around and see how much they, i.e. we, still get wrong. We condemn each other for crimes against humanity that (whether right or wrong) were societal norms just a few years or even months ago. We assume that the worst things we hear are true. We fail to listen to each other, preferring instead to talk about each other.

And then we die. Before we can break the pattern and change our ways, before we can learn to listen, learn to forgive. I would give anything to have my father back, to finish the hard work of understanding that had only just begun when his “ticker” quit.

Shame on us. God forgive us and teach us to listen, to understand, to forgive, and to love one another–especially our enemies–in whatever time we have left. Help us to break the pattern of condemnation…

Before our tickers quit.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive yours, but if you do not forgive, neither will yours be forgiven.” ~Matthew 6:14-15

“The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.” ~Galatians 5:6

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments