Has Your Life Blown Off Course?


I recently wrote about a friend who has left his marriage and is unsure what he’ll do next. I haven’t been able to meet with him yet, and even when I do there’s no guarantee he’ll return. Meanwhile, my wife and I are talking with his wife, whom we’ve known even longer, and care for very much. She’s devastated. And we’re in emergency prayer mode. It seems as if her life has blown off course. And yet…

I studied sailing in college and learned that, while it’s fun to “run with the wind,” it doesn’t happen very often. More often, the wind is against you. And you can’t sail directly into the wind, period. So you have to tack, which means to repeatedly “come about,” making lurching 90° turns that cause your sail to careen from one side of the boat to the other, sometimes sweeping unwary passengers overboard. Sailing is not a spectator sport. And neither is marriage.

Or life. Most of the time you have to zigzag, responding to constantly changing 
conditions, executing extreme turns, ducking the sail, and enlisting the help of everyone you can. Challenging? Yes! But the alternatives are worse. Either you, 1) luff—just sit there, dead in the water, as the wind passes you by, or, 2) capsize—get blown over and turn “turtle.” Righting the boat when that happens is possible, but very difficult. And you can’t do it alone.

Right now, our friend’s wife feels like she’s alone. But she isn’t. We and others are ready to help her right the ship. And more importantly, God is ready.

Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Note that it doesn’t say God “designs” or “pre-plans” all things to work together—this is no promise of “smooth sailing”—rather, it says he causes all things to work together.Sailing-Tacking

I have a friend named Larry who founded a powerful prison ministry. He did this by, 1) murdering a man, 2) receiving a life sentence, 3) serving a decade of hard time, 4) finding Christ, 5) becoming an in-prison chaplain, 6) receiving a gubernatorial pardon, and 7) building a ministry that has changed the lives of thousands. God didn’t say, “Hey, I think I’ll have Larry kill someone so he can build a wonderful outreach.” Rather, he took Larry’s terrible choices and, once Larry turned his life over to him, “caused” those choices to “work together for good.”

God can cause whatever happens in your life, your wrong choices or those of others, to get you back on-course, and to change the world for good. So how do you make that happen? Just love him (truly love him–which means letting him navigate), and the “called according to his purpose” part will happen.

So, whether you’re struggling to get your own ship or a friend’s ship back on-course, there’s scary, exhilarating sailing ahead.

All hands on deck.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Pass it On!

 “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received.”  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Leaf Me Alone!


“The wind bloweth wherever it pleaseth.” ~John 3:8

Moving from L.A. to Cincinnati introduced me to the overly-romanticized reality of raking leaves. The grand finale of autumn colors is truly lovely. But as Yoda might put it, “Too long on the ground, they are, and too short on the trees!”

Still, necessity is the mother of in(ter)vention, and that’s exactly what my friend Bill did when he intervened, and taught me how to “blow and mow,” i.e. blow the leaves onto the lawn and mulch them up using a lawnmower. “Way easier, this is!” (Yoda) And so it came to pass that I acquired a blower and became a Leafmeister, 1st Class!

One problem: Every year, after I blow and mow my leaves for the “final time,” a late fall wind kicks up and hurls the 8,000,000 remaining leaves on the Mt. Kilimanjaro-sized oak tree in the neighbor’s yard across the street into my yard. (Oak leaves are mower-mockingly flat and tough, by the way.)

And speaking of wind, it’s a fundamental law of nature that, when you are blowing leaves, “An equal or greater amount of wind will arise and blow them in the opposite direction.”


Where’s my rake?

Posted in Culture, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A Filmmaker’s Journal

Turmen Alley

A major publisher is considering publishing my novelization of the screenplay for my feature film Over-the-Rhine. Hence I’ve been working on that and had no blog posts planned for today (I sent it to the publisher just minutes ago, so the proverbial ink is still drying on my screen). And then it occurred to me to post a brief excerpt from the in-progress novel. Here is a short but essential scene that sets in motion much of what follows in this intense drama of addiction and forgiveness.

(Photo below: Turmen Alley scene from the making of the film Over-the-Rhine)


Turmen Alley: to addicts-in-training it means escape, to seasoned users it means there is no escape. It’s here that Herminio, with a tattoo for every one of his client’s needle marks, hides like a crab in a crevice, unseen from Pleasant Street a hundred feet away. Eventually, Damon will move him to another city; “rolling stoners,” Damon calls his dealers, because they never stay in one city long enough to gather moss. “Just keepin’ y’all clean and free,” he says. That sounds good to Herminio, who has no friends, only a man he drinks with and a woman he sleeps with.

A boy moves toward him, passing under a yellow lamp. Herminio doesn’t know the boy, or his age, but he’s sold him plenty over the last six months. The boy is pasty white, with uncut hair and high cheekbones, like a lost prince.

“Hey, H,” the boy says. “H” is all the clients know. It’s all they need to know. The boy slaps a wad of bills under Herminio’s palm as if slapping him a hello.

Herminio continues the motion, depositing the cash into one pocket while sliding a bag of oxycodone out of another and into the boy’s opposing hand. Anyone watching from five feet away would see nothing but a faintly Hispanic man greeting an overly pale teenager.

The boy starts to turn away. Graduation time, Herminio thinks. “Wait, check this,” he says, and pulls out another bag for the boy to see. He points to the needle, spoon, lighter, strap, and bag of magic dust inside. “It’s a gift,” he adds.

“Heroin?” the boy asks.

Herminio nods (heroin and who knows what else). He knows the boy will take it because he’s desperate to be callous and cool. They always are.

The boy takes it.

Herminio smiles as the boy walks away.

Damon will be happy.

Posted in Books, Movies, Story Power, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

What’s Your Happiness Baseline?

Have you ever noticed how your happiness baselinethe bundle of things you consider essential for satisfaction—constantly shifts? That’s because it’s based on what you’re currently used to, and what you’re currently used to is, well, current. Presentation1

I recently grumbled about having to drive to an ATM in order to deposit a check. And yet, not many years back I thought ATMs were the bees knees: “Woo-hoo! I don’t have to go inside the bank anymore!” Now I consider ATMs primitive, and expect all of my banking to be done online. My happiness baseline shifts. Constantly.

Perhaps it would be easier if, instead of trying to meet these constantly shifting expectations, I were to remind myself–every time I start to grumble–that only two things matter: I am loved. And I have a purpose. No shifting sand there, just solid rock (Matthew 7:24-25). It’s time to move my happiness baseline to a new address. Or, as the case may be,

Remind myself where I live. 

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Inside Me

wishing-pix-mapOn Wednesdays, I normally post episodes of The Wishing Map, my fantasy about two kids exploring a strange and mysterious world. However, this morning doctors will be exploring the strange and mysterious world of my colon, creating as it were, a Mitching Map. Hence, I have scheduled this brief post in advance, not to make you squirm (if I have, sorry), but because I feel a genuine connection with many of you, and therefore covet your prayers.

One always prays for an amicable report following a colonoscopy. But if the imaginative Creator of my digestive tract should have something more adventurous in mind, who am I to complain? All I have, and all I am, is his. So…

See you on the other side!

Posted in Humor, Mitchellaneous, The Wishing Map | Tagged , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Love Hurts

Presentation1“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.” ~Neil Gaiman

“Honey, if a girl likes you, that’s nothing. But now if she hates you, that might just be love.” ~Over-the-Rhine (early draft of screenplay)

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~Stephen Chbosky

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis

“Love—real love—is patient and kind. It is not jealous or boastful, proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. And it keeps no record of being wronged.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments