Long Live the Spirit of Notre Dame!

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“I once toured Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and was astonished to see gargoyles (demons) all along its spectacular roofline. When I asked why they would include suchgargoyles-at-notre-dame symbols of evil, the translator replied, ‘Ho-ho, we do not embrace evil, monsieur, we mock it! You see, the demons are racing away!’ (Each gargoyle is countered by an angel directly opposite it inside.) ‘And,’ the translator added, ‘we humble them by making them serve as water spouts!’” ~from the blog post Is Halloween Evil?

I’m praying that the people of France will find a new sense of unity and purpose in restoring Notre Dame, one of the world’s most significant and sublime works of architecture. I’m also praying that, here in the midst of Holy Week, many will find a new sense of unity and purpose in rediscovering the faith it represents.

Vive l’esprit de Notre-Dame!

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Parable of the Sailboat

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Most of my dreams are “mad libs,” the organized part of my mind attempting to construct a narrative out of disparate snippets. But every now and then I receive what could actually be considered a message.

My life was at a transition point. I’d been praying for guidance and, like all humans, wanted clear, complete directions–and I wanted them now!

Then early one morning, as I hovered below consciousness, I found myself on a sailboat at sea. I’d been travelling for days and had prayed repeatedly for guidance. Finally, the clouds rolled back, a light beamed down, and a Monty Python-ish voice rumbled, “Hang a left.”

Directions! I’d finally received directions! I turned the tiller. The boat groaned to portside. Waves danced onto the deck. I had a mission!

Before long I spotted an island, and thought, “God is sending me there!” As the island grew nearer, I saw beautiful islanders in graceful catamarans rowing out to meet me! “Hello!” I shouted. “God is sending me to you!” And then, just as I was about to land, the clouds parted, and the voice said, “Hang a right.”

That was it, no explanation, just “hang a right.” I bitterly heeled to starboard and sailed away. Away from my calling, away from my purpose! After hours of sulking, I yelled, “Why? Why did you change your mind, God?”

I was suddenly yanked up into the sky, from whence I was able to look down, for the first time, upon the entire course of my journey (which was marked by a conveniently cinematic dotted line). And from there–from God’s point of view–I was able see what had actually occurred:

I’d been sailing toward a distant country when I came to the edge of a perilous reef, one that would have shredded my little boat, and me! So the Voice had instructed me to turn left. But as soon as I began tacking to port I found myself in line with an island, one which, in fact, had nothing to do with my journey. Then, when I reached the western edge of the reef, I was told to turn right and continue my journey.

At that moment, I awoke. “What was that?” I asked. And a still, small voice replied, “You weren’t told go to the island, Mitch. You saw it and assumed you were. Every time that, in your desire for complete directions, you make assumptions, you risk swamping your true calling. You must learn to wait. Learn to listen. Learn to live by every word that proceeds from My mouth, not just some of the words, and never by your assumptions about them. (Matthew 4:4) Radical effectiveness requires radical obedience!”

Mad libs are OK in dreams, but not in real life.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 47 Comments

Dear God

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Actual Kids’ Letters to God

Dear God…

“Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don’t You just keep the ones You already made?” ~Jane

“In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation?” -Christi

“Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before, You can look it up.” ~Bruce

“Is it true my father won’t get in Heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house?” -Anita

“If You watch me in church Sunday, I’ll show You my new shoes.” ~Mickey D.

“Who draws the lines around the countries?” ~Jennifer

“It rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad! He said some things about You that people are not supposed to say, but I hope You will not hurt him anyway.” ~Your friend (But I am not going to tell you who I am) 

“Are you really invisible or is that just a trick?” ~Lucy

“I did not think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.” ~Eugene

“I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.” ~Nan

“I think about You sometimes, even when I am not praying.” ~Elliott

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

~Jesus (Matthew 19:14)

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

Irony, Thy Name is Human

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To err is human.

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Oh, so

human.

Posted in Culture, Humor, Mitchellaneous | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Music from My Movies

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Impossible Love

The song Impossible Love plays a key role in my film Over-the-Rhine, as indeed it does in my life. Early in the movie, seventeen-year-old songwriter and drug addict Alec has a melody stuck in his head. He attempts to shape it into a conventional love song, but it refuses to bend.

Later, in the aftermath of a tragedy that Alec is largely responsible for, he realizes the song “isn’t about a girl,” and quickly finishes the lyrics in his jail cell. The novelization (which I’m currently working on) describes the moment this way:

He laughs at himself, and says aloud, “I’ll probably rewrite it again tomorrow.” But when he looks again at the opening line, the one he’s just changed for the eighteenth time, he knows it’s final, that he finally has it right. Because it’s finally true. It’s the truest thing he’s ever written.

The circumstances were different when I wrote the song, but like Alec I knew it was one of the truest and most personal things I’d ever written. Inspired by St. Augustine’s words, “Thou has made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee,” I wrote of my own longing for “a love that can never be broken.”

VERSE 1

Been looking for love that can never be broken

Impossible love that couldn’t exist

A love that can hear me when words are not spoken

That even my unfaithful heart can’t resist

BRIDGE

Maybe I’ll never know if I can find you

Or if you are even alive

But you are the one thing that I bind to

The reason that I can survive

CHORUS

I need you to light up these dark lonely halls

Need to know you know my innermost walls

Need you to live where I’ve wandered alone

Need you to make my heart into your home

VERSE 2

Well, I heard of a man who vanished completely

Had riches and power like an old king of Spain

But nobody whispered or spoke his name sweetly

In the end he was only a stain on the world

Repeat BRIDGE

CHORUS

I need you to light up these dark lonely halls

Need to know you know my innermost walls

Need you to live where I’ve wandered alone

Need you to make my heart into your home

Impossible Love has been one of the audience’s favorite moments in the award-nominated score ever since Over-the-Rhine first screened at film festivals.

This recording was produced by the composer of Over-the-Rhine’s score, Steve Goers. The vocal is performed by Noah Berry.

Note: No part of this song or recording may be copied or reproduced without first obtaining written permission from its composer Mitch Teemley (Og Hollow Music, 2016 – ASCAP)
Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Movies, Poetry, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Story Power | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

Outrageous! (Unless, you know, it’s true)

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I don’t know who created the above meme, but I love its irreverent reverence. In fact I even LOL’d when I read it (something I rarely do in polite circles). I mean, I’ve been called a liar from time to time, and never once did it mean, “Dude, you’re totally deluded, but you’re still a great moral teacher.” It meant, Run! Always. So, yeah…

Jesus’ claims are truly outrageous (read what he says about himself in the Gospel of John). Unless they’re true. And then, well, OK, they’re still outrageous, but they’re also the most wonderful news we’ll ever hear. Because it means our Creator loves us so much that he chose to personally save us from the most out-of-control, destructive force ever to emerge on our planet–us. 

No way? Yahweh. Totally outrageous. Here’s what C. S. Lewis concluded:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Carrying Treasures into the Light

lace-picture-oneMy Featured Blogger this week is journalist turned teacher Nancy E. Head. I held off featuring her for some time because she doesn’t use Reblog buttons. But I couldn’t wait any longer, because she’s simply one of my favorite online writers (and people). So I’ve pieced together a sort of mock-up reblog here, but to read the whole post you’ll need to click on the link at the end. Do so! You won’t find a more compassionate or articulate defender of life–both inner and outer, born and unborn–than Nancy E. Head!

newborn-baby-990691_960_720In 1894, a new play opened on the London stage. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest addressed social concerns, gender, wealth, and status issues. The story centers around a character with a questionable beginning. Jack Worthing doesn’t know who his biological parents are. Until he does, he cannot marry the girl of his dreams. His shady secret?

He was found in a train station–having been abandoned. Jack Worthing finally finds his mother–and his worth. Now, social status and parentage aren’t as closely connected as they were for Jack or Oscar Wilde. But the world today is finding no shortage of abandoned children.

In 1993, a federal study said 22,000 US mothers abandoned their infants in hospitals every year. Today, the nation isn’t even keeping track of the numbers. It’s a problem that doesn’t get much attention. Here or there, a story pops up of a child left behind. Sometimes dressed warmly on a doorstep, sometimes in a toilet or a dumpster. And it’s not just babies. In 2008 in Nebraska, a father left nine of his ten children ranging in age from 20 months to 17 years.

It’s also a problem that has accompanied humanity through the ages. In every culture, in every time, children were simply cast out into the dark world. In Rome, they were left to be eaten by wild animals, or perhaps, rescued only to be exploited. Rejected because they were girls, or imperfect, or one mouth too many.

In America in the nineteenth century, early feminists and physicians worked together to criminalize abortion.

To read the rest of the post, or to follow Nancy, click here.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments