Dec 23, 2010

Caption Please

Okay so I nicked this from Roger Ebert's blog, but the picture desperately needs a caption.
Any takers?

Dec 21, 2010

Doggy Poo, the Unlikely Hero

I am not sure if the creators are sincere or not.

Dec 20, 2010

Animal Voice Overs

I've seen a few of these that aren't THAT great, but this one is hysterical.

Dec 17, 2010

Steven Colbert on the gospel

I just love Steve Colbert, preaching it on prime time.

Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>

Dec 10, 2010

Dramatic Lemur

Continuing last week's trend, someone took the Dramatic (animal) meme and took it to a new level. I found this the funniest of all. Especially since Larry and I had just watched "Star Wars" on TV and witnessed the now-familiar THX intro ...

Dec 3, 2010

Dramatic Chipmunk

Apparently it's a trend.

Dec 2, 2010

Dramatic Eagle

Nov 30, 2010

Norwegian Humor

There's this myth that Scandanavians aren't very funny. True, Ingmar Bergman didn't do much to dispel this myth, but Bergman was Swedish, not norwegian. Okay, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch didn't either. But there's Garrison Keillor who's been finding the funny in Lake Wobegone for years.

Well, if you haven't seen this, you must. It's from a Norwegian sketch comedy show, and one of the most inventive comedy sketches I've seen. The kind that begs the question. "Why didn't I think of that first?" Well, because the Norskes did.

Nov 26, 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas

It's Black Friday! Are you going shopping?
Me neither. I would rather participate in the Advent Conspiracy. More on that next week.

But the December consumer season is upon us, and I can't stop you. So I thought I would offer some timely advice for those would-be shoppers out there.

Nov 17, 2010


Nov 16, 2010

Flash Mob, Hallelujah Style

The day before Halloween, the Opera Company of Philadelphia did their own flash mob and invaded Macys.  Kinda takes the commercialism out of shopping, eh?

I SO want to do this in LA!!

Nov 12, 2010

One act can change a life

As part of the Permission to Speak Freely book tour, we are stumping for Compassion International: A child sponsorship program that gives children in dire poverty the physical emotional, educational and spiritual tools that change their lives.

The young men and women in this video were sponsored as children. Now they're being sent to college because of Compassion. One of the guys here was sponsored because a family decided to forego a second home phone and sponsor him instead. Now he's going to college.

One Act from Compassion International on Vimeo.

I went to El Salvador with Compassion and I've seen the program up close. I've met the staff, I've met the students.

I can't watch it without feeling compelled to act, without wanting to shout to everyone I know, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. YOU CAN DO SOMETHING FOR ONE PERSON.

Nov 8, 2010

Permission To Speak Freely

I’m out on a mini tour with author Anne Jackson and musician Solveig Leithaug to support Anne’s new book, “Permission to Speak Freely.” Her book was borne out of a question she posted on her blog a couple years ago: “What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” Within a week she had over 500 responses. People wrote about their addictions to porn, alcohol and food. They were afraid to talk about homosexuality or poverty or social justice. A man said after his wife divorced him, his church rejected him too.

The response to Anne’s blog was so tremendous that CNN picked up the story. (Apparently it’s news to the world that church people don’t feel safe in church. Is it news to you?)

It got her thinking more deeply, and so she decided to turn it into a book. She asked readers to send those secrets on cards, art, however they felt led. And so her book, Permission to Speak Freely, became a compilation of original art, poetry and stories. Not just Anne’s stories but those who wrote in.

And now we are on the road, turning that groundswell into a live event. In the first half, Anne, Solveig and I share our dirty little secrets: sexual abuse, spouse’s addictions; alcohol, porn and food addictions; divorce and depression. The longer we hid, the sicker we got. But when we got honest, we began to heal. In the second half we hold a Q & A for the audience to ask questions.

We’ve only had two events so far: one at a modest church in a working class town, another at a wealthy church in an über-rich suburb. The attendees may have looked different from the outside, but their inner lives were so similar.  I know because of what they’ve shared during Q & A. One teenage girl said her cousins had stolen her ‘innocence’ and she wanted it back. A woman shared how, when husband abandoned her, she went on a sex-spree to numb out. Four young women from a 12-step program showed up, including a 23-year old who had been a prostitute to support her meth habit. A man told the crowd he was the abusive, addict spouse we’d talked about. Another man shared he was in recovery from porn, but it had cost him his marriage. It was astounding to hear people open up and get free. It’s a privilege to witness it, and I pray this kind of honesty becomes commonplace in church.

But why isn’t it? Why don’t we feel safe in church? I doubt we are afraid of telling God our secrets: he already knows them. Maybe we are we afraid of other people: those people who show up to church all scrubbed-holy and put-together. Maybe they do have it all together; maybe they just act like it, or maybe we just think they do. It’s easy to compare their outsides to our insides, and think, “if they knew the real me, they’d reject me.” And sometimes they have rejected us. But church, of all places, should be the one safe place where we can own the sick truth about ourselves. Jesus said he came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

I learned a phrase in 12-step meetings: “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” In other words, if you can admit your secrets to someone, you can heal. Wouldn’t it be great if church looked like one big S.A. Meeting? Sinners Anonymous? I don’t mean we should lie around, wallowing in our brokenness and using it as an excuse not to get better. (I’ve been to that church). We need to move on from that and become productive members of society. But it starts with bringing those secrets into the light.

I also learned another thing in the 12 steps: don’t share your secrets with someone who doesn’t understand them. Share them with someone who’s been there, done that and doesn't lord it over you but says, "oh yeah, me too.”

Last Sunday our church had a 12-step forum after the service.  Those of us in Program talked about what we got out of it, and how it differed from church. For me, confessing my sins didn't zap me into heaI had to walk that out in my life and my behavior. I liken it to this: you want to lose 15 pounds. What works better? Telling yourself you’re fat and need to lose weight, or making up a food plan that you can follow? That’s how the 12 steps have worked for me: working with a sponsor who has been there too, and helps me work through the specific steps.  I don't to a 12-step meeting and expect them to believe what I believe or practice how I practice. I go to program for program. I go to church for church. I need both.

So could we speak freely and openly at church? Yes and no. I don’t think the Sunday morning service would work as a communal confessional. The Sunday service is about turning our attention to the divine, not ourselves.But that doesn’t mean we can’t create a safe place at church for people to open up. Our church does have a midweek healing service that is intimate, safe, and we have a time to share with each other. Many churches have adopted the “Celebrate Recovery” program, a program like the 12 steps but with a specific Christian spirituality. I haven’t done CR. I like the original twelve steps, and I like interacting with people of all kinds of faiths. But some might prefer the CR program.

In any event, the Church needs to become a safe place to speak freely. We need to allow people to come: dirty or clean, healthy or sick, holy or messed up. It’s the sick that need a physician, not those who are well, or who act like it.

“A bruised read he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

For more information on the tour visit the Permission to Speak Freely website. To book the tour at your joint, contact Jim Chaffee at Chaffee Management

Nov 4, 2010

The Renewed Mind vs. The Soup

Just in case you didn't see Monday's video, here is Joel McHale on "The Soup," giving his own commentary on the same.

Preach it, Joel

Nov 3, 2010


A month ago Larry and I got to see our freinds Dave and Heather. Dave is a book editor. He spends a lot of time working on books that don't exactly inspire him. Dave is a casual, humble guy. He never toots his own horn. But he did say he edited a book called, "Radical," that challenges us to rethink the American Dream, and ask ourselves if it squares with the gospel. He said it was something he was really proud of, and he hasn't said that often.

A friend just mentioned it on facebook, so I went looking for it. I found this video.

Radical by David Platt on Vimeo.

This made me think about what we've been hoping in these elections - what we expect government and politicians to do for us.  I disagree with the Tea Party movement, but I sure understand people's frustrations over taxes.  We shouldn't expect the government (or big business) to hand us our lives on a platter. I think most of us want to work hard and get something out of it.  We want to put food on the table, raise our kids in a safe world, do something important, or at least satisfying, in the world. But how easily our dreams turn into anxieties, and we can find ourselves hoarding what we've got.

Last night my friends Anne Jackson and Solveig Leithaug did a show as part of Anne's Permission To Speak Freely tour, promoting her book of the same name.  We shared the stories we didn't feel safe to talk about in church. Then the audience shared theirs. It was spectacular, the way people opened up.

Afterward, a gal named Meeshee gave the three of us a handbag. We loved them. Then she told us the story behind the bags. Four years ago, Meeshee went to South Africa and visited a township, crippled by poverty and AIDS.  She had a dream to create some kind of work for them: work that could give them even a fraction of what we have.  

She started The Tag Bag: handbags made by the people of this township, created from used South African license plates and inner tubes!  The journey wasn't easy; the manufacturer pulled out of the endeavor, and production halted. But recently Meeshee found a new manufacturer. So the bags are back in production.

They're fabulous bags. Check out all the styles here.  And if you buy one, you do more than just get yourself a stylish handbag. You employ a township that needs the work. You give them the opportunity to feed their kids. Even then, they'll have only a fraction of what we have. 

So that's what was on my mind on Election Night: not gloating or moaning about who's in and who's out. But rethinking the American Dream. And doing something radical.  

So have you had any radical dreams recently? A germ of an idea or a hope for someone other than yourself?  I get caught up in my dreams for myself or Larry or my family.  I need to rethink my American Dream. 

Nov 1, 2010

Your Monday Morning Horror Video

So Halloween was yesterday, but here's where the real terror lies.

Oct 28, 2010

Greyson Chance

I scoffed yesterday when I saw an article on the LA Times. Some new teeny bopper in the making, and his name is Grayson Chance. With a name like that he's lucky not to get beaten to a pulp before he graduates junior high.

I just had to follow the article. Said he performed at a sixth-grade function at his church and posted it on youtube for th heck of it.  Heck of it.  it's now had over 32 million views. I had to watch.


This kid is not the next Justin Bieber. He could be the next Billy Joel or Elton John. I'm praying this kid has good support around him. He'll need it. But what a talent.

Oct 7, 2010

That Is Priceless

Just discovered this blog:  That Is Priceless takes classic pieces of art and gives them new captions.

Gustave Courbet fans may not like this one, but Johnny Depp Fans sure will.

Caption: Johnny Depp realizing he left the oven on

For more fun captions visit the That Is Priceless blog

Oct 1, 2010

Save Blue Like Jazz

I can point to several authors who influenced my Christian faith: CS Lewis, NT Wright, Henri Nouwen and Walter Wangerin Jr., to name a few. There are fewer authors that influenced me as a writer. But I can only think of two authors who influenced me as a writer of faith: Anne Lamott and Donald Miller; specifically, Traveling Mercies and Blue Like Jazz.

By 2004, my spiritual and professional life had hit the skids. The only job I could get was working at a church office. (God sure has a sense of humor). It wasn’t a bad job, actually. My bosses were cool, and my pastor let me come into his office at lunchtime and vent my frustrations and doubt. He’d nod and say, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” He loaned me several books that encouraged my faith. Not happy titles, mind you: Dark Night Of the Soul by St John of the Cross, Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb, and A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. The latter title sounds positive, but it’s written by a man whose wife, mother and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. The book is great. Read it.

But it wasn’t my pastor who told me about Blue Like Jazz. It was this random artsy guy who stopped in to visit the seminary intern working at the office. You know these young, artsy guys. They dabble in creative pursuits. They have their whole lives ahead of them and think the answers all their questions will be Yes and Amen. “Get back to me in ten years,” I want to tell them.

So this artsy guy was sitting across from my desk, raving about some über hip writer who had defined faith for his generation. “Blue Like Jazz,” he said and tapped on my desk. That’s all he said: “Blue Like Jazz. Read it.” And then he and the seminary intern went off to smoke cigars.

Two weeks later our pastor brought in an entire box of Blue Like Jazz and gave me a copy. It was like he was daring me to read it. I took it home, ready to pick it apart with my cynical, artistically mature eye. I didn’t want some young hipster dilettante telling me what my life was like.

Then I read the intro. I had to admit his analogy was creative: God was like jazz because neither resolved. He had a way with words. I read the first couple of chapters and had to admit he made some great points. When he said that going to a big church “was like going to church at the Gap” I laughed out loud. When he wrote about the confessional booth, I cried. Blue Like Jazz was better than Random Artsy Guy had said. It was terrific, and Don Miller became my hero.

When I sat down to write my own book, I thought of Blue Like Jazz and Traveling Mercies. Those books gave me permission to write honestly, and provided a yardstick with which to measure my own work.

Six years have passed. I’ve had the privilege to meet Don and get to know him.  He's not some über hip artsy dilettante. He's a funny, talented, generous guy.  I got to tour with him last fall. (God really has a sense of humor).

For the past two years, Don and Steve Taylor have been trying to make a movie based on the book. I read the screenplay, and it’s great. But they’ve run into problems with financing. And after two years they have finally given up.

So, how come this insanely popular book can’t get made into a low budget movie? Money. Basically, the guys who have the money to make the movie aren’t from the same generation as those who’ll go see the movie. The money guys probably like going to church at the Gap. They don’t cuss or smoke (at least, not in public). The movie has a little cussing and smoking, and the Money Guys can’t get around that. Now in Hollywood, old guys fund young-guy films all the time. Who do you think funded Superbad? Not Michael Cera’s friends. But in faith-based filmmaking, they can’t bridge the gap.

On September 16, Don announced on his blog that the movie was being shelved. In Hollywood they say it “went away,” because no one likes to say “over.” But the film was over.

Or was it? Two crazy young guys got an idea: get the kids who love the book to come up with the $125,000 still needed to make the movie. It was like Michael Cera’s friends decided to pass the hat. Here’s the video they made:

Save Blue Like Jazz from Save Blue Like Jazz

Maybe you're thinking: “Why should I donate? I’m an old white guy. I like wearing Dockers to church.” Or, "I'm a young white guy and the movie will ruin the book for me." Or, "I'm poor, I don't have a buck to spare." Well I’m an old white chick. I go to an old musty church with incense and choir robes. But if we are going to show how Jesus matters to another generation, we need to speak that generation’s language. Young twenty-something hipsters won’t respond to the things I respond to. But they’re going to respond to the way Jesus and faith are presented in this movie, because it’s written for them.

Do you have a child or a friend who doesn't "get" your faith? If you could make Jesus come alive to him or her, would you spend ten bucks to do it? Then do it.

I’m that random artsy guy tapping on your desk.
"Blue Like Jazz. Fund it."

Check out the Save Blue Like Jazz website.

Sep 29, 2010

Permission to Speak Freely

This fall I'm going to go on a mini tour with author Anne Jackson to promote her new book, Permission to Speak Freely.  Have you heard of Post Secret?  A blogger invites people to send postcards detailing some deep dark secret they're afraid to tell others.  The blogger puts them up on  his blog. People have submitted some wild secrets: funny, tragic, poignant.  And their art is pretty amazing too. Post Secret blog has taken off and the blogger published a book. 

Anne was taken by the idea. So she asked her fans and readers this question:
What's the one thing you don't feel safe to talk about in church?
People sent in their responses. Anne's book features those original post cards, as well as her own essays, poetry, and story about her own secrets.  The secrets she wasn't allowed to share in the one place we should all feel safe to be our whole selves, warts and all: church.

Permission to Speak Freely Tour this fall.

We've got a few dates schedule in the Pacific Northwest, a few in the midwest. We'd love to go more places, so if you think your church would benefit from us stopping by, please contact Chaffee Management.

Sep 27, 2010

Your Monday Morning Fun Pic

Where's Waldo?

And where's your scintillating caption for your Auntie Susie?

Sep 21, 2010

Fall and Honey

Fall is here. I don’t know why they wait until September 21 to call it autumn. I can feel it weeks before. I always sense it first in the sky: the light gets low and melancholy long before the temperature drops and the leaves fall. I sensed it as early as the end of August. It feels like earth must hit a particularly sharp curve in its lap around the sun, where it loses more time each day than in, say, June or July.  I'm not an astronomer, just guessing.  At any rate, I could sense it from Labor Day, that low achingly sad light in the afternoon sky, the slow slipping down of the temperature.

And now, finally the leaves are beginning to fall (what leaves actually fall in LA). The pepper trees shed their seeds, the maples are beginning to turn. And our wisteria vine is losing its leaves.  I've only now been willing to go into the back yard.  The gladiolas died off completely, but I haven’t had the will to pull them from the ground. I haven’t been able to go into the back yard. There’s too much of Honey back there.

I've always loved fall the best: that time to be thoughtful and beautifully melancholy.  It prompts a time to reflect, take stock, then hunker down and get to work. It's no surprise to me that the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement occur in the fall.  Except this has been a particularly sad season. Too much loss this summer; so I'm not appreciating the melancholy of autumn this year. (Then again, if the sun were blazing happily above me I might resent it mocking my sadness).

I haven’t watered in the yard since the day before Honey died.  I'd been “gone” working on a movie for nearly a month: either pulling 16 hour days in town, or gone completely on the road. That Friday was my first real day off. So I went out into the back yard to pull the dead gladiola flowers off their stalks. Honey padded over, trilling “burrup” the whole way. She kneaded her paws into the grass, then lay down at my feet and rolled over. I sat down and petted her for a while, then scooped her up, held her for a while and brought her inside. Thank God I did.

Just a few days before I’d groomed her, which she enjoyed. In retrospect, I must admit that thought that crossed my mind, “if she Is in pain, this must be a welcome distraction, t his pleasure she has in getting groomed.” I’d noticed her complain when I picked her up the wrong way. I worried she had some undiscovered mass, but when Larry took her into the vet, he said he didn’t feel any masses at all, and her blood work was fine. So I was lulled into believing. Still, grooming her a few days before I wondered … if she did in fact feel any kind of pain, perhaps the grooming made her feel better. Funny, the thoughts which float over the transom of your mind. Funny how you wish they’d lodged in your brain and made you pay attention. Made you ready.

Thank God I scooped her up that day. Thank God I’d made sure she went to sleep on our bed that night. It would all be over ad she would be gone less than 24 hours later. Thank God for one last memory of Honey.

Death turns everything into an affront. I winced at the violets in the window box: “How dare you go on living? How is it you can still be here, pulling life out of that soil and she’s gone?” I remember feeling that way when my father died. How could people go on, driving their cards and shopping for food and bickering and, well, living?! How could they go on living like the world was the same; when it was so horribly altered? That’s what it felt like when my father died. That’s how it felt when Honey died.

Every time I went out into the back garden it ached; it hurt from her absence. Today I walked down to the bottom of the garden and noticed how ragged the roses had become, rust on the leaves and trapped with spider webs. I didn’t care. Let them die for now. Maybe I’ll think about the roses in spring.

There have been more tears for Honey than I've shed for anyone else, and it was more than my midsection could handle. Everything from my neck to my pelvis hurt. My arms hurt. That was an odd, my arms hurting from grief. Like something had been ripped from them and the vacant space just made them ache.  The hole she left made my arms hurt. My chest hurt from crying. My heart hurt. Everything hurt.

There were things to put away or to hide: bags of catnip, her scratching post, her winter bed and her summer pillow. I couldn’t even throw away the unopened cat litter I’d bought just a week. Larry got rid of the things he could see, but there were always more things to find. More things to remind you of a friend who’s been with you for what seems like most of your adult life. I had to reach back into memory to recall a moment before she had been around. She was in every place I lived for the past 13 years: the first place I got by myself, where I drank my way into sorrow and then got her to heal my way into sobriety. The house in New York, where I moved when she was only two years old. That house had about eight women come and go over the course of five years. They all knew Honey. And then there were all those house-sits and sublets and flats I’d lived in up until the day I got married. I couldn’t bring my mind to recall that last studio apartment I lived in alone. Because I didn’t live there alone; I lived there with Honey.

A friend emailed me. She recalled the writing groups we had at my house, and remembered how Honey plopped herself in the middle of the room, or the table, or the couch, and made sure she was part of the group. She was special, that cat. That soul. That little girl I loved so well. And miss so much.

I miss her more than I miss my father; perhaps more than I will miss my mother when she goes. My mother has been leaving us, bits at a time, to the point that there’s little left of her. I marvel to think she stood up and watched me get married four years ago. She can’t walk anymore. She doesn’t remember anything. When Mom goes, of course I will cry and miss her. I’ll ask Mom to look for Honey when she gets there. I’ll ask Mom to tell Honey I miss her.

I tell that to God a lot: that I miss Honey, and that will he please let Honey know that. I’m more than convinced she’s made it to heaven. She’d make it before I would. She never sinned or disappointed God or told him to “go away,” the way I had done. She was just her true, loving self: more of a completed soul than I’ll ever be this side of heaven. But I wonder what she knows, what she sees? Does she ask around, “where’s Susan? When is she going to be here?” I pray she finds my friends and family and they look after her until I arrive.

You don’t really notice when grief finally leaves. It just gets a little easier every day. I don’t recall when I stopped crying every day. But I did. Still, all I need is a little prompting. Just last week I was sitting in a coffee shop and cried. Larry and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and I noticed her waxy ear-mark on the corner of the fridge. I had to stop eating. Her collar hangs on my corkboard, next to the many photos I finally had printed off my computer. The collar hangs in such a spot that my lamp usually obscures it. But I moved the lamp just a few moments ago, and there it was: the black braid, the gentle bell, the tag with her name and my phone number that told people to whom she belonged. Only once in her life did someone have to call me. I’d been working all day, and Honey had been sitting out on the front lawn, waiting for me to get home. The kind neighbor called to let me know “your cat is on the lawn, looking around.” I came home soon after. I remember several nights back at that last apartment, coming home late, and seeing her little silhouette next to the driveway. Patiently waiting. She never strayed beyond the parkway. Never once saw her run across a street. She knew where home was. Home was the only place she wanted to be, except when I wasn’t there. And now it’s hard for me to be home, when she isn’t here.

Our dog is little comfort. He’s young and arrogant, and he’s Larry’s dog. He adores Larry; he only tolerates me. I’m still his biggest competition and he lets me know it. It’s tiring. I want my cat.

Larry and I talk about getting another dog, mostly for Wally to have a playmate to run around with all day. Cut down on our doggie day care bills. Larry says, “We don’t need to get another corgi. Get the kind of dog you want.”
I say, “I want a cat.”

My friend Katherine has had many cats. She grieved over the loss of every one of them; but there was one special cat. Miles. Katherine has never forgotten Miles. Katherine says you never heal adequately until you get another cat. Maybe we'll get a dog for Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll get a cat for Christmas.

But it's only September. I’m not ready.

Sep 20, 2010

Your Monday Morning Fun Pic

A pic to brighten your dreary fall Monday morning.

Now how about a caption for your Auntie Susie?

Sep 17, 2010

Friday Fun Video

This video has been up on YouTube only a week and it's had nearly a million views in that time. See why. A groom had a special surprise for his bride. If this won't make you smile, I'm afraid you may be in a coma.

Sep 15, 2010

Merengue Dog

So for Wally's next dog training class, we shall NOT be attempting this....

If we are learning anything from Cesar Millan, it's that dogs need activities and tasks and exercise. Okay, so retrievers weren't bred to dance on their hind legs, but this looks like s/he's having a lot of fun.

Sep 14, 2010

Emily Timbol Takes It To Video

Meet Emily Timbol. We connected last year after she read my book. She was a writer waiting to happen. She has since published articles on Relevant Magazine, and now she's taking it video. Here's one she made using the format of the Google "Search On" commercial. I think this is terrific.

Sep 13, 2010

Your Monday Morning Fun Pic

It's Monday. You need a laugh.

Now, how about a caption?

Sep 10, 2010

September 11: A revisit in a new book

Sometimes it's hard for me to recall the events of 9/11. They can feel like a dream. But I know it happened. I lived in New York City at the time, and my then-boyfriend happened to have a meeting on the top floor of the World Trade Center. At 8am. And he was never late.   I wrote about it a while ago. You can read it here.

We all have our stories about what we were doing that day.  Author Sarah Cunningham was a "23-year-old save-the-world idealist" living 600 miles away in Jackson, Michigan.  She and her now-husband recruited 45 professionals from her church, to go to New York City and help in the wake of the disaster.   "Being stationed near the makeshift morgue for the New York Police Department felt like being on the set of a disaster movie, except that it was all sick reality."

Sara wrote about the whole experience in her new book, Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life's Weeds.

Here is a more lengthy excerpt:

In the first week after September 11th, it was my dad’s dream come true: It seemed like every human on the planet had become a New York Yankees fan. During the downtimes at Ground Zero, longtime Cubs and Braves fans could be found saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if—after all this—the Yankees won the World Series?” And then they would add, “Just this year though.”

Unfortunately, the Arizona Diamondbacks later determined that New York’s comfort would not come via Major League baseball, as they defeated the Yankees in the best-of-seven series that November.

At the time, though, it seemed like everyone wanted New York to find some small good to tide it over until the city could flourish again. Emergency personnel, of course, worked through the night and through the day and through the next day, logging weeks worth of overtime they’d never be paid for. Department store chains sent their delivery trucks to transport literally tons of bottled water to the disaster site. Cruise ships arrived in the harbor to feed and house volunteers, cell phone companies handed out free phones to relief workers so they could keep in touch with their families, and therapists administered free counseling and even massages.

I could not believe that in this unlikely patch of ground, what was growing reminded me so much of Eden."

Visit Sarah Cunningham's website. And if the book intrigues you, check out the book giveaways going on.

Sep 9, 2010

Jimmy Fallon's Emmy Opener

The Emmys this year were filled with some great winners and upsets. But I missed Jimmy Fallon's Glee-inspired opening. Just found it on YouTube.

Sep 8, 2010

Your 20 bucks = 20 years of clean water

Two years ago our friends Lori and Ted adopted their son, Abe, from Ethiopia. Abe is such a charming, funny, expressive boy; he's definitely inheriting his father's personality.  But Abe's life could have been much different.  By getting involved in international adoption, Ted and Lori became aware of the fate of many people in Abe's home c. 

So much so that, Ted did something really COOL for his birthday that September.

Instead of gifts, Ted asked friends to donate to Charity:Water to help build a well in Ethiopia. They succeeded! Ted and Lori helped build a well that, while it wasn't right in Abe's home village, it was in the same region. It was one way they said "thank you" for their beautiful son.

So here's my Charity:Water pitch. This month I'm one of 30 bloggers who are trying to raise $30,000 in 30 days, to build wells in Africa, through Charity:Water. Here's the 30 Bloggers' Donation Site

  • $30,000 will provide clean water to 1,500 people. That's 300 families, 6 entire communities.
  • A single $20 donation provides clean water for ONE person for 20 YEARS 
  • 100% of the money GOES TO THE WELLS. Private donors take care of ALL overhead!
  • We're building for: the Central African Republic (scroll down a bit).
This PSA with actress Jennifer Connelly: envisions what it would be like if NYC didn't have access to clean water.

Or this video, featuring Beck's Time Bomb

If it's hard to think of this in specific terms, just think of little Abe.

Please consider donating $20. 
Go HERE for more details.

Thank you!

Sep 7, 2010

Religious Horror? Q & A with Jonathan Weyer

When I was about five years old, my brothers were watching "Creature Feature" on Saturday afternoon TV. I made the mistake of joining them. The film was The Beast With Five Fingers, starring Peter Lorre. A pianist dies, and his dismembered hand goes around murdering people. It traumatized me. I wouldn't go to the bathroom in a public loo for years. I was afraid when my parents turned out the lights. That hand was going to come get me.

I avoided horror movies ever since. Never saw Friday the 13th, Halloween, Blair Witch, not even Scream, a horror parody. The scariest film I ever saw was Brazil, because the naturalistic horror seemed in the realm of possibility.

I heard that Clive Barker, author of the Hellraiser novels, was religious. So was Bram Stoker: his Dracula was defeated by the Cross for a reason. But I watched 15 minutes of True Blood and thought, "meh."

So I was curious when I heard about author/pastor Jonathan Weyer's upcoming horror novel, The Faithful.  Actually I first saw his cover art on twitter and thought it looked cool.  We chatted in 140 characters or less, then he sent me a copy of the book.

Full disclosure:I haven't read it yet, and it may take months before it makes its way up my pile of books. But I was intrigued by what he was doing. Here's a blurb from his website:

Adian Schaeffer is a young pastor at a crossroads.  Conflicted by the hypocrisy of the church, he feels alone and depressed.  His only companion is his dog, Bishop.  When he begins to doubt his faith, he knows he is entering a spiritual battleground and starts searching for answers. Then he learns his ex-fiancée is murdered in a possibly demonic ritual, and he's a prime suspect; he's catapulted into a deeper fight.  Tormented by supernatural entities, Aidan becomes a medium that will hold the key to solving this murder mystery.

Did I mention that Jonathan is a pastor? We did a Q & A (not via twitter)

Q: So you are a pastor. And you wrote a religious horror novel.  Sundays in your world must be interesting.  Have you gotten flak for writing horror? (from religious people) Or flak from horror fans for being religious?

A. So far, everyone has been great. I think the religious folks have been skeptical about the label “horror.” I usually tell them there are three levels of horror:  the unsettling, the gross out, and torture porn. I would put The Faithful in the first category, but a gross out can be used as well. Torture Porn is out of bounds because it's just horrible for so many reasons. Stephen King said that at its heart, horror has morality that would make a puritan preacher smile. Torture Porn doesn't have that worldview, its violence for violence's sake. Once I explain that, religious folks get it for the most part. I'm sure that once the book is released, there might be more controversy on both sides of the fence. We shall see.

Q. How do you incorporate your love of the supernatural with your deep religious faith?

A. The Bible and the Nicene Creed tells that God is the creator of the seen and the unseen. I find it odd when Christians become too naturalistic in their faith. I don't find the ideas incompatible at all. Are there some tensions in being a pastor and writing a ghost story? Sure, but not the ones you would think. Those lines from the Creed have always struck me and I love stories that try to explore that tension between the seen and the unseen.

Q. Where do you get story ideas for your books?

A: Ha, too many to name! The chief place would be Coast to Coast AM. It's show on in the middle of the night that talks about all kinds of paranormal things like ghosts, aliens, etc. I listen to it when I can't sleep or I'm going on a long trip. Plus, growing up, I wasn't allowed to watch horror movies. I scared myself by reading real ghost stories, stuff about Bigfoot and the scariest of all, the Mothman sightings in West Virginia. Oh, and the Weird America books are invaluable!

Q: Were you always interested in both writing and pastoring? You started as a Presbyterian pastor, then moved to campus ministry. Were you writing all the time?

A. I was. In fact, in seminary (don't tell my professors) I would write little notes to myself that turned in my first novel (not The Faithful). In fact, my preaching professor in seminary told me he loved my writing, but that it would always make it hard for me to preach. I think the reason is because there two different things are going on, and making the switch is pretty difficult. As I kept writing after seminary, I found I loved it more than preaching. When I realized that, I knew I should probably step out of the pulpit and concentrate on start writing. I'm still ordained and ministering to college students. I'm just not preaching anymore.

Q: Tell us about the Thomas Society. That sounds fascinating.

A. The Thomas Society is the name of the student group I founded at Ohio State. It's a group dedicated to providing a third place where anyone, Christian or non-Christian can ask any question in a safe forum. I have an amazing group of Christian students who lead the group. Last year, half of our group consisted of Christians and half consisted of atheists. The discussion is often very intense, but intelligent. Name calling and simplistic arguments aren't allowed.

Q: Did your involvement with atheists and the Thomas Society influence this book?

Not at all in the beginning. When I first came up with the idea, I hadn't even started campus ministry, much less hanging out with atheists. The whole thing started because I wanted to write a ghost story. As things progressed, I realize how much Aidan, the main character, really struggled with his faith. That started to filter into the story, especially as I began work at Ohio State. The biggest influence on the book came in the rewrite and editing process. It happened at the same time I was thinking through what I wanted The Thomas Society to about: being an open place for everyone to ask their questions about Christianity. There is no doubt each influenced the other.

Q: Religious people can form ideas of what atheists and agnostics are like. Tell me what you've observed. How do the atheists and agnostics you talk to, deal with the issue of Evil? Or of the supernatural? 

A. I'm the only Christian minister on the speaker's bureau for the Secular Student Alliance, an International group for atheist college students. This past summer, I took part in a panel discussion at their national conference in Columbus. I actually spoke there last summer as well. When I walked into the room, I got hugs from about ten atheists. How often does a preacher get hugged at an atheist conference? I loved it. I speak to a lot of their student groups. In fact, a group in Seattle is talking about bringing me out in November.
      As for the issue of Evil, there really is no consensus among atheists about that question. In fact, that's the biggest misunderstanding religious people have atheists, that is, we think they are this monolithic group. They aren't. Opinions on evil range from its just a social construct to those who would believe that there really is evil, but it's merely a leftover of an outdated evolutionary necessity.
     As for the supernatural, they obviously think all of it's crap, God, ghosts, the devil, unicorns, etc. They think it all belongs in the same category of stories that just aren't true.

Look at that cherubic face! Hard to imagine him brewing horror up in that noggin.  If you like supernatural horror, check out  The Faithful.  It comes out on October 1. Just in time for a Halloween. Mwah ha ha!

Find out more about Jonathan Weyer and The Faithful at his website.
You can also follow him on twitter.

Aug 31, 2010

Back to Church

I’ve heard my share of “leaving church” stories; and not from immature, fair-weather Christians but from long-term, mature believers – many who had been in leadership. They grew disillusioned by schisms and scandals, they got tired of what felt like a formulaic service, they didn’t feel fed, they didn’t feel needed. So they left – not God, but church. And they’re not alone. Anne Rice is just the latest statistic. As George Barna said in his book, Revolution, people are “leaving church in droves.”

I could have been one of them. If it weren’t for a dinner party.

I doubt I’d feel happy leaving church for good. I spent stretches of time not going, but never with the intention of staying out. I just hadn’t found the right church, I told myself. By the time I met my husband I’d found one; but we moved too far away, so we had to find a place near home where we’d both feel comfortable. We visited just about every place that friends attended and recommended.

And we left most of them angry.

Why? Well, for one, we’d each grown uncomfortable with modernist liturgy: the 45-minute rock concert, followed by a 45-minute sermon – often containing 15 minutes of content padded out with alliterative bullet points and anecdotes. (I began to feel sorry for pastors: they had to produce a new 45-minute act every week!) Church had begun to feel like “the Sunday Show,” as a friend described; the show that Northpoint Church poked fun of in their video, “Sunday’s Coming.” (They have the right to poke fun, because it’s the same format they follow).

However, many people we loved and respected went to those churches. And I could see they were getting a lot out of being there. So, perhaps nobody was wrong; it was just that everyone was different. So Larry and I kept looking and visiting. And leaving angry.

At the end of our ecclesiastical rope, I discovered that an Episcopal priest, whom I fondly remembered during a church-hopping stint 15 years prior, was now the senior rector of a teensy church just a couple miles from us. I remembered when she celebrated the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit was all over her. So we went.

And we didn’t leave angry. That was the high water mark.

We went back the following weeks. I don't remember being bowled over or pissed off; comfortable or uncomfortable. We just went. I finally reintroduced myself to her. Reverend Anne made sure we filled out a card, and two weeks later she invited us to a newcomer’s dinner. At dinner, Anne got excited when she found out that Larry and I read C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright and Donald Miller. She’d been trying to launch small groups for some time and asked us to join in a training group. We said yes. What else were we going to say?

There were eight of us in training, including a woman who’d come to Christianity after studying eastern religions; a guy who’d left a large parish because it was more concerned with politics than religion; a couple whose wife had attended church for years but the husband only recently decided he needed to ‘get right with God,’ as he put it. He was a scientist. He questioned everything. He needed data. He refused to pray out loud. Toward the end of the program he finally agreed to pray, but only after his wife gave him tips on what to say.

Three small groups launched the following spring, reading a Lenten devotional with essays by everyone from CS Lewis to Khalil Gibran (hey, what the …? ) When Lent was over, the Scientist and his wife joined our group. He didn’t want to read essays; he wanted to read the Bible. “I don’t know what’s in there.”

We bought NT Wright’s study guide, Luke For Everyone, and began to read. And we began to change. The Bible came alive, not just to the Scientist for whom the story was new, but to Larry and me who thought we knew everything. Wright filled in the historical and cultural context; he debunked the religious folklore that had crept into my thinking. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus became real and vivid to us. It was like we were there.

We moved on to Acts. Other people joined the group: longstanding church goers, outcasts who’d been away from church for years: a lesbian who got expelled from Bible school, a Buddhist who visited our church one Sunday and couldn’t stop crying; a great-grandmother who’s gone to our church for 50 years, a single mom and her teenage daughter. We’re all reading the Bible and discovering new things.

We are also growing together. We’ve begun to share our stories. When my beloved kitty died last month, they prayed and cried with me. I’ve grown closer to Larry too. Every week I see how much people look up to him; I observe what a scholar he is. I respect and love him more every week. Yes, we belong to a church. But the core of my church experience is my small group.

It’s not always amazing. Sometimes the Sunday service is boring. They can pick some musty old hymns that make me long Chris Tomlin. But we’ve launched a contemporary, contemplative service. That’s where the Scientist says he really gets emotional. The Scientist is having emotional experiences with God.

The small group has had its awkward moments, too. Once a woman told us that Jesus had visited Britain; it was proven, she’d seen it on the History Channel. I asked her if she’d been watching Para-history Channel. Another time a man visited. He said he didn’t care if the resurrection happened. “Everyone gets into heaven, even Hitler.” He hasn’t returned, but I heard he read Velvet Elvis and is devouring Rob Bell’s Nooma videos. It just reminds me that God is working on each of us in his timing, in a way that each of us can stomach.

I didn’t leave church. I came back, and I’m learning the lesson that my more mature friends – the ones who love churches I walk out of angry – have already learned: just pick a church and go. Every place will have assets and liabilities. You’ll meet true friends and people you can’t stand. You may find yourself the radical leftist in a group of right-wingers, or the conservative prig in a group of radical leftists. Just go. Plug in. When your pastor invites you to a newcomers’ dinner, say yes. If you’re asked to lead, say yes. If you don’t think you’re prepared, ask God to prepare you.

Not long ago, the former Buddhist confessed she wasn’t feeling so sure about her faith. She missed that glow she first felt. The Scientist nodded, “Don’t worry. It comes and goes. Just keep showing up.”

Here is a video from Bel Air Presbyterian’s drama group, aka the Bel Air Drama Department, aka B.A.D.D. They've made a host of FUNNY videos, and here is one about small groups, done in the vein of “The Office.”

Aug 23, 2010

Political T-shirt

When it comes to politics, I belong to the "Everyone Poops" party. I see good and bad on both sides. The 2008 Wall Street Meltdown made me wary of free market enterprise; but the recent Bell Salary Scandal reminded me of what happens when you give too much to government er, um, "servants." Anyway, I thought about making up some T-shirts with the following design. Who wants one? :)

Aug 17, 2010

Hide your Kids, Hide your Wife

Well y'all may have been living under a rock. But 9 million hits on this video already. This guy fought off his sister's would-be attacker. And how about his demeaning rant, just to get the point across. I love it.
Way to go Antoine, you're our hero!

Aug 15, 2010

Cuddle With An Elephant Seal

I don't know how tame the seals are in Georgia (Russia), but this is pretty amazing to watch.

Jul 26, 2010

For Honey: Death Be Not Proud

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing to love, hope, dream: to be—
To be, and oh! to lose.
A thing for fools, this, a holy thing,
A holy thing to love.
For your life has lived in me,
Your laugh once lifted me,
Your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
'Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing,
To love what death has touched.
     - Chaim Stern
This is a eulogy to a pet. If you are not inclined to maudlin pet tributes nor have room in your theology for pets in heaven, then save me the embarrassment and yourself the frustration, and give this piece a skip.

My dearest cat died on Sunday. Honey was 13 years old. I’d held out hope she would be one of those cats that made it to 18. But even if she had, it wouldn’t have been enough time. Not for loved ones. We always want one more day.

It’s hard for me to call Honey a pet. Having been single most of my life and having no children I poured my love and mothering onto her, and she became my child. She became my friend. And she became more of her true self: not just an animal or a pet, but a living soul that has been transformed by Love. Honey taught me a lot about love, and now I’m learning unspeakable grief. (Again, if you aren’t a pet lover, feel free to go read The Five Points Of Calvinism)

I had noticed changes in Honey this past year: she’d lost weight as older cats do; she moved more slowly and started to complain if I picked her up a certain way. It was the arthritis the vet had spotted, I told myself. She’d taken to spending evenings out in the cool of the garden –we moved into a house with a fenced yard and she didn’t have to worry about predators: that’s what I told myself. But my childhood cat had done the same thing the summer before he died. The vet said she was fine, so that’s what I told myself. We tell ourselves a lot of things.

Back in 1998 I was trying to heal from some behaviors, like smoking, drinking and dating awful men. I decided I needed a companion that wouldn’t make me feel crappy about myself; a pet I could be responsible for, stay sober for, someone to love. I wanted a dog. But my landlord insisted: no dogs, only a cat.

So I visited local animal shelters and pet stores for a cat. All I found were cat-type cats: blasé, remote, saw me only as a food source. On my way out of one such shelter, I spied a flyer for a kitten rescue organization. I went home and logged onto their website. A flashbot kept blinking at me: “Find a Home For Honey. Find a Home For Honey.” I called the number.

A woman named Lisa answered. She’d found an abandoned cat in her neighborhood, but already had three of her own and couldn’t take a fourth. I went to meet them.

Lisa had been walking to her front porch when a cat cried out from her bushes. It was starving, matted with dirt and sores. When she washed, fed, and got her revived, Lisa discovered a petite, pastel-colored tabby with soft hair and bright green eyes. She realized it had belonged to some badass neighbors who’d done everyone a favor by moving away. Well, better for the cat. Lisa said she named the cat “Honey” for her sweet disposition. I was waiting to see that disposition, so Lisa let her out of her crate. The cat was timid. But when I reached out my hand to pet her, she affectionately butted her head against my palm. She sat, kneading her tiny paws on the bedspread, waiting for more.

Then she trilled. “Burrup?”
Yes, I replied.
I took her home that day.

The first few days Honey wouldn’t come out from under the bed. Great, I thought: a cat you never see unless you get up in the middle of the night and find it eating or pooping. But a couple nights later as I was watching TV, she appeared out of the dark at my feet. “Burrup?” She trilled, jumped up in my lap and butted her head against my chest.

I spent many a night crying over the mess I had made in my life. Honey parked herself on my chest, purred, and affectionately butted her head against me. I lay there, running my fingers through her soft pastel gray and gold fur until the sorrow went away. God’s love can feel so theoretical. But a warm fuzzy creature that loves you no matter what, that’s love you can touch.

I healed with Honey’s help. I moved cross-country twice, watched my career fall apart, survived a gut wrenching breakup, and a spiritual dark night of the soul. Friends came and went. Family members died. Careers dissolved. Men left. Even God hid himself for a while. But Honey never wandered off. She wanted to stay. No one had done that before.

Honey healed too. She changed from a fearful castoff to a gentle, loving, soul. She became gregarious: if I had people over, she would find a lap to sit on. She was patient with children who tried to hold her in their spindly fingers. She learned to play. She even learned to talk: If she wanted something her voice turned up at the end like a question. She complained shrilly when she was upset. She knew how to con me into a second breakfast by trilling and kneading her petite gray feet.
And she trilled. “Burrup?” She trilled in the morning when I woke up. She trilled when she wanted up on my desk. She sat with me as I wrote. She liked to park herself between my arms as I typed on my computer. If I moved her to the side, she made sure her paw touched my arm. If I were journaling or reading, she’d try to sit on my notebook or book. Wherever my attention was given, she wanted to be there.

I didn’t always get how much being her mom had changed her. I occasionally traveled out of town, sometimes for a couple months at a time. I left her in the care of roommates or family members. I didn’t think Honey would mind. “She’s independent. She’s just a cat.” But a roommate scolded me. “Honey’s not the same when you’re gone. She waits for you. She misses you.” For three years I dated a man who hated cats. When he broke up with me, he cited Honey as a factor. In a panic I offered to give Honey away. Thank God I didn’t follow through. It turns my stomach to think of it now. I vowed to never date a man who didn’t love Honey.

When I met my husband, he was a 50-year-old bachelor who’d never kept a pet. He said it was too hard on him when they died. My red lights went off. “Pet hater.” But the first time he sat on my couch, Honey jumped up in his lap. That was it. Larry came to love her as much as I did. Honey came to belong to Larry too; and we to her.

Last fall I left on a 2-½ month book tour. The night before I left I came out to the garden to call her out of the bushes. She always came when I called. I picked her up and held her close. “Please don’t go yet. Not while I’m gone. Please be here when I get back.”

And she was. But she was frailer. She started vomiting hairballs here and there. It was shedding season, I told myself. I groomed her more. She loved it. She’d stretch her teeny body across the lawn, extending her claws into the grass, rolling around to make sure I got both sides, and purring. She had the loudest purr.

Two weeks ago I left to work on a movie out of town. I asked Larry to take her into the vet again. The vet said she checked out fine. No masses, no lumps. The blood tests came back normal except a hyper thyroid. I shouldn’t have trusted the tests. I should trusted my gut. I was her mom.

At 5am last Sunday morning, Honey bolted us awake with a horrible yelp. We rushed her to 24-hour Emergency vet. A squat tattooed technician gave us a list of tests they would perform for $1,000. “Are you running a scam?” I screamed. “Use your common sense! What does it look like the problem is?”

The east-Indian vet came in. “It doesn’t look good." But what did it look like? I yelled. He would have to run a blood test. That took 30 minutes. Why didn’t I force him to pump her with antibiotics right then? I was her mother. I knew her; they didn’t.

Larry and I went into the lobby. Larry asked me what I wanted to do. I couldn’t make that decision. Larry had to say it. But we knew. We’d known it was coming. It always comes. We went back in. I held onto Honey and stroked her hair. The tests showed she had a massive infection. The vet swam in veiled verbiage, “the prognosis isn’t good.” He smiled. Why was he smiling? Was he nervous? Was it a cultural thing? I wanted him to change places with her.

Suddenly she went into convulsions. Larry nodded. They put a towel around her to contain her flailing body. I reached my hand out to her. She reached out her paw to touch my hand.

And then it was over.

We didn’t own the place we live in. We didn’t own a shovel. We had a dog that was a compulsive digger. We couldn’t take her with us.

They let us sit alone with her in a private room. I stroked her soft hair. I told her how much I loved her, how much God had shown his love to me through her. I told her how much I would miss her, how much it was going to hurt. But I was wrong. I had no idea how much. I asked her to wait for me. I told her I would be waiting for that day I would see her again.

We drove away with her collar and a lock of her fur; that beautiful, soft fur you could run your hands through and forget your sorrow. Why didn’t I get a better look at it? I want to see it now, all those colors. But I can’t remember.

We went to the 8am service. There were only a half a dozen people there. No choir. I didn’t stand up. I mimed the Creed. When they passed the peace, I sat alone in the pew. My pastor sat down next to me and gave me a hug. I couldn’t look up.

But I went forward for communion. As they placed the wafer in my hand, I could hear Jesus words: “Remember Susan. I’ve gone on through ahead of you on this. Death is not the end.”

Was that true? Really true? Just for me? Or for Honey too?

That night a friend sent me a link to Cathleen Falsani's blog. She had blogged on this very issue that morning.

I have spent the week vaulting between inconsolable grief and a desperate need to know that I will see my dear Honey in the new heavens and the new earth. Billy Graham thought it a reasonable hope. CS Lewis suggested that in the same way God breathes his eternal spirit into us, we breathe that eternal spirit into those creatures we have loved. In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes a woman in heaven surrounded by children, angels and her pets.
“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”
But was CS Lewis right? What if he was just spinning a fairy tale full of wishful thinking? Well, in Revelation, Jesus rides in on a horse. A lion will lie down with the lamb. Are they just metaphors? I found this online, written by Carol Bechtel, a professor of Old Testament, addressing the possibility of pets in heaven.

     “While the Hebrew word nephesh is often translated 'soul,' it really means 'a living being.' In Genesis 2:7, when God breathes into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, he becomes a living being. This same word is often used with reference to animals (Prov 12:10). So what distinguishes human beings from animals is not that humans have a soul, but that humans are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27).
     The Bible's promise is about the renewal of all creation. "God so loved the world.” N.T. Wright puts it this way: "The New Testament picks up from the Old the theme that God intends, in the end, to put the whole creation to rights. If we have grown up believing something else, it's time we rubbed our eyes and read our texts again" (Simply Christian, pp.217-219)."
I called my sister. She reminded me of the verse she read when she buried her 14-year-old Calico.
For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to the curse. But with eager hope creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. Rom 8:19-21
All creation is waiting to be liberated from death and decay. Doesn’t that include the creatures we have loved, whom God entrusted to our care? Why not my dear Honey, who showed God’s love to me in tangible way? Did I have to find an explicit verse to be convinced? Not even the Trinity is explicit in scripture.

Is this some ridiculous hope uttered by a pathetic idiot who waited to long to get married and have children? I’ve lain awake at night. I’ve gotten out of bed and flattened myself on the floor, weeping and begging God. “You can make me a pauper, take years off of my life, if you will just let me see and know her again! If she’s not in Heaven, I won't go. I refuse to go!"

The thought came to me: God might be grieved by my begging, that I didn't know him well enough to assume he would have to be cajoled into that. If I could imagine him saying anything to me, it would be this: "Why do you doubt my goodness? Do you think you love Honey more than I do? Wasn’t it I who rescued her 13 years ago? Wasn’t it I who brought her into your life, gave you the holy privilege to care for her, love her, and transform her into a loved, living being? And didn't she redeem you as well? So, why do you think I would abandon her now, after all of that? Why don’t you trust me?" At least, that’s what I believe God would say. Because I believe God is good.

As St. Julian of Norwich said: All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

As Tom Petty said: The waiting is the hardest part.

This loving bond between animal and man–(between Honey and me), didn’t God come up with it the first place? Isn’t what we experience here just a shadow of the real thing we will enjoy in heaven? Why would God cast away the love we started here, or the creatures we loved here? We might as well believe there’s no hope for us.

This may be the ramblings of a middle aged idiot who waited too long to get married and have children. But I loved whom God gave me to love. And yes, may bastardize St. Paul’s original context: but I know the One in whom I have believed, and I am utterly convinced that he is able to guard all I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

Take care of Honey, Father. I miss her more than tears can tell.

DEATH, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls deliver.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleep past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Jul 25, 2010


My friend Lori took this video. We were sharing the Rooneys house. Honey was very patient with Little Abe.

Kitty was Abe's first word.

Jul 23, 2010

Tis a Fearful Thing

It is a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, hope, dream:
to be
to lose...
A thing for fools, this.
A holy thing.
A holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
'Tis a human thing: love.
A holy thing
to love
what death has touched. 

     -- Anonymous

Jul 12, 2010

I Bless The Night

My friend Debby Thomas sent this to me. Loved it!

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)

Jul 11, 2010

HR 101

Back in 2001 I worked on a TV pilot that never made it to air. In fact I don't think it was ever finished in post because the producers ran out of funds.  It starred my fellow members of King Baby Comedy: Tony Hale, Jeannie Noth-Gaffigan, and Todd Wilkerson. As well as Malcom Barrett and Selenis Leyva.  Every single one of them went on to star or write in TV shows and commercials.  Here's the video I found of the promo the producers put together....

HR101 from Nina Shelton on Vimeo.

Actually they must have run out of time because the cut off the sketch mid-joke. Ack! Nevertheless it was fun to find it online. Ah, nostalgia ...

Jun 17, 2010

Green Coffins

I never want to be buried in a fancy coffin.  I figure, if I don't get cremated, I'd want to be buried in the cheapest pine box. No formaldehyde, just me in a suit.

There are these new "green" cemeteries. You can have your ashes buried in the woods, marked by small, simple markers. That might be a little too granola green for me. I'd be fine being buried next to my parents if Larry doesn't mind being buried in Costa Mesa.

I found these on the website Ship Of Fools. Cardboard coffins that will compost quickly, designed from what looks like Windows XP wallpaper. You can get anything on your coffin, from your favorite sports team to your favorite vodka. Ack!  Noticably absent are any religious themes.  But you can get poker or rocks on your coffin or a lame joke. This one hit a little too close to home ...

I must admit, I did like this one...

But I'd rather have the image of Jesus on the coffin. No offense to the fab four ...

Jun 16, 2010

The Birthday Party

Tony Campolo tells the story of being awake at 3am in Honolulu, and meeting a pack of prostitutes, one who's about to have a birthday. I've read this story in print, can't remember where. Someone made it into a short film. But nothing beats the story as Tony Campolo tells it.

Do you go to a church like that?

Jun 15, 2010

Thomas Kinkade, painter of light, in a dark spot

Thomas Kinkade was just arrested on a DUI. Bummer.  Maybe he can put up a few paintings as bail. That is if they're not fakes. Apparently he's also in trouble for shipping fakes to galleries.  Oops. I know some people love his stuff. He never quite did it for me.   I found a few of his paintings, tweaked, on,  a site where snarky people do snarky things.   Take these Kinkade paintings that have been photoshopped for ironic, snark effect:

Okay so they get a little dark. But the Verizon guy in the bushes was pretty funny.
This one is my second-favorite.

This is my absolute favorite. I once saw it in a fake ad on either larknews or ship-of-fools

Thomas Kinkade Toilet Paper
Stick the painter of light where the sun never shines.

Come on, that's genius!

What about you? Do you like Kinkade? Did you like him before he got over-saturated? (not soused as in the above-mentioned DUI) I mean, he might be good like CSI or Glee.

Jun 8, 2010

Christian Music Recording Session

A session musician sent this to me.
Whoever made this knows too much.

Jun 3, 2010


A friend of mine told me about this new show, Outsourced, about a guy who's hired to run a Call Center American Novelties, a kind of joint that sells singing trout to fake barf. But the call center gets outsourced to India, so he has to move. It's based on an indie movie made in 2006.

Here's the extended trailer that NBC put up on YouTube. It looks funny. Like a cross between "Community" meets "Slumdog Millionaire." It looks like they're going to tread all over every east-indian stereotype there is. but maybe that's the point. The friend that told me about it IS East-Indian, and she thought it looked good.

Jun 2, 2010

Beware of the Doghouse

This is what you call an extended commercial. They really tell a story, but in the end it's selling a product. Well, product placement is all over network TV and movies.  At least this isn't trying to hide it. I think it's hysterical. I know one of the actors in it, I think it was shot in New York.

It was such a hit, they did a follow up.