An Invincible Dream! (Encouragement for Creators)

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This is the story of two Jewish kids, Joseph and Jerome. Joe was born in Canada. His father had immigrated there from Rotterdam and opened a tailor shop in Toronto’s garment district. His mother had come from Kiev,  the capital of Ukraine.

An early inspiration: Douglas Fairbanks defends the oppressed people in the silent film THE MARK OF ZORRO.

When he was about eight or nine years old, Joe got a job selling newspapers to help support his family. He would also scrounge around for scraps of paper — anything with some blank space on it, like the backs of discarded handbills, shreds of unused wallpaper — whatever he could get his hands on. Joe dreamed of someday becoming an artist, but he needed drawing paper.

In 1924, Joe’s family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Joe started attending Glenville High School. Joe was painfully shy and had trouble making friends, until he met Jerry — just another shy Jewish kid with big dreams. Jerry once said, “When Joe and I first met, it was like the right chemicals coming together.”

“The Man of Bronze” used his great fortune, knowledge and strength to help people.

Jerry, the youngest of six children, was a Cleveland native. His dad had immigrated from Lithuania, and opened a haberdashery. America in the 1920s was indeed a land of opportunity — but it was not without its share of problems: in 1932, while Jerry was in junior high, his father’s shop was robbed. Reeling from the shock and the resultant loss of the crime, Jerry’s father suffered a fatal heart attack.

A year later, Jerry met Joe. Two shy dreamers, both sons of immigrants, both struggling with adversity, both trying to fit in. These two Jewish loners discovered they had similar interests and similar goals. They both found escape in the popular adventure movies and science fiction magazines of the day, which featured stars like the dashing Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and heroes such as Doc Savage and Flash Gordon. And together they wanted to write and draw the same kinds of stories that so thrilled them. That’s right, a couple of depression-era geeks.

Joe and Jerry hung out together, dreamed together, created together! They were closer than brothers. They were the two sides of a single coin. And together, Joe and Jerry came up with a brilliant idea for a new heroic character. There had never been anything like it. The two young men knew the idea couldn’t miss. Or could it?! Often, timing is everything. Was the world ready for something different? Probably so. Were the publishers ready? Not yet.

A primitive first version of the character appeared in 1933, in a short story published in a science fiction fan-magazine produced by Jerry. A few months later, he and Joe refined the character, produced a new illustrated story, and started looking for a real publisher. Then came the rejections, the closed doors, the don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you disappointments. Four long years of NO!

The two friends had knocked on the doors of every publishing company, every newspaper syndicate, and not a single editor or publisher wanted their story or saw the potential of their fictional character. At one point, Joe the artist got so discouraged that he burned all the pages of the story; with Jerry the writer managing to rescue only the cover from the fire.

Flash Gordon, the original guardian of the galaxy.

Things looked bleak for their new hero. And Joe and Jerry’s future was starting to dim. They shelved their idea and moved on to other things. Both men finally found work with various magazines, doing the things they loved: Jerry wrote; Joe illustrated. They were content — mostly. They had overcome social and economic adversity, and at a time just a few years after the Great Depression, they were actually being paid to create fiction and artwork. But Joe and Jerry continued to dream of their forgotten hero and all the fun and adventure they could have shared with the world. Little did they know the fate awaiting both them and their idea for a bold, new character, little could they imagine that their work would continue to influence and shape pop culture for the next eight decades, or that their names would feature prominently in the media of the then distant 21st Century.  Little could they comprehend that theirs was an invincible dream that would not die!

To Be Continued:

Tune in tomorrow to see the fate awaiting our heroes Joe and Jerry, as they continue their battle against the forces of adversity! Don’t miss Chapter 2 of AN INVINCIBLE DREAM!

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Spiritual Easy Off! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Hey, lady! There’s got to be an easier way!

A long time ago, in a kitchen far far away … we had one of those old-style ovens that had to be manually cleaned. We’d spray this formula called Easy Off! onto the walls of the oven — the label stated “No scrubbing necessary” (Heh! Yeah, right!) — then close the door and switch on the heat. An hour or two later there was this stinky sludge caked to the oven walls, which had to be sponged off. It was dark-brown and slimy and downright disgusting. We’d wear gloves while wiping it clean, but always managed to get greasy glop on our exposed arms.

But hey, it had to be done. A clean oven is a happy oven. Not to mention that a clean oven functions more efficiently — and doesn’t embarrass you when guests peak inside it to see what’s for dinner. So we really didn’t mind doing it. Well, maybe just a little. All right, all right, we hated it!

Then one day Sparky came into our lives! No, he’s not a professional oven cleaner — he IS our oven! And he’s self-cleaning!!! Which is a real blessing because, face it, in life stuff happens! For instance, while baking an apple pie, the lava-hot filling often bursts through the crust, flowing through the rack like magma to the oven floor below, where it hardens into rock!

I’m Sparky, and I’m pretty cool for an oven!

Not a problem! Sparky goes into his self-cleaning mode at the flip of a switch. When he does, he goes into full lockdown. You couldn’t pry his door open with a crowbar! And that’s when things really get hot — literally. We usually give Sparky plenty of space while he’s self-cleaning, about a four-hour process in which our oven incinerates all the crud that’s built up inside of him during the course of his kitchen duties!

Know what? That’s right, people are like ovens: in life, we tend to build up a crusty layer of stuff, and we need cleaning if we’re to be happy (like Sparky) and function efficiently. Things in life have a way of getting messy just like that apple pie filling. Regrets and feelings of hurt, guilt and shame can bubble over and leave us feeling “cruddy”; and if not dealt with, this layer of gunk can separate us, or make us feel distant, from our Heavenly Father.

But unlike Sparky, none of us have a self-cleaning feature. Oh, some of us think we do. We have a relative who once mentioned that he plans to get “right” with God one day, and even start going to church, but first he needs to “clean up his act.” Don’t we all? But that is NOT a prerequisite for being accepted by God. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us with open arms. He’s inviting us to come as we are. “…He has made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 American King James)

Some of us believe we can’t face God until we get out of an improper relationship, or stop drinking, abusing drugs, etc. Only we’re like those old-fashioned ovens. We’re good at cooking up a mess — even when we’re trying to be “good” — but we don’t have the right “formula” to de-gunk ourselves; or the “muscle” needed to scrub the innermost parts of our lives.

Not to worry. God does! And He has NEVER expected us to try  to clean up our own messes before approaching Him. That’s why He sent us His only Son as a Savior. Jesus Christ is the real, Spiritual Easy Off! (No scrubbing necessary!) So, don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise!

But again, that’s why God accepts us as we are: who we are and where we are. He recognizes a good oven when He sees one, despite the grime on the inside. After the “oven” is in “His house,” then He sets about cleaning it (us) … until it sparkles like new. And as with an oven, He cleans us from the inside out! In other words, God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way!

“But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 NLT)

Are you feeling gunked up today? Not “cooking” as smoothly as you should? Call out to your Heavenly Father. He collects ovens of all colors and models, and then restores them to showroom condition: sparkling clean inside and out!

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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