Mic Check

It is award season again and we all know what that means. Celebrities will be thanking their moms and God and using their moment to shine a light on a cause. Do you recall the 2015 Oscars? There was no shortage of heartfelt speeches, urging us to join together for the sick, hungry, or forgotten.

Last night I watched the Golden Globes which, let’s be honest, consists mostly of observing people eat, drink, and squeeze their way through a room filled with a few too many tables. The dresses sparkled, the tuxes were perfectly tailored, and soon the guests were lit right along with the political fuse.

It is no secret which way the Hollywood community leans. There was no shortage of jokes at the expense of the President-Elect. Hugh Laurie -later unnecessarily explained by Meryl Streep-  joked that the room was full of republican enemies. Hollywood. Foreign. Press. Surely we can all admit that we found that at least a tad humorous.

But here lies the question. Should celebrities use their platform to take a political stand? Unofficial research (a glance through my Facebook feed) would suggest that as the general public, we don’t agree on this topic. No surprise there.

Many people, including Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, say celebrities should stay out of it.  And, as this article would suggest, many people wish that Meryl Streep would have simply accepted her award, reflected on her career, and not gone over her three minutes. These individuals have offered important arguments for us to consider and yet, I cannot help but wonder…

Most of us have been taught to use our influence to stand up for what is right. We teach our children to do the same. Whatever platform you have been given, use it. Be a voice for good. You have been handed a microphone which broadcasts your voice to the edges of a certain audience, so speak up. Football captain? Speak up. Pastor? Speak up. Business leader? Office assistant? Mom? Quiet kid with a small group of friends? Speak up. You influence someone so make sure your influence is positive.

For a bit of history, Pope Pius XII caught a lot of flack for not speaking out more directly about the Holocaust. (Read more on that here.) Why  would people expect him to speak out? He’s not a politician. He’s not going to decide who goes to war and who stays home. And yet, as a religious leader he had influence, so people, churched and unchurched, expected him to use his platform to speak up.

Why, then, do so many of us believe that celebrities should check their mics at the door?

Because we are a deeply complicated people. If you knew that a celebrity felt strongly about something that you cared about, you would likely be very confused and perhaps even disgusted if they chose to remain silent. This observation comes from noticing again and again when friends repost interviews and quotes from celebrities (or celebrity pastors), praising their bravery to speak up for what is right. I’ve also noticed that we quickly change our minds when a celebrity speaks up for something with which we disagree.

It comes down to this: We want to hear our own voices reflected back to us. We celebrate when people speak up for our causes. We vilify when they speak up against them.

Sure, I’d much rather be entertained than challenged, but no one would ever grow that way. Then again, art in itself can be the challenger, so should Hollywood stick to using their voices through film and music? How do we decide where the boundaries lie? I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong for celebrities to be so vocal about politics. I do know that as a community of humans, we are utterly contradictory. People on every side contradict themselves. There has been plenty of evidence throughout the last year. So, maybe it isn’t only celebrities that are at fault. Certainly, we are collectively better when we each use wisdom when it comes to the microphones we carry. There is a time to speak up and a time to check the mic at the door for each of us: for celebrities, for you and me, and even for the President himself.

Framework:2017

We made it. 2017.

It’s bright and shiny and the last sparkles of confetti are lingering in the air. That means it’s time to start taking our plans seriously.

If you are like me, you’ve given up resolutions because, well, I’ve never met a person who has actually kept them. So, instead, I’ve taken up the practice of creating a framework for my year. My framework is made up of a word and a verse that serve as boundaries for the choices I make in the coming year.

As a strategic thinker, I need the blueprint. Detailed plans don’t work for me. I get restless and forget why I had begun. So, this framework approach works well for me. It isn’t a firm, unmoving checklist of expectations. Instead, it is the outer edges of the space in which I live. A word and a verse that keep me coloring inside the lines.

It’s 2017 and my word is BEYOND.

I am very well aware of the truth that what this year will require of me will be beyond anything I’ve ever done. As I continue to search for a job, I know whether I continue on in vocational ministry or take on a new career, it will be different than any work I’ve ever done. My health choices will require discipline and self-acknowledgement beyond what I have previously practiced. Spiritually, I have already begun to see doors open that I am choosing to explore despite the fact that these journeys will take me beyond where my faith has previously been comfortable. I want to live beyond myself, to love beyond what I naturally do, to look beyond what is right in front of me.
That brings me to my verse.

Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

Philippians 2:3-4 (The Voice)

Last year, it was my word that took some time to emerge. This time around it was my verse. I knew my choice for the coming year needed to be others-focused. As I searched and prayed, it became clear that these verses from Philippians 2 were the perfect words for what lies ahead.

As much as I wish that we were a nation and a world headed toward peace, I do not believe that we are. I believe that we will continue to see our world, our country, our churches, and our families divided over opinions and agendas. It is easy and natural to put our own agendas first. It is common to protect our own interests. And yet, that is not the way of Jesus. I don’t know what it will look like yet for me to live this way. I am not able to see from here how to love someone and seek their interests when the reality may be that I disagree with them. I am certain that in 2017 and for the rest of my years, I want to lift my head to extend love to others. I want to get beyond myself. I want to be sincere. And I want to live in such a way that those who live in fear may find security.

There you have it. The framework that will shape the person I become in 2017. I will live it imperfectly. I will struggle to move beyond on the days I most want to be comfortable. But I will continue to trust that it is the Holy Spirit that enables every ounce of beyond within my bones.

What about you? Do you have a framework for the coming year?

Watermarks:2016

It has been 51 weeks since my last post. Yes, 51 weeks since I have written anything other than Bible study lessons and seminary papers. So, hello again.

What better way to re-enter the world of Bedrocks and Borderlands than to reflect on 2016 and the last thing I posted. I had chosen a word and a verse for my year and I had no idea how they would take shape.

At the end of 2015, I acknowledged the natural tendency to shake off the past year and storm headfirst into a new one, with a fresh start.

Out of my way, you no good history!                                                                                            I’ve got a new year to dominate!

More than most, 2016, seems a good year to cast out of mind. With so much death, of icons of Hollywood fame and those who would become icons of hashtag fame, who wouldn’t want to forget about this year? With disheartening campaigns, nation-consuming wars, and the civil issues of past centuries revealing themselves to be just as alive as ever, even the cheeriest of optimists must be ready to escape the suffocating grip of 2016. But, as it is with every year, there was hope mixed in with the pain. So, let’s not rush to slam the door shut on the last 365 days. Let’s sit here, with the extra second that earth’s rotation has provided for us, and reflect. Let’s do the dirty and worthwhile work of excavating and unearth the treasures of this last year.

Before the clock strikes midnight, take time to marvel at the days that have passed.

The verse I chose for 2016 was Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

My word was “sacred”.

And y’all, I had no idea.

As I mentioned, and perhaps you noticed, this blog went silent for the last year. I wanted to write. But I could not. I thought it was because my writing energy was being funneled toward grad school. That may be the cause in part. However, it was about October when I began to realize that I could not write because I write about my life, the lessons I’m learning, the joys and pains I’m experiencing. This year was full of fodder. But I had asked, through choosing “sacred”that The Lord help me honor those around me. And so, through a most painful year, The Lord took my words. I would not have been able to write about 2016 with kindness, not while it was happening. On January 6th, I wrote:

“I want to simplify, to listen, to honor. I want to create and explore and rest. It is the sacredness of creation that ties all of this together. To listen to others, to not hold their sins against them, is to treat them and the relationship as sacred. To honor who I am created to be, to not compromise myself, to fight for the life that is in me is to honor the sacredness of God’s design. To create sacred space in my home and enjoy the sacred space of God’s creation, these are not the extras of a godly life. They matter. In 2016, I want to learn to see all of life as it is, set in place for the glory of God.”

Reading that paragraph, that prayer, fills me with a somber gratitude. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn of sacredness in the way that I did. I did learn to honor who I am created to be, and it cost me. In the pain of those days, I wanted to write to tell my story, but more than that I wanted to honor the others involved and I feel I have even if imperfectly. Sacred space was created for me as I’ve navigated the last few months and I was given the sweetest gift of enjoying the sacred space of creation in the best way, Autumn in the mountains of Northern California. The Lord took my words so that I could learn to do as Mary did, “treasure all these things” and “ponder them in my heart” (Luke 2:19).

And the verse, well that one is slightly more obvious, isn’t it? The immediate connection is the change that occurred in my employment. I didn’t know my ministry in Kingwood would come to an end when it did. But I still believe that my time there was intentional and purposeful both on my part and The Lord’s. This verse goes beyond my time in Kingwood though. My time in California was purposeful as well, though short-lived. And of course, it was a tumultuous year in our nation and world. I believe that I am here, alive and in the U.S. for such a time as this, to speak truth and hope with conviction and kindness in the midst of polarizing days.

So, yes, I am ready for a different year, a year full of new opportunities and, dear Lord, more joy please. But, I am thankful for a year that taught me of the sacredness of all days, the ones marked by hot tears streaming down my cheek as well as the ones marked by a crisp mountain breeze rushing over my river-soaked toes.

Here’s to you, 2016. May the lessons you taught take root as we stumble, exhausted yet hopeful into 2017.