Musings From A Musical Mind

Archive for the ‘Prejudice’ Category

Chocolat

Cover of "Chocolat (Miramax Collector's S...

Cover of Chocolat (Miramax Collector's Series)

I love the movie “Chocolat” – if you have never seen it – I would encourage you to do so.  It is charming as well as has a universal appeal.  We just finished watching it again and LOVE the characters in this movie and wonderful story it tells.  “Chocolat”  started as a best-selling book by Joanne Harris – then became a stage play and then a movie.  It is very visual and has extraordinary characters that are colorful and full of life.

For me – I would have to say that I love a story that has many different layers to it – touching something deep inside.  The lead character, Vianne (played by the great Juliette Binoche)  is a woman who goes from place to place and tries to make a difference – setting up a chocolate shop in the center of town.  She is seen as a radical because she goes against normal small town traditions.  She believes that life is a celebration and she embraces every moment to do so – from brightening up lives that are broken and lost – to throwing a birthday party for the elderly woman who is her landlord – but also her friend, played by the incredible Judy Dench.  But even though she is  infectious and kind – she is also seen as a threat and outsider. The mayor of the town tries to run her out – but in the end, Vianne and her daughter decide to stay.  She befriends some people from the riverboats or ‘pirates’ as her daughter calls them – and the leader is brilliantly played by Johnny Depp.  (Johnny also writes some of his own music which he plays on the guitar and it is used in the soundtrack).  The young minister of the small French town is torn – but wants to do the right thing for everyone – I believe his quote at the end of the movie is the best one – and it is seen on my video clip below.  Follow the link on the video that says “Watch this on youtube” and you will be able to see the video to get a taste of the movie.

It is amazing how one life can affect so many – and change a whole town. I want to be a life that is like that – don’t you?

Enjoy, and have some chocolate 🙂

God Bless

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How To React To The ‘Others’

Today I posted a status update that is a ‘take off’ of the Four Spiritual Laws as explained in this article – borrowed from Campus Crusade For Christ Ministries.  The first spiritual law is this:

“God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life”

Doesn’t that sound great?  When I seek Him and ask Him through prayer and constant open communication – He begins to reveal His plan for my life – gently probing into my inmost thoughts and bringing to mind a direction that I should take – sometimes a ‘stepping out’ beyond what I think I can do.  It’s called: faith. It’s also called discernment.

We have had wonderful people throughout our ministry life – and beyond speak over us – or call us to tell us something they feel God is saying to us.  One such trusted friend is a woman who has served as an elder at a church where Greg was a staff member for 13 years.  Her name is Lucille Johnson.  She would probably be embarrassed to know that I written anything about her – she is very modest and humble – always comes across in a positive and encouraging way – she is this way with everybody.  We respect her – and her ‘words’ of encouragement from the Lord – because she is always right on. A real prayer warrior – with no ulterior motives and no agenda.  She considers herself a vessel and lets God speak through her to encourage and lift up.  And you can always match what she says according to the Bible – the true test of whether someone is speaking from God – or from themselves.  I have also known a few others along the way who would pray over me or Greg and have a ‘word’ for us.  Same thing – always positive and encouraging.  This is how God speaks.  If it is negative or judgmental – it in NOT from God.  If it is contrary to scripture – again – NOT from God – no matter who is saying it.

But what happens when the first law looks like this:

“God loves you, and OTHER people have a wonderful plan for your life”

Those ‘other’ people can really mess us up.  And especially when it’s done under the ‘guise’ of spirituality – they tell you they have a ‘word’  from God Himself – the ultimate ‘trump card’ for any argument you could possibly offer.  By doing so you would appear ‘non-spiritual’ – ‘out of touch’ – and even ‘arrogant’. So you do what anyone in your position would do – you listen. But what if it makes you uncomfortable – is negative or judgmental – and you feel a personal agenda from the individual delivering the message to you?  Do you start to ‘bristle’ at the words?  Do you feel uneasy?  It is NOT from God.

I’ve had many such ‘other people’ in my life – throughout the years – trying to discern  ‘God’s will’ for my life.  Sometimes it was subtle – a glance or ‘meaningful few words’ – sometimes it was a ‘direct word’ – either through a ‘word of wisdom’ or ‘prophecy’ over me – or in some cases – (gasp!) even an email.  I am amazed at how ‘fear’ and ‘loss of control’ can be the instigator of such rubbish.  And even how Satan himself uses people to be a negative influence in my life.  Again – if it’s negative or judgmental – you detect  fear or loss of control from the individual delivering it – then just smile and walk away.  Wait to respond.  If you think it’s necessary to respond – and sometimes it is – make sure you wait and don’t respond out of defensiveness or anger.  If you wait a while – you will be able to rationally think it out and respond correctly if you even need to respond at all.

You wouldn’t believe the weird situations I have found myself in over the years – maybe you would.  I share the next two events with you – both of which happened MANY YEARS ago – to give you encouragement and hope when you go through a time in your life when things don’t make any sense to you and ‘others’ really try to mess with you.

I had a situation years ago – when Greg was earning his Master’s Degree.  We were involved in our local church and I was asked to be on a panel of judges because of my musical experience – to audition children for a musical – to be held at our church later that year.  I went into the situation completely unbiased – as I didn’t know any of the children personally.  The woman who asked me to be on the panel was the assistant director – and her son was auditioning for the lead role.  I did not know him personally.  I was unaware going in that the director DID NOT want me to judge – knowing I would pick the best kid for the lead role.  She had an agenda – another boy who was not as talented but that ‘deserved’ the part (and the Mom and Grandmother of the boy were highly influential in the church)  – it was purely ‘political’ – and I had walked into the situation COMPLETELY BLIND.  I was asked by the assistant director to be a judge – because she knew that I would choose based on ability – not popularity or politics.

Well as you can imagine – I chose the boy with the most ability for the role – both acting and singing  (he happened to be the son of the assistant director) – and was ‘out voted’ by the others on the panel.  It was strange to me and very upsetting – knowing I was just a pawn and not to be taken seriously – and the ‘other’ boy got the part.  The assistant director called me that evening wondering what had happened – and I told her.  I didn’t think it was a secret – BOY WAS I WRONG.  I was blasted by not only telling the truth – but the pastor’s wife called me to tell me how wrong I was in voting the way I did – and by defending my position.  She had been in the room for the judging (although she was not a judge) and told me I was wrong and had no business to have an opinion etc.  Her ‘word’ of correction for me was harsh – negative and carried a heaping spoon full of guilt and personal agenda (her son had been up for the lead as well – and got the second biggest part).  But if I had been more spiritual then I would have known all of this on the panel and would have gone along with the others – they were right – I was clearly WAY OFF.  It was ugly.  It was uncomfortable at church after that.  And although the pastor himself was very kind – to me and the assistant director – the damage had been done.  I remember calling the director on the phone after the pastor’s wife called me – and humbly asking her forgiveness for anything that was out of line on my part – and told her in my own words what had happened.  She admitted she never wanted me judging in the first place – they already had picked who they wanted in the lead roles – and my presence there was just a ‘complication’.

I would be lying to you if I said that all was forgiven and overlooked – and all was well after that – but it wasn’t.  We moved away soon after that – but the event has followed me and even hindered me from speaking my mind confidently for a long time.  And anytime I was asked to ‘judge’ anything after that – I would have to really think about it.  I always judge based on talent – not anything else.  I cannot be swayed politically.

Another example of a crazy thing that happened to me:  In the next church – when we were on staff – I was even accused of ‘having an affair’ with a man on our worship team – because – GET THIS – I sat next to him one time in Sunday School class – and when we were in a prayer circle in the back room before service – I once held his hand – because he happened to be standing next to me at the time.  You HAVE to hold hands if you’re in a prayer circle praying before service!  I know you think this is pretty silly – IT IS!  But his wife was deadly serious when she came up to me as I was starting to play for the service and said, “my husband will be available in a little while – we’re getting divorced so you’ll have your chance with him”  or something like that.  Well I was so rattled by this revelation – and right as I’m starting to play for song service too!  It was all I could do – to ‘hold it together’ until after song service – where I went to sit by Greg and wrote him a note.  He couldn’t believe it either!  Later it was discovered that the woman had serious disillusions and mental problems – I was relieved – but sad for her.  It was not the first time someone had been accused and would not be the last.  Again I didn’t seem to have any discernment in the situation and the pastor even tried to ‘down play’ it and in a weird way – because he would not stand with me – he acted like I was somehow to blame!  I don’t think he wanted to ‘rock the boat’ with that family.  It’s those kind of situations with ‘others’ that can truly make you feel as if you’re losing a grip on reality.  I wondered if the pastor actually believed her.  There was nothing done to ‘ratify’ me – or let me know that we were dealing with an unstable person – nothing.

And if you think these are the only two strange events that I have been involved in – think again!  I find that people are people – everywhere I go – their faces change but the situations are eerily the same – with a few things changed, of course.  And if I’m not careful – pretty soon I find myself being judged, misrepresented and being ‘corrected’ for things that are not my fault and that clearly involve ‘other’ people.
I tell you this because God is ultimately the only one who can judge and penetrate our hearts and souls – to find our real intent and motive for every ‘crisis’ in our lives.  “Others’ will be glad to give you their ‘knowledge’ and ‘expertise’ and even be quick to ‘judge’ without knowing all the facts and circumstances – but from my own experience – that ‘word’ or ‘advice’ from people can often times be self-serving and carry with it a hidden agenda based on ‘fear’ or ‘loss of control’.  We need to know and understand the difference.  We need to keep our heart right.  I cannot control what others think of me and that drives me crazy!!  But it is the truth. And I’ve had many more situations in my life since then – where well-meaning people have tried to ‘correct’ or ‘rebuke’ based on nothing but ‘hearsay’ and ‘fear‘.  So disheartening – it can cut me to the quick – if I let it.

My aim is to live with my own heart right. I don’t try to defend myself or my actions anymore to man – but talk it out with God – who is the only one who knows what the truth is – and He will liberate me in the end.  I am careful who I take ‘correction’ from – I shy away from those who do not believe that things can be forgiven and there can be a resolution to any problem.  Anyone that is human is capable of messing up – even pastor’s do.  They are NOT God.  And sometimes – hard as it is to believe – they can also be motivated by ‘fear’ and ‘loss of control’.  It is important to know and understand this – then you will not be disappointed when seeking godly council from a person in leadership – or what you consider to be a good strong Christian man or woman.  They can mess up – they don’t always get it right.  God is the only one we can trust – and we can take His word for us – TO THE BANK.

Who are you listening to today?  The ‘accuser’?  The person who is quick to blame without knowing all the facts?  The ‘judgmental one’ who knows more about what you should be thinking or doing than you do?  The one with the ‘hidden agenda’?  Those that have something personal riding on what you say, think or do?  A person who is fearful of losing control?

I suggest you listen to God alone – and rest in what He tells you through prayer and in His word.  His correction is always without ‘hidden motive’.  He loves with a pure agenda and gently advises.  His words will always be encouraging and lift you up – not tear you down to size.  He will always want the best things for your life – and work behind the scenes to bring those people and situations into your life to build you up – give you hope and a future!

And the ‘others’?  Pray for them.  Live by example.  The very best revenge for those people – is to NOT be angry but quick to forgive  – be encouraging and loving – accepting and gracious to them.  Be kind and considerate.  It will really irk them. ☺  And it will do you the world of good too!

God Bless

Acceptance – Or Just Tolerance

Heard a great Father’s Day message today from our pastor.  His main emphasis was this:  Do you accept people – or are you just tolerant?

It makes you think.  Somewhere deep inside of all of us – is this nasty habit of judging those that are different from who we are – or look different – or talk different – or do things that we don’t do.  The bible talks about this issue much in scripture – and that God is the ultimate judge of our heart and motives – and yet we still think we need to help Him out.

Maybe you were raised that drinking alcohol was wrong. Maybe it was the rules and regulations of the church you belonged to – although for the life of you – you can’t find anywhere in scripture where it actually says that it’s wrong.  It started out as a good idea once upon a time – or maybe had its roots in good upright moral principles – but then it went sideways somehow – and instead of it being a cultural thing or a church background thing – it became something more.  It became a judgement call.  You find yourself looking at those who have a glass of wine with dinner as less than spiritual.  Less of a Christian perhaps.  And they become marginalized. You politely tolerate them – but you do not accept their way of thinking. You do not accept them.  You don’t think they’re really saved.

Maybe it’s an issue of something as superficial as getting your ears pierced – or something else.  Maybe it’s a tattoo.  As was pointed out this morning – if we are going to make an issue out of a scripture in Leviticus about marking our body with a tattoo – then we better be willing to take the verse directly in front of it which talks about men cutting their hair and trimming their sideburns as being a sin.  And of course – that would be silly, right?  But we hold onto what we want to – or what we’ve been taught – and refuse to look at what scripture really means – and take the context and the heart of the message into consideration.  But how many people – especially from an older generation – just tolerate those who pierce and tattoo?  Instead of accepting.

Now accepting means I have to give in – and I have to let go.  And that is my safety net – to believe in something so strongly.  I feel justified.  I feel right.  I am right.  It means giving up that right – in deference to you.  It means swallowing my pride and self-righteous attitude and allowing you to be right.

Jesus came along as a radical to teach us that the Kingdom of God is backwards from what we normally think.  It teaches us to be servants and the lowest of all – when we want to be seen and heard and be the one in charge.  It teaches that we must be willing to forgive – even when we did nothing wrong.  It teaches that you are more important than I am.  That I have no personal rights.  It teaches that I lay my life down for others.  And this goes WAY beyond tolerance – even beyond acceptance.  It means that even with our differences – you are more important than I am.  And I submit to you.

And because God is the final ultimate judge of the heart – then I must lay aside my opinion of you and allow you to work on you – and allow the matter to be between you and God.

Ouch.  You mean – I can’t have an opinion and tell you to your face that you’re wrong – even if you are?  Not if we live by Kingdom principles you can’t.  We must let God do His work – and our job is to love and win others by our love.  There is nothing more motivating than a person who loves – and does not judge.

This is why it does not feel right when Christian brothers and sisters judge one another – and cannot be reconciled together after a grievance.  God is love. He dwells in relationships of people.  We need to forgive each other – and we need to love.

I am praying for you today that you will not just tolerate your brother or sister – but that you will learn to love and prefer them and their opinions and choices – over your own.  Accept them in love – just as Christ Jesus has loved and accepted you.

God Bless

The Soloist

Greg and I have been watching the movie “The Soloist” about a homeless ex Julliard musician played by Jamie Fox – and the newspaper man who happens on him in a park and tries to “rescue” him from being “lost” and seemingly abandoned and yes – homeless – played by Robert Downey Jr.  This story had me pondering many things today.

1. Sometimes people don’t want to be rescued. We try to “push” our values on people that our less fortunate than we are – only to be rejected.  We can’t understand why everyone would not want to live like we do – I mean – don’t we have the “truth” and know the only way to live?  We particularly see this when people come from another culture to our churches and neighborhoods.  We think that somehow we need to “save” them from themselves – when they were quite happy doing and being just as they were.  We also see this in our world today as missionaries and others come from countries of affluence to “aid” in another culture.  Sometimes it is welcomed – sometimes it is not.  Sometimes it is met with a misunderstanding of gigantic proportions and takes a missionary couple or family years to undo the damage.

2. We assume everyone is just like us.  Again big mistake.  And since we only have our experiences to draw upon – it is no wonder that we continue to make it.  People are as diverse and complicated as the situations that they have found themselves in – or are born in.  No one is just like me – and very few come from a family situation like mine – with its own set of uniqueness and dysfunctional issues – the same as your family – and very different from your family.  And if my assumption is that not only are you like me – than I anticipate your reactions based on what I would do in situations.  Very dangerous – and just plain wrong.  The old, “why can’t everyone just think like me” becomes our theme song when times get tough and we can’t figure things out.  We have very little tolerance for people that are different at thinking  and reacting to things.  We even marginalize them.  And in our minds – discard them.

3. We expect people to treat us like we treat others. Again this is a HUGE misconception.  I have personally struggled with this one time and time again.  I say things like, “I would never do that to a friend” – or “Why won’t they play nice – when I am so nice to them”  “Why can’t they appreciate all I do for them” etc.  It is a slippery slope of disappointment if we expect this.  And the “golden rule” doesn’t seem to be in everybody’s vocabulary – let alone living it.  Again we don’t always understand everyone completely – nor have we walked where they walk.  We don’t have to face what they have to in their place of work – in their home or family.  We know very little, really.  And yet – we still expect.

4. My role is to just walk in love and forgiveness. Nothing more.  I am not equipped to “save” anyone.  I cannot rescue people from themselves and the way that they react to difficult situations.  I cannot force anyone to see things the way I want them to.  I can’t “fix” anyone.  That’s God’s job – not mine.  And when I understand this – I am free.  When I truly embrace this truth – I am free to be who I am gifted to be – with no guilt and no false sense of purpose.  I am free to love you – even forgive you for the many unspeakable things that may have been done to me.  And for those things that I don’t understand and want to “fix” in you.  I am free to live what I believe.  I am free to love you beyond what I see with my eyes.

And like the “Soloist” that did not want to be “rescued” by anyone – but he wanted to experience love and peace in his life – I pray that we would all come to the place in our lives where people really matter.  Not how they live – or what they do – or look like on the outside – what they own or do not own.  But we really see them.  Where peace, forgiveness and love reign in our world – unprovoked – and unasked for.  Where we truly “see beyond” – and see them as Jesus sees them.  I pray that we would have better eyes to experience something we’ve never seen before.

God Bless

To Kill A Mockingbird

Cover of "To Kill a Mockingbird (Collecto...

Cover via Amazon

Every year our family watches the classic movie “To Kill A Mockingbird” – with Gregory Peck.  It is a poignant story of life in a small southern town during the depression – and one man’s fight against racism and prejudice – during a time when it was not popular or politically correct.

It is also a love story.  A love story between a single Father and his children.  And a love story between an outcast of society – who lives next door – and his great love and protection for those children.

It is about misconception – prejudice – small mindedness and human nature  – where fear is the motivating force.  It is about hope and belief that things and people CAN be better and change.

I read the book many years ago – and even studied it in high school.  It has many themes in it and is timeless in it’s simple message of love, life and hope.

The music composed in this movie is by Elmer Bernstein – and it is one of my very favorites.  It is childlike – and yet haunting and beautiful at the same time – very emotional and deep.  Below is the main theme from the movie.  If you have not had the opportunity to see this great film – made in the early 60’s – I would encourage you to do so – you won’t regret it.  It is our tradition to watch it every Halloween.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”    Atticus Finch

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever hear Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.  “You’re father’s right,” she said.  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.  That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.”

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