Friday, September 14, 2012

Both Sides Now

Ever been in that place?  Just like Joni Mitchell describes in her song, sometimes, when we look at things from different angles and perspectives, we still can't figure it out.  We do our best to be objective, we move and look again, trying desperately to see what we haven't seen before, yet nothing seems to change.

I've been there before.  It's that place where you feel incapable of seeing anything different and yet somehow, you feel as though you've missed something.  You can't quite put your finger on it, but something just doesn't feel right.  It might come as you are leaving your house and you realize what's incomplete as soon as you get on the highway in your car.  Maybe you're at the airport and realize what it was that you forgot.  It could be something more significant, realizing something that you missed after you've already sent a letter or turned in a big project.

I've learned to wait on things much more as I have grown older and wiser.  Yet, I still have my fair share of missing things that I have done my best to see from both sides.  I've grown more patient, yet I still feel that urging to move past because I am in such a hurry.

As much as we might try to be objective about things and the way that we view them, we will most likely miss something.  We do our best to be humble and rightly acknowledge our limitations in hopes that should be find out what we've missed, we won't have to eat our words, or something worse.  We realize our limitations and know that we still have so much to learn and can gain something more from hearing the perspective of someone else.

I'm reminded of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."  We can only see a glimpse, a portion, a part right now, but one day, we will see it all.  Our eyes will see face to face, clearly, we will understood as we have never understood before.

I imagine that when that day finally comes, I may try to monopolize God's time.  So many unanswered questions.  So many sleepless nights.  So many tears cried.  So many prayers offered.  Seems like it might just be a series of "a-ha" moments, finally "getting it."

Until that day finally arrives, I'll rest in the fact that I can only see a glimpse.  I'll do my best to stay humble and hope to find that there is something to be gained from every new perspective that I encounter.  It's not always easy to look at things differently, from both sides, or multiple sides for that matter, but the end result can certainly lead to humility, growth, and eventually, wisdom.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I have been reading through the minor prophets in the Old Testament during my daily Bible reading.  The other day, I read through the book of Haggai.  As I was reading through it, I paused at a verse in chapter 2.  God is speaking to Haggai and he tells him to bring a message to Zerubbabel, who is the king and governor.  In verse 23, it says, "‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty."

I thought about the significance of a signet ring.  We don't often use them in today's culture the way that they once were used.  In more ancient times, when letters were sent, they were sealed with signet rings to show that they were official.  Nowadays, when someone graduates from high school or college, it is common for them to have rings that contain the crest of the school from which they graduate.  It seems that the bearer of the symbol is identifying themselves with whatever that symbol stands for.

When God told Zerubbabel that he would make him like a signet ring, he was telling him that he would give him all authority and power that came with being a representative of the One True God.  He would be an ambassador of the Lord Almighty.  In fact, Zerubbabel was more than just a representative of God, he was used by God in the lineage of Jesus (see Matthew 1).

What a significant thing.  It makes me stop and give pause to the idea of what I am representing by the symbols that I put on.  Sometimes we wear our labels on our sleeves, literally.  What do we represent when we put something on?  Do we convey a message when we wear certain things?  What's our message?

Zerubbabel was given the privilege to be like a signet ring.  Do I live my life as a signet ring of the Lord?  Do I take advantage of the power that I have been given through him?  Do I represent in a manner that is appropriate and becoming of one called by God?  I guess I can think about it this way, if I were a signet ring, whose signet ring would I be?  How about you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thrust Into the Limelight

I have had an extended break from school before my final push towards completing my degree and graduation.  I have taken the opportunity to engage with one of my loves: movies.  We discovered a local library that has a pretty good selection of blu-rays that they loan for free.  Many of the movies are current and I would generally have to pay for them at Blockbuster or Redbox.

Last week, I watched a film called "My Week With Marilyn."  It was based upon Colin Clark's memoir entitled "The Prince, the Showgirl and Me."  I would be very interested in reading the book, but I think the film did a very good job of depicting the character of Marilyn Monroe.  Michelle Williams did a phenomenal job portraying Monroe and I was captivated by the fragility and lack of self-esteem of Monroe.  As I watched the film, my heart broke for this young woman who seemed lost in a search for her own identity.

Marilyn Monroe was first married when she was 16 years old and her life was marked by countless failed relationships with men.  Her alleged affairs with the Kennedy brothers, both John and Robert, have been the subject of much talk and gossip about the starlet.  It seems that Marilyn was constantly trying to find out who she was and she constantly battled the expectations of those around her with what she felt inside, who she truly was and was called to be.

As I watched this film, broken hearted at the knowledge of Monroe's future fate, I couldn't help but think of Michael Jackson as well.  Although there are probably countless people who can be similarly categorized, he was the first one who came to mind, and particularly, his song "Childhood."  If you are unfamiliar with the song, it was featured in the movie "Free Willy 2."  Here are the lyrics:

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for the world that I come from
'Cause I've been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart...

No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities...
'Cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me...

People say I'm not okay
'Cause I love such elementary things...
It's been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood I've never known...

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne...

Before you judge me, try hard to love me,
Look within your heart then ask,
Have you seen my Childhood?

People say I'm strange that way
'Cause I love such elementary things,
It's been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood I've never known...

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like fantastical stories to share
The dreams I would dare, watch me fly...

Before you judge me, try hard to love me.
The painful youth I've had

Have you seen my Childhood...

Considering his checkered past and the fate that would befall him many years later, the lyrics are just as heartbreaking as the story of Marilyn Monroe.  While I wouldn't condone some of MJs questionable behavior, hearing these words and knowing a little of his story, it's hard not to feel some amount of sympathy for this man-child.

In many ways, Monroe seemed to be such a similar character and personality.  She was a child trapped in a woman's body, she was a little girl who found herself to be a sex symbol.  She was thrust into the spotlight where everyone idolized her for her body and her good looks.  She never really had the opportunity to grow up.

Some might say that she chose the life that she lived, as did Michael Jackson.  I would agree, but it seems that our culture has a way of idolizing fragile human beings, some of who are not prepared for what is to come once they are thrust into the spotlight.  The public eye will do all kinds of things to people, young and old, rich and poor.  Some people are so enamored with the attention, like it seems Marilyn was, that they would do anything to please those who are watching.

At one point in the film, Colin, the main character, offers Marilyn the chance to run away with him and leave it all behind.  She tells him that she can't, and that's the end of it.  There is no debate, no questions, she just decides that she can't give up the fame and glory to which she has become accustomed.  She didn't, and it destroyed her.  Michael Jackson didn't either, and it destroyed him.  And in some ways, we were accomplices to that with our tendency for voyeurism and idolatry.

Unfortunately, this kind of voyeurism and idolatry is not relegated simply to those who are in Hollywood.  We pretty much do it with anyone who becomes "famous."  Athletes, politicians, public figures of any kind, pastors, etc.  We have a very high shelf that we like to put people on and any time that they fall off of it, the fall seems to be far and fast.  We seem to mete out grace as long as they are fulfilling our own desires, but the moment that they fail to do that, they have failed us and we run far and fast.

Those thrust into the public limelight will come and go, but how will we respond to them?  Will we allow ourselves to be captivated by their godlike qualities and abilities?  Will we fall victim to the culture that surrounds us and idealize people who are just as fallible and broken as the rest of us?

I've pretty much turned the corner of time and my window of opportunity for "fame and fortune" is most likely behind me.  But I have the opportunity to mentor and teach those who come behind me, my children, my friends, young people who I interact with.  Will I take the opportunity to pass on what I know in hopes that they would enter into any potential fame-filled future with caution?  I hope so.  The past is littered with a wake of bodies that have been sacrificed to fortune and fame, cast aside and abandoned, left useless along the way, but the future can be marked differently.  While I am not naive enough in thinking that this will stop, if we can prevent just a few from following this same path, we will have succeeded, at least in their lives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years?

It's hard to believe that it's been 11 years since that fateful Tuesday morning.  The day still remains so vivid in my head and I can only imagine how much more so it feels that way for those who experienced tragic loss on that day.  Having lived about 50 minutes from NYC back in 2001, it felt so much closer to me.  I remember traveling down to New Jersey for project management training for my company just 2 days later.  As I drove over the Tappan Zee Bridge, I could see the New York skyline from afar, yet it was close enough to make out the distinct cloud that hung like a death shroud over the place where the two towers had once stood.

My mom's birthday was September 11th.  She was not particularly fond of the fact that her birthday shared the date with one of the greatest tragedies to ever befall the United States.  I will always remember her birthday with a mix of emotion as I recall joy and tragedy in the same day.

Memorable dates are fascinating.  Personally, I am a "numbers guy" so I remember all kinds of dates and numbers.  I will forever remember my phone number from my house growing up.  I even remember my phone number during my sophomore through senior years of college as it remained the same.  I remember the phone number I had after college as well.  So much useless information that seems to be taking up space.

Yet, there is so much value to remembering.  I have said it before, but it's worth repeating, if we do not remember, we are destined to forget, which generally results in our repeating of things, oftentimes mistakes.  Remembering is a valuable resource and I try to do it often.

I remember by writing.  I can express my thoughts and feelings so much better when I write them down.  I can recount my experiences in written form so that I can pass those experiences on to my children.  Some of them are funny and they make us laugh, others are painful and might better be left untold, or at the very least, seldom recounted.  But even the painful experiences and memories serve to mold me into who I am.

Our country is not the same since September 11, 2001.  To be honest, I think that many people forget until something forces them to remember.  I can't forget, part of that is due to Mom's birthday, but part of it is that it hit so close to home and yet I somehow remained unscathed by the pain that so many experienced that day.  I remember and I honor those who grieve, even 11 years later.

What is it that you need to remember?  Take a moment today to recount it and express your thanks.  Make that phone call.  Write that note.  Say that prayer.  Do whatever it is that you need to do to let someone know today that you remember.