Often around a dinner table, someone will ask a question that begins something like, “If you could meet and spend time with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would that person be?” I have found myself on many occasions answering, without hesitation, “Martin Luther King, Jr.”
I am quite taken with him…
– His approach to conflict and hate.
– His approach to leadership and mentorship.
– His approach to challenge and commitment.
He didn’t start out to change the world; he just knew that racism was wrong. He didn’t set out to upset society so much that it would get him killed; he just knew he could not stand by and do nothing. But he did so through the paradox of opposites. When he confronted hate, he met it with love. When he confronted chaos, he met it with peace. When he confronted ignorance, he met it with kindness.
The question I would want to ask him is simply “Why? Why risk your family? Your children?” I have a feeling he would say something like “Why wouldn’t I? There is right and there is wrong and you cannot pretend there is an in-between. Racism is wrong, PERIOD, and cannot be tolerated.”
My husband Don and I were invited to the 2015 MLK Remembrance Celebration in Atlanta, GA. The event was filled with moving speeches, powerful song, inspiring messages. It was an honor to simply be there, but I was also asked by Dr. Bernice King, MLK’s daughter, to sing How Great Thou Art before the keynote speaker. Don and I were deeply moved… and troubled. Moved, because there was great love and compassion being extended to each person in that place. Troubled, because there is still much work to be done in the arena of racial reconciliation.
This becomes deeply personal for Don and I, as our youngest son, Sam, is multi racial. Sam is 19 years old and a freshman in college. Sam is loyal, opinionated, confident, funny, talented, musical, athletic, smart… and he also happens to be multi racial. It is confounding to me that still, today, in 2015, this continues to be an issue for some people and some areas of our country.
But MLK has set the bar high in how one addresses prejudice of any kind. You simply love and become a person of peace. You seek to serve rather than to be served. This is a hard way to oppose racism and prejudice, but it is the wisest and the most effective.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a 30 something who just could not pretend that wrong was right. He had to say something. He had to land on a side of that right and wrong of prejudice, and it eventually got him killed.
Another 30-something radical some 2000 years ago did the same thing –– He met hate with love. He met opposition with peace. He sought out those in society that were targets of great prejudice and reminded them they were persons of great value. And for this, Jesus was killed.
Thankfully Jesus’ story didn’t end with his death on the cross. Jesus continues to offer new life to those who seek to be his follower, and to follow His teachings.
Although MLK didn’t remain on this earth with us, his story continues to inspire and encourage. His legacy has lived on. His challenge to ‘take a side’ when the glaring truth of right and wrong cannot be ignored, inspires me to this very day. People, human beings, have dignity and should be treated as such. Peace and Love are ALWAYS the answer, even if it may not seem so in the moment.
So, here is what I am learning from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. The first place to start is to be a Jesus follower. Dr. King was a devout Christian man and pastor.
2. Often convictions come with a price. Am I willing to pay that price?
3. Right and wrong cannot be ignored.
4. Human dignity, or the lack thereof, cannot be ignored.
5. Convictions require action.
6. When an “off color” joke or racial slur is spoken, I must not stay silent.
7. Peace and Love are ALWAYS the answer. Offering peace and extending love is not always easy, but it is always right.
8. Taking the high road, in the end, is wise and it is eternal.
9. May we see people for the men and women God has created and not judge because they or we are different.
My friend, Nicole C Mullen says, “It’s okay to notice the color. God made the color. But don’t stop there. Color only describes us. It does not define us.”
In the words of MLK, “We SHALL overcome… someday!”
I, too, have a dream… that my son will not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. What am I willing to risk to see that dream come true?
Where do I even begin? Don and I are embracing this empty nest season and we have begun to declutter our house. I can’t tell you how many times we have said to each other “I had no idea we had this.” Yep… we have been reduced to evaluating our “stuff”. And with 8 kids, 3 pets, and 20 years of life together, we have “stuff”.
We began the process of decluttering with a simple, naïve: “Hey, I wonder what’s in this closet,” and now we can’t stop. We are obsessed. We are organizing the kids’ stuff in their own bins, and then sorting the rest of the stuff into piles. We currently have 4 piles we are operating from:
4. Save for the kids
It is no small feet. And the thing is, WE REALLY THOUGHT WE HAD ALREADY DECLUTTERED AND DOWN-SIZED!
That’s the thing with “stuff” — it’s such a gradual process of accumulating. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it also takes a while to go through the “stuff” and then “declutter” the stuff.
We have found some real gems in and amongst the clutter — a forgotten painting from one of the kids, or a picture of a treasured memory. But honestly, mostly… I’ll be honest… IT’S TRASH — unnecessary and causing more trouble and bother than it’s worth.
Some of the things we have found, we realize we no longer need. Some of the things we wondered, “What in the world did we ever need this for?” Some of the things we’ve just held on to way too long. Some of the things we truly questioned our sanity that it was even in the mix! Anybody got an Amen?!
I guess it might be the same with our “life stuff” too — the baggage we carry around. How much unnecessary stuff do we really carry around with us every day?
A few years ago, a dear friend of mine, Carolyn Gill (who is an excellent life coach) had me do a little exercise. I had been sharing with her that I still carried so much shame and guilt… so much “should-have’s” and “what-if’s”. She had me go to Lowe’s Home Improvement store and pick out a rock. It weighed probably 5 pounds, which didn’t seem all that heavy at the time. Then she suggested I carry the rock with me for the next week EVERYWHERE I WENT. Really?! But, okay, I complied. And what I quickly realized was that accommodating that “rock” (or “stuff”) became a real burden. It affected everything — how I walked, how I maneuvered from aisle to aisle in the grocery store, how I interacted with people in a conversation… and on and on.
I think that’s such a great picture of our “stuff” we carry… every day. The baggage gets heavy and begins to affect how we move about in our everyday life. Most of our baggage is just, quite frankly, unnecessary. There are a few treasures that might be found in and amongst the rubble, and we are thankful for that. But most of the baggage, we begin to realize, has been unnecessary, or simply necessary for a season, and now it’s time to sort through it.
So, here is what I am learning from decluttering –
1. It took a long time to accumulate the stuff; it’s probably going to take some time to go throughout the stuff. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS.
2. Ask for help in the process. I could not do this by myself. Don and I have to be a team in the declutter process. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes, someone else’s perspective is just what we need.
3. It’s okay to LET GO. Most of our “stuff” is just junk we have picked up along the way and held on to — hurtful words, wounds, wrong choices and decision, broken relationships…
4. Assess the situation… if the stuff needs tending to, then tend to it. Sometimes there is a diamond in the rough.
5. Things and people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. All are important, but not all are meant to hang onto forever.
May you journey well… and may you be patient with yourself as you unpack your baggage and declutter your soul.
It has been said of true art: “It is the imperfections that make it priceless.” When you can see the brush stroke from the paintbrush, or see where the painter himself caused a smudge… it is those imperfections that make it authentic, because “they have been touched by the master artist.” We have been touched by the Master Artist, and it is our imperfections that let others know we are authentic.
I was an invited a few years back to be a guest on a cruise with my pal Kathy Trocolli. We were somewhere in the Southern Caribbean and it was glorious – sun, sun, and more sun. I didn’t have my kids on this particular cruise, and I found myself having some wonderful and much needed quiet time… and I would catch up with friends here and there to join them for activities.
But truth be told, I’d always rather stay on the boat and read or sunbathe, or just nap. This one particular day, however, I had a little extra energy and time, so I decided to get off the boat just for a bit. I wandered into a little village with the most adorable shops. I’m not sure why, but I was drawn to a shop that contained paintings. They were lovely, as I looked through the window, so I decided I would just walk on in.
I lost myself in a sea of lovely colors and scenes… until I began to notice something very peculiar… all of the paintings — every single one of them — were of the exact same thing: A beach with a hammock under a palm tree, with the waves rolling in at sunset. Absolutely gorgeous… but it was kind of odd to see just one idea. Some paintings were small, some were large, some were black and white, and some were color — muted or vibrant. And they were framed to perfectly match each of the feel of the paintings.
I continued to just browse thru the small shop with many tiny aisles. These paintings truly had captured a moment in the artist’s life so eloquently on canvas. I turned a corner of the tiny aisle I had been on, and essentially bumped into a tall metal cylinder-type object — something that resembled an umbrella holder that might be placed by a front door.
But this metal cylinder held, what to me looked like, old frayed canvas that had been rolled up into a tube, held together by a little rubber band. I took one out of the cylinder to get a closer look and see that the price tag, being clearly visible, said $3,000. I think I blinked twice, thinking I had read it wrong. Nope, there it was again — $3,000. Just then I noticed one of the sales ladies; I’m pretty sure she had been watching attentively but still giving me, the consumer, some space. But as our eyes met, she could see an unspoken question on my face.
“Is there anything I can help you with? Do you have any questions?” she asked. I started to say, “No I’m just browsing,” but curiosity won out. “Yes I do have a question if you don’t mind.” “Fire away,” she said.
“I am curious what these rolled canvases are?”
“The same picture that you see all around the shop… those are the same as well.”
“Are they really $3,000?” I asked with astonishment.
“Yes they are. They are very special.”
I could not compute this in my head. Here is what I was coming up with: If those rolled up crumply ones are $3,000, then for Heaven’s sake, the other paintings all around the shop must be in the $10’s of 1000’s!! I had to know.
“Ma’am,” I began, “If the rolled up canvases are $3,000, then can you please just tell me how much the really beautiful ones all over the shop cost?”
She smiled a bit as though to say, “I’ve heard this before.” She said, “The canvases on the wall and all around the shop are based on size, but the big one here in the frame you’ve pointed out is…” (she turned over the price tag and I was holding my breath) “$99.”
“I’m sorry, what? Did you say $99 or did you mean $9900?!”
“$99,” she looked again at the price just to be sure, “Yes, just $99.”
I must have looked completely stunned and speechless. “Ma’am, now you’re really going to have to explain it to me.”
“We work with one artist in this gallery. And he paints one very similar theme. And they are truly exquisite as you can see.” I nodded in agreement as I jumped in with newly formed curiosity.
“Why is the rolled up, tattered painting so much more valuable than the beautifully framed ones that are so much less expensive?”
Her answer was so simple and yet so unbelievably profound. As she pulled out one of the rolled up canvases from the metal cylinder she stated simply:
Because my dear, THIS canvas was actually touched by the artist himself. You see that little smudge there? It adds value to the price because the artist himself left that smudge when he was trying to add some texture to this one particular section. Often, you can even see the mark left behind by the paintbrush that doesn’t get exactly smooth. All the little “imperfections” are what make the art world know that THIS VERY PAINTING is the authentic one. The others you see that are displayed around the gallery are copies of the original. And the imperfections have been taken out to make a smooth copy finish. But the only way for me to know if a work of art is authentic and original, and actually touched by the master artist’s hands, is by the number of imperfections.
As I finished up my browsing, I was awed by this revelation. My mind quickly recalled the children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit. When the child had received the rabbit as a gift many years earlier, the rabbit was in pristine condition. But now it was worm, and an eye dangled, and the fuzz had been loved off. One of the characters says at the end of the book… “Aren’t you sad Rabbit?” And Rabbit, in the wise old sage Rabbit way says something like, “You know that you have been loved and have had a good life when your fuzz has been rubbed off.”
There is beauty in imperfections if we choose to focus on how the imperfections got to be in the first place.
So, here are some things I’m learning from art:
1. It’s not the (seeming) perfection that gives value. It is the noticeable imperfections that allows others to see the authenticity.
2. The thing that adds the most value and makes a work of art priceless is when it has been touched by the artist’s hands.
3. I want to risk more in life… even if I get a little messy along the way.
4. I want the Master’s Hand to touch mine, and He lead the way.
5. I think when I can allow God to reframe what perfect and imperfect looks like, then I don’t mind my extra wrinkles in my forehead, or the “play handles” under my arms, or the fact that I have one lazy eye.
If God is the ARTIST and He created me just like He wanted me, and if I believe He doesn’t make mistakes… well then, I guess I can learn to say that I am a BEAUTIFUL IMPERFECTION!
Anybody wanna join me and say, “YES I AM; I AM A BIG, BOLD, BEAUTIFUL IMPERFECTION!”
We have been touched by the Master’s Hand — we are an ORIGINAL – Authentic, Unique, Blemished, Smudged… AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES US PRICELESS!!!!!
LISTEN TO ARTIST OF MY SOUL
PURCHASE ON ITUNES
Lyrics to Artist Of My Soul
Oh Lord of light, of form and hue,
Who has created all things new,
Create in me, from shapeless clay,
An instrument on which you play.
God of the dance that planets tread,
Who walks beside and soars ahead,
O let me move to worship Thee;
come, Holy Spirit dance with me
God of the Living Word, Poet of Time,
teach me Your words in Your cadence and rhyme.
O Lord of beauty, Lord of art,
Who gives a song for every heart,
carve out my life, reshape and mold;
And be the artist of my soul
Teach me Your words in Your cadence and rhyme.
O Lord of beauty, Lord of art,
Who gives a song for every heart,
carve out my life, reshape and mold;
and be the artist of my soul.
Carve out my life, reshape and mold;
and be the artist of my soul