Kindness and Redemption

This is the final post in my mini-series on the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. You can click here to read how it all started and here and here to read the other posts in this series. I’ve saved the best for last. Well maybe not but more than the other two the theme of redemption is easy to see in this musical.

les-miserablesI first saw Les Miserables on Broadway when I was in High School. Growing up in NYC, and being a lover of musicals, I saw my fair share of shows on Broadway. But watching Les Mis captured my heart and soul in ways I have never been able to fully articulate. It remains my all-time favorite stage musical. I have seen it more times than I can count and know the lines of every single song yet I STILL weep whenever I watch (I wept writing this post). The music is that powerful and the story that moving.

You Are NOT Just A Number

In the opening number Javert refers to Valjean simply by his prisoner number, 24601. Valjean responds by giving his full name but throughout the movie Javert sees him only as a number. He never sees the person behind the number. Valjean rightly states, a little later in the musical, that they gave him “a number and murdered Valjean”.

It’s easy to relegate someone to just a number. What size clothes does she wear? How much money does he make? We give someone a number and then judge them based on that number. But when we do, we miss out on everything about who someone truly is. The essence of a person is lost when they become nothing more than a number.

To the mom who can’t lose the weight she gained bringing life into this world, you are NOT the number on that scale. To the dad working too many long hours, missing the best parts of his children’s lives, you are MORE THAN the size of your bank account.

Society does a hell of a job trying to convince us to measure our worth by things external to us. My challenge is that you stand up to that notion and realize that your worth cannot be found in a smaller dress size, a bigger bank account or a larger house. You are of intrinsic worth and value and nothing can or should take that away from you. You are NOT just a number

One Simple Act of Kindness

A beat down, worn out Valjean is shown kindness by a priest, who invites him into his home, feeds him a hot meal and offers him a warm place to sleep. To repay his kindness, Valjean steals from the priest. When he is caught, however, the priest tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. He then tells Valjean he must “use this silver to become an honest man”. Something of the hardness in Valjean breaks at the kindness of this old man and he decides to change his life.

Years later, after assuming a new identity, Valjean learns that another man is set to go to prison after being mistaken for him. He remembers the priest, remembers that “his soul belongs to God” and he reveals the truth of who he really is, despite knowing it will send him back to prison.

The kindness of the priest rescued Valjean from the life of bitterness and misery he was heading down. His life was redeemed by this one simple act of kindness and the ripple effect of his life’s transformation is seen in many of the main characters. Fantine dying in a hospital instead of on the streets. Cosette growing up knowing she is loved and not unwanted. Marius not perishing with the rest of his friends. Valjean’s redeemed life, redeems the lives of so many others in the story.

Kindness and Redemption

Kindness begets kindness. Redemption begets redemption. We can never repay the supreme act of kindness shown to us by Christ on the cross. He does not ask us to repay Him. Instead, He asks that we love our neighbors as ourselves, give a cup of water to one who is thirsty and even share our bread with our enemy. His kindness to us should beget in us kindness to others, including kindness to ourselves. May we, like Valjean, be so humbled by Another’s act of kindness, our only response is to do the same for others.

From my heart to yours,

Makeda

I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts on redemption. I’d love to hear where, in your life, have you found unexpected stories of redemption?

Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250Linking this post with Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart series.

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Love and Redemption

I’m continuing my mini-series on the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. You can click here and here to read the other posts in this series.

Next up is The Sound of Music. As a child I wore out our VCR copy, later I owned the DVD version and now I have the Blu-Ray. I also may or may not keep a digital copy on my iPad for those days when I need to get into my happy place 🙂 Here are some lessons learned from this wonderful movie:

sound-of-musicBe Who You Are

I love the character of Maria. Despite the nuns desperately trying to figure out how to “solve a problem like Maria”, she naturally refuses to be “fixed”. She just is who she is. When she gets to the Captain’s house, he quickly realizes she is a handful and asks her if she was this much trouble at the Abbey. She answers “oh much more”. Isn’t that just fabulous?! 🙂

There will always be people in your world who think you need fixing. They want you to be who they think you should be and they invent all these “rules” you have to follow. Sometimes that’s okay. It’s good to follow the rules when they keep you out of harm’s way but when the rules start wounding your soul, when they start harming your essence that’s when it becomes a problem. That’s when you need to stand up and say, this is who I am, warts and all. The people who love you and support you won’t care and the people who do care and can’t accept you don’t deserve a space in your tribe.

Sometimes Love Comes Softly

They hardly know it is happening but slowly Maria and the Captain fall in love. My absolute favorite scene in this movie is of them dancing The Laendler. It is at the end of the dance that we see their love for each other, even if they haven’t yet figured it out.

I think sometimes we have a misconception about love. We think love is real only if it is filled with goosebumps, fireworks and all the superficial things romantic comedies lead us to believe is love. But real love, the kind of love that lasts for decades, sometimes that kind of love sneaks up on you at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places.

I think the Father’s love is like that too. Sure there are moments when you stand in a church service and you weep because you feel His presence so strongly. But I believe the Father’s love is most present in the breathtaking stars of a clear summer night and in the kaleidoscope of colors in the sunset. His love is on display in the beauty of the Redwood trees, the majesty of the eagle soaring in the sky and the beauty of the Monarch butterflies in flight. Those are the moments when His love whispers softly and we stand in awe of what we are beholding as something deep within us stirs. That stirring is our heart remembering home and without fully understanding why, we exhale and relax into into the beauty of His love. Click here to see what I mean.

Letting Go of What’s Familiar

The Sound of Music is set amidst the backdrop of the Nazi take over of Austria. Captain von Trapp is ordered to join the German Navy, something he is unwilling to do but refusing them is not an option. He decides, instead, to take his family and leave Austria and everything they have known behind because it is the only right choice.

Sometimes doing what’s right, means letting go of what’s familiar. A job, a relationship, a friendship might have been right at one time but now it no longer fits and the only right thing to do is walk away. Walking away is never easy but if you can remember that in every The End is the promise of a Once Upon A Time, then maybe you can embrace the courage to let go and step into something more honest and right for you.

Love Redeems

It’s easy to see how Maria’s love rescued the von Trapp family from the life of sterility and order they lived. But she was also rescued by their love. She was headed to a life that was not right for her, a life that felt like what she “should” do but not what she really wanted to do. That’s the way of love, it rescues and redeems our stories from what we think they “should be” to what has been Divinely meant to be. That’s the way of the Father’s Love. As we embrace who we are, stay open to love, and let go of what’s not right, He WILL write an amazing story of redemption with our lives. That’s just how He rolls 🙂

Redemption & Rescue {Coffe for Your Heart}

For the next few posts I’m looking at the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. First up is Annie and yes, I am in fact referring to the little red-headed orphan girl Anne Marie Fudge (you’d have to be a die-hard fan to know that is her full name) And let’s be clear right from the outset, as far as I’m concerned there is only one movie version worth talking about and it’s the 1982 version. The other movie versions, including the one coming out later this year, don’t hold a candle to the original one. I mean, hello Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan!! Enough said 🙂

annie_v2I first fell in love with Annie when I was 10 years old (yes I am that old but shoot I still look good 🙂 ). We put on the stage version for our 5th grade graduation show. The movie version had just come out and as a special treat they took us into the city so we could see the movie on the big screen. I was hooked from the opening scene and to this day, this movie instantly takes me to my happy place. I may or may not carry it around on my iPad for those days when I need immediate access to my happy place.

Annie has taught me a lot over the years. Here are just a few of the lessons to be gleaned from this amazing musical:

Dare to Dream

The opening scene of the movie shows Annie sitting on a windowsill high up in the orphanage dreaming about her parents who she believes will one day come for her. She didn’t know where they are or when they will come but she dreams of that day anyway.

But dreaming is tricky business. Getting a dream is the easy part; holding on to the belief that a dream will come true, now that’s the hard part. Dreams have a way of feeling tenuous and fragile at times. We try so desperately to hold onto them but there are days when it feels like our dreams are slipping through our fingers. Life throws some things our way and we feel as if giving up is the only option we have. But my encouragement to you today is don’t give up. Hold on to your dreams, even when it feels like it’s never going to happen because as Annie also reminds us the sun WILL come out tomorrow.

No Apologies

The thing I love most about little Ms. Annie is she never apologizes for who she is. Despite Ms. Hannigan’s relentless efforts to squash her spirit, she never let go of her enthusiasm for life. She took that enthusiasm with her when she went to stay with Mr. Warbucks and her infectious smile and wonderful spirit won over the staff. They loved her from the minute she walked in the door. It took Mr. Warbucks a little longer but he eventually got there too.

In life and in business, it’s easy for us to think we have to be like everyone else to be successful. In fact, our world seems dead set on getting us to buy into the idea that we have to look and act a certain way to be loved and approved. That’s a lie. I believe it is when we are our most honest selves that we shine the brightest and attract to us the people who are meant to be a part of our tribe. Just do you! Anyone who wants to change you, is not someone that needs to be in your world. You are wonderful just as you are.

Redemption & Rescue

It has taken me a long time to name why I love this movie so much. I recently figured out that it was the story of being rescued that won my heart all those years ago. I grew up without my father really being present in my life and the idea of this orphan being rescued by Daddy Warbucks made my heart long for something I didn’t even know how to name. As I have gotten older I have seen that it wasn’t just Warbucks that rescued Annie but she also rescued him. She rescued him from a life that was only about “money, power and capitalism”. She helped him learn to open his heart and love, which he had somehow forgotten how to do.

The thread of redemption and rescue is why this movie means so much to me. My own heart’s cry to be rescued and loved drew me to this movie when I was just a little girl and it has never let me go. I believe redemption is possible for all of us. No matter how bad your story might be, no matter how ugly parts of it might feel to you, your story can be redeemed. The idea that you have a story worth telling, a story that NEEDS telling is resonating so strongly in me right now. Don’t let anyone or anything diminish your voice or your story. Tell your story, be you and let your life shine and watch how the Father will take what feels nonredeemable and turn it into something beautiful. He’s not done with you yet!

 From my heart to yours,

Makeda Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

This post is part of the Coffee for Your Heart link up with the lovely Holley Gerth, sharing a little bit of mid-week encouragement to help you get through the day.

 P.S: If you haven’t heard already. I’m starting a new adventure and I’d love for you to tag along for the ride. You can read more about it here and sign up for updates here.

Finding Stories of Redemption in Unexpected Places

I watched Saving Mr. Banks this past weekend. Given my love of Mary Poppins, it is odd that I have not watched it before now. I had meant to see it in the theater when it was out but never got around to it. But being a believer in Divine timing I sense that I was not meant to see it until now.

I love Mary Poppins and in fact I am a lover of all things musical. This is not new news to those who know me but I have never been able to name what it is about musicals that draws my heart so strongly. Watching Saving Mr. Banks I think I’m beginning to understand the pull.

I have always loved how Mr. Banks turns around in the movie but seeing the connection with P.L Travers own father made this part of the story so much more powerful. My heart was deeply, and unexpectedly, touched seeing her desire to make him a better father than he might actually have been; to see him redeemed from the man who drank and failed to take care of his family into a man who makes his family a priority.

When I heard Tom Hanks, as Walt Disney, say that Mr. Banks would be redeemed in the story of Mary Poppins, I realized that there is a thread of redemption that runs through all the musicals that I love the most. Redemption of heart, of character, and of life story.

I am drawn to the idea of story because I recognize our inherent need for redemption. Redemption from the things in our past that have kept us tethered and unable to move forward. Redemption from the lies that label us as less than. Redemption from the stories that have played out generation after generation in our families but stories that we are so desperate to see play out differently in our own lives. Redemption! This is what draws me to my favorite musicals including Mary Poppins although I have only just been able to see that thread of redemption.

For the next few blog posts I’m going to share a few of my favorite musicals and pull out the story of redemption that is hidden in them. I will share other life lessons gleaned from their stories but without having to think too hard, I see the thread of redemption and I want to name it and pull it out.

Redemption is indeed my heart’s cry and I’m thankful that I serve a God who specializes in redemption. There are parts of my own story that need redeeming and as the echo of redemption has been showing up for me in unexpected ways this week, I feel hope rekindling in me. Hope that my story of redemption is being written and will continue to find expression in unexpected places.

You can click here, here and here to read the other stories in this series

It’s Good Friday and I Have Forgotten

Today is Good Friday, the day the Christian church remembers that Christ died on the cross for our sins. The entire week is meant to be honored, remembered as holy for it commemorates our Savior’s final week on Earth. I wanted to come into Easter weekend with my heart centered, my mind focused on the One who gave so much for me. Instead I have spent this week ripping and running from one thing to the other. I went out of town last weekend, came back and was home for a day and a half before going out of town again. Came home late on Tuesday night, spoke to some college students on Wednesday night, and then last night helped a friend navigate some things he is facing right now. None of these things are bad but in all this running, in all this craziness I have forgotten.  I have left no room to remember or honor this week, instead I forget.

I forget that last night should have marked a remembering of the night that was not like any other night. The night He instituted the Lord’s Supper, gave us the Eucharist and commanded us to remember: Do this in remembrance of me

I forget that last night He agonized in a garden about the path that lay in front of Him, asking that the cup be allowed to pass from Him, knowing there was no other way the story could end.

I forget that today He was beaten with the fists of those who sought to exercise their perceived power over Him.

I forget that today He was ordered whipped with a nail tipped rope that tore off pieces of His skin with every lash.

I forget that today they fashioned a crown of thorns for His head and beat him some more as they mocked Him in false worship.

I forget that today they made Him carry a cross too heavy to bear on a back too bruised to handle it.

I forget that today they took nails and bore them into His hands and feet.

I forget that He was stretched wide and, though in pain I cannot begin to image, He refused the wine dipped in myrrh that might have numbed the pain; He would not numb feeling the pain of my redemption.

I forget that today, as He hung on that cross, in His darkest moment, He felt the Father’s abandonment and cried out why have You forsaken me.

I forget that with one final sip of bitter tasting wine HE.GAVE.HIS.LIFE.FOR.ME!

My heart grieves to think of how easy it is for me to forget. But this morning I take time to remember. I take the time to offer to Him my gratitude for the sacrifice He made for me. This morning I will take the Eucharist and I will remember. And as I remember I will give thanks for the gift given for me over 2000 years ago. I will give thanks and I will breathe in the hope, the freedom, and the redemption He offers me. It is Good Friday today and I will not forget.

Echoes

Most of the words in this post were also posted on my friend Jenni’s site. When I wrote them almost no one was reading my blog but these words felt too important not to share with more people. So Jenni graciously allowed me to put them on her site.  Thank you for reading even if you’ve read them before.

For the last couple of weeks, two things have been echoing around me. The first thing is the word Trust. Everywhere I turn I see the word TRUST in some form or the other. I know that this time with the Father during Lent is about helping to restore my heart’s trust in the Father and His love for me. He has been nudging me down a path in prayer that is admittedly very hard for me but with each step my trust in Him grows. My heart is grateful, still fearful at times but grateful that His pursuit of me is relentless as He reminds me it’s okay to trust again.

The other thing that has been echoing for me is around sex and sexuality. A few weeks ago several blogs that I follow started writing about sex and purity in the church culture. It was random that so many of them were writing on this topic and it caught my attention. It has since turned into a very intentional conversation about how the church has historically handled the issues of sex and purity. You can go here to see a list of the blogs that are participating in this conversation. This post is not intended to add my voice to that conversation but rather to share the space I am in as God is working to redeem sex and sexuality for me.

I have a very skewed view of sex. I was not one of the girls who waited until marriage to have sex. There is a lot of shame for me around this issue. I grew up in a church culture that taught me I was supposed to wait and if I didn’t wait then I was a bad girl (who, by the way, was going straight to hell). I was a rule follower and a perfectionist as a child. I wanted other people to like me and I knew that if I was perfect, I could always guarantee they would love me. For this reason, among others, maintaining my good girl image was very important to me. So when I started wrestling with sexuality as a teenager, I didn’t talk to anyone; not that there was anyone to talk to but still I had no place to go to process any of this out loud. And when I eventually started having sex, I wore the bad girl label like a second layer of skin. It was my identity and I have stayed in that place of believing myself to be the unlovable bad girl.

I am 40 years old and still single. On really bad days, I believe my singleness is punishment for having sex before marriage. On the not so bad days I tell myself that I don’t really want to be married because deep down, I believe that no one will ever want the bad girl. It is the most consistent lie that the enemy has whispered in my heart over the years and the one I keep believing despite KNOWING it is a lie.

But with each blog post I read, I hear an echo of the Father inviting me into a story of redemption for this area of my life. I read Isaiah 41 a few days after stumbling on all these posts and verse 14 jumped out at me like never before

“Despised though you are, O Israel, don’t be afraid,for I will help you. I am the Lord, YOUR REDEEMER. I am the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14 NLT. Emphasis added)

He is my redeemer and He wants to redeem every area of my life including this one. I read Romans 5 this morning and throughout the chapter I saw more echoes of His promise of redemption.

v. 1 “…we have been made right in God’s sight…”

v. 9 “…we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ.”

v. 10 “..we were restored to friendship with God”

v. 15 “And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gifts of forgiveness.”

v. 22 “…now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God…”

I feel the Father’s love in these words. I feel Him peeling off the layer of shame and rewriting my identity so I see myself as He sees me, loved so much I was worth dying for. I don’t fully believe it all yet but every day He draws me more and more to Himself. Putting the past and all my mistakes behind me and setting before me an invitation to step into this new story He is writing just for me. His love and His grace truly astound me and I am grateful beyond words.