Saturday, December 27, 2014

5 Lessons Learned from 'It's a Wonderful Life'

I don't know about you, but I love watching Frank Capra's, "It's a Wonderful Life". Whether it's the charisma, the story arc or the underlying message, there's simply something magical about the experience, especially this time of year.

And so...after attending a recent matinee showing at the Franklin Theater, I couldn't help but leave reignited...stirred by fresh perspective and driven to seek its application. 

Thus, in the spirit of seasonal illumination, I present you with five inspired musings from "It's a Wonderful Life" based upon my most recent viewing.

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1) You can't loan love.

While the plot's periphery outlines the decisions and dealings of George Bailey, the heart of the film flies on his character. Take away George's compassion, and suddenly, you have a stalled storyline with significantly less pizzazz. Clearly, George's selfless service is a sort of "ex machina" that not only keeps the plot going, but offers the timeless reminder that the best things in life are the things that can't be loaned. Thus, it's no surprise while George is successful in his loanings, he's even better in loving the people he loans to. And yes, I know this sounds a little cliché. Nevertheless, the point rings true. When it comes to leaving a mark, loving one another is the ultimate trigger in setting off a difference-making domino-effect.

2) You don't have to prove your worth.

This truth is one we've all struggled to believe at some point or another. As much as George playcalls in the downtrodden's direction, the moment the wheels start falling off, he begins to fall victim to the "I am what I do and have done" mentality. By movie's end, we find George having come full circle in a rousing catharsis that teaches us how the best way to live is to bask in the wonder of who we are...and what we've been given...all the while perceiving our worth through the lens of established blessedness (i.e. being born blessed with the gift to love, share love and enjoy the experience of being loved).

3) No man is worth more dead than alive.

As George's life starts to spiral out of control, he's forced to beg financial aid from Mr. Potter, who retaliates by issuing a warrant for his arrest. Despite George's desperation, Mr. Potter takes no sympathy and upon learning of his weak collateral, callously claims George is worth more dead than alive.


After watching this scene for the tenth time, it finally hit me how this is one of the worst word curses one could ever say or believe. In the clip above, note how George's demeanor changes when he hears these words from Mr. Potter. It's actually quite haunting when you think about it: a sweet, innocent man suddenly thrust into battle on the heels of a vicious verbal assault. Unfortunately, many, like George, fail to take the thought captive on the front end and buy in at the risk of tragic consequences.

Bottom line: Regardless of one's past...regardless if one's treading over troubled waters, no one has, is or ever will be worth more dead than alive. You just can't put a price tag on a human life.

4) Nice guys finish last...unless you're a nice guy.

When it comes to nice guys, it's hard to find a nicer guy than the character of George Bailey. Whether it's offering quality financial relief to the working poor or rationing out $2,000 in honeymoon money to scores of citizens during a market crash...it's pretty clear George is gifted in loving his neighbor...and then some.

Yet, when it comes to kind of love George models (see Hebrews 13:1-2), it's the complete lack of hesitation to show kindness and hospitality that really blows me away. 'Cause no matter how hard life got for George, he didn't let it cloud his mind to the point he didn't know what to do. He knew what he needed to...did it...and showered people with tender-hearted kindness along the way.

Ultimately, this can be an inspiration to everyone.

'Cause in a "me first" society, it can be easy to think kindness isn't a rewarding virtue; however, this couldn't be further from the truth. In actuality, kindness has a way of establishing its own account within the hearts if people. Need proof? Just reference the final five minutes of the movie. When George finds himself In a pinch, all the people he'd made a deposit into in years past pitch in to provide exactly what he needs. Does this sound like a man finishing last in any way? In the words of Kevin McAllister: "I don't think so."



Truth is: the movie's grand finale is a fitting representation of God's providence. He's always faithful to give us exactly what we need...exactly when we need it.

5) No man is a failure (especially ones who have friends).

I conclude with a slight tweak of a popular line. When Clarence states, "No man is a failure who has friends" in his farewell to George, he should have said: "No man is a failure"...period (Granted, I get the need for storyline consistency and to re-establish George's positive social impact).

For all men fail, some more than others. But regardless if a man has one true friend or a hundred, one can't base success entirely and/or quantitatively on relational statistics. For love is a transcendent reality with the capacity to be expressed to anyone, whether a loved one or a complete stranger. 

Maybe you've moved to a new town and don't have any friends yet. Fear not! You're not a failure. In the same way your identity is not equivalent to a day dream or day job, it's surely not rooted in the number of people who accept your party invitations. 

'Cause truth isit's the thankful heart, wide awake, unafraid of singing someone else's praise...of going the extra mile to make someone's day...that ultimately gauges the real heart of a man...that allows us to take our brokenness and convert it into grateful surrender. 

After all, is not life, in part, a reflection of our response to begotten love? And are we not called to beget the same heart to our fellow brethren...regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in? 

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At the end of the day, there's much I don't know. But what I do know is this: I want to channel my inner "George Bailey" like I've never before in 2015, not because I want to feel tethered to a fictional character, but because I want to be forthright, like Christ, in loving people where they're at...without a single second wasted on what it will mean to me.

So cheers to a wonderful life and the God that makes it all possible. And cheers to you, my friends, as you continue along the journey God has for you. May you be sparked by begotten love this holiday season...and be courageous in begetting it to others in the coming year. 

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Willpower

I’ve always loved Christmas lights.

The sparkle. The illumination. The flair of color.

 The whole works.


In fact, when I was a toddler, rumor has it I would break down crying if a light burnt out or if a bulb broke (Clearly, I wasn’t aware of a magical, little thing called a spare).

Regardless of infant emotions, point is: it didn’t take long for a fascination to spark.

And as I grew older, I made it a tradition to put up the outdoor Christmas lines every Black Friday, while the rest of the family focused on internal décor.

So as I recently returned to my big box of lights and started decking the brush, I couldn’t help but wonder how Christmas lights are actually fitting reminders as to why we celebrate the season as passionately as we do.

For before Christ could come to be the light of the world, there had to be a willing vessel with the faith to contain it. Pretty crazy, eh? To think at any point in history, a teenage girl would accept one of the most sacred calls in bearing the Son of God at the cost of everything she once held dear.

It honestly blows my mind…especially in today’s world, where it’s so hard to let go of things.

I mean…think about it.

Mary had to be willing to lay it all on the line: her reputation, her identity, her relationships…everything.

And I know we like to make Christmas all about little, ol’ baby Jesus, but when we pause to broaden scope, it allows us to appreciate the incarnation’s supportive cast in greater measure.

Thus, for Christmas this year…I suppose I’ve been in “There’s something about Mary” mode…specifically, the example of her character in the birth narrative.
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When we backtrack to Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (Luke 1:28-38), we find a fascinating dialogue between the two. After Gabriel’s incarnational announcement to Mary, note her response in v. 34:

"How will this be…?"

Man...you talk about radical faith!

I mean…Mary could have easily said, “Why me” or “How can this be”.

But what does she do? She puts the emphasis on “will” over “can”…and I’m telling you, friends…the ramifications of what may appear to be a subtle variance is HUGE!

For her response revealed a strong, anchored faith rooted in a God whom she trusted. Thus, by confessing, “How will this be”, she was essentially saying: “I know this will happen. I just want to know how it will happen. ‘Cause all I know is what God says, goes…and I want to go with it!”

And that’s saying something, especially when we consider the 400 years of divine silence preceding the moment.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Check out how Gabriel initiates his response to Mary’s question:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you...”

Wow! So apparently, Gabriel only needed seven words to not only answer Mary’s question…but also capture the true meaning of Christmas while he was at it.

For Gabriel wasn’t simply telling Mary she would mother the Savior, but he was assuring her: the promise of what’s to come is going to meet with you now.  God is putting a new spirit within you (Ezekiel 11:19-20)…and the miraculous outcome is going to not only going to take on flesh, but take on the sins of the world!*

Again, Mary could have very well freaked out at this point, laughing in the same way Sarah did in Genesis 18:12.

But what do we see? We see a steadfast belief in the ways of God, further evidenced as Mary declares her identity in v. 38: “I am the Lord’s servant…may your word to me be fulfilled.”



Ultimately, Mary’s response in Luke 1 can be a rallying cry for us this Christmas season. ‘Cause when we start to believe in God and the way He wants to use, speak and accomplish mighty things in and through us…then it makes sense why we’d want to respond to Him with the same kind of confidence.
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So as you reflect on the true meaning of Christmas (i.e. Jesus coming into the world to restore God’s original intent)…as you celebrate Jesus as the holy infusion of Immanuel and Hosanna…don’t forget the light of God had to spiritually and physically sown…and had to have a container (Mary) willing to foster it.

How great is our God who threads His redemptive plan through those who are unafraid to yield…of those who respond to God’s call in Isaiah 6:8 fashion: Here I am, Lord. [Use] me…according to your will.

May His will warm…and the wonderful purposes He has for you…saturate your hearts with joy this Christmas season.

Blessings,

~ Cameron
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Footnotes

*In other words: the promise is going to promise a promise…but that second promise is going to preview itself through you as assurance that the first promise is underway.


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

LEGACYouth: "Do You Remember Me?" // Spoken Word






Do you remember me?
And how I came to set you free
The chains of death, I came to break
The sin of man, I came to take

Yet, before nails could pierce my hand
A manger was my promised land
The desert sparkle giving gleam
On son of man, a Godsent dream

The hope of glory, laid to rest
The depths of hell, my life to test

Yet for a time, my skin lay bare
In stable hay, in tender care
My baby anthems shouts of joy
For love divine was now in ploy

Do you remember me?
And how I came on bended knee
How I was sent to become flesh
So you could start a life afresh

Yet, before I could bare your shame
I knew your face, I knew your name
I saw the sparkle in His eye
And that is why I came to die

Do you remember me?
And how I came to turn the key
To reconcile God to man
To redeem His initial plan

Of everlasting life and rest
With all of heaven, highly blest

Behold your King! Behold him dear
For I came to love, for love to be near
So all of men could surely see
The God-revealing light in me

Do you remember me?
And how I came to let man see
Oh, weary world, now full of light
Can you still feel that holy night?

When Gospel peace became our hope
So lasting love could broaden scope

To free all those who trust in Him
To shine His life in places dim

So as you set around the tree
Fear not, be still
Remember me
  
Written by: Cameron J. Fry

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Flash Weather: So You're Dreaming of a White Christmas?

Thought it would be fitting to post a brief weather update on the day of my 10th prime birthday...
I'm going to be honest: the weather outside doesn't feel anything like December...which is rather anticlimactic and depressing; however, we did have the 7th coldest November on record here in Nashville, so a reverse/seesaw pattern isn't too surprising. 
Around this time every year, I get asked if we'll see a 'white Christmas'. The last two times it's happened here in Nashville was 2010 and 1993...and climatologically speaking, we see one in Nashville every 14-15 years. Thus, I wouldn't invest in the idea of one this year, especially if you buy into the law of averages. 
However, the main reason I doubt it will happen this year is due to the current positive AO/NAO, which is bottling up the colder air in Canada and causing the northern snowpack to diminish. If you check out the first map (valid on 12/14), you'll see a classic ridging setup over the eastern half of the US, with above average temperatures tied to above average heights. But even though this may look like a blowtorch forecast with highs in 60's/70's, I believe we'll only see slightly above average with high temps holding mainly in the mid-upper 50's through the middle of the month (given the Pacific zonal flow's tendency to buckle every now and then).
The end of the forecast period looks tricky as we approach Christmas. There's some evidence that our next pattern change (to a colder regime) will take place just in time for Christmas (see second map valid on 12/22), which would up the odds of a wintry conclusion to 2014. While the devil is in the details this far out (primarily in how far the AO/NAO will decrease in week 3/4), point is: it shouldn't be mild all month long. So for those dreaming of a white Christmas, don't stop dreaming; keep on believing. Several big weather minds agree with me in thinking the first month of 2015 will be quite cold...getting a head start around Christmas. 
At any rate, if you're a warm or cold weather fan, the pattern should oscillate back and forth all winter like it has been the past month...so there should be something for everybody...which I'd consider good news. 
Have a great day, everyone.
Cam out.


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