You need friends (or people around you) who know you are…even if they don’t yet know who they are!
If you keep downplaying yourself, why be surprised if people start to believe you!
You must know that "The Wiz" is perhaps my favorite movie of all time. The music, the story, the actors and singers...it's a masterpiece of American cinema! Think about it, Michael Jackson wore a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper on his nose for the entire movie and no one has asked the producers, directors or writers why? What we do know is the song and dance to "You Can't Win"! The mystique of such a film is multi-generational as proven by NBC's live production of the stage play turned feature film. Now, a new generation of kids and adults aren't only singing its praises, they're singing the songs immortalized by inimitable performances. This is where I draw my inspiration today, "The Wiz". I know that the film is an adaptation of Frank L. Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", but this film speaks my language, if you get my drift.
In school, we had to read the original and each year at Thanksgiving, it was plastered on television on each major network. Once I played drums in a local production of the stage play, I was done with the original. (Cool story, we had the actual song books from Broadway but that was long before social media and I didn't own a camera to take a picture of the cover). When I finally saw the movie years later, I was captivated and the more I watch it, I learn something new. In my opinion, Stephanie Mills was perfect as Dorothy and I was dismissive of Diana Ross and her baby fro but she gave a stellar performance in the film! She, really did...they were all amazing! This film was a tour de force and I LOVE IT. That's why I want to talk to you today about the latest lesson I've mined from the richness of "The Wiz"
...you ain't ever been south of 125th street...!
The archetypal messaging of both "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Wiz" is that what they sought to gain from the Wizard was already to in them and that by the time the met the Wizard, the taught him the same lesson. Dorothy was quite comfortable leading the way to Oz, even though in the comfort of her everyday life, she hadn't traveled south of 125th street. Comfort can create a prison of its own, but the road to Oz wasn't a yellow brick road, not a crystal stair! Those cabs...they were off duty but caused them to find their own direction to new friends or the next challenge. They "eased on down" one of the most difficult roads they'd ever have to face, the road to facing themselves! On the yellow brick road and with each stop, they weighed their truth about themselves with reality? Did the scarecrow need a brain? How? He read the newspaper, everyday and regularly quoted poets and thespians. Did the tin man need a heart? Maybe to replace the one broken when Teenie left him, but he could definitely feel long before he used those tears to revive the lion who had no problem defending the group in the subway scene.
Easing on down the road replete with life lessons, pitfalls and challenges ultimately proved that they didn’t need the Wiz as much as he needed them. Can you imagine how far each of them would have already been had they not been lost in despair and self-doubt? Before you try to imagine that, let's appreciate how life works; the people you meet are on their own journey but it's our journey together that gives us the strength to fulfill our life's destiny.
Everything was gonna be better when they got to Oz, they thought. What they didn't realize is that it was better before they ever made it there. Sometimes, the reward isn't in what you gain at the end, it's in the journey to get to it. They allowed nothing to stop them, Dorothy of course just wanted to get home and in truth, she was just being generous allowing the others to tag along.
It wasn't for naught because, as they all joined the group, they immediately contributed to the collective journey the very thing they claimed to lack! Isn't that interesting that the scarecrow immediately had the brilliant idea to just ease on down the road after being rescued by Dorothy? You know why? In the brilliance of the writing, we see a life principle played out. We don't or won't realize our own greatness until its pointed out. To prove this point, let's look at the lion. He was fraudulent and foolhardy, hiding a deep dark secret of an existential crisis. He was just too 'mean' (afraid) to do anything about it.
Fraudulent and Foolhardy...
Lions represent strength and have maintained for centuries the moniker “king of the jungle”, though strangely enough, tigers quite often have their way in vicious battles with lions. I digress...the lion in the Wiz had been banished because he was IOBK...incapable of being King. They met him disguised as a cement lion on the stoop but he quickly burst out of his "shell" to attack the friends before being "attacked" by Toto. The lion risked hurting those sent to help him, sound familiar? Hurt people, hurt people. Good thing, they were already on a voyage bigger than themselves, otherwise they could've douse that kitty with some water and left him out to dry! After settling the score and discovering that he wasn't quite the mean ol' lion he purported to be, he confessed that he wasn't on the prowl at all, he was just a plain ol' harmless pussycat!
The friends brought him along on the journey and it wasn’t soon after that he had to flex his inner strength outwardly to save the day. The next scene is pivotal because, though the lion failed to resist the poppies and had to be rescued by the tin man and scarecrow (who used his otherwise nonexistent brain to find a solution), the friends looked past his affliction as a failure and instead affirmed him as a lion (complete with a song and waltz)!
It's so easy to succumb to defeat when we suffer setbacks after taking destiny steps forward and it's easy to feel as if the clutches of the failed past are inescapable. The friends weren't having it, though! After some melodic encouragement in one of the biggest (Broadway-esque) songs of the film, it was the lion's turn to make a declaration and in it he said, “I’m standing strong and tall...” His friends weren’t done encouraging him because Dorothy said, “You’re the bravest of them all!” which had been questionable before the journey to Oz. Remember what I said earlier, get some friends (or people around you) who know you are (even if they don't know who they are!
What's in a name...?
"If on courage you must call, keep on trying and trying and trying I'm a lion, in my own way...I'm a lion! This is one of my favorite songs from the movie and I love how it ends with the refrain, “I’m a lion!” There is no force stronger than self-awareness! Over the course of our lives, many of us have answered to names we didn't choose and are marked by circumstances we can't seem to escape! Get a sharpie, we're about to change your name! The road to the name change wasn't easy and when it got hardest, the lion had some friends at his side who spoke the fragility of a hurt kitty and restored the roar of the lion! By the way, the lion's name was Fleetwood Coupe de Ville...his mother had high ideals! What about when we aren't quite living up to the name we've been given? There's a journey for that, too!
Why in the world am I talking to you about the Wiz today? Well, some of us "lions" and leaders languishing in our own life of papier-mâché prisons!! Our potential has been seized and we too are living a life of indefinite banishment! That ends, today. I’m encouraging you to in your own way, be a lion! Let your roar resonate not with potential, or even possibility, but with power! You have downplayed yourself so long that it’s no surprise that people now believe you! Break out from behind the bars of banishment and rule like you’re meant to!
In your industry, on the job, in your home, in your business and most importantly your purpose! Roar forth and let the sounding of it resonate near and far with the confession, I’m a lion!
It's often stated that the older we get, the more aware we are of the times. For others of us, the older we get, the more aware we are of just how uncertain life can be. In the bible, James tells us how to 'make plans'.
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. - James 4:13-15
I grew up hearing my mother end her conversations "if the Lord say the same" and though I understood why she would say it, I didn't understand its origin. Last November, as I was talking to a friend, it dawned on me how important it is to acknowledge the Lord's plans in ours.
I made plans to be somewhere this March and as I got off the phone, those words rang loudly in my spirit. "If (and only if) the Lord says the same!" That acknowledgment is what I believe will not only save us misdirection and even heartbreak, but will open us up to the clearest path on our way to destiny.
Sure it was only a plan to attend an event, but what if I never filtered that thought and plan through the will of God?
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
"I know the plans" as the Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11 extends beyond the nation of Israel's Babylonian captivity. Even some of our best laid plans are subject to the Lord's approval. I had to grow into a place of trust that caused me to truly seek God with every plan. God knows about the emergencies, the incidentals and dangers seen and unseen that lie in wait of our movement without Him.
He also knows which destiny steps await us at said arrivals. Who we will meet, what we are to say and even where to go once we get there. Never believe that you have reached a place in God that He only ok's your great plans!
Even after you have prayed and feel sufficiently prepared, remain open in prayer and allow the Lord to lead you all the way. As it stands, I have added that event to my calendar with an asterisk next to it. In fact, last week my email was full of press credential denials.
I stopped to think for a moment and immediately reminded myself that the Lord is in charge of my schedule. Has been and will continue to be. As the song "Yes, God is Real" says: "There are some places I cannot go..." I have learned to be okay with that, in this season-whichever it happens to be!
Remember, God knows the plans...He knows where I am to be, who I am to be in contact with and what I'll be doing and when I am to do it! For the first time ever, I'm going into a new year not totally sure what the year will bring! I know what I hope it will bring, but I'm unsure. What I am sure about is that God's plan will be achieved.
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. -Proverbs 19:21
We're at another new year but what does that mean? Guess what? It's undefined and waiting on you to fill in the blanks! What will this year mean for you? We're not promised to see the end of the year, but we have today!
That's my new outlook on life. Before I go to bed everyday, I will check my list..."did I accomplish what I set out to once I got out of bed?" Far too many times, my answer was no as I pulled the covers over my head to go to sleep.
Many times, the trials of the day were insurmountable and impervious, obstructing even my strongest desires for progress and accomplishment. This year I have ONE goal and every day will work to help me accomplish it. I am certain of it because I have committed to making it a reality.
Have you set a goal for the year, the month, this week? If not, do so. I don't mean simply jot down something you want to do. It's much more serious than that. What do you need to do? Connect to purpose and work toward your destiny this year. Start this week, you can even start today!
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand. -Proverbs 19:21
We're not as much in control of our life's outcome as we have been told, but what we can control needs our best effort!
Yep, I Said It!
When I have something to say, I often say it. Many times, I try to find the best way to say it. Other times, there's just no easy way to say a hard thing. My journey in life has made me a person with much to say and the person people least want to hear it from.