Jimi Hendrix was my first featured hero. As I was reading about him, I gravitated toward the story about him holding onto a broomstick in order to mimic playing the guitar as a type of "security blanket". The mom in me thought about him as a young kid and imagined the perseverance it must have taken to continue his pursuit of music. As I thought about perseverance, I was reminded of the first "memory verse" as a volunteer youth worker we learned. It was found in Romans 5.3.
Roman 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
While Jimi Hendrix was an accidental choice, John Wooden was a deliberate choice as I sought to find a person of character (the next part of that scripture). Although Wooden demonstrated admirable character traits, he was also a man of God; his faith is what gave him his strength and integrity. He was much more than the sum of his good qualities.
So what were the two words missing? They were love and opportunity. In the bible, Paul tells us in 1 Corin 13:13 that faith, hope and love are at the heart of a relationship with Jesus.
As I stood in that grocery store, I ignored my initial reaction of running up and telling that man he was a hero in my young son's eyes. I started to question whether it was the right person. I questioned whether he would think of me as a "nut". I questioned whether it would embarrass him. I quietly waited and thought "I will talk to him when he leaves the store". Twenty years had aged this man; his stance was clearly more hunched and his appearance fragile. Encouragement might have lifted his spirits but when I looked for him outside the store, he was gone.
Luckily, in another instance, I did not hesitate. Jenny had an exuberant spirit and a dance in her step. Her degree was in Physical Education. One day, she bounced into work with a predictable confidence and intentional energy. It was as if she had a special secret on life and wanted to share the map of success. She was orchestrating a dance party for kids and wanted me to come alongside her. Reluctant at first to look silly, I resisted but with a little nudging, I too was out on the dance floor. The Macarena and a Michael Jackson song, we danced and laughed until our stomachs ached.
To this day, I am so happy I didn't "over think" it but just enjoyed the moment. Only two weeks later, Jenny was killed in an automobile accident. Un-expectedly and quickly, she was gone. There was a "celebration of life" service for her at a local gym where people of all ages filled the room. The most inspirational part, however, was seeing young children talk about the impact she had on their lives. Normally shy and quiet, young people found doses of courage as they spoke of her willingness to see them as others never did.
As a final gesture, the entire audience was asked to stand and give Jenny a "standing ovation" for the life she lived and the monumental impact she had in her willingness to truly hear the voices and see the faces of people in need of inspiration and friendship. For me, I will remember her "childlike" laughter and dance.
So what does all of this have to do with a FB post about "still being a fan". The thing that really jumped out for me was this sense that the final game had not yet been played. Perseverance and a willingness to stay in the game is a faithful fan.
The final and most important part of the scripture from Romans 5:1-5 reads "and Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." He has poured out his love into our hearts! As I was finishing up this final post, the two words that came to mind were love and opportunity. We have countless opportunities to encourage and participate in the goodness of life. The one ingredient that cannot be defined in a list of character traits is that which is difficult to define. It is love.
I am most thankful the holy spirit has worked within me to write this blog. It not only forced me to learn about two people I knew very little about: Jimi Hendrix and John Wooden but it also allowed me to think through the opportunities - lost and taken along my path.
Rick Reilly, in his article in Sports Illustrated, demonstrates a powerful friendship he had with John Wooden. It encouraged me 1) in the depth of his friendship and 2) the depth of faith in John Wooden. To me, Wooden's life said the final game had not yet been played.
If your perspective is earth, then your season might end up to be a disappointing one; but if your perspective is heaven, then your season has barely begun.
Like the powerful arms of a trash truck, God lifts each of us up into His arms of grace. Will you accept it? Will you put your hope in things that fade? Or will you find your hope in your faith? It is your choice.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln
March- "In like a Lion, and out like a Lamb".
March- the time of year you begin to see "Girl Scouts" selling cookies in front of the grocery store.
March- spring training for baseball players in Arizona and Florida where anxious fans come to see their favorite players as well as get a glimpse of rookies coming up the ranks. However, when I was putting together things of March, the first thing that came to mind was "March Madness". About the only thing I knew about March Madness was "something about basketball….-college basketball." Wow- a google search and you get a lot of sites, tournament schedules, and pictures of girls in "Hooter t-shirts". So what does all of this have to do with character? When I asked my husband if he knew of one great basketball athlete I could highlight in March, his immediate response was "sure - I have an athlete for you - but he was better known as Coach."
John Wooden is most notably famous for coaching UCLA College basketball. His victories are impressive but it is his character that shines the brightest. It was easy to start reading and researching for this post. His quotes and "Creed for living" provided a treasure-trove of "TimbreNotes" worthy material.
John Wooden was born October 14, 1910 and lived just shy of his 100th birthday. In his lifetime, he is recognized as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. He brought the UCLA Bruins to 10 National Championships in 12 years (7 consecutively).
Wooden was born in Hall, Indiana. He had three brothers and two sisters (both of whom died under age 2). His heroes were "the Franklin Wonder Five" a 1920's "Cinderella" story basketball team that had an impressive run of wins: 104/10 losses in high school and 50 consecutive wins in college. Wooden, himself, led his high school team to 3 State Championship Finals. While at Purdue University, he was the only player ever to be named three-time consensus All American player. Note Worthy: 1) In 1947, Wooden refused the invitation for his team to compete in a tournament, citing the league's ban on African American players from playing; their attendance would mean benching at least one of his players. 2) When asked to become Assistant Coach for Purdue, he declined the invitation because it would have made the head coach and his friend, Mel Taube a lame-duck coach.
Let's pause there.
A talking tree: A tree serves as neutral ground for conversation. Children gather there to sort out their difference of opinions. If that doesn't work, kids are encouraged to "write" their version of the story. I see some kids start with little lies that escalate. Easier to take responsibility, it is the ones who learn these principles early that have an easier road in life.
What is your foundation? Who were the the heroes and examples in your life?
Back to John Wooden. Do you think the decision for his team not to play in the tournament was an easy one to make? It certainly had to be against the backdrop of standing firm in what he believed (I should remind you this was in the 1950's when segregation was commonplace).
Aside from taking responsibility, my guess is that Wooden was not afraid of hard work. I have a grown son; he began playing sports even before he was in Kindergarten. He competed in baseball, soccer and volleyball. His "Club" participation meant sacrifices on all our parts; Three nights a week we would drive an hour each way to practice and back, on top of regular high school athletic practices and games (and homework!) The weekends were almost always full days of "out of town" athletics. Often we'd drive 3 hours one-way for a daylong, or weekend long tournament. His Senior year of volleyball culminated in the "Junior Olympics" for Men's High School Volleyball (bringing together kids from all over the United States, Canada, and Central America) which was held in Atlanta, GA (we are on the west coast). These experiences gave me a greater appreciation for people like John Wooden; handling defeats, victories and inspiring players takes a depth of the understanding of the game as well as a compassion for his players. Look at some of the inspirational words Wooden has left us:
Seven Point Creed: given to Wooden by his father at grammar school graduation
Pyramid of Success. See for yourself.
I have always been a nice person. Sometimes when I was really young, I was labeled "too nice". This is a theme I will probably talk about a lot throughout this website. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being nice. There is nothing wrong with building our reputation on a good moral compass of right and wrong. But recently I got the impression that somebody thought they knew me well; I questioned whether this person really understood the source of my strength.
John Wooden's strength of character is solid but there can be no denying that his strength comes from the Lord. He said it on and off the court. We live in a culture where everybody wins; everyone gets a medal- just for playing the game. This is the tricky part.
Rev 3:20 says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me". Jesus invites you into a relationship with himself.
The strength of a character built on a good moral compass is achieved through hard work, sacrifice, talents, knowledge and positive traits; but a faith built on the Lord Jesus is built on humility and grace. It is an understanding that despite all our hard work and natural gifts (and we might be really, really good), we still fall short. At some point, we will make a mistake in deed or thought, or our once glowing athleticism and beauty will fade as somebody shinier comes along.
It is a subtle shift but in it lies the "red letters". The red letters are the words of Jesus. The good news is that He stands there for anyone and everyone with arms wide open (really wide) and welcomes you into the embrace of grace and eternity... but the hardest road is deciding that you need him. Because in deciding you need Him, you give up your power of knowing it all, or being it all, or having it all. In a culture where everybody wins, that is a hard game in which to throw in the towel. Throwing in the towel means you submit to a coach and let's face it, It is a lot easier to be the star player.
Will you build your strength on a good solid character? Or will you build it on a humble understanding of yourself and the words of a good coach? That coach's name is Jesus.
Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle, WA November 27, 1942 (My birthdate). Hendrix's groundbreaking style has been imitated and replicated but he alone pioneered many of the things taken for granted in today's music. We have one of his albums on our wall. My husband's brother Greg died in a motorcycle accident when he was in his early 30's. The album belonged to him. I knew the name Hendrix as a great guitarist from the 60's but hadn't really known much about him before watching a couple documentaries on the history of Rock & Roll. His name keeps coming up and in honor of the electric guitar, I decided to feature him as a musical hero.
Hendrix came from very humble beginnings; even his genealogy revealed a long path of poverty and misfortunes. Jimi was described as introspective, sensitive and shy. In elementary school, he started gravitating toward a broomstick and pretending to play the guitar. So much so, one of the school staff tried to purchase him a guitar under an "underprivileged children's act" saying that not allowing him to play guitar could cause him emotional scars as this natural inclination toward the guitar served as a type of "security blanket" for him. The plea was rejected.
Years later, Jimi finally got the break he was hoping for. He found an old ukulele with one string in the trash. With that, he taught himself how to play. He learned single chord notes and perfected his craft. At 15, he purchased his first guitar for $5. It was acoustic. His musical inspirations were artists such as Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson. Even while drafted into the army, the guitar seemed to give him strength.
Eventually, people began to hear him play. One friend led to another until his rocky and cobblestoned beginning began to glitter with gold. In mid- November of 1966, he and his band played at "Bag O'Nails" nightclub in London. In attendance were musicians, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. In a three year period, Jimi Hendrix would go on to receive recognition and in August, 1969 "Hendrix was the world's highest-paid rock musician" and headlined for Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
The one word that came to mind when I was reading about Jimi Hendrix was the word, perseverance. What discouragement he must have encountered those early years growing up. Poverty and racism in the 40's and 50's were profound. Yet, clearly, he was born with a gift to play music.
I was thinking about this post today as I was weeding out in the yard. The interesting thing about weeds is the many types of weeds there are; I must have had a dozen or more varieties. Most of them brought me a great sense of accomplishment as I gently tugged and patiently sunk a spear into the root system and was able to successfully pull up a weed with the root intact. Some had single roots while others had an intricate web of roots. There was one weed, however, that it didn't matter how carefully I prepped the ground or how gently I pulled, the root just would not come up. The weed would break leaving the root intact.
I think Jimi Hendrix must have had a weed whose roots were just too deep. In September, 1970 Hendrix died of a drug overdose. Can you imagine what he could have accomplished musically if he had lived past the age of 27? Having played the guitar for maybe 12 years and yet, in those 12 years, he taught himself to play using only one string, he was in a band barely after he begun playing the guitar, he changed and forged a new sound, implementing the "wawa" sound. Left handed, he played the guitar upside down and mesmerized his audience with this stage presence. He was on the fast track and yet deep inside he must have been the same little boy whose humble beginnings gave him a depth in music few could replicate.
If you step into a church and only discover perfect people that have it all figured out, then you better walk into a different church. The truth is… we all have weeds. We all have those places in our hearts that need attention. The last entry under my chapter heading called "Video" talks about a movie clip from "Les Miserable" where the main character is offered an opportunity for a new life. All of us will have moments of loneliness, discouragement or maybe things not going as we had planned.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (This is from the Life Application Bible, New International Version)
Heroes rise up everyday. They are all around you. They are in hospital rooms, classrooms, on athletic fields and in mission fields. They have the perseverance to run the race set before them. Will you?
Perseverance, I believe, originates out of a place of humility and requires introspection and strength. It is exactly the type of ingredient featured in TimbreNotes. Our next hero is one of character.
www.jimihendrix.com (Official site)
wikipedia and discogs
www.usps.com (US Postal Service)
The Academy Awards was first presented in 1929. It was first televised in 1953.. Wow- a lot has changed through 86 years of film making. Have the stories changed? As I looked through the list of "Best Picture" Academy award winners over the last twenty years, some I remember, some I don't and some I haven't seen. In many instances, the pictures that don't get nominated and don't hit the category of "social awareness" are the ones I remember. Oscar time for me, though, is a time equivalent to a "mini book club" where I like to appreciate the stories being told and the actors and film makers that cast their talents into the ring of nominations.
About ten years ago, I worked for an Emmy award winning composer. He had a studio in his home. The studio with cathedral ceilings and floor to ceiling windows was beautiful. In the middle of the room was a grand piano piled with sheet music. A trumpet player by profession, he had an array of instruments and computer and digital equipment. I was there as a book keeper; my job was to put some organization into a life of creative design. He surrounded himself with interesting people and brought back stories of musical achievement when he went to places such as Prague to compose works of art.
I think my few years working with him allowed me to encourage my own children in their creativity years later. Messy rooms and piles of inspiration gave way to imagination. It was here that I learned to appreciate the scores of a film. Of course, loving music I appreciated the soundtrack of a film but for the first time I was listening to entire film scores. I worked on the computer to the sounds of "Jaws" or found myself swept away in "Lord of the Rings". I began to see the "sweat and tears" of a musical journey that began with hours of practice as a young child to the victories and defeats along the way. Opportunities and redirections as doors opened and closed creating a musical journey of discovery.
Although specific soundtracks are fading from my memory, there are certain scores that enhance my memory of scenes that I will never forget. I remember certain things like the lighting and shadows in a film or the visual cues that keenly define a scene. I think that is why the American Academy Awards is so highly regarded around the world; an appreciation for what movies do for us. They move us to change. They move us to have compassion. They move us to stand up for injustice. They move us to love more deeply in our relationships.
A common theme throughout the truly great movies are ones where the antagonist tries to "enslave" the protagonist into their world order. They are ones that rob us of our freedoms. This year's nominations are no exception. Although I began with blindness, I am most carried away with ones that hold great weight by a look, a gesture or few words. There is one scene in this year's nominations, where the main character is going through a great trial, the surrounding bystanders act as if they don't see a thing. Only one person takes a risk. An offering of a cup of water.
Are you that one person?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, Matthew 5:8
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.