Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

What I learned from Hamilton The Musical

To say I waited patiently to see Hamilton The Musical is an understatement. From the moment I realized it was the story of the American Revolution set to rap, I was sold. Despite the fact I couldn’t make my way to New York to see it on Broadway, and I wasn’t sure who the heck Alexander Hamilton was, I desperately wanted to see it the very second it hit the stage.

Fast forward a few years and the play is on tour and headed to New Orleans where I live. My husband surprised me with two tickets for Christmas and boy, was I excited.

An hour into the play and I realized how much Hamilton’s life was like my own. I too am in search of greatness or at least real goodness. I’m looking for ways to make a difference and leave a legacy. And most importantly, I’m trying hard to never miss an opportunity to change the world for the better.

Everything about the play was right, including the cast, music, and message. Meaningful and heartfelt, I left the theater with a new understanding of who Hamilton was and why he’s important to our history. But I also learned a few other things:

1. In life you must take your shots. There’s a new song I heard called ‘Shot Clock’ that’s growing in popularity on the R&B/Hip-Hop scene. It reminds us that just as in the sport of basketball, you only have a definitive amount of time to take a shot and make the goal. Life is no different. Hamilton took advantage of the opportunities he was offered. Despite being the son of an adulterer and orphaned at a young age, he grew into a strong and determined leader who played a major role in the Revolutionary War, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of our federal treasury system. He made mistakes – he shot a few airballs – but in the end he didn’t let his past, his fears, or his failures stop him from making the BIG moves.

2. Know who will tell your story and care about what story they will tell. Hamilton lived an amazing life despite his arrogant and womanizing ways. When he died, he left behind a legacy that wouldn’t have been properly told without the love of his wife, Eliza, who overlooked his flaws to support him before and after his death. His story is so fractured yet beautiful that it resonates with people who thrive to live honest, authentic lives. Eliza, like many of us, was left with the responsibility of passing along his legacy to the world. She knew his real story and understood the importance of sharing it. A life poorly lived doesn’t leave a great story to tell; nor, is it an inspiration to the people we leave behind. It is a badge of honor to live a good life and to inspire people you love to do the same.

3. Jealousy is the enemy of success. Although Hamilton wasn’t always kind to his political rival, Aaron Burr; Burr was portrayed as an accomplished man consumed with envy and jealousy. He was always one step behind Hamilton, but he could never catch up. Burr waited for the opportunity to eclipse Hamilton’s success without realizing that standing in another man’s shoes doesn’t make you The Man. I will not debate who was right or wrong (or dispute the accuracy of the play), but Hamilton’s success often appeared to be at Burr’s expense. Because of this, Burr killed him in a duel. Leaving a legacy for himself of a man who failed to stand on his own because of his devious desire to bask in the sunlight of someone else’s achievements.

4. Seeing the world through a prism of light is growth-in-action. When racial issues are at the forefront, we often find ourselves searching for the politically correct way to characterize our differences. But when we stop talking and start using our creativity to show, and not tell, how beautiful our multi-cultural world is, we can turn the page on racial disparities and change how we connect and honor each other. Hamilton uses a diverse cast to tell the story of the American Revolution. Hamilton and George Washington’s characters are played by actors of Asian-descent, and Thomas Jefferson is played by an African-American. This is a wonderful example of how adding color and flavor to the story creates a memorable piece of art.

As you can tell, I loved the play. The rapping was on-point. The story was compelling, and Hamilton and his wife were great examples of what we can accomplish when we accept that our lives are not our own. I believe that our lives are gifts from God and He wants us to build a world we all can live and thrive in.

Congrats to the cast on a wonderful show!

#1stMorningthoughts

To Die For

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The praise team approached the microphone stands behind the pulpit one warm Sunday morning. Called by God to inspire a congregation of worshippers, they gathered on the stage to give back and I, like many others in the church pews, was willfully ready to receive. The tempered playing of the keyboard was accompanied by the guitarist’s spasmed sound and the chest pounding thump of the drums. Each singer rocked from side to side in an uncoordinated dance; joyous, I imagined, for being blessed to see another day.

The song began with words I’ve longed to hear all week. Words that took me to a place of peace and joy. Words that encapsulated the heartbreak and uncertainty of living in a struggling world that desperately needed God’s salvation.

The choir sung with such perfection, “You thought I was worth saving. So, you came and changed my life. You thought I was worth keeping. So, you cleaned me up inside. You thought I was to die for.” With every verse, I was reminded of God’s faith in me. Regardless of the countless mistakes I’d made, the sins I repeated even when I knew better and the times I refused to do what he sacrificed on the cross for me to do, I was still worth saving – I was worth God sacrificing the life of his only begotten son.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid a debt we could never repay. We were worth dying for; we were bought with a price. What an honor to be loved so completely.

In every corner of the church, congregants sprung to their feet lifting their hands in praise. Together, we were transported to the ultimate place of worship. A place void of pain and filled with love. We were seated at the foot of Christ; worshipping him in unison. We were embodying what the praise team was called to do. Our faith – a blessing to God – was music to his ears.

My tears overwhelmed me. They were a testament to a life so filled with God’s love that I unequivocally could not take another breath without giving him praise. And while I praised him, the Holy Spirit revealed in me a path to a better understanding of my purpose on earth. I asked myself: If God thought I was worth dying for, how do I justify living a frivolous life? How can I refuse to follow God’s word?

God gives us what we don’t deserve. He redeems us. Sets us free. He took our place on the cross. He never asked for much from any of us; but he gave in abundance.

Knowing how unconditional his love is, gives me the strength to set my goals high and to see my life as a conduit to spreading God’s word. As a child of a living God, I cannot justify a meager life. My dreams must be bigger than the sky; my purpose filled with giving back and helping others. I am not here on earth to do my will, but to do God’s will and to show him that the life Christ died on the cross to save is working to be a blessing to those in need.

What are you willing to die for?

Our Christian walk is one of purpose. How we live our life and how we realize our dreams were set in motion during the long and torturous walk Christ made to the cross. His work on earth is done; he is now with God steering us in the right direction from his throne in heaven. Now, it is for us to complete the rest of the journey with God’s strength and faith beckoning us towards living a life of purpose.

But living a purposeful life is often hard to do. Knowing what’s worth sacrificing our life for is difficult to explain. That’s why I’m so happy God had no reservations about me. He didn’t look over the totality of my life, or considered my failures and sins before determining if I was worth sacrificing his only son for. He simply knew my heart and loved me despite my transgressions.

As the praise team continued, I recognized why the sweetness of their words brought me to tears. Again, in perfect unison they sang: “You thought I was to die for. So, you sacrificed your life. So, I could be free. So, I could be whole. So, I could tell everyone I know.”

I pray that on this journey we clutch hold to things worth dying for and we live our lives with principle and courage so we can do as the song writers says – be free and be whole.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson. The original article was published in the October 2017 issue of The Mount Magazine.

The song referenced in this article is “Worth” by Gospel Singer Anthony Brown and group therAPy

 

 

You Are A Masterpiece


It dawned on me this beautiful Sunday morning that over the years God has been working to get me to a place where I understand the true purpose for my life. So many times I’ve visited the graveyard to say goodbye to a friend or family member. So many long, sad walks back to my car wondering if that person, who is now with God, fulfilled their earthly purpose.

This journey to live on earth takes us through many peaks and valleys. We struggle with understanding who we are, our mission, our purpose and why God chose us. We see people who appear to navigate life with such ease and grace, and then we witness the fallen – those who struggle with every turn. 

We all have a story; we all have fears, but do we know and accept God’s purpose for our life?

What I am more and more convinced of is that the God I serve whose imagination is as wonderful and brilliant as a bright and sunny sky and as massive as the roaring sea, has molded each of us into a unique piece of art, a masterpiece.

Once we accept that we are God’s greatest work, we can live in His purpose for our life and fulfill our destiny.

You were never meant to be like anyone else. You are an original. You are the first and the last. Your purpose cannot be defined by anyone but God. Your wins and losses are all intentional paths on your personal journey. Every experience was created to help you become the person God wants you to be. 

You are a masterpiece!

Accept it. Live in it. Love with it and be blessed.

Michelle Jackson 

Looking Up: My 2015 Resolution

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Over the next 24 hours millions of people will set goals for the New Year. Typical resolutions will be a laundry list of positive changes like weight loss, spiritual growth and financial stability.  Most goals will be realistic and achievable and others will be too whimsical to set in motion.

But the idea of leaving one year behind and diving head-first into the next is refreshing. It’s a chance to start over, to get life right and to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past 365 days. It is the finish-line for wrapping up unresolved issues and the starting point for reinventing your life.

This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach to setting my personal and professional goals. Of course I plan to eat healthier, love harder and seek peace in everything I do, but my primary goal will be unlike my goals of the past.

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The First Thirty-Nine

Check out my latest blog post, The First Thirty-Nine.

The First Thirty-Nine

A few months ago I celebrated my fortieth birthday. Unlike turning 35, I wasn’t concerned about getting older instead I embraced the change and welcomed the big 4-0 with opened arms. I was excited, I must admit, because I’d heard that 40 brings new opportunities to get life right and the boldness to forgive yourself when you can’t.

In the midst of my excitement, I decided to share a piece of what makes this new start in my life so wonderful. So brace yourself, here’s a peek at what the first thirty-nine taught me:

  • Connecting and staying connected is worth the work. As we get older, we often get consumed with the redundancies of life which leads us to isolate ourselves. Our families and our jobs create immediate needs that we feel we must focus all our attention on. We cut off people we care about because we don’t have time and we fail to nurture new relationships unless they help us in addressing our immediate needs. But it is important to stay connected. Pencil in time to catch up with your friends and family. Go out for drinks or coffee. Knock on your neighbor’s door to make sure they are okay and meet someone new. Staying connected pulls you away from living an isolated life. And giving and receiving love and support is the life-line for spiritual and emotional wholeness.
  • Ridding your life of unhealthy relationships is tough but life-changing. As much as we need to stay connected, we also need to learn from our interactions with others who and what is worth investing our time and energy into. Life exposes us to many characters. Some are good, healthy and nurturing and others drain us of the power and energy to get things done. Conduct an honest assessment of the people in your life and move away from those who keep you consumed with their issues without considering your needs. Relationships are give and take. If you are doing all the giving, at some point, you will be depleted. So seek healthy relationships and see your life improve.
  • Your health is definitely your wealth. Last year I lost 30 pounds. Surprisingly, it was much harder to lose the weight than I thought it would be. I spent weeks learning to live on between 1200 and 1500 calories per day. I cut my dairy, sugar and bread consumption to next to nothing. I learned to love the bland taste of water and ate more protein that I had in years. And let’s not talk about carbs. I ate them sparingly, if at all. My journey may seem extreme but it had to be. I was determined to get my weight under control and in the end, I was beyond elated with the results. Hard work and dedication does pay off. I’m healthier, my self-image is better and I’m finally more conscious of what I eat. Life is good.
  • Success has to be strictly defined to be properly pursued. All my life I wanted to be successful. It was the one thing that drove me to go to college, to pursue my career, to publish my first novel and to work hard at every job I’ve ever had. Being successful at whatever I did was worth the journey until I began to evaluate what true success really meant to me. For some, success is having a high-ranking title and earning wealth. For others, it is doing something meaningful and worthwhile for the greater good of mankind. But no matter how big or small, YOUR definition of success should drive you.

For me, success is finding peace and happiness in all my endeavors in spite of titles, money and power. It is waking up early on a Saturday morning and writing something beautiful that no one will ever see but me. It is looking at my image in the mirror and loving all that God has created. It is sharing myself with those I love and learning to move away, gracefully, from those I can no longer support. My definition of success is finally achievable and that’s the best lesson of all.

  • Dancing is mandatory! My biggest fear of getting older was losing what I call my passions for living. When I was 15, a person turning 40 seemed old, but now that I’ve reached that age I realize just how youthful I am. Forty feels like the new twenty. All my passions are still there. Actually, I am more passionate because my vision is clearer now. I still love loud rap music and dancing until dawn. I still chase lightning bugs and butterflies and I giggle like a young girl and flirt (with my husband). And, most importantly, I am still in heavy pursuit of all the wonders of life.

I hope the next forty years will be filled with opened doors and new opportunities to put all my life lessons into play. I am looking forward to expanding my consciousness in ways only age and grace will allow. But because of the first thirty-nine, I am even more excited for the ride and well-prepared for the journey.

FIND me, LIKE me, SHARE me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Michelle-D-Jackson-The-Heart-of-a-Man/157702567608080

 

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