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AGAPE

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At a recent performance, I was honored to sit next to a lovely young man. He told me he was turning 8 in February. Yes, that young. I asked him if he was having a party and he said no, because he wasn’t with his Mom, he’s in foster care, so he was pretty sure he couldn’t have a party. That made me sad and I instantly thought I could help his situation by sharing my story of adopting from foster care. But, his reaction was alarm, almost physically painful. No, no, he wasn’t going to be adopted, he told me. He was going to get back with his Mom. He had two sisters, and they both got back with their Mom. That was clearly his aching heart’s desire.

Listening to this little man speak so matter of factly about such a difficult and personal situation was breaking my heart. I always felt that the foster adopt situation I experienced was so rewarding, for all involved, I forgot the downside. For a while, I hadn’t paused to consider those children who are in temporary situations, desperate to return to whatever “normal” is for them, but unable to. Luckily, there was a beautiful lady, I’d say at least 70 something, also sitting at our table, who was his foster Mom. She was just the right mix of experience, discipline and pure love that makes for a great temporary “Mom.”

On this special holiday, I think when we consider Dr King’s legacy, and the state of our union, we all think about what we can do, actually do. When I became a foster parent, I did not know what in the heck I was doing. But I learned something about love. 1 Cor 13 is all very true and stands the test of time. It’s true, love never fails, and like breast milk, the supply will always meet the need. It can catch you by surprise how much love can show up in your heart, when you open yourself to it. To my single friends, single parents, couples with no children, or those considering more children, if you ever had an inkling to look into foster care, I encourage you to do so. Your gesture of love, to open up your heart and maybe even your home to a child in need, could mean the world to one child who desperately needs someone just like you, for a lifetime, or maybe just for a time.

I certainly enjoyed my time on Saturday with this little man who touched my heart so. He showed me how the sleeves of his jacket had built in gloves, with holes for his little thumbs at the end. He asked me to show him the proper way to eat the long green beans on his plate. And when we were all served Martinelli’s in champagne flutes, to toast in the new year, he was so concerned, he asked me once, twice, three times! if it was okay for him to drink this stuff. I assured him that it was quite okay for him to enjoy the apple cider, and after a time, he trusted me that that was the truth. And when he was leaving, he gave me the biggest hug that left me just speechless. He gave me pure love. I hope he gets a whole lot back. Because that’s the main thing. The most urgent and simple need. Love. Agape love.

What, No Pickle?What No Pickle
Once upon a time, I made a very nice turkey burger for an individual whom shall remain nameless. (I checked: whom is correct!) Anywho, this was not your average burger. The bun was gourmet, the cheese was Gruyere, the onions were caramelized, the tomatoes and mustard were gentrified, and the meat was seasoned and grilled to a T (as in turkey!). Again, this was not your average burger. As I presented my work of art to it’s recipient, I was self-congratulatory in advance. Voila! Until those words came: “What, no pickle?” I could not believe my ears. This burger had so much going for it, prepared with so much love and care, in itself, it was undeniably exquisite, but the beholder saw lack. He looked past the burger, and was looking for a pickle. What kind of thinking could this be? Sacre’ bleu, (which I hope is French for just gosh darn it)!

But then, in life, don’t we do that? We have this great thing here, this wonderful thing there, this delectable bite right here, but we’re looking for the pickle. Not that there’s anything wrong with pickles. If I had thought of it, a nice crisp slice of dill would have gone nicely with my masterpiece burger. But, the burger was pretty special standing on its own.

The bible has a lot to say about gratitude. It is pleasing to the Lord. In fact, He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3); He wants us to enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise (Psalm 100:3). And we have to put some effort into keeping this very essential faith muscle toned up. It is so easy to look at our life, our circumstances, one particular day, and look past all the great substance, condiments, dressing, and such, that we are blessed to receive, and dwell on that one element that is missing, that hasn’t shown up yet, that would have been a nice addition. Some of us don’t even enjoy the tasty burger, or refuse it, or discard it, for want of – the pickle. You have a great job, plenty of money, wonderful family and friends, carefree life, but you’re most often in funk, because, gosh darn it, you’re still single. Or, you got up, had a great workout by the beach, and a great day at work, nice leisurely expense account covered lunch, came home to your loving family and favorite shows on Netflix, but your salary is stuck in the mid six figures instead of high six figures, so life sucks. Dude, forget the pickle, look at that burger!

Some of us go through our entire lives lamenting the lack of our “pickle,” whatever that may be. And what a shame that is! The old folks like to thank God just for waking them up in the morning, clothed and in their right mind. That sure is something to thank the Lord for! And think about it, how many times have you left half the pickle on the plate anyway? Make a habit of enjoying the burger and every thing that comes with it, and let that be enough. We love it when Burger King says “have it your way,” but life doesn’t always work that way. The tasty fact is, our Creator has a way about Him, that may not fit our exact specifications, but it satisfies every time, He’ll show you where’s the beef, you won’t believe you ate the whole thing, and ba da bop ba ba, you’ll be loving it!

Top Ten Reasons Why In My Humble Opinion War Room is a Great Movie

I am a Christian, an actor in Hollywood, an African American woman, beach dweller, and dog owner, if that matters. I really loved the movie War Room, and not just because it has turned me into a scripture copying, 24/7 praying fool these days, and not because it’s good “for a Christian movie,” or because it is box office gold, which really means something “in this town,” but for a few other reasons that surprised even jaded old me! So here are my top 10 reasons I think War Room is a great movie:

10)  Nobody is calling War Room a black movie, and I think Hollywood should pay attention to that. I watched the movie at the Rolling Hills AMC with a mostly white audience, and I honestly don’t think most of them were preparing for and feeling they were seeing a “black” movie. It was a family we were watching. Well done, Kendrick Bros.! (Just a side note: the white folks in the theatre were whooping and talking a lot more than I was…IJS)

9) And the family didn’t have to explain or emphasize their upper middle classness in a George Jeffersonian way. They make good money, they have nice things. ‘Nuff said

8)  Christian author Priscilla Shirer is great and stunning with natural hair, and she seems about the same age as her movie husband. In other words, they were a most realistic couple.

7)  The young actresses, Alena Pitts and Jaden Harris, were utterly adorable without crossing into obnoxious territory. Considering some of the players were doing this for the first time, I appreciate all of the performances.

6)  I do declare! Miss Clara, Miss Clara, Miss Clara! Seasoned (but not at all old!) actress Karen Abercrombie is a star!

5)  T.C. Stallings is also great, and very easy to look at (with all due respect to his lovely wife).

4)  The City of Charlotte is so enticing! It makes you think of your relatives down South and maybe going to visit and driving around and looking at houses…

3)  The credits give a shout out to every single person who had anything to do with this film, from babysitters to prayer warriors. Community! I thought maybe my name would show up because I’m a Michael Jr. fan.

2)  But seriously, if you stay through the credits, hopefully you will appreciate, as I did, the majesty of the movie, from the regal opening credits and logo to the glorious closing, and see that War Room is truly a production commissioned and crafted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And finally,

They’re bringing Double Dutch back, y’all!

Mr. Clean is at it Again!

I love Mr. Clean. He had swag when we didn’t even know what “swag” was. (Still not quite sure, frankly)

Anyway, he had that smooth bald head – those earrings! – tight white tee – and that confident, self-satisfied smile. What style! I’m surprised Lady Gaga hasn’t donned a Mrs. Clean get up, with white eyebrows and such, but I’m sure she will one day…

Even when I was a little girl, doing the Saturday morning clean up with my big sis in Tucson, Arizona, I loved that plastic bottle, and the power that it possessed. Mr. Clean works!

And Mr. Clean has done it again with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Add a little water, a little elbow grease and voila! Stains, marks, unpleasantness – all gone! It works wonders.

So, as I was having my own grown up Saturday morning clean up time, cleaning away all the annoying marks and scuffs that I could find in my home before the little white pad totally dissolved, my mind started going all biblical on me – as it often does. Our Lord and Savior quite frequently takes the Magic Eraser to our lives, and he does indeed get rid of those annoying stains and scuffs that always seem to mess up our lives. We just have to ask, and the original, much swaggier Mr. Clean is right there, making things like new. In fact, the bible says His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22) and it also says He’ll wash you white as snow, twice! (Isaiah 1:18; Ps 51:7) and Aretha Franklin even sang about it, so you better believe it!

But if you’re not vigilant, or just not too bright, you can forget to call on that Magic Eraser, and wait until your life gets so mucky and yucky and marked up, that your eyes can’t even see the clean surfaces. All you can see is some great big messed up mess, that seems too much even for Mr. Clean. Luckily, our Lord, in His mercy, will step in, cleaning a little corner here, a small space there, so that you can see the bright shiny part, it’s still there. And the more you let Him, the more cleaning He’ll do. Note to self: Don’t neglect your Saturday morning clean up time, with the OMC (Original Mr. Clean), and let every morning be Saturday morning.

It’s All in the Eyes!

“The eyes have it!”
“Eyes are the windows into the soul.”
“Keep your eye on the prize.”

And “eye” could go on and on with cliches about “the eyes.” Lately, I have been “looking” at how I’ve been “looking.” Not my physical appearance, although I could go on awhile about things that need work there, but I’m talking about working on how I “look.”

First, I must say 2011 has been a phenomenal year so far. I can’t fit into this space the innumerable amazing and awesome blessings I have received. I say received, because finally, my thick head gets that it’s not so much about what I’m doing, but how I’m believing. So, I do what I can: trust in God for wisdom, guidance, inspiration; operate with obedience, diligence and a few other choice good habits, and simply expect to receive His best. And then magical things seem to start happening! It just keeps coming!

However, I recently finished off a whirlwind period of gains, and then some down time. Just down time. Nothing bad, just nothing much. Not a lot of hullabaloo. And I am really addicted to hullabaloo! So, my eyes started seeing lack, mistake, fear, a need for something to start happening again! I forgot to “see” that all of the previous good stuff and/or hullabaloo came in God’s grace and timing, not my frantic agitationizing and tizzy making (phrases custom made for this blog, so just go with it.)

I am really aware when my eyes are tired and sad or laughing and cheerful. And if not, I can count on somebody, somewhere to tell me. As in, “Girl, you look tired!!!” When my eyes really start looking bad (on the outside), I know what to do. That’s what the Nordstrom make up department is for!

But essentially, I can’t change my eyes too much outwardly. Usually, when my eyes are looking bad, it’s because of what I’ve been doing: not sleeping, eating poorly, worrying, etc. And in the same sense, when my eyes are “looking” bad, as in not seeing the good, it’s because of how I’ve been doing my thinking: impatient, unappreciative, prideful, fearful, etc. So, how my eyes look, in both ways, can be improved depending on what I choose to do and think.

I can’t always do away with the dark circles or tired look in my eyes in an instant, but I can surely adjust what is going on behind them. My little reminders: Walk by faith and not by sight. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Oh, and keep your eye on the prize!

I promise, going into this second half of 2011, I am going to be “looking good!” Let’s do this together!

RUNNING YOUR RACE 01-25-11

About 15 years ago, I was motivated to train for and finish the Los Angeles Marathon. Yay me!! And what was I thinking?! Unfortunately, I did not win. If I recall, it was some unnaturally thin Russian or Ethiopian gal. No matter, but in my warped mind, I was a tiny bit disappointed that I ran a race and didn’t at least place. Go figure! I guess that’s just the Type A in me. In fact, there were about 20,000 or so people who beat me. Drat! But nevertheless I celebrated like crazy because I FINISHED, and kept my medal to prove it and remind myself every now and then. Except, I don’t know where it is at this moment…

Anywho, I have heard a few of my favorite pastors lately reminding me to “stay in my lane” and “run my race.” This morning during my regular early morning bathtub pep talk, I had some pretty winning words for myself, which I wanted to share:

∙    First of all, no matter what the devil or stinkin’ thinkin’ tries to tell you, you cannot be disqualified for YOUR race! No such thing! Nobody has thrown you out. Nobody can! You are still in the race. Keep going!

∙    The race is not over. The streets are still closed in your honor. The water stations are still available. Maybe you won’t be the first one to cross/break the tape, but the finish line is still there. In fact, if you’re still breathing (and I sincerely hope so) then you are NOT done.

∙    Focus on YOUR personal best. You know when your game is on and when it’s off. If you need to shed some lbs., do it! If you need a better attitude, get one. If you need more encouraging friends to cheer you on, get some! And if you need a break, keep reading…

∙    Maybe you are injured, exhausted or just need a time out. Guess what? Rehab is available to you. Your “life policy” covers it! Take some time to recover, rejuvenate, relax in the Jacuzzi, sleep, whatever you need to get back in the race. Don’t fear your down time or time on the sidelines. You’ll be back soon enough and better than ever!

∙    Your lane is your lane. Maybe it’s not the fast lane. Maybe it’s not the elite runner’s lane. Maybe it’s not the high profile “look I’m on the news” lane. Maybe it’s not the shortest distance between two points lane. But, it’s your lane, and your job is to stay in it and RUN YOUR RACE.

∙    Finally, welcome to cliche-ville, but it’s true: Enjoy the ride. You only have one life to live, this is YOUR race, so you may as well have fun on the journey. So turn that frown upside down, smile awhile and give your face a rest, stop and smell the roses along the route, enjoy the view, and yada yada yada.

So, you go, girl! (Or guy!) Your personal life coach (the good Lord) is right by your side, and YOU WILL WIN so long as you DON’T QUIT!

Unexpected Raccoons
May 19

I do not like unexpected raccoons.
Appearing suddenly when I am walking my dog.
They are not cute and cuddly.
At all.
They are sneaky, and bulky with long, long fingers and nails.
They wear masks and are sneaky.
They appear suddenly.
They are startling but not startled.
They travel in gangs and steal things.
While wearing masks, with their long fingers.
And bushy tails.
They dart away.
I do not like unexpected raccoons.
Appearing suddenly when I am walking my dog.
Late at night.
All alone.
On a dark and shadowy road.

The Beginning and the End  May 6

In the beginning there is conception. It is a happy process. It is beautiful and exciting and emotional and sometimes sweaty and funny. The real beginning is actually a quiet, unassuming yet profound event. The actual beginning. A conception.  And then you have growth. The growth is a slow, even process. Nothing is really evident. A little nausea, a little twinge, nothing really. Then you get a bump. A beautiful bump. Finally, some concrete proof of what has begun. There is some stretching, some more aches and pains. A bigger bump. Then a much bigger bump. Some hiccups and some kicks. Oh. And then the real action begins. Contractions, labor pains, labor, manual labor. Labor and delivery. The package is delivered. The baby arrives. It cries, it breathes, it brings instant joy, immediate unconditional love.

Then it becomes a little person, it grows some more, it has character, it lives, it laughs uncontrollably, it has moods, good and bad. It is impossibly adorable. It is a little boy or a little girl, carefree, care-less, cared for. Then a pre-teenager, teenager, then, young adult. Not usually so adorable. It is so alive. Hard to live with. Living so hard. It learns, it lives, it hurts, it grows. It maybe produces another life, it has a life. It learns how to live better. It learns who, what, when, where and why. Hopefully, it grows a lot. It searches, it finds. It approaches the middle. It looks ahead, it looks behind, hopefully not too much. It learns how to live well, it learns to forgive, forget, make do, get by, give thanks, let go. It takes pause, regroups, goes on.

Then there is the beginning of the end. It fades, it slows, it aches, it waits. It knows there is an end. It prepares, it weakens, it falters, it reflects, it resigns, it surrenders, it dies. It is the end. But not really. It is the new beginning. The beginning of an eternity. Alleluia.

I STILL LOVE LA…May 4

I have lived in Los Angeles most of my adult life. A few years ago, I thought I hated it. I hated the pretentious people, myself included, and just the whole package. I needed a break from all the fabulosity, real and imagined. So I left. But then I had to come back.

Let’s face it, I still love L.A.

I love that the homeboys sitting next to me on the sand, on this the first really warm day of the year are as happy as I am to be here. I love that they look so hard and tattooed, but they are sharing deep conversation and an exquisite spread from Whole Foods Market. We are sharing the beach, a great day and some smiles.

I love the helicopters that fly over the beach on a sunny day or outside of your bedroom window at 4 a.m., making you feel like you’re in an episode of M.A.S.H. or something.

I love seeing the hopeful people in wacky tee shirts lining up on Fairfax Boulevard, hoping to be called to “come on down” on the Price Is Right any day of the week and then having a consolation meal at the Grove/Farmers Market.

I love the loud street characters who are always arguing about something whenever I am in the 99 Cents Only Store on La Brea.

I love hiking in Griffith Park even on a not so clear day. (Aside: Hey fellow Angelenos! Why aren’t we bragging on this great park like New Yorkers love their Central Park? This place has got it all: the carousel, the pony rides, the zoo, the museums, the Greek, the picnic areas, the hiking trails, the caves, the Observatory! I could go on… Let’s give it some props y’all.)

I love seeing the sightseeing buses and vans cruising up and down my street every hour on the hour to see what I don’t know.

I love texting my sister and brother-in-law from the supermarket to say, “You will never guess who I just saw in the produce department looking at avocados right next to me!”

I love bringing my cute little Shih Tzu unashamedly everywhere I go in her little leopard print bag. (Except to the market – I’m not that bad!)

I love my “Hollywood” church,  right in the middle of the city, where every Sunday, thousands of really cool people of all makes and models gather to sing, laugh, praise and worship.

I love that my daughter is a hip, city kid, who knows way too much about fashion and celebrities and gossip, but is keenly aware that all that glitters is not gold.

I love that no matter how many times you go to the Hollywood Bowl, it is always breathtaking when you finally get up the hill and inside and lay your eyes on that magical stage. (I also love that I get to take my mom there next month to see the one and only Aretha for most likely an unforgettable night!)

I love the Lakers flags waving from more than a few cars this time of year. I haven’t watched an entire game yet, but, hey, Go Lakers!!!

I love all of my ex’s, most of whom are still here somewhere.

I love that, even amongst the pretentious posers, we are mostly dreamers and seekers, alive and doing life together under the sun. I love L.A. We love it!

Soulful Strut.

Soulful Strut is the greatest song ever.

The original by Young Holt Unlimited is flawless and full of the happiest of memories.

Grover Washington, Jr.’s version is clean and yummy – instant mental vacation.

Swing Out Sister’s remix, “Am I the Same Girl?” is fun and a nice twist.

That song does what music is supposed to do.

It makes me want to finally breakdown and buy myself an Ipod so it can be the first song I download onto the thing.

When I hear it, I want to pull out my piano keyboard and get my chops back.

If it’s playing and there’s a gentleman nearby with a hard chest and strong arms, this little gal might just get carried away. I’m just saying…

When it comes on the radio in my car, even if I’m running very late, I feel like I’m right on time.

Finally, I want it played at my funeral, when I’m rolling down the aisle and out for the last time.

That’s what I’m talking about.

August 12

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock confounds me.

I wonder about his art. Not so much his talent, but his art.

I try hard to appreciate what he does, what he did.

But, to me, it just looks like jibberish, artistic jibberish.

I sometimes think I could easily replicate what he did by just throwing some paint around.

Because that is what he did, I think.

Who am I to judge?

But still.

I, for example, love to dance.

I dance around the house to various tunes and do magical things, in my mind.

I have a wonderful piece that I perform to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rollin’ Stone.”

It kind of looks like choreography and kind of looks like something I paid to see at UCLA’s Wadsworth Theatre once.

But basically, it’s just me, jumping around, having a good time, in my mind.

Like artistic jibberish.

I hope Jackson Pollock was having a good time, doing magical things.

Who am I to judge?

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5 responses to “Blog

  1. I love your essay “It’s All In the Eyes”! Words we all can live by, including “agitationizing”, which I am going to borrow. 🙂

    Thanks for writing what I needed to hear at this moment. Patsy

  2. Hey Karen,
    You had me googling War Room and all it’s actors–compelling review!

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