Archive for June, 2009

Lena HorneActor’s Devotional

 

June 30th

 

You have to be taught to be second-class; you’re not born that way.

 Lena Horne

 

She refused to be second-class.  She was an over comer.  She was born in Brooklyn, NY to a new breed of American, the talented tenth, as W.E.B. Du Bois liked to call them.  Those were the African-Americans who were wealthier and more educated than other blacks in America at the time.  Her father and her mother were of Black, Caucasian, Native American descent.  Her dad was a professional gambler and left the family when she was only three, but she would overcome that… her mom taught her that.  Her mother had to work hard to keep them in the luxury to which they were accustomed, and so the little girl was raised mainly by her grandparents. Refusing to be second rate, she applied herself and overcame.  She did well in school, but knowing she loved entertainment, she decided to drop out of high school and take a job in the chorus line at the Cotton Club in NY City.  She quickly moved up the ranks, and soon had her own starring spot in the show.  Soon she was fronting the popular Charlie Barnet Band full time on the road, and she even was asked to (and eventually did) replace Dinah Shore on her popular radio show as the main singer.  Small roles in films were not far behind, but she was primarily a club singer.  It was on a West Coast swing of one of her club tours that Hollywood stood up and took notice of her first rate talent.  In 1942 she became the first Black actor to sign a multiyear deal with any film house… she chose MGM.  It didn’t take her long to make her mark there either.  In 1943 she became a household word with her rendition of “Stormy Weather” in the film of the same name for 20th Century Fox (on loan from MGM).  In all she would make 21 films over a 50-year span, but she was never really enchanted with Hollywood.  While she was given roles in films, often they were cut out for Southern audiences or place in America where White movie goers were not permitted to view films with Black actors in them. Additionally she would often be asked to coach the actresses who were usurping her role as lead actress, so that they might act the part and sing more like her.  This disillusionment led to her returning to the nightclub circuit and to her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, a move that blackballed from movies for almost 10 years.  She would not be treated as a second-class citizen, however, and came back strong in the ensuing decades.  All the while she spoke out against racial and economic injustice, even once singing at a speech given by Medgar Evers in Mississippi just days before his assassination.  Being one of the most popular post-war singers in America, she often would refuse to sing at venues where German POW’s were seated in front of Black American GI’s.  She was part of the March on Washington, served in the NAACP, and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching legislation.  Of course all of her activism was based largely on her talent, and she continued to use it.  Along the path of her long career she racked up 4 Grammies, the ASCAP Pied Piper Award, The Kennedy Center Honors Award, and in 1980 (at the age of 73) the she was given the Drama Desk Award and The New York Drama Critics Award for Best Actress in a Musical for “The Lady and Her Music.  It was on this day in 1917 that Lena Horne, a first class lady and pioneer for African Americans everywhere, was born.

 

We think we have it hard.  That everything is against us.  Not to minimize anyone’s pain but… give me a break.  What would it be like to live in a world where you’re not allowed to play for the dominant culture?  Where they love your talent but hate you?   What would it be like to lauded by kings, but despised by the rednecks.  The next time you are tempted to complain, remember Lena Horne.  They say she weighed every bit of 90 pounds, but she was a spitfire, someone who persevered, who overcame.  You may feel small in your spirit, and the challenges that assault you as big as the Giants of the Jim Crow South… but there is always a way forward.  With man it may seem impossible but with God all things are possible!  They say where there’s a will there’s a way… well there is a will and it’s God’s.  He desires to work his will in you to succeed and to conquer demons, inside and personal and outside and universal.  Never give up, never give in.  Remember Ms. Lena and overcome.

 

Revelation 3:7 These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says

August20

 

Actor’s Devotional

 

 

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For me, getting comfortable with being famous was hard – that whole side of it, the loss of anonymity, the loss of privacy. Giving up that part of your life and not having control of it.

–Michelle Pfeiffer

 

Frederick Joseph “Fred” Flintstone has become an icon of American culture.  In 1960 “The Flintstones” burst onto American TV sets in a way we had never seen cartoons before… real life situations.  Basically the idea was to take the Jackie Gleason hit, “The Honeymooners”, and animate it.  In fact may fans of the latter will recognize the braggadocio style, the false bravado, the loud mouth arrogance, and loveable bungler, in the character of Fred.  And we loved him for being the way he was.  Working at the rock quarry on his bronto-crane for Slate Rock and Gravel Company, always trying to find some get-rich-quick scheme to better his family’s lot in life, we could all immediately identify with the blue-collar ethos that was “The Flintstones”.   But there was so much more than that to love.  Cars peddled by bare feet, pterodactyls that served as archaic airplanes, brontosaurus that served as public transportation, birds that recorded phone calls ala code-a-phone style, wild boars that served as garbage disposals, elephant trunks used for water spray nozzles, wheel enhanced turtles used as lawnmowers, small wooly mammoths used as vacuum cleaners, long beaked birds used as phonograph record players, (my personal favorite) a saber tooth tiger used as a time card punch machine, and a hundred other animals were used to mimic our modern conveniences grandsires.  Invariably, after a particularly ridiculous use of one of these spoofs was used, the animal in question would turn to the TV audience and deliver the droll line, “Eh, it’s a livin’”.  Equally well known was Fred’s wife Wilma, there best friends Barnie and Betty, there kids Pebbles and Bam-Bam, and the Flintstone’s favorite pet Dino the Dinosaur.  And of course we all remember Alan Reed.  Not ringing any bells?  Alan reed was a radio and stage actor, who eventually made his way into TV.  Having been in such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Viva Zapata and The Dick Van Dyke Show he at last landed the role that would make him famous… sort of.  It was on this day in 1907 that Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone, was born.  And that is what makes him only sort of famous.  Almost any child in any generation would recognize the voice, but almost no one except a cartoon-phial would recognize Mr. Reed’s name.  I like that idea.  I like it a lot.  To be able to serve in obscurity and still be able to use the skills God has given you is an unusual but profound blessing.  For most of us in the creative arts take exception to this idea.  By virtue of what we do, we think we have something to say… and we think people ought to know who says it!  I believe that is a good thing to.  But beyond that I believe that a time spent serving in obscurity is a great blessing in that it lets us mature into healthy believers, before we are put under a spotlight.  We see this theme in Scripture repeated many times.  Don’t believe me?  How about David, beginning as a humble shepherd?  What about Samuel the prophet being born to a poor peasant couple?  What about the Kohathites?  Don’t remember them, have I pulled another Alan Reed-ism on you?  Well, that’s exactly my point.  In the entire world, there was only one place (ultimately) where a person could find God before the advent of Christ.  That place was Israel.  In all of Israel there was only one place God would be sought.  That place was the Tabernacle.  In the Tabernacle there was only one section where he resided.  That place was the holy of holies.  Inside this room God’s presence was said to rest in just one single place… the mercy seat.  The mercy seat was a type of covering for a chest called the Ark of the Covenant that held the 10 commandments, Aaron’s staff, and some of the manna that had fallen from Heaven.  This is where God chose (though of course he was everywhere else simultaneously) to dwell.  Guess whose job it was to care for the Ark of the Covenant?  The Kohathites.  These men were the ultimate model of serving in obscurity.  Everyone knows about the Ark (if for no other reason than “Indiana Jones”), and everyone has heard the stories of its mystical powers… but how many people have heard of the Kohathites?  Probably about the same number that have heard of Mr. Reed.  The next time you’re tempted to get depressed because you are playing a small part in a two-bit company, or you’re doing voice overs and no one will ever see you, or your in a costume so hideous that you don’t want anyone knowing its you… remember the Kohathites.  Maybe learning how to deal with your gifts beforehand is a good thing.  Maybe learning to deal with attention and the limelight before they mean anything is a good thing.  Maybe learning to stand and operate in the power of the Lord, rather than the power of your gifts, is a good thing.  Maybe getting to know yourself in anonymity before you go out giant killing is a good idea.  Maybe a little service in obscurity is not such a bad thing. 

 

 1 Samuel 17:32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”

 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 
      Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. 
      “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.