Listening Up.

You know how you can hear a phrase your whole life and just kind of let it assimilate into your vocabulary without really knowing what it means. And then one day, when you're older and your brain is functioning somewhat properly, you begin to understand what the phrase really means because you have heard it in a different context or you realize the origin from where it came. I'm sure phrases may be popping into your mind that are aggressive, offensive, or inappropriate. But this morning I had a light bulb moment with a phrase that is actually somewhat benign. And it's really simple:

listen up.

You're not just sitting idly by listening. You, as the listener, have actually had to place yourself in a position that is lower than the one speaking. Hence listening UP. The phrase implies humility in making the conscious effort to place yourself lower than the one who is delivering the message. You humbly and willingly take a low position to let the speaker know that what they are saying matters.

I have discovered that there are quite a few people who mistakenly think that luxe|wise is solely focused on material things. And can you guess why that is? Because unfortunately, they haven't taken the time to "listen up." They scan across a few Facebook posts or Instagram photos and see a white girl who has on some makeup and different outfits, and they assume I am a materialistic person who thinks I have it all together.  They think that I expect people to be "perfect" and want moremoreMORE. But if you have taken the time to actually "listen up" and read the blurbs attached to the posts, you would be highly aware that I use luxe|wise to communicate and speak the EXACT OPPOSITE. I'm about minimizing what you've got (I'm talking grocery lists, makeup bags, wardrobes, belongings, er'thang) to only the most important things to you so that you are equipped to love and serve people with all the best that God has given you (and so much more).

In first grade, my best friend was Raven Mills. She was the Ray-ray to my Cambone. We spent our school years going to birthday parties and sleepovers (she and her cousins taught me how to dance), cheering together, learning together, laughing together. In junior high, Candice Robinson prayed over me in the bathroom after I completely melted down at my locker over dealing with my mom's melanoma battle. In both junior high and high school, Ashley Norris, Jocelyn Love, Brittany Arnold, Natalia Robinson and Candice cut up with me, challenged me with their intellect and athleticism, and also kept me sane in our a.p. classes. Also in high school, Karmyn Suggs was my Kaykay and my confidant on our cheer squad. She was crazy with me and serious with me and laughed and cried and got in trouble with me. And my teachers, oh my teachers. Mrs. Bethany, Mrs. Rudd, Coach Fields, Mrs. Holmes, Mr. Holmes. And hands down the most influential, Mrs. Minnis. I will be eternally grateful for the brilliant precious soul of Cheryl Minnis and the compassion and education she poured over and into my life. In college I had the honor of making music and sharing the stage with Stephen Ray. I also got to share my deepest hurts and secrets and dreams and late nights as well as dance moves as we laughed at ourselves crying and cried from laughing so hard with Alyse Smith. My friend, mentor, director, "Mama," may I even say top fav OBU staff member, and even roommate for a summer, Heather Sanders graciously loved, inspired, counseled (and put up with) me for my four years at OBU and all these years after. After marriage I got to serve and worship and perform with Brandi Bush. While we lived in Olive Branch, we were blessed with the most caring and vigilant neighbor in Brunetta Wright and her family. She called the cops for a welfare check on our home after our garage door had been uncharacteristically left open all night long.

These are only a HANDFUL of the beautiful souls that my life has had the privilege to touch through my years on this earth. And you know what one of the coolest parts about it is? These friends and teachers of mine loved me. And as far as I know most of them love Jesus. We were all made in the image of God and realized that and chose to follow Him. Oh, and did I mention that they are also all people of color? 

The color of their skin never gave me pause. The color of their skin never made me assume I knew anything more or less about their character, beliefs, or intelligence. And naively I didn't think the color of their skin mattered to others in the community that we grew up in. Until I got older. I didn't realize it mattered to other people that I got called "little white girl" or told I was white on the outside and black on the inside. It did, however, bother me that we didn't go to the same church or sing all of the same worship songs. It bothered me that remnants of stories of segregation still seemed to rare their ugly heads in places where it was excused with aloofness.

And do you know what else grieves me? That people (from all sides of all  the arguments) carrying torches and batons spewing hatred out of their mouths go to some of our churches and sing some of the very same lyrics that we do. They use and twist the Bible to support their twisted agenda. It bothers me that people excuse, belittle and ignore their behavior as if it is harmless and "only words."

To all my lifelong friends that are people of color: my heart grieves with and for you. I am asking God to graciously show me my sin so that I can name it and repent. That means I will change my OPINION and my FEELINGS towards that sin (passivity, complacency, and yes even racism in myself) and walk the opposite way asking forgiveness. I will lean in and "listen up" to your hearts and your stories and your suggestions on ways to help (and even new ways to do songs and new songs to sing). I will not ignore racism, and I will stand with you and for you. You are loved.

To all those that wield flames and bats and erupt volcanic words of disgust:  my heart grieves for you also.  I have been a slave to anger. I know it's deadly power, and I fully believe that you are not my enemy. I believe the Bible when it says in Ephesians 6.12, written by Paul, that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces ruling over this present darkness (my paraphrase). You are trapped in bondage to anger and hatred and animosity. You are blinded and out of control. And I pray that God gives me His grace and compassion and love towards you, because I KNOW that it is HIS kindness that leads our hearts to change and repentance. You are loved.

To all those that have read this far: my heart grieves for the whole of us. My words and convictions may be unpopular with you. My choice to use my business platform to share my beliefs may seem foolish to you. But I recognize that I am a child of the King of the Universe and have nothing to prove to this world and everything to gain for eternity by loving and following my King. He made me to fight for and defend the ones He has created in His image. I am loved and delighted in by the Creator, and so. are. you.

So. Are. We. All. 

So let's listen up and act like it with as much humility and grace possible.

1 Pet. 3.15
Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect.

Titus 3.2
Slander no one.
Be peaceable and considerate,
and always be gentle toward everyone.