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What Do You Want to Say to The World?

My friend, Ray Ford, asked something 10 years ago that has never left me. As Maggie Lee interviewed him for a paper she had to write on her desired profession (acting) he began with that question.

I reflect upon such as the air is thick with opinions and dishonesty, gloating and vitriol, conspiracies and just plain hatred. Emboldened and embittered tribes with no desire to understand much less listen can only repeat what they consider to be their point. They are right and others be wrong. Dreadfully, Hell-bound, idiotically wrong.

So, what do you want to say to our sweet and damaged world? And how will you say it? A time and place where all of these rancorous voices exist in cacophonous freedom because a crazy experiment called America actually worked decades go. What can you inject into Social Media, water cooler conversations and your every day chatter with your children that is true, good and necessary?

If the take away from 18 years under our roofs is a list of who is wrong and deserves our hate then perhaps a reset would be beneficial. What we say en route to soccer practice and Honor Society and certainly church matters and will long outlive us, God willing. Children have an excellent ear for hypocrisy. Just correct them on gossip and then make a sly comment in carpool line about someone’s tight pants or face lift and see what happens.

What we have to say to and about our world and other human beings matters. The words we use matters. Every evil person on the outside of our tribe is someone God ADORES. Is that even within the realm of possibility? Certainly. He adores us.

#faith

#Americanpolitics

#kindness

#maggieleeforgoodday10/29

#maggieleeforgood

#rayford

#payitforward

#anotherwaythrough

#alwaysbekind

#humility

#grace

#perspective

#dividedcountry

#bethebiggerperson

#liveintentionally

#jesusexample

#hope

#ellen

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Action Begets Motivation

Elle Woods Henson has the West Coast Covered

Literary agent and writing coach Rachelle Gardner recently reminded me of something in her Author School session: action begets motivation. In the writing life, work life, or home life. If you do it the motivation will follow.

It turns out that motivation is not an elusive gift with which few are blessed. Motivation is not worth waiting for; motivation is in our very hands right now. The great news: my will births motivation. The scary news: the feels come only after the effort. Inspiring Ted-Talker Mel Robbins similarly discovered this life-changing truth.

Why is the snooze button so seductive? My bedtime resolve to arise by 5 a.m. gets ridiculed by morning me. My standards for what ethically qualifies as a shower become less stringent in the wee hours. And also the dogs are so comfortable.

But then I remember that action begets motivation. Our choices determine just how fired-up or washed-out we will be. As a college girl I always feared missing my chance, or as Lin Manuel Miranda transliterated Alexander Hamilton’s drive; “I’m not throwing away my shot.” I mistakenly believed that one single opportunity for greatness would arrive. Now I know that greatness is a minute by minute decision to act myself into joy, peace, patience and kindness by serving others.

Kindness may not come naturally to you. Character trait- wise it seems to have taken a far back seat as aggression, hostility and tribalism as of late. Thank God there was no Facebook during The Civil War to further divide brother against brother. Yet amid the barbs and division opportunity converges with a soul in need of that action what is created is far greater than the sum of its two parts. We were created to relate. As you care / listen / give / join another soul or souls in something more important than yourself you cannot help but be motivated.

What that will look like to you I do not presume to know but I will let you in on a pretty phenomenal little story. In 2009 Maggie Lee passed away at the age of 12. For whatever reason God took the seeds of her her life, scattered them to the four winds and inspired thousands to acts of kindness. Betsy has spent every October 29th since 2009 encouraging her city of Tifton, GA to sew seeds of kindness. Tifton has raised money for the Ronald McDonald house, food for its local pantry, and taught an elementary school generation of kids to “do the good they know.” Ellie and I have been to Tifton their myriad acts of grace and generosity motivate me to no end.

In Dallas, TX, Gina met the troops returning from war at DFW and her children honored them on MLFG Day. Ted and family in Arlington bought a Thanksgiving Meal for a hungry family. Jack in Lubbock bought a hungry-looking guy a meal, Judy in Chicago passed out Dunkin’ Doughnuts and coffee to people on State Street.

Tim and the Broadway cast of Wicked organized a clothing drive in New York, Kathy bought t-shirts for a small town and Colleen and family raised thousands of dollars for clothes for Maggie Lee’s Closet in Shreveport. Gina and Andrea collected books for a Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth and visited the elderly in a nursing home.

And Maggie Lee’s Closet, a free kids clothes closet has provided thousands of uniforms for the children of Northwest Louisiana in just five years of operation. Aprile, Debbie, Judy and Sabra serve and the community donates beautiful clothes.

More than slacktivism which only requires a swipe or like, these people chose to actively make their corner of the world brighter. They took the initiative to ask their children what they wanted to do to bless people in the world and some even had plausible ideas. Michelle had a snack stand for dog walkers in her front yard along with cards explaining MLFG and encouraging others to continue paying it forward. I have to imagine that the great swirl of goodness injected into the universe on October 29th has led to a chain of benevolent events. Not only for one day but for years to come as children learn how to be inconvenienced to help another soul.

As a side motivation it is always healthy to remind ourselves and our people that we are not the center of the universe. The reset button of acts of kindness is such a vital reality check. Hopefully in giving their time, talent and treasure to others completely different from themselves our children will develop empathy and be empowered to be the change they want to see in the world. First they must be shown those who need a bit of change not as service projects but as dearly loved children of God. Loved just as dearly as we are.

Who is bummed by the air quality? Air thick with snarky arrogance, slander, meanness, and vitriol. The negativity is virally contagious. But, guess what? So is grace! Will you decide to bring grace into your hula hoop of influence today and see what happens? Will you join me on Maggie Lee for Good Day: October 29th and spread a dash of kindness to your spot on the map?

Previous projects include:

-Baking cookies for firemen / police officers

-Donations to Locks of Love

-Paying a month’s bills for a struggling mom

-Filling up a stranger’s gas tank

-Creating “For Good” charms and digging an African Water Well with the precedes.

-Buying basketball uniforms for a local team

-Hanging out in a Laundromat and handing out quarters and detergent just for fun

-Bringing dinner to a sick, elderly friend

-Representing an indigent client

-Giving blood

-Fostering a child

-Registering to be a bone marrow donor

-Stocking up on Dollar Tree umbrellas and handing them out to pedestrians on a rainy day

All of these projects are beautiful and were answers to the prayer, “Who needs something that I can give?” The Maggie Lee for do-gooders were single & married, old and young, rich and poor, urban and rural, friends and complete strangers, spiritual, conservative Christians and Baptists who party. All kinds of people who heard a compelling story of a little girl whose life was cut short that for God’s grace were inspired.

There are still several unclaimed states which we would greatly love to see spread the MLFG Kindness this October 29th. If you are the first one in your state to raise your hand, Email me and I will send you an amazing FREE T-shirt and cards to pass out. I ask that you would post a picture of yourself or your family/ school/ church performing one kind act on Oct. 29th.

I get that you are not a braggart. But this message of love is one begging to be injected into our social networks.

Join the Kindness Revolution” is the rebellious theme this October 29th and the graphic is reminiscent of Les Miserables. If you are not the first to claim your state and still want a t-shirt, order here. They are $20, cute & super soft. The proceeds from the t’s will be distributed between Vets and Pets here in NW Louisiana.

If you would love to act yourself into a new way of thinking and join the kindness revolution, jump over to the Maggie Lee for Good Facebook page and like it. That will connect you with all of the great expressions of God’s love being carried out this month in memory of Maggie Lee.

You do not have to wait until October 29th to give yourself the gift of motivation. Don’t wait to launch. You need not join any Facebook group to get there but I would love to see your face and have you be a part of this new wave.

Maggie Lee died 9 years ago on her way to church camp but the twelve years she lived she truly lived with deliberate, contagious JOY. If her spark can act you into motivation and remind you that kindness is the only way that our country will make it through then her message wins the day.

#maggieleeforgood

#motivation

#rachellegardner

#actionbegetsmotivation

#50statesofMaggieLeeforGood

#faith

#God

#outlivingyourlife

#surviving

#happy

#peace

#payitforward

#ellen

#godsgrace

#kindnessrevolution

#todayshow

#annelamott

#voanwlouisiana

#lababymamas

#jenhatmaker

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The Church of My Heart

Eight years ago we began a journey with a handful of people determined to do a world of good in the Highland neighborhood of Shreveport, LA. Most of us were white and had money for groceries and new shoes if our children needed them. This is my standard for wealth.

Our method when we gathered was to walk the streets and pray. And invite folks. No advertising budget, no state-of-the-art anything. We must have looked like wack-a-doos walking in our extremely Anglo clumps smiling and silently praying. To the black men with brown bags on porches who engaged us, we issued an invitation. To the children playing football in the dirt patch yards, the bra-less women with Dollar General bags of groceries, the white family with four children trailing them and the Hispanic people whom John assaulted with his Spanish, we invited. Mi iglesia es su iglesia.

I have been changed by what has occurred inside the wood-paneled chapel with the creepy Adams’s Family side doors. God could have used any church, or no church at all for my healing. He could send His Spirit at once to change me as I drove down the road or went fishing on the Twelve Oaks Lake with my son or made cronuts on a Tuesday afternoon. But God chose these people in this messy, holy place to make me whole.

As a comic with a bizarre sense of humor anyway, this has been amazing. Our music minister Bill has been gigging in this community for over forty years. He brings such life to our services. Once he presented a special guest: local Blues great Buddy Flett. Buddy admitted to not knowing many church songs and ended with the classic “Hard Headed Woman,” which is nowhere in The Baptist Hymnal. As he finished and laughter erupted John took to the microphone and brilliantly said, “I feel your pain.” So many Saturday Night Live moments: from the gentleman in our church who brought his big gulp of Vodka to the service to the seventy-year-old asking for cough syrup for his baby to the visitor who told my Mom and her sister in Bible Study that the coffee and doughnuts they were eating were Biblically forbidden. Which trust me the twins were having exactly NONE of as they enjoyed their doughnuts. We have seen veterans regain sobriety, soldiers leave and return, marriages healed, and young people defy statistics because of a Sunday School teacher’s love. We have been shocked at the sight of trusted, baptized church member on video breaking in and stealing money for drugs. Conversely, we have seen the spirit of acceptance in our congregation, dishing out God’s love like it was their full time job for those who have felt outside of God’s reach. I have seen the glory of The Lord in the land of the living like the Bible Verse which was my survival promised.

Losing our daughter upended everything I ever read, was taught, or intuited about faith. The outpouring of kindness from women and men of every denomination was shocking to me. I simultaneously felt like a strand woven into the expansive human tapestry and conversely an exile in the land of misfit toys.

As most of you probably know, grief is isolating; it makes you feel like an outcast among other things. My children were my life and breath as yours are to you. Losing Maggie Lee, losing every future dream, event, and even meltdown that she would never have left me an outsider to my own life. The truly beautiful thing God showed me (even when I had little desire to watch) was that if I will release the clutch of the snow globe of my beautiful former life and glance to the right and left there are way more humans feeling outside the circle than in.

I found an enlarged concern for the homeless veterans in our city. I now have a respect for addicted people. I have never even smoked a cigarette but I have been tempted to escape my day just exactly like any addict has. That could have just as easily been me. I empathized in a newfound way with those struggling with mental illness because I was broken too. In mind and heart. And It takes a good breaking to get honest.

There are many interesting moments in this Church for the Highlands experiment. So much love. So many zany happenings. So much I have learned.

I have seen a champion of the outsiders emerge with a vengeance in the ministry of my John. A little brother with a big problem with bullies, he has a fiercely protective nature for the marginalized. Is it the after affects of being teased for his skinny legs in the basketball shorts? Who can know. Many dinners have gone cold as he and other ministers attempted to coordinate services for those at Highland Center Ministries Blessing Meal. The meal itself the brain child of lay ministers and the collaboration of twelve area churches and the Food Bank. John has worked to build a community network rather than a personal kingdom. He is surrounded by some wise and faithful believers. In fact, he tries to keep up with our members in all of their outreach.

So often in Sunday morning Testimony time, a member thanks God for family, a new job or six months of sobriety. We are a micro church and a microcosm of society with all of her diversity. With praises for surviving another week, there are also thanks from those in our beloved community who have tremendous resources and a heart for a diverse church, which we thankfully have become.

I have found healing in our Bible Study class in the sweet simplicity of shared life. It does not escape me how fortunate I am to struggle with other women in the same boat of humanity we all share. There are some fierce rowers, swift bucket brigadiers and always encouragers. And I guess one of the beautiful presents of loss is that realization that we are all the same. I close my eyes often times during the church service and get chills as I breathe in the air thicker with grace than the humidity just outside the chapel doors.

I am First Lady. That is what I am called and I adore that moniker. It is a compliment to me because there is likely no less pristine minister’s spouse than me. But none the less, I am loved. For that I am thankful. By God’s limitless grace in the form my family and church, I have found healing. Thank you for these beloved eight years. You are the church of my heart and I love you.

Uncategorized

Fiercely Kind

-Jessie Keener in her Amy Peters Jewelers Dream, Fly, Dance, Sing ” Ring. Jessie and a few other dreamers/flyers/dancers/singers still nine years later wear their rings in memory of Maggie Lee and show fierce kindness every day, especially October 29th.

Raise your hand if you’re like me and the nightly news gives you stomach cramps. Well, Doxidan Cowboy, here’s some good news: you already have your own platform in your personal corner of this broken world to make life beautiful. To be the news cast you want to watch in the world. (Sorry, Gandhi) I am not suggesting an all-night Pinterest bender or HGTV binge but rather something longer-lasting than the latest chalk paint trend: as Bob Goff suggests, “spreading kindness like confetti.” More than just a single news cycle, your explosion of goodness is actually eternal work. (Matthew 25:40)

How exciting it is to partner with God! How thrilling that God has loaded us all with enough creativity and resources to make a improvement in our hula hoop of influence. To lift our eyes from our phones for just a moment and engage with those whom God adores. If we believe in lavish grace, may we let our kindness flow like a fire hydrant in our homes, neighborhoods, cities and across the map.

The groundswell is here my friends. There is another way through than vitriolic argument and weaponry, of turning our backs on someone for whom Christ died unless they agree with our every opinion. Only love can cast out hate is what King said. Time is passed time for this crusty narrative of negativity to get an overhaul! The soccer team is pulled from the cave and the tomb is empty!

Can you feel it? Under the all the natural disasters, national disasters and personal disasters lies something deeper than the temptation to chunk it all and be a hermit. Here echoes a God-given call to rise up with the power of love and do. The revolution of fierce kindness is here!

Kindness is the new beautiful. And not a silent, one-dimensional winsomeness but rather a beauty with teeth. Fierce kindness confronts a bully, stands up for the weak and speaks up when the circle is silent. Fierce kindness loves boldly without needing press coverage. Even when fierce kindness is anonymous, her rising tide floats all boats around her. This kindness when allowed to move through us literally changes the air in the room around us.

Many people exhibit this controlled strength of character on the sports field, in the classroom, in the office and in the courtroom. Over the nine years since Maggie Lee for Good began, I have been shocked by the creative acts of kindness I have seen you perform. En masse or individually, I believe the moment of greatest impact lies before us!

Who needs love in your hula hoop of space in this world? Who needs a bag of groceries or a tank of gas? A first bra, a hospital gown, a gas bill paid, a lock of love? Where is the need God has given you eyes to see and resources to meet? How phenomenal it is to think of your fierce kindness reverberating in Starbucks lines and school lunchrooms every day as well as on Maggie Lee for Good Day.

One day, one deed, one difference has been the MLFG battle cry since 2009 when a friend suggested we remember our deceased daughter’s kindness by encouraging others to perform a good deed in her memory. You joined in that glorious one day: October 29, and have bravely made an impeccable impact. You have done so with spunk, with sparkle, with intention and with strength.

You founded Maggie Lee’s Closet and provided school uniforms & regular clothes for the underserved children in the Northwest Louisiana Area. You cast of the Musical Wicked gathered clothes for a Broadway children’s charity. You baked cookies for the crank pot bus driver in Illinois and stirred an entire school district in Georgia to highlight the value of kindness. You became organ donors, funded African water wells and built a home in Haiti. The fervor of goodness is unflappable and love expands to fill cracks which duty could never reach. That’s why love always triumphs.

Maggie Lee for Good Day is simple. No application to fill out, no screening process to go through, no dues to pay: go out and love someone who needs something. Be kind. Remember the spirit of love which Maggie Lee had. Participants have fed homeless individuals and even BEEN homeless individuals merely sharing the meager resources they have. Experiencing kindness so often brings a chain reaction; this is the exponential explosion of excitement which changes the world.

So….who wants in? Who wants to change the narrative? Who wants to be evidence of the good which is still alive and well? If you are inspired to do something kind every day of the year, of your life, brilliant! If you want to link arms with us, woo-hoo! There is room for stinking everyone.

If you live in the continental U.S., I would love for you to rep MLFG and carry this message of revolutionary fierce kindness with you on October 29th. Let me know which state you’ll represent and if you’re the first one to claim your state, I have a T-shirt for you along with MLFG cards. Just message me here, on Facebook (Jinny Henson) Instagram (Jinnyhen) to let me know if you want to dive in.

If you live outside of the U.S., awesome! I will send you a shirt & swag as well. All I ask is that you email or post a picture / send me the story of your MLFG deed either tiny or huge on Oct.29.

Our MLFG Celebration in Shreveport, LA will be on October 29th at our La Madeline on Fern at 6pm. Each year we select a non-profit to highlight and ask others bring donations for them. The organizations for which we are collecting serve homeless Vets & Pets. Razors & socks for our countries’ heroes and cat & dog food for our local shelters.

I am tremendously thrilled to make this new way with you!

Fiercely Kind

Since 2009

Maggie Lee for Good

Love,

Jinny Henson

http://www.maggieleeforgood.org

Jinnyhenson@gmail.com

#kindness

#fiercekindness

#actsofkindness

#maggieleeforgood

#maggieleehenson

#maggieleescloset

#changethenegativenarrative

#gooddeeds

#Christianlove

#loveGodloveothers

#improvingtheworld

#payitforward

#theleastofthese

#idobelieveihavebeenchangedfortgebetterihavebeenchangedforgood

#thetodayshow

#theellenshow

#hodaandkathilee

#october29

#evidenceofgrace

#grievingparents

#survivingloss

#overcomingevilwithgood

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Why I Do Not Wonder

As I child I was filled with wonder. The future seemed as far away as the perfect Crisco Tan in December. I dreamed and as I pondered with God how my life would be, I doubted my Earthly Father’s phrase: “Jinny, you have The World by the tail, you just don’t know it yet.”

Many curiosities were solved as big pillars of the future solidified. I found my person, finished my education, had my children, began ministry. I moved through my days with the big questions answered even with the unpredictability of cancer which would steal my mother in law and Father in their 60’s, I assumed my status quo.

The surprising reality is that a foundation which appears to be Stonehenge Tuesday afternoon may really be a folded circus tent on Wednesday Morning. Not even headed anywhere great I may add.

Like a moldy Hurricane Harvey house in my childhood neighborhood, the water can instantly rise and steal your status quo. For us it was the bus accident nine years ago today which folded up our Stonehenge like a cheap Big Lots camping chair.

Yours perhaps is a failed business, a disappointing career, a sour marriage or an uncommunicative child. If only I could have appreciated when I had it all. Indeed a regretful mind could wonder “What would this look like if the devastation never happened?”

I am asked frequently if I wonder what Maggie Lee would be doing, where she would’ve gone to college and what her major may be. I usually answer with a quip to change the subject because I have found that wondering is dangerous for me.

Wondering breathes life into realities which can never be. It requires one return to yesterday, sift through the fragmented memories and construct a hypothetical future scenario of the way life would be if only.

The tempting whisper to wander What if Way comes no matter our past. If we live life long enough we will battle ourselves to steer clear of If Only Avenue. No matter if about a lost child or a lost home or an abusive past or a horrible choice. The desire to retreat and as the great Theologian, Cher, said, “Turn Back Time,” is common to all persons.

I have realized that I am too selfish to be miserable. My misery is enhanced on The Magic School Bus of time travel to recreate a narrative which is already published. It is far too late to rewrite last decade’s chapter.

Depressing, right? There is absolutely no return to fix the past. No preventing the stupid choices of ourselves or others which ended up in tragedy. There is no making the clock stand still, nothing accomplished by being miserable to try to extract penance out of others for ruining our lives.

We have no ability to amend yesterday but shockingly every capacity to fix today. To live. To breathe. To move and have our being in Christ. Only God Almighty can heal. And thank God for it, but we must be willing to sacrifice the perfect hypothetical to receive our beautiful forward-motion reality.

No friend can convince us, no cajoling can coerce us to leave what could’ve been for the incredible life which can be. Daydreaming is healthy. Wondering is fine. As long as we are always moving with our healer and helper. And that healer and helper is forever focused FORWARD.

These days I am left to wonder but only how life can be so beautiful again.

#peace

#purpose

#grief

#loss

#hope

Uncategorized

A Keeper

‘Reel him into the boat. If you get him in there and don’t want him, you can always throw him back.” -Bill Richardson, 1993, Ft. Worth, TX.

And…never happened. Hung onto him. With both hands. Still am.

I married someone who does things the right way. He makes the bed perfectly when I am barely out of it and actually researches appliances before we buy them rather than selecting the shiniest one.

He is fair. Once when I heard the kids’ story about an incident which happened to Jack in school and was getting upset, he calmly reassured me that he would speak with the parties that be to get a more accurate picture of what went down and try to get to the bottom of things. Which totally got my goat.

Per usual, he was right to pursue all the facts before judgment. Imagine that: thinking BEFORE acting. That’s random! This is the kind of crap I deal with being married to a keeper.

From before I was expecting, I knew that I was safe parking my soul with him. And I knew that my children would be as well.

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Art is Ageless

This is a picture of Lucy and me. I’m the one without the bow. This is the best thing I have seen in a very long time. It made my week and I am still marinating in the juicy goodness of it all three days after church where she created it.

Art, like music, gives description to the unspeakable inside of us planted by our Creator God. It oozes from our depths when we first fall in love or see a newborn baby or witness an unselfish act of heroism. It captures a feeling and expresses something truer than words can describe. Art can be a soulful medium.

I have the great honor of loving people at Garden Park Nursing and Rehab. Next Thursday, June 21, we are hosting an art exhibit of Artist Ashley Beck’s work. Hannah Lee is capturing the event on canvas for posterity and our facility will be transformed into an art gallery of our resident’s work. I. Am. Freaking. Out. I’m so excited.

To have as much participation as possible, I wheel my mobile art cart around and visit unsuspecting artists. With my lap desk of an art station, I buzz into the rooms of those who are less social or prefer more privacy. I always knock first. Some are quick to express their excitement. Others do not want to participate and that is completely fine, too.

More often than not, with brush in hand pointed toward paper, the artist nervously conveys, “I just don’t know what to paint.” I am no art teacher, but I reassure that there is no right or wrong. No way to fail. No rules, just put your brush on paper and see what happens.

I photograph the artist and their work and typically they are amazed by what they have done. “Wow- I did that?” It is beautiful, really, to be witness to it all. We may not find a Grandma Moses or uncover a latent Leonardo but when we connect with the creativity inside of us, we feel ageless.

Art is Ageless- An Art Experience for All Ages

Garden Park Nursing and Rehab

June 21. 4-6:30pm

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The Best is Always Yet to Be

Memories, if we can appreciate time as it was, and not long for what has passed, are a beautiful thing. Often as I am going about a task a funny saying of my father’s or toddler Maggie Lee’s and baby Jack’s will echo in my mind and make me laugh.

I. Love. Toddlers. So much. They are tiny little people kits coming together. Every day is a brand new world for them and spectating this is superbly entertaining. Sometimes when incorporating a new thought or word a sentence looks like a janky Mr. Potato Head with a nose where the eyes belong and an ear for an arm. And that verbal modern art is spectacular.

One Sunday many years ago when searching for a sandal in Maggie Lee’s closet floor I was beginning to get impatient. If anyone is going to throw up or lose a shoe it will be as one is trying to get to church. Because Satan. Rifling through the underbelly of the closet and mumbling rhetorical statements like “Where could it be?” Maggie Lee looked up earnestly and said, “A mystewy took it.” Oh, mystery, you thief.

I remember certain phrases which still make me laugh. We were flying to Orlando when the kids were five and three. Coming from Coach, restroom-bound, Jack and I walked through First Class as they were enjoying their bacon and eggs. He noticed the lavish breakfast trays and asked me, “How come we don’t got no eggs?”

Memories are meant to bless us. We can let them cripple us and convince us that our present will never compare. The funny thing is that once we subscribe to the narrative that life will never be as good as it was, it will not be. What we focus on grows and the past while we can appreciate it, is a finished chapter. Any farmer who reminisces instead of planting knows this. It is no sign of devotion for one to crumble because an era in life is over. It is a sign of self-pity.

We have every resource of Heaven behind us when we choose joy, even in the darkness. The decision to live life to the fullest (John 10:10) is to accept the life Christ died to provide, even in the valley. If there are lessons the cross teaches, they are that there is no length God will not go to love us and that love brings about a future hope that is better than any past we had.

It may be a beautiful mystewy but the best is yet to be!

#faith

#regret

#Christian

#Christianjoy

#toddlers

#Mom

#parent

#unconditionallove

#Godslove

#peace

#Holyweek

#Christ’slove

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Let Your Light Shine

This Little Light of Mine always sounded like Toeing the Line of Mine to me. If I had the light and love of God, I SURE as heck HAD BETTER SHOW IT. My motivation was faithfulness to God and avoidance of hypocrisy. Not bad in aim but perhaps a theology not fully congealed. I wonder if a subtle tweak might not make a world of difference?

This little tune, often mistaken for a negro spiritual, was actually written by a white guy from Michigan in the 1920’s. Harry Dixon Loes wrote a myriad of hymns while working st The Moody Institute until his death in 1965. Civil Rights Hero Hattie Lou Hamer popularized it when she sang it while in police custody. Her crime? Trying to register to vote.

Jesus’ words which inspired this hymn, Matthew 5:14, 16, always struck me as an admonition to be shiny for the benefit of others. Now I see it as an invitation to reveal the unique spark God planted inside of every creature He has made. I believe that the most effective impact an individual can offer is revealing their unique God-given glow of light to this world. I also believe that unless we get close to God and live in His light we are destined to cover our light and render ourselves useless. How easy is it to see a gorgeous light and try to replicate it. Can a strobe light be a simple night light? Certainly not. Nor should it attempt such.

It is easier to be distracted and try to fashion ourselves as the shiniest light than it is to quiet our souls, turn off our comparative minds and accept that God may just want us to be a 15 watt flicker bulb or a tiny Disney flashlight. All we need to incarnate Christ is a relationship with Him and the guts to get out of our own way.

I love a campfire. I cannot stand this wacky blue-hued LED lights. Let your beautiful, authentic light shine before others today and see if it does not brighten your own path.

#matthew5

#pathtoauthenticity

#personalimpact

#faith

#Christianity

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Heads Up!

Any baseball little sister knows this term all too well. Of the countless nights I spent at Braeburn Field watching my oldest brother, Ted, there would inevitably be several “pop flies.” A batter would slice and instead of the ball shooting toward the outfield, it would pop over the fence toward the head of the least-aware grandparent or younger sibling.

Protective Dads wanted to be the first to assess the sitch and blurt out the warning. Others would reflexively join in to emphasize the precaution. A fun way to entertain ourselves was to feign a deep grown-up voice and yell “heads up!” just to see who would stop dead in their tracks and look around like it was a nuclear attack. I like to blame our behavior on the synthetic nacho cheese preservatives.

Heads up is generally a good phrase; a quality reminder which snaps us out of our sleep-walking into awareness of our present situation. It could be a danger soaring our direction we need to be concerned about or an urgent reminder to fight the spiritual narcolepsy which quickly takes over. Life will bite us if we’re not vigilant. It will turn us into Zombies like that wholesome Hallmark Channel show The Walking Dead. Our default setting is always distraction and self-absorption. That’s my nature. And yours.

Awareness is a conscious decision, not a natural state. If not intentional about the present, we obsess about the past and worries about the future petrify our minds. We drone on from the bleachers to the snack bar to the bleachers to the bathroom on autopilot. Good thing I do not mix metaphors. So here’s the day’s call: notice the birds, notice Jesus in the distressing disguise of hurting humans (especially the most annoying ones. Yes, that guy, in adjacent cubicle with Funyon body odor and no boundaries) notice the amazing taste of your coffee.

This is exilerating: when you live heads up, life shifts. The groceries you complain about lugging in your home become sacred gifts for which to thank God. I mean we get bananas from countries far, far away. And they arrive in our neighborhood grocery store. And we don’t have to even climb a tree to hack them off with a machete. And pistachios and bacon and wine, oh MY!

Our homes (yes the one with the balding couch with the festering cheese stick in the cushion and tricky toilet) become glorious centers of refreshment and joy to the degree which we are grateful. A condo transforms into a holy place of nurturing when we bravely force ourselves to wake up and choose gratitude. Our backyard may be a Pinterest fail to everyone but feral cats but it is holy ground. If you decide it will be. The kicker: we have help in this heads up endeavor. The Holy Spirit works in us the Bible says. The Spirit moves in us and takes away the poison pity pool of comparison we love to soak in. While it is always easier to hop on the hamster wheel and sleep walk through life, it will only exhaust. You were meant for more.

Heads up!

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