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Thanksgiving is all about the serving.

In the early 1990s,  I  served as the Director of Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than upward mobility.

First lesson: the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, with many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities dependent on the mission of the respective agency.

Second lesson: the cornerstone for all the agencies operated under the basic tenet of serving the people. But the lifeblood of those agencies were the people.

Sound like a civics lesson? Please bear with me.

I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, but good benefits with some of the best people I have ever had the honor to know. Day by day, my respect  for these dedicated and caring government employees deepened. They are the “hidden heroes” behind that bureaucracy, held up by that cornerstone tenet, that makes our country work.

One such person, Debbie Landers, is dear to me, as well as to so many others whose lives she continues to touch.  Her health is not as good as it once was, but her heart and spirit are stronger than ever as she continues to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years.  During this time,  her daughter and granddaughter have joined her.

She often shares her gratitude for the large and the small things in her life. I have her permission to share the following which she posted a few  years ago on Facebook.

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Debbie LandersDebbie’s Way of Serving

“Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. A group of volunteers came to share a meal with our guests and their companionship with them was heart-felt.

These volunteers came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special.”

Later, I was talking with one of the guys who told me that one year ago, he had lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless.

As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he told me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.

It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation.

Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night.

So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand as folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”

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Her words and her service touched my heart then and it still serves to remind me that in this confusing and chaotic world we live in today, it doesn’t take much to make it better…just a little help to our friends.

Debbie is a living legacy that I am blessed to call friend.  I am grateful to have her in my life in this season of giving Thanks.

Let’s all get busy serving!

 

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to act.”

Proverbs: 3:27

 

A Do-Over Anyone?

 

Would of

Could of

Should of

…are mistakes. Have you ever found yourself writing any of these?”
Elizabeth O’Brian
http://www.english-grammer-revolution.com

Have you ever found yourself uttering those words of regret?

Would of you wanted a do-over, knowing what you know now? What could of been the difference it made?   Should of you regretted now what you didn’t know then?

I would of been a stay at home mom.

Would of my children been the better for it?

Would of I been the better for it?

I could of cherished the times spent on the front porch with my husband as we sat in our rocking chairs each evening,  sharing our day and watching the children play.

I could of left the dishes unwashed.

I could of not taken those times for granted.

I should of realized seconds, moments, days, weeks and years make up a lifetime.

I should of paid more attention to those times.

I should of thanked God for those blessings more than I did – I should of wanted Him to know.

As I ponder on the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs I know this:   It is not too late to do it now.

would of could of should of

What kids do when parents aren’t around…

The unexpected sparkle from this year’s Halloween. His parents must be so proud!

Every parent wonders what their kids will do when they are not around.  They will also ponder on what their children will grow up and be. I did.

I wanted them to grow up – not to be rich and famous (although that’s nice too) – but to just be decent people.

As parents we do the best we can, and pray for guidance. I did. Still do. I suspect my own parents did as well.

I remember, at the age of six, doubling over in laughter, as I ran from my brother Paul. He could never run as fast as I could, which I always found hil-la-rious; after all – he was older. Although the reason he was chasing me was no laughing matter. We had been doing what children of our generation would sometimes do, making mud pies down by the pond when he thought I should take a bite.

I didn’t want to and ran away. Fortunately Granny caught us and put a stop to those shenanigans!

Today, Paul’s health takes him in and out of hospitals and when things look the worst, he is that same generous kid, wanting to give me a bite of the pie that life offers and making me laugh.

My kids are all grown up now and they have become more than I knew to pray for.  How did that happen? God’s grace for sure as I look back and remember a few defining moments.

When my son was in second grade, he would come home from school complaining about Mathew, one of the kids in his class. Matthew suffered from ADHD and sometimes would forget to take his medicine. On those days he lost control and my son would come home, upset and confused about Matthew’s behavior. I told my son that sometimes people have problems that we don’t know about and it was best to just be kind.

Several months later we were on a class trip and I was one of the chaperones. I had just gone to work for the Georgia Department of Labor and one of the other mothers asked me if I was the new HR Director there.

The lady introduced herself as an employee there and I assumed that’s why she wanted to meet me. Nope, instead she said,  “When all the other kids won’t play with Matthew because he’s having a bad day, your son always does. I just wanted you to know and to say thank you.”

Mother to mother.

Her words were a humbling moment for this mom. After all the complaining that my son did about Matthew, he had indeed been kind to him.

My daughter developed a love for the DCFS foster program. Each Christmas, after my coworkers had selected tags for the foster kids from the giving tree, I would take all of the remaining tags. Then, as was our tradition, she and I would go shopping and she would select the gifts. Her happy smile and twinkling eyes shined with her love for kids that she didn’t even know.

Years later, it was her first Christmas away at college. She called me, weeping, to tell me about a little boy’s tag she had selected from the giving tree in her dorm. “Oh Mom – he wants a ball!”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“He only asked for a ball!” she said, the emphasis on the word a ball. “Not a football, not a baseball and not a soccer ball – just a ball…” She said, stopping as she gasped for breath.

“Which one did you get him?” I asked, hoping to calm her down.

She blew her nose in that disgusting way that you do after an ugly cry and said, “One of every kind.”

Another humbling moment for this mother.

It is those moments, when you are not looking, when you are not there, when your kids make their own decisions – those are the moments that highlight the people they will become, and proof of the people they already are.

Today, their love continues to be demonstrated when I’m not around, growing stronger in protecting and serving others.  Be sure to pay attention.

I would be honored if you would share humbling moments from your childhood or your kid’s childhood. These are the sparkles that give hope to our world.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”              –Proverbs 22:6

 

A Kernel of Radical Anger

 

I can get so mad when people don’t take care of those who can’t take care of themselves (like animals).   I don’t like to be mad.  It makes me feel bad, therefore, making me madder at what made me mad in the first place!

Recently a woman was standing in a line at the DMV in Missouri and fired her gun into the air because the line was too slow.  I don’t know if she calmed down after being thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and taken to jail.  My point is that this example, in its most basic form, is radical anger.

When a kernel of radical anger is planted, it grows from what it’s fed.  Today, political issues (groan) feeds this type of anger whether from public sources or in hidden back ‘rooms’.   Social media and different slants provided by different news agencies are often the triggers.

The good news from this is that our freedom allows us to choose our party of choice:  Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, Green and my favorite, Humane (animal rights).  There are more than 100 additional parties to choose from.  How good is that?

Sadly, the kernel of radical anger is growing in so many different directions that chaos is feeding radical anger. Humans have lost our ability to be both different and united. When did we stop thinking and deliberating on issues?  Recognition of differences, even if it’s not “your thing”, in and  of themselves should unite us; sadly, they do not.

So, do we risk an extreme reaction like the woman in the DMV line; or do we can choose a different method?

Why?

To find common ground for common causes, while respecting individual rights.

What?

By not feeding our kernel of anger and use:

      Truth over Lie.

     Kindness over rudeness

    Accepting your way is not my way – love diffuses hate.

Evidence of Success? 

Feed the kernels of honesty, respect and love as we remember what our country, and many other countries,  were founded on, which is (for purposes of today’s blog, my reference to county is America):

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

John Dickinson, Founding Father in his pre-revolutionary song, “The Liberty Song” wrote, “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!  By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

We the people created this county. Let’s not demolish it.

America must maintain the identity of what God blessed America with.  We welcome all in our big ole’ melting pot, sharing, working, learning, and trusting our personal savior.  Every individual brings something to the mix, not to dominate, but by doing the right thing in the right way. 

conflict-405744__340

 Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

It’s just that simple.

Kernels are…

Kernels are seeds we plant as we journey through life, from season to season.”





We leave kernels behind like tracks in the sand that show our past seasons; but, like sand near the ocean, the seasons of wind and water erase them.  They become bittersweet memories or just bitter memories, leaving scars.  They come in the form of words, actions, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, intentions and often, ‘un-intentions’.

Each Wednesday, here on my blog, Sparklers: Lights of Grace, you will rise and shine, greeted by my ‘something to think about’ Wednesday blog called, Sparklers Garden:  Kernels of….  My greatest hope is that by planting our kernels we will reset our view about whatever season we are traveling in. 

A Kernel of Faith

A kernel of faith is all you need to get through the ups and downs of life’s many seasons.  Right?

Some seasons are crystal clear. The sky is blue, the varying hues of nature crisp and the heart is bursting with the joy of it all – we see it. For this, we give thanks with all our heart and soul.

But, sometimes it can be so bright that all you see is what’s right in front of you.  This makes it hard to know where the blessings came from, therefore making it easy to feel invincible. 

Meanwhile other seasons can be a mist of pain and darkness where there is no up, no down, and no side to side.

Either of these causes life to lose its luster.  Either also makes the world seem flat.  Our steps try to go backward to a bright and easy season in our life.  But, those footprints are gone and we eventually collide with a big rubber wall that bounces us right back to the present.

Our season may be murky.  We run to the right — smack into a hard wall. We try it again with a slightly different direction, ziz-zagging our way to the left, then to the right as if we can fool life into a different season.

There’s no fooling the seasons of life, so again we smack into a wall, this time staggering upright, bruises and all.  The only direction left is forward, but the swirling mist hides what waits for us there. Scary, huh?

Perhaps, much like the long ago theory that the earth is flat, our life too has become flat.  If we go forward, we might just step off the edge.  Then what?  Well, when a season in life changes, there’s no way to go back.  It’s also impossible to remain still. Stagnation becomes a living death. 

Moving into the next season is the only option.  But that’s scary.  It’s going to take courage and we can’t find it in the fog that surrounds us. Where can this much courage be found? 

Listen. 

Listen and hear those words in your head – the two words that provide direction. Those words are, “you know”. 

You know to raise your hands to heart level – yes both at the same time.  In one you speak your fear; in the other you speak your faith; both of the unknown facing you.  Then you put them together, clasped in prayer, releasing fears by giving them to God – and don’t even think about taking them back (remember that rubber wall?).

This is when the grace of courage is given.  Works every time –  in His timing.

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  It’s hard to to see evidence of faith in times like these when the entire world seems flat.  Let’s grow this Sparkler Garden! 

Please, share your own Kernel of… in the comments section in hopes that your kernel will touch at least one person reading it, and that one person is changed and in the doing, will provide a kernel that will grow in someone else. 

Luke 8:11

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”

You know.

No Means No

Better life

 

Women don’t leave a relationship easily, even when it is one of pain. They tend to give the benefit of the doubt more than is wise – trusting that the other person didn’t mean to cause harm. She eventually learns that your damage, while difficult, didn’t reach her mind or her soul. This realization is her point of no return. She is finished with you.

Hers is a forever good-bye. Nothing you can say or do will change that. You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Her trust has been destroyed. She is so much stronger because she now knows that she deserves better than what you could ever give her. She moves forward, totally detached from whatever space you had taken up in her life. She will never reattach to your kind of betrayal.

Ever.

You are only a fading dark spot on the horizon– a minor mistake made and forgotten. She doesn’t look back. Her eyes face the next season as life brings forth the joys and blessings that were meant for her all along. She has experienced the worst from you. She cherishes her new best life and is thankful for it.

You are not, nor will you be, any part of her life – ever. Civility and respect means that NO means NO. You don’t have a say in her definition of that word.  The best you can hope for is that she has forgiven you.

Take heed: Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.

Understand these words… and go fix yourself.

God Doesn’t Do Lucky

God Doesn't Do Lucky

I haven’t posted a blog in six months.

What’s that about?

So, I thought I could sit and draft 50 words or so and say I have.

So I typed some words.  Then I deleted them.  I typed some more – deleted them too.

Then I just stared at the blank screen and noticed a pop up message that said, “You haven’t written anything yet.”

That was helpful.  No, I’m not being glib.  It was helpful because it made me think.

What else have I not done?

haven’t lost that 10 pounds I’ve talked about for yeeeeeeears.

haven’t gone to Italy – I really want to go.

haven’t … hmmmm,  so many have nots that I’m embarrassed to list them.

Better to list my haves I think!

have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior

have loved and been loved by my husband and children

have learned unconditional love from my dog

have many wonderful family and friends

-have good health

have made a difference in people’s lives

have made mistakes – have asked for forgiveness – have given forgiveness – have forgiven myself

have helped others in little ways because those add up to big ways

-have lived a happy life.

Ah, this is helpful because it makes me think.  I’ve actually done all of the important things in life.

Aren’t I lucky.

As my friend Valye said, “No honey, you are blessed.  God doesn’t do lucky.

Changing Hearts is God’s Work

Forgiveness
Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides”.

How does a person forgive something that — to them — is unforgivable?

Jesus, while in agony on the cross said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Often in our humanness we wonder, “But what if they do know? What if their actions are calculated and self-serving?”  Distrust replaces love and forgiveness and when this happens, it’s time to be honest with God.  The best way to do this is by going to His word for direction.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides himself”.  But sometimes forgiveness requires caution because it is different from trust, necessitating the dynamics of a relationship to change.    Until an offender has a true change of heart, and because we can’t see that person’s heart, wisdom says to limit our trust in that person.

Trust is a like a four-way intersection where adherence to the wishes, viewpoints, or beliefs of others must intersect with humility and acceptance, even though they may not be the same as yours.  Pretense of respect and honor, shrouded in hollow words are as transparent as a full moon on a cloudless night.   For honor to shine true, the respect must be real.  How do we know if it’s real? We must proceed with caution given to us by the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean acceptance, or even forgetting of transgressions. It requires truth which means letting go of that which has caused hurt, whether forgiveness was requested or not.  This becomes a decision of the will – a conscious choice made in the name of Christ – to forget as much as possible and to move on with your life. It doesn’t mean we’re not to forgive.  Forgiveness may influence our world, but we must be humble and grateful for God’s love and forgiveness of us as we forgive others while maintaining the recognition that we are not God.

Changing hearts is God’s work.

 

What If History Doesn’t Repeat Itself?

Our nation is scaring me.  Why are we fighting each other? We all want the same thing.  Our nation’s history, which is young compared to the rest of the world, should  be preserved. We must face our wrongs and be proud of how we made them right.  We became a great nation not through hatred, but through forgiveness, courage and engagement.

Forgiveness

“We forgive by preserving the symbolic reminders of the victims of the past with our ability to change and to celebrate the elimination of those wrongs as we remain united.”  — Linda Breeden, Author

On June 6, 1944 over 100,000 soldiers were killed in an invasion on French soil on Normandy Beach, known as D-Day.  Many of us have grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles and friends who served in that war, of all races and beliefs – all heroes for their sacrifice.  Many of them remain there today, buried in war cemeteries which also include the graves of over 21,000 German soldiers – the very people they were fighting.

Many American WWII veterans say today that they feel no animosity to those German soldiers, seeing them as another segment of the victims of Hitler.  German visitors to these cemeteries are reminded of the memories of their grandparent’s war record, confused and, at the same time, ashamed of their confusion.

One British veteran, David Edwards, said it had taken years to feel at peace about the Germans who were killed there, saying, “These German boys never wanted to fight us, any more than I wanted to fight them.”

Many of the European children today have been raised in a unified world and they ask,“Why did people hate each other?”  They deserve to know about the reasons that fueled a war of opposing beliefs so they don’t let history repeat itself and in the doing, achieve peace through forgiveness of a time that’s hard for generations today to comprehend because they didn’t experience it.

Courage

“For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”   — President John Kennedy

In the 1950s,  Atlanta native Ivan Allen Jr.,  the grandson of a confederate soldier, ran for governor of Georgia on a  platform of pro-segregation.  He lost the election.

In 1961, as a businessman he brought together black leaders and white businessmen to discuss ending segregation occurring at a downtown lunch counter.  The agreement was reached.  Later, when he was elected Mayor he removed the “colored” and “white” signs from City Hall, he gave black policemen the power to arrest whites, appointed the first black firemen and ordered the desegregation of city parks.

John F. Kennedy asserted in his book, Profiles In Courage, that the duty of elected officials is to “lead, inform, correct and sometimes even ignore constituent opinion” – if it serves the nation’s best interest. He called upon Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. to testify before Congress in support of the civil right legislation he wanted enacted.  Mayor Allen consulted with local civil rights leaders about agreeing to the President’s request.  They opposed his testimony saying he was, “too valuable to sacrifice”.

Putting aside his political jeopardy, Mayor Allen testified in support of the bill because he felt it was in the best interest of the country.  The media attacked, calling him “Benedict Arnold”.  A year after his testimony and eight months after President Kennedy’s assassination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.  Mayor Allen was also reelected by majorities from both the black and white voters of Atlanta.

Mayor Allen is known as a “human bridge”, his courageous actions enabling Atlanta to become “the city too busy to hate.”

Engagement

“Confrontation doesn’t change minds. Engagement does.”  Andrew Young, Civil Rights Icon and Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia

The United States of America was built by a unified resilient work ethic, a unified dedication to the pursuit of freedom and equality, and  a unified faith, hope and belief in our nation’s identity.  It is sad that the definition of any of these three are often defined today by emotional outrage of “what the other side says”.

Today, symbols seem to be fueling this outrage.  Free speech rights have become a battlefield where there is no engagement – divisions often resulting in injuries and death.  Public shaming has further divided our nation as evidenced by the reassignment of an ESPN sports announcer because of his name, Robert Lee.  Mr. Lee is a young, Asian-American man doing what he does best – sports announcing.  Outrage to ESPN’s action highlighted the lunacy that is dividing us further and breeding fear that this can happen to any one of us, regardless of our beliefs.

One of the most contentious symbols remains the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial.  In 1915 a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a sculpture of three confederate leaders to be carved on the side of the mountain.  The project had starts and stops and it took about 57 years to achieve, with the final work resuming, oddly enough, in 1964 with completion in 1972.

In a recent interview by NPR with civil rights icon and former Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, he provided the same leveling that Mayor Allen did back in the 1960s.  Mayor Young opposes the fight to tear down confederate memorials, calling them a distraction to how far our nation has come.

When asked about the Stone Mountain carving, he responded with a voice of reason based on his many sacrifices over the years, “I think it’s too costly to re-fight the Civil War.  We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together.  I would only consider addition to it – a freedom bell; because Martin Luther King, in his speech said, “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia.”

What a celebration the ringing of that bell would be as we view rather than wage war over these symbols of the mistakes of our past so we don’t repeat them.

 

 

Sources:  Time World Magazine DDay, Profiles In Courage, NPR interview with Andrew Young.

 

 

 

 

 

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