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Love Wins Every Time

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Sorry! I just don’t see how posting your political venue on Facebook along with sarcastic comments, quotes and venom is going to change the heart and mind of those who oppose your views.

Yes, you are entitled to your viewpoint on all things political, but do you have to present your case on Facebook?

If you really want to make a difference, do something that requires more than copying and pasting political propaganda and opinions you find on the internet. It’s the lazy person’s way of broadcasting politics and requires little effort.

We are a nation that has to co-exist together regardless of our political views. To verbally or physically assault others who oppose our views achieves nothing. History pretty much confirms this truth.

In a perfect world, it would be nice to believe that after the November 6 elections, all political disparity would subside. Sadly, you and I both know that won’t happen. There will be a new barrage of online verbal attacks; some on a very personal level that will sever family and friendships.

My life is surrounded by friends and family members with differing political and religious views that are contrary to mine. That’s OK. What’s not OK is for me to take an offensive enemy position in an effort to persuade them to my point of view.

For the record, there is this thing called prayer. God is the judge and jury of all mankind (at least in my religious views). Even if your views should differ, the bottom line is this:

We were created for a purpose. Hopefully, you view your purpose as someone who embraces humanity with love, understanding and compassion.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

I encourage you to practice love. It wins every time.

There is clarity when we set aside our differences. The blinders of hate, political discord and allegiances to groups that seek to divide us are lifted. Love allows us to see people who may have opposing views as a group of individuals that truly want to find a way to bring unity without twitter feeds, media hypes and Facebook / Internet propaganda.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Heavenly Father, unite our nation. Unite our people. Let us look toward the greater cause and purpose of why we exist… faith, hope and love.

Amen.

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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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Pay It Forward Linden

payitforward_linden4I am excited about the Pay It Forward Linden project and the new web site (not yet functional) named: PayItForwardLinden.com

The background noise in my head was screaming that our Linden community should be the corner stone of a Pay It Forward network across the US. It’s a radical idea, but communities, cities and our nation are in need of radical thinkers. I hope you are willing to work with me to conceptualize this trickle-down idea and find ways to make it a reality.

 What does trickle-down mean?

Students in our community will eventually attend colleges and universities in various cities and states. The goal is for students to embrace, share and apply the Pay It Forward Project principles wherever life takes them.

Be an inspiration

Why bother? I answer that question with a recent Facebook post by a Linden resident who witnessed this Pay It Forward act of kindness within our community.

Let me follow that by another act of kindness my grandson, Fischer, observed in the Alpine Shopping Plaza this summer. It made such an impression on him that He continues to speak about it to this day.

An elderly woman with a cane was trying to cross the parking lot to her car. A young man got out of his vehicle and asked the woman if she needed help to her car. My grandson’s comment, “He must be someone in our community who know Jesus, because that’s what Jesus would do.”

What’s the plan?

It’s to make a difference in our community no matter how great or small the effort; to keep us aware of the many acts of kindness we can do within our tribe of Linden residents. My blog, Devotionals for the Imperfect Person, outlines a Pay It Forward Christmas agenda I will be doing with my grandkids.

This isn’t a mission to save the world, but rather a purposed outreach to unite our community to respond to any and all in our tribe that may have a need. Back in the day, I knew just about everyone in our community. Our simple farm community has grown in more ways than I care to consider and continues to grow. To maintain the same home-time lifestyle we have always enjoyed, we need to become proactive about the direction our community is headed.

The former farm fields have become new sub-divisions. New homes, new residents bring new visions; some good, some not. The purpose of the Pay It Forward Linden project is to unite the vision for our community in extraordinary ways.

How can that happen?

The Pay It Forward project has nothing to do with our personal religious and political viewpoints. It’s about genuine love and concern for those living in our community. It’s a commitment to make acts of kindness, encouraging words, and random pay-it-forward moments part of our daily lifestyle.

It’s a combined effort to impart a profound impact within our community that makes a noticeable and lasting imprint both inside and outside our tribal boundaries.

I don’t have time to get involved!

Really!! You don’t have time to give back and get involved in the community you have chosen to live, grow a family, attend church, and enjoy Linden tribal activities, sporting events and parks. Not to mention a community in which you have invested TAX DOLLARS!

OK, I get it, but what now?

The first step is to let our community tribe know about the Pay It Forward Linden project. There are several holiday events in Linden within the next couple of months. These happenings are a perfect time to introduce and share the Pay It Forward Linden project.

STEP ONE: Purchase a 12 x 18 Pay It Forward Linden yard sign for your home or business to bring awareness to the project. The cost is $15 which includes a wire stand.

Leave a text or voice message on my cell 810-399-4842 by October 26 to order a yard sign. I will personally deliver to you by November 17 and pick up cash payment on delivery.

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2018: A Pay It Forward Christmas

1ab1d1e0550be0eb56556f6449aba62bAs the Christmas holiday season approaches, I am contemplating ways to make it a minimalist holiday season. Those on my buying list have no genuine needs. They might have wants, but that’s not the same as needs.

My grandkids are in their teens or soon to be in that age group. They lack nothing and have  a closet filled with clothes, comforts of a good home, food on the table and electronic devices up the wazoo. What they believe to be lacking in their life are expensive items like owning their own vehicle free and clear (you know, that new Jeep parked at the local dealership), prepaid car insurance until they finish college & university degrees (paid for, of course, by someone other than themselves).

It’s the wave of the current generation; the one we helped to create by giving them (our kids and grandkids) everything they desire with little regard to words like: earn, work, deserve, merit or most importantly, saying no.

This year, I have determined that the gifts on my shopping list will be genuinely gifted from the heart.

What does that mean?

I like to think of it as ‘pay it forward’ gifts. It’s not about what you receive, but what you gift to someone else. It could be buying a cup of hot cocoa for the volunteer person who rings the bell for Salvation Army donations. Maybe it’s baking cookies or a Bundt cake for local firefighters or police officers, or dropping quarters in the a laundromat washing machine to pay for someone’s next load.

The agenda

I have posted my agenda, should you want to consider a minimalist Christmas this year. Yes, I am starting early, but the initial planning takes some pre-planning because the thought process involves thinking of others before us.

My grandkids won’t receive any Christmas gifts from Neenee & Poppy unless they fulfill the (15) required ‘Pay It Forward’ items on the list below. Some items can be done jointly; others must be done solo. The agenda will start November 24 and must be completed by December 22.

  1. Deliver indoor plant to someone in a nursing home (jointly)
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the Salvation Army person ringing the bell (solo)
  3. Bake something for firefighters or police officers (jointly)
  4. Put a quarter in a gumball machine and walk away (solo)
  5. Put enough quarters in a laundromat washing machine for someone to do a load (solo)
  6. Print up some inspiring signs and post around town (jointly)
  7. Leave a card on someone’s door step that tells them you prayed for them today (anonymously). Pray over the card before leaving on doorstep. (solo)
  8. Post a sheet of random ‘Pay It Forward’ tear-off compliment’s at neighboring stores/businesses
  9. Drop off a meal to a widow. (jointly)
  10. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier. (jointly)
  11. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who visits them. Ask the local facility staff if there’s someone whose day you could brighten. (either jointly or solo)
  12. Send a handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly. (solo)
  13. Put post-it notes with positive sayings on random lockers at school. (solo)
  14. Write a 200 word letter to your parents about why you love them. (solo)
  15. Donate a much loved toy or item of clothing to someone in need within the community. (solo)

I look forward to sharing photos and comments of our Pay It Forward Christmas season.

 

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The God of Comfort

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I appreciate art because it has the ability to make us stop in the moment and give pause to what the artist is hoping to convey. Art arouses our visual awareness and powerfully evokes emotions undefined by words.

This statue by Albert György uniquely captures the feeling of emptiness that coincides with loss. Life may appear normal on the outside, but internally there is an all-consuming void. I have to believe that a great loss inspired this artist’s piece of work.

We all encounter loss and can relate to the giant hole it leaves in our innermost being. We find countless ways to preoccupy ourselves in an effort to fill that hole; but the void remains. Even God experienced loss when His son, Jesus, died on the cross.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I know, you are the God of comfort and when my whole world shattered, you have been with me every step of the way. Continue to be ever near and my constant companion when the giant hole wants to pull into the depths of darkness and despair. In those moments, draw me ever closer to you and fill that hole with the knowledge that you are only a breath away and your arms of comfort are everlasting.

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A Funny Thing Happened: Life

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Life happens in the most unusual places and the most inappropriate times. It could be in a grocery store, it might be while chaperoning your child’s school field trip, or picking up pet waste in your backyard. Life is funny that way. It doesn’t wait for you, it just happens.

Scenario One:

I decide to go fishing with my nine-year old grandson. How difficult is that? Bait a hook and cast the line off the shore line. BINGO, BANGO, BONGO something is tugging at my line. The pole bends beneath the weight of my catch and the bobber sinks into the water. The adrenaline pumps through my veins and I know I’ve got a live one.

And then life happens. I pull my line from the water only to discover I’ve caught an empty pop can that is entangled in a massive amount of lake weeds. My annoyance level grows when I realize the only wacky worm bait I own is at the bottom of the lake.

It’s in my power to make it a SH@# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Scenario Two:

It’s Saturday morning.  With a shopping list in hand and three kids in tow, I am grocery store bound. It should be a flawless outing. But then life happens. Pulling the cart into the checkout lane I realize it’s not my cart. Oops! Thank you, grandson, for assuming the cart belonged to us because you saw Fruity Pebbles and strawberry pop tarts.

I can either make it a SH!# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Yep! The odds of life going amiss are high.

When faced with life happen moments we are presented with two choices:  See the humor or get angry.

I’ve opted for the anger route more times than I care to admit and could author a book on How to Get Angry When Life Happens. Unfortunately, the last page of the book would be a repeat of the first page. Why? Because anger spawns a repeat cycle of past mistakes. Nothing is learned through anger and we end up in the same place we started.

When we allow humor to kick start a life happens moment the page turn reads differently.  Let’s backtrack to the first scenario and consider the options.

My fishing line is tangled and an aluminum can is the only catch of the day. The vile profanities perched on my tongue are but one breath away. My nine-year old grandson watches as I reel my catch onto the shore. He’s waiting to see how Neenee will react to this hot mess attached to her life happens fishing line.

“Run up to the house and bring back the biggest platter you can find,” I called out.

“Why,” he questioned.

“Stop with the questions and just go,” I said.

A few minutes later he returns with a cookie sheet. “That’s perfect buddy! Why don’t you pack up our fishing gear and head back to the house. Tell Poppy to set the table for dinner and I’ll be there shortly.”

I quickly cut the tangled fishing line from the pole and carefully arrange my catch of the day on the baking sheet and walk to the house.

“Wash your hands because dinner is almost ready.”  I walked into the kitchen and plopped the cookie sheet in the center of the table.

“No way, Neenee,” laughs my grandson. “We’re not eating that.”

“No buddy, we aren’t. The restaurant up the road is bringing us their fresh catch of the day. They felt bad that they caught all the fish in the lake today and the only thing left was aluminum cans.”

Yes, a funny thing happened: Life.

Oh how I wish I had understood in my youth that humor is the best Band-aid for so many day-to-day life happens moments.

Just for Today Prayer:

Jesus, life happens and not always as planned, but even then, those unplanned moments are purposely designed by you. It offers us an opportunity to grow in you in humorous ways we never thought possible.  Remind me that,

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.