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Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF THE DIRTY SNOWMAN

On Monday Dec 14th, five hundred miles away from Green Frog Coffee Co, a storm was brewing in Chicago. It would be a storm that would later be referred to as the Dirty Snowman Disaster of 2009. It would eventually affect the lives of hundreds of devoted white mocha, Dirty Snowman, and Frostie fans, bringing these celebrated addicts to the brink of insanity. No one saw it coming, until it had everybody by the throat.

Early that morning in West Tennessee everything appeared normal and festive at all three Green Frog locations. Jackson had a great early crowd going crazy for the homemade quiche, Ja Ja's had customers huddled around the space heater drinking hot chocolate, and Java Cafe was constantly pushing delicious hot drinks out of their drive thru window. Customers were happy, employees were busy, and managers were confident. It was the calm before the storm.

By Monday night the store managers had all placed their orders with vendors in preparation for the busiest week of the year at Green Frog Coffee Co. Everything was in place for timely arrivals and a smooth holiday weekend. However, while they were sleeping Monday night, a pallet of white chocolate set stranded on a lonely dock in Chicago, IL as the nightmare came to life.

The white chocolate, supposedly in transit, set unnoticed for three days before a inquiry alerted the shipping company it was not on its way to Dyersburg. All three stores were running low on white chocolate and quickly a plan was in place to avert disaster. But little did Timm realize you never throw a pass to someone who just dropped the ball.

The new plan was a next day air shipment from Dallas, but again someone in shipping coded the order regular ground and instead of flying out of Dallas, it crawled out on a brown truck. The discovery of the mistake led Timm to assume his suppressed personality of "Hammer" when dealing with the shipping company. The two hour conversation led to another new plan for next day air saturday shipping to all three locations, but Timm's confidence was low.

Having dealt with dissappointed white chocolate customers all day on Friday, Timm devised his own radical plan: have someone drive to Chicago and get the chocolate themselves. So at 6:30pm Shawn Smith, a trained barista, and Adam Ozment, a renowned navigator, left Dyersburg in a white 2004 Nissan Truck headed for a 2am dock pickup in Chicago. They bravely drove into the face of the storm, literally.

Loaded with energy drinks, a double cheeseburger, and peanuts they made the five hundred mile trek into a dangerous snow storm but still arrived on time to load their precious cargo of white chocolate just before the trucking company closed for the weekend. They then proceeded to cautiously drive back home on an icy interstate impeded by traffic jams enhanced by the poor driving conditions. After a total of sixteen hours of driving through the night they arrived at Java Cafe at 11am Saturday morning.

After a thirty-six hour period of no white mocha, the first white mocha was served at 11:02am and the first Dirty Snowman was served at 11:06. Meanwhile in Jackson an earlier next day air shipment had arrived where the first Dirty Snowman was served at 9:02. These times are critical in history, the equivalent of when man stepped on the moon, when the Berlin wall fell, and when the first Krispy Kreme rolled out of the glaze. We will always remember this hard yet rewarding period of our story. And yes, we have learned some lessons, and here they are:

1. Don't get people addicted to Dirty Snowmen and run out of white chocolate.
2. Drive to Chicago as soon as you find out there has been a mistake.
3. When you have to tell someone you are out of white chocolate it feels like you are telling them you ran over their cat, twice.
4. College kids are dependable, more so than a big company.
5. It doesn't matter whose fault it is. When you own a business its your responsibility.
6. 36 hours without a white mocha is considered detox.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

IS GOD IN A COMA?

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prohets at many times and in various ways, but in these lst days he has spoken to us by his Son..." Hebrews 1:1-2

Our story starts out in dramatic fashion with God intimately connected to man, his voice booming from heaven. He appears in burning bushes, pillars of fire, and flames from heaven. He is active leading his people, saving his people, and blessing his people. Then over the course of time, after ruling through kings, his voice begins to fade into the prophets and eventually becomes silent. For four hundred years there was nothing from heaven. God must have been up to something?

I have been thinking about how my life has felt the same way. When I first became a Christian I felt like taking a bullet for God and felt he would do the same for me (actually he did). I anticipated it would always feel this way, that me and God would enjoy inseparable fellowship. I thought I would grow closer and closer to God until eventually a chariot swept me away like Elijah, but as I moved through life I felt my intimacy with God fade. It was in large due to my inability to continually grasp the grace of God, leading to a burden of sin that had been forgiven by God but not forgotten by me. And then these past few years I must admit there has been an overwhelming sense of silence, a deafening void of direction, or as I have recently learned, a dramatic pause.

I am sure the Jews under Roman rule were also wondering why God the father had stopped speaking. I am sure Joseph and Mary were quite surprised to find out that rather than screaming from heaven God planned to break the silence with a whisper through a child. The plan was genius: approach man through a man, and maybe he will listen. God had tried everything up until this point to capture the heart of man, and in a deep breath lasting four hundred years he gathers his strength, and then through his Son he speaks the truth...god dwelling in man, intimacy redefined. And he paints us a picture of this intimacy by putting a child, his own son, inside a woman.

The silence in my own life has been filled with me doubting myself more than God. I sometimes doubt I have what it takes to follow God, to be a faithful soldier of the cross. Rather than enjoying my childhood status before God, I get confused and shy away from God because of my bad behavior. Yet as I understand it, when I became a Christian God began dwelling in me by his spirit, God planted himself in me. And the Christmas story reminds me that my scary God is actually a very intimate lover who is very "tender and mild." Even the angel said, "Fear not!" God wants to embrace his children.

Something happened to me two weeks ago that took me by surprise. Without saying too much, let me just say, God put someone in my life. I've been praying for someone for years and too be honest, got tired of asking. I'd almost given up on the idea of living my life with someone and was getting comfortable with the idea of never sharing a closet. But two weeks ago God revealed something to me that utterly dumbfounded my sense of his capacity to reveal his love to me. When i thought he wasn't listening, he was preparing not only my heart but someone else's too.

The four hundred years between Malachi and Matthew "appeared" to be a great period of silence but the scriptures reveal that it was quite possibly a period of great activity, it even hints that the angel that came to Mary might very well have encountered resistance. And even if the message was easily delivered, the preparation of that message took a considerable amount of rearranging by God. He had to take time to shift political power to the Romans and remove himself (the church) from political power. God wanted to arrive incognito, under the radar, not to escape scrutiny, but rather to escape preconceived misconceptions of who He is. He entered our world at a time where he was unlikely to be worshipped thus protecting him from the curse of celebrity as he quietly built a reputation of godliness and compassion. With the church no longer in power Jesus then went about demonstrating a different kind of power defined by love, servanthood, and humility. The stage was set perfectly for his introduction, his ministry, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. God may have been silent, but he wasn't in coma.

Christmas reminds me that God's way are not my ways, that He is always active although sometimes quietly, and that He always keeps his promises. Perhaps you too have felt the silence of God. Remember just like a great dinner takes time, a great plan takes preparation. I pray that in this time of waiting you will look to the east and follow the star to the truth: God is in you. I pray that you will approach the story of the birth of Jesus with a new awe and understanding but even more that you would approach God with the knowledge that He is near and approachable. God's craves intimacy even more than we do. He devised a plan to literally hug us and then jump into us. Never make the mistake that God is not actively loving you. He may be silent, but He is definitely not in a coma. Merry Christmas from Green Frog Coffee Co.!

Friday, December 4, 2009

SHE HAD A HOLE IN HER THROAT BUT NOT IN HER HEART

Two days ago I received the news that my dear friend Tara Stover had gone home to be with our Savior. Tara often referred to herself as "Trach girl." Her bought with spinal cancer at a very young age and other complications led to her having a permanent tracheotomy and stunted growth. She was required to carry an oxygen bag with her wherever she went. But she didn't stay at home.

I met Tara when she volunteered her time to work with Young Life in Dyersburg while I was on staff. I had no idea how strong she was. Her body was fragile but her heart was resilient. I have never been more honored than when I discovered she had requested that I speak at her funeral. I wanted to share with all of you who are following me how much Tara meant to me by sharing her eulogy. Tara is mentioned in my first book, Chainsaw Preacher, on page 128.


I am honored to have been asked by Tara to speak today. More honored than if this were the funeral of Mother Teresa, to me Tara was a true saint.

I underestimated Tara the first time I met her. We all underestimated Tara. Tara was like a little brave King David with a slingshot: size didn’t matter. If you knew Tara you knew she was feisty, determined, and set apart by God for something special. Her Goliath was never her illness, it was pity itself, she hated pity, and she slew it with her inner strength.

We are here today because this little girl with a huge heart impacted our lives, this tiny, beautiful girl with a hole in her throat, impacted hundreds of people. There are exceptions to every rule, Tara taught us that. The rules say a girl with a trach doesn’t love like this. Look around this room: Tara broke the rules.

Today we celebrate her life. Tara always planned on living. She went to college, got her master’s degree, and even a full time job. She even got her own place. I remember four years ago she wanted to have a pool party, the girl who couldn’t swim wanted to have a pool party. It was a great party even though almost nobody swam. Tara just wanted to be normal, but she wasn’t normal. She was better than normal. Better than most of us.

The girl who could have easily lived her life like a charity case did exactly the opposite, she volunteered to work at charities. She used what little strength she had to help those around her. She volunteered her time to make videos and to take pictures, and she was good at it. She enjoyed seeing people happy, and that was the mark of God in her life. Tara walked in faith, living life, never grieving her disability, she just wanted to live, and she would want us to live too.

Thoreau said he did not want to come to the end of his life and discover he had not lived. Tara lived, and she will continue to live through us.

Because of Tara, we have no excuse for not loving others. If a four foot eight girl who weighed eighty pounds and drug around an oxygen tank can make this big of difference, what can we, abled-body people, do.

Jesus said come to me and I will give you life. Tara got her wish Wednesday morning when she floated into the arms of Jesus: she got life. She is still living life, still making plans, and I can see her up there, smiling shaking her little finger saying, " if I can do it you can do it."

If all of us here did a tenth of what she did for others the world would be a hundred times better. She changed my life. I am fairly sure she changed yours. The only question is whose life are we going to change. Laugh, love, and live in honor and memory of Tara Stover. Big things come in small packages. Amen

Thursday, December 3, 2009

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

………from the movie Shawshank Redemption


I grew up with a lot of sweet sounds in my life: bacon frying, window units, Paul Harvey, crop dusters, fireworks, school bells, oven timers, power tools, attic fans, and country music.


Today the multi-talented, naturally beautiful, and totally transparent Taylor Swift rules the radio and directs the dreams of young men (I have both her Cds), but in 1980 it was a woman named Dolly.


Dolly Parton grew up in a dirt-poor town called Locust Ridge nestled in the hills of the Smokey Mountains. She was one of twelve siblings who lived in a rustic one-room cabin. She met her husband, Carl, at the Wishy Washy in downtown Nashville at the age of twenty while pursuing her music career. His first words to her were, “You’re going to get sunburned out there little lady.” My first words to Taylor Swift would be, “If I was twenty years younger, you wouldn’t be single.”


The first song I remember hearing Dolly sing on the radio was I Will Always Love You.” I heard it on a portable transistor radio swinging as high as possible with a grape Popsicle dripping down my bare chest. I don’t recall exactly what had upset me, but I was feeling lonely. I was trying to fight back the tears but ended up letting them go, making sure my sisters didn’t see me turning into a puddle. It was as if God put on a blonde wig and sang me a song. That song was like a tender kiss, and thus my love affair with country music was underway.


My favorite childhood memories come with a soundtrack of country music, a soundtrack created via am radio, occasional vinyl 45s, and low quality speakers. But in the spite of the fact it flew to me on broken wings, it was always strong enough to lift my spirits. Eddie Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” has never sounded better than it did while riding in a green Dodge pickup truck with a chainsaw under my feet on the way to cut firewood with my father on a Fall Saturday morning. I miss hearing Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn” crackling through an antique radio on hot, humid summer nights while lying on my back watching fireflies with the smell of strawberries still on my lips. And I still dream of those magical spring campfires where Jimmy Dean’s story of “Big Bad John” came to life on a portable hand held transistor radio when the smoke gave me an excuse to cry. Even though I now listen to all of these songs in high quality on my I-phone, I wish I could push a distort, crackle button to make it sound like they were singing in a cereal box again.


What I loved then is what I love now: the story telling of country music. A good song is like a mini movie for those of us with attention deficit. Depending on when and where I first heard a song, determined how it changed my life.


Inspired by the song “Convoy” there was a time in my life when I wanted to be a truck driver hauling logs and hogs, running from “bears” and “smokies.” Thanks to the song “Patches” I believed I too would lose my father to fever, take over the farm, but stay in school because it was “Daddy’s strictest rule.” The Coward of the County” got me ready to fight for my girl even if my dad was giving me bad advice from prison. And “Teddy Bear” inspired me to search on my hand me down CB for crippled, fatherless children who needed money and a ride in a truck. I lived my life under the influence, not of drugs or alcohol, but the influence of good music.


Country music taught me about love. “The Rose” taught me love is a river and razor, a hunger and a need, a dance and a dream, and a flower and seed. Ring of Fire” taught me love is a burning thing that makes a fiery ring, and eventually I would fall into this fire, and the flames would go higher and higher. “The End of the World” taught me when I fell under it’s spell, the world would go right on turning, even though my heart was burning. And “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World” taught me love comes and goes like the wind and all good things must end, but just to see her smile would make it worth my while.


It would be years later in college before I went to my first country music concert. My college friend Bill dragged me to a post prime John Conlee show at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. John showed up about three hours late, which gave the three hundred people waiting nothing to do but drink. One of these three hundred people decided it would be fun to roll down three sections of concrete stairs and had to be carried out in an ambulance (the guy almost made me spill my hot chocolate). Once the concert started I sat and watched about ten forty year old women climb an eight-foot chain link fence to get to a pair of rose- colored glasses John was wearing. He sat there and sang the whole song watching them trying to get to the top. It reminded me a lot of Saturday morning wrestling.


Every music genre has it’s own unique set of fans. But country music has children, and I was one of them. Like a mother it sang me to sleep; taught me about love; and mended my wounds. Like a father it showed me how to do things; pushed me to try hard; and made me believe in myself. And like a grandfather it helped me laugh, inspired me to dream; and, when it was time, showed me the healing power of tears.


I have come to believe all of our lives are set to music, and sometimes, when we are lucky, we hear it; and sometimes yet, when we are blessed, we get to share these songs with the world. Once we hear it, we are ready to love ourselves. Once we are ready to share it, we are ready to love others.

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