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Saturday, February 27, 2010

HITTING AN OUTHOUSE WITH A GOLF CLUB

Something has been haunting me all week. It is a story a Christian friend of mine shared about something his young son accomplished. My friend is having a home built and his wife recently received a call that someone had seen a young black man enter the porta-pottie on their property and he had been in there for quite some time. So my friend's wife and young son drove to the construction site armed with a golf club. Smiling, my friend told about how his son walked up to the porta-pottie and with a mighty swing struck the plastic side of it as hard as he could. He said immediately there was a loud scream and within seconds a young man with painted nails who was dressed funny scrambled out fearing for his life. My friend said his son was so proud of himself and others around me laughed. I thought, "What a picture of who we as Christians have become."

We live in a world overrun with humor. We have even learned to use humor to disquise our sin. If you know me, you know that I love to laugh more than anybody. But this simply wasn't funny. Here was a young man struggling with sexual identity, perhaps homeless, certainly confused, now afraid, and thankfully he met some Christians...who had a golf club.

I am not writing to attack my friend but rather to let all the Green Frog Blog fans out there know that God spoke to me deeply through this story. He reminded me that Christians should not cherry pick who we love. He also reminded me that we should check our hearts often and compare them to His. He never wielded golf clubs, he never laughed at the wounded, he simply loved us all.

Which is more repelling, a young man who acts weird and needs counseling, or an afluent Christian who goes to church but still takes there swings. Again, this speaks to me deeply. When we meet these needy people we should remember how lucky they are that we have come along because Christ live in us....doesn't He?

We've watered down what it means to be a Christian to make it more comfortable. I'm sorry if I am being rather blunt but I needed to get this off my chest...and into my own heart. I pray that this helps us all who humbly seek God.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW


Ja Ja's was the birthplace of my dream of a touch of country with a touch of class. This endearing location offered some of the best scenery and ambiance in West Tennessee but unfortunately never offered cash flow. Although it will always hold fond memories for me and several other people, I have decided to close Ja Ja's effective 5pm February 27th. But there is some good news.

I will be opening a second location in Jackson that will offer the convienence of a drive-thru window and a 16 flavor ice cream dipping cabinet. The new location will be in the new Flash Market on Hollywood Dr right next to I-40. I am shooting to open this location by March 22nd. This will hopefully serve several commuters who travel the 412 corridor. We hope to see you there!

More good news is that I will be reducing our ice cream prices by 20%. A new contract for cream with Turner Dairy has made this possible. I wanted to pass the savings on to you. We will also be reducing our tasty grilled cheese sandwich by 25%. Another price cut will be our new daily dollar menu which will feature one of many of your favorite items for only a dollar when you buy a large drink. These are savings up to 33%. We will also be adding Mississippi Mud Cake (Fly Pie) and Apple Pie A-la-Mode to the menu. So more selections and better bargains at Green Frog Coffee Co.

Don't forget we still offer our portable coffee bar for larger events. You will get to see our coffee bar in action at the Jackson Farmer's Market every Saturday morning from May 1st- August 31st. We hope you stop by and see us at our coffee bar, in our downtown store, at our Hollywood Drive location, or in Dyersburg across from Lowe's next to El-Patio. Green Frog Fans keep us in business. We are thankful for you and will continue to try to meet your needs and expectations. Star who? The buck stops here! Maggie who? The ice cream starts here!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

THE LESSON OF A SNOWMAN


Love, like water, comes to us in many forms. Romance erupts like a thunderstorm from the clouds, piercing our hearts with its thunder. Friendship gathers like daily dew in the morning quenching our thirst in small ways. And the love of God falls like snow in silent beauty covering our crimson wounds with His forgiveness. In this strange life love is often enhanced by harsh, cold realities. Against the background of winter love comes to us in the darkest hour, into the coldest heart, revealing God's undeniable beauty.

My love of winter runs deep and wide. As most children, I cherished snow days, bowls of warm chili, and cups of steaming hot chocolate. Yet I was prematurely aware that winter was more than a pause, it was God's season of rest-for all of us. With longer nights forcing us to retire from days of farm work earlier after harvest had past we found time for each other. And as if we were being pleasantly punished, the occasional ice storm marched us to family conversations huddled around the pale but perfect light of a fireplace. And the smell of smoke, the smell of pine, and the smell of nutmeg made us pause from the distractions of busy daily life to acknowledge the brilliant plan of discipline by our Creator. God wants us to rest and will use force to make it happen.

Our abundance of snow this winter inspired my inner child to gather a few friends, take a break from the coffee shop, and try to break my personal record of a twelve foot snowman. So one sunny, but cold, afternoon five of us spent four hours rolling snowballs in less than perfect conditions. We actually had to use a flower watering can to moisten the snow so it would stick. Eventually we managed to create our own personal tower of Babel complete with a fifty-five gallon trash can for a hat. Any higher and it would have caused a plane crash.

The next day our giant dirty snowman became an instant celebrity with several people stopping by to pose for a photograph beside the behemoth. One young man submitted his photo with our snowman to a Memphis television station and took credit for our giant piece of ice. The young people who helped me build the snowman were very upset that someone else had stolen their claim to fame. It was a beautiful life lesson that people take credit for stuff that isn't theirs all the time. Al Gore created the Internet. All pie is mine.

The second life lesson followed just four days later when under the cover of darkness someone came and knocked our snowman into the road. I knew it was almost guaranteed to happen. Teenagers cannot resist the challenge of tipping over a monument that would naturally disappear on its own. Cow tipping is a myth. Snowman tipping is real. The lesson here is a very important one: snowmen and pyramids disappear, but love last forever.

We seek to define ourselves by our accomplishments and wrap our lives around the lie that people will cherish the things we leave behind. There is nothing we can build that will last. It will all melt or be buried by the sands of time. What does remain is the love we share along the way. Love endures every season and comes to us in many ways. Love never ceases.

I pray that we all pause while nights are still long and the air is still cold to rest in the fact that we are loved by God. I seriously doubt if our snowmen or our pyramids have ever impressed God. I seriously doubt if God can be impressed. But He can love and be loved. And so can we. You can spend your whole life building snowmen to have someone knock them over or watch them melt. Never fall in love with a snowman, fall in love with the people who help you build it, and a God who provides the snow, the sun that melts it, and the storm that makes it fall again. And remember, yellow snow is dangerous but reminds us we are not alone. Love never ceases.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PARENTS AND PEARLS

"Did I ever tell you about the oysters? Oysters? I didn't tell you bout the oysters? Think about all the millions of oysters lying around on the bottom of the ocean. Then one day, God comes along and he says, "I think I'm gonna make that one different," and you know what he does? He puts a little piece of sand in it. And guess what it can do that the others can't. What? It can make a beautiful pearl." …from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes

Slavery didn’t end with the Civil War: we all have parents. I’m not suggesting that all parent’s view kids as property but a few have the idea that for a kid to make it in the world today their capacity for work must be tested.


Whereas most kids began boot camp with the simple task of keeping their room clean, my training began deep in a small jungle called a garden. Within this two thousand square foot torture chamber we grew our groceries.


The boot camp was rarely fenced, save a rare electric wire during the years when rabbits were plentiful. To simply keep me at the task of pulling weeds my mother, with switch in hand, sternly warned me that there would be no mercy if the job were not complete by high noon. Our reward was to shuck corn and shell purple hull peas in the shade. I was spoiled.


At times, when morale in the camp was low, my mother would load my two sisters and I into our green car where our bare legs would burn on hot vinyl seats while we drove two miles down the road to Manley’s store. She would give each of us a quarter and let us stick our head in the cooler to look for the coldest RC soda we could find. We’d grab a Chick-A-Stick or a Zero Bar and zip back home to mass production.


Even while trying to catch an episode of Love Boat on a Saturday night, a bowl of green beans to be snapped was placed in my lap to help me relax. I really liked television but my fingers were always too sore to applaud any genius in script writing. I was basically held hostage by vegetables.


I favored watermelon. This king of the garden required very little care and just one of these giants equaled all the blackberries I could pick in a lifetime. There was also some sinful satisfaction in the fact I got to take the biggest knife in the kitchen and sink it into its pink flesh. This green giant was my therapy for a childhood of imprisonment.


It should be no surprise I picked my nose as a kid because I was trained to pick: pick strawberries, pick tomatoes, pick cucumbers, pick apples, pick blackberries, pick okra, and pick ticks off my flesh. I was a picker and proud of it.


But in spite of all the sunburns, all the sore fingernails, all the blood lost to ticks, I found something growing in that garden I did not expect to find… a respect for my owners (parents).


James would come home after ten hours of hard labor and pull an antique garden tiller out of the shed that would never start. After a few pokes with a screwdriver and a can of starting fluid, it would crackle to life, breathing smoke like a dragon. Tilling a garden is like trying to make an alligator eat your grass in straight rows while holding its tail without getting bitten. It requires forearms like Popeye and determination like Wiley Coyote. With the July sun beating down on his sweating forehead, my father did something he didn’t love to do, fighting and struggling with the machine each and every step. Like a knight he went into the cave, but rather than slay the dragon, he trained it. This important summer lesson taught me to fight, even when you don’t feel like it, because other people are usually counting on you to bring home the bacon, or at least the tomatoes and lettuce to go with it.


A few minutes later we’d all sit down and have a five- course meal. Beverly’s commitment to vegetables was unmatched. She would plant them, water them, pick them, shuck them, cook them, cut them, bag them, freeze them, un-thaw them, and cook them again. I once heard in the battle between the rock and stream, the stream always wins, not by strength but by persistence. My mother was a stream, at times water torture, who taught me if you finish what you start you won’t go hungry.


In a way parents are like a piece of sand in our life’s shell, an annoying intrusion that in retrospect is the most beautiful thing that ever happens to us. Through discipline and tough love they prepare us for the art of being faithful in long-term relationships. They teach us the thorn is part of the rose and the race is part of the victory. Our parents, like God, teach us sometimes loving someone involves bleeding on their behalf… sometimes even when they’re the ones causing us the injury.


My parents were patient; my parents were forgiving; and my parents were hell bent on making sure I didn’t go there. Their plan was simple: put Timmy in the garden and make him eat his vegetables and pray, pray that he understands that for anything in life to taste good you not only have to understand where it comes from but also what it cost to get it on your plate. And hopefully he’ll understand that bad taste in his mouth, that sand of tough love, is producing something in him that will be regarded by those who love him later in life as sacred.



Because You Loved Me: by Celine Dion


You're the one who held me up, never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through it all
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BYE BYE BUGS AND HELLO CHANGES FOR GREEN FROG

We have a long, cold, hard, and wonderful winter on out hands…Green Frog is happy. Cold weather does two great things in my life: increases coffee sales and kills ladybugs. Although I believe ladybugs are beautiful, I never fell in love with the idea of them getting in bed with me this Fall. Thousands of "the girls" took over my house and continually kept my vacuum cleaner busy. So during this recent cold snap I held vigil by the thermometer watching the mercury slowly dip ridding my antebellum home of "the girls". A few have proven tough as nails like my mother and in spite of single digit temperatures continue to try to fly to freedom through a quarter inch thick piece of glass. But don’t call them stupid, we as human have a tendency to repeatedly try to do things we know won’t work as well: like opening something and trying to make it fit back into the box it came out of- impossible people!

The cold snap has helped business at Green Frog Coffee. People have been filing in to grab a hot bowl of our delicious home made chicken stew and hot sweet and spicy chili. People are amazed at the fact that you can actually find huge chunks of chicken and beef in their bowl. Because we make it by hand, we can ensure you get your money’s worth. And we guarantee it won’t taste anything like a can.


People are also finding comfort in holding any one of our several custom coffee drinks in their hand. By far the most popular is the Dirty Snowman, a mixture of premium white chocolate, toffee nut, espresso and steamed milk. When I was creating this drink I started by trying to come up with something that reminded me of snow cream from my childhood and then added a shot of espresso to it, thus the Dirty Snowman.


We had a recent dilemma with a white chocolate shipment that got lost in Chicago and we had to deal with two days of not being able to make some of our drinks. Ultimately we solved the problem our self by driving to Chicago in the middle of a snowstorm and picking it up to bring it back home. Our customers mean so much to us that we are willing to go to any length (and distance) to make them happy. My dad always taught me there is a hundred ways to fix something so there is no excuse for it to be broke.


There has also been some confusion over whether or not Ja Ja’s is staying open. Sales really struggle here in the winter months but we are not closing the birthplace of Green Frog Coffee Co. It is simply the coziest, cutest place in America and we know it is just a matter of time until everyone discovers the hidden oasis in Crockett County on Hwy 412. A story about Ja Ja’s and Green Frog Village is airing on Tennessee Crossroads on January 14th and 17th. Check it out!


I am excited to tell you about a few changes coming up at Green Frog. First, we will be adding a new flavored bean to the shelf for brewing your own perfect cup. The Dirty Snowman flavored coffee beans will make their debut in February... and this is this most exciting news since Neil Armstrong stepped on the round piece of butter up in the night sky. We will also be adding a daily dollar menu in February for side items for your large drinks. When you order a large drink, you can get certain items on certain days for a dollar. The special dollar items/days will be- muffin Monday, toasty Tuesday(bagel), warm Wednesday (giant cookie), tadpole Thursday (ice cream), frappe Friday ($1 off large), sausage roll Saturday, and secret Sunday (you'll have to come to find out). We will also be adding cherry danish to the menu as well as Mississippi mud cake. Also, don't forget with our new travel mugs you get 10% off any large hot drink. I think you're going to love the changes.


We are also revamping our website to add a Frogcast (weather feature), update the photos, add information about our catering service, and get our online store working. We should have our Green Frog gift boxes ready by Valentine's Day to ship anywhere in the world. We are excited about the opportunity of Internet sales. We have already shipped T-Shirts to Europe.


Again, we want to facilitate community with our stores. So bring the family, bring friends, or even bring a bible and sit by a fireplace, surf the web, or just stare out the window and consider the wonder of life. We hope you continue to visit our FrogBlog and keep in touch with this miracle in progress. You are a critical part of the story, and it is far from finished.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

IF YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH A FIRE YOU'RE GOING TO SMELL LIKE SMOKE



Let me begin by telling you our first drink served in 2010 was a Dirty Snowman on Saturday morning at 6:01am. I'm proud of that. I also continue to be very proud of that fact that we drove to Chicago to make that happen. A friend of mine in Louisiana tweeted that her favorite coffee shop ran out of white chocolate yesterday. I told her they could get some in Chicago, and they could get a Dirty Snowman at Green Frog on the way up :)

I will also tell you this past year has been a great teacher. It has taught me many new things about life, with the greatest lesson coming as the year closed. I learned if you've been through a fire you're going to smell like smoke. Learn to give others and yourself grace: if you've been through a fire you're going to smell like smoke.

I remember my favorite childhood memory of the smell of smoke wafting out of our chimney on cold winter mornings at 632 Campbell Lane. While standing outside bundled up and waiting on the bus, the wood smoke smelled like God had lit a big candle and mixed it with fall leaves and pine tar. I also recall getting off the bus in the frigid evening and being welcomed by the signs of life and warmth puffing out of our housetop. It's a memory I evidently share with others because some guy tried to put the smell of wood smoke in a bottle of cologne and called it Fahrenheit. Although I really enjoyed the scent, the girls didn't seem to crave it and thus I deemed it worthless at the age of seventeen. I think they should make a new perfume for women called, "Bacon: put a little sizzle in your love life." I wouldn't let my girl wear it because it would draw more men than a Waffle House. Never put nice rims on a car unless you want it to get stolen.

Another fond memory of smoke is of nights spent around a campfire swapping stories with friends while the white trails of smokey ghosts burned our eyes. We found out the hard way that tiny cans of colored Halloween hairspray tossed into a fire are like hand grenades. We made three sleeping bags, a tent, and our clothes look like Swiss cheese with the flying hot embers. At the time we didn't necessarily understand the monetary loss but instead choose to just say, "Wow! Cool!" Upon returning home everything I had wreaked of smoke. Even after a good shower the smell was still there. I walked around for about three days smelling like a smoked ham, and it was rather pleasant.

There were others forms of smoke in my childhood. The stove popcorn fire of 1981, the broiler hamburger fire of 1979, and the numerous nights of burning trash outside in our rusty metal barrel. But I learned the smoke that stings the eyes the most comes from the fire that burns not wood or food but rather the fire that burns heart.

Just yesterday morning with the temperature hovering around ten degrees a mother with two small children and a baby came in the coffee shop in distress. They had been walking outside for several minutes because their car had broken down. The baby was purple and the two very small girls eyes were watering and they were severely shaking. I could tell they were scared. The mother ask to borrow my phone to call somebody. I tried to comfort the little girls and gave them some free hot chocolates. Diane gave them a muffin and eventually they thawed. I was so upset when I saw them I had to go to the back to dry my own eyes. I could tell the mother was struggling with what was happening in her life: cell phone not working, car not working, three kids to feed, desperation, fear. Life had piled up on her, and the fire was burning.

The fire has been burning for me too. I actually decided to close Ja Ja's after several months of weak sales three days ago, but after trimming the fat, decided to keep it open five days a week. I love Ja Ja's but it has been a challenge as the Recession took its toll. The new hours will be from 10am-5pm Tues- Sat. We will have one employee there, so please give her grace.

I also have a very dear friend who is going through a very difficult time in her life. My relationship with her has made me search for ways to comfort her. She grows impatient with her progress through her problems at times, sometimes moving too fast, sometimes moving too slow. I've tried to calm her frustration by reminding her that she has been through a fire and she is going to smell like smoke. The biggest surprise was I found even myself getting frustrated with her slow response to my advice, which is when I realized I needed to listen to it as much as she did.

When we love someone we often have unrealistic expectations of recovery. We believe someone who has been in an emotional car wreck should have a smile on their face even if their jaw has stitches. We believe that kids who have been reared in an environment absent of authority should instantly grasp respect and discipline. We believe that if we give the wounded a little medicine we solve all their problems when actually we are just clearing up a few symptoms of the cancer. Life has a way of inflicting serious, painful "burns" that take years of care to overcome. We forget that wounded people smelling like smoke for a long period of time is normal. We forget they have been through a fire when the flames are no longer visible. I forget to give people grace. I need it. You need it. We all need it. Grace is not only loving people who smell like smoke, it is loving people who are still on fire, even if we get burned. If you deeply love people who are hurting, you will get some ashes on you and suffer a few burns yourself in the process. Love can be dirty and dangerous.

I think we tend to get frustrated with wounded people struggling to change because we are still deeply wounded ourselves. Seeing results makes us feel good about our investment, reaffirms we know how to make good choices. Making the investment should make us feel good about the investment. Love is like hiding a hundred dollar bill in a random box of cereal and believing someone will find it, and believing it will make a difference when they do. Love is a seed. Our awareness of our own frailty equips us to properly care for and plant that seed. A good farmer is always humble. He never looks at his crops and says, "Look what I did." The good farmer falls on his knees and says, "Thank you."

Humility is a common denominator of all great acts of love. Even the Son of God humbled himself into the likeness of a man. The minute we believe we are fireproof is the minute we start burning. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never believed they were fireproof. They understood God may or may not choose to save them. There faith in God's ability to save them enabled God's power to protect him. And when you read the story (Daniel 3) we find the fourth person in fire with them. Wow! Cool! And guess what else? They didn't smell like smoke. Why? Because God not only can get us through the fire, He can clean us back up as well.

I love the smell of smoke, wood that is, any other smoke is alarming to me, often because it comes from my own fires of the flesh. I find myself going to God more often for a cleaning. I pray I find myself enduring more often within His protective presence. I want my life to also be a testimony to the fact that "no other God saves."

P.S. The photo I attached is of a friend of mine's business that unfortunately burned over the holidays. The irony in the photo is the bay window. Look close and you will see a snowman survived the fire. God can get you through it too. No other God saves.

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