Saturday, June 28, 2014

People in the Loop: Bert and Oreo

Come on, be honest. If you were strolling down the sidewalk in Historic Downtown Canton and you saw a little dog quietly sitting in a bicycle basket you'd take more than a second look. You'd take a picture, too, just like I did.

Of course, I couldn't stop there, I had to move in for a closer look and prove this was a real dog in a bike basket and the bike was leaning against a wall! So I took a close up photo. 

If you keep reading you'll see I took several photos while I was laughing in amazement. The cute little dog posed for my photo shoot instead of barking at me or jumping out of the basket! 

After taking several pictures of this phenomenon I turned around and walked to my car parked two storefronts away. I kept thinking "Where is the owner and how is this possible? There is a story here, I know it."

The dog in the bike basket was gently and securely parked next to a huge ceramic painted pig! Yep. And it makes sense because this is the front of The Painted Pig Tavern. It's one of several popular eateries flourishing in the loop! And as you can see this establishment offers more than food. Entertainment is on the menu, too.

After several photos I turned to walk to my car again, and when I glanced back I saw a tall gray-haired gentleman giving the dog a cup of ice water. Ah-hah! The owner!

I couldn't seem to stay in my car. I had to ask! I walked back to speak to him.

Folks, this is Bert Danforth who was kind enough to let me take his picture and even share a little of the story in front of me. Bert is single and has lived in the Canton area for 30 years. His dog, Oreo, is two years old. Bert is the cleaning manager at The Painted Pig Tavern. This day he stopped in to pick up his paycheck knowing Oreo would be completely safe where he left him.

I told him I was very curious how Oreo is able to stay in the basket...and also be content sitting there. He replied, "I put him in the basket one day and when we got to the convenience store I  said, 'stay' and he's been staying ever since. He'll wait all day if I let him."

Bert's been working at The Painted Pig Tavern for four months and enjoys his work there. His favorite item on the menu is the fish tacos. 

I asked him if Oreo goes to work with him every day and he shook his head as if to say "no." . He picked Oreo up out of the basket and put him down on the sidewalk before we sat at the nearby outdoor seating area, to talk.

Bert said,  "I get up at 5:55 AM and get ready for work, take him out to do his business and then I get on my bike and ride to work." Then Bert reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a wrapped red and white striped peppermint. "And his favorite food is peppermint," he added. When he was unwrapping the candy Oreo became very attentive.Oreo was riveted to Bert's hands.  Bert fed him a peppermint twice while I tried to take a photo of him feeding Oreo. The little pooch snatched and swallowed that candy faster than I could take a snapshot of it! Hilarious.

Bert told me Oreo isn't the only one who loves to eat peppermints, too, but he can't eat them around Oreo anymore. He explained why, "I'll put a peppermint in my mouth while I'm riding my bike and Oreo reaches up on my chest to snatch it out of my mouth. I have to stop my bike."

I asked Bert what he thinks of Historic Downtown Canton. "I like small town life. I"m glad they're fixing it [loop] and keeping it up and at the same time they're still keeping it small. I like it."

The next time you're in the Canton loop, maybe you'll meet Bert and Oreo and it  will bless your day, too.

These are things that really matter, folks:  People. Kindness. Community. Loving our neighbors. Doing what's right and good. Shining the light.

Psalm 34:3
Building community for the glory of God

Photos Copyright 2014  by Polly Balint 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Estee Lauder and Egg Salad

Early this morning during my walk/sprint/prayer workout -- whatever it is --  I caught a glimpse of the 10th fairway in our Woodmont neighborhood. There was just enough sunlight piercing the grey clouds to make the dew glisten on the manicured grass.

The steep slope of the fairway and the early morning dew still soaking the grass was reminiscent of something I hadn't thought about in a long time. I was taken back to the time when my mom, Mary Brown, started a junior golf program in our hometown of Corry, PA.

Woodmont Golf & Country Club fairway #10. 

Oh, it was a very sweet memory that popped in my head when I looked down the hilly fairway this morning. Memories were growing and I recalled details:  As young children we'd play very early each Tuesday and the grass was always as dewy when we started as it was on the 10th fairway this morning! 

Corry Country Club, Corry, PA. 1961.
My sister Julie Brown is in the front, center of the photo (white socks, sailor hat). Today Julie is a gifted  LPGA teacher.

 We lived on a farm in PA, and I can still remember Mom getting all five of us sleepy heads and our little sets of golf clubs into the station wagon to head to the club. We had to get there earlier than everyone else because Mom ran the program each week and she had to set everything up. 

But  first Mom had to load the car with clubs and kids and then everything she needed to run the playful competition. When she had us set in the car she'd dash back into the house for last minute prep of our lunch. We were glad to wait for Mom because we were half asleep and she was full of energy, doing what she loved to do!

Mom would take an entire loaf of bread out of its bag, spread the slices with the egg salad she made the night before and then carefully stack the sandwiches back into the bread bags and seal it with a twist tie. She usually made an additional bag of sandwiches such as bologna or peanut butter.
When Mom got in the car with the bags of sandwiches so did the scent of her favorite perfume: Estee Lauder. Yep.  And off we went to the club to play some golf!

Mom was was a fun-loving, competitive 2-handicap player and absolutely loved to play golf. She was passionate all of her life about life, loving people and about about helping young people enjoy golf as much as she did. She began hosting her first junior golf program with her own five children -- 3 boys, 2 girls --  in 1959 and enthusiastically gave of her time, talent and love to young golfers all over the town of Corry. She was very successful. 
Some of the 'big kids' of Mary Brown's Junior Golf Program at Corry Country Club, Corry, PA (1961).  My big brothers pictured far left, first in each row, Bill Brown, top row, Jeff Brown bottom row.

Mom was so helpful and encouraging to golfing families over the years that kids and parents wanted to pin a professional tag on her until she told them she wouldn't take money for golf lessons. She wanted to keep her keep her amateur status.

Mom had a huge fan club. The boys and girls in the summer program bought her a gold charm inscribed "Mom" because that's how they saw her. Every week she  joyfully set the pairings of players, divided us into age groups, asked the pro shop for gift certificates for winners of each category and posted the scores. She loved it and she loved the people she encouraged!

From left: Mom, Gary, Jeff, me, Julie & Bill Brown

When the summers ended in Corry, Mom packed us up, along with our family dog, and we drove 3-4 days in our station wagon to our winter home in Miami, FL. Then we'd head back to Corry for the summer...and more junior golf at Corry Country Club.The picture (above) looks like we were on a road trip from PA to FL and Mom probably said, "Let's stop for a few minutes and put our feet in the water!" She also loved the beach and we regularly made trips to the beach. 

Mom started all kinds of tournaments in Florida when we moved to Coral Gables:  for youngsters, juniors, four-ball events for 18-30 year olds, the Florida State Junior Golf Tournament in Lehigh Acres, Girls' Event of the Junior Orange Bowl at Biltmore Golf Course....the list goes on and on.

I am touched that God would bring all of this to my mind in such detail today. He knows I miss Mom and to think again of the yummy egg salad sandwiches in the bread bags and the scent of Estee Lauder continues to make me smile and thank God. 

I sure do serve a tenderhearted Shepherd.

psalm 34:3

Friday, June 20, 2014

i can't be quiet after my quiet time this morning!

What I call my quiet time is when I'm privately seeking the face of God. I'm on my knees to confess my sins, give Him thanks and praise and then pray for Him to move mountains for my family, friends, and revival of our country and the world. My Bible is open in front of me. My journal and pen are beside me ready to record inspiration. When I am in this state of worship I can expect to hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart.

I don't do this because I'm super spiritual. I do this because I KNOW Him. I know who HE is. Wow. He's GOD! He's awesome! And I know that "in Him I live and move and have my being!" (Acts 17:28 personalized) I'm just a vessel He uses for His glory, just like He does with the rest of His kids and I know if I draw from His spring of living water during my quiet time I'll be able to splash His life onto others with the overflow He gives me! "Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:38). 

When I hear from Him it's usually a portion of a Bible verse that has popped into my head. Often I have to go to my concordance to find the details of the verse.

This morning I was praying for revival in our American churches and this verse came to mind, "wake up O sleeper" and I knew it was an actual verse, somewhere in my Bible!  I dug into my Bible and found gold. It was a direct response to my immediate prayer! The passage came from Ephesians 5:13-14:

 "Everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you."

I believe God was telling me the American church is asleep. Not specifically but as a nation-- we've fallen asleep spiritually! 

I had to dig deeper and went to Rev. John Gill commentary on this verse:
"The children of God are sometimes asleep, and need awakening; of the nature, causes and ill consequences of such sleeping, and of the methods by which they are sometimes taken out of it....Living saints are sometimes among dead sinners, and it becomes them to arise from among them, and quit their company, which is oftentimes the occasion of their sleepiness; besides the company of dead sinners is infectious and dangerous; it is a means of hardening in sin and grieving the people of God."

Then Gill's commentary continued and pointed to Romans 13:11-13: "Besides you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." 

Yikes. What are we waiting for, Brothers and Sisters? We are letting the power go out of us and our lights in this nation are no longer radiant! The freedoms in our country are continuing to slip through our fingers and persecution is falling into our hands!

This morning I couldn't stop researching... I kept on digging for more insight from Scripture...and was referred to 1 Corinthians 15:33-34: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.' Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame." 

LORD, have mercy on U.S.! Jesus came to earth as the Light of the World. He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12). 
 And before He returned to heaven He gave His people the mission to carry on His work and be the light of the world! This is what He said:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl (asleep, maybe?). Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."(Matthew 5:16).

Does this mean Christians who are spiritually asleep cannot be shining the light? If we are not intentionally, faithfully, joyfully shining the light then we are sinning. 

I was serious when I said I cannot keep quiet after my quiet time.  I know it's not too late for us to awaken from our lazy stupor. But we have lost a lot of spiritual ground as God's people. 

LORD, have mercy on us.
Psalm 34:3
Matthew 5:16
REND COLLECTIVE - "burn like a star light a fire in our hearts!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

fear has to do with punishment

I'm afraid I'm speaking from a powerful, supernatural experience when I say fear is like a plague. I learned it spreads easily if it's not "taken captive."  And I don't think I'm the only one. Hmmm. Maybe I am. 

Fear wants to embed itself in our minds. Each of our fears begin with a subtle, negative thought: "You're not going to succeed. You're not good enough. You're stupid. He/She doesn't even like you. You'll never amount to anything. You're sick. He's sick. They're sick. They are lying to you. Stop trying, it's hopeless. Everyone hates you. Get that new car so you can finally measure up to their standards. You can't learn anything new. You'll never overcome that addiction. You'll never get married. You'll never get a job. You're a loser. Don't even try, just give up now.  If you just tell a little white lie you can get ahead. Go ahead, everybody's doing it! You're going to have to get plastic surgery for you to have any value. You are still a bad girl. You are always going to be a bad son. God can't forgive you for those sins!  If people knew the real you they wouldn't like you!" And so on.

Even as Christians, we can begin to live fearfully and withdraw. Isolate ourselves.  Afraid of condemnation. Ashamed of our guilty past. Yep. It is possible for two main reasons: 1 - We have an evil enemy who lies to us; and 2- We still have so much more to learn from our Father in heaven.  If we're teachable -- if we humble ourselves and seek God, our Master Teacher -- then we can be on the road to recovery.

For starters, fear does not come from God. So if we are captivated by fear, we are obeying a voice other that God's. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" ( 2 Timothy 1:7).

If left untreated these negative thoughts -- literal lies from the enemy of our souls -- work their way into our hearts and become strongholds. And fear does not come knocking, no, it slithers in through our unbelief and seeks to root itself in our minds and hearts. It begets little seeds called anxiety, stress, unbelief,and pride. Remember, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy" but Jesus came to earth to give His children "abundant life!" (John 10:10).

It's up to us if we are going to push back the darkness with the light of God's word or stay isolated. Will we put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and fight back with truth? 
Or will we become consumed with fear as our little world grows smaller as we give up things we used to enjoy?
Isolation caused by fear is not God's way.

At this point isolating ourselves is probably the worst thing we could do. We make the decision we are going to control our lives and circumstances so we won't get hurt, so no one can touch us. H-U-G-E mistake. Yikes. We're already believing lies at this point and they are driving us away from God and His truth. Troubled people who isolate themselves go deeper into darkness.

We fight back with the light of God's word: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

When the Holy Spirit tells our hearts that we have a problem we should run to God and seek the truth about our situation. Ask Him,  "God, what is the truth about my situation? What is the root of this issue I'm having?"

Anytime I ask God for relief from a personal struggle, I have to ask that question, "Lord, what is the root of this recurring problem I'm having? I'm so tired of being enveloped in fear."   My inner joy was being choked to death. The enemy was wearing me down over a long period of time.

I look back now and I realized I was hearing from Him in whispers all the time. I kept hearing these kind of verses in my head during my fearful thoughts: ""Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? " (Mark 4:40), and "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matthew 8:26). This is so cool, God was setting me up to deliver me from this stronghold. He is so amazing. And I'd respond, "Lord, I don't know why I'm afraid so often! I know and love you, I know your word...what is going on with me?" That's when I prayerfully hoisted my white flag of surrender. He brought me to a very familiar verse: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). Ouch. I had to ask Him to rescue me and He lovingly answered my prayer and told me the truth.

Here it is: For years I have struggled with thinking I'm going to be "punished" throughout my life by God for my sins...past and present. I was foolishly believing the only reason bad things would happen to me was because I'm a "bad girl" and He was ready to punish me for bad choices. In my wrong thinking I left out the truth that God's Son Jesus Christ took my punishment on the cross so I could be free from that!  I'm forgiven! I'm free! Fears are gone! Sad isn't it? But God has sustained me and blessed me abundantly in spite of this junk. Awesome, isn't He?

And another thing, I don't recall anyone putting a post-it label on me growing up that said, "bad girl" either. More lies. More darkness exposed. 

It's become striking to me just how strong a stronghold is. Here's what I mean -- I memorized the following verse long before He freed me from my personal torment of punishment. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When He opened my eyes to this truth I began to dig for more nuggets and found them: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2).

One more verse has kept me going, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater that the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Now I can clearly see why God says, fear has to do with punishment. He also awakened me to the fact of another powerful truth...our fears distract us and hinder joyful service to Jesus Christ and others!

We are the Body of Christ. Be glorified, Jesus!

Monday, June 2, 2014

when GOD gives you a gift...

As a stay-at-home newlywed living in Doraville, GA, I became restless because my precious hubby was at work all day and I needed to do something productive. You can only go to the grocery store so many times a day. And I would ride my new 10-speed bike around the neighborhood, clean the house, talk to friends and prepare dinner...but I still had HOURS before my sweet man came home each evening.

I met my Don in Atlanta, GA, after I moved from Juno Beach (Palm Beach County), FL, where I was a feature writer for The Palm Beach Post. I loved driving around the beach town in my little convertible meeting new people and writing their exciting stories. But since moving to Atlanta -- and as a newborn Christian I might add -- I wasn't working yet. I decided to check into local publications to see if I could get some writing to be more productive. I landed a position as a free-lance writer for a small, local paper. But when I sat down to write, my mind was as blank as the pages in front of me. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't even start to write a story.

When I wrote for the newspaper in Florida, I was told by several people that the lead (the first sentence) in each of my stories was excellent and had a punch. But this former feature writer hadn't written for a year and my writing well seemed all dried up. Uh-oh. 

When I realized this was happening, I greeted Don when he came home from work,"I can't write any more! Nothing comes to my mind or my heart!" And then I started to cry. Yes, I really did. "I lost the ability to write stories! Do you think God took it away because I didn't use the gift?" I was really upset because I felt as though I let God down and threw away a precious gift from His hand.To me it was like the Parable of the Talents and I was the one who buried my gift! (See Matthew 25:25).

Then Don, my wise and loving husband, said, "Why don't you pray and ask God if He will give it back to you?" Knowing God is merciful and full of grace, I did pray. Often. I cried. I prayed. I asked God to help me write for HIM and for HIS glory. It worked. 

I began to pray before I wrote each story, asking God to lead me and show me what to say. It worked. It flowed. When we moved to Cherokee County, GA, more doors opened up and I wrote feature stories for The Cherokee Tribune for eight years--still praying before a single letter showed up on my page...uh, computer screen. Over time I was a free-lance writer for The Atlanta Journal Constitution-Cherokee Edition, The Cherokee-Ledger News, and a regular columnist for Cherokee Living Magazine. Today I'm gleefully writing a faith column for Canton Magazine.

I've learned my lesson. When God gives us a gift we're to become faithful stewards of it and we're to make Him known through our talents and gifts. We are the Body of Christ and we each are a necessary part -- whether it's the gift of encouragement, hospitality, serving, mercy, teaching, writing, art, dancing, singing, skillful in business, whatever it is -- we are to share our God-given gifts with the world by letting our light shine for His glory!

Over 30 years ago I became  His child and He was calling me to write and encourage for His glory. I don't receive inspiration without seeking Him first! Wow! I get it.

Grace, one of our daughters,who has been richly blessed by God with the gift of music understands the light of Christ will shine through her as she sings and plays for His glory.   
Grace Balint during a piano lesson. (1992)

Through the years Grace's piano and music teachers strongly encouraged her to keep pursuing her music.  These were professionals outside of school as well as at the schools she attended. As her parents it was obvious this gift was from God and she was willing to shine for Him through her music. And we were willing to support her in this. She has been rigorously trained in piano as well as in voice. She's a soprano, trained classically at Brenau University. 
She moved to Pasadena, CA, and graduated with a M.A. in Worship Arts from Fuller Theological Seminary.

I snapped this photo of Grace Balint while we were recording audition videos @ Mt. Zion Church, Canton, GA. (2014)

Today Grace is a worship leader in a church in Glendale, CA. She is prayerfully hopeful God will open more doors for more opportunities -- in a church setting or other venues -- to shine even more radiantly. She wants to use her gifts to share Christ with the world.

And again, as her parents we want to support this passionate desire. So below are the links to a variety of videos recorded this week by Grace's MomCam...just sayin'...

May you, dear reader of this blog, be encouraged to joyfully, boldly share your God-given gifts with the world, too, so HE may be glorified in you!
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt HIS NAME together!" 
psalm 34:3