Monday, March 28, 2016

The Gazebo

We're keeping this simple, Sisters. 

This is an ongoing invitation for you to gather with gals who believe God moves mountains when we pray. (Matthew 17:20). 

We meet in the gazebo in the center of the city. This started with one woman. Then another faithfully joined her. They represented different generations and different churches. Yep. Awesome.

These two ladies met for several months on Fridays and continued to pray for the city, the local businesses, all the people who live and work in the city as well as countywide. They also prayed for our state, our nation, the world and the people who dwell in it.

And now there are SIX sisters who gather on Fridays at the gazebo! By the grace and favor of God, the little group is represented by three generations from six different churches! Love it! 

And the group is flourishing with God's blessings of the encouragement of answered prayers, and new friendships! 
Before going to the gazebo the ladies often drop in Peter Williams' Cup Up Coffee on Main Street for a cup of gourmet coffee and a green iced tea.
Peter Williams owner of Cup Up Coffee
Often a few of us have walked across the town square to share a delicious quick lunch at R & M Hoagie Shop.
R & M Hoagie Shop

Any women who work in the Historic Downtown Loop are cordially invited (to bring a sandwich) on your lunch hour and join us at the gazebo! 

Uh-huh. Just like the sign says, "Fridays. Noonish.  [anytime between 11:30- 1]. Whenever you can make it. Just drop by the gazebo!"

For His glory, His love, my joy,
"Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together."
Psalm 34:3

Saturday, March 26, 2016

the intensely striving kind of Christian

In my life's journey I seem to bump into my own walls of pride, self-centered worry, and unbelief. It's stupid on my part because I know the truth about my Savior -- that He will continue to love me unconditionally and always take tender care of me! 

But, oh that flesh! That stinkin' worldly flesh that loves the world and worldly ways! Self. Selfie. Me! Me! Me! Selfie-ness! I want. I need. What about me???????

When I struggle I know to go to God and His word and ask for forgiveness and help in overcoming this "selfie-ness!" I've also learned along the way to save a lot of time and ask God, "What is the root of my problem? What really is my deeply rooted source of this?" He always reveals it to me and usually right away. It's rough sometimes but He's still pruning and shaping me. My problem always comes down to SELF. My Self.

I read in Oswald Chambers' renown devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, (January 15), about having a 'white funeral.' He writes, "No one experiences complete sanctification without going through a "white funeral" -- the burial of the old life... a death with only one resurrection--a resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can defeat a life like this. It has oneness with God for only one purpose--to be a witness for Him."
Chambers continues, "You cannot die or go to your funeral in a mood of excitement. Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been." Ouch. Yep. Sisters, he's nailed us there! We Sisters do a whole lotta striving don't we? Okay, is it just me? Whatever! We really need to stop it. It's not what our Father wants for us. There is a way out of an intensely striving lifestyle. But we already know that, don't we. There is just stuff we are not ready to give up.

I saw the following quote somewhere on the web and wrote it down: "If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, could it be that you are trying to hold on to your old life while you put on your new life in Christ?" 

Wow. That quote sounds like Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other , or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other."  That's exhausting!

We know our Sweet Lord does not leave us alone in our struggles! He always has help and healing for whatever ails us.
"If  you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:7-8). 

It's my prayer that all of us who are the intensely striving kind of Christians will have our own spiritual "white funeral" where we finally decide to die to self so we can be free to live abundantly for the glory of God. 

I love you, my sisters.
"Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together!"
Psalm 34:3

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

'Cuz it's a LIFESTYLE, Baby!

WOMEN WHO FOLLOW JESUS is not a club. There are no membership dues to pay, either because the ultimate price was already paid by the blood of the Lamb of God on a cross.

Yep. Jesus "will remove our hearts of stone and give [us] a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26), then call us by name and we will confess our sins. Immediately He "forgives" us (1 John 1:9), and our hearts are set free to live and love for His glory alone! And the LORD of Glory doesn't stop there! He gives us total security when we are His because women who follow Jesus learn wisdom from His "Holy Spirit" (Ezekiel 36:27) Who now lives inside us. 

WOMEN WHO FOLLOW JESUS IS A LIFESTYLE, BABY! We seek His kingdom first! We put God's Word, His counsel, His guidance, first in our hearts and minds. Where do I get this info?

Right here, Sister. "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them [wow! yes!]. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:31-33.

Women who follow Jesus come in all sizes, shapes, ages, colors, and live all over the world. Whoohoo! Imagine if every Christian woman resists the lies of the enemy and finally believes her true identity is a Woman Who Follows Jesus, and no one can take that from her?! What if she finally believes the truth that God will keep His promise to take care of her every need?  

What if realizing the truth about her identity gives her total freedom to LIVE HER LIFE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS because she has discovered His purpose for her life? She will be fulfilled as she uses her God-given talents and gifts to glorify God and bless everyone around her! 

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25).

WOMEN WHO FOLLOW JESUS gather on a regular basis to encourage each other in the LORD. "As iron sharpens iron so one sharpens another, so one [wo]man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)

Whether over a cup of coffee, serving side-by-side on a ministry team, getting a group to go to lunch, sharing in Bible study, a prayer group, a mentor relationship, or a community-wide gathering...precious Sisters, whatever will bring us together for our good and God's glory...let's do a whole lot of that! 

Let's make it a lifestyle!

For His Glory and Our Joy,

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Historic Downtown Canton Loop: She Smiles When She Talks :)

by Polly Balint

When I told my friend Diane Oberkrom I wanted to write a story about her and title it She Smiles When She Talks, she laughed. I told her, "You really do smile when you talk, you know!" 

She smiles when she answers the phone and when she bakes her latest mouthwatering treat from her Soul Food Market kitchen.

Diane Oberkrom, owner of The Soul Food Market, is giddy over the recipe she calls, "Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Cushion." 
Actually it is a gourmet sandwich cookie. 

Her life has not been an easy journey but she is trusting God as the power who is higher than her circumstances. Diane is a widow and a single mom to son Augie, who's a freshman at Reinhardt College. "I think I was just born with a happy disposition. I've always been a smiler," she said, smiling of course.

Diane was raised in the church. Her parents and grandparents are Christians and have lived lives of faithfulness to God. It's all she's known growing up. "I have always been easy going and I try to do what is right -- not perfectly of course. But I didn't get mad at God when my husband died -- I certainly didn't expect it to happen, of course! He died in his sleep. Augie was 8 years old at the time and he asked me what actually happened to his dad. I didn't plan to answer him the way I did, it just came out of my mouth. I said to him, 'Jesus came to our house and took Dad with him.'  I've just always trusted Jesus."

While Diane was a successful corporate banker working in downtown Atlanta she kept having dreams night after night of starting her own bakery. She'd awaken in the night and write down recipes for cookies, cakes and cupcakes.  She dreamed of putting Bible verses on business card-size tags and attaching them to each morsel. You know, in the same way fortune cookies have a message attached.

She followed that dream of establishing The Soul Food Market in 2005. It began as an online bakery.  The soul in the name isn't from a menu of collard greens and cornbread. Nope. The dream was to delight the palate of her guests as well as nourish their souls with the Good News of Scripture. She was compelled  to attach a Scripture tag to each cookie and cupcake she baked. Bobby Greene of Greene's Blueprinting in the Downtown Loop has always made Diane's Scripture cards.

The Soul Food Market blessed the gals at the Totally Devoted gatherings 
every week with mini muffins and encouraging Scripture on each tag.

She smiles broadly when she answers the phone for takeout orders and catering gigs. Yes, she's been catering weddings, conferences, bridal showers, baby showers and birthday bashes. You give Diane a theme for your next event and she'll prepare your food in the colors and tastes that complement your party. 

She's shipped gift boxes of her goodies to all 50 states and three countries. "I wanted to be a disciple to all nations and the salt of the earth but instead of just salt I'm the flour, sugar, and butter, too! In the Downtown Loop I wanted to reach as many people as I could. So on Saturdays we pulled a large red wagon full of our food and served the farmers at the Farmer's Market since they couldn't leave their truckloads of vegetables to come to The Soul Food Market. I have also pulled the red wagon to the courthouse and lawyers' offices to deliver their lunches and desserts." 

Her business grew and she was led to a storefront in the Historic Downtown Canton Loop a few years ago. It was the kitchen/lunch counter inside Yawn's Books & More on Main Street, owned by Farris and his mother Nadine Yawn. Diane's menu kept growing. She was serving lunches to local attorneys, jurors from the Cherokee County Courthouse that was across the street from Yawn's. She had many drop-ins who heard about the Soul Food Market.

Diane (wearing the hat) prepared lunches for our weekly Totally Devoted gathering at 
Yawn's Books & More. 
Yawn's Co-owner Nadine Yawn is sitting next to Diane.
(I pulled Diane away from her lunch counter long enough to get her in the picture.) 

From the beginning she has named her creations like a loving mother gives pet names to her beloved children. And she's not just giving whimsical and clever names to her sweet treats but also her lunch menu of salads, soups and sandwiches. She named cupcakes after city officials such a chocolate cupcake with chocolate butter cream icing and a Chocolate Malted Milk Ball inside -- was named "Tall, Dark and Handsome" in honor of the firemen. 

When Elvis Impersonator Damon Hendrix came to perform at the Canton Theater, Diane sold freshly made grilled peanut butter sandwiches, banana and bacon sandwiches and two desserts in honor of Elvis -- and Damon's performance. The "Love Me Tender" dessert was a banana cupcake with peanut butter, butter cream frosting and bacon crumbles and the "Blue Suede Shoes" cupcake had blue butter cream frosting.

Diane Oberkrom at her counter inside Yawn's Books & More,  holding the cupcakes honoring the Elvis Impersonator performance by Damon Hendrix 
at the Canton Theater.

Diane moved into her business a couple storefronts from Yawn's. She was continuing to serve local business owners and county and city officials. She also provided a weekly lunch for our Totally Devoted gathering. 
Diane Oberkrom (standing) in The Soul Food Market space on Main Street.

Yawn's has moved into a newly-renovated location on the other side of the Loop, operating Yawn's Publishing. These upgrades are continuing for several businesses!

When Diane closed her latest location on Main Street, The Soul Food Market began creating tasty trademark sandwich wraps and desserts for Peter Williams' trendy new coffee bar called Cup Up Coffee on Main Street. You can find Peter"s popular hangout within the Audio Intersection storefront. Did I mention it's the renovated space formerly known as Yawn's Books & More?

Photo dated May 2011

Photo dated July 2014

Cup Up Coffee Bar Owner/Barista Peter Williams, is pictured checking his food case filled with The Soul Food Market's trademark treats. Diane has since moved The Soul Food Market back to solely online business at this time.
Wherever The Soul Food Market is located, Diane is going to be whipping up delicious, savory menu items and always serving them with a smile. That's just how she rolls.

Cup Up Coffee Owner Peter Williams is a connoisseur of rich coffees and teas.  

Diane has added a new venture to her list of talents and professional services in the community. She is a paralegal for Bray & Johnson Attorneys in the Downtown Loop. She still smiles when she talks whether she's on the phone with clients in the attorney office building or at her home office taking phone orders for her gourmet muffins, sandwiches or a full-blown catering job with her Soul Food Market. Check out Diane's The Soul Food Market Menu!

She's another bright light in the community of the Historic Downtown Canton. If you see her in town you'll recognize her right away. She's the one sharing her delightful gift of smiling.    

photos by Polly Balint

Monday, March 7, 2016

Historic Downtown Canton Loop: Bert & 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