Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Precious Declaration

Well, I do declare.

The theme of the week was messaged to me Sunday while I was in the air somewhere between Wichita and Dallas. My phone buzzed while we taxied, an hour late and in serious jeopardy of missing my next flight. “Let me think about it. I’m getting ready to run for my connection.”

I made my connection. Barely. Sweaty. With no overhead space left, so that my meager carry-ons had to go under the seat. I couldn’t move my legs much the entire flight, so I had leg cramps the next day. Dinner consisted of a couple Vi snacks I grabbed out of my bag when I realized I hadn’t eaten in hours.

First world problems. I survived.

While in the air I thought of this song I’ve been listening to since I dug my Collective Soul CD out for a road trip last summer.

 Precious declaration says
I believe all hope is dead no longer

Hope is always good. Living hope especially. And I have that.

Curiously, or maybe not so curiously, the enemy is suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, attacking this week. He came after me. He pursued me. Get thee behind me. If someone wants to know what I am thinking or feeling they should probably ask me directly instead of gossiping about it while parsing every word I say or write. I’m generally an open book. There’s my precious declaration.

(simple definition from Merriam-Webster)
·         the act of making an official statement about something : the act of declaring something
·         something that is stated or made known in an official or public way
·         a document that contains an official statement : a document that makes a declaration

My apologies for the moment of negativity. I’m highly opposed to vaguebooking and I suppose vagueblogging. I’m still processing this week’s pursuit. And I have ministry and stuff to go do. Geez. Fortuitously, however, there is beaucoup de brush throughout my yard leftover from the removal and stump grinding of eight dead trees over the last week. It’s just waiting for someone to gather and set fire to it.

The brush, the brush, the brush is on fire …

That’s how that song goes, right??? J

I usually find s’mores sickeningly sweet and am done after one, so y’all might need to come over for a party to help me eat them.

Also curiously, the YouVersion verse of the day is:

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
~ John 3:20-21 (NASB)

Not sure there are really any evildoers or light-haters in my immediate vicinity today other than Satan himself – those terms seem harsh. I just took it as a reminder to keep seeking truth and light.

Thank you.

The heavens DECLARE the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
~ Psalm 19: 1-4a

I was thinking of that passage while in the air the other day. It’s official. They DECLARE it. The Declaration of Gloriousness. Gloriosity. Glory.

I did a search on “declare”, and my unofficial assessment says it’s usually “The Lord” doing the declaring in the OT and “Jesus” or “Peter” in the NT. Interesting.

“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
~ John 8:11

Well. This post didn’t go like I thought it would. I didn’t particularly have a plan, but yeah. Hmmm. Perhaps my overwhelmedness from last week has carried over. Perhaps my brain is still scrambled from the weekend. My sinuses still are a bit.

But anyway. Now that I’ve digressed in a large way …

What did you do last weekend???

I flew to Wichita, Kansas for a movie premiere.

I know, I know. If you could be anywhere in the world for a movie premiere in January, it would be Kansas, right? I’ll skip the reasons for that choice, just trust there are good reasons.

Party with various ragamuffins Friday night. Sightseeing / puttering around Saturday morning. Reshowing of “Ragamuffin” on the big screen in a beautiful, historic theater Saturday afternoon. Premiere of “Brennan” in the same theater Saturday night. Church and travel Sunday.

Where the sacred rivers meet beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the Plains.

Working on a movie is so out of the realm of anything I’ve done before, but we all know I am a princess and a diva and have never met a stage I didn’t like. (Should I wear a tiara when I set fire to the brush pile?) To answer the burning (ha!) questions in people’s minds … yes, I’m still in it. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss me as an extra in one scene. Yes, my name is in the credits. Yes, it’s good. I still don’t have much coherent to say about the big scene near the end. Hrrrrmmmppppffff. Wow. Wow. Wow. Yes. You need to go see this.

Just before show time I was taking a shift in the box office, in the outer lobby, so I had not a clue of any preshow entertainment. I guess there was a guy on stage singing. Lol. Yesterday I was able to download his song – which did stick out to me in the movie. Yay. “Ode to a Ragamuffin” by Jason Ropp. Go find it. Go find him on the Twitter.

Two years ago on MLK day I saw “Ragamuffin” for the first time. I had randomly through social media become aware of a movie about Rich Mullins making a tour of churches nationwide. I thought I was just going to see a movie. Ha. Since then I’ve read some Brennan Manning. (For those who consider him a controversial figure … for the record, I always recommend getting your theology from scripture and scripture only. Brennan still has good things to say.) I’ve promoted screenings and concerts. I’ve been on various ragadventures. I worked as a production assistant. I spent time at two retreats related directly or indirectly to “Ragamuffin”. Now I’m helping book and promote the “Brennan” tour.

I feel like sometimes I drone on about the same subjects. But these movies are more than just movies. They are a ministry. The wide-reaching effects of “Ragamuffin” were a surprise to the filmmakers even. The film had a profound impact on many people … those who felt lost and hopeless … those suffering and stuck from past wounds of all kinds … the unchurched and especially the dechurched. I’ve seen it myself. I've seen people come back to living life versus just existing. I continue to be amazed by it. Depending on the particular circumstances sometimes additional counseling and/or shepherding are called for, of course. But to see a film be the precipitating event in someone's recovery is pretty cool.

Both films focus on God’s love for us no matter what. Think about it. Sunday School peeps, you’ve heard it. You recite it. But do you really believe God loves you? Really? Do you feel it? Right now in this moment? Do you get it? I think it’s probably good for us to have that message pounded home on a regular basis.

If you haven’t seen “Ragamuffin” find it on Netflix or order a DVD online. Buy your ticket for “Brennan” at … and if you don’t see a screening near you, contact me directly to work on that.

I’ll leave you with this precious declaration … in the words of Brennan Manning …

“God loves us as we are, not as we should be. Because none of us are as we should be.”

View from the box office.

About half the theater.

Q&A afterward.

For more on “Declaration” from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at

Hitched a ride to the peaceful side of town
Then proceeded where thieves were no longer found
Can't crash now I've been waiting for this
Won't crash now I found some encouragement
Precious declaration reads
Yours is yours and mine you leave alone now
Precious declaration says
I believe all hope is dead no longer

New meanings to the words I feed upon
Wake within my veins elements of freedom
Can't break now I've been living for this
Won't break now I'm cleansed with hopefulness
Precious declaration reads
Yours is yours and mine you leave alone now
Precious declaration says
I believe all hope is dead no longer

Once I jumped thru hoops of fire
As high and far as you required
I was blind but now I see
Salvation has discovered me

~ Collective Soul’s “Precious Declaration”

Wednesday, January 20, 2016



I’m relying on occasional primal screaming to get me through this suddenly busy period.

Where did all this come from? I do like to stay busy and avoid being a slug, but I think of January as a month of hibernation frequently. No time for slugdom this year. For that much I am in fact grateful.

You may recall from previous posts I went on a road trip adventure the first week of the year. Then last week it got around to snowing. Literally was to be expected. Figuratively … well, two business opportunities dropped themselves in my lap. I said yes / let’s move forward to both. When it rains it pours. When it snows it blizzards.

Incidentally, I have just learned the giant snowstorm predicted for this weekend has been dubbed “Jonas”. To which I ask the question, “Kevin, Joe, or Nick?” Could a member of the media please contact the brothers for comment? And also … we didn’t use to name winter storms. We had the Blizzard of ’78 and we were happy with that moniker. Did the Freezemeister get jealous? What up?

I’m so confused. And overwhelmed.

Let me back up for a sec. In December I signed up for an online nutrition class. Because I can and because I got a deal. I’ve been in the nutrition business for years – sales / marketing currently and manufacturing prior to that. I figured I’d fill in any gaps and have another credential to leverage. The class is available on demand, but live webinars started January 4. I knew I probably wouldn’t get to the material in the midst of the holidays, and I was right. There are perks and advantages to attending live, though, including routine and discipline. There are quizzes and homework and a couple of offline lessons in addition to the twice-a-week class.

It’s not a huge workload or anything. It’s not. But I’ve already had to say more than once this month, “Yes, you can come over in the afternoon. I’ll be home, but I’ll be on the computer and unable to answer the door / talk to you from 2:00 to 3:00 or 3:15.”

First we lost water. Completely. Then intermittently. My dad, aka MacGyver, came over and, well, MacGyvered some things. I live in the boondocks with well water and I like it that way. Following troubleshooting and finagling, it was determined that most likely there was a “hole in the bladder” in the tank. Should I write a song titled “Hole in the Bladder”? Maybe not. Anyway, we have friends in the biz who replaced the tank quickly and at a fair price. The water pressure is now at levels not experienced in years. Awesome.

Then I sold the ping pong table that has been occupying space in its original box in my garage since the dawn of time. (Space never got cleared in the basement for it. Life happens.) Hooray for Facebook selling groups. The transaction went smoothly but required minor coordination and a second trip when the buyer’s first vehicle wasn’t large enough.

Decluttering. It does a body good.

Next the Garage Door Fairy (what, you didn’t know that was a thing?) has been working on replacing the automatic opener for the secondary door. It was non-functional when I moved in many moons ago. It’s like a dream come true to have a working opener for that door.

This morning I was looking out the window while making my mocha protein shake and contemplating when the tree work we have on the to-do list will be accomplished. Plastic orange ribbon is tied around several trees to mark them for removal. The emerald ash borer strikes again! It was a matter of when, not if, around here. A storm or two over the years has struck as well. We contemplated marking the trees with orange spray paint, but since the relative who will be doing the work is colorblind, a ribbon is a much more effective means of communication.

Hey! Can you see this?

It’s cold and snowy today, so I was thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder when it will be decent enough weather to get that done?” Within the hour said relative called and set it up for tomorrow. It’s like he heard me! Awesome.

I called an audible on my schedule for the day. I put on warm clothes and duck boots and headed into the yard. My typical Christmas lights setup requires running heavy duty extension cords through the grass to the end of the driveway. Those cords run close to some of the marked trees. If not for the impending arrival of the Tree Removal Fairy and friends, I would leave the cleanup for more pleasant weather. It was 17 deg F last time I looked. I came close to frostbite on my hands, primarily due to stubbornness and not wanting to schlep through the house to swap out gloves. But I prevailed. Cords cleaned up and stored in the garage. Lights in the vicinity cleaned up and thawing out inside the house. And I found a new home for this lady:

It took some deep thought and conversation with a robin perched high in one of the healthy trees. I wandered through the area near the cherub statue that gets kicked over regularly by marauding bands of deer singing Jersey Boys. But Reading Angel does not have time for such nonsense. She has books to read. She is now residing near the back corner of the garage. Frank Valli will probably find her anyway.

Line through the yard formerly occupied by an orange extension cord.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Wrap up in a warm princess blankie and breathe some more.

All of the aforementioned is in addition to slow progress (but it’s progress!) being made on packing away Christmas decor … the nutrition business trucking along … a full social calendar … and getting ready to dodge Winter Storm Jonas Brothers while heading  to the “Brennan” premiere. Nah, nothing much on my plate.

The “Jesus Calling” devotional is so often about letting God guide your day. Amen. I have far less control over it than I think or sometimes would like.

I am overwhelmed by good things happening.

I am overwhelmed by what to do next and what to leave by the wayside.

But it’s all going to be okay.

For more on being Overwhelmed from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at

Shameless plugs …

* Jenn’s nutrition business can be found here.

* She is also booking venues to host a screening of the independent feature film “Brennan”. (It’s free to the venue.) Contact her here if your church, school, community center … pretty much anywhere with a screen and sound system … is interested in hosting.

Now on to the dance party ... you know I had to do this ... come on, this is some stellar writing ...

I'm hot
You're cold
You go around
Like you know
Who I am
But you don't
You've got me on
My toes (toes, toes)

I'm slipping into the lava
And I'm trying to keep from going under
Baby you turn the temperature hotter
Cause I'm burnin' up, burnin' up
For you baby

Come on girl

I fell (I fell)
So fast (so fast)
Cant hold myself back (back, back)
High heels (high heels)
Red dress (red dress)
All by yourself
Gotta catch my breath

I'm slipping into the lava
And I'm trying to keep from goin' under
Baby who turned the temperature hotter
Cause I'm burnin' up, burnin' up
For you baby

Walk in the room
All I can see is you


Staring me down
I know you feel it too

I'm slipping into the lava
And I'm tryin' to keep from goin under
Baby who turned the temperature hotter
Cuz' I'm burnin' up, burnin' up
For you baby

Slipping into the lava
And I'm trying to keep from going under
Baby who turned the temperature hotter
Cause I'm burnin' up, burnin' up
For you baby

Burnin' up in the place tonight
And the brothers singing loud (and were feelin' right)
Get up and dance (don't try to fight it)
Big robs for real (and that's no lie)
Stop, drop and roll (and touch the floor, to keep from burnin' up)
More and more
I got JB with me (laying it down)
Come on boys bring the chorus around

I'm slipping into the lava (burnin' up, burnin' up)
And I'm trying to keep from going under (yeahhhh)
Baby who turned the temperature hotter (come on nick)
Cause I'm burnin' up
Burnin' up for you baby
Burnin' up, burnin' up
For you baby

~ Jonas Brothers’ “Burnin’ Up”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Community, Cold, and SueBee Honey

Welcome to true winter, my fellow Ohioans! Temperatures plummeting into the single digits, subzero wind chills, and … wait for it … snow! The latest “first measurable snow” in these parts ever.

Do these trees look cold? Because it snowed several inches on them.

Personally I prefer a milder climate. Snow is fine. Snow is pretty. As long as I don’t have to drive in or on it. Perhaps I should elaborate.

I grew up around these parts. I learned to drive in snow and ice on unplowed country roads. (I know nothing about doing doughnuts in a wide open empty parking lot, hee hee.) I can do just fine, even if it’s unpleasant. I also know enough to understand that sometimes people just shouldn’t be on the roads. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. The three-level snow emergency alerts we have now have been a welcome advance. If the sheriff says stay off the danged roads, then stay off the danged roads.

I’m usually worried more about the skills and patience – or lack thereof – of other drivers on the road. And the Nervous Nellies. Newsflash! Sometimes twenty-five miles an hour is all you’re going to be able to do. But if you can do forty-five without sliding, then do forty-five.


Let’s all give each other some grace.

And if you win the Powerball this week and want to buy me a beachfront condo in Siesta Key, that would be cool, too.

This past Sunday morning I scooted into church while the plentiful precipitation was still a wintry mix. The roads were decent. These are back roads – there are five stop signs and zero traffic lights between me and my second home. So there was snow AND I was on time for soundcheck. One would have thought Hades had frozen over. 

By the time we left, it was a winter wonderland. Several of us piled into one vehicle to head to lunch. I didn’t have to drive. (Yes!) Conditions improved considerably by the time I was back to my car. What a pleasant first-snowy-day-of-the-season experience.

It would have been great to hole up under a blanket and hibernate, but I had plans.

Community is a word we throw around, mostly in the church I think. It might even be a Christian cliché. Saturday I spent all day in a “discipleship” class with some of my church community. One of the exercises was to write our Christian Elevator Speech. Those are my words, not our fearless leaders’. The point was to be able to tell others what Jesus has done for you in three minutes or less. How do you explain it to someone of a completely different faith? A Muslim? How, if you were raised in church and accepted Christ at age twelve or nine or fifteen, do you make your story relevant to an adult who has never set foot in a church? To an atheist? To an agnostic? What do you include? What do you leave out? What words do you use?

We stumbled through it awkwardly, practicing and critiquing one-on-one a few times. Thank you to my mini-community. You know who you are.

Cliché or not, community is important. I’ve gone through feasts and famines of it. If you don’t have others to help keep you sane, well you might not stay sane. Friends, family, even coworkers in some circumstances can fulfill the role. A counselor friend of mine says you’re in trouble if you don’t have at least two or three close friends willing to step in and tell you if you’re messing up or being a jerk in any given situation. During famines of community – often due to work hours, moving, and traveling in my case – I have deliberately sought it out. Sometimes clumsily, sometimes more effectively than others, but I have sought it. Because it’s important. You’ll find it in the bible, albeit without the modern day jargon.

By mid-afternoon Sunday the weather conditions were back to deteriorating. The temperature was dropping, a little snow was coming down, and the wind was fierce. Superfierce. I did think twice about heading for a meetup with my retreat peeps. But I went anyway. The restaurant is only ten-ish minutes from my house in good weather. I slid only once on the way there.

First order of business … hot tea. Our awesome server brought multiple tea choices and cream and honey without me even asking.

SueBee honey. I have learned the “Sue” comes from “Sioux”. Duh. Who knew.
We spent a couple hours catching up. Filling in the gaps between blog posts. Asking and answering questions. Listening.

I have several groups of community. Sometimes they overlap. Some of them have names … The Posse, Sistas, Ragamuffin peeps. Within my worship team community I acquired a rap name several years ago. There was already a Jennifer (of course!) … better known as JLo … on the team when I joined. So I was dubbed J-Gray. And it stuck.

My Ragamuffin peeps have become aware of my rap name. Mitch McVicker now greets me as J-Gray. Rap names have emerged for several members of the tribe, but we’re still working on others. Creativity will strike when creativity will strike. I’m all about brainstorming and doing what it takes to get creativity flowing. I am generally capable of being creative on demand. But sometimes it’s just not the right time.

That being said, I’m going to crowdsource this one. My Ragamuffin peep Sue has expressed a strong desire for a rap name. She nixed my first suggestion of SueBee Honey. Or maybe Sue B Honey in an attempt to be more relevant to hip hop culture. Too sweet. My second suggestion, Queen Bee, came out of that discussion. “But you could wear a bottle of SueBee honey as a necklace, a la Flavor Flav!”

I thought it was a great idea. But no.

Here is my request to anyone reading this post. Whether you know Sue or not (and especially if you do!), please suggest a suitable rap name for her … in the comments below, on the social media where you found the link that brought you here, or privately to me. Keep it clean. Keep it clever.

I’ll get back to all y’all on the results. Maybe we’ll have a party or something.

For more on the subject of “Community, Cold, and SueBee Honey” from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at

there’s a celebration
there’s a spot at the table
it’s a good time banquet
so come one come all
even if you don’t think you’re able
the bruised won’t be crushed
if you limp you’re gonna run again
now the thirsty come on and drink up
and as the hope flows before you
know you’re dancin’

there’s a party going on up in the sky
a party going strong wrongs are made right
no eye has ever seen the likes of
this party there’s a party going on tonight
a party going on heaven shines
a party going strong the angels fly
no eye has seen this sight before
there’s a party going on for evermore

the infectious grooves
just cannot wait for you
the roof is on fire
a holy fire
and everybody gonna love the dance
you’re gonna do
the red carpet’s rolling out
and they’re singing so loud
you’re the invited  guest
the long-awaited for guest
and you thought that heaven didn’t wanna mess with you

there’s a party going on up in the sky
a party going strong wrongs are made right
no eye has ever seen the likes of
this party there’s a party going on tonight
a party going on heaven shines
a party going strong the angels fly
no eye has seen this sight before
there’s a party going on for evermore

it’s stronger than anything in this world

~ Mitch McVicker’s “Partysong”