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March 16, 2015

Sometimes it’s important to put your money where your mouth is.

If you’ve been part of the Sparky Nation for a while now, you may recall the year I founded and promoted Project Jubilee and we raised the cost of a sex trafficking rescue mission through the International Justice Mission in celebration of my jubilee birthday.  It took us a year, but we did it, and it does my heart good to know that somewhere out there someone is free because of Project Jubilee.

Fast forward to last January.  That is when I discovered bonJOY.

BonJOY is a newly launched service that curates goods from creative folks who have a heart for social justice and use their businesses and/or their profits to impact the world in a positive manner.  Every quarter the girls at bonJOY will create a little box of goodness containing three to seven items from their list of do-gooders.  You can order a box and for $45 (which includes shipping), this happy little box will arrive on your doorstep.

I want to support people who are serious about using their talents and skills to bring good to the world, especially ones who are also positively impacting the marketplace and boosting our economy.  This seemed like $45 well spent, no matter what was in that little box.

The first ever bonJOY box shipped last Friday and arrived at my house today.

Wanna see?

This is the warning label:  there's happy stuff in this box!

This is the warning label: there’s happy stuff in this box!

Lift the lid, and more happy is right there, jumping for joy!

Lift the lid, and more happy is right there, jumping for joy!

Information and coupons from the do-gooders, in case you'd like more of their goodies.

Information and coupons from the do-gooders, in case you’d like more of their goodies.

The goodies!

The goodies!

That pretty little bracelet was made by my friend Sherri Ohler, the founder of S.O. Loved.  I met Sherri on my trip to Brazil last September, and it was through her that I discovered bonJOY.  You really should check out the cool stuff on her website.  Beautiful handmade products.  And not only do 10% of the proceeds go to women’s shelters and organizations that fight trafficking, but Sherri is training women in shelters how to make this beautiful jewelry so that they will have a skill and a source of income.

The soap was handmade by my friends Courtney and Nikki Lindberg, founders of Hope Soap.  Y’all…those soaps smell heavenly.  They’re made with good things and 25% of their profits go to the A21 Campaign, an anti-trafficking organization.  The paper wrapper on the soap is infused with wildflower seeds; you can plant the entire wrapper and start a happy spot in a container or a corner of yard.

The other products in this box were from companies new to me.

Nomi Network made the cool accessories pouch.  They do a lot of totes and bags, with some apparel thrown in.  Here is their mission statement: Our mission is to create economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of trafficking by providing training, product development, and marketing support.  Pretty cool, eh?

Rooted Beauty made the facial wipes and the lip butter.  They specialize in natural skincare, but each product helps a specific woman with specific needs, and you can read about the women’s stories on the website.  The company is very environmentally conscious, using recyclable or biodegradable packaging and responsible production practices.

The next bonJOY box will have different items in it.  I don’t know if any of these do-gooders will be repeated in the next box, but I do know there are do-gooders who haven’t yet been featured.

By the way…if you know someone who has a do-gooder company that specializes in fashion, beauty, and living, go over to the bonJOY site and suggest them to the bonJOY girls.  The more do-gooders there are, the merrier we’ll ALL be!

And while you’re there, order the summer box.  You know you need a little box of good!

You need this.  Really.

You need this. Really.


The Not Heres and the Not Yets

March 16, 2015

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that when I’m shopping for a really specific item that isn’t necessarily attached to a brand, it becomes nearly impossible to find.  Whether it’s a certain style of shoes or a particular color of towels, whatever it is, it suddenly seems to cease to exist.

Assuming it ever did, of course.

Maybe it’s just that my focus became so narrowed and specific that I only had eyes for the item that existed in my mind.  If it exists in my mind, surely it exists out there somewhere, right?  Surely someone smarter and more capable than I am has already put such an item into production.  I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it somewhere before.  I think.

Although I’m never totally convinced that the item doesn’t exist, I eventually have to decide upon a course of action:  either I settle for a different item, or I simply go without.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to discern when compromise will bring blessing and when it will only bring frustration.

Some folks believe compromise is a dirty word 100% of the time.  I try to avoid being part of that crowd.  It would be arrogance on my part to believe that I always have the best answers, opinions, and ideas.  I am not above wanting what I want, but I can be wrong, and I can be selfish.

Sometimes choosing compromise is actually choosing grace.

There are times, however, when I believe that God has placed an idea or a vision on my heart, and I am hesitant to compromise it because it seems to change the nature of that idea or vision in a way that dilutes it, or morphs it into something that doesn’t resemble the heart of what He placed in me.

I’m not ok with that.  I want Him to get what He wants.  He’s never wrong, and He’s definitely not selfish.

The kingdom of God is an amazing thing.  The broken become whole.  The weak become strong.  The poor discover treasure. And like all true kingdoms, this kingdom has a King.

He’s super creative, this King.  He has people all over the world doing the same thing, but in such drastically different ways that many don’t understand that they’re all on the same team.  But if one stops doing what He inspired them to do and begins doing what He inspired someone else to do, something precious and vital is lost.

The differences are valuable.  The differences matter.

I keep hoping to find the things in my heart already in existence.

They probably are…somewhere.  But I’m not finding them near me.  Not without settling.  Not without compromising.

And it just doesn’t feel ok to settle this time.






Worse than a toddler

March 15, 2015

Ever have one of those nights when your body is begging you to go to bed and you actually listen to it?

And then to repay you, it sleeps about three hours and then wakes up and refuses to go back to sleep.

So you coax it and cajole it, you take it to the restroom and drain it, and you lie down very, very quietly and force yourself to be very, very still.

And your body says “My nose is stuffy.”

So you take care of that and then it says “It’s too hot in here.”

You throw off some covers, only to hear “My stomach is rumbling.  I need a snack.”

Here you draw the line because your body does not need a snack at 4:00am, and you’re not about to add that much wakeful activity to this irritating middle-of-the-night wakeup call.  You hand it your Kindle and tell it to read itself back to sleep, which is a nice idea but doesn’t work.

This is about the time a cat starts yowling outside the bedroom door.

Then after a couple of fruitless hours, you give up and get up to face the long day ahead of you, bleary-eyed and feeling pretty loopy.

This is the totality of my last two nights.

Does this ever happen to you?  Or is it just me?

You don’t need to answer that.


What could possibly go wrong?

March 13, 2015

Well, I thought I’d heard it all but I was obviously mistaken.

Are you ready for this? Here’s the bizarre amazing news:  you can go to an owl-petting bar in London.

That’s right, folks.  An owl-petting bar.  You can reach your delicate digits toward those sharp-taloned, razor-beaked nocturnal birds who eat rodents in one big gulp.

In the article we are reassured that the owls are trained professionals.

Trained professionals.

I just can’t even get my head around trained professional owls.

Just in case, there will be professional falconers on site “should anything go awry.”

In other words, should one of those owls mistake your wiggling fingers for a nice juicy mouse, there will be a professional falconer on hand to help you retract your bloody stump.  Feel comforted?

Here is where you can read the article for yourself:  Play With Owls in London at the City’s Newest Bar!.

And here is a nice little video of owls eating mice to show tunes:

The joy rebellion

March 13, 2015

Some days it’s a hard battle to remember that not everything that’s true is the truth.

All it takes is a quick glance and it seems as if the world around me is falling into despair.  The news is horrible, filled with reports of violence and injustice.  My Facebook feed is no better, with re-posts of the most offensive material and memes that belittle politicians and government official and systems.  Our food is poison, our healthcare is poison, our environment is poison, the government is poison.

And nobody seems to know where the ipecac is.

It’s as if the worst of our culture got dredged up from the bottom of some sludge pit and spread around so everyone can enjoy the misery.

I don’t keep my head in the sand.  Some of what I read is true.  Probably a lot of it, really.

But it’s not the truth.

The truth is that God is still in the business of loving people and rescuing them from death.  The gospel is spreading.  Jesus is still transforming lives.  The lights are being turned on in dark people, dark families, dark communities, dark cities, dark countries.  More Light-bearers are born every day.

There is still reason to hope.

We live in this world as foreigners, but we are citizens of heaven.  We do not take our cues from the world around us.  Our legacy is much richer than any built by human hands.  Our inheritance is much richer than any deposited by human empires.  It is a ridiculous thought that we should bow to the fears and anxieties of a finite world when the Infinite and Eternal is ours.

You can choose CNN or Fox News if you like, but I choose joy.


Stepping past winter

March 11, 2015

Last week it was cold enough to frost.

Two evenings ago I saw my first blooming tree of the year, as well as a yard full of daffodils.

Spring is quietly slipping through the front door, serenaded by the tiny frogs in the creek behind my house.  Within a couple of weeks she’ll have given up on being quiet, and she’ll turn up the volume on the color and warmth of the season.

Change is here.

Last autumn ushered in a very strange season for me.  It’s been a bit like riding a roller coaster that dips and turns so quickly that I can’t manage to get my hands on the seat rails.  And yet, as I say that I realize that at the same time it’s often felt like nothing is moving.  Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle, but this time I think it’s actually exactly like it felt.

I’ve been sitting still at mach 3.

When faced with change we get to make choices about how we’re going to respond.  We can attempt to ignore it.  We can attempt to fight it. We can attempt to minimize the pain of it.

I haven’t had it in me to do any of those things.  It’s as if deep down I knew that when that roller coaster finally spit me out, I’d be standing up in a very different place from where I boarded it.  And so I’ve simply ridden it, trying to maintain an awareness of the coexistence of stillness and acceleration.

We think of our journeys as being step-by-step ventures, but the truth is often more complex because humans are complex.  Sometimes there’s no stepping; we’re inching forward on our bellies in the mud, trying to keep the dirt out of our mouths.  Then there are seasons like this one that seem fast and slow, long and short, all at the same time, and the end result is that we find ourselves moved further and faster than we expected, and we can’t really account for the time passed or distance covered.

In the end it’s all good.  Life is happening.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be.


No, really…it’s that good

March 11, 2015

If you’re like most folks, you can list a few things that you should (or shouldn’t) do so that God could love you more and use you more.  The list varies from person to person, but it usually includes things like getting up early for a “quiet time” (you should but you don’t) and yelling at your kids/spouse/dog (you shouldn’t but you do).  It also includes the judgment of your thoughts about your in-laws and the drama queen next door, and that word you said when you dropped the open orange juice carton on your freshly cleaned kitchen floor.

We won’t even talk about stealing candy from the kids’ Easter baskets.  You know who you are.

These are the white collar crimes of Christianity.  Maybe not like murder.  Or adultery.  Or coveting your neighbor’s ox.  Just…little things that make God frown and hold back the good stuff from you.   Because you don’t deserve the good stuff.  You know it, and God knows it.  And you never really shake the nagging feeling that it’s going to catch up with you any moment now.

At least, that’s how it’s always seemed.  That’s what happens when your faith system is more about sin management than the power of a Savior.  Most of us were taught sin management, usually right there in church.  We’ve never known of another way to look at it.  And so we spend our lives trying to figure out how to be good enough.

And we’re never quite sure how good “good enough” actually is.  But we suspect that it’s a lot better than we are.

There’s a word that gets thrown around in church and religious circles:  gospel.  Do you know what it means? It literally means “good news”.

So think about it.  Do you think it’s good news that we have to avoid doing the things we already know we’re powerless to avoid doing?

Yeah.  Doesn’t sound so good to me, either.  In fact, it sounds miserable.  It’s a lot of pressure.

I have some really good news.  It’s so simple that you might have trouble believing it.

Are you ready for this?

Jesus paid for ALL your crimes, big and small, past and future, and YOU get His rewards.

It gets even better.  There’s a bonus package.

He fought your enemy (the devil) and won, and then He gave you authority to enforce His victory for the rest of your time on earth.

God is that good.  He loves us that much.  What we couldn’t do for ourselves, He did for us.

On your worst day, you are still completely covered and He’s still completely crazy about you.

I wish more Believers really understood the deep implications of this.

No more guilt.

No more shame.

No longer orphans, but adopted by God.

Credited with all of Jesus’s goodness.

Always accepted by God.

No longer a slave to trying harder, working harder

Free to rest.

Free to laugh.

Perfectly loved and cherished.

Always, and no matter what.



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