Feel Good Saturday-11/22/2014

At the end of a long week, I thought it would be nice to add a positive note on things by hijacking a Feel Good Friday post and moving it to Saturday:

Jason Brown  was a center for the St. Louis Rams. Brown decided to leave football behind to chase something he had never done before.  He used his contract money to purchase a thousand acres of land and start a farm.

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Brown is self-taught, relying on local sources and internet research.  His first crop yielded over 100,000 lbs of sweet potatoes, which he donated to the needy in the St. Louis area.  He intends to continue this practice with each crop that he grows. He said this effort was inspired by his faith and a calling to live a life of service.

Imagine, spending your life preparing for a career in professional sports.  You make it, sign the big contract, and walk away to answer a higher calling.  Could you walk away from $37 million dollars? How about to start something you’ve never done? Brown is a hero and his food will made a huge difference for his neighbors dealing with hunger.

“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,’” Brown told CBS. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not.’”

This time of year, remember to be thankful for what you have and to do what you can for those who have less. It doesn’t take a farm to make a difference.  You can do it on your block and in your city. Never forget what is important.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21

 

Soundtrack inspiration:

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Feel Good Friday- 10/24/2014

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This week we watched the aftermath of the shooting in Ottawa, Canada. A young man shot and killed Cpt. Nathan Cirillo, a soldier guarding the War Memorial, before running to Parliament.  He was confronted by a guard at Parliament, shot the guard in the foot after a struggle, and almost made it to the rooms housing the politicians.  Kevin Vickers, Sergeant at Arms, retrieved a pistol from a lock box in his office and exchanged fire with the man, killing him in the end.

The comic above was drawn by Bruce MacKinnon and published in the Chronicle Herald.  It shows the soldiers from the memorial comforting Cirillo and pulling him up to join them. You can find an article about it here. Every time I see the image, it gives me chills.  You can also find the clip online of Vickers entering the House of Commons the day after the shooting and receiving a five-minute standing ovation.

In moments of horror, we can find heroes.  Many men like Cirillo died serving their country and many others like Vickers stepped up to fight the carnage.  Both are heroes and should be recognized for their actions. Images carry power and this comic is a fine example of one.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Feel Good Friday 10/17/2014

Melanie Bailey was in the middle of running a cross-country event in North Dakota when she came upon a competitor on the ground and sobbing in pain.  Others passed the girl and Bailey decided not to let that happen.  She helped to girl climb on her back and they finished the race together. You can find the story here.

As parents, we often get caught up in the competition of our children’s sports. We want them to win. We take them to practices and teach them the value of teamwork. Sports can have a vast upside and an ugly downside.  Bailey’s story is the true meaning of athletics.

In a similar vein, it was reported this afternoon that Chip Kelly visited New York Giants’ receiver Victor Cruz in Jefferson Hospital today before he was transferred up to a facility in New York.  With all the animosity surrounding the game, Kelly’s move is classy and almost unheard of in professional sports. He was quoted as saying “culture wins championships”. If his team follows his example, they’ll be well on their way.

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9: 24-26

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Fatherhood Friday 10/10/2014

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We are living in the middle of a crisis. Fathers are absent more than ever before.  The above infographic is from the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization dedicated to improving families and the involvement of fathers in their families. As men, we must understand that children are a lifetime commitment. We must be their heroes, their guides, protectors, shoulders to cry on, and hands to high-five. We will be their conception of men and, statistics show, of God.

We must love, deeply and fully, to break the bonds of prior generations. If you are a father making it work, I applaud your efforts.  If you are a guy who never had a father, know that there is hope, that you are strong enough to be a good father to your own children. If your father burned you more than once in more than one way, I’m sorry.  Know that you can start fresh and keep your eyes on the one true Father.

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.– Luke 10: 21-22

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Feel Good Friday 10/3/2014

Robin Macmillan is a photographer in Canada and a cancer survivor.  It took a brush with the disease to inspire her to follow her dreams and create stunning photography. There is power is creation and finding your passion.  Macmillan used her camera to tell her story.  If you are in the midst of suffering, document your feelings in words or pictures. Capture the storm inside. Use it for motivation to find victory.  Don’t ever give up.

You can find Macmillan’s story and her photographs here.

 

Berks Coalition to End Homelessness

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Like the volunteer pictured above, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness is a cooperation of individuals and businesses directly making an impact on the city in the effort to combat homelessness. It includes over sixty agencies and businesses. The Coalition takes the lead in HUD grant application for the county and is an important contact point for other service agencies in the city.  I met with Sharon Parker, the Executive Director, one afternoon at Barnes and Noble.  She told me about the numerous projects they have on the table including an effort to obtain housing for homeless families in Berks County. You can find their website here with a wealth of information and links.  You can find donation information here.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Feel Good Friday 9/26/2014

On a previous Feel Good Friday post I mentioned the story of Devon Still, the Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman whose 4-year-old daughter is currently fighting cancer.  She had surgery today at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. CHOP is one of the best, if not the best, hospital in the country for children and I’m sure she is in good hands.

The Bengals have sold Still’s jersey’s with all profits going to the battle against pediatric cancer. Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, purchased 100 jerseys on his own.  Still posted a picture on his Instagram today of flowers, a stuffed bear, and other gifts sent over by the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly.

Check out this article for Still’s pep talk delivered to his daughter on the ride to the hospital and make sure you have tissues close. As a father, it tugs at my heart and I can’t imagine what he must be feeling tonight.  We are certainly sending thoughts and prayers their way.

Greater Berks Food Bank

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The Greater Berks Food Bank distributed seven million pounds of food last year. They are in the midst of a transition to a new warehouse that will cost almost $3 million to fund. Their programs assist in over three hundred programs including a weekly presence in local schools handing out food to students and serving meals. In a city where these meals may be the only complete ones they get in a week, it is vitally important.

Requests normally come from pantries, programs, and individuals in Schuylkill and Berks Counties. They will then distribute the food they have and collect from outside organizations. The need is consistent and growing.  Last year, one in five residents in the two counties served accessed food provided from GBFB. Hunger is a real problem, not just in the city but also in the suburbs with a new class of “working poor.”

You can find their website here including facts, figures, and donation information.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Hillsong, This I Believe.  Val’s new favorite!

Feel Good Friday 9/19/2014

The NFL has recently struggled with a string of high-profile domestic abuse cases.  You can find one of my posts about it here. The league has faced criticism about the handling of the cases and rightfully so. From Ray Rice to Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer, these cases are now coming out of the woodwork and the league will need to quickly form an acceptable response.  Today, news came out that they have partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is a small step, but a positive one.  If the attention on domestic violence can save just one more victim, it will be worth it.  The league is also instituting education for every team surrounding domestic violence and sexual abuse. You can find an article about the partnership here.

Inspirational quote to start the weekend:

“No one rises to the occasion. You always sink to your level of training.” ~Chip Kelly, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles

I’m a huge fan of Kelly’s and this quote stuck with me.  As a believer, father, husband, writer, and entrepreneur, it is a valuable thought. You must build your base because, as the challenges come in waves, you will always react from your foundation. Are you building on rock? Sand? Does your foundation need to be torn down and rebuilt?

 

Berks Women in Crisis

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Berks Women in Crisis (WIC) operates more than one location in the city of Reading.  They offer services that include counseling, housing, and legal assistance.  They work with women, and occasionally men, in crisis situations of abuse. WIC will go to any place of employment, school, or organization wanting to have an educational presentation on abuse and assist with training individuals in identifying abuse. One of their largest challenges is getting the word out.

They have no budget for marketing and must rely on word of mouth and community events throughout the year. When the national spotlight is on domestic abuse, it is valuable to know that there is always help.  You can find more information on their website about current programs, support, and giving opportunities.

Soundtrack Inspiration: Hillsong’s Amazing Grace, Broken Vessels

 

Feel Good Friday 9/12/2004

On August 25th, at a shooting range in Arizona, instructor Charles Vacca was accidentally shot and killed by a young girl operating an Uzi. The girl’s mother caught the shooting on her cell phone as she was recording her daughter at the time. Vacca’s four children have penned a letter to the girl and it includes thoughts like this:

“We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you, and we wish you peace. Our dad would want the same thing.”

Imagine both sides of this story.  The children on will live with it for the rest of their lives.  I’m curious about the idea that kids as young as nine are allowed to shoot an automatic weapon at a range but, the sentiments of the victim’s kids are what should shine at this moment.  How many of us could say or do the same if we had lost a loved one?

I’ve said before that children are the future of this country and, when I read this, I believe it just may be true.  You can find the story here.

 

Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center

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Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center is located across from the Reading Main Library on 5th Street in the city of Reading.  I met with the director, Sherry Camelleri, on a hot summer afternoon in late July.  Mercy opened in 1990. It offers parental education courses, pregnancy tests, information on adoption and medical services, liquid formula, shoes, and clothing for children.  The staff consists of Camelleri, her assistant, and a crew of volunteers.  They receive no funding from the government and every item of supplies is donated.

When we toured the clothing room, most of the bins and racks had a good selection of various sizes.  One bin stood empty and waiting for new donations of socks.

“Winter coats are gold here,” she told me, “we had a family of four sending only one child to school each day in the winter because they had one coat to pass around.  The three other kids stayed home.”

Mercy serves wide range of ages, from teenagers dealing with pregnancy to those later on in life. The doors are also open to men facing unplanned pregnancies who have the desire to better themselves as fathers.  Camelleri’s passion is to meet people where they are, earn their trust, and make their lives better.

Her drive is for the children and, if your are looking to support a valuable outreach, please consider donating here. You can check the main page of Mercy’s website for available services, hours, and contact information.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: A great song to start the weekend

Feel Good Friday 9-5-14

On Fridays, in this new blog feature,  I will highlight a positive news story, article, or post. I’ll also highlight a local charity that will be part of Overcome when it is published.

The NFL isn’t always known for life-affirming actions.  Players struggle with the law. They can suffer serious injuries.  They make more in a season than most people do in a lifetime while playing a schoolyard game. This week, the Cincinnati Bengals cut and resigned defensive tackle Devon Still to their practice squad.

This happens all the time in the league, but Still’s story has a twist. His daughter, four-year-old Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June.  The team signed him to help pay for the girl’s medical treatment.  You can see an article and video piece from Good Morning America here.

 

Hope Rescue Mission

645 North Sixth Street • Reading, PA 19601
Phone (610) 375-4224 • E-Mail hopeforreading@gmail.com

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Hope was the first organization to reply to my request for a tour and interview.  The building, a former corporate property for the Reading Railroad, houses almost seventy beds spread over a dorm space and transitional housing. They have a library, chapel, cafeteria, and computer lab. They offer training in discipleship and job skills. I met with Robert Turchi, the director, and Frank Grill, the associate director. Grill took me on a tour of the buildings and his passion for the men they house was evident from the start of our conversation.

Hope also runs a thrift store and wood shop. They refurbish furniture, sell and recycle wood pallets, and operate gardens to supply vegetables in the summer. Every item is donated, from the stock of the thrift store to the food in the cafeteria. The men are trained and given jobs to offset the cost of their housing.  The average water bill for a winter season is around $18,000 dollars.

They receive no government or city support.

As I walked through, I spoke to the men and listened to their stories.  There are amazing accounts of losing everything and redefining their identities. Some of the guys were at the top of their fields and, through addictions or other factors, ended up in jail or on the streets.  Hope is making a difference in the lives of the men it houses and the city it serves. Please consider making a difference and helping them out.

You can find their website here with photos, media, staff biographies, needs, and ways to give.

If you like this post, please share with your friends and family!

~Matt