The Legacy of Percy King

img_1822-1The first time I met Percy King, I was volunteering at an event in a neighboring community. I’d taken my children to his booth to see his exotic animals when Percy walked up behind me and laid a ten foot, albino python on my shoulders. I almost wet my pants. I tried explaining to him that I was a “fluffy” animal person, but he didn’t accept that. Observing his overall “stage presence”, love for what he was doing, and natural ability to put one at ease, I immediately invited him to be a presenter at the summer camp I directed for children through the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League. He happily agreed.
Fast forward a few months. Percy arrived at camp a few minutes early. Our camp chaplain was still delivering his daily devotion. As I approached Percy to greet and welcome him, I noticed tears freely flowing down his face. He was so moved by the devotion itself and the fact that the rescue league was honoring God that it took him a minute to regain his composure. Because of our mutual love for God, animals, and children, we quickly bonded and identified as “kindred spirits”.

Of course, the camp kids loved Percy and all of his amazing animals, and from that year on, I always invited him back – as much for myself as the children. He loved on the kids so well. He was never in a hurry and made sure every child was given the opportunity to interact with each of his many critters. He would draw their attention and laughter with pranks at my expense: one time he laid a scorpion on my neck and told the kids if they clapped it would sting me, another time he placed a parrot on my head and told the kids it would poop on me if they clapped. Percy found amusement when I was peed on by his alligator and pricked by the hedgehog. Over the years, I even grew comfortable handling his snakes. If Percy trusted them, so did I.

Along with the rest of Mississippi, my heart was broken when news of his murder broke. Percy was such a kind, gentle, and tender-hearted person. When he wasn’t showing his animals at birthday parties, schools, nursing homes, and other community events, he volunteered at the homeless shelter and his church. He mentored countless numbers of young men over the years. Percy was the kind of person that would have given you the shirt off of his back. He was selfless, considerate, and compassionate.

The question of “why” begs to be answered, but greater than that, for me right now, is “what” and “how”. What can I do to make a difference in the world the way Percy so effortlessly did? How can I make a lasting impact on those around me? To honor his life is to better mine.

Lord, help me live and love like Percy – faithfully and purposefully.

 

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Year of the Dog

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

24294103_1780979458641513_353045090737977088_nOf all the lessons God has taught me through my Golden Retrievers, and dogs in general, the importance of living in the moment is pretty close to the top of the list.  Dogs do not wallow in the regrets of of the past, and they do not worry about things that may or may not happen in the future.  They simply live life to the fullest extent at any given time.  I believe God intends for us to live our lives in the same manner.

Everyone who has achieved puberty has regrets from their past, and we all have at one time or another felt that we were victims of a situation that was out of our control.  Shame and regrets and bad memories can become chains that imprison us to a jail of our own making if we do not submit them to God.  Likewise, reliving “the good ole days” without regard to what is happening now, also causes us to miss out on life.  When we live in the past, we never fully live in the present.  Dogs may live conditioned to a past experience, but they do not let it prevent them from enjoying today.  Neither should we.

We also forget to live in the present by spending too much of our time worrying about the future.  Whether it is worrying about things we hear in the news like threats of war or weather predictions, or things that hit closer to home such as health and finances, worrying robs today of its joy.  In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to pray saying, “give us this day our daily bread.”  Further in the chapter Jesus teaches us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  My dogs do not worry about their future because for their entire lives I have cared for them daily.  They know when they wake up tomorrow, I will again provide for them.  We should have that same trust in our Father who provides all of our needs.

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According the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog.  I would like to encourage you this year to live more like a dog!  Whatever has happened in your past or what you dream or fear in the future, do not become so caught up in it that you forget to live life now.  Do not miss the things in front of you.  You only get to live each day once.  Make the most of it.  Make it count.  Have fun.  Be spontaneous.  Make good memories.  Philippians 3:13,14 reads, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  That should be our goal, as well.

Have a blessed week, y’all!

Hope Continually

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

1345390What a wild and crazy year! They all are to some extent, but for our family, 2017 has been a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits, and change. For the past ten to fifteen years as each new year approached, God gave me a verse that served as my theme and inspiration for the year. That did not happen for 2017 (at least not until half way through it). Instead, I only heard the word “hope”.

Being a happy-go-lucky kind of person (most of the time), I wasn’t sure there was anything I could learn about hope that I didn’t already know. Yet I couldn’t move away from the word. It was confirmed when my husband gifted me with a beautiful wall cross with the word hope on it. It was again reinforced at a Tenth Avenue North concert the week before New Year’s when they played the song “I Have This Hope”. It had not been released to radio at that time, so I’d not heard it previously. I knew God was speaking to me. (Sometimes God has to repeat Himself multiple times before I concede. Thankfully He is a good, loving, and patient Father!) It didn’t take long into the year to realize why God had been intent on “giving me hope”.

During the course of 2017: My daughter was diagnosed with asthma after having chronic hiccups for several months. My husband had test results come back that caused concern. I had an adverse reaction to medication. Two of my children injured their ankles a week apart from one another that caused each to end up in walking boots for several weeks. Most recently my oldest son literally almost lost an eye while rough-housing with his two younger brothers. In between all of the doctor’s appointments, my daughter danced her last recital, graduated high school, and started college.

Given the depths of hopelessness that a few of these situations came with, I grew closer in my walk with God. During each issue we faced, God showed me that He alone is the source of my hope. I realized that He knew what I’d be facing in this year, and before any of it came to be, He had already promised His gift of hope. He would sustain me. He would not leave me. He would supply my needs. And when my fortitude wavered, He sent reminders in the form of a necklace with the word hope engraved on it and a large, bright sign someone set up going into my office with the verse on it that became my verse for the year. That verse was Psalm 71:14 that reads, “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”image1

As the song Tenth Avenue North sang at the close of 2016 says, “Through the flood and the fire you are with me and you won’t let go.” Sometimes you have to experience hopelessness to know the true joy of having hope. And when you place your hope in God, you never are without it.

Have a blessed New Year, y’all!

Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

d159085There are just a few days left before Christmas.  While some of us at this point are still like kids and absolutely cannot wait for the big day, many others are just ready for it to all be over with.

During this final time of preparation, everything seems to become more rushed in an effort to concoct the perfect recipe, find the perfect gift, create the perfect Christmas card, and host the perfect party in the perfectly decorated home.  The pride of perfection can make us irritable and miserable.

In addition to our plight for perfection, we tend to overextend ourselves with parties and pageants, plays and concerts.  What looked like a calendar full of fun events at the beginning of the month, now seems like another list of time-consuming, obligations.  Whether participating in or just attending, the excitement that drew us in to begin with is now sucked out by the thought of one more practice or one more night away from home.

The stress we create trying to attain a Pinterest worthy celebration leaks into every other aspect of our lives.  From the cashier listening to the customer complain about the long line and hectic schedule to the housewife hoping to win the approval of her critical mother-in-law and other extended family, we create an environment of hostility and then wonder what happened to the joy of the season. Is it any wonder that tension runs high and tolerance runs low?

Soon we forget the reason for our celebration.  By doing so, we’ve done the very thing we complain of the general public doing.  We’ve left Christ out of Christmas.

Christ was born to offer us salvation, but He also came so that we could have an abundant life.  He came to bring us joy, to bring us hope, and to bring us peace.  Matthew 1:23 (ESV) says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”  He is here with us in the midst of our daily life – even during Christmas preparations.

Colossians 3:23 (NLT) reads, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Instead of looking at the next thing on our list as an obligation but as a gift for Jesus, we take the focus off of ourselves and put it back where it should have been all along.  Instead of considering those around us as inconveniences, we could consider our listening ear or even services rendered as part of what makes their Christmas more special and meaningful.  In shining His light in our words, actions, and deeds, we give Jesus the honor that is due Him.  When we commit to make Christmas about Christ, we are able to have joy in the journey.  We allow Him to reign as the Prince of Peace.

Whatever your thoughts or feelings are as we approach these final days until Christmas, I hope that you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in all of your interactions and preparations.  Celebrate Christ in all that you do.  That is how you celebrate CHRISTmas.

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Have a Merry CHRISTmas, y’all!