Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012 from At the Well

Langston Hughes posed the question what happens to a dream deferred.

Monica and John W. Fountain
So many live with the gnawing ache of dreams deferred.

But what happens when your dreams are fulfilled? When what you hoped and prayed for become a reality. When you plant and water and God through His grace and amazing love gives the increase. When the hard work of planting and nurturing, building and dreaming, working and planning finally come to fruition.

Joy.

Not just happiness at the circumstances, but a deep satisfaction and peace because you know you are in the space and place where God intends you to be, even if all the circumstances still are not perfect.

2011 has been a joyous year of dreams fulfilled for the Fountain Family and for that we praise God.

Our book, Dear Dad, that lived for years in our heart and mind has come to life. Lost family ties have been bound. In October, for the first time, I met my brother Walter face to face.  Awards have been won professionally and academically, on the field of athletics and in the discipline of martial arts. In 2011, my husband, John W. Fountain, was honored as the top columnist in the Chicago area by the Society of Professional Journalists.

We praise God for every blessing, but most of all we thank God for you--our family and friends.

The vision I had for At the Well has come to fruition. When my husband encouraged me to start blogging in 2008, he gave me the name At the Well based on the woman at the well who had a life-changing encounter with Christ. My hope for At the Well was that it would be a place of enlightenment, encouragement and edification. This year, it has truly been all of those things for me and I hope for many of you as well. Through the platform of social media and the Internet, I believe we have created a community where God's name is glorified, the Gospel is proclaimed, prayers are lifted and people are encouraged and edified for this journey called life.

Not only have dreams been fulfilled for me this year, but also dreams have been renewed.

The Well magazine is in the works and will be given birth to in 2012. The Well will be a quarterly magazine that will complement At the Well and have the same mission of edification, enlightenment and encouragement as well as inspiration. It will be a forum where we can share and learn from each other's testimonies and triumphs.I hope that many of you will contribute your testimony and story to The Well magazine. (click here for writer's guidelines) We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimonies. My prayer is that the testimonies and stories that will be shared on At the Well and The Well in 2012 will bring healing and deliverance.



Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me this year. I can't tell you how much it has meant. And I thank God for freeing me from fear and helping me to step out on faith. A special thank you to my best friend and husband, John, for giving me tough love sometimes and telling me to stop talking about it and get about the business of doing it.

The greatest treasures we possess are the intangible ones. Our health. Our relationships with family and friends, those who we love and who love us back. Not the things we accumulate, but the memories that we make. Hugging a brother for the first time. Laughing and playing games on a trip to Detroit. Watching your son be a pirate in a play. Singing and dancing under the sky at a music festival in Cincinnati. Driving with the drop top down on a humid summer night. Sitting by a fireplace with the one you love.

We pray that you treasure the moments and that your 2012 is filled with joy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Give Up

“I would have fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27: 13 (King James Version)


As a matter of fact I had fainted (Psalm 27: 13, American Standard Version).

I lost confidence, my strength, my consciousness of who You are.

I was knocked out. Down for the count. Tired. I was weak. I had messed up. I had given up.

But I believed. I believe.

Believe: to accept something as true, genuine or real; to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy or ability of something. (Webster’s Dictionary)

Not in myself. Not in my power or might. But in You.

I believe in God. The Great I AM. The Maker of Heaven and Earth. Jehovah Jirah, my provider. Jehovah Shalom, my peace. The Ancient of Days. The Lord God Almighty. The Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End. My Rock and my salvation. The lover of my soul. My creator who knit me together in my mother’s womb. My God who counts the number of hairs on my head and sees my thoughts afar off.

The God who sees me. The God who knows me. The God who knows the plans He has for me, plans to give me a future and a hope. The God who takes care of me.

I gave up. I quit. I couldn’t take it, make it or do it. I didn’t have the capability, ability or capacity to achieve my dream. I still don’t.

I would have despaired (Psalm 27: 13, New American Standard Bible)

Despair: complete loss or absence of hope.

But I have confidence in You. My hope is in You.

My success and significance are in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 (New International Version)

Before I close my eyes on this earth, You will fulfill the purpose you have for my life. You are good and your mercies endureth forever. Because I am also confident (sure, certain, secure, positive) of this: that he that began a good work in me will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

I have already seen your goodness. Your protection. Your provision. Your love.

I see it on the cross. A King on a tree, dying for me. An empty tomb. Resurrection power. Your Holy Spirit and still small voice. Your miracles every day. Your discernment and direction.

Your Word speaking to me:

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145:13 (New International Version)

“And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 (American Standard Version)

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (King James Version)

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 (King James Version)

Your word to me: Don’t give up. (Monica’s Modern English Translation)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ministry of Naps

Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.” 1 Kings 19:5-6

I heard a preacher once say, taking a nap is sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do.

I used to hate taking naps as a child. I remember being in pre-school lying on the mat looking at the other kids who were knocked out. I wanted to get up and keep playing. Why did we have to take time out to take a nap?

When I got to college and pulled all-nighters, I appreciated a nap, especially during finals week. As a stay- at- home mom, I felt guilty taking a nap during the day. What if my husband called and said, “Whatcha doing?” Taking a nap. That just didn’t seem right. I needed to be productive. There were too many things to do.

But we are human beings, not human doings and God wants us to rest. In creation he created a Sabbath day, a day of rest. He knows our frames. He knows that we need time for restoration. We also need time for reflection and meditation. Then we can get a revelation from God. If you want to be really effective, sometimes we need to stop and take a nap.

Research has shown that naps—short periods of rest—are good for our health and lives. Some of the benefits include: less stress, increased creativity and productivity, improved memory and learning and lower levels of heart disease.

In the book 1 Kings, the great prophet Elijah was feeling down. As a matter of fact, he was downright depressed. He had just had the mountaintop experience of defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He had seen fire come down from heaven and then a downpour of heavy rain after years of drought. The prophet had experienced God’s miraculous provision through ravens and widows. His prayers were so powerful that he cried to the Lord and a boy was restored to life.

But after all of that, Elijah was still just a man. He was afraid of the evil Queen Jezebel and fled for his life. He sat under a tree and prayed for death. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

But then he fell asleep. An angel woke him up and gave him something to eat and drink and Elijah went back to sleep. The angel woke him up again and he ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

The lesson from Elijah: after great victories or hard work, we must take the time to rest. When God has something great for us to do, sometimes we need to be strengthened and we need time to prepare for the task ahead. It’s OK to be still and quiet before God. Activity does not always equal ministry.

The other day I was feeling a little down. I was not accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. My to-do list was getting longer and my Plan A had turned into Plan C. My desk was a mess, dishes were in the sink, and clothes on the family room couch needed folding.

My husband came home and said he was going to take a bath so I spruced up the bathroom for him. Another lesson: What you do for someone else, give it your best. You might find out you’re doing it for yourself.

Next time I came into the bathroom, thinking I’m checking on his bath, I find a bathroom with candles, roses, a card and my favorite candy. I soaked in the bubble bath that had been prepared for me, devoured my candy and fell asleep. I thought I had dozed off for a few minutes. It was actually almost an hour. But when I got up, I felt refreshed and when I woke up this morning I felt lighter and the day was brighter. That rest did wonders.

God wants us to enter his rest—his ultimate blessing for our lives. He has a rest for our souls. “This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16).

If we want real rest and peace that passes human comprehension, we must walk in His ways. Are you tired? Are you sick and tired? Maybe, like Elijah, you’re depressed. You’ve worked hard and it seems like your labor is in vain.

Jesus invites you to take a nap.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Happens When We Praise?

Church mothers praise God during service at the
 Regina Mundi Church in South Africa.
Photo by John W. Fountain
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."
Psalm 103:1-2

Last month I embarked on a challenge. My brother, Rev. K. Edward Copeland, the pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois sent out an invitation on Facebook to join his church as they study "The Power to Prosper: 21-Days to Financial Freedom". He challenged his congregation to a 21-day fast from credit cards. It prompted an idea for me. How about 21 days of giving God something? 21 Days of Praise.

I had read a book about gratitude and on the local Christian radio station once I heard an author talk about how she had a goal of writing 1,000 things for which she was grateful. I thought it was a great idea and I had started to write my own gratitude list in my daily devotions, but as time went on I was inconsistent. I’ve heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. Why not challenge myself and invite others to join me in listing our praises for 21 days?

Part of the challenge was to think of something new every day and not repeat. I thought it might be a challenge. But the challenge ended up stopping the flow of praise to just a few. As I started to post praises at the At the Well Facebook group and others joined in with their praise, I found myself finding more and more to praise God for and along the way God made manifest what happens when we praise and why praise is so important.

Perspective

When we praise we get the proper perspective of who God is.

Praise is recognizing, appreciating and expressing God’s greatness. Perspective is defined as a view or vista; a mental view or outlook. It comes from the Latin word perspicere which means to look through or see clearly.

When we praise God, we see more clearly. We see who God is and we see ourselves and our situations in the proper perspective. The things that seemed so large in our human perception seem microscopically small when compared to the greatness of God.

When we praise God we start to really see who He is. Although our finite human minds cannot conceive or perceive all of his greatness, when we start to enumerate who He is, we start to see different aspects of his holiness, omnipotence, awesomeness, love and grace.

When we start seeing how big and great God is, everything else is small in comparison and we have a proper perspective on our problems, our position and our purpose.

Praising God jogs our memory and increases our ability to trust in the one who has brought us through before. We remember how God has kept us, comforted us and provided for us. The more we say what He has done the more we appreciate who He is and have confidence in what He can do.

We recognize that He is the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. The God we serve and praise is the almighty One who spoke and brought the universe into existence. This great God is our God. He is a personal God. Our father, Abba, Daddy God who loves me and knows me so well that he has counted the number of hairs on my head and sees my thoughts afar off. He knew me before I was me and He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

The same God who determined the number of the stars heals the brokenhearted. The same God who created the vastness of the cosmos and galaxies also created the subatomic particle of the atom. The same God who made the intricacies of my DNA is the same God who makes the rain fall, the grass grow and the seasons change. The same God made the sun and made it so that plants on earth take that light and turn into food through the miracle of photosynthesis.

And that same God who made the sun, gave His only begotten Son who was there with Him when the foundations of the earth were established. And that Son set aside His divinity, wrapped himself in humanity and shed his blood for our iniquity. What a mighty God we serve and He is worthy to be praised.

Praising God puts things in perspective.

Next: What Happens When We Praise? Purpose and Power

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

21 Days of Praise

Recently, my brother, Rev. Kenneth E. Copeland, the pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois sent out an invitation on Facebook to join his church as they study "The Power to Prosper: 21-Days to Financial Freedom" (click the link to see CNN interview) by Michelle Singletary. For the 21 days of this fast, they are asking folks to not use credit cards or debit cards and only purchase necessities (grocery, gas, medication).

"From November 1st through November 21st we are trusting that God will give us the discipline to break the bondage of debt and to put our money where our values are. I DARE YOU TO JOIN US!"

U.S. consumer debt is more than 2 trillion dollars. That's trillion--not million. We are drowning in a sea of debt. For many, not using credit for 21 days would be a great challenge. Being financially free is important. God wants us to be free in every way, emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially. In order to take control of our finances (and other areas of our lives) we must be disciplined. That financial challenge gave me an idea for another challenge. A challenge to 21 days of praise.

I invite you to join me on At the Well to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).

For the next 21 days (November 1-21) join with me in posting praise and thanks on At the Well (online or Facebook).

For the first seven days, list three things:

I praise God for His (fill in the blank)
I thank Him for (fill in the blank)

The next 7 days list 7 things.

And the last 7 days see if you can list 12 things a day.

The challenge. Don't repeat but you can go from general to specific. For example, I thank God for my health. Then later you may say, I thank God that I was able to walk under my own strength or I thank God for the ability to see, etc.

When we start thinking about and saying all of the things that we have to thank God for, I believe it frees us. Our problems become small in light of an awesome God who loves us.

Maybe you'll do both--the financial fast and 21 days of praise. Either way, at the end, I'm sure we'll have many praise reports of what the Lord has done.

Here's my first list:

1. I praise God for salvation
2. I thank him for my husband.
3. I thank him for my children.

Top At the Well postings for October 2011

Here are the top At the Well postings, for October 2011. If you're reading them for the first time or again, enjoy and please share them with your friends via email or on your Facebook wall.


Note: A week or so after I wrote this post, I was watching Good Morning, America (something I don't usually do) and they were talking about a book named, Dear Me, A Letter to My 16-year-old Self. I had no idea. This post came to me out of a conversation I had with my soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter. I wish I had thought of this posting and a writing book last year! At any rate, that book highlights the letters of 75 celebrities writing to their 16-year-old selves. I guess great minds think alike or at least more than one-person can have the same idea. 

What letter or advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?





No cupcakes at school for birthdays? What is the world coming to? Should schools ban sugar?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memo to Girls' Clothing Manufacturers

Memo

To: Girls' Clothing manufacturers

From: A concerned mother

My 15-year-old daughter is not a video vixen.

I just thought you should be made aware of this fact since most of the dresses you make in her size are too short or too tight for her to wear in my opinion. A few years ago when I was looking for a dress for her eighth grade graduation this unfortunate situation came to my attention. Now two years later while looking for a dress for her fall harvest dance, I find that the situation has not improved.

Once again, most of the selection was too tight and too short in my humble opinion. Even my daughter said, “Mom, that’s too low.” I thought we would have to buy a skirt and blouse until we found the right dress. Not too low in the front, not too high on the thighs.

Now I don’t consider myself a prude. My prom dress was strapless, but it was long and formal. But maybe I am a bit old-fashioned in this day and age. I just can’t see my daughter in a dress where she has to fight to keep her breasts from popping out and keep tugging down to keep it from riding up.

That’s what I see too often at these dances and other functions--girls pulling up and down to keep their dresses on.

Another mother shopping the other day commiserated with me. She said most of the dresses made the girls look like prostitutes. I prefer the term video vixens—the young ladies who populate the videos of popular music these days, half-dressed and shaking what their mamas gave them.

This dilemma is not just for teens.

Another mother told me she searched for weeks to find shorts for her then 6-year-old that weren’t too short or had inappropriate words like “juicy” written on the back. One friend has contemplated taking up sewing so that she can make clothes for her daughter. Another friend looking for dresses for her 5 and 7 year old daughters for a daddy-daughter dance said she had a hard time finding something appropriate.

I just want you to know I think there is a market out there that you can capitalize on. There are other mothers out there looking for dresses and other clothing that don’t make their daughters look like Puritans or nuns but at the same time leave something to the imagination. There are some mothers out there who want their child to remain children for as long as possible, although the world keeps trying to make them into mini-adults. They want their children to relish in the simplicity and innocence of childhood because they know they will have the rest of their lives to be grown up.

I cannot blame you for all of this. Someone buys the dresses that you produce or you wouldn’t make them. I think too many mothers are living vicariously through their daughters and wishing for their younger days. I see it on that horrible, disturbing television show “Toddlers and Tiaras” as mothers pressure their pre-schoolers to win beauty pageants and disgrace themselves. They parade their babies in sexy outfits in beauty pageants with their already flawless faces caked with makeup to make them look like grown little women.

This summer at a music festival I saw women my age and old enough to be my mother wearing outfits that Beyonce would be afraid to wear. One grandmother had a red number on with a neckline that plunged to her belly button and her breasts were sagging almost as far. I wondered how anyone let her get out the house or how she looked in the mirror and thought, “Girl, you looking good.” I see the pictures on Facebook, women who refuse to age gracefully but think that Daisy Duke shorts that almost look like bikini bottoms and super tight, cut up jeans are still for them.

But I want my daughter to know that it’s wonderful to dress up and wear beautiful clothes. How you present yourself to the world is important. But you don’t have to dress according to what the world says is desirable. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to show everybody her breasts and butt to be attractive. I want her to understand the wisdom of the scripture in Proverbs that says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)”

I want her to know that she is a lady and she should dress like one. I want her to understand that her beauty should not come from her outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. “Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)”

That inner beauty will never go out of fashion.

So dear clothing manufacturer, please keep this market in mind. I think you might be surprised by the demand.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To Sweet or Not to Sweet

We are eating ourselves to death.

Trust me. I get it.

Americans are obese and African Americans are particularly plagued by health issues related to their diet and lifestyle. It has been reported that 70 percent of African American women are overweight or obese. African Americans suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure at detrimental and deadly rates.

Many of our health issues can be resolved, alleviated or aided by eating a healthier diet. Too much of the wrong foods can kill. But foods can also heal.

Not only are the adults obese, but our children are overweight and out of shape.

Trust me. I get it.
I am an absolute advocate of healthy eating. My mother taught me that. As a child, she made sure that a healthy diet, full of fruits and vegetables was a part of life. She still preaches a vegetable with every meal and at least one green vegetable a day. My husband also insists on teaching our children about putting the right things in their bodies. No white bread. Whole wheat 12-grain bread. There was a little complaining at first but not anymore. Lots of fruits and vegetable. Little red meat. Bacon or sausage every blue moon. I can’t remember the last time I had a pork chop. Chicken and fish. Cut down on the candy.
I support First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.

But no cupcakes at school for kids on their birthday? What is the world coming to?

At a PTO meeting at my son’s school last month, parents were informed because of a health initiative grant received by the school district, children were discouraged from bringing cupcakes to school for their birthday. All fundraisers also had to be approved by the higher ups and cookie dough (our biggest fundraiser for the year) and chocolate sales were also discouraged.
Bringing cupcakes to the school on my children’s birthdays was one of the highlights of my now teenagers early school years and something that my son still looks forward to. I must admit it was something I enjoyed as well since as a child my birthday near the end of August always fell just before school started so I didn’t get to celebrate with my classmates. It seems like some of the fun of childhood is being taken away. Instead of cupcakes, pass out carrot sticks?

In the whole scheme of things, this is not earth shattering but it still feels like a loss.

No cupcakes for birthdays? My husband noted that if I was a teacher, I would appreciate the kids not getting a shot of sugar from a birthday cupcake in the afternoon.
Trust me. I get it.

But I also believe that banning cupcakes is not the recipe for healthier children. I think we’re better served by making sure that children are active, school meals are balanced and healthy and most importantly that children and parents are educated and encouraged to practice healthy eating and lifestyles at home.

I’m not beating the drum like some anti-government advocates saying keep your hands off my cupcakes. I don’t plan on occupying the school district offices. But as I asked in the meeting, “You mean there can’t be any sugar in the school?”

I read recently that some schools have banned sugar all together. A few years ago a principal claimed that after banning sugar from her school, test scores rose and discipline problems declined. Maybe there is something to this sugar free thing. And kids can always have their treats at home.

But as in most things in life, I believe a balance is required. Advocate and educate for healthier eating. Cut back and out sugary drinks and fatty snacks. Exercise and practice a healthy lifestyle. But also realize that indulging in a cupcake every once in a while is one of those sweet treats of life. And because like your birthday it doesn’t come around every day, it makes it that much sweeter, special and something to be savored.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Advice for Your 16-year-old Self

The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter. She was telling me the latest controversy among her group of friends. A minor thing seems like the only thing when you’re almost 16 years old. As I listened to her talk about the world of teenage girls, I couldn’t help but thinking, “Thank God I’m not in high school anymore!”


My high school senior yearbook photo
 Don’t get me wrong. I had a good high school experience. But when you’re in high school there can be so much drama. You’re trying to figure out who you are and how you fit. Nowadays there seems so much pressure to be popular. Although I’m sure there was that pressure when I was 16 too, but in this generation of Facebook, Twitter, instant communication and cyberbullying, the pressure cooker of peers seems to be even more intense.

I often tell my daughter, “You won’t even remember most of these folks 10 years from now.”

The advice I gave her the other day in regard to dealing with friends and misunderstandings and the general drama of hormonal girls was, “This too shall pass.”

As I prepare for my 25th class reunion at the end of October and my daughter turns sweet 16 in November, I think about the advice that I was given when I was that age, how much of it was really true and how much did I follow.

I received (and for the most part followed) excellent wisdom and advice based upon God’s Word from my parents. I was also blessed to have friends who had parents with the same values as my parents. My neighbor told me college would be some of the best times of my life, to enjoy it to the fullest. She was right and I did.

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “God gave you some sense.” One of the millions of nuggets of wisdom from my father was, “You have to learn to live with people because you’ll have to live with them for the rest of your life.”

I find myself passing these lessons to my children, including a few variations and bits of wisdom that I have picked up along the way of this journey called life (check out 43 lessons I’ve learned in 43 years).

But I was thinking, if I was to go back in time and speak to my 16-year-old self what would be the most important words of wisdom that I would want to impart to that young lady on the brink of adulthood? It probably wouldn’t be much different than what my parents told me. It’s some of the things I know and that I tell myself and live by today. It’s what I tell my children and other young people.

But I think I would tell my 16-year-old self something like this:

“In life you will have heartaches and pains, trouble and trials. Sometimes you will feel like giving up or a failure. You will also have joy and triumphs, laughter and love. Through it all, remember God is with you. Love freely. Forgive freely. Tell those you love that you love them. Our lives are our choices. Learn from the past but don’t dwell on your mistakes. Savor every minute. Take advantage of every opportunity. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Always remember who God says you are. Wherever you go and whatever you do, leave the place a little better for you having been there and take something from the experience to make you better. Don’t waste time. But make sure you stop and smell the roses. Don’t be held captive by fear. Life is short. Live it.”

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 16 (knowing what you know now about yourself and your life’s journey), what advice would you give to yourself?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You Never Know What's Wrapped Up in a Child

Upon hearing of the death of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, I learned from media reports that he was adopted. Born in 1955, he was the biological son of university graduate students. I thought about how his mother made a decision to bring him into this world, but I'm sure at the time she could have never imagined that her baby would grow up to be described as "a pioneer" who "changed the world."

It got me to thinking about others who people have dismissed or would have never thought would be lauded and applauded by the world or accomplish "great" things. It got me to thinking about how some people might have acted differently if they had known what those children would grow up to be. It made me think we never know what is wrapped up in a child.

It also made me think that it shouldn't matter if we knew or not because whether we make "great" accomplishments by the world's standards or not, that by God's standard we all have a calling, a gift and greatness that He has placed inside of us. For far too many that calling is crushed when we are children because of the cruelty of others. 

I wrote these thoughts/poem/musings as a result of those reflections.


You never know what’s wrapped up in a child


I wonder if that woman knew that you would grow up to be you
If she would have made you sleep on the porch
Would she have despised you because you were darker
Esteeming the fairer
Judging you by her hatred of her own and the color of your skin
If she knew the greatness you had within.

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

I wonder if those kids who poked fun at you
Would have been so cruel
Mocked your dark skin and called you ugly names
If they knew one day of your fame
That your name would be chanted across the world
Did they just see a poor little brown boy
Playing in Indonesia’s dust and dirt
If they knew the greatness within
Maybe they wouldn’t have said those things that hurt

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

I wonder if the girl giving birth out of wedlock
Could have known that the child she made a decision
To bring to this world
Would one day change it
That news of his death would be broadcast around the earth
On the very devices to which he gave birth

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

What’s wrapped inside every child
Is greatness that God placed within each and every one of us
For we were created in His image
Every child is great
Every child is Oprah, Obama and Steve Jobs
Every child has a gift that God has placed inside of him
We all have a call
A gift to share with the world
Even if that gift is just a kind word to help someone else along the way

Never forget what is wrapped up in a child
And treat every child, every person
With respect for their humanity
Love for their eternal soul
Treat every child with dignity
Treat every child
The way you would want to be treated
Don’t crush the beauty
That is wrapped up in every baby



Top At the Well Postings for September 2011

Here are the top two items read on At the Well for the month of September. Read them again or for the first time.

Peace and Blessings,
Monica Fountain










Just Another Day: 9/11/01

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tending Our Gardens: What We Need to Have a Harvest

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty or even a hundred times. Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:3-9

Last spring when we planted our garden, I planted pumpkin seeds at my son’s request. The pumpkin seeds eventually sprouted and grew into long vines that spread across the little garden. The vines produced big beautiful flowers but no pumpkins.

The vines looked lush and green. The flowers were beautiful, but there was no fruit. October came-- the time I should have been harvesting our pumpkins. But all I had was the memory of the flowers. No fruit.

That is how our spiritual life can be sometimes. Flowers, but no fruit. Over the years of gardening, I’ve learned a few things about producing a harvest and what we do naturally can also apply to how to produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tending Our Gardens: Got Fruit?

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11: 12-14

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not dout in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11: 20-24

Last year, I planted pumpkin seeds in my little backyard garden. Instead of big orange pumpkins during harvest time, all I had were big pretty flowers. This year my cucumber plants produced an abundance of little yellow flowers. Every day, I would go out and look for the signs of a cucumber growing. But just like last year with my expected pumpkin harvest, this year my cucumber plants produced no fruit, just flowers.

Jesus is also looking for fruit in the lives of those who call on his name.

“So, my brother, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4)”

But are we producing fruit or just flowers?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tending Our Gardens: Flowers, No Fruit

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14

I have a little garden in my backyard. It’s a small plot of land that was ready to plant a vegetable garden in when we bought the house. I had never gardened before but when I saw that little plot of land in the back visions of tomatoes and cucumbers danced in my head.

The first year I planted tomato seeds I didn’t know what I was doing so I just planted a bunch of seeds and I had a bumper crop of tomatoes.

Last spring when we were planning our garden, buying seeds, plants and deciding what we wanted to grow, my then 8-year-old son asked if we could plant some pumpkin seeds. Now I have never grown pumpkins but I was willing to give it a try. We bought a package and planted the seeds. Before long, the green shoots of the pumpkin plant poked their head through the soil. Soon, long vines stretched out of the little barbed wire fence into the yard. Before I knew it, big beautiful flowers emerged from the pumpkin vine.

We were excited because our experience had taught us that the flower was the preliminary stage to the fruit. I also have an apple tree in my backyard and every spring it explodes into beautiful white flowers and then those flowers transform into little green apples. The yellow flowers on my tomato plants become red ripe tomatoes. So I was expecting these large orange flowers on the vine to become pumpkins.

Every day I would go out in the garden and look for signs that a pumpkin was on the way.

No pumpkins.

Eventually the flowers would shrivel up, but then new buds would emerge. But still—no pumpkins. The vines looked lush and green. The flowers were beautiful, but there was no fruit. October came-- the time I should have been harvesting our pumpkins. But all I had was the memory of the flowers. No fruit.

That is how our spiritual lives can be. Jesus is looking for fruit. All he is finding is flowers.

Jesus is looking for fruit or at least signs that fruit is coming, but all he is finding is flowers. He is looking at our churches where we meet every Sunday and some Wednesdays. He is looking for fruit. He expects fruit. He is looking for a harvest. Jesus wants to find some fruit, but all he sees are leaves and flowers. We look good. We might even smell good, but we aren’t producing fruit. We seem fruitful in appearance, but we’re barren in reality.

Every day he is looking at our lives. Every minute he is examining our hearts. He is looking for fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

What is Jesus finding in your spiritual garden? Fruit or just flowers?

Next week: Tending Our Gardens: How to Grow Fruit

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Another Day: 9/11/01

This week our nation remembers the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001 when the United States was attacked by terrorist and nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. Most of us remember where we were on that fateful day that changed our lives, the country and the world. That beautiful September morning, I was pregnant and taking a non-fiction creative writing class at a local community college. My daughter was in kindergarten and my husband was a national correspondent for the New York Times. In remembrance of September 11, 2011, I am sharing with you what I wrote a few days after the tragedy for my creative writing class.

Do you remember what you were doing that day?

September 13, 2001

It was just another day. I woke up at 6:30 like every other weekday morning and prepared to take my daughter to school. Breakfast. Brush teeth. Throw on some sweats and a sweatshirt and head out the door. My husband told me to wait. He was going to ride with me this morning. Great, I thought. He can put some air in my car tire.

I dropped my daughter off at school and kissed her goodbye. We stopped at a gas station, filled the tire with air and the tank with gas. When we arrived home, our biggest concern was installing a new mailbox. That soon changed.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Top At the Well Postings for August 2011

In case you missed them, here are the At the Well postings that had the most views for the month of August.

Enjoy them for the first time or again. Share them with a friend. Write your comments or share some of your life lessons learned.

Peace and Blessings,
Monica Fountain

 













Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Freedom Riders to Flash Mobs

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Riders changed America.

From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.

Trained in the techniques of non-violence, the Freedom Riders challenged Jim Crow laws that called for the separation of blacks and whites by riding interstate buses through the South. The Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along their journey. In Mississippi, the Freedom Riders were sent to prison.

On September 22, 1961 the Interstate Commerce Commission issued its order to end segregation in bus and rail stations that had been in place for generations.

Last night, as I watched the documentary, The Freedom Riders, I was in awe of the courage of the young men and women of all races and religions who faced violence and death in the fight for civil rights for all Americans. I was proud of the strength and resolve of the men and women who faced death so that America could live up to its ideals. I felt gratitude for the sacrifice of people who faced beatings, violence and the very real possibility of death so that future generations would not have to suffer the indignities of segregation and racism.

But as I reflected on the images of the Freedom Riders and our forefathers who faced hate-filled violent mobs, I thought of the new mobs that threaten our young people today.

Now the images I see on the news are not Freedom Riders facing white mobs of hate, but flash mobs of young people beating innocent victims.

Monday, August 22, 2011

43 Lessons I’ve Learned in 43 Years

On Sunday I celebrated my 43rd birthday. By chance if I had forgotten my age, my daughter reminded me with a wonderful homemade card with a big 43. But I think I’m going to claim my Wii fitness test age of 35. That was a pretty good year. I am thankful to God for allowing me to celebrate another birthday. As I get older, I find birthdays as a time of not only celebration but also reflection and contemplation. In thinking about my four decades and three years on this earth, I thought about some of the important life lessons I have learned.

So I wanted to share some of those thoughts. These thoughts, lessons, truths and sayings are not necessarily in order of importance or in the order learned. This list is also not comprehensive, but just 43 that come to my mind at this time based on my 43rd birthday. They are things that have been learned by observation, experience and listening to the wisdom of others (sources noted in parentheses). Although they are lessons learned, truths taken to heart and ideas that I live by, I’m still striving to live and walk in the truth of them every day. Step by step. Day by day. Year by year.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned and truths that you know? What have the years taught you? Here are some of mine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bird Sense

Like a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man who strays from his home. Proverbs 27:8 (Amplified Bible)
 
Outside of my living room window robins have taken up residence.

They built a nest there last year and have returned. I’m reminded of their return most mornings when I enter my living room and I hear the thump of the bird running into my window.

“Crazy bird,” I think to myself and sometimes say out loud.

The bird, the Daddy Bird I assume, keeps flying into my living room window, apparently thinking someone is coming near his nest when we walk through the living room.

I see him bringing worms to the Lady Robin as she sits on their eggs. He protects and provides for his nest.

Then I started thinking, this bird isn’t so crazy after all. If only some humans had bird sense.

I sit at my computer and click on Facebook and look at a video a friend has shared from Judge Mathis. A man in an orange pin stripe suit with nine children by five different “baby mommas” is being sued for rent and cell phone bills by a woman who is pregnant with his tenth child.

And I think to myself again, some folks don’t have bird sense.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Going in Circles

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Joshua 6:2-5

Have you ever felt like you’re wasting your time?

You’re doing what God told you to do but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere or making progress? You’re just going around in circles. Covering the same ground. Doing the same old thing.

Do your daily tasks seem meaningless and ineffective in the grand scale of things? You see others doing “great” things. Winning great battles and receiving accolades and you’re just marching around in circles.

I’m sure the children of Israel must have felt like that while they were walking around the walls of Jericho. And that is how we may feel sometimes in our life. Perhaps God has you in a season where you just seem to be going in circles.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Power of One and a Little Encouragement

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psalm 133:1

This past weekend my husband and I attended a music festival in a large football stadium. Thousands of concertgoers enjoyed the music of various artists.

During the break between acts on Saturday night while the stage crew was preparing for the next performer, the sounds of “Flashlight”, a classic from the 70s group Parliament that gets folks to the dance floor, played in the stadium.

The energy of the crowd had died down as we waited for the next act, but when the music started to play, one man in our section got up and started to dance. He was working it, smiling, having fun and getting down. The folks in our section of the stadium started to encourage him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Truth at Last

An excerpt from Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood

By Nichole Christian

Years after my daddy died, I finally laid down my superhero image of him too. Two decades after spreading his ashes, facts I’d never known about Daddy began to surface and collide with the fiction I had cherished as a child. It turns out Daddy was more human than I could ever see.

It’s funny to me now the way I once romanticized a man I knew so little about. And sometimes I cringe, thinking of the many nights, the many ways I prayed death upon my mother, while forgetting and forgiving Daddy, who’d gone AWOL first.

He had ducked out of their marriage not long after doing the honorable thing and marrying my pregnant mother. By the time I was fourteen, they were both dead, departing one after the other—first her (by a drug overdose), then him, with just nine months between them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

About the Book and Prologue

About Dear Dad

This project was inspired by my essay for National Public Radio’s This I Believe series and is itself a compilation of true narratives written by a group of journalists and writers I assembled for this project. Men and women from various walks of life and various generations, they are black, white, and Hispanic. A good number of them have written for some of the nation’s best news organizations—the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Time magazine, and others. All of them write in the pages that follow about the impact of fathers, and fatherlessness, on their own lives. This comes at a time when the focus of a national initiative and even President Barack Obama have sounded the clarion call for responsible fatherhood amid a continuing crisis of paternal absenteeism.

Fatherhood is a subject that deserves our attention. A key component of that critical socializing agent known as family, “father” is important to us all.

So what better time than this—than now—to lend to and perhaps spur the national dialogue on fatherhood, to raise to the light images of the best of our fathers, and also examples of some failed or flawed fathers, with the hope that from each may be gleaned a more perfect model to which all fathers might aspire? And there seems no better way to examine fatherhood and to extract lessons from the past in the hope of creating a brighter future than to follow the reflective journeys of writers who remember their fathers lovingly, poignantly, vividly, at times longingly, even sometimes with disappointment.

Through the prism of our collective lens, these mini-memoirs recall time we spent with our fathers, or in some cases, the lack thereof. And each seeks to provide insights on the best of fathering, if not also hope for the millions of American children who today face growing up in homes with no father present.

Absent but Always Present

An excerpt from Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood

By Monica Fountain

My father never went on a school field trip. Never came to a football or basketball game where I was shaking my pom-poms in what he still jokingly describes as my little “bobtail skirt.” He didn’t attend the school musical or the play I wrote in high school. When he did come to the school, he usually wasn’t there for me.

 Instead, he was helping a single mother get her wayward son back in school. Or he was fighting the local powers that be, protesting to get more black teachers hired for a school enrollment that was increasingly black and a school staff that was stubbornly white. He was often marching off to school board meetings or rallies and organizing the community for another civil fight. Or he was protesting the number of black boys being expelled and suspended—my father’s days and nights filled with meetings and causes and prayer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Celebrating Fatherhood

My husband, John W. Fountain, sometimes quotes Chris Rock about fatherhood. Chris Rock says if fathers are lucky, they might get the big piece of chicken. On Mother's Day, restaurants are full. On Father's Day, not so much. Sometimes we take our fathers for granted or don't show them the appreciation that they deserve. Sometimes our fathers are or were not there.

Whatever the case may be, fatherhood is important and should be celebrated. Good fathers need to be appreciated for the love, guidance, provision and protection that they provide. Fathers who are not there need to know the important role they play in their children's lives.

That's what my husband's new book, Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood does. Dear Dad celebrates fatherhood as one of life's most sacred callings. It also encourages fathers who have been good fathers to stay the course and those who may have fallen down on the job to get back up. It is also an encouragement and hope for healing for those who have not known the love of a natural father. It speaks clearly of the love of our Heavenly Father--God.

I am one of 15 writers that my husband enlisted to share their thoughts, memories and reflections about their own fathers and fatherhood. It is the first publication of WestSide Press, a publishing company founded by my husband that is dedicated to telling the stories of the human experience, especially the stories of those who are often unseen and unheard in our society.

This week, as we prepare to celebrate Father's Day, I will feature excerpts from Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood, including my own.

For more information about the book and the writers, please go to http://www.wspbooks.com/. For an autographed copy of the book, you can purchase the book here at At the Well or at the WestSide Press web site. Dear Dad is also available at amazon.com.

If you would like to share your own "Dear Dad" story, go to http://www.wspbooks/ and click "Your Story" for information about writing your reflections on fatherhood.

And if you have a father or special person in your life who has been a father to you, give them more than just the big piece of chicken. Thank them. Call them. Show appreciation to them. Celebrate them. Celebrate fatherhood.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Run Your Race

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

The other day I returned to my high school football field. It was the first time I had been there in more than 20 years. I was there to see my daughter run in the sectional meet for her track team. It was the first year of the school and the first time the girls would compete in a sectional meet and the sectional at my high school alma mater was said to be the toughest in the state.

There were 13 freshman girls on the team but only nine, the coach informed me, showed up for the track meet. Girls had to run races that they were not used to running to fill in for other girls.

It was only the second year that my daughter had run track. She ran the 800 (two times around the track) in eighth grade. My husband, who ran track in high school, was convinced that our daughter’s race was the 400 (one time around) but the coach that year didn’t put her in the 400 race.

“That’s her race,” he assured me. I agreed. But we told her to do her best in the 800 and her time would come to show what she could do in the 400. At the sectional meet in eighth grade, I told her before she ran, “Leave it all on the track.” She took off and in the first lap of the race she was way ahead of the other girls. The first time around, her coaches and teammates were excited. “She’s going to state! She’s going to state!” they yelled.

I was on the cell phone with my husband who hadn’t been able to attend. I was giving him a blow by blow on the cell phone. He told me what to tell her as she came around the bend the first time. I was yelling his instructions to her from the sidelines.

But by the second lap, she ran out of steam and out of first place, just missing the opportunity to go to state.

But now she was in high school. Throughout the season I had been to every track meet, providing water, snacks and cheers for the fledgling team. Our daughter did well in cross country so her coach wanted to put her in the distance races. We asked him to give her a chance to try the 400.

“The 400 is her race,” my husband said. I agreed.

My husband decided to coach our daughter himself for “her race.” He started taking her to the track after school, timing her, teaching her the fundamentals, giving her advice, showing her proper techniques and track meets on television. The evening before sectionals I took her to the track because Coach Dad was working. I timed her and tried to offer some advice about running (although I never ran track in high school. I was on the football field being a pom pom girl.) She promptly told me, “But Daddy said…” I deferred to Daddy. “Do whatever Daddy said,” I told her.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meditations on the Ministry of Motherhood

“Thanks, Mom.”

The two words from my son are like music to my ears. It will be a thank you for some small thing to me. Perhaps getting the bread off the top of the refrigerator or buying his favorite candy straws. But hearing those two words mean so much.

Sometimes I have felt that motherhood is a thankless job. But I think real motherhood is not thankless but selfless. And although it is work, it is not a job. It is a ministry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

If a Robin Can Say Thank You

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

When I took my dog out into the frozen tundra which was my yard last month after a blizzard and a week of sub-zero temperatures, I saw and heard a miraculous sight.

I might have missed it if I had just concentrated on my internal mumblings and musings in my mind about the cold, the snow, having to get out of the warm bed to take the dog out, thinking about taking out the garbage and taking the kids to school.

The mornings are beautiful and despite the cold I love the stillness of the brink of a busy day. While the dog does his business I take a deep breath and take in the beauty of the snow glistening like diamonds, the beauty of the trees adorned with snow, the icicles hanging from the roof like stalactites in a cave, the architecture of a snow drift curved over the roof into the sun porch.

But what amazed me this particular morning were the birds.

A tree full of robins perched in the crab apple tree merrily chirping in the nearly sub-zero temperatures.

Why are all these robins here? Aren’t they supposed to be south in warmer climates? How do they survive in the harsh winter elements? What do they eat when the ground is frozen solid and covered in a foot of snow?

As I marveled at the tree full of robins, a scripture came to mind about God knowing when a sparrow falls. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Matthew 10:29). Then another scripture came to my mind about how God provides for the birds. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)

Even in the dead of winter, there were berries left on the crab apple tree. It was full of dried up fruit. God in his divine, wisdom, order and plan left the berries on the tree to provide for the birds in the dead of winter.

He does the same and so much more for us. The verse in Matthew goes on to say, “Are you not much more valuable than they (the birds)?” I thanked God in my frozen tundra for the reality that God takes care of me--He provides for us-- even in those winter seasons when it seems like everything is dead.

Standing in the cold, a song came to my mind as I heard the robins cheerfully chirping their song.

I joined them with my own song.

“Everybody ought to praise his name. Be thankful and praise His name. Everybody ought to praise His name. If a robin can say thank you, you can do it too.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Righteous Inheritance

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children…” 
Proverbs 13:22
I read the posting on Facebook. It was a posting from the daughter of a friend. My friend, Jenny, passed away this fall. Her daughter commented on how she could still hear her mother’s words and even found herself saying her mother’s very words sometimes.

“Never stoop to their level,” is one of the lessons she could hear her mother saying.


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