Bridges, captive audiences, featureed, ingenuity, op-ed, poetic, Replete, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Metaphor Bridge

By Tonya Jewel Blessing


A bridge is a meeting place, a possibility, a metaphor

Jeanette Winterson

Last Sunday, Chris and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, toured the covered bridges in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio. The region borders Pennsylvania. We viewed approximately ten bridges located almost exclusively on hard-to-find backcountry roads. The weather was delightful, and the homemade fried pies we found at a roadside stand delicious.

The quote by Jeannette Winterson is a new favorite of mine. As an author, I am also looking for a meeting place with other authors and readers; a possibility of sharing my books on numerous platforms; and direction, even in the form of a metaphor, about how to engage people with my writing.

Most of the bridges we viewed were old and worn, yet sturdy in form and function. Since my novels are set in the late 1920s, I understand the old and worn. I enjoy writing about legends, history, folklore, and people of the past. As an author, with the help of wonderful editors, I stick with writing form and function as much as possible. I do, however, lack form and function when it comes to marketing. I am constantly and consistently looking for new platforms to promote my books. Capture Books, a publishing house, has been extremely instrumental in helping me and has thankfully spurred me onward. Laura Bartnick is my representative. Her innovative ideas keep me on my toes.

This month, I am pleased to say that some new bridges have been crossed. An organization that promotes books that feature minority characters, Diversity Between the Pages, wrote an amazing blog about my latest novel. I have a podcast interview set up for next week. I am in the processing of writing an article for a Christian magazine, and I am excited about an virtual book tour with Prism Book Tours, on June 22-26.

Whether you are a writer, singer, teacher, leader, or dreamer remember to engage in bridge meetings, entertain possibilities, and examine metaphors.


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analysis, better together, breath of joy, Chick-fil-A, Faith, featureed, rest and work, sabbath, Sunday Lunch, trust

The Honor of Rest: CHICK-FIL-A® Model

By Laura Bartnick

As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line.  It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?

My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.

The Chick-fil-A® company history website touts, “We change the world, and ourselves, by our response to unexpected opportunities.”  S.Truett Cathy 1921 — 2014

Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.

Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.

Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.

Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go.  But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?

Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.

Quality

“S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.

“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”

Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.

The Human Need for Rest

I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday. 

In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well.  And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.

My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend. 

God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?

Why Then, Closed Sundays?

“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.

According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”

Tremendous Growth Under New CEO, Dan Cathy

A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.

“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.

The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.

Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.

In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.” 

A Servant-Leader

“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”

“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”

A Renaissance Man

“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.” 

“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons.  A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”

A Community Influencer

“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth. 

He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”

A Lot of Lost Revenue

A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.

“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.

“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.

In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”

“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.

In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”

Read More: https://www.mashed.com/25923/real-reason-chick-fil-closed-sundays/?utm_campaign=clip

Blessings Stand at Federal Law

The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.

“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour.  ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’

“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.

“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.

Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.  

Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.

Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.

Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.

Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.

Big Creek Appalachia, breath of joy, Coronavirus, Cyndi Kay Green, featureed, literary, op-ed, Sequestered at home, spring season

FINDING AN ESCAPE

By Cyndi Kay

Due to social distancing and quarantine requirements, I have noticed that many of us are finding ways to escape the torturous abundance of downtime. Gloom seems to be lurking in the shadows of the unknown.  So, let’s talk about some of these escape methods, shall we?

Not homebodies or entertainers, some escape artists feel that “staying put” in a family group has become very trying on their patience.

Now I am not saying this in a bad way, just the opposite, I am just saying some people would rather be outside enjoying our world rather than caught up in the latest Netflix series. Needing the fresh air, these people are the ones you’ll find outdoors building raised flower beds and Koi ponds pretty much all by themselves. Solitude is a valid and beautiful way to get lost. Creating a secret garden is the design and physical digging of dirt and life, a tiny version of the world at home by good and proportional use of God’s creations. It’s a place to bring serenity in the midst of the anxiety created by the unknown.

We move on to those who need to escape to the country.  They cannot stay put at home but don’t mind a bit of company in their explorations.

They are not thrilled with flower beds and fishponds. It’s an accomplishment if they get the yard mowed once a week. They need to go. They need to explore. They feel the need to get away from home. So where do we find these gypsy spirited people?

My first guess would be at the nearest lake or river. They could be sitting on the dock fishing and just enjoying the tranquility of wondering whether the fish will actually stay on the hook. Maybe they own a boat and they want to spend time trolling around the lake soaking up the sunshine (if there is any). Though they are not sequestered at home, they are still for the most part social distanced and quarantined.

Another means of escape this way is going on a day trip of exploration. I have a good friend who is one of those non-sit-stillers. She loves to go dancing or alternatively, be outdoors. With dancing clubs shut down, she discovered the option of taking day trips. She recently took a road trip to Arkansas and our newsfeed was full of photos of trains from this trip. Some of us in this narrowing, nervous world want to get out and enjoy the living and free world in which we still live. So, pack a lunch, grab a camera, and load up for a day trip of riding through the country.

Others enjoy staying home to learn a new hobby and escape into some future potential.

Photo by Laura Stanley on Pexels.com

These are the introverted, creative ones. Those who do not want to be near anyone in case they don’t know how to behave socially in public, especially since the 6 ft. spacing rule was instituted. They are too busy playing, learning, and experimenting with something imaginative to worry about going out and about. They have learned to build a greenhouse or to crochet, knit, and maybe even sew since there is now a demand for face-masks. Some of them have taken to creating wonderful crafts that would likely be bought up in a heartbeat if all of the summer festivals had not been canceled. These crafters will be thrilled that Hobby Lobby has once again opened their doors. But they’ll need someone else to run and get them the craft supplies.

One of the best ways to evade today’s chaos is to get lost in the pages of a different time and place.

I remember my dad, born in 1918, telling me as though a badge of courage demanded the telling, that he only made to the 6th grade and had to start working to help support the family. I thought about this when I found my own quiet, sunny nook and read a book, actually a series of 2 books, set in the 1920’s.

A trail in the Allegheny Highlands of West Virginia

The 1920s was a time of arranged marriages and families consisting of more than 2.2 children. It was a time when life was hard and if a child graduated 8th grade, then they were considered old enough to be married. The books were written by Tonya Jewel Blessing. The first one was The Whispering of the Willows and the second book was Melody of the Mulberries. Both of these were set in the Appalachian Mountains and revolved around the Ashby family, namely Emie Ashby. Opening the pages of book and partaking in a life that is not our own gets us away from the gloom and doom speculation and allows us to relax. I enjoyed being taken back in time to a place I have never been just so that I could get away from the everyday duties of being home and taking care of the house. I find it humorous that in today’s situation, West Virginia has become the great escape destination. So much so, that Governor Jim Justice has issued new state orders concerning non-residents fleeing to Appalachia to avoid COVID-19.

Overall, the world in which we live is far different than it was just 3 months ago.

As we look back, we already see how much has changed. Gone are the days of hanging out all night at the clubs or coffee shops. We don’t know who has been where or with whom, so we decide that we just can’t risk the health and wellbeing of our families. Even our esteemed Hollywood actors, such as Tom Hanks and his wife, have felt the grips of Covid-19.  Into focus has come the question of legalities and civil rights in a whole-county lockdown. As we look back in time, we see how the American way of life has been forever impacted by so many different situations. Whether it be war, terrorism, racial tensions, or viruses, America is not what it once was in the years past.

It is a hard time in this new America of 2020, but nonetheless it is up to us to find the good and know that while we have faith, hope, and love, God has more.

Travel a Prism Book Tour in June, 2020

Take this time to cherish the quiet moments of memories that you would have missed had you been rushing through your nightly routine in order to be able to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Whether you are finding escape into the earth, into new explorations, into the creative future, or into history, your personal preference will help you reinvent yourself and will offer a peaceful portion to a world engulfed in uncertainty.

Guest Writer, Cyndi Kay

Find out more about Cyndi Kay and her writing on her website.

breath of joy, Faith, featureed, ingenuity, Kathy Joy, rethink, Sequestered at home

Cracked Leather, Split Soles, Tattered Laces

By Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy Seasonal Coffee Table Books

“Good Shoes Take You To Good Places” Seo Min Hyun

One thing we’re not using much of these days is shoes. I don’t know about you, but I’m mostly going barefoot around the house. 

Shoe wear is optional while we remain sequestered at home.

A comfy pair of sneakers park themselves at my door for the occasional walk to the mailbox, or happily, a walk around the block; other than that, my work shoes lie dormant in the hall closet, grumpy about neglect and murmuring obscenities in the dark, behind the closet door.

There’s an artist in Fort Myers, Florida, who is busy painting sandals with messages of love and hope, decorating them with jewelry and then stringing them onto a line. Her name is Annette Brown, and her message is simple: “I think everybody needs to reach inside themselves and create something because we are all artists in whatever form.”

Annette’s neighbors are stepping up, decorating sneakers and pumps and sandals, creating visual reminders of creativity and survival. 

It has become an outdoor gallery of curated shoe art. People are out walking, and they are looking up.

Dangling Shoes
Shoes on the telephone line

Life-giving messages are written, painted and glued onto the shoes to spread cheer for all passers-by.

Shoes are a pretty accurate reflection of our personalities – much like each our own handwritten signature, they are seals of style, a unique identifier for “you”, “me”, fashionable “us”.

On a walk recently I came across an old, worn-out pair of men’s work boots on a neighbor’s front porch. The leather was cracked, their soles were split and their laces tattered. Even so, they looked amazing. 

Because inside of them, some creative person had planted a bright bunch of impatiens.
The flowers nodded in the breeze as if to say, “Look! We can bloom here and re-purpose even this ratty pair of boots!”

New life inside of worn-out containers.

No longer serviceable for feet, yet perfectly whimsical to hold a cluster of perennials.
We’re kind of like that: our bodies feel worn out at times, like a pair of old shoes.
Tired, achy, holding the shape of a hug from six feet away. But, infuse laughter, spring flowers, a hug of safety, some repurposing, and our souls fill up these bodies with sudden vitality.

If we think of our weary souls as conduits for beauty, then maybe we can feel a new infusion of love, peace, kindness and growth. With good soil, water, sunshine and God’s provision, a worn-out soul can be rejuvenated.

We, like that shabby pair of work shoes, are quietly being re-purposed for the future.
Strange soil is spilling into the holes. Unnecessary things are being shed. New and hybrid Seeds are being planted inside our worn leather, things that will sprout in due time and declare our resilience in new fruit and sweet blossoms. These things will delight our private days as well as our days when we are all back together.

Wiggle your toes and step into that.

“How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news!” Romans 10:15

Jodi Jensen, watercolor artist

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com, and Capture Books Publishing Group, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the “Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Singing Spring is a favorite this time of year.

picnic tables on beach near waves
breath of joy, Coronavirus, Faith, featureed, Kathy Joy, spring books, spring season

Surprise on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

By Kathy Joy

Capture Books

Breath of Joy Seasonal Gift Books

I went to Beach 1 over the weekend for a mental excursion. Keeping a healthy distance from other humans, I watched from my perch on a picnic table. Above the thundering of the waves beating the shoreline, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in some time: laughter.

A woman, bent down to scour the sand for beach glass, was suddenly drenched in cold lake water; she’d gotten a little too close to the waves. Her response was a wail of surprised laughter. Through the wind, over the water, like a rescue rope to all our drifting souls, her laughter caught us and pulled us to safety.

I laughed along with her and noticed others looking up from their nature walks, their feet, their buried thoughts and dreams. They joined in the sudden ripple of laughter.

It was music.

picnic tables on beach near waves
Picnic Tables on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

It was a sacred pause on a windswept beach, lasting only a moment.

I pocketed that moment like rare blue beach glass, and carried it home with me to be sustained and reminded: shared laughter was our Sunday communion; our imperfect song; our rescue.

May you be surprised and soul-fed by a swell of pure joy today. I hope it bumps into you from unexpected places and knocks you down and jiggles out a sound you need to hear: the release of your own shut-in laughter, finally finding a way out.

Kathy Joy is the author of Singing Spring, and pursuant to the request of her employer, writes Lunchtime Jabs for her co-workers in Erie, Pennsylvania while they are working from home during the quarantine. Her Breath of Joy books are a series of seasonal pick-me-up styled coffee table books featuring glorious images of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. On these images, her wordsmithing talents soar and dive and dig into the human experience.

daisies and sky breath of joy