by Larry Hehn on August 3, 2015

timeA few nights ago my wife and I, looking for a break from a busy week, decided to crash on the sofa and watch a movie. After flipping through the Netflix directory for several minutes and failing to find anything that excited the two of us, we settled for the 1996 John Travolta/Christian Slater flick Broken Arrow.

As reviewer Don Kaye describes it, Broken Arrow “delivers a number of exciting action sequences but is let down by a credibility-straining plot.”

While it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen (that distinction belongs to 1984’s Night Patrol), it was far from the best. As the credits started to roll I turned to my wife and said, “Well, that’s 109 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”

When it comes to time and what we do with it, I’ve determined we have three options:

  1. Waste it. When my time is “wasted”, it’s used up in pursuits that don’t generate anything of value for me or anyone else. Things like worrying. Mindless entertainment. Looking for ways to be offended. Plotting revenge. Posting angry rants. Reading angry rants. People magazine. Night Patrol.
  2. Spend it. When my time is “spent”, it’s used up in pursuits that may be worthwhile, may be necessary, but offer little long term impact on me or those around me. Things like sleeping. Eating. Making the bed. Mowing the lawn. Shaving. Ok, the necessity of shaving is debatable…
  3. Invest it. When my time is invested, it generates a return not just for myself, but for others. Things like praying. Visiting the sick and lonely. Making meals for those who don’t have the time or means. Learning a new skill with practical applications. Teaching someone a new skill. Offering sincere hope and encouragement. Seeking and pointing out the good. Mending fences. Seeking reconciliation. Choosing not to be offended.

The next 24 hours are going to go by anyway. With those three options before me, the hope for a positive legacy lies in how much I focus on category 3. What I do with my time is entirely up to me.

Who or what will you invest your time in today?

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

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cristinas tortina shopWalk into Cristina’s Tortina Shop in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and right away you’ll notice there’s something special.

It’s not just the lively pink-with-brown-polka-dots décor.

It’s not just the picture frames along the east wall that showcase the staff and their dreams.

It’s not just the stunning selection of scrumptious cupcakes (if you happen to get there before they’re sold out!).

What you’ll notice above all else is the atmosphere.

Because the people on both sides of the counter can’t help but be excited about what owner Mary Iusso and her daughter Cristina helped launch just a few short months ago.

When Cristina was born, doctors were surprised to discover she had Down syndrome. They approached Mary and her husband with a list of things she would not be able to do.

Fortunately, in the true spirit of Things that are Excellent, Cristina’s family instead chose to focus on what she could do.

This led, just a few years later, to the opening of Mary’s brainchild: a cupcakery that “creates equal employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome, Autism and other Special Needs.”

Cristina’s Tortina Shop is so much more than a place that makes and sells outstanding desserts.

It is a place that, as their tagline suggests, showcases capabilities.

There has been quite a buzz about the shop on local media, and the word is spreading. When I visited a couple of Sundays ago, Mary shared that they were getting emails from around the world.

In the early days, they donated leftovers to a local women’s shelter. But these days there aren’t any leftovers. Cristina’s now regularly sells out of cupcakes long before closing.

The cupcakes are incredibly good (the Cioccolata is Cristina’s favorite and mine too!), but you’ll want to make the trip just to see what a difference the right attitude can make.

For more of the story and a quick peek in the shop, enjoy this video:

Yes, Cristina’s Tortina Shop is doing more than just serving up delicious desserts. They’re changing the world, one cupcake at a time.

Click here to link with them on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor?

Things that are Excellent is a regular feature that celebrates “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). If you have a feature idea or a guest post that you would like to submit, let us know in the comments below or email your ideas to: excellent@larryhehn.com


How To Be a Rock Star

by Larry Hehn on February 11, 2014

rock starBack in January I became a rock star. For about 35 minutes.

When told that I’d be making my singing debut in front of roughly 400 people, my friend Dan had the best reaction.

“Wow,” he said, “I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Fact is, I don’t, really.

There are no delusions of grandeur here. I would never make it beyond the judge’s table of American Idol. Heck, who am I kidding? The producers would screen me out long before that, and not just because I’m too old.

Still, a friend was in a bind and needed a vocalist. He knew I had been on stage before, and thought maybe I could help.

Sure, Andy. Invite the hard-of-hearing introvert to be your lead singer.

But hey, when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this presents itself, I figured I’d be crazy not to jump at the chance. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a rock star for one night?

I let the band know that I’d come out to one rehearsal and give it a try. They could choose not to invite me back, and I would not be offended.

To my surprise, I was invited to the next rehearsal.

When it became clear that I was going to be the lead vocalist, I decided to make the most of it. I ordered some online voice lessons to help me with my range and overall comfort level. I practiced and experimented. I reviewed other performers to see what worked, and what didn’t.

I got a good, healthy assessment of my own limitations.

And you know what?

It was a blast!

The band was very gracious, encouraging, and lots of fun. The audience, even more so. The gig was a big success.

And, of course, I came away with some tips about how to be a rock star:

  1. Seize the opportunity. Every once in a while, something is going to come up that will stretch you well beyond your comfort zone. Will you take the plunge, or politely decline?
  2. Give it your all. The singers I enjoy most aren’t necessarily the ones who hit each note perfectly. They’re the ones who exude joy and passion when they sing, and connect with their audience. It’s not always about your skill level. It’s about how much “you” you bring to the table.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. We knew we weren’t the greatest band. But the audience loved us in spite of it. Actually, because of it. How could someone refuse when you say to them, “I may never be a pro at this. But here’s my best, and I’m giving it to you, warts and all.”

Whatever you do, why not be a rock star with it?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. – Colossians 3:23