Nooga Strong

Nooga Strong

Chattanoogans are coming together like never before.
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A city usually so full of passion and life is mourning the loss of five marines in a tragic shooting last Thursday. A makeshift memorial of flowers and flags was created in the grass in front of the marine recruiting center where the catastrophe occurred.

The shooter, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, was reportedly a good student and nice guy. After returning from a trip to Jordan last year, his family told investigators that something in his personality had changed.

They claimed he struggled with depression and released this statement: "It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence". But depression isn't an excuse to kill five men fighting for our nation.

The act of ruthless violence was meant to tear Chattanooga at the seams. And the city is definitely hurting. However, this atrocious crime is revealing the wonderful sense of fellowship that is Chattanooga. The citizens of the warm and inviting town are supporting one another through the pain and mourning. The solemn silence at the temporary memorial is a reminder that although they are down, Chattanooga is clearly not out.

God bless those affected by this horrid tragedy.

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Why Would A Good God Bless Your Enemies?

The people that have hurt me need my authority to control me.

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You know that feeling you get in your heart when you're scrolling on IG and you see what appears to be happiness on the face of someone who has hurt you, betrayed you, talked about you, stirred negativity in your life or forsaken you?

You know that feeling of uneasiness in your stomach when they post about their new promotion? or job offer or new home? Or maybe a caption they used that completely contradicts the version of them you've experienced?

I don't believe it's unjustified to not want to immediately clap for them when you see them getting blessed. I think that makes sense that when you see someone who has hurt you in the past being happy that you might feel to get defensive. Because why should they be happy and be blessed when they mistreated me?

Why would God bless them with this guy that completely fits 'my type' description or something I wanted when they mistreated me? Why does it seem like God allowed this to be set up in such a way that I HAD to see them get blessed after they hurt me? What kind of God does that?

A good, good father is the kind of God that does that.

I encourage you to drop your guard right now and let this word of encouragement live in your life. You know how many times I've been placed in these situations with being mistreated and watching them get blessed or watching God give someone something I wanted? Too many to remember. Why would He do this?

So you can be free.

God wanted my heart to be free because "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8). He didn't want my heart to have to live at the mercy of what the people around me. He didn't want my heart to have to live at the mercy of what things I have or don't have. He didn't want me to have to live at the mercy of what was in His hand.

He wanted my heart to be pure so that I can see Him. When I see Him then I'm able to hear Him, see how He wants to use me and perform my part in His will.

As God, in his goodness, has wrestled with me to get this understand I have gained this indescribable freedom in the face of people that have mistreated me, betrayed me, talked about me, attempted to speak negativity over me or forsaken me. I've decided to live by what God says to me so when I see people win I can cheer for them now even if they have hurt me.

I LIVE in this, therefore, Haters can't have my heart because it belongs to God. I refuse to allow anyone hating on me to have my heart. I refuse to live in bitterness and allow my mood or perspective to be set by negativity because my heart belongs to God.

So even when someone talks about me and I see them win, envy and revenge can't have my heart because my heart belongs to God. So when an opportunity comes to have fear, it can't have my heart because it belongs to God.

So when you do me wrong, or try to incite me to get upset or try to come out of character by playing dirty, I'm going to LIVE by what God said because you can't have me. You can't have my heart. You can't have my joy or my peace. You can't have my faith.

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