While there has been a widespread media backlash over anti-gay remarks made by “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson, it doesn’t look like demand for the hit A&E show’s merchandise is waning.
“Most people who are buying the brand, they are like-minded to Phil anyway,” Hans Wilz of Great Ideas LLC, told USA Today. Wilz’s company helped create Duck Dynasty-scented candles that are sold across the country. “That demographic is not offended by what he said.”
Cracker Barrel initially pulled the show’s products from shelves only to return them days later following a barrage of emails, tweets and phone calls from Duck Dynasty fans threatening to boycott the 625-store chain. Upon resuming sales, Cracker Barrel issuedthe following statement, Forbes reports.
“When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done.
“You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong.
“Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.
And, we apologize for offending you.
“We respect all individuals right to express their beliefs. We certainly did not mean to have anyone think different.”
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has not commented on its future with the show, even as T-shirts bearing Robertson’s image, bobbleheads of the family and scads of other merchandise soar in sales.
Forbes reports that Duck Dynasty merchandise, which includes a Catnapper camouflage recliner for $899.95 and a 400-page book of devotional prose that goes for $16.99, will bring in some $400 million in 2013.
This despite Robertson’s inflammatory comments to GQ magazine that lumped homosexuality in as a sin tantamount to bestiality. The network suspended him but fans have voiced their support in droves, taking to Twitter to defend the show’s lead character.
“You can tell that they are Christians and they live it out. praise God,” tweeted one fan from Elverson, Pa.
Robertson, members of his West Monroe, La. family, and fans across the country are not backing down from his remarks.
“I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater. … I have been immoral, drunk, high,” Robertson said. “I ran with the wicked people for 28 years and I have run with the Jesus people since and the contrast is astounding.”
There were three people in front of me at the Wal-Mart checkout. I was on my way to a drawing assignment and stopped to pick up a large sketchbook. Wal-Mart has them cheaper than the art store, although David Art of Metairie is a great place with wonderful people, and I keep them in business.
In front of me was a Hispanic lady with a toddler in her shopping basket. I opened the sketchbook and did a hasty drawing of the child. I signed it and handed it to her. She was thrilled and said, “Merry Christmas.” That was around November 1st, and she was the first one to greet me in this way this season. A Spanish pastor friend heard this and laughed. “We Latinos love to celebrate our Lord’s birth for months!” he said.
Driving the interstate that day was no fun. We were returning from visiting our son and his family (I’m working hard not to say the truth here—that we were visiting our grandchildren!), and all day long the highway had been beset with rain, fog and mist at times so heavy we turned on the blinkers and leaned forward to see the lines on the pavement. But finally we arrived and checked into the hotel and drove down the street to the Cracker Barrel restaurant.
“You have a 15-minute wait,” the hostess said. That was fine. Margaret began browsing, and I hung around close to the line.
Behind me stood a young mother with her daughter about 5 years old. Now, I’m the grandfather of six little girls (little—ha! They range in age now from 16 to 24) and love children. So, I struck up a conversation with the child.
“Have you ever seen a man with a purse before?” (I was holding Margaret’s while she shopped.) She shook her head; she hadn’t.
I told her, “Grandma is off somewhere, so Grandpa has to hold the purse.”
Mommy told her that Daddy sometimes holds her purse.
I spotted a rack of coloring books a few feet away and called her attention to the one with horses. I said, “I’ll bet you like to color, don’t you?” She nodded.
At that, the child reached over and pulled out a coloring book with children on the front. I said, “May I see it?”
I saw it was only $3.95 and the inside covers, front and back, were blank and white. So I said to the mom, “I’m a cartoonist. May I draw her picture here and then buy the book for her?”
She smiled and nodded.
By this time, Margaret had returned from her browsing tour and entered the conversation. I was glad, because people are justifiably suspicious of strangers who strike up conversations. I grieve over this because our society is becoming at the same time more dangerous and more isolated.
The drawing of the little girl turned out excellent, so I turned to the inside back page. “May I draw you here?” I said to the mother. She agreed and gave me a smiling pose.
At the end, I wrote—as always—”joemckeever.com” and got in line to pay for the book.
Some of our readers are wondering why I didn’t write their names on the drawings in the rather creative style I use. Answer: To ask for their names like that felt as though I might be crossing a line of some kind. The mother was already taking a risk by engaging in the conversation and allowing me to sketch their likenesses. Later, Margaret agreed that not asking for names was the right thing to do.
I frequently pray the Lord will lead me about a) engaging strangers in conversation (as to if, when and how) and b) give me discernment as to whatever messages He is sending. I pray c) He will help me draw well, enough to bless and encourage those I sketch, and d) be glorified through it all.
I was in the car wash waiting room with four or five other customers, no one saying a word, everyone eager to get on with their day. After a few minutes, the front door opened and a man and a little girl entered. They made quite a contrast.
The man looked scruffy, like he’d been hitchhiking on the highway. He needed to shave, he carried a scar on his face, his jeans were dirty, and the T-shirt had seen better days. He did not look like anyone you would want to cross.
The little girl, perhaps 4 years old, was a vision of loveliness. She was dressed up in her party clothes with her hair beautifully fixed.
Everyone in the waiting room turned to watch them enter, stared at the unusual duo, and said nothing. That’s when I spoke up.
“How did an ugly guy like you get such a beautiful little daughter?”
Yep. I said it. And you could feel everyone in the waiting room sucking in their breaths, wondering what was about to come.
In the dead silence that followed, the man said, “I ask myself that every day of my life!” And everyone laughed.
We got into a conversation, and I sketched them both. And then I learned what was happening.
The man and his wife, the child’s mother, were divorced. She was remarrying and moving several states away. Today was the last day he would be seeing his little girl for some time. It was a sad occasion.
God used me to minister to him that day, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Do not fail to show hospitality to strangers, Scripture tells us in Hebrews 13, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Sometimes you are the stranger, and sometimes you get to be the angel.
Some people, when hearing these stories, give me far more praise than I’m entitled to or comfortable with. This is nothing, folks. I’m just doing what I do, in the same way one of you might cut someone’s yard or repair their steps or bake them a loaf of fresh bread.
Later this morning after typing this, I drove to the supermarket in the Alabama city where we had spent the night to buy a case of water. As I paid for it, the young employee standing next to the checker said he would carry it to my car. That caught me by surprise.
His name was Matthew, and as he helped me place it in the back seat, I noticed the tag on his apron said, “No tips accepted.” So I said, “Matthew, I can’t give you money, but I’ll give you something else.”
I opened the trunk and took out some paper and did a quick sketch of him, signed it and handed it to him. After a few words of encouragement to him, he was on his way. And I was blessed. Matthew was the angel today.
Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.
Oswald then ran over to the car to intervene and attempt to stop what he saw as an assault in progress.
“I asked her, ‘do you need help, what’s wrong?’ and the [man] grabbed my hand. … And started pounding me with his right hand,” Oswald told ABC 7. “I ended up on top of him, controlling the situation when two other individuals attacked me from behind.”
Oswald says Livingston County Sheriff’s deputies quickly arrived at the scene and stopped the fight. It was not reported whether or not there were any arrests made by deputies.
What came next however truly shocked Oswald – a termination notice from Wal-Mart stating that “after a violation of company policy on his lunch break, it was determined to end his temporary assignment.”
Oswald was considered a temporary employee, he says, because he had not yet completed Wal-Mart’s initial mandatory 180-day period before he could be made permanent. Oswald had reportedly worked for Wal-Mart for about seven weeks when he was terminated.
Oswald contends he was fired from Wal-Mart for doing the right thing.
“We had to make a tough decision, one that we don’t take lightly, and he’s no longer with the company,” company spokeswoman Ashley Hardie told the AP.
The company’s action drew outrage on social media sites and the web, prompting officials of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer to reconsider their decision. Spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said Wal-Mart has since concluded Oswald did nothing wrong and the will rehire Oswald, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
“We realized his intentions were good, and we’ve contacted him to offer him his job back and welcome him back to the store,” she says. “Sometimes we don’t get everything right, and each circumstance is different.”
The policy that Oswald apparently violated prohibits Wal-Mart employees from assaulting fellow workers and physically detaining shoplifters, the AP reported. There is no exception written into the policy that allows for employees to assist others in instances of imminent danger or self-defense.
“I never expected all of this, and the least I expected was to not have a job,” Oswald told ABC 7 Action News. “I don’t even know what to put on an application about all of this. How do I say this ended?”
When asked if he would have done anything different knowing now what the outcome of his actions would be, Oswald said, “‘I’m always going to act the right way and do the right thing. Even after all of this.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Tuesday it will offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners of its U.S. employees starting next year.
The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., also plans to begin to offer vision care to its eligible employees and their dependents, according to information the retailer sent to workers this week.
Wal-Mart is the single biggest U.S. employer outside of the federal government. More than half of its 1.3 million U.S. employees are on its health-care plans. The company said it does not know how many workers would use either of the new benefits.
Wal-Mart’s extension of health insurance to domestic partners comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in June forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal. The Supreme Court also paved the way for same-sex marriage in California.
“Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the U.S.,” spokesman David Tovar said.
Employees’ domestic partners can be covered if they are legal spouses, not legally separated; or a domestic partner of same or opposite gender in an ongoing, exclusive relationship similar to marriage for at least 12 months with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely, he said.
Wal-Mart confirmed some details of its 2014 annual enrollment to Reuters ahead of the sign-up period, which runs from Oct. 12 to Nov. 1. The company outlined changes to its plans on a postcard mailed to employees this week.
Wal-Mart said it began planning for the implementation of the U.S. Affordable Care Act years ago and did not make any additional changes to its plans in order to conform.
The healthcare reform act requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance for employees who work 30 hours a week or more.
About 1.1 million people, including workers’ family members, are currently covered by Wal-Mart health-care plans in the United States. Not all of the company’s U.S. employees sign up for coverage. Part-time employees must work for Wal-Mart for one year and work an average of 30 hours a week to qualify.
Last week, United Parcel Service Inc told non-union employees that their spouses would no longer qualify for company-sponsored health insurance if they could get coverage through their own jobs. Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on Monday that his company, which provides healthcare to employees who 20 hours a week or more, would not cut health benefits or reduce hours for employees in anticipation of the U.S. Affordable Care Act.
Wal-Mart’s U.S. employees are set to pay 3 percent to 10 percent more for their medical coverage next year, depending on the plan chosen.
The lowest-priced and most popular plan for a Wal-Mart employee is set to cost $18.40 per bi-weekly pay period next year, up 5.7 percent from $17.40 this year, the company said.
Average U.S. total health care costs per employee were expected to reach $12,136 this year, up 5.1 percent from $11,457 in 2012, according to a report released by the National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson in March. That 5.1 percent increase would be the lowest percentage rise in 15 years, down slightly from a 5.2 percent increase in 2012, they said.
A large majority of Wal-Mart’s workers who sign up for medical coverage also sign up for dental coverage. Wal-Mart said it would start to offer vision coverage in 2014 after employees asked for it.
“There’s no one size fits all solution for people’s benefits, so we’re trying to offer a number of benefit options and then let associates make choices on what’s best for them,” said Tovar.
Dental and vision coverage are offered for additional fees, which for an individual are about $7 and $2 per bi-weekly pay period, respectively.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said he “probably” won’t support legislation to let states require out-of-state Internet retailers to collect sales taxes, saying it would be too cumbersome to implement.“Moving this bill where you’ve got 50 different sales tax codes, it’s a mess out there,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington. “You’re going to make it much more difficult for online retailers to be able to comply.”
The Senate passed the bill May 6 in a bipartisan vote of 69-27, with support from 21 Republicans. Asked whether he could back it, Boehner said, “probably not.”
A lack of support from the speaker emphasizes the difficulty the measure will have winning House passage, especially in its current form. The House Judiciary Committee will consider the Senate bill, Boehner said.
“We’ll see what they think,” he said. “You’re putting in a big burden on some very small businesses.”
The measure is backed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers that say it’s unfair to allow many sales made over the Internet or through catalogs to be untaxed. States lose an estimated $23 billion annually in forgone revenue from uncollected sales taxes.
Boehner also said he is “committed” to resolving the debate over curbing illegal immigration and fixing the “broken” system for legally entering the U.S.
“We’re going to have votes,” the speaker said. “We are going to deal with immigration in the House.”
While he didn’t say what approach he supports on immigration policy, Boehner said “it’s time to deal honestly with a big challenge.” He said he expects a group of eight House Republicans and Democrats to present their immigration proposal “very soon.”
“What I’ve been trying to do is to continue to foster the education and the discussion about how we resolve it,” Boehner said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Boehner reiterated his opposition to increasing tax revenue as part of any deficit-reduction bargain. He said the focus should be on cutting spending and balancing the federal budget in 10 years.
While he has previously said he won’t negotiate with President Barack Obama behind closed doors any more, the speaker said all sides need to have a role in working out an agreement.
“I’ll dance with whoever will dance to solve this problem,” Boehner said. “So everybody needs to play a role if we’re going to solve this problem.”
Boehner sought to deflect criticism from Democrats that by cutting spending the U.S. would risk the sort of damper on growth that European countries have seen after enacting austerity measures.
“We are not Europe, all right?” Boehner said. “We’re talking about long-term spending problem. It’s really not going to affect anything in the near future.”
“The president wants to go out there and crow about the fact that the economy is growing — barely,” Boehner said. “This is not the kind of economic growth that’s going to help our country long term. You got wages that are stagnant. You have few opportunities of, if you will, walking up the economic ladder.”
In an instant, Joshua Price discovered the truth of James 4:14.
“It says life is like a vapor,” said Price. “Here one minute and gone the next.”
Days after the young worship leader married his high school sweetheart, Deanna, Price lost his 27-year-old brother in a car accident. His brother had made a decision to follow Christ just six weeks before he died.
“It was a big wake-up call,” said Price. “There was just a new sense of urgency in me and my wife to share the Gospel.”
Believing the Lord was calling them to move, but not yet knowing where or when, Price and his new wife sat down to talk with Price’s father.
“We’re sitting in the living room, and we’re telling my dad this crazy thing the Lord has on our hearts, that we’re feeling a call to travel,” said Price. “My dad goes, ‘Have you prayed for a sign?’ ”
Price answered that he hadn’t. Minutes later, the three of them bowed their heads to ask the Lord to give them a clear, obvious sign if He wanted them to make a move.
“After that, we go to Walmart to get a movie from Redbox,” said Price. “It’s probably about 10 at night. There’s this school bus in the back of the parking lot, and it’s not normal. It’s not yellow anymore. There’s writing all over it, and it’s covered in all these different colors.”
Price and his wife found themselves approaching the bus to see what was written on it. As they got closer, they could see it was Scripture.
Not knowing if anyone might be sleeping inside, they planned to check it out and quietly walk away.
Before they could tiptoe back to their car, the bus door flung open, startling them both. They had no idea what might happen next.
“This guy walks up the bus and he just goes, ‘Hey my name’s Kirby. I was spending time in prayer. The Lord said to get up and tell those two people out there that they need to go. They’re called to go.’ “
After so much prayer and uncertainty, they knew they had received their sign. It was time to go. The couple was living in Houston at the time. They started packing their bags and selling their belongings.
“We sold about half of everything we owned,” said Price. “TV, video games—I’m a guy of comfort. I had to get rid of everything that was holding my heart back.”
After selling one of their two cars and putting their remaining possessions in storage, the pair hit the road with a suitcase, a guitar, and a Bible, trusting God one day at a time.
“For six months we stayed on futons and couches and shared the Gospel anywhere that would have us, including secular venues—a coffee shop, anywhere. We shared the Gospel through music and preaching.”
Living out of a suitcase took its toll. There were days when Price struggled to understand what God was doing.
“For me it was very uncomfortable at first,” said Price. “Almost every house we stayed at, I had never met somebody there before. We would post on Facebook, ‘We’re in St. Louis—does anyone know someone?’ and someone would just message me a phone number.”
The Prices eventually found a home and two part-time jobs in Sarasota, Florida, but they’re not exactly “settling down.” They’ve traveled to 31 states and four countries, sharing the love and redemptive power of Jesus Christ.
For Price, making a stop at the BGEA reminded him of the evangelist who helped pave the way for so many other Christ followers to share their faith.
“Who could be a better inspiration than Billy Graham?” said Price. “I can’t even think of a close second place. I’ve never met him, but in a way he’s been a mentor of sorts, just to see a man who is so sure of what the Lord has called him to do and being completely unabashed to do that.”
As Price continues to follow his own calling, he admits it isn’t easy. Each day means making a conscious decision to rely on the Lord. Along the way, Price has discovered Scriptures that help him through the tough times.
“The verse that spoke massively into my life was Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Price says it’s the first half that spurs him on to keep serving God.
“As soon as the Lord became the delight of our lives, that’s when those doors started opening,” Price said. “You start to see that when your joyfulness and contentment is found in Jesus, all the rest of it just falls into place.”
Click here to check out Joshua Price’s new album, Nothing Without You. Click here to read the original story on BillyGraham.org.