Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

Judy’s “S” Words

So it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17

I said the “S” word.  Oh, no—not that one.  You see we have some pretty strict standards with language in our house.  My wife, Judy, taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say.  One is “shut-up.”  That is just too rude.  I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching ReFit. She was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.”  Oh my—I had a fit.  I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song and the words were spoken in that context.  “Oh.” I said, I was always kind of cut and dried.

But that is not the word that came out of my mouth the other day.  It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family.  So, I had just finished my morning walk.  I went 3.6 miles at an average pace of 13.20 minutes per mile.  Most folks would tell you for walking that is a pretty fast pace.  I got back to the house and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired.  But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.

You see five or six times a week I do this exercise thing and it is good thing to do.  It is the right thing to do.  It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat.  I feel another pat on the head coming on.  And then it happens.  Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name.  Sometimes it is cookies and they whisper a little louder.  Through the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it.  And that’s when I said it.

Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word).  You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions.  And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones of the morning.  In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot.  At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad.  I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.

We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines.  Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory?  We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad.  We need to carefully weigh each decision we make.  Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have.  In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories.  I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.

I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins.  And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed.  It may be difficult at that moment but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision.  And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one.  Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.

There’s a verse tucked away in the Book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible.  It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin.  And if we see it though that lens it starts to make sense.  Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around.  It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there.  The idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.

It’s the same with our Dearest Father.  If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices.  He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name and we are happier.  So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you.  Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed.  Just put your hand in His.  Just lay it to rest.  He’s got this.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

They seem larger than life. I am from a generation that deeply admires heroes—people who seem larger than life. They do the most amazing things. They lay their lives on the line for their country, the put on a badge and go into dangerous situations for a few dollars a week. They charge into burning buildings when everyone else is trying to get out. Those are just a very few…the list goes on and on. There are also other kinds of giants—-larger in life in the quest for excellence, to change the world or perhaps, to be like Jesus. These are some of the people I admire the most—true spiritual giants. A couple of years ago I met one. I was amazed by her story.

It all started when we were invited over to a friends house for supper. When we arrived we had the opportunity to meet her mother who lives with her. That is when I realized it probably wouldn’t be a normal evening.

When her mom spoke to us you could tell she was struggling with her voice. Before long, she explained and that was the beginning of an incredible story.

She explained in 1950 when she was 19 years old, she was diagnosed with polio. If you know a little about that time period, there was an epidemic of this terrible, dreaded disease. It struck without warning and without rhythm and that was the case here. It left this dear saint partially paralyzed and also affected her vocal cords. I was enthralled with her story as she shared they said she would never walk—but they were wrong.

Then she shared more and more her story. When she was born (and remember this is around 1930) there were twins and she weighed less than two pounds. She was a fighter from the beginning and fight she did. Later, when she was eleven, she basically was put out to fend for herself and she did. She had a strong constitution and work ethic. I was amazed.

She married and had three miscarriages before giving birth to her daughter. She would end up having 21 surgeries for various reasons and also lives with a colostomy. She has been told that she has cancer though they really can’t pinpoint the source. I know there are several things that I am leaving out but that is enough for you to get the picture. She life has been difficult from the get-go but that is not the main story.

The most amazing story is her faith. Receiving Christ at a young age, her journey of faith has been strong and steady. Instead of turning bitter, like Job, her love for God only grew deeper and stronger. She shared that evening how blessed she was that God had entrusted her with this suffering. From her lips poured words of praise for her Savior. Then came stories of incredible generosity to those in need—both physically and spiritually. It really was amazing.

Judy and I both left that night refreshed as if we had drunk deeply from a cool spring. We were blessed, encouraged and challenged by a saint who had given more than she took. She isn’t the only one. Over my almost four decades of pastoring, I have bumped into so many spiritual heroes. You had to bump into them because like most heroes, they don’t brag about their lives and stories.
When I left that night I also left strengthened. It is instances like this that solidify my own faith. When I see and hear stories such as this one, it shouts to me, “God is real.” It also does one more thing. It causes me to examine what kind of story am I writing. When people read my life, what does it say about me…and about the God I serve.

Each one of us are writing a story and during this hot mess called COVID-19, we all have special opportunities to write a saga. The way we live, act and speak will tell a tale. Hopefully it will be one of grace and kindness. Paul wrote in the Bible that we should be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

That is a tall order but God is in the business of filling tall orders. Why not take a moment and ask your Heavenly Father for a little, or maybe a lot, of help. Let Him know you’ve been treading water a lot these days and you could use a little rest. Don’t worry—He is ready and willing to help. He’s got this.

Giants in the Land

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Change…or Not?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

It was like I had lost a good friend. When this pandemic thing came up it messed with my life.  Needless to say…it is still messing.  It’s getting better but its not even close to normal. You see, one of the things that Judy and I enjoy doing together is dining out at a restaurant. We have several favorites that we go to pretty regularly.  We have our favorite in the burg, favorites in Marion, favorites in Paducah and even a couple in  Evansville.  Then we have favorite meals at each place.  At one we have a steak, at another grilled shrimp, at another a hamburger–and that is a seafood place…go figure.

But do you know what happens occasionally?  We decide to go “rogue.”  We decide to go to a new place or try something new at a familiar place. That is how we discovered the  “Pork  Belly, Pimento Cheese, Fried Green Tomato wonder of wonders”.  It still makes me drool. Regardless, the new adventure is always refreshing and usually quite good.  Every once in a while it flops—every once in a while we leave saying, “well, that didn’t work.”

A couple of years ago we were in Paducah and on a whim tried a Chinese place.  Everything said, “don’t” but we did.  Weeds in the parking lot, trash in the parking lot and a front door that looked like a herd of kids with dirty hands had just passed through all said, “get back in the car.”  Well, we didn’t and boy was it a bad experience.  But even so here’s what we have discovered—the sense of change—the sense of adventure is worth the risk of the occasional failure. Change can be challenging but it is also refreshing.

Someone once said that a rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.  By and large, I am a creature of habit.  I have the same thing for breakfast almost every day.  I drive the same way to work every day. But even if I like sameness, I also like change.  Isn’t that weird?  There is a reason. We need change to keep life fresh.   We need variety to make life interesting. I think that is one of the things the pandemic has forced our hand on.  We have to do some things differently—willing or not. While that is true in our personal journey, it is also true in our spiritual journey.

The one thing that gives me a confident assurance is that nothing is new to God.  He is never surprised and never caught off guard.  He never says, “Boy, I sure didn’t see that one coming!” It is great to belong to a God who is big enough to have everything under control. I love that in this world of constant change, He is a constant.  The writer of Hebrews said it best, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  That means no matter where you go in the past—He was there and He was the same.  That means no matter where you go today—He is there and He is the same.  And that means no matter where the future takes you and no matter what it holds—He will be there and He will be the same.  He. Is. The. Same.

Like I said, I enjoy a little variety—a little change adds spice to life.  But when it comes to my Dearest Father, well, I like the sameness that He brings.  My circumstances, my mess-ups, even my fickleness doesn’t faze Him.  He is always the same.  And that same—well, it is just the best.  A guy named John in the New Testament wrote and said that it is just amazing, this love that God has for us…a love that extends out and allows us to be called His.  Yup…you gotta love that.

Let me suggest you occasionally try a new restaurant and or a new item on the menu. And if it has pork belly and pimento cheese on it—well, its got to be a winner.  But when it comes to choosing what god you will serve—there’s only one choice and that is Creator God.  Bigger than it all—ready and willing to handle our biggest problems and always ready to extend His grace our way—there’s no need to look any further.  Oh, and of course, as always, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

The Treadmill–Friend or Foe?

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31

They say that outlook is everything. Some people are always asking, “is the glass half full or half empty?” I just want to know what’s in the glass.  I remember a great story about two salesmen.  One was send to the wilds of Africa to sell shoes.  He arrived and pretty quickly sent this message to the company headquarters: “Bring me home immediately. No opportunity. No one here wears shoes. Waste of time.”  So they brought the guy home.  Not wanting to give up, they sent another salesman.  This guy arrived on the scene and also quickly sent a message to the company headquarters.  It read, “Please respond as quick as you can.  Opportunities abound everywhere.  Everyone is barefoot and need shoes.  Send all that you have…what a future.” Well I guess they are right.  It all depends on your outlook.

Like many folks, Judy and I have a treadmill in our home.  It sits downstairs where Judy has her office. The treadmill and I on occasion have been very good friends, however, we just don’t see eye to eye.  He wants me to get on and walk ferociously and go absolutely nowhere. I prefer to walk outside and actually move. Now if it is pouring down rain or ten degrees below freezing that is fine—we are buds.  But on a normal day, well, we just agree to disagree. He thinks we should get together every day. I’m thinking more like only when absolutely necessary.  Frankly, and don’t tell him I said this, our relationship was always kinda painful.  He sees himself as a path to being healthy…my new BFF. I see him as someone out of one of those torture movies where some guy named Egor is always tightening the screws.

We have a couple of grandchildren that really like the treadmill.  For years and even now, when Hope and Ethan come over to the house one of their inevitable questions is, “Papa, can we get on the treadmill?”  I mean, what’s the deal?  What I try to avoid they openly embrace.  One day I asked Judy, “What’s up with the treadmill–why do Hope and Ethan love it so much?”  Well, her thought was the “no” factor.  Because the answer was frequently no, they keep asking. It could be that it is the “thrill” factor.  You know, maybe the thrill of it all.  Maybe, just maybe, it is something totally different.

My theory is that instead of seeing it as a device for torture, they see it like a toy–like something that is fun. They will turn it down real slow and allow it to carry them from the front to the back.  They will see how fast they can go and not get ejected. (Now don’t call Family Services—we keep an eye on them.) And sometimes…they just walk. Now honestly, they really don’t use it for its intended purpose (which by the way is torture) but as something that they can jump on or off, that they can ride (howbeit short)—maybe just have fun using.

I’m probably stretching it here, but I just wonder if I changed my attitude about my friend the treadmill, would we better enjoy our times together? What if I saw him as a partner and convenience and not the enemy?  It probably doesn’t matter much to him since he is an inanimate object getting walked on, but it would definitely be beneficial to me. I’m pretty consistent in my exercise but on those rainy fall days ahead my friend could be a help in keeping me healthy.  He fulfills his purpose (which by the way, is not to hang clothes on) and I make Judy happy by walking even more.  How about that?

Perspective can change just about everything. When we start seeing things through the lens of half full instead of half empty it might not only change our attitude but it just might make us a better person.  It could even change our relationship with God.  Too often we see Him as someone who is out to get us when instead, He is out to save us—to rescue us—to bless us. The Bible says, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Imagine that…the God of Creation wants to be your new BFF or best friend forever.  Like our friend the treadmill, He is just waiting for us to make time for Him.  When we do we will discover that He wants to help us be a better version of ourselves. Go ahead, give Him a try.  Take a rest from the “going nowhere” rat-race and trust Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

The Thief

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Psalm 90:12

The thief has struck again.  Without anyone noticing a thief has been stealing from us all.  It happens visually everyday and no one does anything to stop it because they can’t.  Slowly and almost without notice the thief takes from us and we usually don’t notice until it is too late.  Who is this thief?  It is time itself…the calendar.

The day of the year with the most daylight hours is usually around June 21st.  It is known as the summer equinox.  On that day, the tilt of the earth allows the northern hemisphere to be closest to the sun allowing the maximum amount of daylight hours.  On June 21st sunrise occurred at 5:32 am in our town.  Fourteen hours and forty-six minutes later it sets at 8:19 pm.  From that time forward, slowly and surely the amount of daylight hours slowly begins to recede.

You ask, “How much?”  Well, today the sun will rise at 6:07 am and will set at 7:50 pm.  If you do the math you will discover that will give us 13 hours and 43 minutes of daylight.  Amazingly you will find that the thief has taken an hour and 3 minutes from us.  And each passing day he will take another few minutes.  Finally, someday in the near future you will get up and wonder why it is still dark or why the sun is setting so early.  The answer is the daylight thief.

I find all this pretty fascinating.  As the days and weeks march by it reminds us that fall is coming.  Before long, the leaves will be changing colors and falling to the ground.  Perhaps, before long our thoughts, even for a few hours, will be on a happy place like Thanksgiving and not the corona virus.  On December 21 the process will all reverse.  We will begin to gain back those precious minutes of daylight and it will remind us of the promise that spring is on its way.

The amazing part of all of this is how subtly it happens. It is true of the calendar and the hours of daylight we experience, and it is true of so many small things in our lives.  We take in a few too many calories and before long we wonder why our clothes are tighter.  Humidity?  I mean they do call it the air you can wear.  We miss a few days of exercise and wonder why our energy level suddenly drops.  We miss a few days talking with our Dearest Father and wonder why He feels like a stranger. We miss our time with the Book and find ourselves bumbling our way through life. Sigh.  It is all too familiar and all too predictable.

The secret, I believe, is to be aware.  I have one of those “Joe Cool” Apple watches that tells me more than I need or want to know.  One of the things it tells me is the time of the sunrise and sunset.  A few days ago the sun was setting at 8:06 pm and I knew that meant before long it would be setting before 8:00 pm.  Sure enough, it is.  Whether it is exercise or calories or prayer or reading the Book, if we will pay attention we will have fewer surprises and consequences.  I like what Moses said.  He wrote, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”  You know, wisdom to watch what we eat and how much we exercise.  Wisdom to stop and talk to God and read His Book.  Yup…good, good advice.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, put it another way.  He said we should make the most of everyday, not living as someone who is foolish but as someone who is wise.  He goes on to say we should do this because the days are evil—or full of difficulties and challenges.  The fact is we all get 1440 minutes a day—no more, no less.  The hours of daylight may change, but the time has been set for eternity.  1440 opportunities to make the most of life, to get it right.  And, because we are imperfect humans, we can use some of those minutes to talk to our Dearest Father about our warts and failures.  We can snuggle up close as He whispers assurances of love and forgiveness.  We can just rest and know…that He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel

Mustang Sally

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4

It was a dream come true.  Several years ago, I was invited to speak at a conference way up north in Illinois.  How far north?  Well just about as far as you can go.  It seems you could see the Artic circle from where we were going.  For some reason, it might have been the car was due an oil change or just because, I decided to rent a car for the trip. I checked the local Enterprise car rental and they had a great rate, so I booked one online.  About 4:00 pm I went to the car rental place to pick up my plain Jane little car and that’s when I found that God had sent a love note.

I went into the office and waited just a moment for the agent to help me.  She shuffled some papers around and said, “You know I don’t have a compact car to give you.  I’m going to have to give you a Mustang convertible instead.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I had wanted to drive a Mustang since I was 12. While I didn’t get to own it permanently, for three whole days it was mine. I felt like I had just won the lottery!

We finished up the paperwork and she handed me the keys.  I walked outside and there she sat.  A new Mustang convertible with all the bells and whistles!  I felt cool just holding the keys.  I mashed the button on the remote and lights came on and the doors unlocked.  I opened the door and slid into the seat and was pretty certain I had died and gone to heaven. One of the first things I noticed was the quality of this American made car. Things had certainly changed since the 70’s.

The Mustang had more incredibly cool gadgets than I had ever seen in one car.  Gadgets like an incredible audio system, totally cool wheels, auto/manual shift, backup camera, keyless entry and start and on and on.  It seemed that everything you could possibly want on a car was there. This thing was “tricked out”.  For those who don’t know what that term means, it is something like it was customized–loaded with options and believe me it was! Not only had God given me the car of my dreams for three whole days but He had sent one that was loaded!

Well, we made the trip and I played Mr. Cool the entire time.  Sunglasses, my best smile and the coy look that said, “Oh yeah, it’s mine.”  I just didn’t share that it was only mine for three days.  Just as all good things have to come to an end, on Monday my Cinderella Mustang had to go back to Enterprise. However, I will never forget the time that God sent me a Mustang to drive.  It gave new meaning to that place in the Bible where it says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”

Now imagine my surprise when I went to the Ford website and discovered that my Mustang wasn’t “tricked out” at all.  In fact, all those cool features were “standard.”  In other words, every Mustang had those features included with no extra charge.  How about that–buy the car and get the options–not some plain Jane, “let’s crawl to the next light Mustang”, but one that caused people to look…”a head turner.” Buy the car and get the cool throw in with the deal.  I can remember when the base price got you four wheels and engine. Not so anymore. Ford did a great job in the quality and what you got for the money–but not to the point I’m ready to go out and buy one.

Here’s the deal:  God trumps Ford hands down–not even in the ball park.   I sometimes wonder if we understand all that we get when we receive God’s amazing grace through His Son Jesus: unconditional love, peace beyond understanding, unlimited acceptance, an incredible purpose and reason to live, the opportunity to make a difference–to be a part of something so big that we can’t even understand it all.  And that is not just for the Billy Grahams of the world but rather for every believer, every follower of Christ.  Amazingly, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg!

Some people love to drop names—you know, they are talking and they will say how they know so and so.  Well, check this out.  If you know Jesus, you know the creator of it all.  And you just don’t know Him…you know Him up front and personal.  And His Father is your Father and He is your Dearest Father.  He just waits for you to talk with Him every day.  And He enjoys blessing you. Be sure and thank Him for the fact that the life He gives us is not barebones but loaded to the max.  You know, when God does something, He always does it well and does it big–how about that?

As you journey this week, how about spending some time celebrating and thanking God for His incredible, unbelievable salvation? And if you get just a tad overwhelmed—and honestly who doesn’t—just remember who you know and Who knows you.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  And number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in Harrisburg—we have had to check every once in a while to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Several weeks ago Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So we departed company and I did my best to make sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just you’re out of here.

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” ticks that give us weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worse part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there has to be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to it’s lusts.”  So Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is also true in avoiding ticks and it is true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we have to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

It’s a “Dippity-Do-Dah” Day

If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  1 John 1:6

Dippity-do dah, dippy day, my oh my, what a wonderful day!  I joined the Air Force back in 1972 and in so many ways it was a different world.  At that time longer hair was still very much in vogue.  It seemed the only guys with shorter haircuts were either born in the 1920’s or in the military.  I was the latter.

It was also a different day in the way people view the military.  The country was coming out of the Vietnam era and sadly many saw veterans and the active military in a dark light.  I can well remember walking around town and getting the “one of those” look.  While I was never ashamed of being in the military, in fact, I was proud to serve, I did want to be cool—part of the in-crowd and short hair just wasn’t in.  But you know the old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Hello Dippity-do.

It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone else doing it nor do I remember how I started.  I found this hair stuff called, “Dippity-do.”  It was a gel like product and depending on how much you applied, it would make your hair stay where you put it.  So I bought a jar and slowly I let the hair on the top of my head and sides grow out.  I would wakeup in the morning and put this stuff, in fact a lot of this stuff, on my hair.  I would comb it kinda on top of my head and toward the back.  The effect was—well, effective. The funny part is when this stuff dried out it made my hair as solid as a rock.  Of course, my mom always said I had a hard head.

I found that I could have the required white-wall around my ears and have all this hair glued down to the top of my head.  When I got off work, I would go take a shower, wash this stuff out and believe it or not have enough hair to totally cover my ears.  I looked like any other guy in the early 1970’s.  Even as I write this I’m saying, “What?”  But believe me it worked.  I looked like a military guy during the day and a regular off-the-street guy at night.  Looking back, it was weird.

Even stranger I worked in the command section of my squadron and to show how effective my ruse was, no one said anything.  It looked, and I guess was, regulation.  I remember one day walking in the local mall and coming straight toward me was my squadron commander, Major Hobbs.  We passed within five feet of each other and he didn’t even recognize me. Yup—G.I. Joe by day and a 70’s hipster at night. Looking back there probably was a word for it.  It was probably pretty hypocritical.

The word hypocrite means to “play the part” or to “wear the mask.”  It was used to describe actors in ancient Greece who were one thing on stage and another off the stage.  The one thing I remember is that I always felt a certain amount of fear while doing this.  There was always the “what if I get called in and don’t have time to plaster my hair down” thing.  What if my commander and my first sergeant saw me and did recognize me?  I knew they respected me and what would happen to that respect?  It’s the feeling you get when you are one thing one time and another thing later.

Well, finally I figured it wasn’t worth it and I’ll tell you that story another time, but the bottom line is I went and got a regular haircut.  Two things happened almost immediately.  First, I felt free.  The fear of the wrong person seeing me at the wrong time was suddenly gone.  It was like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  The second thing that happened was I discovered that in spite of what the culture said, I was proud to be in the Air Force and that haircut identified me as part of a special family and team.  It wasn’t something to be ashamed of…it was something to be proud of.  And the best part, the girl I was dating, who I later married, thought I was even cuter.  Now for the funny part. I have been out of the military now for 36 years and I never, not even once, grew my hair out.  I decided I like shorter hair.  More than that…I decided I like being real.

So, what about you?  What is it in your life where you “wear the mask?”  What is it in your life where you have decided to pretend—to be something you aren’t?  While you find that in every aspect of life, sadly it’s also common in the Jesus follower world.  People say one thing and do another—people who act one way on Sunday and another the rest of week.  If I learned anything from my Dippity-do world is that authenticity beats a plastic mask every time. 

John, one of the guys who followed Jesus in the Bible, said it pretty well.  He said, “If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  In other words, if we say we are one thing and really are another—we are just living a lie.  It is better to be real than fake.  It is better to be authentic than counterfeit.  I may have fooled my commander that day but I never fool God when I choose to be one thing in public and another in private.  But the one thing I love about God is that He never rejects me.  He is never ashamed to call me His child. I can always rest in Him and more than that, He can handle who I am—Dippity-do and all.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-four years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance was spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every Spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the Spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home and I would go with the choir.  So on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours and it was a larger church so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack and we needed to go home to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending, it was after hours, I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew He was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around but it is just packed with truth. It says, “we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three hour drive to South Georgia with a six week old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Tripe and Gossip

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans.

My mama made really good biscuits.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have dessert we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with my peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was pimento cheese.  To this day that is one of my favorites. And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

You do know that gossip is a lot like tripe don’t you?  You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t tell them. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help cause He’s got …even this.