Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
It was a sight for sore eyes. A while back when my aunt died, I went down to be a part of her memorial service. It was a special time for me since it was my Daddy’s baby sister. Though he has been gone since 1974 it was an opportunity to honor him. The funeral was in Gainesville, Florida and the return trip gave my wife and I an opportunity to travel some Southern back roads. We chose to travel north through Alabama and it turned out to be a real treasure.
Judy and I are both from the South. She is from Valdosta, Georgia and I am from Jacksonville, Florida. There are just certain things about living in the South that are special. You will find things run just a bit slower there. It’s not uncommon to find an older gentleman in an old pickup truck going nowhere in a hurry. It is a Southern thing. It’s not uncommon to see homesteads with old tin roofs often tinted with a rich red rust. It is a Southern thing. It’s not uncommon to see old groves of giant pecan trees ready for a rich harvest of nuts. It is a Southern thing. It’s not uncommon to see old tobacco barns with smoke slowly drifting skyward as the brown leaves dry. It is a Southern thing.
There are many things like that in the South and each one is a treasure to those who recognize them. But if there is one thing that marks the South, if there is one treasure above the rest, it is good Southern cooking. You can find it in most kitchens in those older homes. Mamas are teaching their daughters (and sometimes their sons) how to season green beans and fry chicken or mash potatoes. If you’ve never eaten Southern comfort food…well, you’ve never eaten well!
As we were traveling North through rural Alabama we were seeing all these things and reliving our roots. It was time (actually past time) for breakfast so we began looking for a place to eat. We found ourselves in Luverne, Alabama. It is a small town which happens to be one of the treks to the beaches in Florida…so it gets a fair amount of traffic. We had traveled through before for that very reason. We were looking for a “mom and pop” place and we found Taters. It was a small restaurant in Luverne and it looked like just the spot. “Taters” was in yellow on the front of the barn red building. It had a “Jesus 2020” sign planted by the entrance. Things were looking promising.
We went in and immediately noticed the decor. It was, shall we say, “Southern Jesus.” Hand lettered Scriptures filled the walls. The napkin holders had the same. Back by the restrooms was a big sign about God. The server came as friendly as a Chick-fil-A employee on steroids. We ordered our food and waited. Soon, sitting in front of us was one of the most delicious breakfast meals I have tasted in years. There were three eggs sunny-side up (that means the yokes were sitting there like two small suns), a side of hash browns cooked nice and crispy, three strips of thick cut bacon cooked like it should be—limp. And then there it was.
“It” was a real big spoon full of Southern cooked grits. These weren’t the instant variety—they were the slow cooked kind. And right in the middle of that pile of grits was a puddle of melted butter. It was Southern manna—it was heaven. And trust me—everything was as good as it looked. Now, no lectures about heart attacks, I don’t eat like that all the time, but that time—I did so with no regrets—not even one. But here’s the surprise—that wasn’t the most important thing. The thing that mattered most was the Jesus part. You see this was a restaurant that served up Jesus first and just happened to also serve good food. Their mission was Jesus and their food was a side dish. I was real glad they could cook, but I was blessed by their Jesus boldness. I walked out with a full tummy, a full heart, and a life lesson.
You see, if we follow Jesus, He has to be the center of our universe. Our sign at church says, “Jesus First. Before. Anything. Else. Period.” That is what Taters in Luverne, Alabama is doing. Food is second to Jesus. So, what about you? What about us? Are you a teacher first and then a Jesus follower? Are you a CEO first and then a Jesus follower? Are you a coal miner first and then a Jesus follower? Are you a preacher first and then a Jesus follower? What about this? What if we starting reversing that? How about a Jesus follower who happens to be a teacher; a Jesus follower who happens to be a CEO; a Jesus follower who happens to be a coal miner or, yes, a Jesus follower who happens to be a preacher.
Jesus First. Before. Anything. Else. Period. That would be a game changer. Jesus said if we would “seek His Father first and live for Him, He would give us everything you need.” We need that today. These chaos infested days we are living in are golden opportunities to be a light in a dark world. But we can only do that effectively if Jesus stops being an add on to our lives and becomes our lives.
The next time I am driving through Luverne, you can bet I will stop for some good food and a good helping of “Southern Jesus.” They might not be there because “Jesus first” can be risky. In their case it might cost them business. If you do “Jesus first” it may cost you a friend or two or maybe a promotion, or maybe your popularity. Regardless, it is worth it. One more piece of travel advice. As you travel life’s hectic highway, stop and take a rest with Jesus. And go ahead and be sure and put Him first. Risky? Yup. But, hey, remember, He’s got this.